Friday, February 28, 2014

This Just In!

And it is very encouraging, in that it appears Canadians are beginning to wake up to the true nature of the Harper regime:

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe that the ruling Conservatives are settling political scores with their Fair Elections Act, a new poll has found.

You can read all about it here.

Harlem Pastor James David Manning Makes Pat Robertson Seem Entirely Sane

If you can get past the particularly offensive homophobia and racism here, I think you will see what I mean:




Last Night's At Issue Panel

The comments of guest panelist Althia Raj, from The Huffington Post, are worth the price of admission here as she declares, in no uncertain terms, that The Fair Elections Act is legislation aimed at voter suppression. In reaction, the attempt at stoicism by Peter Mansbridge, currently embroiled in his own controversy, is also noteworthy, in my view. The fun begins at about the 12:30 mark:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not Everyone Has Drunk The Kool-Aid: A Doctor Speaks Out On The Health Effects Of Tarsands' Development

As reported in The Vancouver Observer, grave health risks from the Alberta tarsands are both statistically significant and deeply disturbing.

A northern Alberta doctor, John O'Connor, was invited to Washington to brief two U.S. Senators who are against the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that would carry bitumen from Alberta to Texas. O'Connor told them there have been the devastating health impacts of the tar sands on families – effects, he says, that have been willfully “ignored” by the Canadian and Alberta governments.

He sighted statistics for rare cancers – of the bile duct for example – that have shot up 400 times for what is considered normal for a tiny community, such as Fort Chipewyan – which is downstream, to the north of the oil sands.

“These are published, peer-reviewed studies that indicate that the government of Alberta and Canada have been lying, misrepresenting the impact of industry on the environment,” said O’Connor.


Unfortunately, his warnings have, not surprisingly, fallen on deaf Canadian governmental ears. Yesterday, In Washington, he clearly hoped for more open minds.




Without doubt, Doctor O'Connor has a prominent place on Harper's Enemies List.

The CBC Responds To My Complaint About Rex Murphy



I received the following email yesterday from Jack Nagler, Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement at the CBC, regarding my conflict of interest complaint about Rex Murphy. Because the review is ongoing, I am treating this only as an interim response. I therefore present the letter with no commentary on my part, but please feel free, as always, to express your own views here.

Thank you for your Feb. 5th email to the CBC Ombudsman about Rex Murphy. There have been suggestions he is in a conflict of interest because he has given paid speeches to groups supportive of the oil industry, and suggestions that the CBC should have disclosed this fact when he addressed the subject of Neil Young’s anti-oilsands initiative on The National last month.

While I don’t believe there is a conflict of interest, there is a serious issue about transparency, one that we are reviewing at the moment.

But let me address both concerns.

On the question of Mr. Murphy and the alleged conflict of interest:

First, Mr. Murphy is not a full-time employee of CBC News He is a self-employeed freelance. He does some work for CBC. He also does outside work, including speaking engagements.

Second, -- and I want to emphasize this -- the very reason Mr. Murphy appears on The National is to do analysis and express his point of view – he is not a regular reporter. We even call his segment on the program “Rex Murphy’s Point of View" to distinguish it from regular reports. His perspective on the oilsands, whether viewers agree with it or not, is an analytical argument based on facts, and is perfectly valid commentary.

He has been utterly consistent in expressing those views for a long time, and he makes the same broad points whether he is talking on The National, in a newspaper, or in a speech at a public event. We have no reason to question the independence and integrity of those views. That is important. Yes, Mr. Murphy holds an opinion that people in the oilpatch may like and agree with. But it is a considerable leap in logic to suggest that he is therefore in the pocket of this industry.

There is much more detail on all this included in a recent blog post by CBC News General Manager and Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire, which I encourage you to read at: http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/community/editorsblog/2014/02/a-question-of-conflict.html

You might also be interested in what Mr. Murphy himself had to say in response to the critique of his ethics. He wrote an op-ed piece this past weekend in The National Post that you can find at: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/02/22/rex-murphy-speaking-my-mind-no-matter-the-issue/

Third, the most important consideration for us is whether we are providing our audience with a varied and balanced perspective on an issue as important as oilsands development – and I believe we are. You may note that Mr. Murphy’s “Point of View” segment criticizing Neil Young was a response to a feature interview The National aired with Mr. Young two days earlier. There’s no other national newscast that gave Mr. Young and his views that kind of platform. It’s all part of us fulfilling our mandate as the public broadcaster to reflect diverse opinions and to offer Canadians the opportunity and the information they need to make up their own minds.

The other question, as I noted at the beginning, is that of disclosure: what information can and should we share with the audience about the outside activities of freelance contributors to on CBC News?

In policy and practice we support the idea of transparency, not just for Rex Murphy but for all of our contributors. But implementing this is not always as simple as it sounds.

There are a set of complicating factors, ranging from how much we can legally demand of our freelancers, to privacy rights of our employees, to what constitutes “full disclosure”. Is it only paid speeches we should disclose? Or do we need to be concerned about journalists who attend charity events, or moderate a public forum? Does the content of a speech matter, or does the mere act of getting in front of a lectern make it a question of public concern? And finally, how do we share the disclosure so the audience can properly judge for themselves what’s appropriate?

All are good questions. In light of your concerns and those of others about Mr. Murphy, our senior editors are reviewing the way we deal with the issue to ensure we are appropriately transparent with our viewers. I expect that review will be completed in the next few weeks. When it is we’ll be sure to post it. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience.

You should also be aware that the CBC Ombudsman has already launched a separate review of this subject. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC's journalistic policies. When that review is complete, it will be posted on the Ombudsman's website at www.cbc.ca/ombudsman.

I hope this response has reassured you of the integrity of our news service, as well as our willingness and desire to serve Canadians properly.

Sincerely,

Jack Nagler

Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement,

CBC News

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rick Mercer On The 'Fair' Elections Act

With Rick on the job, there is always reason for hope:

His Hands Are All Over It



Like an ugly stain that resists the most determined efforts at removal, Bill C-520, a 'private member's bill' proposed by Conservative MP Mark Adler, has Stephen Harper's signature and paranoid paw prints all over it.

The bill, about which I have written previously, would require all employees in parliamentary watchdog offices — such as the auditor general, ethics commissioner, or Elections Canada — to disclose any “partisan activity” in the decade before joining the office.

The fact that it has the full backing of the Prime Minister's Office is key to understanding both its genesis and the mentality that informs it, a mentality that those who follow Canadian politics closely are, of course, already acutely aware.

Without question, Harper and his cabal are the worst infection that ever invaded our political system. Their much chronicled acts of contempt against democracy, far too numerous to recap here, are ample testament to that fact. Fueled by suspicion and paranoia of Nixonian proportions, they see their enemies everywhere. To qualify as an enemy, one merely needs to stand in opposition to Conservative policy or voice a contrary opinion. And like the bully who never stops until he has what he perceives to be complete victory, Harper continues his relentless war against our cherished values and traditions, almost all of which must seem inimical to his ideology and agenda.

Fortunately, Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of this raging disease within our midst and are banding together in what Montreal Simon calls The Great Canadian Resistance. And happily, membership in that resistance is not limited to 'ordinary' citizens.

As reported in today's Toronto Star, Ottawa’s parliamentary watchdogs have taken the rare step of banding together to raise concerns over the bill. Indeed, in a letter to the House of Commons committee studying C-520, the watchdogs call the provisions very broad, vague in its definitions of “partisan” conduct, and warn the legislation could affect their ability to do their job.

“Examining the conduct of an employee following an allegation of partisan conduct may have an impact on the particular files, audits or investigations conducted by the employee in question,” the letter reads. “Such examination could halt or hinder an ongoing file, audit or investigation and cause delay.”


And of course, that is precisely the intent of the bill: to create such fear of repercussions for doing their jobs that they will be continuously second-guessing themselves, ultimately to the point of paralysis.

Like the effects of a wasting disease, each day the health of our democracy withers a little more, and there is only one cure. Let us hope that with the efforts of all concerned Canadians, 2015 will see a massive re-engagement at the ballot box, the last thing that the Harper cabal wants, because they know it would mark the end of their gravely unhealthy rule.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Yond Zach Paikin Has A Lean And Hungry Look



Zack Paikin, the son of TVO Agenda host Steve Paikin, has announced that he will seek the Liberal nomination for the Ontario riding of Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas. While I am heartened whenever I see young people who are politically engaged, the 22-year-old Paikin is an extraordinarily conservative, overly confident and some would say arrogant Liberal; he is not someone who would garner my support.

The following is representative of what I deem to be his callow, blinkered and rather distasteful views. In an Ipolitics article in October 2012, he

argued that the Canadian criminal justice system was in need of reform because former Livent CEO Garth Drabinsky has been denied full parole after serving a year and change of a five-year fraud sentence — but was granted day parole while serving the rest of his time.

He also noted that Drabinsky is a long-time family friend. Arguments for freeing him from the shackles of a halfway house today include the fact that Ragtime, one of the mega-musicals Garth produced prior to his criminal ordeals, made Zach cry. (An unfortunate typo — “literally balling my eyes out” — was later corrected.)

While young Zach may indeed have a political career awaiting him in the future, in my view he needs considerable seasoning before making that leap.






She Speaks!



But unfortunately, the politically timid (opportunistic?) leader of the Ontario NDP, Andrea Horwath, doesn't really have much to say as she finally figures out what her political ambitions will permit her to state about the minimum wage.

Another Guest Post From The Salamander



I sincerely hope that other commentators on my blog do not think I am playing favourites when I repost another's comments as a guest post. I sincerely welcome and value all of your comments. My reason for reposting The Salamander here, who offered the following comments in response to my piece, On Voter Engagement, is probably best expressed by my response:

Hi Salamander. As usual, your facility with language, your capacity for lacerating metaphor and simile in assessing the morass we currently find ourselves in, deserves a wider audience. I am therefore reposting your commentary as another guess post. Thanks again for your always welcome contributions to the political discussion.
...........................................................................

.. in regard to resolving complex issues such as voter disengagement, vote suppression/moving, electoral reform or investigating electoral fraud..
I am hardly optimistic...

We currently have a government struggling under its leader Stephen Harper
and his appointed Ministers of Environment - past and present
and Ministers of Department of Fisheries and Oceans - past and present ..
whining.. as a Federal Judge decrees they are breaking the law..
They believe they are above the law.. and Her Honor states they did not even bother to deny this..

All, including Stephen Harper, plead unable to grasp over the last 5 or 6 years, the relationship of Species At Risk Canada (SARA) to 'Critical Habitat' .. That's fish to water, caribou to boreal graze, seabird to shoreline, orca to inlet, polar bear to ice .. things that Canadian schoolchildren 'get' without trying very hard.. whether by parental osmosis.. cereal boxes or picture books when they were two years old...

You think these elected failures can hyperjump past their mental shortfalls to concepts of 'fairness' .. or deep concepts of their constituents? They probably can't spell 'constituent' .. 'poll' is more their level .. or 'robo' ...
Democracy is deep space to them .. a quantum leap over their fatuous heads

We won't need to kick these scumbag loser asshats out of Parliament ..
No .. we will will need to lead or herd them out like sadly inbred sheep ..
or dull cattle that have brains like tiny walnuts ..

Forget the Sergeant At Arms
We need a shepherd with dogs to git them dogies moving ASAP
And disinfect afterwards.. they may even be rabid ..

On Arizona's Odious Anti-Gay Bill

That people who claim to be civilized and intelligent could support such odious legislation that panders to the worst in human nature shows how much farther our species has to travel up the evolutionary ladder:


George Takei rips ‘extremist’ Arizona Repubs: ‘How do people like that get elected?’ (via Raw Story )

Actor and activist George Takei refused to back off on Monday from his threat to encourage a boycott against the state of Arizona if Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signs a bill legalizing anti-LGBT discrimination, but he told MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell that…

Monday, February 24, 2014

Putting Their Money Where Their Beliefs Lie



This is heartening news:

TORONTO, ON, 24 February 2014 – The congregation of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church voted unanimously Sunday at its Annual General Meeting to lend its voice to the fast-growing divestment movement, and to ensure that its own funds are not invested in any of the world's 200 largest fossil fuel companies. The vote confirms a long-standing commitment to climate justice, which has been a key priority of the congregation for the past decade.

Says Jane Moffat, a member of of the Climate Justice Group of Trinity St. Paul's,

“For too many years governments have not dealt decisively with the impending climate chaos, largely to the peril of low- income countries and low-lying regions of the world. Low-income countries are neither responsible for the heat-trapping gases that will cause more droughts and floods, nor do they have the resources to adapt. Not to act in the face of the realities of climate change is to violate our call to justice. We call upon all people of faith to join us in this movement.”

H/t Occupy Canada

On Voter Engagement



One of the purported panaceas for electoral disaffection, subscribed to by many, is some form of proportional representation, a subject upon which I admit to being poorly-schooled. Beyond some of the basic arguments both for and against PR, I know little. However, one of the most frequently-stated reasons for embracing it is that it would do much to remediate people's oft-stated reason for not turning out at the polls: the belief that their vote doesn't matter, certainly a perception that has been, I believe, promoted and exploited by the Harper regime to its advantage.

Although not considered a version of it, ranked balloting, also sometimes called instant runoff voting, seems to me a first good step toward electoral reform. Essentially, it involves the following, as described by Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto:

Instant runoff voting ensures that no one can win with less than 50% of the vote. It eliminates the risk of 'vote splitting', where two or more candidates ‘split’ the votes of a certain group. It also means that no one has to vote strategically – you can vote with your heart each time.

Ranked Ballots allow voters to choose multiple candidates, ranked in order of preference. It’s easy as 1,2,3. On election day all of the first choice votes are added up (just like we do with our current system). If someone wins 50% or more of the vote, they are declared the winner and the election is over. However, if no one receives more than 50% the candidate with the least votes is eliminated from the race.

With ranked ballots, there is no need for costly multi-round voting because voters have already marked their second choice. If your preferred candidate is eliminated from the race, your vote is automatically transferred to your second choice. Again, the votes are counted and if someone has a majority, they are declared the winner. If not, another candidate eliminated and it repeats until there is a majority winner.

However, while advocates of ranked balloting do not necessarily think it would be the best reform for provincial or federal elections because it wouldn’t fully address the problem of distorted results in a multi-party system, many are enthusiastic about its potential in municipal elections.

A report in today's Globe and Mail says that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is considering giving municipalities the option of adopting a ranked-balloting system, a reform that would take effect at the earliest in 2018. What I find interesting about this possibility is the fact that even though municipal government has the most immediate impact on our lives and our communities, it traditionally has low rates of voter participation. Changing the format would offer a good test of the belief that making people's votes count would encourage greater rates of participation.

Should that thesis prove true, we would then have a solid statistical basis for more significant reform at the provincial and federal level.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Issue So Many Of Us Grapple With



This letter to the editor reflects an issue I think most of us in the progressive blogosphere struggle with, as do the folks at samara:

Voter turnout is the key to federal change

Eroding the fabric of the Canada we love

The only way that we are going to get rid of King Stephen's Reign of Control is by getting out the vote. It seems that every time I pick up a newspaper there is at least one and often more articles about how the Harper government is ripping another piece from the fabric of the once democratic, compassionate society called Canada of which we were so proud. The most recent is a smear campaign on a retired military commander who just happens to be planning to run for the Liberals. As Lawrence Martin called it in the Globe, "the sleaze machine."

Canadian democracy is gradually being diluted. Social, cultural, scientific and information essentials continue to be diminished if not removed. Treatment of veterans has become a disgrace — no an obscenity. Everything we have valued about being Canadian is disappearing and we are at the bottom of many world lists including protection of the environment. This may be the most urgent — without a habitable planet, does the rest matter?

How do we convince those who have given up on government that their vote matters? It matters not only to them but to their kids and grandkids.

How do we convince them that their needs must be voiced and demanded; that this is the only way Harper can be defeated?

How can we leave these problems to parliament and expect any change? It won't happen. We need to find a way to get to our citizens — e.g. the youth who will be living with the disastrous results of Harper's policies; the marginalized who have long ago given up on the government and don't have the energy to fight — we need to help them to understand the importance of their vote. I'm not sure how to do it but it needs to be done and I invite and encourage folks to think about it and find a way to reach these voters.


Mary Lou Reiman, Hamilton

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Police Secrecy In Hamilton, Ontario



Outside of a handful of traffic tickets, I have had almost no direct contact with police in my lifetime. Yet, in my darker moments, I have always suspected that it would be fairly easy to run afoul of them, be it through an angry word or gesture that could, with an ill-trained or unbalanced officer, quickly escalate into something of tragic proportions. Let's just say that, with so well-documented cases of police abuse of their authority, some of which I have dealt with in this blog, I have but a guarded trust in them.

It was therefore with considerable and justifiable consternation I read the following headline in The Hamilton Spectator:

Police board won't open fatal shooting reports: Hamilton Police Board decides — in secret — to keep secret lessons from police shootings

In a closed-door meeting this week, the Hamilton Police Services Board decided to keep secret a series of reports into fatal shootings and woundings of civilians by police officers.

In the wake of last summer's fatal police shooting of Steve Mesic, The Spectator asked for the reports in an effort to understand what Hamilton police had learned from their internal investigations (as opposed to the SIU's criminal investigations) of the 11 civilian shooting incidents police have been involved in over the past decade.


Not only was this decision made in secret, but it also appears to have been influenced by the heavy-handed tactics of Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire, who, in an apparent effort to stop the board from voting to release the sought-after information, issued this threat:

... releasing the reports would require him to "sanitize" his reports in the future, leaving board members less well informed about shooting incidents.

Given the very questionable shooting of Steve Mesic and others in the recent past, one cannot escape the conclusion that both Chief De Caire and the Police Services Board have things to hide from the public:

Several police services — Ottawa and Durham, for example — release all or part of the reports and discuss them in open sessions. In Hamilton that has never been the case; the 2012 reports for example are summarized in a single sentence in the Professional Standards annual report.

To state the obvious, how can concealing information that the public should have a perfect right to be justified in an open and democratic society?

If You Are Still Looking For A Reason To Be Outraged ...

Look no further. This is almost too painful to watch, but watch it we must:




Friday, February 21, 2014

Political Opportunism Or Epiphany?

Well, the more cynical among us might suggest that Andrea Horwath no longer has a monopoly on political expediency in Ontario. More trusting souls, in this breaking story, might suggest a different causative factor.

Young Tim Hudak, leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party, to borrow a phrase from his good friend Rob Ford, appears to have had his 'come to Jesus moment.' The hapless anti-wunderkind has renounced his heretofore unshakable commitment to right-to-work legislation that would ultimately destroy unions in Ontario.

The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Leading Exemplar of The CBC's Policy Of Conservative Appeasement



Thanks to Montreal Simon, DESMOG CANADA, Press Progress and others for alerting us to the true extent of Rex Murphy's egregious conflict of interest in his role as CBC commentator.

Murphy is yet another sad but solid indication of the policy of appeasement the Corporation has adopted toward the Harper cabal.

My own complaint to the CBC about this disgraceful state of affairs is still awaiting a response. When I filed it a couple of weeks ago, this is what I received from their ombudsman:

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email. The first step in the process is to share your complaint with the relevant programmers, who have the right and responsibility to respond. I have therefore shared your email with Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive you may ask me to review the matter.

Programmers are asked to try to reply within twenty working days.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman
ombudsman@cbc.ca
www.cbc.ca/ombudsman

I will post the response if and when I receive it.


A Telling Distinction


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Have Missed Him

But he's back! My favourite crazed evangelical, and I hope yours, Pat Robertson, is once again making 'newsworthy' statements. Watch below as this preacher of the preposterous, this evangelical of the extreme, holds forth on yet another topic from his prodigious repertoire of 'expertise'.

A Guest Post From ThinkingManNeil



A frequent contributor of commentary, ThinkingManNeil, responding to my post earlier today, left an insightful and incisive analysis of Andrea Horwath. In order to provide wider readership than is usually the case with readers' comments, I am presenting it as a separate entry. As well, at the end I am providing a link to someone else who also has some interesting thoughts on the ambitious Andrea.

Not only do we of the poor and working classes not have electoral presence in the eyes of most ambitious pols, some of us can look kinda icky next to a designer togged prospective premier who may be earning $200K+ a year.

Oh, she'll most assuredly come a-courting us, kissing babies and showing up at run down schools in the Junction and trying to rally autoworkers and shut out Hamilton steelworkers for support, but then come the invites from the Granite Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the CCCE to give hour long talks over expensive catered lunches on why the tax burden needs to be lifted from the (upper) middle class, Business, and those poor, downtrodden, misunderstood and under appreciated Job Creators.

She'll harken to the neo-liberal siren song of the Drummond Report (a report written by a wealthy, TD bank economist who drives a nice car and lives in a big, comfy, pricey house that tells poor and disabled people in Ontario how they should live on even less than they do now and be damned grateful they get anything, the lazy bums...), and go ahead with the evisceration of Ontario's social safety net, education, healthcare - Harris the Horrible's Common Sense Revolution with an orange NDP glow.

And when OCAP shows up on her Queen's Park doorstep, pleading for the lessers, she'll see to it that the black BDU'd OPP veterans of the G20 protests give them a respectful bum's rush off of her neatly manicured lawn.

Oh, Tommy, Ed, and Stephen, where are you when we need you?!?


And here is the link I promised.

Andrea Again

Sorry for the provincialism of some of my recent posts, but I can't quite ignore political hypocrisy on any level. Three recent entries have attempted to chronicle the sad devolution of Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Howath from that of principled politician to political opportunist; with the tantalizing prospect of power, she has forsaken the NDP's traditional constituencies of the poor and working class (sorry, I guess you folks just don't have a strong enough electoral presence) for her new BFF, small business and 'the middle class.'

Quite properly, and much to their credit, The Toronto Star is not giving her eely performances an easy ride. Today's editorial, entitled Ontario NDP’s Andrea Horwath keeps ducking hard choices offers this view:

...with the strong possibility of a spring election, Horwath should be talking about her plans for job growth, handling the province’s finances, and a solution to the gridlock that’s costing the Toronto and Hamilton region some $6 billion a year.

Instead, Horwath cobbled together several hundred words over the weekend to tell Premier Kathleen Wynne what she doesn’t want from the government, with nothing at all devoted to the NDP’s own proposals for prosperity – which as far as anyone knows so far don’t exist. Keep this up, and the NDP leader will be exposed as the kind of clichéd politician who seeks power without having any idea what to do with it.

And it is the latter that troubles me most. Howarth is doing nothing to dispel the Star's lacerating assessment of her as one seeking power only for its own sake. We have enough such blights on the political landscape already.

But then again, maybe her problems lie elsewhere. Perhaps it is time to replace what ostensibly passes as her chief source of political wisdom for one with more substance:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Too Good Not To Share

This one's for you, young Tim.



H/t Union Thugs

UPDATED: An Invitation To The Dance Party

What dance party is that, you ask? Why, the one being hosted by the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party whose name, it is rumoured, is in the process of being rejigged into the New Dance Party.

At least, that is how it appears to this political observer. As I opined yesterday, Ms. Horwath seems to be in the midst of an identity crisis, at least if her silence on key progressive issues such as the minimum wage is any indication. But perhaps that crisis is to be short-lived, given the letter she has sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne which included the following declaration:

“I will not support any new taxes, tolls or fees that hit middle-class families".

Funny thing about that much sought-after middle class, which, by some estimates, encompasses those with a family income ranging from $40,000 to $125,000. While no one would suggest greater taxation for those at the lower end, why rule out even greater progressive taxation for those in the middle to upper range?

The Star's Martin Regg Cohn has this to say about Andrea's metamorphisis:

After five years as leader, she has repurposed the NDP from a progressive movement to a populist brand, appealing to the broad middle class ahead of the working class and the welfare underclass.

As Cohn points out, this should surprise few:

Horwath’s about-faces on traditional party orthodoxy turned heads during the last election. The NDP echoed the anti-tax Tories in demonizing the HST, which major unions had defended as a way to fund social programs. Horwath’s surprise campaign pledge to lower taxes on gasoline, and her latest opposition to most transit taxes, have exasperated the environmental movement (most of her Toronto-area MPPs have signed a pro-transit petition, but not Horwath). Unionists pushing for a new public pension fear she will resist any mandatory plan that imposes premiums on her new-found small business allies.

The reason is obvious, of course: political opportunism. Put succinctly, as Cohn expresses it: She likes to win.

So in order to perfect her dalliance with a new constituency, I recommend Ms Horwath take dance instruction from the experts, represented below in two distinct styles:





UPDATE: Premier Wynne anwers Horwath's ultimatum.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Climate Change: Bill Nye Uses Science, The Right Wing Relies On Ideology

You decide who is right:

Another Provincial Concern

Aware of my interest in politics, my friend Gary sent me an email this morning:

I read a comment in the National Post and it made me think of the label you use, "Young Tim".

The fellow in his comment asked the question "Have you ever heard of a Provincial Leader being named after a cup of Coffee? "


That got me thinking about another Tim, who, like the Progressive Conservative Party leader, might also be seen as full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Enjoy:


Andrea Horwath: Labour's Fair-Weather Friend?

In light of her refusal to say much about anything, a political disease she may have caught from her federal cousins, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is being viewed increasingly as little more than a political opportunist. Probably the most recent example of this sad state is her reticence to articulate a position on Ontario's minimum wage.

Two weeks ago, Martin Regg Cohn offered this:

When did the party of the working poor lose its voice? Listen to the sound of Horwath clearing her throat when she finally emerged from the NDP’s Witness Protection Program this week — nine days after the panel’s exhaustive report, and nine months after its work started.

“Well, look, I respect the work of the grassroots movements that have been calling for the $14 minimum wage, but I think that what our role is right now is to consult with families that are affected, as well as small business particularly that’s also affected,” she told reporters Tuesday.


But as an acerbic Star editorial yesterday pointed out, the burning issues of the day demand that she start offering some real articulation of policy:

Horwath’s recent suggestion of consulting with business on wage increases is clearly redundant, given the fact that a panel of business and labour leaders just filed such a report — after months of discussion.

In the absence of ideas, it’s unclear what the so-called party of the people favours. Wage increases tied to inflation, like business owners? The $14-an-hour minimum wage pushed by anti-poverty activists? Given the fact that a decent wage for the lowest-paid is a key part of building a healthier society, Horwath’s silence is inexcusable – even if understandable as a short-term political tactic.

The editorial goes on to include other of the NDP leader's sins of omission. Absent is any commentary on:

- how to deal with gridlock in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area

- Premier Wynne's proposal for a made-in-Ontario pension plan

- plans for a sustainable provincial energy plan

Perhaps Ms Horwath was brought up to respect the proverb, "Silence is golden." At this stage in her life, however, considering the position of trust she has been given, she should also realize that to avoid the accusation of cynical political opportunism and expedience, it is an adage more honoured in the breach than the observance.

Then again, maybe her answers are blowin' in the wind.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Idiot Cull

I nominate the late James Coot, a Middleboro Kentucky preacher, for a 2014 Darwin Award.

Snake-handling star of ‘Snake Salvation’ reality show dies from snake bite (via Raw Story )

The Middlesboro, Kentucky preacher who starred in a reality show about snake-handling died Saturday night after being bitten by a snake. The Middlesboro Police Department said that at around 8 p.m., they responded to a possible snake bite at the Full…

To Be Young, Gifted, And Gay - Part Two

While I wholeheartedly agree that no one has the right to pry into a person's sexual orientation (except in cases of arrant hypocrisy), I still feel such admiration for and encouragement about the human spirit when people choose to reveal it. Following Michael Sam's recent revelation that he is gay, Canadian actress Ellen Page has made the announcement that she is as well.

In the following video, a testament to her integrity, Page talks about the priorities we all should have. I defy you not to be inspired by her words:



P.S. The audio volume of the video is somewhat low, so you may wish to turn on the closed caption option.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

And Speaking Of Stupidity....

Bill Nye and Bill Maher offer an entertaining and informative analysis of this growing phenomenon:

An Epidemic of Stupidity

Starting with Tim Hudak and then progressing stateside, this post will attempt to merely display the range of prodigious stupidity that North America seems to be cursed with.

First, to young Tim. It seems that each time the beleaguered leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives opens his mouth, one of his bipedal extremities fills the gap. His latest example of reflexive and profound ineptitude came almost immediately after the two byelections held on Thursday. Losing to the NDP in Niagara, Hudak, in what apparently passes for smart strategy in his mind, saw fit to insult the voters in that area, essentially calling them dupes of 'union elites':

“This is all about the union elite who are running the show and they don’t discriminate between whether it’s a Liberal vote or a NDP vote, they want those members in their back pockets and that’s where they are today.”

“Give me a level playing field in Niagara Falls, we win that seat. It’s a PC seat but when you give that oversized influence to big labour they buy influence with numbers.”


Not only does his declaration that Niagara Falls is a 'PC seat' betray his profound contempt for its voters but also his shocking inability to understand the rudiments of democracy.

Moving stateside, the following video speaks for itself, amply illustrating how ignorant bluster can be countered by a little intelligence and knowlege. Enjoy:



Friday, February 14, 2014

Crazed Evangelicals: Donny Reagan Preaches His Racial Hatred To The Like-Minded

It is this kind of crap that gives religion a bad name. I lasted about four minutes watching Brother Donny Reagan's vomitus.

Shoulder Shrug



Like many of the commentators and bloggers whom I read, I regularly feel a deep frustration over the passivity of people. No matter what the problem, be it political, social, environmental or a host of others, too many have a 'can't-do' reaction that debases so many in a myriad of ways. Indeed, it appears to be one of our species' defining characteristics, one at which Canadians seem to particularly excel, if our current political landscape is any indication.

Perhaps we need a national shoulder-shrug symbol as an expression of the what-can-you-do paralysis that cripples so many, a condition that undoubtedly facilitates the dark manipulation our political 'masters' so gleefully engage in.

My reflections are partly prompted by a column in this morning's Toronto Star by Rick Salutin entitled David Cameron and Jim Flaherty prove fatalism is back. Using the picture of British Prime Minister David Cameron in boots wading through flood-ravaged south-west England, Salutin sums up the photo-op in these terms:

It’s the shots of British Prime Minister David Cameron slogging through the floods there in wellies that convinced me: fatalism is back. He may have looked as if he was trying to do something, but it had nothing to do with addressing the causes of flooding. He was all accommodation: like Noah building an ark after hearing from the Lord that the skies were going to burst.

That image parallels the reactions people had in Toronto and beyond after the ice storm that left so many without power for so long; rather than to start a real discussion about climate change, people instead carped about how long it took to restore power. An 'action plan' in the form of an independent panel convened by Toronto Hydro to address that concern was our way of avoiding acknowledging and confronting the real issue.

Similarly, during the flooding that hit the Toronto area last July, concern seemed to be limited to how long it took to rescue stranded Go Train passengers. Indeed, at the time Environment Canada's senior climatologist urged a stoic acceptance:

"No infrastructure could handle this...you just have to accept the fact that you're going to be flooded."

Salutin offers this observation:

... ours is the first era ever possessing strong evidence that human action has shaped the climate. It’s simply a case of trying to undo what we’ve (with high probability) done. If you had substantial evidence that food or water was killing your kids, you wouldn’t futz around about “the science” being inconclusive. You’d act.

And here he gets to the meat of his thesis:

I’m not talking about the tendency of governments, corporations and ideologues to lie and manipulate. I mean the propensity of populations to meekly accept brutal realities because that’s just how it is.

The columnist then trains his lens on the federal budget brought down the other day by Jim Flaherty, who apparently had more pressing concerns than people's lives in the days leading up to the budget:

The economy’s another example. How dared Jim Flaherty present that budget? Where did he get the balls? He ignored the state of jobs and debt in people’s lives, the way Cameron ignored climate change while wading in the water.

And so things go merrily along, collective amnesia and widespread denial being a comfortable refuge until the next 'unforseeable' crisis.






Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Excellent Editorial About Michael Sam

Texas newsman Dale Hansen has some words about “the best defensive player in college football’s best conference” saying he’s gay before the NFL draft…

Elizabeth May On The Harper Contempt For Democracy Act

If you are like me, you may prefer reading the transcript to viewing the video of Elizabeth May's eloquent condemnation of the odious 'Fair' Elections Act. In any event, both media are effective in conveying her disdain for the gross affronts to democracy contained in what I term The Harper Contempt For Democracy Act.

A Troubled Canadian's Mind





I have been a little under the weather the last two days, an illness that curiously began shortly after I had an unsettling thought about the federal budget. (I am sure there is no cause-and-effect between the two;)) Watching the numbers listed in the graphic, it occurred to me that for the average Canadian who pays little to no attention to our political environment, all must seem well, other than for the smokers who will be facing a tax hike on their poison of choice. The much greater costs of austerity remain hidden.

Although it was hardly a new insight, aware as I am that only a minority follow politics closely, I did find it a bit discouraging knowing it is the very fact of electoral disengagement that drives most of the disdainful and ultimately destructive policy initiatives of the current federal regime.

Then I read Thomas Walkom's column, found in today's Star, which offered a measure of solace.

Entitled Stephen Harper’s meanness may backfire, Walkom begins by observing how Harper's politics of division and demonization have worked so well for him up to this point:

Harper pushed through his law and order agenda by demonizing anyone who dared to contradict him.

Those who questioned Canada’s presence in the Afghan war were tarred as traitors who didn’t appreciate the country’s brave soldiers.

Those who fretted about government measures to monitor the Internet were labelled supporters of child pornography.

Indeed, the strategy is ongoing, as reflected in the 'Fair' Elections Act and reforms to the Citizenship Act; the former will make it more difficult for people to vote or ferret out election fraud; the latter offers the spectre of citizenship-stripping of those who don't quite toe the line. Both bills seem manifestations of the Tory mania for political payback against those it perceives to be its enemies, while at the same time throwing morsels to that part of their base given to Pavlovian salivation.

And yet, in Walkom's view, there may indeed be limits to the politics of meanness and division. Citing a history I am well-ware of as an Ontario resident, he says:

Look at history. [Mike] Harris’ tough, no-nonsense approach gave him back-to-back election victories in the 1990s. The voters loved it when he attacked welfare moms and shafted well-paid teachers.

But then the voters announced that they were sick of meanness and turfed the Tories from office.


Parenthetically, Walkom omits the fact that Harris, being essentially what all bullies are, a coward, resigned as Premier before he could be turfed out by increasingly disenchanted Ontarians who discovered there are some very real limits and spiritual costs to relentless hatred of 'the other.'

What is the evidence that the Harper strategy of demagoguery is losing its effectiveness? Walkom cites the growing popularity of Justin Trudeau, a popularity that cannot be explained by Liberal policy which, other than for Trudeau's announced intention to legalize marijuana, appears non-existent.

Says Walkom:

What distinguishes Trudeau is his sunny optimism. Who knows what he is like in private? But in public, he does not seem mean.

Harper, by contrast, does. No matter how many times he croons old Beatles songs, no matter how often he channels Neil Diamond, he comes across as a sourpuss.

That image worked as long as Harper was trying to portray himself as the no-nonsense accountant guiding Canada’s economy through recession.

But the Conservatives say the economic crisis is virtually over. If so, why vote for the accountant again?


While the political observer within is not entirely convinced of Walkom's thesis, the human being pining for a positive environment in which constructive and salutary policy can be enacted for the good of all Canadians is guardedly optimistic.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Heather Mallick And The Climate Of Fear



Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick has a lacerating assessment this morning of the political landscape we now inhabit, thanks to the machinations of the Harper cabal. Owen, over at Norther Reflections, has a post on her piece that is well-worth reading.

I shall only add this from her column:

What an extraordinary thing to live a pleasant life in a western nation and yet fear your own government. But the Canada Revenue Agency’s new audits of environmental charities like Tides Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence in the midst of their continuing warnings about the effects of the climate-poisoning Alberta tarsands project are terrifying.

Harperites are sessile, “rooted to the ground and unable to pick up and move ... when conditions turn unfavourable,” as the New Yorker put it recently in a rather dismissive piece about plant IQ. They can’t adapt to the news of climate change so they lash out at those who have.

I have praised David Suzuki to the skies, most recently in a column about a performance staged at the Royal Ontario Museum about the damage done by the tarsands. Am I to be audited next?


Extraordinary, indeed, that we are witness to, and in many cases abettors of, an ongoing process of democratic subversion directed by the Harper cabal, culminating in a very real and justifiable fear of the government.

An Initial Reaction To The Budget

To paraphrase the Soup Nazi, young people, "No job for you!"

This message brought to you by the Harper government, not hard at work for you.



H/t PressProgress

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ann Coulter's 'Thoughts' On Marijuana

The always charming Ms Coulter equates marijuana with 'retard pills.' One can only assume she comes by her own mental deficiencies naturally.

Ann Coulter: Obama acts like he’s from Kenya — and weed is a ‘legal retard pill’ (via Raw Story )

President Barack Obama may not be a covert anti-colonialist “Manchurian candidate” from Kenya, but he sure does act like it, according to conservative author Ann Coulter. “I know we’ve spent seven years trying to persuade right-wingers, no,…

From The Inner Sanctum (AKA Stephen Harper's Office)

I understand these are embossed in gold in a certain someone's office. Apparently some even have copies signed by Mr. Harper for services rendered.



Conservative MP Blaine Calkins' Bromance



Either the Alberta Conservative MP has a thing for the late Charlton Heston or he has a love of a darker kind.

Economic Fact Check



Contrary to what our self-described economist Prime Minister would have us believe, the jobs that are being created in Canada today are but a pale echo of what once existed. Responding to a January report about the creation of 29,000 new jobs, Star readers have this to say:

Jump in jobs eases economy fears, Feb. 8

The article begins by saying “the labour market started 2014 with a bang adding 29,400 jobs,” presenting a positive tone regarding unemployment. This is misleading. From 2004 to 2008, according to Statistic Canada, nearly 350,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs disappeared, to be replaced by a number of service jobs that paid minimum wage or less. Every sector was hit: the automotive industry, auto parts manufacturing, textile product mills, all industries related to wood and paper. Along with these jobs went the unions, and suddenly we were seeing the rise of food banks.

By 2010, manufacturing employment had fallen by an additional 375,000 workers. All courtesy of free trade agreements that allowed companies to leave Canada for cheap-labour countries.

Then there were other job losses: Sears, 1,600 jobs gone; public sector workers: 20,000; and major Canadian banks, in the thousands. The construction industry in northern Alberta, which generates the best paying jobs in the country, has been laying off workers and replacing them with temporary foreign workers earning as little as half the prevailing wage.

“They called the guys (Canadian workers) into an office, told them that they were gone, and they literally walked past the replacements on the way out,” Alberta Federation of Labour Gil McGowan said.

Job losses over the past 10 years add up to well over a million. The number of jobs listed in the article, 29,400, doesn't even wipe out the job losses of the month previous, 49,500.

And it does nothing about the million jobs already lost.


Bert Deveaux, Toronto

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty should have chosen ballet slippers instead of steel-toed shoes the way he dances around the reality Canada is rapidly becoming a part-time economy. Will that be fries with your budget, Sir?

Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough

No doubt these facts will be viewed as just a tiny challenge to the Harper propaganda machine.

Monday, February 10, 2014

To Be Young, Gifted, And Gay

I am in awe of this kind of courage, and it is one of the reasons I am never quite wiling to give up on humanity. Despite the progress that society has made, I can't think that this could have been an easy decision.

Harper's Ongoing War Against Democracy


I had a very spirited discussion early this afternoon with the constituency assistant working in my Harper M.P.'s office. I called to ask her to convey my disdain for the Fair Elections Act and the plethora of other contempt-for-democracy activities the Conservatives are involved in; warning me about getting my information from 'the left-wing press,' she proceeded to inform me about her party's commitment to ending election fraud, running government with integrity, and all the other sweet and holy things that her boss and her boss's boss are working so hard to promote in this country. I won't bore you with the vigorous rebuttal I offered to her preposterous talking points, except for one point.

I told her that if her party were really interested in respecting and promoting democracy, it would be busy engaging Canadians in a discussion of ideas. Instead, all it can do is demonize and denigrate those who oppose its 'vision'.

A good case in point, which I used as a relevant and current illustration, is a story that appeared in this morning's print edition of The Toronto Star. Since it doesn't seem to be available online, here is a link to The Hamilton Spectator, which also carried it.

Entitled Leaked note shows how Conservatives planning to undermine Justin Trudeau, the article conveys the following tactics that have come to define the Conservative modus operandi and their concomitant absence of integrity:

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are planning to target Justin Trudeau at the upcoming Liberal convention with a carefully orchestrated campaign to disrupt Liberal communications, highlight disunity in the ranks and question his leadership abilities.

The game plan, laid in out Conservative party documents, spells out the objective in three words: "drive, disrupt, disunity."


I don't really have the stomach to reproduce any more of this Machiavellian embrace of anti-democracy so beloved of the Harper cabal, but it does raise a fundamental question, doesn't it?

If their ideas have any real currency among Canadians, why not promote them on their own merits instead of trying to erode the credibility of those who disagree?

The answer, I suspect, is painfully obvious.


More On The Harper Contempt For Democracy Act



If twisted autocracy is not your political cup of tea, please consider signing this petition sponsored by The Council of Canadians in protest of the misnamed Fair Elections Act.

As well, please consider making a Call For Democracy to your local M.P. today sometime between 12:30 and 6:30 P.M.

You may even wish to invite your Facebook friends.

The Fair Elections (A.K.A. Harper's Contempt For Democracy) Act: Star Readers and Creekside Weigh In



It is always heartening to awake on a Monday morning, peruse the newspaper, and receive confirmation that concerns over the Harper Fair Elections Act are not the exclusive concern of the blogosphere. That being said, I strongly recommend that you visit Alison at Creekside to read her analysis of this odious bill.

As well, savor these missives from Toronto Star readers:

Elections bill could disenfranchise thousands, Feb. 7

Typical of the Harper government’s obsession with control, they propose to create a new bureaucracy with the apparent sole purpose of bringing the currently independent investigative powers under the political influence of a government minister. Why else would you avoid the logical, and probably more cost effective, route of simply enhancing the existing powers of Elections Canada, the acknowledged “expert” in administering Canada’s election laws and regulations?
The ability to exert government (political) influence over enforcement and investigations of possible abuses of electoral law is the only apparent benefit of Stephen Harper’s approach.

Interesting also that, while they propose tougher rules to prevent abuse by individual voters, they promote “one law for you and another for the insiders” by providing new cover, out of the public view, for suspected abusers of the electoral system at the party and elected levels. This can only lead to a public perception that cover-ups of transgressions are likely as the insiders look after one another.


Leave it to Harper to subvert one more thing to his anti-democratic, dictatorial bent.

Terry Kushnier, Scarborough

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre says he wants “everyday citizens in charge of democracy.” Really? The per-vote subsidy allowed all voters, regardless of wealth, to allocate a small amount of public funding to parties they supported. By scrapping that and increasing the individual donation limit by 25 per cent, the fraction of voters who direct public subsidies to political parties shrinks to about 1 to 2 per cent of all voters, with the biggest donors among them directing the biggest subsidies.

We’re on the wrong track. But before you blame a party or parties you don’t like as the source of the problem, recognize that all parties have an obvious conflict of interest with law-making on political funding.

We need an independent citizens’ assembly to tackle this. While it may not be clear what such a body might decide, it would certainly be more democratic and fair than the partisan-designed mess we have now.


Larry Gordon, Toronto

The “Fair Elections Act” recently tabled by the federal government is good, bad and sad. Good because it is not buried in a giant Omnibus Bill and contains many positive reforms. Bad because it appears that the chief electoral officer was not consulted on the details and, on the surface of it, Elections Canada will be lacking some powers to investigate. Sad because political parties have played fast and loose with our democratic rights to such an extent that our government feels compelled to call it a “Fair Elections Act.”

Bill Wensley, Cobourg

Sunday, February 9, 2014

With Apologies, Another Post On Tim Hudak



I have to admit that I grow increasingly tired of and bored with young Tim Hudak, the boy who would be Ontario's next premier. Yet because his duplicitous tactics and rhetoric provide such a window into the sordid world of Conservative politics, sometimes I just hold my nose and plod on. But I promise to be brief.

In this morning's Star, Martin Regg Cohn examines Hudak's oft-repeated plan to bring 'workplace democracy' to Ontario, i.e., make union membership optional. Says Tim:

“We will change Ontario’s labour laws to give union members more flexibility and a greater voice. We will give all individuals the right to a secret ballot in certification votes. We will introduce paycheque protection so union members are not forced to pay fees towards political causes they don’t support.”

Such a touching concern for the sensibility of workers, to which he adds:

“Modernizing our labour laws is a part of that [bringing manufacturing jobs back to Ontario]. Makes it more attractive for jobs. Thatcher was instructive in that … they had rigid labour laws, they were deep in debt. She ended the closed shop, she modernized the labour laws.”

Assuming a rudimentary reasoning capacity just slightly beyond that of a toddler, one can fill in the details that young Tim withholds as to why making union-membership optional might, in theory, attract more jobs. No, it's not because a worker given the choice of union membership is a happier and more productive worker - without a union, he is a much cheaper worker, a reality at odds with Hudak's promise of one million good-paying jobs for Ontario.

What about the political machinations going on behind the scenes? In a party that has grave concerns about its leadership, those Progressive Conservatives who will likely run in the next election are concerned about how to best massage the message. The following, from The Hamilton Spectator, offers some insight into the sordid, morally-compromised world these people inhabit:

Internal memo shows concern over Hudak's 'right-to-work' plan

Alarm over Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's controversial "right-to-work" policy is spreading among party activists, MPPs and increasingly skittish new candidates.

In an unusually candid memo obtained by The Toronto Star, 11 would-be MPPs express concern that Hudak's U.S.-style anti-union measures could hurt them in a provincial election expected as early as spring.

Echoing fears raised in a Jan. 22 conference call of 300 party stalwarts and earlier by MPP John O'Toole at last September's Tory convention, the candidates worry that radical labour reforms will be a tough sell to voters.

"Part of being smarter means we should recognize that campaign policies need to be flexible in order to allow for the type (of) precision needed to maximize regional support," says the draft memo, written by Timiskaming-Cochrane Tory hopeful Peter Politis with input from the 10 other Northern Ontario nominees.

"I'm sure we agree that messaging of policies and being prepared for the counter-message is the most important aspect of our campaign going forward," he writes.

Politis warns that "critical wedge issues" must be "messaged effectively in order to maximize the impact in our region while not hurting the impact of other PC seats in other regions."

"The 'right-to-work' policy also needs to be messaged effectively to maximize its impact in the south without sacrificing 11 seats in the North that can very well be the difference between a majority or minority government."

The candidates' memo is the latest sign of an internal PC schism over a pledge to eliminate the Rand Formula, which requires all workers in a unionized workplace to pay dues, regardless of whether they join the union.

Harking back to the party's heyday, the PC standard bearers urge Hudak to follow the centrist footsteps of former premier Bill Davis, who governed from 1971 until 1985 and remains popular to this day.


It is perhaps a testament to the character of the candidates that their concern over Tim's union-busting policy is prompted, not by principled objections but rather political expediency, i.e., "How can a union-busting promise be presented without damaging our chances of getting elected?"

Such is the stable from which the Progressive Conservatives draw.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

True On Both Sides Of The Border



Substitute parliamentary democracy for republic and Bill Maher's words are a stinging indictment of apathetic Canadians.

Peace Of Mind: An Elusive State



Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


- Dylan Thomas

I have now passed seven years of my 'official' retirement; it will be eight years this June since it actually began, given that I took a six-month leave before starting to draw my pension. According to all of the 'good life commercials,' I should be wiling away the rest of my days on the golf course, on some non-existent yacht, or fleeing harsh Canadian winters via the snowbird route.

Instead, I find myself increasingly restless and angry. Instead of disengaging from the concerns of this world, I find myself drawn into them more. While I would not have it any other way, it does make peace of mind somewhat elusive.

But perhaps, whether we are young, middle-aged, or old, peace of mind should not be our primary goal. Not in a world beset by so many problems, many of which promise to only grow much worse after we are gone from the scene.

In yesterday's post, I commented on the witch-hunt being conducted by the Harper regime against environmental groups that speak out about climate change and tarsands development. With the use of a trojan horse called Ethical Oil, an organization whose roots reach directly into Harper's inner office, and the weapon of the Canadian Revenue Agency, the regime seems bent on silencing those who do not embrace our headlong plunge into climatic chaos.

A story in today's Star provides additional information on this assault against freedom of speech, something we once placed a high value on:

Don’t talk about Alberta’s oilsands and how their development may aggravate climate change.

That’s the clear message from Ottawa to environmental charities being extensively audited by the Canada Revenue Agency to determine if they have crossed the line between public and political advocacy.

As many as 10 green charities are being audited by the CRA, while three say they are likely being investigated on complaints by Ethical Oil, a pro-Alberta oilsands, non-profit, non-governmental organization.

“Their (Ethical Oil) feeling is that by raising concern about climate change and the role of tarsands expansion . . . it is political activity,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, one of the three green groups that acknowledged it is being audited on the basis of complaints made by Ethical Oil.


Please read the entire story here. Weep, and then get angry. Get very angry.

Friday, February 7, 2014

On A Lighter Note, Even Pat Robertson Is Embarrassed

It is always a delight when even the crazed religious right begins to splinter. Watch the video below, a five-minute compilation of Bill Nye's recent 'debate' with creationist Ken Ham on evolution, followed by Pat Robertson's reaction to Ham.





We Stand On Guard Against Thee



If you are a member or supporter of the Harper regime, who is Thee? The list is long, but let's start with environmental organizations that have previously been labelled as terrorists.

The latest weapon in this war against dissenting voices, voices the Harper cabal has shown remarkably little tolerance for as they try to move us to some kind of post-democratic state, is the Canadian Revenue Agency. As reported by the CBC,

The Canada Revenue Agency is currently conducting extensive audits on some of Canada's most prominent environmental groups to determine if they comply with guidelines that restrict political advocacy, CBC News has learned.

If the CRA rules that the groups exceeded those limits, their charitable status could be revoked, which would effectively shut them down.


Here is a list of the targeted groups:

The David Suzuki Foundation

Tides Canada

West Coast Environmental Law

The Pembina Foundation

Environmental Defence

Equiterre

Ecology Action Centre


The groundwork for this assault was laid by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty during pre-budget consultations in December, when he warned charities to be very 'cautious', as he was considering tightening up the rule that permits 10% of charitable donations to be used for political activity or advocacy, something that has traditionally been interpreted to preclude partisan activities, which the aforementioned charities have been always very cautious about.

Since the government claims that CRA investigations are complaint-driven, their trojan horse of choice would appear to be a group known as Ethical Oil, whose website states its purpose as

Encouraging people, businesses and governments to choose Ethical Oil from Canada, its oilsands, and from other liberal democracies.

Indeed, the shadowy group, registered as a non-profit but looking like a shill for the oil industry, formally submitted complaints to the CRA about Tides Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence.

Is this just fair game? Not really, given the following curious fact:

The group was founded by Alykhan Velshi, who is currently the director of issues management in the Prime Minister's Office. Environmental groups say Ethical Oil is funded by the oil and gas industry to try to undermine their work

For a much more detailed discussion of this latest assault on dissent and its implications, you may wish to check out the following video from yesterday's Power and Politics:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Nail



As I have expressed in this blog previously, it is my sincere belief that the Harper cabal, indeed, the hard right in general, does not want us exercising our democratic rights, especially as they pertain to voting. The less participation there is, the easier it is for the true believers, aka, the base, to keep their party in power. Up to this point, however, that democratic discouragement has been engendered incrementally, through Harper's general contempt for Parliamentary democracy, disdain and attacks on those with a differing ideological bent, the muzzling of scientists, etc.

Now, however, for the first time we have a piece of legislation, ironically entitled the Fair Elections Act (and which, as of today, faces a time allocation motion limiting debate to three further days), that will make it more difficult to exercise our right to vote.

Promoted by that pusillanimous puppet Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform, the bill, despite its name, requires strict new identification at the polls, prevents Elections Canada from trying to promote greater participation by reaching out to disaffected groups or investigating electoral fraud, and discourages the development of innovative ways to engage younger voters, among other things.

Astute political commentator Chantal Hebert has drawn the same conclusions about the bill:

At a time when most comparable jurisdictions are looking for ways to reverse a decline in turnout the legislation put forward on Tuesday nudges Canada in the opposite direction.

According to Elections Canada the 2011 turnout rate among voters aged 18 to 24 stood at a dismal 38.8 per cent. Across Canada some of the outreach campaigns that the bill would outlaw federally are specifically tailored to them.

...one does not need to read between the lines of the bill to come to the conclusion that the Harper government is more inclined to see a higher voter turnout as a threat than as an ideal outcome.

Yet another nail in the coffin of our democracy, brought to you by the usual suspects.

Andrea's Dilemma: Whither Blowest The Wind?



Were I a gifted artist (or any kind of artist, for that matter) I would draw Andrea Horwath in a two-panel caricature. In the first panel, index finger raised, she would be turning to her left, and in the second, to her right, testing the prevailing winds. That would, I believe, adequately capture what I, perhaps a tad harshly, characterize as the political prostitution of the Ontario NDP leader.

Like her long ago party leader, Bob Rae, who even today refuses to admit he made some grievous errors during his time as Ontario's Premier by trying to placate and court business, Ms Horwath seems to be walking the same lover's lane that leads to electoral heartbreak. And while it is true that she has gained popularity through some of the initiatives she has foisted upon the Liberal government as the price of her party's support, she seems to be falling victim to the same hubristic notion Rae did, that somehow she can appeal to the political right via the business community.

This strategy is given short shrift by Michael Laxer in a recent article for Rabble. Beginning with the NDP's rather oleaginous stance on the push for a $14 minimum wage, Laxer goes on to make this observation:

... the leader driven party has not strayed from its message of boutique appeals to minor consumerist middle class issues and its pandering to the fiction of the small business "job creator." While it is true that small businesses create many jobs, it is also true, especially in the absence of an industrial or neo-industrial state job creation strategy, that the jobs they create are often not even worthy of the term "McJob." They are, overall, without any question the lowest paying jobs and rarely have any benefits of any meaning.

Laxer also questions whether the consumerist approach Horwath has taken (lower insurance rates, small cuts to hydro bills, etc.) is consistent with the party's principles :

Minimum wage and non-"middle class" workers do not primarily need small cuts to hydro bills, auto insurance rates (if they even own a car), or to have the worst employers in the economy "rewarded" for creating bad jobs, they need higher wages, expanded and free transit, universal daycare, pharmacare, and the types of universal social programs "progressives" and social democrats once actually fought for. They need a wage and job strategy that is not centered around the economy's worst and least reliable employers, "small business."

They need active parliamentary political representation that will fight for living wages and economic justice.


And therein lies the problem: the Ontario NDP has essentially abandoned those whose interests it has traditionally served and advocated for.

Matin Regg Cohn, in today's Star, opines that under Horwath's 'leadership,'

...the NDP has transmogrified itself from a progressive to a populist party. Now, the third party is riding high in the polls and dreams of a breakthrough. She wants to broaden her appeal in the vote-rich middle-class suburbs and among small business owners by downplaying the party’s radical roots. Poverty is not a rich source of votes.

Hence the abandonment of long-standing party principles, evidenced in the following statement from the party leader this week regarding Ontario's minimum wage which will rise to $11 per hour on June 1:

“Well, look, I respect the work of the grassroots movements that have been calling for the $14 minimum wage, but I think that what our role is right now is to consult with families that are affected, as well as small business particularly that’s also affected,” she told reporters Tuesday.

Some might argue that this is just smart politics, that aligning oneself too much with progressive policy will simply alienate voters. But I am left with one fundamental question: If the NDP refuses to be the party of advocacy, who will be?

To that, I think the answer is obvious.