Sunday, September 28, 2014

What Happened to Political Discourse in Canada?

As a rule, Politics and Religion are two things that we don’t talk about in polite company. Both excite passions and can easily get out of hand if we don’t respect our fellow debaters.

Generally I don’t talk politics (or religion) in person.  I don’t need the headaches, I don’t need the hassle.

There was a time that I would discuss politics on occasion.  I recall a time when I sat with a friend and we were on opposite sides of an issue.  We discussed the merits of our sides, pointed out the defects in the other’s argument and when we were done, neither of us had won.  We both learned a little bit though and saw that our stance on either side was not perfect.

In the end the issue was decided at the polls, Mulroney won a majority and the GST was born.  One thing I took away from that discussion was that the GST was not set high enough.  Had it been higher, Personal Income Tax could have been lowered and even eliminated for entry level incomes.

But that was then.

Today, I don’t even bother.  The respect is all but gone. 

That was most evident this week when Paul Calandra made a mockery of Question Period.  QP has a long history of non-answers and some politicians have made a pretty good living out of dancing around questions or deflecting them into the corner leaving the Opposition little room to mount an attack. 

The media is now reporting that both the non-answer and the apology were handed to Calandra prior to both events happening by the PMO.  In my opinion, if the staffers in the PMO want certain answers provided in the House, they should run for a seat and give those answers themselves.

Let’s put it this way, had Calandra said something along the lines of “I acknowledge the question of the Honourable Member” and then segued to something along the lines of “it mirrors the acts of terrorism that the people of Israel recently faced” and finally going to wondering “why the Members of the Opposition were not as concerned about the attacks on Israel as they are about the threat of ISIS” or something along those lines we probably wouldn’t have said much.  It still answers not a single thing and even finds a way to poke at Mulcair but still within the limits of debate in QP.  Most of us would have been annoyed at the non answer, but it tries to contain the question and deflect it. 

I don’t have the silver tongue required to pull this type of thing off, but I hope you get the idea.  It’s why some MPs are remembered as legends for their gift of non-answers and others are going to be remembered as “Jackasses” (Helloooo Skippy!)

It doesn’t stop there, some like to blame the Internet, but the problem is the people.

How many times have you seen (or heard) people saying “don’t read the comments” on stories that involve politics?  It certainly doesn’t take long for the thoughtful answers (and there are some) to be pushed down the page by trolls of all different flags slagging each other and the politics they represent with strawmen, ad hominems and all the other tools designed to take the argument away from the issue at hand and direct it into whatever the devil it becomes.

I’ve been guilty of some of these offences, and I try hard to not stoop to using them and I’ll tell you it’s an uphill climb.  Another that I try to avoid is the name calling.  It’s the same rule that you followed when you were a kid.  When you resort to name calling, you’ve pretty much lost the argument and that goes for calling the politicians and the parties by derogatory names.  It cuts both ways folks, you might have noticed that I rarely use “Conservative” but instead use “the Harper Party”.  This is out of deference to my friends (yes I have some) who are conservatives (yes to that too) but find themselves without a party.  The Blue Flag has gone way over to the right and now they’re standing in the void between that one and the Red and Orange ones to the other side.

Of course all this goes in the dumpster if you want to troll and I’m in a mood to engage or if you want to use half truths to support your argument.  A Yiddish proverb runs “A half truth is still a whole lie.”  Don’t use them OK?

Look, if you want to talk politics and debate policy, be my guest, I might even partake, but furl you flag when you come in the door.  When we argue over what the best thing to do should be, the only flag we should really be worried about is the one with the two red stripes and a big red maple leaf in the middle.

Now if we could only get the folks in Ottawa to buy into this.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Canada, The Movie. Starring ??? or Paul Calandra, answer the damn question!

If they were to make a movie about Canada today, what do you think it would be like?

Wide vistas, majestic mountains, roaring surf, hard working industrious people struggling to make ends meet, you get the idea.  It would probably look beautiful and be as boring as all get out.

OK, it would probably have hockey and nature trails and some beer drinking too, but outside of Canada it probably wouldn’t do well.

What if we decided to make the movie about the House of Commons?

What do you think?  A low brow comedy, a door slamming farce?


Originally I thought it would be great if we could dig up Peter Sellers and have him play both the PM and the Leader of the Opposition.  He’d kill it.  This is a man who could probably make the phone book (we still have those right?) hilarious.

But then again, after last week we’d probably be better off with the Pythons of the Monty variety.

Imagine if you will, the straight man stands and asks a sensible question… maybe something like “We have Canadian Soldiers currently in Iraq for 30 days, when does the 30 days end?”

And then we’d have the funny guy stand up and say “He’s pining for the” “We like Israel, Israel is good!  You don’t like Israel!  Neener neener!”

And then the straight man could get up again and ask “Is this the right room for an argument?”

And the funny guy would retort “We like Israel, Israel is good!  You don’t like Israel!  Neener neener!”

Not very funny, but it’s what supposedly passes as the thrust and parry of Question Period in the House of Commons these days, and we thought DDM was a pain to our ears.  Paul Calandra takes the cake, or should that be pie as in pizza pie.

It is pretty sad, don’t you think.  I mean we pay these guys a pretty good chunk of change to sit in the House and spout nonsense and 24% of us clap like crazy!  What in the name of Democracy is going on?

If Paul Martin or Jean Chretien had treated Stephen Harper to this kind of nonsense everybody would be screaming from the rooftops.  Steve would be in front of every microphone in Canada carrying on how the Liberal Government refuses to answer the most direct of questions and that they use an ill informed buffoon whose only claim to fame is that he saw his Daddy fire someone but somehow still managed to get in as an MP to spout irrelevant rhetoric about something else altogether.

Instead, Tom Mulcair turns to the Speaker of the House and pretty much says “You can take off the striped shirt, we can all see the blue sweater vest underneath it.”


Believe it or not there are rules governing Question Period.  Here’s a snippet from the government website.  

Ministers may:
  • answer questions;
  • defer their answers;
  • make short explanations as to why they cannot furnish an answer at that time; or
  • say nothing.

The same government website also says:

According to practice, replies are to be as brief as possible, to deal with the subject matter raised and to be phrased in language that does not provoke disorder in the House.

I’d suggest that Paul Calandra misses out on all three points. 

Not that non-answers are a new thing.  The Right Honourable Herb Gray managed to raise the non-answer to an art form.  Calandra reduces it to its lowest form.  When Herb Gray rose in response to a question, you thought that you received a real answer, but when you actually looked at it, you had nothing, but it sounded so good.

With Calandra, you get a headache and a twinge of nausea while he excitedly butchers his single talking point.  A band saw cutting galvanized tin comes to mind.

What it boils down to for me is who in the name of Heaven voted for these guys?


Look, when I first heard that our Forces were going to Iraq to be advisers, the first thing that popped into my head was Vietnam.  The US sent their boys there to be “advisers” and look how well that turned out.  It’s been 40 years since the end of that conflict and the scars in the US are still tender.

Tom Mulcair raises a valid question.  How many and how long? 

The response from the government is a sneering “Ha Ha, we’re in charge and you’re not.”

But then again, why should they care.  They make enough to ensure their kids will be in University until they are too old for conscription.  I doubt they’ll be lining up to enlist.

Nope, I don’t think even the Pythons could make this funny, even if they did institute a Ministry of Funny Walks.


Maybe we could get a cross between Ralph Wiggum and Nelson Muntz to play Calandra?  Nah, still won’t work.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stephen Harper, Nobel, and Me

When I first heard about Stephen Harper’s “nomination” for the Nobel Peace Prize I laughed.  Actually I did a quick Google search about it.  Other than the B’nai Brith announcement, there was only one other hit.  A RWNJ blog about how the Lefties’ heads were going to collectively explode over this.

“Yeah,” I thought’ “explode with laughter.”

Well it looks like he was partly right.  A bunch of people really do have their knickers in a knot over this.  There are petitions and blogs and Twitter Wars and all sorts of ranting and raving about this.

What I’m going to do is to ask you to step back a bit and look at this without kneejerk reactions and vehemence.

What does this “nomination” mean? 

Nothing much, really.

Other than the fact that some guy (Frank Dimant) is putting up Stephen Harper for the award.  There isn’t a lot here to talk about.

When I checked the Nobel site, there are a record 278 nominations this year.   47 of these are organizations and the rest, I assume, are people.  What this says to me is that there are going to be a lot of losers.  If you are interested in the list of 2014 nominations, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) has a partial list.

This year’s short list, according to PRIO, includes Pope Francis, Malala Yousafzai, the Afghan girl shot by the Taliban for going to school, and others. 

Another nominee for the 2014 award is Vladimir Putin.  But he’s not on the short list, at least not according to PRIO anyway.

A Nobel nomination is usually for disarmament, or for peacemaking but can also include things like multicultural understanding or food security.

Being a cheerleader for Israel’s retaliation on Palestine or shouting at 2014 Nobel Prize nominee Putin doesn’t really seem to make the cut.  Even if Steve wore a short skirt and ferociously waved his blue pompoms, I don’t think he’s going to be a Nobel Laureate.

I’m sure that Harper sees it much differently than I do, but a Nobel nomination is not a huge deal.  There have been a few people besides Harper and Putin that most people wouldn’t want to have over for dinner.  Past nominees include Hitler, Mussolini who was nominated twice and Stalin who was likewise nominated twice.

So how do you nominate someone?  The Nobel Prize Organization’s website gives the rules.  Basically, if you or your group want to submit a name, there is a list there of who you need to submit it for you.  Your MP is one, a judge or a University Professor (like Frank Dimant) would be another. 

So if you want to nominate me for the $1 Million paycheque… kidding, just give it some real thought and don’t go rushing trying to nominate anyone simply because they aren’t Harper.  Deal?


On second thought, if you want to sign a petition or send an angry email then fire away.  Someone needs to take Steve down a peg or two.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Harper Party Spies

To hear the Harper Party loyalists talk, you’d think that the Liberal Party of Canada has a problem.  Yet another Liberal has spoken words that don’t echo the words of their leader.

And this is a problem?

Let’s set the scene.  A woman asked retired General Andrew Leslie about his thoughts regarding the Israeli Palestine situation.  The General gave a long answer including the need for Israel to be able to defend herself from terrorists, such as Hamas, but he also blamed the Israeli military for the deaths of civilians in Palestine.

I guess the General didn’t realize that he was talking with a Harper Party spy.  Looking to get whatever dirt she could dig up on a noted Liberal contender for the 2015 Election and she hit the mother lode!  This guy thinks the Israeli military shouldn’t have killed Palestinian civilians!

What a horrid thought.  No mere MP much less a noted advisor to Stephen Harper would say such a thing.  No, Stephen’s troops would blindly parrot the talking points issued from the unelected, appointed, not ready for big boy pants crew in the PMO. 

Nope, they’d swallow their gumption and say whatever their Leader says they should say.  Here are your pompoms and here’s your script: “Israel is good, Palestinians are bad and they all deserve to die.”

Rah Team!

The problem with the Harper Party antics is that General Leslie is right.  As a professional soldier, trained in the military, he knows the rules and one of the biggies is that every effort must be undertaken to prevent civilian casualties or “collateral damage” as they like to say today.

What is even more horrid is the tactics that the Harper Team are stooping to in an attempt to try and demonize the Liberal Party.

While the Harper Party complains about the liberal media and “gotcha journalism” they are stepping down several rungs with these Secret Agent X19 tactics.  Sneak a recording device in and try and get the enemy to say something that can be used against them.  And then try to get the so called incriminating evidence into the public eye.

The Harperistas didn’t send their ill gotten booty to the media, not at first; they tried to hand it over to a prominent Jewish organization who put the kibosh on that plan.  They were smart enough to not get involved in petty politics, maybe they can read the writing on the wall or maybe they just don’t like the idea of being used as a dupe for the Harper Party?

So they went with Plan B.  Hand the audio over to the Sun News Network, the finest investigative journalists this side of 1972 Pravda.  And the Sun News Crew was more than happy to jump all over this.

The Harper People crow about this, they see nothing wrong, they just want people to know what goes on in the opposing camp.  What they don’t say is that this is putting a chilling effect on Democracy in Canada.

It is hard enough to get a politician to say anything in public now, they don’t want to annoy the Boss, but in the future, every politician of every stripe is going to be guarded in what they say lest there be a secret agent nearby.  And when they’re done with the named politicians, they can start on those who are merely considering running for office.

Seriously, it is hard to get a politician to comment on the weather anymore.  What with having to consider if this stretch of warm weather is bad for the farmers and so on it takes them tem minutes to come up with “Yep, nice weather.”  It is getting to the point that some politicians cannot scratch their butt without a note from the PMO.

Real boats rock, Steve.  Having people within a party who hold differing opinions is not a bad thing, it is part of Democracy.  Any Leader, be it in politics or business that surrounds themselves with kowtowing lackies soon finds themselves on the outside looking in.

But your echo boxes are half right.  How can Canadians decide on which candidate is best for their riding if we don’t know how they think and what they feel about the issues that we care about?  Simply put they can’t.

I am comfortable in voting for someone who has the wits and courage to speak their mind in public.  It means that they have the ability to speak up for me in the House and in the Caucus.  These are not your people, Steve.

They are mine.

And for what it’s worth, there are an awful lot of people like me who think that the killing and wounding of civilians is wrong.  It doesn’t matter which side does it.

I like General Leslie a hell of a lot more that any echo box you have to offer.

Ta ta for now,