Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Homeless cuts = results for people?

The Conservatives' decision to cut funding for homeless shelters a couple weeks back is exactly the kind of thing that a Conservative victory raised the spectre of before the last election.

In London, services have been cut by $376,000. This follows cuts to Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor, Hamilton, Halifax, and Vancouver (confirmed by the London Free Press and Mayor Anne-Marie Decicco, despite Diane Finley's stick-handling to the contrary).

This is an alarming response to all of those who naively suggested a minority government would somehow entirely handcuff Stephen Harper, and that talk to the contrary was simply fear mongering. This is particularly true to of the many NDP (and some Green) supporters who rattle on about "liberal, tory, same old story" while enabling regressive moves like this. Not to mention Kelowna, child-care et al, this is but one more example of the "results for people" that the sacking of the last government has brought home.


Note: Sorry for the delay there as I was moving, and my compatriot I believe is still off in the wilderness.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bevilacqua's Automatic Supporters?

A further thought on the Bevilacqua adventures of late:

Bevilacqua's comments regarding his support of Bob Rae filling up the chamber for the man support-wise is a bit off-putting. For one, this implies the instant switchover of his loyal supporters to Bob Rae. But of course? Well, that seems to be the reaction I've noticed, but to me it seems far from obvious that people supposedly enamoured of Maurizio's leadership platform would jump to the call of their leader when he's made such an unexpected move, especially before even officially declaring for him. Whatever similarities Bevilacqua sees in Rae, they can't be so instantly sensible to his former supporters. At the convention, sure, I understand this, but at this point, let us hope that we are not too deep into horse-trading over the backing the candidate that matches our own personal visions for the party. Some going to Ignatieff recently underscores this, though that is also a bit odd in some ways.

Is this naive? Not really. I don't for a minute suggest not factoring in a candidate's potential. After all, politics is indeed the art of the a degree (make sense?). It's a tightrope to be sure. But I'd say it's safe to say a former staunch Bevilacqua backer hasn't exactly been concerning himself or herself with the fastest route to victory.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Bon Film!

Just took in Bon Cop Bad Cop. I went for Colm Feore, the acting genius that he is (he can do it all, this was a far cry from the last thing I saw him in, Shakespeare's Coriolanus). I'll agree from the ads my feelings were the prospect of a big Canadian flick with Feore and Rick Mercer are appealing enough but the movie probably won't be very good. I'm glad to say I was pleasantly surprised. It is far better than the trailers make it look (and if you think they make it look good well then enjoy). Reviewers don't seem to like it? Well come on now, it is a buddy cop film not Denys Arcand, so we can expect some level of cliche, etc. But this is true only in small, harmless doses (not that we don't get enough cliches from someone like Cronenberg without him getting called on it).

I'm not usually into this genre, the Shanghai noon movies, for example, keep up at night lamenting a world where Owen Wilson is taken so much more seriously than Luke Wilson, but this is a solid flick. Funny and engaging, and Feore and Quebec actor Patrick Huard are great. Bilingualism lives!

A fun movie that even were it not well done would still be gold for bringing Canada's best actor to the screen once again (sorry Paul Gross).

Go see it! Do it for Colm, do it for Canada.


Clear Day Thunder

Just a note: Steelcitygrit will continue to be updated, so don't take us of your to-do list for the next little while (on which I'm sure we are mighty high). That being said, as I am moving in the next few days, I may get disconnected, or be staggeringly busy, however that will be the only reason we should lose your rapt attention and not the fact that the dog days of summer are arriving and bringing with them very little material.

We will, however, have to endure without Mike's rabble-rousing and ahead of the curve commentaries, for the time being.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

dark sky sanctuary

I will be disconnected for the next two or three weeks. The majority of that time will be spent on Manitoulin Island, where the water is clear and the land unceded. Judging from the sort of response I've been getting lately, I feel that this is a blow the Liberal blogging community will be able to overcome. Perhaps in my absence my recently-returned co-blogger will repopularize SCG with his rapier wit and deft analysis.

- Mike (SCG)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Maurizio, we hardly knew ye

So Maurizio Bevilacqua has dropped out of the race. This surely is a good thing, with no offense to the candidate but out of deference to the “workability” of the race itself. I am seeing little impressive reasoning behind these apparent "profile-raising" runs and the fact is anyone who saw the leadership debates realizes these numbers have made the race much less engaging. They've also stood in the way of our old hobby horse here at Steelcity of policy over platitudes (actually, we're okay with platitudes at this stage, but let us at least generalize about policies). There are a few more that seem to have little business in this race at this point, obviously. That is not to say that we should be pushing people out because the media or even real support has anointed someone else. The difference is between running against great odds to further a legitimate vision and running to get a cabinet portfolio.

Maurizio's throwing of his support behind Rae is surprising because if Bevilacqua was in the race to represent what he felt was an under represented (I'll stay away from the dreaded left-right red herring he and other candidates have thrown out) shall we say fiscally cons-oops, sorry now-prudent agenda, then is that where Bob Rae stands? ...Interesting how dropping the supposedly ideological terms blurs the lines, isn't it? Because who doesn't want to be prudent... Anyway, does this suggest Rae's sympathies lie with a continuation of the more rightward (a hell it's unavoidable) shift, at least in fiscal matters? Perhaps not, as any support is welcomed. Yet he was attractive enough to Bevilacqua. And if we are questioning the personal motivations involved, well, all I can say is there are other frontrunners so that is no automatic explanation. Though I don't mean to overstate its importance too much, we should certainly be thinking about this.


Friday, August 11, 2006

fiscal unbalanced

I don't know if there is a worse idea for "solving" the fiscal imbalance. The federal government has offered to automatically jettison any surpluses to the provinces.

The Conservative Party ran on a platform to reduce the federal government's capacity to govern. This we knew. But this proposal is particularly odd, nonetheless. Is it not typically the Conservative position to condemn such disincentivizing? Is this not the epitomy of fiscal irresponsibility? The federal government no longer has cause not to spend in the short term. If it isn't spent, it is lost regardless.

Neither are the provinces encouraged to govern responsibily. They are now free to cut taxes and reduce capacity with National Post-like zeal. Amongst themselves, they can commit whole-heartedly to tax competition with teenage male bravado. They can do so confident that Papa will be there to cover their losses and soften their mistakes.

There are aspects of this plan that fit the larger Conservative agenda more closely. They would effectively eliminate any option of a National Project now or in the future. Such major watershed iniatives require bankrolling and years of careful accumulation. But this is all out of the question now. We can expect from our federal government what we have now and then progressively less. Also, this is an equalization tact styled after the conservative child care tact and others. That is - no more is asked of the rich, no more is expected by the poor.

I was starting to let my guard down on this one.


Nobody blows like the Argos

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Nation" question trips up Lib Leaders again

Let yesterday's debate in Quebec City serve as a rebuttal to anyone that would suggest Meech Lake is a dead issue. In fact, this question of "Nation" - which for our purposes is synonymous with "Distinct Society" - is fast replacing Adscam as the key issue in Quebec. Thus, it is alarming to read our candidates' responses. Most, it would seem, played dangerous games.

[Disclaimer - at this point I only have this Globe and Mail article to base my post upon. As such, I recognize that some context is probably lost]

Bob Rae, firstly:

"I always supported the notion that Quebec . . . is a nation, it is a distinct society, which we need to recognize in our Constitution and I have fought for that," Mr. Rae said. "The genius behind federalism is that we can be both a Quebecker and a Canadian."

This is typical fare from Rae. This is his true North, and we have every reason to believe it is a central element of his platform. The last sentence raises questions, particularly. It is difficult to deny, but what is its relevance to constitutionally enshrining Quebec's Nationhood? If Quebec is a province, then everyone in Quebec can be both Quebeckers and Canadians. Genius indeed. But if Quebec is a Nation - which is to say, if the province of Quebec is handed over lock and stock to the French Quebecois Nation - then we forfeit that phenomenon. Haitians, Mohawks, Cree no longer qualify as Quebeckers because they don't fit the National profile. Suddenly, the personage of Quebec is divided between Quebecois and Canadian. This is federalism failed.

Now Dion:

Mr. Dion argued the recognition of Quebec as a nation should not give the province any privileges. There would always be debates and friction in a country as diversified as Canada, he argued, and recognizing Quebec as a nation would serve to reinforce Canada's diversity. "Let us not allow the separatists to dramatize our disagreements and squash our successes," Mr. Dion said.

Mme. Dion takes a safer tack. The direct quote at the end resonates very well. In fairness, however, the Meech Lake process that Dion supports did exactly what he warns against. It extinguished the success - or the perception of success - that should've accompanied the introduction of the Charter. It dramatized our disagreements on a truly cinematic scale.

I must also disagree vigorously when he suggests that "recognizing Quebec as a nation would serve to reinforce Canada's diversity [not his words]." Recognizing the Franco Nation that exists within Quebec would do so. But what we're talking about is specifically and exclusively recognizing that Nation at the expense of the other Nations, the other peoples that share Quebec. This is not to mention the Franco Nation outside of Quebec, which also stands to lose in recognition.

Finally, Martha Hall Findlay:

"I have difficulty with the word nation. . . . We need more discussion about this," Ms. Hall-Findley said.

I am not prepared to crow with pleasure at this, as may be expected. Once again, I allow that she obviously said more than this and I don't know what it was. However, while she is right in doubting the word, her approach is exceptionally dangerous. One is left with the impression that she isn't yet willing to be so generous. This cannot be our message. Our mission is not to withold from the Quebecois. Our mission is to listen to the small voices in Quebec. When we refuse to equate "Nation" with the province of Quebec, we need to do so with a detailed explanation of our motivations. We do so on behalf of diversity, and that must be made crystal clear.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Constitutional Law 101

Just one more example of how enforcing the "Rule of Law" in Caledonia is anything but:

Renowned constitutional law expert Peter H. Russell said yesterday that while he has great regard for the judge, he knows of nothing in law covering injunctions that would extend a judge's authority to actually step into the negotiations and bring them to a halt.

"I can't see how that would be in his powers."

Russell, now retired from the University of Toronto's political science department, said the issue of native occupancy of the land is a government policy issue. The federal and provincial governments have decided removing the natives "would cause grave disturbance of the peace and ... perhaps a halt to the negotiations," he said.

He also said both governments had the option of asking a higher court to review Marshal's original injunction.

Russell also said "there is no higher law (in Canada) that says failure to deal with a court order is (more serious) than the treaty rights of an aboriginal group.

"I do not know of any constitutional principle that would elevate respect for (an injunction order) of a judge over and above constitutional treaty rights."

(From The Hamilton Spectator)

Those who know the law know that Russell is someone to listen to.

UPDATE: Others have been listening to Russell. Justice Marshall is going to wake up tomorrow with a big black eye.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


John Tory gets the war he wanted. He has been in Caledonia so much recently it's almost a second home. Will he resume his soapbox on mainstreet, to fiddle while it burns?

One way to register one's opposition to a long and expensive Ipperwash Inquiry: Refuse to learn anything.

And o’er the past Oblivion stretch her wing.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Liberals to Re-evaluate Middle East?

This is a bad loss for Liberals. It is, in part, the fault of some questionable poses struck by the Bob Raes of the world.

But it is not a failure of our foreign policy. Such thinking is innate of exactly the sort of party we don't want. This is the sort of thing we deride Stephen Harper on - consolidating obtainable political support through policy.

For the most part, this is all academic. We've landed in a pretty popular place on the Middle East question. But those who wish to advance political costs as reason to re-evaluate our position are wrong in spirit and practice.

Christina Blizzard Calls Out Anti-Canadian OPP

Does anyone remember Christina Blizzard's coverage of Ipperwash, particularly the recently concluded inquiry? How she abhorred such a frivolous political grand stand. Her message was clear throughout: the death of Dudley George was a personal tragedy (very generous of her) but one must not reach conclusions about the nature of the First Nations relationship with law in Canada. The OPP was put in a difficult position; mistakes were made. But the griping must stop!

Funny how things have changed. Disturbed, perhaps, by the lack of dead unarmed protestors at Caledonia, she has had to reevaluate her earlier appraisal of the OPP. Perhaps she had it all wrong! The OPP is not the great grey neutral justice dispenser of her original imagination. Nor is it in any way unfriendly to First Nations interest - she is still certain about that. Instead, she reaches a new and most plausible understanding: that the OPP deals in reverse racism. White people are intimidated when they seek help. Natives light babies on fire, overturn cars and generally have a good time. Sure, there are none of these incidents on record as happening at Caledonia. But with a police force so rabidly anti-Canadian, it's impossible to know what's been really going on.

Fascinating. We know that:
- Aboriginal people are overrepresnted in prison by 6 X

- While Aboriginal youth comprised approximately 5% of the Canadian population, 33% of youth in custody are Aboriginal

- Aboriginal accused are more likely to be denied bail

- more time is spent in pre-trial detention by Aboriginal people

- Aboriginal accused are more likely to be charged with multiple offences, and often for crimes against the system

- Aboriginal people are more likely not to have legal representation at court proceedings

- Aboriginal offenders are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal offenders

-Aboriginal clients, especially in northern communities where the court party flies in the day of the hearing, spend less time with their lawyers; as court schedules in remote areas are poorly planned, judges may have limited time to spend in the community

-Aboriginal Elders, who are also spiritual leaders, are not given the same status as prison priests and chaplains, in all institutions

- Aboriginal people often plead guilty because they are intimidated by the court and simply want to get the proceedings over with

Would any of this lead Christina Blizzard to conclude that Aboriginal people have a very unhappy and unbalanced relationship with the law? That there is some deplorable inequity there? Not in a million years would she arrive at such a thing. That's fare for the guilt mongering Toronto Star tea drinkers.

But treat a legally iron-clad land claim for what it is, and she is willing to conclude - in the face of all the above - that that inequity belongs to the White residents of Caledonia.

Of course, Blizzard is not yet finished. She lurches drunkenly from one logical pratfall to the next. With breathtaking audacity, she writes months worth of columns decrying unequal application of the law and failure to protect property rights without ever once alluding to the fact that this is the Six Nations position entirely - and then characterizes the Six Nations position as "rabbit-hole logic".

The land claim itself doesn't even appear in a footnote. This in and of itself shouldn't surprise; she reserves her right to "rule of law" reductionism. This means nuance is not a friend.

She compares the Native protesters to Hezbollah, with barely a blush:

"Look, I'm, not suggesting anyone is blowing up anyone up in Caledonia. But the provocative and violent way in which the native protesters made their demands in Caledonia could, under other circumstances, have led to a far different outcome."

I suppose the message is that it is fortunate the Citizens of Caledonia didn't respond to the rocket barrages in the same way that Israel did. This comes as a mild surprise to anyone who has witnessed the occupation. I'll be frank here, I don't recall any rockets at all. No guns. No bats. No Molotov Cocktails. No suicide bombings. I remember the Clan Mothers, who continue to operate the occupation. I remember how they and non-Native women from Caledonia enforced a strict decorum code. And anyone who broke it - on either side of the protest - would face reprimand from their own.

There was a tire fire. I suppose that's an act of war on par with targeting civilians for violence.

It has become Blizzard's standard practice to embed a corroborating quote from John Tory in each of her columns - al la Party press releases. His steely blue eyes and broad shoulders have obviously won over her heart. That, and his willingness to stand up to the anti-Canadian OPP and their radical tribal allies, the Queen's Park Liberals. A quick review of his high in protein, light in reason grandstanding and one can see the immediate appeal. He recently called out the Liberal government for negotiating a peaceful conclusion to the occupation. Well - that wasn't quite it. Instead, he suggested that negotiations be haulted until Six Nations protester left the land (which now belongs to the Province). So we should negotiate the end of the occupation - but not until the occupation ends! Here is the rabbit hole logic of the Middle East alluded to before- "no ceasefire will be negotiated until [X] ceases to fire."

He has also called for an inquiry into the handling of Caledonia. I seem to recall that Blizzard had a thing or two to say about the last inquiry:

"When McGuinty became premier, the Ipperwash inquiry became yet another way to discredit the previous government. That's too bad, because this shouldn't be about politics. It's about a terrible tragedy, and how we can avoid anything like this from happening again."

"Then two years ago Dalton McGuinty's new Liberal government calls a judicial inquiry under Mr. Justice Sidney Linden to probe the death. So now we've had 18 months of testimony, scores of government-funded lawyers, 100 witnesses, a made-for-TV movie and a $13.5-million tax bill. And what was the crucial testimony yesterday? Whether or not a former premier used the "F" word.Give me a break.... "

The message is clear. One unarmed protester shot dead. This is a trifling matter and the world must move on. But Caledonia - it has a tire fire.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

...the language of farm, city and love

Now is a great time for a leadership candidate launch a strong and substantive agricultural policy. This should serve as a good reminder for Liberals. The solution that farmers are seeking is, at simplest, a big government solution. Conservatives and farmers do not make natural bedfellows to the extent that is sometimes imagined. It's not a stretch, then, to expect a major Liberal revival in the country. We don't have to sell out our social liberalism - merely take our social justice agenda past city limits. So let's see it.

[Please turn up your thermostats Ontario]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

worth the wait (well - maybe not entirely)

Obviously the real issue here is how long this was in coming. That's not something I would refute. It really made no sense in the first place. It only became stranger when his campaign was so completely and bizarrely unresponsive to the public fallout that was being created. To release something now only makes the whole thing more bizarre and troubling.

Nevertheless, this is the best statement issued by any politician in Canada. He doesn't waste much space with a superfluous argument about how Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorism. He rather assumes this from the outset. If we could all do the same we'd save a lot of time.

Neither does he play any post-modern games. He places the blame for the conflict's eruption squarely on Hezbollah's shoulders. However, he doesn't stop here. Instead he recognizes the real issue that exists beyond this fairly straightforward assignment of responsibility. That is - that Israel needs to think of more than simply its justification. If the loss of Humanity in Lebanon is not apparently negative enough, than its significance is expressed purely in terms of how damaging it is to Israel ultimately. This is an argument rooted in real politik rather than human security, but it is done so in an effort to find an audience. This spirit is conveyed in the statements of most of the others, but there is a commendable degree of clarity here.

Secondly, he is more clear than others on Canada's role. He acknoledges our practical restraints, and offers a plan based on our capacity.

When I read this, I see more than I did in the statements of most others. I hear echoes of Janice Gross Stein, Ignatieff's friend and fellow giant head. But, as I say, its content needs to take a back seat to its incomprehensible delivery.


Tonight I deliver a speech to a bunch of older Greater Ipperwash area white people about how the Six Nations occupiers at Caledonia are merely upholding law and order. Pray for my soul.