Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Our First Canada Day

Our country was going to be called "Kingdom of Canada" instead of Dominion, but the British, fearing it would provoke the Americans, unilaterally changed it.

The greatest thing we can do to celebrate our country is to know more about it. And certainly learning about Canada and celebrating it need not be separate; below are a few quotes made on our first Canada Day July 1st 1867:

"Died! Last night at twelve o'clock, the free and enlightened Province of Nova Scotia."- The Halifax Morning Chronicle, a newspaper that thought confederation would hurt Nova Scotia.

"With the first dawn of this gladsome midsummer morn, we hail the birthday of a new nationality."- George Brown, a father of confederation

"This new Dominion of ours came into existence on the 1st, and the very newspapers look hot and tired with the weight of announcements and of cabinet lists. Here--in this house--the atmosphere is so awfully political that sometimes I think the very flies hold Parliament on the kitchen tablecloths."- From the diary of Lady Agnes Macdonald, the wife of our first Prime Minister.

"La seule voie nous soit offerte pour arriver à l'independance politique."- La Minerve, a newspaper in Quebec on the province being a part of a new Canada. (Rough translation: "The only way offered to us to achieve political independence.")

And lastly a favourite quote of George-√Čtienne Cartier, another father of confederation, made a few years before our first Canada Day:

"Now, when we are united together, if union is attained, we shall form a political nationality with which neither the national origin, nor the religion of any individual, will interfere.... In our own Federation we will have Catholic and Protestant, English, French, Irish and Scotch, and each by his efforts and his success will increase the prosperity and glory of the new Confederacy....We are of different races, not for the purpose of warring against each other, but in order to compete and emulate for the general welfare."


This material was from Richard Gwyn's excellent book, John A, The Man Who Made Us.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wikipedia's Entry On Momentum


Political momentum is nothing like the momentum of physics. In the world of Newton and Einstein appearances don't cause forces, whereas in politics, appearances are forces.

Stephen Harper became Leader of the Conservative Party in 2003, he faced two subsequent general elections before finally winning a minority government in 2006. Up until 2011 his Conservative Party only increased the number of seats it held in Parliament; since then however, the Conservative Party has only seen its numbers decline.

Thomas Mulcair became Leader of the NDP in 2012, under his guidance the New Democrats have faced numerous by-elections and instead of growing, the party's number of MPs is shrinking.

Justin Trudeau became Leader of the Liberal Party in 2013, he too has led his party through various by-elections, and unlike all the other major parties, under his leadership his party has only grown. And yesterday the Liberals not only gained another MP, but they increased their vote percentage in all four electoral battles.

Victories in elections establish the appearances of strong leaders and viable parties, and voters cast ballots based on those perceptions. Stephen Harper's continued electoral wins made Canadians see him as a strong and his losing opponents as weak.

Of course all the success at a few polls doesn't guarantee an impending Liberal government, but it doesn't have to. It only only has to appear that way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Senate Saves Canada... Again

How do you save democracy from itself? You appoint a Senate.

In 1990 the democratically elected House of Commons passed Bill C-43 which would have criminalized all abortions. That bill was defeated by the appointed Senate. To this day abortions remain legal solely because of the Senate's actions.

In 2013 the democratically elected House of Commons passed Bill C-377 which would have weakened labour unions. That bill was stopped by the appointed Senate. 

Today the democratically elected House of Commons is preparing to pass Bill C-23 The Fair Elections Act which seeks to undermine democracy. The appointed Senate is simultaneously preparing to stop it.

In all of these cases the majority in the House of Commons also had the majority in the Senate, but still the Senate stood up against the democratically elected Lower House. Despite being unpopular, especially in protecting abortion at the time, the Senate protected fundamental principles.

Democracy depends on womens' rights, labour rights, and actual fair elections to function; all things this Senate has saved. 

Protecting democracy means protecting its principles; but principles aren't elected, and their application isn't always popular. Because of the obvious similarities with the Upper Chamber, for democracy's defense, an appointed Senate sounds perfect for the job.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Public Education Before Health Care

When you replace the fan belt on your 1988 Toyota Corrolla, you can't drive faster than when the car was brand new. Even with the new part, the car, with all of its wear and tear, is likely to be slower than when you first drove it off the lot.

No one expects that a trip to a mechanic for repairs is going to make their car better than new, we all know a mechanic only maintains a vehicle, he doesn't engineer it to be better. When we want a faster, more efficient and more powerful car than the one we have, we don't rely on old gears, we look to the engineering of new ones.

A similar relationship exists when it comes to improving our country, a relationship however that our political parties have perverted. Because instead of trying to improve our society by engineering innovation through public education, the priority has become the maintenance of old gears through public health care. And what Canada is left with is a less than powerful society that gets horrible mileage and has more than a few problems with its steering.

Public education, the only thing that can advance a country, was not always as neglected as it is now by our leaders. When Canada was first founded and for decades after, all the education needed to join the work force was free because our country knew bettering its people was the only way it would better itself.

High school became fully funded by the provinces because for years that diploma was all that was needed to enter trades, business, or even apprentice as a lawyer and engineer. Of Canada's 33 founding fathers only one went to university. But as times have changed and jobs have become more specialized the public provision of education has not kept up. The British Columbian government forecasts that by 2020 77.3% of all jobs will require costly post-secondary education.

Health care on the other hand, though certainly having its flaws, has become the focus of our country. This is a problem because, by itself, public health care does not better our society, it merely maintains it.

This misplacing of social priorities, health care before education, is like believing your car's mechanic is more important than its engineer; that maintaining parts is more important than their design and innovation. If that was true we wouldn't have cars today, we would just have really healthy horses.

Health care does not build a better society, only education does. If the goal of government is to improve our country and not merely maintain it, its first priority should be providing public post-secondary education.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Flaherty's Curtain

Jim Flaherty was unethical, incompetent and he should have been fired. Those aren't my words, they're Thomas Mulcair's, spoken just last year in Question Period. Yet after the former Finance Minister's death, Mulcair has called him a good man and a great public servant.

There's no doubt that the NDP Leader genuinely mourns the loss of  Jim Flaherty, but this recent death and the response to it by all politicians, not just Mulcair, shows the real tragedy of a political life.

Because it's only now, after resorting to the lowest denominator in attacks against Mr.Flaherty for his whole political career, are his opponents speaking highly of him. It is only now after Flaherty's curtain has fallen that all the other actors are describing how they truly felt about him.

What makes this all the more sad is that what Mr.Flaherty's opponents actually thought of him was the exact opposite of what they said to him while he was alive.

Can you imagine, if we are so lucky to have an after life, spending your whole career having opponents level the most sensationalistic attacks against you and after you have gone, and only then, finding out how much those same harsh critics respected you, how much they liked you, and even seeing them cry from hearing about your death?

Now we can say that as a politician Jim Flaherty certainly knew that much of politics is a performance, that he knew the daily attacks he faced as finance minister for eight years were disingenuous, merely for show. But in hearing such words of admiration and respect for Jim Flaherty after he has gone, one cannot say he came close to knowing how highly his opponents thought of him. And that is a tragedy. A horrible unnecessary tragedy.

Jim Flaherty's death highlights the absolute worst thing about politics. It's not the broken promises, it's not the partisanship or the boondoggles, the worst part of politics is that it is a performance that its actors never betray with their true feelings.

But of course, politicians aren't the only ones to lose themselves in their roles. How often in life do we all forget to tell those around us, not just our loved ones, but our adversaries too, how we truly feel about them and how grateful we are for them to be a part of our lives.

Just as Justin Trudeau should admit to Stephen Harper he respects him tremendously and is thankful for what he done for this country (and vice versa), we all should tell those we occasionally fight with, that we care for them and want them to be happy.

In this life we are all performers in one way or the other, but in reflecting on Jim Flaherty's passing, let us in the future not wait until a curtain falls to applaud the other actors.


"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances."

Jim Flaherty stood before the audience, he smiled, bowed, and the curtain closed.