Posts Tagged ‘Canadian politics’

On civic engagement

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Since the age of 16 or so, I have considered myself to be engaged in or at least well- informed about civic activities at the local level of government and at (so-called) higher levels. The adage that one gets the government that one deserves seems appropriate to me. If a citizen cannot become a participant in the political process – at least by voting – then that citizen has little right to complain about the consequences.

The concept of self-responsibility was emphasized by my parents as I was growing up. “don’t blame others when things don’t turn out as you want. Grab the bull by the horns and do something about it goddammit!” This premise was extended into the theatre of civic engagement by my Grade 13 Canadian History teacher, Mr. Paul Gray. He challenged us to, through words and actions, to challenge the conventions and that if we truly wanted to change these status quos, that a degree of active participation in the civic diorama was essential.

I have lived my life this way and am happy to have made small contributions to the democratic process.

I’ve never worried about my commitment, but the commitment of those around me has always concerned me. Most folks are at best apathetic and at worst hostile toward the democratic process and its various players. They just don’t get that they are THE player that matters and without them, the leaders who are legally entrusted with the distribution of our tax dollars, our defense, our health and well-being and our environment are free to follow whatever policy directions they deem fit. And these directions may not be in the broader interest of the country but rather to serve a small slice of the population.

This is what has happened in Canada over the last few years. The bulk of the citizenry has, for various reasons, stepped back from engaging in the political process and this has allowed the current government to make decisions for which the country will pay dearly in the medium and long term. What’s worse is that due to their own internal disarray, the only party capable of stopping them has instead engaged in a game of a political staring contest – paralyzed by their own fear of a disastrous election to do anything about it.

Yet lately I have begun to sense a change in this disinterest and disengagement. The current government has misplayed the ball so often over the past couple of years that average Canadians are beginning to take notice. Topics of discussion that were confined to boardrooms or university lecture halls are finding their way into water cooler talk. Go figger. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? I’m not sure. But I do like the discourse and maybe, just maybe this engagement will expand and continue.

What evidence do I have that this is happening? Listen to the talk around you and in the mainstream media. Newspapers and talk shows would not focus on previously thought to be mundane issues if they didn’t think there was a wide audience for these discussions.

Witness the number of candidates who have filed nomination papers to run in the Ottawa municipal elections this fall – over 100! This is a sign of dissatisfaction and a desire to somehow contribute to the process.  Facebook groups and Twitter discussions abound on every policy front. Even my teenage daughter has heard a bit of what is happening in the civic world around her.

I have heard some remark that the re-emergence of civic interest has something to do with the election of Obama. I’m not sure about that. But what I am sure about is the political establishment may be in for a rude awakening as Canadians of all political stripes seem to have found their voices again.

And, in my humble opinion, not a minute to soon.

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The power of the institutions of democracy

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I thought I’d share few thoughts about the latest polling results released yesterday by Nanos Research – a firm that I consider to be second to none in Canadian political public opinion research.

Respondents were read a list of the “institutions of democracy” and asked to rate the degree of power that each of them had. The results were not all that surprising with the PMO being rated as the institution pointed to having too much power.

Not surprising because I am quite certain that respondents were hearing “PM” instead of the PMO as a whole.

But what I did find surprising were the choices that were read to the respondents:

The PMO, The House of Commons, The Federal Cabinet, The Senate, The Supreme Court, The Federal Civil Service

Institutions two through four are undoubtedly institutions of our Canadian democracy. Their existence is enshrined in the Constitution. Canadians know them and trust them to be the prime decision makers at the federal level.

But the PMO and the Public Service?I don’t really consider them to be “institutions of our democracy”. They are very important components of it – but not institutions in the Constitutional sense.

I wonder why Nanos included them? I can only suspect that the reason for doing so was to gauge the feeling about the relative power of the PMO and the PS to the HoC, Supreme Court, etc. It is true that there has been a lot of (justifiable) media attention about the amount of power that is wielded by the PMO. And in the past there have been questions about how much power should be granted to the PS.

In any case, the results are interesting and pretty much confirm what Canadians have thought about Harper and his autocratic rule – too much power for Harpy and not enough in the House. And Cauncks are pretty sure of themselves as only 8.7% of respondents indicated that they were unsure about the appropriateness of the degree of power used by the PMO – the lowest rate of “unsureness”  among all of the listed institutions.

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Pork barrelling – deuxième partie – spas and schools…

Friday, August 7th, 2009

There are some great observations out in the blogosphere about how some of the Harperite’s crazy cash (aka Economic Stimulus Funding) is being doled out.

I wrote a note about this last week with regards to Clement’s refurbishing of public washrooms in Muskoka. One commenter to that post rightly pointed out that it is the habit of politicians to roll out the ol’ pork barrel when they have the opportunity. I agreed but noted that the ReformCons seem to do it more than the Grits did while in power.

Happily,  we (as in you and I) are giving the spa industry a much needed massage:

The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, today announced the awarding of $200,000 in repayable funding to Spa Le Montagnais under the Community Economic Diversification Initiative – Vitality to undertake the work necessary to establish a Nordic spa… The coexistence of a Nordic spa with other local attractions is bound to attract novelty-seeking visitors.

But giving 4 million smackeroos to a private christian school? Well that takes the cake and it strongly offensive for a hell-bound(1) atheist like me.
harper-christian-fundamentalist-school-alberta
I thought we were a secular nation… you know… all that separation of church and state and stuff.

If so, why are Canadian taxpayers footing part of the bill for this project? IMO, this is clearly a case where the religious right is being thanked for its unwavering support for the Harperite socially conservative agenda.

Thanks to Paulitics for pointing this out.

Question – who goes to these schools? There does seem to be a lot of them. Especially out west.

Anyhow, we’re gonna see a lot more of this crap, so I am already planning out the 3rd pork barrelling post, and the fourth and the fifth….

1. As an atheist, I obviously don’t believe in the existence of a heaven or hell, or valhalla… or leprechauns either. But christians sure think I’m destined for fire and brimstone!

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The home reno tax credit – supporting the sturdy, glossy envelope industry since 2009!

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

stephen_harper_prime_ministerIt is really easy to see what the Harperite’s cornerstone will be for the next election campaign.  Oodles of dollars are being used by the CPC trumpeting their Economic (In) Action Plan. The ship of state is being calmly steered through the economic malaise with your good Captain Stevo at the helm… ably assisted by his wacky crew.

I don’t watch a lot of TV but I saw the ad for this the other day.  The home renovation tax credit is the centerpiece of the cornerstone in this instance. This is completely expected as the ReformCon script always calls for simple messages targeted at their weak points – electorally speaking. What better way to sell the Harper brand than by putting some coin back in the pockets of young, middle to upper middle class home-owners?

At least this is what the ad says to me.

All that aside, what struck me about this was the prominent use of the Big Green Envelope that can be used to store all of those receipts for the new brickwork, water heaters and bidets.  Hey, it’s not like we needed those trees  anyway, right?

Here’s a partial pic of one of those envelopes… best I could find.

ap-pa-eng

Now, here’s my reckonin’. The ReformCons will never pass a policy / take up a position / take a crap unless there is some political gain to be had. Yeah, yeah, yeah… they ALL to this to a certain degree – that’s politics. But I am still of the mind that the CPC has this principle as the overriding deal makers or killer. If it doesn’t score us political points, then we ain’t doin’ it. Period. The other parties take political gains into consideration but I am yet to be convinced that the cynicism is as deep as in the meanderings of the Harperites.

So if we take as given the envelope and the campaign around it as a purely political move, then what happens next?

The envelopes will be made available to “home improvement” retailers this fall. My Mom, for example, can go to her Home Hardware Building Centre, buy a new sink and ask the cashier for one of these handy-dandy envelopes to store it in. She takes her rather sturdily-made (at least it seems sturdy – and heavy… glossy too – by the looks of it) home and stores all of the rest of her receipts for the tax year.

Then it is that wonderful time of the year where we file our taxes. I do mine electronically, but my Mom (or anyone’s Mom) likes to do them long-hand (By the way Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m not really talking about you… just using you as a hypothetical example…love you!).

And after carefully doing the additions and subtraction and having carefully stored all of those receipts in that wonderfully-made envelope, what does she you do now?

Why she mails that sturdy package to the government for processing, of course. Yes, she knows that you need only produce your receipts on request. At least that is how things were done in the past. But this sturdy envelope looks so official. Has that nice flag in the corner and everything. Surely I am meant to send it back! Why would the government give me something like this and not expect me to use it? That wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it?

Hey – maybe Mom should take the sturdy, glossy envelope back to Home Hardware?

My observations are as follows:

  • A lot of tax payer $$$ was put into the design and production of these politically motivated sturdy and glossy envelopes.
  • A lot of tax payer $$$ will be spent distributing them to the retailers… postage and courier costs will be sky-high.
  • Tax payers will likely send them back to the government along with their cheques or claims for rebates… and the government folks who receive them won’t know what to do with them… et voilà – landfill fodder!
  • Retailers will be confused when folks bring their receipts back to the store.
  • And, knowing the CPC, they won’t stop at simply making them available at the retail level; they will target some borderline ridings with just the right demographics and do a wee bit of a direct mail. So, if you see a big, sturdy, glossy envelope in your mailbox this fall, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  • How many of these sturdy, glossy envelopes might we expect to be distributed? Hard to say for sure, but I figure there are at least 50 “national retail establishments and their affiliates where home renovation products are sold” (the CRA’s description) here in Ottawa, and that’s conservative. So, that’s about 1 for every 16,000 people in the City. Extrapolate to Canada and you get about 2,125 outlets. The Harperites spare no expense when it comes to matters political, so pencil in 1,000 envelopes per store. That’s 160,000 sturdy, glossy pieces of political paper. I just ordered quite a few thousand brochures to be printed and they cost about 20 cents per brochure. Given that these envelopes are undoubtedly of higher quality stock and almost definitely heavier… with glue and stuff to hold everything together, I’ll estimate the production of these to be about 50 cents per. That’s 80K to produce. Add about 2 bucks a pop to distribute them and you get a grand total of :

400K!

And that is before advertising costs, outreach, help lines, etc. And before the costs associated with the (I’m presuming) distribution to targeted ridings.

In short, once again we are seeing the real costs of the Harper’s government approach to governing. All politics all the time and damn the bank account!

Thanks Steve!

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Conservatives will stop at NOTHING to discredit Grits

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

How Conservatives try to distort the truth. Lesson #231.

I recently blogged about this right-wing site that at times will register right off the ol’ cynicism meter.  But I do enjoy my visits there – if not only for the “wtf” factor than anything else.
It is also quite well-written. Although I don’t think the author and I would agree on much past “good morning”, I do respect his talent vis à vis the written word.

But.

I was on the site this morning to see what latest drivel was seeping from the blog. The most recent post was about the “eviction” of the much-aligned Grit, Ruby Dhalla (and man, this guy has some hate on for poor Ruby!).

I, being the curious cat that I am, went immediate to my trusty Globe and Mail to see what their take was on all of this.

Hmm… nothing there.

OK. The National Post would OF COURSE have something… likely a half-page column!

Nope. Nada.

So I Googled her name combined with the word “eviction”.  And the only things that rained out were on a bunch of right-wing blogs… most of them citing the aforementioned Angry in the Great White North blog.

So, I, being the helpful little guy that I am, commented on the posting noting that I couldn’t find this information anywhere else and could someone please help me verify it.

Funny thing is that I can’t find this story anywhere but in the conservative blog world. Can’t find a mention of it in the Star either. Maybe I’m simply not looking hard enough but can someone point me to a source that I can believe?
I always enjoy reading these posts – from a “wtf” perspective. But I cannot believe that even a right-wing blogger would make something like this up!
Convince me otherwise!

THIS set off a number off “uh-oh” type comments. Some of which mentioned the word “libel”.  Soon thereafter, the poster placed a request from the MP’s office asking him to remove the post as it was patently untrue.

Of course, I, being the resourceful soul that I am, saved the original posting before it is erased.

dahlla1
Now, I’m not saying that the Grits or anyone else never tries this thing once in a while, but I would like to think that the non-Harperites would AT THE VERY LEAST do some background work BEFORE posting something that could harm the rep. of a public figure.  This was deceiving, deceitful and shameful.  Not to mention sloppy.

The postscript to this is that the blogger has apologized to the M.P. for the misinformation:

Since I have no reason to doubt this, I’ll retract the statement that Ruby Dhalla has been evicted.  Appropriate sections have been struck out.

I have asked for clarification on two issues:

  • Is the letter legitimate?
  • If so, is the landlord providing permission for the office to operate?

If the letter is not legitimate, then it would appear that I’ve been snookered by someone who has access to Ruby Dhalla’s office in order to post a letter on the inside.

If so, I apologize to Ruby Dhalla, and wonder who would be interested in embarrassing both of us.  I would also like confirmation from Ruby Dhalla that there is no problems between her and the landlord.

Final Resolution: Ruby Dhalla never responded to my requests for more information, including a clarification regarding the original notice terminating the lease.  I retracted the statement that she had been evicted, because despite the content of the letter, Dhalla insisted her office was open.

Fair enough.

I also received third-party confirmation that the letter had been posted.

Finally, I got in touch with the Bailiff, Earl Lewis.  His only statement to me was to say “The matter has been resolved.  I have no further comment”.

So it seems clear that Ruby Dhalla had gotten into some sort of bind with her landlord regarding “improvement maintenance and repair requirements”.  It had gotten to the point that the landlord initiated action to terminate the lease.  At the 11th hour, it seems, Ruby Dhalla sorted things out.

An honourable retraction and I give him credit for it. But it still does not erase the fact that ReformCons are getting more and more desperate and will stop at NOTHING to discredit the Liberals.
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Cynical and small-minded in the great white north…

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t be giving bandwidth to propagandists like this.

But it is the ill-informed and self-serving agents of the Politics of Cynicism that make me wish that there were an election just around the corner… when we can reduce the ReformCons to a rump in the boondocks of Alberta and rural Canada.

What pisses off RefoooormCons more than anything else is the ability of others to formulate a vision for the country that is not simply an anti-whatever-the-other-guy-is-saying. They are incapable of this and are envious. I guess I’m a little sorry for them.

I may not be Iggy’s biggest fan but I’m 100 % behind him as he tries to put together a forward motion that is NOT cynical and vindictive. This sets him apart from the Harperites.

Stay above the fray M.I.! Leave the gutter sniping to the gutter snipes!

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A letter to Jack Layton

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I encourage everyone to send a copy of this (or modified if you don’t really admire the guy or the NDP) to : layton.j@parl.gc.ca

Hi Mr. Layton:

As much as I admire much of what you and what your party has done for all Canadians in challenging the current Government on a number of issues, I do hope that you will put partisanship aside and support the Government (yes, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth) in supporting back to work legislation to end the Ottawa transit strike.
This disruption has reached a point where intransigence is prevailing over cooperation and ego over conciliation.
I know it is generally not the policy of the NDP to support this type of  legislation, but it is my hope that you and your party will think about how the public transit users in this community have suffered over the past 50+ days.

Thank you and good luck this year!

John Marshall

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Iggy comes clean – sorta

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

The Grit leader says that he will support the budget only if the neocons agree to provide clear budget updates in order to track fiscal progress.

Stevie should be able to live with this.

I hope.

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2009 Federal Budget

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

The neocons have done the impossible and have managed to largely exclude their normal partisanship and opportunism from this budget.

What does this tell me:

  • Harper is under extreme pressure form the caucus and the party executives to tone it down a little since the ramrod approach clearly isn’t working with the vast majority of Canadians.
  • They accept that their government is a minority and any budget items that would have pushed the limits of their situation would not be accepted by the House. In other words, they are trying to at least give the semblance of governing like a minority government.
  • They are a bit scared about the outcome of another general election should the Grits push them that far.

What should Iggy do?

  • Pump out his chest and say that dang-nab-it, we cannot support this thing in its current form but here are a few minor amendments that would make it more palatable… then, yeah, we’ll grudgingly support it.
  • Build up the profile of his party and himself over the next 16-18 months. This will buy some time to sell the Liberals as a real alternative to the neocons and will also buy some time to build up the Grit treasury.

This budget should pass. The coalition idea, although appealing on many fronts does not have broad base support and, while it would stand for the short term, would harm the Grits for many years to come in the long term.

Plus, the country really does not need another election right now.

Do the right thing Iggy. It really ain’t so bad. And this is one long-time Grit who will support you on it.

In other news… talks broke down between the City and the ATU… yet again.

Bastards.

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Another great political blog

Monday, December 1st, 2008

http://mnfu.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/stability-in-times-like-these/#comment-303

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