Category Archives: Sovereign Socialist

Gong Show

We all need to take a major chill pill.

After this past week, not only would I say any kind of a referendum on whether or not Québec seeks constitutional negotiations is out of the question, I’m also highly doubtful the PQ will even manage to form a minority government. Separation is nothing more than all it has been for over a decade – talk.

It’s all just a lot of noise.

The latest polls indicate anywhere between 50 and 50 per cent of Québécois (note: and by that I mean all of us, regardless of culture, race, language etc.) would vote against a referendum pursuant to constitutional negotiations seeking greater sovereignty for the province of Québec.

We need to stop worrying about Québec independence because it’s simply not in the cards. The referendum is about whether we start negotiations – there isn’t even a guarantee the other provinces or the fed would come to the table.

Based on the outcome of this election a referendum question might be off the table for as long as the next four years (assuming, somehow, Couillard manages a majority, sticks to his federalist inclinations and a Montrealer becomes Prime Minister next fall – it’s unlikely but within the realm of possibility. Think of what that might mean for our city, with francophone federalists at the three key levels of power).

All Couillard needs to do is continue talking about the economy and what brings Québécois together, and simply not get trapped by the constitutional trap set by the Parti Québécois. If he does this and continues at the pace he’s on, he might just push the Québec Liberals from their current 37% into more comfortable territory.

Much like the now infamous Pineault-Caron family shown above, all the Quebec Liberals need to do is simply let the PQ continue talking, and they’ll reveal themselves for who they are: fundamentally, inherently racist and appealing to a myopic minority of citizens who would literally step over their own mothers to achieve this twisted vision of national self-determination.

By all means, let’s give the PQ all the air time, because they’ve turned our politics into a veritable gong show and spent much of last week embarrassing themselves. Plus que ça change… Last week was one of the few in which Québec politics was legitimately enjoyable, in my opinion. Once it became glaringly apparent the Parti Québécois has a hard enough time running an election, let alone a country, the humour of our absurd situation came to the forefront.

This guy, Jean Carrière, wants to fuck Islam.
This guy, Jean Carrière, wants to fuck Islam.

In the last week we’ve witnessed a PQ candidate get unceremoniously ejected from the party for Islamophobic (and just plain dumb) posts on his facebook page. Jean Carrière was forced out and rightfully so, but it makes you wonder about the PQ candidate vetting process. This is politics 101 – nothing offensive on your most public medium.

You’d think a guy with a head this big would know the really obvious stuff.

And then a PQ candidate came out and compared the ritual of baptism and the medical practice of circumcision to rape.

Yeah, you read that right.

Gouin-riding candidate Louise Mailloux was also busted for – get this – propagating a well-known conspiracy theory originated by the KKK that Rabbis collect a tax from goods certified as Kosher and then use those funds to support the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.

Louise Mailloux holding up a photocopied image of sheiks to prove a point about something...
Louise Mailloux holding up a photocopied image of sheiks to prove a point about something…

Worse, Ms. Mailloux has issued an apology, for hurting people’s feelings.

She has not withdrawn her statements concerning baptism or circumcision. Most importantly, she says that she ‘stands by’ her belief in the well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

And in turn, Pauline Marois stands by Ms. Mailloux.

Perhaps if any of these women had Jewish friends or acquaintances they might not be so public with their anti-Semitism.

It’s truly disheartening that some people in this province clearly aren’t concerned with multiple and very public displays of racism by a party ostensibly designed to protect a minority group from the apparently unrelenting assault of cultural assimilation.

If I could issue edicts I would demand our politics were racism free and didn’t involve propagating ideas dreamt up by hillbilly klansmen, but I suppose Ms. Mailloux feels some kind of kinship for the ‘oppressed whites’ of the American South…

And who can forget the spray-paint attack on Bernard Drainville’s PQ riding office in Longueuil?

graffiti-drainville-longueuil

Just a quick aside, Drainville’s office was tagged with the message above and swastikas were drawn over Pauline Marois’ face.

It immediately made me think of that time Morton Downey Jr. claimed he had been attacked by skinheads in a washroom at the San Francisco airport. The attack story was ultimately discovered to be a publicity stunt – the swastikas were drawn backwards, as if you were drawing them with a mirror…

In this case it’s the spelling that’s off. English speakers with an interest in protecting Judaism and Quebec politics likely would not have written “dont” in lieu of the far more common (and correct) spelling of “don’t”. Also, another word for yarmulke is kippah – with an ‘h’.

As much as some people would love a race war, I have a feeling this might actually be the work of an over-zealous PQ envelope-licker inspired by the likes of Pierre Poutine.

But I saved the best for last. The grand prix of political cognitive dissonance and selling out your base goes to the Parti Québécois by signing the reigning king of yellow journalism and Ford Brother enablement, the doyen of Québec Inc, Monsieur Pierre-Karl Péladeau.

The well-known union-buster.

Brian Mulroney’s prodigal son.

The man who owns Quebecor, Videotron, Sun News Network and the Sun Newspaper Corporation, arguably the single greatest sources of hysterical Francophobia, Anglophobia and general Islamophobia (not to mention piss poor journalism) in the entire country, is running with the party that once branded itself as a working class social grassroots movement to protect and preserve French Canadian culture from the perceived threat of Anglo-American monoculture.

A man who peddles in filth, a pimp of exploitation, a carnival barker – this is who the Parti Québécois has chosen as their economic guru. This is the man whom the PQ expects us to trust with the construction of a ‘national economy’.

So am I worried about Quebec becoming an independent country?

No.

The repercussions to the PKP announcement were swift. The major provincial unions, already siding up against the proposed secularism charter, have now indicated they won’t be supporting the PQ at all, marking a historic break between the Parti Quebecois and its traditional voter base.

What politicians consistently fail to realize – and this really is a national phenomenon – is that you can only be overtly contradictory, hypocritical, full of shit (however you want to say it) up to a certain point before people get fed up and reject a party en masse. Consider the Tories in 1993. Nine years of Mulroney’s bullshit and Canadians *destroyed* the political entity known as the Progressive Conservatives. What little remained quickly succumbed to the influence of the Reform Party, giving us the unholy amalgam of perverted Western ‘nationalism’, the oil lobby and social conservatives who hate gays and love war. Consider the Liberals under Ignatieff.

In Quebec, think Duplessis.

Reconstruction & Obstructionism – the Case for Greater Autonomy

Ville-Marie Expressway Overhead

Early one morning late last week Mayor Coderre announced that a portion of the Ville-Marie Expressway will be covered over in time for the city’s 375th anniversary and by the end of the day the idea was shot down in a terse email written by the transport minister’s press attaché.

Poof!

There it goes.

In the blink of an eye a reasonable, straightforward civil engineering and city beautification project gets shot to shit by a man who neither lives nor works here in our city.

And it serves to illustrate a point about Montreal; we’re not actually in control of much in terms of how our city is built, developed, renovated, designed etc.

Montreal can’t build a park over a highway used almost exclusively by Montrealers.

We don’t have the jurisdiction to plan and expand the Métro.

If an adjacent community, such as Montréal Est or Montreal West, wanted to join the city of Montreal, we couldn’t arrange it amongst ourselves – we actually don’t have the authority.

Same story schools and hospitals; the city can’t do anything to help the fact that the CSDM has to immediately close 82 schools due to contamination. The school board deals with the province on such matters. And the city can’t be expected to do anything about our hospitals – which remain open, which will be closed, who the buildings are sold to and how they’re repurposed. Nada. The city of Montreal has no say in any of it.

Our municipal politicians, of all stripes, suffer the consequences. All too often they are blamed directly for all the problems we have on these and other fronts. Because local politicians – those closest to the people – are impotent to effect any lasting change to the operational status quo, they become disinterested at best and corrupt at worst.

And the people, realizing that which is supposed to be the most accessible level of government is in fact nothing more than a hindrance to the political process, disengage from said process.

Disenfranchisement via political impotence.

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter who you happen to be aligned with because this city is political poison to both the current provincial and federal governments. They know they can’t win here so they sew the seeds of discord in an attempt to divide and conquer the people of this city. We have no ‘pull’ for the moment, and given the Duplessis-like tactics of both levels of government we’re going to continue being pushed around, with development dictated to us.

Unless of course we do something about it.

Let’s get back to the details that spurred this article, for a moment.

The mayor proposed a scaled-back version of a Projet Montréal plan to recover the 500 metre open trench running from the Palais des Congrès to the new CHUM superhospital, between Viger and St-Antoine.

What Coderre is proposing is more modest in scope, focusing on ‘segment 1′ as illustrated above. The covered section would be turned into a large open space. Projet Montréal even proposed naming the space after noted Québec visual artist Marcelle Ferron, who designed the stained glass windows at Champ-de-Mars station.

Best of all Mayor Coderre has put Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron in the driver’s seat. Bergeron is in fact going to delay his retirement to oversee the project.

I think this is where things began getting interesting.

The campaign wasn’t that long ago and these two men could not have been more different in their approach. They were rivals in the truest sense of the word and represented vastly different interests. And yet, after a bit of time, they seem to have come to see eye-to-eye on this specific project. Coderre recognizes Bergeron’s obvious talents and clearly respects at least one aspect of the Projet Montréal platform.

Cover a highway, build a park. What could possibly go wrong? Two political rivals cooperating to build something bigger and better than themselves.

So when the transport minister told his press handler to fire off an email to shoot down a fundamentally good idea (and I mean good for our local democracy, environment, urban quality-of-life good) I can’t help but imagine it was done to remind the mayor of his place, of the limits of his political authority. Maybe there was more to it than that.

I believe that a Quebec run by the Parti Québécois is one which is fundamentally set in opposition to the wants, interests and needs of Montreal and the people of the greater region. The PQ is looking to win a provincial majority government by ruthlessly exploiting the politics of division, ignorance, fear and intimidation. They are hoping the politics that put Rob Ford and Stephen Harper in power would work just as well here in Quebec and I believe it was a wise gamble.

We’re Canadian after all… clearly the politics of fear work here just as well as anywhere else.

Unfortunately for the people who live here and drive on our roads, anything and everything to do with the biggest and most important ones are all conveniently outside our jurisdiction.

Keep this in mind as traffic grinds to a halt with the redesign of the Turcot Interchange. It’s a provincial area of jurisdiction. Even if we had a better idea, we can doing about it. Those aren’t city streets.

Our highways and our bridges aren’t actually ‘our own’. You’d think a city of nearly two million people could take care of such things by itself – and indeed we once did.

But over time we have had responsibilities taken away from us, and when you lose those your rights aren’t far behind.

It’s not just that the city of Montreal lacks responsibility in key areas, it’s that we don’t have the right to be involved, by provincial decree.

It wasn’t always the case, we were once a little more autonomous, though only because certain political and social circles happened to once interact here.

Our fall from our former glory as a metropolis is not a language issue or a culture issue, it’s mostly a taxation and efficiency issue.

We were once in charge of our fate and now legislation exists that cripples our city’s ability to perform and succeed. Our failures are quite simply not our own – they are imposed. The people of the city of Montreal – the citizens of Montreal – must have control over all key areas of municipal governance and expected public services. We can manage our own house. We must become masters of our own domain.

The future political divide in this province is not between languages or culture or where you were born. It is between Montreal, as it is and for its own sake, in opposition to a Quebec that feels it must define its culture through legislation. Montreal would simply prefer to be left alone, we are not interested in having our culture, our identity, screwed around with.

The Parti Québécois has made it abundantly clear, Montréal is increasingly a distinct society from the hegemonic cultural identity espoused by the PQ.

When the mayor of Montreal can’t even build a park, with his chief rival fully cooperating no less, the citizens must realize that we lack local political sovereignty in our own affairs.

And this is something that must change, forever.

We can no longer afford to run a city with our hands tied behind our backs.

Sabotage

Coming haphazardly to a neighbourhood near you!
Coming haphazardly to a neighbourhood near you!

This article was originally published by Forget the Box and can be read here.

There’s really no other way to put it; Canada Post is being sabotaged. It’s politically expedient for the Tories to do so as recently announced cutbacks to door-to-door mail delivery can be spun as a government effort to modernize an ineffective old crown corporation. Lisa Raitt, the minister responsible for Canada Post, has even gone as far as telling opposition MPs critical of the announced cuts that they need to ‘get with reality’ and then sarcastically welcomed honourable members ‘to the 21st century’.

The Tories are pitching this as a sensible method to cut costs and return Canada Post to profitability. They further argue that the elimination of mail carriers won’t have any dire effects on Canada Post’s customer service and that community mailboxes are already the norm in most of the country anyways. Further still, the head of Canada Post, a Tory appointee who scrapped previous revenue-generating schemes developed by his Liberal-appointed predecessor, has referred to market research of dubious quality to back up the decision.

It’s ironic.

The social-media surveys used to justify the government’s position excluded precisely the people who would interact with mail couriers the most. The data’s flawed – Canada Post’s express parcel delivery service is doing just fine. Moreover, the argument that community mailboxes are already the norm is heavily biased towards those living in small communities and rural areas. Of course door-to-door delivery isn’t practical when neighbours live more than a kilometre away from one another. Cities are a different story altogether. Mail couriers play an important social role in large urban areas. It’s not just outreach to seniors and shut-ins; home mail delivery puts a mass of proud government employees on our city streets throughout the day. Eyes and ears walking past your home while you’re off at work. Call it a kind of social security.

We should question the need of our government agencies and corporations from time to time, and the Conservative argument is an enticing one, no doubt, because it has the appearance of modernity, of cost-effective progress. I would argue it’s the Tory approach to nation-building, but rather than giving us something to work towards, the Harper administration is instead telling us what we no longer need or what appears to be impractical. The promise is paradoxical – economic growth by a thousand social cuts.

But here’s the problem. Cuts don’t lead to growth. Reducing government services serves no one better than before. And waste is almost exclusively gathered at the top, rather than the bottom, of these organizations. It’s not the thousands of unionized jobs that need to be eliminated, it’s corporate-level severance packages and executive compensation schemes for the all-too-often unimaginative and incompetent people chosen by equally unimaginative and incompetent government officials to run our government revenue generators and essential services.

The post office is an essential service, even if less mail is being delivered. If less mail is being delivered then perhaps we don’t need quite as many mail couriers, or perhaps they could work less, but eliminating all home mail delivery (and thousands of jobs) without any plan in place to replace them is so unbelievably careless and unnecessary it leads to believe, sincerely, that we are witnessing an act of sabotage.

Canada Post isn’t failing, it’s being set up to fail.

The purported reason for the cuts, that the post office it needs to be ‘returned’ to profitability is a bit of a stretch. It recorded 16 years of profitability before recording one of loss in 2011. The service could afford to cut overhead costs, but could further stand to develop new revenue generation streams. Again, it’s ironic that Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra once stated that his plan was to develop e-commerce solutions for small business as a new Canada Post business venture, yet scrapped a plan to re-develop postal banking in Canada. Many nations (including the UK, France, Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Korea etc.) have postal banking services which can serve to generate revenue for the postal system, in addition to providing a kind of ‘no-frills’ banking service for people who, for whatever reason, don’t or can’t use private banking services. Crucially, postal banking has been used to promote savings among the poor. Instituting a postal banking scheme in this country would be immensely beneficial not only because it would enshrine access to ‘cheap’ banking as an essential service, but would likely further serve to put predatory pay-day loan operations out of business. Who knows, maybe it would serve to get the banks to lower their fees too. A little bit of competition is good for the economy, especially our banking sector.

There are other ways to make the post office more useful to the public and avert the potentially destabilizing effects of eliminating home delivery in urban areas. Why not partner with Service Canada to include passport services at post offices? Why not develop a scheme to share the costs of home delivery with the cities that need the service the most? If one province wants home delivery in its cities and another doesn’t, shouldn’t they each get a chance to negotiate with Canada Post one-on-one?

Unfortunately this isn’t part of the Tory strategy because it’s not congruent with their overall political beliefs. The Conservative Part of Canada and its forebears have followed a strict program designed to eliminate or transfer responsibility of the nation’s essential services, whether via a series of fatal cuts or through privatization. In their opinion government is completely incapable of running a for-profit company and that such crown corporations only serve to undermine the government’s efforts to eliminate debt and deficit. Thus, since the first efforts in this respect by the Mulroney administration, we’ve lost our national airline, our state oil company, our national aircraft manufacturers, our national railway, our uranium mines and have hacked away mercilessly at just about every other service provided by the federal government – including our military, despite all the rhetoric. In almost all cases taxpayer-funded state assets were sold off at a loss with no real return on investment. Worse still, we lost all the intellectual capital that went with it.

Today many of these former crowns continue to exist as private entities, but their current success would never have come about if it weren’t for the incredible investment made by so many Liberal governments of the last century. Though these firms continue to contribute to the Canadian economy, profits aren’t returned to the state. We’ve sold off the former assets of our state oil firm to foreign state oil firms, Canadian National Railways is now officially known as CN for marketing purposes in the United States and Air Canada has a near total monopoly on air travel in Canada. Privatization is always spun as being beneficial to the taxpayer, but winds up hitting the consumer especially hard. It astounds me how often Tories don’t realize taxpayers and consumers are all the same people.

Gutting the state’s ability to sustain essential services and operate an economic foundation of crown corporations has been Tory policy for a very long time, and it contrasts strongly with the economic theories and models put forth by both the NDP and federal Liberals for most of our post-Second World War history. The effects of this policy have only ever been negative. Vital jobs are lost, and the wealth generated by unionized pension plans disappears entirely as it’s not in the private sector’s interest (or ability) to provide anything as competitive in the long-term. Our oil industry isn’t as well regulated, accidents happen and profits go anywhere but here.

In many ways the greatest damage has already been done.

Perhaps this might explain the lack of public outrage at the proposed cuts. We’ve already lost so much of what we invested in, who cares about the post office? We’ve been conditioned into believing the government is incapable of successfully running a business, and yet our economy was considerably stronger, our dollar more valuable and we were far more politically sovereign when our government not only ran multiple, massive crown corporations, but planned and regulated the national economy.

On a closing note, I mentioned earlier that Canada Post provides an unintended social service in that letter carriers provide a kind of a ‘lifeline’ to people living in urban areas who may, for one reason or another, have limited access to the outside world. Letter carriers are responsible government employees with access to trucks and cell phones and they spend most of their time walking around quiet residential areas while residents are off at work. Their presence alone is enough to deter a thief from committing a ‘B&E’. If someone’s calling for help they’ll likely hear it. If they see smoke, they can put in an emergency call and prevent a whole house (or block) from going up in flames. And though the data isn’t available, I wonder how many lost dogs and cats (and even children) have been found by postal workers simply because they happen to be walking the streets of our neighbourhoods. It’s the kind of responsibility, of going the extra mile, that we associate with government employees. The private sector doesn’t have the same social responsibility. Consider the Lac Mégantic disaster (or any other recent derailment or pipeline explosion). There’s a reason this didn’t happen nearly as often (or as severely) back when pipelines and the railway was a strategic federal government interest. The Fed paid for inspections, the Fed organized and operated a better delivery system. Its employees were paid to make absolutely sure there would be no fuck-ups and we got precisely what we paid for. When privatized, the first cuts are always to safety standards and inspections. And when an accident happens, it is the taxpayers who must attend to the bill.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, and the Tories would like you to believe it helps the economy. The announced cuts to Canada Post are unnecessary and overkill considering the nature of the problem and are quite simply a transparent effort to eliminate public sector unions in a misguided sense of ‘getting even’ with people who generally don’t vote Tory. It’s sad, petty and juvenile, and for those reasons an excellent example of the character of our nation’s befuddled government.

You get what you pay for…

Montreal’s Public School Crisis

École Baril in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, one of the CSDM's many condemned schools.
École Baril in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, one of the CSDM’s many condemned schools.

This is really disturbing.

A recent Radio-Canada report has shed some light on what might be the greatest case of long-term negligence in our province’s history of neglecting civic infrastructure.

82 public schools administered by the Commission Scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) are in advanced states of decay and degeneration, such that repairs at this time would indeed cost more than simply demolishing the schools outright and building anew.

Of the 226 schools run by the CSDM, another 134 are listed as in a ‘worrisome’ state while only 10 are deemed to have met minimum standards for air quality and general upkeep.

These schools suffer from a wide variety of problems. Mould contamination is the major issue as long-term exposure to mould can cause a host of medical problems. Then there’s asbestos which was used in a lot of public construction as a fire retardant back in the 1950s and 1960s. If I recall correctly there was a big push several years ago to try and clean it all up, but given this province’s predilection for half-assing infrastructure repair, who knows how well that job was done or how effective it was. Then there’s a host of other problems – defective masonry, busted pipes, leaking roofs etc. etc.

The official line is that ‘previous governments’ didn’t set aside enough money for school maintenance and that’s why they’re in as a poor shape as they currently are. This is a convenient enough argument since it’s what we already believe to have caused all the problems related to our bridges and highway overpasses etc. It’s not entirely true, but who cares if it works politically.

Besides which, assigning blame won’t fix the more immediate problem.

The head of the CSDM has indicated that, in addition to the $50 million annual maintenance budget, they got $43 million more this past year specifically to improve air quality in sixteen schools, but also stated that this amount isn’t sufficient and that she’ll ask the current government to double the CSDM’s maintenance budget to $100 million annually. The CSDM apparently has a maintenance budget deficit of approximately $1.5 billion.

Consider that the cost of building an arguably undersized school in Nun’s Island has been pegged at $10.5 million – building 82 additional schools (or however many more is required to handle a growing student population) could easily cost somewhere in the area of a billion dollars.

Now where exactly is that money going to come from?

As a society we feel ourselves over-taxed as is, and we seem to be getting less and less value for our tax dollars, as graft, corruption and broad inefficiencies have handicapped government’s ability to maintain an all too often purposely vague minimum standard for diverse services. Over a century ago populist reform movements established public education as a means towards social improvement. Over time, public education evolved to remove social and class barriers by establishing a more level playing field wherein the general population gained access to a quality education that could in turn provide access to good employment. But more recently political movements have developed that urge governments to cut taxes, often blindly, and this in turn has lead to less money to support the public education system.

Today, some ask whether it’s worth the cost at all, since it seems to be so problematic.

Of course, it’s illogical to expect a broad civic initiative to thrive if it’s poorly financed and ill-maintained from the outset.

The more we cut spending on education, healthcare, social services etc, the more they all suffer.

And remember, the CSDM is the school board with the highest drop out rate on-island. Is it any wonder? Their schools are in piss-poor shape, the board is obviously underfunded and the schools are over-crowded. In some cases, children can’t attend the schools purposely built to serve their own neighbourhood, and instead have to be bussed across town. And all this adds up to a far greater strain on what limited financial resources we have, delivering less and less because we’re paying for poor management, lack of vision, and a culture of civic infrastructural and institutional defunding, popularized by so-called ‘fiscal conservatives’.

Poorer schools and higher drop-out rates in turn means more crime, less social cohesion and a potentially larger permanent underclass of marginally employed people living on the fringes of society.

In other words – everybody loses.

But as we all know it isn’t exactly politically expedient to demand higher taxation, and the PQ sure as shit isn’t about to propose raising taxes, even if it were for something as noble (and you’d think politically worthwhile) as building a hundred new schools in the Montreal region alone.

Perhaps we could partially solve the growing public education crisis in Montreal by seeking to streamline operations and find some ways of making public education a bit more efficient.

For example, the last time I counted there are seven school boards operating on the island of Montreal and in Laval. Seven. Seven school boards serving a combined population of roughly 2.5 million people.

New York City has a single Department of Education for its 1.1 million students.

Why on Earth do we need seven separate school boards for a student population of less than 300,000 in our city?

I understand where it comes from – Montreal’s public schools were once divided along religious and linguistic lines. Today they’re divided along linguistic and somewhat arbitrary geographic lines. French schools are filled to the brim while English schools close due to lack of students. And no one proposes the space gets shared because the respective boards and their unions are all twisted up in provincial politics.

And as always it’s the children and the people who suffer.

It’s insane that an English school be closed in a neighbourhood where the French school is over-crowded.

The obvious local solution to our growing public education crisis is that the city be granted a degree of control in the matter. It would be advantageous to operate a single local school board simply because it would allow a complete and thorough rationalization of space usage, leading in turn to a better distribution of students generally speaking throughout the island. Moreover, it would permit either a redistribution of linguistic education services to adjust to demographic changes in the last fifty years, or the possibility of integrating French and English language services into a single school should a situation warrant such a development.

Some hardcore Québec nationalists have in the past argued against integration of French and English services into a single building out of fear that ‘English would rule on the playground’ and thus the primacy of the French language would be threatened. I can tell you that’s bunk. Before the changeover to linguistic school boards my anglo-protestant high school rented space on its first floor to a franco-catholic primary school. We were kept separate and that was that – the only interaction was an inter-board ‘big brother/big sister’ type program wherein high school students would practice their French and help tutor the elementary kids downstairs. Hardly assimilation.

Not only that, but streamlining janitorial, food and landscaping services, in addition to book and supply orders, would definitely save us a considerable sum of money. There’s no need for this to be worked out by so many different school boards operating in and immediately around a single city. It’s wasteful, moronic.

Consider this as well – a single board could provide for a larger unified pension plan. We should look upon the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan as our inspiration and seek to get all local teachers into the same retirement pool. The more contributors to a single pool, the stronger the pool gets.

The current system seems to be hopelessly outdated, the residue of an era in which Two Solitudes was a social convention. Are we not more evolved today? The status quo handicaps us, and strength comes through unity.

By maintaining a needlessly divisive system as we currently have it, all the pieces are doomed to fail. We should have learned this lesson long ago – segregation in public schooling doesn’t work.

De-segregating Montreal’s public schools may be the only way to prevent major service disruptions at the CSDM.

This is Getting Ridiculous – Israel is no Friend of Canada

Hat’s off to the Beaverton for nailing it with this headline:

“Israeli Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns after long visit in Canada”

…and to the Gazette’s Terry Mosher, for much the same reason (*Note the comments and replace the Star of David over the PM’s mouth with a Fleur-de-lys over Pauline Marois’ mouth. Would that be as shocking? Would that be Quebec bashing? How would these illustrious minds of the modern age have responded to such a caricature I ask you? With equal apparent offence? I should think not…)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, the Prime Minister and avowed ‘friend of Israel’ has been touring the country like an invited rock star, along with an entourage including businesspeople, MPs, cabinet ministers and religious leaders, a group of about 200 in total. The entire trip is being paid for out of Canada’s general taxation revenue, meaning poor saps like you or I are subsidizing this ‘love fest’ in the Levant.

Now you’re probably thinking, well, this is what Prime Ministers do, they go to other countries and sign lucrative trade deals, don’t they?

But there’s no trade deal being signed, and we don’t buy much from the Israelis in the first place because they don’t build much of anything we could use.

So why is Harper dropping a significant amount of coin for a ‘Tories-only’ trip to the Holy Land?

Is it to improve relations between the two countries? Hardly. Only Tories were allowed on this trip, no representatives from any other major political party in Canada was allowed to go. And as to the private business types who were allowed, well, they’re all major Tory financial supporters. If anything this entire affair seems to be little more than a carefully crafted media circus dreamed up in advance of the 2015 election.

Don’t believe me? Then watch the above video, wherein you can hear Tory MP Mark Adler whining like a little child that he won’t get an opportunity to get in on a photo-op near Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, something the MP describes as the ‘million dollar shot’.

This is the kind of trash we’ve elected to parliament. What an unfortunate joke.

It’s painfully clear the Tories embarked on this trip for purely political purposes. Fellating the State of Israel is good for the Tories not only because it secures the apparently strategic old-fogey Conservative Zionist vote, but further seeks to remind the Canadian people that Harper’s talking points re: Israel sound to be just about the same as the American President’s or the British Prime Minister’s. And this in turn makes Harper look like he’s a ‘player’ on the world stage.

Mulroney would do the same thing back in the 1980s, ensuring that at every big NATO meeting he had his mug photographed next to Reagan and Thatcher almost as if he needed to prove he was one of the big boys of his day.

Politics is ultimately all about image; some things never change.

Then there’s Israel.

I understand why Tories blindly support Israel. It’s not because all Tories are committed Zionists, far from it (in fact, the old Reform Party, from which the current incarnation of the Tories emerged, used to have a bit of problem signing up Holocaust deniers and other assorted racist scum to run in federal elections, but hey, who the fuck remembers what happened twenty years ago?); Tories support Israel because the Yanks and the Brits do, and Tories have never had the confidence to pursue a Canadian-made foreign policy.

Nay, Tories have never had the balls to try and develop our own foreign policy. The Tory mentality is that whatever is locally produced must be deficient. This is why Deifenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow, why Mulroney sold us out on free trade – Tories live to cut the legs out from under you and the whole of this nation. For the Conservative Party of Canada, this country only exists as long as other, bigger, more powerful countries count us as one of their friends.

Given this spectacle, it seems as though the PM earnestly believes Israel is indeed bigger and powerful than us.

And this in turn leads to Harper bromancing Benjamin Netanyahu. Why on Earth would Canada care what Israel thinks of us? Why do we need to court Israeli public opinion? Israel isn’t even in the same league as a nation as great as Canada, so why do we give a flying Philadelphia fuck what their current government thinks of us? Why does Stephen Harper need to make a big show of how Israel is our ally?

As friends go, Israel is a really shitty friend.

For one it’s highly likely, though unconfirmed, that Mossad assassinated one of this country’s greatest engineers and ballistics experts in 1990. Yes, Gerald Bull was a maverick who worked for some of the worst military dictatorships of the late 20th century and certainly shouldn’t have been developing super weapons like Project Babylon or improved SCUD missiles for the Iraqis (who were, to one degree or another, the West’s ally in the Gulf and bulwark against the theocracy which had overtaken Iran throughout the 1980s. It should also be pointed out that Israel sold Iran weapons during the Iran-Iraq War). But to kill a man who had done nothing to threaten Israel because some people thought he might? What the hell happened to the rule of law? Either way, if Mossad was concerned about Dr. Bull’s activities, they should have worked out an agreement with us first – he could’ve been designing artillery pieces for our own military from the comfort of the Kingston pen. Israel had no right to assassinate him and have never officially apologized for their actions.

Then there’s the issue of Mossad agents using Canadian passports to freely travel the world assassinating other people the State of Israel finds disagreeable. Yes, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda apparently do the exact same thing – but isn’t this the point? I expect our enemies would do such things, but I’d also expect our friends to respect us more than that. Let’s not forget – a Canadian passport has always been a symbol of our nation’s international respect. Mossad’s use of our passports to assist in their efforts to go kill people doesn’t do us any good at all – it just means that the Canadian passport is worth scrutinizing even closer and is no longer the international symbol of openness and humanism it once was.

As Toronto Star columnist Tony Burman wrote recently, it’s time for Canada and Israel to stop living in a fantasy land. Israel’s lack of self-awareness, self-criticality and near total disregard of how the state appears from an outsider’s perspective would make the Parti Québécois blush. In fact, I’ve often been surprised Likud and the Parti Québécois aren’t closer, what with the common hatred of local minority groups and the insistence that only the majority’s religion is inoffensive, and that international laws and conventions don’t apply blah blah blah.

Peas in a pod…

This buddy-buddy relationship with Israel truly does nothing for us, though it does remind relatively intelligent people elsewhere that, when we’re governed by the more conservative elements of our society, we suddenly become very myopic in terms of foreign policy.

How can a nation such as Canada support one theocracy with secret, unmonitored, uncontrolled nuclear weapons (Israel) while supporting sanctions and eliminating diplomatic relations with another theocracy for their unconfirmed, apparent desire to produce a nuclear weapon (Iran)?

Shouldn’t the message be the same for all theocracies with nukes (i.e. get rid of your nukes, stand-down your military and then we can talk)? What difference does it make if Israel is a quasi-representative democracy, they have nuclear weapons and their deterrence strategy is to launch simultaneous nuclear strikes on any and all enemies if ‘overwhelmed’ by outside aggression, something which they came very close to doing during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Samson Option could include the use of as many as 400 nuclear weapons, many of which are of the thermonuclear variety with a one-megaton yield (fifty times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). They can be launched by ballistic missiles with an 11,000 kilometre range, from cruise-missile armed submarines, from jet fighters or even delivered via suitcases.

The very existence of Israel’s massive nuclear stockpile is in itself a destabilizing factor in the entirety of the Middle East. The way we turn a blind eye towards Israel’s countless foreign invasions (Suez Canal, 1956; all of its neighbours, 1967, all of its neighbours for a second time in 1973, Lebanon in 1982, Lebanon again in 2006, and all this aside from regular military action on Palestinian territory), and the intolerance and racism of the Likud Party and it’s allies is astonishing. What does this say about our own government?

For a truly disturbing mini-doc on contemporary anti-African racism in Israel, see the video posted below.

Harper wasted an opportunity to excoriate the current Israeli government for its human rights abuses, weapons of mass destruction and the not-so-subtle anti-African sentiment that has resulted in more than one instance of sitting members of the Knesset demanding African immigrants be rounded up and put in concentration camps; a law recently passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party will see undocumented African immigrants held for up to a year without trial. Instead of criticizing these laws, Harper said that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism.

I should remind the Prime Minister, and anyone else dumb enough to buy that nonsense, that these are two very different things, but neither apply to this article nor any of a torrent of articles recently published about this trip or about Israel broadly speaking. Harper is so loathe to criticize Israel the Tories had the Department of National Defence quietly removed any online traces of a report that a Canadian peacekeeper on a UN deployment was killed by an Israeli artillery strike in 2006. What’s particularly damning is that the IDF was either obscenely careless or bombed the UN outpost deliberately, as it was clearly marked on maps and familiar to IDF personnel operating in the region.

What’s particularly mortifying is that the Prime Minister has confused hatred of a religious group and hatred of nation, but has also posited hatred of a nation/religious group as what underlies criticism of Israel and it’s policies.

Again, I can’t help but draw the parallel to Québec. Criticize the PQ or the charter of values? That’s Quebec-bashing. Criticize the PLQ, CAQ, QS, ON etc. and that’s just politics.

Why is Stephen Harper telling me criticizing Israel’s current government is equal to hating Jews? Is he as dumb as those who endorse him, like world-class idiot Sarah Palin?

It isn’t and never was. Nor is criticizing the PQ and attack on all Québécois. Nor is criticizing the origins of the First World War an attack on any of the soldiers who fought in it.

But this is modern politics, and as long as people would rather react first and think second, Stephen Harper can make statements like this, and embark on taxpayer-financed trips such as this, without any repercussions. Similarly, Rob Ford can smoke crack right back into the mayor’s office and Pauline Marois may very well win a majority government by institutionalizing racism.

Disturbing, repugnant, ridiculous. But back to the issue at hand…

What kind of friend is Israel? And why must we support them at their worst? It’s obscene that the Prime Minister can score political points in Canada by sycophantically and uncritically praising the current conservative Israeli government, and by extension support the vilest elements of contemporary Israeli society who conveniently ignore the lessons of the Holocaust and marginalize minorities in their own apparently liberal democratic nation. That members of Likud would use the same rhetoric in attacking Arabs or Africans today as fascists used against Jews throughout Europe and North America in the early 20th century is appalling to say the very least

Stephen Harper does not speak for Canada. Any pretence he might have to this effect should come to an end well before the next regularly scheduled election. The Conservative Party of Canada is leading this nation down a road I’m quite uncomfortable with, and this campaign stop in the ‘Holy Land’ is just another fantastic reminder why the Tories are wholly unfit to govern.