Tag Archives: Canadian politics

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.

Question Traditional Thinking

Pierre-Karl Péladeau with the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto Fatass McCrackington III
Pierre-Karl Péladeau with the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto Fatass McCrackington III

Here are some basic questions all Québécois (Anglos and Allos included) need to ask themselves prior to voting in this year’s provincial election:

1. Why does Québec need to become an independent country?

2. Is there any actual empirical evidence either the French language or French culture of our province and/or country is in any way threatened?

3. Given that there is no official effort to assimilate Francophones in this country, why are separatist parties so concerned with the spectre of assimilation?

4. How would ten million ethnic French Canadians, almost all of whom speak and work in French on a daily basis, lose their language and/or cultural identity anyways? (without some kind of external compelling force)

5. Are Québécois specifically and French Canadians in general incapable of preserving and promoting the use of French on an individual basis? Why does the state need to be involved?

6. If we’re to have yet another referendum, what will it be on? Independence? Sovereignty? Sovereignty-Association? Another round of constitutional negotiations? Why isn’t this clear?

7. Is it right to destroy one country in order to build another?

8. When was the last time an ethno-nationalist movement created an ideal society anyways?

9. Is Québec a colony of the British Empire? Are we a colony of Canada? And if we’re not a colony, why do we need to be ‘free’? If we are held in bondage, who holds us down? And can any of this be verified, proven?

10. Are we not already free, given the protections, rights and responsibilities afforded by our national constitution and charter?

11. René Lévesque did not sign the constitution document; does this mean he spoke for all Québécois at the time? Does he continue to speak for us today? Have we, alone, been administered by the British North America Act since 1982? Are we not protected by both it and the charter regardless?

12. How can we continue to justify spending $25 million per year on the OQLF when the only good thing to come out of the organization was a report that stated, unequivocally, that French is not threatened and that Bill 101 doesn’t need beefing up?

13. If Québec were to become an independent country, how would it justify its actions to the international community? What is the basis for our desire to become independent? Is it based on 2014 conditions, or based on a laundry list of real and imagined aggressions dating back to the mid-18th century?

14. How can a political movement designed to protect minority rights (the PQ, as it was originally conceived) turn around and infringe upon minority rights (the PQ, today) and claim any kind of political legitimacy? Bill 60 is institutionalized racism: it specifically singles-out religious minorities working in the public sector and demands they choose between their jobs or wearing religious garments or symbols.

15. We speak often of perceived Francophobia and Québec-bashing on the part of the Anglophone media, yet the single largest source of anti-Québec sentiment in Canadian English-language media is arguably the Sun News Network and the associated Sun newspaper chain, both of which are owned by Pierre-Karl Péladeau, a PQ ‘all-star’ candidate who also happens to own Quebecor, the largest media conglomerate in the province. Given this concentration of power, money and media in the hands of a single political party, should we be so readily accepting of their negative portrayal of competing media? Is this not an immense conflict of public interest?

Vince Li and the Politics of Fear

I always wondered about this photo - did Greyhound send another bus or are these people sitting in a crime scene?
I always wondered about this photo – did Greyhound send another bus or are these people sitting in a crime scene?

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

Toronto-based criminal lawyer David Butt makes a profoundly solid argument, in a way one might expect from a seasoned legal expert, for why Vince Li deserves our compassion (and more importantly, why the judicial system isn’t broken), and that can be read here.

And keep this in mind too: since the story broke that Vince Li would be granted an unsupervised half-hour walk outside the grounds of the psychiatric hospital where he is currently incarcerated, former public safety minister Vic Toews (the everyone on the Internet is a child-pornographer until proven innocent guy) has been named to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench – the supreme court of the province. It’s no secret that Stephen Harper would like to appoint him to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he might really do some damage. Toews is the kind of legal troglodyte who believes, like nearly all Tories, that the only solution to crime is to lock-up all criminals in Dickensian prisons and hope to high heaven they all shiv each other to death. Rehabilitation is as foreign a concept to Vic Toews as sound economic planning is to the Parti Québécois.

Toews, like shrill Tory cheerleader Shelley Glover (who, in her role as Heritage Minister, recently sounded the alarm that the Manitoba Review Board made a mistake) are precisely the kinds of people who should have absolutely nothing to do with criminal justice. Yes, Mr. Toews was once a Crown Attorney. Yes, Ms. Glover was a police officer for nearly twenty years.

That should make you cringe, not trust their judgement. I can only hope that they were more rational, reasonable individuals prior to joining the Tories and losing all sense of reality.

As politicians they have proven themselves hysterical and myopic in terms of how they address the people’s concerns as it pertains to crime. Insinuating anyone who doesn’t think the government should have the right to request search history information without a warrant is ‘siding with child pornographers’ is perhaps one of the most contemptible statements in our nation’s political history and demonstrates Mr. Toews has little to no interest in preserving our fundamental legal rights as Canadians.

Are we not innocent until proven guilty?

For her part, Ms. Glover decided to promote the public’s ignorance of case reviews and legal ‘checks and balances’ by going on a public disinformation campaign to disparage the hard work of all the people involved in the Li case and make it seem as though the people of Selkirk Manitoba now have to contend with a bloodthirsty psycho-killer prowling their streets. You’d think a cabinet minister would have the sense not to add fuel to the fire, but no – Ms. Glover demonstrated exceptionally poor judgement by questioning a review process and rehabilitation regimen that has proven itself – conclusively – successful.

Makes my blood boil.

Anyways – here’s my peace:

Given the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the debate on Vince Li specifically and the issue of Not Criminally Responsible murderers (and what to do with them) more broadly, I feel it is necessary to preface this article with a statement of both heartfelt sincerity and incredulity. I shouldn’t have to say this, but advocating for the sensible rehabilitation of criminals – both insane and otherwise, deference to expert authority and common sense thinking is not the same thing as advocating for a murderer over the rights of the victim and his family.

Vince Li is being granted the right to go on an unsupervised half hour walk outside the grounds of his psychiatric hospital and a number of politicians, notably heritage minister and Manitoba MP Shelley Glover, have decided to feed the public’s fear of psycho killers by announcing their belief that this constitutes an egregious threat to public security. Common sense says otherwise, but ‘smart’ politics says it’s always best for a politician to stoke the public’s misplaced concern and present themselves as both community protector and advocate for ‘real justice’. At a press conference to announce federal stimulus spending for the city’s 375th anniversary, the heritage minister and former police officer stated, emphatically, that her government will pass legislation that would incarcerate Vince Li and people like him for the rest of their natural lives. As one might expect, she presented her argument almost as a kind of vengeance for Tim Mclean and his family, whom she further emphatically sympathized with.

I too have nothing but sympathy for the family of Tim McLean. I’m willing to bet what happened to him, what Vince Li did to him, was perhaps the single worst thing to ever happen to a human being on Canadian soil. It sickens me. I feel awful; for Tim’s family and for everyone on that bus that tragic night.

But therein lies the crux of the matter. This is a tragedy. Vince Li did not murder Tim McLean per se. Vince Li was in a deep psychotic state and completely disconnected from reality. He may have been like this for days, perhaps even weeks prior. Criminal psychiatrists concluded that he acknowledges he killed Tim McLean, but – and this is crucial – that he was unable to form the necessary mens rea. In essence, court experts determined he is not criminally responsible because he lacks a guilty mind, and in common law establishing the case of a guilty mind is fundamental in a murder case.

A traditional first or second degree murder charge would be impossible to prosecute because Vince Li believed he was commanded by god to kill an assassin who planned to kill him. In Mr. Li’s convoluted, sick mind he believed he had been chosen by his creator to save humanity from an imminent alien invasion. He had been hearing ‘the voice of god’ for four years prior to the killing of Tim McLean.

The simple fact is Vince Li was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who killed an innocent person while in a deep psychotic state. The presiding judge accepted the diagnosis and remanded Mr. Li to a maximum security mental health facility where, for a while, he was in 24-hour lock-down, sedated, medicated and on suicide watch.

Over the course of the last few years he has responded exceptionally well to treatment. Heavily medicated, he has been brought out of the psychotic state and returned to normalcy. As part of his rehabilitation process his file is reviewed annually by the Manitoba review board, a body whose purpose is to determine whether or not he’s responding well to rehabilitation and treatment, and whether he poses a threat to himself or others. Year after year they find that he is not a threat and grant him privileges. First it was escorted walks on the grounds of the hospital. Then supervised walks into the town of Selkirk. Then supervised visits in other small towns. At each step of his rehabilitation a chorus arose over social media accusing the provincial government, the correctional and mental health services and many others of everything from incompetence to advocating for a murderer (a preposterous, if not insane notion). It has demonstrated both the public’s contempt of expert opinion and their belief our criminal justice system is deeply flawed, and politicians, ever vigilant, have jumped on the bandwagon.

It’s expedient for a government that has shown nothing but contempt for government scientists, climatologists, environmentalists, academics of all variety, subject matter experts, jurists, the honourable opposition (etc.) to so inappropriately question the thinking and decisions of the Manitoba review board. Ms. Glover is a heritage minister, a Tory cheerleader, not a criminal psychiatrist. By what right does she have to question the integrity and competence of the dozens of people most directly involved in this case?

Let common sense reign.

Vince Li has no money and no bus or taxi driver in Selkirk is going to come pick him up. He has a half hour to walk outside the hospital. That’s fifteen minutes in one direction before he has to turn around and go right back.

If he decides to use this new privilege, he does so knowing he lacks protection. Up to now he’s been escorted everywhere by a peace officer and a nurse. If he goes for a walk off the grounds he does so knowing he risks being attacked if not killed. We can feel safe knowing he knows this, because he is no longer psychotic, his schizophrenia is under control. He exists in our world and knows the public is absolutely terrified of him.

If he decides to use this privilege the hospital, as part of its due diligence, would have to alert local police. Ergo it’s highly unlikely Vince Li would be completely unsupervised. He wouldn’t have a police escort right next to him, but I think it’s safe to assume either the Selkirk police or the RCMP would have two armed officers follow him from a short distance. I don’t think he’ll be able to spontaneously demand he go for a walk, there’s likely a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy to go through.

At the press conference Minister Glover indicated that, because of her time as a police officer in Manitoba, she ‘knew how hard it was to keep track of dangerous offenders’. Perhaps. But not in Vince Li’s case. He is still incarcerated. He sleeps at the psychiatric hospital. As a consequence of his infamy he will only ever sleep in institutions or halfway houses for the rest of his days. The fear that Vince Li will one day be released into the general populace, to get a job and an apartment, is completely ludicrous. He’s unemployable. He’ll never be able to rent his own apartment, he has no family to support him – so it begs the question, what are we really afraid of? He is a ward of state forevermore. He is thoroughly supervised. There’s no way he could ever go off his medication as long as he remains institutionalized, and as long as he’s medicated and lives in a controlled environment (which as I already mention is his only option) he’s no threat, not to himself nor anyone else.

Some people are nonetheless incensed. They believe that Vince Li either should’ve been killed on the scene by responding police officers or spend the rest of his days under total lockdown in a maximum-security prison. I think these people believe mental illness is a kind of trick used by the truly guilty to escape harsh punishment. I don’t know which is crazier – killing and cannibalizing a man you believe to be an alien assassin because god told you, or thinking that a human being could be in their right mind and do such a thing.

Suffice it to say there are a lot of people who would lose their careers if they’re wrong about Vince Li. Literally dozens of people would immediately find themselves without the jobs they worked so hard to become experts at. I don’t think anyone in his or her right mind would risk so much on a whim.

None of the experts advocating for this new privilege would risk their careers unless they were absolutely certain Vince Li is no longer a threat to the public. They’re all aware of what needs to be done to ensure public safety, they have all the controls in place to ensure he stays medicated and that public security forces are aware of where he is at all time.

As a society, we can’t allow ourselves to be commanded by fear and ignorance. We must approach the unknown and the tragic with a desire to understand and to learn. We only do Tim McLean a disservice if our approach to mental illness is to simply incarcerate those who are indeed not criminally responsible for their actions. If we want to ensure he didn’t die in vain, then we must do all we can to treat mental illness seriously and develop the mechanisms by which treatment is rendered affordable and illnesses of the mind are de-stigmatized.

We only make the problem worse when we allow politicians to disregard expert opinion and basic, open, transparent common sense. We do ourselves harm when we allow common sense to be trampled by the fear mongering of politicians who exploit tragedy for personal gain.

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…

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.