Saturday, December 31, 2005

Armed Forces Veterans - the new *motherhood and apple pie*?

Nobody is going to argue that veterans shouldn't get the best possible treatment from the Canadian government.

Except, perhaps, the government itself.

On Friday, an Ontario Superior Court Judge ruled that Canada owes certain disabled veterans as much as $4.6 billion for "unrealized investment potential".

It's not quite as cut and dried an issue as it looks, however; a prominent veterans' spokesman says the money would be better spent addressing the needs of current veterans rather than going to (mostly) families of those who have already died.

Without knowing any more facts than these, I'd venture to hope that a settlement could be reached that would both compensate some losses and improve services to veterans going forward.

It will be interesting to see whether the campaigning leaders touch this one. Steven Harper has already put forward his plan for a veterans' bill of rights, but this was two days before the court ruling.

It's a little more complicated for the Liberals - their promises are burdened with the perspective of twelve years of Liberal regime, and they are the government who is fighting the claim for lost interest on pensions that were entrusted to - the government.

Not to mention the other shortcomings in their current program, as outlined in this news release issued on Thursday by the National Council of Veteran Associations.

I wonder whether this issue is sexy enough for the leaders to make a show of falling over each other to promise to do right by the veterans, and whether the party who ultimately forms the next government will follow through.




To everyone who reads this: thank you, and I wish you a wonderful healthy and prosperous New Year.


Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Was There a Leak? It Depends...

Leak... Depends.... get it?
Aw nevermind.

In a comment to my last post, Jason expressed the hope that I would change my mind again.

I'd love to, if only there were something palatable to change it to.
So until that happens, my mind is officially cleared (or will be, once it stops spinning.)

There exists no comfort zone for me in the context of supporting any one party. I tried, it just doesn't work. Swallowing and/or spinning the parts I don't like takes too much energy.
From now on (i.e. at least a couple of days) I shall take things on a case by case basis.

As for my vote there is still no question, I have to vote Liberal. I live in one of the previously *safe* Liberal ridings in the Montreal area and would hate to see it fall to the Bloc.

Beyond that, I feel free to babble on about what's right and what's wrong with everybody.

So, about Goodale and the RCMP's criminal investigation into whether the income trust announcement was leaked: it's funny, just yesterday morning I thought to myself, "Hey, the income trust leak scandal thing went away!"

Not.

I still find it difficult to get very worked up about it. Maybe it gets lost in the noise of all the other scandals or maybe it's because I follow the stock market and see how it moves for no discernible reason whatsoever, never mind moving due to rumours or actual news.

It was pretty obvious that Goodale would throw out something good to investors just before the election call.

Still, it's possible there was a leak, but not necessarily from the top. It could easily have been something similar to what happened in October, when the New York subway system went on high alert because of a supposed terrorist threat (which turned out to be a hoax). People with connections to Homeland Security took it upon themselves to warn their friends and family. It's wrong, and if something like that happened here, Goodale is ultimately responsible for not keeping his staff on a short leash, but it's not the kind of thing that should move a vote all by itself.

Of course, it's not all by itself, it's in the context of all the other wrongdoing that's established or alleged in the Liberal party. One more brick in the wall, as it were.

Should Goodale resign? I'm conflicted about that. If it's "tradition" that a Minister resign while his department is being investigated then perhaps he should; but not all traditions are appropriate all the time. In this case it might be seen as an admission of guilt or even of (gasp) weakness, something you cannot show during a campaign.

Besides, don't we operate on the basis of presumption of innocence?

On the other hand, Goodale's stated reason for staying on is troubling: "there is no evidence of wrongdoing". Not at all the same thing as "there IS no wrongdoing."

It fits with the arrogance label that clings to the Liberal party like, as my beloved late father used to say, shit on a blanket.



Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Half-time Report

That was a short break - I didn't expect the parade du scandale to resume until at least Wednesday.

I doubt there's much left to be said about the Klander blog, so without further ado here's my half-time report:

Off the top of my head, in no particular order, these are some issues that matter to me:

Health care, the economy, national unity, national defense, human rights both in Canada and abroad.

This is the party (Liberal or CPC, for purposes of this assessment) that I feel is better able to address each issue:

Health care: don't know
Economy: don't know, but suspect, Liberal
National unity: don't know, used to think Liberal, now swinging towards CPC.
National defense: CPC
Human rights: Liberal.

(I have left out any party with virtually zero chance of forming the next government because my purpose is to figure out what I'd like to see as the outcome of this election.)

There is also the intangible trust factor of which the Liberals are completely bereft, if for no other reason than they've held power way too long. That's just the way it is, power corrupts and it's human nature. We need a change.

So, who won the first round?

I'd have to say the Conservatives. They've managed to get me to reassess my position (and that ain't easy).
On Dec. 11, I wrote that the best outcome for the Quebec federalist cause would be a Liberal win. Now I'm not so sure.
While a Conservative minority would likely have little or no Quebec representation, Harper's outlook on division of powers, and money, between Ottawa and the Provinces might be attractive from the Quebec point of view.
Maybe I'm being overly optimistic about that, maybe not, but I can't imagine anyone doing a better job of alienating Quebecers than the Liberals have sadly done.

I'm also rather partial to the CPC defense policy. Our armed forces are a disgrace.

Unfortunately I don't know enough about economics to evaluate which tax cut is better and which party would promote a healthier business environment. I think Canada has done pretty well lately but whether that's due to government policy or other factors, is beyond me.

I do have serious reservations about the Conservatives on the social policy front. My views are generally pretty progressive; for instance I strongly support same sex marriage and a more liberal policy regarding stem cell research. The possibility of the legendary hidden agenda worries me as well.

Going into the campaign, the outcome I preferred was a Liberal minority with the NDP holding the balance of power, and the Liberals keeping at least some seats in Quebec. The logical consequence of this would be for the Conservatives to have to reorganize, ideally morph into something more like the old PCs and find a leader with less of a right-wing history. Not Peter MacKay; I don't trust him after he backstabbed David Orchard.

However, after what's gone on the past three weeks, I'd like to see a Conservative minority. (It even hurts a bit to write that, but it hurts more to contemplate another government by the Liberals as they are now.)
A very thin minority with the NDP holding the balance.
That would allow for reforms that need to be introduced, and forestall more radical changes such as reopening the same sex marriage debate or moving the country towards a neo-con agenda.
This government would hang on just long enough for the Liberal Party to clean up or for the CPC to prove itself really worthy, and perhaps we'd have a positive choice in the next election, not just a which smells less disgusting choice.



Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Horror, the Treachery!

Johnny Damon is a Yankee.

And they made him cut his hair.

(He still looks hot but that's beside the point.)

This is what takes the fun out of rivalries, when you can just throw enough money to make someone go over to the dark side. It's just a game but millions of fans take it seriously, spend hard-earned money (lots of it) to support their team and invest emotional energy (lots of it, in Boston's case) in the outcome. I guess it's too much to expect for powers that be to respect this (in Babe Ruth's case) or for the players themselves to show some loyalty to the fans, without whom the multimillion-dollar contracts would not exist.

And it's not like Damon would have starved in Boston. According to the article they offered him $40 million over 4 years while the Yankees are paying him $52 million for the same period.
Sure, I'd sell people out for $12 million if that was the ONLY $12 million I could have, but if you've already got 40, you'd hardly notice another 12, or so I'd think.

And I suppose the endorsements will be piled on top of that.

Next time, instead of the big game, try attending a little league match. Bring your lawn chair and some doggie treats for the four legged fans and watch people who really play for the love of the game.

And oh yeah, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

THIS is what I want to hear... so why is nobody else saying it?

Harper pledges larger military presence in north

To my untrained ear this is pretty close to what the experts said ought to be done. I think this, and the state of Canada's armed forces in general, is a crucial issue. Maybe people worry that if we have an army we will use it, like some countries who shall remain nameless, but I think the greater danger is in not being able to stand up for ourselves. And not just to *nameless* but to anyone who decides we are a good place to exploit in whatever fashion.

People may chuckle at the Hans Island dispute but it's important, both as a precedent and for future rights to resources.

(I'm not saying the Danes are trying to exploit us, just that we can't be seen on the world stage as helpless pussies!)

Sure, I like the CPC platform re the above but I have grave reservations about their social policies and their true agenda. Do I really have to make a choice between values like human rights and Canadian sovereignty?

I sincerely hope that the remainder of the campaign will help me with some direction on deciding what I'd like the outcome to be.

(Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog)

Good News from the US

Some good news (sorta) from down there:

1. The Alaska oil drilling plan has stalled in the US Senate.

This (the failure of the bill to pass) is a bad thing if you are Pres. Bush. For the rest of the world it appears to be good especially if you are wildlife.
There are environmental issues, some involving Canada, caribou and the food chain of some First Nations communities.

This plan has been kicking around for decades, and it almost went through this time because it somehow was tied to a defense spending bill, meant to provide funding for US troops and hurricane victims. Or motherhood and apple pie, not sure which.

I've heard this many times before, having one piece of legislation added on to another, totally separate issue. Why this is allowed, is beyond me. Probably because it works (at least sometimes) and mostly because they can.

Meanwhile, the caribou et al will be okay for at least a short while longer.

2. The US Senate voted to repeal the Byrd Amendment.

This is a weird one. It seems that the Americans had allowed themselves to pass along import duties collected to American companies in competition with the foreign manufacturer.
The World Trade Organization declared this illegal in 2002, and when the US ignored that ruling, permitted affected countries to impose "retaliatory" duties.
So much for free trade, huh.
The bad news is, that thing (Byrd Amendment) will still be in force for almost two more years. Illegally.

Meanwhile the scandals keep piling up, making ours look rather tame. This domestic spying issue might just be a keeper, the CIA leak case isn't done and another one looms.

Oh and by the way, I am NOT anti-American. I am anti-right-wing neo-con evangelical wingnut Republican influence. Just wanted to make that clear.

I also want to say that after the last few days of the campaign I'm drifting toward "undecided". Or "a pox on all your houses", kind of the same thing, really.



(Cross-posted to CTV Election Weblog)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

How to Annoy the Americans: Part I of Many

Group sex between consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday, dismissing arguments that the sometimes raucous activities of so-called "swingers" clubs were dangerous.

Heeee. Gotta love it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's Debatable

I think it was a lovely idea to schedule the current campaign with a built-in Christmas break...
(Holiday break? Don't make me go there!)
...because, after two straight evenings of debate and analysis, I am maxed out.
I don't want to think about or hear about Canadian politics for at least - a day or two.

That said, here are some impressions:

First of all, the debate format was awful. It didn't seem so bad during the French debate but maybe that was because a good part of my focus was on understanding the French. When I could just sit back and listen in my own language the following night, I found most of it excruciatingly boring; talking point after talking point, most of which I'd already heard numerous times.

Martin will protect the country.
Harper will clean it up.
Layton will do good things if only we ELECT MORE NDP MPs.
Duceppe wants out because of the FISCAL IMBALANCE and oh by the way the Liberals are corrupt.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

I strenuously hope they do something about the format for next month's debates. Something that will allow the leaders to address each other, limit the speechifying, but remain a little more orderly than last year's debate.
Perhaps if they would just BEHAVE, we could manage it?

Or else we'll have to STOP THE CAR RIGHT NOW AND GO HOME.
(Sorry, I thought I was somewhere else for a moment.)

And nominate some female leaders because they are less rowdy. Layton said so.

As I was watching, I imagined people in the ROC* asking themselves (or perhaps yelling aloud at the TV) "Why is Duceppe there?"
I think the answer is, what was the alternative?

If he had not been invited, that's a slap in the face to English Quebecers because it says that the English debate is not meant to include Quebec issues. That is NOT the message they want to send.

If he had been invited but declined, that speaks to his credibility as a Canadian politician which IS what he IS at the moment. It also belies his interest in including all ethnic groups in Quebec.

Perhaps Quebecers (especially the Separatists, and I use that word on purpose) ought to take a look at how these debates were organized. Yes we have two official languages which have to be included but it could have been set up like Parliament - everyone just speaks whatever language they choose and the translators are kept busy.

Instead, there are TWO sets of TWO debates, TWO evenings each of lost commercial revenue for the networks and TWO nights in a row that the pundits have to come out and dissect things.
Does that not tell Quebec how valued it is as a part of Canada? Or something positive, at least?

I'm not going to comment much on Martin's performance - it was as okay as it could be I suppose, especially the "You will not take away my Canada!" speech, which at least woke me up for a bit. I am somewhat concerned about the Celucci book thing and am anxious to learn more about it.

Layton did his thing with a bit too much repetition, and Harper went over way better in English than in French. I was not amused by the hockey team analogy but since this is getting long I will leave that for another rant.

Duceppe remains the smoothest performer and I respectfully suggest he set his sights higher than leading a regional movement. He might be Canadian Prime Ministerial material himself. He certainly has the passion, now all we have to do is channel it in the right direction!

* ROC = Rest Of Canada

Friday, December 16, 2005

Person of the Year

It’s that time of year again.
While many of us will be obsessing about last minute shopping, politics and/or the NFL, Time Magazine will attempt to distract us by announcing their choice for 2005 Person of the Year.

TIME's Person of the Year is the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year.

Before continuing, I feel compelled to disclaim loudly that honours such as this are, at worst, a way to generate interest in and sell magazines, and at best an arbitrary choice constrained by arbitrary ground rules.
However since Time has been doing this since 1927 (they picked Charles Lindburgh that year for his aviation achievements) it has garnered some pop culture value on the basis of longevity alone.
A stroll through the archives can be fun from a historical perspective, too. Unfortunately they don't let you get too far into it without a subscription.

I must also say that I haven’t yet forgiven them for their choice in 2001. Giuliani may have done wonderful things but he only reacted to events. The person(s) who caused the events should have been named but I suppose it would have been politically inexpedient to do so.

Okay, so, for 2005:

George Bush is always a candidate, but they picked him last year.

Stories about the war in Iraq have provided a steady stream of misery but there was no one overwhelming event or personality.
Same with American politics although maybe an argument could be made for Senator John McCain, with his anti-torture legislation. Still, that doesn’t affect the lives of most citizens.

Politics in the rest of the world? Ha.
This is an American publication.
I suppose the election of a woman Chancellor in Germany, or the changing of the guard of the Palestinian Authority, or the upheavals in Israeli politics (including the Gaza pullout) might be worthy of consideration, but again, those don’t directly affect many lives in the U.S.

Sports?
There’s always Lance Armstrong. He certainly serves as inspiration but he’s still under a cloud of doping suspicion.

Pop Culture?
Maybe some entertainers who have (in a good way) taken advantage of their wealth and fame to try to make a difference in the world. Angelina Jolie, Bono, and Bob Geldof spring to mind.

It’s also tempting to consider people who have died in the calendar year, the most obvious of those being Pope John Paul II. I’d have to take exception with that kind of thinking because I believe those people should be honoured in the year of their greatest achievements or in some other manner. The fact of their passing isn’t what changed lives, but the fact of their living.

Ditto for Terry Schiavo. The facts surrounding her story opened up a huge debate on the nature of life and death. Can’t get more basic than that, but she herself didn’t really DO anything.

If it were totally up to me, I think I’d lean towards Chuck Cadman. The image of Chuck standing in the House of Commons, dying of cancer (he passed away less than two months later), rebelliously refusing to go along with the opposition crowd and dump the government, is an inspiration to me as a Canadian.

The poor man got up from his sick bed, travelled from B.C. to Ottawa, had to be interviewed from a bubble-chamber type of thing lest he be exposed to germs that his system could not resist, all to do what he felt was the right thing.

It may not have changed much in the long run – we ARE having our election some months later – but it speaks volumes about principle, dedication, and sacrifice.

So, who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year?

My opinion is, the planet itself.
Mother Nature, God, or however you want to personify it.
The biggest stories of the year have been related to natural disasters, earthquakes, the tsunami, the hurricane season. They can’t all be blamed on global warming (tempting as it is) but the coming together of so many catastrophes in one calendar year is probably the biggest story, affecting the most people.

So, let's see if Time will redeem itself for 2001 by agreeing with me this time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

You Say Sovereignty, I Say Separation (updated)

Note: This was a cross-post from the CTV Weblog and since the only instruction they gave me at the beginning was to not say anything libelous, I danced around the point of this entry.
Which was:
The author of the letter to the Gazette had previously written some rather nasty Usenet posts and I thought it amusing (among other things) that they were all high and mighty about requesting RESPECT from William Watson.


On Sunday, a letter to the editor appeared in the Montreal Gazette, requesting that one of the Gazette columnists, William Watson, refrain from referring to Quebec separatists as "separatists" because they (the separatists) prefer the term "sovereignists".

So, I asked myself, what's the difference?

As always, google came to my rescue.

Sovereignty, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is defined as supreme authority within a territory.

Clear enough, and definitely accurate. This would be the goal of the separatists I mean sovereignists.

Separation, the act of dividing or disconnecting, then, would be the means toward the goal of sovereignty.

This distinction, which seems rather academic (pun intended) on the surface, is probably meant to influence the public's perception of the Quebec independence movement. (I called it that because I didn't know which S word to use.)

Sovereignty, after all, is a noble cause in our age especially in a democratic setting. Who would have the heart to deny a people their sovereignty?

Separation, on the other hand, can be messy.

Just ask any pair of conjoined twins.

So, it's a case of spin, whitewashing, Disney-ficiation, the end justifies the means, etc. etc. Whatever.

The author of the letter is correct in saying that respect is a two-way street; which is interesting, coming from a person who would describe me as an uptight anglo with sticks stuck up (her) backside who is either incapable or too closed minded and arrogant to understand the situation.

Gee, I thought that kind of language went out with Parizeau in 1995!

One really ought to watch what they say on Usenet. It can come back to bite you on the backside, my dear.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

They Are Not Amused

He waggled his finger at us.

Not just metaphorically - he REALLY waggled his finger at us, all the while scolding in a thick southern accent.

I first heard about Ambassador Wilkins' speech on a blog, and glancing through the report, didn't think much about it. Par for the political course, barely worth a roll of the eyes.

Then I saw the video clip. And I got it.

(Quote taken from the CTV report:)

Just think about this. What if one of our best friends criticized you directly and incorrectly almost relentlessly? What if that friend's agenda was to highlight your perceived flaws while avoiding mentioning your successes? What if that friend demanded respect but offered little in return?" Wilkins asked.

"Wouldn't that begin to sow the seeds of doubt in your mind about the strength of the friendship?"

"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner," Wilkins said.

"But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on the relationship."

That's where the finger waggled, if I remember correctly.

Sure, Canadians can be critical of the U.S. It is our right, in a free country, just as it's the right of Americans to be critical (and/or ignorant) of many foreign places.

Whether or not the criticism is INCORRECT however is a matter of opinion.

And it is not up to a new US Ambassador who had never even visited Canada before being appointed, to decide what our AGENDA is or how much we OFFER (or don't) to our neighbour.

But none of that matters if you can use bullying and barely veiled threats.

Ambassador Wilkins has proven himself a true American in the Bush Country mould.



(Cross-posted to CTV Election Weblog)

Monday, December 12, 2005

You Can't Have it Both Ways, Part II

(Part I is here.
Somehow I suspect this will turn into a lengthy series.)

News report (scroll down for this bit):

In a visit to Gatineau, Que., Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe complained the Quebec side of the National Capital Region doesn't get its share of the jobs.

"Same thing with research centres. There's 31 in the federal capital area and only one on this side of the river," he said.

Gee I wonder WHY the government jobs are kept in a province that hasn't been in an uproar for forty years about seceding from Canada and forming its own country.

Could be just a sensible decision to avoid MOVING COSTS down the road? Not to mention a question of loyalty and lots of other questions that would probably come to mind if I thought about it some more?

And furthermore, WHY would an independent Quebec (the country!) want Canadian government jobs in the first place!

Mixed messages, anybody?



(Cross-posted to CTV Election Weblog)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Two short posts from the CTV Election Weblog...

...crossposted here for maximum self-promotional effect:

Stupid is as Stupid Says?

I wonder why it took so long (2 whole days!) for this story to bubble up to the surface:

Tory called 'disrespectful' to women

"I am copping what's known as a woman's answer, isn't it? It's a sort of fickle kind of thing," he (Conservative MP Brian Pallister) said, responding to criticism that a federal election campaign is no time for a candidate to be examining other job prospects.

Perhaps we've been so blinded by the beer and popcorn, the concept of homosexual sex marriage, and the elder-bashing that we almost let this one get away.

Sometimes I wonder what goes through peoples' minds when they open their mouths - in public, on the record, at critical moments like during an election campaign.
Certainly, I wouldn't want all my spoken words reported upon with every syllable analyzed but if I knew they were going to be, I'd like to think my internal censor would be a little more functional than these peoples' were.

On occasion what's said is an arguably valid point, expressed in a stupid manner. I think a discussion of whether to give child care money directly to families to use as they wish, or spend it on government programs, is a reasonable debate. But you do not go on national TV to alienate the electorate. That's why it's called politics. Or is that diplomacy, I'm not sure.

Other times, what's said is just plain stupid. The question Pallister was answering had nothing to do with women or any issue other than his own career path in politics. But now we know how he really feels.


This 'n That

About this income trust thing: it's starting to look a lot like Martha. A big fuss about something that is very difficult to prove, with the potential to be made much worse by trying to cover it up and/or lie about it.

Let them investigate - any speculation from either side only stirs up more speculation. It could be a juicy issue but let's make sure we keep to the original issue and not end up knitting ponchos behind bars for nothing.

About Quebec, I've lived here all my life and I really don't know what they are thinking.

Well, that's probably the point, they aren't thinking, they're feeling. And I can relate to a certain degree. Having one's own country to go with one's culture is a very romantic concept. Not very practical, for many reasons, but oh so romantic.

The irony is that separation anxiety had calmed down a lot up until the sponsorship scandal broke. The Bloc Quebecois only won 38 seats in the 2000 election even though the PQ was in power provincially. In 2004 the Bloc won 54 and the rhetoric rose to levels dangerous to the average eardrum.

Another factor might be that the Quebec Liberals won a majority mandate in 2002. I suspect that many Quebecers love to rant and rave when it's safe but pull back when it's time to truly decide.

So, what's best for the Quebec Federalist? I've heard arguments for both a Liberal and Conservative Canadian government but find the Conservative one a little hard to buy. Yes, they don't (yet) bear the stigma of scandal and corruption but they would very likely not have any representation from Quebec and their platform has the least in common with our social values of all the mainstream parties.

I'll stick with the Liberals for now, despite my distaste for the Chretien era and my suspicion that they might need some time off. Even a short Conservative minority run might do more harm than good, I think.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reductio ad Absurdum

Recently, Gilles Duceppe said he would like to make the Liberal Party disappear in Quebec, and for the Bloq Quebecois to win every one of the 75 seats as opposed to the 54 they now hold.

On the surface that sounds like the kind of rhetoric that any party leader might indulge in - however, Duceppe is not a normal party leader.

He is a leader without any mathematical chance of forming the next government since his party only contests seats in Quebec.
His party's raison d'etre is to further the cause of Quebec separation, and until that happens, to promote the values of the citizens of Quebec within the federal system supporting social democratic principles.

Given this reality, what would be the consequence of the disappearance of the Liberal Party?

Most likely, a Conservative government. Probably a minority but you never know.

Would the Conservative agenda be a good thing for Quebec, according to the Bloc?

Not if you compare party policies.
For instance (taken from the CTV - By Issue - Pages):

Bloc: The Bloc believes that the primary role of the Canadian Army should be peacekeeping missions
CPC: Support a multi-role, combat-capable maritime, land and air force

Bloc: Support and implement the Kyoto Protocol
CPC: Review all environment and energy initiatives, including Kyoto Accord

Bloc: The Bloc favours maintaining the gun registry program, but also wants to see a tight rein on controlling the costs of the federal registry
CPC: Scrap the gun registry legislation

Bloc: Favours decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana
CPC: Stephen Harper has been a harsh critic of the legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana

Bloc: Majority of Bloc Québécois representatives voted in support of same-sex marriage legislation in 2005
CPC: A Conservative government would support legislation defining marriage as union between one man and one woman

Sure, I'm cherry-picking, but the fact remains, Quebec leans to the left socially and is too far out of step with conservative values for the Bloc Quebecois leader to give them his implicit endorsement.

This is the Canada that Quebec would be a part of until such time as it separates - and last I looked, over 50% of Quebecers still wanted to stay in Canada, else we'd be way outta there by now.

We said so in the 1980 and 1995 referenda.

We said so in 2003 when we elected a Liberal government.

Yes that was then, and this is now. But this is also the future, for several more years because Charest's mandate doesn't run out until the spring of 2008.

Then the PQ has to get elected

Then they have to call a referendum, assuming they feel they have *winning conditions* at the time. A third loss would be devastating to the cause.

If all the ifs fall into place, Quebec could be independent perhaps three years from now.

Three years?

We could go through ten minority governments in that time.

Well okay, two or three, anyway.

Is it in Quebec's best interests to live in a Conservative Canada whose values we don't share? Only if you're so hell-bent on promoting separation that everything else is irrelevant.

(Cross-posted to the CTV Weblog)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Et Tu, Cramer!

Add Jim Cramer to the list of Americans dabbling in Canadian affairs.

Cramer (not the Seinfeld guy, but at least as quirky) has a popular investing program in the United States on CNBC, and is co-founder of the popular investing website, TheStreet.com.

His act is, well, unusual. If you have CNBC on your cable or have the inclination to sample his videos on the website, I encourage you to do so, not so much for the content but for the entertainment value. He’s the WWE meets hyper-caffeinated day trader.

People phone his show for advice and he has them all trained to greet him with a loud BOO-YAH. He doesn’t talk - he yells, he paces around, he mops his brow, drinks water and coffee, hits the sound effect buttons (“sellsellsell”) (*toilet flush*) (“Hallelujah!”),
bites the heads off little bull or bear figurines and for a real treat he throws his computer chair across the room.

I can only take him in small doses.

I guess the quality of his advice is as good as any; to his credit, he keeps track of his good and bad calls on the website.

So, this past Friday, Cramer recommended his audience buy shares in the Royal Bank of Canada, according to the program recap:


Cramer is bullish on the Royal Bank of Canada because of the possibility conservatives might win the January election there. Canadian banks have been performing well even in an environment of rising interest rates and net interest margins under pressure, he said. And, all banks stand to benefit if conservatives win.

But Royal Bank of Canada should do especially well because it is the largest bank in Canada, pays a 3.1% dividend and has seen a "significant increase" in its wealth management division over the last two quarters. If the conservatives win, the rich will get richer, as always happens, he said.


Far be it from me to argue with Cramer but it seems that under the past twelve years of Liberal-led government we have done pretty darn well. Easily better than the United States, economy-wise and stock market-wise. I suppose there are valid economic principles behind the argument that banks will do well under conservative regimes but it’s more important that the country as a whole does well, and the rich are far from my biggest concern.


Besides, basing an investment decision on an election outcome that at the moment appears unlikely isn’t the best strategy, no?


Of course Cramer can say what he likes, and this kind of statement can’t be compared with the NRA and Ralph Reed coming to Toronto and meeting with Conservative candidates, but I’ve been looking for an opportunity to write about this guy and here it is!


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

You never know what you'll find once you start digging...

In the course of researching what was going to be today’s entry, I came across a very interesting tidbit on a section of the CBC website devoted to a comparison of issues between the parties contesting the Canadian election:

Specifically, the paragraph outlining the Conservatives’ platform of health reforms:



Prevent the drift toward two-tier health care. Establish maximum acceptable wait times for essential medical services. Press for faster processing of drug approvals. Support health research and innovation. Ban embryonic research for at least three years and encourage granting agencies to focus on more promising adult (post-natal) stem cell research.

Say what?

Ban embryonic research for at least three years????????

This is a complicated subject, as “embryonic research” can mean several different things, some more ethically acceptable than others. The Canadian government passed a bill in March, 2004, prohibiting activities such as creating a human clone and regulating others such as using excess embryos already created for reproductive purposes.

But a total ban on stem cell research using embryos (as opposed to adult cells which show some promise but, as yet, not nearly as much) is a more conservative position than even the United States has taken!

Not wanting to take the CBC’s word for this, I checked with CTV, and they also have this item listed on their “issues” page.

Okay, now I want to see it from the source. With details.

I can’t find it anywhere on the Conservative Party of Canada website.

I can send an e-card, buy a golf umbrella or request a lawn sign but
I CANNOT VERIFY THE PARTY’S POSITION ON STEM CELL RESEARCH.

To be fair (if I must) I couldn’t find a mention of this on any other party websites either.

Is it a big deal? I won’t know until I have more information, and right now the only way for me to get that will be to actively request it.
Perhaps the information on the CBC and CTV sites is out of date; but if so, the CPC should have caught it before some lowly blogger.

If it is for real, it's important, both to those who agree with the stance and those who would oppose it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Yay, Me!

If there is a link, I will post...

Almost as a lark, yesterday I pasted a modified recent blog entry into the submissions box at the CTV Election Weblog. And then forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise when, scanning the headlines today, I came across one that sounded familiar. My first reaction was, someone stole my title, but no, it was my article.

So I guess they are accepting "guest" submissions! Unfortunately, no link back to my site but maybe I can use it as a "clip" when freelancing?

In any case, yay me!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another Country Heard From

Thanks to Cerberus for leading me to yet another recent newspaper article (in the Globe & Mail, no less) concerning the influence the US religious right is trying to exert in Canada's election.

Without much effort I also found this. While not a direct interference on our soil, the outlook is rather startling.
This article, found on several other websites, quotes from a book written by James Dobson:




"Canada is leading the way on this revolutionary path. I could cite dozens of examples indicating that religious freedom in that country is dying. Indeed, on April 28, 2004, the Parliament passed Bill C-250, which effectively criminalized speech or writings that criticize homosexuality. Anything deemed to be 'homophobic' is punishable by six months in prison or other severe penalties. Pastors and priests in Canada are wondering if they can preach from Leviticus or Romans 1 or other passages from the apostle Paul. Will a new Bible be mandated that is bereft of 'hate speech'? Consider this: A man who owned a printing press in Canada was fined over $40,000 for refusing to print stationary for a homosexual activist organization. Censorship is already in full swing .... Is that kind of censorship coming to the United States? Yes, I believe it is. Once homosexual marriage is legalized nationwide ... laws based on 'equality' will bring many changes in the law. Furthermore, it is likely that non-profit organizations that refuse to hire homosexuals on religious grounds will lose their tax exemptions. Some Christian colleges and universities are already worrying about that possibility."


I almost hesitate to post that drivel, for fear of being responsible for having someone read it and take it seriously, but the greater harm is in having this type of logic (?!) spread without refute.
It has reminded me that I really should reread 1984 (Orwell) because it's been awhile.

Will a new Bible be mandated that is bereft of 'hate speech'?

That would actually be nice, no?

A man who owned a printing press in Canada was fined over $40,000 for refusing to print stationary for a homosexual activist organization. Censorship is already in full swing ....

And well he should have been fined, I think. But take a look at the logic (?!) here: the definition of "censor" is "to examine and expurgate".

ISN'T THAT WHAT THE PRINTER IS DOING, NOT THE LAW THAT FINED HIM?????

This will make my head explode, for sure.

Some blogs are already posting suggestions for counterbalancing this influence. For now you can find links at Progressive Bloggers, Peter's Politics, and of course the abovementioned Cerberus.
I plan to look into this more specifically as soon as possible.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For

For years, one of my favourite rants has been how the US (citizens and media) ignores Canada.

Actually Americans seem to ignore most places outside their borders but it particularly irked me that they would know so little about a country that shares thousands of miles of undefended border with them, and that the ignorance is exceptionally one-sided. Canadians can hardly ignore the US even if we want to, given the media bombardment. We know all about Canadian stuff in whatever field interests us, and the US counterpart as well. This is not bad – what is bad (or so I thought) was their indifference towards things Canadian.

On an internet discussion board some years ago (before 9-11) I asked an American why the lack of interest. The response took me aback: “You are not a threat, therefore we don’t have to concern ourselves” or words to that effect.

But how do you know whether or not we are a threat if you aren’t paying attention?

Well, now they are starting to pay attention.

There was some indication of this last year, when it was reported that the religious right was sending “money and services” to groups opposing the same-sex marriage legislation. (Sorry, I can’t find any active link to the article.)

And of course, months earlier, Michael Moore expressed his opinion about how we should (actually, should not) vote in the last election. But Michael is practically an honourary Canadian so that hardly counts.

However, in the few days since the writ was dropped, without even trying I have collected three different reports of, shall we say, US interest in our activities.

The first was merely an opinion piece in a Washington newspaper. It wasn’t so much the opinion, but the spin, that I found intriguing:

If Martin's Liberal Party is re-elected for the fourth consecutive time, Canadian taxpayers will continue footing the bill for an expensive welfare state epitomized by its archaic government-run health-care system. Social policy experimentation on issues such as drugs and homosexual rights will continue in an incremental but decidedly progressive direction.

Yikes.

“Progressive” is a bad word now, just like “liberal”. I can hardly keep up.

More worrysome, according to the other two articles: both Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, who was instrumental in getting out the religious-conservative vote in the US, and Glen Caroline, director of the NRA’s “Grassroots Division”, visited Toronto this week, counselling their respective constituencies on how to exert their influence in Canadian politics.

According to the article, this is far from a new thing for the NRA, who have dabbled in affairs of other countries for some time now.

NRA public affairs director Andrew Arulanandam said yesterday that the organization is only too happy to provide "counsel" to organizations in other countries to help ensure that "gun rights" prevail around the world...

This NRA philosophy is also borne out by a section of their website regarding “International/UN Issues”.

So, what makes some Americans think they can go into another country and tell people how to run it?

Oh.

Speaking of which, we really ought to do something about the Canadian Armed Forces.
It’s all well and good to be independent, but what happens if, one day, they figure that between the pesky softwood lumber thing, all the oil and resources we have, and our wacky social “experiments”, not to mention our lack of cooperation in such areas as the missile defense system, that we aren’t worth the trouble of negotiating with?

Just march a few tanks in, boom, it’s all theirs.

We may speak softly but our stick isn’t nearly big enough.

Friday, December 02, 2005

We Must Not Negotiate With... Rock Stars?

First there was Bono, with the foreign aid and debt reduction thing.

While it’s somewhat annoying to see your Prime Minister being badgered by a rather scruffy-looking multimillionaire rock star, by now we are used to Bono, and at least we got a good concert out of it.

Perhaps encouraged by the benign tolerance accorded his colleague, now Paul McCartney is using a somewhat less appealing tone, if news reports are accurate, to promote his cause of banning the seal hunt.

Seal hunt? Are they still doing that?
Apparently so.

Totally leaving aside the merits of the cause, partly because I am not sure about them and am disinclined to do the research, and partly because in prinicple the merits are beside the point, I must object to the concept that famous people can use a threatening tone with world leaders in order to further an agenda no matter how arguably worthwhile.

Celebrities, rightly or wrongly, have the attention of millions or even billions of people and can’t be blamed for trying to communicate their message. They have enormous power to fund-raise, use the media to educate, change hearts and minds. But telling a Prime Minister to stop an ongoing practice or else “we will do all we can to focus attention on this unjustified, outdated and truly horrific practice, including, potentially, visiting the seals and the ice," is in my opinion an arrogant attempt at misuse of influence.

Frankly, I’d be happier if Sir Paul did ignite the media storm which would ideally lead to an informed debate, and if Canadians did decide that the hunt was a bad idea they could press their politicians to stop it.

Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

And furthermore, could they not find a better country to pick on? Someplace where human rights are flagrantly violated, where women are treated worse than our seals, or at the very least where gays and lesbians are not allowed to marry?

I suspect that one reason why the rock stars are ganging up on Canada is because they can, and while we are far from perfect we are probably one of the most progressive countries out there.

After all, we do tolerate the Bonos and McCartneys and that in itself says much.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Reality Check

It has come to my attention that not everyone is a political news junkie.

This revelation occurred at yesterday’s bowling league, when I asked a friend, visiting from Toronto, “Oh, do you live in the riding that Ignatieff is running in?”

“Who?”

“Ignatieff? Ig-nat-yeff? Or something, you know, the Liberal guy from Harvard...”

*Blank stare*

“I really don’t know who’s running anywhere, sorry.”

She then returned to her previous discussion of whether the evening’s TV entertainment would include “Lost” or “Survivor”.

Whether or not people in general should be more interested in the governing process and less interested in popular culture is a discussion for another time, because it’s irrelevant right now.
This is the way it is.
Ideally, people will vote, and generally they will vote on the basis of – something?.
Honestly I don’t know how people ultimately make their decisions.
There seem to be some overriding themes, such as health care, education, whether the Liberals need to have some time off to clean house, whether the Conservatives are too scary, whether a vote in Quebec for anyone but the Liberals is a vote for the separatists, and who came across as the biggest, or least, jerk.
I guess the decision is made on the basis of prioritizing these themes at or around the time of election day.

So why obsess now?
For me, anyway, it’s fun. It’s a study in human nature and psychology, of the candidates, the media, and that part of the audience who is paying attention. And if my family won’t listen to me anymore, now there is a potential global audience, or at least I can pretend as such.
It’s all good.