Late in 2014, I wrote to my MP, Lynne Featherstone, following a call to action by the British Humanist Association. I’ve just received a response from my MP expressing her support for humanist marriages and a copy of a letter she wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron on our behalf.
The big news yesterday is of course that the Tea Party finally caved and allowed the United States government to reopen amidst its continued partisan deadlock (between the corporatist and the crazy corporatist right-wing). They’ve kicked the can for the next faceoff to January, when we’ll potentially get to do the whole thing over again.
In other news, my biased Canadian-politics Twitter was ablaze over the pomp and circumstance that was Stephen Harper’s (or I guess it was David Johnston’s) latest Speech from the Throne. Look, it even got it’s own domain: http://www.speech.gc.ca/
That website contains the full text, which I’ll analyze below, and numerous ads dedicated to the never-ending Canada’s Economic Action Plan and “Seizing Canada’s Moment.” As far as I can tell, a speech from the throne has never gotten it’s own marketing material (beyond a press release or early leak), let alone branding. Such is Canada’s current political climate that routine procedures are marketable moments.
From the government that is still celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (a war fought between Britain and America) and that refused to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the defining legal document of the country and arguably one of the most progressive constitutions in the world), comes more pro-military historical revisionism:
Canada’s official commemorative plan leading up to the country’s 150th birthday highlights an arsenal of battles and wars, a smattering of sports and a nod to the Arctic, newly obtained documents show.
University of Ottawa history professor Michael Behiels said the list represents a traditional and exceptionally narrow approach that excludes much of Canada’s social, medical and technological history.
"You have to build a broader base here … for it to be really meaningful," Behiels said.
There is no mention of settling the west, the trials and tribulations of working people or legal landmarks that transformed Canada’s social landscape, he noted.
Under budget cuts during the Chretien 1990s and a shift toward militancy, Canada has fallen to historic lows from its once noble tradition of being the world’s peacekeepers.
By Ottawa’s count, there are only 42 Canadian military personnel currently serving in seven UN peacekeeping missions. The UN says the count is even lower. Its most recent monthly report, issued at the end of the April, registered only 33 Canadian military personnel in UN missions. Another 130 Canadian police – some from the RCMP, others from provincial and municipal forces – are also serving with the UN.
The demand remains high though, as the UN now deploys more peacekeepers then ever, with rising powers like India and Bangladesh filling Canada’s role. Canadians are still strongly supportive of peacekeeping, even more so than Conservative priorities such as arctic sovereignty and counter-terrorism interventionary wars like Afghanistan.
There’s little prospect for change though. The current government is bent on continuing to transform Canada’s foreign policy and history toward militarism, while the Trudeau Liberals have no current foreign policy and were responsible for drastic cuts to peacekeeping missions during the 1990s. The NDP is a bit better with its 2013 Policy Book calling for a focus on peacekeeping, summarizing:
New Democrats believe that defense policy should focus on Canada’s rights as a sovereign and effective world citizen – including defending the Arctic and our territorial waters for the benefit of all citizens and future generations. Peace building will be the top military priority of a New Democrat government.
Having just got back from vacation (we visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida), it’s time to get a bit more back into blogging. I posted the following as an extended comment for Crommunist who recently discussed the Alberta election.
My shortage in blogging lately hasn’t been for lack of topics.
This past week has seen blow up and scandal plague Alberta politics, as the boobs come off the Wildrose bus. First, we have a compilation of quotes by Danielle Smith shaping her as a Christian Libertarian, then we have her denouncing established climate science, plus she has refused to chasten her candidates for slandering the Edmonton Public School Board and damning homosexuals to burn in “the lake of fire” or for saying that being white is an advantage.
It’s well established that Conservative Party of Canada insiders, like former strategist Tom Flanagan and past Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Ryan Hastman, are working closely with the Wildrose Party. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see the social conservative forces, fresh off their recent Ottawa takeover, are feeling threatened by a new Albertan premier who started to put a bit too much emphasis on the progressive in Progressive Conservative.
Today the NDP surpassed the Conservatives in the polls and the Chief Electoral Officer testified to a House of Commons committee about the potential electoral fraud in 200 ridings in the last election, but all of that was overshadowed by Stephen Harper’s first majority government budget, which includes the newsworthy* decision to kill the penny.
Here’s what a majority Harper Conservative budget looks like.
It seemed pretty obvious when Harper claimed no knowledge of the Robocon scandal that someone in the Conservative party would quickly have to take the fall.
Guelph staffer Michael Sona took that fall today, despite a lack of any “public evidence” that he was involved.
I doubt this will be enough to quiet the opposition, Elections Canada, or the RCMP. Let’s hope the pressure stays on – perhaps we can get a do-over in some of these ridings.
Finally, for all the flack thrown at Postmedia, I am quite impressed by the quality journalism done by the Ottawa Citizen here, as well as the rest of the media’s latching onto this story. A CTV piece on TV the other night even did the amazing thing of tying this scandal to the growing narrative of Conservative dirty election tricks – like the in and out scandal and the recent guilty plea.
Sometimes PostMedia News goes so far as to almost parody itself. One might even think that this article from the Vancouver Sun could have been written by
Fox News North Sun News.
Justin Trudeau betrays his political immaturity and narcissism in suggesting that his commitment to a united Canada is dependent on whether the Conservative government validates his personal values, say prominent political analysts.
And just who are these “prominent political analysts”?
First, we have Calgary School professor and (un)Friend of Science Barry Cooper. Ever the expert on talking about Quebec separation, in 1991 Cooper argued that Canada would be better off if Quebec separated in his book in Deconfederation: Canada without Quebec.
Second, we have Carleton philosophy professor Tom Darby. I couldn’t find much on this “prominent” analyst other than an obscure dystopian e-novel he wrote last year and another article by the
journalist same person who wrote the above Sun article. In standard Conservative rhetoric, Sibley quotes Darby:
The most conservative people in this country right now are Liberals and New Democrats. Politics is all about change. Conservatives are supposed to be the ones afraid of change, but now those who fear change the most are the people who like to think of themselves as progressive.
Third, breaking the trend we have University of Ottawa political science professor Robert Asselin. His bio from an iPolitics article he wrote
Robert Asselin is the Associate Director of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He has served as an advisor and speechwriter to the prime minister of Canada, communications director to the Leader of the Official Opposition, policy advisor to the minister of intergovernmental affairs as well as chief of staff to the associate minister of National Defence. He was a senior adviser and speechwriter for the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada for three national election campaigns.
The only other source they quote is a Conservative back bencher decrying the situation.
I wonder how many professors Sibley called before he got enough trash-talking Trudeau to fill an article or if he just has the same guys on speed dial.
There’s nothing like the comfort of a majority government to let even the most secretive governments let slip a couple guffahs but rarely do we get multiple instances in a matter of days.
The abortion debate
A Conservative MP is calling for a special committee to examine when human life begins, a call opponents say is an excuse to reopen the debate over abortion.
Stephen Woodworth, who ironically likens himself to be morally equivalent to a nineteenth century feminist (his ideas are definitely situated in that era), believes that “It’s simply not legitimate — not even to achieve some important or desired result — for Parliament to accept a law that says that some human beings are not human beings when they are.”
Stephen Harper says his government won’t open the abortion debate but do we really believe this man – known for his tight caucus control – would freely let these motions hit the press if he wasn’t hoping to score at least a few points with Canada’s wingnut fringe?
Liberals are Nazis now
[Bruce Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry] Miller, an opponent of the [long-gun] registry, quoted former Liberal senator Sharon Carstairs as saying that "the registering of hunting rifles is the first step in the social re-engineering of Canadians."
"Mr. Speaker, can you believe that statement? The social engineering of Canadians. Mr. Speaker, that is what Adolf Hitler tried to do in the 1930s," he claimed, over a chorus of catcalls in the Commons.
"The long gun registry is at its core solely about an idea that the Liberals had that guns are inherently evil and must be taken out the hands of the general population. Again, who does that sound like?" Miller said.
Harper and Baird are trying hard to be the world’s best friend to Israel – even if it means dragging us first into World War 3 with Iran – to court the Jewish and wingnut Christian fringe. Too bad for them their caucus occasionally speaks.
Torture away, CSIS
Continuing our government’s pastime of ignoring the evidence, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has advised CSIS that information acquired under torture is useful:
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to "make the protection of life and property its overriding priority" and may under exceptional circumstances share information based on intelligence that may have been derived from the use of torture.
"Information obtained by torture is always discounted. But the problem is, can one safely ignore it when Canadian lives and property are at stake?" Toews said in question period.
YES. Ignore the crap out of it.
Not just because torture is horribly inhumane, but because we know people will say anything under torture. There is no moral, ethical, or practical argument that holds up to justify torture. Of course, that only applies if we assume we have a government that operates with reason at its core.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney spoke with Canadian Muslims to demonstrate the supposed widespread support for his recent decision to ban burkas at citizenship ceremonies.
Speaking at a Muslim Canadian Congress event honouring his “courageous decision,” Mr. Kenney said polling shows that eight out of 10 Canadians agreed with the decision while only 14% were opposed.
Sadly, neither Kenney nor the National Post provided any evidence for this statistic, so we can’t actually verify it ourselves.
Regardless, I’m still mixed on my own feelings about these decisions. Obviously forcing women to conceal their skin is an affront to feminism and equality but forcing them to undress can be equally offensive to one’s freedoms. I’m not really comfortable with a government that tells its citizens what they can and cannot wear.
Arguments aside, this opposition always seems to come down as a political distraction. It always seems to be presented as a solution that’s looking for a problem.
How many Muslim women were taking the oath while wearing a veil?
One per year? Two?
Without numbers and evidence – which we know that this government despises – all I can chalk these announcements up to is blatant fear-mongering and Islamophobia. Recall that Harper thinks Islamicism is the major threat to Canadian security.