December 23, 2006

Merry/Happy: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid, Holidays...

Just wanted to say have a wonderful and safe holiday(s)! More to come in the New Year... unless something crazy happens between now and then. Keep fighting the good fight!

December 20, 2006

And The Gimmicks Continue

One week ago today, I posted about the Conservatives affinity towards using gimmicks. That they haven't really produced much more than a lot of optics is fairly accurate. Since that post the optics knob has been cranked to the max and gimmicks are being dished out at light speed.

Today the Conservatives re-unveiled their plan to include up to 5% ethanol or other biofuels into gasoline by 2010 and diesel by 2012. This was originally unveiled with the so-called "Clean Air Act". In fact, Ambrose, who was flanked by Chuck Strahl, specifically stated that this needed to be passed with the Clean Air Act. This, obviously, was all just another game of optics and a lousy attempt to save face.

The optics of this announcement extended beyond just announcing a program that is already in place. Chuck Strahl was also present because of his big PR gaffe that came with the firing of the head of the Wheat Board (it definitely didn't win them many farmers' votes). Essentially after Ambrose was finished reading her talking points Strahl got up and repeatedly mentioned that this plan was 'good news for farmers'. Why is it good news? Because the government is going to reimburse farmers for their initial investments for the technology to produce more ethanol, rather than just make an investment in farmers themselves (the Liberal plan).

As mentioned, this plan has already been announced, but it comes on the heels of another announcement where the gimmick was also front and centre. Take for example the Conservatives plan to extend the funding of the federal homelessness plan. While it is laudable that they are doing this, they have decided to re-brand the program so they can say during election time, "we created it."

In fact, ever since the House broke for the holidays it has been one thing after another that all seems to be pointing towards pre-election posturing. Harper ran to Quebec to sell land back to Quebecers and talk about his nation motion. He has also been trying to suck up to the media by attending their parties, having some of his own and holding one-on-ones with the major networks. And for anyone that has seen them, they are priceless (and sad). This has also been coupled with his faint praise for the NDP's 'willingness' to work with him on creating a better environmental policy in an effort to green-wash his government. With the exception of Canwest, none of the media outlets seem to be playing ball as they all are quick to point out the problems with all these announcements. But then again aren't they all conspiring against the Conservatives?

I'm sure there will be more and that I'm even missing a few points. At some point this government needs to make a move. I don't believe Canadians are as naive as the Conservatives take them for. Too many provincial governments have trotted down the ideology path with masks of moderation donned. And there was the last Liberal federal government that also used some trickery here and there to cover-up their own shortcomings. There is also the problem that the Republicans in the US have also been playing a similar game since 2001. Politics has to be about much more than optics and gimmicks anymore because people are privy to the reality they live in.

Harper's Lowest Point Yet

Aside of watching the general news to find purpose in life, I also spend time watching sports updates. Sportsnet just showed a clip of a Stephen Harper interview. It is now plain obvious that he is desperate to gain votes in Toronto. In this interview he pandered to the lowest common denominator of Ontario's citizens... he praised the Maple Leafs.

There was something about the Leafs being well-balanced and other utter crap. While I will admit that Harper was right, the Leafs have some good young players, anything else beyond that, especially expressing anything that resembles being confident in the team, is unnecessary and pure pandering.

Everyone knows that the Canadian team closest to winning the Stanley Cup, especially this year, is obviously the Montreal Canadiens. If any Canadian team is well balanced and full of future superstars and deserves the confidence of their fans, it's the Habs.

I've said this many times: The Leafs will never win a Cup in my lifetime and the Habs will win at least one in every decade in which I'm breathing.

Oh yeah, did I mention I've lived in Ontario my entire life (only 45 minutes from Toronto) and still I'm a Habs fan.

That's all...

Biofuel Announcement from Ambrose and Strahl

I'm watching CTV at the moment where Ambrose and Strahl are announcing "meaningful steps" to adopt a biofuel commitment.

The results are apparently concrete and bolster the Clean Air Act. They are going to require all gasoline to include 5% ethanol and other fuels to have 2% by 2010 and 2012. Apparently these are short term goals... They are also apparently already pieces of the Clean Air Act or something to that effect.

Strahl just keeps mentioning something about all of this, 'being good new for farmers.'

So far this has been nothing more than an announcement to say, 'we've f****d up with the environment and farmers and our poll indications show this and we need to hold an optics-based press conference to save our asses.'

It's so interesting and new that CBC News and CTV Newnet aren't even showing the entire thing. CBC went back to showing Dubya's press conference.

I love how the Conservatives, ever since the final day of sitting, has been on a media tour and practically giving election-type optics at every turn. If this isn't a sign that they are acknowledging they've screwed up and are bleeding support, I don't know what is...

I'll blog more about the specifics later...

December 18, 2006

NDP Might Give The Liberals Their Election Call

(updated @ 8:20pm)
Jack Layton held a press conference today and followed this up with an interview on Politics with Don Newman. In both instances Layton talked about the work the NDP are doing through the environmental committee to deliver a real environmental and climate change program. He also said that he would like to see the bill come before the House sometime in February, prior to a budget being presented. While Newman questioned the likeliness of this happening, Layton replied that he believes if the opposition parties push for it to happen then it will.

This is something the Liberals need to get behind. Dion has already stated that he won't bring down the House over Afghanistan, which is probably wise. However, bringing down the House over the budget after it has been presented to the public (and most likely contains lots of 'gifts') is a risky move. Bringing down the House over the environment prior to the budget is both the perfect issue and time.

If the NDP, who gives the impression their spear-heading the whole process, are as serious about the environment as they say they are then what will be proposed will be incompatible with the agenda and the coming budget of the Conservatives. A new bill, with real teeth, will most likely include new (or restored) federal funding and grants for research and retrofitting programs (i.e. Energuide). There should be a real commitment to meeting Canada's Kyoto targets and will involve demands on and changes to policy regarding industry. However, since it's doubtful that the Conservatives even believe there is an environmental problem in the first place, that they disagree with and withdrew from Kyoto, and that the new bill will reverse cuts that the Conservatives made, there should be no way the Conservatives will agree with the bill. And in that case, this could be the issue that brings down the government.

All three opposition parties have pledged to fight for the environment. However, it's the Liberals that are currently making the biggest impression with Canadians (and the Green Party) in that area. While Layton is obviously trying to get himself back in the game with his comments today, he is really just going to boost the fortunes of the Liberals. It remains to see how committed the NDP really are to the environment. Not that there is any reason to not believe them but with their poll numbers I can't imagine they're looking to get into an election any time soon. But that may be where we're headed if they follow through with their environmental pledge and get the Liberals and Bloc to push it through the House prior to the budget.

Pushing it through early will probably lead to one of two scenarios:

  1. All the opposition parties back the plan but the Conservatives do not and make it an issue of confidence. Thus the House will fall. Or;
  2. The Conservatives do not back the bill nor make it an issue of confidence. However, since all the opposition parties back it they then have grounds to bring the Conservatives down.

However, all this depends on the strength of the bill and strength of the commitment of the opposition parties to this issue (and the Conservatives pulling a quick one). If the opposition comes through and the bill is the real thing then this could be good for the Liberals. They definitely need to get behind the bill and it's introduction into the House prior to the budget.

December 16, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green...

...Or from the Conservatives point of view, it's not easy giving the perception that you're green. And therein lies the problem for this government. Not only have they failed to be green, they have failed at being perceived as green as well. This was essentially confirmed by both Mulroney and Harper.

Mulroney acknowledged the failure when he confirmed that the Conservatives were lacking in the green department, "I think there's more work to be done on [the environment], both substantively and presentationally..." (1)

Harper has said he agrees with Mulroney's evaluation of what the Conservatives haven't been able to achieve. (2) However, in a televised spot Harper referred to the greenhouse gas threat as "so-called" and the "perceived effects on [people's] health from the environment over time."(3) This also comes on the heel of Stockwell Day's comments that blatantly shows his skepticism and doubt for the science and evidence supporting global warming.(4) These comments have given the people of Canada some clues to why the Harper government is failing; they don't believe that there is an environmental problem. Their so-called 'Clean Air Act' is proof of that.

Harper has said he will improve his government's environmental policies in the new year, probably beginning with more optics in the form of a cabinet shuffle and the outing of Rona Ambrose. However, it will take more than simple gimmicks to change the public's opinion on the Conservatives green-wash because most Canadians are now privy to the motivations of this government. But more than that, the Conservatives lived up to Canadians expectations on the environment.

Earlier this year, in April, there was a poll released about the government's performance in it's first few months. Since the government hadn't really done anything up to that point, the poll's results were more about the expectations people had.(5) The expectations for their environment performance was poor. If they've already met - and possibly exceeded - people's poor expectations then it's definitely going to take more than a cabinet shuffle and better optics to gain back credibility. And this challenge is only going to become even more tedious because the Liberals are laying the groundwork for a major environmental campaign.

It is not an easy thing for the Liberals to claim they are the new green-conscience of the Canadian government. Their track record is also less than perfect with several failed commitments in their pocket. However, there is a clear difference between the record of the Liberals and the Conservatives. While the Liberals' commitments were generally either too weak or too unreasonable, the Conservatives can't even claim they have tried. Not only have cut a revised and greatly improved Liberal environmental plan and passed the Clean Air Act - which doesn't contain anything substantial - but they also cut funding to environmental and green technology research and slashed the Energuide program that was cost-efficient and effective. Therefore, with respect to the environment, the Liberals hold much more credibility than the Conservatives do and this creates a problem for the Conservatives to climb out of the hole they dug themselves into.

Things are getting easier from that perspective either because as recent as this past week, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, has also been on the defensive over the Conservatives environmental record.(6) If there is anyone, or any party, that has the credibility and the public's confidence when it comes to the environment it is May and the Green Party. May has also thrown her support, at least in comparison to the other party leaders, behind Dion and his strong focus on the environment. The praise has also been coming the other way. And this has now led to speculation that the Liberals and Greens might possibly try to strategically work together in the event of an election.(7)

Having Canada's most credible party on the environment working together with the Liberals creates a massive problem for the Conservatives. The Conservatives have no environmental credibility and polls are showing they are steadily falling behind the Liberals in support, most notably in seat-rich Ontario and Quebec. Having the Liberals and Greens working together means the Conservatives would have to do more than just create optics, they would have to provide evidence they can and will deliver on the environment. But time is running short. The Bloc are threatening to bring the Conservatives down sometime shortly after the House returns in the New Year. This doesn't give the Conservative much time to table a motion on the environment or much less prove they can be green. Not that we can reasonably expect something significant from a party that doesn't accept there's an environmental problem in the first place.

Like Kermit the Frog says, "It's not easy..."

December 15, 2006

With Friend's Like This...

On Wednesday, former PM Mulroney conceded that the Conservatives have royally screwed on the environmental issue. While Mulroney was likely trying to provide some guidance to Harper on how to handle some of the issues Canadians are concerned with (which doesn't include tax and program cuts), it ended up confirming what critics have been saying all along. According to Mulroney, "I think there's more work to be done on that, both substantively and presentationally..." In other words, do something real and do it soon.

Then on Thursday, a top US State Department official, Tom Shannon, offered this nice statement about the Canadian Conservatives and the Republicans, in that they share an "important ideological affinity." This, much like Mulroney's quote, confirmed what many people have been saying for a long time - Harper's government is a far-right, ideological party. It is well known that Canadians' opinions are far from being favourable towards the Republicans, but to have a politician, that is arguably an ally to both Bush and Harper, confirm this, speaks volumes. And if this is true (which I tend to believe it is) then Canadians can know what to expect in terms of social policy. Nothing. What they can expect is a government hell-bent on tearing apart our social programs, cutting necessary taxes and running the government in ways that are contradictory to the views of the majority of Canadians. It also explains a lot...

These are the little things that the opposition has to seize on and expose. You want proof that the Conservatives have no real plans for the environment... listen to Mulroney, their ally. You want an idea of the true motivations of this Conservative government... listen to what Tom Shannon is saying. With an election probably just around the corner, these are gifts that we (those who oppose the Conservatives) need to spread and bring to the rest of the public.

December 13, 2006

All Gimmicks, All The Time

I'm sitting around watching Politics with Don Newman and he has a panel of MPs discussing Harper's revolutionary plan to apparently 'reform the senate'. The Conservative MP (who's name is escaping me - not like it matters to me... Or Harper) is already towing the party line. He's spewing crap about how the people will finally get a democrat senate and they will be pleased that they get to decide who goes into the senate. The other MPs pipe up and poke a billion holes in the plan and what is his reply? The same crap he just said prior to it being torn apart. He's on broken-record mode. I guess the Conservative party brass didn't provide the guy with enough talking points to give a substantial rebuttal to the criticism (or they're playing the Goebbels game, again [wink!]).

If anything, the whole charade just made me frustrated. How far does the Conservatives disdain for democracy and lack of respect for Canadians run? So far the Conservatives have not contributed anything substantial to the Canadian public and they consistently refuse to answer questions about their lack of real governing.

This new senate announcement is the perfect example. While Canadians are able to choose their favourite person for senate, it has to be done so from a list of candidates chosen by the government and then the government gets the final say about who actually will get the senate seat. That isn't contributing to democracy. It's nothing more than re-jigging some of the procedures to support the same problem. If anything it closely emulates the so-called changes the Cons' made to the process of selecting our Superior Judges where they'll allow judges to be questioned but the PM still has final say.

And then there's the announcement by Rona the Useless about banning mercury from car manufacturing. While the plan itself is laudable it's the timing of it that is questionable. Much like this senate announcement, the mercury plan came on the last day of sitting until the new year. Both of these were announced today in hopes of turning around the poor public perception the Cons have been receiving of late. But can we blame the public for having a general poor outlook? Definitely not.

The public is probably tired of being played for fools by our government. They tried to express that during our last election when, as it is becoming more blatantly clear, they voted against the Liberals and not for the Conservatives. Yet, rather than governing, the Conservatives have continued to display their disdain for ordinary Canadians.

  • They've tried to pull a fast one with the 'change' in the Supreme Court nominations.
  • They tabled a poor and obvious partisan Accountability Act.
  • They've cut and made cuts to Social Programs.
  • They tabled the Clean Air Act which wasn't worth the paper it was printed on and therefore wasted valuable trees.
  • They've attempted to sell-out Canada's softwood lumber industry and are attempting to do the same with our wheat out West.
  • They announced the chemical-ban plan that cut the number of noted chemicals by more than half and doesn't have the teeth it needs.
  • They created an apparent Universal Child-Care program that does nothing for child care.
  • And now they're trying to reform the senate selection.

The Conservatives have no substance to them or their plans. They are nothing more than ideologists who are hell bent on doing what they feel like while trying to fool Canadians that they are something more than what they are. So far they have only proven all their nay-sayers right; they only have their own interests at heart. It's only one gimmick after another in an attempt to gain the favour of voters so they can continue on with their need for control so they can push an agenda that doesn't mesh with most Canadians. It's all about optics. And that is unfortunate and will come back to haunt them because Canadians, after the Liberals royally screwed up, are a little more aware and sceptical about what goes on in Ottawa.

December 12, 2006

Bringing Down the House Makes Sense for Duceppe.

Forcing the government to fall on the Afghanistan issue makes perfect political sense. Let's think about this critically and from Duceppe's point of view. As recently as three weeks ago the Bloc won a major victory when it was able to push the House to recognize the Quebecois as a nation. And despite all the confusion surrounding the resulting motion it had two positive outcomes for the Bloc;

  1. It exposed the divisions in the Liberals and the Conservatives over the Quebecois' status.
  2. It gave some re-affirmation to the Bloc's relevance in Quebec politics.

However, the Bloc has also recently faced somewhat of a setback at home. This came when Stephane Dion was named leader of the Liberals. The speculation about Dion was that he would be a non-player in Quebec when it came to a federal election. Being that he had been considered soft and a bit of traitor from being the prime architect of the Clarity Act, most guessed he would be a liability for the Liberals. The only problem for Duceppe (and Harper) was that all the speculation seems to have been wrong. Not only is Dion showing more favourably at home, but the Liberals' numbers in general are also up (and not just in Quebec). And the numbers seem to be climbing. This means that some of Duceppe's momentum from the Quebecois Nation motion has been lost and he needs to do something, fast.

This can't be the only concern on Duceppe's mind either. Sometime in the new year the Conservatives are set to release a budget. While we don't know what the specifics of the budget will be there is some speculation as to what it might contain. One part of this will probably be new money or at least a better deal for Quebec. Add to this the rumours that Harper is planning to table a motion to hand greater power to the provinces, Duceppe ultimately finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Greater fiscal resources and greater provincial autonomy for Quebec are two major parts of the Bloc's agenda and if another party can deliver all those things, then the Bloc won't be so relevant. All they really would have left is their stance on separation and even that doesn't seem to have the same legs it once did.

Bringing down the house at this point makes complete sense, politically. Especially over the issue of Afghanistan. With the Bloc's issues being co-opted by the Conservatives, for their own political gain, and with the Liberals re-electing a well-known Quebecois for leader who is also taking on issues that are extremely important to Quebec (i.e. environment), Duceppe needs to do something to - essentially - stop the number of Quebeckers from looking at other parties. Using Afghanistan will help with that to some degree because it is a divisive issue as far as the Liberals are concerned and to a lesser extent the Conservatives as well. Using Afghanistan may give Duceppe back some of the momentum he had with the Nation issue and again expose party divisions that may make them look out of touch with the views of Quebec. However, there is some risk to move because the Liberals, in general, could side with the Bloc. It will definitely help if all the Liberal Quebec MPs side with the Bloc while the at-large Liberal MPs generally support the fall as well. And there's the problem that the Liberals may gain for not being the initiators of the fall in the first place. It's definitely a fine line Duceppe is walking.

For this to work, it will definitely have to come prior to the Conservatives budget being released and any motion that will move bulks of power from the federal level to the provincial level. It will also need to come sooner than later because the longer it's delayed the more time the Liberals will have to be prepared for an election and be able to develop some real policies on some of the more important issues for Quebeckers, such as the environment, the fiscal imbalance and health care. The next couple of months will be interesting, to say the least, because not only is the Bloc looking to bring down the house but so are the Liberals and the NDP. At the moment, the Conservatives, it seems, can't do anything right in the eyes of the public and the opposition parties are definitely looking to take advantage of it before the Conservatives find a way to turn the tide.

December 09, 2006

Bill Graham's Not Pulling Any Punches

H/T to Dymaxion World;

Graham must be getting serious with his dislike for the Cons tactics. On Thursday

Bill Graham compared the Cons to Joseph Goebbels because Graham believes that the Cons are sticking to false lines about the Liberals. Of course, the Cons are a little more than ticked. And who wouldn't be? Who wants to be compared to one of the worst group of people in history? Yet this begs the question. "Is it really reprehensible, if it's true?"

There are several things that I can recall off the top of my head that the Cons have consistently lied about:

1) One of Flaherty's favourite lies is that the average Canadian is taxed around 50%. He has repeated this many times, despite it being out right wrong. The average Canadian is only taxed approximately 33%-35%.

2) Harper and Ambrose's constant assertion that there wasn't any environmental plan prior to the Cons getting into power. In fact there was a failed commitment and then an actual program put in place shortly before the election was held. This program was immediately trashed by the Cons after taking power.

3) Ambrose has also been known to toss out the claim that the former Liberal government spent $100 million on carbon credits. In fact, no such thing happened.

4) Baird is fond of blaming the Liberal Senate for intentionally holding-up the passing of the Accountability Act, for partisan reasons, despite it's apparent poor wording and some of the changes being unreasonable or unrealistic. He did this rather than acknowledging that there were issues with the submitted version and that there were some Conservative senators that also had concern. It's interesting that the fixed-up version that was given back to him got his seal of approval and he has also stated that it is an improvement from the original.

Part of Goebbel's propaganda was to say a lie so often that it eventually is taken for truth. This is what Graham accused the Cons of doing. While the comparison may leave some people with a poor taste in their mouth, it does get the point across. And as I asked above, 'Is it really reprehensible, if it's true?"

As a side note, I don't think the Cons should get too concerned over hearing Nazi comparisons. Their Republican counterparts are quite fond of using the comparison for a whole host of people. If anything, it's a mode of recognition with them. You know you must have gotten the Republicans' attention when they've compared you to some aspect of the Nazis. So really in this case, the Cons should should feel proud that they've got the Liberals taking them seriously.

December 05, 2006

Creating Efficiencies By Cutting Access

In an earlier post, I had mentioned that Harper cutting access to the Status of Women programming was tantamount to cutting the program. I was implying that in spite of being forced by the opposition parties to keep the Status of Women program running, he was cutting access by closing 12 of 16 offices and therefore not having to provide the same level of funding to the program. An obvious attempt to appease the lobbyist group REAL Women, a social conservative group, after failing to shut the program down, which they originally lobbied for.

Anyway, my implication may not have been right on the mark. Apparently, they are going to keep the funding in place. The plan is to redirect the savings from the beurocratic side of the program and place it directly into programs. This is obviously just pure spin.

Sure, the funding might still be there on paper but it doesn't mean it will be used. At the end of the fiscal year, the unused money will show up as surplus in the government's budget. And how are they going to have a surplus in the program? They are cutting access to the program. If women can't get to an office to access the personnel or the resources that are supposed to be available, then the Status for Women program isn't being used. If the program isn't being used, then money isn't being spent. This is nothing more than spin-doctoring at its worst and for an ideological purpose that doesn't mesh with the ideals of most Canadians.

December 01, 2006

To Come Full Cirlce...

This has been a long time coming. Today, I am officially resigning my membership in the NDP. And I am re-joining the Liberals.

There was no one specific event that helped me make up my mind about my return to the Liberal fold. It has been a switch that I have pondered for just under a year. I have been talking to friends who are involved with the Liberals and the feeling I got from them about many different aspects reminded me of why I originally joined the Liberals. I also wanted to avoid any speculation from naysayers, assuming there might be some, that I was 'jumping on the bandwagon' of the new leader. As of this point, there is no new leader yet.

I resigned my membership with the Liberals shortly before Paul Martin crowned himself king and in the process divided the party. I was one those people who didn't believe the rhetoric of renewal under Martin would come to fruition. If the new leader was willing to divide the party for his own gain then he really wasn't being much of a leader. Expressing that opinion openly wasn't viewed as being loyal to the party and any of us that believed that were essentially considered outcasts. And shortly before that I had been skeptical about the leadership of McGuinty. Therefore, I let go and joined the NDP, hoping for something more.

I have nothing really negative to say about the NDP. They have some great ideas and ideals and they have done a lot for the progress of Canada. I just didn't ever feel apart of them, not in the same manner as I had when I was with the Liberals. This is strange to say really since I generally lean far to the left. I have also spent a lot of time attacking Liberal policies, especially when it comes to Ontario and energy. However, while I still find myself skeptical in some areas when it comes to the Ontario government, it has been less so of late. And with the Federal party letting go of the past and heading towards real renewal, I feel as though rejoining the Liberals would be the right decision to make.

I still hold reservations towards one of the potential leaders; that being Ignatieff. He reminds me too much of the 'old guard' Liberals, the ones that made members such myself feel unwanted. However, I don't believe things will turn out that way in the event that he wins. I actually don't think he'll win anyway. My choice for leader is Gerard Kennedy. I think he'll truly bring a renewal of the party and reinvigorate the Liberals with a forward, progressive set of ideals.

Only time (1 day in fact) will tell who become leader and the direction the Liberals will take from, here on in. This will not mean I will end my criticism on decisions that I feel are poor ones. I can only hope that it instead, within a newly reunited party that different points of view will be accepted. In the end of it all, I hope that I'm making the right decision in re-joining the Liberals. And with that, my membership within the NDP is officially over (I guess this also means that my feed into the Blogging Dippers will come to an immediate end).

November 29, 2006

If at first you don't succeed....

Well it looks like since the Cons couldn't cut the Status of Women Canada program they instead decided to cut access.

"The Conservative government has stunned women's advocates with a decision to close three-quarters of the regional offices of Status of Women Canada.

Cabinet minister Bev Oda says 12 of the 16 offices will be shut by April 1.

Status of Women Canada is a federal agency that works to advance women's economic equality, human rights and eliminate violence against women."

Isn't this a minority government? I guess getting told that they were to keep the program because it is valuable and provides a great service by the majority of MP's, representing the majority of Canadians doesn't mean much. It's so sad that this government shows a complete lack or regard for the will of the people. It is also another move just to appease their base. Essentially ever decision the Cons have made thus far has been about either ideology or re-election. And since the latest Quebec nation move had just as much to do about trying to make gains in Quebec, but also had the effect of ticking off their supporters, I guess they had to do something to make it up to them. Let's not forget that when the Cons originally tried to cut the Status of Women's program it was because REAL Women, a socially conservative women's group, lobbied for the program to be cut. So if at first....

November 25, 2006

Duceppe's Lost In Translation

In an interesting twist of events Duceppe has decided after all that he will support Harper's motion that "The Quebecois are a nation within a united Canada". Duceppe has also stated that this is progress for the sovereignty movement. However, it seems that whenever he talks about this part he only seems to refer to Quebec and not the Quebecois, as the motion states. Duceppe seems to have missed the significant difference between the two.

It only refers to the Quebecois in the sociological term. It recognizes the group of people regardless of their location. It negates any significance of territory and transcends borders. There are more than just Quebecois within Quebec and there are Quebecois that live outside of Quebec. And this motion simply recognizes them, as people. This has no real impact on the sovereignty of Quebec because it is simply based culturally related individuals. For sovereignty to be successful and meaningful the group would require some attachment to land. While there may be an argument that part of the connection between Quebecois is Quebec there is the issue that more than just the Quebecois hold Quebec significant. Let's remember that the land originally belonged to the First Nations people and still includes them within the borders and that the borders of Quebec have changed over its history.

The real concern though is that Duceppe has interpreted this motion as some recognition that the Quebecois are superior. While Harper and his crew have said that this motion provides them with no special privilege, it doesn't seem like either Duceppe or Boisclair necessarily agree. Since the Quebecois are the only group that are specifically recognized in this manner there is the argument that they do hold some special consideration in the eyes of the government. This is a matter that needs to be defused either through the courts or in the House. Is it possible to recognize other significant groups (Acadians, Metis, Inuit...) that hold historical and cultural importance within Canada? I'm not sure. Though I do think that if something isn't done, then as Boisclair has stated, the future relationship will only focus on "how Ottawa will now meet Quebec demands for more money, constitutional changes, an independent voice on the international stage, and more say over its own affairs". And this will be approached from a position that the Quebecois are somehow more deserving because of their specific recognition within the House.

November 23, 2006

Is Duceppe Confused Or Am I?; Quebecois Vs. Quebec

First off, let me state that I do not have any serious objections to Harper's preemptive measure to recognize the Quebecois. If we are going to be forced to give them unique recognition then it's better to do it on our - federalists - terms. However, I am a bit confused about the current debate that is taking place, particularly on the part of Duceppe.

Duceppe's original motion, as I understand it, was to recognize Quebec as a nation. If this is the case, then Duceppe was essentially asking that Quebec, the province and everything within its borders, would be officially recognized as a unique nation. Harper on the other hand preempted this by introducing two key changes. One is that he has attached, "within a united Canada", but most importantly he changed 'Quebec' to 'Quebecois'. The part that I am confused with is that Duceppe while Duceppe has attempted to amend the addition of Harper's motion, he has largely ignored the Quebec-Quebecois switch. And in my mind that is the important part especially if sovereignty is the end goal.

Whether we include "within a united Canada" or "that is currently in Canada" or nothing at all just seems plain trivial if Quebec as a province is not part of the equation. If separation or sovereignty is the ultimate goal, it seems to me that it would be worthless if you do not have a home to lay claim to. There is a huge difference between being specially recognized sociologically or culturally and being recognized territorially. One is only an honour that is being bestowed upon a group. The other amounts to something much costlier for our country.

Maybe Duceppe still sees some hope for sovereignty based on a sociological recognition. Though I can't imagine that would mean much versus a separation based on territory. If you wish to be a sovereign culture and give up your Canadian citizenship and therefore letting go of all claims to the benefits that come with it, well wouldn't that simply be a personal choice? While separating the province of Quebec from Canada may only take a significant majority, I don't think it's possible for someone else decide whether or not you're a Canadian citizen. This is why I don't think recognizing the Quebecois, rather than Quebec, has any serious ramifications in the sovereignty debate. If anything, it does strengthen the idea of multiculturalism that is inherent of Canada already.

Duceppe is right, the addition Harper wanted to attach to the statement is somewhat partisan. Then again, maybe Harper went that route intentionally so the debate surrounding the motion would focus on the aspect that seems to be of least in importance. Whether or not there is any significance to using the phrase 'within a united Canada' rather than 'currently within Canada' or nothing at all seems like moot argument if we are only recognizing the Quebecois as a nation, sociological. And in that regards, it seems to me that Duceppe is missing the real significance of Harper's motion.

November 22, 2006

The Religious Right and SSM; A Reflection

Wudrick's latest, found here, is an insightful look at the arguments surrounding SSM and the acceptance of differing opinions. Here, ALW makes some valid points.

To argue that SSM is a granted right as wrong, is correct. As ALW makes clear, marriage is a symbol. The foundation of that symbol is different for different people, hence why we have the debate of whether or not SSM should be allowed or not. However, the general symbolic value of marriage is the same for everyone. Simply, it is the unity and commitment of those who wish to share their life together. Yet, it is this general concept that our law must recognize. If our society believes itself to be just and does not value one person over another within the confounds of law, then the privilege (if it's not a right but is lawfully allowed then it's a privilege) that is granted to heterosexual people must be granted to homosexual people as well. We cannot base our privilege granting powers on religious grounds because we have a separation of church and state. Therefore, if Diane Haskett were to be elected to the House and set-out to force her moral judgement, it would be a violation of the principles of our society and our government; the recipient and the purveyour/protector of just, respectively.

The only position that is acceptable, lawfully and socially, to deny gays the right to partake in this symbolic act, is one of harm. There would have to be evidence of harm shown by Tim and Tom getting married. So far no Christians, or any other 'religious' persons, have been harmed by a gay couple being married. If anything, there is evidence to the contrary if we're talking about the institution of marriage.

Wudrick is also right to mention that we cannot fully expect people to check their "strong religious convictions" at the door of the House upon entering. However, there is a difference between asking them to check their religion and their values. You see there is a huge difference between the two. Religion (read: organized), for better or worse, has no place in the House because of the separation between Church and State. This is an accepted practice within the Canadian political realm and if Diane Haskett wants to run to be apart of politics here she should and can be expected to check her religion at the door. Her values, on the other hand, do not need to checked.

Values are the guiding principles by which each individual lives. Integrity in the application of a "value" ensures its continuity and this continuity separates a value from beliefs, opinion and ideas.(1) The values for which our Constitution and our entire democratic system were founded upon favoured equality and inclusivity, of all citizens. And if we're talking about the values of a Christian, then we're also talking about those same ideas. Equality, acceptance, reaching out, etc. are basic pillars of the faith. You see, Christian values are a funny thing to discuss. Too many people confuse the values found within Christianity and the views of the Church. The values found within the Christian faith would be much more accepting of gays, no matter how much it may be seen as against the teachings of the Bible. The whole 'What Would Jesus Do' campaign makes a strong case that all Christians should try to follow in the footsteps of Christ. So how would Christ act towards gays? He would accept them, tolerate them, treat them with respect. He would be non-judgemental, as all Christians are commanded to be. Most of all he would reach out to them and do everything in his power to make life better for them while trying to show them the way. To treat them as second-class citizens, to openly judge and condemn them, to systemically attempt to suppress them are things that Christ would not have done but yet the churches of the religious right all seem fit to. But let us remember that Christian values are unfortunately all too separate from the religion. And unfortunately, if Ms. Haskett wants to push the views of her church within the House then she would be in the wrong.

Still, there needs to be proof of harm for anyone, who has accepted a role within the realm of Canadian politics, to justify taking away equality from a minority group. To systemically and lawfully deny a group equality, without proof of harm in granting the privilege, is tantamount to oppression. This would fly in the face of both the values for which our country is based on and that which is found in Christianity. If Ms. Haskett, or any other person, insists on denying equality to gays without proof of harm, then they do not deserve to hold a seat within the House. They should instead be on the outside of the system, working on their theories to find that proof of harm. Otherwise, they are just a group of people, with an agenda, trying to use the system, wrongly, in an attempt to create systemic oppression based on their judgements.

Now note, I have not called anyone a bigot. I have, however, implied misguidance, confusion and the like. Though, I do agree with Wudrick when he says that too many on the left use the term bigot and pass their own judgements while claiming to be on the side of open-mindedness. Let's not forget though, that there are many bigots who do claim to stand at the pulpits of the 'right'eous. Just as there are many hypocrites that claim they speak for the left. For Wudrick to argue that most intolerant, tolerant people are on the left, in attempt to gain some ethical point for the right however fails abysmally. Of course they're mostly on the left. Many on the right are admitted to being intolerant, especially when it comes to the issue at hand - same-sex marriage (using an opinion to deny equality without proof of harm equals intolerance). Many on the left have zero tolerance for intolerance because there is no place for intolerance in our political system. They do have tolerance for those that wish to uphold the principles of the system. If harm could be shown or if it could be shown that there are other negatives attached to allowing gay marriage, then you might find that many on the left would be all ears to reconsidering their position (if not, then the left could not champion the left). However, in the end, Wudrick has only emphasised that right is the side of intolerance and for those that are willing to accept intolerance. In our society, a just society, intolerance cannot be accepted especially within the system that is designed to guarantee that justice prevails.

November 16, 2006

Ambrose the Useless

I realize Rona might be smart and modern, hold the title of Minister of the Environment, and is a potential eventual replacement for Harper. I get all that. What I don't get is that in spite of all these apparent positives is why she is so useless as a politician and representative of Canada?

The fact is, is that Ambrose hasn't done one solid thing for Canada or the environment - the second biggest concern with the Canadian public. She goes to represent Canada at an international environmental conference and the only thing she has to say for herself is that, 'The Liberals did it'. Or more accurately, 'The Liberals didn't do it'. Instead of standing up for our country, trying to develop ideas, or anything that has the semblance of progress, she would rather whine to the international consortium about what the last party in power may have or have not done. The best part is that the international consortium didn't buy into her game. And then she whined about that too.

In the minds of those that were unfortunate enough to see her sulk, they were probably thinking, 'Just because the Liberals did it, doesn't mean you should'. But then again, maybe they remembered that Ambrose publicly trashed the Kyoto Accord while holding the Chair. And maybe they remembered that while holding the Chair she also decided to opt Canada out of its commitments. And maybe they know that she tossed out the Liberals $10 billion environmental plan and replaced it with an official time line to table another time line.

All of these actions by Ambrose, the whining to the unsympathetic international delegates, and let's not forget her bold-faced lie about the $100 million the Liberals spent on carbon credits, are equal to a lot of inaction. What she did achieve though was the reputation that Canada is a fossil and unwilling to act in regards to environmental issue. In other words, Ambrose has done a lot nothing for this country and the environmental cause and has essentially looked like a immature-child in the process. Maybe that's why Harper wouldn't let her speak when it came time to announce the Conservatives so-called 'Made in Canada' non-plan to tackle environmental issues.

Screwing Ontario Again: Another Great Point to Win an Election On.

It has been reported that the Conservatives have once again ignored the needs of Ontario. This time they have made deals with Alberta (surprise, surprise) and BC to help aid them with their labour problems. While Ontario has a large number of their labourers being extradited from the country, leaving the industrial sector in a lurch, Alberta and BC will now have a plan that will ease their own concerns. This is just another shot at the province with the largest number of voters and seats, and largest economic impact on the country.

At what point do the Conservatives understand that they are in a precarious position in regards to being in power? Statistically they are tied with the Liberals, they are essentially refusing to seriously address the two top public issues (health-care and environment), the Liberals are the verge of electing a leader with an apparent party renewal following closely behind. Yet, they still seem to think it wise to alienate the East (with the exception of Quebec) but worse still, Ontario.

At any moment, especially after the Liberals pick their leader, the House could fall and a second Conservative win is anything but assured. If that does happen what are the Conservatives going to run on? Sure they could say they balanced the budget and brought in large surpluses but the Liberals did the same thing for much longer. They could say they cut the GST but the other parties will only remind Canadians that they raised taxes in three other areas, including Income Trusts and Personal Income Taxes. Besides this, what else did they do?

  • They've constantly screwed Ontario, the province with most seats in the House.
  • They scrapped the semblance of an environmental plan for a piece of paper with nothing but the value of the ink used on it.
  • They scrapped social programs, some with that were useful.
  • They've made plans to revisit SSM despite the public viewing the issue as over.
  • They have muzzled Conservative MPs and Senators, and are hiding from the media, breaking their promise of greater transparency.
  • Appointed the previously unelected Fortier to Senate and then made him a Minister, and cut a deal with Emerson to have him cross the floor, breaking their promise of greater accountability.
  • Signed a softwood deal that screws over Canada's softwood industry.

With this kind of record the government should be anything but confident. The opposition will hammer these problems out, the Conservatives won't be able to avoid the media, and the Liberals will probably be riding a high from the attention the new leader will be getting. So screwing Ontario, again, at this point is probably one of the best, worst things the Conservatives can do right now... that is unless you're the Conservatives.

November 06, 2006

Dave and Me

This past weekend I attended a fundraiser in the booming metropolis of St.George. It was an elimination draw, dinner and silent auction event to raise money for the Onondaga Farms camp which is apart of the Tim Hortons Childrens Foundation.

One of the items up for auction was a lunch for two with Liberal MPP Dave Levac, the Chief Government Whip for Ontario in the near future. As luck would have it, I won the auction and I now have the opportunity to sit with an important member of our current provincial government.

While I have my own thoughts as to what I can talk about with Mr. Levac (we're both originally from Brantford, were/are educators and have some interest in politics), I want to also take suggestions or get questions from the broader community. If there are any (serious) questions or thoughts that some of you would like to have brought up then please make them in the comments section of this post. I'll take the ones that seem most reasonable to the table and see what Mr. Levac has to say. If you're overly concerned that I won't take some controversial points with me, have no fear... I'm currently a member of an opposition party, so I have questions/concerns of my own. After the visit is said and done, I will post a 'report' back here on my blog.

October 29, 2006

Handcuffing Opponents

In Saturday's Toronto Star there is an article that mentions the Liberals will likely have a deficit when provincial elections take place next year. The deficit total will be approximately $2.2 billion which is around $700 million more than previously thought. Part of the problem - but not completely - seems to be related to the thus far refusal of the Federal Conservative government to honour an agreement between the federal and provincial governments. And this is after having a $13.2 billion surplus from last year and supposedly looking at a surplus that is at least in the range of 4-5 billion for this year. Yet, the federal government is refusing to honour agreements, fund much needed programs, while cutting others and divulge itself of the money by placing it all against our debt. So why would the Conservatives, in spite of having access to large amounts of money, acting in such a manner? It's about ideology. I don't think it's any secret at this point that our Conservative government is very ideological and will do anything to push their own agenda. They:

  • cut funding to Liberal social programs (7),
  • are planning to readdress the SSM issue, despite the majority of the public being in favour of SSM and against reopening the issue (1);
  • dropped the planned federal Day-Care program, despite their being a lack of spaces and high costs associated with available spaces (4);
  • released an environmental program that doesn't do anything except set voluntary targets by 2020 and micro-manage symptoms (6); and
  • against economic sense, cut 1% from the GST rate (5).

And they've done all this while accusing the media of having agendas against them and being one of the most closed-door governments in years; evidenced by punishing open members (2, 8) and muzzling bureaucrats (3).

So what does any of this have to do with the Ontario government facing a deficit... Anyone remember the unprecedented comments Harper made in favour of John Tory as the "next premier of Ontario"? Reneging on commitments made to Ontario, much like cutting the GST and underfunding/cutting needed social programs is about ideology and essentially trying to handcuff opponents. Harper is looking for ways to kill any method of future governments to fund social programs by slashing possible revenues and leaving them in a position where he (or whoever is running the Conservatives at the time) could corner them by claiming they are either going to be raising taxes to fund our programs when money is needed or they are pandering to interest groups. In other words, he's making decisions now with the goal of effecting the future. This isn't just being limited to the federal arena either. The decision to leave Ontario in a worse bind is more of the same. Harper is looking to give the Ontario PCs a target to attack - the deficit - and probably a boost by granting some acknowledgement when Tory goes on to say that he would be able to work with Harper on financial agreements. This is about Harper trying to influence a provincial election.

This Conservative government is brutally ideological and is willing to sacrifice the public good to meet it's own agenda, which is not supported by the majority of Canadians (winning an election through first-past-the-post is not a majority support, even less so when you're a minority government). If it were supported by the majority there wouldn't be the need to hide from the media, and muzzle its own members and public servants. This is a government that is intent on limiting the ability of future governments, probably knowing that the chances of it being them is extremely low, to make decisions regarding social policy.

October 26, 2006

So This Is What We Get?

As many people have already noticed, a Republican election ad running in Tennessee - besides being racist - mocks Canada and its role in the world. While I'm not necessarily surprised or thrilled by an attack ad being racist (Republicans are getting desperate at this point. i.e. Michael J. Fox, the Bin Laden ad) I am surprised at the jab thrown at Canada. First off, we're small on the election agenda in the U.S., let alone Tennessee. Secondly, with the relationship that the Republicans have with our current Conservative government I was shocked to know they would do this, especially knowing that the Canadian public has a dislike for Bush. Any chance the opposition in Canada has to link Harper with Bush and put a negative spin on it is a given that it will be taken, so I wouldn't think that the Republicans wouldn't want to hurt their brothers on the right. But there it is, an outright public attack on Canada. And this is after:

  • Harper's attempted sell-out of Canada's softwood lumber industry,
  • he changed Canada's mandate in Afghanistan,
  • the Conservatives backed a controversial U.S. supported-Guatemala for a UN security council seat,
  • Harper has begun toting the American-line on Israel.

Some of these decisions are not widely popular with the Canadian public and are clear moves to appease the American government. But I guess this is what we get for having our minority Conservative government sucking up to Bush and his Republican chums.

October 23, 2006

It's been so long...

After a whirlwind summer, that included a wedding and a move to another city, I will finally get back to my blog. After nearly 5 months of absence I hope to get back and make contributions regularly. I have had a lot of time to think about the Canadian political scene and think it's about time that I begin to once again attempt to create dialogue with respect to it. And with that, I will have a couple posts appearing shortly.

May 25, 2006

Where's the Leadership, McGuinty?

For the last few weeks there have been some very heady events happening within Ontario and Canada. Far from being the smallest is the Caledonia standoff which had until yesterday been ongoing for a month. More recently there has been the talk of Quebec and Manitoba standing up to Harper's anti-green agenda and going Kyoto alone. The response of Canada's largest and, arguably, most important province has been silence.

Recently for both local and national issues that are important to Ontario the premier has been absent. There has been a lot little news clips coming from the premier - reinstating Sorbora, confirming provincial/national squabble - but nothing of substance. Where McGuinty has been really noticeably absent is with Caledonia. Rather than have McGuinty there, John Tory has taken advantage of that fact and appeared more premier-like than his counter-part. This does not bode well given the fact that the provincial election is just over a year away.

Yesterday, McGuinty did make a quick sound-byte and jumped on Alberta's bandwagon of threatening to take away equilization money. This however amounts to nothing more than, "yeah, what he said" crap. The leadership of McGuinty is obviously waning and leaving a void of wont in its wake. Canada and Ontario are at a time when the values of Ontarians obviously clash with that of the federal government, especially since they're showing signs of comtempt for Ontario. This would be the perfect time for McGuinty to show some leadership and fight back rather than standing on the side lines, delegating his role on local issues and staying silent on federal matters that affect us.

May 16, 2006

CPC attacking anything green

Tories pull plug on popular EnerGuide

The Tories justified dismantling Canada's Kyoto committments by arguing the targets are too hard to reach and cost too much money. Despite still having six years to meet the targets, the Tories cut the funding and the programs that were researching ways we could do it. Therefore it's painfully obvious that the Tories have no real intention to ever try to meet any target, even ones they consider more realistic. But fine, whatever, even if we're to take their justification at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt - if there is any left - how do they justify scrapping the EnerGuide program which was cheap and working?

Apparently the Tories slashed the program in the budget and haven't offered any explanation as of yet. They also haven't presented an alternative, though it is likely they will soon be saying their oft-used statements of 'coming soon' or 'wait and see'. According to The Star, the Tories haven't just cut the program but they may be leaving many people in a lurch as well. Apparently there are many household who have yet to get their refund for retro-fitting their homes to make them more energy efficient, etc. despite making it in time for the previously set deadline to do so. The response from the Tories has been vague at best by telling people that they may get their refund, depending on how much they feel like giving out.

So what is the justification for pulling the plug on this program and leaving people in the dark? There isn't one though we can probably speculate it has something to do with the supposed plan to find $21 billion in cost-cutting by the the fall or next spring. It probably also has to do with the Tories being anti-environment, just as many Canadians already suspect. Afterall this is a government that is chairing Kyoto and telling its members that there should be more realistic goals while at home they trash the program completely. This is in addition to cutting funding to Ontario's projects that were aimed at cleaning up its energy sources and other pollution-cutting initiatives.

In my last post, I called a pre-budget poll meaningless in terms of being based on concrete actions. However, the poll was a good indicator of what people were expecting from the Tories. One area that people thought the Tories would bomb was the environment. Looks like Canadians were right.

April 17, 2006

meaningless polls...

On Saturday the Canadian Press released a poll showing that 40% of Liberal voters and 25% of NDP and Bloc voters were content with the performance thus far of the Conservatives. For some Conservatives this may seem like a big thing because with that kind of support coming in, there's a chance they could win the next election. However, I think it needs to be pointed out that the Conservatives haven't really done anything yet. This poll is essentially based on Harper flying to Afghanistan and keeping a death grip on the members of his party. I can't seem to find any real meaning behind this poll. Even the pollster, Bruce Anderson cautions that,

"the numbers don't mean that those Liberal, NDP and Bloc voters would automatically check off Conservative on their ballot if an election was held tomorrow."

It should also be mentioned that these numbers are mainly based on the Conservatives performance in the economic and international relations areas. The performance ratings drop significantly in the areas of the environment, child care and health care. And this poll was done prior to the Conservatives axing the Kyoto research programs and initiatives. Though that brings me right back to my point: What the hell are these performance scores based on?

The only guess I can really conjure up is that they are based on what the Conservatives will or might do with consideration given to what is perceived to be their traditional and strong areas are supposed to be. Couple this with the fact that, under the iron-fist of Harper, most MPs haven't been allowed to breath without permission and therefore no massive controversies have arisen. Between these two points I am not surprised that polls would show some growing approval for the Conservatives. Especially after all the turmoil the Liberals had in their last few years.

So what these polls really indicate is nothing at all, kind of. With no performance for people to really judge the Conservatives on, it is hard to give real consideration to performance rating. However, there are a couple things that should be noted. With the perception that the Conservatives are going to do well in certain areas, that means there are expectations to meet on the part of the Conservatives. Getting into a disagreement with the US may disappoint a lot of people fairly easily. On the other hand, having poor perception in areas such as the environment, child-care and health care could also be as tedious. It's already an indication that people aren't really trusting Harper to do the right thing in these areas and could be taken as an indication that what Harper has planned isn't meeting approval. So while this poll has no real meaning in terms of an election or a true rating of approval, there may be some meaning found for the Conservatives in regards to their plans.

March 24, 2006

Hampton Helps Farm Protester

This is probably one of the best examples of why I was attracted to the NDP under Hampton. Besides finding Hampton insightful, dedicated and strong, I have always found him to be caring and genuine when it comes to dealing with people. This article, Hampton helps farm protester, gives a great example of that character. While McGuinty completely ignores this, literally, poor farmer, Hampton gives the farmer a chance to continue his fight.

March 21, 2006

Suzuki and McGuinty

It's fascinating that McGuinty would publically admit that he considered Suzuki an idol when the Ontario government is making some really uneducated and ridiculous decisions regarding power. Why make a comment like that when it seems like you haven't really been listening? To stand up in front of Suzuki and make that statement is basically inviting him to challenge you... And challenge McGuinty he did.

I think it was a good move for Suzuki to speak out against the recommendation by the Ontario Power Authority to expand Ontario's nuclear power supply. Besides nuclear energy being a hazard to dispose of, it also comes with a high price tag. Ontario's first nuclear power plant ran over budget by triple the estimated cost. OPA says the cost will only be $40billion. Let's not forget though that Ontario currently runs in the red already which means we can't afford that kind of cost. Imagine the effect if that estimate were to run over by triple. Let's also not forget that the current nuclear power plants have also cost Ontario billions of dollars in repairs and upgrades to and then they eventually cost us our public energy program. When Suzuki starts speaking out against expanding nuclear power generation in Ontario, he isn't just rambling on and speaking 'lefty', he actually has full justification in being weary about OPA's recommendation to the province.

The best part came when Suzuki offered to be a spokesperson for a better alternative to nuclear power in Ontario. He explains that Ontario should focus more on alternative energy plans such as allowing homes and businesses to produce their own power and energy conservation. While it may take some real planning and campaigning to push these ideas to be more 'mainstream', Suzuki is the perfect person to have out there. The man holds a lot of weight and respect and used in a smart way, he could provide a real impact in changing the way energy is looked at in this province. I also think it would be stupid for McGuinty to reject an offer from such a respected Canadian. To reject the offer would give the impression that McGuinty isn't really trying to improve the system; that he isn't truly looking for progress.

The only setback to this whole plan is that not all of the alternative energy plans the Ontario government is looking to implement have a lot of meat to them. The plans, especially the one that allows residential and commercial energy production, are weak when it comes to incentives. There are no real incentives to invest in solar and wind projects except that part of your energy bill will get paid off by it. The problem is that for many people the cost to even install these projects are too high and the pay back time is too long. Other breaks such as tax incentives for the both the manufacturers and purchasers should be offered to encourage lower purchasing cost and better motivation to install.

Further links:

March 20, 2006

it's time to suck it up and admit you're wrong (softwood)

I realize I'm a few days behind but I wanted to throw in my two-cents (or after the exchange rate on randomnoisians to CAD: .113 cents). Anyway, the news is that Canada, once again, has won a NAFTA hearing against the US over softwood. And once again, Canada didn't receive a refund cheque from the US.

I'm not sure what problem is really. It is obvious that the NAFTA tribunal isin favour of Canada and will continue to be. Now, I get that repaying $5billion is a lot to ask when you have a debt load in the trillions. I get that having a powerful lobbyist group breathing down your neck can be scary especially when you're not favourable in opnion polls. I also get that winning some WTO rulings can confuse the issue. But seriously, NAFTA is binding by law. And in a country that is governed by law and the country is being run by a guy who thinks the law is everything, then shouldn't you concede defeat?

Let's be realistic here. No one really believes this is an issue of so called subsidies in Canada. It's really an issue of the States trying pad their own industries. However, it has come down to an argument of WTO rulings versus NAFTA rulings. But the WTO argument is extremely weak because it is not binding and the rules are based on general principles of free trade so that they can apply to everyone. NAFTA on the other hand is specific to industry and country and, most important, it is binding by law. For me, this is a no brainer and the constant shuffling and squirming coming from the States has got to end. They've dragged it on for way too long and their options are now more limited than ever. Their excuses and loopholes have also been diminished and to the point that any more delays will only completely expose their lack of justification for continuing to slap duties on Canadian softwood lumber.

March 08, 2006

Stats, Women and Child-Care

On the front page of The Star today there is an article about how there is many more women doing things on their own; raising children alone, living on their own, etc. This article is accompanied by a selection of statistics from a few different sources.

Some of these stats make compliment each other. With divorce apparently up by 400% since the 1960's and marriages down by 8% since 1981, the statistic that there are double the number of single women with and without children seems to make sense. One stat seems odd is that in 2003, 31% of unattached women aged 16 and over were in the low-income category.

This number may seem fairly high if taken at face value. However, it's the beginning age of 16 that makes me curious. Why would a stat looking at unattached women begin with 16 year olds? I'm assuming that when questioned about being "unattached" that would mean not married or common-law. At 16, I don't think I ever knew of a female being legally attached. In fact, I would think that between the ages of 16-19, the majority of women are not legally attached. For the purposes of the stat wouldn't this put that age range at a disproportionately high volume when compared to many of the older age groups? Furthermore, at this age range, doesn't it make sense that they are also in the low-income category? Since almost all women between the ages of 16-19 are in secondary school or recently graduated, having a job that pays significantly more than minimum wage seems somewhat unrealistic. And if that is the case, wouldn't this also skew the numbers for the poll? I'm not trying to undermine the significance of the poll, I'm just trying to understand it better.

The last stat of those provided is the most startling of them all. It also sheds some light on why child poverty in Canada is such a pressing issue. The stat claims that 38% of households headed by single mothers are in the low-income category. That is over 1/3 of single mother households. This is a stat that I think is also important because Canada is about to find out what kind future child-care has in this country.

In April, when Parliament resumes, there is going to be a battle between a nation-wide child-care program that offers more spaces, which are desperately needed or a parental allowance of $1200, which provides options to parents. From where I stand, I think the national child-care (NCC) program provides both spaces and options.

For one thing, for years there have been complaints about the lack of spaces at affordable prices. The NCC provides money to the provincial governments to create the needed spaces at a reasonable cost. The allowance only provides parents with $1200 per child under the age of 6. However, this $1200 is taxable which means its actually less than $1200. It also doesn't provide more spaces for child-care. So even if you wanted to send your child to a centre, there's a good chance that either it won't cover the cost of the placement or there won't be one for your child. In other words, the taxable allowance more likely limits your options than provides you with more.

There are a couple positions that are often brought up in regards to the child-care debate. The first is that the government is going to offer tax-incentives to businesses to create in-house child-care and second, that some parents have a concern over having the government 'raise' their child. With the first position, the idea has been tried before in Canada. It didn't work then and I have my doubts it will work now. Companies aren't in the business of day-care. It's not as simple as just clearing out the staff lunch room and hiring a baby-sitter. Actual space would have to be created, then certified specialists would have to be hired and paid. There are a host of liabilities that would also need to be covered. The problem is not that there is some kind of tax incentive involved but that these companies probably don't want to deal with these processes. I doubt very much that the tax incentive would cover the entire cost the offered child-care because if that were the case, wouldn't it just be better for parents that the government stick with a national child-care program? Maybe not because it may be cheaper by not having one. Though, that doesn't solve any problems that we're currently facing.

In terms of the second position, that some parents are concerned over the idea of government raising their child, I don't think the argument holds any weight. If parents are truly concerned about their children being raised by someone else then don't send them. Just because there is a national child-care program doesn't mean your child has to be sent to one. If it's just a concern about the government in particular running the centre then children shouldn't be going to any day care at all since it is all regulated by the government in the first place. It would also be interesting to know whether or not these same parents have a concern over their child going to school. Let's face it when your child goes to school they are learning both academic and social skills. Public and private schools are full of education that goes beyond math, language, etc. Teachers are considered the third most important influence on a child's life after parents and friends. Where do most children meet friends? At school. This means that two of the three most important influences on a child's life are found at school. School then can be considered to have a very big part in raising a child. So how would sending your child to a public day care be any different than sending your child to school?

When looking at the statistic of single moms in the low-income category, this raises some serious concerns. There's a good chance that many of these women can't afford child-care and therefore may not be able to work and have to live off the welfare system or are working only low-paying part-time jobs, etc. If they were to receive only the $1200 allowance, this still wouldn't afford them a better opportunity because of the lack of spaces and affordability. Having a greater number of spaces at better rates may allow for these women to pursue better paying, full-time work. And isn't this ultimately a way to partially correct the problem that more than 1/3 of single mothers are in the low-income bracket and there is a child poverty crisis in Canada? I would argue it is. Poverty in general is a problem that plagues many Western nations despite the fact that these nations have more than enough money to correct the problem within their own borders. It's time that Canada did something positive to correct this serious issue and right an overdue wrong.

March 07, 2006

a slow, deep breath...

There are always times when people feel they've pushed, or have been pushed, to the a peak and then at the end there's the collapse. This doesn't necessarily mean there was success or victory or even the opposite. I wouldn't even think it means a person has been pushed to potential. There are just times when a person, for a specific period of time, has just peaked in that moment. And for the cliche kicker, I think I'm in one of those cycles and on the down slope. Not necessarily due to blogging but it is part of the equation.

Between the neverending election, the outcome, the fallouts, etc. I have found myself in a serious slow period of inspiration and motivation to blog. It's not that I haven't wanted to write but I have found many of the things I've wanted to say held a greater tone of anger and cynicism than usual. And neither of these would really lead to productive or relevant things to say. I look at guys like Cherniak and Wudrick and lately many of their posts have carried a very negative and angry tone. I mean no offense to either one of these guys, I consider both to have very significant and meaningful places in the Canadian political blogosphere but I can't help wondering what is pushing their posts to be so negative as of late?

Cherniak, for example, has done some posting about his thoughts on the NDP and recently the Green Party. None of these posts seem to be taken very seriously, especially the NDP ones, and provoked a lot of backlash (see the comments). The blacklash was as much for his misrepresentations as it was for his nonsense. They amounted to nothing more than tangents. Wudrick hasn't been much better. Where his posting once made me think he could be one the greatest opponents of the Liberals and NDP if he were ever to get into politics seriously, they now just make me think that he's lost in the ideology of the right, floating blind. With the audience that both of these guys command there is a great opportunity for them to seriously contribute - like they once did - instead of just throwing out blind-partisan commentary.

This is just my opinion and maybe I'm way off base and misreading them but at this point I'm calling it like I see it. The point is though that I didn't want to get into that. That is why for the last while I have been taking a slow, deep breath from writing anything serious. I don't always agree that negative commentary produces relevance in the discussions that are needed to contribute to and produce knowledge and truth. And isn't that really the ultimate goal; knowledge and truth? To find the answers that are required, to push ourselves forward, to create the best situation for all of us, isn't it knowledge and truth that we need. Don't get me wrong, I'm not naive enough to think perfection is going to be found within my lifetime or ever quite possibly but I am idealistic enough to believe we can produce better than we currently have and are in. And it's because of this ideal of mine, posting will be light for the next while until I can find my line of sight once again and push forward, hopefully in a more meaningful and productive way.

In the meantime, if you're interested, you can visit my newest project. Amazingly enough, I do have interests beyond politics. My most recent interest has been going into my photoblog, Finding Focus. It's a work in progress and only in the beginning stages, but I hope people find it enjoyable nonetheless.

March 02, 2006

Oh Mr. Emerson, why can't you just learn when to shutup?!

Emerson may be considered a very smart business man, but he is definitely turning out to be an idiot in politics and is providing a lot of material to be made the butt of many jokes.

First there was his comment about how he didn't think his defection would cause an uproar. That in business jumping ship is a normal, accepted practice. In reality Mr. Emerson, politics isn't a corporation and the government isn't business. Despite how much neo-conservatives wished they were the same, they aren't and should never be.

Then there was his comment about not running as a partisan. Could of fooled us... oh wait, you did! You see, when you run under the banner of a particular political party, especially when it's a party such as the Liberals, you've run as a partisan. Running as an independant would have signalled non-partisan status, not running under the white and red of the Liberals.

And then there's his musing of supporting the floor-crossing bill that would require MPs to sit as independants if they want out of their parties... One can only imagine how the line of reasoning about this comment played out in Emerson's head.

More recently he openly confessed that he actually believes if he were to run in a by-election he would most likely win. Has he even seen the numbers for the Conservatives in his riding? Not only did they lose that riding, they weren't even close to matching the numbers of the NDP who came second. His riding (Vancouver-Kingsway) has a history of voting Liberal and NDP. This is definitely not a centre-right riding. Vancouver-Kingsway voted to not be in the government by electing a Liberal despite all the warnings the Conservatives would win. This also begs the question that if Emerson is so sure he would win a by-election, why doesn't he run in one? Because he wouldn't win!!

At some point, Emerson needs to learn that he shouldn't be speaking in public. From what I can tell he mainly says inane things that only serve to make him look like an idiot. Maybe it's a good thing that he's no longer a Liberal. Ultimately, who would want to have a politician that is obviously clueless in politics? Well, I guess the Conservatives do...

February 26, 2006

On Canada and the Olympics

Well Canada was extremely close to their goal of 25 medals at the games. I guess you can't really get any closer than 24. It has been an amazing two weeks and Canadians every where should feel some pride for the all the athletes that went over to Turin/Torino. I just wanted to shoot off some thoughts...

  • I personally think that Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes are both equally impressive. While Klassen may be the most decorated Canadian Winter Olympic athlete ever, Hughes is only one medal shy. Hughes has the distinction of having won medals in both the Summer (cycling) and Winter (speed skating) Games, for a total of 5.
  • Canada definitely has some young and extremely talented athletes in mix (Overbay, Roberge, Crawford, etc.) and the next few years, leading up to Vancouver, should be very exciting.
  • I love the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador completely rallied around Gushue's curling team. It is definitely a sign of pride and unity when the provincial government is willing to shut down schools and many businesses are willing to close early just so people could watch the game and cheer on one of their own. Good for them!
  • Canada's Women's hockey team is in a league of their own. At one time they talked about Canada and the US being a top-tier group, with Finland and Sweden being a second-tier, and so on. I honestly think that the top-tier is solely owned by Canada at this point. This makes things a lot more interesting if this holds true. I think it's better for the game to have one elite team rather than two because it than becomes a race to see who can knock them off the podium instead of who is going to be third.
  • In my opinion, cross-country skiing and speed skating (short and long) truly prove how athletic these competitors are. There's always talk about how the athletes of the summer games are the real athletes, but I have no doubt in my mind that many of the winter participants are up there with the best.
  • Who's fault is it that Canada didn't men's hockey gold? I blame Pat Quinn. I don't think Quinn knows how to coach the more open game. Look at the Maple Leafs. Some may argue that Quinn coached the team to gold in 2002. But I think having the leadership skills of Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman on the team did much more for the team than any coaching would have. Though, this opinion may also be attributed to the fact that I'm a life-long Montreal Canadiens fan.
  • I feel terrible for the elusive Olympic medal with Jeremy Wotherspoon. However, this shouldn't and hopefully won't define his speed skating career. Wotherspoon is the most decorated speed skater in history with an impressive 57 titles and numerous records. He should take solice in the fact that he's not the first to have bad luck at the Olympics despite being at the top (Kurt Browning anyone?) and that he could be Bode Miller. Miller, the American alpine skier, who is going through similar bad luck is getting eaten alive by the American press.
  • One of the most telling, but least regarded, stats at the Winter Olympics is the number of 4th place finishes a nation has. Canada had 14 fourth place finishes, well above any other country. Many of these were hundredths of a second off the podium finishes. The potential for Canada to reach the goal of 30+ medals at Vancouver is definitely within reach!
  • I think that if there was a moment (there were probably many more) that easily defined the spirit of the games it came during women's cross-country team sprint. After Sara Renner's pole broke, she was handed a replacement by a Norwegian coach. The act of kindness, while giving Canada its chance to take silver, ultimately knocked Norway's team off the podium. I think it's a great reminder that the Olympics are about much more than winning.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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