Wednesday, March 31, 2004


I knew it was just a matter of time before this happened and I have been waiting to be able to point it out.

You may recall that in mid January the RCMP searched the home of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Niell looking for links to her source in relation to a story she wrote on Maher Arar. After her house was searched Prime Minster Martin took the highly unusual and almost bizarre step of commenting on the search, from a foriegn country no less. He even went so far as to say that Ms. O'Niell, who was at the time under invesigation by federal police officers, was "clearly not" a criminal.

Yesterday Mohammad Momin Khawaja, an Ottawa resident, was charged with two offences under Canada's Anti-Terrorist Act.

What was the response from the government?

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan said she was informed of the raids after they occurred on Monday afternoon. She said she could not comment on the investigation because it is part of an ongoing RCMP investigation.

Could not comment because it involves an ongoing RCMP investigation. I'm not disagreeing with the minsters position, I think it's the right one. It would just be nice to have some consistency in these matters from the PM and ministers.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:59 p.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Bourque has been more prominently displaying a link to his blog roll over the past day or two, which has actaully resulted in me getting several hits from his site whereas I used to get almost none.

I have a question though. Bourque offers to link to your blog if you link to his page. He says:

Got a Blog ? Want a link ? First, create a prominent link to Bourque near the top of your Blog, then send your Blog url to Bourque. That's all there is to it.

A quick glance at several random blogs on the roll show that all of them link to Bourque. The interpretation of 'prominent' is pretty loose but the links are all there. Bourque's roll however includes a link to Paul Wells. Now, I like Wells' blogging as much as the next Canadian blogger, but other Canadian bloggers will also know that Wells doesn't link to Bourque. I don't think he has anything against Bourque, Wells doesn't link to anyone. I'm just saying that Bourque seems to be bending his rules for a big name blogger. Obviously, Wells doesn't need Bourque sending him traffic, in fact it may be the other way around. Perhaps that's my answer.

In other linking news, the man himself, Warren Kinsella, has linked to me and a group of other excellent bloggers. I'm flattered. In a shamless quid pro quo I've moved my link to WK up to the ridiculously titled 'Essential' category of my blog roll. Yes, in some things I can be bought, and rather easily.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:49 a.m. :: (0) comments

Monday, March 29, 2004


Last October I linked to this picture which prompted me to comment on how Chretien was the last of Trudeau's men. At the time I inferred (as most others did) that PM PM would attempt to distance himself from the old regime as much as possible and that with his ascension there would be a major changing of the political guard in the Liberal Party and Ottawa. I worried that this would be a break from traditions and policies that Canadians had come to recognize as their own but I held out hope that Martin would be able to re-invigorate the Liberal government. More and more the former is proving to be the case.

Today Paul Wells reports that the word Liberal was entirely absent from the banners decorating the halls at the recent nomination meeting in St. Maurice (Chretien's old riding) and further that candidates were told not to mention the name of the former prime minister. Even more unbelievably, at the Ottawa South nomination (the one to replace John Manley) John Manley himself was forbidden from addressing the meeting and organizers were told not even to acknowledge his presence in the room.

This kind of behaviour on the part of Team Martin does not exhibit an attempt to forge a new path for the Liberal Party. It represents an attempt to deny the Liberal Party ever existed. Paul Martin does not relate to the tradition of those men pictured above. Sure those Prime Minsters brought us a huge national deficit, and Adscam among a few other low lights. But they also gave us peace-keepers, official bilingualism, a constitution, two referendum victories, the Clarity Act and the balancing of that budget deficit. Most notably, they won elections.

If Martin does not want to at least acknowledge this legacy, I don't want to support him.

Posted by Matthew @ 5:35 p.m. :: (0) comments


Its a beautiful day in Montreal today: 14 degrees, clear and sunny. Its the first really nice day of the spring. Its the kind of day that makes you want to sit out on the balcony and read the paper or kick a soccer ball around with a few friends. It is not the kind of weather that makes you want to sit in the Library reading early 19th century government documents (as much as I love doing that). It would seem that many of my fellow McGill students agree with me. Everyone is outside on capus today, walking around unencumbered by jackets, stopping to talk with friends outside, sitting on steps and benches reading or enjoying the sun.

All this makes me think that the warm weather has come too early for our own good. Someone should do a study at a university campus that examines the correlation between the average temperature in the early weeks of April and the average performance on final papers and exams. I'd be willing to bet that on average across the university that as temperatures go up grades go down. You can get funding for just about any research project if you know where to look. I wonder who would be willing to fund this research?

Posted by Matthew @ 5:02 p.m. :: (0) comments

Sunday, March 28, 2004


I was reading this story about the various political insults that Canada's parties have been throwing at each other in the lead up to an election call. It was mildly interesting but then I came across this:

The Liberal Party of Canada, on an anti-Jack Layton website ( set up to rebut Layton's anti-Paul Martin website ( "Is it Howard Stern? Is it Tom Green? No, it's the 'King of Shock,' Jack Layton. Tell us another one, Jack."

What? I didn't think had anything to do with the NDP. Oh wait, it doesn't. A quick perusal of the site as well as the site of the NDP shows no connection between the two. One click of the mouse reveals paulmartintime is run by these guys. But anyone familiar with the Canadian blogosphere already knew that. The CBC needs to do its research.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:40 a.m. :: (0) comments


Last week I asked why the Globe and Mail in a story about a Montreal and Toronto kidnapping felt it necessary to identify various people involved as being 'Vietnamese' and of 'Vietanamese origin.' I received this response from the Globe:

Mr Fletcher:

In response to your questions, I offer the following background, courtesy of the reporters and editor involved in the story.

The information about the origin of the men came from police briefings, both in Toronto and Montreal; the police considered the information about the ethnicity of the people involved to relevant or they would not have released it.

Normally, we do not consider the race or ethnicity of the people we write about to be important to the story unless that information is relevant. In this case, given that our readers are probably aware that Asian gangs have been known to target members of their own communities for extortion, we were pretty much obliged to repeat what the police told us: That the name of the victim was Le Quang Tin and that they were seeking three suspects of Vietnamese origin (as opposed to Caucasian or African origin). We believe it would have looked a little odd to do otherwise.

Earle Gill
Director, Editorial Administration
The Globe and Mail

I don't know if I'm satisfied by this explanation. I read the original story again and the way the men are identified still strikes me as odd. First, it is not entirely clear from the article that the 'Vietnamese' identification came from the police. If the Globe thinks a detail is relevant only because the police reported it, then that should be made very clear.

Finally, Mr. Gill suggests that the police felt the crime was related to Asian gangs. However, this does not come out in the original story. The men are simply identified as 'Vietnamese,' then 'extortion' is mentioned as a motive, and the reader is left to infer the rest for himself. If the police thought that the ethnicity of the suspects and victims was relevant because of a conection to Asian gang violence then why did the Globe report the former detail but not the necessary latter connection? It seems somewhat sloppy to me.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:06 a.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 25, 2004


Poet Laureate of Canada.

The successful candidate will be an accomplished poet having significantly influenced other authors. Must be a Canadian resident.

Sallary is $12,000 per year for a two year term, plus $10,000 in travel expenses.

Refer application to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons.
Any nominations?

Posted by Matthew @ 3:31 a.m. :: (0) comments


Liberal MP Pat O'Brien has taken up my long advocated cause of instituting a new statutory holiday between New Year's and Easter. Like me, O'Brien supports February 15, Flag Day, as the first option but he also suggests St. Patrick's day. While St. Patrick's day is widely celebrated in Canada I don't think its really the right day for a new statutory holiday.

We really should have a winter time holiday though. Most of this country experiences winter for five or even six months of the year. The least we can ask for is a day off in January or February to either enjoy it or escape from it depending on one's preference.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:15 a.m. :: (0) comments

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


I attempted to impose some order on the blogroll to the right. I don't know how I feel about it. I find most of the blogs I read regularly tend to defy categorization beyond 'Canadian Politics.' I'll leave it as is for now.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:44 a.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Over On The Fence, Nestruck has started up a Google bomb campaign against Others are getting involved and I figured I'd add my blog to the cause. Nestruck originally proposed linking Canadian bacon, unfortunate combover, disappointment to his father and shortest honeymoon ever to Paul Martin. On the suggestion of someone else he has since added ethics cocktease to the list.

Unfortunate combover is already a success. With a little effort Paul Martin will be associated with Canadian bacon, disappointment to his father, ethics cocktease and shortest honeymoon ever to Canadians and on the web.

And yes, I do have better things to be doing, I maybe even have better things to be blogging. I just choose not to, and for a good cause.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:51 p.m. :: (0) comments

Monday, March 22, 2004


The hockey playoffs are almost upon us and there is talk that all six Canadian based NHL franchises may qualify for the postseason tournament. Now I recognize that the possibility of this occurence is a legitimage topic of discussion amongst Canadian news media.

What I never understand, however, is why so many Canadians attach some kind of collective nationalist allegiance to the Canadian based hockey franchises as a bloc. Throughout the playoffs I will hear people say they are cheering for Toronto over Philadelphia because they're the 'Canadian' team. And of course everyone will lament that inevitable moment when there are no 'Canadian' teams left in the playoffs. Why is this?

Professional sports teams are not representing a nation; they are representing a polis. International competitions are the time to cheer for Canada, for that is when Canada is actaully playing. Cheering for the 'Canadian' teams in the playoffs seems to me another attempt by Canadians to create a means of comparison with the Americans so as to maintain some kind of false identity and assuage a latent inferiority complex. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but it just doesn't seem appropriate or necessary to me.

I am an ardent Montreal Canadiens fan. I was raised in the GTA but being a Habs fan is a long tradition in my family. As such, the only thing that makes me more happy than the Habs winning is the Leafs losing. I like the city of Toronto and I generally like Torontonians, but when it comes to hockey I would rather see the Leafs lose the Cup to Nashville or Florida than have to suffer through the celebrating of Leafs fans (if they could even remember how to celebrate a Cup win). I don't have much of an attachment to the cities of Ottawa, Vancouver or Edmonton and I don't much care if they lose to Philadelphia, Detroit or Dalas. As for Calgary, frankly I'm still a little bitter at them for the 1989 cup final.

The Habs are one point away from clinching the playoffs for the first time in far too long. The only thing that has kept me going these past hockey seasons is watching the inevitable failure of the Leafs, whose fans, despite the record of history, continue to believe that this year will somehow be different.

When the Olympics or the World Cup comes around I'll be cheering for Canada like everyone else. When it comes to the NHL, nationalism isn't a factor. Six corporate franchises staffed by international professionals don't somehow become a representation of the nation.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:56 a.m. :: (0) comments

Sunday, March 21, 2004


I don't know if this is the kind of Internet thing that everyone has seen already and I'm the last one to find out about it, but I found this little game hilarious.

Click once to get things going, click a second time to swing your bat. Good luck.

My distance record is 587.1

Warning: not for PETA members.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:32 a.m. :: (0) comments

Saturday, March 20, 2004


The Hon. Mitchell Sharp, a truly grand statesman of the Liberal Party and Canadian politics died yesterday in an Ottawa hospital.

Sharp was born during the end of the administration of Prime Minister Laurier, he served in the public service of Prime Ministers King and St. Laurent, he served in the cabinets of Prime Ministers Pearson, Trudeau and Turner and he served as a personal adviser to Prime Minister Chretien. The story of his life reads quite literally as a Canadian political history of the past sixty years.

I was hoping Warren Kinsella would have more personal insights or anecdotes, but I suppose he is on vacation right now.

Robert Stanfield, Claude Ryan and now Mitchcell Sharp have all died in the past four months. We are definitely undergoing a changing of our political guard.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:45 a.m. :: (0) comments

Friday, March 19, 2004


The Globe and Mail reports a story today of two men who were kidnapped from a night club in Toronto and driven to a house in Montreal where they were beaten for several days by their captors before one of the abducted men managed to escape and alert the police. The incident is awful and somewhat bizarre, however, I have a complaint about the Globe's reporting of it.

The Globe story describes the two abducted men as "of Vietnamese origin" and three of their alleged abuctors as simply "Vietnamese."

First, I saw no evidence in this story, beyond the initial identification, that the ethnicity or nationality of these men mattered at all. The story did not indicate that this crime was in any way racially motivated or that it had any racial undertones beyond the ones that were infused by the Globe's reporting. I would actaully have been more interested to know which of the men were from Toronto and which from Montreal.

Second, by identifying some of the men as "of Vietnamese origin" and then others as "Vietnamese" the reader is left wondering about the citizenship status of these men. Were they actually Canadian citizens or were they Vietnamese citizens? Were they in the country legally or not? Are they landed immigrants or refugees? By identifying the men as they did and providing no further information the details of the story actually become less clear.

I tried to write a letter to the Globe's ombudsperson but I could not find the e-mail address of such an office. Perhaps the Globe does not have one. Instead I wrote my complaint to EIC Greenspon.

UPDATE: 20/03/04, 3:02 a.m.-
I received the following e-mail from The Globe regarding my complaint about this story:

Mr. Fletcher:

I have asked the reporters and editors involved in the story for their comments. I'll probably have a response for you early next week.

Earle Gill
Director, Editorial Administration
The Globe and Mail

Posted by Matthew @ 1:16 p.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 18, 2004


The New Democrats in a coalition government would be as dangerous to Canada as the separatist Bloc Quebecois, Stephen Harper said yesterday.


I understand Harper is just playing politics in response to Martin's attempts to portray the Conservatives as Bloc co-conspirators, but the NDP as dangerous to the country as the Bloc? Please.

Tommy Douglas, the founder of the precursor to the NDP, was the driving force behind the creation of national health care. Lucien Bouchard, the founder of the Bloc, has never established anything that has helped the country.

The NDP are committed to protecting and enhancing the social rights of all Canadians, incidentally they are also committed to fiscal responsibility. The Bloc, on the other hand, is not even committed to representing most Canadians on any issue.

The NDP are absolutely committed to the idea of Canada and to improving the quality of life of Canadians. The Bloc reject the idea of Canada and are committed to breaking the country apart.

I am not so naive to as say that no other party will or should ever vote with the Bloc, it's bound to happen, particularly in a minority government; as long as such a vote benefits the country more than it does the Bloc's position then that's fine.

But to say the federalist NDP and the separatist Bloc threaten the country equally is simply ridiculous.

Update: Same day, 2:00 p.m. - Pogge takes on Harper's comments as well, focusing on the other thrust of his argument, namely that the NDP are opposed to balanced budgets and generally irresponsible with tax dollars.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:03 p.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


The Governor General has been in the news again this week as she was on CBC Radio to defend her increased budget. So many Canadians seem angry about the money she has been spending and Bourque continues to take not-so-subtle jabs at her eitorializing under titles such as 'Queen Adrienne defends Lavish Budget.' As I went about my day I was composing snipets of a post in defence of Her Excellency. I find however that The Middleman has already said most of what I would have. An excerpt:

Since becoming the Queen's representative as head of state for Canada, I have actually noticed that she has spent lots of time with our troops in the field and with Northerners, and that she has organized state trips to the circumpolar regions, including Russia and Finland, accompanied by the finest representation of Canadian commerce, critical thinking, and culture. Having a refugee, turned landed immigrant, turned multilingual Canadian citizen, turned head of state is a pretty inspiring symbolism for me.
Now if this were a discussion about the ridiculous constitutional monarchist tradition that we uphold as a thin fa├žade for one-party Prime Ministerial primacy, then I would be happy to engage in that debate. But as long as we are asking for a symbolic figurehead to spread a little bit of Canada around the world on the cheap and represent the best of what we claim to be... I would give them all the money it takes to make us look and feel much better about ourselves than we really do

Don has a good point in the comments as well.

I would say that the increase in Her Excellency's spending is a direct reflection of what an outstanding job she has done in her position. She has been the best Governor General in many years, her replacement will have large shoes to fill, not to mention a large, redecorated, modernized official residence.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:57 p.m. :: (0) comments

Monday, March 15, 2004


There is a lot of debate swirling as to what extent and in what way the Madrid attacks influenced the Spanish election. David at Maderblog has a quick summary of the positions with his opinion and links.

As I just wrote below I don't think we can single out any one factor or motivation behind the Spanish electorate. What is clear, however is this: The terrorists specifically targeted a democratic election, and regardless of HOW you think they affected it, they had an affect.

First, to target an election shows the terrorist desire to strike at the heart of what defines our democratic society. Elections are the procedural representation of our liberty. To attack in the days leading up to an election exhibits an attack on the idea of democracy. Part of what binds the people of free nations to each other and to those of other free nations is the idea that, regardless of politics or petty ideologies, we are united by the principles of democracy. The 9/11 attacks targeted powerful physical symbols of liberty and modernity; the Madrid attacks targeted an equally powerful imagined symbol: the process by which a civilized people govern their society.

Second, Al Qaida has certainly noted the influence they have had on the Spanish elections. Are all election periods in democratic nations now increased terrorist threats? Can we expect attempted attacks during campaigns in Britain, America and Canada? I think the answer is yes.

Are we willing to allow terrorists to play a significant role in our elections? Must this become another 'cost of doing business' in a democracy? It most assuredly cannot.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:29 p.m. :: (0) comments


Don over at RevMod is confused as to why Al Qaeda would attack Spain. Don asks:

First of all, al Quada? Really? Al Quada's raison d'etre was to destabilise secular governments in the middle east so that there would be opportunities to replace them with theocracies like the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Pissing off the Americans was a means to that end. That certainly doesn't explain the bombings on Thursday

I wouldn't call that Al Qaeda's raison d'etre. I would say its part of their plan. I would say their raison d'etre is more aptly defined by the statement of one of their founders: "we are not trying to negotiate with you, we are trying to destroy you." There goal is not destabilization, their goal is destruction.

Don then asks: "why Spain? It's not like there's a whole lot of security on commuter trains anywhere else, either - why pick on the smallest of the major Iraq occupiers?"

Some reasons:
1. Jose Maria Anzar was one of the staunchest and outspoken supporters of the Iraq war amongst European leaders.
2. The country was days away from a national election, why not try and disrupt (or even influence) the very means by which we define ourselves.
3. Attacking a major western democracy shows the democratic west is far from having Al Qaeda defeated.
4. As the statement of claim from Al Qaeda said, it was a "strike against crusaders," recalling the long history of Muslim oppression by the Spanish.

Then their is James Bow'sthoughts on the Spanish election outcome. Bow says the idea that the election result is a rebuke of the Popular Party's stance on the war on terror or that it shows a shirking of Spanish resolve is a particular 'spin.' I would call it an interpretation.

Bow's interpretation is that the Spanish felt Anzar was manipulating the attacks for political ends and responded to that by defeating his party. Bow claims, "but from the start, the bombings didn't have the ETA's signitures." Well, yes and no. The attack seemed not in the style of past ETA attacks yet they were carried out with the same type of explosives usually used by the ETA, and their was enough confusion for various Spanish ministers to focus on both the ETA and Islamists (link) Bow then claims that "to most everybody on the street, this was an Al Queda attack." Really? Then what was with all the people in the streets holding the anti ETA signs? Were they just following the government 'spin' or did they have their own interpretation?

I think there are a lot of factors that went into the result of the Spanish vote and I don't think we can single out any one. The important point is that the terrorists targeted an election (more on that later).

Bow then goes on to his second point, which is 'crisis management is not leadership.' He writes:

Using the disaster to claim that one's opponents couldn't do so well, that they threaten the safety of the country, is unbecoming of a political leader.

It's akin to a manager courageously fending off an armed gang trying to rob a store, and then explicitly pointing to this experience as the main reason why he should get a promotion to a lucrative supervisory position over a manager of a store across town that wasn't robbed. You can not claim to know how well your opponents will do in such a crisis and, at some level, one should hope that we never find out.

First: Government is not management, but I understand the analogy so lets use it. I would say the more appropriate analogy is along these lines:

The manager who fended off the robbery claims that the experience has taught him that store security can't be taken for granted. He claims to be best suited for the lucrative promotion because he is best able to asses the store's security vulnerability and respond by installing surveillance cameras and better locks. The manager across the street who doesn't have the burglary experience doesn't see armed robbery as an issue. He is of the opinion that in a dangerous world these things occasionally happen and the best solution is not to confront armed robbers and to make sure you have good insurance. The first manager, based on his experience, wants to prevent future robberies, the second manager wants to respond to robberies after the fact.

I agree that crisis management is not leadership. Leadership is how you respond to the cause of the crisis.

Posted by Matthew @ 6:35 p.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 11, 2004


In this morning's Globe and Mail, Roy MacGregor strongly suggested that hockey might need some political interference to pressure it to clean up the game.

This afternoon in London Ontario the Prime Minister told professional hockey to "clean up your act."

Martin said neither he nor the federal government would likely intervene in the investigation into Bertuzzi's attack on Colorado Avalanche rookie Steve Moore on Monday night.

But Martin added he "could discuss (the issue) with the minister of sport."

"I think that Canadians feel that there is a problem with hockey, there's a problem with violence in sports and that it should be dealt with."

I wonder if the Prime Minister read the Globe this morning?

Posted by Matthew @ 8:09 p.m. :: (0) comments


In a clever twist of rhetoric Dave over at Maderblog supports my stance on mandatory voting and then extends my argument, somewhat logically, into an area he knows I'm not willing to follow him.

Mader writes:

I expect, then, that Matt will join me in calling for an end to closed-shop unionism, one of the most serious affronts to liberty in Canada.

After all, the right to unionize must necessarily include the right not to unionize. Right?

Absolutely. However, closed-shop unionism does not deny the right not to unionize. When an individual joins a particular work-place or profession he does so, presumably with the knowledge of who he will be associating with. If the job or profession he is entering requires that he join a union or some other professional association, he enters willingly with this knowledge. His right to association is exercised by taking the job, his right to not-associate is exercised by not taking the job. Does this limit the job prospects of people who do not want to associate with a union of professional association? Yes. But all rights have limits, this one to me is reasonable.

What of people who find themselves joining a non-unionized workplace that one day becomes unionized?

First, their right to not-associate is not completely overridden because they are always free to leave their job, but even I will admit that is not really practical or fair.

Second, the right to not-associate is not completely abbrogated because the individual retains the right to de-certify the union. In Ontario all unionized workplaces are required by law to post prominent instructions on how to go about de-certifying a union. No such reciprocal responsibility exists in non-unionized workplaces.

Thirdly, all unionization drives (ones in Ontario are what I am most familiar with) are governed by strict government regulations and require a majority vote of employees to cast a ballot in favour of forming a union, so the process is democratic to begin with. Certainly it is a situation of collective rights trumping individual rights, but there are cases where this happens and I'm fine with that.

The logical counter-argument here in relation to the original point about mandatory voting is obviously that if mandatory voting were instituted it would be done by a democratically elected government and therefore would be justified. This is true, and if that were to happen I would be forced to accept the general will of the Canadian citizenry as represented by parliament. That doesn't however mean that I have to agree with the decision or abide by it, but I do have to accept the consequences. If Canada adopted mandatory voting I would refuse to vote on principle and then be forced to accept whatever the consequences of that decision.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:18 p.m. :: (0) comments


At least 190 people were killed and over 1,200 wounded in Madrid this morning as ten bombs exploded during the morning rush hour.

The Basque terror group ETA is the prime suspect for the attack but al-Qaeda cannot be ruled out at this point. Whoever was responsible it doesn't matter. In fact, I think one of the important points is that the existence of one terrorist group aids the other because we don't know exactly were to focus our attention when something like this happens. In today's world their is no local terrorism, its all part of a global phenomenon, regardless of the degree of interconectedness. It has to be approached by the whole world, across the whole world to be defeated.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:32 p.m. :: (0) comments

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Armchair is right. Communal purchasing of Tim Horton's coffee during Roll Up the Rim to Win season raises a nasty ethical dilema. I don' know of any serious incidents occuring but I do know its an issue that gets discussed in workplaces. We need a national debate.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:34 p.m. :: (0) comments


Over at the election blog Vicki Smith brings up the perennial idea of mandatory voting. While I was somewhat dismayed to see this idea being brought up again, I was even more surprised to see it being supported by most people in the comments. The argument in favour is, of course, that forced voting will raise awarness about elections and democracy, will raise flagging voter turnout, and will not really be an imposition because people can always spoil their ballot.

This idea is inherently undemocratic but it also has no utilitarian value. The right to vote and the right to free speech are the two most fundamental rights to maintaining a democracy. These rights give the citizenry the ability to discuss the ways in which they would be governed and then the ability to enact their collective decision. I believe that that participation in the public sphere through debate and voting are obligations of citizenship. However, all rights, in order to be fully realized must be exercised by the individual will. All rights to do something must necessarily include the right not to do something, whether it is speaking, moving, living or voting.

As it is inherently undemocratic, enforced voting will serve no utilitarian benefit to our democracy. People who want to vote will do so. People who do not want to vote will spoil their ballot. What is the difference between 50 per cent of the population not showing up and 50 per cent spoiling their ballot? Both are a sad reflection on the state of our democracy except that in the latter situation people have been coerced, which is even sadder. Further, I don't want people who have no interest in casting an informed, meaningful vote to be in the polling booth. As I have said,full citizenship requires involvement in democracy beyond mere voting. I don't want huge numbers of uninformed half-citizens being forced to vote every four years simply to make some people feel better about getting pre-liberation Iraq levels of voter turnout. Voting is the very last step in the democratic process. If people aren't going to be involved from the beggining it is beneficial to no one, least of all our democracy, to force them to be involved at the very end.

Voter turnout is a reflection of the state of our democracy. Forced voting only covers up the serious problems in our political culture it wont solve them. Democracy cannot be imposed. You gotta want it.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:35 a.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


An Associated Press report published in the Toronto Star brings us the news that the Internet has doomed the use of encyclopedias, even as a source for middle school research projects. Apparently more information is available online and the kids these days are incredibly computer literate.

What is this story doing in the 21st century?

Posted by Matthew @ 12:28 a.m. :: (0) comments

Monday, March 08, 2004


My Far Side wall callendar infrorms me that today is apparently Commonwealth Day. Having never heard of this apparent celebratory day I went to Google to find out more.

Heritage Canada indicates that Commonwealth Day was first observed in 1977 initiated from a Canadian proposal for a day to recognize the unity and achievments of the Commonwealth to be celebrated in all member nations.

The celebration of Commonwealth Day entails no uniform manner of observance of Commonwealth Day upon member countries, it being left to each country to mark that day as it considers suitable. It is not a statutory holiday; rather it is a day of observance by close to one billion persons of their common bonds and the contribution of the Commonwealth of Nations to the creation of a harmonious global environment. has more information on the day. Apparently every year a theme for the day is chosen and the Queen delivers an address on that theme. This year's theme is 'Building a Commonwealth of Freedom and the Queen's rather short and uninspired address is here.

Apparently Commonwealth Day is celbrated on the second Monday in March. To me it just seems like another good excuse for a new holiday between New Year's and Easter.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:54 p.m. :: (0) comments

Friday, March 05, 2004


The waiting game is over. Actually, it has been for about a week. I was accepted to M.A. programmes at York University and Queen's University. I haven't heard from McGill yet but I eliminated them as an option for various reasons, none of them being cause to assume that McGill University is anything but the best school in the country. You just can't do all your degrees at the same place.

So the decision is made. Its Queen's.

Now I just have to figure out how to reconcile with all of my friends who went to Queen's who I have been making fun of for the last four years.

In other academic news I'm away for the weekend so there wont be much blogging here. I'm off to Trent University in Peterborough, ON to present a paper at a Canadian studies conference being held there.

Okay, enough shamless self-promotion for now. I'll be back on Sunday.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:51 a.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 04, 2004


The Toronto City Council today voted unanimously to approve a plan to focus on cleaning up and beautifying Toronto with an emphasis on picking up and preventing litter. The go-to-guy on all things trashy and Toronto related is of course The Armchair Garbageman.

Good for Toronto for commiting to cleaning up its streets. Now, I don't pay much attention to Montreal municipal politics (hey, I've only lived here for four years) but I dare say Montreal needs a similar initiative. Walking about town its impossible not to be confronted by the disgusting quantity and quality of garbage on the streets. Of course, as Armchair points out, the spring is always the worst time for this phenomenon becasue as the snow melts all the trash that wasn't picked up in October and that has been dumped since makes a revolting reappearance. But still, something needs to be done here.

The Toronto anti-litter plan focuses on hiring more city staff to clean up, placing more garbage and recycling bins throughout the city, and public education. I'm no expert in this area but it seems to me like these are the right measures, I just hope they give each the right emphasis. I see them as important in this order from least to most effective:

3. More staff
Really the least effective solution. If people are going to litter at regular rates all the city workers in... well the city, wont be able to keep up. Further, I have some personal experience in this area as a Parks employee in my hometown for the past few summers. Picking up trash is really one of the least appealing jobs town maintenance workers do, hence it often isn't done very well. Finally, I can also attest that there is usually much more usefull work to be done around town. If garbage didn't need to picked up it would save a lot of time and therefore money.

2. More bins
People are lazy. Most wont go out of their way to throw out trash, dog poop particularly. If people don't see a trash can within ten feet of them they'll likely opt for the ground.

1. Public education/advertising
As Toronto City council realizes, policing littering is next to impossible, so the threat of fines for doing so is little deterrent. The solution then: good old fashioned peer pressure and social control. Make people feel guilty and self-consious about littering, more importantly make them feel proud about having a clean city.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:38 p.m. :: (0) comments


As mentioned below, discussion with the Associate Deputy Minister of Justice turned at one point to the notwithstanding clause and the relative merits of its potential use. Prof. Ed Broadbent, who was a one time leader of a federal party and is again running for election to the house of commons, discussed situations in which he would use section 33 of the Charter.

Specifically, Broadbent said that he would have moved to invoke section 33 in response to the 1995 Supreme Court ruling on the federalTobacco Products Control Act (TPCA). The Act had banned almost all types of advertising by tobacco companies. While the court unanimously ruled that the government did have the right to regulate tobacco advertising in particular ways the majority held that the government had failed to demonstrate that the restraints in the TPCA regarding advertising, promotion and labelling were reasonable and justified restrictions on freedom of expression.

Broadbent was certainly opposed to this Supreme Court ruling and said that he would have invoked the notwithstanding clause to by-pass it. He argued, as I understood it, that banning tobacco advertising was a reasonable social policy that governments should be permitted to take in protecting the health of its citizens. He felt the common good, and the right of the government to promote it, outweighed the value of free expression of a corporation.

One student argued that the use of the notwithstanding clause once would make it easier to use in the future and begin a trend of its use by the federal government (which has never invoked it). Broadbent dismissed the 'slippery slope' argument as he has in class before. He thinks there's no reason why we can't evaluate situations on a case by case basis and sees no reason why one decision to invoke the clause should necessarily lead to more. In one sense I agree with him (on the slippery slope argument). One use of the clause does not necessarily mean it will be used again. I think we do have the reasonable ability to decide that in one case the clause was necessary while in another it may not be. At the same time the difference between never having used the clause and even using it once, is huge.

Ms. Dawson, the associate deputy minister, did not come out directly against the use of the clause but she did argue that use of the clause could make governments less careful in drafting legislation. She noted that since the passage of the Charter, all legislation goes through rigorous Justice Department scrutiny to insure it is 'Charter proof.' She feels this is a good thing, and I agree, because it forces the government to consider all of the legal rights implications of its legislation. Ms. Dawson felt that if the clause began to be used more often and was seen as a more legitimate option, governments may become more sloppy in the drafting of their legislation. Broadbent agreed that this was a valid concern but wasn't backing down.

Personally, I would agree with the decision of the court. I don't see how we can legitimately ban all advertising from companies that produce a legal product. If it is legal to sell it should be legall to promote selling it. There are lots of other products on the market that cause many thousands of deaths each year (cars and alcohol come to mind) and we might regulate their advertising but we don't ban it. The harm of the product all depends on how people use it, which is largely their own decision. Alcohol producers, and car companies shouldn't be advertising dangerous use of their products but they should be allowed to advertise; same deal with tobacco. Broadbent argued that any use of tobacco was inherently dangerous and the government therefore had a right to control it. It seemed a little paternalistic to me.

On the nothwithstanding clause I think it is useful as a potential check on a reckless judiciary, but I can't think of a past Supreme Court decision I would have used the clause to overturn.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:06 p.m. :: (0) comments


I got two different looks at the senior civil service yesterday.

First in Ed Broadbent's class. Prof. Broadbent brought in a guest lectrurer, Mary Dawson an associate deputy minister in the federal justice department. Ms. Dawson is a graduate of McGill's law school (another example of what you can do with your McGill degree) and she has been in the justice department for over twenty years. She is a legal scholar who has written several articles on legal and rights related topics in Canada as well she was heavily involved in the drafting of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Clarity Act.

Ms. Dawson talked about working in the justice department in the post Charter era, she feels like the role of the justice department has become more central in the drafting of all legistlation. We also talked about the Notwithstanding Clause (more on that to come) and gay rights. She also discussed the dynamics of keeping justice department work separate from the politics of the party and minister in power. The most interesting example had to do with Supreme Court appointments. The minister and his staff have a role in the process but the deputies and other civil servants have no involvement at all. On this particular issue there is such separationg that Ms. Dawson does not even know what the process is for the selection of justices. If the selection of justices is so secretive that the deputy ministers don't even know how it is carried out, we may need this process to be more public.

The second look at the civil service was far less personal. Last night on the CBC-series Snakes and Ladders Shannon has a run-in with a particularly obnoxious deputy minister. One of the main stories of the episode involved this deputy trying and eventually succeeding in finding dubious reasons to deny a reporter's access to information requests that would have revealed a government scandal (hmm, a topical and decently produced CBC drama). Anyway, at one point this deputy minister goes on a tirade about how he is the real government and how he holds all the real responsibily and that this is both a great deal of power and burden. It made me wonder how truthful a depiction it was of deputy ministers and not in a good way.

Ms. Dawson, however was very personable and seemed very competent, intelligent, and trustworthy, but then, she is a McGill grad.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:31 a.m. :: (0) comments

Monday, March 01, 2004


On Friday both The Middleman and I drew attention to a Globe and Mail online poll asking Canadains how they felt about official bilingualism. Both posts stimultated a significant flurry of comments on the subject.

Today in the Toronto Star, John Ralston Saul has an opinion piece of his own on the subject. Essentially, he writes that bilingualism has been a success to this point but that it has to move beyond the current level of achievment. He focuses mostly on the need to expand bilingual programmes in universities through a greater emphasis on bicultralism.

Much of the history of Canada has been the negotiation between majority and minority cultural groups, beginning with the French and English. A greater understanding of these processes and peoples through increased bilingual and bicultral education would certainly be welcome

Posted by Matthew @ 6:16 p.m. :: (0) comments