Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Harper To Surrender More Of Our Sovereignty To Corporations

As has already been reported, the price of admission for Canada's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is the acceptance of everything thus far negotiated. Although all of the talks are secret, with corporations but not citizens privy to its contents, this much is known: the TPP enhances corporate rights to sue governments when public policies interfere with how, when and where they make profits - in others words, a further abdication of our national sovereignty, a process that began under NFTA.

This link includes a video that offers some insight into what is going on behind our backs, and it is nothing less than an absolute and utter betrayal of all of us. Although spoken of from an American perspective, don't forget that the changes discussed will apply to all signatories.

More Political Responses From The Toronto District School Board

While the goings-on at the TDSB may seem only a matter of regional concern, in my view the implications extend well beyond any geographic boundaries, evidence as they are not only of system-wide cronyism but also the inevitable corruption and lassitude that bedevils organizations or institutions of any size or purpose over time.

In the Star's latest installment on the board's relationship with Jimmy Hazel and his Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, we learn that the board will will set up an electronic system to flag high costs charged by its maintenance and construction workers.

We also learn the following:

- the TDSB has asked the education ministry for a “deep operational review” to be conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers;

- an end to charging individual principal’s school accounts for construction and maintenance work;

- a high-level meeting set for trustees to question staff about the problem.

While on the surface, these measures look like swift and decisive reactions to what the Star's investigations uncovered, based on my own experience as a teacher who dealt with many administrators/politicians, I interpret them as mere political expedients, crisis responses to embarrassing revelations that, of course, the board already knew about since there have been so many complaints over time about these practices, complaints that the board, from the Director on down to the trustees, in their 'wisdom, chose to ignore or, as they say, 'sweep under the rug'.

If you doubt my assertions, reread the series carefully for all the clues of a cover up, probably sparked by both organization inertia and the conventional wisdom that it is impolitic to 'make waves' lest the wake disrupt one's upward career trajectory. As I have expressed elsewhere, institutions are notorious for this kind of willful blindness.

And if you have any doubts that the board's putative new openness is anything other than a charade, consider this:

The Star, which is continuing to investigate, has been trying to obtain a copy of the school board’s database listing work orders and costs.

Thursday, we received a letter from the TDSB’s lawyer, Giselle Basanta, announcing that the Star’s request was received and “we will respond to your request according to the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.” No other details, and no timeline for response, were provided.

Hardly a beacon of light in this whole murky affair. At least Jimmy Hazel and his people have been more direct and honest about how they feel:

At the trades council, Hazel and officials have released a letter condemning the reporting in the Star.

Damn That Democratic Iconography

A story in today's Star reports that the Harper regime is cutting the budget for guided tours, ensuring some 20,000 fewer visitors will actually get a peek inside the majestic buildings housing the seat of Canada’s national government.

The cynic residing within me suggests that our overlords think it prudent that the masses be reminded as little as possible of what they have lost under this cabal.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Peace Of Mind Eludes Me

Conventional wisdom says that as we get older, we become more introspective, philosophical and mellow.

This story and the following video are just two examples of why that tranquility has thus far eluded me.


Two 'Politicians' Speak

Now frequently the new last refuge of the scoundrel, the passive voice is very popular with politicians far and wide, even if they don't hold elected office.

In response to a comprehensive report by retired judge John Morden on the police brutality and abuses of Charter Rights committed during the June 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto that cast the Police Services Board in a particularly bad light, Board chair Alok Mukherjee admitted “mistakes were made,” but stopped short of apologizing for the board’s inaction in G20 planning.

The other politician in this sad episode, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, acknowledged “lessons learned” from a new report criticizing the Toronto Police Services Board’s inaction on G20 summit planning, but denied a fundamental communication problem between police and the civilian body tasked with overseeing them.

What those lessons were, the good chief declined to say. And, of course, he refused to apologize for anything.

Oops, We Didn't Mean It

The reversal of the Rosseau Muskoka's decision to extort take 50% of its masseuses' tips, owing to the backlash sparked by The Star's earlier report, is but one of many reasons I am a proud subscriber to Canada's most widely-read newspaper.

Enablers Of The G20 Abuses: The Police Services Board

The following is a brief excerpt from a comprehensive report by retired judge John Morden on the police brutality and abuses of Charter Rights committed during the June 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto. In it, he addresses the failure of the Toronto Police Services Board, headed by Alok Mukherjee:

“The board has limited its consultative mandate and has viewed it as improper to ask questions about, comment on, or make recommendations concerning operational matters,” said Morden.

“The board’s approach in this matter is wrong.”

In earlier times, of course, this magnitude of incompetence would have warranted resignations or dismissals.

Nowadays, sadly, it simply becomes a public relations challenge to overcome.

My understanding is that Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair will start the process of 'massaging' the report shortly with a news conference.

People, Unfiltered By Governments And Their Enablers

A friend of mine sent a video along the other day. Another friend had the following comment:

Perhaps a silly response, but tired of Nations being painted as evil when it is not the people but the clowns like Harper, McGuinty and others that purport to reflect values that certainly are not mine to the rest of the world..............

See if the following doesn't dispel some of your stereotypes about Russians. Amazing what we can learn when we remove the filters of government propaganda and media biases. Perhaps the Internet truly is the great leveler:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Digital Exercise

With all of the finger-pointing in the Star's latest installment on the Toronto District School Board's questionable relationship with Jimmy Hazel and his Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, I think it is safe to infer that all involved parties have truly entered the digital age.

Stating The Obvious

I suspect this report ranks right up there with headlines such as Expect A Hotter Than Usual Summer.

What "Flexibility" Really Means

Reading the print version of the story I posted a link to yesterday regarding young Tim Hudak's latest attempt at formulating policy (a.k.a. union busting) got me thinking once more about how politicians misuse and debase language.

In what I guess in his world passes for bold and innovative thinking, young Tim would like union membership to no longer be mandatory and would outlaw the “forced paycheque contributions” unionized workers make to political causes.

Hudak said that “the more flexible the workplace, the greater demand there is going to be for workers.”

“If you have a flexible workplace where businesses can adjust to market conditions the more likely they’ll open up in that jurisdiction.”

I suspect the flexible workplace the callow Master Hudak has in mind would be filled with all kinds of perils for the newly enfranchised worker:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What The Closure of The Experimental Lakes Area Really Means

To learn the truly tragic dimensions of this Harper maneuver to silence yet another dissenting scientific voice, please check out this article by Michael Harris. After reading it, I think you will likely agree that the health of Canadians is pretty low on the list of Dear Leader's priorities.

Young Tim's Latest Attempt At Policy-Making

Because, I guess, young Master Hudak believes in work-place democracy.

Can the workhouses be far behind?

The Realities Of The Child Soldier

I suppose I might feel differently about Omar Khadr if I hadn't read a particular book, A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah. It provided indelible insights into both the realities of the child soldier's world and the possibilities of redemption and rehabilitation. It should be read by everyone who is quick to judge and condemn Khadr.

Now 31 years old, Beah, a very bright, articulate and talented writer effectively conveyed in his memoir the horror of his experiences as a child soldier, conscripted into the army at the age of 13 to fight the rebels in Sierra Leone, although the bloody, inhumane behaviour of each side made them virtually impossible to distinguish.

I suspect it is the kind of world that Kadhr is very familiar with, uprooted as he was from Canada by his fanatical father at a young age and moved to Pakistan and Afghanistan to become part of Al Qaeda’s jihad against the West.

There is a story in today's Star about the ongoing efforts of a group of professors from Edmonton who developed a curriculum of study for Khadr, still languishing in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Echo thanks to the reluctance of the Harper government to repatriate him. It is a story that goes beyond the stereotypes and the sensational headlines one usually associates with the Khadr name, a story suggesting that maybe, just maybe, there is something very salvageable about this former child soldier.

Of course, we have a chance of recognizing that something only if we are willing to relinquish our preconceived notions about the sole remaining Western inmate languishing in America's Cuban prison.

Marriott Hotel To Staff: We Need Your Tips To Stay Competetive

Absolute, complete, and utter trash.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Ripple Effect?

I wonder if Dr. Chris Keefer's sterling example helped inspire this.

Interesting that because they disagree with his cutting of refugee-claimants' health care, protesters are identified by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney as 'extremists.'

As opposed to what, enablers?

A Followup To Dr. Chris Keefer's Brave Stance

The other day I posted a link to a remarkable video showing Dr. Chris Keefer interrupting Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's announcement at Toronto General hospital to protest Bill C-31, the legislation that will deny to those claiming refugee-status life saving drugs.

Bernie Farber has written a piece in The Huffington Post lauding the doctor's courage and integrity as he further explores the implications of this legislation.

The Toronto District School Board's Political Response

While hardly surprising, the decision of TDSB chair, Chris Bolton, to have a facilities committee look into The Star's embarrassing revelations about its inappropriate and very costly relationship with Jimmy Hazel's Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council is wholly inadequate.

As today's Star editorial tartly observes, It was exactly what taxpayers have learned to expect from politicians facing embarrassing revelations.

Yet another indication of an organization in deep decline.

The Ongoing Failure Of Toronto's Chief Magistrate

Admittedly, the ideological girth of Toronto's chief magistrate makes him an easy target. Always outspoken, heedless of who he offends, with the political instincts of a brawler, Rob Ford has made it abundantly clear to most that he is incapable of growing in the job.

But in my view, his problems go beyond his obvious limitations as a leader. There is also a maliciousness about him when it comes to gay people, his refusal to attend the gay pride flag-raising event only the latest symptom.

In her column today, Rosie DiManno skewers Ford's oft-repeated excuse that the Pride parade conflicts with his family's long-standing tradition of gathering at the cottage on the Canada Day weekend, and suggests that if the rumour that he is uncomfortable around the exhibitionism that is a feature of the parade is true, arrangements could easily be made to put the mayor far from “offending’’ participants.

However, I suspect his barely-concealed contempt for the gay populace of Toronto was unwittingly or perhaps intentionally revealed on the final radio show of the season that he shares with brother Doug.

During the program, Doug Ford made the following suggestion:

“We should be as patriotic as anything,” said Councillor Ford. “We should be having a Canada Day parade. We should have the troops going down with us waving the flags,” he said.

Mayor Ford piped in. “I couldn’t agree with you more.”

His brother pledged back, “Next year, let’s make it happen.”

Of course, not a word was said about how such a parade would conflict with the aforementioned family tradition.

A powerful and negative message from Toronto's chief magistrate.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

And Speaking Of Community...

May I recommend an excellent article by Murray Dobbin on how Harper's policies have been attacking our sense of community and the challenges we face in rebuilding it?

What The Extreme Right Doesn't Want Us To Think About

Although it hardly qualifies as a startling or original insight, something occurred to me this morning as I was reading my Sunday Star. Two front page items, one about the bullied bus monitor, Karen Klein, the other about five-year-old Lovely Avelus a Haitian girl rescued from the ruble of the earthquake two years ago, reminded me of a truth that is regarded as inconvenient in some quarters: we are a communal species.

While the hard right tries to get us to think only of ourselves, the better to promote its agenda of selfish isolation and rampant consumerism, the two aforementioned stories strongly help us to realize that when a face is put on human suffering, we respond with the magnanimity of a species that cares about each other.

It is a realization that our current 'government' does not want us to dwell upon as it promotes programs that largely depersonalize and objectify our fellow human beings. And it is always easier to ignore those people if they are not fully human in our minds.

Take, for example, some recent changes, either pending or already enacted:

Bill C-31, championed by Immigration Minister Jason Kennedy and coming into effect June 30, will see massive reductions in health care to refugee claimants.

SUBTEXT: Many of 'those people' are bogus claimants who are just trying to scam the system.

One of the more pernicious elements of Bill C-38, Harper's budget omnibus bill, is the change in Employment Insurance eligibility. This link from Sun News exemplifies why the government feels it can get away with these changes.

SUBTEXT: Jim Flaherty has said there are no bad jobs. Clearly, those who disagree with this program change are layabouts swilling beer and watching tv when they should be out 'pounding the pavement' like hardworking Canadians.

The changes In OAS age eligibility, far enough in the future not to affect anyone over the current age of 54, divides and conquers dissent. A sizable proportion of people will be unaffected, playing to their more selfish sides.

SUBTEXT: The government has repeatedly justified this change by saying that younger people should not be burdened with higher taxation to pay for the benefits of 'those people,' the older demographic.

So, by cultivating a mentality that thinks only in stereotypes, the Harper government is slowly but inexorably trying to convince us to abandon our traditional concern for the collective, one of the foundational values of Canada that makes it different from so many other countries.

Whether or not this agenda succeeds is really up to all of us, isn't it?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Incomparably Incompetent Peter Kent

I have to start this brief entry by invoking an old cliche: the best defense is a strong offense. That certainly seems to be the strategy 'Environment' Minister Peter Kent is pulling out of his very limited playbook at the UN conference on the environment in Rio as he intones that Canada must stop the spread of “misinformation” on the environment by ecologists with an ideological agenda.

While the world's anger builds at Canada's abdication of its environmental responsibilities as it hastens to deepen even more the profits of resource companies, Kent's message is both predictable and preposterous. Everything is fine, nothing to see here, move along and pay no attention to those domestic ecoterrorists like David Suzuki spreading lies about the good work his government is doing on the environmental file.

Try telling that to the flora and fauna that will be destroyed thanks to the most recent depredations made possible by Bill C-38.

Prepare For The Revolution, A.K.A. Spin, Spin, And More Spin

What is the priority of organizations that are mired in embarrassing public revelations about fraudulent spending of taxpayers' money? The development of a good PR plan.

At least that is what I gleaned from Part Three of The Star's investigation of the Toronto District School Board and its relationship with the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council run by Jimmy Hazel.

While the story details the cozy relationship that exists between Hazel and the board, including ordering his members to campaign for and donate money to the trustees and the provincial Liberals during elections, (with real consequences for those who refuse,) the most interesting aspect to me is the reaction of both the board and Hazel's organization.

At a private meeting Wednesday of school board trustees, where the Star’s investigation was discussed, [trustee Sheila] Ward told those in attendance that “trustees should be muzzled” until the TDSB has a solid communications plan in place to deal with the Star stories. Note that the response is to deal with the stories, not the problems the stories uncovered.

Not to be outdone, Jimmy Hazel appears to be following the same strategy:

Hazel, who initially unleashed a profanity-filled tirade on a Star reporter, has hired Ross Parry, a former official in the Liberal government. Hazel said Parry is helping him fine-tune his responses to the media. Parry, who was also the TDSB communications chief in the late 1990s, is helping Hazel put “all the information we collected into prose.”

None of this is the least bit surprising to me, given the cynicism I have expressed about organizational behaviour in this blog and my other one many times over the years. What does surprise me, however, is their openness in detailing how they plan to deal with the messenger, not the message.

And the wheel goes round....

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Harper Government: Abuses Of A Nixonian Character

That is the description that Lawrence Martin applies to the Harper government in his latest column for iPolitics as he reflects on the vital and valiant role journalism played in uncovering the Watergate Scandal 40 years ago.

However, while acknowledging some bright spots, Martin laments the unevenness of the contemporary Canadian journalistic landscape in holding the Harper regime to account. Especially interesting is that while lauding some efforts, he withholds any praise from his own employer, The Globe and Mail, which will not come as a surprise to those who see it as little more than an apologist for a Prime Minister drunk on his own power.

As is always the case, this latest piece by Martin is well-worth the read.

The Star Continues Its Investigation

Unless the Toronto District School Board is staffed by a raft of incompetents, it has to have known what is going on.

As I wrote in my blog post yesterday, an investigation by The Toronto Star has revealed theft on a massive scale in the form of grossly inflated charges to the board for even the simplest of routine maintenance tasks by employees under the exclusive contract enjoyed by the Maintenance & Construction Skilled Trades Council headed by Jimmy Hazel.

In Part 2 of that investigation, the newspaper reports a number of interesting aspects to this scandal, the most interesting to me being the reaction of top board officials Director Chris Spence and school superintendents and deputy operations director Penny Mustin, both of whom refused to offer any comment on this massive waste of tax dollars.

The school board is also refusing to release a copy of its internal tracking database that contains details of the annual 1.8 million hours of work the board’s electricians, carpenters, plumbers and other trades claim they perform.

Based upon my 30-year career as a teacher, having been witnesses to much cowardly political behaviour on the part of administrators, my guess is that database will never be made public, the feeble citing of 'privacy concerns' being the likely justification.

My own experience in education taught me that the last thing administrators want to do, afflicted as they are with an unquenchable thirst for advancement, is to rock the boat. It is far easier, (and certainly more politically expedient unless the truth is revealed by a crusading newspaper) to conceal or simply accept things crying out for redress. That way it doesn't get messy, and one's career-path usually continues unimpeded. (Oh, the tales I could tell.)

And so I shall end as I began. The TDSB had to have known what was going on. Wait for the next installment of this sad saga, as those in power all establish their poses of 'plausible deniability.'

I would it were otherwise.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Is Harper Hiding In The Pacific Trade Deal Negotiations?

Given the Harper government's flagrant contempt for democracy and the Canadian people, I think we should all be worried by the implications in this story and this one regarding ongoing secret Pacific Trade Deal negotiations.

The Star Continues Its Stellar Work

One of the Atkinson Principles guiding The Toronto Star is to champion the rights of working people; to my ongoing delight and gratification, however, this tenet does not mean the paper gives a free ride to labour and unions.

Today's edition is ample testament to that fact. Another of its excellent investigations has uncovered what many would say are corrupt and extortionate practices on the part of the Maintenance & Construction Skilled Trades Council headed by Jimmy Hazel.

As outlined in the story, the Council, which has an exclusive contract with the Toronto District School Board, has been charging exorbitant amounts to the cash-strapped board, one example being the installation of a pencil sharpener at a cost of $143, another the placing of an electrical outlet in a school library for $3000.

Perhaps one of the article's most disturbing revelations is the fear of retaliation rampant amongst both tradespeople and principals if they make a fuss about these pratices. Added to the fact that Council President Hazel initially met the Star's inquiries with a stream of profanities, followed up later with patently contrived excuses of 'clerical errors' in the billing suggests yet another example of wrongdoing crying out for remediation.

As I have said before in this blog, while I strongly believe in supporting unions, that support can never be uncritical, unquestioning, and unconditional.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Michael Harris Laments Democracy's Yoke Under Harper

With the specter of the Parliamentary Budget Officer taking the Clerk of the Privy Council to court, a momentous question looms over our public affairs: will the Harper government answer a single legitimate question about its conduct of Canada’s public business?

Or is the government’s message that we can all go pleasure ourselves until 2015?

And so begins Michael Harris's penetrating and insightful analysis of a wounded democracy under continuing threat in Canada.

Harper Mentors McGuinty

It is very interesting to note that despite their often uneasy relationship, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has learned some lessons about how to use budget omnibus bills to gut environmental protection from that master of duplicity, Stephen Harper. Thomas Walkom provides the details in today's Star.

The Latest From Our Minister of National Embarrassment

Well, I see that our national poster boy for privileged stupidity, the putative Defense Minister Peter MacKay, is at it again, showing how he really feels about our brave men and women in uniform.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tory Revenge on Page

Well, that didn't take long.

Here There Be Heroes

No matter what age we may attain, I doubt that we ever lose our need for heroes. Certainly, as we grow up, the definition of hero must mature, changing from someone with superpowers who fights evil and injustice, to someone who looks very much like we do, has no special abilities affording protection from the negative vicissitudes of life but who, when put to the test, show all of us what humanity is ultimately capable of.

Who may be considered a hero depends to a large extent on personal points of view and values; from my perspective, a hero is someone who takes actions while aware that those actions will likely lead to real problems and suffering in his or her life. The one true hero in my life is Nelson Mandala, a moral giant whose story needs no retelling here, but whose life is a testament to integrity, courage, and, for me, the existence of the transcendent.

Although perhaps not of the magnitude of Mandela, I do believe that we have heroes among us in Canada today, people for whom integrity is paramount. I have written in the past about Munir Sheik, the former head of Statistics Canada who resigned that position rather than to go along with the Harper-perpetrated lie that the elimination of the mandatory census was just fine with the statisticians.

Currently, another person showing all of us the stuff he is made of is Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, a man appointed by the Harper government but who has already incurred its anger exposing lies that government has pedaled to the public. His latest foray into fortitude is reported on in today's Star, which outlines how Harper's acolytes are breaking the law by refusing to provide details of the government’s spending cuts to Page.

Rather than 'going along to get along,' Page said his last recourse is go to Federal Court to seek disclosure of the information though he added that “nobody wins” under that scenario.

“That said, we have to draw a line in the sand with respect to the Act of the Parliament and the provision of information,” he said.

The very existence of the aforementioned individuals must be an affront to our craven politicians, the ones who, for example, have aided and abetted the Harper omnibus budget, Bill C-38, forsaking their duty to their constituents and their country in the hopes of promotion within the government, something worth about 30 pieces of silver by my measure.

Given that the Harper mandate doesn't end until 2015, Kevin Page will likely lose his job in the near future, something I'm sure he is very much aware of. Yet despite my very cynical nature, it is the people like him walking among us who keep me from ever making a final submission to absolute despair.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Will That Be Cash, Or American Express?

Well well well. Apparently membership does have its privileges.

H/t Kev

The Vatican Has The Answer We've All Been Looking For

Those of us who thought that the Vatican was rampant with corruption and political power struggles now know better, thanks to this communique from the Pope's second-in-command.

Beshrew my cynical mind!

Two Recommendations For Monday Morning

Since I have a bit of a busy day ahead, I will be brief and recommend two sources for some Monday morning edification. The first comes from a link provided by the redoubtable Dr. Dawg, who continues to go where angels and the mainstream media fear to tread.

The second, which I am taking the liberty of reproducing below, is yet another example of the wisdom of Toronto Star readers. In this case Bill Livingstone of Toronto punctures the myth of conservative fiscal prudence and sees a more sinister purpose served by Harper running the current deficit:

Every so often, we elect a conservative government. It seems we just can't tolerate a balanced budget or we just let our emotions over some silly scandal carry us away. In recent memory, no conservative government anywhere in the world has balanced a budget. It's their goal to create a deficit in order to have an excuse to cut social programs. For the Harper Conservatives, this is all working out to plan, with a little help from the recession of 2008 where the debt was increased by so-called Keynesian economics but did more to help GM and the banks than stimulate the economy. In truth, our banks didn't need help, at least not in the way someone starving on welfare needs help, but we gave them money anyway.

Anyway, now that we have a big deficit, we can cut OAS and EI. Without the deficit, people might be up in arms. With the deficit, even most seniors will still vote conservative in the next election while they give the government billions as they cash in their RRSPs. So far, all is going according to the conservative playbook. So what comes next? The conservatives are not forthcoming but history is quite clear on this. All the cutbacks and austerity will almost certainly lead to a depression. And history shows that conservatives always have the excuse that they didn't cut deeply enough or fast enough. That is rather a deception. The real reason is that, as history can surely reveal, even in a depression there are winners. Hint, follow the money.

Eventually, a democracy (if we still have one) will bring in a liberal government with real Keynesian policies that actually stimulate the economy and all will be well again. But then eventually, after a couple of good decades, when memory fades about why we regulate and why we really pay taxes, we will vote in another conservative government . . .

Bill Livingstone, Toronto

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Letter To My Tory M.P.

As mentioned in my previous post, the Harper Conservatives are starting to receive 'blowback' as a result of their heavy-handed and undemocratic push of Bill C-38, their budget omnibus bill. Now would seem to be a propitious time to express how we feel about M.P.s whose fealty to 'Dear Leader' renders impossible any meaningful representation of their constituents.

Here is my letter to David Sweet, the M.P. for the riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.

Dear Mr. Sweet:

I am writing to express my deep dissatisfaction with your government in general and your constituency representation in particular.

Being part of three protests near your constituency office has been an educational experience for all involved. High on the hill overlooking Dundas, inaccessible by public transit, your choice of location seems symbolically apt for the distant and disdainful view that Harper Conservatives hold 'for the people.' Coupled with your office's hiding behind the property manager's 'no trespassing' edict and the engagement of the local police to prevent a direct democratic expression of displeasure makes your separation and isolation complete.

Your party, by facilely dismissing all criticism and countervailing views as the work of fear mongers or the result of foreign influences, makes your disdain for democracy palpable. Claiming to hold the only truth worth holding is to have the evangelical fervour of the fanatical. To dismiss the concerns of your constituents as you blithely mouth the party line is to show your contempt for those you pretend to represent.

I speak for many others when I say that I shall work very hard to defeat you in the next election. However, given that it is three years in the future, I and many others will spend the intervening time informing, educating, and persuading our fellow Canadians to reengage in the political process so that by 2015, more than your 'true believers' will show up at the polls, and with any luck, your government will be recognized for what it is.


Lorne Warwick

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's Time To Show Some National Self-Respect

When I was a child, I was afraid of many people: my teachers, who believed in strapping and slapping us as early as Grade One, school bullies who periodically picked on me, and some of the thuggish people residing in my working-class neighbourhood who enjoyed verbally assaulting those even more powerless than themselves.

It didn't occur all at once, but gradually, as I got older, whatever was in my personality that encouraged easy victimhood changed, and I started to assert myself as an individual. And over the years I have discovered that although my battles are not always won, there are clear and healthy psychological benefits in refusing to adopt a passive acceptance of the injustices and indignities the world can offer. Sometimes there are victories to be savored which can be particularly sweet.

It is therefore difficult for me to watch so many of my fellow Canadians wearing personae of passivity, indifference, and helplessness in response to the national bullying that is the defining characteristic of the Harper regime, the arrogant thrusting through of the budget omnibus bill just the latest example. Far too many of us are content to allow our video games, our smart phones and our sundry other diversions to narcotize and infantilize us while the country we love is being radically altered by a government that respects neither its constituents nor the values that define us as a nation.

It is time for everyone to grow up.

A story in yesterday's Globe suggests that Harper's latest assault on democracy could prove to be a costly one for his government, as Tory M.P's are hearing from constituents loudly complaining over thuggish tactics to pass a budget bill that includes far too many non-budgetary items, many of which, for example, pertain to the weakening and, in many cases, the dismantling of environmental protections and oversights.

Now is the time to communicate volubly and voluminously our displeasure.

Now is the time to begin the long process of reclaiming our democracy and educating ourselves to the perils it faces.

Now is the time to start mobilizing our opposition to this regime so that 2015 does not repeat recent history.

I have an out-of-town-commitment today, but in my next post, I hope to have composed a letter to my M.P. David Sweet, putting him on notice by expressing some of the things I have discussed above.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Another Victim of the Harper Thought Police

The message couldn't be clearer: if you want to continue to receive funding, don't produce data that contradicts Dear Leader.

Another Event That Conservative M.P. David Sweet Will Not Attend

For those living in my neck of the woods, the following may be of interest. Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment, I can't attend. And, although it will come as no surprise except perhaps to the naive or politically ignorant, neither will my M.P., Conservative David Sweet, a decision his sycophantic followers no doubt concur with:

The following is the message about the Bill C-38 Public Forum tomorrow:

You have heard a lot about Bill C-38 (Federal Budget Implementation Act) over the past few days.

If you want to learn more about this Trojan Horse Bill please plan to attend a Public Forum which has been planned for this Saturday.

What: Public Forum on Bill C-38

When: Saturday, June 16, 2012

Time: 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Where: Dundas Town Hall Auditorium, 60 Main Street, Dundas. There is an elevator at the back for people who want it.

Speakers: Representatives of the Liberal Party, Green Party and the NDP. David Sweet was invited but he has declined the invitation and is not sending a representative. (my italics)

This is an opportunity to hear from our elected representatives and other party candidates what this budget implementation bill is really about.

Bring your questions and concerns.

Please bring your family, friends and neighbours. This is a community event organized by 10 community organizations working together to raise public awareness about Bill C-38.

We Have Failed Ourselves And Each Other

Psychically tired, I can think of little to add to this Star editorial on Bill C-38.

The rest is really up to us, isn't it?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

An Independent M.P. Condemns Harper Omnibus Bill

I was just reading my weekly community paper, and my M.P., the disingenuous David Sweet, indulges in a debasement of language befitting Orwell's 1984. For example, despite the tremendous havoc the Harper omnibus bill will wreak on environmental protection, Sweet says that under Bill C-38, "environmental initiatives will not be diminished at all."

A refreshing contrast to this gross distortion of the truth is offered by Bruce Hyer, the independent M.P. for Thunder Bay. In a Huffington Post article, he provides a very lucid and readable analysis of some of the bill's most devastating effects out of which a clear pattern of the Harper agenda emerges.

Let's hope that some day, in a future that is now difficult to imagine, the majority of our elected representatives will respect language, not abuse it with their politically expedient lies.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A few pictures and signs from last night's protest near Conservative M.P David Sweet's constituency office. As in the previous protest against Bill C- 38, we were prevented from demonstrating in front of his office by the Hamilton Police, on orders from the property owner, Kevin Vanderlaan (IPC Investments).

A few of us arrived early before being ordered off the property by the police.

A camera-shy Hamilton police sergeant.

Stoically standing on guard protecting private property rights?

This final sign, I think, reflects the view of many of Mr. Sweet's constituents.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Israel To Deport 60,000 'Social Irritants'

Describing them as "a social irritant and a threat to the Jewish character of the state," Israel is set to deport 60,000 African migrant workers, or, as they are being labelled, 'infiltrators,' all of whom were technically working illegally.

Despite its collective historical experience with racial profiling, the state apparently sees no tragic irony in this measure.

Another Award For The Star

Despite my general disaffection with the mainstream media, I continue to be heartened by one of the few bright spots on the journalistic landscape, The Toronto Star.

Awarded a Citation of Merit on Tuesday evening at Rideau Hall for the work done by investigative reporter Kevin Donovan that uncovered the Ornge air ambulance scandal, president of the Michener Awards Foundation Russell Mills had this to say:

Stories revealed a stunning lack of government oversight at a critical public service, in which senior managers benefited over those people the air ambulance service was supposed to be helping."

The Star highlighted how millions of dollars were used to create everything from private companies to a charity, and to purchase new helicopters that were improperly outfitted.

As a result of the series, whistle-blowers came forward to expose the shocking depths of the scandal.

Unlike most newspapers today, The Star continues to uphold the finest traditions of journalism that have traditionally played such an important part in protecting and promoting democracy.