Posts Tagged ‘Canadian politics’

Stephen Harper: a billion bucks quickly wasted.

June 28, 2010

Go, Canada!  Splashing out an inexplicable billion dollars on a massive security fence and 20,000 heavily armed cops to cower behind it while a scruffy handful of anarchists wreck downtown Toronto!  Me, I’m thinking it would have been cheaper to build a twenty dollar fence and just have local cops who would have been on duty anyway cower behind it in their regular attire.

On the other hand, there is an up side of the ridiculous level of “preparedness” a billion dollars supposedly bought:  there’s no way for a thinking voter to avoid the suspicion that the riot was purposefully ignored (or intentionally provoked) in order to justify the breathtaking price tag of fulfilling Harper’s authoritarian aspirations for a weekend.  Given the New Government of Canada’s unprecedented fondness for carefully staged PR opportunities, that’s the theory I’m going with until further notice.

Because sensationalist photos of burning cop cars and smashed windows are likely to dominate most mainstream coverage (as intended, one can’t help but suppose), I want to make a point of remembering the type of direct action the vast majority of dissidents were there to engage in, photo courtesy of the Star.


Not careful enough, Steve

May 22, 2010

A few days ago I recalled Stephen Harper’s 2003 article proposing the gradual (“incremental”), discreet (“careful”) fusion of social conservative and fiscal conservative policies as a strategy for the budding theo-conservative movement.   To quote the man himself:

Rebalancing the conservative agenda will require careful political judgment. First, the issues must be chosen carefully. For example, the social conservative issues we choose should not be denominational, but should unite social conservatives of different denominations and even different faiths. It also helps when social conservative concerns overlap those of people with a more libertarian orientation.

So what did he pick?  Abortion.  Way to be careful, Steve!

Is it possible that Steve, sheltered as he is from the mainstream by a wide buffer of young earth creationists, anti-gay activists, Christian Zionists, criminals and racists, is a little out of touch with the concerns of average Canadians?

Having provoked an unambiguous smack down from the US Secretary of State, a raised eyebrow from the United Nations, and unanimous hostility from the entire provincial legislature of Quebec, Steve is stomping mad and looking for a way out.  Harper is shocked – shocked! – to discover that when you appoint a shameless horde of bona fide fundamentalist whack jobs to high-ranking government policy posts, you get government policies that reflect fundamentalist whack job values and alienate or outrage everybody else.

Of course Harper is making decisive public statements to distance himself from the entire fiasco.  But who is he kidding?  Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time with fundamentalist whack jobs will understand that in order to believe they can be reasonable, dispassionate, inclusive and competent policy makers you have to be a fundamentalist whack job yourself.  Judging by his appointments alone, I am confident in asserting that Harper is a fundamentalist whack-job and approves of the theocratic policies coming out of his benighted office, in principle.  I think he just wishes his minions would be more “careful” and more “incremental” with the implementation of their fundamentalist whack job agenda.

Anyway, hopefully Steve has learned there’s no “careful” and “incremental” way to sneak anti-choice policies under the radar of mainstream Canadians.  Whether it is through easily disavowed “private members’ bills” or bizarre foreign policy initiatives that you think shouldn’t upset Canadians at home, we are going to notice and make some noise, especially when you tell us to shut the fuck up.  So please just come out and say you hope to one day have enough of a mandate to outlaw reproductive choice in Canada and quit pussyfooting around.  The theo-cons’ endless maneuvering, message control, debate framing, and general furtiveness about their social conservative agenda is beyond irritating.  You’re not fooling anybody.

What should we do about those darn creationists?

May 19, 2010

The inimitable godless blogger P.Z. Meyers has had a go at theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson for an article where he claims science has not only failed to dislodge creationism, but failed abysmally.  Giberson argues non-creationists need to tell creationists it’s “OK to believe in God”, and then gently persuade them that you can believe in evolution as well.  For his part, Meyers insists that it would be better to root out magical thinking entirely from the whole of human civilization.

I think both arguments are deeply flawed, for the simple reason that cdesign proponentsists don’t give a fiddler’s fart what either of them think.  Whether Meyers and Giberson patronize them with a soothing “there, there” or rail against the folly of their convictions, they’re still going to believe a bunch of nonsense for as long as they wish to belong to whatever community they’ve contracted it from.

Dawkins picked up on this phenomenon in an unbearable interview with Wendy Wright, partly transcribed in the Greatest Show on Earth:

Wendy: What I go back to is the evolutionists are still lacking the science to back it up.  Instead, what happens is, science that doesn’t bolster the case for evolution gets censored out.  Such as, there is no evidence of evolution going from one species going to another species.  If evolution had occurred, then … surely there’d be at least ONE evidence.

Richard: There’s massive amounts of evidence.  I’m sorry, but you people keep repeating that like a kind of mantra because you just listen to each other.

He’s exactly right.  The only reason a creationist would be looking at anything written by the likes of Meyers or Giberson would be to quote mine sentence fragments that might mislead the reader into believing they don’t really believe in evolution, or to find material for later use in a character assassination campaign.  I sympathize with them for their charming fantasy that something they could say or do (if only enough of us climbed aboard the bandwagon) might have an impact on the thinking of people like Wendy Wright.  However, I think it would be better for us not to wring our hands about how we can best infiltrate the religious mind and rearrange the furniture.

It’s a red herring.  Personal belief in creationism is not the problem.  In the complex, aromatic bouquet of ideologies the religious right brings to the table, the toxic flower is not personal belief in god or creationism, it is the collective rejection of the separation of church and state. I would propose a third option:  instead of wasting our breath debating religionists or debating each other about how best to debate religionists, why don’t we devote our energy to affirming the principle of secular government?

General human wingnuttery is not a real problem.  Or at least, if it is, it is a problem that will never go away, like psoriasis.  The problem is that a certain wing-nuts are organized and lobbying effectively for the fusion of religion and government.  Perhaps normal people feel no need to organize and lobby collectively to prevent such a development because we are, after all, the vast majority (at least north of the border).  Nevertheless, I think we need to make it absolutely crystal clear that blurring  the line between religion and politics in Canada to appease the Conservatives’ religious base will not be tolerated.

In 2003 Steven Harper wrote an article for the Christian Coalition (motto: a vibrant majority, proudly Christian).  In it, he plainly stated that elusive “hidden agenda” so many leftists love to speculate about:

Rebalancing the conservative agenda will require careful political judgment. First, the issues must be chosen carefully. For example, the social conservative issues we choose should not be denominational, but should unite social conservatives of different denominations and even different faiths. It also helps when social conservative concerns overlap those of people with a more libertarian orientation.

Second, we must realize that real gains are inevitably incremental. This, in my experience, is harder for social conservatives than for economic conservatives. The explicitly moral orientation of social conservatives makes it difficult for many to accept the incremental approach. Yet, in democratic politics, any other approach will certainly fail. We should never accept the standard of just being “better than the Liberals” – people who advocate that standard seldom achieve it – but conservatives should be satisfied if the agenda is moving in the right direction, even if slowly.

Third, rebalancing means there will be changes to the composition of the conservative coalition. We may not have all the same people we have had in the past. The new liberal corporatist agenda will appeal to some in the business community. We may lose some old “conservatives,” Red Tories like the David Orchards or the Joe Clarks.

This is not all bad. A more coherent coalition can take strong positions it wouldn’t otherwise be able to take – as the Alliance alone was able to do during the Iraq war. More importantly, a new approach can draw in new people. Many traditional Liberal voters, especially those from key ethnic and immigrant communities, will be attracted to a party with strong traditional views of values and family.

Does it look like Steve’s proposing a prolonged and “careful” culture war to you?  It does to me.  Sign me up.

Anti choice rally attracts thousands of people with no personal stake in the matter.

May 15, 2010

Pedgehog at Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome made an interesting observation vis a vis the anti choice march in New Brunswick:

there was a noticeable age gap – I didn’t see many people between the ages of 12 and 60.

I was curious as to whether the same conspicuous absence of “people who would be impacted by changes to abortion law” occurred in Ottawa.  Observe:

Children and old folks.

So, do we of child-bearing age get any say in this not-to-be-reopened abortion debate or is Steve just going to proceed as if he can muster a majority by pandering to superstitious old folks who have nothing personal at stake but get a kick out of telling younger women what they can and can’t do?

Notably, many of the children being bussed in from their Catholic schools, which is a shocking misuse of public funds.  Consider this –  if secular schools had bussed in children for a counter-demonstration in support of reproductive choice how would these very same people react?  By screaming blue murder and quite rightly calling for administrative heads to roll, that’s how.  Children are not props for our ideological photo ops.

Harper’s “Maternal Health Program” not about maternal health?

May 14, 2010

Harper’s administration made headlines last week for announcing it intends to cut funding from any international NGO that provides access to safe abortions.  So far, there hasn’t been much analysis of how much funding we’re talking about, or what the impact will be, or where that budget is going to go instead.

Thanks to Olivia Ward at the Star, we can begin to get an inkling of the implications:

In London, International Planned Parenthood Federation is waiting for a call from Canada that will preserve life-saving programs that help 31 million women and children.

But nearly a year after the U.K.-based organization tried to renew its $18 million grant – and on the eve of a G20 summit Harper has focused on maternal health — the line from Ottawa is silent…

Planned Parenthood includes abortion in its wide range of services to needy women and girls in 174 countries…

Canada supplies a significant part of Planned Parenthood’s $120 million annual budget

If Canada provides 15% of the total budget, we can probably expect a corresponding decline in the total number of women and children who once were assisted by this organization but will have no access to family planning information or services once Planned Parenthood pulls up stakes. So, four and a half million women and children may lose access to essential reproductive health services as a direct result of Harper’s benighted foreign policy decision.

That is only the result of de-funding one organization.  How many women’s health NGOs can we expect to feel the pinch?  My guess:  all of them.  As CEO of Marie Stopes Int’l  points out, “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and (that) includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions.”

Which begs the question, where is all that money going to go now?

I bet I know.


Harper has not been shy about funneling millions of your tax dollars and mine to domestic evangelical groups while giving prominent, internationally respected secular organizations the axe.  I’m guessing Harper’s “Maternal Health Program” is a massive transfer of tens of millions of dollars of funds once earmarked for “maternal health” to international evangelical groups which have absolutely no interest in anything that is of interest to women, let alone maternal health.

In the same vein, I am very much looking forward to acquiring a copy of The Armageddon Factor:  the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which has Harper’s religious fan-base bursting blood vessels of indignation.  (Now that’s what I like to see!)

Afghan detainee torture documents?

April 28, 2010

We can’t produce them because they are of such an extremely sensitive nature that disclosing them in confidence to elected representatives with a legitimate mandate to establish POW policy would jeopardize our whole mission in Afghanistan.  Besides, we’ve made no effort whatsoever to catalogue these extremely sensitive documents or store them in an orderly and secure fashion.

Anybody else smell bullshit?

Another pair of asinine visa fiascos brought to you by Jason Kenney

April 27, 2010

Self-described “Catholic Zionist” MP Jason Kenney – the Conservative MP who banned UK Member of Parliament George Galloway from entering Canada because of his open acknowledgment of Israel’s war crimes – is in the news this week for two more appalling decisions.

To wit:

Camara Sow begged Immigration Minister Jason Kenney Monday to step in and allow her to stay in Canada until her baby is born.

“I want the minister to help me to stay here, beside my husband,” an emotional Camara Sow said. “I’m sick, I’m pregnant and I’m afraid that at my age, I may lose my baby.”

Sow is 24 weeks pregnant, has Type 2 diabetes and had a miscarriage last year.

Staff at Kenney’s office said the file is in the hands of the Canada Border Services Agency. A spokesman for CBSA said people are only deported once all their legal avenues have been exhausted.


For years, the Nova Scotia Gambia Association has sent Canadian nurses, students and other volunteers overseas to teach HIV-awareness and other health education programs to people in the small West African countries of Gambia and Sierra Leone.

This year, the non-profit group decided to bring eight of its Gambian staff to Canada, to attend the group’s 25th anniversary celebrations in Halifax, and to talk to students in local schools about life in Africa.

A Halifax church and a handful of schools across Nova Scotia raised $23,000 to pay the costs of bringing the Gambians to Canada. But plans for the trip were cancelled this week when Kenney rejected visitor visa applications for the group.

Is it just me or is the Immigration Minister starting to seem like a bit of a soulless obstructionist?

Was I the only one begrudgingly moved to moist-eyed feelings of warm, fuzzy patriotism during that Tim Horton’s ad they played during the Olympics?  The one where the African immigrant meets his family at the airport after what appears to be a lengthy separation, bringing them all brand new parkas and dragging them out into the snow, their eyes wide with wonder – or perhaps horror?  Didn’t Jason Kenney see that ad?  Wasn’t he moved?  Didn’t that ad scream “This is Canada’s heart and soul on display!” to him as it did to me?

The good news for Sayon Camara is that the Federal Court has stayed her deportation order, no thanks to Jason Kenney and his above-referenced “staff”, or the “spokesperson” for the CBSA who must be either ignorant, a liar or a simpleton in light of his / her / its quote.

Potentially good news for the Nova Scotia Ghambia Association is that Nova Scotia Liberal MLA Andrew Younger passed a resolution, supported by all three parties, to formally request that Kenney reconsider his decision.  Whether Kenney will consider the province’s request in good faith or continue to be a stinking pig-headed racist remains to be seen.

I’m a little disturbed by some of the comments on these stories.  Here’s an example that pretty much sums them all up:

“I can’t believe we trunned someone down. I though we let everyone and their dog into the country. Time we started kicken a few out..”

I note that nearly illiterate Canadian right-wing-nuts, unlike their American counterparts, still know the difference between “their”, “they’re” and “there”.  But apart from this subtle distinction I feel like I’m pretty much looking at a tea partier in a parka with a double double in its hand.

These are the people Kenney is appealing to with his increasingly “tough talk” on making it even more difficult than it already is to come to Canada, and to stay in once you’re in.  Are there enough of these slack-jawed yokels to saddle us with yet another incompetent Conservative government in the next election?  I hope not.

To Mr. Kenney and his supporters:  Step outside.  Look around.  Do you think we might have a teensy bit of extra room in Canada for Camara and her baby?  If it’s too dark outside to see, try this picture instead:

And Jason, how about you stay late at the office and see who it is comes to empty out your wastebasket, clean your toilets and wipe all those greasy bacon double cheeseburger fingerprints off your desk.  I’m willing to bet the following.  1: it’s an immigrant,  2: it’s not a white immigrant, and 3: You don’t want to do it yourself and you’d rather your kids didn’t do it either.

Wise up.  You can’t have a growth-based economy in a country where women have access to birth control if that country is hostile to immigration.  We depend on immigrants to grow our population, and consequently our economy.  If you can’t grasp this basic fact, you are not qualified for the job.

Canada stands alone against Indigenous Rights

April 22, 2010

That seems to be the way the wind is blowing.  Originally only New Zealand, Canada, the US and Australia voted against the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (while 11 countries abstained).

New Zealand and Australia have now signed the declaration (which is not legally binding), and the Obama administration has promised to undertake a review of their opposition.

So, here we are. All alone. The only country in the world that stands resolutely against rights for indigenous people.

Of particular interest  are the following articles:

Article 8

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

(Whoops, there goes the Indian Act).

Article 26

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 28

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.

2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

With Vancouver’s ramshackle old bungalows currently hitting the market for a million bucks a pop while King George’s Royal Proclamation of 1763 renders the entire province of BC basically illegal, I suppose the government is worried about the cost of this particular article.  But why?  After all, the declaration is not legally binding.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “the Canadian government said in a speech by the governor general last month that it would take steps to endorse the U.N. declaration “in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s constitution and laws.””

Would that be laws like the Indian Act, which sweeps indigenous people onto government-sanctioned rural ghettos and instructs them exactly how to run their own business? Or laws like the Canadian Constitution, which reaffirms the Royal Proclamation of 1763?  Hmmm… I think I see a problem.

Thanks to Radio New Zealand (via the Aboriginal News Group) for the tip-off.

If Ottawa giveth, then Ottawa can taketh away…

July 10, 2008

What happened to the free and open exchange of information when the president of a secretive conservative propaganda foundation won control of the Canadian federal government?

The Toronto Star investigates with a pretty good series of articles.

“This is the Prime Minister’s Office calling. I have the Prime Minister’s chief of staff on the line. Please hold.”

As I stood in my new, empty apartment in Ottawa a few weeks after the last election, phone in hand, it occurred to me I might want to remember this call. So, I made notes, scarcely believing the words I was recording.

Stephen Harper’s right-hand man, Ian Brodie, head of the most powerful and secretive PMO in national history, was telling me what I would be doing in the next few hours. You will issue a media release, he said, praising the Prime Minister for appointing David Emerson to cabinet. And you will immediately stop writing your blog.

But Brodie, the former Reform party organizer and University of Western Ontario professor, did not stop there. “If you want to be a f—ing independent,” he said, “then go ahead. We can arrange that.” And he was gone.

Welcome to Mr. Harper’s Ottawa.

This is a world in which a member of Parliament, sent by the people to represent them, is cowed and threatened by an unelected staffer. It’s a place where a political party can silence internal debate and, in a hasty few moments, overthrow the results of an election.

It’s where Harper MPs are told they need permission from the PMO to speak to reporters, and are expected to carry wallet cards reminding them how to avoid the media. It’s a capital in which promised free votes don’t take place, where a government elected on openness fights to restrict access to information and public servants fear for their careers if they dare speak in the public interest. Where regulators are fired for seeking to regulate and federal scientists muzzled for talking about science. Where MPs like myself and Bill Casey are expelled for speaking, and former cabinet minister Michael Chang demoted for having convictions.

~Garth Turner, ex-Conservative MP, Halton (blog)

Well, what did we expect?