Sunday, November 26, 2006

WHO WILL SPEAK FOR CANADA?

Our prime minister has not. The members of our opposition parties have not.

There was a time when our leaders spoke of Canada as one nation - united, composed of disparate groups perhaps, but forming a common people with common bonds.

"A Canadian nationality - not French-Canadian, nor British-Canadian, nor Irish-Canadian: patriotism rejects the prefix - is, in my opinion what we should look forward to, that is what we ought to labour for, that is what we ought to be prepared to defend to the death.
[...]
"what I chiefly wanted to say in coming here is this, that if we would make Canada safe and secure, rich and renowned we must all liberalize - locally, sectionally, religiously, nationally. There is room enough in this country for one great free people; but there is not room enough, under the same flag and the same laws, for two or three angry, suspicious, obstructive 'nationalities'."
- Thomas D'Arcy McGee, future Father of Confederation and member of the 1st Parliament, speaking at Quebec City, 1862.
"The future of Canada, I believe, depends very largely upon the cultivation of a national spirit. We are engaged in a very difficult task - the task of welding together seven Provinces, which have been accustomed to regard themselves as isolated from each other, which are full of petty jealousies, their Provincial questions, their local interests. How are we to accomplish our work? How are we to effect a real union between these Provinces?"
- Edward Blake, minister of the Crown, speaking at Aurora, Ontario, 1874.
"We are here a nation, composed of the most heterogeneous elements - Protestants and Catholics, English, French, German, Irish, Scotch, every one, let it be remembered, with his traditions, with his prejudices. In each of these conflicting, antagonistic elements, however, there is a common spot of patriotism, and the only true policy is that which reaches that common patriotism and makes it vibrate in all toward common ends and common aspirations."
- Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier speaking at a Dominion Day celebration, (year not recorded).
"I am the first Prime Minister of this country of neither altogether English nor French origin. So I determined that was the thing I was going to do. I never deviated from that course, and I determined to bring about a Canadian citizenship that knew no hyphenated consideration. [...] It's the reason I went into public life. That is what I said I was going to do. I am very happy to be able to say that in the House of Commons today in my party we have members of Italian, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Chinese and Ukrainian origin - and they are all Canadians."
- Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, quoted in Maclean's, 29 March 1958.
"Canadians of Anglo-Saxon and French descent, whose two cultures will always be a source of mutual enrichment, are an inspiring example of coexistence. They go forward hand in hand to make Canada a great nation, hand in hand also with Canadians of every origin, with their heritages, irrespective of race or creed. We are all God's children. Each one of us, in his own way and place, however humble, must play his part towards the fullfilment of our national destiny."
- Georges Vanier, speaking on the occasion of his instillation as Canada's first francophone Governor General.
"History created this country from the meeting of two realities; the French and the English realities. Then these were enriched by the contributions of people from all parts of the world, but this coming together, this meeting, this encounter of realities, though at times difficult to accept, and hard to practice, this encounter has, itself, become the fabric of our life as a nation, the source of our individuality, the very cornerstone of our identity as a people. Our forefathers willed this country into being. Times, circumstance and pure will cemented us together in a unique national enterprise."
- Prime Minsters Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 17 November 1976, on the election of Rene Levesque as Premier of Quebec.

Sources:

- Desmond Morton and Morton Weinfeld. "Who Speaks for Canada? Words that shape a country." Toronto: McClelland and Steward Inc., 1998.

- Collected personal notes.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:07 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 23, 2006

BLAME THE MEDIA; DOUBT THE PEOPLE

Adam Daifallah pre-fabricates an excuse for the Conservatives failing to achieve a majority in the Commons. The culprit: the media, of course.

I'm starting to question if a majority government is even possible given the current state of the Canadian media.
Never mind that Adam only provides two links to the CBC(!) as examples.

It always struck me that anyone who blamed the media for the inability of their side, either right or left, to communicate their ideas, was seriously condescending the intelligence of the citizenry.

What makes Adam think the majority of people are incapable of judging media bias for themselves? Adam can read through the bias, what makes him think that other people can not? What makes Adam think that the majority of people are so incapable of judgment that they allow 'the media' to think for them?

Of course political media coverage is going to influence people. But the voice and judgment of the people is the ultimate determinant of our elected legislatures. To blame 'the media' for the result of elections is to call the people dupes.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:54 AM :: (7) comments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

WHY HAVE I NEVER EATEN DRAGON MEAT?

From the department of utterly ridiculous standards comes this:

A sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

The sausages will now have to be labelled Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages to avoid any confusion among customers.
This story is prompting me to investigate the manufacture of my own sausage products. What if there are no actual Italians in "Hot Italian Sausage" and *gasp* no October in my "Octoberfest Sausages?"

(link via The Flea)

Posted by Matthew @ 10:22 PM :: (2) comments

Monday, November 20, 2006

NOT THE WAY TO GET MY VOTE

Opposition attack Tories over foreign policy - CTV.

1. The Prime Minister has gone to Asia and made human rights, with China and others, a priority.(See Mader for some good analysis.)

2. The Prime Minister has shown a commitment to winning the war in Afghanistan.

3. The Prime Minister has supported a balanced condemnation of rights abuses in the middle east.

4. The Prime Minister has shown clear support for building Canada's military capabilities.

There are things the Conservative government can be criticized on. But attacking the substance and style of the government's foreign policy is not going to win favour with me.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:46 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 17, 2006

WHAT'S THE POINT?

This is worse than irrelevancy.

A UN General Assembly committee has voted to discourage U.N. human rights bodies from condemning any country on human rights, despite objections to the measure from the U.S. and many European countries.
This is what multilateralism with dictators and criminals gets us.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:42 AM :: (3) comments

WHERE DID THE WEEK GO?

One minute it's Sunday evening, the next its Friday morning. All with no blogging.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:16 AM :: (0) comments

Saturday, November 11, 2006

LEST WE FORGET

Posted by Matthew @ 11:00 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 10, 2006

1830 or 2006?

When the British governors of Upper Canada embarked on their policy of establishing Indian reserves, one of the major debates was whether to place reserves near non-Aboriginal communities or conversely to isolate the reserves.

One hundred and seventy five years later, the debate and policy has changed little.

A report recommending Ottawa relocate a remote northern Ontario reserve closer to a city has some people questioning whether the move is a form of assimilation or a path toward a more hopeful future.
This is just a further example that the relationship between many of Canada's First Nations and the federal government is stuck in the same endless cycles and debates.

The solutions to the problems are far from clear, but I'm quite certain nothing will change until all parties are willing to consider drastic change, concession, and compromise, to break out of mind-sets that have been entrenched, literally, for centuries.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:37 AM :: (0) comments

ECONOMICS: APPARENTLY STILL RELEVANT

What's this, Mr. Coyne? I thought economics was an outmoded debate of the 20th century?

Posted by Matthew @ 10:18 AM :: (1) comments

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NOT FORGOTTEN

Regular readers (all twelve of you) probably guessed that I intended to write a post each day this week remembering significant Canadian contributions to the wars of the 20th century in a lead-up to Remembrance Day.

Unfortunately, a busy week got in the way.

Hopefully I will be able to do one more tomorrow. Meanwhile, see the previous posts on The Somme and Canada's Hundred Days.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:34 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

LEST WE FORGET



Later today: Remembering Dieppe.

(Video via Mader Blog)

Posted by Matthew @ 9:59 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - CANADA'S HUNDRED DAYS

"one of the finest feats in our history."

- Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie (pictured), describing the Canadian Corps's breach of the Hindenburg Line

Canada's Hundred Days

Dates: 8 August 1918 - 11 November 1918

The Cost:

First day, Battle of Amiens
Canadian casualties - 4,109; 1,306 dead

Total:
Casualties of the Canadian Corps - 30,802


Summary:


Beginning with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918 the entire Canadian Corps, fighting together, spearheaded one of the major offences of the allied march to victory. At Amiens, Canadian and Australian divisions executed a complete surprise attack on the German lines. On the first day, the Second Canadian Division advanced an incredible thirteen kilometers. The battle was a turning point; German Chief of Staff General Ludendorf later referred to August 8th as "the black day of the German army in the history of this war."

With the success at Amiens the Canadian divisions were shifted to Arras to attack the Hindenburg line, the principal German line of defence. Between 26 August and 2 September the Canadians attacked the line continuously and relentlessly and broke the crucial Drocourt-Queant portion of the line just in front of the Canal du Nord suffering 11,400 casualties including the wounded future Governor General Major Georges Vanier.

At this point General Currie, commanding the Canadian Corps, rested his troops and prepared a plan to cross the Canal du Nord. Currie's plan was so audacious that it required the approval of British Commander in Chief General Sir Douglas Haig. On 27 September the entire Canadian Corps with an attached British division were channeled through a 2,600 yard dry gap of the Canal du Nord and breached three lines of German defences.

On the strength of these victories the Canadians advanced steadily. The Germans continued to mount fierce defences but the Canadians and the rest of the allies were now inflicting losses that could not be recovered. The Canadian Corps captured Cambrai, Valenciennes, and Mons before the armistice on 11 November. Following the armistice Canadian troops crossed the Rhine to contribute to the occupation of German, and in Bonn General Currie was recognized on behalf of the Canadian achievements.

The Result:

In short - Victory. Hardened by their losses at the Somme, united by success at Vimy, and fighting under their own commander, General Currie, the Canadian Corps played a major roll in smashing the final defences of the Germans. The final months of fighting came at significant cost, as the Canadians suffered nearly half of their total casualties of the war.

Sources:
For more detail, interpretation, or reference see the following sources.

FirstWorldWar.com - The Canadian Expeditionary Force

Department of Veterans Affairs - Canada's Hundred Days

National Archives of Canada - The Last 100 Days

National War Museum - Canvas of War

Morton, Desmond. "A Military History of Canada." Toronto: McCllelland & Stewart Inc, 4th ed. 1999. pp. 163-5.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:04 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, November 06, 2006

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - THE SOMME


"The Canadians played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as storm troops; for the remainder of the war they were brought along to head the assault in one great battle after another. Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst."

-David Lloyd George, then British Secretary of War, on the Canadian contribution at the Battle of the Somme.

Battle of the Somme

Dates: 1 July 1916 - 18 November 1916

The Cost:

First day of fighting:
British casualties - 57,470; 1st Battalion, Newfoundland Regiment casualties - 680 (85% of initial strength)

Total:
Britain and Empire casualties - 419,645; dead 125,000
Canadian casualties - 24,029
French casualties - 204,253

Summary:

The Battle of the Somme was the principal campaigns of 1916 and one of the major battles of the First World War. The offensive was intended to be the "Big Push" designed to break the German front lines and open the way for cavalry attacks on the enemy's rear lines. Preceded by a week of intense artillery barrages the infantry assault began at 07:30 on 1 July 1916. On the northern offensive lines relatively new British recruits were decimated by German machine gun positions that had escaped the artillery barrage. In the south, advances were more successful with most first day objectives accomplished. The 1st Newfoundland battalion was particularly distinguished in their brave assault on Beaumont-Hamel in which they faced intense enemy defenses. Following the battle British Army Captain G.E Malcolm stated, "I should like to congratulate the Newfoundland Regiment on their extreme steadiness under trying conditions," perhaps one of the greater understatements of the 20th century.

As the battle continued through July, British Army commanders realized the larger objectives were not going to be obtained and the battle became one of attrition. Four divisions of the Canadian Corps joined the battle in September, relieving the Australians at Poizeres. For the next two months Canadians fought continuously and heroically between Courcelette and Grandcourt capturing several important German positions. By mid-November the on-set of winter weather brought the offensive to a halt.

The Result:

Through five months of fighting the British, Imperial, and French troops had gained six miles of ground and combined suffered more than 600,000 casualties. The Somme often epitomizes the absolute horror and, in many ways, futility of First World War fighting. Despite that, modern scholarship suggests that within the context of the war the battle was a devastating but necessary offensive needed to weaken the German forces and lay the foundation for victory. Following the war a German staff officer described the Somme as "the muddy grave of the German field army."

Sources:

For sources, interpretation, and more detailed accounts of the battle see the following links:

The Imperial War Museum - Battle of the Somme.

Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs - Battle of the Somme.

Veterans Affairs - Newfoundlanders at Beaumont Hamel.

BBC - Rethinking the Somme.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:09 PM :: (1) comments

MY LACK OF APPRECIATION FOR DELEGATED CONVENTIONS

Liberal MP David McGuinty is advocating for his party to switch to a one-member-one-vote leadership selection process.

"In the 21st century, most people don't need an interlocutor or a representative to take their franchise to the floor of the convention, at a time when you can do your banking in less than 45 seconds online, people are regularly canvassed for their individual views, at a time when there's a stronger sense of individualism in society, when people can make up their own minds and want the opportunity to be directly engaged in the choice,"
I have to agree.

While a delegated convention provides a lot of excitement (for political hacks, at least) it is not particularly democratic.

Further, the new party financing laws, designed to level the political playing field, ironically make it more difficult for average people to attend the liberal convention, making the meeting even less democratic.
"It's very difficult for the average citizen to take $2,000 to $3,000 of after-tax dollars to come and participate in the democratic process. It's now becoming prohibitive for many average Canadians. This isn't right, that's why the one-member-one-vote system will help overcome this difficulty,"
On that note, this Wells post, reading off the The Star, indicates that a significant number of Dion delegates might not attend the convention.

This seems bizarre to me. Why would someone run as a delegate knowing one was unlikely to attend the convention? Isn't that the whole point? Secondly, why would members elect a delegate who would be unlikely to attend the convention, thereby totally negating their voice in the leadership selection? I don't know how the delegate selection process went, but if I were a voting member I would have made sure that the person I was electing actually had the means and intent to attend the convention.

Unless this situation is the result of some bizarre Liberal party machinations. For example: perhaps in a particular riding there weren't enough Iggy supporters to actually elect an Iggy delegate, so instead Iggy's supporters and others rallied behind a Dion delegate who they knew was unlikely to attend the convention instead of a rival Dion or Rae delegate who was much more likely to attend, thereby not gaining a supportive delegate but effectively eliminating a rival delegate. Is such a thing possible or am I purely speculating? I wouldn't put it past the Liberal Party.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:54 AM :: (0) comments

LOGICALLY INCONSISTENT

I am opposed to the death penalty; and yet, I don't really care that Saddam has been sentenced to hang.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:28 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 03, 2006

MOVING ON

A thought provoking column from Coyne suggesting that while economics shaped the major political debates of the 20th century we may have reached a broad consensus and will now shift our attention to other debates. Extended excerpts:

If the left has belatedly come to accept the market economy, the right had earlier to come to terms with the state’s social responsibilities. Nobody, left or right, wants to nationalize major industries any more, and nobody, right or left, would deprive the poor of schooling, or health care, or any of the major undertakings of the modern welfare state.

Many people find this suggestion — that we’ve reached a consensus on such matters — deeply upsetting, as an underhanded attempt to marginalize dissent. Is it? Isn’t it conceivable that, as a society, we’ve simply come to … agree?
[...]
Politics in previous centuries was largely concerned with other things: with the rights of religious dissenters, say, or how far to extend the franchise. But in time a consensus formed on these issues, and society moved on.
[...]
Nowhere is it written that there must be disagreement about the fundamentals of economic policy. Politics was not always about the economy in the past. Perhaps it will not be in the future.

What might replace it? Climate change seems an obvious candidate, or terrorism: issues on which there is broad disagreement, and which will probably still confront us decades from now. Both, moreover, may require us to rethink conventional ideas about national sovereignty, inasmuch as neither can be addressed except by concerted international action.

But who knows? My only point is to suggest that the economy need not be one of them, and probably won’t be. If not quite the End of History, it may be the end of economics.
The end of economics? Has my discipline outlived Mader's?

Posted by Matthew @ 5:15 PM :: (2) comments

SHIRKING RESPONSIBILITY?

Several weeks ago L. Ian MacDonald argued that Stephen Harper's government was returning to the constitutional tradition of respecting the division of powers, in the BNA Act, between the provincial and federal governments, in contrast to Liberal government intrusions into provincial jurisdictions. Now it seems the government is taking that philosophy one step further and handing over federal powers to the provinces:

Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice ignited a storm of controversy yesterday with his suggestion that the authority to resolve land-claim disputes that predate Confederation does not rest solely with Ottawa.

Mr. Prentice drew a distinction between aboriginal land claims that arose before the British North America Act came into existence in 1867 and those that followed. He said Ottawa and Ontario share responsibility for resolving a land claim on the Six Nations reserve in Southwestern Ontario, which is at the centre of a long-simmering dispute.
To be fair, the Globe article points out that the federal government has been trying to make this argument for several years, suggesting its not just a Conservative party tactic; also, I'm not a constitutional legal expert.

However, I do have some experience in the history of these topics, and it was always my understanding that the BNA Act specifically transferred all responsibilities and agreements that the British Crown had negotiated with Aboriginal Nations to the federal government of Canada.

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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I WAS JUST AHEAD OF THE TREND

The annual Macleans university survey is out, and the necessity of having to work without the co-operation of boy-cotting universities seems to have led to good results:

In the medical doctoral category, McGill University took the number one spot, with Queen's University coming in second.
While I think the points that I made here and here are still valid, Macleans should be credited for finally getting the ranking right.

Posted by Matthew @ 4:29 PM :: (1) comments

MID-TERM HISTORY

As previously mentioned, my knowledge of American politics is limited, so in this season of mid-term elections I'm doing much more reading on the subject than commenting.

Any readers in a similar situation might find this WSJ analysis insightful. Michael Barone takes a look at the history of major partisan reversals in sixth-year mid-term elections (with the exception of 1994) and asseses the partisan and policy implications of potential significant Democratic gains next week.

As always, the best view of the future is gained by looking at the past.

Trivia: The biggest mid-term election reversal was in 1894 when the House flipped from a 218-127 Democrat majority to a 244-105 Republican majority under President Clevleland.

Posted by Matthew @ 3:03 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

FURTHER DECLINE

There are certain things that are best left in private discussions, certain things that have no place being uttered in the public sphere.

When Peter Mackay made his unfortunate reference to Belinda Stronach in the House of Commons last week, I refrained from commenting on the basis that it would do no good to publically comment on something that never should have been said in public. However, when the public discourse becomes so polluted with things that should only be said in private, if at all, those who care about the civility of the public discourse must reprimand those who show it such disregard.

Clearly in this instance I am referring to Norman Spector. Obviously, he has the right to say whatever he likes, I will never deny anyone that. However, Spector's comments about Belinda Stronach were shameful, disrespectful, unnecessary, and yes, sexist.

I will let J. Kelly Nestruck speak to the sexism argument, as he makes it very well.

Now, Andrew Coyne has made a half-apology for Spector. Coyne rests his argument on two points.

1. Spector has the right to say whatever he likes, even if its not something Coyne himself would have said.

2. Spector calling Stronach a 'bitch' is not so bad, because it is not such a bad word, and women apply it to themselves all the time anyway.

On point number one.

I'm tired of this defence, which is so common, particularly in the blogosphere. When person A attacks person B, person C jumps in accusing person A of attacking all freedom of speech everywhere. People can argue that certain comments should not have been said without aguing that the person who said them should not have the right to say them. A person's right to speak cannot be abridged, but in choosing to speak people open themselves to be judged on their words.

On point number two.

It is amazing that Coyne seems unable to comprehend that words can hold differnt meaning and effect when used in different contexts. Coyne makes the argument that because some women wear the word bitch on their t-shirts it is not so unreasonable or insulting for Spector to label Stronach as a bitch for certain personal actions of hers he doesn't like. I am willing to wager that with his comment Spector was not intending to give the impression that Stronach's attitude is one of juvenile playfull assertiveness but rather that he intended his comments to be hurtful and insulting on a personal level.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:39 AM :: (5) comments