Friday, August 29, 2014

Harper Family Values

As a rule, I believe the families of our politicians should be off limits.  We don’t vote for their spouses, kids, or parents and they didn’t run for office. 

The exemptions are a certain politician’s famous father and if a family member steps up and answers a question that they might better have ducked saying something about that being a government issue and that I cannot speak for the government. 


Stephen Harper wants your money.  Again.

In his party’s recent begging letter they are telling all the faithful about their Family Values and how much better theirs are than say one or two other political parties’ Family Values.

Which brought me to pondering, what are Stephen Harper’s Family Values?  What do they look like?

From what I can tell, Steve looks to be something of a doting father.  He makes time for his kids’ events even if it means putting a school on a veritable lockdown because he came to see his boy play volleyball.  Most of us would do the same if we could, my parents were good about coming out to see our games when I was growing up.

He takes his kids on vacations with him to his summer hideaway, we went to a camp ground, but it boils down to basically the same thing.

And he has taken pains to keep his family, at least his kids out of the spotlight most of the time.  Any one of us would likely do likewise.

But the true worth of a person is shown by how they treat people who can do nothing for them.  A wise person once said “Be nice to your children, they’ll pick your old age home.”

Steve and Laureen, just wrapped up the ninth tour of Canada’s Arctic.  One of the stops was at Iqaluit where Steve brought hockey equipment courtesy of Canadian Tire.  There was no time for the Press as Steve was involved in a game of floor hockey with the local kids and so it fell to Laureen to handle the questions.   APTN news was there and asked Laureen, who was standing in for Steve about the problems that people in the North have feeding their kids.

There had just been a report that Northern Aboriginal children are shorter than other kids because of a lack of food in their growing years.

APTN asked Laureen how they could help the kids in the North who go to bed hungry because their parents cannot afford to buy food to feed the family.  You can see the news video here: APTN News Story.

Laureen tries to give an answer mentioning that Canadian Tire donated hockey equipment to Iqaluit and finally gives up saying that free hockey equipment would allow the parent to have more money to feed their kids.

I’m going to ask you, what would you give up to ensure your kids had enough to eat each day? 

I seriously doubt if any of the Harpers have been truly hungry.  Like most of us, a hunger pang means that you skipped lunch because you were running late and if your child goes to bed without supper it’s usually a punishment, not that you ran out of food before your next paycheque came in.

A while ago I read an article about a single mother who told how she skipped meals to stretch the food budget to make sure that her child had enough to eat.  And sometimes that wasn’t even enough.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that parents of these kids in the Far North are not skimping on their kids to buy a new TV or something of that kind, it is just that the cost of food, even the cost of hunting is prohibitively high and these people just cannot make do with what they have.  If putting food on the table means hand me down and borrowed hockey equipment, I’m sure they do that.  If putting food on the table means sitting out of hockey, I’ll bet that happens too.

The saddest part of all this is that for the most part, no one even noticed.  The Arctic Tour is more or less a snooze-fest.  A few photo ops and a little military pageantry that most of us choose to ignore.  The APTN story is a blip that no one seems to be interested in following up on.

This is a real issue and deserves to be acknowledged and addressed by the Harper government.  Obviously the current way of handling the issue is not working and we need a better way, but I don’t see that coming from Steve and his pals.

Once again Steve spent most of his tour ducking the questions of the Press and the questions of the residents of the North.  They want answers, but Steve only wants photos for his album.

Comments are always welcome, but that’s it for now.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Black and White. Is This the World of Stephen Harper?

I’ve been pondering, again.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the black and white world view, well just about everything view of the Harper Party from Stephen on down.  It boggles the mind that someone in his position and the members of his caucus have such a distinct line, a hard line about just about everything.

Seriously, everything in the Harper World is good/bad, right/wrong, and yes/no.

The real world just doesn’t look like that or act like that.

Most of us, the real people, we see the world and events in the world in shades of grey or even in colour.  If we see a problem, we look at it from different angles, we try to understand the problem to figure out how to fix it or at least make it less of a problem.

Let’s take Gaza for an example.

To hear Stephen Harper or any of his people speak, Israel is right.  By default that makes Palestine wrong doesn’t it?  Many of us, a majority I’ll wager do not cannot see that situation as being that cut and dry.

Let me try and make the problem a little less volatile.

One day someone you know comes to you with a question.  He’s noticed that his neighbour tosses the rocks he finds while cutting the grass into your friend’s yard.  What do you tell your friend?

Just toss them back, he’ll learn eventually?  Get over it, just toss the rocks to the curb?  Throw them back or throw them at him?  Maybe the guy is being an ass because you have loud parties every weekend?  Or maybe the guy is just an ass.

A pretty childish example isn’t it.  But the case in Gaza isn’t all that different but it is far more complex. 

Pledging undying loyalty to one side or the other is not going to solve the problem.  But this is our government’s stance.

How about the question about how to get Alberta’s bitumen to market?  If you oppose pipelines because you have reason to believe that the risk is too high, then you’re anti-Canada.  You want to deny Canada the opportunity to sell its resources.  But wait a minute, the concern is that the pipelines and the people running them do have problems, there are leaks and spills and worse.  The question is not about shipping the product, the question is about shipping it safely.

Raising an issue like this should not put you or your group or charity on some sort of government hit list.

So why do Steve and his pals see the world in black and white?

I’m not sure that they do, but it is the easiest way for them to explain things.

If you asked anyone on the Harper side if they thought that businesses who sell liquor, wine, or beer do a good job of ensuring that they only sell to people who are of legal age they’ll probably say yes.  For the most part these people do a very good job of this.  But when someone proposes that these same businesses be allowed to sell packaged marijuana they scream “What about the Children?”

Look, if we trust these guys to not sell a six pack to little Jimmy, why can’t we trust these same people to not sell pot to him as well?

As much as we sometimes hate it, simple answers are only good for simple questions.  2+2+4.  To answer anything else is wrong.

When it comes to a government policy or a proposed bill a simple yes/no answer no longer works.  That is why we have debate in the House of Commons, to get the answers to the smaller questions to try and determine if a policy or law should be supported.  That is why we have committees that sit to discuss these things as well.

What we see instead is a government that imposes limits on debate almost as soon as a bill is proposed.  Committees that rush through their discussion and largely ignore any proposed amendments to try and improve the bills that they are dealing with.  Basically the Harper side says “This is what it will be.  If you don’t agree, then you’re wrong.”

And then they complain about Activist Jurists when Judges don’t do what Steve expects of them.  And then we spend lots of money going to the Supreme Court of Canada only to have those Judges, the majority of which have been put in place by Steve say that it’s a bad law and it needs to be fixed.

The system can’t work if you’re not willing to allow it to work.

This black and white thinking has cost us our diplomatic toolkit as well.  Canada used to be a country that could go and talk with the people on both sides of an issue and they were fairly confident that they would get a fair hearing with the Canadians.  We could look for the middle ground and help to find a starting point to try and settle a dispute.  It didn’t hurt that we had the ear of the Americans either.

Sadly this is no longer the case.  Stephen Harper calls this “going along to get along”.  Black and white. 

I think it has gotten to the point where more and more of us are drifting to the extremes.  We can no longer hear each other to talk about issues because of the fringe people screaming across the room at each other.  Whether it’s climate change or Gaza, the two opposing side are screaming and the rest of us can’t hear to make sense of any of it.  Maybe there is no sense to make of it.

So if we can’t have a discussion, let’s just go stand with the guys who think the most like us.

It’s not very helpful.  It’s less helpful when the politicians use the same tactics to try and divide us.



You either stand with us or you stand with the child pornographers.

How can you have any kind of conversation when the moment you open you’re mouth you’re branded as a black hat, part of the enemy?

It would go a long way to help if we actually had a government that said “This is what we propose, what do you think” and actually talked about what was being presented.  It would also go a long way if the opposition said “This is not a bad thing, but it needs some discussion” and all sides sat down to figure out the best way to deal with the issue at hand.

I’d give my eye teeth to see an honest political debate that was actually a discourse for and against a proposal.  Wouldn’t that be refreshing for a government to actually explain why they think their decision is the right way to go and to have the opposition explain why a different way might be the better way to go?

Beats the crap out of the attacks and smears we get to see if we bother to watch the nonsense that passes for debates in the House of Commons today.

But that’s just me.

And I’m not holding my breath over this.