Friday, January 30, 2009

OBAMANIA Gets Ontario Worker Sent Home

Albert Salmon, an LCBO worker employed at the company's Whitby warehouse, was sent home recently for wearing a vest with a newspaper headline taped to to it which read in big bold type "Obamania". Apparently a co-worker found the shirt offensive and filed a complaint, when Mr. Salmon refused to take it off he was sent home.

An LCBO spokesperson said it wasn't clear whether the complaint was racially or politically motivated. I have a guess. I worked for a time at that very same warehouse as a contract employee, and there's little doubt in my mind...its a question of race. I encountered many workers there who could watch a season's worth of Archie Bunker's 'All In the Family' and not laugh. We might like to think we live in a colour blind country, that instances of racism are rare, but we would be wrong to make that assumption.

I have a suggestion to all the employees of that warehouse, well to those that are not racist anyway...and they are more numerous, just not as vocal. If I was still working there I'd be telling everyone to come in wearing clothing with the word Obama on it. The warehouse in question is situated smack dab on the Oshawa/Whitby border, on the west side of Boundary Rd which divides Oshawa and Whitby (hence the name). And Oshawa has something of a red neck reputation, recently two lesbians were assaulted in that city...for being lesbians.
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This brings to mind a golf game I had with an American friend. Dave had moved up to Canada from Indianapolis and our sons were attending the same school. His wife worked for GM (Dave is a lawyer) and Dave and his family had settled into an absolutely gorgeous home in a beautiful Pickering neighbourhood. While waiting to tee off on the 3rd hole I mentioned how much I liked his house, to which Dave replied:

"I wasn't sure we could live there when the agent showed it to us".

I was confused by this so Dave explained:

"In Indy I can move into any house I want, but in some neighbourhoods...I could expect to see a pick-up truck with 4 angry white boys in the flat bed. But y'all don't have that in Canada do you"?

"No", I said...."except maybe in South Oshawa".

Later Dave was telling me about a very exclusive Toronto area golf course he'd played at, one where he was charged $10 just to use the putting green. When he told me he'd never heard of that before I responded..."Dave, that was because you're black". He just about fell off the bench laughing his ass off. Thankfully he knew me well enough by this time to know that I'm an irreverent smart ass.

Back to South Oshawa...I know that the racist redneck element is present, and loud. But I do not think it is anywhere close to being the majority. Residents of Oshawa upset with the way their city is being depicted should do something about it.

Here's a link to the Toronto Sun Story.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harper Ignatieff Chess Match Continues - Layton Winning?

I've been equating the on-going political drama to a chess match, Harper Vs Ignatieff In Political Chess Match . With Iggy's latest move of putting Harper's Conservative "on probation" I think the board is favouring the Liberals at the moment. Obviously Michael and his crew were not confident about the prospects of fighting an election on this budget, and I have difficulty in arguing with their logic. Harper and company would have been justifiable in saying they'd given the opposition Liberals pretty much everything they were asking for. So why subject Canadians to yet another election?

Ignatieff will now be able to defeat the government at a time of his choosing, assuming of course the NDP and Bloc are willing to play along. That might be a dangerous assumption, obviously Duceppe and Layton were hoping to have significant input with a Liberal led coalition government. But there were no guarantees Michaëlle Jean would have chosen that option. Our Governor General might have been swayed by Prime Minister Harper to call an election. All this speculation though is moot in any case, the board has shifted and Stephen Harper gets to govern, with a Sword of Damocles hanging over his head.

The central point here is that Ignatieff will wait until public opinion shifts decidedly against the Tories, and I have no fear in predicting that as a near certainty. Flaherty has proved himself woefully inadequate at forecasting anything, and you can rest assured that there will be problems with this budget as the year plays out. Iggy will proclaim the government a failure and assuming he gets the support of the Bloc and NDP, the Conservatives will be toppled and we'll be heading to the polls.

What happens then? Do the Liberals romp to a majority or worst case scenario, (for them) a minority? Not so fast!
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There's an old saw in horse racing that goes..."When the odds are split between the favourites, bet on the long shot".

Jack Layton is doing a good job of pointing to the "New Coalition", that of course being the Conservatives in tandem with the Liberals. Ignatieff will be hard pressed to divorce himself from a budget he instructed his party to endorse. And make no mistake about it, this is a BAD BUDGET!!! This is a document from a government that is running scared and has no clue. Flaherty is attacking this economic crisis with billions of dollars, but in reality he's throwing everything he can out there hoping something works.

Giving assistance to those who are or who will soon find themselves unemployed is smart, its not only just makes sense. But giving tax breaks to those who will be unaffected and still working??? That makes absolutely no sense. But then little of what Flaherty tries ever does. Nickels and dimes in GST cuts only bled the treasury dry, now he's up to quarters. Do the Conservatives really think that putting a few extra dollars in working folks' pay envelopes each week will have any impact? All it does is deepen the hole they're digging for all Canadians, because those 3 or 4 extra bucks a week individually add up to billions collectively.

If Layton and the NDP are to benefit from this Jack is going to have to keep up the pressure. And he should avoid falling in love with pithy rhetoric, like the 'blue sweater' and 'kitchen table' crap from the last election. Once or twice is okay...but repeating the same pat lines over and over ad-nauseum just makes him sound like a tape recorder, or worse Sarah Palin in an interview with Katie Couric. Newsflash to all politicians, Canadians are smart enough to realize when you're running down your checklist of "talking points".

The Greens really missed the boat by not winning a single seat last time around. Elizabeth May's party badly needs exposure, exposure she would have gotten if she'd played it smart and picked a Vancouver or Toronto area riding to contest back in October.

Ignatieff and Harper better watch their backs, while they're contemplating which pawns to play the Jackster might just pop up from under the table and snatch both of their kings.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hold Onto Your 68 Cents in Daily Tax Savings, You're Gonna Need It

We're being told that the average Canadian will be saving $250 a year thanks to cuts in income taxes that will result from passage of the federal budget. That works out to about 68 pennies a day, and I'm going to suggest you start saving it. Add it to the 1 or 2 pennies you're saving on your morning cup of coffee thanks to that huge 2% cut in the GST. Canadians are going to need all that and more, because after racking up a massive debt our federal government is going to be hard pressed to fund many of the programs Canadians cherish.

Health care? Sorry folks, but its been hanging on by a thread ever since Paul Martin slashed transfer payments to the provinces in his great budget balancing act back in the nineties. In another 3-5 years when we've emerged from this orgy of debt, the money just ain't gonna be there to continue supporting a Universal Health Care system. Especially with so many aging baby boomers visiting doctors and hospitals.

Stephen Harper has never been a big fan of Universal Health Care anyway, not since his days with the NCC, and not now. Think of the money the private sector can make when government gets out of the way and hospitals and other facilities operate as businesses. Venture capitalists will be salivating at the prospect of soaking wealthy boomers for essential medical services. A box of tissues? No problem ma'am, they're only $10 a box...we'll just add it to your bill. You do have insurance don't you? Universal Health Care? It'd be nice, but then so would driving a Rolls. You do the best you can with the resources you have, sorry the $$ just ain't there any more.
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Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals share the blame for this budget as well, because they're endorsing it. Now we're going to be watching the blame game as our economy worsens. The Conservatives will be telling us they had to compromise with the opposition, and that if they'd had a majority things wouldn't have been as bad. The Liberals will be trying to paint Tory times as bad times. Iggy should have stood up and voted it down, but I guess he lacked confidence in his ability to lead a campaign if the option of a Coalition was rejected.

And why are we in this mess? Why are we stuck with a government chosen by just 22% of eligible voters? Because almost 10 million people don't think democracy is important enough to invest a little bit of time in. There's time for their favourite TV shows, time to hang out with friends and family, time to head out for a weekend away or a night out. But no time to inform themselves of the issues and the parties in our political system. No time to head to a polling station and mark a simple letter X on a ballot.

Part of the blame though rests with the roughly 60% of the population who did take the time. Those of us heavily engaged in the debate have a tendency to act just like politicians ourselves. We SHOUT OVER EACH OTHER, engage in character assassination with those who have the temerity to disagree with us, we often act like petulant little kids....It has to stop.

I was right in one of my New Year's prognostications...that Iggy and the LPC would support Stephen Harper's Conservatives, with reservations. Another of my predictions is that we'll be heading to the polls in less than a year.

If we want to ensure better and more responsible government, those of us who are engaged in the process...we need to start acting like adults. We need to listen to those with whom we disagree. That doesn't mean we have to abandon our convictions, but it does mean we have to try and understand the opposing point of view. If we truly listen and try to understand we'll probably find out that our adversaries have some valid points, and some real concerns.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great New Obama Song...He's Part Irish didntcha know?

Can't help but pass this along. Everyone is staking a claim to the new President of the United States, and it feels so good. Instead of the usual diviseness the Unity this man is bringing to the world is so refreshing.

Toss Out the Clown, Vote It Down

How can Canadians have any confidence in this government's ability to forecast anything? In just a matter of weeks we've gone from a projected surplus to a deficit, from being told to go bargain hunting for cheap stocks to being told the economy is going to be under serious stress for years to come. From "don't worry be happy" to "okay worry, but not too much".

Harper and Flaherty drained the public treasury by tossing nickels and dimes at Canadians in the form of meaningless 1% cuts to the GST when times were good. Now they're up to quarters, whoopee!!! An extra $250 per year for the average Canadian in income tax cuts, a mind staggering 68 pennies a day.

"Make my Tim Horton's coffee a large today Betty, Mr. Flaherty gave me a big raise".

The recession is now, but we'll have to wait for 2009 before shovels start hitting the ground in planned infrastructure projects...that is of course if other levels of government step in with matching funds. There are some positive changes to EI, which will be badly needed if Flaherty's management of the economy is as weak as his forecasting skill.

I stand by my earlier prediction, that Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals will support the budget document with reservations. That is my prediction but it is not my wish. Take your shot Mr. Ignatieff, the NDP and Bloc have already indicated they're going to vote to oust this Conservative goverment which seems to have trouble predicting anything a week ahead, let alone 5 years down the road.
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Iggy needs to show the cajones Dion lacked when he repeatedly had the Liberals sit on their hands during Harper's last minority mandate. If the Liberals do find their collective manhood, the Governor General should give the opposition parties an oppourtunity to govern, sparing Canadians yet another trip to the polls. But if she doesn't we have to be ready to vote again.

Last time around almost 10,000,0000 Canadians didn't even bother going to the polls. For those who support any of the opposition parties that cannot be allowed to happen again. The Conservatives are armed and ready for the next election call, with an energized and committed base of Religious Righties. Whether the election writ gets dropped this week or some time in the not too distant future Canadians need to hold this Government to account for it's irresponsible handling of both the economy and our national affairs.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Election Starts...NOW!!!

This isn't about the budget, and I'm not predicting one way or another which way the vote will fall. Regardless of whether the government is defeated or not, or whether we end up with a Coalition being formed...or not. Know this, the election is on, right now, as of today's date.

Canadians last went to the polls on October 14th 2008...well most did. Tragically there were over 9.5 million Canadians who didn’t bother voting at all. Over 40% of the population didn’t think it important enough to take an hour or so out of their day for this exercise in democracy. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!

What was the result? Stephen Harper, with just 22% of eligible voters opting for the Conservatives, came within a whisker of garnering a majority of the seats in our House of Commons. That's right, 22%! According to Elections Canada there were 23,401,064 eligible voters in our last election, and only 5,205,334 Canadians voted for the Tories.
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I am going to suggest that it is incumbent on everyone who believes in democracy, that we not allow this to happen again. For those of us who are politically engaged, we have a responsibility to reach out and energize, to educate and to motivate all those who didn’t bother marking their X. I know there are people out there who simply don’t pay attention, or who don’t understand the system. And there are many who simply regard voting as an exercise in futility. They say things like: ”They’re all a bunch of crooks, so it doesn’t matter who gets in”.

For those of us who are passionate about democracy and the political process, we need to get in people's faces. If they don't understand the process, explain it. If someone is unsure as to what each party stands for...tell them, or point them to the information. When voting day finally comes around, call and make sure they went to the polls.

I can assure you of one thing, the Conservative Party of Canada with it's Religious Right base will be organized and energized for this campaign. Regardless of whether you support any of the Liberals, NDP or Greens, (et meme Le Bloc pour certains et certaines Québécois et Québécoise) we had better be every bit as vigilant, every bit as committed.

For those who tell you "it doesn't matter"?

Explain to them why it does matter. Our national government speaks for us whether we like it or not. What kind of nation are we and in what direction are we heading? Do we bleed the public treasury dry, reducing taxes and crippling Ottawa's ability to play an active role in ensuring Canadians are all treated fairly? Are we a nation that looks after our most vulnerable citizens, or do we prefer to leave it to individuals to fend for themselves no matter their circumstances? Where do we place our priorities? Are we more concerned about the environment, or about the economic impact of cleaning up our air, water and soil? Do you believe Canada’s military is engaged in a battle against Islamic extremism, or is it merely a pawn being used in a game to ensure access to oil and natural gas deposits?

It’s difficult, if not impossible to find a single party that addresses all of an individual’s concerns. While some may like one party’s environmental platform, they might disagree with them on economic policy or on the role of our military. Obviously as voters we have to prioritize and decide which issues are most important, and then choose the party that best represents us on the issues at the top of our list. Explain the process, discuss the issues, do everything you can to ensure that those 9.5 million don't repeat the mistake they made last October.

Personally I’m not sure which party I’ll be voting for when the next election is finally called, but I can assure you of this, it will not be for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. And this is why the election campaign must begin now. When the writ is dropped I will broadcast which party I'm supporting, call it an endorsement if you will. I'm not so vain as to think it will have any tangible impact. But it will be a demonstration of my commitment to the democratic process and if I can convince just 10 people who might have otherwise skipped a trip to the polls...its worth it.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Do Public Sector Unions Know We’re In a Recession?

The economy remains the key issue upon which Canadians are focused. We’re very close to finally finding out exactly what initiatives the Conservatives will propose with tens of billions in deficit financing. Sadly there is no shortage of potential targets. Canada is bleeding jobs in manufacturing, in the forestry and resource sectors. In fact there are few areas not being affected by the downturn in our economy.

With so many people losing their jobs I can’t help but wonder how these displaced workers feel about Canada’s public sector unions and the contract negotiations now taking place in a number of high profile stories. There’s the Ottawa transit strike, York University’s striking teaching assistants and contractual staff, as well as possible strikes looming for Halifax school bus drivers and Ontario elementary school teachers.

In the case of York University, striking staff were offered a 9.25% wage increase over 3 years. Ottawa transit workers were offered a 7.25% increase over the same time period. Ontario’s elementary school teachers rejected a 12% increase over 4 years and Halifax bus drivers said no to an increase from $12.49 per hour to $14.06 at the top end of the pay scale.

I realize that there are other issues being negotiated beyond salaries. For York staff there’s the question of job security and tenure, with elementary school teachers there’s preparation and supervision time. In Ottawa transit workers are concerned about scheduling and the ability of workers to select bus routes. But is this really the time for unions to be digging their heels in and going on strike? Especially in the public sector where services are funded by the taxpayer.

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The NDP has announced that it will stall quick passage of back to work legislation in the case of York University. Obviously as a labour party they have a commitment to Unions and their cause, but I’m going to suggest that now is not the time to be thinking dogmatically. Obviously as collective agreements expire negotiations have to take place, and its unfortunate that some have had the ill luck to be forced to the table at a time when the public purse is bleeding red ink.

But is striking the best strategy at this time? If the terms employees were working under were acceptable for the past two, three or four years (depending on the length of the expiring CBA) then why not continue working under the old terms while we’re in this period of economic decline? Conversely why not consider a shorter term, perhaps a one or two year contract? Then, after we’ve emerged from this period of economic constraint, go back to the table when the public treasury will be better able to absorb increased costs.

Whenever there’s a high profile strike involving a public sector union there’s inevitably a battle for public opinion. Both unions and governments use the media to convince Jane and Joe Citizen that their actions are just. Right now though it seems to me the unions are losing the battle. The right to strike is fundamental to the legitimacy of the union movement, and I would never wish to see it taken away. But I equally wish that those in a position to decide whether or not to use it would exercise more discretion. Now is not the time to be withdrawing needed public services, especially in light of generous wage increases.

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Is There Room for Religion in a Progressive Society?

We live in a very secular society, of that there can be little doubt. We’ve evolved from a country where on a Sunday morning you could toss a bowling ball down Main Street Canada without hitting a soul, to a nation where just about every imaginable service is available regardless of whether its Sunday or a weekday.

In the 2001 census nearly 5 million respondents identified themselves as having no religion. Another study conducted in 1998 found just 34% of Canadians aged 15 years and older attend religious services at least once a month. The trend away from church and religious observance is obvious in our consumer driven hedonistic society.

I’m going to pose a question. Is this necessarily a good thing?

I myself no longer attend religious services, the reason being that I lack what I consider the required “faith” in the teachings of most Christian denominations. I was brought up in a Christian household though. My mother was the daughter of a United Church of Canada minister, and during the time I was growing up in the United States we attended churches affiliated with the Reformed Church in America.

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Intellectually I have a lot of problems believing certain teachings of the Holy Bible, especially if they’re presented as historical fact. But (to quote an old saw here) are we tossing the baby out with the bath water? Are there not positive elements to the Christian faith that are being abandoned in tandem with regressive prejudices and blind observance?

My best friend’s step father passed away recently, so today I found myself attending his funeral, and sitting in a chapel listening to a member of the clergy. It spurred me to thinking about those aspects of the Christian faith where I find positive and life affirming inspiration. It occurred to me that I might use this blog to offer up something of a “Sunday Sermon”. Depending on reaction I might just make this a Sunday staple.

One of my favourite Bible passages is the Sermon on the Mount, also frequently referred to as the Beatitudes. I strongly believe that one can still find inspiration in these words without the need to worship Jesus as Lord and saviour. This particular passage comes from Luke:

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

Most will recognize the “Golden Rule”, that of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. As we enter into an economically troubled time I think it would be of benefit to ponder more of this particular passage. Those who are lucky enough to pass through a period of hard times unscathed will no doubt be called upon to help those less fortunate.

When we give to those in need are we rewarded? There is the obvious good feeling that comes from helping others. But often in our giving we receive gratitude from those to whom we are bestowing gifts. Those who have been recipients of a helping hand will understand the other side though. The feeling of inadequacy and helplessness which comes from taking charity from another. There are many who so abhor this feeling of indebtedness that they will refuse any and all help, even to the detriment of their health and/or well being.

If we are to lend assistance to those in dire need, why not do it anonymously? Why not rejoice in the knowledge that we have helped fellow human beings, while forgoing the boost to our egos that gratitude brings? If you know of someone in need of financial help, rather than helping them directly perhaps funds could be forwarded in such a way that they wouldn’t know who gave it.

I’ll leave things here, and apologize for this hastily prepared entry. Next week I’ll give it more time and more thought.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bob Rae Vindicated by Obama…and Harper???

I’m convinced many Conservative Party members were hoping for a drawn out battle for leadership of the Liberal Party. I’m equally convinced that many Tories were rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of Bob Rae being the eventual winner, convinced they could tar and feather him for his time at the helm of Canada’s most populous province.

Bob Rae was Ontario’s Premier during the recession of the early 90s. At the time it was called the worst recession since the Great Depression…Sound familiar? Rae was crucified for racking up massive deficits during his early tenure as Ontario’s senior elected official.

The NDP in Ontario lost a lot of its traditional labour support during this time when Rae introduced the “Social Contract”. Rae's NDP government re-opened collective bargaining agreements with public sector unions, and in an austerity measure forced workers to take un-paid days off, often referred to as “Rae Days”.

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My how times have changed. Faced once again with ‘the worst recession since the Great Depression’ it is now the Conservative Party advocating massive deficit spending. While some fear the prospect of unemployment, many are heralding the words from Barack Obama’s inaugural address wherein he extols the virtues of those willing to cut back their hours.

“It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours”.

The recipe for confronting a troubled economy? Massive government spending and workers willing to accept less so that the pain is a shared burden. It’s a recipe Bob Rae was using almost 20 years ago, and we emerged from that recession into an era of almost unprecedented growth.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama In Favour of Prohibiting Late-Term Abortions

I recently said I wouldn't be posting anything more on abortion "in a very long while". But sometimes you come across information which you just can't let pass by. Such is the case with what I just found out about President Obama's stance on late-term abortions. Without further adieu here is what he had to say in an interview with Relevant Magazine back on July 1, 2008:

"I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions". (Emphasis Mine)

Obviously his comments relate to the United States, and not to Canada. But given the tone of comments to my previous posts on this topic I'm curious to see what the reaction will be. Obviously those who view the status quo (no abortion law, hence no restrictions on late-term abortions) as positive and progressive, then it follows that they will be enraged with President Obama's position and will no doubt consider him a regressive woman hater worthy of being sworn at.

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One of Obama's greatest strengths in my opinion is his willingness to try and bridge significant gaps between polarized groups. His selection of Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a case in point. To same-sex couples Warren is the devil incarnate, yet Obama chose this man for his swearing in ceremony. You don't reach out to people by ignoring their concerns, even if you don't agree with them you have to listen. In his book "The Audacity of Hope" Obama writes of Bush as a decent man, one who would be a good neighbor (American spelling I know)...their political differences notwithstanding. Is trying to work with people with whom you disagree progressive or regressive? Doesn't working with someone imply a willingness to listen to their point of view and making an effort to try and understand it? It beats the hell out of screaming at them about all the reasons you think they're wrong.

I realize its easier to react in knee jerk fashion and just start screaming insults, but that does little to foster constructive debate. Of course the problem with polarized issues is that neither side is willing to listen to the other, because the other side lies and distorts.

Now...there is one point I wish to clarify. I came across this interview by way of another blog:

The author tells a gut wrenching story about how her unborn child had numerous complications, and actually ended up dying prior to birth. She had wanted to abort, realizing the child would not survive in any case. But due to a restrictive legal environment her needs were ignored. I don't know President Obama, but I get the distinct impression that once made aware of the pertinent facts he would never restrict a woman in this type of situation from getting the proper medical attention.

I know some will scream that elective late-term abortions never take place in Canada. That all late-term procedures are for strictly medical reasons so severe that the life of the mother and/or unborn child is affected. If find that difficult to believe given that ARCC (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada) says they do in fact happen.

So, is the new American President right or wrong on this issue? In the final analysis does it really matter what country we're talking about? Surely if something is right or wrong, that transcends national boundaries.

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America's First Black President - Thomas Jefferson?

With all the focus on Obama in the news, I came across something interesting the other day. Apparently Obama may not actually be the United State's first President of colour. As everyone already knows Obama is actually of mixed racial descent, having a Caucasian mother and an African father.

Obviously though, Obama is the first visibly black President. If you're interested in seeing more but too lazy to google it yourself here's a link to the article I read in the Toronto Sun:

Hopefully we'll see a day where a person's ancestry and racial make-up is a total non-issue, not even worthy of mention in a newspaper or blog. We're not there yet, but I think we're on our way. My own children are a beautiful blend of Caucasian (my father thinks we may have some Native ancestry too) and East Indian.

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The big positive in this bit of trivial "news" is that it seems one of America's "Founding Fathers" and key contributors to the U.S. Constitution may very well be of mixed racial heritage as well. Perhaps we would do well to take the advice of Warren Beatty in his role as Senator Bullworth in the movie of the same name. If you haven't seen it, (it's awesome) the Senator is interviewed on T.V. and has this to say about race relations:

"Everyone has got to keep ####ing each other till we're all the same colour."

America may owe its foundation to the practice.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Americans Get Obama, Canadians Stuck With Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber

As a keen observer of the political scene it's impossible not to look at our southern neighbours with a certain degree of envy. They've just witnessed the inauguration of the most charismatic and eloquent leader in generations. I know that for members of the black community (both in the U.S. and Canada) Obama's election is a monumental occasion, something many thought they'd never live to see. To me though colour isn't a factor, Barack Obama didn't pick his time...the time picked him. Americans are in desperate need of a leader of Obama's skill at this critical juncture. There is nobody better suited to rally divergent factions together for the difficult task at hand.

The United States has become an incredibly divided country: Red state versus blue, religious versus secular, north versus south, urban versus rural, blue collar versus white. While others sought to exploit those differences for electoral gain, Obama repudiated them. We all share a common humanity regardless of petty differences, and what unites us is stronger than that which divides. Americans have heard this message and responded with the most breathtaking ceremony Washington has ever seen.

But what about us, what about Canada? Where is our great uniter, the individual who will rally Canadians to a greater calling? Sadly as things now stand we're stuck with Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. I'll leave you to decide which monikor best applies to the leaders of our three viable national parties.

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We have Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who back in September when the financial crisis was first starting to rock the markets, advising us to go 'bargain hunting' for cheap stocks. Thanks a ton Stephen, those capital loss carry forwards will really come in handy when portfolios start showing black again in another 2 or 3 years. If this is the best our "Economist" PM can do then I think I'm better off taking stock tips from the paper boy.

Michael Igantieff, or "Iggy" as he's been dubbed by our press is another story all together. Trying to pin Michael down is like trying to step on a bar of soap. All we hear is broad generalities about protecting the poor, stimulating job creation, and avoiding long term budget deficits. Sounds great! So how ya gonna do it Iggy? Oh, okay...he'll tell us later after the government brings down its budget. Any idea about a specific figure for this year's deficit? Oooops,'ll get back to us on that too, right. Ignatieff is like that guy standing in front of you at Baskin Robbins trying to decide which flavour to buy, and then after ten minutes he finally settles on vanilla.

And that leaves Jack Layton, ugh. Nothing personal dippers but Layton has all the appeal of a dishrag, albeit a very fashionable dishrag. The 'blue sweater' quip was cute the first couple of times, but after 100 or more it gets a little old. I'd never invite Jack 'the preener' to a party, he'd be telling the same joke over and over while trying to get everyone to gather around the freakin' kitchen table. I get the impression Jack thinks very highly of himself...well, somebody has to.

I might have been able to include the Greens in this little diatribe, but Elizabeth May had to go and spoil all the momentum she garnered from finally being included in the Leader's Debates. Instead of getting a Green foot in the door by picking a safe riding somewhere in Toronto or Vancouver she had to be the female Don Quixote tilting at Peter McKay in Nova Scotia, a riding he's held for yahrs, one that his father held previously....great judgement Liz.

Yo, Liberals, Yo Conservatives,
Yo Dippers and Greens,
We need some fresh blood,
Not these oldster has beens

Where's the vision, the passion
To get us back on track
If the cupboard is bare here
Give citizenship to Barack

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Anyone Else Sick of Obama Yet?

Don't let the subject line alarm you, I'm a very big fan of Barack Obama and have been waiting anxiously for the departure of 'The Shrub'. But Jeeze Louise, this is like Mambo Number Five on steroids. Is there an African American left in the United States who hasn't had a microphone thrust in their face with the question, "What does Obama's Presidency mean to you"? being asked.

CNN's website with streaming video was so slow at work today I thought we'd reverted back to a 9.6 baud rate dial-up modem.

America's first African American it, I got it back in November. Americans have gone from praying their President doesn't screw something else up, to praying and actually believing in a better tomorrow. We live in an age of Success Coaches and Lifestyle Gurus...and Obama is the political extension of that reality. Hearing people shout, "YES WE CAN" I kept expecting Tony Robbins to come bouncing on stage.

We're captivated by this man, and yes his is just a man, because by every imaginable measure he should never have been able to achieve what he has. The U.S. has always been a racially divided nation, so by mere virtue of the colour of his skin Barack Obama was already handicapped in the arena that is national U.S. politics. He was raised by a single mother, abandoned by his father. Again hardly a recipe for success, regardless of the chosen endeavour.

And if that wasn't enough he has an Arabic middle name, AND a first name that rhymes with Osama. Yet in spite of all these many roadblocks Barack Obama now holds the most powerful elected position in the entire world.

No wonder people are awestruck, not just blacks...but everyone. We've all had obstacles thrown at us, and most of us use them as a crutch to justify our own failings. But seeing Obama achieve what he has achieved, in spite of the enormous obstacles placed in front of him...even the most hardened cynic can't help but be impressed. Not only impressed but inspired. Maybe the challenges I'm facing (and we all face challenges in our lives) aren't insurmountable after all?

Hrmmmmmm, maybe I'm not sick of Obama just yet.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Trouble Ahead For Obama - On the Left

I get the distinct impression that many people bought Barack Obama’s best selling book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ for display purposes only. The perception is that Obama is very left wing, but in reading his book I see him as far more moderate and centrist. His victory wasn’t so much a triumph over John McCain, it was more a victory against George W. Bush. The problem is that Dubya had entrenched himself so far to the right that even someone like Ronald Reagan would have been seen as a leftist.

Left and right are relative terms in politics, and when you get to the extreme fringes the two collide into something called fascism. A dictatorship is a dictatorship, regardless of whether it’s left or right wing. Obama’s book talked about bridging the gaps, about finding common ground, a need for give and take. But if there’s one thing extremists hate, its compromise. The left often views their politics as having intellectual superiority, and thus any dilution is a sell out to small mindedness, and unforgivable.

Cracks in Obama’s support are already beginning to show with his selection of Pastor Rick Warren for the swearing in ceremony. Rick Warren is very much a social conservative, one who was a major player in the fight to have marriage rights rescinded for same sex couples in California. Members of the Gay and Lesbian communities have responded in outrage, saying this isn’t the ‘change’ they were looking for.

But if people were paying attention they shouldn’t be surprised, this is exactly the type of change Obama has talked endlessly about bringing to America. You don’t unify a nation by entrenching yourself with one group and punishing the other, that was GW’s method. Obama’s choice of Pastor Warren for the invocation is a brilliant stroke, it’s a hand reached out to those on the extreme right that says, “I’m your President too, let’s work together and see if we can work together and build a consensus that a majority of people can agree to.” On same-sex marriage Obama has already staked out a centrist position, saying he favours ‘civil unions’ as opposed to the more traditional term of marriage.

Obama’s success or failure as a President will likely be determined by how far he can reach out to the right without being kicked in the backside by those on the left. Obama hasn’t done or said anything to indicate he’s going to lurch the US to the far left, rather he wants to pull the country from the extreme right back to the centre.

Its not going to be an easy chore, and Obama will need all the help he can get from moderate Democrats to achieve success. It means that many who view their positions as absolutely right will have to adopt a more conciliatory stance. It won't be easy, as many are looking for retribution after 8 years of Republican Neo-Conservative dominance.

The soon to be President had better succeed. The last thing the United States (and the western world) needs is the Americans ripping the country apart along political lines of left and right. With Obama’s intelligence, oratory and charisma there isn’t likely a better person for the task at hand. The tough economic times we’re experiencing, with even more hardship on the way, will be the ultimate litmus test.

Can Americans pull together, or will they remain a house divided??

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Late-Term Abortion, Cutting Through The Rhetoric

This will likely be my last blog entry on the topic of abortion for a long while. When emotion comes into play rationale discussion becomes almost impossible. And there is no shortage of emotion on either side of this contentious issue. One need only glance over the 40 or so comments my two most recent entries have generated to see that reasonable debate is at best rare.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the dearth of solid information and statistics on abortion in general and late term abortion in particular. Most of the data presented typically comes from advocates for one side or the other, from either the Pro-Choice or Pro-Life camps.

I attempted to stake out what I thought would be reasonably safe ground, that of placing restrictions only in the case of 'late-term' abortions where the health of the mother and/or child wasn't in question. Even Henry Morgentaler, a saint in the eyes of Pro-Choice advocates, is quoted as having issues with terminating pregnancies around the 24 week mark.

The crux of the matter is the question of whether or not such procedures even take place. If no late-term abortions ever take place then the entire debate is moot and not even worth pursuing. But as I mentioned, there is not a lot of information available. I haven't been able to come up with any concrete numbers, I did however come across something of interest.

What I came across is a group called 'Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada' or ARCC for short. This is a decidedly Pro-Choice group, one that was cited at least once in comments to my previous two posts on this topic. Lest there be any doubts about their commitment to the Pro-Choice movement I invite you to read their Mission and Vision Statements here:

ARCC put out a position paper entitled "Late Term Abortions (after 20 weeks)" which is available on-line in PDF form:

According to the statistics provided by ARCC only 0.4% of abortions taking place in Canada occur after the 20 week mark. They state the reason these abortions take place is because the fetus is gravely or fatally impaired, or that the woman's life or physical health is at risk...or both. In the absence of conflicting data I'm willing to accept these numbers as accurate. And being one who considers himself fair and reasonable, I certainly would never be in favour of restricting a woman's access to an abortion on these grounds, irrespective of how many weeks into the pregnancy.

But even ARCC concedes that not all late term abortions fall into this category. They make the point that:

"Most women who terminate their pregnancies after 20 weeks wanted to have a child, and were forced to consider abortion for medical reasons. Other women may be in desperate social circumstances, such as an abusive relationship, or they may be very young teenagers who have delayed abortion care because they were in denial about the pregnancy".

Later the paper goes on to say:

"However, most of the very small number of abortions performed over 20 weeks gestation in Canada are done to protect the woman's physical health, or because of serious fetal abnormalities".

The key word here is "most". Most does not mean all, leaving me no alternative but to infer that there are in fact late term abortions taking place in Canada for reasons other than the health of the mother and/or child. The question is pretty straight forward at this point. Should Canada create legislation to protect viable fetuses (those so far developed even Mr. Morgentaler calls them babies) except in cases where the life of the mother and/or fetus-baby is at risk?

My opinion? Absolutely.

That's not to say I'm not empathetic to the teenager who was in denial about her pregnancy, or the woman in an abusive relationship. But that empathy does not go so far as to condone the killing of a viable and healthy living human being. I know some consider the removal of abortion from the criminal code as progressive. But isn't true progression extending rights and legal protection to those most vulnerable?

Some will see any restriction, no matter how small as a potential wedge. And we are talking about something small. Something that only happens in very rare instances, a small percentage of the .04% of total abortions taking place according to ARCC. Assuming 200,000 abortions in a year, with 800 being late-term (using ARCC's .4% number), let's assume that only .4% occur for reasons other than mother/fetal health. We're talking about restricting abortion in 3 or 4 cases out of every 200,000.

It would not deprive women of their choice to have an abortion. All it would do is place a time constraint on when the procedure could take place unless there were health issues for the mother and/or fetus.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Debate Over Late Term Abortions

It may very well be that the debate over abortion in general and late-term abortions in particular is so polarized that reasonable discussion is impossible. Call me an optimist or a fool, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I’m trying very hard to stake out some middle ground in this battle, but it appears there are many who view any accommodation of Pro-Choice concerns as giving into lies and propaganda. And on the Pro-Life side as well, there are many who view abortion as morally wrong and believe there should be legislation banning the procedure altogether.

In my last entry I posed this question:

Is there any chance of reasonable accommodation from the Pro-Choice lobby? Would there be objections to Canada having a law which made abortion illegal during say... the last month of pregnancy?

Judging by the comments posted, (10 so far in one day) the answer is a resounding, "NO"!!!

I committed to doing some research on this topic, but in so doing I like to avoid advocacy groups...both Pro-Choice and Pro Life. Each camp will deride any facts presented by the other as propaganda. I was able to find an article dated September 12, 2004 from CTV, and given that CTV is a mainstream media outlet I think that mitigates against claims of bias from either side.

The article speaks about efforts by Quebec's Health Ministry to open a clinic that would offer late-term abortions. I haven't been able to find anything stating whether or not they were successful in their efforts, but I consider that a moot point. Such a clinic would be perfectly legal, of that there can be no dispute. And that is what we're debating here, whether or not abortion should be legal in the later stages of pregnancy when a fetus is deemed "viable". That is to say when it could live autonomous of the mother.

The CTV news article did have an interesting quote from Dr. Henry Morgentaler. Here's the snippet:

Morgentaler said he has concerns about late-term abortions.
"We don't abort babies, we want to abort fetuses before they become babies," Morgentaler said from his Toronto clinic.
"Around 24 weeks I have ethical problems doing that." (my bold)

Morals and ethics are the foundation of laws. Everyone I know has moral and ethical problems with things like murder, rape or incest. And we have laws on the books concerning those found guilty of such activities, we label them as criminals.

Should it be a crime to take away the life of a fetus that is so far developed it could live outside of the womb? Don't knee jerk on this, mull it over for at least a minute or two. I realize this is a divisive and contentious debate, but it is one that is important. As things currently stand a child has no rights under our laws until it leaves the womb and draws his or her first breath. Would extending legal protection to a viable fetus be regressive or progressive? When you expand rights it always comes with a cost. When Lincoln emancipated the slaves it impacted slave owners. When women were finally granted the right to vote it diluted the weight of a man's vote. If a fetus were to be given rights at some point before birth it would impact on pregnant women.

Actions have consequences, and when the action is sexual there's the potential for pregnancy. Yes I'm aware that women are solely responsible for carrying a child, and I have heard the argument that it is unfair to force women to carry a baby to term against her will. And I actually agree with that, but only to a point.

And here's where I get to cheese off the Pro-Life lobby...finally. If there is ever to be a law in this country banning late term abortions (except in cases where the health of the mother is in question) then there would have to be some give on the other side.

Abortion would have to be available "ON DEMAND" during the first trimester. Additionally it would have to be state funded and totally anonymous. If there's to be give on one side there has to be accommodation on the other as well. I'll end this here with a question for those on the Pro-Life side of this debate:

Is there any chance of reasonable accommodation from the Pro-Life lobby? Would there be objections to Canada having a law enshrining a woman's right to state funded and totally anonymous abortion procedures on demand during the first trimester?

Previous Posts On The Abortion Debate
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Abortion in Canada Legal – Right Up Until Time of Birth

Read the subject line again please. Did you know that? Were you aware of the fact that in Canada it is legal for an abortion to take place any time during pregnancy? That includes right up until the time a birth is about to take place. If you weren’t aware of this fact you’re in good company. According to a poll done by Angus Reid fully 92% of Canadians were not aware that abortion is legal during the full nine months of gestation. NEWSWIRE STORY

For those wishing this story would just go away…well, it ain’t happening. This is probably one of the touchiest topics going, it’s definitely something to avoid as a topic for polite dinner conversation. But for many people this is more than just a topic of conversation, it is a crusade. While there’s no indication as to who paid for the poll, I suspect it might be Signal Hill, an advocacy group mentioned 3 times in the on-line version of the press release.

In looking at their website I’m struck by the reasonableness of tone and lack of inflammatory statements. Just one quick snippet:


“Concentrating on the legality of the issue is not our position. We believe that when abortion is chosen it is because it is perceived as the least undesirable option available to the woman and her family. We believe that if a woman is fully informed of all of the options available to her, and of the physical and psychological dangers to her and to her preborn baby, abortion will rarely be chosen”.

That strikes me as pretty fair commentary. Those against criminalizing abortion call themselves ‘Pro-Choice’ and not ‘Pro-Abortion’ after all. I’m going to cut against the progressive grain here and pose a question. Is there any chance of reasonable accommodation from the Pro-Choice lobby? Would there be objections to Canada having a law which made abortion illegal during say... the last month of pregnancy?

I know some will make the point that in Canada abortions are almost never performed during the last month, excepting when the life of the mother is in danger. Assuming that to be true, what would be the harm in making it illegal, except in cases where the mother might die during child birth?

On a personal level I’m more inclined to the Pro-Choice argument, especially if it’s a question of extremes...a total ban versus having no law. But I do think at some point a fetus should have some rights, especially if the fetus is so far developed that he/she could live autonomous of the mother.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Taking Canadian Politics Religiously

It occurred to me that many Canadians take their political allegiances as seriously as some people take their religion. Whether its Conservative, Liberal or NDP, all three have supporters who will vote for their party no matter what. Personally no single party has been able to hold my allegiance for more than a couple of elections in a row. I’ve written on here before that during my voting life I’ve marked an X beside all of the three aforementioned parties.

Here in cyberspace political blogs abound, but most I’m finding have a decidedly partisan bent. I myself have been accused of being ‘anti conservative’ by at least a couple of readers. While I can understand the rationale given some of my ‘Anti-Harper’ rants, I do not consider myself “anti” Conservative at all. While I am may not happy with the current leadership of the Tories, dislike or mistrust of an individual, (or individuals) should not be construed as being against any particular party.

All of Canada’s national parties have blogging groups, however I’ve decided to leave Canadian Soapbox non-aligned. At one point I did put up a Liblogs ‘button’, I saw it as a potential way to gain readership. I’ve since removed it, and I’m content with belonging to Progressive Bloggers.

On a personal level my political allegiances (or lack of same) have mirrored my religious observance and spirituality. I’ve attended numerous churches, everything from United and Baptist to Pentecostal and Roman Catholic. I’ve gone to a Jehovah’s Witness service (once) and to the Mormon Church (LDS) as well. I’ve even dabbled in alternative spiritualities like Paganism and Wicca. I’ve come to the conclusion that no single group has a monopoly on truth, be it in the political or spiritual realm.

I think my viewpoint is in line with the majority of Canadians, at least in terms of politics. If everyone always voted for the same party, then elections would be a useless exercise. As things currently stand I can find reasons to like certain positions of all our national parties, and other reasons to dislike them. It comes down to priorities. I know I will never find a party that perfectly mirrors my take on the issues, so I have to decide which issues are the most important to me.

On the issue of Canada’s military operation in Afghanistan, I am vehemently opposed. The stated reasons for our continued occupation are full of holes so big you could drive a gas pipeline through them. Which is of course why we’re there, and the NDP is the only viable national party opposed to our involvement. But the NDP makes no bones about its association with organized labour, which is something I’m not very keen on. Seeing how Canada’s unions have been operating during this economic crisis (the Ottawa Transit Strike being one example) I’m not at all confident in Jack Layton’s ability to manage Canada’s economy.

As far as the Conservatives are concerned, I would like to see less government and I do think lower taxes would benefit the economy. While I’m concerned about the rampant growth of government I haven’t seen much of a commitment on that front from the current crew of Tories. The Conservatives talk about less government, but deliver more. I’m also worried about the number of religious fanatics who have infiltrated the CPC, and their desire to open up issues like abortion and same-sex marriage...less government intrusion means less goverment intrusion, you can't pick and choose...sucking and blowing at the same time.

Then there’s the Liberals. Newly minted leader Michael Ignatieff has written that we in the west may have need to use “coercive” interrogation methods in the battle against terrorism. I’m opposed to torture, even when it’s spun in such a way as to use less offensive terms. I did however like the manner in which the Liberals managed to get this country’s financial house in order. Ralph Goodale was following in Paul Martin’s lead as finance minister, ensuring healthy surpluses each year thus enabling us to pare down the accumulated national debt. But it appears the Liberals are in favour of a deficit figure so huge it will wipe out all the gains we’ve made in the last 10-15 years.

It’s a shame Canada’s Green Party didn’t manage to win at least one seat in the last election. There’s a lot to like about the newest player on Canada’s political stage. I gave serious consideration to voting Green back in October, but in the end I couldn’t see them winning in my riding. Elizabeth May might have won a seat herself, had she not made the foolish decision to run against Peter McKay in a riding the Conservatives have held for generations. And the decision to closely associate the Greens with the Liberals was political suicide. Hopefully when the next election comes around the Greens will get their act together and give Canadians a viable alternative that’s fiscally conservative yet socially progressive.

Canadians disagree on a lot of key political issues, of that there is no doubt. But I’m certain there are areas where even the most divergently opposed groups can find common ground. It’s a shame there isn’t a political leader out there right now who can bridge the gaps that divide us. Maybe we can get Barack Obama to take out Canadian citizenship and run up here?

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Snow In Toronto!?!?! Where's the Army???

It was 10 years ago that Toronto got deluged with about a metre of snow in a span of little more than a week. Certainly other Canadian cities have been hit as hard, and worse. But Toronto mayor Mel Lastman decided to call in the army, something which Torontonians will never live down. It made the city the brunt of jokes all across the country, and was the inspiration for this hilarious CBC spoof.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

CTV News Predicts $40 Billion Deficit

In a news story released Friday January 9th, CTV News is reporting that the soon to be released federal budget will include a $40 billion deficit. The story doesn't give any indication as to a source, which has me wondering if this is perhaps a typical 'trial balloon' being floated by Conservative insiders.

Its not an uncommon practice for governments (Conservative, Liberal or NDP) to float a 'doom and gloom' story to the press. You'll often see it at the municipal level, with reports of huge increases to property taxes. When the actual news comes out, its often not nearly as bad as earlier reported. Oh it still might be bad...but the object is to get people to say:

"Phew, that's bad, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be".

Call it managing expectations, if we're anticipating a $40 Billion deficit and then get hit with a number that's half or two thirds of that figure, we're likely going to be less angry...we might even view our government as being effective managers of the country's finances. It seems like a long time ago that Ottawa was consistently running massive budget deficits. Having our books in order is something Canadians have taken justifiable pride in.

What I'm finding ironic in all this...

Think back to the recession of the early 90's. Bob Rae's NDP government in Ontario was almost universally condemned for racking up huge deficits in an effort to spend our way out of that recession. Now it seems that massive government borrowing is the universal panacea to all that ails our economy. I'm not sold on the notion that deficit spending is the way to go. Surely there are prudent ways to nudge the economy without racking up hundreds of billions in debt over the next 3-5 years. What about tax incentives to encourage newer and greener industries?

I'm not advocating anything draconian. Obviously tax revenue will be down and expenditures are going to increase. But I would like to see any budget shortfalls kept to a minimum. Whatever the feds borrow now will have to be paid back by taxpayers later.

CTV News Story Here: Conservatives to table $40 billion deficit

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is Stephen Harper Getting Religion?

For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘getting religion’ often refers to an individual who recognizes his or her sinful ways and repents. With Stephen Harper backing away from partisan politics and preaching a new gospel of conciliation and compromise it seems a fitting description. What caused this sudden about face and will it last? Is our Prime Minister abandoning forever his penchant for political combativeness, or is this just a temporary reprieve?

A big part of this sudden conversion is likely the release of new polling numbers. A Nanos Research survey released Friday shows the Tories and Liberals in a virtual dead heat, with support at 33 and 34 percent respectively. The poorly received Economic Statement released in late November, (which resulted in the formation of a Liberal – NDP coalition) used projections that were almost universally derided as overly optimistic, a fact acknowledged by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Newly minted Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is using his new position as leader of the Official Opposition to put the government’s feet to the proverbial fire as we wait for the Conservative budget on January 27th.

Ignatieff is advising the government to introduce measures that pass a “national interest test”. The Liberal leader is calling for initiatives that protect the vulnerable, for infrastructure spending that is ‘targeted in the right places’ and for investments in the economy to get us out of the current economic mess faster. While these all sound like wonderful ideas, they’re very short on specifics. The only thing concrete I’ve seen mentioned is a proposal for increased spending on military initiatives as a means of stimulating the economy, with shipyards repairing military vessels and automakers being given military contracts.

I fully expect that no matter what the budget document looks like, that the Liberals will support it with reservations. And so long as Harper perceives the Liberals to be a genuine threat to his hold on power I think we’ll see a cooling of tensions on Parliament Hill. The big losers right now appear to be both the NDP and Greens as Canadians coalesce around our two major parties. The media is currently fixated on “The Stephen and Iggy Show”, while Jack and Liz are shunted off to the side.

It’ll be interesting to see if Monsieurs Harper and Ignatieff can maintain this tone of reasonable discourse. Personally I don’t expect it to last.

Media Articles:

Ignatieff vaults Liberals into tie with Tories Canadian Press

Ignatieff Liberals move into tie with Tories National Post

Liberals neck-and-neck with Tories Globe & Mail

No longer combative, Harper calls for co-operation in drafting federal budget CBC News

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

U.S. War Resisters Deported – Time to Get Angry

When our governments enact legislation or pursue political policies it reflects on all of us, we are after all a democratic country. And when our elected officials ignore the public will on important issues we need to get active and involved in the political process. But we don’t, most are happy to grumble, moan and bitch.

“Do something? You can’t fight city hall, they’re going to do what they’re going to do”.

But we are city hall, we are the government, Canada is not a dictatorship.

By and large Canada is viewed by the international community as a fair and reasonable nation, with citizens who are tolerant and kind. We’re proud of our reputation, and well we should be. When the U.S. called upon us to join them in invading Iraq we rightfully refused. Had Stephen Harper been our Prime Minister at that time you can be certain we would be seeing even more of our brave soldiers killed in combat, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back when he was leader of the opposition Harper went on U.S. television and said that Canadians strongly support the Iraq war and that we should be taking part. (Story Here)

Canada’s reputation is being tested right now, in the case of U.S. war resisters who have fled to this country seeking refuge from prosecution and imprisonment for refusing military duty in Iraq. How do Canadians feel about these war resisters? According to polling done by Angus Reid we’re overwhelmingly in favour of granting them permanent residence. Our own parliament adopted a resolution that called on the Government of Canada to allow U.S. conscientious objectors to stay in Canada and to halt all deportation proceedings: NEWS WIRE STORY HERE

Enough said right? The people have spoken and our government acts accordingly. Not so, not in Stephen Harper’s Canada. We’ve had Prime Ministers in the past who have had the courage to disagree with our American friends and to back it up with action. Love him or hate him Pierre Trudeau had the cajones to stand up to the U.S. and grant asylum to Vietnam War resisters. He even maintained Canadian relations with Cuba despite a U.S. trade embargo and loud protestations from the U.S. State Department.

I know there are a minority of Canadians who would like to see these brave men and women deported back to the U.S. for refusing to fight in Iraq. Some seem to think that once a soldier signs on the dotted line, that they must obey orders regardless of their own personal moral compass. Thankfully that’s a minority, and hopefully there will be a welcoming place for these brave war resisters to come and stay. And there will be once we get the Canadian Government to recognize and act on the collective will of the majority of people in this supposedly (sic) democratic country.

What can we do? Start by visiting “War Resisters Support Campaign” where there’s plenty of suggestions for action such as:


Tell them you want them to:
• immediately cease all deportation proceedings against US Iraq war resisters in Canada
• implement the motion adopted by the House of Commons on June 3rd, 2008 by creating a program that would allow US Iraq war resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada


Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper's constituency office:

Or email him at:

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley

MP Diane Finley’s constituency office (Simcoe):

Or email her at:

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