Harper at the Olympics

I think there’s a couple key things to think about while CTV shows Harper at every Olympic event they see him at:

  1. This a good reminder that the NDP gave their free Olympic tickets back to VANOC because they didn’t believe they were entitled to something average Canadians were having a difficult time getting their hands on any. Meanwhile Harper and the Conservatives had no problem reaping the perks (even he donates our tax dollars back to the Olympics).
  2. Seeing Harper at the Games should be a good reminder that he’s not at work right now.
  3. In Harper’s interview with CTV he stated his support of Canadian athletes, but that support apparently doesn’t extend to include the Own The Podium program that most of our athletes have been crediting to our record setting medal count.

I’m not convinced it’s a movement

While I might get trashed on ProgBlogs as a neo-Con troll for being contrarian, let me elaborate my thoughts on the future of the CAPP protests.

Over 200,000 people joined the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group in the past few weeks, impressing everyone (except those who cannot be impressed by their opponents), and somewhere on the order of 25,000 people turned up to protests yesterday morning (which I reluctantly admit slipped my mind when I slept in after a late-night on Friday).

NDP and Liberal partisans want to see this as a win for the left and for progressive causes. A reaction to Stephen Harper and all his evils over the past 4 years.

And it would be really great if we could see it entirely as that.

But when you listen to many of the quotes coming from the non-partisans in the crowd, you hear lots of “get back to work” and even on CBCs Test The Nation, the politician team was faced with similar heckles.

This leads me to feel that while their is a strong anti-Conservative element to the protests, much more of it comes from the (smart) framing by the organizers as though all politicians are getting a 3-month holiday or vacation.

Which is of course somewhat false, as every politician does have a lot of work to do outside of parliament.

I think it bears a little comparison to last years protests over the coalition (of which there were sizable pro- and con- positions, however both sides were pretty heavily partisan), in that from the average person or Conservatives point of view, politicians were being slimely and trying to change the election (I know that’s just the Con lie, but it did work). Meanwhile, on the coalition side, we saw Harper being slimely, and we didn’t like it. All-in-all, Canadians I think get really pissed when their apathy is taken for granted. We seem to want our politicians to make very slow, minor changes and to not really stir the pot. Treat our democracy like crap, and we get mad.

So we’ll have to see how this “movement” transforms between now and the March resuming of parliament. Will it translate into anything beyond a bunch of people pissed at Harper granting a paid vacation that we all wish we could take, or will it actually culminate in some real changes?

Will this result in democratic reforms on the powers of the executive as the NDP is proposing, some form proportional representation, as Ignatieff is almost now hinting at, another election that could see the end of Harper the PM (or yet another Harper minority, which might result in the same angst from within) or just more of the same partisan brinkmanship that has defined the past decade of Canadian politics?

Only time will tell.

It wasn’t funny the first time

I think we officially need to change our Social Studies curricula to start instructing students on how democracy doesn’t exist in Canada.

Rumours swirling around Ottawa suggest the Conservative government is thinking of shutting down Parliament until after the Olympics, killing some of its own bills but also ending the discussion of Afghan detainees that is nibbling away at Tory popularity.

Remember a year ago when Harper avoided losing his job by locking the doors on parliament? Of note this time is this point:

But opposition members of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan have asked to hold special meetings before the session resumes. Among other high-profile witnesses, they want Defence Minister Peter MacKay and his predecessor, Gordon O’Connor, to return for more interrogation about what they knew of the torture allegations. The committee could not sit during prorogation. [emphasis added]

This is all still rumour speculation, but it’s still a bitter irony that the party that won on accountability could close down government, again, to avoid having to answer to the House of Commons.

Contempt of Parliament? More like contempt of democracy.

Conspiracy nut in the Senate

The NDP has been running an attack on the large paycheques and bonuses going to the unelected (which is all of them) senators of Canada. Their latest feature is Liberal senator Joseph Day.

Canadians can sleep soundly this holiday season knowing that Liberal Senator Joseph Day is hard at work making sure that federal legislation reflects the interests of oft-forgotten constituents … constituents like our nation’s conspiracy theorists.

For the past 178 days, legislation intended to protect consumers from dangerous products – legislation adopted by elected MPs in the House of Commons — has been held up by unelected Senators.

In committee hearings on the bill, Senators were told by one witness to ignore the campaign against the bill by the Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom. Prominent environmentalist Rick Smith cited the group’s website as arguing “that 9/11 was caused not by terrorists but by a global conspiracy run by David Rockefeller” and that “a global conspiracy” is responsible for the H1N1 virus. (Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, 29 October 2009)

Amazingly, Liberal Senator Day, the lead critic of the bill, rushed to the defence of the conspiracy theorists: “I think it’s incumbent upon us now, since they’ve been described as loony people, to have an opportunity to be here and to represent themselves."

It’s good to hear that Rick Smith is standing up for some sanity in the house of “sober second thought,” but it is concerning that Day feels that “loony people” deserve to have the ear of the government.

You can check out the CCHFs website, and note lines like “Federal Regulatory Harassment is Destroying Canada,” and their mission statement, which speaks for itself:

  1. To ensure that all sovereign spiritual human beings have the inherent sovereign right of informed freedom of choice when considering their personal health care options and in pursuing their livelihood in the profession and small family enterprises of their choice whether incorporated or not.
  2. To educate and inform all sovereign spiritual human beings and sole and aggregate corporations about the simple truth that the majority of modern day, chronic diseases can be prevented, treated and/or even cured by each human being making informed, healthy choices.
  3. To advocate for the appropriate regulatory environment by new legislation in order to harmonize with the 1994 US Dietary Supplements Health Education Act [DSHEA] and to ensure that our safe, effective, low risk dietary food supplements are not regulated as drugs and/or as a drug subclass.
  4. To act as an umbrella coalition organization in order unite all concerned privately owned small and medium family owned manufacturers, distributors, retailers, practitioners, consumers and their respective organizations into a single focused voice to protect our interests against Big Government and Big Business and their allies in “STATISM”.
  5. To advocate for the necessary legislative, regulatory and policy changes to create a truly level free market enterprise marketplace that nurtures and supports small and medium family owned enterprises.
  6. To advocate for all qualified non-allopathic health professionals in order to ensure that they have the inherent right to practice medicine without censorship, prejudice and / or interference from allopathic medical practitioners and/or their colleagues, regulatory bodies and/or the government and / or others and that non-allopathic health practitioners have the same rights and privileges as allopathic health care professionals.
  7. To advocate for the consumers’ rights of informed freedom of choice in health care and equal treatment under all legislation, regulations, policies including taxation, health coverage and the provision of all publicly funded health services.

The NDP calculates that Day is costing Canadians over $400,000 per year.

Government of Canada gives atheists a shout-out

Canada recently released a new Citizen and Immigration guide (pdf) which is meant as an introductory crash-course in Canadiana for new immigrants to our country.

The document is reasonably non-partisan (as it should be), and includes several references to our religious heritage:

The Constitution of Canada was amended in 1982 to entrench the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which begins with the words, “Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” This phrase underlines the importance of religious traditions to Canadian society and the dignity and worth of the human person. [pg. 8, emphasis added]

I’m not sure how that phrase relates to the latter, and another way of expressing the former might be “This phrase underlines how conservative Christians have held sway over Canadian government officials for the past 30 years.”

Canadian society today stems largely from the English-speaking and French-speaking Christian civilizations that were brought here from Europe by settlers. [pg. 11]

Of course another way to say that might be “Canada was settled by settlers from England and France,” since I don’t know of other “English-speaking and French-speaking Christian civilizations.” Or maybe Canada wasn’t “civilized” until the Christians came.

The good news though is that it also includes this statement about religious diversity in Canada:

The great majority of Canadians identify as Christians. The largest religious affiliation is Roman Catholic, followed by various Protestant churches. The numbers of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and members of other religions, as well as atheists, are also growing. [pg. 13, emphasis added]

Which is a somewhat reasonable shout-out, even though “Non-religious” as a category is second only to Roman Catholics (2001 Census – numbers may be much closer now), so their information isn’t completely accurate (unless you add up all the Protestant denominations). But is is good to know that we’re recognized as a growing group. Of course it continues:

In Canada the state has traditionally partnered with faith communities to promote social welfare, harmony, and mutual respect; to provide schools and health care; to resettle refugees; and to uphold religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

At least the government recognizes it’s breaking of the wall between church and state (which never existed here).

Of course the section on diversity in Canada fails to recognize the equality of gays and lesbians, and the proud fact that Canada is among the few countries in the world that recognizes gay marriage.

Looking through our history we see all the “Canadian Heritage” moments from CBC, and this mention about our role in the abolition of slavery:

Thousands of slaves escaped from the United States, followed “the North Star,” and settled in Canada via the Underground Railroad, a Christian anti-slavery network. [pg 16]

Of course, Wikipedia doesn’t feel it’s necessary to mention the Christian ties of the Railroad in it’s summary, and has this to say about it’s diversity:

"Conductors" on the railroad came from various backgrounds and included free-born blacks, white abolitionists, former slaves (either escaped or manumitted), and Native Americans. Churches also often played a role, especially the Religious Society of Friends(Quakers), Congregationalists, Wesleyans, and Reformed Presbyterians as well as certain sects of mainstream denominations such as branches of the Methodist church and American Baptists.

That doesn’t seem to be a uniformly “Christian” network to be, and further the pamphlet doesn’t really dive into how slavery was Biblically justified, but space is an issue and slavery isn’t as integral to Canada’s history as it was to the USA.

The following history sections quickly brush over confederation, the Riel Rebellions, the world wars and Cold War (with “the democratic nations” versus the “dictators” of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin and those fleeing “Communist oppression”), and a section on women’s suffrage. There’s recognition of our discriminatory past with respect to the Japanese.

We then get some basic introduction into how our government is supposed to work, and even a brief mention of the fixed election dates (with a convenient exemption):

Under legislation passed by Parliament, federal elections must be held on the third Monday in October every four years following the most recent general election. The Prime Minister may ask the Governor General to call an earlier election. [pg 30]

In other words we have fixed election dates unless it’s inconvenient for the ruling party (which is what fixed election dates were supposed to prevent). It’s good that we finally have it in writing what that law actually means to the government.

Unfortunately, the section on “After an election” neglects any possibility for coalition governments (which is somewhat reasonable given our lack of history with them), and the fact that confidence votes can apparently be prorogued away by the Prime Minister and can result in events other than elections. Of course most of this is finer constitutional law that only comes up once or twice in a life time.

There’s then a little quiz on who your representatives are followed by the idealistic section on the justice system, which Omar Khadr would be happy to know that:

Our justice system is founded on the the presumption of innocence in criminal matters, meaning everyone is innocent until proven guilty. [pg. 36, emphasis in original]

The section on the economy mentions “energy products” but neglects the tar/oil sands or any images of them (they are briefly mentioned in the short section on Alberta on page 49 though).

But overall it’s a reasonably okay document.