Friday, June 30, 2006

Justice Minister Breaks Silence on SSM

This headline appears in the on-line version of The Montreal Gazette:

Toews says same-sex reference to Supreme Court was politically motivated error

I have been wondering how long the soc-con wing of the Conservative Party would stay quiet over this issue.

Considering every speech and statement made by a Cabinet Minister has to be vetted by the PMO, Mr. Toews' statements raises a couple of questions and possibilities.

Is he reflecting the opinion of Stephen Harper?

Or another more intriguing thought. The soc-cons are biding their time until the Conservatives achieve a majority governement. That goal took two hits in the last week. Mr. Harper flubbing the "Quebec Nation" question in the Quebec separatist heartland and the first inklings of a party financing scandal that looks like it may have some legs.

Could it be that some in the soc-con wing of the party believe that they need to begin acting on their agenda because they believe a majority is already out of reach?

In all likelyhood Mr. Harper managed to impose discipline on the more loony elements of his party by promising them the opportunity to pursue their agenda if the Conservatives win a majority governement. If that wing of the party begins to believe that he will be unable to deliver on that promise, they will begin to cause him problems again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Afghanistan: Mission Impossible?

For CTV the answer is no.

For the government the answer seems to be yes!

As many of you know the Senlis Council, out of Britain, has issued a report that is very critical of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. I have seen several blogs that have already commented on the report itself so I won't bothering commenting on it.

However, what I find interesting is the reaction of CTV to this report. I was watching Newsnet and they had Craig Oliver duly report on the Senlis Council findings in a two minute segment. Then they had an "expert commentator" come on to talk about it. I recognized this guy as a staunch supporter of the Afghan Mission extension from the night of Mr. Harper's "debate and vote" on the mission extension a few weeks ago. It does not take a rocket scientist doing brain surgery to figure out his reaction to the report and I found it very convenient that Sandra Janssen spent more than 5 minutes asking all of the right questions to facilitate his attack on it. So, even though I already knew this, CTV seems to believe that the mission in Afghanistan is good and winnable.

However, I believe the government just made a tacit admission that they do not agree with that assessment. The very next story was the announcement of the purchase of new helicopters for the CF. During that announcement our Defence Minister stated that one of the reasons why they are needed is they will help save Canadian lives in Afghanistan by saving Canadian soldiers the need to travel by road.

If the only way for Canadian troops to be safe from attack is to fly over the countryside then it is reasonable to conclude that the countryside is not secure and that war is not going as well as we have been lead to believe.

And the governement appears to agree, at some level, even if they do not realize it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is Quebec a Nation?

I watched with interest this weekend when Mr. Harper stepped in it in Quebec when he refused to call Quebec a nation. Leaving aside the politics of his refusal it is an interesting question.

Note: I realize that this post is a little late but finding the time to write my own blog is challenging.

I have read many of the other blogs on this where some have said yes and others have said no. One commentator even had the courtesy of giving us the Webster's Dictionary definition of nation.

For those who said no it was a matter of equating nation with country.

For those who said yes it was a matter of Quebec having a distinct language, culture and history.

I have problems with both arguments.

There are many different people living in Canada and Quebec who have different languages, cultures and histories from Canadians. Recent and first generation Canadians do not share the same history and culture as Quebecers or Canadians who have lived here for generations. Are they part of the Quebec nation or do they constitute their own nation within Quebec? Do Jamaicans living in Toronto constitute a nation within Canada? Do Chinese living in BC constitute a nation? For that matter do WASPs like me constitute a nation within Canada?

As well I find the concept of a nation has been cheapened.

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs call themselves the Leafs Nation.

Not to be outdone, fans of the Ottawa Senators have begun to call themselves the Sens Nation.

And my personal favourate is the Honda Motor Company inferring nationhood on Honda Civic owners by calling us members of the Civic Nation.

So for me the whole concept of nation has become archaic and meaningless.

So is Quebec a nation? No.

Are Quebecers a distinct people within Canada? Yes. There is no denying that they have a history, culture and traditions that are different from those Canadians that live outside of Quebec. However, unlike some francophones I include anglophones within the "people of Quebec". No matter how much some francophones want to deny it anglophones have been an integral part of the development of Quebec culture and history and cannot be separated from it. As well, recent arrivals to Canada and Quebec are only adding to that culture and history as they share their lives with their new neighbours.

The same can be said of Quebecers and Canada. Canadian culture and history are infused with the traditions and experiences of Canadians from all parts of the country. That is a reality that cannot be denied as the shared culture and history of francophones and anglophones within Quebec cannot be denied.

So that brings me to the million dollar question. Is the distinct nature of Quebec history and culture grounds for a separate Quebec country? No. Carving out countries based on a distinct culture and history is opening a Pandora's box that once opened would lead to disaster. Not just in Canada but worldwide.

Of course, none of the above will stop Quebecers from calling Quebec a nation but that is just an indication of a particular hangup that Quebecers have that would require another post to explain.

So Mr. Harper, from a theoretical point of view you are correct in not calling Quebec a nation. However, from a political point of view...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

When is the right time to endorse a candidate?

I was looking at Cerberus' post Cerberus: Liberal leadership endorsements - summary update and I was impressed with and somewhat surprised by the number of Liberal bloggers who have already endorsed a Liberal leadership candidate.

It left me wondering how so many could have decided on who to support at this stage of the race.

I devour the Globe and Mail and La Presse each day. I look at all of the other major news organization websites on a daily basis. I have looked at all of the blogs for the different candidates on Liblogs and I have visited all of their official leadership websites.

Despite all of these sources of information I still do not have enough information about the different contenders to make a decision on who to support. I find that none of them has come up with a clear and compelling central theme for their campaigns and none of them seems to have articulated a clear vision of where they want to take the Liberal Party or the country. I realize many are trying but they are still not there yet.

As well, so far we have only seen staged policy pronouncements and one instance of where the different candidates have been forced to defend their positions in a debate. For me that is hardly enough to make a final decision on who I would support for Liberal leader.

These are not trivial concerns. After all the Liberal Party is in the process of choosing someone who could be the country's next Prime Minister. (Hopefully after the next election.) Liberals owe it to themselves and to Canadians to choose wisely.

Now for those of you who have already chosen who you will support please do not construe this post as a critique or judgement on your decisions or the fact you have already make a choice. I am merely trying to understand some of the dynamics of how this race is shaping up.

I think I already have an idea of one factor in this. The fact the signing up of new members to the Liberal Party is cut off in a few short weeks probably has some influence but I am curious to know some of the other factors.

Another factor is me. I tend to be deliberative when it comes to decisions like this and I wait to the last minute to make a decision, gathering and analyzing as much information as I can get my hands on until time forces a decision on me. In my judgement that time has not arrived yet.

Anyway, that is my take on this and I thought I would just put it out there.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Meaningful Political Discourse, RIP?

I have decided to make my first real post about something that has been in the back of my mind for sometime and which became more relevant to me in the last weeks with the troubles suffered by Mr. Volpe and Mr. Anders.

From where I sit I find that meaningful political discourse has been largely usurped by constant scandal mongering and "gotcha politics". Instead of discussing the issues that have a real impact on the lives and the livelihoods of Canadians we are obsessed with scandals and perceived lapses in political ethics.

We just went through 3 years of hearing about nothing but adscam. No other topic was talked about more than that one during that period. Hell, we had two elections where it was the central theme. Conservatives are still talking about it now, which is understandable considering it won them an election. However, they are not the only party obsessed with scandal. The NDP has reverted from a party that use to pride itself on being the conscience of the Canadian political system to a shell of a party, with no discernible policy focus, and a nasty habit of calling in the RCMP for every action they perceive to be unethical, which lately has pretty much been most of them. The Liberal Party is not immune from this addiction. I see many Liberal bloggers trying desperately to turn every action by the Conservative government into a "scandal" even when it is a real stretch to say the least.

Then there is the "gotcha politics". I was encouraged by the debate on the different Child Care plans during the election. Here was a debate about ideas and issues that mattered. Then Mr. Reid made his silly "beer and popcorn" remark. It was certainly a stupid remark but it did not deserve to be talked about for three days. Plus to make matters worse it stopped the debate dead. Those remarks saved both sides of the debate from actually debating the issue. I found that infuriating and I still do.

In my opinion this has to stop. Keeping an eye on the government and keeping it honest is necessary but it cannot become the only issue of importance. Canada has much more vital issues to worry about, such as our continued woeful productivity, our health care system, remaining competitive in an ever changing and toughening international marketplace and the environment, just to name a few. Issues that will have a profound impact on Canadians if we continue to allow them to be usurped by our continued addiction to scandals.

Now for my Conservative friends who may already be sharpening their acid filled pens to accuse me of condoning "Liberal corruption" I will say this. I don't care because it is blatantly false. I would try to demonstrate that but except for a few thoughtful Conservatives it has been my experience that most of them really don't care what you say with regard to this so to hell with it.

But I would remind them that three men are now in jail or facing jail, about a dozen more have had their reputations shattered and the Liberal Party paid the ultimate political price by being defeated in the last election.

I would also remind my Conservative friends that Canada is blessed with one of the cleanest political systems in the world.

Our politicians do not build palaces for themselves while their countrymen eke out a subsistence existence any way they can. At no time during adscam was there ever any evidence or suggestion of our elected officials enriching themselves, which cannot be said about Duke Cunningham in the US who just pleaded guilty to taking more than $2 million in bribes. As well, no government or PM in this country has ever used their position to stop or inhibit criminal investigations against them, like Silvio Berlusconi did when he became PM of Italy.

Finally, Canadians are not cursed with the petty corruption that many others have to live with. For example we do not have to worry about places like Ho Chi Mihn City, where you rent a motor bike so you can see the country side and you are "fined" by the local police four times before you get outside of the city limits because you do not have an international drivers license. And where the final policemen dings you with an extra "fine" because you have an "ill-fitting helmet" despite the fact all sorts of Vietnamese are zipping by without any helmets at all.

Can meaningful political discourse be resurrected? I hope so and I hope it happens before some of the really important issues that Canadians are facing come home to roost and begin to really hurt Canadians where it really matters.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

This is a test, it is only a test

This is my very first attempt at posting a blog.

I discovered blogging during the election campaign and got myself one through Liblogs.

I have been looking at the different blogs since then and commented whenever the notion hit me. Some of you may already know who I am.

Up to this point I have not actually posted my own blog. The reasons are many and varied. Mostly, it is a matter of time contraints. I see the work that goes into other blogs and I just do not have that kind of time. My job keeps me pretty busy when I am at work and my wife keeps me pretty busy when I am at home.

So this blog will be an occasional one.

I am a Liberal supporter because I believe they have done much good for Canada during its history. So, my posts will generally be supportive of the Liberal Party. I make no apologies for that.

However, I also like reasonable political discourse so I will not make glib, insulting remarks about their opponents on this blog. Some thought will go into my posts so I would hope that some thought will go into any responses to them. However, judging by some of the comments I have seen on other blogs I am pretty certain that I will be disappointed from time to time.

Well, this post is just to introduce myself and to do a little experimentation. I will probably tweak it a bit as things go forward.

I look forward to blogging with you all.