Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Quiet Native Revolution


                                           http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/

In his book, A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul argued that Canada owed its existence to three founding nations -- Britain, France and its First Nations. But he took the argument further than that. What was best about us, Saul wrote, was what we unconsciously inherited from our First Nations. That inheritance has made us a "Metis Nation."

In his latest book, The Comeback,  Saul argues that Canada is in the midst of a Quiet Native Revolution. Lawrence Martin writes:

What’s happening today is comparable to the Quiet Revolution in 1960s Quebec, he says. Our indigenous peoples are about to impose themselves the way Quebec nationalists did then. Few understand this because the focus has disproportionately been on the suffering and the failures – the rapes, the poverty, the residential schools, the Attawapiskats.

There’s a new aboriginal elite. We have Inuit and Cree corporations. Supreme Court victories are giving aboriginals more control over the commodity-rich lands of the North. Climate change is playing to their agenda. The aboriginal population is rapidly increasing, as is aboriginal youth enrolment in universities and colleges. “They are smart, intellectually lean and rightfully angry young people,” he says – their clout was felt with Idle No More and will soon register more tellingly.

Never mind some of the negative stuff in the media, for example, the stories about some delinquent chiefs being overpaid. Indeed, some are, said Mr. Saul, speaking recently to a packed hall of 700 in Ottawa. But, “did anyone bother to compare the percentage of overpaid chiefs with the percentage of overpaid CEOs in the private sector?”

Indeed, Canada's natives people are putting the brakes on runaway corporatism:

Our Western model put few brakes on commercial development. Governments have too often run the Canadian North, where two-thirds of our resource wealth lies, “like slum landlords.” With the native peoples’ legal victories, their philosophy, which sees the human as integral, as opposed to a dominant part of the whole, will take hold.

Certainly, the revolution has been quiet. And the Harper government has done everything in its power to stop it. But, if Saul is right, the First Nations may -- as they have done in the past -- lead us back to our better angels.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pre-Paleolithic Neanderthals


                                                 stephenlewisfoundation.org/

That's what Stephen Lewis calls the Harper government. Lewis has always known how to turn a phrase. But he's also always known how to make an argument. And the evidence he offers in support of his case is damning. Tim  Harper writes in the Toronto Star:


  • Canada’s world standing is in free fall.

  • The Harper government’s contempt for Parliament and its traditions has degraded   political life and fostered voter cynicism.

  • Its attitude to aboriginals is not paternalistic, it is racist.

  • Harper’s refusal to join the rest of the world and move toward renewable energy sources is endangering future generations and contributing to a looming planetary meltdown.

  • Civil society and the ideas it fosters have been slapped down and censored, subverting democratic norms.

  • Lewis understands just how far Canada has moved from its moorings:

    "Vitriolic nastiness in debate does not breed respect,” he said. “Nor does adolescent partisanship, nor do pieces of legislation of encyclopedic length that hide contentious issues, nor does the sudden emergence of frenzied TV attack ads, nor does the spectre of a Prime Minister’s Office exercising authoritarian control.”

    "It is as though Canada had decided, like some mindless national curmudgeon, to be a permanent outlier on issues of minority rights and women’s rights,” Lewis said. “It does us damage. It does us shame.”

    He has said that there was a time in Ottawa when his father, Robert Stanfield and Pierre Trudeau led their respective parties. They could disagree and they could do it with wit. He recalls the time his father stood in the House of Commons, pointed at the prime Minister and proclaimed, "There, but for Pierre Trudeau, goes God!"

    But the three men respected each other. Lewis still believes that we can return to that kind of Canada:

    “Somewhere in my soul,” Lewis says, “I cherish the possibility of a return to a vibrant democracy, where equality is the watchword, where people of different ideological conviction have respect for each other, where policy is debated rather than demeaned, where the great issues of the day are given thoughtful consideration, where Canada’s place on the world stage is seen as principled and laudatory, where human rights for all is the emblem of a decent civilized society.”

    Let's hope he's right.


    Monday, November 24, 2014

    Taking His Cue From Goering



    Naomi Klein coined the phrase "disaster capitalism." Taking his cue from Klein, Michael Harris writes that "disaster democracy" is alive and well in Canada. It's not a new phenomenon. Herman Goering explained how it worked when he was on trial at Nuremberg:

    “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger…it works the same in any country.”

    And Harper has taken his cue from Goering:

    When Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at the national war memorial on Oct. 22, Prime Minister Stephen Harper immediately connected his killer to radical Islam and terrorism. Long before any facts were in, Harper claimed that all Canadians had been attacked by the actions of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. There was never any talk from the PM about Zehaf-Bibeau’s mental instability or addiction to crack cocaine. His mother and Cpl. Cirillo’s girlfriend were left to develop that side of the debate on the fringes of the alternative media.

    In the wake of the terrible events in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, the prime minister’s stagnation in the polls came to a sudden end. Almost instantly, disaster democracy gave his popularity a five-per-cent boost in the polls. That is approximately what political parties can expect after a full-fledged leadership convention. It also boosted public support for Harper’s war in Iraq, which shows every sign of leading to boots on the ground there – and now perhaps also engagement in Syria.

    Now -- if the polls are to be believed -- the Conservatives and the Liberals are neck and neck. Mr. Harper proved long ago that he isn't the smartest guy in the room. But he does know how to take advantage of events over which he has no control.

    Ultimately, control belongs to we the people. But there has never been a guarantee that we the people will make wise decisions.


    Sunday, November 23, 2014

    Nowhere Man

                                                    http://www.musicstack.com/

    Yesterday, I wrote that Stephen Harper's refusal to deal with Kathleen Wynne could have significant electoral consequences. Martin Regg Cohn writes that those consequences are being felt now with the alliance which Wynne has established with Quebec premier Philippe Couillard:

    There’s a reason the Quebec-Ontario summit turned into a meeting of minds and ministers: Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard are simpatico both in style and substance.

    Beyond the good will, there are good works on offer:

    Ontario and Quebec signed an unprecedented deal to swap 500 megawatts of electricity during peak periods by way of bartering. They compared notes on climate change. And they celebrated Ontario’s francophone face in a way that touched, viscerally, the visiting French Quebecers.
    At ground level, it is a federalist fantasy come true. Together, they are laying the groundwork for a Central Canadian axis of power (sharing) that is both political and electrical — with environmental and electoral benefits.

    Harper's policy is to not attend meetings of the Council of the Federation. He claims he prefers to meet with premiers individually. But, in Wynne's case, he prefers not to meet at all:

    On the eve of the Toronto summit, Harper delivered a bizarre snub to Wynne by refusing her overtures for a federal-provincial meeting. With her request unrequited, the spurned premier went public with their correspondence — pointedly asking why Canada’s biggest province, with 13 million people, can’t get federal face time.

    Then she got down to business with Couillard — showing that where there is political will, there can be policy headway.

    And that is the point. Mr. Harper lacks the political will to do all kinds of things. In fact, the only thing he wants to do is balance the budget. And, because he has chosen to remove himself from the stage, others will take his place. Cohn writes that there will soon be a third member of the alliance -- Alberta premier Jim Prentice.

    Mr. Harper may indeed discover that he resides in Nowhere Land -- a real Nowhere Man.

    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Ontario Is Ground Zero


    http://thelasource.com/
                                                      
    Stephen Harper won his majority by convincing enough Ontarians to vote for him. But those same Ontarians now have a premier who is not a Harper ally. Far from it. Tim Harper writes in the Toronto Star:

    There’s simply too much at stake for both sides for d├ętente, certainly not heading into a federal election campaign and the electoral riches available in this province.
    The Harper Conservatives remember how Wynne campaigned against them last spring, they know they are dealing with aggressive adversaries in Ontario and they remember well Wynne’s characterization of the Harper “smirk” during that campaign as she recounted a previous, private discussion about pension reform.

    But it's not just Wynne who the Conservatives see as their adversary:


    When Conservatives look at Kathleen Wynne, they see Justin Trudeau. Their instincts tell them to fight and discredit, not to sit and discuss the big issues of the day bedeviling the country’s two largest governments.
    They saw Trudeau stumping for Wynne last spring and Wynne returning the favour, appearing on behalf of Trudeau’s candidate in this week’s Whitby-Oshawa byelection.

    And Harper hasn't helped his case in Ontario:

    The list of Wynne’s grievances is real and long. They are not all meant to be distractions or wedges for the 2015 federal vote.
    Wynne’s agenda would include infrastructure spending, inter-provincial trade, federal transfers, employment insurance and training, her go-it-alone pension plan and the lack of federal action on missing and murdered aboriginal women. The two governments have previously clashed over refugee health care.

    For the Harperites, this is personal. Ontario voters, however, are likely to believe that it is more than that.  By now they may have understood that the Cowboy from Etobicoke is working for someone else.

    The next time around, Ontario is Ground Zero.

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    The Meaning Of Silence

                                                 http://markcoakley.wordpress.com/

    There has been nary a word from the Conservative Party since Michael Sona's sentencing. What are we to make of that? Michael den Tandt writes:

    Keep in mind, key questions that emerged on the very first day the story broke in 2012, courtesy of Postmedia’s Stephen Maher and the Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor, are still outstanding. Does it make any sense at all to think that a 22-year-old planned and executed this scheme, which required access to the party’s Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) database, on his own? And would he have participated had he thought such actions were antithetical to the values of his party and his bosses?

    The Conservatives have made no attempt to answer those questions. Harperites don't like to answer questions. After Joe Oliver's budget speech the other day, there were no questions. That's why the speech was given outside the House of Commons, where questions are inevitable. Questions might lead to an attack of humility:

    We’re long past the moment when anyone could reasonably expect humility or remorse from this prime minister. “Never apologize, never explain,” appears to be among Stephen Harper’s guiding principles. It’s always worked for him before.

    But, really, a little humility is in order:

    There’s Dean Del Mastro, the former Peterborough, Ont., MP and parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister convicted of over-spending and filing a false document to cover that up, who is now awaiting sentencing. And there’s the Ol’ Duff, arguably still the greatest single threat to the Conservative legacy, whose 41-day trial is set to begin in early April.

    Beyond all that, there’s the miasma of tawdriness that hangs over so much of this Conservative party’s political tool kit; personal attacks on the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; tactics that, since the in-and-out affair in the 2006 election, have skirted the edge of legality and sometimes crossed over; and an advertising strategy that, though legal, routinely, deliberately quotes Conservative opponents out of context.

    For this prime minister, humility is a sign of weakness. Eventually voters will reach a different conclusion.


    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Yesterday's Man -- Again

                                                     http://news.nationalpost.com/

    There is a lot of florid rhetoric coming from supporters of the Keystone Pipeline these days --  both north and south of the border. But, Tom Walkom writes, Keystone isn't as important as its shills claim it is:

    The truth is that even if Keystone fails, a pipeline from the tar sands to tidewater will be built. The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats disagree on many things. But all agree that the so-called Energy East pipeline — from Alberta to New Brunswick — should go ahead.

    Similarly, a world with no Keystone will not much affect carbon emissions. As long as there is some method of getting Alberta heavy crude to markets — by train, truck or pipeline — tarsands production will go on.

    The United States has found energy reserves in North Dakota, so Alberta bitumen is no longer the prize  it once was. And, if Alberta oil finds its way to the Atlantic, it will make its way to world markets.

    The truth is that Keystone is an idea whose time has passed. And its chief shill has proved -- once again -- that he is yesterday's man.