Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Mis à jour : il y a 58 min 36 sec

Parental Warning

il y a 5 heures 47 min
The following contains coarse language.

While I know it is perhaps beneath the standards I try to maintain on my blog, I rather liked this:

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Select Refugee?

il y a 10 heures 12 min

The Globe and Mail reports the following:
Canada is prioritizing some refugees based on characteristics that include their religion, the age of their children and whether they have a business background, using increasingly specific criteria over the past year.

These criteria are used in a complex triage that attempts to put some groups at the front of the refugee assessment line, The Globe and Mail has learned.
While an unidentified government official speaking on background maintains that the criteria set are not discriminatory, the fact is,
[u]nder these criteria a Sunni Muslim single mother with an 11-year-old child who didn’t meet an area of focus could be held back in the pile or bounced through another process, while someone who owned a business and speaks English fluently could be rushed through.All of this puts me in mind of a poem that I used to teach which perhaps effectively reflects the mindset of the Harper regime:

“Select Samaritan”
by Robert Finch

We think we might adopt two children and
The problem is to know which kind we want,
Not Canadians, Refugees, But they can't
Be Jewish. A Couple of Spaniards would
be grand
If they were fair. My Husband hates dark hair.
Afraid they are mostly dark in any case.
Germans would do, we don't care about race.
Except Chinese, must draw the line somewhere.
So would you let us know soon as you could
What sort's available?
We have a car
And would be glad to come and look them over
Whatever time you say. Poles might be good,
Of the right type. Fussy? Perhaps we are
But any kids we take will be in cloverRecommend this Post

About That Pavlovian Response

il y a 17 heures 55 min

It is enough to make a recovering cynic suffer a very bad relapse. As I noted earlier this week, to see what lurks just beneath the surface of Canadian sensibilities, something dark and ugly, is extremely disheartening. Amply revealed by the Machiavellian incitement of prejudice engineered by Lynton Crosby to maximize the Harper regimes re-election, we are bearing witness to far too many of our fellow citizens responding far too enthusiastically to the ringing of the Pavlovian bell. I feel ashamed and disgusted.

Consider this blatant pandering for the Quebec vote, the latest salvo in the Con attack ad war against Trudeau:

Or how about this?

According to the latest Forum poll, 73 per cent said the issue won’t influence their vote, 20 per cent of respondents said it will. About half of the latter category (11 per cent) said the issue will influence them a “great deal.I take little comfort that the majority say they will not be influenced by this latest demagoguery from Harper. The fact that 20 per cent are is disquieting, in that they represent a sizable number of Canadians who seem to lack any insight into the fact that they are being grossly manipulated here. As I said in my earlier post, one may not especially like the niqab, but to make it determining factor in your federal vote is something I find very hard to understand.

And then there is this Angus Reid poll, where 46 per cent held an unfavourable view of Islam in 2009, [but] that figure has risen sharply to 54 per cent this year.... In Quebec, 48 per cent said they would find it unacceptable for one of their children to marry a Muslim, up slightly from 45 per cent in 2009. In the rest of Canada, those who found the thought of a son or daughter marrying a Muslim unacceptable shot up to 32 per cent from 24 per cent. Matters are getting worse, with Harper now considering a wider ban on the niqab: A proposed ban on niqabs in the federal civil service would affect an infinitesimally small number of bureaucrats — if any at all. Statistics from 2011 show only 1.8 per cent of 257,000 federal employees are Muslim women and only a small subset of them is likely to wear face coverings. The Conservatives have already tried to require Muslim women to show their faces at citizenship ceremonies, but those rules are being challenged in the courts. Harper's comments on Wednesday make clear he is eyeing additional legislation to require women to unveil every time they want services from the federal government.The words of Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau resonate: "Stephen Harper is reminding us every time he does this why he doesn't deserve to be prime minister," Mulcair said in Enoch, Alta., as he highlighted his party's $4.8 billion plan to improve aboriginal education Trudeau, in London, Ont., said Harper's divide-and-conquer approach "is unworthy of the office he holds and he needs to stop." "No election win is worth pitting Canadians against Canadians."Be assured that Stephen Harper's evil mischief is pitting Canadians against Canadians. Consider the situation of Rezan Mosa, a 22-year-old native of Vancouver who decided to wear the niqab: Mosa, a student at Brescia University College in London, Ont., said that as anti-niqab sentiment has ramped up on the campaign trail in recent weeks, she’s experienced more incidents of discrimination. “There’s definitely a noticeable difference,” said Mosa, who began wearing the veil over 18 months ago. “Just a lot more people staring, making comments, telling me to go back to my country.” She said the incidents have made her “feel very unsafe.”Mosa is not alone: The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it has received several reports of Muslim women being verbally or physically assaulted in the last month. It pointed to a disabled Muslim 19-year-old woman who reported to police that she was verbally threatened at an Ottawa shopping centre. The Star could not independently verify the report. The group tracks such incidents and recorded the details on its website, saying the woman was “young, visibly Muslim and disabled” when a middle-aged white man told her “to remove ‘the f---ing rug off (her) head.’ ”One more incident perhaps best illustrates the terrible consequences of fanning the flames of intolerance: In the early evening of Sept. 17, before dark, a 17-year-old girl strolled from the Al-Noor Mosque in St. Catharines, Ont., to the plaza across the street. She was planning to buy a drink and snack. Then three other girls, teenagers the girl from the mosque didn’t recognize, walked up behind her. According to Sallah Hamdani, a spokesman for the local Islamic community, the trio of girls began by making bigoted remarks. Isn’t it against your religion, one asked, to be out walking alone? Ugly words escalated into pushing, then punching. “There was blood. She went to the hospital to make sure her nose wasn’t broken,” Hamdani said. “Her hijab was pulled. You can’t keep it on during a fight.”Stephen Harper and his operatives are very much aware of the fallibilities human nature is subject to. To exploit those weaknesses for electoral gain is yet another indictment of his unfitness to govern. I just wish more Canadians could see what is so obviously staring them in the face.Recommend this Post

This Just In!

jeu, 10/08/2015 - 18:39
Something wicked this way comes.

H/t Toronto StarRecommend this Post

An Answer To Our Prayers

jeu, 10/08/2015 - 14:44
That's right. I always knew in my heart that she would not forsake us in our hour of greatest need. Marg is back, offering a simple but solid solution to the woes that afflict us.

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Help Wanted

jeu, 10/08/2015 - 06:10
Thanks to M. Barrett who alerted me to this Craigslist posting from Toronto:

In case you can't make out the fine print at the bottom, it reads:

Required to dispose of existing ballots in all ridings across Canada and urgently replace with winning issue ballotsRecommend this Post

An Unvarnished Assessment

mer, 10/07/2015 - 09:33
Over time we've seen that this man cannot be trusted. He had no integrity. He's trying to stifle democracy. There's no end to what he's doing," said Williams.

"He's a lousy prime minister who's divisive."
-Danny Williams

Watch as former Newfoundland-Labrador Premier Danny Williams offers an unvarnished assessment of Steven Harper:

A lengthier interview with Williams on Power Play can be seen here.
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The Better Angels Of Our Nature

mer, 10/07/2015 - 07:20

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” - Abraham Lincoln

Stephen Harper, of course, is doing his best to suppress those better angels, a fact not unrecognized by Star readers.
It seems to me the media and many voters, especially those in Quebec, are behaving like the dog in the animated movie “Up.” While we need to be discussing climate change, the mess the economy is in, missing and murdered indigenous women, muzzling of our scientists, health care reform and many other subjects that affect the vast majority of Canadians Harper throws out the niqab and we all yell “squirrel” and end up talking about something that affects two people.

Or he raises removing someone’s citizenship and we waste our time talking about something that affects one person.

Harper has become Pavlov to a bunch of easily distracted dogs. Let’s not fall for his manipulative devious schemes and concentrate on what really matters to the majority of Canadians.

Ken Beckim, Oshawa

Canadians are in a continuous tug of war between proudly welcoming diversity and protecting minority rights, and threatening to restrict the expression of individual differences. Lucky for Canadians, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our justice system stand as our most valuable protection against the actions of those who want to curtail choices that make some uncomfortable or run counter to their values or beliefs.

Taking a historical view, we see that issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc., rely on the protections set out in the Charter. Our strength is refusing to succumb to bigotry, prejudice and stereotypes that undermine what is so valuable in protecting the human rights of minorities.

Those of us who were once marginalized and treated as pariahs are today mainstream contributors to our society. Vive la difference and vive la Charter.

Barbara Landau and Shahid Akhtar, co-chairs, Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, Toronto

Growing up Muslim, I have witnessed nasty stereotypes and encountered discriminatory and highly racial acts; it almost felt as if being Muslim meant being a minority or outcast. Whatever problem occurs identifies a small amount of people but the whole humanity is not to blame.

I agree we should help our neighbours and be kind to all, because if we were in such a situation we would seek help as well.

Racism and discrimination shouldn’t even exist in 2015. There is so much more to do and accomplish by working together not apart. Wake up.

Afreen Gul, Mississauga

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Rick Mercer Opines On The Campaign

mar, 10/06/2015 - 19:16
The always interesting and insightful Rick Mercer needs no introduction from me. Enjoy.

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A Quick Thought About The TPP

mar, 10/06/2015 - 06:49

I was not planning to write about the Trans Pacific Partnership deal gleefully announced by Mr. Harper yesterday, trade and economics not being my strong suits. However, looking at the overall details of what it entails prompts me to make an observation.

First, a few of the details:

Beef and Pork
Under the deal, Canada could double or triple its annual beef exports to Japan to nearly $300 million, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. The beef industry would see a phase out in tariffs to those countries from 39 per cent to 9 per cent over 15 years. The deal also secures Canada’s ability to export more pork to Japan, where producers sell roughly $1 billion worth of the meat annually.Fish and Seafood
The deal means far greater access for Canadian producers to other Pacific Rim markets. Canadian seafood — from frozen fish to fresh crab and lobster —is currently slapped with tariffs of up to 15 per cent in Japan and Malaysia, 34 per cent in Vietnam and 5 per cent in New Zealand. The tariffs on fish and seafood to those countries would be gone within a decade. Japan imports a number of premium seafood products from Canada such as crab, shrimp, lobster, herring roe, sea urchins, salmon and halibut.Forestry/wood products
About $1 billion in Canadian forest products were subject to tariffs last year. Exports to countries like Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia will gradually be reduced, thereby increasing access for these products.

Metals and Mining
Iron and steel products would benefit from Japan eliminating tariffs of up to 6.3 per cent within 10 years, Vietnam wiping out tariffs of up to 40 per cent within 10 years, Malaysia doing away with tariffs of up to 25 per cent within a decade, and Australia cutting tariffs of up to 5 per cent within four years. I trust that you can see the pattern here. The gains under this deal for Canada reside almost exclusively in what are called primary industries. What is a primary industry?
An industry involved in the extraction and collection of natural resources, such as copper and timber, as well as by activities such as farming and fishing. A company in a primary industry can also be involved in turning natural resources into products.

Primary industry tends to make up a larger portion of the economy of developing countries than they do for developed countries. It seems to me that the deal Canada is entering into is merely a continuation of the Harper retrograde vision of Canada as the traditional hewer of wood and drawer of water, a vision he based the bulk of our economic hopes on in his relentless promotion of the Alberta tarsands.

Value-added jobs will take a real hit under the TPP:

Automobiles and Auto Parts
An auto will need to contain just 45 per cent TPP content to qualify for free trade. And for auto parts, the figure is 40 per cent. that’s down from 62.5 per cent and 60 per cent respectively under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which this will replace. Japan already offers duty-free access to passenger vehicles and auto parts. Canada agreed to phase out its 6.1 per cent tariff on imported vehicles over five years. Malaysia and Vietnam, which have tariffs of 35 per cent and 74 per cent respectively, agree to phase them out over 12 years. According to Unifor president Jerry Dias, that betrayal concession will cost upwards of 20,000 auto industry jobs.

And what do we get in return? Long-term elimination of tariffs that may allow for more sales of industrial pumps, medical equipment, and harvesters and mowers.

As well, there is the opening up of Canada's dairy market, in exchange for which Harper is promising billions of our tax dollars to farmers who will suffer losses.

I'll leave it to others with more wisdom to decide if all of this sounds like it will produce a net benefit for Canada.

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We Aren't As Good As We Think We Are

lun, 10/05/2015 - 06:27

If anything, the racism and xenophobia that have become cornerstones of the Harper re-election strategy are showing us something we would prefer not to think about: when provoked, our own darker natures come easily to the surface.

In his column today, Edward Keenan reveals a few things we should ponder:
... if you have been paying attention, it’s obvious enough that when Team Harper refers to “barbaric culture” it means Islam.

And so this new election initiative is intended to respond to some imagined Canadian epidemic of “child and forced marriage,” “sexual slavery and so-called ‘honour killings’ ” and “female genital mutilation.” These things, of course, are horrific and are already illegal. And while they do not appear to be particularly common here compared to other crimes (even compared to other crimes against women), there is already an established national reporting mechanism for those encountering them: dial 911. So nothing about this announcement actually makes women any safer. Instead it’s an excuse to talk about Muslims as barbarians in a press conference. It’s a transparently BS announcement to drum up hate and fear, for their own sake.Sadly, there seems to be evidence that this loathsome strategy is working:
As they’ve unveiled these items, the Conservatives have gone from third to first in many polls. Is it a coincidence? There’s reason to think not.

A government poll showed 82 per cent of Canadians support the niqab ban, for instance. Moreover, eight per cent of voters told Leger marketing that the niqab ban was the main issue determining their vote. Considering that the Conservatives’ recent swing into the lead has been an increase of only about six points in their support in most polls, it’s not crazy to conclude this anti-Islam posturing has made much of the difference for them.It is time for all of us to take another look in the mirror, because despite our desire to think of ourselves as a tolerant and accepting people, the truth appears to be something else:
But we’re also a country where it appears an election may be won by blatantly disregarding the Charter and promoting intolerance for no discernable reason other than to stick our thumbs in the eye of a minority whose cultural and religious practices we find off-putting.Cultivating such prejudices, as the Harper regime is shamelessly doing, has consequences beyond electoral gain. Consider what happened to Safira Merriman, a 30-year-old convert to Islam who wears the niqab:
Last week, wearing her Islamic face veil – the niqab, which has become a central issue in the federal election – she says she was trying to enter Shoppers Drug Mart at Toronto’s Fairview Mall when a man carrying a liquor-store bag blocked her path and then drove his elbow hard into her shoulder, in front of her two daughters, ages nine and four.Or how about this?
Last week in Montreal, two teenagers reportedly pulled the hijab, or head scarf, of a pregnant woman, causing her to fall.These are not things we should be proud of. Yet if we succumb to the Harper politics of hatred, suspicion and division, there will be no one to blame but ourselves and our unwillingness to resist the demagogues who skulk among us.Recommend this Post

Embracing The Veil

dim, 10/04/2015 - 07:52

H/t The Toronto Star

While our prime minister claims, when attacking the niqab, that Canadians hold openness and transparency as societal values, he is happy to keep us in the dark about all of the secret negotiations going on to conclude the highly controversial Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, leaked elements of which suggest we will be ceding a great deal of our sovereignty to multi-nationals.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harper is adopting a 'trust me' strategy, saying that no deal will be entered into unless it is a net benefit to Canadians, an assertion that others find hard to swallow, given that he has never met a multi-national that he doesn't like.

Thinking Canadians will legitimately ask why, if the deal is to be so beneficial, the negotiations have been conducted behind such a thick, almost impenetrable, veil. To those who distrust our government, the answer is likely very clear.

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Lifting The Veil

sam, 10/03/2015 - 08:05
Lifting the veil behind what has become a major part of the Tory re-election strategy reveals nothing good. Consider, for example, this shameful announcement by party stalwart Kellie Lietch, who has yet to meet a Harper directive she doesn't salivate over:

In other words, the directive has gone out: surveil your Muslim neighbours and acquaintances and report on their foul and quite possibly nefarious practices. They are not to be trusted. What makes this announcement even more reprehensible is that it is being peddled under the pretext of helping vulnerable women and children, two groups the regime has shown little more than passing interest in up to this point.

Fortunately, not all are responding in the desired manner to this Pavlovian bell. Twitter reaction was fierce, as a few excerpts demonstrate:
Trying to convince citizens that people of a specific race are toxic. Don't let history repeat itself.

Trying to convince citizens that people of a specific race are toxic. Don't let history repeat itself.

The Canadian media better start calling this #elxn42 strategy what it is: racist. And they need to use that word.

Ignoring expert advice on refugee health care, crime prevention, harm reduction and climate change.

Is the #BarbaricCulturalPractices tip line open yet? I'd like to report someone for overusing a dog whistle. And yet, despite the ability of some Canadians to see through this low tactic of stoking intolerance to win votes, it continues to deeply trouble me that we have a government so bent on twisting and perverting the national fabric for its own mercenary ends. In the process, incalculable damage, in my view, is being done to our collective psyche.

And we surely lack all perspective, especially in rewarding Harper with increased support for his politically motivated intransigence on the niqab. As Susan Delacourt points out,
... the magic number is two. That’s the total number, out of nearly 700,000 people, who have wanted to wear face coverings in citizenship ceremonies, according to a Radio-Canada report.

So all this agitation over the niqab, all the fierce declarations of what the majority in Canada wants at citizenship ceremonies, is about fewer than a handful of people. Except that it isn’t about those two people; it is about tapping into support that any responsible politician shouldn’t want. ... no party in this election ... should be whipping up antipathy to Muslims, or any religion or culture. It’s repulsive if it works and even more repulsive if it was planned to work that way. Today's Star editorial offers similar sentiments, and points out the diversionary nature of such tactics:
... these spiteful Conservative policies — hound Muslim women, strip Muslim wrongdoers of basic human rights, shove Muslim refugees to the back of the line — have hijacked and distorted this election. They have blotted out the sun when Canadians face important choices on the economy, jobs, accountable government, social investment, fair taxation and the environment.

The relentless, divisive harping on largely fabricated “Muslim problems” may help the Conservatives get re-elected. But it is unworthy of the Government of Canada, it is socially corrosive, and it confirms the Tories’ unfitness to govern.That the current incarnation of the Tories are unfit to govern is beyond dispute. We can only hope droves of other Canadians are coming to the same conclusion.

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He Sounds, On The Surface, So Reasonable

ven, 10/02/2015 - 07:21
As I lamented in yesterday's post, the issue of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies is apparently responsible for a resurgence of support for the Harper regime, whose leader has ruthlessly exploited the issue to his political advantage. Playing upon people's prejudices against 'the other,' Harper is appealing the court ruling against a ban on its use. The fact that this single issue should sway a significant proportion of the electorate, I think, speaks for itself when pondering our collective natures. We may not all agree about the niqab, but it should not be a defining issue, except perhaps to the extraordinarily small-minded.

Sometimes appeals to our prejudices come in much less blatant form. Such is what I believe I witnessed last night as Rex Murphy pontificated on the niqab issue. Take a listen, and see if you agree:

On the surface, Rex sounds so reasonable, doesn't he? But if we remember that appeals to symbols of citizenship, patriotism, etc. are all arrows in the quivers of demagogues both past and present, his observations and suggestions take on a more sinister cast. Consider his reference to the citizenship ceremony as a "civil sacrament." Powerful stuff, mixing religious and secular metaphors, especially for those who allow emotion to prevail over intellect. In other words, this quasi-religious ceremony, if we follow the subtext, is in danger of being blasphemed by the Muslims. His reference to "patriotic allegiance" also invokes the spectre that perhaps, if they are hiding their faces, they really aren't going to be that patriotic or loyal to Canada.

Murphy also points out they are insisting upon 'specialized treatment,' in breaking with the traditions of the ceremony. Cleverly, for his purposes, he makes no reference to our laws, which permit the use of the niqab. Then there is the suggestion that if the niqab wearer's insistence on her 'rights' (pretty uppity of her, don't you think?) is such a deeply-felt religious conviction, then perhaps she will have to choose between that conviction and citizenship.

While openly admitting to the multi-cultural nature of our society, Rex also suggests that just for the one day in which they are taking the citizenship oath, they should show themselves to their fellow newly-minted citizens. After all, he says we have core and common values, of which the citizenship ceremony apparently is one, in his view. (Subtext: they are making a mockery of our values in refusing to play by our rules.)

Without a hint of irony, Murphy suggests that these issues can be discussed without rancour, claiming there is no bigotry here. While I agree that such issues are indeed fit topics for rational discussion, Rex's approach, unfortunately does nothing to further that goal.Recommend this Post

Hope Fades ......

jeu, 10/01/2015 - 06:59

It is becoming difficult to hold on to hope. Despite all we know about the Harper regime, despite all that has been written about its corruption, its abuse of power, its undermining of our democratic institutions, its insidious appeal to the worst in our natures, it seems to all be coming down to an issue that has already been decided by the courts: the niqab and its use during citizenship ceremonies.

It is almost enough to make me hold up my hands in abject surrender.

According to the latest poll conducted by Forum Research, if an election were held today, Stephen Harper would win another government, albeit a minority one:
The survey of 1,499 Canadian voters has Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s party ahead with 34 per cent support, compared to 28 per cent for the NDP and 27 per cent support for the Liberals. At the heart of this resurgence, according to Forum president Lorne Bozinoff, is that [t]wo-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadian voters are opposed to having fully veiled women swear the oath of citizenship, while just over a quarter (26) support it.
Though the poll’s findings are just a snapshot in time, if the same results occurred the night of the Oct. 19 election, the Conservatives would win a minority — 151 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons. The NDP would form the opposition again with 105 seats, the Liberals would seize 76 seats, the Bloc six seats and the Greens one.And while the neo-barbarians are ready to resume their assault on our putative values and traditions, what are the oppositions parties doing? Fighting each other, of course. Thomas Walkom writes,
New Democratic Party leader Mulcair dismisses Trudeau as a callow youth. Echoing Conservative attack ads, his New Democrats say the 43-year-old Liberal leader just isn’t ready to become prime minister.

From time to time, and again echoing the Conservatives, Mulcair dismissively refers to his Liberal rival as “Justin.”

Trudeau is no less harsh. He accuses Mulcair of duplicity — of saying one thing in French and another in English. He says the NDP, by pandering to Quebec separatists, threatens national unity.

He dredges up old charges that Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, once contemplated the idea of exporting fresh water in bulk.

All of this occurs at a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are quietly edging up in the polls.As those two parties put on full display, not co-operation to oust the tyrant but instead their avidity for power at any price, progressives are put in a bind:
These so-called progressive voters desperately want Harper gone. And they are horrified by the real possibility that this war to the death between Liberals and New Democrats will split the anti-Harper vote, thus allowing the Conservatives to win power again.Here's a sample of what the NDP is doing to achieve power:

Another ad aims to maim support for Trudeau in the manufacturing sector by referencing a suggestion Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland made years earlier about letting the big three automakers — Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler — go bankrupt.

The third brings up the Liberal leader’s $20,000 speaking fees he charged charities and school boards, accusing him of skipping House of Common votes to collect money “for something that’s already a part of his job.”

Trudeau offered to reimburse some fees in 2013.

It’s a tactic that’s borrowed from the Conservative Party, who have been running attack ads against Trudeau with the tagline, “Just not ready” for months.Canadians have notoriously short memories. Yet as we get ever closer to October 19, they are bound to remember certain things, the wrong things, I fear.
Recommend this Post

A Vanity Production?

mer, 09/30/2015 - 08:31

Yesterday morning, I read a piece by Martin Regg Cohn on the impending sale of Ontario's Hydro One. When it is completed, 60% of our publically-owned asset will have been sold off. During a brief walk in the afternoon, I decided to write a letter to my local MPP with a copy to Premier Kathleen Wynne to protest the sale. While it may be of some interest to people residing in Ontario, my letter may be regarded by those residing elsewhere as a vanity production, perhaps, given the ultimate futility of speaking or writing to our representatives in our currently debased democracy.

Whatever its ultimate utility may be, writing this missive has at least been personally cathartic:
I am writing to express my deep disappointment over your government's decision to sell off 60% of Hydro One. It is a profound betrayal of the people of Ontario and a flagrant abuse of democracy that I fear will have far-reaching consequences.

I was one of the many who chose to cast my vote in the last election, not for the NDP but for the Liberals. Their platform seemed sound, and I was repulsed by what I saw as the political opportunism of Andrea Horwath in forcing the election. A leader's integrity is one of my paramount considerations when I vote, and I thought I saw it in Kathleen Wynne.

While I admire that Ms. Wynne has shown strength of conviction in some areas, such as the revamping of the sex-ed curriculum, despite fierce opposition from some quarters, I lament the fact that she does not have the same courage and principles to resist the neoliberal siren call of privatization of public assets. As we well know, the private sector's sole responsibility is to its shareholders and the profits they expect, and we have no reason to believe that its majority ownership of our Hydro assets will change that. The public good will always be, at best, a tangential consideration.

Not once during her bid for re-election did the premier talk about privatizing Hydro One. To say that a general review of all assets was to be undertaken as the cover for this decision is, frankly, dishonest and insulting. Also, the Hydro assets are, as you well know, generating very healthy annual profits. To suggest their sale is needed to fund infrastructure projects is disingenuous, and indicative of a very narrow vision that excludes other possibilities, such as road tolls or an increase in the income tax rate to fund such construction. I will also state the obvious: those assets belong to all Ontarians. They are not your government's to sell.

At a time when cynicism about the electoral process is widespread, and voting numbers continue to decline, the decision to sell such a prized asset can do nothing but promote more of the same. If you are so convinced that this is a good decision, then hold a provincial plebiscite. Only with the approval of the people can you make any claim to be representing them in this matter.

I am one of the electorate with a very long memory. I can assure you my support for your party and government ends the day the sale of Hydro One begins. Next election, my vote will be for the NDP.Recommend this Post

Stealin' All My Dreams

mar, 09/29/2015 - 06:14
That's the message Blue Rodeo delivers in this music video, which features some timely reminders of the almost decade's worth of depredations that have taken place under the Harper regime.

On a side note, I came across the video last night and immediately prepared this post for publication today; this morning I received a note from David, who sent me links both to the video and the National Observer article. I guess it's true that 'great' minds think alike, eh? Thanks, David.Recommend this Post

A Day Well-Spent

lun, 09/28/2015 - 07:34

There is something both restorative and energizing about spending time among people who are politically engaged, and that is probably the best way to describe those in attendance at both the Toronto Star Tent and the Amazon.ca Bestsellers Stage yesterday at Toronto's Word On The Street. As much as I have a strong aversion to Toronto's congestion, it has an energy that so many other cities lack.

It was, weather-wise, a perfect day to go down to Harbourfront Centre, the new home of the annual celebration of the written word. And for the first time, I got there early enough to snag a decent seat (actually, it was front-row) at the Toronto Star Tent, where Tim Harper, Thomas Walkom and Bruce Campion-Smith held forth on the current federal election campaign. That alone was worth the trip.

Hilariously hosted by Dan Smith, who described himself as "a recovering journalist," the format this year lent itself to far more questions from the audience than did last year's event. Here are a few highlights:

While none of the journalists was able or willing to predict the outcome of the election, Thomas Walkom said that its outcome depends on the answer to this question: "How sick are you of Harper?" Assuming the majority of Canadians are very fatigued of the current regime, the outcome will depend upon how the vote splits. He would not even rule out the possibility of a majority government.

Tim Harper said the two things were a surprise to him in this campaign, one being the fact that Justin Trudeau is still very much a contender, having brought control to his messaging after having had an earlier propensity for speaking off the cuff and getting himself into trouble. The other surprise is the Mulcair campaign having adopted a very cautious strategy; it is, in fact, something he writes about in today's Star.

All three journalists were rather dismissive of polls as merely being "snapshots in time" rather than predictors of election results. What surprised me was that the 'free polls' made available to the media are what were described as "cheap polls," ones with shallow samplings that pollsters provide for the free publicity it brings their companies. Parties' own commissioned polls, which are not released to the public, are much deeper and expensive. Were I able to have a real conversation with these fellows, however, I would question the relatively benign cloak they cast over polls; I have always been of the opinion that they not only reflect public sentiment but also influence it.

Disheartening for me was the assertion by Tim Harper that the niqab is an election issue, and not just in Quebec. The banning of it at citizenship ceremonies has widespread support judging by the email he gets, and it could cost Mulcair support. Walkom has no doubt that it is simply Harper playing upon anti-Muslim sentiment. Writer Michael Harris has some interesting things to say today about the issue in iPolitics.

Despite my repeated efforts to be recognized by the host to ask a question, it was not to be. I therefore approached Tim Harper at the end of the session to ask him what he finds most disappointing about this campaign. His answer echoed what I think many of us feel - the fact that big issues like climate change and pharmacare are not really being addressed, attributing it to the caution the two opposition parties have adopted owing to the closeness of their standings in the polls. He did add that this campaign is hardly unique in that failure, which reminded me of what Robert Fisk said the other night about the lack of statesmanlike vision afflicting contemporary politicians.

The afternoon session I attended was interesting as well, featuring Kevin Page and Bob Rae speaking about their respective new books.

Addressing the general dysfunction of our politics, Rae observed that its hyper partisanship, and the fact that campaigning seems to go on year round, 24/7, is a major problem and has debased discourse. He said that it is incumbent upon both citizens and the media to ask the hard questions and hold the parties responsible, a prescription I usspect is far easier said than done. I was able to get myself recognized to ask him a question, which basically revolved around whether or not the Canadian soul has been too debased these past several years to be able to recover to the point where a healthy democracy is now possible.

Rae answered by saying he did not think that was the case, and he cautioned against laying all the blame on the Harper regime, as it is far from the only party responsible for our sad state of affairs. Had I been permitted a follow-up question, I would have asked him that since all parties have contributed to the problem, what are the chances of any kind of rehabilitation of the Canadian psyche taking place?

While still trying to maintain a certain objectivity that, I suppose, comes from the years he spent as a civil servant, Kevin Page, who has a surprising facility for deadpan humour, lamented the loss of nobility that once came with being an MP out to serve the public good and to hold the executive to account. He observed the loss of values and vision that echoed what Tim Harper alluded to, but he also said that decision-making has become debased (that is my word, not his).

Page says that spending information has to be made available to the entire parliament, but he relayed his frustrating experiences while serving as the Parliamentary Budget Officer seeking such information from deputy ministers only to be told that he couldn't have it. Decisions are therefore made in a fiscal vacuum; the cost of a politicized public service has been high.

Beyond the monetary considerations, however, Page observed that there is no discussion on what kind of institutions we want, be they military, parliamentary, or what have you. This is an ideological government bent on enacting legislation on that basis alone. It used to be that civil servants, for example, would present three options for a decision. Now they are told those options are not needed if they don't fit into the government's 'vision.'

I will end this rather lengthy post with an anecdote Bob Rae told about talking to a cab driver. Rae asked him who he favoured, and he replied, "Rob Ford and Donald Trump." When asked why, he said that they speak what is on their minds. In other words, to this man they had 'authenticity.'

A sharp and perhaps bitter reminder of what contemporary mainstream politicians seem so sorely lacking in today.

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Word On The Street

dim, 09/27/2015 - 05:48

I'm heading to Toronto this morning for Word On The Street, the annual celebration of the written word that is always a worthwhile experience.

At noon, I am hoping to get a seat in the Toronto Star Tent, where Tim Harper, Thomas Walkom and Bruce Campion-Smith will be discussing the upcoming federal election.

At 2:00 p.m., Kevin Page will be discussing his new book, What Happened to Politics? at the Amazon.ca Bestsellers Stage. Unfortunately, he will be sharing the stage with Bob Rae.

If you live near Toronto, perhaps I'll see you there. I'll be wearing a black JazzFM91 cap.Recommend this Post

It Has Come To This

sam, 09/26/2015 - 06:36
I am prefacing this by reproducing a comment I made 0n kirbycairo's post, A Dark Hour Upon Us. Kirby, one of our top-shelf bloggers, always provides insightful analysis and commentary, and in yesterday's piece, he offered a rather gloomy assessment of the human condition.

I wrote back:

I find myself in agreement with your gloomy assessment of the human condition, Kirby. While we have certainly experienced social evolution in the past century, it always seem to take very little to rip away the veneer of civilization we encase ourselves in. As you well know, that is why demagogues are so dangerous.

We are part of the animal kingdom, something we are reminded of on a daily basis. However, like other animals we do have the capacity or potential to be good and philanthropic. Of that I have no doubt. But that capacity has to be carefully nurtured in order to express itself and grow. Today, we have no one in the political arena willing to do the hard lifting required of leadership that would bring out the best in us. And we, of course, are the enablers of that weak leadership that exploits and manipulatse our passions and our prejudices.

In my view, we all are to blame for our abject failures.

I have been avoiding political shows for the past week, for reasons of burnout that I wrote about recently. Yesterday, however, I tuned into the first part of Power and Politics, as they were discussing that morally repugnant $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, a followup to the justification that Stephen Harper gave yesterday for pursuing it:
At a campaign stop in Rivière-du-Loup, Que., Harper was asked whether he was putting Canadian jobs ahead of human rights concerns.

"As I've said in the debate, it's frankly all of our partners and allies who were pursuing that contract, not just Canada. So this is a deal frankly with a country, and notwithstanding its human rights violations, which are significant, this is a contract with a country that is an ally in the fighting against the Islamic State. A contract that any one of our allies would have signed," he said.

"We expressed our outrage, our disagreement from time to time with the government of Saudi Arabia for their treatment of human rights, but I don't think it makes any sense to pull a contract in a way that would only punish Canadian workers instead of actually expressing our outrage at some of these things in Saudi Arabia."
So, essentially it has come to this: jobs before morality. A greater indictment of the Harper regime I cannot think of. However, as you will see in the following video, despite the commendably tenacious efforts by P+P host Rosemary Barton, who never fails to impress, neither of the opposition party representative would answer her question of whether they would cancel the contract, although near the end, Paul Dewar does get pinned down.

A bankrupt nation, some would describe Canada as.

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