Saturday, October 30, 2004


Stephen Taylor and the Campaign for Tommy

Stephen Taylor has some snide comments (his words, not mine) for an e-mail sent out on an NDP list serve encouraging members to vote for Tommy Douglas in The Greatest Canadian contest. I think he uses the opportunity mostly to take some pithy shots at the NDP (he's a Conservative) but his tone seems to suggest that there is something slightly dishonourable about using campaign tactics in relation to the contest.

I think if Stephen were questioned about it he would agree with me that this contest is nothing more than a glorified online poll. The whole idea is to use whatever tactics possible to stuff the ballot box for your issues or candidate. As much as I've been paying attention to this little CBC exercise in national myth making I think we can recognize that this is a highschool popularity contest writ large. I doubt that Tommy is the only candidate who has informal but organized campaigns behind him.

Current Analysis

My last analysis of the standings was somewhat off the mark but only because I was, through my own mistake, working with incorrect information. I had written that Gretzky and Cherry were stuck at 8th and 7th despite their episodes having aired, thereby implying that they had not recieved a significant 'episode bump.'

In fact, Gretzky's had only aired that night, and Cherry's had not yet been on. So I think that the recent upswing in votes for those two is now a result of people watching their episode. The main point is that Fox and Trudeau are still at 3rd and 4th respecitvely without their episodes having been on. The question is, will those people voting for Douglas, Cherry and Gretzky continue to vote for them, maintaing their positions, or are these one-time votes resulting from the 'episode bump'? Douglas's voters seem to be pretty committed, we'll have to wait until next week to see if Cherry can maintain his position, and how much of a surge Macdonald gets from his recent episode.

I still expect the final standings to be 1. Fox, 2. Trudeau, 3. Douglas. Although Tommy is proving to be very resilent there at the top. According to the CBC he is leading the vote from every province and territory except that of Nunavut.

Let the popularity contest continue.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:52 p.m. :: (0) comments


My high school (actually grade school as well) friend Jess, has started up her own blog making her the fourth person from Mrs. B's Notre Dame class of '95 to join the blogosphere. Her blog is at This Side of the Fence.

Jess, so far, writes about her experiences as a highschool intern teacher in British Columbia and relates some troubling anecdotal evidence about problems her American friends have had with their absentee ballots.

The 'old school' category of the blogroll just keeps on growing.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:54 p.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, October 28, 2004


That's what Jon Stewart is calling his current election coverage.

How bad could it get? Ian Welsh always the optimist at Tilting at Windmills thinks things could get very ugly indeed.

Meanwhile, David Adesnik, perhaps not surprisingly either, reminds us to keep things in perspective.

Given my discipline I'm inclined to take Adesnik's advice and remember that in the long history of American democracy few elections have gone horribly awry. Although, as I said to a friend last night, if you retain thousands of lawyers, or other professionals in preparation for something, aren't you going to be tempted to use them?

Posted by Matthew @ 6:20 p.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Never mind daily updates on the electoral college standings, check out the current standings in The Greatest Canadian vote.

As of this writing the top three, in order are:
1. Tommy Douglas
2. Terry Fox
3. Pierre Trudeau

The fact that Don Cherry is not in dead last (currently 7th) is supremely annoying. The fact that Douglas, Trudeau, and Suzuki (4th) are all in the top five suggests Canadians are tending to want the Greatest Canadian to reflect their liberal ideals or alternately, and just as plausibly, only liberals are taking any notice of this little exercise.

The CBC standings don't show the number of votes each candidate holds but my guess is that Tommy's current top standing is a result of his episode already having played and that his position wont hold. The fact that Fox and Trudeau are 2-3 without their episodes having played, while Cherry and Gretzky are 7-8 after their episodes is telling. I expect both Fox and Trudeau to move up after their episodes air, its difficult to tell whether Trudeau is at an advantage or disadvantage from going last.

My prediction for the final result is that the top three remain the same except that the order switches to:
1. Fox
2. Trudeau
3. Douglas

I'd accept that.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:08 p.m. :: (0) comments


Really I do. I know she has a lot of detractors but I've never been one of them. I think she's done a lot of good things for the country as a member of the rat pack and later in Cabinet. She's stood up to a lot of people in the Liberal party when no one else would (Paul Martin) and she's had to take the fall when she didn't really deserve it (GST). I thought it was tough that she lost her nomination to Valleri last year, not unfair, but unfortunate. And back in '96, or maybe it was '97, she sent me a free flag.

So its too bad that she's been reduced to taking shrill pot-shots at the prime minister from the cheap seats. It just smacks of the bitterness of a sore loser.

As for her allegations, I don't doubt that there is some truth to them. I'm also not too concerned. I would not be surprised, in fact I would almost expect, that at some point at some time the future of the Canada Health Act would have been discussed by Cabinet members. I would hope that all existing legislation, even the apparently sacrosanct Health Act, would not be above consideration for reform based on changing circumstances. This is the type of thing government is supposed to do. Obviously, the consideration could not have been that serious because it never came to a debate in a committee, Cabinet, or the Commons. Copps herself didnot even see fit to make a record of the event.

Am I worried that Paul Martin is going to destroy Canadian health-care? Not really. At the very least he'll need the help of the premiers to do it.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:04 p.m. :: (0) comments

Sunday, October 24, 2004


As I always sort of suspected, Warren Kinsella admits that he's not really a blogger. In his first post dated October 22 (no perma-links remember, more on that to come) he writes,

One, I don't give a rat's ass about obtaining, and keeping, a charter membership in the "blogging community. That's why I don't do things that all of these bloggy folks do - "permalinks," "RSS feeds," archiving what I write for more than a year, blah blah blah.
As Kinsella points out, his web site has never really been a blog in the technical sense because it lacks these things. The absense of permalinks, and an RSS feed are particularly annoying to other bloggers. Kinsella obviously doesn't care, and that's fine. At least he has now admitted that he's not running a blog. But why is he writing?
What I write is aimed at the outside world, not the blogcult.

As I, and probably many others always assumed, Kinsella uses his site as personal advertising and promotion for his own image. He knows how to manipulate the system and does it well. Hence the whole recent libel debacle was simply more manipulation on Kinsella's part I'm sure.

But this is counter to the reason I, and I suspect most other bloggers, blog. We're not specifically seeking attention, of course we like it when one of the A-list bloggers links to us sending our one-day hits through the roof, or when we, or another blogger we know, are mentioned in the mainstream media. But fundamentally we blog because we enjoy the medium and the discourse it creates. Kinsella admits he doesn't really care about this. Fine, at least he's being honest. But he's not a blogger.

Finally, Kinsella writes,
Some bloggers, found on my intro page, are there because I think they're interesting. When they stop being interesting, I take them off.

Ouch. Kinsella used to link to me on the aforementioned page. He no longer does. I guess this blog has ceased to be interesting. I'm shocked to discover my lack of relevance.

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

Friday, October 22, 2004


Its homecoming weekend here at Queen's University, which according to my friends, press reports and the City of Kingston Police, is an excuse for Queen's students young and old to run rampant and intoxicated through campus and the streets of K-Town engaging in various forms of debauchery. As a McGill alumni and very new Queen's student I'm not sure I'm ready for this whole experience.

Nevertheless, I will be present at the first annual (yeah, that's right) Queen's Blogger Homecoming. Stephen Taylor has contacted several Queen's students/alumni and organized a gathering. All Queen's student and alumni bloggers are welcome. Confirmed in their attendance are Stephen, Joey (Accordion Guy) deVilla, John Hamilton and myself. We will be meeting at Alfie's (formerly The Underground, if your really old apparently) at apporximately 6:30 and continuing to wherever at whenever as numbers and disposition dictate.

So if you meet the above mentioned conditions, or if you are even thinking about starting a blog, or just want to meet some Queen's bloggers, feel free to come by. I have not yet met any of these bloggers so it should be interesting and fun.

In my haste, I clearly left out a couple of key details. The Blogger Homecoming is occuring at 6:30 on Saturday night and Alfies is the student bar underneath the the JDUC (University Centre).

Posted by Matthew @ 6:58 p.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, October 21, 2004


I don't normally post about the Google referrals I get, because its just such a cliche of the blogosphere but this was too good to pass up.

Someone was recently referred here by Google searching for "something significant paul martin did for canadian society in 2004."

I don't think they found the answer here.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:37 a.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


The short list is down to ten.

When the CBC first started taking nominations late last winter (note: April still counts as winter in Canada) I posted about this little endeavour of the national broadcaster in which I addressed its draw backs (hoakey, ill-defined etc. etc.) and also why I'm a sucker for this kind of thing.

I also prepared a list of forty-five nominees in categories of my own definition. Of the ten people on the final short list seven were on my original list. The other three are Cherry (for the love of god, why?), Gretzky (to be expected I suppose) and Suzuki (I wouldn't have chosen him but I'm impressed to see him up there). None of these three would have even been considered for my original list because they're still alive. As an historian I think it ridiculous to consider the merits of someone's accomplishments in a forum such as this if they are not dead. There has been no time to examine their significance, they're still shaping they're own significance. Anyway, I digreess.

I'm reasonably pleased with the final list with some reservations. The aformentioned inclusion of living persons is the first. The major one, however, is the homogeneity of the people on the list: All male. All white, save Suzuki. All anglos save Trudeau. So much for the inclusive multiculturalism of Canada. Also, no artists, authors, journalists or soldiers.

To be fair, the country hasn't actually been that multicultural for all that long. But surely Nellie McClung or Emily Murphy should be in the top ten. And what of the likes of Robertson Davies, Magaret Laurence, Glen Gould and Bill Reid? What of the military? Gen. Arthur Currie? Flying ace Billy Bishop? Clearly, the Canadians who voted do not have enough appreciation for the country's rich artistic or military heritage.

Admittedly, my own top ten list can't be that much more inclusive, but here is who I would have chosen:

(note: the ones listed first before the break did not make the CBC list.)

Gen. Arthur Currie
Peter Gzowski
Margaret Laurence
Mistahimaskwa (Chief Big Bear)
Emily Murphy

Tommy Douglas
Terry Fox
Sir John
Lester B. Pearson
Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Other Greatest Canadian blogging can be found at: The Armchair Garbageman, he's voting for Fox, his girlfriend for Douglas; The View From in Here, he's narrowed it down to Fox, Douglas and Trudeau; All Things Canadian, he too is voting for Fox.

I have not yet decided whom to vote for. From the CBC's list I have it norrowed down to Sir John, Pearson, Trudeau and Fox. As a political history student I'm partial to the prime ministers. In the interests of national unity I probably shouldn't vote for Trudeau although I may not be able to avoid it. Regardless, it is going to be absolutely outstanding to watch Rex Murphy advocate for Trudeau. The only way that episode could get better would be with supporting testimony from Jean Chretien and John Ralston Saul. That would be my CBC dream come true.

However, heavy odds are on Terry Fox to win.

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

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Living in a Society is the favourite social democratic blog of David Mader. Whoo hoo. I take that as quite the compliment. Really. Mader's intellectual rigour and consistently principled articulation of his own political theory makes Maderblog the favourite libertarian-conservative blog of Living in a Society.

Now, if we can dispense with these unaccustomed self-congratulatory compliments across the left-right divide, Mader cites my opposition to the Ontario governments ban on pitbulls (previous post) and sees an arugument against gun control laws. Suspecting I disagree (partly right) Mader asks, 'why the different standard?'

I may post a more lengthy response later, but for now, my response is in the comments to Mader's afformentioned post. Check it out.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:16 p.m. :: (0) comments


Yes, I've been contributing my feeble influence to the blogosphere for one year now. There's not much more to say on the occasion other than that I'll keep posting because I love the discussion this medium generates. I think the influence and relevance of blogging can only increase.

Postscript: There are a couple things I have been meaning to blog lately but school work is keeping me pretty busy so I'm just going to handle them in brief here.

On the Warren Kinsella incident:
Its really unfortunate that the Canadian blogosphere has been subjected to this whole unfortunate business. The blogosphere can be a rough place at times, with un-friendly accusations and names being hurled about but everything is done in the spirit of open dialogue. I agree with most who found Kinsella's tactics to be hypocritical and bullying. As I have said before the best way to respond to the expression of opinions you disagree with is to counter them with your own. Kinsella certainly has a large enough platform through which he could have accomplished this yet he resorted to threats and demands that others censor themsleves to his own liking. That's simply bad form in my opinion and counter to the whole spirit of blogging. But I think Kinsella is coming to the realization that his actions in this whole debacle have hurt his reputation, with many, irreperably. Although it was threatend, I think the self-reguating nature of the blogosphere recovered to work as it should.

On the Ontario government banning pitbulls:
Why, why, why? When the government outlaws the ability of citizens to enjoy particular types of property under the justification that said property has the potential to cause harm, we're continuing down a dangerous road. In a free society laws should be passed against actions that cause harm. Owning a pitbull does not automatically result in maiming of children. Rekless pitbull owners are the cause of harm. Legislating against these dogs is an assault on rights of property ownership, shows a fundamental distrust in the citizens of Ontario, and worst of all is only a reactionary response to media fearmongering and misplaced public outrage.

Another year of Living in a Society coming up. As long as society makes it.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2004


I went to Washington D.C this past Columbus Day weekend, to visit the new museum recently opened on the national mall.

I went hoping to be impressed but prepared to be disappointed. Prepared because its not as if the U.S (or Canada) has a great history with North American Aboriginal peoples nor with re-presenting that history in texts, museums, monuments and the like. Hoping, however, because everthing I had heard about the preparation, planning, and opening of the museum seemed to indicate that Aboriginal people themselves were at the centre of the undertaking and that there was a serious commitment to approach Aboriginal history and society in an informed, reflexive and respectful manner.

I was not disappointed.

The museum is positioned as a presentation of Aboriginal philosophy, history, and society by Aboriginal people from a contemporary perspective. The Aboriginal people of the Americas (and it is indeed the Americas, not only the United States) appear as a multitude of distinct cultures and nations. The museum invites the visitor to actively engage and question its narritives and representations.

The museaum is organized around three permanent exhibits entitled, Our Universes, Our Peoples and Our Lives.

Our Universes, focuses on Aboriginal cosmologies and world views. Here we uncover the founding ideas and principles that inform the lives and cultures of Aboriginal societies. We see that Aboriginal people have complex and long-held beliefs that have adapted but remained constant over time. Each of the three exhibits is set up so that principal themes and commonalities are examined in the centre of the exhibit, while surrounding that, are individual sections that present the unique experiences and position of particular Aboriginal nations as they relate to the subject being presented. So in the Our Universes exhibit underlying themes of Aboriginal cosmology are discussed in the centre and then surrounding that are specific discussions of how those common cosmological themes are differently expressed amogst various Aboriginal groups.

Our Peoples, examines the history of contact between Aboriginal peoples and new-comers in North America. The central themes are that of the impact of disease, technology and religous conversion as well as a questioning of the presentation of Aboriginal history. It was this examination of the presentation of history that I found most interesting in this section. There is a historiographicl examination of the representation of Aboriginal people in Western histories. There is also an explicit acknowledgement that the representation here is a specific historical interpretation that takes for granted its own underlying assumptions just as the past histories have done. The museum is aware of its own positioning and invites the viewer to engage with it and question it.

The other aspect that I liked about the Our Peoples exhibit was that Aboriginals and new-comers were both portrayed as actors in the history of North America. We see both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals interacting in constructive and destructive ways with and against each other ultimately creating a distinctly American (in the continental sense) experience.

Our Lives, looks at the modern day lived experiences of Aboriginal people. Both the struggles and conflicts, triumphs and achievements of present day Aboriginal communities are explored. Armed conflicts with state authorities and substance abuse, along with the success of community language programs and the expansion of self government are examined equally and in context. The emphasis is on the continuity of Aboriginal culture and the active strategies of survivance that Aboriginal communities have engaged in.

The museum has clearly called upon a wide array of people and resources to present the historical and present day experiences of Aboriginal people in a diverse and complex manner. The museum is clear that it is presenting its own historical interpretation. It is one that portrays Aboriginal people not as idealized primitives or passive victims but as active agents in the development of North America. It portrays European new-comers often as aggresors but not as invaders motivated by cruelty.

It is a museum that takes seriously the difficulties in telling history, particularly the history of Aboriginal people in the Americas. It is a museum of a quality and type that I have never seen before.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:43 a.m. :: (0) comments


In his October 11th post titled, Aaron Brown, standing on guard Wells questions why CNN chose, now, to send a top-notch journalist to investigate the possibility of terrorists entering the U.S from Canada. Succinctly, intelligently and with a good deal of wit Wells undermines any justification CNN might have had to pursue such a story.

But it is not Wells' defence of Canada, nor his intelligent writing, nor even his continued ability to bring context and reason to the subjects he discusses, though these are all true, that make me admire him.

What I really admire about Wells is that he takes journalism seriously, and that he believes it can make a difference, a real difference, in the world.

Wells ends the above mentioned post writing, is profoundly weird of CNN and CBS and all the rest to spend so much time fretting about Canada. The boys of 9/11 found Florida much more congenial than Canada for their plotting. And as long as good reporters are sent north on wild goose chases, that isn't likely to change.

The underlying assumption behind that final sentence is that journalists, by asking important questions, and calling attention to the unconsidered topics, factors and events of our lives, can effect change. Journalsist need not and should not simply be pundits, prognosticators or reporters.

The fundamental roll of journalists in a democratic society is to maintain a free and informed public sphere. I get the sense that Wells understands that and attempts to achieve it more than most others in his profession.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:09 a.m. :: (0) comments

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


8 billion dollars?!

Are you kidding me?

Where did that come from and why is not being spent on submarines?

I know the Liberals have been low-balling the budget surplus estimate since they ballanced the budget but this is ridiculous. Why even bother?

Expect the provinces to demand some of that money immediately. In fact, expect everyone to be demanding some of that money immediately.

Lets see what Martin does with this.

Update, Next Day, 11:35 a.m.:
Goodale: "Did we say it would be $1.9 billion? Someone transposed those digits, we really meant $9.1 billion. Oops."

Apparently it is required to use any budget surplus to pay down the national debt. Boooooaring.

Update, Thursday, 1:30 a.m.
As usual, Paul Wells provides a reality check and some much needed context to folks like me complaining about the apparently miraculous appearance of $7.2 billion in the government's bank account.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:43 p.m. :: (0) comments

Friday, October 08, 2004


I'm off to the imperial capital for the long weekend. I was actually just there this summer, the day after they went to yellow alert. I had never seen armed police officers patrolling the subways before.

I'm going back though to visit the newly opened National Museum of the American Indian It should be interesting. A little counter-Columbus Day activity. Since the museum is the purpose of the trip I'm justifying it to myself as research. I'll have a report upon my return, or perhaps from the hotel if we have a room with a connection and I have time.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:01 a.m. :: (0) comments

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Here I was thinking that it was tough to find jobs in academia and that those law students had it easy. Apparently not in Ontario at least.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:06 p.m. :: (0) comments


The Martin government will not fall tonight.

First, no one wants this parliament to end tonight or anytime in the next fortnight. It would be collosaly irresponsible for our parliamentarians to allow such a thing to happen and the citizens would punish them for it. How? I'm not entirely sure, but I know that the Canadian electorate still has a pretty good record of expressing their collective opinion through the ballot box.

Secondly, the throne speech and everything related to it MUST be a confidence motion. I'm not saying technically according to constitutional convention, but only if the government wants to maintain any self respect. So good for Martin for not giving into Duceppe and his separatist rabble.

Third, if the Martin government does fall at some point in the next twelve months as the result of a straight up partisan vote (i.e all the Cons. and BQ def. all the Libs and NDP) with no party cross-overs, then the Governor General should not dissolve parliament. She should go to Stephan Harper and say to him, "it looks like you have a working coalition; its time for you to govern with it."

And then see how Harper likes having his fortunes tied with that lot when he has to pass legislation instead of just defeating it.

Update: Friday, 12:45 a.m.: So I was right, but it wasn't really a risky prediction. For context, earlier in the day that link to The Star article was titled 'Government Could Fall Tonight.' That headlline is going to get really old really fast if the newspapers don't realize that this is a minority parliament.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:38 p.m. :: (0) comments

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


The principles of free speech are under attack at Concordia University.

The administrators of Concordia are not allowing former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to accept an invitation to speak at that school's campus. The university is citing security concerns, with particular reference to the riot that occurred two years ago at the same school when another former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu came to speak.

This is especially despairing because Barak is being barred from a university. The university, of all places in our society, should be open to the highest level of free expression and debate. The right to write, and speak freely on any topic has always been a fundamental principle of academia. It is the free flow of ideas that fuels scholarship. Time and again our universities have been the sites for introducing new and controversial opinions to the world.

By not allowing Barak to speak, Concordia is surrendering freedom to the threats of the lawless mob, and undermining the principles of academia.

As I say again and again, our rights are guaranteed only to the extent that we are willing to act as citizens.

Thankfully, there are students and residents of Montreal willing to excercise their responsibilities of citizenship. Dozens, although it should have been hundreds, demonstrated (peacefully) at Concordia yesterday against the university's decision.

McGill history professor Gil Troy donned his academic robes and spoke forcefully and passionately about academic freedom and the university's place in society.

Maderblog has the full text and a picture. I say this rarely, but I say it now, read the whole thing.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:28 a.m. :: (0) comments

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Old School History in Decline

I'm shocked. Shocked I say.

On Wednesday the New York Times discovered the old guard of conservative Canadian historians and came to the conclusion that Canada is in decline.

David Bercuson, Jack Granatstien, and Michael Bliss were the primary interveiwees for the article. According to The Times they are part of a, "growing number of historians, foreign policy thinkers and columnists [who] see themselves as part of an informal school that has no name or single mentor, but all are writing the same assessment: Canada is in decline, or at the very least, has fallen short of their aspirations."

Prof. Bliss is, "in almost total despair."

Dr. Granatstien is of the opinion that, "We're not soft so much as softheaded."

Here's my opinion:

These academics are not a growing number of anything. Their "informal" "un-named" "school" is simply old school Canadian history and nothing more.

These men have written excellent history in their day, but more recently they have written such incendiary polemics as, "Privatizing the Mind: The Sundering of Canadian History, the Sundering of Canada" (Bliss) and "Who Killed Canadian History?" (Granatstien).

They are not part of a new school but part of a long intellectual tradition in Canada. It is a tradition that is always looking backward to some imagined time when Canada was 'great.' They percieve that the country has fallen from some mythical golden age that we must struggle back to. They wish the country had a greater sense of nationalism and national purpose. They wish the country was more homogeneous in thought and culture. They wish we were more respectful and understanding of authority and power abroad, namely of the United States. They wish our country could rally around unifying, mythical meta-narratives, and their history has attempted to construct these narratives.

This tradition dates all the way back to Bishop Strachan and the rest of the Family Compact. But nothing has really gone their way since Mackenzie and his band of rebells were dispersed on Yonge Street. Canada is not now the country they imagine it once was because it never really was at all.

What is more, is that the heyday of these historians is coming to an end. Bliss is professor emiritus at Toronto and near retirement. Granatstien is already retired, and although still publishing, no longer teaching any graduate students. The influence of these academics is waning and the new cohort of Canadian historians interpret Canada entirely differently. They see Canada as a diverse, sometimes fragmented, paradoxical nation but one that is fundamentally strong and unique in the world because of the very things that Bliss et. al. lament.

There will always be those who think as this old school does; as I said, its a long tradition of the country and the country wouldn't be the same without it. But there is no new direction here. Its nothing more than an increasingly maginalized minority observing that their time has come.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:22 a.m. :: (1) comments