Archive for June, 2011

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Monday, June 20th, 2011

Quebec is now ours, the NDP do sing,

Of Quebec, they do not know a thing.

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On painting yourself into a corner.

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

There are mixed emotions when people who have said nasty things about you paint themselves into a very difficult corner.  Babel’s Whigs have got themselves in trouble.  It is trouble entirely of their creation but trouble none the less.

As was explained in a recent posting in Babel-on-the-Bay, the people running the Ontario Liberal Party Association in Babel remind us more of historical Whigs than modern Liberals.  These people seem to want to run the Babel organization as some sort of pocket borough.  Pocket boroughs were lampooned by W.S. Gilbert and set to the music of Arthur Sullivan in their 19th Century operettas.  In a pocket borough, the decisions on who would be the local member were made by the gentry in the borough and the peasants supported the decision.

It is all a matter of control.  To maintain such control today, all you have to do is keep the party organization to a small group, make all the decisions behind closed doors and tell nobody anything, unless you cannot help it.

When the incumbent Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) announced in January that she was not running for re-election this October, it surprised almost nobody who follows things political in Babel.  In a normal electoral district organization that should have kicked off an open effort by a committee of the association executive seeking qualified candidates for the office.

It should not be necessary but sometimes this search committee needs to be reminded that it is not their job to choose the candidate.  Their job is to encourage as many qualified candidates as possible to seek the nomination.  It is always desired that there be a very large, enthusiastic, exciting and contested event to give a good kick-off for the newly chosen candidate for the party.

But Whigs do not work that way.  They chose to announce that they had found a candidate.  They then closed ranks around the candidate and the rank and file of the party heard nothing more.  In a period when you would expect the candidate(s) to be making sure they meet the existing members and they might even sign up some new members, nothing happened.

All thoughts of a nomination meeting were put on hold when a federal election was called.  Federal Liberal party supporters are usually excellent prospects for support of Provincial Liberal hopefuls and the federal people were a bit surprised when they did not see the prospective provincial candidate during the federal campaign.  (In fact, the Whigs of Babel never did show up to help their federal cousins but we will save that story for another time.)

It was not until more than a month after the federal election that it was announced that the prospective candidate had been ill and would not be able to contest a nomination meeting.  Under normal circumstances, you would extend your sympathy to the prospective candidate—at least send a get-well card—and other prospects would have slightly less competition.  Life would go on.

But not in Babel.  The Whigs had not done their job.  There were no other prospects.  Despite attempts in the media to blame someone other than themselves, the Whigs had to admit the problem.  They now have to openly look for prospective candidates.  They have lost control.

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Saturday, June 18th, 2011

‘The poor are ever with us,’ Tim Hudak was heard to say,

‘There’ll be, more,’ he said, ‘When my party has its way.’

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Can we finally decriminalize prostitution?

Friday, June 17th, 2011

It is called the oldest profession but those involved are mostly amateurs.  And its practitioners continue to be abused, stigmatized, reviled and terrorized.  They perform a vital service for the community that turns its back on them.  They are fighting in the courts for their very freedom and we can no longer leave them in the position of something that is used and discarded and insulted.  They are people.  They are citizens.  They have rights.  They deserve better of us.

We might make jokes about hookers but they are reality and it is those who force them to work the streets in such a high-risk manner whom we really ridicule.  The federal and provincial governments have lawyers before the Ontario Court of Appeal trying to maintain prostitutes’ unsafe working conditions and it is disgusting.  We might not have to wait long for the Ontario decision on this but then we will be faced with waiting for the Supreme Court of Canada.

There is an interesting personal note on this subject as years ago, when newly married, we were producing a television series on political subjects.  A hot topic at the time was the creation of a Status of Women Commission.  Our production staff had three very prominent womens’ advocates to talk on the subject but felt we needed some balance with someone who could take more of a ’house wife’ approach to it.  We were stuck on who until someone suggested my wife.  She had the broadcast training and was active on both political and charitable boards.  There was no question that she could do it.  All she had to do was dress as frilly as possible with the then current bouffant hair style and she could pull it off.

She agreed, as she also thought it would be interesting.  What we did not know was that she would blow away those three womens’ liberation advocates.  She showed them to be somewhat hypocritical and completely unprepared on the question of prostitution.  (This newlywed was a bit surprised by this.  She explained that while studying Radio Television Arts at Ryerson in downtown Toronto, she found, when practicing person-on-the-street interviews, the most interesting were with the sex trade workers in the area.)

She turned the show into a discussion of how women were oppressed by the prostitution laws that existed at the time.  She also showed how men—and obviously some women—were ignorant of the problems.

And little has changed over the years.  The law is still an ass on subject of prostitution.  Luckily, we have been able to decriminalize the act.  We had to, as people will always do it for fun.

What society has done, in a puritanical way, is create criminal barriers around the act.  These barriers continue to oppress and endanger women and men.  (And if you were not aware of male prostitution and its problems, you have missed some education.)

In a free society, people can invite anyone they wish into their place and their bed.  They are entitled to the protection of the law.  Free people can advertise their services.  They can post their prices.  And they will find customers because human nature will not be changed.  You, as a citizen, can express your moral outrage if you wish.  Be narrow-minded, if you wish.

But if you oppress others, whom will you turn to when you are oppressed?  Your fellow citizens also have rights.

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Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Harper’s new Senators are paying him no heed,

Reform the Senate? They cannot see any need!

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Confusing Canadian socialism.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Did you hear?  The New Democratic Party has been a main-stream political party in Canada for less than two months and the party is already denying that it is socialist.  The party is obviously taking a page from Paul Martin’s Liberal book: Run on the left but rule on the right. At the NDP’s upcoming convention, it intends to remove the word socialist from the party constitution.

What some of us cannot figure out is what is wrong with being socialist?  The NDP must have been listening to Stephen Harper.  He is the Canadian expert on the Big Lie.  Harper says socialism is bad and here we have the NDP agreeing with him.

Harper deliberately confuses socialism with communism as a bogeyman to scare the ignorant.   Socialism came about historically to combat people such as Harper who believe in laissez faire economics.  In the industrial revolution, the workers were brutalized by the laissez faire doctrine and socialism was conceived as a fair solution to all concerned.  While Marx and Engels took this fairness to extremes in their Communist Manifesto, the world now knows that extremes will fail.

The shame of the NDP was that the well-balanced, progressive socialism of Tommy Douglas’ CCF was co-opted by the Canadian Labour Congress when the NDP was created.  It gave power over the NDP to rabid unions created by the North American Depression of the 1930s.  These were unions built on class struggle and they gave no nod to fairness in their negotiations.

But those unions also built the NDP into the party it is today.  They provided the muscle and the organizational manpower that the NDP needed to survive during the years of third and fourth party status.  It was these unions that had the hunger for reform.

What these unions did not acknowledge was that they were not alone.  There was a strong and growing group of social activists in the Liberal Party who bought into the need for social reform in Canada.  They saw control of Canadian business and resources as a tool to build a stronger and more prosperous country for all Canadians.  They never called themselves socialists but they were.

At their convention, these NDP thinkers(?) also want to state that there is no way the party will ever merge with the Liberals.  That could prove that they are just as myopic as the Liberal leadership in the last federal election.

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Comment for today.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Babel’s Allandale Station lands are Stations of the Cross,

It is where the city’s planning staff show us who is boss.

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The Whigs are with us in Babel.

Monday, June 13th, 2011

It can be confusing.  There is supposed to be a Conservative Party, a Liberal Party, a New Democratic Party and the various also-rans in Ontario electoral districts.  Not in Babel.  Trying to understand Babel politics is difficult.  It is like stumbling on a village called Brigadoon that has been lost in the mists of the Scottish highlands for the past 100 years.  The people you find running Babel’s Liberal Party are Whigs.

The Whigs were a political party active in the Parliament of Westminster in London, England from the 1780s to the 1850s.  The Whigs had evolved from a loosely connected group called the Country party and were supported originally by the aristocracy.  The Whigs were opposed to absolute rule by the monarch and their main opposition were the Tories who had originally been known as the Court Party.  It was from these beginnings, that the Liberal and Conservative parties of Great Britain evolved.

But evolution has halted in Babel.  Time has stood still here in this town on the bay.  The descendants of the original five squires are still in control.  Little happens in Babel that misses this Family Compact’s scrutiny.  They care less of any difference between Whigs and Tories or between Liberals and Conservatives.  They use it as a sham for the hoi polloi to believe they have choices.

Babel’s Family Compact divides the Babel political scene into insiders and outsiders.  The insiders are those who are feted, honoured, accepted and elected.  The outsiders remain wanderers in the mists of time.

A left-wing Liberal or a Red Tory coming to Babel is quickly labelled an outsider.  Only unreformed Whigs are welcome in the local Liberal Party organization.  The Conservative organizations, when allowed to exist, welcome monarchists, right-to-life extremists and neo-cons. They are not broadminded, just desperate.

If Babel voters have difficulty understanding the difference between the Conservative and Liberal candidate in an election, Babel’s Family Compact has done its job.  The families feel that if they send someone to Ottawa or Toronto to vote for the party in power and these elected people bring back money to pave our streets, they have done their job.  They think of the Parliaments of Canada and Ontario as extensions of Babel city hall.

The Whigs of Babel only seem to cross pollinate with their Tory counterparts.   They compete for bragging rights, not for principles.

An outsider recently got into the workings of the federal Liberals and created a schism in the organization that came to a head before the recent federal election.  The organization had nominated a candidate, raised money and got a campaign group rolling.  This was all done without the Family Compact’s approval.  That left them with just the Tory candidate, as sad as he might be.  As none of this had Family Compact approval, the Whigs deserted the Liberal Party organization.  It left the real Liberals in Babel wondering what had happened.

What happened was that the provincial Liberal Party got all the Whigs and the real Liberals were working in the federal organization.  That should have worked in favour of the federals but they were left with no time to rebuild before the election.

And with a provincial election due in October, there are growing concerns that whomever the Family Compact picks as a Liberal candidate, there is little time for healing.

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Comment for today.

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

The Harper Tories had a convention love-in,

They’d like him to continue to be a shoo-in.

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The Democracy Papers.

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

This is the eighth of the Democracy Papers written in 2007 in answer to the Ontario referendum that year on electoral reform.  The referendum was defeated but the need for reform continues to rankle.  We believe Canada must have an elected Constitutional Conference.  Electoral reform is just one of the topics to be brought to the gathering.  For this reason, the Democracy Papers are being updated and rerun.

Chapter – 8   Referendum could spell an end to democracy.

Do you want to trade our democracy for a parliament of minorities? Probably not, but that is one of the possible results of a referendum on mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting.   The people promoting MMP see it as the perfect opportunity for more minorities to have a say in the Ontario legislature.   They say it is fairer.   It is certainly more than fair to minority parties.   It is just not as democratic.

People promoting proportional representation argue that it is not fair for a party that might have won 45 per cent of the popular vote to win maybe 55 per cent of the seats in the legislature.   At the same time, they argue that a party that won 10 per cent of the vote but only 3 per cent of the seats should be given another 7 per cent of the seats to make up the difference.   That is how they see proportional representation working.

But all they prove by this argument is that they do not understand or want our democracy.   Evolving from the Parliament of Westminster, our democracy is not based around political parties.   It is a representative-based system of responsible government built on the principle that the people rule.   Added to the rule by the people is the protection of minority rights that makes democracy work.   This protection of minority rights has evolved to a strong judiciary.

But now people want to throw out the very basis of our electoral system.   They want it based on parties and not the representatives we choose.   They argue against the first-past-the-post election system that can see someone win with less that a plurality of votes.   These same people argue against run-off elections that could ensure that our representatives were all elected with majorities.   They argue that because what they really want is a parliament of minorities.

This can occur when many smaller political parties are created to take advantage of a political system such as proportional representation.   A recent example of proliferation of smaller parties occurred in the early 1990s when a number of new parties were formed to take advantage of changes in election funding.   With the taxpayers picking up more than 80 per cent of the cost of campaigning, Canadians found they now had new parties such as the Natural Law Party that had people as candidates who claimed they could levitate.

Other federal parties that formed or revived in this time of opportunity, and are still with us, are the Canadian Action Party made up of people who claim they do not approve of large banks or supra-national corporations, the Christian Heritage Party that claims principles based on biblical ethics, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and the Green Party.   These are all parties that would hope to have some of their people appointed to a proportional legislature.

In the proposed MMP system, a party needs at least three per cent of the party vote to be eligible for a portion of the appointments.   With as few as 200,000 votes across the province, a party could have no elected seats but be appointed to as many as five seats in the legislature.   From being a loser, this fringe party is being given a great deal of power.   They could demand concessions from a minority government for their support.   They could even demand seats in the cabinet.

What if the Green Party won enough party support across Ontario to be entitled to seats in a proportional legislature?   What are they going to do now that they are there?   There are few people who would complain about the Green Party’s objectives of preserving our environment.   In fact, the Green Party platform is actually well represented in the platforms of all the major parties.   Maybe not as prominent or as forceful but it is there.

The Green’s first choice might be to form a coalition with a party that needs a few extra bodies to form a majority government.   That is a common solution for legislative bodies with proportional voting systems.   The major party will promise to carry out some of the Green party’s ‘green’ promises, which are in its platform anyway, in exchange for the voting support to keep the party in power.

At the same time, consider how a larger party, needing a partner to form the government, accommodates a minority party with absolutely no similar policies?   For the Conservative Party, for example, to find any common ground with the Marxist-Leninists or the Canadian Action Party would be difficult.

The problem is the narrow focus of most of these splinter parties.   They can rarely win a riding because of that narrow focus.   They bring nothing to the legislature but their narrow view.   And they only represent the people who share their view.   Given enough of these parties, the legislative body can descend into a parliament of minorities.   Who then represents you?

©Copyright 2007, 2011, Peter Lowry

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