Sunday, 30 November 2008

Prorogation – Government Wants A Do Over

Special Sunday Fifth Column

At first I thought all this talk about prorogation was a simple misunderstanding of terms and that people were talking about the government recessing the House until after Christmas, but now I am not sure.

A prorogation would mean the end of the session before it even started. The Economic and Fiscal Statement would die on the Order Paper and there would be a new Throne Speech when Parliament resumes.

It would be as if the Tories admitted they screwed things up so bad they needed a do over. It might be a good thing but I cannot see them admitting that.

Anyway, it is too late for a do over. Bring on the Progressive Coalition !

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Conservatives Running Scared, Confused or What

Special Saturday Fifth Column

With a confidence vote scheduled for Monday and the opposition parties scrambling to put together a coalition, the best thing Stephen Harper can come up with as a response is to give them more time to get their act together.

Indeed, it is too late to send all the Tories to their rooms to write out lines, "We did not get a majority, we should not try to govern as if we had a majority", "We did not get a majority, we should not try to govern as if we had a majority","We did not get a majority, we should not try to govern as if we had a majority", ... until it sinks in.

Baring some Tory-like incompetence on the part of the opposition parties there is little that can be done now to stop the inevitable.

While my preference is for a progressive coalition if I was to give Stephen Harper any advice on how to prevent the inevitable it would be to propose a grand coalition of all parties to deal with the economic situation, a national unity government of sorts. Of course that would require the Tories to accept that they do not have the god given right to govern as if they have a majority, while they have neither a majority of seats nor a majority of votes.

Bring on the Progressive Coalition !

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Canadians Deserve The Government They Voted For

The Conservatives clearly do not have the confidence of the majority of the Members of the House of Commons. The Canadian people deserve the government they voted for and there is no constitutional reason for them not to have it. Now is the time !

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

I Hate Hate But I Love Freedom of Speech

This is the challenge facing many Canadians. It involves getting our priorities right. But it is not as difficult a challenge as it seems. Once one realizes that the best way to fight hate is with free speech the choice becomes obvious.

Freedom of thought is the freedom to be who you are, and freedom of thought is meaningless if you cannot express your thoughts, Freedom of expression is the freedom to be yourself. And if you are a bigot or a racist, all the better that others know it. Hate is most effective and at its evilest when it is underground.

This issue was recently addressed by University of Windsor professor Richard Moon in his report on Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The CBC reports:

"My principal recommendation, in the end, has been for the repeal of Section 13," Moon told CBC News on Monday. "That does not mean that we no longer have hate speech regulation. What it means is that the Criminal Code of Canada, which has a ban on the wilful promotion of hatred, would be the recourse."

In his report, which was made public Monday, Moon also suggests that the application of the Criminal Code provision should also be limited. He says it should only be applied in cases where the speech "explicitly or implicitly threatens, justifies or advocates violence against the members of an identifiable group."
The report, indeed, recommends that only “speech” that advocates harm would be illegal and it would have to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a court of law.

This is a Canadian compromise that may not go as far as United States First Amendment Rights but balances the rights of those who want to exercise their free speech with the rights of those that may be harmed by it.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Reid on Saul on Riel on Canada

Sometimes somebody else says it better than you ever could. This is one of those times.

From: “A perfectly incompatible country” by Jennifer Reid, Ottawa Citizen, November 22, 2008

John Ralston Saul suggests in his recent book, A Fair Country, that Canada is a Métis state. I like this argument, though it differs from mine. Where Mr. Saul and I diverge is in our view of what it means to be a country founded on cultural hybridity. He finds a distinct trajectory in Canadian history linking contemporary political values, such as cultural co-operation, with aboriginal precursors. I, on the other hand, find within our Riel myths an ongoing story about collective identity grounded in the destructive polarities that have too often made cultural co-operation impossible.

It may well be our self-consciousness about these incompatibilities that has kept us together. We know that national unity and cultural homogeneity (the supposed benchmarks of the modern nation-state) are impossible. It's that self-consciousness that makes us distinctive and, perhaps, gives us a reason to stay together.

There is something radical about Canada, about the way in which multiple ethnicities, regionalisms, and self-designated nations have been formally integrated into a single geopolitical structure that has managed to survive. It is a community that has been able, thus far, to withstand the basic dichotomies of ethnicity, religion, region, and language that are the foundation -- and the stumbling block -- of all modern western states.

Riel, both the man and the myth, speaks to this radical character. He shows us what makes us distinct in this culturally tangled world of the 21st century.

Friday, 21 November 2008

The Most Hated Politician in Ontario

Enter Bob Rae, the most hated politician in Ontario, at least according to the massive corporate media campaign launched against him. Gaining power just as Ontario was entering a recession, he still managed to lead the most progressive government in Ontario's history, overhauling the provinces environmental, municipal planning and development, and labour laws.

And he ran deficit in order to provide economic stimulus and provide assistance to those in need. But he also asked the higher paid workers in the broader public sector to share the load via the social contract, exempting lower paid workers from it's application. This was the most controversial act of his government.

Since his election, and particularly prior to the next election, the establishment and the corporate media ran the most extensive propaganda campaign ever seen in the province. Added to this was a backlash from organized labour over the social contract and a lack of support from traditional NDP supporters in the “movements”, who perhaps felt the Rae government wasn't radical enough for not bringing on the revolution in it's first term.

This led to the most regressive government in Ontario history, that wiped out all of the Rae government's reforms and turned Ontario into a harsher meaner society.

Eventually Bob Rae left the New Democrats and joined the Liberals, but only after they abandoned him.

As a New Democratic Party supporter I am supposed to hate Bob Rae for that, and I am supposed to cheer for the candidate least qualified to lead the Liberals. However, as an independent blogger, I have to say that I believe Bob Rae is the best Liberal Party leadership candidate, for the Liberals and for Canada. And to his credit, Rae does not run away from his record as Premier but embraces it as part of the experience gained that will help him deal with the current economic situation. No one can argue with Rae's intellectual abilities, political experience and leadership qualities.

But most of all I support Bob Rae for the Liberal leadership because I believe he will not be afraid to move the Liberal Party to the left. I believe that will be good for the country and even good for the New Democrats. Conventional wisdom has it that a left leaning Liberal Party is bad for the NDP because it can draw away soft support from the NDP. However what it really does is push the NDP to distinguish itself from the Liberals by moving further left and promoting more progressive policies.

The federal NDP has accomplished a lot in opposition, especially when holding the balance of power with a Liberal minority government. The time is ripe for that scenario after the next election.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Lest We Forget - The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion



On this Remembrance Day let us remember Canada's forgotten heroes , the first Canadians to fight against fascism, the veterans of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.

The Canadians who died in the Spanish Civil War are not included in the Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower and their sacrifice is not commemorated on federal war memorials or in Remembrance Day services. Those who survived the war are not entitled to veterans' benefits. Although the soldiers and the war is largely forgotten, a monument to the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion can be found in Victoria, British Columbia. A national monument to the Mac-Pap veterans was erected in Ottawa in 2001. It includes the names of the 1,546 Canadian volunteers who served in Spain. This number includes all those who served in the Mac-Pap battalion, the medical, communications, transportation and translation corps, or in other brigades.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Fifth Column Has Been Offline

My computer has been in the shop for the last week so you have been spared my comments on the United States Election. The Fifth Column hopes to be back to normal next week.