Tuesday, August 30, 2005

STANDING WITH GIANTS


I was in Ottawa over the weekend for a wedding and took the opportunity on monday to do a little sight-seeing around Parliament Hill.

These two men, Baldwin and Lafontaine, are my Canadian heroes. The reformers (and some of the Tories) of the early 19th century were the real founders of this country. They were men of intellect and men of action who laid down the constitutional, legal and political foundations of Canada.

If I ever had millions of dollars in disposable income I would found a research chair in the departement of history at McGill University and name it in honour of them: 'The Baldwin-Lafontaine Chair in pre-confederation history."

Posted by Matthew @ 7:28 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, August 21, 2005

IRONY

British security officials have supposedly foiled a terrorist gas attack on the houses of Parliament.

However, officials remain concerned that an upcoming exhibition at Parliament presents too many opportunities for a further breach of security.

The exhibit is to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:45 PM :: (2) comments

'LET ME BE CLEAR' WATCH

We have known for some time the the phrase, 'let me be clear' is a favourite of the Prime Minister, particularly when he is defending himself, which seems to be often.

Then last week, in the third paragraph of Michaelle Jean's pithy statement of defence, the same phrase appeared: "Let me be clear: we have never belonged to a political party or the separatist movement."

Today in a Toronto Star opinion piece, minister of health Ujall Dosanjh makes a lame defence of the government's health care policy (remember that money we gave to the provinces last year?), but again, in the final paragraph, that increasingly ubiquitous phrase appears: "But let's be clear - all governments have to meet their commitment to provide timely access to care."

"Let's be Clear." Can someone translate that to Latin, because it appears to be the new motto of the government.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:03 PM :: (4) comments

THE FORM OF THE BLOG?

Today in The Star's Ideas section: Blog blog blog.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:32 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, August 18, 2005

WORTH IT

Mader doesn't usually do anecdotes, which makes this one all the more worth a read.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:20 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

JEAN'S STATEMENT

Some remain unimpressed that Jean will be the country's next Governor General.

While others are unimpressed over the 'tizzy' the country has worked itslelf into over Jean's appointment.

Either way, and perhaps in both, its not an impressive state of affairs for the country.

For myself, I was never too concerned with Jean's present committment to Canada. The fact that she accepted the position of Governor General tended to indicate her committment. What concerned me, and continues to, is the degree of her past committment. Conspicuously absent from Jean's statment is any type of reference to having always been committed to Canada or having loved Canada since the day she arrived here. If there was a time when Jean was a separatist to one degree or another, I would have preferred that she address that in her statment. I would be open to understanding how she came to change her beliefs, if it was through a rationale other than opportunism.

Jean has not yet convinced me that she was not at one time a separatist, nor that she did not vote 'yes' in 1995. For a Governor General, that is not acceptable.

While I do not believe that being a former separatist, or having once held separatist sympathies disqualifes a person from citizenship or other jobs, the Governor General must be beyond reproach. Although the role is almost entirely symbolic, it is important in its symbolism.

As for those who would argue that it is nearly impossible to live in the circles of Quebec intelligentsia without at least being suspected of separatist associations and sympathies, this example comes to mind.

Post-Script

I fear Don may be right in pointing to the use of the phrase, 'let me be clear' in the third paragraph of Jean's statement. Did Dithers write this himself? Either way, given the manner in which the PMO has handled this affair, I doubt Jean got to say what she would have liked.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:22 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, August 15, 2005

NOT A TOP TEAM

Its pretty much an even rotation this week between reading about the G-G designate and the start of the English Premier league.

Focusing on the latter, I came across this unintentional (I think) editorial line from BBC-sport:

Owen is keen to secure a move back to a top Premiership club in World Cup Finals season.

But so far only Newcastle have declared a firm interests in signing him.
Ouch.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:09 PM :: (0) comments

SOBER THOUGHT ON G-G

Paul Wells and Chantel Hebert add some much needed sober thought to the Governor-General debate, which, incidentally, Bourque continues to sensationalize.

I still believe that the Governor General designate's political opinions, and, yes, even her voting record (on a sovereignty referendum), are relevant to her upcoming appointment. However, after reading Wells and Hebert, I am increasingly inclined to give Mme. Jean the benefit of the doubt.

The best part of Wells' post is his condemnation of the PMO for once again assuming that Canadians are not cabable of engaging in political debate.

Wells:

Of course, this prime minister's suppression of dissent is never violent. So it is not Stalinist, merely pathetic. We are adults out here. Stop calling Ralph Klein and Stephen Harper and talk to us. We can have a conversation about the relationship between two Quebec intellectuals and the central Quebec political debate of the last 40 years.
Why does this seem like too much to ask?

Posted by Matthew @ 1:31 PM :: (0) comments

Saturday, August 13, 2005

LAWS OF THE GAME

Liverpool drew away at Middlesbrough earlier today in one of the openning games of the English premier league, despite 'Boro player Ugo Ehiogu being sent off at 74 minutes.

This is a useful segue to codify 'Matthew's rules for predicting soccer outcomes,' which currently number at two.

The first rule which the Liverpool game attests to, is that if a team loses a player to a red card with less than twenty-five minutes remaining, the score of the game will not change.

The reason: The team that is now playing with ten men pulls together and plays with much more discipline, whereas the the team at full strength feel the pressure to score with their advantage. With less than 25 minutes to play the short team generally holds out.

However, if a team goes down a man with more than twenty-five minutes to play, the full strength team invariably wins.

The reason: There is less pressure on the advantaged team to score immediately so they are the team that becomes more disciplined, pressing their advantage until the short-team buckles.

The second rule, regards penalty shots. If a team is awarded a penalty kick during regular time the scoring of which would allow them to take a lead or close a deficit and they miss, they will lose the game.

This rule, in my experience, is unbreakable. I have watched, played in and refereed hundreds of soccer games of all levels of competitiveness from U-10 house legue to the World Cup and never seen this rule broken.

My suspicion is that if your team is given a free opportunity to score from twelve yards and you can't finish, it is simply not your day and and the gods of soccer will not look favourably upon you in more difficult circumstances.

The "curse of the missed penalty" can be broken however if your team is awarded a second shot, still in regular time, and that one is converted.

The rule does not apply to situations where kicks are used to decide the outcome of the match, as that is obviously a competition unto itself.

Now that I've written these down, inevitably they will be contradicted tomorrow, likely in Newcastle's opener with Arsenal, which Graeme Souness assures me Newcastle are capable of winning.

We'll see, on both counts.

Update [early the next afternoon]:
Rule number one was proved this morning as Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-0 after Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas was sent-off after just 32 minutes. Newcastle manager Graeme Souness was apparently extremely displeased with the performance of the referree. In my opinion, good teams never need to complain about refereeing.

Posted by Matthew @ 7:41 PM :: (0) comments

PUBLIC OPINION

I've gotten into a debate with Declan of Crawl Across the Ocean, over on his blog regarding some of my statements about the Governor General designate.

You can read the comments there, but I'm going to try and clarify something here.

Primarily, Declan accuses me of violating the sanctitiy of the secret ballot. I do not believe that asking Mme. Jean how she voted in the 1995 referendum does any such thing.

The issue is one of public opinion and free expression. I, like anyone else, am free to ask Jean, anything I like, including 'what did you have for dinner last night?' and 'how did you vote in 1995?' Similarly, Jean is free to answer the questions however she wishes, or to even not answer at all. Such is the nature of freedom of expression.

Let me be clear that I am not advocating for a law demanding all Governors General disclose their voting habits. Nor am I advocating that Jean be hauled before a Parliamentary committee to answer the question. Such methods would be deplorable and likely unconstitutional. It would be equally wrong for the Prime Minsiter to pass an order declaring it illegal for the public to ask questions of the Governor General. Jean, like everyone else, is liable to be held accountable to public opinion. If the public believes her 1995 vote is a relevant issue, then it is.

Jean or the PMO are free to make the argument that her vote is none of the country's business. The country may accept that and it may not. Declan is, likewise, free to express his opinion that no one should be asking how Jean voted. He may or may not convince people that he is right. As long as no one treads onto the ground of slander, libel or hate speech, anything else goes.

That's how the public sphere works.

Posted by Matthew @ 5:25 PM :: (1) comments

Friday, August 12, 2005

LUMBER CATCH-22

OTTAWA — International Trade Minister Jim Peterson said Thursday Prime Minister Paul Martin is prepared to get "closely involved" in the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S.
via Politics Watch
I'm not sure which is worse: the fact that the Prime Minister has finally realized that this soft-wood lumber thing is a serious issue, or the the fact that he now intends to 'closely involve' himself with it.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:36 PM :: (0) comments

LEGITIMATE QUESTIONS

While I deplore any prejudice against the Governor General designate based on the fact that she holds dual citizenship, as Charles points out in the comments to the post below, that does not preclude her from legitimate judgement based on her past words and deeds in committment to Canada.

Consequently, the G-G designate must put to rest immidiately any specultation that she is a soveriegntist sypathizer.

All that is necessary is a simple and direct statement from Mme. Jean to the effect that she believes the place of Quebec is in Canada and that she voted 'non' in the 1995 referendum.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:33 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

QUESTIONS OF LOYALTY SINCE 1760

Debate surrounding the appointement of Canada's new Governor General has taken a bizarre and even uglier turn.

Bourque is currently posting an Ottawa Citizen article indicating that Mme. Jean holds dual citizenship with Canada and France.

Horror and recriminations have insued.

Below the Citizen link and below a massive "Vive La France" headline, Bourque has posted an on-line poll asking: 'should the appointment of Michaelle Jean be revoked?' Presumably because of her dual citizenship.

Pathetically, at the time of writing, poll results are running 59-38 in favour of revoking the appointment (3% unsure).

The fact that the new Governor General holds dual citizenship (with France no less) hardly matters in the least. Does she hold Canadian citizenship? Yes. Does Canada allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship? Yes. Are there many other Canadians, including MPs, who hold dual citizenship? Yes. Is the Queen, our actuall head of state, a citizen of Canada? No.

Some of the comments that are being left at Bourque's site are outright despicable. Some of the worst include:

We need a GG that is truly a Canadian and ONLY a Canadian

any Canadians available?

We need the white Anglos in this country to be properly represented.We require a white person in that position not an Asian or a Negro or an Oriental

i would like to see a true blue canadian in this position or else eliminate the position altogether.

Jean is nice, sure, but isn't there a Canadian among us suitable for the job?

All french people are jerks. We had to save their butts in WWI and WWII, they should keep their noses out of Canada.

How about a Canadian for a change???
The suggestion that those who hold dual citizenship are somehow lesser Canadians is revolting and ignorant. The third and sixth comments quoted above are simply deplorable.

The assumption that a dual citizen cannot be accepted as a Canadian runs entirely against most of the tollerant policies that are the history of Canadian governernments. We need not look only to the relatively recent multi-cultural immigration policies of the post-Trudeau era, but back to Canada's British colonial past.

In 1760 when the British conquered New France, they took over the governance of thousands of Catholic French subjects in the St. Lawrence valley. British administrators were consumed by fears about the loyalty of their new subjects yet British Governors James Murray and Guy Carleton recognized the need to trust and accomodate their Catholic French populations. Among other politicies, the French code of civil law was retained, as it is to this day, and Quebec was the first colony in the empire to allow Catholics to hold public office. Despite these and other accomodations Quebec sepratists remain bitter that the Ancien Regime abandoned them, but I digress.

Following the War of 1812-14, British administrators were again concerned about the loyalty of a significant portion of their resident population in the colony of Upper Canada. Throughout the first decades of the nineteenth century Upper Canadian administrators sought to deny rights of property, and hence most other rights of full citizenship, to immigrants from the United States, even those who had lived in Upper Canada for ten or even twenty years.

The number of people who stood to be disenfranchised composed roughly one-seventh of the Upper Canadian population. Finally, the Alien Bill, passsed in 1828, enfranchised those American immigrants after they had resided in the colony for a short number of years. These American immigrants, sometimes referred to as 'late loyalists,' came to form an integral part of the founding population Upper Canada.

Although, these examples are not exactly analagous to the case of Mme. Jean's dual citizenship, they indicate that Canada has a long history (in most, but not all cases) of accepting those whose loyalty, at first, may seem questionable.

In Canada one's loyalty and committment to the country is not principally proven or assumed by the swearing of an oath, or the origin of one's parents, or religious observance, or holding dual citizenship. Loyalty to Canada is proven through one's words, and more importantly one's deeds. To question the loyalty of a fellow Canadian based on any other factor is simply wrong.

Bourque deserves condemnation for asking this question, and those doubting Mme. Jean should reconsider what the true test of Canadian loyalty is.

Update [later in the day]: A few more enlightened comments from Bourque readers:

we do not need a goveror general! leave alone one from haiti

Canada (or the ROC as Quebec likes to refer to us) should vote to kick quebec out along with their new french leader. Enough with Quebec rejecting Canada, let's reject them!

Revoke her appointment and announce there will be an election, and like other mature democracies, only native-born citizens are eligible.

Update [a little later still]: Another gem:

Im tired of the cr*p about this being a multicultural country, yadda, yadda. I was born a Canadian and I resent the government and all the lefties changing the definition of what a Canadian is. I am a Canadian. Michelle Jean is not. There's no way in hell that a Haiti french citizen should be MY head of state. She dosn't represent me.

Now, certainly I have been picking out the worst of the comments, but it doesn't change the fact that they're awful, and the vote is still running about 60-40 to reject Jean.

Update [just a little later]: The most intelligent thing written in the comments all day:

And people wonder why Canada lags behind in productivity...get back to work...all of you.

Indeed.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:51 PM :: (3) comments

Monday, August 01, 2005

DARK

As I type, there is a thunderstorm rolling over Kingston.

I've been watching it out my office window and I notice has become dark enough to cause the outdoor lights in the courtyard to come on.

Update, about a half-hour later:

The storm is passing, its getting brighter again; the lights have shut-off.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:11 PM :: (0) comments

SIMCOE DAY

Today Ian Urquhart, advocates for Ontario to officially recognize the August long weekend as 'Simcoe Day,' in honour of the British administrator who was the first Lietenant-Governor of Upper Canada.

John Graves Simcoe — a British soldier who led the elite Queen's Rangers regiment during the American revolutionary war — was appointed lieutenant-governor in 1791 and served until 1796.In those five short years, Simcoe moved the capital from Niagara-on-the-Lake (then called Newark) to Toronto (then called York), started the building of Yonge and Dundas streets as the main north-south and east-west thoroughfares, abolished the importation of slaves, attracted settlers (many of them his erstwhile American enemies) with land grants, and made plans for judicial and educational systems.

In short, he laid the foundations for the province we know today.
Indeed.

Simcoe is certainly deserving, and I suppor any measure that injects a little more historical memory into our society, no matter how trifling. It would certainly be an improvement on, 'the civic holiday.'

On the subject of holidays, we still need ones for February, June and November.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:24 PM :: (1) comments