More rats

April 28, 2011 at 8:23 am (Uncategorized)

I am really disappointed in the media in this country. The bias is essentially all but admitted. Today, as polls continue to suggest the NDP is creeping up on the Tories in terms of support, there’s a raft of “it doesn’t matter” stories that focus either on how all their support is in Quebec (a province that “doesn’t matter as much as it used to” according to the Windsor Star, for example), and how perennially-cited “vote-rich” Ontario is supposedly utterly ignoring the rise… or, more incredibly, a new slant, fresh today, in which the veracity of polls is being questioned! Really! Including, supposedly, by the fellow who broke the news about the NDP surge on Monday, spending a sleepless night second-guessing himself!

Fellows, I’ll tell you what this is. It’s people like my parents who voted down the middle all these years and who are fed up and willing to give the NDP a fair shake. There probably aren’t enough of them yet to form a government, but probably enough to make them the watchdog of the Commons. That’s what it’s all about.

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I smell a lot of rats

April 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm (Uncategorized)

Now, I’m impressed with the NDP’s rise in recent days. But I don’t think I’ve ever voted for them, except once or twice provincially about 20 years ago. So I can’t be said to have nailed my colours to their mast. Nevertheless, I’m noticing a decided cant against them in the press now that their star is rising, with just a few days to go. Having googled “NDP” and selected “News”, here are some of the “story” headlines I’m noticing. Do these sound like they presage objective reporting to you, or paid screeds to follow?…

  • Liberals, NDP maybe not so compatible (National Post)
  • Cohn: The rise and stall of the NDP in Ontario (Toronto Star)
  • The Gazette’s View: Up close, the NDP’s seduction loses its appeal
  • NDP surge means some unlikely candidates have a shot at Parliament (National Post)
  • Another word from our NDP conscience… (Globe and Mail)
  • NDP surge leaves Bay Street leery (National Post)

Just wondering… why are so many newspapers so eager to warn us that, yeah, we can vote for the NDP, alright, but we’ll be sorry if we do…? Why can’t they simply report what’s being said, what’s being promised, and who’s where, and leave the democratic decisions up to the now-informed, adult electorate of this country?

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Suddenly, anything…

April 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm (BQ/Bloc Quebecois, elections, federal, federal elections, Grits/Liberals, NDP/New Democratic Party, Politics, Tories/Conservatives)

It seemed like a non-event when the government was defeated in the House of Commons last month and a new federal election was called. The only question seemed to be would the Conservatives form another minority government, or actually get their majority at last and run the country by fiat. But in the past week or so, new developments, unheralded in Canadian electoral history, have the country sitting up and taking notice. With just five days left till election day, suddenly the field is alive with possibilities.

From out of nowhere, the New Democratic Party, Canada’s hard left, perennial also-ran third party, is suddenly, and apparently firmly, in second place, briskly eclipsing the Liberals, Canada’s so-called “natural governing party”, which has run the country for 2/3 to 3/4 of the time since Confederation. Poll after poll puts the NDP in the high 20-percentiles, even nosing 30%, while the Liberals have plunged to the low 20s, with the governing Tories coming up anywhere between 33-37% in most polls… and the Green Party and Quebec-only Bloc picking up the crumbs at 6-7% each. An advanced poll held over the long weekend was greeted with a surge in voter turnout, reversing the trend of the last several decades. Most intriguing of all has been the fantastic uplift of NDP fortunes in Quebec, a province where their support has previously been almost unknown… they stand a chance of badly mauling the support of Quebec’s federal darling of the past two decades, the separatist Bloc Quebecois. For progressive federalists, this election just got very, very interesting.

If the polls hold up, the NDP stands to become the Official Opposition in the Commons for the first time in history. And the Liberals stand to be dumped back on the ropes unlike they ever have. Since 2008 or so there’s been talk of a centre-left coalition government between the Liberals and the NDP (with unofficial support from the left-leaning Bloc). Suddenly it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, if the NDP and Liberals keep the Tories to a minority position, and the numbers really warrant it, that that coalition could be feasible. But instead of the NDP supporting a Prime Minister Michael Ignatieff, it would be the Liberals supporting a Prime Minister Jack Layton… our first NDP prime minister. Tommy Douglas must be busting his buttons with pride, looking down on even the possibility of that.

It’s strange. Not long ago, on a weekend visit to my parents, I listened to my dad – not someone I’d call a political animal, but rather, politically aware – tell me he wasn’t sure how to vote. Traditionally, my folks have voted Liberal. They tend to be slightly left wing in their outlook, but support a party they figure can actually govern. Dad said, though, that he didn’t like Michael Ignatieff, and that he resented the fact that the guy spent decades out of Canada only to come back a few years ago and presume to get himself elected to Parliament and then to the head of the Liberal Party. Further, Dad said that he liked Jack Layton. Liked his style, the way he talked, and the issues he talked about. Dad said he figured he’d vote NDP. I was surprised, because I wasn’t even there yet and I tend to be to the left of my folks. My mother is livid with the Tories and their (mis)handling of the way pension funds of failing companies are handled in Canada, and it sounds like her sympathies have shifted left too.

The riding I live in is Liberal and has been for a long time. My natural inclination, as this non-election was forced on us, was to just toe the line and do my bit to keep the Tories humble. But now I’m beginning to wonder if I might not take “le beau risque” – the beautiful risk, as the separatists in Quebec have always called their own option – and cast my vote for the NDP. My great fear, and it’s a real consideration in this country, is of splitting the centre-left vote… the NDP and Liberals eating each other’s lunch, and the Tories squirting up the middle to a vast, and extremely undeserved, majority government. This is essentially what happened in 1988 when Brian Mulroney’s Tories rocketed to a gigantic majority on just 43% of the vote as the NDP and Liberals fought each other over the other 57%. In that election, 57% of Canadians voted for parties opposed to free trade, and only 43% for the party that supported it… but because of our brainless first-past-the-post non-democratic system, we would up with it anyway. So the NDP surge could be a great thing if its numbers are just high enough… but there’s a razor-thin threshold, and no one’s sure exactly what that number is, below which it leads to a nightmare of Tories unleashed. Either way, Monday looks to be the most interesting federal election in Canada since 1988, or at least 1993. It could change not just the arrangement, but the very fundamentals, of the Canadian electoral map for decades.

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Federal election debate rescheduled for hockey game

April 11, 2011 at 8:11 am (elections, federal, federal elections, Politics)

Kind of says it all. Canada’s currently in the run-up to a federal election. The national French-language debate has been rescheduled from Thursday night to Wednesday, because the Montreal Canadiens are in a playoff game Thursday night.

It’s good to know this country has its priorities straight. 🙂

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Close…

March 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm (Uncategorized)

I was off by a day. Actually, the government fell Friday. The PM resigned the government to the Governor-General and a federal election’s been called for May 2nd.

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The government falls today

March 24, 2011 at 7:40 am (BQ/Bloc Quebecois, elections, federal, federal elections, Grits/Liberals, NDP/New Democratic Party, Politics, Tories/Conservatives)

So apparently the government is due to fall today. It’s a minority government, and the opposition parties have the power to defeat the budget, which in Westminster parliaments is a vote of non-confidence that compels the incumbent government to resign and the Crown to call an election. Supposedly, we will all go to the polls in early May. Despite the fact that the economy’s moving reasonably well and the line’s been held on unemployment, the government doesn’t seem way out in front and there’s every chance that we’ll have yet another minority government. The opposition parties are playing up the “contempt of Parliament” angle since the governing Tories have stonewalled discussions of the costs and funding of some of their pet projects in committee and have been officially called on it. If it stands and isn’t killed on procedural grounds, the Harper government will be the first in the Commonwealth formally cited for contempt, and that could be damning in the election.

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Poll on various attitudes

March 22, 2011 at 6:48 am (attitudes, economy, federal, Politics, polls, Religion, Science)

In The Globe and Mail today there’s a poll that reveals some interesting things about the current state of attitudes across the country. Most notable to me was the “trust in occupations” poll. At the top, scientists are trusted by 74% of the people. The numbers decline from there through university profs (57%), journalists (32%), pollsters (28%), priests (21%), union leaders (16%), and politicians (10%). At the very bottom? Bloggers. 8%. So I guess you better not take my word for any of this. Besides, do you even trust the pollsters I’m quoting?

There are some encouraging things coming out of the poll. One is the trust in science. 69% of us are “bothered” that “hard scientific evidence isn’t shaping public policy to the degree that it should be”. This dovetails with the trust previously noted in scientists in this country. Relatedly, 64% of us don’t believe that the talk of greenhouse gases causing global climate change is just hype. Only 23% of Canadians worry that science is going too far and hurting society; 56% of us don’t agree with that statement.

60% of Canadians believe that “intellectualism and rational debate” should drive contemporary politics (as opposed to “populism and common sense”, at 28%), though only 17% of us are satisfied that they actually do.

At times of personal crisis, 71% of us prefer consulting psychiatrists, etc., as opposed to 14% who would consult a priest, rabbi, or other religious leader.

Another part of the poll addresses something that has concerned me for a while. Not much is made of the potential for creationism/intelligent design to be taught in our public schools. I can’t find any legal references to this in Canada one way or the other. The poll, contrast with another, may suggest why this hasn’t been an issue. Asked about their opinions on the origins of mankind, respondents replied as follows:

Origin of mankind Canadian respondents
(EKOS, March 2011)
US respondents
(Gallop, December 2010)
Humans were created by God in the last 10,000 years

14%

40%

Humans evolved over time, but through divine guidance

19%

38%

Humans evolved through natural selection

58%

16%

Don’t know/no response

8%

6%

…This might explain why cries of “teach the controversy” strike me as such a southern phenomenon. I think it bodes well for the future of science education in this land.

On finances, we’re more interested in investing in health, education, and jobs (59%), than in either keeping taxes as low as possible (23%) or keeping the deficit as low as possible (18%). Speaking purely personally, the deficit troubles me; someone has to pay for that someday. But I agree, it’s important to keep the people and the economy healthy. You can’t ever pay down the deficit, much less the debt, without those fundamentals in place. We did it before, from 1997-2008, and we’ll do it again. Perhaps in keeping with my thoughts, 68% of us do not want the government spending money on the F-35 fighter jets right now, because we’re in deficit territory. Only 27% of us think it’s a good idea. Given that PM Harper has a majority government, he might want to take that into consideration, since an election looks to be in the offing.

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D.C.: District of Canada?

March 21, 2011 at 8:05 am (federal, Politics) ()

I don’t know why, but yes, I woke up at 2 or 3 this morning apparently concerned with the fact that Canada’s federal capital, Ottawa, is actually just another city in Ontario. That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

Several of our sister federal democracies have special regions for their national capitals. Right off the top of my head I can think of the United States (the District of Columbia), Australia (Australian Capital Territory), Mexico (Mexican Federal District), and Brazil (Brazilian Federal District). I know there are others (a cursory glance at Wikipedia just now confirms it). But amazingly, despite the fact that we’re one of the oldest extant federations in the world now, Canada isn’t one of them.

Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria to be the capital of the United Provinces of Canada back in 1857, and the construction of the Parliament Buildings was begun there. This wasn’t modern Canada yet; this was the union of what became Ontario and Quebec, forged in 1840. By the time we were getting around to creating the Dominion of Canada, the modern version of the country to which the various British North American colonies eventually adhered, the buildings were just about ready. Ottawa served as the UPC capital for about one year; in 1867, the British North America Act brought the Dominion of Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and a now re-separated Ontario and Quebec) into being, and Ottawa became the federal capital.

But the City of Ottawa was, and remains, a creature of the Province of Ontario. Ontario can divide it, rename it, merge it with other Ontarian municipalities (which, in fact, it did, in 2001), or even abolish it altogether, without a word of permission from any other province or the federal government. In most other countries like ours, no province or state has that kind of sway over the capital city of the nation.

The federal government has this nice little fiction going about the “National Capital Region”. This is comprised of Ottawa, in Ontario, and Gatineau, across the Ottawa River in Quebec (which is, itself, a municipal creation of the Province of Quebec, and nothing more). It has some niceties that are observed by those cities and their respective provinces, but nothing with the force of constitutionality about them. Not one square inch of territory has been ceded to federal control by either province.

It’s a tempest in a teapot, I admit. There’s no real will in the country to take land from Ontario and/or Quebec and create a separate capital district, and, realistically, no real reason to. Nevertheless I wish it had been done at the time of Confederation. It would seem natural now, instead of a chore that no one’s likely to ever lift a finger to undertake. It just strikes me as the right thing to do, technically, but it probably never will be.

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Don’t buy for me, Argentina

March 18, 2011 at 11:33 am (federal, imperialism, military, Politics, war)

I’ve just read reports that Canada’s military spending is the highest it’s been since WWII… up 54% over what we were spending at 9/11. We’re now the 13th largest military spender in the world, and the 6th largest in NATO. To put that into some kind of perspective, we’re only the 36th most populous nation on Earth, under such others as France, Britain, and even Argentina.

To put an even finer point on it, as of today, our national debt matches the highest it’s ever been, which was in 1997 before we started paying the debt down. The roughtly 1/4, 1/3 of the debt we’d retired by 2008? All gone. We’re back where we started. Some time today, our national debt will be the highest it’s ever been. $563 billion. About 35 million people. You do the math.

Now, admittedly, the latter item comes from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, as self-interested a group of well-heeled, right-wing greedheads as you’re ever going to meet. These are the kind of people who pay the Fraser Institute to publish “studies” that say things like the government of Canada could be run less expensively if we outsourced it to Muammar Gaddafi or something. So while I’m immediately on the defensive when it comes to the source of this news, at the same time, I don’t have a really solid reason to doubt its veracity. Trust the Ebenezer Scrooge Admiration Society to know how many pennies are, or aren’t, in the pig.

But why are we spending this money? Why now? We’ve been stuck in Afghanistan since October, 2001, longer than we were in the Second World War (with its previously matchless military spending). We’re still a member of military alliance whose raison d’etre disppeared twenty years ago. We’re surrounded by the ocean, border only one other country (who, let’s face it, we could hold off for about fifteen minutes militarily if push came to shove even if we spent every red cent on the military), and we have good relations with just about every other country on Earth. Even the ones with the only real capacity to endanger us, Russia and China, are friends and trading partners with no inclination to do so; in fact, it would be injurious to their own interests. For God’s sake, why, in the middle of the biggest recession since the Depression, when there’s been less real existential threat to Canada, North America, or the Western World than at any other time in my life or before, are we blowing money out our ass on the military, above and beyond what suited us when we were in the Cold War? This makes no sense at all.

Meanwhile, along with citizenship, every Canadian kid born this today also automatically inherits a tab of $16,000 drawing his/her first breath. Talk about original sin.

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I never used this blog.

March 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm (Uncategorized)

I set up Maple Moonbat years ago, and I kind of just let it sit there. The idea was that I wanted to see what a WordPress blog was like (I’m a longtime Blogger user and still am).  But you know, I have this, it’s set up… I ought to use it for something. I’ll try to figure out what the difference should be between City in the Trees and Maple Moonbat here. I’m kind of inclined to think the former should be about stuff I’m doing and this one, stuff I’m thinking. Political stuff. There’s already tons of that at CitT, but you gotta start somewhere.

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