Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Economy

As the biggest issue in the minds of Canadians along with our current political predicament, the economic recession is beginning to make itself felt in ways small and large from coast to coast to coast. Gas prices have dropped to eighty one cents in Victoria, British Columbia, and that's saying something for a city not only with a carbon tax but a reputation for prices in the $1.40 range. Dropping oil prices hit industries in Alberta and Newfoundland very hard, causing the losses of jobs, profits, and prosperity across the board.

This is only one example of how the recession of our times is becoming physically well known to everyone in this country. Let there be no doubt that hard times are ahead, and without some sensible action our prosperity will stop increasing, and may begin to slip downhill.

Sensible action though it seems, is a bit too much to ask for. From what I understand of the various bailouts that are being proposed to many businesses here in Canada, they make little sense. General Motors and Chrysler are asking for the Canadian and Ontario governments to give them a bailout of approximately $4 billion dollars.

Indeed, the automotive industry has been one of the hardest hit industries in both Canada and the United States by the recession. However, these industries were already lagging behind in their performance before the recession hit, having been surpassed by auto makers in Asia such as Toyota, Honda, and Mazda. It has been said that when a crisis hits a company, the mettle of it's business practices is tested more so than at any other time. None of these Asian companies have asked their governments for a financial bailout package, because their business practices are financially sound and they can maintain their companies without a crutch from the state.

Of course, one must be aware of all the jobs that are at stake in Canada if the automakers were to shut down. I believe the figure of jobs lost in the automotive industry in Ontario in the past year is close to 100,000, and that figure would likely multiply significantly if the auto makers in Canada were forced to cut costs even more. But bailing out these companies would delay the inevitable. Canadian automakers have offered little in the way of a scheme by which they would put their businesses, well, back in business. To offer the big 3 automakers taxpayers money so they can fix their problems without any plan to do so is like asking every man, woman and child in our nation to shred $120 and hope for the best. It's ridiculous, and irresponsible.

There are better solutions. Make the bailout conditional on a blueprint for success to start with. If GM wants our money, they should tell us exactly how they will make it work for them, and for us. In addition, parliament should discuss regulation of mass employers like the GM and Chrysler that gives us some kind of insurance that these kinds of job losses won't happen again.

But at the very least, don't loan my money away to someone who doesn't even know if they can pay me back.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A time to rant

For Pete's sake, I don't think I've ever been more embarrassed in my life.

For the past two weeks, grown adults who are supposed to be educated, civilized representatives of the Canadian people have made shmucks of themselves in a time of crisis when Canada need leaders, not shmucks.

The election was over, the specter of the economy looming ever larger, and Stephen Harper promised leadership in a time of crisis. And what does he do? In his promised fiscal update when the house resumed in November, the Conservatives and their finance minister Jim Flaherty delivered little in the economic department except for the sale of goverment assets amounting to $2.3 billion dollars. So we lose billions in public property, and we get a projected surplus of $100 million dollars. Now, I don't really know what the property included or what was significant about it, but I could have lived with the update if it had stopped there.

Instead, the Harper government chose to make a relatively minor cut to the public funding of political parties, saying something along the lines of the importance of political parties setting an example to the country in belt tightening. The facts here amounted to a saving of a paltry $22 million dollars by eliminating this subsidy to parties, with the Conservatives taking the biggest hit. This is because as the law stands now, for each vote a party gets in an election, provided it surpasses the minimum amount (which escapes me now), the party also gets $1.95. $1.95 per vote. Now, Harper says that this has never been a popular policy, presumably because political parties shouldn't have to rely on public funding, they should be able to stand on their own.

However what people fail to realize is that this subsidy makes each person's vote count for more. The policy encourages voting for the party you like, instead of the party you think is most likely to win, because even if your party isn't elected, if they get enough of the vote, they get funding that they can use to finance their next campaign. By making people's votes count for less, Harper is weakening the democratic process. And to throw this kind of measure in during an economic crisis makes it seem irresponsible and just plain uncalled for.

Not only is Harper weakening my vote, but he is also attacking other parties with the end to this subsidy. It's not common knowledge that current Conservative financing from donations is at an all-time high, whereas the fundraising machines of other parties have stalled. The Liberal party in particular is hurting, and other parties such as the Bloc Quebecois depend on the public subsidy for financial support. So percentage wise, this is going to chop into the Liberals, Bloc, and especially the Green Party far more than it will the Conservatives. In other words, saying that the Conservatives will be hurting the most after this is not the whole truth.

As I alluded to before, if you don't have money, you can't campaign nearly as effectively. Now, I could personally care less if the seperatist party collapsed, but this tactic to make it happen is underhanded. It's opportunistic and ethically ambiguous. Attacking the opposition parties when he should be working with them (that's what you do in a minority parliament) to fix the economy is a bad decision not only ethically, but tactically too, seeing as he has paid dearly for his actions with an uproar of the opposition parties.

Enough about the $1.95 per vote subsidy. In his update, Harper also cut back the rights for public servants to strike for 3 years. Now I'm not exactly sure who this group includes, but this policy seems like it has even less to do with the economy, and shows a distrust of the Canadian people by the Conservative party. Until there is a clear need to remove the right for public employees to strike, it doesn't make sense to take that right away. If Harper doesn't trust public servants to keep working at their jobs at a time when they are worried about losing those jobs, then there is something seriously wrong with him and his party. The policy seems redundant and showing a lack of faith in the Canadian people.

Finally, he has apparently attacked women's rights. I've skimmed through the economic and fiscal update that the Conservatives released for the details of exactly how women's rights are attacked, but because it was written by the government, it wasn't easy to find. Here's the link in case you have more free time than I do:
Now I don't know how serious it is, but if it was mentioned as part of the reason that the whole nine yards were bad, it must have been in some way significant, otherwise there wouldn't have been a fuss in the first place.

To sum up, Harper made some bad tactical errors in his economic and fiscal update that have come back quickly to bite him, targeting opposition parties, women's rights and worker's rights in a way that is uncalled for in a minority parliament when he should be working with others, not making enemies out of them. The opposition parties also slam him for not including an economic stimulus package in his mini budget, but it seems to me that this is the kind of thing that needs to be given a little bit more thought before it's put through, so I'm with the government on that count. But all in all, I'm disappointed and embarrassed that my government should choose to be so opportunistic in attack when they should be compromising to work with others in a time of crisis.

The opposition parties have made a bad situation worse. They're all guilty of perpetuating this mess we have now and freezing up the whole process of trying to fix the economic crisis by putting their own interests for power ahead of the interests of those that they were elected to represent. The opposition parties had so many other options for action when Flaherty delievered the update. They couldn't let it pass for reasons that I've made clear, but they didn't have simply up and walk away from the table singing hymns of a coalition government that would bring the conservatives to their knees. They should have pointed out the flaws, voted against it, and demand a renegotiation with an all-party committee that would work together to create a working fiscal update that would create economic stability instead of promoting political chaos.

The whole move towards a coalition by the opposition is nothing but a power trip, and at great cost. I don't know if Dion just wants a chance to become PM, or if Layton wants a chance to sit in cabinet, or if Duceppe wants to finally get Québec to separate from the rest of Canada, but I can find no reason in my mind that a Liberal-NDP government would be any better for Canada than the current conservative one. The country just spent $300 million dollars on an election, and it's too early to put the country into political crisis again.

These are grown adults who are supposed to be setting an example for the rest of the country. They have all the power here, and they need to use it wisely to serve the interests of this country, not to delay action on a crisis that could tear the country apart. Instead, they have chosen to arbitrarily decide that now is the time to take power.

And at what cost? The contingency of this alliance that give the Bloc Québecois the balance of power is a scary prospect. If the Liberal-NDP coalition is forced to implement bills and policies that further the sepratist goal, then we could be facing another referendum on Québec separation within the next two years. Essentially the opposition parties have put in charge of the whole country a party that wants to break it up. Bad move. I don't want to lose Québec. I have French heritage. I love the culture and art and language that contributes Canadian identity. I do not want to see La Belle province separate from Canada, not now, not ever.

In short, the opposition parties struck back far too hard at the faulty Conservative economic update. They abandoned attempts at negotiation, resorting instead to an underhanded power grab, all at the possible, yet extreme cost of losing Québec for good.

The result of this back and forth partisan war between the parties? Government has been taken hostage for another month and a half, and Canada will see no more leadership on the current fiscal crisis until parliament resumes in late January. I expect more of my leaders than petty bickering. The blame is on both sides. Harper may have started it, but Dion, Duceppe, and Layton have made it worse. These politicians should be champions of the people, examples for the rest of us to follow and look up to. Not names that should make us all hang our heads in shame.

The only thing that this chain of events has served to do is weaken my faith in politicians. They have given into that stereotype that all people elected to office are crooks. Their crime? Negligence of their country.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Minority Rights for Acid Rain! (Among other subjugated forms of precipiation)

It's been so long since I've mused over cyberspace. I've heard that people write on their blogs and then tell people to read them because they have some sort of need for attention. I disagree. I don't need attention. I just like being recognized for what I do. And having people like me. That's not attention, is it?

Sometimes I feel sorry for precipitation that isn't snow. Other than snow, no other forms of stuff that falls from the sky gets the same kind of admiration and respect, with a possible exception to rain and sunshine. I mean, snow seems to have this kind of magical quality that people have been brainwashed with that makes them look out the window when it starts to sprinkle down from the heavens and ice the world in it's "wonderfulness", scream to every person in the house that it's snowing, waking them up at what is usually an obscenely early hour, and then going outside in their pyjamas to roll around in this frostbite inducing substance against their better reasoning!

No other piece of precipitation has this power over minds! Rain can be nice at times, like when you hear it on the roof as you're going to sleep, but it doesn't cause kids to wake up in the morning and jump on mom and dad's bed saying, "Looklookmommydaddy! Rainrainitsraining!" and then proceed to go outside, catch hypothermia from wearing no boots while splashing in freezeing puddles and have to stay home watching reruns of Seinfield for the rest of the week. Which isn't that bad, considering that I haven't seen many episodes of Seinfield, but for many people that could be terrible. But no, rain isn't this evil. A typical reaction to rain is, "....unngh." or, "Hm", or, "Why didn't I remember my umberella!", or, "Shoot, now I have to drag in the furniture off of the deck!". No magic, no brainwashing, just rational, reasoned reactions. (And yes, I realize that rational and reasonable mean the same things)

Think about all the other kinds of things that come from the sky! Why don't they have any kind of brainwashing powers! There should be equal brainwashing power rights for all races of precipitation. Sunshine has been lobbying heavily with some success to gain more power over people over the last few years, and as a result it has become cool to go outside to suntan, but the rising costs of skin cancer have retaliated with a campaign against UV rays, while those people who have gotten cancer as a result of too much sun launched the extremely popular global warming doctrine to villainize the yellow giant that we circle.

Acid rain went through a particularly tough time a couple decades ago, with environmentalists segregating it from regular rain, calling it dangerous and harmful. This was obviously simply a case of hatred that stemmed from ignorance, as acid rain doesn't really have destructive properties, it's simply different from regular rain.

And if you think about snow, it's really not all that great, it kills grass and prevents the growing of any other plants. It has to be shovelled out of the way constantly, and it suffocates people in their homes while their children go beserk with their requests to go outside and build snowmen out of it. It blocks traffic, shuts down cities, and makes Canada unattractive as a tourist destination, except for those loonies who like skiing at Whistler!

I say that snow be exposed for what it really is, and that the other stuff that comes from the sky receive the same kind of crazy, brain-washed reaction from small children. Because while snow kills green things, rain gives them water, sun helps them make sugar, and acid rain turns them into compost and fertilizer.

So the next time you see acid rain falling outside, yell, scream, and run outside with your arms wide and your mouth open to receive the another kind of magic from the sky. The magic of that tingling feeling in your mouth, throat, and stomach that comes with granting a subjugated minority group of precipitation equal rights.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Canada Votes 2008

Or rather, 59% of eligible voters (13.59 million) in Canada vote for the other 32 million of us. We really have to work on that.

On October 14th, 2008, Canadians decided on another minority, Conservative government, but not necessarily in that order.

The end result was 143 seats for the Conservatives, 76 for the Liberals, 50 for the Bloc Quebecois, 37 for the NDP, 2 Independents and no Green Part seats.

Not quite the majority that Stephen Harper craved, but more seats than he had before anyways. Why didn't he get the majority? Well, it's been said that Harper's campaign had only two weaknesses that kept the majority out of his grasp; failure to capture more seats in Quebec, and the stunning success of Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams' Anything But Conservative campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador. Why was Harper unable to win seats in these two regions? For Newfoundland the answer seems obvious; the charisma of Premiers Williams and his influence on the decisions of voters on election day cannot be by any means underestimated. But in Québec, why did Harper's once strong numbers fall through?

The answer can be found in the examination of the policies pursued by the Prime Minister and how they were reacted to by la belle province. As anyone who lived through the referendum of 1995 knows, the Québecois are almost paranoid about protecting their language, rituals, and culture. The cuts to the arts in Québec of $45 million (a relatively pitiful amount by the standards of the federal budget) and bill C-10, which cut funding to films that were contrary to public policy, were highlighted by Bloc leader Gilles Ducceppe as a knife plunging towards Québec's heart. Because the sole purpose of the Bloc is to protect french culture; by separating if possible or a the very least keeping an eagle eye on the federalist parties; voters who may have chosen Conservative were persuaded to vote for the sepratists instead. This was in addition to the proposal by the Conservatives to allow youth aged 14 to be charged as adults for violent crimes, which was again highlighted by Ducceppe as an attempt to slice away the foundations of Québec.

The Liberal campaign was; in a word, disastrous. Leader Stephané Dion's choice of campaigning on the idea of a tax shift was risky at best, and although sound in reasoning failed to be explained to the public by Monsieur Dion. The tally of 76 seats is shocking, seeing as the Liberals are the naturally dominant party in the country, having recorded seats in recent elections in every province. The weakness of the leader and his inability to explain his platform resulted in the siphoning off of the red vote to the Conservatives and the NDP wherever swing ridings could be found, with a particular change noticeable in Ontario and British Columbia. The one plus to the Liberal campaign was the election of Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre of the same surname. With Dion stepping down as soon as Monday, party heavyweights such as Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae are sure to compete for the top red job, bringing new leadership and fresh ideas into a tired, struggling brand of politics.

Indeed it seems difficult to understand why the Liberals could possibly lose a campaign. Under Chretien, they handled the economy masterfully and eliminated an annual budget deficit of $43 billion, replacing it with surpluses that paid down our national debt and increased the amount of money that Canadians kept in their pockets. Dion himself was the dynamic author of the Clarity Act in 2001, having been appointed to cabinet by Chretien following the 1995 referendum to keep Canada unified. It was Chretien who gave a stirring address immediately following 9/11 to bolster morale and join the war on terror, and it was also Chretien who boldly stood up to be counted in defying the will of the United States in declaring war on Iraq.

Under the next Prime Minister, Paul Martin, John Gomery's uncovering of the corruption of the long-lived Liberal regime caused massive damage to the party's credibility in Québec, which was pounced on by the new leader of a bigger, better Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper. But when Harper was elected in 2006, he trimmed surpluses and spent more than any progressive Canadian government had ever before, so it is difficult to see why the Conservatives, who screwed the economy over in the 1980's and were working towards it again in the beginning of this millennium, were seen in this election as the better managers of our economy.

Again, it falls back on Dion and his failure to, for lack of a better and more cliché phrase, 'sell himself". Thus, the Liberals are reduced in seats nearly everywhere, The NDP increase seat count, and the only thing that prevents a Conservative majority is the agile politicking of Gilles Ducceppe and Danny Williams; who cashed in on Harper's insensitive image.

Enough griping about the Liberals. Lord only knows that they're getting plenty of that from...well, just about everyone.

Let's talk a little bit about the minor parties. I've already discussed Ducceppe's brilliant performance, but let's talk about the implications of it. Although this may be dampened by the economic downturn, the resurgence of the Bloc as a political force allows them the freedom to redefine their brand, and get back to their roots. Yes, I mean separatism. I will watch over the next decade or so with interest to see if the Québecois nation ruffles it's feathers again, or permanently morphs into a group that represents the interests of Québeckers as it has in the past few sittings of parliament. The future of the party is in question, but under Ducceppe faces a brighter future.

Then there's the NDP. Jack Layton is certainly the most dynamic leader, and perhaps the most radical of all the federal parties. His spending proposals smacked of classic socialism and the ideals of equalization, and he was able to sell himself far more effectively than any of the other leaders, essentially single-handedly strengthening a brand that has a far smaller traditional base than either of the other major national parties. Although cliché at times and too good at rhetoric at others, Layton is the best orator (in English at least), and most likely champion of the Canadian working class. He still faces the disadvantage of the crowded 'left-wing' of Canadian politics, and isn't nearly as dynamic or inspiring as we might like him to be.

Of course we can't forget Elizabeth May and the Green Party. With the best showing in history, the Green Party captured thousands more votes in a few ridings than it had in the party's entire history. One of those ridings happened to be the one that Elizabeth May was running in, where she garnered an astounding 12, 620 votes from the riding of Central Nova. Unfortunately, her chief rival Peter McKay, former leader of the Progressive Conservatives and popular minister of defense, got 18, 239, beating her by about 50 %. However, she did score a seat in the leader's debates in which she performed surprisingly well, and she managed to put forward her policies and topics in such a way that they stayed relevant throughout the campaign, particularly the issue of proportional representation, which was mentioned in CBC's coverage of election night several times.

Now you might be asking, what does this minority parliament mean for me, my family, and the economy?

Firstly, it means that when Harper summons the legislature, Canada will suffer terrible damage from the current economic downturn if the elected parties cannot work together to keep the ark that it our country afloat. It also means that any economic policies that are passed are more likely to represent the interests of a greater slice of the Canadian pie, because of the fact that any policy passed by this government must have the support of at least one other party. In my view, this is a very good thing, as it forces co-operation, discussion, and ultimately better governance. Slower governance maybe, but I would rather have a well thought out plan for the economy than a hastily constructed notion that I hope will work to save us from Bay Street.

Just before I close, I'd like to return to the idea that I expressed at the beginning of this post; the fact that Canada's 32 million people are being represented by 59 % of the people who can vote, about 13.5 million. Not only that, but the government, the Conservatives, received 36 % of that vote, about 4.3 million votes. That means that approximately one in every eight people decide how the rest of us are governed.

A little scary, isn't it? Now, seeing as membership in the political community of Canada is fairly mandatory, there's nothing one can really do about being ruled by the structure that's in place. But by voting, we can bring about a change in structure. If the Canadian people decide that they want proportional representation, they will elect a party that promises that in it's platform.

The only problem with this is that the society in which we live is pretty good, and no one sees any reason to change what we have. We're comfortable in buying the latest technology that the market has to offer, working in corporations for money so we can buy material goods, watching our favorite T.V. show on Wednesday nights (actually mine is on Tuesday - Rick Mercer is brilliant), and believing everything that the news tells us. We aren't being harmed, life is good, so why change it?

We just don't care. We see no reason why we should.

What's the solution? Ironically, our free market system might be creating one for us; crisis. If things do get bad and they need to be changed, then we'll conveniently remember our democratic right and exercise it promptly.

But until then?

Like Stephen Harper said: God Bless Canada.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Philosophy Essay

This was an essay I wrote for Political Philosophy at Queen's. I haven't gotten it back yet, so I don't know how well I did. A couple disclaimers first though. This is a long post. I think it's just over 1600 words with the citations; which are by the way, in brackets like this (citation #) with a corresponding number footnoted at the end with the source. Also, this being philosophy, it involves being familiar with a few well known thinkers in the world of political philosophy, but I tired all the same to make it clear and understandable.

What kind of state protects individual freedoms best?

The Enforcement of Liberty and Redistribution of Opportunity:
Why a Welfare State is Best at Defending Individual Freedom
by Jordan Ray

Many thinkers agree that some form of freedom is essential for any society to function, how that freedom is defined and what kind of state protects it best has for years been a point of contention. This author believes that a good definition of freedom should be universally applicable, and should afford every person the choice of maximum utility. In this paper, I will argue that the ideas of J.S. Mill, William H. Beveridge, and John Rawls define freedom the best and give compelling explanations as to why it is important. I will also briefly outline what Rawls’ idea of a welfare state is and how it protects individual freedoms the best.

Individual freedom means that everyone should have control over their own lives, giving them the ability to fulfill their maximum potential. J.S. Mill (1) referred to this concept of being master of one’s fate when outlining his liberty principle. He believed that liberty was attained through ensuring three essential freedoms. The first of these was freedom of thought and conscience. This freedom guarantees right to expression of one’s beliefs and values. The second was freedom of taste, essentially allowing for everyone to engage in whatever kind of strange practices or activities they wished. Finally, Mills iterated that freedom of association should be protected; allowing people to make friends whomever they wanted to or join whatever kinds of groups they wanted to.

The first, freedom of thought and conscience, is one of the most basic and universally recognized rights. If we refer to the concept of liberty described previously, we can see that an inability to communicate our thought and beliefs to others would not mesh well with the notion of being in command of our own affairs. To take an example, if a person is forbidden by society to say that they believe that we should have more doctors and their goal is to become a politician elected on this platform, they are clearly not the masters of their own fates.

We can also reason that freedom of taste and association are essential aspects of liberty. On the subject of taste, if a person is publicly ridiculed because of a choice of hairstyle or clothing and as a result feels pressured to change, they are not in control of their own lives. To relate this to the freedom of association, if a person was ridiculed in the same way for simply congregating with a particular group of people, they cannot attest to being responsible for their own affairs.
Crucial to Mill’s idea of liberty was also the harm principle. He worried that if too many people shared a belief that was negative for another group of people; a tyrannical majority could overwhelm a smaller group and cause them harm. Because of this, freedom should be granted only as long as it does not harm others.

Defining liberty is fine, but what about its importance? If we must define a state that defends liberty, we should ensure it is worth defending. Returning to Mill, he suggested that allowing freedom encourages diversity and a market of thoughts, which allows everyone to explore the world and find an area in which they can maximize their potential. Because of so many competing thoughts, beliefs, tastes, and groups to choose from, the subject matter most suitable for us is constantly improving. By creating an environment of ideas and groupings that continuously challenge each other, diversity benefits us all. Finding what is best for us to pursue allows us to increase our utility, or personal well being, which is why Mill’s argues that utility should be the goal of everyone. This author would add that having and using the ability to discover something that maximizes our utility also multiplies our self worth and happiness with a sense of empowerment and achievement.

Utility and happiness being our goal and freedom being our vehicle, the shield that we use to protect it comes in the form of the welfare state as defended by John Rawls (2). But before we can get into the details of the welfare state, we must address another principle on which Rawls bases the welfare state, equality of opportunity.

Equality of opportunity establishes that to achieve utility, certain primary goods; such as education, minimum income, food, shelter, good health, etc., are required to pave the road. Let us take a homeless person, Joe, for example. If Joe lives on the streets, has no money or job, little food or clothing, no shelter, and no education, there is little he can do to achieve something that grants him maximum utility. However, if the state provides him with education, shelter and food, he can eventually get a job and pursue more advanced education. More advanced education leads to better jobs, and as he continues to learn and work, he moves from being dependant on the state to achieving his maximum utility. In short, with the provision of equal opportunity, Joe has the choice of becoming a doctor, lawyer, scientist, or engineer, or whatever occupation fulfills his potential best. Without the support of the state, Joe is still free to believe whatever he wants, but he can never climb out of destitution to lead a full and satisfying life. Equality of opportunity, along with the provisions outlined by Mill’s principle of liberty is what constitutes true freedom.

To ensure individual freedom, we need a state that enforces the liberty principle and guarantees equality of opportunity. In order to provide these, the state must be capable of redistributing the primary goods necessary to achieve utility, and it must also be capable of enforcing the liberty principle. Re-distributing primary goods generally comes in the form of taxes on individuals and corporations, which the government then uses to finance the providing of services, such as; education; low-income housing; and health care, and also finance the monetary support of the “Joes” of society. The importance of primary goods has already been established within the principle of equality of opportunity, whereas they allow even those on the bottom-most rung of society to lead a fulfilling life. Enforcing liberty usually entails the establishment of a legal system to write, enforce, and interpret rules to protect that liberty. In Canada, our elected parliament writes our laws, the cabinet and police force ensure the laws are followed, and our judicial system determines how those who break the laws should be punished. The combination of government involvement in the imposition of liberty and equality of opportunity results in something that Rawls calls the welfare state.’

With the state’s involvement not only in the question of liberty, but also in the question of equal opportunity, the role of the state is more than some rightwing thinkers might like, and less than some left wing thinkers may desire. Right wing advocates such as the late Robert Nozick (3) would say that a state such as this would infringe on a person’s liberty. However, Nozick takes his definition of liberty to include the right to property as described by the father of classical liberalism, John Locke (4). William H. Beveridge (5) would counter that although owning property is fine, the right to accumulate property result in some individuals controlling the means of production of essential goods. As a result of this, the controller of the means of production has far more power over individuals that he or she should, and the ability to protect individual liberty is lost. In other words under the welfare state, owning property is fine and people should have their property protected, but it is not a fundamental right, especially when it leads to control of essential means of production.

The welfare state also comes under fire from the left side of the political spectrum. In one particularly prominent accusation, egalitarian thinkers believe that even though the worst off benefit in the welfare state, some only slightly better off groups do not benefit at all. The general premise of the argument is that while some equality has been achieved, more must be done by the state to make the society truly fair. A counter argument to this, although it takes a cynical outlook on human nature, defends the welfare state from this attack. If one is able to achieve personal utility it states, then that person is more likely to use their talents to provide global utility through innovation or entrepreneurship. For example, if Canadian CEO of Research in Motion, Jim Balsillie, refuses to develop the Blackberry unless he can become fabulously rich, then, in an egalitarian society, the whole world goes without the popular smartphone. In other words, if there is no personal incentive to improve everyone’s well being, then no advancements are ever made, and prosperity for everyone suffers.

While not libertarian enough for the right-wingers, nor socialist enough for the left-wingers, the welfare state does its job of protecting individual freedoms well. By legislating and enforcing the rules of liberty and redistributing primary goods to provide equality of opportunity, the welfare state is the type of government that most effectively protects individual freedoms.

(1) Mill, J.S.. "On Liberty" pp. 17-19 Political Ideologies & Political Philosophies 2nd Edition, ed. H.D. McCollough (Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, 1995)
(2) Rawls, John. "Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical" pp. 32-35 Political Ideologies & Political Philosophies 2nd Edition, ed. H.D. McCollough (Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, 1995)
(3) Nozick, Robert. "Distributive Justice" pp. 78-80 Political Ideologies & Political Philosophies 2nd Edition, ed. H.D. McCollough (Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, 1995)
(4) Locke, John. "Of Property" pp. 2-5 Political Ideologies & Political Philosophies 2nd Edition, ed. H.D. McCollough (Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, 1995)
(5) Beveridge, William H.. "Maintenance of Employment." pp. 115-117 Political Ideologies & Political Philosophies 2nd Edition, ed. H.D. McCollough (Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, 1995)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Decision 2008: The Debate

No, not that one, the Canadian one.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Canadian Leaders debate last night (October. 2nd) was riveting and thought provoking. It served to solidify the way I'll vote, and it gave me a chance to look into the eyes of the people who want to run our country.

I'll start with Elizabeth May. What an excellent showing by the Green Party. In my eyes, they have proved to Canada that they belong on the national stage and are not the one issue party that people perceive them as. She responded to every question with far more detail than the other party leaders; citing example after example as she hammered her points home. She was certainly the most well briefed of all the candidates, and her arguments came across very strongly as a result.

What took away from Elizabeth May was that she lacked the sense that she was tried and true. In order for Canadians to trust her, she not only needed to have strong arguments backed up by facts, but she also needed to have a style of discourse that came off as professional and experienced. Her choice of diction such as calling Conservative plans "stupid" and calling Stephen Harper a fraud undermined her image as a serious candidate and made her appear unpolished. She did well when talking about the environment, the economy, justice, and proportional representation.

I believe that one of the reasons she did so well was because she went relatively unmolested when stating her policy ideas, and she fleshed them out so well that they landed solidly every time. If the other leaders hadn't underestimated her, they may have quashed the danger they now face in the first Green Party MP's being elected to the House of Commons.

I have to comment on Jack Layton next. I always enjoy his style of speaking because he is so incredibly confidant and strong in his positions and attacks. He used gesticulation particularly well, and came off as the champion of the working class. There's always a twinkle in his eye, and he spoke well about his party's plans for Canada. Jack had the most charisma, excellent knowledge to back up his points, defended himself relatively well, and was the strongest attacker in the debate. He was strongest when talking about health care and Tommy Douglas, the economy of the working class, Afghanistan, and being a man of action.

Were he comes down is seeming over confidant. He appeared to be more bully-like than Stephen Harper when he asked him where the Conservative leader's platform was, referring to the sweater vested image of Harper's initial campaign ads. Even his introductory nod seemed a far cry from the congenial, courageous, smiling face that I had expected. He's got the best smile, he should use it. One of the best things about the New Democrats is that they're such nice people, and I don't think Jack communicated that to Canadians.

Again I can liken Layton to Elizabeth May's case; he was attacked once that stood out in my mind, and that was Harper's shot at him about being a hypocritical advocate of the public health care system. The New Democrats are surging in strength, and failure to throw jabs at Jack was a fault of all the candidates.

I spoke about congeniality before, and definitely the the most polite, caring person of the night was Stephané Dion, who looked sincerely into the camera every chance across and used excellent body language to communicate that he loves this country. I believed him, and he seemed the most genuine debater of the night. He also had a chance to defend his platform as not being a Carbon Tax, but instead being a tax cut. Richer, greener, fairer, he communicated his centrist position well. He was strong on the environment, the economy, justice, poverty, and came across as the leader who cared the most for Canada.

But of course where Stephané always falls through is with his poor English. This man needs a speaking coach, because although I paid close attention and was able to grasp what I just mentioned, it was hard for me to catch his full message. Congenial he may have been, but he was severly hampered by his inability to be quick on his feet in rebutting or attacking the other leaders.

Dion should also consider himself lucky that he wasn't the punching bag of last night's debate. If he had been, he would have crumbled under the assailance of all parties because of his language barrier. In addition, he's also the least charismatic of all the leaders, his words don't move you in quite the same way that say Jack Layton's do.

Another person who has that problem is Stephen Harper. But he came across as intelligent, steady, and although it's cliché, Prime Ministerial. He defended his record well, and deserves kudos for taking the brunt of all attacks last night. He spoke pragmatically and came off as the most sensible of the candidates by far. Indeed, the media put it the best, saying that he was like a father at a kitchen table resolving the issues of the household; fairly and with an experienced hand. Harper was strong on the economy, justice, defending his record, and simply raising himself above the debate.

However, he came down firstly in his eyes. When he looks at you, his icy glare penetrates deeply. Distant, and uncaring were the impressions I got from is body language, with empty eyes and not a single look directly at the camera, although he did fool me a couple times on that one. He seems the most dishonest, and certainly a quip from the 2006 election describes his smile well, as shark-like. Not only does he seem not to care, but he really falls flat on his intonation. He was the most monotone of speakers, and he has little of the pizzazz that some of the other leaders enjoy, excepting Dion.

One mistake that the other parties made was focusing on him too much. Because Harper is so quick and intelligent, he can rebut a point and quickly pull out one of his credentials that he's gained over the past 2 1/2 years. He had all kinds of opportunities to blame things on the Liberals from before 2003, and got in plenty of swipes of his own on Dion and Layton when refuting the other leaders points.

Lastly I will touch on Gilles Duceppe. Duceppe's english is better than Dion's, and it showed. He came through very well for a case for Québec, making strong arguments for the Arts, Health Care, and Afghanistan. He really scored well; especially in comarison to Dion with his poor english, but ultimately still came across as what he is; a purely Québec party. The other thing that put me off was the way that he bugged his eyes out. Maybe he thinks it makes him look incredulous, but I think it makes him look creepy. He contributed well to the debate overall, both attacking Harper and solidifying his stance as pro-french.

In conclusion, I'd have to say that I'd score Jack Layton first, Elizabeth May second, Stephen Harper third, Stephané Dion fourth and Gilles Ducéppe last. Jack had the best combination of experience, confidence, substance, and style, and Elizabeth really shone through with her polished details and spunky attitude. Harper had a tough job to do but he did it well, and Dion would have done far better if he had a better mastery of English. Lastly Duceppe really seems superificial because he only represents Québec, and you can't get away from that; period.

Now we will see if the NDP can capitalize on the gains they've made, we'll see if the Liberals turn their excellent showing in the French debate into seats, we'll see if the Greens can get one seat, and we'll se if Harper can get more than half.

And we'll see if I can get any real work done this beautiful weekend in Kingston.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Grain of Salt

I couldn't believe my eyes. Or ears. Or rapidly rising heartbeat. It actually happened.

Dion called an election.

Or rather, he probably would have, if only he'd have had the chance. But no, Harper got the jump on him and dissolved Parliament with a visit to the GG's house in the Sussex Hood. Rather rudely canceling her trip to China, I might add. And she was going to have so much fun comparing medal totals from Beijing. Ah, C'est la vie.

So, Harper one-ups Dion again (surprise) and calls a fall election. The issues are: The Environment, The Economy, and the.... yeah. Basically that's what it comes down to folks in this election as far as policy goes. Dion's Carbon Tax has been branded by both the NDP and the Conservatives as either "insane" or brutal for Canadian families. And the Bloc thinks it's well... I don't know what the Bloc thinks, they only campaign in Quebec. But anyways, the Liberals want to save the environment with a tax (okay, a tax shift). Unfortunately for Dion, tax tends to have a bit of negative stigma attached to it, so it might not go over so well in an election situation. Especially in British Columbia, where they already have a Carbon Tax. Guess BC will really get a chance to solidify it's reputation as the land of the tree-hugging hippies, whether we want to or not. Now, to be fair, making people hate something is the best way to get them to stop doing it, so if Canadians hate paying a lot for gas, they're pretty likely to start bussing or walking instead. Same goes for the markets. If consumers are going green, then they'll move right with them, because that's how free markets work people. Doesn't mean that the projects in the oil sands are going to like it, but they'll just have to make $100 billion dollars instead of $200 billion. Or making a hydrogen car that actually works.

Of course, that's only in the event that Dion becomes Prime Minister. Our current chappie Stevey Joe is another thing altogether. His plan for the environment seems sketchy at best, and after having several chances to put through an environment bill worked on by all parties through the House of Commons, they've dropped the ball and given it to John Baird to chew on. Other hallmarks of Harper's 31-month lease at Sussex include:

1) Yelling at the Liberals
2) Passing an immigration act that selects cheap labour over well educated immigrants
3) Demeaning Stephane Dion (although really, you sort of get that with the job when you enter politics)
4) Bribing an independant MP's vote (No, we won't let you forget Cadman, Harper. Never)
5) Yelling at the Liberals
6) Having a high-profile cabinet minister leave important foreign affairs documents out for everyone to see (okay, only Maxime Bernier's wife who used to be "special friends" with the leader of the Hell's Angels, but that's pretty much everyone anyways)
7) Yelling at the Liberals
8) Having his HQ raided by the RCMP because the Conservatives didn't spend according to the rules in the previous election
9) Yelling at the Liberals
10) Having his closest friend and mentor caught up inside a scandal that could be as damaging to the conservatives as the Sponsorship Scandal was to the Liberals (Mulroney! Now you can be remembered for something other than the GST!)
11) And finally, yelling at the Liberals

Now, this list looks pretty horrible, I know, but let's remember that all of those yelling points can be summed up into one, and so can the point about Stephane Dion, so let's reduce our final number to 5.

Those five negative things done while Harper was in office were mostly out of his control, excpet the Immigration thing and the Cadman thing, but basically for the other three, it sucked to be him. But, there were many more good things that the Conservatives passed while in government. Like cutting the GST to 5%. Like delivering two balanced budgets and paying off billions of dollars of federal debt. (There's a long ways to go, but every nine zeroes count). He's given families $1200 a year in child benefit cheques (or whatever they're called). He's finally set an end date for our mission in Afghanistan (I know it was hard Steve, but we're so proud of you!). And he has cut personal income taxes for families across the country. All this, and his government has been spending more than any previous Canadian government in history. Of course, a booming economy does help.

However, the honeymoon period is over. And it was so good, that Canada might be ready to give Steve a majority. But their are rocky waters ahead my friends. The United States is heading into some kind of economic quagmire, and I've heard rumours that America plans on riding it out by slapping some tariffs on Canadians goods to pay for social saftey nets. The next Prime Minister must have a plan to get us through what could be a rocky ten years of recession, or we could be looking at the federal debt going right back up where it used to be.

Let's not forget our other party leaders. Except the Bloc, they can just stay in Quebec.

Jack Layton sees himself as the replacement for Stephane Dion. I would love for Jack to become the new opposition or even Prime Minister, but the memory of the 1990's in BC and Ontario is all too fresh, and one seat in Outremont doesn't seem like it'll cut it for Quebec. That said, BC showed a massive increase for the New Democrats during the past week in swing ridings, possibly due to the current success of the provincial NDP in slamming Gordon Campbell's Liberals.

Then of course, there's Elizabeth May. She made headlines and history when she got the Green Party into the leaders debate at the beginning of October. While this is historic indeed, I remain skeptical whether or not running against Conservative powerhouse Peter McKay in Nova Scotia was a great idea. We'll see how that turns out.

So that's the election from my point of view. Sorry that it wasn't quite as funny as normal, (or is it even normally funny?) I'll try better next time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Grain of Salt

After a summer of simmering politicking in Ottawa, Stephane Dion's proposed Carbon Tax, Stephen Harper's attack ad's on Stephane Dion's Carbon Tax, and confusion that surrounds Carbon Tax and anything to do with the idea of Global Warming in general clouding the dying days of August, people are saying that there's going to be a fall election. No, seriously. This time they really mean it.

Dion introduced his proposal on the Carbon Tax at the beginning of the summer, and now that people are returning to their normal lives and are realizing that something might actually be happening in Ottawa for once, he seems like he might actually have the piece of policy he needs to fuel the fires of an election debate. And what a perfect issue. The environment has been for a long time Stephane Dion's hallmark, and fighting an election on his three pillars that won him the Liberal leadership nomination is the best chance that he's got against the sharp minds of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. Dion is beginning to show some of that old fire that we saw during his glory days with Chretien. When asked about why he would possibly want to make his party a target instead of him targeting the government by Maclean's magazine columnist Paul Wells, he responded by expressing that he was happy that the Conservatives were drawing attention to his idea because it meant that people were talking about it. And in this day and age, if you can get attention, you can get votes.

Of course, now that Dion appears ready to force an election, Harper doesn't want to give him an inch. The Prime Minister brilliantly stole headlines from the Leader of the Opposition by suggesting strongly that he could possibly request that Governor General Michelle Jean dissolve parliament so that an election can be had. Poor Stephane. Always getting his toes stepped on by people that try to be pushier than he is.

Indeed, if Dion or Harper decides now to go into an election situation, it will be Judgement Day for the Liberal Leader. The Liberals are short on funds, whereas the Conservative warchest is fat. The Conservatives have spent two years trying to grind Dion's reputation into the dust, and have been moderately successful in doing so. And we all know that Harper is a shrewd opponent in any situation, with a clearly powerful intellect and a bite to back up his bark. Not only do these things stand on Dion's slim shoulders, but if he fails to impress in an election situation, or even if he doesn't force an election, he could face serious challenges to his leadership of the party, particularly from disenfranchised Ignatieff delegates or Rae delegates. So the pressure is none to small.

However, Dion has the experience, creativity, and strength of mind to box in the ring with any political opponent. After all, he did beat a former Premier out of a leadership position, and he knows how to scrap in the House of Commons with the best of them. His stubborn streak can be an enormous asset, and his fiery conviction to his trade will be a force to contend with the Prime Minister's.

Of course, we may just be looking at another bit of speculation here. This minority government has been the longest lived in Canadian history (I think), so there's no reason to stop the fun now. After all, the Conservatives can't get any bills they really want to be passed through the Liberal dominated Senate, and many committees are bent on exposing various ugly truths about the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, the Conservative fund allocations, and lets not forget the horror of the Cadman Scandal.

But all in all, my guess is that come September we'll still be watching more T.V. about Barack Obama vs. John McCain than Stephane vs. Stephen.

Election, or not.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


There's a feeling in my heart
Like a tempest of excitement and fear
I'm about to start my away life
But away from a place my heart holds dear

I can't describe this passion
This maelstrom in my core
It's like a claw that grips my soul
But really it's much much more

This street on which I've lived
Grown up on, cherished, and love
Is a part of me, just like my heart
Like my school, my friends, and the oaks above

I can remember trotting down this lane
And running, and prancing, and riding bikes till my lungs could laugh no longer
With all my childhood friends
With whom sweet memories exist, and will always be remembered
I remember our sidewalk chalk houses
Our skip-rope stables for horses made of metal and rubber
The magical realm behind my house we called the meadow
With it's tire-swing and long grass
My front yard, with it's towering oaks
That dropped the millions of brown leaves I had to rake each year
My house, with it's sunny coloured rooms
My mother's kitchen, the smell of banana bread
Or my sister's brownies
Shreddies in the morning before school
Walking along the Morris Drive with my best friend
Late days after school at the playground
Late nights in my room defeating a piece of entertaining software
Reading at the kitchen table
Only to have mom take the book away
Friday nights with friends and fantasy
The living room always filled with relatives and family
The fire burning with hot chocolate warming my hands
Christmas time and the Millennium Falcon
Lemonade on a hot summers day
The arrival of a computer of my own
Lord of the Rings marathons
Long discussions with my father about the soul of man
Long hugs from my mother who will always love me
Huge smiles from my sister who makes me feel so much more than I am
Faith of a family that will never give up hope, or stop caring
There is so much that I leave behind

And yet I look forward to my dreams
Like the shifting white masses in the sky
My mind continues to tremble with excitement
About the wings that I will grow when it's my time to fly

I see a venerable campus made with gray limestone
History saturates the ground I walk upon
Possibilities multiply with every hello and handshake
And I learn about the people who were here once'pon

Gargantuan wings of rock
Flank the tower of my vision
Far below the red and white flag
That remains my committed decision

Monday, August 11, 2008


Well guys, it's been a lloooooonnnnggg time since I've posted on this beautiful internet thing that is known to most as a blog, and to myself as my personal ranting space, so I guess I better fill in the blanks of the past month-ish since I've posted.

High school is over for me. I got my provincial exam marks back, and I did okay, 78% in Chem 12, 87% in English 12, and 93% in History 12. Not bad, right? Although, I was sort of hoping for 3 A's, guess that government sponsored $1000 just wasn't meant to be mine. C'est la vie, I suppose.

Speaking of money, I've been having to save up a lot of it to go to university in the fall. The particular institution that I decided on was Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, about an hour and a half south of Canada's capital. I'm going to be attending with my best friend, and I'm looking forward to driving out there across Canada to move in our shoe-box room in residence.

Before I could worry about that though, I attended my sister's wedding ceremony and reception, the latter of which I prepared an 11 minute slideshow for and helped to MC. She's very happy now, and after just returning from her honeymoon, she's still glowing.

So, that's basically what's been going on while I've been on summer vacation here in Alberta. I have to go back soon. I'm going to miss all my extended family out here once again, and I'll look forward to seeing them next time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Grain of Salt

Don't you just love cabinet shuffles? I think that they say so much about the current government. I also think that they're mostly just about playing politics.

Let's look at the current cabinet shuffle in Ottawa as an example. Fraught with political intrigue and scandal, Harper takes out some of the ministers who aren't doing a good job, or at least who the public thinks aren't doing a good job, or who the PM thinks the public thinks aren't doing a good job, and installs MP's or senators who will do a better job, or get him elected in a hard-to-get province.

The examples in the most recent Ottawa two-step sashay are Maxime Bernier being permanently replaced by David Emerson (interesting choice there), a senator taking over Dave's old portfolio, and another random dude from the province of Quebec taking over the one that HE left. Apparently, the PM wanted Emerson for Foreign Affairs because he's from BC, and so will be a good guy to have in there leading up to the Olympics in Vancouver.

The Senator? He's from Montreal, where Harper wants votes the most. If he can capture some of those oh-so-precious Quebec seats in the next election, he may not have to worry quite so much about not being able to crack the liberal fortress that is Ontario.

The other random dude is from Quebec too, and my guess is that he won't do anything unless he's got orders in triplicate delivered from the PM in person. Harper has these guys on such a tight leash, you can't even get into the running for an MP's seat without a pre-installed, conservative approved set of puppet strings attached to your arms, legs, and mouth.

Anyways, the guys who have been doing well are sticking around. Flaherty still has the Finance portfolio, which he deftly wields like a sword against angry Liberals and Ontarians alike, and Baird still wears the spiked collar of the Minister of the Environment, needing no provocation whatsoever to attack any critic of the Conservatives confusing environmental policy.

With Dion still unwilling to call an election, even with his new Carbon tax measure (I think he's waiting for summer to be over), it looks to me like we could be indeed looking one of the longest minority governments in history. And one of the most partisan too.

And the best part is, no one really seems to care. I guess that's what this site is going to change.

We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Anyways, I hope that all wasn't too random for ya. Cheers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Grain of Salt

I've never been quite so shocked in my life.

I don't think that I had noticed it before, but the media around the country has finally started calling Stephane Dion's liberals "Grits" again. It's music to my ears guys, the symbolic nickname is back and the Liberals are once again looking like danger red instead of muted pink.

Why did this happen?

My guess is that due to the recent events that have been piling up against the Conservatives in the past few days; like the Cadman Affair, the Conservative HQ raids, and the Bernier scandal, coupled with the fact that Dion has finally started to show his policy zing again is the reason behind the long forgotten but much loved jargon. Harper is losing control over what happens in Ottawa and Dion finally has a clue.

The new Liberal Carbon Tax borrowed from their provincial counterparts in BC looks like it could sell. Tax energy and electricity but not fuel, seeing as the price of that is already high enough. The plan is promised to be revenue neutral as well, giving Canadians a tax break with the green loonies and putting some of the cash towards environmental technologies.

It's the kind of thing where you ask yourself, "Hey, why didn't anyone think of this before?" Well, someone probably did, they just had to clear it with 50 different people first, look at five hundred different test runs and opinion polls to see if it would fly with the public, and get the forms signed in triplicate by every single party bureaucrat you could think of, and their mothers before the kids brought the forms back to school late the day after it was due, except that it was a long weekend then Marty had this thing in Montreal that couldn't wait and....sorry I'm ranting. But seriously, the Carbon Tax idea was probably thought up six years ago and Dion liked it. But things just take so long to get rolling in politics that it hasn't even seen the light of day until yesterday, or whenever it was that the Grits introduced that policy.

And it still might not become reality. Obviously, the Liberals aren't in government, so they can't really get it passed until they get there. Of course, they could talk to all the other parties for reinforcements, but in that case we'd probably have an election.

And we know how skittish Dion is about calling those.

But, there's a gleam in his eye, a spring in his step and a sparkle to his smile that hasn't been seen since he won the leadership contest.

So look out Harper. It's blue season and you're in the crosshairs.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Grain of Salt

Well congratulations Ottawa, you finally summoned the chutzpah to say that precious phrase of two words, "I'm Sorry."

Today Stephen Harper will formally apologize on national TV to all those aboriginal persons affected negatively by the residential schools that plagued first nations of Canada for almost a century. And all I can say is it's about time. Paul Martin was going to do something like this when he signed the Kelowna Accord, but we decided we didn't like the Liberals and their double-dealing ways, so we elected Harper instead.

Now, after squishing the Kelowna Accord, the Conservative government is finally giving another overdue apology to the victims of residential schools. Now, as I recall things, Brian Mulroney did something similar back in the 1980's, but that must have been for something different. Now all that's left is for the government to put their money where their mouth is. An apology is very symbolic, but once the dough starts rolling out, that means that you really don't want to be sor--er, really want to say you're sorry.

Now, if I were Stephane Dion at this point, I would add this to my growing the growing sheaf of ammunition that he could use in the event of an election. Oh, I'm sorry, the Liberals aren't ready for an election, or rather, their leader isn't. Everyone else seems to be ready. I mean with the Cadman Affair, the Bernier Scandal, the controversy in Afghanistan, the molasses action of the government on global warming, and now this, you'd think that Dion would be hyped, and get the writ dropped at a moments notice.

But no. Stephen Harper has looked Stephane Dion in the eye and he still doesn't see the spark that once propelled him to victory in the leadership race of a faraway December. And until he sees that again, he's pretty much free to do whatever he wants.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Grain of Salt

The biggest thing in Ottawa today is not Stephen Harper's cold shoulder, but instead it's the Bernier ScandalTM. Now for those of you who are unaware of what happened, good old Maxy and his new wife Julianne Coulliard got married some time ago, and when they did several questions were asked about Mrs. Coulliard's past affiliation with the Hells Angels. Of course Ottawa assured us that everything was fine, that Mr. Bernier wouldn't leak anything secretive from the ministry of Foreign Affairs to his wife or anything bad like that.


A few months later, Bernier has slipped up and is demoted to back-bencher MP. His hopes of one day becoming the new Tory leader or even Prime Minister were dashed across the rocks along with his privacy. An witch hunt has been called in Ottawa and the crosshairs are on Max.

To me, the whole thing seems absurd. Certainly, his choice of wife is questionable, but I would argue that his marriage to her indicates that he trusts her. So, if he trusts her, then wouldn't he share information with her anyways? And shouldn't we trust his judgement as an elected official and a former Cabinet minister (from Quebec mind you, which is no small feat) to be a good judge of character? Call me naive, but I think that regardless of who his wife was there is an almost implied danger of both man and wife knowing all the details of whatever cabinet post he holds.

I think, and this is a rare case, that I'm with Harper on this one. Stay out of Max's private life, and you won't be forced to cast your opinion on something that doesn't even matter. Like I said before, she's his wife for Pete's sake. She's supposed to know what he does. It's her job.

And even if by some random turn of events, what if it leaks to the Hells Angels? What are they going to do with it? It's Foreign Affairs. Maybe they'll find out that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't particularly like Western governments. Big surprise there.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Grain of Salt

The other day Ottawa announced that it was giving a $250 million dollar subsidy to General Motors Canada in order for them to preserve the jobs of those employees in the area.

Hold on, what?

Okay, lemme get this straight, our government, a conservative government is giving a corporation whose revenue is more than $180 billion dollars a year, a subsidy of $250 million.  Armageddon is here!  The world is ending!  What are we going to do!   First, a Conservative government that spends like socialists, then what?  The first NDP Prime Minister?  I mean really, this is something that I would have expected to come from the left leaning side of the House, but Harper?  That's like him stabbing himself in the kidney and saying that he's taking one for the team.  Spending money on the economy is one of Harper's biggest nay-nays.  Whenever he thinks of the Canadian economy, Harper sings to himself, "Let it be, Let it be" and takes on what we call a Laissez-Faire economic stance.  In other words, he keeps his hands out of the cookie jar.  

And GM?  Well GM certainly has a lot of explaining to do.  I'm not savvy to exactly why their revenues are down, but for a company that has more revenue every year than the GDP of North Korea, what difference is $250 million going to make, and why are we doing it?  Shouldn't they be left to figure it out themselves?  But no, this conservative government is going to hold their hand so that thousands of people don't lose their jobs.

I guess that even Harper has a few good surprises up his sleeve sometimes.  But is this the real Harper?  Is this the Harper that we're going to see if there's Conservative majority elected?  Somehow, I doubt it.

A Grain of Salt

This is some commentary that I have written on Current Events to date.  I hope to be posting one of these every day!

I hope that you enjoy my rants.

June 02, 2008

The United States top Marine in Afghanistan said yesterday that he had been grateful for the military support of Canadian troops.  Unsure of what exactly the Americans needed help on, sources suspect that Canadians helped them find the English instructions inside for their weapons, even though American has only one regular language.  Personally I differ on this point of thought, because it's my bet that the Canadian troops practically threw themselves at the Americans to "help them with their fresh weapons, just to get a chance to use something that isn't thirty years hold.  When asked if they would share, the Americans were delighted to skip off to the shooting range and show off what exactly a $1.3 trillion dollar defense budget buys.

June 04, 2008

Well the American Democratic nomination race still isn't over.  Even now that Senator Barack Obama has thirty-eight more delegates than he needs to win the nomination, he's still only the "projected nominee".

Projected nominee?  Give me a break!  This race has been going on longer than some wars!  And in this contest, less has been gained!  Since the beginning of the campaign in 2006, Obama has earned at the supposed endgame 230 more delegates and super-delegates than CLinton.  But it's still not over, because there's still the democratic convention, where not only the super-delegates but also the regular delegates are allowed to change their minds!

I know American politics is supposed to have twists, but this is ridiculous.  It's like reality TV on steroids.  I mean if I want to watch CSI, I'll watch CSI.  But, it looks like the world is still more concerned about sensationalism than it is about good government.  Okay, granted, Barack has basically clinched the nomination.  But now he's got an even tougher job ahead of him with the presidential campaign set to bein... well, a couple weeks ago.  So get your game face on Obama:  18 months down, 5 to go.

June 05, 2008

Well the Stanley CUp Finals are finally over with the Detroit Red Wings as the victors.  I really wanted the Pittsburgh Penguins to win, but no, two of the best players in the game, one of the best goalies in the game and a fantastic rent-a-player to boot weren't enough to get past the stifling defense and fantastic offense shown by the guys from hockey town.

Now, many of you may have no idea what I'm talking about.  You'r saying to yourselves right now, Stanley Cup?  Isn't that like a big sports trophy or something?  Shame.  Shame on you ignorant people who call yourselves Canadians.  I don't even know why I'm showing you the grace of telling you a few details in the first place.

You know, it's hard enough to hold onto our identity already with the Americans trying to push theirs on us all the time.  But if you don't even watch hockey?  That's like rolling over and saying to the Americans, "Why don't you buy Tim Hortons from us?".  Oh wait, they already did that.  With things that we can call Canadian being bought up faster than we can make them, it's not always a great thing to be loved by every rich guy in the world.  We've got to stand-up for ourselves.

So next time a hockey game is on while you're flicking through channels, watch a few minutes of it and look up some of the players on Google.  Because it's either that, or boycott Timmy's.

June 06, 2008

Toyota today announced a new fuel cell powered vehicle.  Some experts suspect that it'll be just like the Delorian from Back to the Future, just drop in a banana peel and you're good to go.  But according to Toyota, it's powered by hydrogen.  That's a relief, because I can get hydrogen way more easily than food or gas, right?  Oh what's that I'm sorry?  The commercially consumable hydrogen cell hasn't been invented yet?  So then why is Toyota making cars that run on something that doesn't exist!

It's marathon runner, "Hey, we've got this great new thirst quencher that is amazing for long distance, it's healthier for you and comes in pink."  Then the marathon runner gets to the drink station, and surprise! "Oh, we don't actually have any here.  You didn't bring along anything of your own?  Sorry!  Good Luck!"

The poor marathon runner is taken away by ambulance at the twenty mile marker due to dehydration.  But at least he could have tried the new drink if it did exist.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sometimes I just can't believe people

Well, it's been another crazy week.  Not that my life is busy or complicated or anything.  I'm sure I've got nothing on Hillary Clinton or Brad Pitt, but I feel like my life is this incredibly dense spiderweb that isn't all made by me, so I don't know where the sticky spots are.

I'm going to rant for a bit here, so bear with me, please.

You know that political thing I'm doing?  Maybe you don't, I'll give you a rundown.  I'm in this organization called the Youth Parliament of Canada.  It was founded by this dude Tyler Johnson last summer, and now has grown exponentially.  Except that it now no longer exists.

Because of problems with management, most of the part leaders, my own included, have broken away from the organization and are planning on starting their own, called the Canadian Youth Assembly.  Now, I don't even know what this CYA is going to look like, but apparently it's supposed to be the same as we all thought the YPC was supposed to be.  They broke away because TJ (Tyler Johnson) decided that our entire organization was too partisan, and so he gave us all the boot.  (I actually haven't checked yet if I can post or not, it's still TBA)  Funny how an organization modeled around the real Federal Government can be seen as too partisan. Yeesh.

I've already told the new CYA that I plan on giving them my full support, but I'm seriously starting to doubt the effectiveness of all these people that I've been dealing with.  I mean when you look at it hard, you can see that the cliche "it takes two to tango" really does apply, and not only is our executive director power mongering, but everyone else seems to be taking themselves too seriously again.  (Yes, things like this have happened before, but not this bad)

I'm considering just withdrawing from the YPC/YGC/CYA in general.  (BTW, YGC means Youth Government of Canada, in case you can't get our Roosevelt Alphabet soup of acronyms right)  There are other ways to gain experience in the political field, and right now this is not looking like the best option.  What's really disappointing though, is how far we'd already come to fall so far.  We still have a Youth First Minister's Conference slated to begin in July that's going to be spoken at and attended by Rick Mercer.  We've received a personal endorsement from NDP Leader Jack Layton and most of the other major federal parties.  We were getting really close to having the House of Commons in Ottawa booked for when we were supposed to go there in January.  

But now our house of cards is falling down, just like Humpty Dumpty, and I'm pretty sure that neither all the GG's horses and men can put YPC back together again.

There are still options with hope though.  I can hope that there's an election soon and help one of the local politicians campaign.  There's this new organization that I just found out about called that seems pretty cool.  And who knows, maybe YGC will rise from the ashes anew, or maybe CYA will take off.

All I know is that I'm going to Queen's University this fall, and life goes on without politics.  As sad as it is, I'm going to have to keep living off of Rick Mercer and 22 Minutes re-runs for just a little while longer yet.

World Peace 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Poetry by J-Ray

by Jordan Ray

Tell me about life

Tell me why there are so many things that we do
Or don’t understand why we do
Or why someone else does them
Why can’t we just walk a mile in their shoes now?
Why can’t we just lead simple lives with no other complicating factors?
Like why that girl’s mom is a little bit off
Because she’s having to deal everything on her own
Or like that guy who doesn’t wear the pants in his own house
When ten years ago he could’ve kicked the stuffing out of Mohammed Ali

Why why why why why why why why

Why do I feel the urge to expel my thoughts at you
In some kind of form that I hope has meaning because that’ll make you listen
Why do people feel like they have to get up every morning and brush their teeth
Even though it won’t kill them to not do it one day
But they have this paranoid feeling that the girl made of plastic might notice
Why do I have so many questions?
I’m not afraid of the answers
Or maybe I am, I’m just one-hundred percent sure that nobody has them
Or I know that whatever people tell me I won’t believe them
Because I figure things out on my own
Why did the United States support Saddam Hussein in the ‘80s then attack him in 2003?

Some people say that it’s the journey that counts
Not the destination I might take that even further I’d say that just deciding to make the journey is the first step
Like admitting that you have a soft spot for romantic comedies But deciding to take every step after that is just as important
Following through is so critical
Because if you start a journey and you don’t end up where you planned
Or what if you don’t?
Do you just go from where you get lost?
Why do we worry about being on one side or the other?
Are we so afraid of labels in this day and age that we are afraid to take sides?
I am.
Admitting it is the first step, right?

I guess that there’s only so much that’s within your circle of control
But no one really knows what a circle of control is or how to use it
Like when you tell that girl sitting by the wall
With her head down and her hair dyed black
And say, “Hi”
You just prevented a Tylenol overdose on Saturday
By offering someone a glittering diamond of hope
One of the lumps of coal that you’ve been pressing forever
But you keep to yourself

I love sharing
And I hate it.
It’s so liberating
But what’s done is done
And you can never take it back

I love randomness
It keeps the mind fresh and free
And it keeps you from taking yourself too seriously

I have no idea what I’m trying to say
I just keep spewing a word vomit that bubbles forth like that fountain I saw once
Or maybe more like a torrent of water that sweeps away everything before it
Overwhelming the little yellow keys that try and keep their heads above water
While trying to capture and remember feeling

Doughnuts are amazing
Just thought I’d throw that in there
But I mean think of the symbolism behind doughnuts.
The are pre-made by corporations in some far-off foreign land
Like Hollywood or Saskatchewan
Sent to us in little kiosks or fast-food stores like Timmy’s
Then we pay peanuts for them
And our brains are hardwired to think that they taste good
Meanwhile you just keep going back for two or three more every week
And every time you pay, you give up a piece of your soul

Hope I didn’t put you off of your snack
Didn’t put me off mine
I’m going to go away from this just like everyone else and think to myself
Hmmm… that was fun
Let’s go to Starbucks!
And the world spins madly on
While the people who continue to twirl the top for those people at the bottom
Keep on with their oblivious little lives
With their custom made blinders
The ones they asked for when they didn’t like the answers to some of their questions

You know, there was a time when I thought that tongue in cheek meant making out
And then someone told me that I did it
And my alarm went off
Good morning Victoria, you’re listening to Forbes and Marshall on 98.5 the Ocean
Actually no, that’s a lie It’s more like I’m Gregor Kregie, and this is CBC Radio on the Island
You know what they say, let your geek flag fly
I found out what that meant too
I mean like, what one of the other meanings for it is
It means cool

Does all this have a point?

I don’t know

But you can ask the same thing about everything else
And get the same answer I’d like to think that it does
Makes me a better writer
Helps to grow my brain
Serves to blackmail me later on in life
Or just gets lost in Google

You searched for “Life”
Ten trillion, six hundred seventy four billion, eight hundred fifty five million
Two hundred twelve thousand, nine hundred and two matches

I like to think though
That when you look
And I mean really look at what goes on around you
That black smudge beside the sub header in the newspaper
That stray moldy breadcrumb
That you left on the floor of your room before the electrical fire
That wisp of cloud that just can’t seem to settle on a shape
That bus driver who has a sort of glazed look in their eye this morning
That girl that everyone knows, but no one really knows

And when you think about these things
Like asking yourself, how is the paper boy today?
Why didn’t I use that bread for my sandwich?
Why do I like to name clouds?
What is his life like at home?
And, I wonder if anyone really loves her?

When you look at things and think
You open your mind
And that googleplex of search results will take up residence in your cranium
So you can sift through it until your dying breath

But you won’t find the one you’re looking for
Because all those answers in your googleplex were written by someone else
And you will write the meaning of life
For yourself

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poetry by J-Ray

More "Leftovers"

by Jordan Ray

An oil painting

Stares down at me
Pine trees and jagged rockes outline a bay
Where twosomes walk
Followed by giggling toddlers

Sunlight strems through panes of glass
Larger than mine
The comforting murmur of family and firends surrounds me as I write
Scribbling when I don't even know why or about what
This need to express myself
Cannot be repressed

I wonder why we must express ourselves
Or maybe some of us don't
I wonder if they should
What tales would their voices tell us
Through microphone
Or brush

How would they photograph their perspective
Black and White?
Vivid colour?
Or shades of gray?

I guess you'll just have to ask them
And they'll show you

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Poetry by J-Ray

Just so's y'all know, I found a few poems that I haven't typed up yet, so this post will be... well... LONG. You have been warned.

Bus Stop Ponder
by Jordan Ray

Here I am sitting at a bus stop
I just had a check-up
4 Tiny Gaping holes in my pearly whites

The bill read one-four-six-oh-oh
And that's just the check-up
To get my teeth fixed?
Then there's my wisdom teeth
Aparently my mounth doesn't take kindly to enlightenment
So they've got to come out on top of all that

I find it remarkable
That with all the services that we provide
With all the things that make us a great country
Our healthcare
Our education
our democracy
Our wealth
We still find ways to stress ourselves out
Worry over
Agonize over while contemplating the consequences thereof

And yet I think while I write here with my green pen in my green folder by a green sign
We can still find happiness in the little things
Find joy and solace in the comforts of every day
If we only stopped to think
About how lucky we are
Or about what things make us the most happy

And you know it's really neat that the same things that keep us going
Keep them going too
The third worlders I mean.

Family, Firends
It's universal, and everybody understands it
What binds us together
Makes us human
Makes us strong
Makes us good.

Crosses all divides
Every border that ever existed
By it's warm comforting glow
It lets us survive
Keeps us reaching for the stars

It's the foundation on which the world was built
And it's torch will never go out.

by Jordan Ray

Greenish flowers
Baby showers
Fifty-three hours
Austin Powers

Lemon Toasted
Oven Roasted
Roller Coasted
Brother Boasted

Kbble nibbled
Pencil Gibbled
Baby dribbled
Fwoopy fibbled

Japan Pocky
Tiger Rocky
Vendetta Mocky
Little Sockie

With all these absurd rhymes of mine
I'm surprised you've kept with me all this time

But maybe absurdity goes hand-in-handem
To encourage the world to be a little more random.

Glowstick Fashion
by Jordan Ray

One day in May in the land of Hairspray
There was an and named after my cousin Brant
He wore glowsticks clear hanging from his ear
For this fashion you see was his passion, dear.

Although his interesting fashion sense did not without criticism went
For to him the other ants would rant
To us you're a blessing, you crazy ant
For birds flying up high in the sky
Can't see us flying from up so high
But you my firend will soon meet your end
To a robin's belly your fashion soon will you send

One day later sure enough they heard a quack
A duck had niticed him and dive-attacked
So Brant the ant began to heave and pent
And he led the duck closer to the colony's vent

Soon the duck landed at the colony's door
And had seen fowl cuisine laid out on the floor
So he gobbled up all of Brant's critical friends
Figuring Brant, appearing different, would bring less tasteful ends

And now Brant you see, he turned out fine
He made it back home just in time
So now whenever someone makes fun of his clothes
He threatens to run under a mallard's nose

The Train From Tomorrow
by Jordan Ray

Freedom hurtles closer and closer
Like the 9:00 train from tomorrow
Lights blazing the path in front of it
Blaring it's horn and flashing the signs where it crosses the road of someone going on a perpindicular journey

The horn blares again
The conductor shouts
All aboard!
And those who hear it feel a tingle down their spines
Wondering where the train from Tomorrow is going to take them today

I can see the train now
I can feel the train now
Rumbling across the varied landscapes of my fear,m hopes, anxieties and dreams
I can hear the train now
With it's mournful whoo-whoo so loud I can hardly hear anything else
I can touch the train now
Though I don't know if I'm ready to get the rest of my ticket punched on a one way trip to anywhere
I can taste the train now
And smell it too as the lovely fumes from it's engine spark and ignite the fiery torches of my cerebellum

I figure I'll just get on and see what happens

So I do, and I look out the windows as my old existence flahed by
My coat is ripped as one of the signposts by the platform seeks to keep me behind
But nothing will hold this locomotive back
Next stop, your life's next chapter hollers the conductor

Then I look around the train
And I see a lot of empty seats
I wonder who isn't here
And why?
Were they too scared?
But most of them didn't have a ticket
So they gaze longingly through my windows at our shining locomotive bound for life
I look at who is here
And I realize that this train has made this journey millions of times before
Because I've seen the same kind of kids get on
Never to return

Then my despair turns to excitement
And my adrenaline sugers as I head to the opem boxcar at the back of the train
Sticking my arm out the door
Offering my hand to those longing haces staring through my window
They have to run to catch up

I've never felt more happy than when I pull that shining face up into the train
But I bet I could feel happier
If the rest of the passengers on the train bound for Tomorrow
Stuck their hands our of the door of this dingy old boxcar
And pulled more of our brothers and sisters onto this train

Because the conductor of this train is colourblind and ignorant of all money and status
Everyone's got a ticket
So everyone should get one of those fine seats
On this shining locomotive

Don't let whoo-whoo be a mournful sound.
Help the conductor fill those empty seats

Monday, May 12, 2008


My feet hurt.
Pink sky, tired clouds
Sun, bed, love

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Poetry by J-Ray

Angels, Daemons, and Giants

Giants are ordinary men
But will the world remember them as angels?
Or Daemons?

There are those who strive to do good
To do the best job they can
To do what they believe is right.
Few in number,
Their wings concealed
And wielding great power
Empowered by those they are sworn to serve
With no written obligation at all.

These human angels
Were once ordinary men.
None were born to shake the earth
They hat to find the tremors within themselves,
Like a treasure that is steadily unearthed with each shovelful taken away,
The trove within the hearts of men grows as they dig deeper.
Many of their shovels are named
Gumption, says one.
Chutzpah, says another.
Determination says a third
And Will, says a fourth.

The toils of the outside world are trivial
But their battle within the earth with a spade
Will last a lifetime.
There are also daemons
Who work the same earth.
Their horns are concealed,
And though few in number,
They swell by making slaves of lesser men.
The bearers of malice are powered too by those they swear to serve
So that they may serve only themselves.

Small wonder it is when they dig in the earth
With spades named strife
And death
They can dig to find their treasure more quickly than others
But they find themselves wanting more
Never satisfied with small heads of Caesar
Or old pirates dubloons.
They toss them away with the dirt.
They man digging next to him cries out in anguish
But rejoices when he finds his fortunes have multiplied.

Some men dig forever
Hitting rocks that destroy their shovels
Excavating until their hands are blistered,
Their backs stooped.
Still, they find nothing.
But in the deepest crevasse of that which bore us
These men will find the greatest reward.

At times when men become frustrated
And their grip on the spade of greed becomes so tight
Their spade becomes a sword
And their horns are revealed
As this man the daemon threatens his neighbour.
His neighbour with only a shovel named Will.
A tail lashes and eyes burn with rage
As the daemon demands his treasure
For the daemon is poor
Having passed up what wealth of treasure he had
Looking for something that wasn't there.

The man with a shovel named Will refuses
So spade and sword are unleashed.
Sparks fly and dirt is thrown
As blood is spilt
By the man with the sword.
A shovel named Will lunges left and right
Protecting those around him from being bloodied
The angel receives cuts of his own in reward.

In the end, the shovel named Will gives of his master
All that he has to give.
But the people he protects
Become better for it.

For the daemon finds himself without wealth
Because not evil men, but the world at large receives the riches of angels
And the blood spilt by daemons
While daemons inherit the riches of none.

Giants are ordinary men with spades
Purchased with blood
Or gold.
And it is by this that they leave behind
That the world remembers giants as angels
Or daemons.