Sellout: Stephen Harper and the Canada-China FIPA

The imperial Chinese government, as Dr. Henry Kissinger lovingly relates in his recent On China, was in the habit of giving Panda bears, among other things, as gifts to barbarian states and tribes, in the belief that barbarians were easily distracted and susceptible to flattery.

It seems the modern Communist Party have not abandoned that particular policy. And alas, it seems it still works.

Stephen Harper came back from a visit to China last fall, which received really quite sparse coverage in the Canadian media, with two panda bears. He presented them to the Toronto Zoo, where fawning crowds were waiting to watch them eat.

I can only guess as to his motives.

Because what he didn’t make anywhere near as clear, upon his arrival back in the country, was that he had signed a massive trade deal with China. It’s only really been prominent in the news for the past week, when it’s almost imminently going to pass. Here it is.

Did you click the link? Did you attempt to read it? Did you give up in despair before you’d even really scrolled through the first articles?

Don’t worry. So did I. That’s what you were supposed to do. You weren’t actually supposed to read it. You’re not supposed to be able to understand it.

The thing about this treaty is that it’s actually impossible to read without legal training, as a good friend of mine going into her second year of law school informed me when I showed it to her. It’s such an impenetrable thicket of legalese that the layperson is simply unable to read it. It’s likely that not that many MPs have read it. Not all of them are lawyers.

Why?

Because it’s quite literally selling the ground out from beneath you.

If you knew that, you’d probably kick up a fuss. Which would be inconvenient, to say the least. So Harper hid it in plain sight.

It’s got some truly horrifying implications for Canadian law, which neither I, nor my friend, claim to understand fully, not having spent several years studying international trade law.

But we’ve at least read the damn thing. And we’ve found some terrifying things buried in there. Buried at the back. Long after the point any sensible human being has given up reading.

But not a law student. Like my friend Kylie Thomas. Or Osgoode Law School constitutional scholar Gus van Harten, who thinks it’s unconstitutional, for what it’s worth. And even from our cursory, fumbling reading of the bill, the evil comes through pretty palpably.

Article 11, for example, which obliges both governments to recoup losses that companies suffer due to ‘war, a state of national emergency, insurrection, [a] riot, or [an]other similar event.’ This effectively gives the Canadian government justification to deem a protest a riot, and break it up citing its need to protect Chinese investments under this FIPA.

Or Article 17, in which both parties are ‘encouraged’ to ‘publish in advance any measure that it proposes to adopt’, and ‘provide interested persons and the other Contracting party [with] a reasonable opportunity to comment on the proposed measure.’

Encouraged. Not obliged in any way.

Or Article 18, in which it is deemed ‘inappropriate’ for either party to encourage investment by waiving, relaxing, or otherwise derogating from domestic health, safety or environmental measures.’

Inappropriate. To override almost all provincial law regarding our health care system, our police forces, and our environmental regulations.

But the real kicker is this one. Article 21. While observance of most Canadian laws are merely ‘encouraged’, and the overriding of almost all provincial legislation is merely ‘inappropriate’, both parties ‘shall,’ the strongest binding legal term used in this document, ‘first hold consultations in an attempt to settle a claim amicably’ when there is a treaty dispute.

Those claims will be settled by a three-person tribunal. One Canadian, one Chinese citizen, and one foreign national, whose identity will be mutually agreed. That’s in article 24.

So basically, the tie breaking vote on this tribunal will always be a citizen of a country who is infinitely more interested in currying China’s favor than in protecting Canadian citizens.

This tribunal ‘shall’ have its findings made publicly available, ‘subject to the redaction of confidential information.’ But only when it’s ‘in the public interest.’ Which is straight out of Yes, Minister.

But the contracting governments ‘may share with their officials of their respective federal and sub-national governments.’ May. They don’t have to.

And if a third party is affected by a dispute? Like a first nations band? Or a provincial government that is about to see its environmental protections gutted? They can submit to this tribunal.

But their submissions cannot be more than twenty pages long. Their application can only be five. Essentially meaning that the exercise of trying to protest this tribunal’s decisions would be ultimately pointless and unrewarding. That part’s buried in Annex C-29. Literally at the end of the document.

In the idiotic preamble on the Harper clique’s website explaining what FIPA’s actually are, it gets pointed out that Canada has signed FIPA’s in the past with countries including Hungary, Latvia, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Venezuela.

But of course, none of these countries remotely compare to China in size and power. We are the junior partner in this agreement. The one who can be safely ignored.

Much as we were with NAFTA. The last trade treaty Canada signed that had this kind of scope and significance. Of course, we fought a bloody election over it, and freely chose as a people to sign it when we voted for Brian Mulroney. We didn’t have it snuck through the legislative backdoor by a vicious and corrupt petty despot and his henchmen.

Because that’s what’s happening. Right now. In your country.

If you’re angry, you should be. And you should tell people so. That’s the only chance we have of stopping this from happening. I’ll be publishing Kylie Thomas’ more detailed dissection of the treaty later next week.

In the meantime, I would ask that you share this. People should really know.

The end of the government of Canada.

So it’s official. There is no longer a government of Canada. There is now the Harper Government. It’s appearing on the letterheads now.

Though Harper himself has proven unable, in the face of popular outcry, to push this through in its entirety, the fact remains that he has tried. And will try again.

I’m glad, in a way. It draws a useful distinction. It helps us remember that this isn’t our government. This isn’t the Canadian state. This is something else entirely.

For me, at least, It makes it easier to realize that this band of old creeps has nothing to do with me. Or my country. It helps me to look people from other countries in the eye and tell them the truth, which is that I increasingly no longer recognize my government. Not in some petty ideological sense, but in the most fundamental way. I want nothing to do with it.

I once dreamed of a career at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade. Of representing a country I was genuinely proud of. But that was a different time. I was young. Idealistic. I had faith that I would be doing something worthwhile.

Not shilling Alberta crude in Washington. Or working for John Baird. I’d honestly rather turn tricks. I’d feel less filthy at the end of the day.

Gradually it became obvious that government work in today’s Ottawa would be like wading knee-deep into congealing cement. Pointless, boring, and ultimately stupid.

I didn’t want to be so cowed by my obstreperous, rude, and in some cases clearly rather stupid political masters that I wouldn’t feel able to speak out against something like this idiotic name change  ‘for fear of retribution’ as the Globe and Mail rather drily noted that most civil servants are in today’s Ottawa. I value my  integrity and my pride.

I didn’t want to watch as my funding gradually receded under the unthinking axe of some idiot minister, enslaved by a paleolithic ideology, and animated ultimately by a contempt for everything I hold dear.

And above all, I didn’t want to help them do what they’re doing.

I didn’t want to help them build bigger and more expensive jails to hold the waves of new ‘criminals’ they’re incarcerating. I didn’t want to be party to the mass beating of the peacefully demonstrating citizens of Toronto in their own streets with the unthinking fists of thugs from out of town at the G20. I didn’t want to lie through my teeth to the rest of the world about the wonders of the ‘oil patch,’ or ‘ethical oil,’ or any of the other thousand and one euphemisms we’re now obliged to call the tar sands.

I’d rather work for the Government of Canada. I’d rather be an active citizen of a country I can still be proud of.

But I will never work for the Harper Government. Not so long as it bears this stupid name.

There’s so much we can be proud of as Canadians. We’re peaceful, we’re tolerant, we’re compassionate, and we’re friendly. We mean well. We really do. We just find it hard to care about politics right now, because they’re so dispiriting, petty, and low.

Which is, of course, something Harper doesn’t care about. Or at least doesn’t mind. The more apathetic and tuned out the Canadian public becomes, the more we are lulled and fattened by the gushing fountain of petro dollars keeping our economy afloat, the easier his job becomes.

The easier it becomes of him to rob us of our hard won social protections. Or to pointlessly glorify our military. Or to suck the damn oil out of Alberta as fast as he possibly can, no matter what gets destroyed along the way.

He thrives off the fact that we don’t pay attention.

So I will no longer ever refer to the Government of Canada in reference to the actions of the Harper clique. I will call it what he doesn’t have the courage to do. The Harper Government. Something distinct, alien, and terrible.

Not something that has anything to do with the country I love.

Trudeau, Harper, and how a real statesman treats terrorism.

This is how you deal with terrorism.

Openly, reluctantly, and in the broad light of day. In defense of the spirit of freedom.

Watch it. In it’s entirety when you have time.. He treats Canadians as grown-ups. As people who can understand his reasoning, and follow it. He explains that he is only shouldering the sweeping powers of the War Measures Act with the greatest reluctance, and will rescind them as soon as it’s within his power to do so. And he did.

Now with that in mind, stop and look at what the Harper Government has announced will be the next order of Parliament’s business.

It’s Bill C 7. It allows the government to arrest you before you’ve committed a crime, and to hold you for up to three days without charge or trial.

It also allows the government to hold you for up to a year without trial if you refuse to answer questions put to you by a judge in a so- called ‘investigative hearing.’

It’s a bad bill. It shouldn’t pass.

And nothing that has happened this week will change my mind. Indeed, if anything, I will note with gratitude that the RCMP seem perfectly capable of doing their jobs and isolating and apprehending terrorists without this legislation. They’ve done good work this week.

Though the Globe and Mail may, in the light of recent events, feel that somehow the situation has been changed politically by this attempted attack, and that Harper’s legislation is now praiseworthy and considered, I am less…malleable on this issue than they.

Proponents of the bill claim that it merely restores certain fundamental legal tools necessary if we are to combat terrorism. Tools that were originally passed into law under a Liberal government.

That’s true. I remember being aware of the debate at the time. I was 12, so much of it was over my head, but I remember where my sympathies lay then, too. And it wasn’t with the governing Liberals.

It was in the hysteria after 9 11. You remember those days. The fear, the hatred, the panic. Not one of us was thinking clearly. And even in our angered fervour, we still felt it necessary to sunset some of the more controversial parts of the legislation. Because we felt they were excessive powers that the state shouldn’t possess.

And I’m sorry, but two foreigners looking at a train doesn’t feel like a reason to give the state those powers.

Trudeau was faced with his friends and colleagues, in the case of Pierre Laporte, men he’d known all his life, being kidnapped. Unbelievable rumors were flying around Montreal. There was talk of more kidnappings, of a provisional government preparing to overthrow Premier Bourassa, of apprehended insurrection. If he had only believed half of them, he’d still have felt it was his responsibility to bring in the War Measures Act.

And, I repeat this, he rescinded the powers it gave him almost immediately after the situation had stabilized.

The Harper Government, and in fact most governments around the world at this moment in time, are bringing in sweeping powers to arm the government forever against a nebulous, abstract concept.

We always just seem to accept this. We seem to tolerate a definition of ‘terror ‘that could be, and indeed has been applied to a diverse group of peoples around the world, including the Irish, the Tibetans, the South Africans, and, indeed, the Canadians, who at one time or another, have resorted to violence to achieve an end.

Terrorism is unique, because it is uniquely a crime against the state. It is the state that feels most directly shaken by an act of random violence against the population. Because it undermines the essential claim the state makes; that it is there to protect its citizens. If it can’t do this, what’s the point in having it?

My essential point is this. In Trudeau’s Canada, rights were temporarily suspended to deal with an unprecedented and dangerous situation that threatened the very fabric of Canadian Confederation.

In Harper’s Canada, rights are joyfully stripped from the statutes under the pretense of defending us from the abstract concept of terror. From something that is always hypothetically possible, but which scares us so much we can’t be rational about it. And the government uses and exploits that fear to cow us into a scared silence as our rights under the Charter are taken from us.

There’s more than a cosmetic difference.

God Bless America. The trial of Dzokhar Tsarnaev and the best instincts of a people.

A few days ago, certain ‘senators’ and ‘congressmen’ suggested that Dzokhar Tsarnaev be tried as an enemy combatant, rather than in the full light of the rights due to him under the US constitution.

President Barack Obama has shown that he is better than that. So have the American people.

Dzokhar Tsarnaev will be charged for his horrendous crime under US law. In a US court. And his life or liberty will be confiscated by a righteous jury of his peers.

Today is a great day for the US constitution, and the freedoms it enshrines. It is a great day for the victims of a tragedy, who will now get their day in court, and see justice done on the man who has wounded them so deeply.

It’s rather a bad one for Lindsay Graham, John McCain, and anyone else who betrayed their pledges of allegiance this week.

George Galloway, Treason, and the Labour Party.

Ed Milliband, leader of Labour, recently met with George Galloway, leader, and sole MP, of Respect. A primitive fringe party.

Presumably the mood was tense.

Milliband has been strong in his insistence that the meeting was a mere distasteful parliamentary necessity. An unpleasant fact of Tory intransigence in the legislature.

He’s to be commended for that. But he still shouldn’t have met with the man. George Galloway is not to be trusted.

An unseemly demagogue, he’s known for his grandstanding theatrics, not-so-secret conversion to Islam, and his unreasonable cold rage at the British State.

My personal favorite Galloway moment, and perhaps the most revealing one he’s ever had, came a few months ago, in Oxford.

Somebody managed to convince him to come up for a debate. Nobody told him his opponent would be an Israeli. Or at least I presume.

Here’s how he reacted to the news.

He’d rather storm out, and be seen to storm out, like a child, than have any kind of conversation or change any minds that don’t think like his does. He’s not interested in conversation. He’s interested in winning. And ultimately, he’s interested in killing. You can kind of see it in his eyes.

His views, if I’m perfectly blunt, feel somehow dirty. Tainted and warped by hate. Treacherous, ultimately.

In fact, if we’re literal in our definition of treason, he comes remarkably close to committing it here. Treason is ultimately against the crown.

I merely note that this is drawn straight from Press TV. The Iranian government’s English language mouthpiece.

If you’re American, and you’ve never heard of him, think Alex Jones. If Alex Jones had an evil doppelganger.

Though he swore his oath of allegiance to the monarch upon returning to parliament in a stunning, bizarre by election in Bradford West, one can’t help but wonder if he meant it.

Did you click that link? Watch it. Feel the tension oozing from the chamber of the House of Commons to your screen. That room hated him. Probably almost to the last man or woman.

Though he affects to be at the head of a political movement, it remains rather obvious that his party, Respect is a personality cult.

I felt dirty just going on their website.

Of course, Galloway has expressed a sincere, if not entirely well motivated desire to return to the Labour party. Doubtless he realizes it would be quicker and simpler merely to hijack the apparatus of the existing state in a major party than to convince everyone to vote for his new and odd looking movement. He can do much more damage from within the Labour party than he can from without it.

So ultimately, what are we to make of Ed Milliband’s meeting with such a man?

It becomes a question of motive. If it was, in fact, a dirty necessity, it nonetheless elevated Galloway in the eyes of his constituents and put Milliband completely off message even in friendly news sources. That suggests a forgivable lack of political guile.

If there was any other motive to the meeting, I feel like we deserve to know more about it.

George Galloway is a threat. Not an imminent one. Thankfully most people see him for what he is at the moment. But desperate times tend to make people correspondingly desperate. And what seemed lunatic and unthinkable six months ago is now openly discussed in today’s mainstream media. Things are moving fast these days.

The Labour party shouldn’t be dignifying him with the title of MP, let alone the respect of being a party leader.

Treason will always out in the end.

Miriam Conrad, Ruslan Tsarni, and other American heroes.

Dzokhar Tsarnaev is, at the end of the day, a criminal. He will now be punished and otherwise treated like one.

But I’m going to choose to remember the true heroes of the past week.

Like Ruslan Tsarni, Dzokhar’s uncle, who eloquently and passionately denounced his newphew, defended the idea of America, and generally proved that in an extraordinary situation, he was capable of showing extaordinary courage. Especially in the face of such stupid, hostile questions from an uncaring, agressive, and pathetically useless mass media as ‘Do you love America?’

Or like Carlos Arredondo, who unhestitatingly, unquestioningly saved the life of one of Dzokhar’s victims with a torn-up sweater and truly incredible courage and love.

Or, perhaps above all, Miriam Conrad, federal defender for Massachusetts, who has today announced that she’ll be defending Dzokhar Tsarnaev in court.

In doing so, she proved that some of the finest things that people have ever said about America are still true. That the law is there for all of us, no matter what we’ve done. That everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That there is nothing you can do that will undermine the essential liberties of the American people. And that justice will be swift, unyielding, but above all, fair.

She proved this better than most of the so-called senators, congressmen, and other filth who have polluted the halls of Washington this week with their traitorous words.

She, and all the other Americans who support her, who believe in the justice system, and in the ancient rights and liberties of the English speaking world, are the true heroes of this week. The ones who understand that no matter how desperately we want to punish those who hate us for what we hold dear, when we sacrifice our freedoms for the sake of revenge, it is the terrorists who ultimately win. And by terrorists I mean both Tsarnaev and his brother, and the better-funded, better-armed, and ultimately more deadly terrorists in Washington DC who seek to exploit this tragedy for their own ends.

A friend of mine asked me whether I thought Miriam Conrad, as she turned out to be, was a good woman, or just a good lawyer who likes a challenge.

I hope she’s both.

And I hope good people like her continue to be so in the days ahead.

I am Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona,  last night announced the following on Facebook.

“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorist trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans.

“Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing we should want is for him to remain silent. It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes. We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now.

“Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel. Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks.

“We remain under threat from radical Islam and we hope the Obama Administration will seriously consider the enemy combatant option.

“We will stand behind the Administration if they decide to hold this suspect as an enemy combatant.”

So now Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the teenage suspect of the Boston Bombings, will, unless cooler heads prevail, be treated as an enemy combatant, and detained indefinitely without trial. Indeed, if these two demented geriatrics are to be understood correctly in their blustering on social media, the boy will almost certainly be tortured in that event.

We can’t let this happen.

It’s hard to believe, in some ways, that it was ever going to come to this.

To a generation raised on the West Wing, this is not exactly how we imagined Washington. Indeed, House of Cards is now probably the more accurate representation of the rotting, suppurating gangrenous wreck that remains of what was once the capital of a great nation.

We didn’t think the US Senate would be capable of voting down reasonable gun control legislation that couldn’t possibly have been more ginger with the second amendment, literally as the victims of the Newtown massacre watched from the gallery. We thought they might feel some shame.

We didn’t think any president would ever consider signing a bill like the NDAA. Which allows the US Military to detain you indefinitely if they deem you to be involved with ‘terrorism.’ We thought he was better than that.

We didn’t think Congress would ever pass a bill that allowed the US Goverment to see what you’re reading right now, and what you’ve written on Facebook, without a warrant. But of course, they have, and we’re only a senate vote and a presidential moment of cowardice away from the US government being able to see what you’re reading right now. We thought that privacy was a right so sacred we didn’t need to be told we had it.

We were wrong.

Though Lindsay Graham is your typical snakeoil shilling scumbag, I will concede to being surprised by John McCain’s decision. I trusted him, once.

Neither, of course, deserves the title of Senator any longer.

But Dzokhar Tsarnaev was a US Citizen. Once a proud title to bear.

Regardless of whether he blew something up at a marathon, this remains true.

His Community are near unanimous in praising him as having been a good kid. As one of his teachers put it, ‘not one of them, one of us.’ He was an all-star wrestler, a scholarship student, and he went to Cambridge Ryndge and Latin School. And frankly? He won’t be the first kid who did something stupid to avoid alienating his douchebag older brother. Even if he did do it.

But that’s not even the point. The point is that he was a US Citizen.

If you’re reading this, and you are too, then don’t read his name in the papers, read yours. Regardless of what you believe, or what he believes. It’s not relevant. Because that 19 year old kid, star of his high school wrestling team, who’s about to be tortured until he says whatever he has to say to make it stop? That could now just as easily be you.

A final frontier has been crossed. America’s government may finally, for the first time in its history, be considering treating its own citizens the way it has treated the citizens of other countries since 2001. As the enemy.

If Dzokhar Tsarnaev did do it? If he bombed the Boston Marathon and killed those people? He should go to jail. If he sincerely meant to do it, understands what he did, and feels no remorse? Then he should never be let out.

But he should still get a trial. And Lindsay Graham, John McCain, and the rest of the traitorous, corrupt, and vicious clique that currently control America’s congress should still be turfed from their seats and decent human beings put in their place. Regardless.

And if you don’t think so? If you think I’m being shrill? If you think they’ll never come for you too?

If you think, someday, if you allow this kind of thing to continue, it won’t eventually be you on the waterboard?

Then I hope you’re right. I really do. But don’t expect sympathy if you turn out to be wrong.

I am Dzokhar Tsarnaev. So are you. American or not, Democrat or Republican. So, in the end, are you.

Joyce Murray Revisited: Electoral Cooperation and Defeating Stephen Harper

It occurs to me that it may have been rather rude of me not to mention the other candidates in my blog a few days ago. I chose not to on the principle that if I was just going to rubbish them with my reasons for not voting for them, it was better to say nothing at all.

The truth is, I have nothing but respect for all of them. They’re liberals who have put their lives on hold because they want to serve this country. And they should be honoured on that basis alone. Martha Hall Findlay put it best in the first debate. This is one hell of a shadow cabinet.

Having said that, I’m not going to get all valedictory and praise each candidate’s merits in turn. They know that they’re in this for real. They don’t need my praise. I certainly hope that George Takach is going to run as an MP, because we could really use him in parliament, and the same goes for Bertschi, MacCrimmon and Coyne.

Indeed, I’ll point out that most of my favorite candidates in this race have not been sitting MPS. That’s a testament to what’s been happening. It turns out the race really did revitalize the party. It turns out we really did have an honest, strong discussion about what our future is as a party. It turns out the old establishment have been overturned for good, and the party is back in the hands of ordinary Canadians. It turns out that large portions of the Canadian media are looking a little stupid today.

I’m not going to write sweet nothings to the sitting MPs in the race. They’re all far more substantial than I, and don’t need my praise anyway.
I am, however, going to outline why Joyce Murray was at the bottom of my list. And why she’s now third.

Joyce Murray I was afraid I just in good conscience couldn’t vote for. I thought, and still suspect, that the Cullen/Murray cooperation plan was cynical, divisive, and just bad politics. I thought it reeked of the kind of self-righteous entitlement that lost us the trust of Canadians in the first place. It smacks of the same flawed logic that made people honestly believe that a coalition with the NDP and Greens was somehow a good thing. That it wouldn’t have been annhilated in the election that probably would have happened within weeks.

You can rage all you want about the fripperies of first past the post, which I’ll admit are absurd, but if you truly loathe Stephen Harper and all he stands for, as I feel many Liberals rightly do, you have to beat him. You have to stand up, and you have to beat him. You can’t just fiddle with the rules to try and finagle yourself the power you feel you rightly deserve.

You have to earn it. And you have to earn it from the new Canadians, and the workers in Alberta who fear for their jobs, and the population of Quebec, and all those who have begun to feel either that perhaps Harper isn’t so bad after all, or that someone else is better equipped to beat him than we are.

Because, and this is the truth that the Murray campaign recognizes, we’re not the only ones who want him gone. We know what he is. We’ve been following his insidious demolition of everything we love about our own country. We know how it feels now, to hang our heads in shame on the world stage.

And though blowing smoke about his ‘hidden agenda’ has become tiresome, as he’s quiet, and bides his time, and certainly doesn’t appear to be dismantling the liberal state, but the fact remains that there is something deeply sinister happening in Ottawa today. A secretive, clubby, repressive, and authoritarian clique increasingly dominate the city, and Canada is being ruled as a series of fiefdoms by a federal government that is completely disengaged from the broader life of the nation.

and Joyce Murray, to her credit, cares about that.

Perhaps I could vote for Ms. Murray, if I truly understood the logic behind the cooperation plan. Perhaps I’m painting it in too negative a light. Perhaps the truth is that definitions like Liberal and Socialist and Conservative have ceased to have the meaning they once did. I should confess that calling myself a liberal these days has increasingly begun to feel like I’m calling myself a Chartist, or a Bonapartist, even. It feels somehow outdated. As though that fight is over, and a new one has begun.

Perhaps the nature of the game has changed, and we need to acknowledge that we’re facing a different, far more sinister opponent than just the Tories. Perhaps we’re facing the organized power of a particular segment of private enterprise, that is seeking to unfairly influence and dominate the rest of the country. And without being coy, I’m talking about the tar sands.

Yes, the tar sands. It’s what the rest of the world calls them. Because it’s what they are. You’ll just notice the media doesn’t call them that here.

Perhaps the trouble really is that the country is being run with one interest in mind; that of the oil barons of Calgary. Perhaps ‘screw the west, we’ll keep the rest’ has finally come back to haunt the ‘Laurentian Establishment,’ as John Ibbitson calls them, and it really is Alberta calling the shots now. Perhaps social conservatism, heavy-handed, authoritarian government, and a crueller society all around are our future. Perhaps, as Thomas Homer-Dixon recently pointed out in an article in the New York Times, we really are beginning to exhibit the warning signs of being a ‘petro state.’ Perhaps Harper is just our vicious right-wing version of Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A petty despot living on oil revenue and using it to impose his will on a country that for the most part hates him.

The thirty percent of voters who are consistently in lockstep for Harper’s Tories represent a tiny fragment of the population. One that you can be sure does, in large part, well out of them, or they wouldn’t be voting for him. To continue with the petro-state analogy, so does the Saudi Royal family and those close to them. So do the people who fell in line with Chavez’ United Socialist Party. So do those Russians who toe the line and vote for United Russia and praise Putin to the skies. So do the clique of clerics and their friends who currently run Iran.

It doesn’t matter what twisted ideology you import to justify your slow seizure of the country’s resources, as the above list demonstrates. Harper’s is a hodgepodge of the dumbest kind of US republicanism, the slightly nutty fixations of the old Socreds, the straight-up bigotry of the old Canadian Alliance, and the crumbling relic of what was once the Progressive Conservative party.

John Duffy once wrote, in a book I no longer own, which I thus can unfortunately not source, called Fights of our Lives, that historically, western Canadian fringe parties generally get gradually absorbed back into the eastern mother party.

But for the first time in our history, that hasn’t happened. The Canadian Alliance staged a coup in the conservative movement. They took it over. The eastern establishment PCS fell in line because they were promised the fruits of power. The Albertan nutbars like Stockwell Day we spent the 90s laughing at are at the controls. Because one of them, it turns out, is a calculating, devious, and ferociously brilliant sociopath. And he’s ruining everything.

He’s building thousands of new prisons to incarcerate a population he barely cares about. He has no trouble watching his own population be viciously beaten in the streets of Toronto by testosterone-crazed loonies from out of town. He doesn’t give a damn about how Israel treats the Palestinians because he knows he can lock up a series of Toronto ridings by slavishly supporting a right-wing kleptocracy that has taken the dream of Israel hostage, and used it to savagely oppress another people.

He’s shutting down government sponsored science. Mainly because it keeps coming to inconvenient conclusions about global warming. But also because he just doesn’t care. About science, or global warming. Neither fit in his monomaniacal vision.

He’s lulling Canadians to sleep. One day we’ll wake up to find the country we loved gone. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. Unless we beat him now.

Perhaps Joyce Murray and Nathan Cullen are the candidates who acknowledge that stopping Canada’s Republicanization is more important than any petty rivalry the NDP and the Liberals may have had in the past. Perhaps they acknowledge that what is now being undertaken by the Harper government is so fundamentally abhorrent to Canadian values that it needs to be stopped at any cost. Perhaps they are the new left. The bold left. The visionary left that will stem the tide of corporate influence in Ottawa, restore reason and sanity as the bases of pariamentary policy, and banish the reactionary ideology of the Canadian Alliance to it’s long deserved electoral grave.

Or perhaps it’s that cooperation is the shortest route to power. I don’t know. I’m curious to find out. So I’m going to put Joyce third on my ballot. Just to make it interesting.

Margaret Thatcher and the Emotional Straitjacket of Mourning

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Britain is marking the passing of one of the most provocative and divisive leaders it has ever had this week. For reasons I’ve outlined below in another post, I was unable to weigh in on Facebook with my initial reaction. My instinct was just to say farewell, you old Battleaxe, and leave it at that. But of course, it wouldn’t have been that simple.

Whatever one has to say about Thatcher’s political legacy; her dismantling of the pre-1979 British state, her bellicosity on the world stage, her demolition of the societal bonds that once held Britain together, it would be churlish to deny that her passing is a milestone in British history. A moment where the nation can take stock of itself, reflect on how its place in the world has changed, and honestly ask itself whether the changes of the Thatcher years were for the better.

And say what you like about the Brits, at least that’s exactly what they’re doing. Compare their national discourse on the subject so far to that which followed the death of Thatcher’s good friend President Reagan a few years ago. The American media, left, right and center, lined up to deliver weepy eulogies on the passing of the great man, close in on the stoic suffering of his widow Nancy, and cover every second of his gaudy state funeral. And heaven help anyone who didn’t toe the media line. Any criticism of his years in power, and his effect on his society were subject to the most vitriolic dismissal. The man just died! Show some respect! Have you no decency, you evil liberals? Is there no end to your depravity?

(Then, of course, Osama bin Laden and his family were brutally murdered by Navy Seals, and they poured into the streets shouting ‘USA! USA!)

Thankfully, no one cared what I thought at the time of Reagan’s death, so I was free to call him, being a slightly flippant seventeen at the time, a disastrous president, a disgusting human being, and the worst thing that would ever happen to the United States until the election of Dubya twenty years later. Being out of earshot of Bill O’Reilly, I felt able to say that with some comfort. Certainly no one in the supposedly liberal media felt the same freedom I did.

But you know what I love about the Brits? They feel that freedom. They feel it pretty deeply. I love these guys in the photo. Fuck the emotional straitjacket of politically correct mourning. Fuck, as Stuart Lee once eloquently put it in the context of Princess Diana’s death, ‘the hysterical shrieking grief of twats.’ The people going to street parties in Glasgow and Brixton know exactly what they think about Maggie, and they’re glad she’s dead. They’re allowed to feel that way, and people like Nick Clegg should stop falling over themselves to call them puerile and childish. At least they’re emotionally honest.

I will also point out that the right-wing Brits and Americans who angrily demand the sympathies of their nations when their heroes die were among the most disrespectful assholes on social media when Hugo Chavez died. And the same goes for plenty of left-wingers who all but wept into their keyboards for the great Bolivarian socialist, but don’t see the irony when they go to a street party celebrating Thatcher’s death. The worst sort of double standard is at work here. When people you agree with die, it’s a tragedy. When your enemies die, it’s cause for celebration.

That feels pretty barbaric.

But then again, maybe it’s just human nature.

As for me, If I knew Thatcher’s children, or had a deep personal relationship with Nancy Reagan, perhaps I’d mourn the passing of these two twisted, vicious ideologues. As it is, I feel mainly indifference.

(PS: It was Russell Brand, of all people, who wrote the most thoughtful and interesting commentary I’ve read so far on the subject. I recommend you give it a read. I gained a new respect for him after reading it.)

How I’ll be Voting in the Liberal Leadership Race, and why.

So it’s come to this. After months of struggle, schmoozing, debates, meet and greets, and snide remarks from the media, Liberals across the country are choosing their next leader.

Not some cloistered stadium full of delegates and hacks, but real people, across the country, with an interest in restoring Canada’s promise after the long years of Tory skulduggery, small-mindedness, and venality.

And you know what? More people have just voted for one of the six Liberal candidates than voted for the NDP in 2011.

The party is back.

I’m currently trying to cast my vote, but am experiencing difficulties. Mainly because I can’t access the help phone lines because they’re completely jammed.

I’m happy to wait. They’re busy, and they deserve to be. But in the meantime I’m going to explain publicly who I’m voting for, and why.

Some people like to keep this a secret. Others find it rude to even be asked about it. Personally, I’ve never understood that mind set. Of course, a secret ballot is integral to democracy, and it’s something people are perfectly entitled to keep to themselves, or not, as they choose.

And I choose to tell people what I stand for. Because I’m not ashamed of it whatsoever.

So I’m going to explain, partly for my own purposes, to clarify my thinking, and partly because I don’t care who knows it, who I’ll be voting for in the preferential ballot I’m about to fill out.

A word on preferential ballots: They’re an absolutely brilliant way of ensuring that the majority of voters’ preferences are registered, and the candidate who has the broadest base of consensus support takes the cake at the end of the day. No chicanery, no absurdities like the ones that we all know first-past-the-post can create. Just the will of the people. Clearly stated.

What I’ll be doing in a few minutes is ranking the six remaining candidates by order of preference. My first preference vote will be noted, applied to my chosen candidate, and so on down the line. Candidates will gradually be knocked out of contention, and the ballots they collected passed on down their lists of preferences until eventually a winner receives a majority of the ballots cast.

In case you’re interested, for whatever reason, here’s how I’ll be voting.

My first preference vote will be going to Deborah Coyne, and my second will be going to Justin Trudeau. Bronze medal goes to Martha Hall Findlay, fourth to Karen MacCrimmon, with Martin Cauchon and Joyce Murray bringing up the rear.

To some, that may require explanation, or even justification.

I worked on Deborah’s campaign. Admittedly not as hard as I should have, for a number of personal reasons, and perhaps not with the greatest deal of expertise, but with a certain raw enthusiasm for her and her ideas. She’s a wonderful woman.

I came back to Canada recently from several years abroad, and found myself in a bit of a political vacuum. I had viewed Canadian politics through the prism of the foreign media for four years, and while glad to be back, was a little under informed. But I bought my Liberal party membership, which I had been meaning to do for some time, and set about learning about the candidates.

I had little to go on but their websites, and so started there. Being interested in public policy myself, I scoured the various candidate pages for evidence of the new ideas and new thinking that I was convinced the party needed.

Which, in fact, we desperately still need. We’ve effectively lost our way in the years since the death of Pierre Trudeau. Since the waning days of the Chretien administration we have offered little but economic competence and federalism to Canadians as a justification for the right to govern we seemed to simply claim, with some arrogance. I won’t comment in detail here about past mistakes, as it isn’t the place, but a number of them were made, and Canadians turned away from us. Which we deserved.

So I was particularly hungry for policy that day as I searched for the person I thought would do the best job as leader. And Deborah’s website was a revelation.

There were ideas. There was vision. There was a comprehensive approach. There was a blueprint for the country’s future that I could get on board with, and which I’d still really like to see happen. You can still find it on her website. It remains incredible.

She’s spent her life thinking about this country, and how it could be better. She’s Pierre Trudeau’s  intellectual heir. The muscular federalism, the concern with social justice, the belief that Canada is at its best as one country, and not as a ragtag collection of interest groups and disparate provinces, it’s all there. If you believe in the legacy of Pierre Trudeau, and love the country he gave us, Deborah Coyne is the one who understands where it goes from here.

She’s one of the brightest minds in the Liberal Party. And would give Harper a run for his money in any election. So she gets my first choice. We’d be lucky to have her as PM.

But the majority of the party wants Justin. And frankly, I understand why.

He’s young, he’s personable, he’s articulate, he’s effortlessly bilingual, and his hair is perfect. Just perfect. He may also have what it takes to be a truly great Prime Minister.

I should concede that I have my criticisms of him, and have been far from uncritical in my assessment of him. I’ve called him a featherweight. A hairdo. Someone who can’t be trusted with the leadership of the party.

But I’ve said a lot of stupid things in my time, and most likely will continue to.

The fact of the matter is, he’s not a bad guy. In fact, he seems like a really good one. And he’s built the sort of grassroots, modern campaign architecture that the party needs to be competitive today. To say nothing of the fact that his ascendancy, and that of the bright young turks around him, spells doom for the old fuddy-duddies who have brought the party to the brink of ruin since the Chretien-Martin years. This is a new party now. And it’s Justin’s.

The Tories are calling him the Liberal’s ‘pretty pony.’ Let them. A pony looks a lot less pretty when it’s kicking you in the face.