Analysts remarks reveal underlying bias, I say

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.

Shooting themselves in the foot

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

From the CBC:

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

Whoops goes the tongue:

[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.

Jason Kenney shores up Islamophobia

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.

Canada is screwed in the long term

I’m not found of believing in miracles, but imagine for a second that one happens and after 2015 we have either a NDP or Liberal majority, or even some coalition arrangement of the two.

Either case will be better then what we have now, obviously, but in either case we’re still stuck with these schmucks in our chamber of “sober second thought.”

Some of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newly-appointed senators are emerging as global-warming skeptics in the wake of aggressive government positions to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, slam environmentalists and downplay potential damage caused by Canadian oil and gas exploration.

“I felt like it is kind of an insult to be a denier for a long time,” said Sen. Bert Brown, last month at a parliamentary committee studying energy policies. “It feels pretty good this morning.”

“I have to admit that what I read tells me that there is not a consensus among scientists,” [Senator Nancy] Greene Raine, another senator appointed by Harper, told the committee when it heard from Environment Minister Peter Kent, earlier last fall. “There are many different points of view and different kinds of research happening out there. One of the things that I am starting to see now is quite a few studies showing that we may be heading into a period of global cooling, which would maybe be a lot more problematic for Canada than global warming. Our country is on the cool side.”

Imagine for a second that a progressive government gets in to the House of Commons and passes the Jack Layton Climate Change Accountability Act. Once again, we’ll have to suffer through this ineffectual body blocking the legislation that could actually put some science-based targets on our emissions.

The only thing that may save our country is Harper’s own Senate-reform legislation that may force these senators to resign after 9 years.

Of course, then we may run into the situation where the senators realize the law has no teeth without a constitutional amendment and they refuse to step aside.

I don’t have much else to add. Basically we’re screwed.

Conservatives: We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence

Lone Saskatchewan Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is calling for an independent group to measure the financial effects of the end of the Canada Wheat Board’s monopoly.

He rightly doesn’t trust the Harper Government’s numbers (if they collect any) and wants to know the effects on the average farmer.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz responds in typical Conservative fashion:

Ritz dismissed Goodale’s call.

"When Mr. Goodale was the Liberal agriculture minister, western Canadian grain farmers were thrown in jail for selling their grain," said Ritz in an emailed statement. "In contrast, our government trusts farmers and knows that farmers do their own cost-benefit analysis of their farm business every day and that is why we have given farmers the freedom to choose how to market their grain."

While sounding like an exaggeration, in 2002, thirteen Alberta farmers were arrested for illegally transporting grains into the USA in 1996. Rather than pay the fines (the largest was $7500), they chose to make a political statement and spent between 24 and 180 days.

Nevertheless, Ritz chose to go on the attack when he was offered the chance to practice some actual evidence-based leadership. But as with InSite and the Census, we see that the Harper Conservatives are no friend of evidence.

Do right-wingers live in a “delusional universe”?

Agreeing with the title of this post isn’t a stretch for many progressives, but today’s news is that the man behind the Norwegian massacre is clinically insane. Specifically, psychiatrists have concluded that Anders Behring Breivik live in his “own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions.”

Paul Sims at New Humanist worries that this diagnosis will take the onus off extremists for their own writings

While paranoid schizophrenia may have led to Breivik’s murderous actions, many on the far-right share a number of the views that make up his "delusional universe", as, indeed, do several more mainstream commentators in the European and American press. Whatever conclusions the Norwegian courts may reach about Breivik, such people should not be allowed to sidestep the questions raised by the appearance of their ideas in his "manifesto" by simply dismissing that document as the work of an insane criminal.

It’s obviously an ad hominem to just dismiss someone as insane because they believe Islam is suddenly dominant in Canada or Europe, but we do need to recognize that with the right to free speech comes the responsibility in speech. Making wildly outlandish claims to the point where someone with a mental illness acts on them should not be criminalized but the columnists and commentators who put absurdities out there have some moral connection to these actions.

We must all continue to actively denounce hatred and fear-mongers who can contribute to this discord.

Let’s open all the books

It’s no secret that the Harper Conservatives hate unions.

They’ve repeatedly emphasized how the NDP is beholden to Big Labour and tried to force an inquiry into partial union sponsorship of a recent federal conference. They’ve reduced the rights to collective bargaining, forced back to work legislation on Canada Post and threatened it upon Air Canada’s union (a private corporation) before they even walked off the job.

Couple this with Harper’s tendency to use his caucus to introduce slightly more controversial notions as private members bills and you get Greater Vancouver Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s new private members bill.

The bill’s content is still confidential, but its title shows it will seek to change the rules governing labour organizations under the Income Tax Act, which exempts unions, along with charities and municipalities, from paying taxes. If adopted, the bill will force unions “to apply financial disclosure rules” that are already in place for charities, said a source, given the tax benefit that they receive.

The bill was introduced yesterday, so the contents are available online now [pdf].

Like almost everything the Conservatives have done while in government, they provide no real evidence of what (if any) tax breaks unions receive, a fact not missed by Jim Stanford at the Progressive Economics Forum.

Right now charities, which are able to grant tax receipts for donations in exchange for being non-partisan entities, are the only corporation/society required to make public disclosures of their financials.

What could be interesting, however, would be to go beyond Hieber’s simple bill and require all non-profits to make their books public. Let’s find out what the Fraser Institute and other right-wing think tanks have been receiving and spending money on. Or we could go even further and demand that all corporations, whether or not they’re for profit, must make public their financials. Then we could see how the banks, media giants, and other corporations operate – how much their executives are paid. Some countries like Norway and Finland even require personal income taxes to be made public.

So let’s put the question to Hiebert: Is this a mere partisan attack on an institution responsible for nearly all modern labour reforms or is he willing to consider expanding his bill for the good of the country?

Unfortunately, I think I can guess how he’d answer.

Alison Redford pulls a Christy Clark

In a huge upset win last night, Alison Redford pulled ahead of favourite Gary Mar to win the Progressive Conservative leadership and became the next premier of Alberta.

Mar was a powerful minister in Ralph Klein’s cabinet and had hoped to used that connection to his advantage. Nearly the entire PC caucus had endorsed Mar.

But similar to how Christy Clark won the leadership of the BC Liberals earlier this year, Redford became the anti-establishment candidate, rallying the votes needed to win.

Mar’s concession speech subtly highlights the issues Redford may now face as leader

"I know that I am leaving this province in very good hands. We have a very good team and a strong group of Progressive Conservative supporters," [Mar] said. "And I say ‘progressive’ conservative supporters, that’s very important."

Redford was seen as the more moderate candidate, one who would keep hospitals and schools open, while Mar had openly mused about more health care privatization – a cause he championed for Klein as health minister. By electing Redford as leader, the PCs now risk losing a few more right-wing members to the extremist Wildrose – a party that had been stalled in the polls recently.

This move also threatens newly-minted Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman’s ability to offer a stark alternative to the PC dynasty that has ruled Alberta for more than four decades. Sherman had joined the Liberals after being kicked out of the PC caucus. It may also put the brakes on the  Alberta Party, created as a grassroots centrist option.

Redford’s come-from-behind win is likely to make some PCs recall Ed Stelmach’s unlikely win in the last leadership convention. As the compromise candidate between the more right-wing Ted Morton and more progressive Jim Dinning, Stelmach offered little offensive to party members, and correspondingly offered little of substance as premier. Perhaps we’ll see a revolt against preferential ballots in the party.

In my personal opinion, Redford was the best choice for the PCs, her win symbolically ends the “old boys club” that has dominated Alberta’s political scene for decades and sets up for an election pitting her against the media darling Danielle Smith.

More Conservatives hate women

This morning’s ruling was so promising, I thought we might sneak into the weekend without the need to get angry.

Too late:

Two more Tory MPs are taking swipes at the International Planned Parenthood Foundation.

One claims the group conned the government when it applied for and got a federal grant of $6 million over three years.

Another is linking it to the sinister and long-discredited science of eugenics.

What do Brad Trost, Maurice Vellacott, and Leon Benoit have in common?

They’re all white conservative men willing to put their religious views ahead of women’s rights.

And they’re running our country.

Can we focus on saving lives now?

InSite works.

Despite Conservative tough dumb-on-crime rhetoric, allowing people a clean and safe place to use the drugs they would anyway grants them respect, dignity, and a way out of dangerous cycles. It’s about acting grown-up about our public health issues and taking responsibility for the issue.

Now, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agrees

The appeal and the cross?appeal are dismissed.  The Minister of Health is ordered to grant an exemption to Insite under s. 56 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act forthwith.

In order to make use of the lifesaving and health?protecting services offered at Insite, clients must be allowed to be in possession of drugs on the premises.  Prohibiting possession at large engages drug users’ liberty interests; prohibiting possession at Insite engages their rights to life and to security of the person.

It’s not clear yet if Harper and his TheoCons will continue to fight this, but hopefully he’s smart enough to know when he’s lost and walk away.

This is an important ruling and hopefully now InSite and its supporters can continue their life-saving work, and look to replicate their success.