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canadian politics

Election speculation, 2020

Sigh. There’s just no limit to the depths to which politicians will sink. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic (if you’ll excuse the redundancy) and Canadians have elections or threatened elections left, right and centre. OK, three elections out of a possible fourteen federal, provincial and territorial elections isn’t exactly a lot, but if one does it, the rest of the politicians might follow … like lemmings, or a virus maybe. As Blaine Higgs — who was heading a minority government in New Brunswick, perhaps the “right” (in more ways than one) in the “left, right and centre” — succeeded in winning a majority in New Brunswick, half the rest of the country will pile on the bandwagon. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of every province and territory, but generally speaking they’ve followed science and their public health officers (unlike in certain other painfully obvious countries) and they are reaping the benefits in their poll numbers. Even Doug Ford in Ontario, if you can believe that!

Which bring us to the left (again, in more ways than one) of the country here in BC. Apparently John Horgan also thinks the time is right to convert his minority government into a majority. The speculation has reached a fever pitch, and for all we know we’ll see the writ dropped today, by some accounts. Horgan better hope that our COVID-19 numbers don’t get any worse than they are; schools have just gone back, and we still have to see how the Labour Day long weekend and the schools affect those numbers.

Which brings us to the centre. (Weird how the language works here.) Justin Trudeau also wants to convert his minority federal government into a majority. The aforementioned fever pitch hasn’t been reached in Ottawa yet, but the smirk on Trudeau’s face tells the story. The pandemic has been a boon for him and his friends, well, until his stupidity resulted in the WE Charity folding its Canadian operations last week. (No loss in my book. Why do people get excited about adults jumping up and down like idiots and demeaning themselves on stage?) His poll numbers, too, are through the roof, and he’d love to take on the new Leader of the Opposition, Erin O’Toole. But he too better hope that the pandemic numbers don’t get worse before an election (he talks as if he’s had a handle on it since day one), as it seems that hypocrisy and material failures in his leadership don’t seem to stick to him.

Canada-China prisoner swap

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor

It seems bizarre to me to be writing about this kind of medieval or (I suppose) Cold War-type prisoner swap in the 21st century, but it seems that some countries (namely China) are still in that kind of backwards mindset. (This is particularly ironic, given the assertion by the deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department [Zhao Lijian] that other countries [namely the US] suffer from a “Cold-War mentality“! Proof that politicians everywhere talk out of both sides of their mouths.)

I’d like to make clear a few of my assumptions and biases first:

  • I am not under the influence of China or any Chinese pressure groups, and presumably the authors of both of the letters to which I refer below are not either,
  • I travel internationally as much as I can, and although I have travelled to China, I have not (so far) knowingly travelled to any countries where my life or liberty might be in danger,
  • I am a dual citizen.

I have read the letter from the “distinguished Canadians” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (cached copy), and I think it forms a basis on which Canada could move forward. It disgusts me that a reasonably civilised country like Canada should be in this position, but it is; it’s similarly repugnant that a country like China, who would like to present themselves to the world as being civilised (all the while acting the global bully wherever it thinks it can get away with it), would do such a thing. But they have, and here we are. And why have they taken hostages? Well, Meng Wanzhou isn’t some low-life drug trafficker or any other alleged common criminal; she seems to be about as close as you can get to royalty in China in the modern age, just without (obviously) the diplomatic immunity. Quite frankly, their taking hostages is the international equivalent of an unhappy child throwing their toys out of their cot!

Among the objections to this course of action are those of Trudeau himself (and presumably therefore the Government of Canada) and 53 signatories of an opposing letter from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The objections seem to boil down to three primary issues, with a fourth unstated openly by the Canadian government:

  • Principles: A prisoner swap would weaken Canada’s principles. It matters not that two innocent Canadians have been deprived of their liberty for a year and a half (so far), as long as some unarticulated principle is upheld. I’ll address that shortly.
  • Giving in to hostage takers: I see the value in not giving in to the demands of hostage takers, but in my mind there is a significant difference between a hostage taker that also happens to be a state, and a hostage taker that is an individual or a group (e.g., a terrorist organisation), i.e., not a state. Quite frankly, a state that violates the norms of international practice (if not law) and takes hostages, is a pariah state, and one that should be isolated by all states. Of course, I’m no naïf, and I know that a superpower like China can’t and won’t be isolated by all states, but there are measures that Canada, and others, can take. Also more on that shortly.
  • Endangering travelling Canadians: As if Canadians are somehow magically protected when they’re travelling internationally now, the assertion is made that negotiating the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig will result in Canadians abroad being taken hostage with more frequency. I feel that theory holds when we’re talking about hostages taken by the aforementioned individuals or groups, but not when we’re talking about hostages taken by states. If the principles of due process, comity and international law are not strong enough to prevent states from exercising their unlimited power within their own borders to arbitrarily detain random foreigners, does anyone really think that an unspoken “disapproval” of hostage taking is going to achieve the same goal?!
  • Canada’s commitment to lawful extraditions, and in particular to the United States: While there is no doubt that following some sort of process to “free” Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou from Canada’s legal system will royally piss of the Americans, let’s not lose sight of the fact that her arrest under an extradition request is nothing short of the United States using an extradition treaty to prosecute their global foreign policy (particularly against Iran and China in this case) through a third party (Canada), not enforcing criminal law alleged to have been broken on its own soil by one of its own citizens. Now, I don’t claim any expert knowledge of extrajurisdictionality (especially as the principle applies to international sanctions), but it seems to me that this must be considered differently to cases involving the citizens of one’s own country fleeing to other jurisdictions to avoid prosecution in the home jurisdiction. In my opinion the United States and China — their empires colliding — need to use other means to carry out their mutual attempts to exert international control, in ways that don’t compromise their so-called allies … or in the latter’s case, the country that many of their citizens now call home, and will likely be calling home to a greater extent following Beijing’s crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong.

On the part of those advocating something more expedient (so to speak) there are the principles of fairness and humanity. It’s not news to most people that communist systems tend to “[override] individual self-interest and [subjugate] the welfare of the general population to achieve [their] goals“, and it’s quite clear to any observer that the “individual self-interest” of the Two Michaels (or their families) is of no interest to the Chinese Government. Then there’s the degree to which Canada’s foreign policy (especially with respect to China) has been hobbled by their inability to speak more bluntly where China continues to abuse its own citizens ([Hong Kong] (whose refugees will shortly be flooding Canada, the UK and other countries), [Tiananmen Square], etc.), its neighbours ([India], [Taiwan], etc.), and others around the world — as they are doing to Canada right now. If a country’s policy in one area or another is hobbled by an identifiable cause, then it certainly is a matter of national interest and perhaps security to take whatever action is necessary to address the problem!

So what’s my suggestion? Glad you asked. I think Canada should negotiate and implement these points:

  • The last thing Canada should do is simply “free” Meng Wanzhou and then “hope” that China reciprocates. That’s just insanity! Even if they do reciprocate, it could still be years before the Two Michaels are released under one mechanism (also trumped up) or another, simply to show who has the power in the relationship, and to give China the ability to claim (falsely of course) that the release of the Michaels was not connected. No, if China has actually gone as far as to tacitly acknowledge that they have apprehended the Michaels on trumped-up espionage charges, then Canada should publicly state to China that we are ready to negotiate a prisoner swap, and move to begin the negotiations. (To quote China: “Zhao Lijian: … we have also seen reports of an interview with Kovrig’s wife on June 23, during which she said that the Canadian justice minister had the authority to stop Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process at any point; such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians.“)
  • The prisoner swap must be very public, and televised on live television in both countries. Since Canada and China don’t share a land border, I suggest that a Royal Canadian Navy ship meet with a PLA Navy ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to do the exchange, preferably over a gangplank between the ships. Alternatively, and slightly more practically I suppose, the prisoner exchange could take place on one of China’s land borders, or perhaps in the Korean DMZ.
  • Canada's Hong Kong travel advisory, 2 July 2020.

    Canada’s Hong Kong travel advisory, 2 July 2020

    One of the less obvious unilateral actions that Canada (and actually, all countries) should take in the current international climate is to start negotiating bilateral “non-hostage” treaties with other countries, possibly connected to extradition treaties. How would these work? Well, you simply make a pact with another country that neither of you will take each other’s citizens hostage. Of course, arrests in the course of normal law enforcement would be acceptable, but not arbitrary detentions with no evidence. If Canada doesn’t have such a non-hostage treaty with a country, then the travel advisory for that country would state, in very prominent and unambiguous wording, that a such a treaty does not exist and therefore Canada very strongly warns against travel to that country. (There is currently, as of 10 July 2020, a similar warning on the Government of Canada Hong Kong travel advisory [see screenshot] on the “laws and culture” tab, but it is neither prominent nor strong enough, and there is nothing on the China travel advisory advising against travel there except for COVID-19 reasons.) Without a non-hostage treaty, if a Canadian citizen (for the sake of this example) is arbitrarily detained (taken hostage) then Canada will make attempts to provide consular assistance, but will not try that hard. This is more likely to have a greater effect on dual citizens (of which I am one, I should make clear), especially for those for whom Canadian citizenship is a citizenship of convenience.

I have no doubt that the Government of Canada is indeed “doing” something in the background (as happened in Egypt recently), even if it’s just talking amongst themselves, but to the rest of us beer-swilling plebs in the deserted (at the moment) pubs and stalking the blogosphere, it sure looks like the safety and security of Canadians abroad is not a concern to Canada, contrary to their professions otherwise.

Canada is small potatoes to China, in probably every way you can think of except land mass, coastline and morals, but everyone learns when they are still a child that bullies can be stood up to. This is what Canada and most of the rest of the world must to do to stop, or at least ameliorate, China’s bullying tactics. I don’t in any way suggest that China needs to be stomped down as the “enemy”, but just as happens with individual humans they have become too big for their breeches, and for that there are or need to be consequences. Part of the “problem” with China is not even the fault of the Chinese; it’s the West’s constant obsession with “unlimited growth”. However, that’s a debate for another day.

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels).

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels)

Don’t wanna wear a mask? Why are you even wearing clothes?!

I have to laugh at the Canadians who are now emulating their stupider American neighbours, and protesting at mask laws. It’s all about freedom, they claim. But if you won’t wear a mask, why are you wearing any item of clothing?! Take off your shirt, your pants, your skirt, your dress, your bra, your knickers/panties, your briefs, your jockey shorts … they’re all restricting your rights!

Fucking morons.

Happy sarcastic Canada Day … enslaved farm workers

Slave ship diagram (Wikimedia).

Slave ship diagram

I used to pride myself on buying Canadian (as local as possible) fruits and vegetables, passing over the American and Mexican produce where I didn’t have a particular need for it. I was tangentially aware that 99% (or maybe 100%, I’m not sure) of Canadians won’t lower themselves to work as a fruit or vegetable picker, and so Canadian farms have to import “temporary foreign workers” every season, but I didn’t realise that they were housing those workers in conditions of near modern day slavery. Recently, according to the news, the farmers have even been (passively or actively) denying their TFWs access to COVID-19 testing, seemingly because that would probably cut into more productive picking time. (Plus, of course, as we all know, testing increases the number of positive cases!*)

It’s ironic to me that, twenty-six years after Canada and the rest of the world brought down Apartheid in South Africa, the system is still alive and well in the country that is credited with inventing it.

*In keeping with the title of this post, and in fear of those with no sense of irony, I feel I should make absolutely clear that this comment is a joke!

Updated, 2020-07-02: Add link and slave ship image.

Politicians behaving badly … as usual

Scheer and Trudeau and the UN Security Council vote

I think that Andrew Sheer confuses being the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition with being the leader of a bunch of unruly children in a playground, bringing American-style ad hominem attacks to bear on the government Justin Trudeau. (Well, he is half American, so I suppose that’s no surprise.) OK, so Trudeau brought it upon himself by spending so much time and effort (and taxpayers’ money) on his pet project of getting Canada elected to the United Nations Security Council, but really, what the hell kind of measured, mature reaction is this?!:


Now, in all the fairness I can muster, I think Trudeau and/or the Liberals had the same personal dig at Stephen Harper when he failed in his same bid in 2010, so fair’s fair right? Meh, whatever. Politicians are almost all a bunch of self-serving opportunistic bastards; the only downside is that they have to inflict this crap on us, the suckers who pay their salaries for spending their lives acting like spoilt children.

At least the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Jack Harris, had a distinctly more statesmanlike response. He was neither complimentary nor insulting, but had some constructive criticism of Canada’s (and Trudeau’s) attempt at election, and forward-looking suggestions.

One thing that does amuse me abut Trudeau’s virtue signalling is when he talks about championing maternal issues in developing countries. As far as I know, that was (ironically) Stephen Harper’s pet project back in the day!

Champagne quarantine?!

In related news, I see that François-Philippe Champagne, our gallant Minister of Foreign Affairs, suddenly crossed the border and showed up in New York to cast Canada’s ballot in this election. What the hell?! I thought the border was closed to all but essential traffic?! If our UN ambassador was in New York, what exactly was essential about Champagne’s presence? And did he quarantine himself for fourteen days before mixing with all and sundry at the UN General Assembly?! Enquiring minds want to know.

Kudos for Scheer

On the positive side of Scheer’s ledger is this farcical two-minute exchange with Trudeau in the House of Commons that is a textbook example of doublespeak and not answering the question on the part of Trudeau:

Scheer questions Trudeau’s campaign for U.N. Security Council seat

My god! Even taking into account international diplomatic niceties, Trudeau makes absolutely no attempt to address the issues that the leader of the Opposition raises. In fact, the donkey show he puts on is as passively aggressive as is possible before the aggression crosses the line into a middle finger or active, physical aggression! It’s the legislative, “grown-up” (note the quotation marks!) equivalent of the playground, “I know you are but what am I?” that would get you a bloody nose in any other setting! It’s a wonder these politicians get anything done, and it’s no wonder they are mostly so reviled by the public. None of the rest of us would get away with anything like this in real life. Maybe I’m just an ingénue that doesn’t spend enough time watching videos of politicians being assholes.

Jagmeet Singh’s ejection from Parliament

I’m of two minds about what happened to Jagmeet Singh on Wednesday. On the one hand he moved a motion that, especially in the atmosphere in which the US and much of the world finds itself these days, was completely reasonable, and I can understand his surprise (and dismay) at even one vote of opposition. On the other hand, I can see the point of the Bloc Québécois who claimed that his motion prejudged an anticipated report of the public safety committee that would have addressed the points in the motion moved by Singh.

I don’t know the nature of the motion, and particularly whether or not it was binding or just some feel-good parliamentary fluffery designed to (as mentioned previously) be self-serving opportunism. Which it was has significant bearing on the matter, but I have not seen comment on this by anyone in the media. However, I can certainly understand Singh’s discomfit, especially at Alain Therrien’s alleged dismissive wave in the direction of Singh. Probably another example where, had I been involved, there would have been nasal blood (Therrien’s) spilled on the Commons floor!

The “new NAFTA”

I am amused that, despite its unwieldy new name — that some (mostly Americans) have tried to make into a single “word” — people are calling the “United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement” the “new NAFTA”.

So I read that there is already bluster in the US that they’re itching to take legal action against Canada and Mexico as soon as the new agreement comes into force on 1 July. So what else is new? These are our “friends”! However, what sticks out for me in that article — besides the video of Deputy Prime Minster (and Intergovernmental Affairs minister) Chrystia Freeland’s rather smarmy (if unspoken) “fuck you” between gritted, smiling teeth aimed in the direction of the US threat — is the claim that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer makes that other countries’ plans to tax American-based digital services is a plan to “screw America”. Ironically, the very next day, I received notice from one of my digital providers that they would henceforth be charging my company and their other customers taxes levied by six US states, including the one in which my business is domiciled. I doubt the two actions are linked, but the Americans are busy screwing themselves with new taxes!

Canadian hostages in China

China has finally, after holding them without charge for eighteen months, charged two Canadian hostages with “spying”. Everyone and their dog knows this is tit-for-tat, gangland hostage taking (“hostage diplomacy”) by the Chinese government, except the tit (or the tat) that happened in Canada was a lawful arrest under international treaties. I think it is despicable the situation in which the US has put Canada to further their political agenda, but it doesn’t excuse thuggery on the part of China who have stolen the lives of two (and arguably four) Canadians purely for spite. And on top of that the prisoner in Canada lives in her own multi-million dollar house in a larney area of Vancouver, while the two Canadians rot in cells in China! The two — known in Canada as “the two Michaels” — are Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Even if they were released by China tomorrow, they’ll never get back the time stolen from them by the Chinese government. It is unconscionable!

Hopefully the world will one day, together, stand up to the bullying of China (not just against Canada, but other countries including Taiwan and [recently, with deadly results] India), but it’s questionable whether or not that will happen in time for them to be stopped from steamrolling all over the rest of the world. I think China already delivered yet another “message” to Canada earlier this week; it is alleged that China strong-armed African nations — whom they have quietly re-colonised over the last decade or two — into voting against Canada in the aforementioned United Nations Security Council elections.

Hero pay

In other news, Canadian grocery store operations are clawing back the raises given to their employees when they were (temporarily, apparently) “heroes” on the “front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic — and all the other quasi-military terms used for them and similar low-paying occupations like cleaners, drivers, etc. Never mind that these companies made and continue to make a killing on elevated sales numbers (including as a result of hoarding). The hypocrisy is galling! If there was one thing I thought people would learn from the experience of the pandemic it’s that far too many people are terribly, terribly underpaid, and then they suddenly became “heroes” overnight! And for that they got a measly two bucks an hour extra! That’s all they’re worth! And now, they’re not heroes any more, they’re just schleps schlepping their way through a work day again.

I know that I don’t have any economic solutions for the massive inequities in society (in this country or any other), but you can’t, in good conscience, pay someone a meagre wage one day and the next day claim they’re heroes, pay them a pittance more, and then take away their hero status (and extra pay) on some arbitrary (and collusive) date in the future. Are they heroes or not? Look, nobody claims they’re heroes in the same sense as a person who defends or saves the life of another, but really, the hypocrisy really is galling. And the hypocrisy is galling not just on the part of the grocery chains — Sobeys, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Loblaws, etc. — but on the part of us, their customers. I’ve said for a long time that so many people want to strike for good union wages, then they want to shop at disgraceful places like Walmart. It’s understandable that we all want to optimise our revenue-to-expense ratios, but this is a big deal that needs to be addressed somehow.

While looking for an appropriate article to which I could link on one of the main news websites (that isn’t behind a paywall, like The Globe and Mail is), I came across this one: The End of ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers in Canada an Operational Necessity: Expert. It’s written by an academic (which is not always a knock) for a retail industry publication, and as a result is skewed towards being supportive of the pay cut. However, it does cover some interesting points that are critical of the retailers that I think are worth reading.

Jas Johal

Someone else who I think doesn’t quite get his position as a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal. He was a half-decent television reporter, but man, the only time he pokes his head above the parapet these days is when he wants to be on TV again and has nothing constructive to say … about anything, ever! I mean, I get that his job is that he’s an Opposition “critic” of the current NDP government, but there’s a difference between the title “critic” and the adjective “critical”, and you can’t claim that the government — any government — of the day doesn’t ever get anything right.

His latest crap is to criticise and condemn the BC government for daring to consult the public on ways in which they might steer activities related to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not exactly direct democracy in action, but we haven’t seen a pandemic in about a century, certainly longer than Johal’s lifetime, so what the hell downside could there be to initiating a consultation process that could very well have a positive effect?!

Give it a rest Johal! I think if you looked like a reasonable person once in a while instead of whining and complaining all the time you’d actually look like the Liberal leadership material for which you’re obviously trying to posture yourself.


Updated, 23 June 2020: Corrected my grammatical error. Of course you can’t make an ad hominem attack on a government!

Jody Wilson-Raybould for prime minister of Canada!

Jody Wilson-Raybould,

Jody Wilson-Raybould

I sent the following email to Jody Wilson-Raybould on Wednesday after her testimony to the justice committee:

Subject: Commendation on your testimony
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2019 22:16:58 -0800

Dear Mrs. Wilson-Raybould:

For the first time in my life, today I watched live proceedings from Parliament. I thought I’d switch off after your opening statement and get on with my day, but six hours later I was still riveted to the CBC video feed and then TV news broadcasts.

In the forty years since I came to Canada at the age of twelve I have never been so impressed at the integrity shown by a politician as I was today. Well done. And except for the repetitiveness of the lines of questioning, I was mostly (but not completely) impressed with the civility of the discourse and our parliamentary system.

When will Canadians have the opportunity to vote for a party with you at the helm? And where can I get my “JWR for PM” bumper sticker?

Craig

It’s ironic that Mr. Feminist himself doesn’t realise that “no means no“. The “grinning legatee” clearly has something to hide, even judging only by his own behaviour. I’m not a fan of the Conservative party, and Andrew Scheer in particular, but I do agree with his call for Trudeau’s resignation. Never thought he’d be a one-term wonder, but I’m hopeful now. Hypocrisy and arrogance are vile.

Come clean, Christy Clark

As a tax-paying British Columbian, I should love Christy Clark. I should. But I don’t.

She is a divisive character in BC politics. She’s not the first, that’s for sure, but you’d think that people would learn. Not “we the people”, but the politicians themselves. Nobody likes a divisive leader. They didn’t when Bill Vander Zalm was around, and they don’t now, so what does Clark think she’s gaining by her divisive style of leadership that Vander Zalm didn’t back in the late 1980s? If she’s gaining anything, it’s only with her cronies in the BC Liberal Party, not with any members of the voting public. Is that really putting “[BC] Families First”?

I’m moved to write about this at this time because of the dispute between the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and BC’s public teachers. I could point fingers at both sides in this dispute for various reasons, but Clark particularly stands out for rebuke. I say that because no member of the British Columbian public really sees this as a labour dispute between a monolithic employer that doesn’t actually employ any teachers (the BCPSEA) and the BC Teachers’ Federation; it’s Christy and her sidekick of the moment in the education portfolio (Peter Fassbender as of this writing) versus the teachers. It’s an open secret that sealed court proceedings accidentally revealed by the NDP show that the current BC government — strongly led by Clark, so there’s no doubt who is driving this — has a policy to provoke a strike by BC teachers. Imagine! Any thinking leader — especially one with an alleged “Families First” agenda — would not set out to “provoke” anything, never mind the total disruption of the lives of BC’s families!

This won’t be a long post because I really want to get to what I believe is the crux of the matter here. This won’t address issues such as liveable wages in one of the most expensive places to live in the world, and a little thing called inflation. It also won’t address Clark’s contempt of the courts and her preference for fighting and defying their rulings on the legality of her actions dating back over a decade, actions that would get you and I thrown in jail!

Let’s look at Clark’s record with the education system. As Education Minister in the early 2000s she implemented changes that were unpopular with school boards and teachers. While it’s not my contention that popularity is the measure of success, popularity is the basis of democracy. And here we are, over a decade later, and the school boards are still struggling to provide services that are expected by the public and the provincial government on the pittance provided by the latter. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the dedication of those people on the ground — teachers, administrators and school board employees — the BC public school system would collapse. With her own child in a private school — a privilege affordable for only 11% (2012 figures) of BC pupils — one really can’t help but wonder if this is actually Clark’s intention.

But enough about that. It’s widely known that Clark’s father was a teacher, and one can reasonably assume that she herself attended at least some school. And here is where I get to the crux of the matter as I see it, and it’s the seldom asked question (at least publicly) on the tips of the tongues of just about anyone I talk to about the war between Clark and the teachers: What formative experience did Clark have — either with her father or one of her own teachers — that seems to put her at perpetual odds with educators? (By “educators” I include more than just teachers.) I’ve heard the term “daddy issues” used often enough to wonder if this premier’s divisive style of leadership — if you can call it “leadership” — is personally-driven rather than based on arguable ideology or coherent policy.

Is it, Christy? Is it time to come clean and excuse yourself from any involvement in the negotiating strategy with the BCTF or, for that matter, any of your government’s education policies that so negatively affect families and the education of their children? Is it time to put your son in a public school — like 89% of your constituents in this province, who feel their children are being used as pawns in a fight between grown-ups who should know better — and suffer with them through this labour strife that you have intentionally provoked?

Alison Redford’s Resignation

Alison Redford, 2012.

Alison Redford. Source: Dave Cournoyer

I shouldn’t have anything to say about the resignation of a politician in a jurisdiction where I do not live. But, I do.

First of all, I do wonder what the hell a provincial politician is doing spending tax-payer money (and a considerable sum of it, at that) on a trip to the funeral of the former leader of another country. If she felt so strongly about going to Mandela’s funeral, she should have spent her own money to do so. (I don’t know how wealthy she is, but I’d bet she would have worked to get a better deal to do so than the $45 000 of tax-payers’ money she supposedly spent, which will no doubt be paid for by passing the hat around among her supporters now that she has said she will repay it.) If the prime minister wants to waste money going to the funeral of a (former) terrorist who happened to become the leader of a country … well, I suppose that’s one of the perks of the job. What can we tax-paying peons do? But even a provincial leader has no business dealing with other national governments on a direct level, not officially anyway.

But I am drawn to the comments of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, as quoted in the CBC article Alison Redford resigning as Alberta premier:

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says Redford’s resignation as premier is a sign of what is wrong with the political process.

Nenshi says while he disagrees with some of the things she did, Redford was trying to do good things for the province as leader.

“I want to remind people that this is also a human story,” he said.

“It’s about a real person. A good person. A person who loves this province and has worked hard and made incredible sacrifices for this place. And it’s the story of a system that takes somebody like that, chews them up and spits them out.”

Forget the sentimentality of his comments and those of the NDP leader, Brian Mason. It just seems shocking to me that, after not even two and a half years at the helm, she’s run out of town because, to paraphrase one of the thin-skinned members of her revolting caucus, she’s a “mean bitch”. If even people who philosophically oppose her (such as Mason) can say positive things (remember, Redford has resigned, not died) like, “I have to say I thought she was a very intelligent premier with her own vision …”, then I do have to wonder about the short-sightedness of what has happened there — short-sightedness on the part of both the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and Redford herself. Even if you’re a cynical, poll-watching politician who thinks only in terms of getting re-elected at the next election, the next election isn’t even for a couple of years yet!

Again, I don’t live in Alberta, and so I’m not on top of the spending issues (in addition to the one above) that people seem to be laying at her feet, and the charges of entitlement (I thought all politicians felt entitled?) and being “out of touch”. Maybe if I was an Albertan I’d be cheering right now; I really don’t know. But it was Nenshi’s comments that grabbed my attention. On the one hand I can’t help but feel that a huge percentage of politicians — from the lowliest town councillor to the top dog in the land — are on the take somehow and bilking the taxpayer with every breath they take. On the other hand, I also can’t help but feel that you can’t ever hope to attract decent people to politics if they get treated this way the minute they’re not the flavour of the moment.

Can Redford be nearly as bad as the dickhead we have running the country — his utter contempt for the electorate at large on display Wednesday by the manner in which the swearing in of the new finance minister was carried out? Although I wonder if perhaps she gave up and rolled over too easily, I also can’t help but compare her apparent willingness to step aside for the greater good to the exact opposite behaviour of that buffoon and national embarrassment in Toronto, Rob Ford.

I am a supporter of terrorists and other nasty people

I’m a little behind the eight ball, as this is now “old news”, but this week I donated money to Greenpeace Canada for the first time in my life. Why? Well, I’ll explain it this way: When you donate to Greenpeace online they have a field on the donation form that asks why you’re motivated to donate to them. This is what I filled in: “Stephen Harper says you’re terrorists” (not to mention funded by foreign money).

Way to go Stevie. Nothing like using hyperbole to convince people to support those not on your side of what should be a reasoned debate. Maybe you should take a lesson from … uh, yourself.

In other vilify-your-opponent news, there’s your friendly neighbourhood defender against the bogeyman, Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety. Didn’t he learn anything from George Bush’s “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” gaffe? (Read or watch George; read or watch Vic.) Really, any thinking person on either side of any argument rejects this kind of useless rhetoric, and some courageous people (like Margaret Wente) have the guts to come right out and say it.

Mr. Toews also took to the pages of the Asian Pacific Post in a full-page editorial that may have been preaching to a choir that probably thinks Canada is too soft on crime anyway, given the regimes in place where many of the readers of that publication originate. (Incidentally, the online version appears to be a slightly reduced version of the printed one.) He also makes the disingenuous comparison of private data (what he calls “basic subscription data”) to “the modern equivalent of phonebook [sic] information”. Mr. Toews, I can’t help but wonder if your personal home phone number is listed in your local telephone directory. Is it? Oh, it’s unlisted? You mean, you want it to be private?! What a radical concept!

A much more reasoned response to Toews’ rhetoric comes in the form of an editorial by John Ibbitson (‘With us or with the child pornographers’ doesn’t cut it, Mr. Toews). He writes:

Privacy commissioners in Ottawa and the provinces will not like being called such vile names. … There are powerful arguments on both sides. None of us want to handicap police in their efforts to track those who would defraud us, harm children or plot acts of terror. But we must also be wary of granting the state new powers that could restrict the sovereignty of citizens. … should the state be allowed to have new powers to know who we are on the web — in effect, to register our online identities — without a judicial warrant or even our knowledge or consent?

But Yoni Goldstein also makes half a point in his editorial (or is it a satire piece?) Stop Pretending to Care About Privacy. He contends that the general public is hypocritical and has already given up any notion of privacy in”tweeting” and “facebooking” the minutiae of their lives, and using Gmail. (Actually, I’ll give him two-thirds of a point, as he also validly points out the hypocrisy of people who wail about their privacy being violated, all while keeping rags like the National Enquirer and websites like TMZ in business so that they can see the nipples and dead bodies of celebrities.) However, he conveniently doesn’t mention things like monitoring private communications like email, instant messaging, voice and video.

Sometimes it takes a cartoon to really get the point across, and so I present these two. The first refers to Bill C-51 (the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C) Act, also here), a predecessor to the current Bill C-30 (previously known by its short title Lawful Access Act, tendentiously renamed to Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act to make sure that opponents of the bill are aware that they are supporters of child pornographers), and plays on the well-worn (but completely bogus) argument that if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. The second is clever and speaks for itself.

The innocent have nothing to fear.

The innocent have nothing to fear.

Toews must be an online predator.

Toews must be an online predator.


Update, 15 March 2012: This post was getting long enough, so I had to cut it off somewhere. However, if your impression of “Anonymous” is that they are a bunch of rogue geeks/nerds that are kinda mostly harmless, but they could get out of hand and bring down civilisation as we know it at any moment, you need to read How I learned to stop worrying and love Anonymous.

And probably the most succinct summary I’ve read about why Bill C-30 is bad comes from Ivor Tossell, who writes (in Toews’s ‘child pornographers’ gaffe aside, Bill C-30 has real dangers):

Contrary to what you might have heard, the new bill, C-30, doesn’t invite police to monitor your every online move without a warrant. It does, however, require Internet companies — loosely defined — to cough up your name, Internet protocol address and a few other identifiers if the police ask for them, even without a warrant. This means that the police could conceivably collect a pseudonym you’ve been using to comment on websites, present it to the relevant company, and say, “Who is this person?”

By trading pseudonyms for IP addresses, then IP addresses for real names and addresses, and repeating the process, police could get a pretty clear picture of what you’ve been up to online.

So yeah, without a warrant the cops can “only” get “the modern equivalent of phonebook information”, but to extend that analogy, they can then follow you from your home to see where you work and with whom you socialise, they can peek in your windows to see your taste in the art hanging on your walls (and which one your safe is hiding behind), they can rifle through your garbage and the mail in your mail box, and on the list goes, and all without a warrant just because they managed to obtain your “phonebook information”. In the online world — again, all without a warrant — they can now see that you gripe about (or are blowing the whistle on) your employer, they can see that you have a personal advert on that dating site that caters to cheating spouses, they can see that you regularly bid on and buy old Barbie dolls on eBay (you big tough biker guy you), and so on. This is all personal information that is ripe for abuse in the wrong hands, and that includes the hands of the police.

Now maybe you and I “have nothing to fear” (see cartoon above) or even be just a little bit embarrassed about, but these things violate your privacy, plain and simple, and we should all fear that.

RIP Jack Layton

Today Canada lost its only political leader. Whether or not you agree with his politics and the politics of his party, Jack Layton was the only leader of a major federal party that actually met the definition of the word “leader”. Others, including the current prime minister, are certainly the figureheads of their respective parties, but they are not leaders. There’s a huge difference. It was not just Layton’s success in the most recent election that made him a leader; it was the fact that he actually had a vision for Canada.

Rest in peace, Jack. We lost more than just another citizen today. You are not irreplaceable — none of us are in the grand scheme of things — but the question is whether or not someone of your calibre can be found in time to avoid Canada becoming a de facto one-party state.