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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What the Liberals Must Do!

Short of somehow talking the Conservatives into accepting a major amendment to the current budget, I don’t see how the Liberal Party can accept it.
Such an amendment would have to include removing the clause calling for the sale of federal properties and corporations, upping the entitlement period and payment schedule for Employment Insurance, financing current inter city construction projects, and taking a giant leap towards the introduction of large scale fuel efficient and sustainable power technologies, to name but a few items.
Other items include large scale green infrastructure improvements, a no nonesense environmental police, overhauling the countries social welfare and education systems, huge funds for metropolitan and rural transit, and nationalized daycare.
But glueing an amemdment to the budget is not the Grits only issue.
A major concern for the Liberal Party is their standing as the official opposition. Should they vote in favour of the budget, as is, or without significant amendment, they themselves will be the party propping up the minority. They will be in a coaliton with the Conservatives!
What happens then? They can no longer argue against the government, because they already gave the go-ahead. Nor will they be able to argue economics, because they will have already approved. What’s worse, in the long run, they would capitulating and saying to the voter, ‘this government has it right.’ That would be one heck of an endorsement for Stephen Harper to have in his pocket going into the next election.
Really, the decison Liberal Leader Ignatief faces today, is not whether to reject the budget or not, but to decide who he wants to climb in bed with! Does he go for the new improved more cuddly Mr. Harper, or does he stick with the parties he’s already arranged a pre-nup with?
I would suggest, if he turns his back on the pre-nup, and either holds his nose and curls up under the Tory blue sheets, or decides to refrain from voting, he will soon be wearing spectacles and studdering in Franglais.
Then there’s George Bush’s big buddy Steve, with his Winnie the Pooh smile, soft belly, and surface warmth. Underneath, he’s still the same old good old boy. Like a whale in a barnyard pond he is. Flopping this way on the Senate, flipping that way on the deficit, flapping around with his PR department, flayling about with his leaks and never speaks. For all his sudden amicablity, he continues to go after womens equity, the CBC, the arts and tax cuts.
Does anyone really believe this guy will give Iggy the chance to change a thing? Is he really going actually agree to equal pay for equal work, for help to fix the ceiling over adding a rec room, to keeping the CBC in tact and properly funding it, to alternative energy, to cleaning up the oil sands? No, if anything, the big Pooh Bah is more likely to try to find a way to co-opt his main opponent. He’ll give, but not too much.
And that will put the slim gym Ignatief in another predicament. Does he settle for less. If he does, once again, he will soon be wearing spectacles and studdering in Franglais.
Whatever the Liberals do is bound to be unpopular in many circles. Its a catch-22 in so many ways.
Perhaps it comes down to the rules of order. Parliament is set up in a manner that not only allows, but encourages coalitions. The voters haven’t moved much in years. If another election were held, we’d likely be right back where we are. With no one at the top really wowing the masses, that’s unlikely to change. Mr. Ignatief’s question then becomes, “who can I work with?”
There is one other question, that must be considered. Would Mr. Ignatief like to be Prime Minister of Canada by this time next week?
I think he would! And it may be his only chance!

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Building Sound Infrastructure

As we move forward into times of environmental concern and economic difficulty municipal governments need to reassess how they've always done things, and start adopting methods that encourage more environmentally friendly, and less expensive modes of transport.
In the past, the priority has always been to get the cars and trucks moving. But with more and more people being asked to leave their cars at home, and more and more out of economic necessity, being forced to leave their cars at home, municipal governments need to begin accommodating the move away from the private automobile, and towards public transit, bicycles and feet!
Its not just the municipalities that need to pay attention, but the provincial and federal governments as well.
We're hearing a lot about how the feds and provinces are going to put money out for infrastructure, partly to encourage job creation, and partly to provide the people with safer more efficient transport.
But I have to wonder if governments are really paying attention. What good will rebuilt roads and bridges be if the people can't afford to drive? Further, what good will fixing up the roads be if they still don't accommodate cyclists and walkers?
The old adage "build it and they will come" springs to mind. If we build and maintain safe cycling routes, more people will use them. If we build walking paths that are easy to negotiate, and actually go where people need to go, more people will use them. In North America we're entirely focussed on making it easy for cars to go from A to B. The result is, everyone (almost) has a car. In turn, the fact everyone has a car is contributing big time to global warming and environmental destruction. Perhaps if we begin to build infrastructure that makes it easier for people to get around without using their automobiles, they will make use of it!
In Europe for example, most people own bicycles. More people use trains and bicycles than cars. The result is cleaner more people friendly cities and towns. The other result is healthier people. Europe has nowhere near the problems with medical issues, such as obesity, as a direct result of the fact that more people walk, cycle and use alternative transport. Perhaps its time we here in North America pay attention.
We keep hearing how we need to move away from our dependency on oil. Well, one way to achieve that is to move away from out dependency on the personal automobile. More people walking, cycling or using to public transit to go to and from work equals less people burning oil or other resources, such a bio fuels, which are not as environmentally friendly as they may seem.
If we are ever going to successfully combat environmental collapse, and save ourselves from economic ruin, then we need to make it easier for people to use alternative and less expensive forms of transport. One place to start, as I've said before, is to adopt new methods of dealing with things, like heavy snowfall, to make it easier for walkers and cyclists. The second place to start is to demand that our governments include infrastructure such as cycle lanes, walking paths and public transit in their planning and finance.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Polygamous Persecution is "Right" Thinking

Earlier this week two men from a Church of Christ polygamist sect in Southern British Columbia, Bountiful, were arrested on charges of Polygamy. This group has been the subject of numerous investigations in past, including accusations of child abuse. None of those investigations has ever produced a conviction partly, authorities claim, because of a lack of witnesses willing to speak.
Let me be clear, if there is child abuse going on in Bountiful, the perpetrators of it should be prosecuted. However, for the BC government to go after people in the community for polygamy, because they failed to successfully prosecute child abuse allegations, smacks of deliberate persecution.
Every day in Canada courts subject parents to court ordered polygamy. How many folks do you know who are supporting more than one family? I know of several men and women, right here in the small town where I live, who are supporting more than one family, often families they themselves are virtually estranged from. It seems, our courts are willing to allow people to finance more than one wife, husband and family, but our justice department has an issue with a man being married to more than one woman! It seems a might hypocritical.
I also know of several unmarried people, who have multiple partners, support more than one family, and contribute to more than one household. And I can't count the number of people I know personally who are engaged in more than one "love" relationship. Yet I know of no instance where any justice official is prosecuting these people for being involved in more than one relationship.
So why are we going after the folks in Bountiful?
Our top provincial solicitor, Wally Oppal, says it is because "right thinking" British Columbians are against polygamy! This raises several questions. First and foremost is, who gave Wally Oppal the right to decide for other people what is "right thinking?" And who says these right thinkers are right?
From polls I've seen, most people don't care if the folks in Bountiful are participating in polygamy, although they do have grave concerns about allegations of child abuse, and want the government to focus on that issue.
Wally Oppal also states he wants a ruling from the court as to whether the BC law against polygamy is constitutional. Meanwhile, most constitutional experts, including two who have previously advised the government, say the law is not constitutional. But that's apparently not good enough for Mr. Oppal! Why?
Why is the BC government spending taxpayer money pursuing a court ruling on an issue most agree is unconstitutional? Why is the BC government focussing on the issue of polygamy, when allegations of child abuse are not being pursued?
Is this an example of "right thinking"?
Perhaps what Mr. Oppal means by "right thinking" is "right" politically. Perhaps what he really means is "right wing" thinking, which persecutes anyone, or any activity, the political right finds strange or foreign or different!
Unless someone currently living in a polygamous relationship in Bountiful comes forward, with a complaint they are involved in a polygamous relationship against their will, then the government has no business taking this issue on, period!
If however, Mr. Oppal's intent, is to prosecute polygamy as a means of getting information on allegations of child or spousal abuse, then he is off base. Basically, if this is his intent, then he is engaging in deliberate persecution. If the issue is abuse, then that is what he should be prosecuting, not polygamy.
Mr. Oppal's other argument, that he is pursuing these charges, to prevent abuse of children and women, is also hypocritical. He represents a government that has cut services to women and families in need, has cut welfare for single mothers and low income families, has done nothing to create housing for the poor, and has failed miserably at decreasing the incidence of child poverty in this province. If Mr. Oppal's intent is to help abused women and children, then why isn't he lobbying his party to do something about these issues in the greater population?
The issue of polygamy predates modern marriage by many centuries. Even our most ardent Christians must acknowledge that a majority of their biblical heroes were engaged in polygamous relationships. And besides, even if marriage is between "one man and one woman", as the right so often contends, what business is it of the government to get involved? The marriages in Bountiful are between the men and women involved, and as far as I've heard, none of the women involved are coming forward saying they want out, and when they have, they have left!
Meanwhile, there's the whole issue of religious freedom. Who is to say the government has any right at all to involve itself in the tenants of any religion? No one! In fact, our charter of rights and freedoms prohibits it!
Personally, I'm appalled by this government's "right thinking" and think it may be time for the voters to elect a few "clear" thinkers to replace them.

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