Tuesday, May 25, 2004

AND SO IT BEGINS

What kind of Prime Minister calls an election on a holiday long weekend? One who couldn't make up his mind about when to call it I suppose. Anyway, I spent a relaxing long weekend mostly removed from any news or media coverage. I did, however watch the PM's stroll from 24 Sussex to Government House which made him appear either confident or frightened depending on who you talk to you. Personally I thought it was a great photo-op from a PR standpoint. The trappings of government, the RCMP security officers, the setting in general, portrayed Martin as a powerful leader, while the leisurely walk and his relaxed manner, followed by throngs of people, struck the right balance of populism. I would have preferred if he had taken a few more questions upon emerging from the GG's residence.

As mentioned, I haven't seen much campaign coverage yet but I think Stephen Harper has the best line of the campaign so far. In answering a question following his opening remarks Harper said something to the effect of, "the Liberal Party seems to think that in order to be a Canadain you also have to be a Liberal, but Liberal values are not synonymous with Canadain values" (paraphrase). This is a good message. It strikes at perceived Liberal arrogance and counter-acts Liberal attacks portryaing Harper as dangerous to the country.

Hopefully my campaign blogging will be fairly regular for the next month. I also start work for my local NDP candidate this evening so I will post any interesting updates about that. Also, I'm currently living in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora, the riding of Belinda Stronach, so I'll try and keep some tabs on the as well.

Don't forget to check on the BlogsCanada Election Blog for continuous election commentary and also the BlogsCanada political index for a wide variety of on-line election resources.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:55 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, May 21, 2004

IN DEFENCE OF CANADIAN CULTURE

I'm currently engaged in an on-going debate with a fellow Maderblog reader about the nature of Canadian culture. Basically, I'm arguing it exists and the other guy (Stern, a fellow McGill student) is arguing it doesn't, at least not beyond regional peculiarities. The debate is in the comments to this post. Readers of this space are invited over there as that is where much of my blogging attention is being directed today. Like-minded readers are invited to join in the defence of the nation.

Posted by Matthew @ 5:49 PM :: (0) comments

THE STAR CHECKS ITS LATIN

On todays editorial page the Star rightly apologized to Stephen Harper for yesterday's accusations of laziness, which I, and I imagine many other alert readers, pointed out were quite misplaced.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:43 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, May 20, 2004

THAT'S IT...

... I'm de-linking Andrew Coyne. If he comes back, someone let me know.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:57 PM :: (0) comments

FROM SEA TO SEA THEY DESIRE A BETTER COUNTRY

In today's 'Darts and Laurels' on the The Stars editorial page (not available on-line) the Star accuses Stephen Harper of laziness for claiming in a campaign pamphlet that the Coat of Arms of Canada displays the words 'they desire a better country.' The Star glibly asserts "Wrong folks, it says 'from sea to sea.'" If the Star is going to accuse people of laziness it would be expected that it would at least check its facts first. To not do so would be, well... lazy.

First of all, very techinically speaking the Coat of Arms says niether of those above things because the writing on the Arms is in Latin not English, but whatever. The more important point is that the Coat of Arms actaully displays both of those phrases.

This independent website gives an excellent explanation of the Canadian Coat of Arms, the government's site is better for the history but less good for an explanation of the heraldry.

The motto of Canada 'a mari usque ad mare' (from sea to sea) has been displayed at the base of the Arms since they were approved by Royal Proclamation in 1921. However, in 1994 HRH Elizabeth II approved the addition of a ribbon to the Arms, surrounding the crest, with the inscription of the Order of Canada 'desiderantes meliorem patriam (they desire a better country).

The Star's accusations of laziness prove quite ironic when it is clear that no one at the paper bothered to look at the Coat of Arms when writing something about them.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:42 PM :: (0) comments

A CITIZEN CANDIDATE FOR CANADIAN DEMOCRACY

Arjun Singh a regular contributor to the Blogs Canada E-Group has announced his candidacy as an independent in the upcoming election in the riding of Kamloops-Thompson.

From Arjun's innagural statement:

Our Canadian democracy needs revitalization. Low voter turnouts deeply concern me. I am also quite worried about the ambivalence, or worse the antipathy, that many Canadians feel towards their political leaders.
...
I believe Canadians need to send a strong message to political candidates and organisers that we do care about our government. And we need to make a statement that the politics of negativity and divisiveness are no longer acceptable to us.

Arjun's obvious commitment to Canadian democracy and the responsibilities of citizenship are commendable. He has also vowed to run a highly principled campaign, stating he will:

- Never impugn another candidate integrity or intentions
- Only actively soliciting the votes of people who have not voted before or have become disillusioned with the political process.
- Making it a point to comment positively on the things in other candidates policies that I agree with.
- Work hard to achieve in our riding the highest average voting rate in the country.

Arjun is running the type of campaign that I think most Canadians would actually like to see. He will not stoop to bribery and name calling in an attempt to win votes. He will not treat the people of Kamloops-Thomspon as mere voters to be won over, but instead as citizens who are capable of making informed decisions about the future of our country.

Some may say that it is easy for an independent candidate to run a campaign like Arjun's, for he really has nothing to loose, but that the major parties must engage in tactics that keep them competitive with the others. But I think that the major parties sell themselves short and more importantly abrogate their responsibilities to the nation by talking down to the citizenry. Canadians are desparate for more candidates like Arjun. The other parties should be paying attention.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

ANIMALS AS PROPERTY, THE SENATE'S STATUS QUO

Yesterday's lead editorial in the Toronto Star criticized the Senate for holding up legislation that would alter sections of the Criminal Code dealing with cruelty to animals. I say good for the Senate. Quoting from The Star: "the proposed changes would move animals out of the section of the Criminal Code that deals with property and would acknowledge them as sentient beings that feel pain." Except that domestic animals, dogs, cats, hamsters, cows, sheep, pigs etc. etc. are property and the Criminal Code should continue to consider them as such.

This is also a lesson to Canadians that the Seanate still holds power, and occasionally importance. It exerts that power arbitrarily and it holds little legitimacy, which is wrong, but never let it be said that the Senate is 'useless' or 'accomplishes nothing.'

Posted by Matthew @ 12:35 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

THE INNEVITABLE COMPARISON

J. Kelly Nestruck on the deulling 'Team Martin Said' and 'Stephen Harper Said' websites:

So what I'm waiting for is the Jack Layton Said website. I'm sure it's coming. (Or has it already come?) The Liberals in particular can't afford to ignore the NDP. But they're fighting a three-front war, so their resources are all tied up. Just like Hitler...

Heh. Funny.

The sad thing is to wait and see how long it will take either the Liberals or the Conservatives to seriously compare the other to Hitler. It's going to be a messy campaign.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:09 PM :: (0) comments

REPRESENTATIONS OF WAR, YESTERDAY AND TODAY

Today the the Globe and Mail reports that new documentation relating to the military's public relations response to the disastrous 1942 Canadian forces raid on Dieppe, France has been discovered by a University of Victoria graduate student. Timothy Blazer discovered the documents while reaserching his M.A thesis on how the Canadian public was informed about the Dieppe mission. This is the kind of thing history graduate students (like me) dream of.

The discovered document, the minutes of a Combined Operations Head Quarters meeting, indicates that there was a calculated preplanned response to portray the battle as a success in the event that it failed. The document states the PR strategy was to "stress the success of the operation as an essential test in the employment of substantial forces and heavy equipment" and then to "lay extremely heavy stress on stories of personal heroism -- through interviews, broadcasts, etcetera -- in order to focus public attention on BRAVERY rather than OBJECTIVES NOT ATTAINED."

Blazer is quoted as saying "Of course the military would want to put the best possible spin on something, but I think this went beyond the pale of what was acceptable. It was total deception. That's crossing the line."

This of course raises the question of what is appropriate government action in releasing information to the public during a time of war? What are the government's responsibilities in presenting bad news to the public? What distinguishes between 'spin' and 'deception', and should such a distinction even be made? Does maintaining public morale during a time of war superceded the public's right to know? Also, what shoudl the role of the media be?

I think it is innevitable, particularly during a time of war, that the government would attempt to manage public opinion; this happens constantly. I think a government exhibits how much it trusts its citizens by the amount and type of information it releases about events such as this, however, I don't think that it is even possible for the government to release all available information, for what constitutes 'all'? Is reporting precise casualty numbers enough or is that still a 'deception'? Must there be descriptions of how people died?

This is why, in a free society, the role of an independent press is critical. No one source, government or otherwise, can give a full representation of any particular issue or event. A variety of perspectives represented by the press balance each other and that of the government. The formation of public opinion then further balances those.

In the case of Dieppe the real failure of responsibility (in terms of representing the event to the public) was the media's. Most Canadian newspapers and the Canadian Press mimicked the PR strategy of the military and government. The Globe story reporst that legendary CP reporter Ross Munro said of his Dieppe story that it was the one time he felt as if he had 'cheated' the Canadian public.

As always, however, the institutions of democracy functioned as they should. With the full publication of casualty lists the Canadian public learned of the enormity of the disaster. "There was no way to cover up 134 pages of names."

Today our free societies continue to struggle with these same issues of how to represent a war, whether it's the publication of flag drapped caskets arriving home, pictures from an Iraqi prison, or the brutal execution of one American man. That we are still debating these things, however, attests to the continued fundamental streangths of our democracy, and as always the study of history helps to inform these contemporary debates.

[thanks to Pogge for pointing me to the Globe article]

Posted by Matthew @ 2:15 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, May 13, 2004

STAR WARS. WHY NOT?

In a recent post titled 'It looks like an arms race to me' Pogge comes out strongly against the American Ballistic Missile Defence plan and Canada's potential involvement in it. The two most pertinent points from the post are as follows:

First, Pogge writes,

"I don't see how anyone can claim that current American policy doesn't amount to an arms race. It's just that part of American strategy is to prevent anyone else from getting into the game."

Frankly, this seems like a pretty sound foreign policy to me. If the U.S is so strong as to prevent other nations from developing weapons and attacking it, and if we're allied with the United States then it would seem that both the U.S and us are relatively safe. Actually, it seems like this strategy has been working pretty well for the past fifty years.

Pogge then follows up with,
"Nor do I see how anyone can claim, a [Defence Minister] Pratt does, that the weaponization of spcae is something we don't have to think about, even as we consider cooperating with the United States on a missile defence program whose budget is being used to develop weapons that will be deployed in space."

I completely agree. I think the weaponization of space is an issue and that the defence minister is simply trying to duck it. What Pogge, nor anyone else I have come across seems to ever expain adequately however is why the weaponization of space would be inherently bad.

If it is possible for us, with the U.S, to gain a strategic advantage in national self defence by placing weapons in space why would we not?

Further, why should we automatically assume that there should never be weapons in space? If humans are going to be in space there is going to be human conflict in space. It would be nice to assume that space will be some utopian realm of peace and harmony but the history of human progress and expansion does not seem to bode well for those hopes. The only reason there are not currently weapons in space is because there is little human presence in space. Where humans go they take weapons, because weapons are necessary for self defence. It makes no sense to say that there should never be any weapons in space simply becasue there are none there now or out of a mistaken belief that weapons are inherently bad.

There are still reasons to oppose the current rush towards the BMD. The fact that the system doesn't work is the primary one. I may also still be convinced that there should not be weapons in space but the argument is going to have to be better than 'because it's space.'

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

ANYONE IS ELECTABLE

Former NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh has said that voting for the federal NDP in the next election is no better than voting for the Conservatives. Dosanjh is running for the federal Liberals and know seems to favour a two party system.

Dosanjh statement's only help to stoke the beliefs of those ambivalent about the democratic process that their votes are meaningless. No vote is meaningless; no 'fringe party' (not that the NDP is one) is beyond electability. Anyone is electable if you have the conviction to vote for them. Ed Broadbent won is first federa election by fifteen votes.

I could turn Dosanjh's question around on him. Why 'throw your vote away' on the Liberals when you would just be contributing to the election of the most vapid Prime Minister in history?

Dosanjh's statement reflects an inherently undemocratic attitude. He is not seeking to promote himself or his party but simply using fear to limit the range of choices people consider on election day.

I think this is reflective of the type of campaign we can expect from the Liberals in the next election, if PM PM ever decides to call it.

[Link via Pogge]
For more discussion see Pogge's post at the Election Blog.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:39 AM :: (0) comments

Saturday, May 08, 2004

MORE MISPLACED HOCKEY NATIONALISM

I opened to the Sports section of the Toronto Star this morning to find a large headline reading 'Carrying Canada's Hopes.' I thought to myself that the Canadian National Hockey team that was playing Sovlakia in the World Hockey Championships today was finally getting some media coverage. Of course I was wrong. The story, obviously, was about a professional sports team from Calgary.

Paul Hunter's article opens with this line:

The star goalie is from Finland. The pest is too. And the enforcer is Polish. But you'd have a tough time these days finding a better Canadian hockey story than the one unfolding in Calgary.

I don't think Hunter realized the irony of his statement.

How about this story? A team of all Canadian players, coached and staffed by Canadians, travels to the Czech Republic to represent the entire nation playing hockey against other national teams. In the quarter finals they hammer out a tense 5-4 overtime victory against Finland and are on their way to the semi-finals against Slovakia.

I've lamented before and will ask again: why do Canadians insist on extending nationalist tendencies towards professional hockey? The hockey teams of the NHL are not representing nations. They are franchises, buisinesses, based in particular cities. They are staffed by professionals from a variety of countries, who are paid (large sums) of American money, and, most of the time, don't care whether they're playing in Edmonton or Anahiem as long as they are winning and being paid well. Yet, Calgary is 'carrying Canada's hopes' simply because they play home games in Calgary.

Canadians make such a big deal about hockey being 'our game' but most of us (myself included) only care about professional hockey. As already mentioned the national team is currently in a foreign country actually representing, you know, the nation, but the lack of interest doesn't stop there. How many Canadians noticed the Inter-University hockey championships? St. Francis-Xavier beat the University of Northern British Columbia. If we want real Canadian hockey content why don't we cast our gaze to the ongoing QMJHL playoffs in which Gatineau is ahead of Moncton three games to none in the championship series?

It makes no sense to express nationalism towards NHL hockey nor is it the best representation of Canadian hockey content. Yet Canadians act as if national pride depends on the Flames winning. Across this country tens of thousands of Canadians are playing hockey at various levels, but if it's not the NHL, not too many other Canadians care.

If you're interested Canada beat Slovakia 2-1.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:26 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, May 07, 2004

HARPER'S DIVISIVE TONE

Yesterday John Ibbitson and today the Toronto Star editorial board commented on a statement made by Stephen Harper in 2001 regarding immigrants to Western Canada. The statement in question is this:

"You've got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from Eastern Canada, people who live in ghettos and who are not integrated into Western Canadian society."

The statement was in response to a question about why the Alliance does well electorally in the West and converslely the Liberals less so. The first clause of the statement, I imagine, is factually correct and a reasonable answer. Recent immigrants to the West, both from foriegn countries and Eastern Canada, are probably more likely to vote Liberal. However, Harper then went on to pejoratively characterize Liberal voters as living in 'ghettos' and being 'not integrated.'

Both Ibbitson and The Star say this requires an explanation and they are right. It is one thing to use factually based reasoning to explain electoral outcomes and comment on future electoral strategy. It is another to jump to conclusions and characterize people the way Harper has. Both Ibbitson and The Star argue the problem with Harper's comment is its inherrent tone of divisiveness. Ibbitson writes:

he really needs to tell us all what he believes about this country. He needs to talk openly, not defensively or dismissively, about the things he has said in the past. He needs to explain how he has changed, if at all, and how his beliefs would help unify rather than divide Canadians.

The Star, a tad more hyperbolic, chimes in:

Does Harper really mean to suggest, as he so bluntly put it, that there are two classes of Western Canadians: the true or pur laine class of born and bred Westerners who share a parochial, conservative perspective, and the outsiders, with their regionally and ethnically tainted liberal views?

The poblem is not that Harper pointed out that immigrants tend to vote Liberal. The problem is the divisive tone of the characterization coming from a man who needs to be able to represent all Canadians regardless of how they vote. As Ibbitson says, "he really needs to tell us what he believes about this country."

Posted by Matthew @ 12:45 PM :: (0) comments

MOST IMPORTANT EVER?

Apparently the Prime Minster believes that he is about to offer Canadians a debate more important than wartime conscription or peacetime free trade. Paul Martin thinks that the upcoming election (if it ever actually happens) will be the most important election in our nation's history. Ever. Really?

When I read this headline in yesterday's Globe and Mail I couldn't help but laugh. The elections of 1917, 1926, 1940, 1988 and 1993 struck me, simply off the top of my head, as ranking as more historically significant than anything Paul Martin or the other parties will be able to offer up in the coming weeks (months?, years?).

Is the Prime Minister so engrossed with himself that he really believes this? Or is he so naive as to think that his own MP's and even other Canadians will be inspired by more of his empty rhetoric. Yes, this is a time when destiny is ours to hold. I think the Canadian electorate will make this a very historically significant election; significant in the personal career of Paul Martin Jr. anyway.

Update: Next Day, 12:05 p.m.- I assumed I wouldn't be the only one to find Martin's arrogance and hyperbole hillarious. Sure enough Dan Mader had almost the exact same thoughts I did and posted about 9 hours earlier.

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

HOME FOR A REST

This will be the last overly personal post for a while, promise. I've been in the process of moving from Montreal back to the suburban sprawl of the Greater Toronto Area, specifically Newmarket, Ontario, which has kept me busy and not blogging. My plans for the summer are fairly fluid right now so I don't know how my blogging will be affected over the next four months. I also get the impression that the blogosphere calms down a bit during the summer. It probably has something to do with people realizing there are better things to do on a summer day than sit at a computer screen and read anything I or anyone else has to say.

If an election is called though, I imagine a lot of people will have a lot to say. Things are already heating up over at the election blog . Everyone is now talking June 28th. It's starting to seem like the real deal but we've also heard this all before; I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:35 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

NOSTALGIA

Jean Chretien is on the cover of the Globe and Mail today and I find myself longing for the days when that would happen two or three times a week.

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

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

RECOVERING AND WAITING

I'm currently recovering from last week's elemination of the Canadiens from the playoffs (don't want to talk about it). I'm also recovering from the longest and one of the more gruelling end-of-semester mad dashes ever. However, I am now finished with courses, entirely in fact, and am waiting.

Waiting to go back to Ontario; waiting to start working for the summer; and waiting for the Prime Minster to call a freakin' election already!

The election that I was assured would be June 14 is now all but ruled out by "Liberal insiders." Don't worry though, "Mr. Martin is expected to call the election in the next few weeks." Yeah, I've heard that one before.

I don't blame The Middleman or anyone else for their erroneous predictions. There's no way they can know when the PM is going to call an election because it's pretty clear that he doesn't even know himself.

So, it is now certain that I will graduate from McGill (Jun. 2nd) before the next election. The question now becomes, will I start my next degree (Sept. 1st) before the election comes? There's nothing to do but wait. Thankfully, I need it.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:11 PM :: (0) comments