Category Archives: Opinions

Vive le Israel


Television talk-show host Stéphane Gendron embodies everything that is wrong with Canada’s most fractious and xenophobic province. There is no shortage of intolerance in North America. Ask a black man in Georgia. Ask a Democrat in Texas. Ask a Liberal in Alberta. But nowhere is intolerance more pervasive, more entrenched in cultural ideology than in Quebec, a province that abhors anything and everything that is not Mayflower Francophone. Case in point: Mr. Gendron’s televised assertion that Israel “does not deserve to exist.”

Oh, Quebec, where did we go wrong?

Let’s be clear: Everyone has a right to exist. Even bad people. Even that neighbour whose three dogs bark twenty-four hours a day. Even the unidentified juvenile delinquent who broke into your car only to discover there was nothing of value to take. Even the New York waiter who was rude to you (it’s his job, by the way, so get over it). Bad people exist, and perhaps the best the rest of us can hope for is that we can lead by example, encourage good behavior, perhaps show these baddies a bit of love or respect, a kind word—something they need, in order to see the light. What they don’t need is for some crackpot to leap out of the Canadian woodwork, making inflammatory statements. Do you hear me, Mr. Gendron? Foreign policy is not the preferred domain of lifestyle celebrities—Oprah notwithstanding.

Strife between Israel and its neighbours has persisted for more than half a century, and it will not begin to abate until all parties stop using the phrase “right to exist.” There can never be peace with that hair in the soup. And it’s a phrase that has no meaning in the real world, since they all do exist, and will continue to do so, regardless of the other side’s best efforts. It’s unhelpful for a bystander, eight thousand kilometers away, to make an uninformed and naïve proclamation on national television.

Even more foolish was his attempt to defend his action. “I have the right to express publicly my position,” said Mr. Gendron.

Not if it promotes hatred, sir. For your own good, and for the good of the world, it behooves you to stick to the topics on which you are informed: cheese and fashion. Merci beaucoup.

 


Umbilicus Rex


Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth wants to compel parliament to re-examine the issue of when a fetus becomes a person under the law in Canada. He assures us it is not about abortion. “Whatever view one has on abortion, it would surely be important to know whether or not a child is a human being before birth.” My question to Mr. Woodworth: Why?

Let me count the ways.

Firstly, Mr. Woodworth is a former Catholic school trustee and crusader for the Right to Life movement—for the Liberal party, back before he was outed as a Conservative—so we know where he stands on abortion, if not politics. If he simply wishes to conduct a well-rounded “conversation,” as he claims, he would gather a few experts, intellectuals and clergy in his own drawing room, serve tea and biscuits, and do a little brainstorming to satisfy his own academic curiosity. No harm done. He would not be taking it to parliament. On the other hand, the primary reason an RTL advocate would want to “legally” define when life begins is so that the right to choose can be “legally” stripped from Canadian women.

Secondly, Mr. Woodworth is a lawyer. Once Canadian law recognizes the constitutional rights of a fertilized egg, there will be no end to the litigational possibilities. Imagine: lawyers suing mothers on behalf of miscarried or stillborn fetuses for “failing to provide the necessities of life.” Accuse her of eating the wrong foods, failing to adequately sequester herself during the pregnancy, not practicing her Lamaze breathing often enough, living in the wrong climate, wearing tight clothing, not praying hard enough for a living birth, &c. Proceeds of a successful suit going to the lawyers and the Church? Where does the father fit in? Is he, too, culpable? If that mother smokes a cigarette or takes a sip of wine during pregnancy, does that constitute intent in a murder charge? What if the prospect of giving birth presents a real and significant risk to the mother? Whose constitutional rights weigh heavier, mother or child? What if the pregnancy is the result of a rape? What if the mother carries HIV, knowingly or not? Attempted murder? …well, you can see the endless opportunities for an ambitious lawyer. Beats chasing ambulances.

Mr. Woodworth seems to be concerned that there is currently no law governing abortions in Canada, the previous law having been struck from the books nearly a quarter century ago. What he fails to understand is that there is no need for an abortion law, as the last twenty-three years have clearly demonstrated.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that there is an “eat well” law dating back to the eighteenth century, that compels Canadian citizens to consume, each and every Sunday, at the dinner hour, a meal consisting of Meat-and-Three. Sure, it’s good to have a well-balanced diet, so perhaps it made sense, two hundred and fifty years ago, to force people to do it by law, especially since so many of them were farmers. But what about vegetarians? In order to support the MAT law, the government would have to make vegetarianism illegal, wouldn’t they? What about children who hate vegetables? Will the food police be called in to supervise the “sitting-at-the-table-until-you’re-done” decree? What if the family can’t afford meat, even once a week? Will the government subsidize these families with “meat stamps?”

I know it sounds absurd, but it is no different than a woman’s (or couple’s) decision to have an abortion. There is no debate required, really, to see that, as long as the child is connected to the mother via umbilical cord, it is, by any and all rights, the property of the mother, to do with as she likes—regardless of someone else’s beliefs. If one were of extraterrestrial origin, one could objectively refer to the fetus as a tumor, no different than a goiter, except that a goiter will probably not take care of you in your old age. The goiter/fetus cannot have individual constitutional rights because it is not an individual; it is a physical and measurable extension of the host body (aka: the Mother).

What would Mr. Woodworth do if the Pope stepped out onto his balcony and announced to his flock that a woman should not have a left arm?—that “a left arm on a woman is an offense to the eyes of God.” Somehow I doubt he would introduce a private member’s bill in parliament to have constitutional rights applied to the appendage, even though it is the tradition host for a wristwatch, plus, who would hold the paper steady whilst the host body attempted to write a letter?

Perhaps Father Woodworth would, on top of an anti-abortion law and a Meat-and-Three law, like to legislate mandatory Sunday service for all Canadians. If he believes it is acceptable to impose his Christian morals regarding our diet and birth rights, why should he exclude our everlasting salvation? He doesn’t seem to care that we are not all Christians, or at least do not all fall in line with his moral and ethical compass. To be sure, there is no shortage of examples where leaders of state attempt to control their subjects through the narrow and inflexible lens of religious doctrine. Look at the middle east. Look at the American Tea Party. Look at the tail end of the Roman Empire. The Crusades.

The irony is that his own party, the Harper Conservatives, do no wish to have this discussion, not because it doesn’t fit within the boundaries of their ideology (which is certainly does), but because they are savvy enough to avoid alienating half their voters (aka: Women). They know from experience that the way to office is to steer clear of contentious or polarizing issues. Stick to the babble-fluff, and the stuff that makes good headlines (Tough on Crime!). And Mr. Woodworth ought to know his party does not appreciate members who speak out of turn, or who fail to toe the party line. He was smart enough, it seems, to have got himself through law school, but he can’t see that he’s asking questions that have already been answered with relative clarity, and he also fails to see the risk he takes by opening a door that his own peeps wish to keep shut.

Then again, I reckon he’s only using the Conservative party as a transitional stopover, on his way to his real goal: leader of the NDP. Or perhaps a bishopric. Good luck, sir, and be glad you are free, as a good Catholic, to make the decision for your wife whether or not she has an abortion. Choice is good.


Woman Unmasked


If there was ever a shred of doubt remaining that our beloved Conservative government is hopelessly and chronically xenophobic, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has put those doubts to rest. His latest decree, forcing Muslim women to remove their burkas or niqabs, while taking the oath of Canadian citizenship, demonstrates a clear political (see: ideological) motive that is quite apart from any practical concerns.

According to Mr. Kenney: “The citizenship oath is a quintessentially public act.” Well, sure it is. And these women are there, in public, participating in the ceremony, as required by law; but why do they need to be unmasked? For security reasons? To verify their identity? No. He claims to speak for a group of unidentified citizenship judges, who are, according to the minister, concerned that they can’t tell if these women are actually speaking the oath or not. If I were one of those judges, I, too, would not wish to be numbered and named.

Okay, let’s break this down into manageable bits.

First, the security risk. Presumably, Muslim women pass through the same security screening and metal detectors as the rest of the future Canadians, before they are permitted to enter the ceremonial chamber. There is no reason to believe this headgear presents any significant increase in potential danger to the public. A person setting out to do harm can just as successfully hide a “doomsday device” under her arm as under her chin, which means removal of a niquab would not help.

Second, the question of identity. This has also plagued election overseers, in recent years, who use photo ID, such as a driver’s license or photo health card, to make a formal identification. Let me offer a simple solution: permit these Muslim women to step behind a curtain with a female official, where they can momentarily reveal their face and thus prove they are who they claim to be. There is no valid reason to expose these women to public scrutiny, unless the aim is to punish or humiliate Muslims for being different, or at the very least for being on the “wrong” side of the religious fence.

Finally, there is the judges’ concern. Honestly, this part seems made-up, as if Mr. Kenney needed just one more thing to add to his list of reasons, and so he concocted this band of unknown judges out of thin air. Then again, judges are people, too, as liable to be fraught with prejudices and intolerance and kooky ideas as anyone else. But let’s explore the complaint by asking some simple questions: What if these women are not saying the words? What if they are quietly giving thanks to Allah for delivering them safely to the land of plenty and opportunity? What if, behind that burka, they are humming the melody to Rihanna’s Only Girl in the World? Will any of that make them less Canadian? Less honest and law-abiding? Less productive in society? On the other hand, if they mouth the required words for all to see and hear, does that guarantee they will be better citizens? What is to prevent any applicant, man or woman, covered or un-, from shouting the ceremonial phrases with real gusto, and then going outside, to the very public streets of Canada, to commit a crime or live off the dole or drive while intoxicated?

And why stop at Muslim headgear? What if my bushman beard hides my lips from the judge’s keen eye? Should I be compelled, by government edict, to be clean shaven before I am allowed to take my vows? What about those soon-to-be-citizens who have little grasp of English, and therefore neither know nor care what they are reciting? Does anyone take those vows seriously? Ceremonies are, well, ceremonial. Most of us, sooner or later, take wedding vows. The words are often little more than a means to an end, which isn’t to say we aren’t taking the ritual seriously, but the words themselves are not the important bit. Speaking them loudly and articulately does not make them more or less effective or meaningful. It’s the ritual that is important; it’s the willingness to participate that demonstrates that intentions are well-meant.

Forcing these women—who have strict and meaningful (to them) reasons to remain covered in public—to reveal themselves for no sensible reason is nothing more than a petty display of power by a government that has proven, time and again, that it does not like visible minorities. Remember Omar Khadr? Suaad Hagi Mohamud? Maher Arar? It’s a shame that this sort of prejudice can occupy so much time and energy, when there are clearly more important issues that deserve our attention these days. That this “problem” could be so easily solved (see paragraph 4, above), illustrates that our government is engaged in an active war on the “foreign” element for reasons that cannot be objectively justified.

Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, welcome to Canada. Please don’t forget to exercise your fundamental right to vote.

 


Mayor Ford…Sigh


This is what it has come to. Toronto citizens are in the throes of what amounts to the 5 Stages of Grief, where Mayor Rob Ford is concerned.

Stage one: Denial.

Yes, in the beginning, although the signs of trouble appeared early, many supporters continued to, well, support their vote for the Gravy Train conductor—not unlike the handful of Americans who believed invading Iraq was the right thing to do, until it became evident there were no WMD’s, that the whole thing was a ruse perpetrated by the highest level of government. It didn’t take long for Mr. Ford and his henchmen to find out there is little or no gravy flooding the corridors of City Hall. Remember his campaign mantra: “There will be no cuts to services!”

Stage two: Anger.

Now we have thousands of workers under the chopping block; TTC fares are rising while services are reduced; Car Revenue Tax (a source of income) eliminated and bicycle lanes removed (at taxpayers’ expense); library services reduced; arts funding reduced; the city’s poorest citizens evicted from public housing so it can be sold; waterfront development torpedoed (remember the giant Ferris Wheel?). Property tax increase imminent. You get the idea. But at last, the masses are mobilizing, showing up for City Hall meetings to voice their concerns. Open warfare between the Brothers Ford and Toronto’s most priceless asset, Dame Margaret Atwood. A handful of sensible council members finally popping their heads out of the trench and daring to openly challenge the mayor and his cronies on some of their more outrageous maneuvers.  The police department, which was promised an increase in ranks, openly defies the mayor’s demand for a ten-percent reduction in budget (i.e.: layoffs).

Stage three: Bargaining.

The unions are sending up flares. Toronto can expect disruptions in many areas in the coming year, thanks to Mr. Ford’s bully tactics. Waterfront Toronto is attempting to save its marriage with the city, because it has already invested so much time and money in the project, and because it remains the best option for the lakefront development (sorry, Robbie, no Ferris Wheel for you and your little brother). Library management is taking control of how cuts will be made in its own department, despite the Ford plan, which was to simply shut most of them down altogether. Just to name a few.

Welcome to stage four: Depression.

No longer shocked or outraged by the mayor’s imbecilic words and actions, all we can do is sigh. We feel powerless. An election is still several years away, unless some plucky lawyer steps forward with a strategy to impeach the Mayor. Come on, Bay Street, if a few of you can come out in support of some rag-tag “Occupy” protesters who didn’t even have an issue to fight for, the least you can do is save your own city from this bloated Nero, before he burns the place to the ground. I know most of you live on Mississauga Road, but you work downtown, and you will soon be paying road tolls to get your Jag into the underground lot, unless you do something soon.

Stage five: Acceptance.

We haven’t got there, yet, but we will. Like the battered wife, we will eventually be beaten into submission. And make no mistake, the appearance of Acceptance will be entirely superficial, a defense mechanism, the only way to cope, to keep the rod from once again coming down on our heads.

Stage six: vote.

Please.

 


Occu-Pie-In-The-Sky


I’ve been waiting patiently, these past weeks, for the Occupy Movement to amount to something. So far, the wait has been disappointing, even downright boring. I’m now ready for them to disappear, return to their parents’ basements, update their cv’s, beg for their job back at Starbucks. Somehow, by the fading remnants of my youthful idealism, I hoped someone intelligent and charismatic would step forward and take this movement by the reins, tell them, and us, what they are against, who it is they are against, and what they intend to achieve with their camps and marches and pumping fists. I was waiting for the next MLKing.

But apparently all the smart, charismatic people are as embarrassed and put off by this crowd as I am. They don’t want to be associated with a mob that has repeatedly and unswervingly proven to have no coherent thoughts or ideas of its own. It would simply be too much work educating and informing the protesters, never mind the public and governments and business leaders. Only the lawyers have shown up to the party, because it’s a photo op.

Yes, we know that the protesters are against the “one percent,” but what does that mean? Are the 1p the real villains? To be sure, they may be envied for their success and wealth. Which of us would turn down an opportunity to joint that elite group? Not me. But I’m either not smart enough or not lucky enough to get super-rich, so I have to work for a living. The American protesters complain that the American Dream is dead. Well, not exactly; the dream has merely been corrupted over the past quarter century. When the dream (which, by osmosis, also infects Canadians) was born, during the post-war boom, it meant that any person willing to put in some hard work could succeed. Not necessarily become yacht-driving billionaires, but had the potential to steadily increase their standard of living. Buy a small house, then, after working hard and saving a bit, move up to a bigger, nicer house. Trade the car in every three years. Buy a colour television set, with remote control. Take a vacation in Bermuda. Send the smartest of their children to university. This dream was especially attractive to the immigrant population, who pursued the dream with the twin disadvantages of being immigrants and arriving in the country with five dollars in their pocket.

The prevailing view today is that the Dream owes young people, without requiring the prerequisite hard work. They expect the 52″ flat screen and a new BMW 325i on their first turn around the block. They vacation in Mexico or Cuba twice a year, thanks to a credit card. They spend $250 each Thursday night on designer martinis, because how else will they find love, now that Lavalife is passé? They’ll get the downpayment for their first condo from their parents, who know that their children will otherwise never enter the housing market because they are unmotivated and financially illiterate. Ambition is no longer present in 99-percent of today’s youth. The remaining 1-percent will go on to join the despised elite. So, yes, the great American Dream is dead, but it was not killed by the 1p.

Back to the current protesters: Apart from the fantasy of forcing the 1p to write personal cheques to the other 99p, what is their plan for change? I mean a real plan. Why don’t they even know who it is they should be protesting to? If they knew that, they would have voted, instead of loafing around parks, bitching about how hard-done-by they are. Yes, university students have crushing loan debt by the time they graduate, but whose fault is that? Not the 1p. Ask your government, who used to forgive student loans, back in the days when universities didn’t take anyone and everyone, but selected only the smartest cookies from the jar. Once they opened their doors to anyone who could pay the tuition, the government could no longer forgive such an avalanche of loans, and today’s grads are paying the price, literally, for decades. But, again, this is not the fault of the 1 percent. If student debt is your beef, it is legitimate, and you should protest it. But to whom? Well, to the universities, to begin with, for ruining the student loan system in order to make more money. And the government, for letting them do it, and then buying into the change by demanding repayment. It’s only sad that I have to tell you what to protest about, that you can’t figure it out for yourselves.

Of course, if you take my advice and eventually succeed in this protest, you may discover you are one of the many who aren’t smart enough to gain entry into McMaster’s engineering program. You may have to settle for Media Studies at Sheridan College. You may have to learn a trade. Open a shop. Drive a taxi. You may not believe it, but that’s the way things used to be, back when the Dream was still alive.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest every protester is a third-year MBA candidate. These are examples. Whoever you are, and whatever your specific gripe, let’s hear it. Let’s hear what you’d like [insert target here] to do about it. Maybe you lost your job and now you’re losing your house. In that case, you’d be correct in targeting the banks, but not because they were bailed out (which, in Canada, they were not), but because they put several deadly bullets in the Dream during the past fifteen years, throwing credit cards and lines of credit and 0% down mortgages at anything that moved. And you could be forgiven for accepting these spectacular offers, because the banks told you it was okay to do so. Well, the banks have learned that lesson, and have now recovered some of their previous caution and good sense, so a protest at this point is a bit late. But it’s worth mentioning, in case they ever get that funny idea again, in the future.

My point is this. If you can’t think of something specific to protest, and who to aim that protest at, you need to say goodbye to your homeless confreres, pack up the tent and go home. I’m sure the press will not miss you for long, as there is always something actually important going on in the world to keep them busy. You’ve had your fifteen minutes, and now it’s time to call it a day, before the cops show up with warrants and pepper spray.

I suggest you go away and think hard about your life, about what’s really wrong with it. If you put to work those grade-11 analytical skills you’ve kept dormant these past few years, you just might come up with a plan. In the meantime, try to enjoy the flatscreen television that you won’t have to pay for ’till 2012.


The Long Haul


Today is the day opposition MP Olivia Chow introduces to parliament the issue of side guards for trucks on Canadian streets. Most sensible citizens, whether a part of pro-bicycle lobbies or not, will agree that such guards will improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians, and may in fact save lives. The side guards cannot prevent a truck from colliding with anyone or anything, but they can prevent those people or things from falling beneath the truck’s wheels. This can only be seen as a positive thing.

The current government has already pooh-poohed the proposal, a decision supported by Transport Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance, citing lack of significant evidence the side guards will save lives. They propose instead to increase the number of bike lanes, and develop education campaigns—presumably for cyclists, not motorists.

Both sides, to some degree, have a point. Yes, side guards can improve safety. But at an average installation cost of $800 per truck, there is virtually no chance this legislation will pass. Ever. During the second Great Depression, the last thing the government is going to do is force truck drivers and trucking companies to shell out that sort of cash for what they perceive as a “specialty” problem that has not been proven “empirically.” It’s a contentious topic at the moment because a pregnant mother was recently cut down on the streets of Toronto by a truck that didn’t see her until it was too late. There is little doubt a side guard could have saved the woman’s life. The issue becomes all the more sensitive in the face of such a tragic loss.

In the midst of our grief, let’s not forget the current mayor of Toronto is actively removing bicycle lanes from city streets, because he is a “car guy” who resents the presence of bicycles on his roads. If the mayor were a different sort of man, perhaps a new bike lane might have saved that woman’s life. Perhaps, just perhaps, even a bicycle safety campaign might have made a difference, even though, by all accounts, this woman was a safe and experienced city-street cyclist. What if Toronto took a page from Montreal and banned righthand turns on red lights? There are any number of ways the streets could be made safer.

My point is this: some things are good for the “show,” will get you some press, if that’s what you’re after. Pursuing legislation to force trucks to install side guards is a showy waste of time and energy, because it is doomed from start to finish. Politicos and lobbyists need to pick battles that they have a chance of winning. Why not introduce a bill forcing manufacturers to install side guards in all new trucks coming off the assembly line? It worked for seat belts and daytime running lights. The onus of safety goes to the manufacturer, who can hardly afford to deny the safety benefit—at least not publicly. It may take years, but it could happen.

In the end, we have to realize there is no way to make roads one hundred percent safe for everyone. Accidents will happen, some due to human error, others to engineering or infrastructure shortcomings. All we can do is be as careful as possible (I’m talking to you, too, taxi drivers and bicycle couriers!), and seek plausible, realistic changes. It serves nobody to expel a lot of steamy rhetoric, when it’s simply going to disperse harmlessly into the ozone. As I said earlier: pick battles you can win.

And remember to get out and vote at election time. Toronto is learning the hard way what it means to elect an angry buffoon to office. The next cyclist to get creamed on Jarvis Street might have grounds to sue the current mayor for spending tax dollars to remove brand new bike lanes from that busy road, thus endangering life and limb. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Drive safe, people.


Scary Stuff


It must be something in the water out there. After judging the term “early-school-leaver” to be a more appropriate (re: sensitive) label for the high school dropout (a slur, said they), the Calgary School Board has taken another giant step into the Dark Ages.

Two of its elementary schools have banned scary costumes, including weapons, violent imagery and masks of any description, from in-school Halloween celebrations. In fact, the staff have neatly hijacked the occasion from its relatively harmless pagan origins, and recast it as a “caring” assembly. Lo!

Don’t get me wrong, caring is important, but if they were going to shoehorn it into an occasion, surely Valentine’s Day or Family Day would have been more appropriate. Or they simply could have chosen a day at random during the school year. What difference would it make, unless you are a crackpot whose veins are coursing with politically correct righteousness?

I’ve met the type before. Some years ago, parents and staff at my daughter’s private school petitioned to ban witches and ghosts, because they promoted the occult. That mob even objected to black crayons in the classroom—the preferred colour for all things evil. It was our cue to rescue our little one from the clutches of PC evil.

But you don’t have to look very hard to find comprehensive studies showing that children are not only attracted to all things “scary,” but in fact use the experience of being scared to help them develop into sane and sensible adults. In other words, we need to be scared as part of our early development. It’s not for nothing that the horror genre, in all its mediums, is most popular with young people. As adults, we already know how frightening the real world is, so we lose interest in it, as a stimulus—substituting red wine to dull the fear.

If a boy dresses up as King Arthur, wearing crown and sword, is he promoting violence or honour? Evil or chivalry? If a girl dons a witch’s costume, is she accepting or promoting the occult, or is she is merely dressing up? Is the Fairy Godmother’s star-tipped wand a weapon? God help the poor child who wants to be Spiderman for a day!

It’s only the grownups who read more into it, which is a shame for those Calgary children who will be denied the opportunity to celebrate Halloween, and forced instead to talk (or listen to talk) about “caring.” Once again, the public school system demonstrates that it knows little about education, or children. A little superstition might just help these school leaders stop over-thinking things, and permit the children, one day a year, to be children. The real “scary” stuff is misuse of political correctness.

 


The 99-percent Solution


So, the previously-idle hordes of disaffected youth are finally mobilized, occupying St. James park, in downtown Toronto, as they await the opening market bell at the TSX. Let the bedlam begin!

Okay, so they still don’t have a plan, as such. They are thinking about occupying a bank or two, until they get kicked out, after which they plan to retreat to base camp at the park. If they don’t get beaten or arrested by police. All in all, it’s probably more of a plan than any of the protesters might have had for Monday, had the opportunity to protest not come along. Thank you, New York.

A number of experts are also exploiting the opportunity to get themselves before the media and offer sound bites, mostly (and strangely) positive. One psychologist thought it was encouraging that the protesters were feeling the urge to protest, suggesting the current urge was more profound than those in the Sixties and Seventies. He didn’t seem to take into account that the current protesters didn’t know what they were protesting against or who they should be protesting to. And this is important because you aren’t going to effect change unless you know those two things.

For example, our Toronto protesters are “against” banks. But Canadian banks protected Canada from a large portion of the financial carnage because they are already heavily regulated (unlike banks in the U.S.). The protesters should be grateful to our banks (ABM fees notwithstanding!). They should not be protesting the Toronto Stock Exchange, either, which has done nothing wrong. In fact, they should encourage the TSX, and wish it all the best as it tries to recover from the global meltdown. A healthy stock exchange can only help everyone, because it means business is good. Canadian tax rates and loopholes are different than those in the U.S., as is the corporate tax structure. We cannot take our cues from American protesters on this subject.

If the protesters wanted to do something positive, they should have got off their duffs last week and voted. A shameful 49 percent turnout in Ontario. In fact, if they failed to cast a ballot, citizens should be banished from protests of any kind. If you don’t vote, you young person camping out in St. James park, you have no right to complain. In order to march the streets of Toronto, shouting slogans and pumping fists, you should be required to prove you voted.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, there is no shortage of things to legitimately protest about. What’s missing in this current “occupy” movement is a genuine leader. Where is our Martin Luther King? Our Gloria Steinem, our Jane Fonda? Where is the camera-friendly orator, who can articulate what this protest is, or should be, about? To date, no one has stepped forward; not a movie star, not a politician, not a journalist (come on, Rick Mercer, what are you waiting for?). Someone has to tell them, and the rest of us, what their objectives are. With a bit of leadership, perhaps they can relocate to the proper front lawn (City Hall…Queen’s Park…Parliament Hill…), aim their grievances at the right people. Until that happens, the only thing they will succeed in doing is giving their poor parents a few days’ peace, back at home.

And please, dear protester, the poop-and-scoop policy applies to humans, too. Keep Canada clean.


Mayor(s) Ford: Prodigal Son(s) ?


The original parable describes a younger of two sons who demands his inheritance early, then goes to Vegas and blows the lot on hookers and booze. Broke and desperate, he returns home, head hung low, having practiced his “speech of contrition” along the way. But Dad doesn’t give him the chance to perform his apology, and instead kisses his neck and slaughters the fattest calf in celebration of his son’s return. The lesson to be learned from this parable is not for the younger but the older son, who is upset by his brother’s guile and avarice. The moral of the story is about forgiveness and compassion.

Hmm…maybe it’s not quite the right fit for the Fords. Let’s abandon parable for proverb: Spare the rod, spoil the child. A paraphrase from the biblical source. It seems clear, by the Brothers Ford’s actions in city hall, that they are accustomed to getting their own way, without penalty or price. To some degree, he (I’ll switch to the singular, since there is, in theory, only one mayor) has taken a page or two from Stephen Harper’s book: Ruling for Dummies, Federal Edition—another leader who is happy to flout rules, laws and procedure when they don’t suit his purpose. Don’t like something? Get rid of it. Never mind that there is meant to be debate, discussion, persuasion…and then a vote. Sure, transparency is all nice and well when you are campaigning, but it sure gets in the way when you are trying to actually get something done. Democracy is a charming little idea, but it only really works when the other voters agree with you. The only recourse is the secret back-room meeting and the surprise announcement.

Of course Ford doesn’t like the current waterfront plan. It wasn’t his idea. And besides, who doesn’t like ferris wheels? Sure, it’s been done before, but think of the thrill! Forget parks, they just take up space and don’t generate a single tax dollar. Who the hell doesn’t like malls? Jiminy! Doug and me practically grew up in the mall! And the Seven-Eleven. If only we can get The Brass Rail to relocate, by golly we’d really have a world class destination. Pass the mustard, bro.

Once upon a time, the spoiled boy had a tantrum because he got angel food cake for his birthday instead of chocolate. Flat on his back, legs kicking the air above, eye squinted shut until the offense has been removed and replaced. Don’t make me hold my breath, Mother! Brand new Mustang for his sixteenth birthday. Surely, Mother, you don’t expect me to drive a blue car?

Okay, okay. It doesn’t entirely ring true. Rob Ford would never use the word “surely” unless he was addressing the housekeeper. Still, all the signs are there. No rod has touched Rob Ford. Not as a child, not ever. His bubble of privilege has left him entirely unscathed. He is no doubt baffled by all the current hullabaloo over his performance. Geez, Mom, why are the plebs picking on me? And he will continue to be baffled until he has become unelected, after which he will be available for the annual family reunion at the cottage, far far away from Pride Week and “the gays.” And it will be a different sort of pride he will feel, as he speeds up and down Jarvis St., sans bike lanes, in his Hummer, chatting on the phone with his beloved Mère, giving innocent families the finger with impunity, since he will no longer be a public figure. (There’s never a cop when you need one.)

Frankly, I’d slaughter the fattest calf to see that day come sooner.

 


National Post vs. Jack Layton


Fox News hates U.S. President Barack Obama more than anything on this earth. If you ask anyone in the newsroom, they will tell you they’d rather elect the Taliban than see Obama get a second term. They are pushing for NATO forces to invade Brainistan, wrongly believing it is the muslim nation where Obama was born. If only one of them could find it on a map. But someone put the globe away some years ago, and no one remembers where, so they simply point an angry finger in the general direction of the middle east, and shout invectives.

Our own beloved National Post has taken a page or two from their nutty confreres to the south by waging a pointless and undignified war on Jack Layton. They are flogging a dead horse. Yes, I meant to use that phrase because, while I do not fully buy into the NDP ideology, it was clear Mr. Layton was a shining stallion for everything his party stood for. Sincerity is a refreshing quality in a politician, and now that Jack is dead, there are no others on the current national stage.

First, Christie Blatchford launched out of the gate in record time with a cruel and thoughtless attack on how Mr. Layton died. Ambitious and vainglorious to the end, said she. Then her cubicle mate at NP, Jonathan Kay, stepped up to defend Ms. Blatchford and applaud her courage in speaking her mind.

Kay: “When I read [Blatchford’s] words, I got that feeling I always get when reading a truly great columnist—the feeling of someone taking the thoughts out of my own brain, putting them on paper, and showing them to me…along with the unspoken question: ‘Is this what you were trying to say?’ Great column-writing isn’t just about intelligence and insight. There’s a lot of courage involved, too, just as with politics. It is the courage to say what is plain and true, even if it cuts against the wall of sentiment that suffuses those around you.”

Wow. Badly written, but wow nonetheless.

He then gives the whip a few cracks, himself: “We can all draw inspiration from Jack Layton’s political drive and courageous battle against cancer. But no man is perfect. And his letter made a spectacle of his imperfections.”

Wow wow. They just don’t bleed the same after they’re dead. Kee-rack!

Next we have Barbara Kay (J’s relation?), who believes Stephen Harper made a grave error in granting Jack Layton a state funeral. Like Ms. Blatchford, she calls up Princess Diana’s demise as a shining example of how leaders (the Queen) screw up a simple death by calling too much attention to it. Ms. Kay calls our emotional outpouring for Jack Layton “teddy bear grief,” as if we were children who’d had a bad dream. There, there, she seems to be telling us. Go back to sleep, little ones. Daddy Harper will take care of everything, don’t you worry your pretty little heads.

At least Fox News is picking on someone who is alive, and who can defend himself. Both organizations make no attempt to pretend they are reporting the news without political bias; both are megaphones for the extreme right in their respective countries. Fair enough. There’s hardly any balanced reporting in the mainstream media, these days. Fox News makes itself look silly (to sensible people) with its outlandish opinions and savage attacks. Our own National Post is an embarrassment to what’s left of proper journalism in Canada, consistently demonstrating an utter lack of dignity and insight. It’s a shame they feel it’s proper to use an important man’s death as an excuse to promote Dear Leader. As my mother told me, if you can’t say something nice, best to say nothing at all.