Saturday, October 31, 2015

Revisiting The Old Days

I am old enough to remember the days here in Ontario when getting alcohol of any kind from the Liquor Control Board (fondly known here as the LCBO) was a ritual conducted without joy. Far in the future lay today's attractive displays of myriad products from around the world, inviting consumers to try new libations through samples, etc. Back then, choosing from a printed list of products, one would fill out an order on a small piece of paper, tender that order to an anonymous clerk behind a barrier who would hand it off to another employee who then disappeared into a stockroom (no displays allowed!) and returned with your purchase in a discreet brown bag. The customer would promptly leave, perhaps feeling a certain unease at having been involved in a transaction that did not seem to be wholly sanctioned by society.

It was not an atmosphere that encouraged enthusiastic consumption.

My reminiscing was prompted by a documentary I watched the other night on CBC called Reefer Riches which was made when the chance of a Liberal victory and their promised legalization of marijuana seemed remote at best. As I wrote in a recent post, I have little doubt legalization will occur under Trudeau, and I do think it will serve a greater good, but only if it is handled properly, something the documentary made very clear to me.

Justin Trudeau has stated that legalizing pot will be a means of helping keep it out of the hands of kids and reducing the multi-billion-dollar black market. Since the war on drugs has been a proven and costly failure, this makes sense. Moreover, the steps taken by American states that have embraced legalization can serve as cautionary tales that can help ensure Canadian legislation strikes the right balance between access to and promotion of marijuana.

As you will see if you watch the documentary posted below, Colorado appears to be a pothead's paradise. With open displays of plants, tinctures and edibles, daily specials and a growing 'pot tourism,' the emphasis is clearly on the promotion of consumption. It is a model we would do well to avoid if our purpose truly is to control and not promote access. As one of the speakers in the film points out, Canada can learn a great deal from the mistakes that were made in jurisdictions that have legalized the drug. In my mind, our country would do very well to avoid the open commercialization you will see in the film, and instead adopt a very understated, discrete and perhaps slightly intimidating model similar to what once existed in Ontario: no displays, a product list, and access limited to government-run stores.

A bit regressive and Puritanical? Perhaps, but still a model that repudiates prohibition without extolling cannabis consumption.

Friday, October 30, 2015

UPDATED: The Devil Canada Has Made A Deal With

Although it generated some heated discussion during the election campaign, don't expect the $15 billion armoured vehicle deal the Harper government signed with human-rights-hater Saudi Arabia to be rescinded now that a new government is about to be sworn in. Because the country is seen as a stabilizing presence in the Middle East and a source of jobs in Canada, pragmatism will undoubtedly trump principle in a deal that no party exactly denounced as our votes were being courted.

Yet we should all be as familiar as possible with the devil Canada is trafficking with.

Readers may recall the case of Raif Badawi, the 31-year-old Saudi blogger who ran afoul of authorities for his criticisms of the country's religious establishment:
Badawi was sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. In 2014, he was resentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
While it may provide him with cold comfort, his efforts yielded him the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought yesterday. It is unlikely that he will be released to receive the award, and, indeed, should the lashings be carried out in full, he will die.

However, Mr. Badawi's plight may seem mild compared to what is facing young Ali al-Nimr, also a Saudi citizen who
was arrested at age 17 for participating in anti-government protests. The government has said he attacked police officers and rioted, but the only known evidence is a confession apparently extracted under torture that left him a bloody mess.
Now he is facing beheading and crucifixion:
His appeals following his court sentence for this grisly execution have been exhausted, so guards may lead Nimr to a public square and hack off his head with a sword as onlookers jeer. Then, following Saudi protocol for crucifixion, they would hang his body as a warning to others.
International outrage at his sentence appears to have had no impact on the Saudi government. Last month, a
group of United Nations human rights experts ... urged the Government of Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child. He may be executed at any time.

“Saudi Arabia may so far this year have executed at least 134 people, which already represents 44 more than the total for the whole of last year,” they noted. “Such a surge in executions in the country makes Saudi Arabia a sad exception in a world where States are increasingly moving away from the death penalty.”
The lash and decapitation seem to be expressions of a worldview that can only be described as medieval and barbaric. In the country considered to be our ally, there are at least 16 'crimes' that warrant the death penalty, including murder, adultery, gay consensual sex, apostasy, consumption of intoxicants and sorcery and witchcraft.

To embrace and sell armaments to such a benighted nation says, perhaps, more than we would like to consider about our own country and principles, doesn't it?

UPDATE: In his response to this post, The Mound of Sound has pointed out some things that go much deeper than mere beheadings and crucifixions in Saudi Arabia. Take a look at what he has to say here and here. The implications are profoundly disturbing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rick's Rant: About Those Conservative Newspaper Endorsements

Redoubtable Rick is relentless in his excoriation of both The Globe and Mail and The National Post for their corporate-driven endorsements of the Harper regime during our recent election:

He Is Either Supremely Arrogant Or Extremely Delusional

"He" would be the outgoing but hardly lamented Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Alexander, who allowed his transfixation with power to corrupt and ruin him. The damage may indeed be permanent.

As you will see in the following video report, his inability to purge himself of the Conservative Kool-Aid means he accepts no responsibility for the party's recent fall from power but blames everything on outside perfidious forces such as the Liberals debasing and poisoning the campaign culture and liberal media distorting the truth. This is hardly an encouraging augury of his potential for rehabilitation:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Potential And Reality

I remember when I first started teaching, everything seemed so clear, so obvious: students, for example, were no longer writing very well because they weren't taught grammar; a rigourous and systematic approach would fix that. I soon learned, however, that such a prescription was unspeakably naive. Like everything else, it did not exist in a vacuum, but rather was tied to so many other factors over which I had little or no control, such as family environment, motivation to read voluminously, etc., etc.

In some ways, and I really hope I am wrong, I wonder if Justin Trudeau's winning approach to electoral victory may partly mirror the naiveté I had so many years ago. After years of exposure to Stephen Harper's toxicity, expectations are very high among Canadians for a new political culture, and Trudeau's potential to disappoint is great. If he succeeds, his impact on the health of our democracy could be quite substantial.

Lawrence Martin writes that there is much to change:
If Canadians thought the operation run by Stephen Harper was ugly before, look at what we’re hearing now. Not from Mr. Harper’s opponents, but Conservatives themselves.

“They had almost a Stalinistic way of looking at things,” Philippe Gervais, a former Tory campaign co-director, told iPolitics . “You were either on-side, or you were dead.”

Here’s Geoff Norquay, the long-time Harper defender on TV panels. In the next edition of Policy magazine, he writes what the political operation was really like under Harper favourite Jenni Byrne: “They ran a closed circle, they humiliated staff, they berated candidates, they pushed every reasonable argument far beyond its logical limit, they shut out others with a different view.”
One of Trudeau's strongest suits is his style:
Style doesn’t make the man, but as Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy illustrated, it can change the morale, bring a new spirit to a country. Mr. Trudeau is no Reagan and he is no Kennedy but he has some of their charismatic attributes. If he doesn’t settle for half-measures, he could bring a new spirit.
That infusion of our waning spirits was clearly evident in the increasingly large crowds Trudeau attracted as the campaign wore on, and in the enthusiasm with which many greeted his majority government.

In more substantive matters, a test for the incoming prime minister will be how he handles dissent:
The wise leader doesn’t demand agreement from everyone in his party. If the news media gets all excited about an MP going offside on some issue, he should take it in stride, as in, “So what? That’s what a democracy is all about. The freedom to speak your mind.”
Lawrence Martin has several suggestions for Trudeau as his time in office draws near, but I'll end with one that I think all of us would agree upon:
To restore civility to our politics, Mr. Trudeau should ban personal attack ads. To restore sanity to Question Period, the Speaker needs to be empowered so that questions are answered.
Now wouldn't that be something to truly behold?

Monday, October 26, 2015

It Seems All The Rats Haven't Deserted The Ship

I was catching up on my reading today, enjoying a brief break from blogging, when I came upon this; it seemed too good not to share:

H/t Globe and Mail

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Virtues Of Civility

Probably one of the most obviously distressing aspects of the last ten years has been the precipitous drop in political civility, earmarked by fractious and factious exchanges in the House of Commons. No longer a chamber for informed debate, under the Harper reign it became a vehicle by which the government denigrated all opponents and thumbed its nose at the concept of transparency and accountability, thereby alienating the general population and discouraging people from any form of participation in the democratic process.

We live now with high hopes that will all change.

There is an encouraging story told by Susan Delacourt suggesting that our hopes have a chance of being realized:
I asked Trudeau: what was the big difference in his two lives on the Hill — as the son of a prime minister in the 1970s and 1980s and as a backbench MP in 2010?

Trudeau said he had two answers to that question: one he was accustomed to answering publicly, one he kept to himself.

First, the oft-repeated answer: he was surprised to realize how much he liked constituency work, helping people in his Montreal riding of Papineau. He had never seen that aspect of MPs’ work through his father, who had staff to handle issues in the riding.

As for the other answer, Trudeau looked around to see who might overhear him. Careful to keep his voice down, he said he was stunned to see how some MPs treated their staff, and the air of entitlement around them. He was truly surprised to learn that many staffers had to endure temper tantrums from their bosses. “Who do they think they are?” he said, glancing in the direction of an MP or two dining nearby.
Apparently, Justin learned a valuable lesson from his father when he was a child:
Trudeau then told me about how when he and his brothers were young, the only times they got in serious trouble with Pierre was when they showed disrespect to their RCMP protection officers. Overhearing the boys call one of the officers “Baldy,” Trudeau gathered them together and furiously scolded them, telling them that these men had families and lives they were putting on the line to watch over them.

This is not a prime minister who is going to rule with fear, it seems.
Basic decency and empathy are qualities I think most of us try to practise in our daily lives. To see them applied in the public arena would, without question, mark a radical and highly desirable shift in our political culture.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Meanwhile, Beyond Our Borders

The world of U.S. politics is proving to be consistent in its insanity. Watch the following video in which Republican hopeful Ben Carson says, at about the 3:20 mark, what he would use the Department of Education for:

Can a holographic resurrection of Joseph McCarthy be far behind?

On The Post-Election Employment Prospects Of The Harper Fallen

In Power Play's Don Martin's considered opinion, they are decidedly dim:

On The Restoration Of Canada's Soul And Other Matters

There is a series of excellent letters in today's Star that I hope you will take time to read. I am reproducing the first two dealing with what the ejection of Harper means for Canada; the third, about the long-form census, is followed by a link to an As It Happens interview with Munir Sheik, the former chief statistician for Statistics Canada who quit over a matter of integrity and principle. Sheik talks about why a return to the mandatory long-form census is crucial if we are to have data that can be relied upon.
The dismissal of Stephen Harper and his Conservative government provides welcome and palpable relief for those Canadians they tried to browbeat, bully and frighten into submission. This election, more than any other in the past 40 years was about soul of our nation. Canadians came down squarely on the side of decency, fairness and inclusivity as the moral foundations of political leadership.

Mr. Harper now understands that federal democratic governments are not in power to abuse it. They are not there to frighten, intimidate and shut up our nation’s researchers and scientists; they are not there to value the lives of first nation women less than others; nor to marginalize and badmouth all refugees while ostracizing the physicians, nurses and others who care for them.

They are there to govern with respect and inclusion for all in this country. Bullying those Canadians whose opinions differ from theirs became the nasty, bulldozing hallmark of the Conservatives under the stamp of Harper. Thankfully, it is now this belligerence and oppositional defiant government behaviour that Canadians rejected.

I suspect the same feeling of release and relief is being felt by many across Canada today. Mr. Trudeau was bang on in his post election conversation with Canadians. Sunnier days!

Dr. Paul Caulford, Toronto

It’s not a new Canada as the Star’s Tuesday headline suggests. It’s still the same old Canada: relatively progressive and open-minded. But back to the future? Not quite.

Almost a decade of Harper’s rule failed to destroy this nation. His attempts to turn us into a country of fear, hate and discrimination didn’t work, as Monday’s results demonstrated. Despite its imperfections, the first-past-the-post system served us well.

And yet again the NDP’s move to the right cost them dearly and, as happened here in Ontario last year, they paid the price. When Canadians want change they vote for it, as they did last spring in Alberta and nationally on Monday.

Although I don’t expect a full-fledged just society to emerge under Trudeau the Younger, he does have a golden opportunity to restore Canada’s tattered reputation on the global stage, while jump-starting our economy through a welcome dose of Keynesian stimulus spending.

Where Canada goes now is up to the Liberals. They can start by following through on the promises that won them the election.

Andrew van Velzen, Toronto

On the same day as Prime Minister Trudeau is sworn in, he should instruct StatsCan to restore the mandatory long-form census, if possible in time for the 2016 census. This simple action would be widely popular, would help the economy, and won’t need legislation.

No single action taken by the Canadian government led by Mr. Harper has been so thoroughly discredited and condemned as making the long-form census voluntary. Manufacturers and marketers, property developers and professors, cities and school boards have repeatedly pointed to the serious economic and social damage caused by not having this data available. If Mr. Trudeau wants to signal that he is serious about creating real change, perhaps the best way to start is by making it clear that this parliament will use data, and not ideology, to make decisions, policies, and laws.

Howard Goodman, Toronto

Click here for Munir Sheik's thought on the census.

Friday, October 23, 2015

On Progressive Legislation

While I am sure that the legalization of marijuana will not be a legislative priority of the incoming government, I have little doubt that Justin Trudeau will honour his pledge to enact it. It is something I have given a fair bit of thought to, and although initially I was quite ambivalent about the prospect, I now embrace the argument that, however counter intuitive it may seem, it is far better to legally control cannabis, thereby reducing both the power of the criminal element that currently supplies the recreational market, and the prevalence of its distribution to young people.

As well, the fact is legalization will also mean a new source of tax revenue, something not to be lightly dismissed. Additionally, police forces will no longer be wasting their resources and taxpayers' money on the failed 'war on drugs'. It is something I think they will welcome:
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has been pushing since 2013 for officers to have the ability to ticket people found with 30 grams of marijuana or less.

Mario Hamel, the association's vice-president and the chief of the Gatineau police, said legalizing marijuana could free up officers to address other issues.

Also instructional is the Colorado experience:
... this summer, state officials reported that marijuana tax revenues were up nearly 100 percent, according to ABC7 Denver. Revenue jumped from $25 million in the first five months of 2014 to $44 million in the same period this year.

Colorado began directing some marijuana revenue toward school and research programs in May, including providing grants to public school districts and charter schools, an education official told The Huffington Post. Almost $24 million was allocated to the Building Excellent Schools Today program, said Kevin Huber.
The possible mechanics of distribution, economic benefits and the potential for international growth are discussed in this Power and Politics clip:

As also implied in the above, there will clearly be other benefits to the economy: the additional employment of people to grow and distribute the products, as well as the ancillary industries arising around cannabis:
Leigh Coulter, president and co-owner of GGS Structures, which builds greenhouses for marijuana operations and other agricultural products, anticipates major growth for her small business after last night’s election. “This is an extension and a chance to let the world know Canada will be a leader,” she said. “We will develop the technologies to ensure that this is a crop of great revenue potential.”

Mr. Alves anticipates a number of other small-business sectors benefiting from a more marijuana-friendly Canada as well.

“You just have to look south of the border to see the types of businesses that have sprung up – everything from marijuana-focused marketing and promotions to technology platforms and delivery systems,” he said. “There’s also a real opportunity for some of the businesses that currently exist in an unregulated market to really become a mainstream businesses; they can develop and scale as opposed to remaining in the shadows of a grey market.”
Not to be forgotten either is the upscale market for recreational marijuana:
The newly launched website Tetra offers an array of handmade objects, smoking accoutrements designed to be kept in plain sight – especially when company comes over. Designers and artists including Ben Medanksy, Matthias Kaiser and Leah Ball are creating luxurious pipes out of marble and buffed sandstone, and ashtrays that would make The Dude topple over in awe.
Add to that the increasingly artisanal cast of cannabis strains, and you have a recipe for real growth.

No public policy should be decided solely on the basis of economic parameters; however, I am convinced that the legalization of marijuana will be progressive legislation ultimately welcomed and endorsed by a progressive nation.

As always, I welcome all comments, and I am certainly happy to entertain challenges to the position that I have advanced here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Following Montreal Simon's lead in taking down his masthead urging all of us to resist the outgoing dictator, I have removed the 'Official Member of Harper's Enemies List' from mine. I haven't thought about an appropriate replacement yet, but for now, enjoy this song that I am sure occurred to many on the night of Harper's defeat:

UPDATE: Meanwhile, over at The Star, Judith Timson asks, Is Canada ready for Justin Trudeau's 'sunny ways'?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Fragile Flower

The majority of Canadians are currently basking in the promise the new government holds, the promise of openness, transparency, accountability and progressivity, all notably absent from the enshrouded regime of the outgoing dictator. But while we all deserve to feel deep relief from the collective burden the country has borne for the last decade, I think it is also important to understand that this feeling of liberation will likely be quite ephemeral. The real work of democratic restoration has just begun.

Writing shortly before our election, John Izzo offers this view:
Unless the electorate is involved AFTER the election, the status quo will remain intact. Of course we Canadians should be familiar with this problem. When Harper first ran for Prime Minister he talked about creating a more open and accountable government, reforming the Senate, free votes for members of Parliament and so on.

Of course he broke almost all of those promises, created a fortress mentality and a tight run ship where no one stepped out of line and scientists were muzzled.
Izzo suggests we facilitated the process by which Harper so egregiously and quickly violated his commitments:
When Gorden Campbell, former premier of British Columbia, was running for that office the first time I heard him speak to a small group of entrepreneurs in Vancouver. He asked us a rhetorical question: "Why do politicians make promises and then break them?" Going on, he said, "Because you let us. After the election you go dormant and politicians get to do what they want to do or what those who are most interested in maintaining the status quo want them to do."
Izzo cites a powerful American example to illustrate his point. Despite the fact that the majority of citizens want tighter gun control laws, nothing ever changes
... because special interests like the NRA know that who gets elected is not nearly as important as who stays involved all the time holding politicians accountable. Special interests spend as much or more time, money and effort on lobbying and influencing leaders between elections.
There solution entails the hard work of real citizenship:
Getting engaged every four to five years for six to eight weeks is not what it means to be a citizen ....if we want our leaders to do our will on the big issues we face, a far greater majority of us have to stay engaged post-election.

How can we do this? Here are three commitments we can make. First, keep writing and calling our representatives in the days and weeks following the election. Let them know what YOU want and what you WILL hold them accountable to. Second, keep blogging, face-booking, meeting with friends and like minded people, to keep engaged in the process. Third, make it clear to whoever wins, that we know what they promised and we will be watching.
After almost ten years of oppression, we all deserve a respite. But if we want to maximize the chances of a healthy democracy and a responsive government, let's make sure that our hiatus isn't too long. The flower is too fragile to neglect.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On Faith Restored

This will be a brief post, as there are likely far more interesting things to read from the professional pundits, but I would like to offer a few reflections on the implications of last night's election results.

The past ten years have seen some very dark times for Canadians. Probably one of the darkest for me was when Stephen Harper achieved a majority government in 2011, a feat that granted him tremendous power to attempt to remake Canada in his own corrupt image. I remember the despair I felt that sent me into a three-week depression. Even though a minority of the electorate had given him this power, my faith in my fellow Canadians was badly shaken. Last night, it was restored.

I have lived long enough to know, and recent history has certainly reminded us of, the inherent dangers of majority government. Yet I choose to see the Liberal victory not necessarily as an unqualified endorsement of Justin Trudeau and his colleagues, but as a sound, deep and decisive repudiation of the terrible things the Conservatives represent. In this, I know I am not offering an original insight, but the magnitude of that rejection is what has restored my faith in my fellow citizens.

When I attended Word on the Street recently, I asked Bob Rae whether he thought we had been too debased during the Harper to recover to the point where a healthy democracy was again possible. He dismissed that as a likelihood, and last night proved his point, one that I did not really share. Given the emphasis on chequebook issues, the elevation of the individual over the collective, and the pronounced cultivation of division that took place under the Harper yoke, to say that I was dubious would be an understatement. I'm glad I was wrong.

We don't yet know the percentage of Canadians who voted, but my guess is it was higher than 2011. My hope is that greater numbers of young people also became engaged during this long campaign, and that that engagement marks the beginning of a new generation participating in what is still a grand experiment in nation-building.

I also hope that the massive trust Canadians have placed in the Liberals will not be abused, but rather acknowledged, respected and nurtured. If we have leaned nothing else during this past decade, let us remember that the democracy we have so long taken for granted is indeed a fragile construct that can be greatly compromised by men and women of ill-will. Let us all hope they have been replaced by people of integrity and vision.

We shall see. May the healing begin.

UPDATE: The Star is reporting the following:
More than 68 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Monday’s federal election – the highest turnout at the polls since 1993.

That’s a jump of more than 7 per cent from the 2011 election.

Preliminary Elections Canada figures state that 68.49 per cent of eligible voters – or 17,546,697 people - went to the polls on Monday for the Liberal Party’s majority win.

Just 61.1 per cent of registered voters cast ballots in 2011.
That is wonderful news!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Decision Time

It has been, in the estimation of most people, an almost unbearably long campaign; its eleven weeks' duration likely tested the mettle of the most ardent of political junkies. Yet at the same time it has probably served at least one positive purpose for those who don't follow politics very closely: it has laid bare the true nature of the Harper regime. Contemptuous of democracy, willing to foster suspicion and incite racial, religious and ethnic tensions, the party's desperation has grown palpable. I am not sorry to see things wind down.

Ultimately, however, it has turned out to be personally valuable. As people get older, I am convinced that emotions like excitement and anticipation are harder to come by, time blunting the things that we so eagerly embraced in our youth. Yet it is precisely those feelings, along with some anxiety, that I am now experiencing as I anticipate the outcome of this election. This emotional state has also helped me realize more clearly than ever that there were largely two motivations behind this blog since I started it in 2010: a deep aversion to abuses of power, which I and so many others have written about over the years, and a deep love for Canada. It is the latter I want to discuss today.

Surely one of the most insidious and Machiavellian of the regime's schemes has been to relentlessly devalue and debase the notion of citizenship. While Harper's team was not the first to attempt this (here in Ontario Mike Harris gave it his best shot), they have had the longest opportunity to remake Canada in their own soulless ideology, one where the bonds that connect us to each other and the larger possibilities of society are slowly weakened until they break.

The low tax agenda, which erodes over time the ability to fund a larger vision, has been a centrepiece for Mr. Harper. And with it, of course, has come the inevitable extolment of the individual and the denigration of the collective. It is a formula designed to rip away our foundations as a nation, and one that people like former clerk of the Privy Council Alex Himelfarb and so many other progressives have been fighting back against. Himelfarb insists, for example, that tax isn't a four-letter word, warning that to embrace the neoliberal agenda means we won't be able to face up to our challenges and we will sleepwalk toward a smaller, meaner Canada.

But taxes are only a part of the Canadian equation that has been under consistent attack since the Harper ascension to power. The country I grew up in and love embraces so many qualities to which so many other countries aspire: acceptance, compassion, inclusion, peace are but four that have been put at grave risk by a government that regards them not as the virtues they truly are, virtues that need constant nurturing, but rather as impediments to the implementation of its marketplace mentality that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

These are a few of the things about this country that I love so deeply, and I want them back to once more nourish our collective soul and enrich all of us. It is what guided my vote in the advance poll, and it is what I want to see rekindled throughout our land.

If all goes well tonight, the reign of Stephen Harper and his horde will be at an end. The healing and rebuilding of our country can begin. It is a task no particular party is up to alone, but I believe that all of us, together, can still accomplish great things.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

“A Betrayal Of Conservative Values, And A Betrayal Of Canadian Values.”

That's how impassioned tech entrepreneur Frederick Ghahramani describes Bill C-51 in this interview with Power and Politics' Rosemary Barton. As you will see, he is willing to put his money where his mouth is:

On The Company You Keep

This kind of makes it easy to judge Harper, doesn't it?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

More From Marg: Canada's Barbaric Cultural Practices Tip Line

Marg Delahunty reminds us of one of the many offences against Canada committed by the Harper regime:

Impending Relief?

For the millions upon millions of Canadians who have grown progressively more heartsick over Stephen Harper's systematic subversion of our country's traditions and values these last nine-and-a-half years, relief seems to be within our grasp. We can now quite realistically hope for the end of this hateful and divisive man's reign. However, those of us who have been around for a while know that upon his defeat, Canada will not magically revert to its former self, so radically has the domestic dictator altered our landscape. Neither Justin Trudeau nor Tom Mulcair have policy goals that radically differ from Harper's, as Thomas Walkom points out in his column today.

For me. however, the opportunity to start, if not anew, at least with someone other than Harper at the helm, is the basis for real hope and the opportunity to revive a sagging but hardly defeated Canadian spirit and resilience, a spirit that is more than amply demonstrated in letters published in today's Star.

Those multitudes of us with a deep love of our country are clearly ready for a partner who will reciprocate:

I am passionate about Canada. I am passionate about a Canada which stands for peace not war. I am passionate about a Canada which welcomes refugees based on need rather than wealth or religion, a Canada which values free speech, and holds in high regard our supreme court. I am passionate about a Canada where federation means a sharing of responsibilities, dialogue and consensus building.

I care about science, about receiving unfiltered information from our government scientists. I care about the plight of our disadvantaged, in particular native women and girls. I believe in the ability of Canada and Canadians to be leaders in the world when it comes to climate change, and world poverty.

I believe in the ability of Canada and Canadians to demonstrate to the world how a society accepting of divergent religions, races, and political philosophies can be the best of all countries to call home. By voting I express my passion for the Canada I believe in, in a material and positive way.

Gord Humphrey, Port Perry

A return to power by the diabolical Mr. Harper and his minions would further shred the tolerant, free and democratic fabric of this country.

Mark Goldstein, Mississauga

Letter writer Sybil Rowe is one of the millions of Conservatives who are ashamed of and turned off by Harper’s dirty, divisive, destructive politics aimed at winning votes by hook or crook. He has stooped to the lowest level of gutter politics. He does not deserve to continue to be the prime minister of the peaceful, united, cohesive, friendly, multicultural country like Canada.

I very am happy to know that more than 70 per cent of Canadians do not want Harper to continue for four more years because they know he will destroy Canada, which is envy of the world, by his extremely racist beliefs, attitude and actions.

More and more conservatives like Sybil Rowe are turned off by Harper, Jason Kenney and their conservative gang and are changing their allegiance to Trudeau who they know is a gentleman who, like his father, loves this country and would never ever do anything to destroy it.

Harper does not deserve to continue to be the prime minister of Canada. I appeal to Canadians to subject him to a crushing defeat and teach him the lesson of his life which, I hope, he will remember forever.

Girish Parekh, Burlington

Let this election be an exercise in restoring our Canadian traditions of kindness and tolerance and get rid of this wolf of a prime minister in sheep’s clothing.

John Fraser, Toronto

Friday, October 16, 2015

UPDATE: Conservative 'Team Gosal' Commits An Election Crime

Baljit Singh Gosal. the Con candidate seeking re-election in Bramalea—Gore—Malton, has apparently dispatched his 'team' to commit election crimes, as you will see in the following video. The perpetrators defend their actionss as just doing their job. May justice prevail on October 19.

Caught on camera: Conservative team destroying NDP and Liberal signs while putting up signs for their candidate. This is a criminal offence.Bal Gosal is is the CPC candidate for Brampton Centre.

Posted by Government for all Canadians, not just the wealthy on Friday, October 16, 2015
H/t Government for all Canadians, not just the wealthy

UPDATE: Apparently, Mr. Harper has met with the miscreants. A bit of a step down, perhaps, from his associations with Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter, et alia, some might say.

UPDATED: Home Of The Whopper

Given that the unofficial organ of the Conservative Party, The Globe and Mail, has endorsed Stephen Harper in the last three elections, I don't think it is much of a stretch to suggest they will make it four in a row, either later today online or in tomorrow's print edition. Today, I hope readers will indulge me in a little extemporaneous speculative fiction, the kind the paper itself indulges in when they tell us that the Conservative Party is best positioned to lead us into an uncertain future.

One note of caution, however: my political prognostications have been grossly inaccurate in recent years, so please take all of this with much more than the usual grain of salt:

The last four years have been difficult ones indeed, not only for Canada but for the entire world. Economic uncertainty has plagued much of the world. Terrorism has been on the rise. And here at home, the decorum and the debates in the House of Commons have been marred by rancorous and rabid partisanship by all political actors, Stephen Harper not the least of them.

Do we wish that he had brought more statesmanship to his role as prime minister? Of course we do. Do we wish that he had led with grace and diplomacy rather than denigration of his opponents? No argument there. But to focus on his personal shortcomings is to ignore the broader picture. The fact is that under his leadership, Canada has become a far more outward-looking nation, boldly forging new alliances and trade treaties that can only redound to the benefit of all Canadians. Under his watch, this country is no longer confined to parochial backwaters. We are a nation of the twenty-first century.

There will always be those who pine for an earlier, simpler time, when the nanny state grew at an unsustainable rate. Under Mr. Harper's leadership, both the country and its citizens have matured to the point where tax cuts that respect people's ability to make their own choices are increasingly the norm. Many applaud this development, while others still yearn to be taken care of by the state.

Much has been made about Mr. Harper's personal style; his reserved aloofness stands in sharp contrast to the gregarious charm of Mr. Trudeau. But Canadians are urged to remember that charisma is not a foundation of good government. Vision and solid policy-making are. In these areas, Mr. Harper has proven himself time and time again.

With a still-fragile economy, voters need to ask themselves whether this is the time to embark on risky experiments that will further burden our children and grandchildren with debt, led by an inexperienced Liberal Party leader, or stay the course with a government that has a proven track record.

We at The Globe and Mail believe the choice is clear and therefore endorse the Conservative Party of Canada in this election.

UPDATE: Well, the Globe has outdone itself this time; as I predicted, they are endorsing the Conservative Party and its policies. However, take a look at what they want Stephen Harper to do. It seems like the self-proclaimed 'newspaper of record' wants it both ways; its cowardice and fear of public ridicule is palpable.

Also, for a real treat, take a few moments to read some of the readers' comments, which are quite justifiably contemptuous of this sad facsimile of a newspaper with integrity.

And if that's not enough, check out this Globe Q&A on Facebook.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Member Of Ford And Harper Nation No One Likes To Talk About

I'm sure this guy would get along famously with Earl Cowan.

One does wonder about what is in Etobicoke's drinking water, though.

Senior Scam Alert

Although now retired as Canada's longest-serving mayor, the redoubtable Hazel McCallion continues her life of public service:

Meanwhile, over at Don Martin's Power Play, watch the first two minutes of his questioning of Monte Solberg defending Harper's hypocrisy of having well-known crack-user Rob Ford and his brother Doug at his rally in Etobicoke while his government keeps telling Canadians how dangerous drugs are. You will notice that Martin can't conceal his contempt for Solberg's response. Then go to the five-minute mark to watch the former Con MP defend the despicable ads being run in ethnic media:

These acts of desperation will not save Harper this time around, I predict.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I'll Be So Glad To See The End Of This

I think most would agree that Terrence Young and the rest of his ilk are long past their best-before dates.

A Unity Of Purpose

In these polarized times, it seems that two age groups are often looked upon by the media in almost absolutist terms. We are told, for example, that people over the age of 65 are the most likely to vote (about 75 per cent did so in the 2011 election), and that their support predominantly goes to the Conservative Party. The youth vote is discouragingly low (about 38 per cent voted in the last election), and young people are portrayed a politically disengaged, losing themselves in social media and their various electronic devices. Such pigeonholing, of course, overlooks the wide variations that exist within all demographic groupings.

The two letters that follow challenge such narrow categorizations. The first was sent to me by A.J. Recana, whose Star letter I featured a while ago in my blog. As you will see, his commentary reveals someone very much concerned about the pressing issues of our time:
SETI, otherwise known as the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a collective name for scientific endeavors executed to look for life outside our world. Accounts such as NASA and their Keplar spacecraft discovering a planet characterized as “Earth’s bigger, older cousin” and the most recent confirmation of water and ancient lakes on Mars by NASA, are all great discoveries indeed. The potential for these discoveries and future ones are substantial catalysts for advancing the existence of the human race and it is unfathomable.

Here is the problem: We look for life on other planets yet we continue to abolish and harm life on our own. We look for suitable environments out in outer space yet we continue to destroy our primary home.

Let us take a step back and look at ourselves, figure out our troubles before advancing onto other regions in the universe and coming into contact with other life forms. If we cannot find resolutions to the conflicts and issues that have been going on within the history of humanity, how can we expect ourselves to sustain life outside this world? If we cannot improve our living conditions and take great care of our beautiful earth, how can we expect to do the same on planets that is not of our own?

The change starts with us; let’s make it happen.
The next piece, published in yesterday's Star, again challenges conventional perceptions.
Conservatives betting on rhetoric of fear, Oct. 5

I am 79 years old and have endeavoured all my life to vote with thoughtful consideration of the facts. In all those years, I have never seen such a patently racist campaign run by any party, as that of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. I did not think this could happen in Canada, and I feel both angry and ashamed.

After receiving the most disturbing flyer from the campaign office of Dianne Watts regarding the “Jihadist Terrorists, which only the Conservative party could protect us from,” I thought that our Muslim Canadians must be feeling dreadful over this relentless, ugly propaganda. I felt the need to find even one Muslim to apologize for this injustice and the hurt it caused. I found a lady at the mall, and after enquiring if she was Muslim, delivered my apology.

I said, “This is not the Canadian way.” Smiling at me with tears in her eyes, she agreed. I gave her a hug, and departed.

What are we doing to our country? One thing thing is clear, the new Conservative party bears little resemblance to the old Progressive Conservative Party that I voted for over a 50-year span.

Harper’s relentless attacks on our Muslim citizens, including references to “Barbaric cultural practices,” “Jihad threat,” and this endless hulabaloo about the niqab, clearly demonstrates a man who is exploiting that unworthy side of our nature, the racist the lurks in all of us. His propaganda is superb.

John Diefenbaker coined the phrase, “Unhyphenated Canadian.” A worthy goal. How I miss him and all the other prime ministers who truly valued our Canadian democracy.

Sybil Rowe, Surrey, B.C.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

More Encouraging News

I quite enjoyed this report, which suggests some of the most odious of Conservative sycophants have a good chance of losing their seats.

Meanwhile, in the first three of the four days set aside for advance polls, 2.4 million Canadians cast their vote. That has to mean something.

Something To Gladden The Spirit

During this campaign, while Harper has been appealing to the worst in Canadians, I have to admit that my faith in humanity has been faltering. The following, which I saw on Facebook, is something of a restorative.

"You see, you've misjudged us... You've underestimated us." A former Calgarian writes an open letter to Stephen Harper and explains what it means to be Canadian.

“Dear Mr. Harper,

I live in BC with my husband and two little girls. I grew up in Calgary and have many friends and family members there. I’m white and in my early 40s. One of us is a stay at home parent, so we benefit 100% from the direct deposits in lieu of a national childcare program. We also benefit 100% from income splitting. And we can afford to take advantage of the increased allowance in our TFSAs.

In other words, we're the picture of the family who benefits the most from your economic policies. But we're not voting Conservative on October 19th.

You see, you've misjudged us. We enjoy our standard of living, we work hard for it but it's not the only thing that matters to us.

You assume we don't care about our first nation’s neighbours, or Canadians trying to bring their family members here from war torn countries. That we don't care about less fortunate Canadians, our veterans, or scientists. You think we don't mind that to save a few bucks and balance the books we axed the census, dumped decades of research from our libraries, cut funding to CBC, underspent our budgets in important departments and closed coast guard stations. You figure we no longer want our lakes and rivers protected and that we don't understand that climate change is a far greater risk to our way of life than Barbaric Cultural Practices.

You've underestimated us.

On October 19, we're not voting for our bank balance. We're voting for change because we want the caring Canada of our youth back. The Canada that supported our single mothers that gave us the opportunity to succeed in the first place.

Mary Cleaver”

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Sign Of the Times?

This afternoon I was in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which seemed to be sporting a lot of Tory signs. This one, I thought, perhaps said more than might have been intended:

Guest Post: The Values Edition

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, It seems a propitious time to reflect on the values that have been fostered and avidly promoted (especially during this election season} by the Harper government, values that no doubt will be on the minds of many as they head to the polls on October 19.

The following was sent to me by M Barrett. Please note that because I received this as a PDF document, converting it into text has been done at the cost of a few graphics of our flag in the opening, as well as some of the original formatting.

Government of the Modern Civilized Republic of Canada

Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Preservation of Virtue


Statement on Canadian Values

Ottawa October 08, 2015

Canada is an inclusive society and by definition that necessarily includes closed minded, intolerant, divisive people, many of them with very real issues about seeing a woman’s face so as to be able to ascertain whether she is mocking them.
Canada’s inclusive society also includes those who having immigrated here, quite understandably feel the need to lock the door behind them because of possible overcrowding and strains on Canada’s world class social safety net.
This charter is a way to address the fear of this beleaguered segment of Canadian society, that they too are becoming a despised, dwindling minority, and it ensures that Canada’s vaunted democratic electoral system diligently unearths every and all contrived and festering matter no matter how repugnant in order to achieve well deserved political success.

Stevie J

Charter of Modern Values and Civilized Practices

1 The official name of Canada shall be designated as the Modern Civilized Republic of Canada.
2 Under the authority of Prime Minister Stephen J Harper, Ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander of The Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Preservation of Virtue, declare the annulment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the promulgation of the Charter of Modern Values and Civilized Practices.


Whereas Canada is a Modern Civilized Republic, medieval barbaric practices shall be eliminated and Modern Values and Civilized Practices only are permitted.
Deploring the fact that certain probationary Canadians, despite repeated efforts to reasonably accommodate their presence in a Modern Civilized Republic, persist in carrying out barbaric medieval practices, the Charter of Modern Values and Civilized Practices is proclaimed as follows:

Head / Face Coverings
Whereas Canada is a nation of open minded people with nothing to hide and those that want to cover their faces must have something to hide - not just blemishes but terrorism or environmental or leftist views, all face covering and head covering is prohibited. This includes but is not limited to niqabs, burqas, balaclavas, bridal veils, sunglasses, turbans, kippas, beards, mustaches and sideburns of any length (male or female), Halloween masks, and heavy makeup.

The government reserves the right to mandate the uncovering of other body parts as deemed necessary to conform to the charter. This does not preclude a requirement for body cavity searches to ensure complete compliance with openness.

Canadians are a people who value brevity, simplicity and taxonomy that does not require fancy mnemonics.

First names and surnames are to comprise no more than 10 letters, and in the roman alphabet, and must contain an even distribution of vowels and consonants. No more than 2 consecutive consonants may precede or follow a vowel. Unpronounced Hs and redundant superfluous duplicate letters are to be discarded. Pronunciation which involves convoluted articulation of the tongue, lips, other mouth parts or gesticulation of the hands, bizarre inflections, intonations or unreasonably nasal or guttural utterances are prohibited.
Surnames which are shared by more than say, 100 non family members shall be preceded by a unique 8 digit surname prefix.

• Singh > correct modern surname “75234594Sing”
• Wong > correct modern surname “5734659784Wrong”
• Mohammed > correct modern surname “Christian”

Canadian subjects place a high value on harmonious relationships in their communities. Accordionly, discordant, cacophonous "music" consisting of non english or accented high pitched female voices, or with a frenetic or wild beat, and or accompanied by so called “musical” instruments with one or fewer strings or made of or containing dried gourds, goat skins, cat gut, oil containers, or other detritus is prohibited.
The Niqab Party of Canada is banned.

Aboriginal and Inuit people of Canada shall be permitted to stay in their designated favelas and carry out their poverty based practices in order to serve as a stark reminder to the rest of Canada how far we have come as a nation.

The language of Canada is English. Period. Although for historo-cultural reasons and to affirm Canada’s respect for and encouragement of diversity, and to secure crucial political support, francais may be parlez vous. The Chinese language may be tolerated at certain bank branches where esteemed new Investo-Canadians conduct their lucrative, taxable businesses. It is not however, an acceptable language in grocery establishments or on food labels, except as an exotic embellishment.

English is the lingua franca spoken throughout the world with varying degrees of intelligibility. Arrivals to Canada should have learned it back home before they came. Those who are unfortunately fluent in several languages other than English are required to attain perfect English fluency before availing themselves of social services, speaking on the phone or venturing out in public. When disbursing cash or making substantial purchases, potential Canadians are not required to speak English or any other language for that matter.

Human Rights
Canadians are a people who value diversity but in indiscernible, reasonable measure. To avoid offense, those who wish to exhibit an acceptable level of difference from standard old stock Modern Civilized Canadians may choose to display no more than 3 of the following sanctioned diversities:

• Different but not gaily painted front door of dwelling
• Sad, happy or indifferent facial expression
• With fries
• Burt Bacarach or Boston Pops Orchestra
Uh ... That’s it.

Whereas Canada is a nation of people with civilized tastes, refined olfactory organs, and an aversion to salts, sugars and fats, whether trans or straight, all strong smelling, strangely spiced ethnic foods and unrecognizable and unpronounceable fruits and vegetables shall be prohibited along with their accompanying peculiar and poorly crafted cooking paraphernalia. Nourriture prepared over an open flame, a barbaric cultural practice predating the medieval era, is likewise prohibited unless the flame is sustained by modern Canadian natural gas - geologic, political or otherwise.

Acceptable modern civilized substitutes for the above noted silage are processed foods in microwavable packaging in a Canadian language, displaying photos of readily identifiable Canadian meals which may or may not be contained within, nutritional supplements and energy drinks.

Because terrorism.

Canadians are a tolerant people, exhibiting a surprising level of patience with those of different beliefs, customs or colors. But patience has its limits and although Canadians are all for an extra holiday every Friday, the explosion of bewildering theocratic practices and the profusion of sanctified foods on supermarket shelves must be brought to an end.

Whereas all religions practiced today predate the medieval era and which, furthermore, are also all misogynistic and propagate pagan barbaric rituals, and considering that Scientology, although contemporary has many bizarre and incomprehensible though famous adherents, and that Canadians being modern and scientific now know that those shadows cast upon the cave wall are not real but are a representation of activities which are simply out of view, all religions and religious practices and symbols are not only passe, but prohibited, with the notable exception of certain Quebeco - Canadian culturally historic religious artifacts which have been stripped of their religious significance by simple affirmation in order to conform with the spirit, holy or otherwise, of this charter.

Whereas Canadians are a peace loving people with a Nobel prize winning former prime minister to prove it, and considering that they are prohibited from owning handguns and only permitted to own the longer, semi automatic more peaceful ones, the barbaric cultural practice of attacking, killing, massacring, bombing and torturing those who don’t agree with, or are a threat to, or are simply a different color or odor or hold a different opinion than old stock Canadians predates the medieval era, the armed forces in their entirety are hereby abolished.

Family planning
Canada is a mosaic, not a melting pot, but all of those pieces of glass have their proper place and color otherwise we wouldn’t get the picture we want. This is just a metaphor but I think you can see what we are getting at.

Canada is a nation of people with a disdain for tribal like extended family organizations with large numbers of unruly wide eyed children whose parents disproportionately benefit from Canada’s overly generous system of social services and who engage in self help rather than spreading the wealth / financially contributing to the wider established community.

Accordingly it is prohibited for families to have more than 2.1 children.

ENFORCEMENT Reprogramming / Civilizing
All new arrivals - whether of color or ostentatiously garbed or mannered, as well as non old stock Canadians, to the Modern Civilized Republic of Canada shall be detained and subjected to compulsory programming / psychic driving / civilizing / integration in Canadian Modern Values and Civilized Practices.

Additional programming will be undertaken as necessary to eliminate offensive personal odors, irritating accents, and dangerous driving practices and to impart a monotonal quality of speech, free of labial, head, and hand movements.

New arrivals shall be stripped of their garish multi layered apparel and freakish accoutrements and issued at cost, standard, close fitting, modern Canadian dress in shades of gray.

Old stock Canadians have a genuine interest in how well their potential Canadian neighbors, restaurant employees, taxi drivers and call center workers are getting along in this great welcoming country.

Old stock Canadians shall be furnished with telescopes, wiretap, camera, odor sniffing and other surveillance equipment in order to gauge the well being of these irrationally suspicious and cautious people in an unobtrusive, non threatening way.

Non compliance with the Charter shall be reported to the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Preservation of Virtue via a dedicated snitch line and shall result in the immediate revocation of coveted Civilized Canadian status and teleportation of the offender to a medieval era country.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Some Things To Give Thanks For

H/t Toronto Star

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, moving beyond the usual things we express gratitude for (family, health, etc.), here are a few other things I give thanks for:

A high turnout in advance polls:
Elections Canada says it estimates some 850,000 people voted on Friday, the first day of advance polls.

The agency says that is a 26 per cent increase over the first day of advance polls in the 2011 election and a 90 per cent increase over the first day of advance polls in 2008.
Is it possible that our appetite for change is at least as strong as our relish for a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings?

An indefatigable Danny Williams, who refuses to adopt any subtlety or nuance in his assessment of Stephen Harper:
His position on ethnic issues during this campaign amounts to nothing less than fear-mongering and divisive politics at its worst. His proposed hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices” is a glaring example of his politics of fear and division.
The Star's Haroon Siddiqui, who has come out of recent retirement to write some blistering assessments of our domestic dictator/demagogue. His latest offers this:
The first duty of a prime minister is to not damage the country. One sure way to damage it, history tells us, is to do nothing when extremists spread hate against a group of fellow citizens. We have a far more frightening situation today.

The prime minister himself is orchestrating a campaign of bigotry, covertly and not so covertly, against Muslims, who are arguably as vulnerable a group as were Catholics, Jews, Japanese or Chinese Canadians at various times in our history. In trying to win votes by dividing Canadians, Harper is violating the most sacred of Canadian values, unity.
The Star editorial board, that has consistently held the government to account. It's latest effort reminds us once more of the mean-spirited and mendacious truth of Harper and his operatives:
Last spring, as Syrians were fleeing the broken country in record numbers, the Prime Minister’s Office instructed Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s department to “review” a “first tranche” of United Nations-approved, government-assisted refugees from Syria this year. They were mostly Muslim at the time. But going forward, the Conservatives were determined that priority should be given to the “most vulnerable” (read: Christians and other non-Muslim minorities).

This overt meddling by Harper and his office, done on the down-low until media reports blew the lid off this past week, is just the latest manifestation of an anti-Muslim bias by this government. Harper never loses a chance to invoke the spectre of Islamist terrorism. And his campaign against niqab-wearing women has been a low point of the election.

Michael Harris, the iPolitics journalist and author of Party of One. He is a constant reminder not only of the egregious offences of the Harper government, but also of how many members of traditional media fail to ask the hard questions:
Death by dumbing-down is an ugly sight. No one has yet conducted an interview with Harper that directly deals with his dishonesty, his dictatorial ways, his contempt for democracy. He is still wrapped in the aura of office, smelling like a dead flounder. Everyone is pretending it’s perfume.

Where are the feature newspaper articles or long-form television interviews on that subject? They simply aren’t there.

Finally, I want to give thanks to all the members of the progressive blogosphere whose passion, commitment and commentary sustain me through some very dark times. Owen, Mound, Rural and Montreal Simon and many others have been tireless in reminding us of the things that should matter to our country.

A week from tomorrow, I sincerely hope that I can add my fellow citizens to this gratitude list. May they all act in Canada's best interests when they vote, guided by the better sides of their nature, not the worst that Mr. Harper and his crew have been so assiduously cultivating.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Another Word From Harry Smith

Harry Smith, who I have written about previously on this blog, has some timely reminders for us this election season.
...because so many Canadians of my generation had come from nations fraught with religious and ethnic tension, we tried to create a more tolerant society that crossed political beliefs. Inclusion and acceptance became a watchword that no political party could own because every Canadian shared the concept that human rights were universal.
Sadly, of course, we are now led by a demagogue who would change all that:
But now the fall air is crisp with the politics of hate and fear as Canada's general election wends its way to election day on Oct. 19. It has been this country's longest and most expensive election campaign in history. And the most important, because the democratic values that make Canada the envy of the world are at stake. The Harper government has muzzled scientists, silenced environmentalist and now with its crass politics of race, also threatens to destroy the ethnic mosaic that made Canada a unique oasis in a world of conflict.
Harper, in his quest to sow discord and suspicion, has some unenviable historical companions:
Stephen Harper persists like a modern-day Joseph McCarthy in creating a sweltering climate of fear against Canadian Muslims by employing dog whistle politics that equates an honourable religion with terrorism and radicalism.
The Harper government has waged a cultural war against Muslim women who choose by the dictates of their faith to wear the niqab. Already women have been physically and verbally attacked for donning the veil. We have not seen this type of xenophobia since the Second World War, when Japanese Canadians were vilified and eventually stripped of their rights as citizens and forced to live in labour camps far from the communities they once called home.
Just a few of the many things to think about whether you are taking part in the advance polls this weekend, as I have, or waiting until October 19 to help decide Canada's future.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Parental Warning

The following contains coarse language.

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

Select Refugee?

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

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

“Select Samaritan”
by Robert Finch

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

About That Pavlovian Response

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

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

Or how about this?

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

And then there is this Angus Reid poll,

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

Thursday, October 8, 2015

This Just In!

Something wicked this way comes.

H/t Toronto Star

An Answer To Our Prayers

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

Help Wanted

Thanks to M. Barrett who alerted me to this Craigslist posting from Toronto:

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

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

An Unvarnished Assessment

Over time we've seen that this man cannot be trusted. He had no integrity. He's trying to stifle democracy. There's no end to what he's doing," said Williams.

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

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

A lengthier interview with Williams on Power Play can be seen here.

The Better Angels Of Our Nature

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

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

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

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

Ken Beckim, Oshawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afreen Gul, Mississauga

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rick Mercer Opines On The Campaign

The always interesting and insightful Rick Mercer needs no introduction from me. Enjoy.

A Quick Thought About The TPP

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

First, a few of the details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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