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.

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)