Saturday, November 29, 2003

ECONOMICS OF NATIONALISM

With regards to my 'Buy Nothing Day' post and Charles' reaction in the comments section I thought this Non Sequitur cartoon was appropriate. The economy and the country are not synonymous.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:49 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 28, 2003

ANOTHER REASON TO BE AN ATHIEST

Apparently God is a Liverpool fan.

Divine intervention does not seem to have come through for the Reds yet this year though. Newcastle (the best team in the Earthly realm) is still ahead of them in the table, and Michael Owen is out for three weeks.

[via Crooked Timber]

Posted by Matthew @ 12:52 PM :: (0) comments

BUY NOTHING DAY

I'm reminded by RevMod that today is Buy Nothing Day.

In high school and my early years at university I used to make a much bigger deal about this day. It seems to me that it has been around for so long that the campaign has lost some of its bite from previous years. Perhaps I'm just getting more conservative in my old age.

I still think its a great idea though, and I think it would be awesome if, for one day, no one bought anything. One of the most influential tools we have these days is our purchasing power. Unfortunately we seem to lack the will or the desire to use that power effectively.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:25 PM :: (0) comments

MANLEY OUT OF POLITICS...FOR NOW

The CBC reports that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister John Manley will announce he is leaving politics today. This is not a big surprise but it is still somewhat unfortunate. Manley was one of the best ministers of the Chretien government. Martin better be brining in some really good people to replace those like Manley who he's not going to keep around.

Of course I have the feeling that Manley will be back, probably to succeed Martin.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:17 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 27, 2003

AMERICAN THANKSGIVING

This holiday is a much bigger deal in the U.S than it is here, although I prefer the date of our holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:40 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

LISTENING TO AMERICANS

Every once in a while Matt Yglesias posts on stuff about Canada. It's really interesting to read intelligent Americans talk about our country. Today he has a post on Canadian electoral reform. The comments to this point focus more on democratic voting systems than Canada specifically but as I said, its interesting to read.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:09 PM :: (0) comments

HISTORY AND FILM

I spent most of the weekend looking at, reading about, and writing about Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe.

This is a great painting. It was a sensation when it was first exhibited and it became famous for several reasons. It was the first grand style history painting to depict an event of recent history, and further it depicted the figures in a modern setting wearing modern clothing.

What strikes me about this painting is the similarity between it and modern history films in the way they are executed and the intent behind them.

West's went to great effort to make sure that all of the figures in the picture appeared in their proper uniforms according to position and rank. He asserted that his intent was to provide a historically accurate portrayal of Wolfe's death on the Plains of Abraham.

Of course this was only partly true. While the uniforms and trappings of all the soldiers are rendered in exquisite detail and excellent accuracy the overal narrative of the scene is a complete fabrication. Wolfe died away from the battle, behind some shrubbery with only two junior officers tending to him. It was not nearly as grand as West portrays it. The point was obviously to valorize and mythologize Wolfe as a patriotic hero. The detail of the modern dress served to legitimize such a portrayal.

The point is that directors of modern history films are doing the same thing today. They go to great efforts to insure that their film looks historically accurate, and they put out press releases telling everyone what great effort they took to achieve historical accuracy. For example, I recently read an article about the Canadian historian who was on the set of Master and Commander every day to insure that everything looked just right.

But then when it comes to actuall historical content and narrative, accuracy goes out the window. The intent becomes to portray historical figures as glorious mythologized heroes. Consider Brave Heart, The Patriot, and Gladiator as just three examples.

I find it interesting that the same intent and the same techniques that were being applied to 18th century history painting are being used in 21st century history films. I'm not condemning the modern film industry outright, certainly history is going to be interpreted by various people in various ways; although I think there are some blatant inaccuracies in the above films that should have been avoided. However, I think that it is most important that peole recognize that when they see a history film there is often an intent behind it beyond mere entertainment, and that people should question what that is.

Perhaps though, that's too much to ask for a night at the movies.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:33 PM :: (0) comments

HISTORICAL META-NARRATIVES

I actually did a lot of blogging yesterday but it was all comments on other peoples 'blogs. In particular I was engaged in a lenghty discussion with Mader over at his site. If anyone's interested in the verbose discussions of two undergrad history majors on meta-narratives in history and their relation to Canadian and American identity, chech out the comments to this post.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:07 PM :: (0) comments

WHILE I WAS GONE...

It seems I missed commenting on,

a revolutionary coup in Georgia, (good for the Georgian's, lets make sure they get our support).

A hockey game (that was awesome).

More news on Maher Arar and deportations (still no public inquiry but Martin said some encouraging stuff today).

More regular blogging to resume.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:00 PM :: (0) comments

Saturday, November 22, 2003

DEADLINES LOOMING

Therefore, not likely to be blogging again until Tuesday.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:57 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 21, 2003

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Today's lead editorial in the Globe and Mail condemns the positions taken yesterday by Solicitor General Wayne Easter and U.S Attorney General John Ashcroft (commented on below) in the deportation case of Maher Arar. The editorial rightly calls Mr. Easter's position cowardly, something I have already done, and argues that Mr. Ashcroft violated both U.S and international law in deporting Mr. Arar.

While all of this seems to be true, both this editorial and the Canadian media are focusing too much attention on the United States and not enough on the role of the Canadian government. The Solicitor General has admitted that Canadian authorities provided information to the U.S that may have led to the deportation of Mr. Arar. A growing amount of circumstantial evidence suggests that the validity of this information was questionable and perhaps obtained illegally. The Canadian government can not direct all of the blame to the United States Jusice Department, though some seems to be warranted. There are too many unanswered questions about the role Canadian authrorities played in this affair. These are the kind of questions that a public inquiry could answer. So how about it?

Posted by Matthew @ 4:37 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 20, 2003

THIS IS A PARTY?

A while ago I criticized a commentary piece by Hugh Segal but I agreed with him when he said that political parites win power by maintaining discipline within their organization. This doesn't mean stifling debate but it does mean not taking your personal greivances public and it also means showing solidarity for the good of the party. The ability of the Liberal party to do this is one of the many reasons they governend the country for most of the 20th century. The conservatives, historically, have had difficulty with this and even more so recently. Case in point:

Over the weekend the Liberals held their convention. Everyone knows Chretien and Martin can't stand each other, but at the end of the night they were up on stage together arms raised hand in hand. The image: Liberals can put their differences aside in order to focus on governing.

On the other hand, Bourque is reporting this:

PC/CA: BOVINE BY-PRODUCT HITS AIR RE-DISTRIBUTOR
"Nothing comes easy in life. Especially for the Unite-The-Right crowd. And now the ghost of Sir John A. himself has been evoked. A group of opponents to the merger, including C. Hanson Dowell, Albert Horner, Bud Sherman, David Orchard, Marie Gatley, great-grandniece of John A. Macdonald, and others, and their lawyers will announce the commencement of a law suit against Peter MacKay to preserve the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. The kick-off is 11 AM tomorrow morning in the boardroom of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, 20 Dundas St W, Toronto."

One faction of the party is actually taking another faction of the party to court. And what is going to be the basis of this suit? If these people were to win, this could take the significance of campaign promises to a whole new level. Of course they won't win. They just do further damage to the party of Sir John.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:57 PM :: (0) comments

THE WAR CONTINUES

You should be aware of the terrorist attacks that occurred today in Istanbul, that have killed at least 27, including the ranking British diplomat in the country.

I don't have too much to say on this right now because frankly I'm having trouble putting my thoughts into words, hopefully I'll work it out soon.

Via MaderBlog, who has his comments, I see that Kris Lofgren is running a blog out of Ankara; he has coverage, commentary and pictures. Mainstream media sources shouldn't be hard to find.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:35 PM :: (0) comments

RESULTS ARE IN; WELLS RECOGNIZES

The results of Paul Wells' Utterly Unscientific Poll are in. It seems the overwhelming majority are against replacing Dion with Lapierre.

Wells posted my comment, I'm the one listed from Newmarket, ON (my home town, Montreal's adopted). I wrote that if Lapierre were to abandon seperatism and show some real committment to a federal Canada then it would be a good gestrue of reconcilliation to bring him back to cabinet. I neglected to add, however, that I would not want to see Dion replaced. As many of the responses indicate, Dion has been a big part of Chretien's successful Quebec strategy and his intelligence and ability are assests in anyone's cabinet.

Wells also took the opportunity to recognize my blog along with Andrew Spicer and The Middle Man. Its nice to see Wells taking some steps towards the reciprocity that makes the blogosphere what it is. However, I have to say, if Paul Wells is linking to me, the Canadian blogosphere must be one small place. Its getting bigger though.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:13 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE

Paul Wells is conducting an utterly unscientific poll. Check it out. Send him your thoughts.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:18 PM :: (0) comments

CANADA GAVE INFORMATION ON ARAR

Solicitor General Wayne Easter met with U.S Attorney General John Ashcroft today. The deportation of Arar was not officially on the agenda but it was discussed and the topic was the focus of the news conference afterwards. Articles from the The Toronto Star and Washington Post have more on the story.

After the meeting Mr. Easter admitted that some of the information used against Mr. Arar when he was detained for ten days without charge in New York did originate from Canadian sources. Mr. Easter did not say specifically what the information was or how it was obtained.

Mr. Easter then had this to add:

"Part of the reason for the discussion is to try to negate the fact that these kinds of things can happen," said Easter. "What we're trying to do is look forward."

What?! I really hope that this comment from the minister means that the government does not want this kind of thing to happen again. But a cynic might interpret it to mean that the government wants to erase the memory of this deportation and just focus on the future of Canadian and American relations... until the next time someone is deported.

The Post article indicates that then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, in his capacity as acting attorney general, signed the highly unusual order to deport Arar to Syria, citing national security and declaring that to send Arar, home to Canada would be "prejudicial to the interests of the United States,"

This was the first thing he said. It was not until later that he felt the need to claim no U.S laws were broken, which is the position that was maintained by Mr. Ashcroft today.

The Post goes on to note:

The U.S. immigration law used to carry out the "expedited removal" of Arar strictly prohibits sending anyone, even on national security grounds, to a country where "it is more likely than not that they will be tortured," said a U.S. official familiar with the law applied in the Arar case.

Mr. Arar has said repeatedly that he told American officials that he feared being tortured if he was sent to Syria. The Justice Departement has refused to comment on why Arar's extradition order to Syria would have been signed by the Deputy Attorney General if Arar made such protestations.

The Post article also quotes an unnamed U.S officail who claimed that Arar had the names of "a large number of known al Qaeda operatives, affiliates or associates" in his wallet or pockets.

Tonight on CBC Radio news at 6:00, Mr. Arar's Canadian lawyer denied that there was any truth at all to these allegations.

The evidence is mounting. The RCMP complaints commission is clearly not doing enough. We need a public inquiry.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:22 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

THIS CUP, THIS TEAM

While talking about the ceremony of the Grey Cup, Colby Cosh calls it "the greatest prize in Canada." Now I respect the tradition of the Grey Cup and particularly the fact that only Canadian based teams win it, however, the greatest prize in Canadian sport is still this one.

And, of course, the greatest franchise in the history of this cup is the one these men played for.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:16 PM :: (0) comments

LIBERAL HEGEMONY

After almost a week long absence Paul Wells has lots to say today on Conrad Black, Paul Martin and the opposition parties.

On the topic of the oppostion parties he writes:

"But I was struck, as I usually am lately, by the distance between the behaviour of Liberals and the behaviour of everyone else. The Liberals act as a governing party. The others act as institutionalized heckling teams who don't ever intend on governing, ever."

That's his emphasis, but it is the key point. The opposition parties in this country have just about forgoten what it means to govern. In fact, most of them have never known what it means to govern. The only party left with any institutional memory of governance is the Progressive Conservative party and they have fewer than half a dozen MP's with actual governing experience, plus they are on the way to committing ritual suicide.

This is a serious problem. As Wells points out, opposition parties become governing parties by acting like governing parties. But if the oppostion has collectively forgotten, or worse never knew, how to do that, well...

Posted by Matthew @ 3:20 PM :: (0) comments

OVERHEARD

Today in the lobby of the Leacock building two young women talking:

"Did you see any coverage of the leadership convention this weekend?"

"Yeah, I saw Paul Martin's speech. You know, I just don't think I can trust him.

"I know what you mean."

Posted by Matthew @ 11:24 AM :: (0) comments

CANADIAN CONSTITUTION 101

Stephen Harper wants Paul Martin to set fixed election dates, of every four years, for Parliament. Apparently, while sitting in the House of Commons as the nation's opposition leader Mr. Harper has not learned anything about British parliamentary tradition.

Let me explain for the benefit of Mr. Harper. Since the early 1840s in Britain and the late 1840s in Canada our lower chambers of parliament have operated on a system of 'responsible government.' This means the ministry in power holds that power so long as they have the confidence of a majority in the chamber. A dissolution of the chamber must occur for one of two reasons. 1) The ministry no longer holds the confidence of a majority as evidenced by the loss of a vote or series of votes on resolutions deemed critical to the ministy's program of governance. 2) The chamber has been in session for a period of five years from the point of return of the writs for the previous election of its members (Section 4, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms)

If the ministry continues to hold the confidence of the house it has the right and, in fact by tradition, the responsibility to continue governing. It is the prerogative of the prime minister through the governor general to dissolve the house.

The problem that has emerged with this system of 'cabinet government' over the last 150 years it the rigidity of party politics not the vagaries of dissolutions. It is unwavering party lines that allow a ministry to continue with unfettered power for four years or more. Setting fixed election dates would not change this. It would undermine our parliamentary tradition, most significantly in those situations, usually in minority governments, when the ministry actually does lose the confidence of the house.

Mr. Harper argues that it is unfair to the opposition and to the country for the governing ministry to have the power to dissolve the house at its pleasure. Perhaps. However, would not the electorate be in the best position to make this decision? If the people are upset with the ministry for dissolving the house they have the immediate opportunity to take their revenge by voting against it. It seems fair to me.

With all the important issues out there right now, its good to see that the leader of the opposition has his eye on the ball.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:34 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, November 17, 2003

WHILE PROCRASTINATING...

I turned on CBC Radio tonight to listen to the last fifteen minutes of Ideas. Ideas is always a good program and I figured it would be more enlightining than wasting my time with computer Risk.

Turning on the radio I find that what I am missing is this year's Massey Lecture series. Not only that but First Nations story teller and Guelph University professor Thomas King is giving the lectures. And just to add to my dissapointment of not having been listening from the start, today's lecture had been recorded last week here at McGill University and I missed it because I have been so busy with work. Arrg! Three times the frustration. This is what happens when one lets schooling get in the way of education.

Fortunately the re-broadcast of the series is only starting. For the rest of the week at 9:00 on CBC Radio you can hear Thomas King give this year's Massey Lectures entitled: The Truth About Stories. Its the Massey Lectures, its Thomas King. I recommend listening.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:04 PM :: (0) comments

ONE MONTH

I have now been writing this blog for one month. So far I'm really enjoying it. Thanks to everyone who has been reading.

In more important news, LOTR: The Return of the King opens in theatres one month from today. You've probably already seen the trailer, but if you want to see it again it's here. I can't wait for this movie.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:42 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, November 16, 2003

CABINET RUMOURS

This article via Bourque, hinting at people Martin is considering for cabinet posts:

"Northwest Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi and Assembly of First Nations vice-chair Charles Fox have both been tapped by aides to the new Liberal leader.

Also on a high-priority wish list of those being courted are Montreal TV anchor Jean Lapierre, Torstar CEO Robert Pritchard, Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, said a source familiar with the discussions."

Posted by Matthew @ 12:44 PM :: (0) comments

THE POLITICS OF ACHIEVEMENT

I just got around to reading Paul Martin's inaugural speech of Friday night (full text). I have to say, from reading, it was a great speech. I have been skeptical about what kind of Prime Minister Martin is going to be and I still am, but this speech was really good. And perhaps that is the problem. I've been searching for something important that he did not mention but I can't find it. I have difficulty believing that he is going to be able to do everything, because no one can. It has been pointed out that Martin is not even prime minister yet so, obviously, everything at this point is speculation. That said, this is what I thought of the speech.

Overall, it was very well written, I did not see the delivery, but it flowed well, used some powerful language and had great sense of Canadian identity.

It started off a little slow, a little too self-referential and then a little too exaggerated with this:

We stand together on the edge of historic possibility. At a moment that comes rarely in the life of a country. It is a time when destiny is ours to hold.

Its too early in the speech for language like that already, you have to work up to that kind of stuff. Fortunately he does. He moves on to an anecdote about looking at the country from above in an air plane and this is where the speech really starts. Then:

In times such as these, in which we are now living, the fundamental mission of government is to turn the national will towards great accomplishment. To set the objectives and to build the necessary consensus to achieve them.

'national will,' 'necessary consensus,' these are concepts I like and they're used well.

We need a new approach to politics, to what we do and how we do it - a new politics of achievement. Let me tell you what this means to me.

'The politics of achievement,' this is a good phrase, not a great phrase, but most importantly its use gives the speech a sense of cohesiveness, it presents the ideas within as a unified whole, it gives the impression that Martin has actually put some thought into what he thinks, which is more than you can say for the current conservative opposition.

Our evolution as a society has been marked by historic moments of courageous imagination and vision.

This is the best line of the speech. It, and the examples that follow, show a keen sense of historical memory. For me, this line is more than rhetoric. Every word is carefully crafted and as a whole it perfectly describes Canadian history. If I had to describe Canadian history in a single clause sentence I don't think I could do any better.

And, most importantly, the old insecurities about the Canadian identity have been replaced by increasing confidence, pride and ambition. A new sense of nationhood has taken hold - one that is at ease with our multicultural diversity and linguistic duality.

'A new sense of nationhood.' Not inward looking, negative nationalism but a positive sense of identity based on our founding principles.
He then goes on to the foriegn policy part. He mentions American relations first and then our committment to humanitarianism. The nature of the relationship with the U.S is probably my biggest concern about a Martin government. He then talks about the economy, education and health care, in that order but spends more time on the economy and health. Concluding he says:

We can never forget that our health care system is one made blind to income so that its eyes can be fixed on need. Make no mistake, I will keep the promise of universal and high-quality healthcare.

Canadians will hold him to this, perhaps to a higher degree than he realizes. Then:

For the politics of achievement is not only about what we do, but how we do it.... To make the point as clearly as I can, that the time has come for a new approach to building Canada - the first thing I am doing on leaving this convention is to meet with the provincial and territorial premiers to begin to develop a new relationship.

This is the closest thing we get in this speech to an outline for some specific action. Better inter-governmental relations is something Canadians absolutely want. Then he moves to parliamentary reform:

Finally, we have to change the way we go about the nation's business. Canadians have a new confidence that positive change is possible. But they have come to doubt that their representatives share their sense of enthusiasm and purpose. They fear that power has become too concentrated. That Parliament has become too distant.

This must change. Parliament must again be where the great debates of our day take place.

MPs must have an independent voice. With more free votes, and more freedom to speak for their constituents. So too they must act as guarantors of the public trust - overseeing government actions, ensuring its integrity, and holding to account the decisions taken.

We govern with the consent of the people. I want a Canada where citizens choose to be fundamentally engaged in the way our government goes about the nation's business. In short, we have to change the way things work in the nation's capital. Your Member of Parliament must be your messenger to Ottawa, not Ottawa's messenger to you.


I take the quotation at the top of this page very seriously and this language from Martin speaks to that theme. The politics of the nation is everyone's business. People have to make the effort to be involved but the system has to be able to accomodate them. Society is about reciprocity, and Martin seems to understand the concept:

I believe in the freedom of the individual. I believe that freedom is best assured when we recognize our collective responsibility to one another, and I believe it is the role of government to embody - and to honour - that ideal, that spirit.

He thanks everyone and then concludes wonderfully:

The true challenge of leadership is to rally a nation to its unfulfilled promise. To build a society based on equality, not privilege; on duty, not entitlement. A society based on compassion and caring; not indifference or neglect.

It is in ourselves that the true meaning of Canada is found. Everything possible in the world is possible here. Every dream that is dreamt can be fulfilled here.


The words really speak for themselves, which is what makes it a really good speech. Now we have to see the specific action that these ideals back up.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:40 AM :: (0) comments

Saturday, November 15, 2003

UNBELIEVABLY AWFUL

Read this BBC story and understand why the Chinese communist dictatorship and AIDS are two of the most deadly forces in the world today. Something has to be done about them both.

[via Pogge, via Crooked Timber]

Posted by Matthew @ 1:56 AM :: (0) comments

ACADEMICS DEMAND ACTION ON ARAR

In yesterday's Globe and Mail an open letter was written to Solicitor General Wayne Easter demanding a public inquiry into the deportation of Maher Arar. The letter was written by UofT law professor Audrey Macklin and was signed by almost every other professor from that faculty, along with academics from McGill University, Universite de Montreal, Queen's University, University of Ottawa and others.

The professors begin,
"Dear Mr. Easter: The case of Mahar Arar demands your attention."

They raise many pointed questions as to what Canada's role in Mr. Arar's deportation was and why he was deported to Syria when Canadian, American and international law clearly indicates that he should have been deported to Canada upon request. They conclude:

"Only an independent inquiry, with the authority to subpoena witnesses and compel disclosure of evidence, can address these questions. The RCMP Complaints Commission lacks these powers, and therefore is not the appropriate venue to bring the relevant facts to light. All Canadians - especially Maher Arar - deserve answers."

Absolutely.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:33 AM :: (0) comments

PUBLIC INQUIRY?

I know that I've been really busy with my school work and that most of my blogging attention has focused on Jean Chretien and the Liberals so maybe I missed it. Can someone direct me to a site that has news of the public inquiry into the deportation of Maher Arar? Oh wait. The government hasn't called one yet.

Last week I e-mailed my hometown Member of Parliment, Karen Kraft Sloan of York North, the Prime Minister and Paul Martin, forcefully requesting they do everything in their power to see that a public inquiry occurs. The response:

Mrs. Kraft Sloan's staff read my e-mail and responded saying the member prefers to respond to constituents letters' by regular mail. That's a good strategy for cutting down on complaints, but I'll trust that its just an attempt to be more personal. I gave them my mailing address and now I'm waiting. I better not get a form letter that could have been sent via e-mail.
Paul Martin has not yet responded.
The Prime Minster (through his staff) had this to say:

Dear Mr. Fletcher:

On behalf of the Right Honourable Jean Chretien, I would like to thank
you for your e-mail, in which you raised an issue that falls within the
portfolio of the Honourable Wayne Easter, Solicitor General of Canada.

Please be assured that your comments have been carefully reviewed. I
have taken the liberty of forwarding your e-mail to the Minister, who, I
am certain, will appreciate being made aware of your views.

L.A. Lavell
Executive Correspondence Officer

Well thanks, is that the best you can do? The Prime Minister passes the buck on to someone else. He's already tried that strategy in the Commons, claiming that the American's have all the blame for deporting Maher Arar. As I told the PM, "that's not good enough."

We need a public inquiry into the deportation of Maher Arar.

The Solicitor General can be reached by e-mail at: easter-dot-w-at-parl-dot-gc-dot-ca. Send him and your local MP a letter letting them know that Mr. Arar and all of Canada deserve a public inquiry.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:56 AM :: (0) comments

QUOTATION FOR EVERY OCCASION

One of the many perks of being a history student is that in my reading and research I come across many great quotations from the past. Often these are well known quotations that I get to read in their original publication and in the original historical context. Others are obscure quotations that for one reason or another just jump out while reading.

In my reading today I found this quotation that seemed appropriate given the Liberal convention going on:

"In Canada you are reminded of the government everyday. It parades itself before you."
- Henry David Thoreua, A Yankee In Canada

Posted by Matthew @ 12:47 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 14, 2003

CHRETIEN ROUNDUP

Wow. I could blog about Jean Chretien all day. Unfortunately I have the aforementioned paper to write. If you're interested, these links should keep you busy.

The CBC has the full text of Chretien's speech last night and complete coverage of the whole tribute.

Andrew Ryan and John Ibbitson both have comments in todays Globe and Mail.

At The Star, Gordon Barthos has this to say and Chantal Hebert this.

Warren Kinsella is, of course, at the convention and finding time to comment. He responds to Hebert and I agree with him when says of Chretien, "I'm going to miss this guy."

Andrew Spicer uses Ibbitson's comments to segue into his own thoughts.

And finally, Paul Wells is also at the convention and will hopefully have more to say.

Hopefully, I'll get the chance to, you know, write about what I actually think, but you can probably get a pretty good idea of what that is by scrolling downwards and reading posts with Chretien's name in the title.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:49 PM :: (0) comments

LINKS GALORE !

I've been skipping around the blogosphere and decided to add a bunch of new links to the blogroll. Some are big names, some are just starting out, all are CanCon and all deserve a read when you have the chance. The new additions:

Warren Kinsella: Yes, former special assistant to Prime Minister Chretien, Warren Kinsella. You already know Mr. Kinsella if you know the Canadian blogosphere, Canadian politics, Canadian media or really just about anything Canadian.

James Bow: A big name in the Canadian blogosphere. I've been reading him more in the last few days and thought a link on my site was in order.

Revolutionary Moderation: A good looking blog writing about a bunch of things I found interesting.

The Middleman: The first blog I've found that is actually younger than mine. Good stuff over here and he's already getting comments from Warren Kinsella. I'm jealous.

I think I'm going to have to split up the blogroll into categories pretty soon. It's geting a little unruly over there.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:26 AM :: (0) comments

WELLS ON LIBERAL LEADERSHIP PAST AND PRESENT

So, all the critics are saying that Chretien may have been a good manager but that he really did not accomplish much for the country. First, I think that's false, but secondly, being a good manager and strong leader may be worth a lot more than people currently give Chretien credit for.

Paul Wells is in Toronto at the Liberal convention and the second half of this post compares the Martin and Chretien organization and leadership. He sums up:

"In 1993 and 2000, it was the caucus that worried about lost seats and the leader who reassured them. Now the leader's doing enough worrying for everyone. And we get to read about it every day. I'm gonna love this government!"

Lots of people are expecting lots of big things from Martin. We'll see if he can live up to it all.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:25 AM :: (0) comments

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

I spent all of yesterday at the library reading about great moments in Canadian history and I missed this moment in Canadian history broadcast live across the country.

I think though, the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill will probably stand the test of time against the Prime Minister's farewell speech. Plus I can watch the speech on-line. Unfortunately there was no television or Internet back in 1849.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:31 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 13, 2003

THAT 'OTHER' WRITING THAT I DO

It's mid-November which means I'm basically in the same position as Mader, as I imagine most students are. So blogging will be very light for the next four days and reduced for the next couple of weeks. As always, there's lots of good stuff being written by the people on my blogroll, check them out if you're bored or need to procrastinate.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:20 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

IPPERWASH INQUIRY AT LAST

As one of his first acts in ofice, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant has done what the Conservatives refused to do for years and called a public inquiry into the fatal police shooting of First Nations protester Dudley George at Ipperwash provincial park in 1995.

Justice Sidney Linden, a former Ontario Court chief justice and head of the province's legal aid system, will lead the inquiry.

This is long overdue. For eight years the George family lead calls for a public inquiry into the shooting incident. It should seem obvious that when so many questions surround an incident in which agents of the state killed a citizen under such politically charged circumstances these questions need to be answered in public for the public good. The Conservatives opposed this for their entire term in government, perhaps hoping the issue would go away. That the George family along with various citizens groups, the opposition parties, and thousands of individuals refused to let it do so shows the importance of this issue and that our public sphere still has the strength to effect political change.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:40 PM :: (0) comments

YOUTH AND REMEMBRANCE

Earlier I blogged a National Post commentary piece that decried the lack of respect amongst youth today towards Remembrance Day. In contrast Roy MacGregor, in today's Globe and Mail writes, Remembrance Day resonates for a younger generation that clearly sees cost of war.

MacGregor wrote his article from Carleton University where students had left class to stand in the cold rain at a Remembrance Day ceremony. He notes the level of respect, solemnity, pride, sorrow and historical understanding present in the Carleton students.

There seems to be an attitude amongst many of the generation of people my parents age (Boomers basically), especially with regards to Remembrance Day, that "the kids these days have no respect." This observation from the armchiargarbageman is an example of that attitude.

But the older generation has always criticized the younger for not showing a proper amount of deference and respect and degree of manners, so this is nothing new.

Further, every generation is going to remember the past differently. This is simply a function of the passage of time and the interpretation of history. Our parents' generation does not remember the wars, or anything for that matter, in exactly the same way our grandparents do, and we will remember things differently again. The importance is that we remember, and my expererience as one of "the youth" is that we do.

In my high school when the administration scaled back Remembrance Day ceremonies it was the students who took the initiative to organize events. Similarly, yesterday's service here at McGill was organized by the Arts Undergraduate's Society. And last week an aquaintance of mine commented that he didn't wear a poppy and that he didn't really see the point in it. Immidiately I and the other five people in our group challenged his statement and defended the tradition of Remembrance recalling the sacrifice of our veterans.

This anecdote may not be particularly statistically accurate but it is still telling. For the one student who did not think much of Remebrance Day there were six who did. However, the six only really felt the need to speak up when the views of the one were voiced.

The kids these days, I think they're alright.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:14 PM :: (0) comments

DEMOCRACY IN GUATEMALA

Speaking of OxBlog, they have drawn my attention to results from the Guatemalan election held yesterday.

Over the past few years I have learned a great deal about Guatemala from my sister who has made several trips there doing volunteer medical work.

In the elections yesterday former dictator General Efrain Rios Montt was soundly rejected by the Guatemalan people in favour of two other candidates who will meet at the end of the year in a run-off.

The 60% voter turnout was the highest in the nation's history and election observers on the ground said "the vote appeared to have been conducted freely and without major problems."

In the words of one Guatemalan,
"We are tired. We want a better life," said Arturo Alvarez, 44, a trucking company owner who waited three hours to cast his ballot Sunday in Guatemala City.

This man waited three hours to vote. Consider that. These are people that have suffered so much mis-rule that they are not complacent about their most basic democratic rights. I bet Mr. Alvarez has a better understanding of what it means to vote than many people here do.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:02 AM :: (0) comments

OXBLOG

I've been reading OxBlog more and more lately and I like them so I figured I would add them to the blogroll. They'll add a bit of balance to the predominantly Canadian liberal links that I have over there.

If you know anything about the blogosphere you probably know Oxblog. If you don't spend much time in the blogosphere you should check them out.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:49 AM :: (0) comments

POST REMEMBRANCE DAY

A friend of mine directed me to this National Post commentary piece by one Claire Hoy.

Hoy attacks the student council at the University of Guelph writing:

"Last year the student council at the University of Guelph voted to ban any recognition of Remembrance Day on campus on the extraordinarily ignorant grounds that it somehow "glorified" war."

While this action by the student council is ignorant and regrettable for the reasons Hoy outlines it does not seem to have mattered much. According to this press release the administration seems to have done an excellent job in organizing a service.

What I find most interesting about this article is that amongst all of the excellent Remembrance Day tirbutes in the media the Post takes the opportunity to take shots at the federal government. Hoy writes:

"Successive governments have fought every step of the way as various veterans groups have pushed for modest improvements in social programs to assist them. That, combined with the systematic destruction of our armed forces... has contributed to a popular culture which dismisses war and the recognition of war as pure evil."

It seems to me that Remembrance Day should be about remembering our veterans. Every other day of the year the Post can grind its ideological axe against the misdeeds of the federal government. Using vetrans and Remembrance Day as an easy segue into political bashing seems rather cheap on the 11th. But that's just me, I never liked the Post to begin with.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:10 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

LEST WE FORGET

The Debt Unpayable

What have I given,
Bold sailor on the sea?
In earth or heaven,
That you should die for me?
What can I give,
O soldier, leal and brave,
Long as I live,
To pay the life you gave?
What tithe or part
Can I return to thee,
O stricken heart,
That thou shouldst break for me?
The wind of Death
For you has slain life's flowers,
It withereth
(God grant) all weeds in ours.

- F.W. Bourdillon

REMEMBRANCE LINKS

Vetrans Affairs Canada: Books of Remembrance, listing all those who served and died.

Remembrance Day Message from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

The Royal Canadian Legion

Canadian War Museum

McGill Students are reminded that there will be a Remembrance Day ceremony on campus today. The ceremony will begin at 10:40 at the Roddick Gates and conclude shortly after 11:00 at the grave of James McGill. Professors have been encouraged to release classes for this event.

At the very least ensure that everyone observes the two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m.

Honour the memory of all those who served and died.
Remember their struggle in the defence of freedom.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:15 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, November 10, 2003

McGILL #1! (#2 ACCORDING TO MACLEANS)

Yes, this year's edition of the ever popular Macleans University Rankings have been released, and this year they came so close to getting it right.

Although this study (blogged about below) recently ranked McGill as the best research institution in the country, Macleans saw fit to place McGill second to the behemoth that is UofT. I suppose if they keep cramming 2000+ kids into Convocation Hall for first year psych they're bound to find a few smart ones.

At least this year's survey placed us ahead of Queen's. All my friends at Queen's (along with my two high school history teachers) know I say this with the utmost possible respect: Everything about McGill will always be better than everything about your provincial little school in K-town. All you have is your grease poll, your tams and those smelly overalls.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:37 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, November 09, 2003

BOURQUE AND THE G.G

I see this morning that Bourque is keeping up his crusade against the Governor General. This morning he was linking to a Sun Media article, of all things, under his own headline "Adrienne Protocol Hissy Delayed Poppy Sales." The article itself has little if anything to do with the suggested headline.

The headline of the Calgary Sun article is "War Vets Go on Cash Offensive." One of the last lines in the article notes in a completely neutral way, "The Canada-wide campaign, which usually starts the second-last Friday in October and raises about $1 million in Calgary annually, was delayed five days due to a conflict in Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson's schedule." The veteran being interviewed noted, "protocol states the Governor General gets the first poppy." That was it. The story was actually about how much money the veterans raise through the campaign and Bourque puts it under an inflamatory headline criticizing Madame Clarkson.

Bourque has been desperately trying to keep this cause of criticism against the Governor General alive. Is he ever going to realize that most Canadians either think that Her Excellency is doing an excellent job or they don't care about her job at all?

Give up your crusade Mr. Bourque. No one cares.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:13 AM :: (0) comments

A PART OF OUR HERITAGE

I have a new picture on my desktop. It's this one.

As Chretien steps into retirement and his political career becomes part of Canadian history I really think they should turn this scene from Flag Day 1996 into one of those mediocre, melodramatic "heritage minutes." I can hear the monotone voice over now, "Canadians were proud to have a Prime Minister who took matters into his own hands... a part of our heritage."

Posted by Matthew @ 9:55 AM :: (0) comments

Saturday, November 08, 2003

THIS IS WHY WE REMEMBER

Harold Radford, the last known surviving Nova Scotian veteran of the First World War died yesterday at the age of 106. There are reportedly fewer than a dozen First War veterans still alive.

As the war veterans pass away and the wars themselves recede into the realm of history it is even more important that we remember these events. When there are no remaining living memories it is our collective responsibility to rember both the struggle for freedom and the incredible tradgedy that the wars of the 20th century were.

[via Bourque]

Posted by Matthew @ 6:39 PM :: (0) comments

THE SPEECH THAT WAS NEEDED

Sometime last year, I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine and I lamented the fact that the Bush presidency had yet to produce any memorable speeches. I said that in the past, at times of great conflict and challenge, American presidents have produced speeches that re-affirmed their nation's committment to the cause of liberty. I cited off the top of my head F.D.R's fire side chat on national security, and his declaration that "we must be the great arsenal of democracy," and then J.F.K's inaugural address in which he proclaimed, "let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." I complained that Bush had yet to produce such a speech and frankly I doubted he would ever be able to.

I'm not sure that the president's speech on Thursday to the National Endowment for Democracy matches the two cited above but it comes close. It is certainly the best speech this president has ever delivered. It reaches to the levels those other speeches achieved in declaring America's absolute commitment to the defence of freedom and its propogation across the globe.

Nearing the end of the speech the president described the attributes of successful society. It is a description that could serve almost as a manifesto for this blog, if there was not already a speech by a Canadian leader describing what a Just Society should be. Nevertheless, and this is perhaps the only time this will happen, I quote President George W. Bush with admiration:

"There are, however, essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military -- so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite. Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selecting applying -- selectively applying the law to punish political opponents. Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions -- for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media. Successful societies guarantee religious liberty -- the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies, and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people."

Indeed.
For further comment on the speech, albeit conservative reaction, start at Mader Blog and follow his links.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:24 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 07, 2003

CHRETIEN DEFENDS CANADA TO THE END

On what was almost certainly his last day in the House yesterday, the Prime Minister was unexpectedly required one more time to come to the defence of Canada. As the leaders of the opposition rose to pay respectful, humorous and even emotional tributes to the departing Prime Minister soveriegntist Gilles Duceppe took a parting shot at Chretien and his commitment to Canadian federalism.

As reported in The Star:

a hush fell over the chamber as he accused the prime minister of turning his back on the aspirations of his home province. And he warned Chretien not to enter retirement feeling like he'd beaten the independence movement.

"He's on a long list of prophets who predicted the death of the sovereignty movement. Like them, he is mistaken," Duceppe told the Commons.

"He will always be welcome in a sovereign Quebec - in his home, in Shawinigan."

The street fighting petit gars de Shawinigan who signed the Charter of Rights and defeated two soveriegnty referendums stood up and responded as he has for forty years.

He said, in part:
"I was always convinced of my pride in the French language, for my ancestors and of the best way to preserve those things that were very important for me. Only I always believed fundamentally that if the French fact has survived in the Americas, it's because there was a Canada."

As the Honourable Joe Clark put it in his tribute, "Chretien's commitment to Canada touched the hearts from coast to coast of even those who would never vote for him...It is palpable and powerful and part of what has made him seem so real, so genuine to ordinary people across the country."

A genuine, devoted, loyal Canadian indeed.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:26 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 06, 2003

SEGAL ON CONSERVATISM; I BEG TO DIFFER

Hugh Segal has a comment piece in today's Globe and Mail on what he thinks the new Conservative Party is all about. For some reason the article is not on-line but I'll point out all the parts I want to respond to.

He begins by saying,
The Conservative Party of Canada is about democracy and about choice.

It seems to me that turning two parties into one is actually shrinking the amount of choice available and that if the Canadian electorate really wanted to eliminate one or both of these parties they would have stopped voting for them. If they wanted them to unite it seems there would not be so much opposition to the merger, but Segal quickly moves on.

It is about building the capacity to challenge those Liberals who see perpetual government as their right.

So this is what it's really about. Fine.

It is about a party where those Canadians not part of the politically correct centrist mainstream can feel comfortable.

Umm... I hate to tell you Mr. Segal but those "centrist Canadians" are most Canadians. If you do not at least try to appeal to these people you are never going "to challenge those Liberals..."

Segal then goes on for a while saying the new party is for people who believe that:

the prospect of changing the definition of both marriage and illegal drugs in the same quarter of 2003 may be a litte over the top.
and
people who wonder why Americans have mortgage-interest deductibility while Canadians do not

Basically a whole bunch of policy rhetoric I disagree whith, we'll leave it at that. Then,

[the party is for people] who wonder why...America's public sector now spends more per capita on health care than do all of Canada's "universal health care" goverments.

Yet every Canadian has access to health care while some 43.6 million Americans do not. Could Canada be getting better service for less money? Shocking.

Then, he asserts our election system, "only really counts those who voted for the winning candidate."

What he means is that only those candidates who win their ridings actually get to represent their riding, which, I think, is how the system is supposed to work. Then,

It is for people who believe that smart focused government is of more value than the large, sloppy and unfocused variety.

Ignore the fact that his parallel structure is not quite parallel. This is code for more efficient, smaller government. Democracy was never supposed to be efficient, it works best when it is not. Government is the tool of a democratic citizenry, less government means less democracy. Segal is arguing for greater constraints on our democracy.

Then comes this little bit of historical interpretation,

when Conservatives consolidated under such leaders as Sir John A. Macdonald, Brian Mulroney or John Diefenbaker, we have had a competitive democracy and the reality of government change. When the Conservatives have fragmented, the Liberals have had a free ride.

Segal believes that only when Conservatives have been in power has our democracy truly been competitive. Whenever Liberals have won it was because of conservative fragmentation creating a free ride. I guess Sir Wilfred Lauriers three majority governments where just luck, and Mackenzie King's four majorities were the result of fortunate coincidene, and Pierre Trudeaus 15 years in office had nothing to do with his appeal to Canadians, just like Jean Chretiens success has nothing to do with his political skill. Its those noble and stoic Conservatives who have been the real champions of Canada.

To conclude he cites the governments of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Benjamin Diraeli, Brian Mulroney and Bill Davis, saying "some of the most successful partisan organizations in history had vast differences of opinion within. Leadership and a sense of common cause and the discipline of power... kept these organizations cohesive and focused. Which is the primary duty for conservatives today."

At last, I could not agree more. Except I think this speaks to the point I was just making above. The history of Canada has shown that it has been Liberals who have had this "discipline of power" and and ability to lead, while Conservatives for the most part have not.

What are the chances that this "new" party led by (who?) is going to turn out to be one of those historic exceptions?

Posted by Matthew @ 8:25 PM :: (0) comments

TOO MANY QUESTIONS, NOT ENOUGH ANSWERS

Allan Thompson asks How did U.S Get Copy of Arar Lease?

Good question.

Arar says he never gave a copy of his lease to anyone. His Ottawa rental agency, Minto Developments, say they never release documents unless presented with search warrant, which they were not in this case. There were only two copies of the lease.

So how did a copy of Arar's lease end up in the hands of the F.B.I in New York where it was used as evidence against Mr. Arar?

Was there an illegal search?

Did Canadian authorities such as CSIS or the RCMP give information to American authorities about Arar? As reported here, American authorities say they did, Canadian authorities say they did not.

Who is not telling the truth?

What do the minister of foriegn affairs and the solicitor general really know about this case? Are they telling us everything?

The ministers are accountable to the Canadian people. Officials at CSIS and the RCMP are less so. If they do not start answering questions soon, we not only need a public inquiry we need greater civilian control of these organizations.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:30 PM :: (0) comments

CHRETIEN: HE ALWAYS WON

Looking back on Prime Minister Chretien's forty year career, the most obvious and incredible fact is that he never lost an election. His parliamentary profile exhibits that since 1963 he has faced the electorate as an MP twelve times and won every time. Most significantly he was re-elected to parliament in 1979 when the Liberals lost to the Conservatives under Joe Clark and even more impressively he won re-election in 1984 when the Conservatives won the largest majority in Canadian history under Brian Mulroney.

Michael Marzolini, Chairman and CEO of polling firm Pollara Inc. draws attention to several other notable aspects of Chretien's winning record. He notes that the Chretien government, "would have been re-elected on every single day of its ten-year mandate," and continues to assert that, "to hold the electoral support of between 37% and 50% of the Canadian public for an entire decade is unprecedented."

Marzolini acknowledges that a portion of Chretien's success is due to the fragmented of the opposition parties over the last ten years. However, he also argues that while, "there is some truth in this argument... it fails to award credit for these circumstances to the true source of the opposition's failure - the Prime Minister himself."

This is an important point. Chretien's best skill is that he knows how to play the game of politics better than anyone else. A winning record such as his is not a matter of luck or circumstance, it is a matter will and brilliance.

Marzolini draws attention to the way in which Chretien handled the attack ads that the Campbell Conservatives ran in 1993 - the ones that showed a close up of his paralyzed face and questioned whether this was the face of a prime minister. Marzolini maintains that Chretien's response to this ad more than the ad itself was what led to the crushing defeat of the Conservatives.

I would also draw attention to the 2000 campaign. It was Chretien who assured that just prior to the election the federal government reached a deal with the provinces on health-care transfer payments. Chretien then ran a campaign portraying Stockwell Day as the enemy of public health-care and other social services. Day ran a bad campaign but it was Chretien's campaign more than anything else that made Day look really awful.

There are many aspects of Jean Chretien's career that are debateable. What is not is that he knew how to win.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:45 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

McGILL RESEARCH BEST

McGill University has been declared Canadian Research University of the Year by Research Infosource Inc. as announced in a press release yesterday.

Research Infosource Inc. is a private consulting firm specializing in planning, policy analysis, technology and education fields. The ranking methodology evaluates universities in a variety of quantitative categories analyzing input of research funding and the quality of research output.

McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum stated: "it's a concrete testimony to the productivity and excellence of our researchers in all disciplines, of whom we are obviously proud."

This is yet another important accolade to add to McGill's long list that further emphasizes my assertion that McGill Universtiy is the best school in the country and one of the best in the world.

The recognition of McGill's outstanding researchers is extremely important. Many undergraduates here often bemoan the fact that McGill is such a research intensive university and that their professors are too focused on research. In my opinion such complaints fail to recognize the full impact good researchers have within a university.

First, good researches make good teachers. A professor who is doing ground-breaking research in a particular field brings an understanding and depth of analysis to teaching that you are not going to get from a professor who may have excellent teaching methods but does little research.

Secondly, good researchers do more than any other members of the university community to improve the overall quality of the school. Top level researchers bring in more research funding for the school and attract other good researchers to the school. Collectively top-level researchers raise the level of overall academic rigour and academic discourse which difuses through all levels of the school benefiting everyone.

Finally, as principal Munroe-Blum emphasized, "university research does not operate in a vacuum, but directly benefits society through advances in areas from health to culture."

Absolutely. The most important role universities have is in the production of knowledge and serving as the centres of institutional memory for society. University research improves society immesurably.

Research is the most important function of a university and McGill's researchers are the best in the country.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:20 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

OUTRAGE

That is only the predominant of many strong emotional reactions after watching Maher Arar's extensive public statement tonight on The National.

A full public inquiry is required immediately to find out why a Canadian citizen was deported, by American officials, to a jail in Syria where he was held for a year being beaten and tortured.

Arar, his family, and the nation have a right to know if any Canadian authorities have any responsibility for this awful event.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:46 PM :: (0) comments

SNOW

This is one of my favourite days of the year. The First Snow in Montreal. It started while I was in class and I was completely distracted by it. It first came down in huge fluffy puffs, occasionally swirling in the wind. By the end of class it was coming down harder in smaller, wetter flakes. It has been collecting on cars and on cold patches of the ground, melting on the roads and sidewalks. Hopefully we get as much snow this winter as we did three years ago.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:05 PM :: (0) comments

EVES DOESN'T GET IT

Former Premier Ernie Eves was trying to claim yesterday that Ontario does not infact face a budget deficit of $5.6 billion. Said Eves:

"I don't believe the number is $5.6-billion"

Eves went on say his party's position back in 1995 was a lot tougher:

"This is not any different, it's a lot easier, quite frankly, than in 1995, when we had to find $2- billion in expenditures in the first three-and-a-half weeks"

Now, Eves was vactioning in Florida last week when Erik Peters released his report on the current state of Ontario's finances. So, perhaps he is unaware that these numbers are the result of an independent audit.

Thankfully, its not just me who finds Eves claims dubious and his performance less than stellar. There is a movement within his own party to turf him from the leadership as soon as possible. The sooner the better for the Conservatives.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:56 PM :: (0) comments

HOUSE TO ADJOURN, CHRETIEN RETIRE EARLIER

CTV reported late last night that Parliament will be prorouged at the end of the week making Friday the last day that Jean Chretien will sit in the House as Prime Minister.

The next week Paul Martin will become the new Liberal leader at a convention to be held in Toronto. CTV reports:

"Chretien will use the event to signal he wants the transition of power to begin.

After the convention, Chretien and Martin will sit down to plot a timetable that will see the prime minister retire ahead of his previously announced date of February 2004, according to sources.

How early the prime minister might make his exit is still up in the air, sources say."

As the story notes, there is much legislation still before the House that is going to die on the order paper. If I had my way (as well as the Prime Minister I believe) Chretien would keep the House in session and continue on right until February. Apparently, however, the Liberal Party is ready to move on.

Chretien has been Prime Minister for most of my politically aware life time. I will have more to say on his legacy in the coming weeks.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:09 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, November 03, 2003

WHERE'S THE LEADERSHIP?

Everyone has been commenting on the decision of Mike Harris not to run for the leadership of the new Conservative Party. The Star editorial board came out last week and said Harris was the wrong guy, no surprise. Pogge concurs saying he is not the man for the job. Meanwhile John Ibbistson today said that Harris was the best available choice, and Maderblog has similar thoughts. All day today Bourque was asking the question that lies at the centre of all this commentary: If not Harris then who? No credible suggestions were put forward; the most creative one was Ken Dryden.

So where is the conservative leadership in this country? Even liberals like me will admit we need some of it to at least make federal elections interesting (even a few more sensible Liberals may quietly admit this). Its seems pretty clear though where all the leaders are. Right now they are all in provincial politics in B.C, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. And there is a whole slew of them in Ontario warming the opposition benches or looking for jobs.

With the fragmentation of the conservatives at the federal level the real conservative leadership has abandoned the federal scene to the Liberals. They all say they want a credible conservative alternative, and they are all willing to put their support behind such a movement, but none of the big names are willing to risk or perhaps sacrfice their current careers in an attempt to make it work. The result is that the new party will continue to be rooted in the politics of regional protest (west or east) rather than aspirations of national government. And that is not good for the country.

Update [3/11/03; 8:41 p.m.]: In my roundup of comment on Mike Harris and the current state of Canadian conservatism I somehow neglected to read Paul Wells. Not surprisingly he has something to say, and as usual its the best thing out there.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:35 PM :: (0) comments

RESPONSE TO GRANATSTEIN

As noted below, respected Canadian historian Jack Granatstein recently gave a lecture arguing that Canada’s national interests can be best promoted through closer ties with the United States. As promised, my response follows.

I cannot deal with everything that Prof. Granatstein brings up and my response is probably too long anyway. To accommodate the length I have divided my responses into separate posts each dealing with one of Granatseins major points. I have posted them in reverse order so you can read from the top of the page down.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:13 AM :: (0) comments

GRANATSTEIN: ANTI-AMERICANISM

Much of Granatstein’s criticism of Canada’s current foreign policy is based on an assumption that Canadians are inherently anti-American and that being so is opposed to the nations foreign policy interests. Granatstein writes, "anti-Americanism has been and, to a substantial degree, remains Canada’s state religion, the very bedrock of Canadian nationalism." This is simply hyperbolic rhetoric. As one of Canada’s finest historians, Granatstein should know that Canadian nationalism is based on more than anti-Americanism. Admittedly, a certain degree of Canadian identity is defined in opposition to the United States, however this does not necessarily equal anti-Americanism. To me, anti-Americanism suggests a sentiment of extreme dis-like bordering on hatred. I think that Granatstein exaggerates the degree to which this sentiment exists in Canada as well as the influence it has on our politicians.

Granatstein argues that this anti-Americanism results in Canada opposing the United States simply for the sake of opposition. He writes,

"It is time for Canadians to recognize that there is no shame in agreeing with the United States when its actions accord with our national interests and in working to advance those interests with Americans. Sovereignty is not necessarily lost by cooperation and it can even be advanced by it. Nor is there any reason to resist U.S policies for the sake of opposition."

I would agree with him and say that this is a good lesson for Canadians to consider. However, people such as Granatstein also have to consider the reverse of this statement. Consider the previous statement with a few key terms and concepts reversed:

"It is time for Granatstein and other Canadian conservatives to recognize that there is no shame in occasionally opposing the United States when its actions do not accord with our interests or values, nor with advancing our own interests by working with nations besides the U.S. Sovereignty is not necessarily gained by cooperation and it can even be lost by it. Nor is there any reason to accept U.S policies for the sake of feeling the need to be accepted by the biggest kid on the block."

Throughout his paper, Granatstein argues that integration with U.S policy will always benefit Canada. This is not the case. The situation can work both ways depending on the circumstances.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:12 AM :: (0) comments

GRANATSTEIN: VALUES v. INTERESTS

One of Granatstein’s major arguments is that for too long Canada’s foreign policy has been based on a desire to project its values rather than an attempt to secure its interests. First, Granatstein makes this argument because he disagrees with those values, or more likely only the way they have been articulated. Secondly, Granatstein ignores the possibility that the projection of Canadian values and our national interests are nearly synonymous.

Granatstein bemoans the Canadian focus on multi-culturalism, and human rights. He says Canada’s foreign policy must have "more realism and less moral earnestness." He goes on to say of our national interests:

"They must be spelled out, and policy must be based on a clear conception of what truly matters, not on perpetually calling for multilateral processes in the tiresome Ottawa way or on some vague and shifting sense of what Canada and Canadians might be or stand for."

I agree with him that Canada’s foreign policy needs more attention and must be more focused. However, he again does not understand what many Canadians want from their foreign policy. While Granasteing argues our foreign policy should promote greater security and interaction with the United States Canadians do want our foreign policy to reflect "what our country stands for" as Granatstien says. Further, I do not think that these ideas are particularly vague or shifting.

Canada’s leading role in the international treaty banning land mines is an excellent example of this. This treaty does not to a great deal to immediately increase Canadian security or to develop our relationship with the U.S. Some may argue it in fact does the very opposite. Yet Canadians feel that initiatives such as these represent the values that Canada stands for. Advancing a foreign policy based on values and not interests may be naïve and unrealistic, it may put as at a disadvantage because it is a type of policy no other nation in the world attempts to advance; but it is the policy Canadians want. Further it reflects that not only are we different from the U.S. but we are different from everyone else. The desire for this type of foreign policy is another reflection of a uniquely Canadian identity. It is this that bothers people like Granatstein the most.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:11 AM :: (0) comments

GRANATSTEIN: BILATERALISM v. MULTILATERALISM AND WAR IN IRAQ

Granatstein argues that while multilateralism has its advantages bilateralism with the United States will almost always serve Canada’s national interests better. He focuses specifically on the decision over the war in Iraq as an example.

Granatstein argues that the United States is always working towards its own self interest and that Canada should work more closely with America so as to have an influence over those actions. In one way this makes sense. If we ignore the U.S it will go ahead and shape policy that may adversely affect us. However, Granatstein’s argument assumes two things: one, that we will be able to influence the U.S, two, that their interest are the same as ours. Compromising our own ideal position so as to gain influence with the U.S may be advisable in some circumstances, however we must be sure that we will have influence. If the U.S simply assumes that Canada will go along with everything it wishes our level of influence may be severely diminished. Secondly, Canada should not necessarily join an American initiative simply to curry favour with the Americans if the initiative does not serve our interests. Granatstein points to the project of ballistic missile defence as an initiative that Canada should support and be involved in so as to gain influence over its implementation. However, it is questionable how much influence Canada will gain by joining the project, the U.S will likely shape it to best protect them. Secondly it is not necessarily in Canada’s interest to become involved in a project that is very expensive, currently does not work, and runs counter to Canadian values.

With the war in Iraq Granatstein believes that the debates in the security council showed the failure of multilateralism and that Canada’s foreign policy was held hostage to a blind support for it. Granatstein quotes Paul Martin who said: "with Iraq, we witnessed a failure in the capacity of the international community to forge a shared consensus on how to proceed." Granatstein sees this as reinforcing his argument. However this is a typically nebulous statement and Granatstein falls for the Martin ploy of making statements so vague they can be all things to all people. I see Martin’s statement as putting blame on the international community for failing. He does not imply that the international community should stop working multilaterally to form consensus, only that this time it did not work.

Granatstein goes on to say, "Canadians cannot ever again allow their government to put them in the position of opposing for the sake of opposition as the Chretien government did over the Iraq war." This is a serious misunderstanding of the governments position of the policy on Iraq and suggests that the government deals with extremely serious issues on the basis of spite. The Chretien government opposed the war for several reasons none of which were "the sake of opposition." Primarily, the nations was opposed to the war. Chretien read the mood of the country correctly and kept us out of a war we did not want a part of. These days that decision is looking better and better. Secondly, Canada’s foreign policy in the past has supported operating through multilateral institutions. This is not simply a result of narrow self interest as it is with France. Canada supports multilateral institutions because Canadians believe that eventually world multilateral institutions will create greater peace and justice in the world. Again its our naïve idealism coming through.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:10 AM :: (0) comments

GRANATSTEIN: CONCLUSION

Granatstein concludes with the unbelievable statement that, "Canada has had too much of that type of unplanned, ill-thought out policy, so much so that today we verge on becoming a noncountry." This statement is simply unacceptable. It proves that Granatstein has little understanding of the type of country Canada is. It is reminiscent of Lucien Bouchard’s quip that "Canada is not a real country."

Granatstein and those like him refuse to recognize the complexity of Canada. They want Canada to be a country of simple strident nationalism focused on achieving a clearly defined set of ultimate goals. This, however, is not how Canada exists. Formulating a foreign policy, of the type that Granatstein desires is both not desirable and not possible for Canada. Canada is a country that never should have come into being and never should have continued being. For its entire history people like Granatstein have been demanding a rapid and drastic change in course to give the nations some sense of direction some sense of purpose, some stability, some unity. Usually these calls have been ignored. Yet somehow, irrationally and unbelievably the nation continues.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:07 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, November 02, 2003

NON-POLITICAL NON-SENSE

Guest Blogger: Monika Ambrozaitis

It has come to my attention that this entire site is dedicated to the political ambiance of our society. I myself am a little disturbed that there aren’t any entries on reckless hodge-podge. There are aspects of ‘living in a society’ that this blog site neglects to attend to: drinking beer and fighting.

I now need to speak of the fine world of beer. I enjoy beer. I think politics enjoys beer. There is no need to avoid the beauty of beer.

On a second note, fighting is essential when alcohol is consumed. Whether the fighting is verbal, mental, or physical it is necessary to entertain the sober folk with the innate need to aggress. It seems to me the best times of my life have occurred watching my friends grate each other’s backs on cement. There were no hard feelings, yet memories to last a lifetime.

There are very few advantages to drinking beer and fighting, but the consequences are minimal. For example, a headache is remedied by Tylenol and water. The scrapes and gashes are treated with a tetanus shot (which you might as well endure because you’ll need to get one every 5-12 years). Unfortunately, verbal and mental consequences aren’t as simple as the physical. One suggestion is to carry around a pad of pre-written apologetic notes and hand them out before the evening begins. If all else fails just crack open a fresh beer and drink again.

I do not mean to support the art of drinking as to cause alcoholism, but I do believe in drinking as a social event. Take the time to respect drinking. Take the time to discover how far you can really push a person. Don’t leave this life regretting that you didn’t contribute your half to drunken politics.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:53 PM :: (0) comments