Wednesday, July 26, 2017

So Many Possible Labels, None Of Them Positive



There are many labels one could affix to the Conservative Party of Canada: opportunistic, divisive, demagogic, dishonest and principleless are but five that readily come to mind. However, perhaps the most immediately appropriate and withering is hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is to be found in political parties of all stripes, but it appears that the others are mere pretenders to the crown worn by the Conservatives. Cloaking themselves in the self-righteous garment sported by the morally weak, it is surely only the untutored mind that fails to see through their shameful dissembling.

Take, for example, the recent displays of Peter Kent and Michelle Rempel, pretending to channel Canadian outrage over the Khadr settlement as they practised their own political opportunism through American media.

That, according to the Star's Tim Harper, is a damning indictment of their seemingly endless capacity to speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Citing the time that Tom Mulcair went south to express his opposition to the Keystone pipeline, Harper reminds us of the Conservative fury that met his return:
A senior minister of the day, John Baird, accused Mulcair of “trash talking” and “badmouthing” Canada. Another former minister, Joe Oliver, marched to the microphones in the Commons foyer to denounce Mulcair for not leaving politics at the border. He also took to the keyboard for the Globe and Mail to tell the country “a responsible politician would not travel to a foreign capital to score cheap political points.”
You can see where this is going, of course.

Speaking specifically of the quisling-like behaviour of both Rempel and Kent, Harper says,
Both Kent and Rempel have ignored an old, time-honoured dictum which has now been repeatedly discredited — you stash your partisan politics on this side of the border.

For years, Canadian prime ministers did not take partisan shots at opponents back home while travelling abroad because they were representing Canada, not the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Rempel didn’t need to fly to the U.S. to tell Tucker Carlson on Fox that Canadians were outraged. Kent didn’t need to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to be, as he said, “honest” with our allies and inform them.

Yes, this is the same Kent who, as Harper’s environment minister, attacked two NDP MPs, Megan Leslie and Claude Gravelle, for speaking about Keystone in Washington — yes, that issue again.

According to Kent, they were taking “the treacherous course of leaving the domestic debate and heading abroad to attack a legitimate Canadian resource which is being responsibly developed and regulated.”
Perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. They are, after all, only doing what their former leader and master, Stephen Harper, did:
As leader of the Canadian Alliance, he and Stockwell Day took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in 2003 to assure Americans Jean Chrétien had made a mistake in staying out of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” invading Iraq, and to tell them Canadians stood with them. (They didn’t.)

When he represented Canada at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, Harper couldn’t wait until his plane landed in Canada to take a poke at Trudeau over the then squeaky new Liberal leader’s comments about “root causes” of terrorism in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

No one in the press pack asked him about Trudeau’s comments. Harper raised them unsolicited.
Those who follow politics closely are not likely to be surprised by any of this, given that faux outrage and deceit are two of the black arts practised so adeptly by the Conservative Party of Canada. However, even the uninitiated and the cultishly Con Party faithful should at least occasionally put on their underutilized critical-thinking caps to see the massive and shameless manipulation being perpetrated on them.

It beats being mindless mouthpieces for a party that hardly has their best interests at heart.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Whose Sovereignty Is It, Anyway?



He’s loved of the distracted multitude,
Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes.

-Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3

For a long time I have found little to fault in Justin Trudeau's tactful dance around the Trump administration. Rather than denigrate a particular benighted American initiative like the Muslim travel ban, for example, the Prime Minister promotes Canada's openness to the world and impressive acceptance of Syrian refugees. Why provoke the Orange Ogre for no good reason?

However, scratching beneath the surface, one must wonder if there might be more at work in this dynamic.

Take, for example, the opaqueness that has enveloped Canada's priorities on the upcoming NAFTA renegotiation, about which I posted the other day.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.
Couple that with the worrying assertion made the other day by Canada's ambassador to the U.S.
Canada needs to allow U.S. President Donald Trump to “declare victory” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton said Thursday.

“This was such a big part of the president’s campaign last year, and I think for any of us to think that we can sort of just ignore that would be crazy. We have to find ways where he can declare victory without it being seen in either Mexico or Canada as being a loss,” MacNaughton said.
Appeasement, by any other name, is still appeasement.

Then there is the recent announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland that, on the one hand, seems to suggest that Canada is forging an independent foreign policy direction because the U.S. can no longer be relied upon:
Canada's new foreign policy will involve spending billions on "hard power" military capability because the country can't rely on an American ally that has turned inward, says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.


Sounds impressive, doesn't it (although one can only imagine vividly the howls of outrage that would have ensued had this decision been made by the Harper government)? And this apparent independence of policy initiative certainly appears to be at odds with the theme of this post.

However, seen through the lens of critical thinking provided by Linda McQuaig, this new commitment to massively increased military spending is not what it seems.
... the Trudeau government’s announcement last month that it would dramatically increase Canada’s military spending — as Donald Trump has loudly demanded — was risky, given the distaste Canadians have for big military budgets and for prime ministers who cave in to U.S. presidents.

But the Trudeau government’s pledge to hike military spending by a whopping 70 per cent over 10 years succeeded in winning praise from Trump while going largely unnoticed by Canadians. Sweet.
Much of the media seemed swept up in Ms. Freeland's words, ignoring the fact that Canada is doing exactly what Trump wants, massively increasing its military spending:
It sounded feisty and bold, with a touch of swagger, a willingness to defy The Man.

Meanwhile, all was quiet on the Canadian front where the media, still high on Freeland’s soaring oratory, was awash in stories about the Trudeau government’s determination to “set its own course” and “step up to lead on the world stage.” Its keenness to please Trump mostly got lost in the hoopla.
And lest we forget,
The military spending hike, although introduced without much controversy, is in fact a major development with devastating consequences, imposing a massive new $30 billion burden on Canadian taxpayers over the next decade and relegating pressing social needs to the back burner.

It’s also a significant departure for Trudeau, who made no campaign promise to increase Canada’s military spending, which, at $19 billion a year, is already the 16th largest in the world.
Doubtless, that money could be used for something better:
My guess is that, given a choice between spending that money on fighter jets or on social programs, most Canadians would favour social programs.

But then, they’re not holding the leash.
In the play Hamlet, the title character is described as being loved by the masses, despite the fact that he has killed the King's counselor and threatened the life of the King. That mindless adulation, says the King, affords Hamlet considerable latitude.

Are we seeing the same phenomenon unfolding here at home?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What A Mess

I suspect that most people in the West realize to some extent the self-indulgence of drinking bottled water, not to mention the many other liquids that are conveyed to the consumer in just the same manner.

The next time we reach for one, we should all feel suitably ashamed of and disgusted with ourselves.
Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than two miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

Plastics don't break down like other man-made materials, so three-quarters of the stuff ends up as waste in landfills, littered on land and floating in oceans, lakes and rivers, according to the research reported in Wednesday's journal Science Advances.

Plastic waste in water has been shown to harm more than 600 species of marine life, said Nancy Wallace, marine debris program director for the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Whales, sea turtles, dolphins, fish and sea birds are hurt or killed, she said.

"It's a huge amount of material that we're not doing anything about," Wallace said. "We're finding plastics everywhere."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Open And Transparent, Eh, Justin?

While no one would argue that the government should conduct an open-house on their impending NAFTA renegotiation, the cone of silence that has characterized Mr. Trudeau's approach to the talks is disquieting, especially given his pre-election promises to conduct an open and transparent administration.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.

The committee, instead, approved a Liberal plan to hear from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is the lead member of cabinet for NAFTA and Canada-U.S. relations. She is slated to attend a meeting on Aug. 14, two days before negotiations are set to begin in Washington.

NDP MP Tracey Ramsey...is “not happy” with the result of Friday’s meeting, especially after Trudeau said this week that he would be willing to share Canada’s strategy on NAFTA with the opposition.

“We’re not asking for the specifics on how they’re going to negotiate every item, but we can clearly see from the 18 pages of priorities with the U.S. that they’ve made public — we could do the exact same thing,” Ramsey said.



Like the secret study he has commissioned to study airport privatization, one must ask an unavoidable question: Exactly what is Mr. Trudeau hiding from the voters?

The Creep Of Corporatism



Responding to my post on the secret study conducted by the Trudeau government on privatizing our major airports to raise much-needed cash, BM offered the following, which I am featuring as a guest post today:

Well, this is the usual way corporatism works. Change a capital investment into an eternal loan with rent due sharpish at the beginning of each month, paid for by the citizens. When paper money is abolished in the next five to ten years (already started as an experiment in India by withdrawing low-denomination notes to see what happens - disaster - but who cares, they're brown people and not in the West; full story on the countercurrents.org Indian site last fall, studiously unread by white men in the West of all political persuasions), we'll be well on the way to mere electronic representations of our paid-for labour. Every transaction under full surveillance by our masters, no under the table cheapy house-painting, no cash at the farmer's gate for decent veggies and real eggs, taxes paid in full, citizens in thrall, and so on. It'll be sold as the Bright New World, like a super-duper schmarty-phone. All will cheer at how advanced we are.

No wonder Bitcoin thrives.

But as Amazon flogs groceries online, takes over Wholefoods, ruins supermarkets, what happens to old people? I see it all the time when I run from my rural lair into Halifax, old ladies carrying full shopping bags miles. Halifax is a food desert city, bus routes are organized at right angles to where people live to get to a supermarket, that is, they are 100% utterly useless. These old folks don't have PCs or even mobile phones. They're screwed in our brave new world, slain on the fields of corporatism. I drive them if they'll accept a lift, those old gals still dressing up to look presentable, living on OAP and a supplement if they're lucky, trying to keep up appearances. Makes me weep in frustration. The destruction of civil society on the bed of profits and eff-you attitude.

Don't know if JT has the brains to understand the consequences of flogging off public property, or doing the Canadian internal equivalent of an ISDS governed free trade pact called the Infrastructure Bank, I really don't.

But Morneau does, look at that Economic Council of his, set up in February last year with all the corporate and university academic wannabe rich types "advising" him. Telling him, more like. A $1 a year each, such noble types donating their valuable time, reduced to eating sandwiches from the caff at their Ottawa meetings in order to do their bounden duty for Canada, chaired by a man from a big accounting firm. It was then that I knew we were truly effed, seduced by hair and a smile.

Nothing has occurred in the last 18 months to make me change my mind at the neoLiberal's canny backing of JT, the intellectual waif with an aw shucks um and an ah at public speaking events that makes people buckle at their knees in abject adoration. Behind his back, the people that matter are planning ways to pilfer our back pockets.

Succeeding!

And we love it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Canadians Are Outraged



The outrage is once again stoked by Omar Khadr, but, as I wrote the other day, it is Peter Kent's shameful performance that is earning their scorn. These two letter-writers reflect that scorn:
Re: Omar Khadr payout gains traction in U.S. media after Conservative MP’s op-ed, July 17

It seems that Conservatives and their base just don’t want to let this go. And now some of Canada’s politicians are taking to American media outlets to air out their beefs.

It’s bad enough that the Conservatives have made this an issue they are going to ride until the next election. But now, Thornhill MP Peter Kent has decided to go play partisan politics in the right-wing American media. Shameful, shameful, shameful!

I find it incredibly un-Canadian that Conservatives would go anywhere abroad and sell out their own government for the sake of pandering to their hateful, racist base. The right-wing media outlets down there are, of course, going to milk this for U.S. President Donald Trump’s own base. It seems that reporting facts has long been forgotten for the sake of partisan politics.

If Kent wants to continue making this an issue, he has a seat in Parliament where he can do as part of his job. It is disgusting that he chose to put down his own country through the American right-wing media.

Phil Marambio, Oakville

Peter Kent is following in his old boss’s pen prints with his opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

How is it he feels entitled as a representative of Canadian citizens to bring back his flawed journalist skills to disagree with the federal government, using an American newspaper?

How is this in the best interests of Canada, with NAFTA negotiations in full gear? Is he using his past journalist code of ethics? Did the good voters of Thornhill implore him to write it? Who paid him?

Mr. Kent is entitled to his opinion on any issue. But he is certainly not thinking about Canada, which pays him his salary.

J.L. Isopp, Nanaimo, B.C.

And speaking of village idiots, one from Alberta, Michelle Rempel, displayed her bona fides the other day on Fox. If you haven't seen the report, here is her stomach-churning Fox News debut:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Justin's Secrecy



There will always be those unable to see beyond the obvious when it comes to Justin Trudeau. His sunny smile, his platitudinous assurances that we can have our pipelines and climate change remediation simultaneously, and his opaque insistence upon the necessity of an Infrastructure Bank seem to carry the day for some, apparently happy to suspend whatever critical-thinking capacities they may possess.

Unfortunately, this blanket belief in Trudeau's sincerity means that his neoliberal agenda is being under-scrutinized by the public. One of its most egregious manifestations is the secrecy around which the government has hired consultants to study the deliverance of our airports to private interests.

H/t trapdinawrpool for his twitter alert about the following:
A secretive project to generate billions of dollars from the sale of major Canadian airports is pushing ahead with the hiring of consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The firm is to "act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports."
The shield of secrecy was peeled back only due to a freedom-of-information request from the CBC, coupled with some stellar sleuthing. The very fact that this project was withheld from public eyes is the first red flag.

But wait! There's more!
The new contract follows a report delivered last fall by Credit Suisse Canada on how Ottawa might gain billion-dollar windfalls through the sale of its interests in Canada's Big Eight airports and 18 smaller airports. The eight are in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Credit Suisse was hired by CDEV, [Canada Development Investment Corp.] acting on behalf of Finance Canada, in a contract announced in a terse two-sentence release on Sept. 12.

The Crown corporation and Finance have since refused to release the Credit Suisse report, the contract terms or even the cost to taxpayers, despite requests by an opposition MP and by journalists.
And, again typical of the neoliberal orientation, private entities were given veto power over the release of information:
... the contracts with Credit Suisse and PwC contain clauses that give the firms vetoes over the public release of any information, including the cost of the work.
Why should any of us be bothered by any of this? There are many reasons, but Craig Richmond, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, recently addressed one of them when he said,
... prices for airlines and passengers would only increase as for-profit entities seek to make back their investments.

[He understands] the attraction of a one-time big profit for Ottawa, but "that's like selling the furniture in your house to cover your credit card debts."
Mr. Trudeau's government euphemistically refers to this whole process as "asset recycling." Those less enamoured of the Prime Minister and his band of sunny men and women, I suspect, would call it something else entirely.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Canada's Ted Baxter

If you are old enough, you will likely have very fond memories of the Mary Tyler Show, you know, the one set in a TV newsroom staffed with an array of memorable characters. Perhaps most memorable was the station's newsman, Ted Baxter, played by the peerless Ted Knight. His antics, both on the air and off, fueled by a less than ample intellect, ensured continual amusement.



Whenever I see former newsman Peter Kent, I cannot help but think of Ted Baxter. Also of limited intellect and ability, Kent parlayed his genetic shortcomings into a post-news career in politics, where he shone dimly in the Harper government, reaching his nadir as anti-Minister of the Environment, championing as he did the development of Alberta tarsands.

Not content to rest on his 'achievements', Kent has now decided to do his civic duty to the U.S. by alerting them to the compensation awarded to Omar Khadhr via a Wall Street Journal article.
The item began with a description of Khadr killing an American army medic, Christopher Speer, when he was 15 years old and fighting alongside al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

It explained how Khadr won a court fight in Canada, was repatriated there, released on bail and then sued the Canadian government for $20 million.

The Conservative MP criticized the Trudeau government for settling with Khadr, while the victim's family got nothing.

By Monday afternoon the issue was the No. 1 story on the Fox News website.

The Fox News item quotes Kent's op-ed under the headline: "Gitmo Lottery: Canada makes millionaire out of terrorist who killed U.S. soldier."
As reported by The Globe, Kent's mischief had its intended effect:
“This story is repulsive,” said a Fox News host. To which former pizza entrepreneur and presidential candidate Herman Cain replied: “It is a pathetic interpretation of the law. Canada basically rewarded a murderer.”
The good folks at Fox, like the ravenous dogs they are, took Kent's bait, as you will see in the link.


Personally, I don't care what the Americans think of us. What I do care about is that a simpleton like Peter Kent feels compelled to try to fight a divisive issue in the U.S., where opinion and outrage seem to matter far more than the rule of law. In doing so, he is stoking more Canadian outrage, leading more and more people into some very, very dark waters.

Monday, July 17, 2017

UPDATED: I Become Increasingly Disappointed



Only a naif would believe the myth that Canada is a country with a proud tradition of openness and acceptance. Attempts at indigenous assimilation, the the despicable treatment of west coast Japanese and Italian-Canadians during the Second World War are but three examples attesting to our checkered past.

That being said, I have always taken pride in the fact that, relative to many parts of the world, we now do reasonably well in accommodating people from diverse lands and backgrounds. Now even that assumption is cast into doubt. Sadly, in Quebec, it would seem that the pure laine ethos is alive and well.
Residents in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., have rejected a proposal to open a Muslim-run cemetery in their town, dealing a setback to a Muslim community still recovering from a tragic mass shooting six months ago.

The fate of the contentious cemetery project rested in the hands of only 49 eligible voters, and in the end, only 36 turned out to cast ballots. In a referendum on a zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground, 16 people voted Yes and 19 voted No; one ballot was spoiled.

“Ignorance and misunderstanding have won the day,” Mohamed Labidi, president of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, said in an interview on Sunday night. “This is very disappointing. It was just a cemetery. How could we arrive at this result?”

Mr. Labidi said his group would consider going to court to challenge the case. “We are Canadian citizens just like everyone else. Why are we being treated differently? We’re now starting over at zero. We will fight.”
It appears that Mr Labidi is making a discouraging discovery. At least in Quebec, not all Canadian citizens are equal. I grow increasingly disappointed in my fellow-Canadians.

UPDATE: CBC offers the following report:
A far-right group in Quebec is being warned against further political meddling after it was tied to a referendum campaign that successfully managed to block the construction of a Muslim cemetery.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume issued a stern rebuke Tuesday to La Meute, a secret Facebook group with more than 43,000 listed members that believes radical Islam is growing in influence in the province.

The group played an active role in the early stages of a campaign against a proposed Muslim cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., a town of 6,400 that's 35 kilometres southwest of Quebec City.

La Meute supported efforts by resident Sunny Létourneau to gather enough signatures to force the required zoning changes to be submitted to a referendum.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

But Are They Listening?



Unless we live in complete and willful ignorance, all of us are aware, on at least a minimal level, of the perils currently confronting and engulfing our world. Those perils, which some refer to as the sixth extinction, are real, and their magnitude is such that few seem willing or able to confront them in any meaningful way.

In response to yesterday's post about 'the new normal' in the age of Trump, The Mound of Sound wrote an assessment of our present situation and the steps necessary to mitigate the worst of what is overtaking our world. I am taking the liberty of reproducing those comments below:

I think the days of normal, as we experienced that in most of the post-war era, is over. We have embarked on a new era of instability and upheaval. Climate scientists now tell us that our only hope of surviving at least somewhat intact from what has already landed in our laps demands radical action. I'm so pleased, immensely pleased, that we're now hearing them incorporate all the threats. Not just climate change and greenhouse gas emissions but also overpopulation and our rapacious over-consumption of rapidly diminishing resources. Now, at last, they're speaking of the urgent and imperative need to abandon the neoliberal model of perpetual exponential growth, the orthodoxy that all Canadian political parties embrace.

Yet our government won't have this adult discussion with our people. It won't give us a candid assessment of what lies in store for Canada or how Canadians can best cope with it. Trudeau, and I fault him only because he's the sitting prime minister, believes that increasing economic activity is his foremost responsibility as leader. His arguments might have seemed plausible in the 80s but clinging to them now and into our near future could cause Canada irreparable harm.

The science types have written us a prescription and it entails sharp cuts in our standard of living, growing smaller. There is much in steady state economics that addresses how best to do this. The focus is on improving quality of life, enjoyment, while reducing consumption. Growth in knowledge, not consumption. Growth in the quality of what we need. Products that are repairable, upgradeable. I think of the last two stoves I had to send to the recycling yard, my use and enjoyment of them prematurely terminated as essential spare parts were nowhere to be found.

We, and by that I include the next generation and the one after that, must become our government's priority, not trade. Changing that core priority is going to demand big change and sacrifice from all of us whatever our station in life. You can't achieve that with a government that tolerates inequality. Fortunately we have a manual of principles that were established in the golden years of progressivism.

You can read more of The Mound's thoughts on this by clicking here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

When The Outrageous, The Unethical And The Criminal Become 'Normal'



In the months since the Orange Ogre became the American President, I am sure that, like me, many have become inured to his daily debasement of the fundamental values that most profess to hold dear, justice, dignity, truth and respect being but four of them. What was once an esteemed office, the presidency, has been reduced to the equivalent of a wrestling arena, where over-the-top stereotypes of villains abound. American politics, and perhaps the larger American society, will never be the same again.

Henry Rollins, an American actor and musician, has penned an interesting piece in LA Weekly that examines this phenomenon.
It feels like a long time since the election of comrade Trump. I remember the first few days, the frustration and accompanying exhaustion I felt knowing that the country was going to go backward. Several weeks later, I was resolved to “reconfiguring my pack,” as I like to say. I had to do my best to understand this new landscape as America now lurched toward greatness. There were some familiar echoes of the Bush years: the homophobes and misogynists taking a victory lap now that they had one of theirs in the executive position, the environment with a target on its back, science getting sucker-punched in the schoolyard once again. All part of the greatness.
The outrageous behaviour continued and accelerated, but Rollins realized something:
Late last year, the first few tweets — the comrade’s seemingly preferred way of communicating to his base — struck millions of people as the actions of a rank amateur. A president wouldn’t do that, right? It took me I don’t know how many news broadcasts to become accustomed to variations of, “The president tweeted today that ....” Then the shock wore off and it became how it is.

An administration with zero accountability. Took a while, but it registers as normal now.
I will leave you with one more excerpt from his essay:
No matter what, we adapt — but most important, we forget and then repeat.
Perhaps not a profound insight, but surely an illustration of how, in this case, human resiliency has become a decided liability.

Friday, July 14, 2017

While You Were Venting



While many Canadians continue to vent their spleen over the compensation awarded to Omar Khadr, something really important is taking place but is being given little media coverage. It is something that, if enacted, may have irreversible consequences.

Justin Trudeau and his sunny band of men and women like to portray themselves as progressives with a deep commitment to the environment. Thanks to the work of leadnow.ca and The Globe and Mail, it is evident that commitment does not extend to protecting our oceans:
The Liberal government is proposing to allow oil and gas exploration in a new marine protected area that it plans to establish where the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Ottawa released an impact statement Friday on its Laurentian Channel protected area, a 11,619-square-kilometre stretch of ocean in which commercial activity would be limited in order to protect vulnerable marine life. The establishment of the marine protected area (MPA) is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to set aside 10 per cent of Canada’s coastal waters by 2020.
But some environmental groups and ocean scientists argue Ottawa is undermining the effort by allowing future oil and gas exploration in the zone. A study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, released last week, concluded that intense acoustic signals used in oil and gas exploration cause significant damage to zooplankton populations that are critical elements of the marine food chain.

“Protected area should mean exactly that – protected,” Sabine Jessen, oceans director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said in an interview. “These are the places [where] we’re trying to protect intact ecosystems for the long term. It’s ridiculous to continue to allow oil and gas activity in this area.”
Says David Miller, president of World Wildlife Fund Canada:
“Our view is marine protected areas should not have extractive industries in them, particularly oil and gas because of the ecological impacts,” Mr. Miller said. “If you allow industry in, it’s not really protected; it’s just a line on a map.”
Fortunately, activist group leadnow.ca has set up a page that those who are actually concerned about the environment might want to visit:
The good news is that plan isn’t final and together we can stop it. LeBlanc set up a special email inbox for the public to comment on his plan. He’s barely advertised it because he knows a huge public outcry will force him to backpedal. We’re counting on you to help blow the whistle —and we’ve got a simple tool that lets thousands of us flood the inbox with messages.

Don’t let Minister LeBlanc sell out our oceans to help out his friends in Big Oil. Will you send a message to LeBlanc calling on him to ban oil exploration in the Laurentian Channel MPA ? The inbox closes next week, so we have to act fast.
You can send a prewritten letter to LeBlanc. Click here to go to the relevant page.

LeBlanc's inbox closes next week, so there is no time to lose.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

UPDATED: Nothing To See Here

Of course not. Of course not.






UPDATE: Who you gonna believe? Surely not Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wading Through The Hysteria



About five years ago, I wrote a blog entry about a book that had a great impact on my understanding of the child soldier. Here is an excerpt from it:
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.
Facts and research are probably our strongest weapons against the hysterical and the politically opportunistic. And the facts surrounding the Omar Khadr compensation for the violation of his Charter Rights while incarcerated in Guantanamo are readily available.

In discussing the outrage emanating from some quarters about Khadr, the Star's Shree Paradkar writes:
When it became known last week that Canada was to issue an apology worth $10.5 million to former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, a Canadian, it came to many as a no-brainer.

After all, it aligned with Canadian values of freedom, ethics and social justice.

Morality aside, it wasn’t as if the government had a choice.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Khadr three times after his lawyers took the case to court, and in 2010 had unequivocally stated that Canadian officials had violated Khadr’s human rights under the Charter and that his treatment “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”

There was no chance of the government winning the $20 million civil suit Khadr’s lawyers had launched in 2004.
She goes on to us remind of some of the facts of Khadr's life:
It didn’t seem possible that any Canadians would look askance at making reparations with a man whose life has been shaped by repeated betrayals: his father Al-Qaeda fundraiser Ahmed Said Khadr who took him, an 8-year-old boy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, his mother Maha Elsamnah who supported this, the American military who instead of treating him as a child soldier (he was 15 when captured), detained, tortured and subjected him to an unfair trial, and Canada that — under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin’s Liberals and Harper’s Conservatives — abandoned him in the illegal hellhole that is Guantanamo Bay.
The Star's Michelle Shepherd, who wrote Guantanimo's Child and co-directed a documentary with the same title, can be considered an expert on the case. In today's Star, she also reminds us of some facts that the rabid right chooses to ignore:
... the main claim in Khadr’s $20-million civil suit is that Canadian officials violated his rights when they interrogated him in Guantanamo in 2003 and 2004, knowing he was a minor, without legal representation and had been subjected to torture.

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling in 2010 said they had.
The firefight in which U.S. soldier and medic Speer was killed, perhaps by Khadr or perhaps by someone else, is not the issue, but there are some interesting facts surrounding it:
Medics (unarmed civilians) have always been considered “protected persons” in conflict. Since the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, killing a medic is punishable as a war crime. But that is not what the Pentagon considered Speer. [Indeed, he was a decorated soldier and the medic on his elite Delta Force team.] And it was not what Khadr was prosecuted for.
Khadr was charged under the Military Commissions Act, drafted by the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which introduced an offence called “murder in violation of the laws of war.” Despite the deaths of thousands of U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, Khadr remains the only captive charged with killing a soldier.
Also writing in the Star, Azeezah Kanji says,
It is “absolutely wrong” that the U.S. re-wrote the laws of war at Guantanamo to retroactively criminalize its enemies: a laws of war of international law, which forbids prosecuting people for criminal offences invented after the fact. Khadr was charged as a war criminal for allegedly killing American soldier Christopher Speer — but killing an enemy soldier in combat is not a war crime. Under the international laws of armed conflict, soldiers can be killed because they are allowed to kill.
Khadr was accorded all the vulnerabilities of being a soldier, but none of the privileges. As senior officials in the Obama administration pointed out at the time, if Omar Khadr could be convicted of war crimes for “murdering” Sgt. Speer, then so could the CIA for its drone operations in countries such as Pakistan. But this was victor’s justice, meted out only against the vanquished.
And here is one more fact that the ideologues, ranters and opportunists choose to ignore but bears repeating:
Canada’s compensation to Khadr is not an act of largesse; the Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly found that Canada violated Khadr’s rights, and the UN Convention Against Torture obliges states to provide recompense to victims of abuse. (The convention also requires states to prosecute officials complicit in torture, which Canada has so far failed to do.)
None of this will likely make any difference to those who see Omar Khadr as some kind of demon, but for the rest of us, i.e. those who seek to develop informed opinions rather than indulge in mindless screeds, these facts are really the heart of the matter.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Oh, And Another Thing



This letter from today's Star is a fitting response to all of the snarling and foaming coming from the mouth of newly-installed Conservative leader Andrew Scheer over the apology and compensation given to Omar Khadr by the Canadian government.
Re: Ottawa apologizes for violating Khadr’s rights, July 8

I read in today’s Star that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says Canadians are “shocked” by the Khadr settlement, which included an apology from the government and compensation of $10.5 million.

Scheer does not speak for me. This settlement was long overdue and much deserved. I, and most other Canadians, applaud it.

What shocked me was that the U.S. could assert the right to imprison in Guantanamo a child who was essentially a prisoner of war.

What shocked me was that successive Canadian governments, both Liberal and Conservative, failed to repatriate from Guantanamo that Canadian child citizen. Is Canadian citizenship of so little value that our government will refuse to go to the boards for its citizens?

What shocked me was that Canadian CSIS officials took advantage of the travesty of justice in Guantanamo and participated in those interrogations. But the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that this violated Khadr’s Charter rights.

What shocks me now is the insensitivity, inhumanity and complete disregard for the law shown by Scheer in a crass effort to make political hay.

Shame on you, Andrew Scheer!

Jack Coop, Toronto




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Facts Are Facts



Despite the impotent snorting and sputtering of the likes of Andrew Sheer and his fellow travellers, the facts about the apology and compensation awarded to Omar Khadr speak for themselves.

In today's Star, Adriel Weaver writes the following, which I am reproducing in toto.
Why we should embrace the Khadr settlement
Toronto Star 9 Jul 2017


ADRIEL WEAVER

Adriel Weaver (Goldblatt Partners LLP) on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). Adriel served as counsel to CCLA in the 2010 Supreme Court Khadr case.

The Canadian government’s recent announcement that it would issue an apology and compensation to Omar Khadr has given rise to considerable controversy.

Much of the discussion and debate has focused on the question of what Khadr did or didn’t do. But while it’s easy to get caught up in arguments about Khadr’s own actions, which may never be fully resolved, we cannot afford to lose sight of the issue at the heart of the settlement: what Canadian officials did — and failed to do. There, the facts are clear. On several occasions in 2003 and 2004, Canadian officials interrogated Khadr at Guantanamo Bay. On one occasion, they did so knowing that he had been subjected to the “frequent flyer program” — three weeks of scheduled sleep deprivation designed to make detainees more compliant and break down their resistance to interrogation. They then shared the fruits of those interrogations with U.S. prosecutors.

There is no question that at the time these interrogations were conducted, the regime governing Khadr’s detention and prosecution was illegal under U.S. and international law. There is equally no question that by participating in that regime, Canadian officials violated Canada’s international human rights obligations and Khadr’s charter rights.

Those are the facts as found by the Supreme Court of Canada more than seven years ago. Yet even in the face of those findings, the government of Canada refused to seek Khadr’s repatriation and instead fought his return.

And while we like to think of Canada as a champion of human rights, it’s worth noting that every other Western democracy not only sought, but secured the return of its citizens held in Guantanamo Bay to their own countries. Canada alone failed to do so.
It’s a legal truism that a right without a remedy is no right at all. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association welcomes the settlement as a necessary step if Canada wishes to maintain that it values, upholds and adheres to its own laws.

The settlement not only compensates Khadr for the profound abuses and rights violations he endured, but also affirms Canada’s obligation to defend and promote human rights, and to take meaningful steps to admit and redress past wrongs.

As many have pointed out, Khadr is not the only person to have suffered gross human rights violations in which the Canadian government was at the very least complicit. This is all the more reason to embrace the settlement. The apology and compensation extended to Khadr are a hopeful sign of the government’s growing willingness to acknowledge and make amends for the historic injustices it has caused and contributed to.

Those efforts must continue.
There are those who choose to ignore facts that don't agree with their philosophy and worldview. Clearly, it is time for them to grow up.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

We All Have An 'Opinion'



In a democracy, it is hardly expected that we will all be of one accord on anything. Opinion and debate are the lifeblood of a healthy and free society. The problem arises, of course, when the debate is fueled, not by reason and facts, but by rancour and misinformation. Such perhaps is the price to be paid in the name of egalitarianism.

In her column today, Susan Delacourt discuses the flurry of opinion prompted by the Omar Kadhr settlement.
....the widely different views on Khadr were also an apt illustration of something not so constructive in 21st-century politics: polarization, and the increasing tendency of political partisans to divide the world into black-and-white, good-versus-evil teams.
The more that politics gets polarized, needless to say, the less we talk about finding middle ground or brokerage roles for political parties. We also don’t think much about changing minds or opinions.
This phenomenon of polarization and absolutism has, of course, been aided and abetted by the platform that social media provide for anyone with an opinion. Unfiltered and unrestrained by the conventions that sometimes make for balance in the MSM, one can snort and vent and pontificate on virtually any topic, secure in the knowledge that fellow travellers and purveyors of ignorance are but a mouse click away. Affirmation of even the most diseased views readily abound.
Polarized political people don’t debate to persuade the other side; they argue to prove who’s louder or more right.
Delacourt offers a better way, something well-worth consideration:
I was curious to see this week whether anyone did have a change of mind about Khadr after hearing the news of the potential $10-million payout. It seemed like a good case study for where journalism fits when political issues separate the public into sharply, passionately divided camps.

The good news, at least as I see it for my business, is that some journalism did make a difference this week amid the cacophony of opinion about Khadr.

I asked on my Facebook page whether anyone had changed his or her opinion about the settlement — for or against — because of something they’d read or seen in the media.

I got a lot of response: some of it privately, some of it posted on the Facebook page. Some people wanted to vent outrage; others told me that further information really had made a difference.

Generally, the extra information turned opponents of the Khadr settlement into supporters: maybe grudging supporters, but supporters nonetheless.

Some cited the work that’s been done by the Star’s own Michelle Shephard, author of the book on Khadr, Guantanamo’s Child, and part of the journalistic team behind the documentary of the same name.
The director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Aaron Wudrick, made this telling observation:
Wudrick told me that people’s views seemed to be influenced by which part of the story they were focused on: Khadr’s experience in Afghanistan or his life in prison and the courts afterward.
Delacourt draws a very interesting conclusion from this entire experience:
In all, this small glimpse into a highly polarized debate in Canada this week persuaded me that we political journalists may want to tell more stories about how and when people change their minds. Rather than seeing endless panels on TV, with people expressing their strong opinions on some political development or another, what about having people talking about how their opinions changed?
Yet another example of the vital role conventional media still play in the health of a democracy.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Let Him Get On With His Life

Whenever I see Omar Khadr, I never fail to be impressed by his thoughtful reflectiveness. Despite the fact that there is a rabid element in Canada that will never see him as anything more than a terrorist, those with the ability to assess him critically and understand how his rights as a Canadian citizen were grossly violated during his time in Guantanamo will agree that it is time to let him get on with his life.

This CBC interview with Khadr deserves to be widely seen. The first two are clips from Rosemary Barton's interview with him. The third is the full interview. Even if you don't have much time, at least watch one of them:














A Timely Reminder

George Carlin died in 2008, but the following could have been performed last night. Although some of the language is coarse, it somehow seems entirely appropriate:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bravo, Jerry Brown

While Donald Trump is content to call climate change a hoax, his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accord does not mean that others are just throwing up their hands in exasperation or surrender. The West Coast seems particularly resistant to backward thinking and, no doubt, California Governor Jerry Brown is joining a long list of White House enemies in making this announcement:
On Thursday evening, Governor Brown will mount a new challenge to the administration on climate change. In a videoconference address to a global citizen festival in Hamburg, Germany, where President Trump and other officials will negotiate wording of a statement on the Paris climate change accord, Governor Brown will issue a sweeping invitation to a global “climate action” summit meeting in San Francisco.

“Look, it’s up to you and it’s up to me and tens of millions of other people to get it together to roll back the forces of carbonization and join together to combat the existential threat of climate change,” Brown will tell the thousands of people expected to attend the festival. In the message, a preview of which was provided by aides, he will invite “entrepreneurs, singers, musicians, mathematicians, professors” and others who represent “the whole world” to the September 2018 conference in San Francisco.

“Yes, I know President Trump is trying to get out of the Paris agreement, but he doesn’t speak for the rest of America,” Brown will say in the video. “We in California and in states all across America believe it’s time to act.”
Here is what Brown had to say a few months ago about Trump's retrograde vision:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Look At This, Please



Click here for a story I think we all should read.
Meet Leah Denbok, a 17-year-old photographer from Collingwood, Ont. In the past three years, she's walked the streets in her province in Toronto, Barrie and Kitchener, as well as in New York City, capturing the lives of the homeless with her photos.

Along with her father Tim, the pair offer $10 to each person for permission to tell their stories.

"With my book, I'm trying to portray two goals," said the teen photographer. "First of which is to shine a spotlight on the plight of homelessness, and second, I'd like to humanize homeless people because so often they're seen as subhuman individuals."
If you follow the above link, I think you will agree that Leah has succeeded on both counts.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Truly, Profoundly Disturbing

I have just finished reading a long article in National Geographic, one that, without any use of hyperbole, should disturb all of us deeply and profoundly. But thanks to our capacity to ignore anything that disturbs our worldview, the article's dire warning will likely provoke little concern and no alteration of our bloated, cossetted and unsustainable lifestyles.

The following video summarizes the situation well, but following it I am including some excerpts from the article, although I do recommend taking some time to read the entire piece carefully.



The problem, of course, is earth's warming temperatures, but those rising numbers are much greater in Antarctica, where the ice shelves that hold in the glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates:
Why should we care about Antarctica ice melt? Antarctica's ice shelves are disintegrating and the glaciers behind them are flowing faster into the ocean. This could spell disaster for coastal areas around the world, and scientists are in a race against time to understand how it's happening. Sea levels around the world could rise by 14 feet if all of the ice melted just on West Antarctica.
Large swaths of West Antarctica are hemorrhaging ice these days. The warming has been the most dramatic on the Antarctic Peninsula, a spine of ice-cloaked mountains that reaches 700 miles up toward the tip of South America. Catching the powerful winds and ocean currents that swirl endlessly around Antarctica, the peninsula gets slammed with warm air and water from farther north. Average annual temperatures on its west side have risen nearly 5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950—several times faster than the rest of the planet—and the winters have warmed an astonishing 9 degrees. Sea ice now forms only four months a year instead of seven.
The ice shelves, Fricker says, “are the canary in the coal mine.” Because they’re already floating, they don’t raise sea level themselves when they melt—but they signal that a rise is imminent, as the glaciers behind them accelerate. Fricker and her team have found that from 1994 to 2012, the amount of ice disappearing from all Antarctic ice shelves, not just the ones in the Amundsen Sea, increased 12-fold, from six cubic miles to 74 cubic miles per year. “I think it’s time for us scientists to stop being so cautious” about communicating the risks, she says.
The video, along with the above three excerpts, are merely the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Yet the signs are clear, ominous, and accelerating. I have little doubt that the predicted flooding cataclysms will occur much faster than mid-to-late century. Indeed, before my time is up, I fully expect the apocalypse to be well underway.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

We Are Not Amused

Like schoolchildren exchanging a lewd jest, Charles and Camillia just couldn't contain themselves as they listened to a demonstration of throat singing in Iqaluit. The first 15 seconds of the video fully capture their disgraceful deportment. Significantly, it has not been widely reported.

Wonder how the monarchists will spin this:



One can only ardently hope for the continued health and longevity of the Queen.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Reflection On Canada Day


Most people who have lived in this country for any amount of time, I suspect, would agree that Canada is the best place in the world to be a citizen. While we often take much for granted, I am sure that, like me, the majority have a deep and abiding respect and love for the land that we call home. It's just that we are a quiet people, content in the knowledge of our strengths (and well-aware of our weaknesses), without a deep compulsion to brag about our good fortune.

Rick Salutin, reflecting on our country while watching people waiting for appointments or loved ones in the atrium of Toronto Western Hospital, observes a core value that makes us what we are:
What unites people there, waiting for their appointments, or for those they’ve brought to appointments? Neither health nor sickness, though most don’t look too fit. It’s something else: none is worried about how they’ll pay for it.

Absence of money anxieties is the unifying factor. Could this also be what unifies the country, as it does the atrium? Frank Graves of EKOS research found it so recently: far atop a list of sources of Canadian identity, leaving the anthem, the flag, and Mounties in the shade, was medicare.
While flag-waving and other patriotic gestures and symbols are on the decline, there is something deep and abiding that unites us as a country.
Nation states were always at their best a way for humans to embrace their common destiny: that we are social beings despite pretensions to splendid individualism (“I’m a loner, eh?”). Boiling the solution down till little but medicare remains at the bottom of the pan, reduces the concoction to a bold, unique minimum.

Which brings me back to the people hanging in the atrium at the Western, looking ethnically and multiculturally diverse but not particularly feeling the diversity because they’re all Canadians brought together by the Canadian way of dealing with the basic stuff of life and death, and forestalling the latter, as much as possible, for the former: Not through some abstraction like Canadian niceness, but by their commitment to pay their taxes, assuring that everyone else there needn’t worry about money while awaiting the good, or bad, news.
Americans are great at waving the flag and boasting that they are "the greatest country on earth." Yet they are now in the process, should the Senate bill pass, of ultimately removing over 35 million of their fellow citizens from health care coverage while the same bill also cuts a tax on investment income for people earning $200,000 or more. One could perhaps draw an inverse relationship between mindless jingoism and quality of life.

We, on the other hand, are a proud but quiet, even subdued nation. And for some very, very good reasons....

Friday, June 30, 2017

UPDATED: A Gratifying Trump Take-Down

Republican strategist Ana Navaro has had it with the Infant-in-Chief. His latest tweet has left her, and many other Republicans, outraged.



UPDATE: Morning Joe responds to Trump's disturbed and disturbing behaviour:

A Little Balance

Since yesterday's post was about the terrible excesses our cossetted and selfish species is capable of, I thought it might be nice to post today about someone who clearly respects her environment and has established a home with what we would call a very modest environmental footprint:


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Just Imagine




Just imagine what could be accomplished if people drank tap water, not bottled water. It is, unfortunately, all too symptomatic of the egocentric and selfish lives we lead that few are willing to give up even something as minor as this. The pleasure principle surely prevails, eh?

Oh, and cutting back on soft drinks would help reduce not only plastic pollution but also runaway obesity.

Reports The Guardian:
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report.
But what about recycling?
Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Humans are not immune to the effects of this environmental degradation:
Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.
As always, the fate of the world and all of its creatures is largely in our hands. And as always, warnings like The Guardian's will likely be ignored by the bulk of humanity whose personal preferences and comforts command such an unforgivably high premium.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Thing Of Beauty: Rick Perry's Comeuppance At The Hands Of Al Franken

If you start at the two-minute mark, you will see the start of Senator Al Franken's public humiliation of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, as the latter amply demonstrates both his intellectual deficiencies and his abject obeisance to the oil industry.



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Powerful Oration!

His denunciation is powerful and passionate. Watch as Keith Olbermann excoriates those who are aiding and abetting Trump's foul agenda.


Dispatches From Hell

... with a little water thrown in at the end to balance things out.



Meanwhile, Fortune Magazine predicts that things will only get much, much worse in the years to come.

Monday, June 26, 2017

UPDATED: A Litany Of Failure



While I normally do not read the National Post, a tweet by @trapdinawrpool about a column caught my attention. Written by Kelly McParland, the article offers an uncompromising assessment of a Liberal political landscape littered with broken promises coupled with a return to the party's traditional arrogance.

Why is this important? Because with its brilliant campaign to win power, the party was, in many Canadians' minds, the antidote to the poison that had permeated our political system thanks to the long and dark rule of the Harper Conservatives. A "new way" of doing politics was heralded, and hopes were high.

Now, soon coming up to the two-year mark of the Trudeau administration, those hopes have waned, and how that is affecting the many young people who voted for the first time in the last election is at this point unknown. Even old warhorses like me were disappointed, but it is a disappointment borne, and thus tempered, by many years of political observation, so the effect on people like me is likely less dramatic than on less-seasoned voters.

McParland writes:
Balanced budgets have been abandoned. Limited deficits are a thing of the past. Electoral reform crashed and burned like a damaged drone.

Canada’s indigenous people have refused to be jollied along with happy talk and photo ops, signalling that it will take more than a renamed office block in Ottawa to reverse generations of built-up anger.

Better relations with the provinces ran aground on Trudeau’s decision to stick with the Tory funding formula on health care, as well as its decision to side with Alberta on pipelines rather than British Columbia, which is determined to put such projects in their graves.

Trudeau’s victory in 2015 was supposed to be the last election ever held under the first-past-the-post system. What will voters think when they head to the polls in 2019 and awaken to the fact nothing has changed? If they start looking for answers they may have trouble getting factual information, as the Liberals’ pledge of better transparency and openness has been shovelled onto the growing heap of stuff they’re not really going to do.

The inquiry into murdered and missing women? After months of delay, indigenous leaders have complained loudly of poor leadership and bad communications. The justice minister’s own father denounced the affair as “a bloody farce” and demanded firings.
Attempting to explain this sad state of affairs, this chasmic disparity between rhetoric and reality, McParland looks to the Liberals' traditional Achilles heel, hubris,
a chronic ailment that afflicted so many previous Liberal regimes and seems particularly virulent among prime ministers named Trudeau – is a big reason. Trudeau simply shrugged off the possibility that governing might be harder than he thought, or that the world was trickier to deal with than the application of some sunny ways. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that many of the pledges dangled before the electorate were simply impractical or unrealistic, and that no rookie government could push through so much change in so short a time in a democratic system where opposing opinions proliferate and are meant to be respected.
Whatever the cause, the effects are bound to reverberate, and the ultimate damage to our political hopes and sensibilities is yet to be determined.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Mound for pointing out this article in today's Globe which is also less than laudatory of Mr. Trudeau and his merry men and woman. The writer, Andrew MacDougall, offers an interesting view of our prime minister's persistent perambulations:
For anyone peeking into politics occasionally – that is to say, most voters – they continue to see a smiling, upbeat Justin Trudeau on the national and global stages, getting mostly positive ink outside Ottawa. There’s a reason Mr. Trudeau devotes so much time and effort to polishing his image: it keeps the messes hidden from view.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Corporate Gift?



Recently, the Star's business editor, David Olive, offered some cautious optimism about the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, the scheme dreamed up by the Trudeau government,
to “leverage” its $35 billion in CIB seed money by a factor of four, creating roughly $140 billion in infrastructure spending. It will do this by enticing private-sector partners to put up most of the infrastructure funds, backstopped by Ottawa.
Seen in a charitable light, Ottawa means to stretch taxpayer dollars in a way not possible with the traditional model of purely public spending on publicly owned infrastructure.

Less charitably, the CIB looks like a device for nationalizing the risk and forfeiting the profits from CIB projects that will be largely owned by private interests.
It is the later interpretation I have written about previously, as it seems to me that all of the risks will be borne by the taxpayers who will also, conversely, receive few of the benefits.

Apparently I am not the only one dubious of the benefits of this proposal. A Star letter writer offers his concerns:
Re: Feds bet on bank as social justice tool, Olive, June 17

David Olive’s proposal that public pension funds provide financing for infrastructure is flawed.

First, there is no shortage of low-cost government funds when we own the Bank of Canada — witness the recent $200-billion bailout of big banks and corporations after the 2008 financial crisis, or the government’s sudden decision to increase defence spending by $62 billion.

Second, while pension funds may be non-profit, the public-partnership model eats up enormous accounting, legal and management charges, and pension funds expect a 7- to 9-per-cent return. Such financing is expected to double the cost of projects.

Third, while helping retirees may seem admirable, the monies are extracted through tolls and fees, largely from overstretched middle-class families when they can least afford it.

However, Olive makes a good point regarding CPP’s meagre investments in Canada. At a time when 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed, why is our national pension fund sucking money out of the domestic economy and building up competitor companies overseas?

Larry Kazdan, Vancouver
As the old saying goes, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Wonder

When even the dimmest and most ideologically bent among us realize they backed the wrong pony when they ignored the warnings about climate change, and when it is far too late to do anything about it (as it almost is now), who will they blame? Will it be their political 'leaders', the corporate obstructionists, or themselves for being so wedded to unsustainable lifestyles?

I fear we will have the answer sooner rather than later:



This report on air turbulence is not unrelated to climate change:



Finally, consider the full implications of this:



All of the above, of course, is centered around North America. Imagine the plight of developing countries, where shade and air-conditioning are often non-existent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Omnibus Bills: Another Liberal Betrayal



When Justin Trudeau and his merry band of men and women were campaigning for our vote, they railed against the Harper propensity for passing omnibus bills; those documents, being so dense and long, meant that almost anything could be slipped in.

Said the erstwhile earnest Trudeau in 2015:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.

Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.

Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
Sadly, the Liberals'return to power has dulled the appetite for change, with the use of the omnibus bill now enjoying the government's full fervour:
The Senate has narrowly defeated a motion to divide the Liberal government’s budget bill, following a personal appeal from Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In a late-night 38-38 vote with one abstention, senators defeated a motion to split Bill C-44 in a way that removes the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank Act from the main budget bill.
The motion to split the bill had come from independent Senator André Pratte, who argued that it would give the senators more time to study the proposed $35-billion infrastructure bank about which I have written previously. In typical neoliberal fashion, the Infrastructure Bank appears to be a gift to the corporate world, backstopped as it will be by the taxpayer.

Senator Pratte's desire to separate the Bank legislation from the budget bill appears to have arisen from noble motives:
Mr. Pratte promoted his motion as a vehicle for the Senate to draw a line in the sand against the use of wide-ranging omnibus bills that make it more difficult for Parliament to thoroughly study all of the bill’s component parts.
Alas, the pressure from Finance Minister Morneau appears to have been too great:
Mr. Morneau spent nearly two hours last week as a witness before the Senate national finance committee, where he urged Mr. Pratte and other senators to approve the budget bill intact before Parliament rises for the summer recess.
It would appear that even though Liberal senators are no longer part of the Liberal caucus, their affiliations and gratitude still tend toward placating their former political masters.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When I Was A Lad

... had this appeared in a film, it would have been regarded as a rather crude and obvious satire. Unfortunately, it is today's reality:



You can read a detailed L.A. Times report about this here, including the fact that such comforts are sometimes extended to those who commit violent crimes.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trump's Benighted Cuba Stance

Donald Trump is attempting to curry political favour in Florida by turning back the clock on warming U.S.-Cuba relations initiated by Obama. However, that cynical move is likely to have unintended consequences that go well beyond economic hardship for the slowly-emerging private sector on the island nation.

Watch this brief report, made the day before the announcement, to learn the kicker at the end, one that could mean some deep trouble ahead for the world, assuming the Orange Ogre somehow manages to remain in office.



And The Independent offers this chilling dose of reality:
By retreating from Cuba, Trump risks creating fresh space for Russia to reassert itself there. Just last month Russia resumed oil shipments to Cuba after a hiatus of over a decade – its saviour in the interim has been Venezuela. As Venezuela falls apart at the seams, Cuba needs someone else to stop it collapsing too. If not America, then Russia. Putin recently forgave 90 per cent of Cuba’s debts to his country. There are reports that Russia is in talks about opening a military base on the island again. You get the picture.
Just one of the many consequences of having a tantrum-prone baby in The White House, along with a plethora of 'caregivers' enabling, aiding and abetting him.

Friday, June 16, 2017

He Can Talk The Talk

But his sandal-clad feet cannot walk the walk.


After the disastrous tenure of Paul Wells as national political affairs commentator, it was a real pleasure to see that The Toronto Star has called Tim Harper out of retirement. In his column today, Harper reminds us of some things that Justin Trudeau acolytes would prefer to ignore.

Among Trudeau's less-than-stellar achievements thus far,

Constitutional Debate, Anyone?
... this government is now facing the prospect of having a budget bill split, or stalled, in the non-elected, non-accountable Senate. It has wandered into this muck by tabling the type of omnibus budget bill it railed against in opposition when it was done by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and by appointing independent senators who have taken that label literally.

Sen. André Pratte may have been quite right in pushing to have the government’s infrastructure bank yanked out of the Liberal budget bill for separate scrutiny. And Trudeau’s point man in the Senate, Peter Harder, may have been quite right in arguing that splitting the bill would mean a spending bill would originate in the Senate — powers the upper chamber does not have.
Harper suggests as with other issues, this one will escape the public's scrutiny thanks to the impending summer recess.

But when we all return from our summer holiday, there are other issues that the public will likely notice.

The Federal Deficit
On the economy, they will see that behind what looks to be a chugging locomotive is a federal deficit that goes much beyond — almost three times beyond — the $10 billion or so Trudeau promised in 2015. It conjures memories of a mocking Harper holding his thumb and forefinger almost together and laughing at Trudeau’s plan for those “tiny” deficits.
Indigenous Issues
... the Trudeau Liberals lifted expectations sky high for historic national reconciliation with First Nations.

But they have not walked their talk on spending on health and social services for Indigenous children living on reserves. They have instead ignored a series of non-compliance orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled in January 2016 that Ottawa was discriminating against the children. It is also seeking individual hearings for thousands of children taken from reserves and placed with non-Indigenous families in the so-called ’60s Scoop, despite losing a court battle over compensation.

The inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women has turned into a morass, way behind schedule, certain to miss its deadline, sure to seek more money and losing the support of frustrated family members. Thursday, it lost another key member, Tanya Kappo, one of the Idle No More founders, who resigned as a community relations manager, one more dropping shoe indicating the commission is floundering.
The Environment
...the Trudeau government is still operating under the Harper emission targets, and it faces challenges with Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. So far, the Trudeau environmental package includes a carbon tax in return for a pipeline, and the future of that Trans Mountain pipeline is clouded by the chaotic politics of British Columbia.
I feel bitter about this government, given the fact that it rose to majority status thanks to the promise of doing things differently. Thus far, outside of a more pleasing manner, I see little to distinguish Justin Trudeau from the neoliberal policies of the Harper government.

Time for people to start paying attention again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Depraved Indifference

When you think about it, almost all of us are guilty of it.



Toronto Star 14 Jun 2017
Re Caution: children at work, June 13


Recognizing child labour as a violation of children’s and workers’ rights, trade unions are joining with families and community organizations to combat child labour, to move children out of work and into school, and to support core labour standards.

Everything old is new again. The over-privileged Canadians will tsk tsk and the corporations will apologize profusely and come up with yet another “child-slave-labour” certification scam and a feel-good logo on the product, and the consumer monkeys will once again spread their cancer guilt-free.

Do the privileged humans care? Sure. They wish the kids and peasants had a better life and there was no runaway climate change and overpopulation, but they don’t stop consuming and breeding.

Mohammed Olukolu, Toronto

I’d argue that Canadians knowingly buy goods made by workers, including many children, who have been forced into servitude and have little to no rights.

It appears that the Rana Plaza disaster (which killed more than 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh in 2013) did precious little to open consumers’ eyes as to how callously fast-fashion is produced.

They just gotta have all five colours of those poor-quality, fast-fashion blouses, instead of a couple of high-quality, fairlysourced ones.

Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough