Archive for May, 2010

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

It took the feds a year to agree with the Toronto Star,

The paper told us of a charity scam that went too far,

But they got another year’s profits before the tax bar.

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#37 – Planning a direction for Canada’s future.

Monday, May 10th, 2010

What is Canada? Is it its provinces? Is it its peoples? Is it just an idea? That is as fundamental as it gets. The Fathers of Confederation were a small population of English-speaking and French-speaking British subjects trying to pull a nation together to compete with and contain the emerging nation to the south of our borders. They created a country with the second largest land mass in the world that had no way of protecting itself and no clear idea of its future.

We are certainly less grandiose than our American neighbours to the south. We lack the braggadocio and pretentions. The United States is a country based on ideals that seem to hang around just off-stage. It is a country of vaudeville and Washington, Disney World and Guantanamo Bay, Las Vegas and Los Alamos, that enjoys the warmth of the art of Norman Rockwell and the chill of the sins of Al Capone, that takes town hall politics to the world stage, and while a country reluctant to go to war, it then does not know when to come home.

When John Porter published The Vertical Mosaic, his report on Canada’s sociological development, in 1965, he explained that it was the safety valve of the United States that drew away the more radical elements of our society. He believed that this kept Canada from having to deal with home grown trouble makers. He was just a few years ahead of us becoming more aware of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) and the eventual murder of Labour Minister Pierre Laporte.

English-speaking Canadians still look with jaundiced eye on the Péquistes of la Belle Province who cheerfully screw les anglais by demanding pacifying transfers of federal monies and responsibilities to Quebec. Les notables (Quebec’s bilingual and wealthy elites) who perpetuate this foolishness are actually repressing their own people with it and doing little harm to Canada’s increasingly more powerful English-speaking majority.

This self-defeating tribalism in Quebec has also contributed to the shifting the power centre of Canada from Montreal to Toronto and to points west. Instead of speaking out on behalf of the French-speaking Canadians in other provinces, the Quebec Péquistes reject them and further narrow their field.

The drain to the safety valve of the United States that Porter indicated turned out to be on the right wing of the political spectrum throughout the rest of the 20th Century. While the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney was supposed to have heralded the growing strength of the right in the 1980s, it was actually the merging of the Western Reform and the Conservative Party that brought in a truly right-wing government. Porter’s safety valve had become redundant.

Canadian voters are obviously reluctant and concerned about the agenda of Stephen Harper and his Conservative government but there has been little to spark their enthusiasm to the left.

It is from this cauldron of concern from which a new consensus needs to emerge. We will write more about it.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Harper’s Tories deny you rights if you are a woman or gay,

Why don’t we have an election, so we can all have our say.

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Justin Trudeau MP will be visiting Babel,

We’ll have a real MP while he’s available.

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COMMENT FOR TODAY

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The Greeks are fun loving, no matter what happens,

But tourists are best right now to stay out of Athens.

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#36 – Creating a Canadian consensus on democracy.

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Most Canadians think we live in a democracy. They delude themselves. We are, at best, a constitutional monarchy and, at worst, a colony. The good news is that our country has been undergoing change in a sporadic fashion for the past 143 years.

But incremental change is no longer satisfactory. We need a new consensus on how we are governed and how we will look to the future. We really need to say to Queen Elizabeth II something like: “Maw, the kids are gittin pretty grown up now and they ain’t as happy with the quaint idea of princes and princesses and other fairy tales.”

Canada is no longer dominated by British subjects. We are ethnically from the entire world. We have built a strong country that is respected by that world. If we are a colony, we are more a colony of the United States of America than Great Britain. We are long weaned from the Mother Country.

Michael Ignatieff had some bad advice the other day when he suggested that Michaëlle Jean have her term as Governor General extended. An appointed representative of the Queen, who stands in as the head of our armed forces, is an anachronism—nothing more than a silly piece of fiction. It means that we cannot respect the role. Michael Ignatieff needed to step beyond the partisan comments he made and reach behind the scenes. He has to realize that the dialogue needs to be on how we can democratically choose a head of state to meet our country’s unique needs.

Canadians have to stop acting as ostriches and putting off the hard decisions. Some people say you are an anti-monarchist for saying it. That is a funny thing to call a realist. The truth is, having met some of Europe’s royals, I can say the English ones are not only nicer but more human. That is not an adequate reason to keep them around. Their ‘use before’ dates expired a long time ago.

Others think a proper review will give succour to Quebec’s separatists. What it will really do is give courage and hope to French-speaking Canadians that this is a country that recognizes their rights, their wishes and their ambitions within a bilingual country. This is their country.

There is no question that Canadians were burned by the foolish outcome of the Charlottetown Accord but that was an example of what will happen when you have politicians with a vested interest involved in the process. A properly chosen and elected constitutional assembly would be a first for this country but it really needs to happen.

It would probably not be a good idea for Michael Ignatieff to lead Canadians towards that solution but there is nothing wrong with him endorsing it. If Harper came out for it, the talking heads would be wondering forever what he has up his sleeve. It has to be a grass roots movement. It will take time.

In proposing and counter proposing, in arguing and questioning, we will gradually build a consensus that will give a constitutional assembly some ideas to consider and develop. Give it time and our future as a country will unfold. It will be wonderful.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

PM Harper has left us for another European tour,

If we are lucky, we can bill it as his farewell tour.

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#35 – When does the Member of Parliament matter?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

You choose someone to represent you. You pay them a basic salary of $157,000 a year, plus free travel to and from work and a seemingly limitless expense account. They spend by far the majority of their time and a lot of your money trying to convince you to choose them again. The question remains, what are they doing for you?

To be fair though, it is something of a joke when a voter asks why politicians treat them as children. It is because, in some ways, we are. First of all, only about two out of three eligible Canadian voters bother to vote in federal elections. Those who do vote often vote for this politician or that for all the wrong reasons. Many vote for a political party because they always vote for that party. There are those who vote for a specific party leader without caring who the local candidate might be. The outcome of the election in any one electoral district usually comes down to less than ten per cent of voters who take the trouble to hear or read about the candidates, assess their possible contribution to the nation’s business and cast a considered vote.

What is the least understandable are the voters who feel strongly about an issue and yet never bother to find out where the candidates stand on that issue. That is how strong advocates of womens’ rights end up with a right-to-life Member of Parliament. They never thought to ask. They often get a shock when there is a free vote in the House of Commons. The Member votes without the leader saying how they are to vote.

After all, you are letting the leader of the party choose the candidate in your district. That is not only backward but the facts are that the party leader can hardly choose as well as people on the scene. The party leader’s interest is to have a Member of Parliament who will not rock the boat, who will do as told, will be there to vote as told, when required. It is not in the leader’s interest to have a Member of Parliament who has strong feelings on any issues. The leader will tell him or her what to feel strongly about, and when.

After all, you can hardly count on the party organization in the electoral district. It is highly unlikely that the strongest party organization will be equal to more than one per cent of the local voters. Most of these organizations are nothing but a shadow executive put in place by the local member or last candidate. That used to be different but when party leaders took over the selection of candidates, there was no particular need for strong electoral district associations.

Thankfully there are exceptions to that. There is almost an ebb and flow to the relative strength of these organizations. A determined opponent and a weak sitting member can be a formula for a heavy organizational effort. Electoral district associations have become greatly strengthened machines when built by a determined organizer. Then, once the need is no longer there, the organization gradually falls off to a token executive.

The one thing we can be sure of is that if the electoral district had the final say in choosing its candidate and could really influence party policy and could recall Member’s who were not responsive to their voters, it would be different. And you know what: it would also be democratic!

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Ignatieff shows his inexperience promoting keeping Michaëlle Jean,

It is not the person but how chosen and role debate needs to be on.

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COMMENT FOR TODAY

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Harper and friends think parliament’s there to keep them amused,

Thank goodness for the auditor general, so they can be disabused.

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