Sunday, February 29, 2004

MORE ON SAUL, GLOBALISM AND NEWSPAPERS

I now have a copy of the Ralston Saul article (see Friday's post below) but haven't read it yet. Regardless, I see today that, as usual, the Toronto Star shows more discretion and responsibility with regards to this issue. In today's Toronto Star Richard Gwyn puts forward a well reasoned balanced criticism of JRS's Harpers article.

Why is this more appropriate?

The Globe and Mail devoted lavish amounts of editorial space to attacking JRS thereby making the issue one of The Paper vs. Ralston Saul: an institution against an individual. By contrast The Star rightly recognized that there was no need to editorialize on this topic but provided an opportunity for one individual to comment on the political opinions of another. The editorials of a paper are supposed to be the space where the paper pronounces its positions on major issues. The opinion and commentary page are a forum for public debate. The writings of one man in one magazine should be engaged with on the opinion page, not pronounced against in an editorial.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:23 PM :: (0) comments

THAT'S ONE ENDORSEMENT HE WASN'T HOLDING IS BREATH FOR

If only for the value of irony and self-interest, Doonesbury has endorsed George W. Bush for re-election as president in 2004.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:17 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, February 27, 2004

GLOBE EDITORIALS ON PAR WITH BLOGGING

In a recent issue of Harpers magazine John Ralston Saul writes an essay entitled 'The Collapse of Globalism.' I've been meaning to get my hands on a copy of the magazine but somehow, despite having no classes to attend this week, I have not. So, I can't speak to the article itself, but luckily for me I don't have to because the editorial board of the Globe and Mail has done my reading for me.

Today the editors of the Globe allocate two-thirds of their editorial space to engaging in an intellectual spat with Dr. Ralston Saul. They begin with this disclaimer,

John Ralston Saul's marriage to Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson yields him name recognition that most authors can only dream of. It also brings him an uncommon degree of scrutiny, some of which may be unfair. Mr. Ralston Saul was an essayist and polemicist long before he became, after a fashion, a public servant. He has a right to his opinions, regardless of how at odds they may be with the reigning orthodoxy of the day. If he chooses to cast himself as Noam Chomsky in a morning suit, so be it.

That said, if a writer spouts high-sounding but fundamentally meaningless generalizations, as Mr. Ralston Saul does with alarming regularity in his books, he should steel himself for a measure of ridicule. And if he strays into obvious nonsense, as the Governor-General's consort does with great zest in the current issue of Harper's magazine, he deserves an intellectual cold shower.


So why is it that the editors of the 'national newspaper' are devoting so much space to one essay in one American magazine? You could argue that as husband to the Governor General, Ralston Saul deserves to be held to a higher standard. But, again, is this kind of response from the Globe editors really necessary? The Governor General, let alone her husband, does not affect government policy in any way. If the G-G started holding press conferences in which she advocated the views or her husband, or any other for that matter, I imagine the PMO would quickly tell her in only a few more words to sit down an be quiet.

No, today's Globe editorial is a result of sophmoric intelectual oneup-manship. The editors were sitting around reading thier latest edition of Harper's and became so incensed by the views of one man they chose to avail themselves of their substantial pulpit in order to oppose those views. Well, good on them. It certainly doesn't smack the least bit of juvenile overkill. If the Globe editors want to engage in this type of editorializing I suggest they start a blog.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:08 PM :: (0) comments

THE FUTURE OF BILINGUALISM

The The Toronto Star reports a recent linguistic study that indicates the world's population is becoming increasingly multilingual. The study suggests that by 2050 most of the yonger half of the world's population will speak at least two languages. The study's author David Graddol, says that while English will remain one of the most dominant languages it will not likely be the dominant language.

The idea of English becoming the world language to the exclusion of others "is past its sell-by date," Graddol said.

By 2050, he said, Chinese will continue its predominance, with Hindi-Urdu of India and Arabic climbing past English among 15 to 24 year olds and Spanish nearly equal to it. Graddol said he focused on the 15- to 24-year-old group in 2050 to give an indication of the future past that point.

A multilingual population is already the case in much of the world and is becoming more common in the United States. Indeed, the Census Bureau reported last year nearly one American in five speaks a language other than English at home, with Spanish leading, and Chinese growing fast.

I draw attention to this study because today's Globe and Mail online poll asks, 'do you believe Canada's policy of official bilingualism is a good thing?' As of this writing the results were 60%-40% answering 'NO' with just over 20,000 respondents. Now I understand its an online poll, not a representative sample etc. etc. The point is there is a significant portion of the Canadian population who are opposed to the nation's legal bilingualism. Now its quite possible that many of these people oppose official bilingualism because they don't want the government imposing a language on them. This is, at least, a reasonable position, if one I disagree with.

The country is founded on two distinct, historic linguistic groups. The nature of the country makes it an absolute necessity that the federal government be able to communicate in both those languages. But add to this the fact that multilingualism is the trend of the future. A nation that is officially bilingual can only benefit.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:38 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

THE CENTRE OF THE COUNTRY

In this huge, regionally fragmented country in which most of the population is stretched out over a thin east-west axis I think the question of where people consider the centre of the country to be is an amusing one. The comments to this post generated some discussion on the topic and I am know revisiting it with several possible suggestions for the location of the centre along with an argument for my own choice.

I think there are some principle ways to evaluate the location of the centre of the country: it could be done on a strict evaluation of geographical landmarks or population distribution, or more subjectively as a combination of these factors with consideration of historical significance.

I tried to locate someone who had already calculted the exact centre of Canada based either on geography or population. I couldn't find anything but I didn't look that hard, so if anyone knows an exact reference feel free to let me know. In the absence of an easy answer I did some calculations of my own. First geographically.

Based on Canada's most extreme points:
*northernmost point: near Cape Columbia, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut (83 deg. 7' North)
*southernmost point: Middle Island, Ontario in Lake Erie (41 deg. 41' North)
*easternmost point: Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador (50 deg. 37' West)
*westernmost point: Yukon-Alaska border (141 deg. 0' West)

The possibilities:

The exact centre (calculated by me):
95 deg. 14' West, 62 deg. 17' North, in Southern Nunavut

Churchill, Manitoba:
The nearest town of any significance to this location.

Manitoba-Ontario border:
If we consider only the East-West axis, the border is almost the exact centre. It also works well given the common distinction of Manitoba being in the west and Ontario in the East.

Winnipeg:
The closest major city to the border. Also has good historical significance.

On the strict analysis of population the centre moves into Ontario. The population East and West of Ontario is almost exactly eaqual: 9,523,000 to the East, 9,073,000 to the West. A more detailed analysis of Ontario would be time consuming but given the number of larger cities west of Toronto (Windsor, London, Kitchener, St. Catherines, Hamilton) in comparison to those east of the city (Kingston, Ottawa) I think the centre could be somewhere in South-Western Ontario. Possibilities:

Kitchener-Waterloo or London. If you want to go with something smaller it could be Guelph or Stratford.

There is a further consideration. If we accept the Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto axis as the political, economic, cultural centre of the country (which I imagine many Canadians are loathe to do) then the centre of the country would be somewhere between these cities. I think the obvious half-way point in this case would be Kingston. I think Kingston is also not a bad choice given its history as a one time capital of Upper Canada, and the home of our first prime minister.

I suppose you could also argue that Ottawa is the centre given that it is, roughly, in the centre and, you know, the capital, but that's pretty boring.

Now for my own thesis on the exact location of the centre of the country. Full disclosure of my bias: I was born in Ontario and I'm a student of Upper Canadian history. I have traveled to every Canadian province and provincial capital (except PEI/Charlottetown) as well as Yukon and Whitehorse.

If we consider that the population centre of the country is in Ontario, that the East-West geographic centre is (marginally) in Ontario, that it is the province with the largest population, also that the capital and the country's largest city (both by population and economy) are in Ontario then the centre of the country has to be somewhere in Ontario. Consider as well that points East of Ontario are generally considered to be Eastern Canada and points West to be Western Canada.

Within Ontario I think there are convincing arguments that could place the centre to the West or even East of the city. I think though, the centre of the province has to be considered Toronto. It is the largest city, it is the political and economic capital. Further the East-West consideration works again. In Ontario points West of Toronto (Hamilton, London, Windsor) or considered Western Ontario. Points East (Kingston, Cornwall, Ottawa) are considered Eastern Ontario.

I think, however we can get even more specific than Toronto. Within Toronto Yonge Street divides the city East-West the same way Toronto divides the provice, and Ontario the country. Further, Yonge St. is a very significant street. It was one of the two original streets established by Governor John Graves Simcoe. It is the longest street in world. The Eaton Centre, Union Station, the major financial institutions and City Hall are located on or just slightly East or West of Yonge.

When standing on Yonge Street, I think you're standing at the centre of the country.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:25 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, February 23, 2004

MOVING ON?

Last week when I advocated creating the 'Sure It Was Wrong But Lets Move On Club' with regards to the sponsorship sacandal my fellow McGill student David Mader took me to task for advocating such a position and predicted that 'move on' would become a mantra for partisan Liberals in the coming weeks. I think we're seeing that happen.

Today in the Globe and Mail, William Thorsell, not even a partisan Liberal, said just that as he wrote: "The sponsorship scandal's the past; let's move on". Thorsell writes that Canadians, in national terms, are less likely to plan farther into the future than our neighbours to the south. He thinks the public focus on Adscam is just another symptom of our lower productivity and lack of vision. The comparisons to America and the bemoaning of the lack of Canadian initiative are all fairly charactersitic of the parochial conservative elite in Canada. Regardless, he concludes by saying,

We are enjoying a binge of venom against the marginal past, distracted from preparing for the important future. Let's move on

The prime minister would seem to agree. Today he announced a long-term plan for affordable housing in Canada and met with a low cost housing advocacy group in Montreal. Martin seems to have moved past his 'Mad as Hell' response back to agenda setting. More and more he is looking like a prime minister campaigning. I would expect the election in the spring as planned.

The media (as least some of them) are beginning to advocate 'moving on.' The government is clearly trying to 'move on.' Will Canadians follow?

Posted by Matthew @ 9:32 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, February 22, 2004

WEATHER OF MASS DESTRUCTION?

That's the sensationalist spin that Greenpeace is putting on the threat of climate change. It's in response to a recent report commissioned by the Pentagon on the subject. The Guardian, mildly less sensationalist, has a story on the report as well. The report, commissioned by Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, apparently describes the possibility of imminent climate change causing flooding, drought and famine which could lead to widespread chaos and conflict for water, food and energy resources.

The Guardian quotes the report noting:

Climate change 'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern', say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network.

An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is 'plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately', they conclude.

The Guardina also picked out this:

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

Now it strikes me that on the grand scale there has seldom, if ever, been a time when conflict and warfare have not been endemic and defining features of human life, but that's not primarily what I am commenting on here; its the threat of climate change.

Last week in the Globe and Mail, Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Ingenuity Gap) wrote an opinion piece prompted by this same report. He actually plays down the fact that it was commissioned by the Pentagon and focuses on a much more reasoned analysis of the science behind it. The result: the report is still worrying but it doesn't have me hoarding food and arming myself just yet.

Homer-Dixon writes:

Sharp, non-linear change of the global climate could pose the greatest environmental challenge to our species in the past 10,000 years. We may be far closer to such a threshold than we dare admit.

He goes on to describe how global warming could disrupt, or essentially kill, the gulf stream which would actually have the effect of making much of North America and Europe vastly colder and cause massive drought in many other parts of the world. Yet, he also writes,

"as ever, uncertainty intervenes: The interactions of ocean and atmosphere are so complex that it's impossible to know exactly when or how something like this might occur. Scientists...acknowledge that they're in the dark as to how close Earth is to a new climate regime."

The change may come next year, or it may not come for another thousand years. It may be primarily the result of human action or it may be more a factor of ongoing climate cycles of the planet. The question is, how will we respond? Over the course of history humanity has faced several debilitating disasters, the bubonic plague seems to be the best example. Across Europe and Asia a significant portion of the human population died resulting in major social disruption.

Humanity, however, is pretty resilient and very innovative. I think that whatever disasters the world throws at us, or whatever problems we create for ourselves, we will adapt to them. We will re-negotiate society and reform the world as we always have. It would be nice, of course, if we could preempt disaster, which is why I think we should be focusing a little more attention and political will to the climate change question. I have every confidence that humanity can survive anything. It's the price of that survival that worries me.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:35 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, February 19, 2004

RT. HON. SIR CHARLES TUPPER DAY

No, I'm not advocating another new statutory holiday. I draw attention to the fact that today is 'Tupper Day' for Prime Minister Martin. As of today Martin has been prime minister for seventy days and as such has surpassed Sir Charles Tupper as Canada's shortest serving prime minister. However Martin is eventually remembered it will not be as the shortest serving PM ever.

Martin will likely also outlast the records of John Turner (80 days, March 1st) and Kim Campbell (132 days, April 21st). If Martin postpones the election until the autumn he has a good chance of surpassing prime ministers Meighen and Clark as well. On August 8th he would surpass Meighen who served 240 days (non-consecutively) and on September 10th he would pass Joe Clark who served 273 days.

Sir Charles Tupper has the unfortunate distinction of having served as prime minister for a mere sixty-nine days, however, he had a distinguished political career. He was premiere of Nova Scotia prior to Confederation. He was a Nova Scotian Father of Confederation attending the Charlottetown, Quebec and London conferences. He convinced Confederation opponent Joseph Howe (quoted at the top of this page) to accept the union and join the ministry of Prime Minister Macdonald. Tupper himself served in various ministries in the Macdonald governments as well as High Commissioner to London. After losing office in 1896 to Wilfrid Laurier he remained leader of the Conservative party until 1901.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:38 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

ON-LINE VOTING AT McGILL

This year student government elections at McGill are being held entirely online. The initiative was tested last year and has been fully implemented this year. From my marginally privileged position I can say that so far it has been a success. It is saving time, paper, money and voter turnout is up.

The polls for the Arts Undergraduate Society campaign opened yesterday and will remain open until Thursday. I remind all McGill B.A students that they can cast their ballot here.

I'm not making any endorsements except for the referendum questions. Vote 'Yes' both to renew the AUIF fee and approve the constitutional amendments.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:13 AM :: (0) comments

NEW BLOG / BUSY WEEK

I just recently discovered Tilting at Windmills. Written by Kevin Brennan its seems to have just started up last week. Like most of my other links its focus is on Canadian politics. Plus I'm partial to those who quote Don Quixote. However, I not Kevin uses the same template as I do. Good choice, but it only goes to remind me that I have to eventually personalize my template to a greater degree or upgrade from blog*spot. For now, I'll keep telling myself its about the content not the form.

Also, its the week before winter study break here at McGill so naturally I have lots to do. There are mid-terms and papers as well as a variety of student government elections related stuff I'm involved in.

Anyway, there won't be much to read here this week but I'm free all of next week so expect a lot more exciting blogging then.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:54 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, February 15, 2004

FLAG DAY

"This day ... The fifteenth day of February 1965 will always be remembered as a milestone in Canada's national progress."

Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson,
February 15, 1965

Thirty-Nine years ago today the Maple Leaf was first raised over parliament. February 15 is officially recognized as National Flag of Canada Day. Aside from being a day to remember Canada's national progress it is an excellent excuse to take a day off.

The Herritage Canada website offers some flag history,Flag protocol and two quizes on said history and protocol.

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

MINORITY OPINION, UNSUBSTANTIATED

It's All Sponsorship Scandal All the Time in the Canadian news media right now. I've tried three times to write something about the whole affair and I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm really trying to care about this whole mess but frankly I just don't.

It's not that I don't think that the issue is important. Its incredibly important for the Liberals and the election because so many Canadians think its a big deal. And its not that I don't think what happened was wrong. it was. This is what makes admitting to this opinion somewhat difficult, because I recognize what happened was wrong. But something inside me just really doesn't give a damn.

I'm not going to offer any justification for what Chretien, or whomever, did with the money. I'm not as devoted to Chretien as Warren Kinsella is. But nor am I appalled as many others seem to be. This just is not an issue that is going to decide how I vote in the next election.

What I'm wondering is if I'm truly the only Canadian who is thinking this way or if there is anyone else out there who wants to join me in the 'Sure It Was Wrong But Lets Move On' club? Whatever else this opinion makes me, I might be Paul Martin's new best friend.

All this is in part by way of apologizing for not posting lately. But really, who wants to hear me asking 'who cares?' five different ways all week long?

Cross posted to BlogsCanada Election Blog.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

A-G SAYS CANADIAN HISTORY IN PERIL

Obviously there is a tonne of news and commentary being produced about the Auditor General's report. There's too much for any one person to write about, unless of course you have the powers to distil the most relevant and serious points the way Paul Wells does. For the macro-perspective I refer you, as usual, to him.

As for me, I'll focus on the one thing that piques my own self-interest. Which is this:

Report: Canada's historic sites, documents at risk

Canada's historic sites, national archives and library are crumbling as budget cuts and government neglect threaten to drive the last spike through the nation's culture, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said Tuesday.
...
One of the worst cases involves Fort Henry in Kingston, Ont., built in 1834 to protect against invading Americans.
Described as "seriously impaired," the site on the St. Lawrence River will completely crumble in two years without serious attention, the audit warns.
...
More than 90 per cent of the collections in the National Library of Canada are housed in terrible conditions that don't meet standards of temperature and humidity.
Currently Parks Canada, the National Library and the National Archives, "can hardly meet their mandate to protect heritage," warns the audit.
That doesn't just hurt historians and researchers.

Of course it doesn't just hurt historians and researchers. The article says it also affects the thousands of regular citizens who access the archives each year doing personal geneology history but it is far more than that. The public archives are literally the memory of our nation. Of course the disintegration of documents affects historians work, but if historians do not have the resources to retell our nation's past the entire nation suffers from literally not knowing itself.

Things may not be quite as bad as the auditor's report suggests. The National Archives are in the process of digitizing its entire collection. This is a massive undertaking that will take years but it will ensure the preservation of, and allow for greater access to, critical documents. Still, those documents need to preserved in their originals because nothing can replace their authentic look and feel.

This story sent me over to the website of the National Archives. It really is quite an incredible site if you are at all interested in Canadian history. Some of the highlights of the digital and online collections include:

The diary of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King

If King were alive today he would be blogging and it would be a way better blog than that of our current PM. Almost every day between 1893 and 1950 King recorded the events of his life and his thoughts about those events. If you want to know what the Prime Minister was thinking about during the first month of the depression or at the height of the Battle of Britain its all here.

The manuscript forms for the Census of 1901

The 1901 census was the largest census undertaking to that date. All of the nominal forms have been digitized. That means the personal information of everyone who completed a census form (name, address, marrital status, age, place of birth, ethnicity, religion, employment etc. etc.) is available. This is an incredible resource of information for historians. If you know where your great/grandparents were living in March 1901 you can find their information.

The Dictonary of Canadian Biography

This project was begun in 1959 jointly by the University of Toronto and the Universite Laval. The DCB is a collection of biographies of major and very minor persons who played a role in Canadian history. Based entirely on original schoarship, the DCB is an excellent source for quick information or as a starting point for further research. Currently the entries for all people who died between 1000 and 1920 are online.

Take a look at these things and the other archive collections. It is the very stuff that Canada is made of. It can't be lost.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:30 AM :: (0) comments

TELL ME SOMETHING I DIDN'T KNOW

Microsoft realized yesterday what Apple users have know for years and announced that there is a 'critical' flaw in Windows

Make that reason number 11 to switch.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:46 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, February 09, 2004

CLAUDE RYAN 1925-2004

Former Quebec Liberal leader and federalist leader of the 1980 sovereignty referendum, Claude Ryan has died today in a Montreal hospital at the age of 79.

Ryan served as editor of Le Devoir from 1964-1978. In 1978 he became the leader of the Quebec Liberals. He led the federalist forces in the 1980 Quebec sovereignty referendum when the separatists were defeated by a margin of 60%-40%. As premier Charest said today,

"Claude Ryan's contribution to public life and the progress of Quebec society is inestimable."

I would add that his commitment and contribution to Canada is matched by only a few; Ryan was a truly dedicated Canadian.

I had the opportunity to hear Ryan speak almost four years ago when he was invited to my first-year class in post-Confederation Canadian history. During the question period Ryan was challenged on his federalist leadership in the referendum by an obviously sovereigntist leaning student. The questioner attacked Ryan in that strident, shrill, clumsy manner that worked-up college freshman seem to master so well. Ryan for his part responded with a reasoned, sincere and impassioned defence of his politics and Canadian federalism. I wouldn't have expected anything less, but the contrast was still a sight to see.
Claude Ryan, may he rest in peace.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:54 PM :: (0) comments

THE NATURE OF BLOGGING

I've spent Sunday night/ Monday morning doing some casual reading and blogging. As something bloggable has occured to me, I've taken a break from reading (rather frequently) and posted. In looking at my blog I realize that if a series of ideas come to me in one particular sitting I will likely blog about the ones that I deem most relevant and important first and then proceed to the less relevant and more frivolous. Of course this means the topic I engaged with first moves to the bottom of the series. Hence the progression of the preceeding three posts. You will note that I started with parliamentary reform, moved to Don Cherry and concluded with a discussion of the meaning of the word 'ignorant' and a self depricating personal anecdote.

Its just interesting to see one's thought process mapped out so visually. Obviously my readers will likely enjoy the most irrelevant and frivolous post the most.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:37 AM :: (0) comments

'IGNORANT' GETS A BAD RAP

I was at a party on Friday night and while talking with a young woman, whom I had just met, I was forced into a defence of Canadian culture and history as is not uncommon for me given my area of study and my corresponding belief in Canada as a country.

Now, while elaborating on some of the finer and more important points of early 19th century Canadian history my partner in conversation seemed to think I was condescending her ability to grasp these concepts. "On the contrary," I said, "I'm not calling you stupid, just ignorant." At this my interlocutor was rather taken aback and obviously any ability to make a good impression had vanished. Not that this really concerned me, I'll admit that I was attempting to be somewhat abrasive.

However, I really don't think that 'ignorant' should carry the negative connotation that it does these days. Strictly speaking I understand ignorance as simply meaning a condition of unknowing, of having a lack of knowledge about something. I went to my Shorter OED, as I am wont to do, for further elaboration.

It appears that the definition of 'ignorant' as an adjective dates back to late middle English with the meaning of "lacking knowledge (general or particular); not versed in a subject, unaware of a fact." It was not until the late 19th century that 'ignorant' gained its more negative connotation when it colloquially became associated with a state of being "ill-mannered or uncouth."

I really think we should try and strip 'ignorant' of its negative connotation and return it to is purer more innocent middle English meaning. Everyone is ignorant to a degree. There are many things I am ignorant of. More appropriate topics of conversation with a young woman on Friday night is perahps one of them.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:29 AM :: (0) comments

CHERRY AND FREE SPEECH

So much has been said about Don Cherry and his latest rant against French Canadians (and Europeans) that I hardly want to give him the time of day. As seems to be the growing opinion, he's not worth it. However, a few things in brief:

Preliminary statistical evidence would seem to suggest that Cherry was correct in his assesment that players wearing visors are predominantly French-Canadians and Europeans. I think Cherry was also right that as protective equipment improves and is more widely used, players are more likely to take greater liberties with their sticks. It's probably not consiously done but rather the result of a greater feeling of personal security. I have to say that regardless of Cherry's other opinions, his knowledge and commentary on hockey is often spot on. Which is why he should stick to that.

Just becasue Cherry may have been right about his comments doesn't make it right to say it. To voice such generalities about a particular ethnic group legitimizes looking at people as an ethnic category, legitimizes doing so negatively, and inflames ethnic tension by re-affirming the fears and suspicions of one group and reinforcing prejudicial feelings in another. Further, we know this is not a one time thing for Cherry. His past record indicates he can't seem to find anything nice to say about French-Canadians. Anecdotes such as this are just further evidence of Cherry's prejudicial sentiments.

Finally, the question of whether the CBC's decision to put Coache's Corner on a seven second delay amounts to some kind of attack on freedom of speech. No it does not.
First: Private individuals advocating for the firing/censoring of Cherry does not amount to an attack on free speech. It is actaully the exercise of free speech.
Second: The CBC opting to put Cherry on a delay is, obviously, a form of censorship but it is not some kind of grievous attack on free speech either. The CBC is permitted, in fact required, to make various editorial decisions. This is one of them.
Third: Andrew Coyne counters this position by arguing that this would be true if the CBC were a private broadcaster, but because it is a public one its "capitulation to public pressure" amounts to censorship. If the government actually interferes with Coache's Corner or if it were to shut it down then I would agree that would be censorship taken too far. As it is, "capitulation to public pressure" is just as likely to occur within a public broadcaster as a private one. To make an editorial decision based on veiwer input is not censorship. It is the prerogative of an employer, even a public one.

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

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM: FREE VOTES

Yesterday on Cross Country Checkup Rex Murphy was talking with Canadians about parliamentary and democratic reform. First off, I think its great that this has become a national issue. The country and its parliament certainly need some reform, its good that Martin is looking at changes and its good that people are debating these changes. Obviously there is going to be lots of disagreement about the particular course of action to take but democracy is most strengthened when citizens and representatives participate in dialogue. Now, to some of those inevitable disagreements.

One of the main issues on Checkup was free votes in the Commons.

First:
I think greater voting autonomy is an important step in parliamentary reform. If regular MPs are not going to be continuously reigned in by the PMO then their votes are going to have more meaning, and if their votes have more meaning they are going to have more voice in parliament, which is what its really supposed to be all about. Both Martin and the opposition parties are going to have to commit to this seriously. Martin is going to have to trust his caucus to vote as they see fit. If the government puts forward good legislation that backbench MPs have had a part in formulating then there is no reason that most Liberal MPs should not vote with the government. Ultimately its not in the interest of governing MPs to defeat the ministry. Martin has to trust his MPs and be prepared to deal with the consequences. His position with regards to the vote on the gun registry is not encouraging but I'm not giving up on him yet.

Further, as Jeffrey Simpson pointed out on Thursday, the opposition parties are equally responsible for accepting the new way of doing business. If the opposition parties continue to vote in blocks opposing everything for the sake of opposition then the Liberals will have every right to question why they alone should be playing by different rules. Obviously, as is the nature of their position, the opposition will be voting against government resolutions more often than not. But if they refuse to make votes free votes the system is not going to change. Today I was encouraged by what Grant Hill had to say with regards to the Conservative stance on free votes. I was less encouraged by Lorne Nystrom of the NDP who couldn't name an issue on which his party would allow a free vote.

Second:
Several people were talking about free votes with regards to the cabinet. Grant Hill and several callers made comments to the effect that even in cases where past governments held a free vote it wasn't entirely free because the cabinet had to vote with the government.

Of course the cabinet was required to vote with the government! If you are in cabinet you ARE the government. The MPs who are the cabinet ministers comprise the executive ministry. They are the ones primarily responsible for bringing forward and formulating legislation. They are the ones directing and shaping the government. If they oppose a policy of the government they have plenty of opportunity to oppose it behind the scenes in cabinet meetings. However, when it comes to voting time, cabinet ministers are expected to stand with the ministry they are a part of. If they do not support the position of the ministry then they are welcome to leave it and vote against it as regular MPs. Free votes are not meant to include the cabinet.

Another big topic yesterday was proportional representation. That's my next topic for discussion. It may not surprise you to discover that I'm not in favour of it.

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

Friday, February 06, 2004

LAPIERRE: ONE MORE THING

I had another post on Jean Lapierre but I just accidentally lost it so I'll quote what more accomplished and knowledgeable commentators are saying today. I've been trying to move on from this issue but new things just keep popping up. Like this CBC story in which Lapierre discredits the Clarity Act:

"It's useless because it wouldn't change anything. If there was a will in Quebec, a clear will to separate, they would not be able to stop a will like that by trying to have tricks."

This prompts Andrew Coyne to ask:
Does Jean Lapierre speak for the government of Canada?...are we to take it that the government of Canada would acquiesce in a coup d'etat?

Warren Kinsella concurs and adds,
Lapierre is describing as "useless" one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in this country in decades. Useless.

He goes on to confirm my suspicions of Lapierre saying of him:
In the Bloc, I felt Jean had finally found the political home where he would be most comfortable. He never really seemed to believe in a strong, united Canada - at least not while I knew him.

Again, why is this guy going to be in cabinet?

Posted by Matthew @ 2:17 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, February 05, 2004

BLOGGING FROM THE HEART OF CANADA

No that doesn't mean the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal axis of self importance. In this case it means Saskatchewan.

I recently discovered Random Thoughts (from the heart of Canada). There's excellent stuff there on politics, Canadian life, and universities, all favourite subjects of mine. There is a particularly good post on last night's CBC televised Town Hall with the Prime Minister. Check it out.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:43 PM :: (0) comments

MORE ON LAPIERRE

Via Bourque: Newly re-affirmed Liberal Jean Lapierre is having to deny allegations that he passed on Liberal party secrets to Gilles Duceppe, even after he had left the Bloc Quebecois. This Montreal Gazette story elaborates:

"Lapierre was selling out the Liberals at every turn. He revealed indiscretions. I find it strange that the Liberals are welcoming him with open arms."

A source close to Lapierre confirmed yesterday that the two [Lapierre and Duceppe] are good friends and talked regularly until a week ago. However, they played down the role Lapierre played in embarrassing cabinet ministers, saying his role was helping Duceppe understand the players involved.
...
The witness speculated Lapierre's motives had little to do with friendship [with Duceppe].

"I have the impression he was doing it for Martin to destabilize Chretien."

As I have been saying this week, Lapierre's loyalty to the Liberals and to the country is questionable. The only loyalty he has is to Martin. If this needed to be made any clearer Bourque reports Lapierre as saying that "he will quit federal politics (again) when Martin retires."

Lapierre is going to be in Cabinet and he's going to be Martin's boss in Quebec. Just remeber that this man sees himself serving Paul Martin first and foremost, not the office of the Prime Minister, not the Liberal party, and not the country.

Posted by Matthew @ 5:15 PM :: (0) comments

LIBERAL RANKS CONTINUE TO GROW

It became official today, former Liberal and Bloc Quebecois founder Jean Lapierre joined Pual Martin and the Liberal Party after a 14 year absence.

Lapierre on his time spent trying to break up the country:

Lapierre, 47, defended his spell with the sovereigntist Bloc in the early 1990s, saying it "was a difficult time for all Quebecers" because of the failure of the Meech Lake accord in June 1990.

He said the Bloc was a necessary but temporary tool after Meech Lake, which would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society.

Lapierre said he no longer felt comfortable with the party in August 1992 because he thought it had become a satellite of the Parti Quebecois.

Lapierre went on to say that, "The only man who could bring me back to politics is Paul Martin."

As I noted on Tuesday Lapierre's loyalty to Martin is the only constant in his political career. His party and the country have been secondary concerns. Personally, I'd be worried about a guy who puts so much stock in loyalty to one man.

Meanwhile other reports today indicate that Progressive Conservative MP John Herron of New Brunswick has been negotiating with Martin to join the Liberals. Herron has refused to join the new Conservative party and was planning on retiring from politics but is now being lured by the chance to actually be a member of the governing party.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:54 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD... BUT NOT AS LEGAL AS THE PENCIL

The topic in Ed Broadbent's seminar today was trade unionism and democratic rights. I'll comment on the more political theory oriented stuff later, but first, another interesting personal anecdote from Prof. Broadbent.

Broadbent first won election to the House of Commons in 1968. During that election he was running in Oshawa against the incumbent Conservative labour minister Mike Starr (scroll down). The race was extremely close and the final vote was taken to a judicial recount. The judge assigned to preside over the recount was Justice Alec Hall. Hall had been the mayor of Oshawa during the precedent setting 1937 Oshawa GM strike (scroll down). Further, Hall had been appointed to the bench by the Conservative government of which Starr was a cabinet member.

The central issue in the recount came down to the question of whether or not it was legal to cast a ballot using a ballpoint pen. Broadbent pointed out that in 1968, ballpoint pens were not as ubiquitos as they are today. Further that it was far more likely for one of the middle class managers of the local GM plant to be carrying a ballpoint pen as opposed to one of the working class men on the line.

Justice Hall's final decision was that ballots marked with pen were void and as a result Broadbent won the election by a margin of 15 votes. Broadbent commented that had he not won that election he very well might have ended up as a full time professor and not in politics.

I'm constantly struck by the small details and accidents of life that end up shaping history. Let it also be a reminder to always strictly adhere to procedure when in the voting booth.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:50 PM :: (0) comments

I THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY

The banner headline at Bourque this evening reads:

PM HAMMERED IN QP

Now, graduates or those familiar with Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario will know that the on-campus pub at that school is generically called the 'The Queen's Pub' and is often simply referred to as the QP. So one would not be remiss in asking, based on this headline, whether the PM faced some concerted opposition questioning this afternoon in the Commons, or if instead he was totally inebriated at a Kingston university bar?

UPDATE: On second thought, that headline can't possibly be referring to the Prime Minister being in Kingston. I mean, why would anyone go to Queen's to have a good time? (I can't believe I initially manufactured and then passed up an opportunity to make fun of Queen's. My McGill instincts must be slipping as I near graduation.)

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

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

PAUL WELLS WITH ROBERT NAULT

If you haven't read Paul Wells today, or if you haven't checked his site since about 6:00 p.m. you should go back to read it. He has an exclusive interview with the retiring ex-Indian Affairs minister Rober Nault. Why? Apparently Nault just called him up... in Australia, to vent about the PM and his own departure from Paulitics (I think I'm the first one with that pun).

Nault sounds bitter. A few choice quotes:

"They've, in my view, whacked a whole pile of cabinet ministers from the Chretien government simply because they were there."

"I don't have a lot of time or use for Jean Lapierre and/or the separatists [see post below]. And I think if we start filling our team up with nationalists, that's dangerous."

"This [Throne] speech basically announces stuff I did..."

And on the recent retirement of both him and fellow Chretien loyalist Martin Cauchon:

"We're not done yet."

To be honest I was never really that impressed with Nault as Chretien's Indian Affairs minister. I thought he handled the east coast fishing disputes badly and I had a few serious problems with bill C-7 his Aboriginal governance bill. But its interesting to read him venting. But really go to Wells for the whole thing.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:41 PM :: (0) comments

LAPIERRE: SHIFTING LOYALTIES

Jean Lapierre is set to return to federal politics, joining Pual Martin and the Liberal Party and taking Martin Cauchon's seat. Lapierre will likely get a senior cabinet position and will bolster the Liberal profile in Quebec.

Cauchon called Lapierre, a high-profile media commentator, this weekend to offer him his safe riding of Outremont.

Lapierre was first elected to the Commons as a Liberal in 1979 at the age of 23. In 1990 he supported Paul Matin's leadership bid and left the party the day Jean Chretien became leader. Shortly afterwards he helped Lucien Bouchard found the Bloc Quebecois.

Paul Wells who occasionally reads this blog thinks that Lapierre's return is a big story. In November, when the rumours that Martin was courting Lapierre first surfaced, Wells solicited readers' opinions. The general response was that there should be no place in a federal cabinet for Lapierre, a former separatist. My response was that, while I'm not keen on inviting separtists back to the Liberals, a history of support for separatism should not automatically exclude someone from coming back to the fold. There has to be some room for reconciliation.

But is Lapierre the man?

It seems to me that with Martin as the new PM and needing to shore up support in Quebec, Lapierre saw an opportunity to get back into politics. Looking at the broad history, it appears that Lapierre's loyalty to Martin is strongest. His loyalty to the Liberal Party and the country is questionable. Above all he seems opportunistic.

Added to this, there are at least two very capable, obviously federalist Quebec MPs who are more deserving of being in cabinet than Lapierre. They are Stephane Dion and Cauchon. Of course they don't meet the Martin loyalty test.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:17 PM :: (0) comments

WHO NEEDS SLEEP?

Why is it that when I sleep for nine hours five days in a row I feel tired, and then when I sleep for fifteen hours over three days I feel more awake than ever? There must be somekind of scientific/psychological explanation that is beyond me.

Anyway, the lack of sleep has been the result of a spate of essay writing going on behind the scenes here. Hence yesterday's post written at 6:36 a.m. Regular and observant readers will note that I have never posted at this time before.

Some random stuff:

I didn't witness the Janet Jackson incident on Sunday but it was hard to ignore if you were anywhere online yesterday. Personally, I don't see why the FCC and others are making such a big deal about it. Really, it was a breast people, get over it. Nestruck and Mader have already pretty much said what I would have, so I refer you to them.

Since Rick Mercer's Monday Report has gotten me watching television on Mondays I have also been watching Ken Finkleman's The Newsroom. The latter is by far the better show. If you've never seen it, watch it next week. Finkleman's dark, dead-pan, satirical humour is absolutely hilarious in a wonderfully awful kind of way.

I haven't seen much blogging about the Speech From the Throne yet. Was it really that boring? James Bow and Andrew Spicer are praising the GST rebate for cities which I agree is a good thing. I haven't read the whole speech yet but I will later today. Hopefully, comments to come.

Also, if you have not yet read the BlogsCanada election group blog I highly recommend it. That's not just because I'm posting to it either. If you're willing to spend time reading my opinions here, all I can say is that there is a lot more really good stuff by some intelligent people over at the e-group blog. Check it out.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:48 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, February 02, 2004

GROUNDHOG DAY

Another good excuse for a holiday between New Year's and Easter. Of course, this being Canada, if we face only another six weeks of winter like conditions it would be quite the meteorological event. I'm a big fan of that mid-April snow storm. One last snowball in the face on the way to five days of spring followed by 12 weeks of humidity and mosquitoes. Don't misinterpret this post though, I'm not complaining.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:36 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, February 01, 2004

B. STRONACH, WHATEVER.

Graham Fraser has a decent primer on things to watch for in tomorrow's speech from the throne. They include:

- How much of the speech is focused on process, and how much on product?

- How much of the speech will focus on areas of federal jurisdiction, and how much on provincial jurisdiction?

But then, near the end of the article Fraser evaluates the Conservative leadership candidates. See if you can spot the problem here:

Instead of the merged party generating more support, money and stronger candidates, the new field appears to be the weakest of the five: Stephen Harper, who led the former Canadian Alliance, Tony Clement, an Alliance founder and defeated cabinet minister from Ontario, and, car parts heiress Brenda Stronach, who has concluded that party leadership is an entry-level position.

Brenda Stronach? How does something like this make it into the paper? How does a national affairs columnist for The Star not know the name of one of the leadership candidates? Or, alternately, how does that kind of mistake get past an editor? It seems to me that if you're writing dismissively about politicians you should at least get their names right.

Certainly this is just a case of very sloppy journalism but is Fraser and/or The Star unconsciously underestimating Stronach? They may be in for a surprise.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:30 PM :: (0) comments