Wednesday, October 7, 2015

An Unvarnished Assessment

Over time we've seen that this man cannot be trusted. He had no integrity. He's trying to stifle democracy. There's no end to what he's doing," said Williams.

"He's a lousy prime minister who's divisive."
-Danny Williams

Watch as former Newfoundland-Labrador Premier Danny Williams offers an unvarnished assessment of Steven Harper:

A lengthier interview with Williams on Power Play can be seen here.

The Better Angels Of Our Nature

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” - Abraham Lincoln

Stephen Harper, of course, is doing his best to suppress those better angels, a fact not unrecognized by Star readers.
It seems to me the media and many voters, especially those in Quebec, are behaving like the dog in the animated movie “Up.” While we need to be discussing climate change, the mess the economy is in, missing and murdered indigenous women, muzzling of our scientists, health care reform and many other subjects that affect the vast majority of Canadians Harper throws out the niqab and we all yell “squirrel” and end up talking about something that affects two people.

Or he raises removing someone’s citizenship and we waste our time talking about something that affects one person.

Harper has become Pavlov to a bunch of easily distracted dogs. Let’s not fall for his manipulative devious schemes and concentrate on what really matters to the majority of Canadians.

Ken Beckim, Oshawa

Canadians are in a continuous tug of war between proudly welcoming diversity and protecting minority rights, and threatening to restrict the expression of individual differences. Lucky for Canadians, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our justice system stand as our most valuable protection against the actions of those who want to curtail choices that make some uncomfortable or run counter to their values or beliefs.

Taking a historical view, we see that issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc., rely on the protections set out in the Charter. Our strength is refusing to succumb to bigotry, prejudice and stereotypes that undermine what is so valuable in protecting the human rights of minorities.

Those of us who were once marginalized and treated as pariahs are today mainstream contributors to our society. Vive la difference and vive la Charter.

Barbara Landau and Shahid Akhtar, co-chairs, Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, Toronto

Growing up Muslim, I have witnessed nasty stereotypes and encountered discriminatory and highly racial acts; it almost felt as if being Muslim meant being a minority or outcast. Whatever problem occurs identifies a small amount of people but the whole humanity is not to blame.

I agree we should help our neighbours and be kind to all, because if we were in such a situation we would seek help as well.

Racism and discrimination shouldn’t even exist in 2015. There is so much more to do and accomplish by working together not apart. Wake up.

Afreen Gul, Mississauga

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rick Mercer Opines On The Campaign

The always interesting and insightful Rick Mercer needs no introduction from me. Enjoy.

A Quick Thought About The TPP

I was not planning to write about the Trans Pacific Partnership deal gleefully announced by Mr. Harper yesterday, trade and economics not being my strong suits. However, looking at the overall details of what it entails prompts me to make an observation.

First, a few of the details:

Beef and Pork
Under the deal, Canada could double or triple its annual beef exports to Japan to nearly $300 million, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. The beef industry would see a phase out in tariffs to those countries from 39 per cent to 9 per cent over 15 years. The deal also secures Canada’s ability to export more pork to Japan, where producers sell roughly $1 billion worth of the meat annually.
Fish and Seafood
The deal means far greater access for Canadian producers to other Pacific Rim markets. Canadian seafood — from frozen fish to fresh crab and lobster —is currently slapped with tariffs of up to 15 per cent in Japan and Malaysia, 34 per cent in Vietnam and 5 per cent in New Zealand. The tariffs on fish and seafood to those countries would be gone within a decade. Japan imports a number of premium seafood products from Canada such as crab, shrimp, lobster, herring roe, sea urchins, salmon and halibut.
Forestry/wood products
About $1 billion in Canadian forest products were subject to tariffs last year. Exports to countries like Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia will gradually be reduced, thereby increasing access for these products.

Metals and Mining
Iron and steel products would benefit from Japan eliminating tariffs of up to 6.3 per cent within 10 years, Vietnam wiping out tariffs of up to 40 per cent within 10 years, Malaysia doing away with tariffs of up to 25 per cent within a decade, and Australia cutting tariffs of up to 5 per cent within four years.
I trust that you can see the pattern here. The gains under this deal for Canada reside almost exclusively in what are called primary industries. What is a primary industry?
An industry involved in the extraction and collection of natural resources, such as copper and timber, as well as by activities such as farming and fishing. A company in a primary industry can also be involved in turning natural resources into products.

Primary industry tends to make up a larger portion of the economy of developing countries than they do for developed countries.
It seems to me that the deal Canada is entering into is merely a continuation of the Harper retrograde vision of Canada as the traditional hewer of wood and drawer of water, a vision he based the bulk of our economic hopes on in his relentless promotion of the Alberta tarsands.

Value-added jobs will take a real hit under the TPP:

Automobiles and Auto Parts
An auto will need to contain just 45 per cent TPP content to qualify for free trade. And for auto parts, the figure is 40 per cent. that’s down from 62.5 per cent and 60 per cent respectively under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which this will replace. Japan already offers duty-free access to passenger vehicles and auto parts. Canada agreed to phase out its 6.1 per cent tariff on imported vehicles over five years. Malaysia and Vietnam, which have tariffs of 35 per cent and 74 per cent respectively, agree to phase them out over 12 years.
According to Unifor president Jerry Dias, that betrayal concession will cost upwards of 20,000 auto industry jobs.

And what do we get in return? Long-term elimination of tariffs that may allow for more sales of industrial pumps, medical equipment, and harvesters and mowers.

As well, there is the opening up of Canada's dairy market, in exchange for which Harper is promising billions of our tax dollars to farmers who will suffer losses.

I'll leave it to others with more wisdom to decide if all of this sounds like it will produce a net benefit for Canada.

Monday, October 5, 2015

We Aren't As Good As We Think We Are

If anything, the racism and xenophobia that have become cornerstones of the Harper re-election strategy are showing us something we would prefer not to think about: when provoked, our own darker natures come easily to the surface.

In his column today, Edward Keenan reveals a few things we should ponder:
... if you have been paying attention, it’s obvious enough that when Team Harper refers to “barbaric culture” it means Islam.

And so this new election initiative is intended to respond to some imagined Canadian epidemic of “child and forced marriage,” “sexual slavery and so-called ‘honour killings’ ” and “female genital mutilation.” These things, of course, are horrific and are already illegal. And while they do not appear to be particularly common here compared to other crimes (even compared to other crimes against women), there is already an established national reporting mechanism for those encountering them: dial 911. So nothing about this announcement actually makes women any safer. Instead it’s an excuse to talk about Muslims as barbarians in a press conference. It’s a transparently BS announcement to drum up hate and fear, for their own sake.
Sadly, there seems to be evidence that this loathsome strategy is working:
As they’ve unveiled these items, the Conservatives have gone from third to first in many polls. Is it a coincidence? There’s reason to think not.

A government poll showed 82 per cent of Canadians support the niqab ban, for instance. Moreover, eight per cent of voters told Leger marketing that the niqab ban was the main issue determining their vote. Considering that the Conservatives’ recent swing into the lead has been an increase of only about six points in their support in most polls, it’s not crazy to conclude this anti-Islam posturing has made much of the difference for them.
It is time for all of us to take another look in the mirror, because despite our desire to think of ourselves as a tolerant and accepting people, the truth appears to be something else:
But we’re also a country where it appears an election may be won by blatantly disregarding the Charter and promoting intolerance for no discernable reason other than to stick our thumbs in the eye of a minority whose cultural and religious practices we find off-putting.
Cultivating such prejudices, as the Harper regime is shamelessly doing, has consequences beyond electoral gain. Consider what happened to Safira Merriman, a 30-year-old convert to Islam who wears the niqab:
Last week, wearing her Islamic face veil – the niqab, which has become a central issue in the federal election – she says she was trying to enter Shoppers Drug Mart at Toronto’s Fairview Mall when a man carrying a liquor-store bag blocked her path and then drove his elbow hard into her shoulder, in front of her two daughters, ages nine and four.
Or how about this?
Last week in Montreal, two teenagers reportedly pulled the hijab, or head scarf, of a pregnant woman, causing her to fall.
These are not things we should be proud of. Yet if we succumb to the Harper politics of hatred, suspicion and division, there will be no one to blame but ourselves and our unwillingness to resist the demagogues who skulk among us.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Embracing The Veil

H/t The Toronto Star

While our prime minister claims, when attacking the niqab, that Canadians hold openness and transparency as societal values, he is happy to keep us in the dark about all of the secret negotiations going on to conclude the highly controversial Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, leaked elements of which suggest we will be ceding a great deal of our sovereignty to multi-nationals.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harper is adopting a 'trust me' strategy, saying that no deal will be entered into unless it is a net benefit to Canadians, an assertion that others find hard to swallow, given that he has never met a multi-national that he doesn't like.

Thinking Canadians will legitimately ask why, if the deal is to be so beneficial, the negotiations have been conducted behind such a thick, almost impenetrable, veil. To those who distrust our government, the answer is likely very clear.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lifting The Veil

Lifting the veil behind what has become a major part of the Tory re-election strategy reveals nothing good. Consider, for example, this shameful announcement by party stalwart Kellie Lietch, who has yet to meet a Harper directive she doesn't salivate over:

In other words, the directive has gone out: surveil your Muslim neighbours and acquaintances and report on their foul and quite possibly nefarious practices. They are not to be trusted. What makes this announcement even more reprehensible is that it is being peddled under the pretext of helping vulnerable women and children, two groups the regime has shown little more than passing interest in up to this point.

Fortunately, not all are responding in the desired manner to this Pavlovian bell. Twitter reaction was fierce, as a few excerpts demonstrate:
Trying to convince citizens that people of a specific race are toxic. Don't let history repeat itself.

Trying to convince citizens that people of a specific race are toxic. Don't let history repeat itself.

The Canadian media better start calling this #elxn42 strategy what it is: racist. And they need to use that word.

Ignoring expert advice on refugee health care, crime prevention, harm reduction and climate change.

Is the #BarbaricCulturalPractices tip line open yet? I'd like to report someone for overusing a dog whistle.
And yet, despite the ability of some Canadians to see through this low tactic of stoking intolerance to win votes, it continues to deeply trouble me that we have a government so bent on twisting and perverting the national fabric for its own mercenary ends. In the process, incalculable damage, in my view, is being done to our collective psyche.

And we surely lack all perspective, especially in rewarding Harper with increased support for his politically motivated intransigence on the niqab. As Susan Delacourt points out,
... the magic number is two. That’s the total number, out of nearly 700,000 people, who have wanted to wear face coverings in citizenship ceremonies, according to a Radio-Canada report.

So all this agitation over the niqab, all the fierce declarations of what the majority in Canada wants at citizenship ceremonies, is about fewer than a handful of people. Except that it isn’t about those two people; it is about tapping into support that any responsible politician shouldn’t want.
... no party in this election ... should be whipping up antipathy to Muslims, or any religion or culture. It’s repulsive if it works and even more repulsive if it was planned to work that way.
Today's Star editorial offers similar sentiments, and points out the diversionary nature of such tactics:
... these spiteful Conservative policies — hound Muslim women, strip Muslim wrongdoers of basic human rights, shove Muslim refugees to the back of the line — have hijacked and distorted this election. They have blotted out the sun when Canadians face important choices on the economy, jobs, accountable government, social investment, fair taxation and the environment.

The relentless, divisive harping on largely fabricated “Muslim problems” may help the Conservatives get re-elected. But it is unworthy of the Government of Canada, it is socially corrosive, and it confirms the Tories’ unfitness to govern.
That the current incarnation of the Tories are unfit to govern is beyond dispute. We can only hope droves of other Canadians are coming to the same conclusion.