Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why won't McGuinty stop health care (and card) fraud?

Last week, I was shocked to hear on the news, as were a lot of people in Ontario, that there are still 3.5 million of the old red strip, no expiry date Ontario Health Cards.    And that the government is doing nothing about it.   The green photo cards should have phased out the reds -- in 2000.

What's even more worrisome -- front line health care workers and back billing offices aren't either.   It's bad enough there are still 300,000+  more helath cards than residents which opens up the opportunity to commit fraud.    But the law stipulates that if you change your address or marital status, you must get a new photo health card.   Period.   I know several people who have made multiple moves, continue to use the card and get no hassle, which shocks me.

ER type care, I can understand -- there should never be refusal to care, regardless of proof of coverage from any Canadian juridisdiction, or private insurance from elsewhere.

But lab tests?   X-rays?  Regular check ups at a methodone clinic -- especially those who have moved several times since they got their last card?    What's wrong with this picture?    I've seen too many doctors just swipe the red card without even checking for other ID or their real name.    The risk of impersonation is way too big here.

So there are really two tracks to this.    A hospital or doctor or lab can take the card but they must tell the patient they must get a health card.   Once a proven residence is offered to match it up, or any other address for that matter (even a mail drop at a social services centre) the card is flagged and a written notice is sent to the patient to report to the DMV (which handles the applications along with driver's stickers and licenses) to have it updated or the card will expire -- or, even better, have the digital picture taken at the doctor's office right there and then and the old card cancelled.    (The letters can be sent in the language of the patient's choice, there were 30 or more last time I checked).

Since driver's cards are updated every 5 years along side the photo health cards, that should be the sunset period.    Since many of us average about one or more visits to some kind of health care, that's plenty of time to whittle down the excess cards.    A seven year inactivity period to let the cards lapse is way too long, with respect to Pointy Head.   Now that the Boomers are starting to collect Old Age Security, health care costs will skyrocket.   We need to fight fraud -- even the temptation to commit it -- every way we can.

Romney should audition for Keystone Kops with his mouth

Remember four years ago and Barack Obama's goodwill tour of Europe -- well before the Democratic convention -- and how it brought out people in the tens of thousands; including 200,000 at Victory Column in Berlin.   No surprise there as he was spreading the word of reconciliation with the NATO alliance after eight years of 43.

Fast forward to 2012.   Mitt Romney, having locked up the Republican nod to challenge Obama, is now on a world tour of his own.   But the crowds just aren't there.   A corporate raider just doesn't have the chic of acommunity organizer.

And better for Obama's chances, the former Governor of Massachusetts keeps putting his foot in it.   First, he criticized the organizers of the London Games now on.   Fair enough -- having to bring in the troops when a security company can't get its act together is definitely a cause for concern.

But then he visits Israel.   And here's where it gets interesting.   First, as Obama has, Romney said that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel.   That will get out the vote, but as no country in the world I'm aware of even recognizes the country's claim to West Jerusalem (instead adopting the official position of corpus separatum) it's not one that can be really put into practice, yet (sixty years plus on).

But second -- and here's where it gets fun -- Romney attempted a comparison between the relative wealth of Israel and the West Bank; noting the per capita GDP in Israel is twice the size of that in the Palestinian areas.  Romney's next line:   "Culture makes all the difference."

Wow.   This ranks right up there with Ralph Nader calling Obama an "Uncle Tom."

And this before one of Romney's aides told reporters to "kiss my ass" -- just after Romney arrived in Warsaw.

Yes, terrorist elements -- both organized and lone wolves -- have hindered Palestine a great deal.   But so have the restrictions on movements of all non-settlement residents of the Bank as well as Gaza.   When you have to go through several checkpoints to get to work, while those living in the illegal exclaves as well as tourists can get around as fast as one could in Israel proper, then of course economic development will be hindered.

 But to call it a "matter of culture"?    This sounds like those who fought against civil rights for blacks in the 1950s and 60s.   "Wait."   "Sit down, boy."  "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"    And other sorts of crap.

Christians have a special duty to stand up for God's Chosen People.    We also have a responsiblity to stand up for the rights of law-abiding Palestinians, too -- including those who are Christians -- both in the occupied lands and in Israel proper.   The toll on Christians has been especially stark.   In just two generations the percentage of Christians in the area has dropped from about 20% to just 2.1% -- nearly 90 percent.

So here are some questions worth asking Mitt Romney:
  1. What does Romney find so offensive about the Palestinians' "culture" and what he perceives as their "inability" to raise their standard of living?
  2. How does he feel about the refugee situation -- not just Muslims, but Christians and other groups caught on the wrong side of the fence?
  3. Does he favour continuing foreign aid to a first world country with a less than stellar human rights record -- or does he think Israel is entitled to a free pass just as his own country often believes it's entitled to?   Trade should be linked to respect for rights, not to religion or a lack thereof.
  4. Does he favour a contigous West Bank with land swaps, or one pot-marked by "settlements" as part of a final status settlement?   (This isn't Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog on the Netherlands-Belgium border, after all -- a geographic curiosity in Europe but one that's been left alone.  Heck, even India and Bangladesh have finally agreed to mostly resolve the preposterous situation in Cooch-Behar where there were a total of 202 enclaves sprinkled within each other's territories; that will be reduced to just 40.)   Put it this way -- would the West tolerate Palestine having it illegally occupy parts of Israel, say Sderot, Nazareth or Meggido (Armaggedon)?    This is an inherent double standard.
  5. Lastly, as democracy continues to spread across the Middle East, will he favour extending free trade arrangements

I wonder if Auschwitz - Birkenau is on Romney's schedule, and what could possibly happen there.   If JP2 hadn't ordered a Catholic convent to get the hell out of the area on the perimeter, would Romney (a Mormon) have preferred the convent over the camp.   Just asking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Coddling thugs"? Hardly

I just love it when people like PMS and Robert Ford say that getting tough on the causes of crime is tantamount to "coddling thugs."

I'll be brief on this one.   Nothwithstanding the uptake in gun violence recently, and my feeling that mandatory minimums for an unlawful discharge of a firearm should be declared constitutional, we still need to get to the root causes of what causes crime as well as fighting it.

If the Dynamic Duo ™ wants to fight crime, here's two suggestions.

First:  Provide funding to fix the "broken windows."   Make vacant lots and buildings where the thugs hang out inaccessible.    There is a risk of gentrification (and with it driving up property values even higher in one of the most expensive cities in the free world), but if people feel their neighbourhood is safer due to "strength in numbers" then the more likely it is that residents will proactively report on potential trouble people before crimes are committed -- and in addition, the likelihood those residents are tempted or coerced into the "Don't Snitch" mentality reactively is substantially reduced.

Second:   Crimestoppers should offer higher rewards than just $2000.   Depending on the gravity of the crime, the reward should be in the range of $5000 to $10,000; even higher in the most serious cases.    Ford and PMS are buddies with most of Bay Street so they can easily persuade them to sponsor such rewards -- it's tax deductible for donors, after all.    When money talks, someone will snitch -- and that will mean one less bad person off the streets.

There should be common ground on the left and the right on how to deal with this serious issue.   For whatever reason, the current powers that be want to be entrenched in their positions without even looking for the consensus.    And that's exactly want the gangs and lone loose cannons want.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest post: [Belated] Reflections on Canada Day

Once again I am pleased to offer my space for a guest post and once again by Jared Milne.   This time Jared addresses the very real issue of Central and Eastern alienation now that "The West Wants In" has become reality.


This past Canada Day, I was reflecting on some of the most interesting trends I’ve noticed over the last couple of years in Canadian politics. John Ibbitson has written about the collapse of what he calls the “Laurentian Consensus”, and the subsequent shift of political power to Western Canada, over and above the old consensus, based on power in Ontario and Quebec, that governed Canada. As power shifted west, so too did the electorate’s values, with Quebec on the outside, or so Ibbitson claimed. (i)  At the same time, the Harper government also set about establishing a new narrative of Canada, one that came in response to the original narrative supposedly established by the Liberals that centred around developments that could be attributed to their party. (ii)

While Ibbitson made several interesting points in his essay, I have to admit that I’m not entirely convinced by his claims that the old values are out of date, or that the old assumptions are entirely gone. Studying Canadian history and the many different viewpoints that I’ve come across, I’ve come to realize that there is in fact much more common ground and common values across Canada than most people seem to realize. Many of us share similar feelings of alienation, even as we often don’t fully understand where the other parts of Canada are coming from.

Take, for instance, the case of John Diefenbaker, the Conservative firebrand from Saskatchewan who was Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963. Diefenbaker has been admired by a variety of different groups, for often varying reasons. Diefenbaker spoke to many Western Canadians who felt alienated from the corridors of power in Ottawa, even as he enacted policies that benefited that region. (iii)  His legacy has also been invoked by modern Conservatives who describe him as a “populist Conservative” fighting against an entrenched Liberal administration, (v) and his invoking of a “Canada of the North”, (iv) both of which the Harper government doubtlessly seeks to invoke with its criticisms of supposed Liberal elitism and its Arctic sovereignty initiatives. However, Diefenbaker is also a respected figure in the Red Tory narrative of Canada for his opposition to closer continental integration with the United States, which is said to compare favourably with Stephen Harper’s desire to follow the Americans’ lead on various foreign policy issues. (vi) He was also a remarkably activist prime minister, doing everything from finding new markets for Western Canadian grain to creating the National Council on Welfare.

It’s curious that Diefenbaker could be so respected by two supposedly so different political traditions. One of the popular ideas today is that Red Toryism is dead and the ascending Blue Toryism is supposedly incompatible with it, but you wouldn’t know it looking at Diefenbaker, who clearly didn’t see anything contradictory in his actions and policies appealing to both traditions of conservatism. The supposed demise of Red Toryism is also suspect when we consider some of its key principles as outlined by Ron Dart, such as the positive role of government action, support for and respect of the land and the common good and the positive role religion can play in the state, also continue to play a role in Canadian conservatism. (vii)

Preston Manning, one of the leading lights of modern Canadian conservatism, illustrates some of these tendencies. He has spoke extensively about the need for “green conservatism” and the necessity of conservatives to look at environmental issues, (viii) and has also gone on record as supporting putting a price on carbon and emissions. (ix)  Manning is also a religious man who’s written about the positive role Christianity has played in influencing his views and his growth, but he has also very specifically noted that this must be noncoercive. To Manning, true Christianity is distinguished from spurious Christianity in that the former does not seek to impose itself or its solutions on people who do not want to receive them. (x)

As for the common good and the positive role of state action, Conservative governments have proven themselves to be just as willing as Liberal or NDP governments to carry out nation- or province-building projects when they are in the driver’s seat.  (xi) Even now, the Harper government has made an extensive effort to promote its “Economic Action Plan” to Canadians, even as various Conservative MPs have promoted on their websites the positive actions the federal government has taken for their constituents. Whether you believe it comes from political necessity or genuine belief, under the current government the state can and does continue to play a positive role in the economy and ensuring the common good. Indeed, the political writer Richard Clippingdale, himself an adherent of the Red Tory policies Robert Stanfield espoused, speculates that Stanfield would have found not only worrying tendencies but encouraging trends in the new Conservative party, and that a number of Harper’s policies can be seen to fit into a pattern originally inspired by Stanfield.  (xii)

So, while Canadian values may have changed to some extent, it’s not clear that they’ve changed to the extent that John Ibbitson claims they have. No less a Conservative than Tom Flanagan, the federal Conservative Party’s former campaign director, stated that the Liberal consensus lives on, and is simply under new management.  (xiii) Certainly, political clout has shifted in Western Canada’s favour, although even then there’s more common ground between the Western and Eastern parts of Canada than is often realized. Even my own home province of Alberta, the province most known for standing up and protesting federal initiatives and criticizing what Ibbitson refers to as the Laurentian Consensus, is an example of this.

In reading Geo Takach’s book Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up?, I was struck by how much many tendencies and traits in Alberta have reflected those of other parts of Canada. Takach notes that, by and large, Alberta has a strong sense of being treated as an exploited hinterland by Central Canadian interests. (xiv) This reflects Canada’s treatment as a whole by Great Britain, which often treated Canada as simply to be exploited either for resources or for political favour with the United States. (xv) Although Alberta is the most conservative province in Canada, it also has a tendency to move back towards the political centre much like the rest of the country, (xvi) as witnessed by then-Premier Ralph Klein increasing government spending once again after the provincial books had been balanced, Preston Manning’s support of green issues typically raised by the left, or former Premier Ernest Manning’s support of “an acceptable level of social services that everyone could afford.” (xvii)

And then there was the positive role government can play in the economy, as witnessed by government support for the oil and gas industry (xviii), or the more general support many Albertans have expressed for incentives to have more of the province’s oil and gas refined and upgraded in Alberta, or at least in Canada, rather than seeing the raw product shipped to a foreign country. Even the Wildrose Alliance party, the most right-wing major party running in the 2012 Alberta election, talked about such policies as developing a natural gas strategy to create and expand domestic markets for natural gas, reforming the way electricity is bought and sold in Alberta, specifically to reduce price spikes for consumers and businesses, (xix) and identifying incentives for the private sector to upgrade and refine more of Alberta’s bitumen within the province. (xx)

Government support of the oil and gas industry, as well as the support for incentives to refine more petrochemical products within Alberta’s borders despite what market forces might otherwise desire, remind me of the incentives and other actions taken by Central Canadian governments to encourage particular economic goals. While Alberta may differ from the rest of Canada in some substantial ways, in practice many of the ideas and actions taken by my province are not necessarily as different from those of other parts of Canada as Ibbitson seems to imply. As previously noted, the Harper government is also making an effort to communicate its own support for particular projects in various parts of the country.

Alberta voices have long been some of the most strident in speaking for the concerns of what’s come to be referred to as “Western alienation”, the sense that the Western provinces were shut out of a federal status quo led by decision-makers from Ontario and Quebec who made policy to benefit their regions, often at Western Canada’s expense. In particular, Quebec was seen as benefiting from federal attention and largesse, due in part to the efforts of Pierre Trudeau and later Prime Ministers to fight Quebec separation. Since the Quebec issue doesn’t seem to be solved, many people have concluded that the province is apparently just spoiled and that nothing will satisfy it.

The truth is that, as with Alberta, there’s much more to the story. Quebec writer Christian Dufour has noted that many Quebecers also feel alienated by a federal status quo that doesn’t recognize the unique situation that Quebec faces in North America, and insists on a political arrangement that favours the primacy of Anglophone culture, even as this same status quo prevents the Atlantic and Western parts of the country from fully participating in Confederation. (xxi) Quebec francophones like Henri Bourassa spoke about describing Canada as being established by “two founding peoples”, with Quebec needing particular recognition as the only province in Canada with a francophone majority.  (xxii) Pierre Trudeau obviously opposed this, but according to some critics in opposing the idea of duality Trudeau ended up supporting Anglo-American political ideas that didn’t fully recognize the distinct situation Quebec faced in Canada. (xxiii) Even Stéphane Dion, as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in Jean Chretien’s Cabinet in the 1990s, spoke of the need to recognize his province as a distinct society in the Constitution. (xxiv) It’s an open question whether such francophone Quebecers would see themselves as part of Ibbitson’s Laurentian Consensus. More likely, they would probably feel as alienated from it as many Albertans.

That said, such debates mask the commonalities francophone Quebecers share with other Canadians. Federalist writer and politician Claude Ryan has written in glowing terms about the positive effects of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, (xxv) while Alberta commentators have noted that, while the Charter was ostensibly the outcome of a struggle between Québec politicians, actually reflects a number of Western Canadian values on human rights.  (xxvi) Even a young Stéphane Dion, in his days as a university professor, wrote about how the values of francophone Quebecers were becoming increasingly in line with those of other Canadians, even as francophone Quebecers made an effort to assert their distinctiveness.  (xxvii)

More generally, the debates Québec has had over the last 45-50 years regarding the status of the French language in that province, as well as how new immigrants should adapt to it, remind me of the criticisms many English-speaking Canadians have had of multiculturalism and how it supposedly reinforces differences between new and old Canadians, when the new arrivals would be better served by assimilating into the established society. Both the language debates in Quebec and the broader cultural debates across Canada come from a concern held by members of the established societies that concern that their cultures are being undermined by new arrivals that aren’t interested in conforming to the society they’ve joined and are more concerned with importing their own values. In that respect, francophone Quebecers aren’t necessarily that different from other Canadians.
Nor are they the only ones who are trying to assert their distinctiveness from other Canadians. For decades, Aboriginal peoples in Canada have been trying to make the point that they form a distinct part of society, and that many of the problems they currently face were in fact caused by the efforts of white society to erase their distinctiveness and force them to assimilate into it. Correspondingly, many Aboriginal activists have also called for their distinctiveness to be recognized in Canada and talked about their status as a founding people.  (xxviii) This is not unlike the idea of “two founding peoples” enounced by some francophone Quebecers, and in fact John Ralston Saul incorporated both ideas into a notion of Canada having been founded by the “three founding peoples” of Anglophones, Francophones and Aboriginals.   (xxix)

Another tendency I’ve noticed that Western Canadians, Aboriginal peoples, and Quebecers all share is that they’ve all been asked what they “want”. Westerners have been asked this question, (xxx) Aboriginal peoples have been asked it, (xxxi) and Quebec has been asked it.  (xxxii) This clearly implies that there’s a lot of mutual misunderstanding in Canada, misunderstanding that obscures a lot of the common ground we as Canadians have.

Aside from the problem of assuming that the old values are completely eclipsed, another flaw in Ibbitson’s analysis is his attributing specific values and accomplishments exclusively to one region, party or ideology. Support for the military is not an exclusively conservative virtue, considering that the Liberals under Sir Wilfrid Laurier created the Canadian Navy in 1910, while the Canadian military as a whole reached the height of its power and prestige under the Liberal William Lyon Mackenzie King during World War II. Fiscal prudence is not an exclusively conservative virtue either, when one recalls that it was the Chretien Liberals who got rid of the deficit in the 1990s. Nor is populism, when one recalls Pierre Trudeau’s efforts to undercut provincial opposition to his constitutional initiatives in the early 1980s by appealing directly to the public and trying to forge a broad popular consensus in support of his actions (xxxiii) or the significant role he played in derailing the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords by arousing popular opposition to them.

On the other hand, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has important Conservative and NDP influences as well, given the inclusion of such things as the notwithstanding clause and the increased recognition of resource taxation rights for the provinces, at the insistence of the Conservative and NDP provincial premiers who eventually agreed to Pierre Trudeau’s constitutional patriation. Nor are Canadian Liberals the only ones to embark on nation- or province-building projects when they are in office, as Canadian Conservatives have been quite happy to do the same thing when they themselves are in power. Similarly, it was John Diefenbaker who created the National Council on Welfare, and created the original Canadian Bill of Rights, accomplishments that most people today would associate with the Liberals or the NDP. In short, many of the ideas and evolutions experienced by Canadian society have cut across regional and party lines, and do not exclusively belong to any party or part of the country.

Where Ibbitson is correct is in noting how demographic and political power have shifted westward, and how other parts of the country were often treated by Central Canadian leaders as semi-colonial possessions. Quite often, these leaders made policy that benefited their own home provinces, but caused headaches for other parts of Canada. This, as much as anything, was the root cause of Western alienation and the sense that the Western provinces weren’t being treated fairly by the federal government. However, there are signs that now the shoe is on the other foot-Preston Manning, for one, has expressed his concern over Eastern alienation, which has replaced the Western alienation that inspired him to create the Reform party in the first place. (xxxiv)

Unfair treatment by the federal government created alienation in Western Canada, and the perception that Ottawa did not care about the West’s interests, masking many of the common values that Westerners shared with their fellow Canadians. Now, however, the West is “in”, and many of the issues Western Canadians have been raising for years are finally being dealt with. As a Westerner and an Albertan myself, I’m very glad these issues have finally received attention that has been, in many cases, long overdue.

However, I also share Manning’s concerns about whether we’ve simply exchanged one set of problems with another. Does the collapse of the Laurentian Consensus make Aboriginal people or francophone Quebecers feel any less alienated? Will it mean that issues of importance to Atlantic Canada, the region whose people now feel they are the worst-treated by the federal government, (xxxv) will receive more attention in Ottawa? Is Arctic sovereignty the only issue that of interest to the Northern territories that will be addressed? In our rush to promote some of our values and historic accomplishments that were previously overlooked, are we now letting others fall by the wayside? And who is to say that the West will not find itself back on the outside looking in, if power shifts once again in Ottawa?

The Laurentian Consensus can be criticized for not paying sufficient attention to these issues and focusing only on the matters that personally interested its proponents. However, the major challenge that we now face, in 21st century Canada, is how we bridge the gap between all these different perspectives and peoples who are often alienated and don’t understand one another, despite the common ground that continues to exist between them.

Too often it’s easy to stereotype all Albertans as radical laissez-faire conservatives who don’t care about any other part of the country, all French Quebecers as entitled bigots who don’t care about anyone who’s not a “pure laine” of French ancestry, or all Aboriginals as lazy, entitled and refusing to contribute to Canada. What this overlooks, however, is why people have often come to the conclusions they have, and just why they feel alienated in the first place and why they want the changes they do.

Indeed, I would like to see all of these perspectives heard, and all of these accomplishments celebrated in Ottawa. The “Laurentian Consensus” can be quite rightly criticized for often treating the outer parts of the country as colonial hinterlands and treating with contempt any efforts by these outer parts of the country to assert themselves. It’s great that the West is finally in, and that many of the West’s biggest frustrations are being addressed, but even if economic and political power is shifting West we cannot afford to leave other parts of the country hanging, even if they do not support the government of the day. This was one of the reasons for the Laurentian Consensus’s supposed downfall, after all.

Ibbitson describes the new “Conservative Coalition” that he claims has replaced the Laurentian Consensus as incorporating everyone from Saskatchewan wheat farmers to Filipina nannies. Perhaps the final flaw in Ibbitson’s analysis is his describing such a coalition as something new in Canada. What’s worth remembering is that the Laurentian Consensus itself still attracted support from outside Ontario and Quebec. Even the likes of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, at different points, won seats on the Prairies that helped bolster their majorities. Despite all the problems many of the Consensus’s policies might have caused for these other parts of Canada, its proponents had and continue to have support in these other regions.

More broadly, Canada itself is a broad coalition of many different groups, who have often had to make compromises with one another in order to be able to live together. In turn, they found common ground on a lot of issues, common ground that enabled them to form a country despite the very real differences they had in other areas. These differences continue to exist in Canada today, but so too do the common values and common ideas that distinguish who we are as a country. While political and economic power has shifted in Canada, the country continues to hold many of the same fundamental ideas and face many of the same fundamental challenges it always has as it enters its 145th year.

This article was originally published on IPolitics.ca.

i John Ibbitson, “The Collapse of the Laurentian Consensus: On the Westward Shift of Canadian Power-And Values.” Talk originally given on December 5, 2011 on TV Ontario’s “Big Ideas”, later reproduced on the Literary Review of Canada website, January 1, 2012. http://reviewcanada.ca/essays/2012/01/01/the-collapse-of-the-laurentian-consensus/

ii Jared Milne, “The Conservative Narrative of Canada: Differences and Divergences.” Vive Le Canada, February 9, 2011. http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article/235930937-the-conservative-narrative-of-canada-differences-and-divergences See also Paul Wells and John Geddes, “What You Don’t Know About Stephen Harper.” Maclean’s Magazine, January 31, Section 2. http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/01/31/what-you-dont-know-about-stephen-harper/2/, and John Ibbitson and Erin Anderssen, “How Stephen Harper is Remaking the Canadian Myth”. The Globe and Mail, May 1, 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/how-stephen-harper-is-remaking-the-canadian myth/article2419732/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Home&utm_content=2419732

iii Roger Gibbins and Loleen Berdahl, Western Visions, Western Futures: Perspectives on the West in Canada. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2003. Page 44.

iv Hugh Segal, “John Diefenbaker: The Populist Conservative.” The National Post, February 16, 2011. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/02/16/hugh-segal-john-diefenbaker-the-populist-conservative/

v Quoted in Charles Taylor, Radical Tories. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2006. Original edition 1982, House of Anansi Press. Page 203.

vi Ron Dart, “Diefenbaker and Harper: Classical Canadian Tory Meets Republican Conservative.” Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice, December 2006. http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2006/12/diefenbaker_and.html

vii Ron Dart, The Red Tory Tradition: Ancient Roots, New Routes. Dewdney, British Columbia: Synaxis Press, 1999. Pages 33-37.

viii Quoted in Karen Kun and Toby A.A. Heaps, “Interview With Preston Manning”. Corporate Knights website, Issue 21, 2007. http://www.corporateknights.com/article/green-conservative-interview-preston-manning

ix Shawn McCarthy, “Oil Sands, Green Groups Unlikely Allies In Push For Carbon Tax.” The Globe and Mail, March 7, 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/oil-sands-green-groups-unlikely-allies-in-push-for-carbon-tax/article552864/

x Preston Manning, The New Canada. Toronto: Macmillan Canada, 1992. Pages 94-109, especially pages 99-100.

xi Milne, “The Conservative Narrative of Canada: Differences and Divergences.”

xii Richard Clippingdale, Robert Stanfield’s Canada: Perspectives of the Best Prime Minister We Never Had. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008. Pages 73-74 and 110-111.

xiii Tom Flanagan, “Re: ‘Has the Centre Vanished?’ by Stephen Clarkson.” Literary Review of Canada, November 2011. Page 30.

xiv Geo Takach, Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up? Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2010. Pages 129-144.

xv John Ralston Saul, Reflections of a Siamese Twin: Canada at the End of the Twentieth Century. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1997. Pages 369-374.

xvi Takach, pages 65-76.

xvii Ibid, pages 73-74, 91.

xviii Ibid., pages 75, 110-112 and 334.

xix Wildrose Party Energy policy statement, http://www.wildrose.ca/policy-text/energy/

xx Wildrose Party media statement, February 1, 2012. http://www.wildrose.ca/feature/more-pipelines-more-upgrading-smith/

xxi Christian Dufour, Lettre aux souverainistes québécois et aux fédéralistes canadiens qui sont restés fidèles au Québec. Montreal : Les Éditions internationales Alain Stanké, 2000. Pages 90-99.

xxii Peter H. Russell, Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004. Pages 50-51. See also Jeremy Webber, Reimagining Canada: Language, Culture, Community and the Canadian Constitution. Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994. Page 276.

xxiii Claude Couture, Paddling With The Current: Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Etienne Parent, Liberalism and Nationalism in Canada. Translated by Vivien Bosley. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 1996.

xxiv Stéphane Dion, Straight Talk: Speeches and Writings on Canadian Unity. Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999. Pages 135-149.

xxv Claude Ryan, Regards sur le fédéralisme canadien. Les Éditions du Boréal, 1995. Pages 137-138 and 174-181.

xxvi Gibbins and Berdahl, page 61.

xxvii Stéphane Dion, “Le nationalisme dans la convergence culturelle : Le Québec contemporain et le paradoxe de Tocqueville” in L’Engagement intellectuel : mélanges en honneur de Léon Dion, ed. by Raymond Hudon and Réjean Pelletier. Sainte-Foy, Québec : Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 1991, pp. 291-311.

xxviii See for instance Harold Cardinal, The Unjust Society. Vancouver: Douglas & MacIntyre, 1999. Originally published by Hurtig Publishers, 1969. See also Ovide Mercredi and Mary Ellen Turpel, In The Rapids: Navigating the Future of First Nations. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada, 1993. See also Alan Cairns, Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000.

xxix Saul, pages 81-100.

xxx Gibbins and Berdahl, page 28.

xxxi Cardinal, pages 54-55.

xxxii André Bernard, What Does Québec Want? Lorimer, 1978.

xxxiii Russell, page 111.

xxxiv Jane Taber, “As Political Centre Shifts, Manning Now Fears ‘Eastern Alienation.’” The Globe and Mail, January 24, 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/as-political-centre-shifts-manning-now-fears-eastern-alienation/article620984/

xxxv Loleen Berdahl, Whither Western Alienation? Shifting Patterns of Western Canadian Discontent with the Federal Government. The Canada West Foundation, October 2010. http://cwf.ca/pdf-docs/publications/Whither-Western-Alienation.pdf See also Barbara Yaffe, “It’s No Surprise That Alienation Is Heading East.” The Vancouver Sun, October 22, 2010. http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=09f080ed-b811-4088-bc3b-1c6c19240f95

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Harper: Going after Guergis to punish Jaffer?

Of all the arguments I've heard from the Conservative Party regarding the Helena Guergis lawsuit where she is claiming PMS and Co defamed her and dismissed her as a Cabinet minister without cause, this one has to take the cake; that the party can't be sued because it is an "unincorporated association."

The reason why law firms have reconstituted themselves as "limited liability partnerships" and why places of worship have decided to adopt articles of incorporation is so they can have the same status as places of business ending in "Limited" or "Incorporation" or "Corporation" -- the status of a person and thus to limit their liability for private wrongs; specifically, only the assets of the establishment can be seized, not the personal things owned by the proprietors.

If the Conservative Party is unincorporated then it follows some or all of its membership are personally liable.   In this case, it can hardly be argued all of the party's members should be forced to pay up -- that's silly.   But the senior inner cabal that got rid of Guergis on what appears to be specious grounds and / or that she was "guilty by association" because of her marriage to Rafim Jaffer.

I don't know what to make of the allegations against him either before all of this started, or the new allegations made by Team Con that Jaffer engaged in technology transfers to companies in an enemy state, Mainland China.

But my sense is the following.

First, no one should be held responsible for a spouse's or common law partner's actions unless he or she was also part of the same conspiracy.

Second, section 4(3) of the Canada Evidence Act establishes by statue the centuries old spousal privilege -- that communications between a husband or wife cannot be used as evidence in a criminal or civil trial under any circumstance unless one of the parties has waived that right as party of a plea bargain so as to testify against the other or one spouse has been victimized by the other and by logic must testify, whether the wrong was jointly or severally criminal or civil.  (I presume that although the wording is lacking in the present law, the privilege also extends to a two husbands or two wives contract).

If Guergis was aware that her husband, Jaffer, was engaging in clearly criminal conduct, she might be morally obligated to report what can be considered by some to be an act of treason, especially as a minister of the Crown herself.    But legally, she wouldn't have to even if he made such a confession to her in confidence -- and at this stage I don't even think Jaffer has been charged or indicted for anything of the sort.   And for what it's worth, even if she was told such by Jaffer, that doesn't make her part of the act unless she directly abetted it in some way such as offering secure channels to facilitate the transfer.

Many of us have been fired for some reason, even if was a minor or unintentional breach of company rules.   But any normal supervisor would explain the reasons for doing so, in writing.

PMS does not act like a normal person.   Hiding under so-called Crown immunity, he merely invoked the "removal at pleasure" concept to get rid of someone it appears increasingly he simply hated.  .   And a woman, for that matter.    A woman who is a Christian (I believe) married to a Muslim.   This has discrimination written all over it.   I'm not saying that's definitely what it is, that's for a court to decide.   But it's awfully suspicious.   And not just because that firing someone without cause is a frightening concept

Just because you're the country's primus inter pares (first among equals) does not give you a hall pass to do whatever you want.    A Prime Minister does have tools at his or her disposal that many Presidents don't, including invoking posse comitatus (i.e. giving law enforcement powers to the military).    But he or she is subject to the same employment standards expectations that bosses in the private sector are.   That includes that if you fire a minister you can't do so on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion or sex.    Count the ways.

If the government has proof Jaffer did something that undermined our economy to an irreparable extent, charge him with the crime, not Guergis.    If  Guergis is only guilty of bad judgment by allowing a parliamentary computer to be used for commercial purposes, then she should have been told that up front when dismissed or demoted -- it's not something that merits expulsion from the party.

But if evidence demonstrates this is just a witch hunt to punish a non-Muslim for marrying a Muslim -- especially a PM who claims he's trying to build bridges with Muslims -- then in my opinion PMS is no longer fit to govern and the GG, David L. Johnston (who PMS appointed by the way), should fire him "in the name of the Sovereign."

And as far as the "unincorporated association" argument goes -- come on.   It's easy to identify who would be responsible within that party, and against whom a forfeiture assessment should be applied.   You can probably count them with the digits of both hands.   That is, of course, if.

Monday, July 16, 2012

When WalMart meets GO Transit

A little while back I wrote about how there are dozens of bridges in the Hamilton megacity (read:   consolidated city-county), most of them in a horrible state of disrepair; and how with many of them no one seems to know who actually owns them.    Well, there is one that we definitely do know about now, and the cost is going to be much bigger than anyone could have dreamed just weeks ago.   (Source:   View Magazine) The bridge in question is a structure that is many decades old and carries the CN right of way between two very modern big box outlets -- Walmart and Home Depot.

The problem is that when GO Transit announced the extension of train service down to Saint Catherines, the idea was that one of the new stations for the Hamilton area would be at Queen Elizabeth and Fifty Road.    Certainly makes more sense; there's plenty of room to put in commuter parking as well as a local public transit hub, as well as to put in a much needed grade separation for Fifty -- one of the few rural railway crossings in the city where it's illegal for a train to sound the whistle.    And for what it's worth, that's what the city actually would prefer too.

Instead it now looks like Metrolinx, the regional public transit coordinating body, wants the station to be at Centennial.    Not only does this mean widening the bridge that has to be replaced (and which is owned by the city, as I've noted before) and widened from two lines to four, it also means trying to figure out where to put all the commuter parking.    Unless the landlords where the new Walmart is wants to give up the ancillary shops planned to be built and make it just one huge parking lot over what used to be a somewhat notorious but still profitable metal scrap yard, and unless Home Depot wants to give over some of its "parkage" the only other option will be to build a flyover pedestrian overpass (and one presumes one that is enclosed like some other setups on the GO network) from Confederation Park, over the QEW, and on the station.

This by itself would also be sheer madness.   Especially during the summer, when tons of families and tourists use the wave pool at the Park.    The campground may now be mothballed but there is no room for all those cars there either at any time of year.

Forget that Hamilton already has four Walmarts (and hypermarkets -- i.e. combo supermarkets and department stores-- at that) with one more currently under construction and one more yet to come.  All big boxes, but none anchoring a traditional shopping centre and all with parking issues of their own.

Forget that Hamilton had to scramble to find the money to make the Centennial bus route -- formerly a summer only, weekend only, express -- to all days all operating hours run connecting a regional mall to the lakefront parks.   With the old anchor store made redundant by the new mega store up the street, the bus definitely had to be made one year round which it should have been all along, except this is costing us taxpayers at least $150,000 per year with nothing from Walmart to even partially subsidize the route.

And forget that because the lanes on Centennial under the bridge are so narrow, and so many pedestrians are walking from their apartments to the new "wonderland" that one lane had to be blocked off northbound to make a makeshift "sidewalk" until the new bridge is built -- somehow there never was any foresight to put sidewalks in seventy or eighty years ago.   Gridlock galore.

Oh and did I mention, that particular bridge is flood central, just like the Kenilworth Avenue disaster which floods out next to Canadian Tire during any rainstorm?   Imagine the chaos on the side streets when Walmart opens on the other side of the "new" Centre Mall in the hut where Crappy Tire used to be -- and the skies also open up?    Especially when a train goes by and the gates go down on the level crossing at Ottawa Street, next to the Arcelor Mittal (formerly Dofasco) compound, and during a shift change?    Or down the way, with detours to Fruitland and Fifty (the latter just a two lane road)?   The residents along Fruitland and the peach and grape farmers along Fifty will be pissed.

Oh, the sixth Walmart, you ask?   The one which site hasn't even been serviced yet, the first step before construction?   It's actually the one at Fifty Road, the one that should have been built first -- with the actually sensible transit hub.    And making the rural road a four lane (and preferably divided) street as well.  Actually putting the horse in front of the cart.    Like a normal city and a normal corporation and a normal public transit authority would.    But nothing is ever normal in Hamilton thanks to the fuckheads at City Hall -- both on council and on staff.   Or with the auto fellators in Toronto that Pointy Head appoints to oversee these kinds of things.

My my my, isn't progress sweet?   I'm somewhat scatterbrained, I'll confess that up front.   But even Gracie Allen would have had way more common sense (and she really was way smarter than her fans ever knew) than the idiotic brain trust that came up with this Cerberus scenario.

Put the train station where it should be, at Fifty, at the expense of Metrolinx.   The railway company should rebuild the bridges and / or put in new grade separations, at their expense (it's primarily a freight line; with VIA, GO and Amtrak leasing it from them anyway).   And the underpasses and pedestrian accesses should be flood proofed, and roads and sidewalks built to handle the increased capacity required -- at the city's expense.

Now, that wasn't so hard.