Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Mis à jour : il y a 4 min 17 sec

A Barbaric Practice

il y a 10 heures 4 min
I have written before on the ugly and wholly indefensible slaughter of sharks so that their fins can be enjoyed as a delicacy, but now seems a good time to remind people of this barbaric practice. I just received a petition from Change.org calling on the Canadian government to ban the distribution, consumption and sale of shark fins.

Please take a moment to watch the following brief video, read the ensuing explanatory text and then consider signing the petition, obtainable by clicking on the above link.

Sharks – the apex predators of the oceans – have survived 400 million years of evolution, yet many species may face extinction within our lifetime. Up to 100 million sharks are being killed every year, most often their bodies are discarded and only their fins are kept to be used in Shark Fin Soup – a delicacy in some Chinese restaurants. Over hunting of the world’s largest fish has caused severe declines among many shark species, including the iconic Great White. Currently a third of shark species are threatened with extinction, and some populations have plummeted by over 90%. Sharks are essential to the health of our oceans. As apex predators, sharks maintain a critical balance in the ocean. When sharks are eliminated, disastrous effects have been documented further down the food chain, including the collapse of commercial fisheries and the degradation of coral reefs. If sharks were to become extinct, this would have massive unintended consequences for our ocean ecosystems worldwide. Time is running out for the world’s shark populations. It is time to take a big step in preserving the world’s vital oceans by banning the sale and distribution of shark fins and shark fin products nationwide.Recommend this Post

Shaming Those Who Deserve It - The Case Of Kim McArthur

ven, 07/03/2015 - 06:54

Every picture of that I have seen of her shows Kim McArthur sporting the same smile as above, conveying the image of someone without a care in the world, a woman of clear conscience. Yet she should be troubled, just as Robbie Yuill, the subject of yesterday's post, should be. Like Yuill, it would seem McArthur is yet another deadbeat employer, refusing to pay money owed to a former employee, Chelsea Phelan-Tran.

The story begins in June of 2012, when Phelan-Tran
landed her dream job at Toronto-based book publisher McArthur & Company, run by award-winning entrepreneur Kim McArthur. Phelan-Tran, who owed $38,000 in student loans, was thrilled.

But by September, she was no longer being paid. For two months she worked for nothing, hoping things would turn around at the increasingly beleaguered business.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, expecting their first child, went into debt to the tune of $10,000. Getting no response to her email requests for payment from McArthur, Phelan-Tran finally took her complaint to the Ministry of Labour, which failed her badly.
According to ministry documents, McArthur “could not be located,” and it took until Aug. 22, 2013, to hold a fact-finding meeting on Phelan-Tran’s file. McArthur did not attend.

By that time, the publishing company had closed. But the ministry ruled that Phelan-Tran was still owed $3,500 and issued an order for McArthur to pay. The matter was sent to a private collection agency, and for a year, Phelan-Tran heard nothing.

Losing patience, she called the agency herself. The collection agent said she too had failed to locate the employer, at which point Phelan-Tran provided McArthur’s phone number and home address herself.

“She was like, 'Oh, you have that?” Phelan-Tran recalls.This inability to locate McArthur is perplexing, given that she has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn page. As well, The Toronto Star
located McArthur’s phone number, email and home address. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and did not answer the door of her Brantford house — where her 2001 Canadian Women Entrepeneur of the Year award leaned against the front window.Clearly, neither the ministry of Labour nor the collection agency tried very hard to find her, and this has left Phelan-Tran disillusioned:
The ordeal has left the 31-year-old Ajax mother shocked at the lack of support from those meant to work on her behalf.

“It’s a criminal act that she committed. She broke the law,” says Phelan-Tran. “She could just do it again and get away with it.”I have nothing to add to that damning assessment.
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Shaming Those Who Deserve It

jeu, 07/02/2015 - 06:47
Many of them probably sleep quite well at night in the belief that their unethical, criminal behaviour is likely never to see the light of day, and even if it does, it will at worst be exposed on a somewhat obscure Ministry of Labour website. Taking advantage of people seems to come naturally to them; denying workers their rightful wages perhaps even gives them some pleasure. They are employers no one should ever have to deal with. And now, some of them are finally being exposed.

Guided by the Atkinson principles (A strong and united Canada, civic engagement, individual and civil liberties, a necessary role for effective government and the rights of working people), The Toronto Star takes its mission seriously, as recently demonstrated by its exposure of two people, Robbie Elpueppeto Yuill and Kim McArthur, for their refusal to pay their employees the wages they are owed.

Let's start with the experience that Kris Kadas had at the hands of Mr. Yuill, the operator of a small restaurant called Grilled Cheese in Toronto's Kensington Market. Kadas says he is owed backpay of $856.75, part of what he says are thousands of dollars owed to a handful of workers:
In a string of text messages Kadas showed the Star, between himself and a phone number that former workers identified as belonging to The Grilled Cheese owner Robbie Yuill, Kadas repeatedly asked for the owed money.

The texts he got back included: “Hey why don’t you come over here stand right in front of me my brothers want to talk to you too.”

Kadas fought back, telling Yuill: “you need to treat your workers better,” but he still received no pay.Kadas went on to post his experience on Reddit, advising people not to patronize the business, now temporarily closed owing, one assumes, to the adverse publicity generated. Kadas sees this closing as a ploy:
As of yesterday the doors have been locked and the owner is nowhere to be found. He has done this before and reopened with a new team only to screw them over as well. When and if the place becomes operational again please do not give your money to a terrible person.
Global News took up the crusade, and filed this report:

After that report was aired, other former employees came forward:

Exposing corrupt practices to the light of day through both social and mainstream media may be the best way to remedy them. As you will see in my next installment, which looks at the shameful behaviour of Kim McArthur, orders issued by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to pay wages owed often go unheeded.Recommend this Post

..... Canada Day

mer, 07/01/2015 - 06:10
I wish that I could have inserted 'Happy' in front of today's title, but for reasons too obvious to discuss, I can't. However I will say this: may next year find all Canadians in circumstances whereby we can freely us that adjective in a heartfelt salutation to our country.

Meanwhile, allow me to offer the following to observe this day:

And my most heartfelt wish:

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As Canada Day Approaches

mar, 06/30/2015 - 09:32
A little something to think about:

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Robert Reich's Warning About the Trans Pacific Partnership

lun, 06/29/2015 - 18:27
Although directed to an American audience, these warnings are equally applicable to Canada:

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The Trans Pacific Partnership is a zombie that refuses to die no matter how many stakes are driven through its heart. Today the Senate voted 60 to 37 in favor of “fast track” negotiating authority, and final passage of fast track is expected tomorrow – laying the groundwork for an up-or-down vote on the TPP without amendment or full discussion. The big global corporations and Wall Street banks that initiated and have lobbied hard for this anti-worker deal smell victory. Don’t let them have it. Please call your senators and representative now, even if you’ve phoned before, and tell them: No to fast-track and no to the Trans Pacific Partnership. Congressional switchboard: 202-225-3121. Here, again, is what’s at stake:

Posted by Robert Reich on Tuesday, June 23, 2015Recommend this Post

Reprobate Redux

lun, 06/29/2015 - 06:49

For your Monday discernment, I offer this volley of wise observations about that unrepentant felon, Dean Del Mastro, from the usual suspects - Toronto Star readers:

Re: Ex-Tory MP Del Mastro sentenced to month in jail, June 26
Finally a crooked Conservative gets a jail sentence, proclaiming his innocence all the way. In fact, he has the nerve to say, “that’s her opinion,” when the judge declared him guilty of election fraud. Yes, Dean Del Mastro, that is her opinion, her legal opinion, that is.

When is Stephen Harper going to learn that blind loyalty to him isn’t half as important as being honest? I also wonder when all members of the press are going to stop slavishly following Harper around, hoping for some little crumb of a quote when most of us don’t care where he is or what he says.

In fact, since he seems to have a personal vendetta against the general public, why not just ignore him altogether and let his own spin doctors continue to spew the B.S. that he thinks we’re all going to believe.

I am really tired of the deterioration of my country’s standards and the chipping away of our democracy so that one person can wake up every day feeling in control. Mr. Harper, I can hardly wait until October when you face all of the voters whose jobs and rights you have so easily destroyed.

Of course then you will move on to all those oil and mining company boards whose stock holders you have so nicely taken care of. As long as you are not in Ottawa anymore.

Roseanne Quinn, Trenton

I find Dean Del Mastro’s behaviour in actively and most wilfully attempting to suborn the Canadian electoral process by committing electoral fraud and his failure to accept responsibility for his actions profoundly unsettling. Elections are a civic matter grounded in civic social trust and any breach in this trust is indeed most profoundly appalling.

Monte McMurchy, LL.D., Toronto

During his trial, and afterwards, Dean Del Mastro was not repentant and has shown no remorse for breaking the country’s election laws. His stupid, illegal behaviour has caused irrevocable damage to himself, his constituents, Parliament and the country.

That said, he should have been given a conditional sentence. The conditional sentence of imprisonment (or CSI) was introduced in Canada in 1996 as an alternate form of incarceration subject to specific criteria. It is not, as some assume, the same as probation.

In 2000, the Supreme Court clarified its use and differentiated it from probation. When the sentence is a term of imprisonment of less than two years, an offender deemed not to pose a danger to society is allowed to remain in the community, but with a more stringent set of conditions than offenders on parole. The offender must abide by a number of typically punitive conditions, such as house arrest and a strict curfew. If a condition is broken without a lawful excuse, the offender may well serve out the rest of the sentence in prison.

House arrest conditions can be designed to address the factors that led to the offence in the first place. Moreover, some conditional sentences force the offender to make reparations to the victim and the community while living under tight controls. Conditional sentences sustain Canada’s tradition of granting discretion and independence to the judiciary.

Canada’s growing prison population, mounting evidence that jail time does not reduce the chances of re-offending and other factors gave way to an increasing use of conditional sentences.

The illegal, stupid and irresponsible behaviour that Del Mastro indulged in that led to the charges can only be described as “tragic and senseless.” But the question must be asked: what would jail time accomplish that a conditional sentence could not accomplish?

In 2008-09, according to Statistics Canada, the number of offenders serving conditional sentences was 13,500 — a not insignificant number.

Denunciation and imprisonment satisfy society’s desire to punish offenders and reinforce shared values by deterring crime. However, there is little evidence to support the general deterrence argument — that is, that the more severe the punishment, the greater the deterrent effect. Research simply does not support that proposition.

Emile Therien, Ottawa

The Conservative law and order plan finally kicks in.

Bob Larocque, Carrying PlaceRecommend this Post

Like A Festering Pustule That Refuses To Heal

dim, 06/28/2015 - 06:15
Perennial posterior pain K(T)ory Teneycke just won't go away. Currently a Conservative Party campaign spokesman, he once again appears to be out of his depth.

In the following video, which gets really interesting at the four-minute mark, a principled Tom Clark pursues the irritating gnat over his party's use of terrorist imagery in its latest political ad, an apparent contravention of his leader's Bill C-51 anti-terror legislation. You will see that Teneycke is no match for the tenacious Clark.

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A Site Young Voters Should Visit

sam, 06/27/2015 - 08:46
I have written several past posts on the fact that for the most part, youth do not vote, largely because they see nothing on offer from any of the major parties dealing with their issues. The problem, of course, is that as long as they remain a minor presence at the polls, their issues will continue to be ignored. We only have to see the current political rhetoric revolving around the middle class to know who our politicos fear.

Change can only come when the young show that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. I discovered a site yesterday that makes specific appeal to that demographic. Check it out, and if you know any young potential voters, send it along to them. Below is a sample of how Harpoon 2015 is approaching the problem.

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Speaking Of Conservative Crime

ven, 06/26/2015 - 11:21
It seems that our Prime Minister may have violated his own anti-terror law against terrorist imagery and propaganda.

As reported by CTV,
A new Conservative attack ad takes aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s position on the mission against the Islamic State, but it uses the terrorist group’s own horrifying propaganda images.

In the online ad, posted on the Conservative Party’s Facebook page, Trudeau is shown in a CBC interview saying he would end the CF-18 bombing campaign against the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The ad uses Islamic State propaganda, including gruesome images of prisoners facing death by drowning and beheading -- and those images may actually violate the government’s own anti-terror law.Given its pattern of skirting and breaking laws, this may be of no great concern to the Harper regime. But perhaps this will give the apparatchik pause:
Advertising executive Tony Chapman wondered how the uses of ISIS imagery would help the Conservatives score political points.

“Not only are they providing free advertising for ISIS, they’re completely offside and driving Canadian politics to a new low,” said Tony Chapman.While the exploitation of fear is nothing new to the Conservatives, perhaps this latest example will provoke the backlash it so roundly deserves:

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On the same day that ISIS releases yet another barbaric video, Justin Trudeau promises to stop bombing ISIS. He’s clearly just not ready for the serious job of Prime Minister.

Posted by Conservative Party of Canada - Parti conservateur du Canada on Thursday, June 25, 2015Recommend this Post

What Constitutes Reasonable Return?

ven, 06/26/2015 - 07:16
Orphan diseases are perhaps the most cruel of illnesses. Frequently life threatening, they afflict only a very small percentage of the world's populations, thereby discouraging research and making any drugs that are developed prohibitively expensive. Are pharmaceutical companies that do develop treatments merely getting fair return on their investment, or are they in fact extorting governments through manipulative emotional pressures as they assist families in publicizing their plight in bids to get government approval?

These questions and others are raised in a documentary shown on The National the other night. The drug in question, Solaris, costs over $600 thousand per year to save the life of one person.

As you will see, parents and other loved ones are put into untenable positions, making them easy pawns for what some would say are unfair pharmaceutical practices. That being said, I would do exactly what they are doing to save someone close to me.

You decide the ethics here:

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Burn, Baby, Burn

jeu, 06/25/2015 - 12:23

Click hear to learn about pastor Rick Scarborough's plan to defend 'traditional marriage.'

Would it be wrong of me to offer this 'man of God' some waterproof matches?
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Breaking With Tradition

jeu, 06/25/2015 - 09:23
... there were no reports of Dean Del Mastro breaking down in tears, a first for the former star of the Harper regime. Perhaps knowing that he will only serve one week in jail for his crimes lightened his mood.

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Things We Are Not Supposed To Know Or Think About

mer, 06/24/2015 - 06:39
While The Star's David Olive recently wrote an article extolling the economic benefits of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, others strongly suggest the need for extreme caution, not just because of potential job losses, but also due to the very real losses in national sovereignty that will ensue if the agreement is ever finalized.

Consider the following from The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur, who argues that the secrecy behind the negotiations is understandable, given that its benefits will redound not to the people, but to the multinational corporations. While speaking from an American perspective, his observations are equally applicable to Canada:

As well, Star readers sound these notes of caution about free trade agreements:

Trade pact coming, despite opposition, June 19
David Olive’s championing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is so wrong-headed, I hardly know where to begin. In suggesting that state authority and power in developing countries should rather give way to corporate power, he is doubling down on the proven dysfunction of such corporate hegemony, in terms of income inequality, and the impact on workers and the environmental.

To suggest that countries will be better off in a corporate-dominated world is naive at best. His assertion that Canada has really done fine as a result of free trade so far is also an amazingly blinkered view of reality.

Even measured in that narrowest of measures, GDP, we have not done as well in the last 20 years as we did in the “protectionist” era of the 1950s through 1970s. When you look at distribution of this GDP, it is obvious that middle class families have not benefited at all.

John Simke, Toronto

Free-trade agreements are based on the premise that if every country exports what it makes most efficiently and if governments clear the way for market forces to engage in transactions, then everyone will be better off. However, in practice, only multi-national corporations have benefited from free-trade agreements as national interests are undermined.

Taxes are lowered, public services are cut, wages are downgraded, environmental protection is weakened, and regulations are abolished. In short, economic activities have taken precedent over other considerations, such as social justice and national democratic mandates.

The European and North American experiences have shown how, under free trade, governments lose the ability to be responsive to the national needs. Under NAFTA, the Chapter 11 clause has allowed investors to launch successful legal challenges against governments, undermining their efforts to enforce environmental, health or safety standards.

The free trade arrangements worked for the West in the follow up to World War II. However, in the complex 21st century world, they are no longer working. We should come up with a way to regulate the damage done by free trade without undermining its advantages.

Ali Orang, Richmond Hill
Trade deals a big threat to Medicare, Letter June 21
I sincerely hope that the Star is mustering its considerable investigative talents to check out the alarming allegations in Professor Meyer Brownstone’s letter. He claims that the new Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) “includes health among services to be shifted to the corporate sector in a wholesale global privatization process that includes education, prisons and other public services.” He also claims that “all participants are sworn to secrecy for five years even if the negotiations fail.”

Thanks in advance for your excellent service in this and so many other secretive and complex matters.

Jean Gower, KingstonAnd so the world moves on, not always for the better, while we sleep.Recommend this Post

Entitled To Her Entitlements

mar, 06/23/2015 - 11:57
That seems to be the attitude of Ann Gray, another former Harper appointee, on her and her husband's lavish 'fact-finding' trips, which cost the taxpayer plenty. She regards the fuss as much ado about nothing, seeing the trips as a 'thank you' for her unpaid time sitting on the Blue Water Bridge Canada crown corporation.

Rarely has a volunteer done so little for so much, some might say.

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Michael Chong And The Reform Act

mar, 06/23/2015 - 07:37
Yesterday, Owen at Northern Reflections wrote a post on Michael Chong, one of the few members of Stephen Harper's caucus with real integrity, attested to by his principled resignation as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs after Harper's unilateral declaration of Quebec as a nation. A legitimate question posed is why he remains in the caucus, given the principles he seems to represent. I opined that perhaps he is biding his time, looking toward a future Conservative Party that is no longer led by Stephen Harper, when there is a real opportunity for renewal.

Another reason Chong should feel profoundly disaffected is the fact that his Reform Act has been gutted, and up to yesterday, looked likely to be killed by the Senate through an odious amendment, despite the fact that it was passed by the House. Fortunately, the bill was passed last night without the amendment.

Here is Michael Chong talking to Terry Milewski about the bill on Power and Politics yesterday that perhaps gives some insight into his thinking:

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This Is What Real Protest Looks Like

lun, 06/22/2015 - 07:11
All Canadians could learn a lot from the Brits:
London, United Kingdom - Activists and trade union leaders have called for a general strike and a mass campaign of civil disobedience to bring down the country's new right-wing government as hundreds of thousands took to the streets of London and other cities to protest against austerity and public service cuts.

Organisers said a quarter of a million people had joined Saturday's march from the Bank of England to the Houses of Parliament, with smaller protests also taking place in Glasgow, Liverpool, and Bristol, and pledged the event was only a beginning.

"We've got to get rid of this government quicker than five years. This government cannot last the full term," Sam Fairbairn, national secretary of the People's Assembly, the anti-austerity campaign group that organised the march, told a rally in Parliament Square.

"Today is just the start of a campaign of protests, of strikes, of direct action and civil disobedience up and down the country. We are going to organise the biggest mass movement this country has ever seen, and it is that mass movement that is going to kick David Cameron out of office."

There is similar anger in Canada over the Harper regime's many abuses of the country's citizens. How can we best mobilize that anger?Recommend this Post

In Which John Ibbitson Continues His Audition For A Senate Seat

dim, 06/21/2015 - 13:10
But he'd better hurry. There is talk of regime change this October.

Watch The Sunday Scrum as John consistently, stoutly and steadfastly defends Dear Leader at every turn while opining on matters such as cabinet departures, the Senate scandal involving Don Meredith, and Mr. Harper's refusal to take questions from national reporters.

All in all, Mr. Ibbitson shows he clearly has what it takes to ably represent his master in The Red Chamber.

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Some Days I Don't Have To Write Anything

dim, 06/21/2015 - 06:32
... thanks to groups like this:

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