A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Remember a year or two ago when MPs like Carolyn Parrish and Sheila Copps were being tossed for calling George Bush a moron. Do you recall what a fuss our current PM put up back then about how such statements were slanderous and dangerous and an afront to people.
In the past few weeks that same person, one Stephen Harper, has torn a page from the slandering book and accused one Liberal MP of being associated with the Air India bombing, and the entire Liberal party of being in bed with the Taliban, yet he’s not being held accountable, forced to resign, or censured in any way.
Apparently its not okay for members of government to call the lying, deceiving, war mongering president of the United States a moron, but it is okay to falsely accuse members of the Canadian parliament of being traitors and terrorists!
Remember way back, when the reform movement in Canada started, and how it gathered a lot of its support and political steam by abmonishing Ottawa for showing Quebec special treatment while the west got left in the cold. Do you also recall how Harper and his predecessors, Day and Manning, scolded the then Liberal and Conservative governments for being too friendly to Quebec?
Did you catch the budget last week? In case you didn’t notice, Quebec got a 34 per cent increase in its federal transfer payments in that budget. Meanwhile, the western provinces received only single digit increases! Anyone else catching the hypocracy in that?
Remember how our current PM scolded the Martin government for going on spending sprees just before election calls? Have you noticed all of Harper’s spending this past month as we grow closer to a possible election?
I do believe I could go on listing, for hours and pages, all the things Mr. Harper used to regale against, and now embraces, but the bottom line in such musing would be this, hypocracy! That’s what you call a person who says one thing and then does another. Another word that comes to mind is moron. A moron is someone who is of feeble mind or degenerate dispositon. One might rightfully argue that someone who is hyprocritical and uses things such as slander and baseless accusations against others is a feeble and degenerate personality.
All this in mind, it seems one of the questions Canadians must ask themselves before they mark thier ballots in the coming election is this: Do we really want a moronic hypocrite for Prime Minister?

Neo-Cons Helped by Separatists

Let me get this straight. The only reason the Harper government will still be in power after the budget vote is because the separatists supported him!
So, we have a Conservative minority propped up by Quebec Separatists.
Tell me again how that is good for Canada!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dear Gordon Campbell, You're the Best

This is an open letter to the Premier of British Columbia. All tongue firmly planted cheekishly!

Dear Premier,
Congratulations on finally giving yourself the raise you weren't able to push through a year or so ago! Too bad you had to dress it up as a tax cut, eh.
Also, on behalf of all the slum lords around the province, I'd like to thank you for raising the Income Assistance shelter rates. That extra fifty bucks a month oughta make poker night at the Penthouse a little more interesting.
I'd also like to thank you for setting up all those extra emergency shelter beds. I was wondering where we were going to hide all the homeless when the Olympics get here. Now, thanks to you, we won't have to put them all on busses and send them to Alberta.
On behalf of all the real estate developers, landlords, speculators and developers I'd like to thank you for not wasting the surplus on building public housing. Building public housing would take too much pressure off the housing market and reduce the soaring cost of homes in the province. If you did that we would all have to work too hard to make a lot less profit. Now, thanks to you, we can get paid way too much and live fat and happy without all the fuss.
Methinks the banks are also grateful because the high prices of houses will allow them to forclose so much easier. Nothing like forclosing on the working people's dreams to keep the mood high down at the Gentlemen's Club.
Finally, I want to thank you for cutting funding to daycares. Last thing we want in this province is mom's going to work while their kids are learning their abc's from qualified pre-school teachers. Moms belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, and thanks to you a lot more of them will be where they belong.
Also, I really want to thank you for paying so much attention to the environment in your throne speech and then making no provisions for it in your budget. I was worried there for a moment that you might actually be concerned for the future of our world and our children. It would have been quite a shock if you'd been serious. My opinion of you would have been drastically altered. I'm really glad to see it was all hot air. That's the Premier we all know and love.
Anyway, Mr. Campbell, thanks again. You're doing a wonderful job and I'm sure all your rich friends have warm fuzzies for you.
With all due respect,
Will Webster

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

BC Tax Cut an MLA Raise!

Remember just over a year ago when our MLAs attempted to give themselves a pay hike, and the provincial NDP went along with it until public opinion forced them to go back to the house and reject it!
Well, they finally got their raise, and no one is saying a word about it!
How’d they do it?
Remember when the BC Liberals tabled their budget and everyone earning over $25,000 annually received a ten per cent tax cut!
BC MLAs earn upwards of $70,000 a year. The tax cut provides people in the MLA’s tax bracket between $60 and $100 extra a month. Its not quite what they were asking for when they tried to give themselves a raise, but its a step towards it!
When the MLAs tried to give themselves the raise the opposition battle cry was that giving themselves a raise while so many were homeless and in poverty was unconscionable. Odd isn’t it, that when those same MLAs decided to okay a tax cut, there was no similar hue and cry.
Its bad enough the Campbell government would try to pass themselves off as “compassionate” by increasing the provincial welfare shelter rates as somehow benefitting those on relief, when it was really just a raise for slum lords. It was worse when they tried to appear like they were addressing the issue of homelessness, not by building houses, but by increasing the number of emergency shelter beds. But to disguise lining their own pockets as a tax cut, is the ultimate in cynicism.
And even worse is the NDPs silence on the issue.
When this tax cut, or MLA raise, was introduced, I wrote to every member of the opposition and suggested they send back their share of the tax cut and demand it be used to address homelessness and poverty in the province. Do you know how many of those MLAs I heard back from?
Not a single one!
Many in the middle class argue that the relief was needed, but ignore the fact that whatever relief was contained in the package will be eaten up by rising housing costs, increased government service fees, daycare costs and the like. They also seem to be ignoring the fact that failing to deal with homelessness and poverty will eventually lead to rising costs for justice and emergency services. In the end game, the tax cut will cost much more than it relieves.
Then there is the little matter of whether we should be giving out tax cuts while so many are falling through the cracks. If the middle class need tax relief, imagine how it must be for those who don’t have enough to feed and house themselves.
No, the recent tax cuts were not designed to help people up. They were designed to give the MLAs what they wanted to give themselves before but were denied.
Remember Liberal MLA Mayencourt’s tearful rail against the NDP for stopping the MLA raise? Methinks he has stopped crying now.
Meanwhile, the NDP, who just love to give lip service to the plight of the poor, are quietly taking their raise to the bank. Sure they will rant about how tax cuts to the rich are abominable, but they are not going to do anything to keep that money from reaching their wallets.
Next time you hear any MLA in BC, oppositon or government, talking about the pleasure of serving, remember, they are only serving themselves.

Wanna Fight! Your PM Will Pick One For You

Way back in the late 1960s there was an idea floating around about what should be done about all the people who want to fight. The idea was to put them all in one corner and let them destroy each other! I thought it was a good plan.
I come from a generation, the sons and daughters of World War II veterans, who believed war could be ended. Our parents did not call the war they’d been through “the war to end all wars” for no reason. They simply did not want their children to experience the horror they’d gone through. The whole idea for most of them was they went to war to finally put an end to it, and they came back determined to make sure it never happened again.
Now, forty years later, what do we find? There on my TV is an ad from the Canadian Armed Forces calling on people to “fight, fight, fight.” Its enough to turn my stomach, and to make many from my parent’s generation turn over in their graves!
Yet we have a Prime Minister, one who has never had to go to war, and would not physically make it through basic training, urging our young people to join the armed forces so they can fight, fight, fight.
At the same time, this PM, argues that those of us who are opposed to his militaristic intentions are enemies of our armed forces, that we are unpatriotic, ill informed, even stupid, for not wanting to see another generation of our young people have their lives torn apart by foreign conflicts.
Meanwhile, it is in the true sense of patriotism, and devotion to those who gave their lives in the past wars, that we fight the notion that war is justified. Our PM wants us to believe that Canada can succeed where the USSR and the USA could not. He wants us to believe that we can force feed western style “democracy” on a civilization that is far older than ours. He wants us to believe we can right the wrongs in the world with military mite, contrary to all the evidence of history.
And while our PM is so busy force feeding us the notion that mite is right, and that we in the west know better what is right for people half way around the world, our own society is in tatters. We have tens of thousands of people living in the streets, people who are the sons and daughters of war heroes.
We have a PM who wants us to believe that we can fix the problems in other countries while ignoring our own issues.
All the evidence is showing that conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq are deteriorating. Heck, even some of the countries who were the most vocal about going into these places are now pulling out. Many of our NATO allies are refusing to allow their troops into the more dangerous areas, yet our PM insists we should go deeper and deeper into the conflict, spend more and more tax payer dollars on the fight, while shielding himself from any critical review of such action by refusing national debate on the issue and labelling the opposition unpatriotic and cowardly.
Truth is: Sending our armed forces into war without a national debate is the unpatriotic thing to do. How can we in good conscience send people to fight for a cause we are not certain is justified?
Isn’t such a move, all on its own, an act of uncaring towards our armed services personell and their families?
And as far as spreading democracy goes, all the facts demonstrate that this cannot be done. Democracy is not something that can be forced on a people, it is something a people must decide to adopt for themselves. It cannot be transfered or imposed, it must be developed from within.
The other aspect of it is this. The only way we can make “democracy” attractive to nations that do not have democracy is by making democracy attractive to them. We cannot do that by simply saying, our way is better, get with it. The way we make democracy attractive to undemocratic countries is by making it work here at home. We need to set the example. We cannot do that by letting the rights and feedoms of Canadians be eroded, which is what is happening when so many of our own people live in poverty. We do not inspire other nations towards democracy by curtailling democratic rights here at home. Stifling debate does not encourage other countries to open debate. No, when we do things like curtail debate, cut services to the poor while increasing funding to the military, take away rights of habeous corpus and legal representation, we do not inspire others towards democracy. We demonstrate to them that democracy does not work, and must be reigned in. Worse, we come off as total hypocrites.
If Stephen Harper and others of his political persuasion really want to export freedom and democracy then it is incumbent on them to make sure those institutions are working well here at home. The true leader leads by example, not by rhetoric. If we want people to follow us, then we have to walk the talk, not talk the walk. Its all very simple, although those in power seem intent on convincing us it is not.
To win the hearts and minds of the Afghan and Iraqi people, then we need to become a model for them to follow. We must first feed, clothe and house our hungry and homeless. Then we must make sure that every person, national or foreign, is provided with all their democratic rights. When our house is in order, when our own yard is cleaned up, then maybe our neighbours will be inspired to do the same. But if we are going to go around telling our neighbours to clean up their acts, while we ourselves are letting our home deteriorate, then they are just going to look at us and say, ‘worry about your own mess before you bug me about mine.’
We were right, way back, when we suggested that everyone who wants to fight should be put in one corner and allowed to beat the crap out of each other. Trouble is, we have some so-called leaders right now who belong in that corner, but are intent on dragging the rest of us in there with them.
Perhaps its time we took a page from their own book and learned how to “just say NO!”

Friday, March 02, 2007

Manufacturing a False Grassroots Appearance

During the last federal election I wandered over to the Conservative stronghold of the East Kootenays hoping to discover for myself why that particular region is so intent on electing right wingers.
The first realisation I came to was that the region is hugely influenced by Alberta. Most of the visitors I met over there were from Alberta. The stores were full of goods originating in Alberta, and there were nearly as many Alberta plates racing down the backroads as there were BC plates.
It makes sense. Alberta is a lot closer than Victoria. Its a half day ride to downtown Calgary, but an overnight journey to the coast. There’s one mountain range between Cranbrook and Lethbridge, but no less than four between Fernie and Vancouver. What’s more, they’re on Mountain Time, not Pacific.
Economics were another factor. The East Kootenays is like a mini-industrail zone. There’s lots of logging and mining, lots of big trucks, big wide highways, and the Rockies. Simply put, the East Kootenays have a lot more in common with Alberta than with the rest of BC. It is only logical this would result in a closer political association with Alberta.
But it wasn’t until I walked into a laundromat in Fernie that I really got a sense of why the politics over there are so right compared to here on the western edge of the Purcells.
In the laundromat I found a letter tacked to the bulletin board. It was from a guy who claimed to be a single male, mid 40s, self employed. In the letter this person claimed to be non-partisan, and to be fed up with federal politics. It went on at great length to explain how consecutive Liberal governments in Ottawa had ruined the country, although a lot of the things it complained about, such as the GST, Free Trade, cuts to hospitals, the decimation of the railroads, etc. were the results of the Mulroney era. At the end of the letter, the author said he was looking for change and would therefore be voting Conservative.
As I read the letter I got the impression this guy was going to wind up telling me to vote NDP. It was, afterall, a letter that complained about big money, big industry, cuts to social programs, hospitals, schools, all NDP platform subjects. So I was quite surprised that a person complaining about such issues would suggest voting for Harper.
It was a well crafted letter, one that accurately described the state of the working people of this country. However, the end comment, urging folks to vote Tory, seemed to defy the logic of the text. I would have understood if the letter urged me to vote NDP, Green or even Independent, but Conservative! Who is this fool, I wondered to myself, going on and on about the plight of the working man, then promoting a Bay Street lawyer.
I checked the name of the author then went down to a local cafe to see if anyone knew of the guy. Turned out he was the owner of the laundromat, and secretary of the local Conservative Party riding association, and had been for years. One nice lady explained to me that he was in fact, one of the best known rednecks around, and had been an unsuccessful candidate for the riding in the past.
Then I remembered by experience as a reporter in the Yukon back in the early ‘90s when the Reform Party was making big inroads. I’d witnessed the same tactic up there, people who’d always voted on the right, pretending to be disillusioned ex-Liberals and NDPers, writing letters to the editor, claiming to have finally grown tired of liberal and centrist governments.
At the time I recall thinking it was a pretty clever idea, to pass oneself off as a discontented Liberal who had woken up, smelled the roses, and shifted cheeks.
Then one night I went out to hear the one and only Preston Manning speak. Despite his squeaky voice and nerd appearance, he was quite the charmer. During a question-answer period, I recall him urging his supporters to write letters to the editor, and to talk about their disatisfaction with the ruling parties. He asserted that such letters, if written properly, would be a magnificient tool in convincing the undecided to vote Reform.
The tactic worked, in many respects. It helped to win the Yukon Territorial election for the Yukon Party, a reform type movement, and earned the Reformers a rather strong showing in the federal election of the time, which routed Kim Campbell and put Jean Chretien in power, while reducing the ruling Conservatives to two seats, and sending a couple dozen Reform candidates to Ottawa.
Preston Manning did an incredible job, using tactics like the one described above, to manufacture an apparent grassroots movement. Over the next few years it would grow by leaps and bounds and become the official opposition. Trouble was, it also split the right and secured successive majority governments for the Liberals.
The federal Reform Party Candidate in the Yukon at the time was an affable fellow named Short Tompkins. He was a life long Yukoner, a grandpa, a miner, only moderately educated, and a guy who’d worked hard all his life. In many ways he was typical of the type of person who bought into Manning’s plan. I got to know Short, and quite liked him. I could not say the same for many of his party supporters though.
One election night I was assigned to his party headquarters. There were a lot of people there, mostly male, mostly single, mostly labourers. During the course of the night, whenever the TV showed Jean Chretien’s face, several of the Reform supporters would start hooting “Frog, Frog, Frog.” It was the same when then NDP leader, and Yukon MP, Audrey McLauglin was shown. The crowd would start chanting “Dyke, Dyke, Dyke”, or “Commie, Commie, Commie.”
Short seemed disturbed by this. It wasn’t his way to mock people, he was a huge cut above such activity. I could see in his face that the racist and sexist remarks of some of his supporters troubled him. So I asked him about it. I’ll never forget what he told me.
He said; “Preston Manning is like a bright light, and like any bright light, he attracts lots of bugs!”
Short went on to explain that the people engaged in this activity were not part of his campaign, and called them “hangers around.” We both knew he was just trying to distance himself from them, and that some of those partaking in the ridicule had been out stumping for him, a few had even turned up at my door.
We all now the story. The Rerform was successful. Lots of new folks joined the party. They would eventually toss Manning in favour of a more rightest leader, Stockwell Day, and eventually they would elect Stephen Harper, a Bay Street lawyer, with a right wing ideology, a man ideologically light years away from the more moderate Manning, but apparently more palatable than the born again Christian, Day. Eventually they would grow so strong the Conservatives were forced to join them and they would meld into what is today, Canada’s minority Tory government.
As the Reform moved away from Manning, it kept many of his ideas, especially his methods of creating or manufacturing a grassroots movement. However, while Manning’s Reform was actually a grassroots movement born from dissent towards the Mulroney Conservatives, the modern day Conservative Reform is more heavily dependent on the appearance and manufacturing of a seemingly “grassroots” movement than they are on actually being a grassroots movement. Today, the Reform and Conservative parties are one, financed by big oil, big corporations, Bay Street, US interests, and of course the fledgling reformers who really have nowhere else to go. For all intent and purpose, the Mulroney Conservatives have swallowed up the Reform, made a sharp turn to the right, in order to fully digest all the fringes of the old Reform party, the hooters and the chanters, and now present themselves to the Canadian people as half reform, half traditional Tory, and the only alternative to the Liberals.
They’ve kept what they consider to be the best of the two previous identities. They’ve kept the name “Conservative” because of its history and tradition, and they’ve also kept some of the more successful Reform Party practices, like the one where they pretend to be non-partisan in order to put up the appearance of being a
‘grassroots” movement.
Its quite a balance to maintain, being the party of Canada’s inception, the John A MacDonalds, while also holding on to their Preston Manning, rebel with a brain, persona. On one hand they must appear to be the compassionate Tories of Robert Stanfield, and on the other the dirt farm revolt of the Reform. They rail against the Liberal machinery like they just stepped off the combine, and at the same time portray themselves as the founders of confederation.
But the fact is, the current Conservatives and their leader, are neither the party of John A, nor the party of Manning. And they most certainly are not a grassroots movement, but an entrenched psuedo-Republican party financed by big money.
Still, whenever a story hits the news, and wherever the public are allowed to comment, Conservative Party insiders are there, passing themselves off as everyday people, not necessarily connected to any party, writing letters, offering opinions, and basically trying to influence the polls by appearing to be something they are not. Meanwhile, there leader, and his ministers, rail on about the insincerity and hypocracy of their opposition.
The pot is not only calling the kettle black, but the kettle is in fact, the pot, and the pot is the kettle, and neither of them are what they appear to be.
But then again, neither are the Liberals - who will promise anything to anyone to get their vote, the NDP - who have spent the last six months propping up the Harper government, or the Greens - who are offering 50 per cent tax cuts across the board, what they appear to be!
What’s the solution? Seems to me our best bet is start a real grassroots movement wherein every single Canadian voter shows up at the polls and marks an X beside the name of a candidate who does not represent any of parties, or failing that, marks an X beside the name of the person they feel will do the best job for them in parliament, regardless of their political affiliation!