Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is this what we went to Afghanistan for?

President Ahmed Karzai of Afghanistan has approved a law that among other things forces women to have sex with their husbands, abolishes their rights to leave the house without their husband's permission, and prevents them from having custody of children. The law has not been passed as of yet, luckily.

On Tuesday, the Canadian government contacted Afghan officials to express their concern and outrage at this piece of legislation. I have often criticized Harper on this blog, but his government has done the right thing in boldly proclaiming that Canada does not endorse nor support this policy.

The recent events at the cause of this outrage also cause us to ask "[h]ow can we say that our soldiers are there to protect women's rights when the Western-backed leader of this nation pushes through laws like this?" as NDP MP Dawn Black has said. The second question would be that logically progresses is also, "If this is what happens, why are we there in the first place?"

Women's rights has been pretty much the only defense provided for this government and others involved in the military operations in Afghanistan. It has been the only success story, with news reports constantly showing us new schools, with classrooms full of smiling and joyous young girls with the opportunity to learn and make a future themselves for the first time in their lives. But now, with these recent developments, this line of argument falls apart.

The cruel reality of the matter is that in the final analysis, we removed the Taliban to end up with a government that in many ways is showing itself to be very similar. The Taliban restricted women's rights, and so now does Karzai. This government, as any government, cannot avoid politics. With a crucial election coming soon in Afghanistan, Karzai decided to make a pitch to the Shia minority in Afghanistan, a group of key swing voters. The provisions in the law proposed are exactly what they asked for.

And this is what reveals how failed a mission the mission to Afghanistan was even before these recent events hit the newsstands. THE LAW PROPOSED IS NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Granted, the Afghan constitution contains provisions for gender equality. However, this clause can be declared null in this case because another also states that the Shia to have separate family law based on religious tradition. This constitution has existed since 2004. What have our governments been doing since?

This mission was supposedly humanitarian, to deliver Afghan men and women from the yoke of the Taliban. But Karzai's government has proven to be ineffective, showing itself willing to pander to the will of people that are extremely sexist.

We were deluding ourselves from the beginning. It is very unlikely that this mission can accomplish much in the long term on the humanitarian front with a government such as this one. In fact, if we are to endorse democracy for Afghanistan, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we cannot police the world and tell them what their policies must be. With democracy comes freedom, and the people can choose for themselves.

But was it worth giving democracy to Afghanistan if this is what results, essentially a return of some Taliban mindsets? It's a question we will have to ask ourselves.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Monday, March 30, 2009

Harper refusing to follow Obama's lead on re-establishing equality

In the run-up to international summits, Harper has been offering interviews to the US media, and yesterday in an interview with Fox News he insisted that he will not follow Barack Obama's lead by raising taxes.

Obama has devised a plan to produce revenue by taxing wealthy Americans and some select businesses. The plan seeks to provide the government with much needed revenue while also keeping in mind the difficult financial situations that common Americans find themselves in. The plan would seem to be perfect: it provides revenue when it is direly needed, and it taxes those that can afford to be taxed.

Harper argues that "[there] is no need in Canada to raise taxes" because we will have a surplus once this economic crisis blows over. He further asserts that the worst of the crisis will be over soon. However, what happens if the economic downturn lasts longer than our all-knowing Prime Minister and prophet predicts? His record with these predictions isn't too good after all. He told us there would be no need for a deficit, that we would easily weather this slight blip in our economy. So, sorry Stephen, but forgive us if we don't trust you much.

The plan put forward by Obama deals with this problem, ensuring revenue during difficult economic times. Moreover, the plan also addresses the great inequalities that have developed in our countries.

The earnings of Canadians have all remained steady or decreased since 1980, except for those among the richest 20% of Canadians. Their earnings have grown 16.4% during this period, while their polar opposites have seen their incomes shrink by 20.6%. Incomes in the middle have remained similar.

So this is not only an intelligent way of guaranteeing government revenue during the recession. Obama is using the recession as an opportunity to restore some equality to the socio-economic structure of his nation, which has been following the same trend as ours. Harper, on the other hand, is failing to take an opportunity to provide extra revenue to the government and to restore at least some equity to the socio-economic makeup of this country.

Don't worry, I've heard all those who will maintain that taxing at this time is the wrong thing to do; that it will hinder economic growth in a period when we need it the most. But as you usually are, you're harping on without looking at the facts. To establish whether or not a tax is an economic hindrance, you have to look at who's being taxed. In this case, it is the rich, and they have money to spare.

Taking some more money from the rich will not hurt them or the economy, and will provide a helping hand to those who need it most. The US government will have a new source of revenue and will be able to provide some social justice to its citizens, while from the north we lament our leaders for passing up on this wonderful opportunity to restore some equality and greater financial viability to Canada.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Democracy in Canada

Most of us consider democracy the best form of government. In a democracy all citizens possess certain rights and freedoms provided for in our constitution, including the crucial right to be a part of government as an elected representative. One of the main attributes of democracy is the concept of “majority rule”, in which the majority determines what the government’s policy is. So with these three aspects in mind, how does Canada measure up as a democracy?

As for our rights and freedoms, in 1982, Canada adopted its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gave Canadians great freedoms and rights, including the right to a democratic form of government. These rights include a term of five years for the House of Commons, the right to vote and be a member of a legislature, and a requirement that Parliament sit at least once a year. These rights ensure that Canada is democratic, preventing domination of our country by any one party. To stay in power, they must stand for reelection, which is a requirement for any democracy to be viable. This ultimately leaves the decision as to the makeup of government firmly in the hands of Canadian citizens, a characteristic of any true democracy.

There is some criticism concerning the way our political system functions, accusing it of providing too much power to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has a wide range of powers, including the nomination of the Governor-General, the appointment of senators and Supreme Court justices. In recognition of this, Jean Chrétien has said that “[a] strong prime minister, having listened to everyone's opinion, may simply announce that his (her) view is the policy of the government, even if most, or all, the other ministers are opposed.” The Canadian parliamentary system combines the executive and the legislative branches of government, meaning that there is no opposition to the Prime Minister provided by parliament, as the Congress can do to the President in the US. This would seem to be rather undemocratic, as the Prime Minister is only one of many MPs elected by the Canadian electorate.

However, the Prime Minister is an elected representative, and although we officially vote for our own MP to represent our riding, it would be naïve to not admit that in general, when a Canadian voter walks into the polling station, they vote for the leader of whichever party they prefer. So, what the voter is really doing is voting for the Prime Minister. Is it therefore unreasonable to give him this power?

Consider the advantages that bequeathing this range of powers presents. The Prime Minister is in reality the representative of the people. Therefore, if he is able to implement the legislation he wants to without facing opposition, except when his party is a minority, he is really being provided the tools to more easily implement the platform on the basis of which he was elected. If he is the Prime Minister, this means that his platform is the will of the people. We can conclude then that the lack of the opposition that the legislative branch can present in other systems actually makes Canada more democratic.

So, how democratic are we in Canada? We do have a voice through our elected representatives, and the will of the majority of us is ably carried out by a Prime Minister who does not face the encumbering checks and balances that the American President faces from Congress. There may be some imperfections with our system, but these have nothing to do with strict democracy. When it comes to that, the voices of the majority of Canadians are represented by a powerful, democratic Prime Minister.

Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth hour, a radical suggestion

At 8:30 pm local time, cities around the world turned out their lights as part of the Earth Hour initiative. Organized by the WWF, this event caused the Sydney Opera to dim its lights, and the Peace Tower in Ottawa to turn off its lights. It is a symbol of how people can work together to make a difference.

However, outside the dream world of darkness created for an hour today, there are some crude facts that glare like a naked bulb. There was widespread participation and endorsement of the Earth hour event, but in Canada for one, we have a government who refuses to act in a significant and concrete manner on climate change, which most people would consider to be one of the greatest challenges, to use a mild word, of the century.

The event is organized as a signal to the governments of the world to take action on this pressing issue by providing a massive display of public opinion. It is hoped that the public pressure emanating from the symbols of the darkened Eiffel Tower, or the barely perceptible CN tower against the Toronto skyline, will change these politicians' hearts.

Let me suggest a radical suggestion that never seems to be considered by those participating in such events. Why bother to change the politicians' hearts when you can change the politicians? Isn't it more convenient to have a Prime Minister that will take the initiative needed on climate change without being prompted to do so by looking at the extinguished downtown core of his capital? With one of the options, you may take years to sway the powers that be in the right direction, whereas with the other one, the powers that be lead you in the right direction. How much more convenient that is.

But there seems to be a great reluctance to adopting such a solution. There is even a great aversion to making Earth hour politically involved. For some unfathomable reason, in many voters' minds, it seems you elect a government, and then participate in events that oppose the core policies of that government. It is enough to leave anyone perplexed.

The public's affection for symbolic events and chances to repeat that overused slogan, "we can all make a difference", knows no bounds. This is because it is easy to identify with these ideas and endorse them. On principle, no one disagrees with them! It's when it gets to the specifics, the politics, that people suddenly are unable to convert events such as Earth Hour into real change.

It is not by using charities and organizations outside of government that we will solve global warming or other environmental issues. The symbolic events have gone too long. Voters have got to realize the disconnect between their voting patterns and their active participation in initiatives such as Earth Hour.

Be radical. Next election, vote for what you believe in the rest of the year. Vote to save your environment. It's much easier to get what you want when the government is on your side.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Friday, March 27, 2009

800 less jobs at the CBC: an ideological conservative attack

This post is a bit late, but this topic is really quite an important topic that has angered me quite a bit. The recent cuts that the CBC has had to make are an unmitigated attack on one of the important national institutions of this country by the Conservatives.

The root of the problem is that the government refused to extend a bridge loan to the CBC to help it weather the current economic crisis. The government has refused, creating a $171 million shortfall for the national broadcaster. To deal with this problem, CBC president and chief executive Hubert Lacroix has announced that 800 jobs will be cut and that the CBC will attempt to sell $125 million in assets, pending the government's approval.

Now one has to ask oneself, why did the government refuse to extend a loan of, one would estimate, a $170 million, when there has been more than $30 billion provided for as stimulus in the budget, and another $3 billion to introduce into the economy right away. Alongside these numbers, $170 million pales in comparison.

There is no official statement from the government as to why this seemingly insignificant sum of money could not be provided to ensure that one of our national institutions remains afloat. One can only speculate as to the cause of this lack of funds.

The amount requested by the CBC being small, it would seem that the reason for refusing the loan does not lie with any financial decision making. A $3.171 billion slush fund is hardly different from a $3 billion one. The reason for this decision by our government is ideological.

Consider the other possibilities. We have eliminated the financial one, and there is no sound political reason for the Conservative government to act in this fashion. This action is clearly a politically harmful decision. The optics of it are terrible. In a downturn economy, the government has chosen to do what? Yes that's right, to directly cause layoffs. A very interesting policy indeed. Improving the economy and limiting unemployment starts by laying off people.

The only reason remaining is ideological. It is one of the worse kept secrets in politics that the Conservatives are not friendly to the CBC. During their time in power, they have made significant cuts to the CBC, and now they are trying to use the economic times to continue this trend with a very ill-thought out policy. The Conservatives do not appreciate the CBC or its role in Canadian culture since it is a prime case of a public corporation that is successful, taking at the same time some of the market share away from the private networks owned by the Conservatives' friends.

So what we have here is a government seeking to deliver another blow to an important public institution in dire economic times, with absolute disregard for the 800 people that they are turning out of work. I thought the government was supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. Doesn't look like the Conservatives even know what their role is. It's to help people in these tough times, not to make their lives more difficult.

The Conservatives have made a real gaffe in this situation. They have acted in a way that his in sharp contrast to the needs that these hard economic times present and have put their ideology ahead of the interest of the people on whose behalf they are governing.

So as you watch an endless stream of Mosque on the Prairie repeats waiting for the actual new episodes to be aired, ponder whether or not you can trust people who have such detrimental ideology that they would want to cripple a national and cultural institution and put people out of work to do it.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The real opposition

This past week Jack Layton has repeated one of his favourite mantras. No, it's not his line about kitchen tables (can anyone imagine the 24 Sussex Drive dining room if he ever got in?). It's his other favourite, the one in which he tells us with a straight face one of the most hilarious jokes in politics: move over Liberals, the NDP is the real opposition.

Ponder that for a moment. Layton, who leads a party with around 13% of the seats in the House, is maintaining that he presents more opposition to the Conservative government than a party that holds more than 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Let's see how Jack could get it so wrong.

Layton asserts that the Liberals have given up their role as an opposition because they have approved the Conservative budget. He equates this with a coalition. Excuse me, but that's quite a logical leap to make. When Layton went about forming his coalition with Dion, he signed a document expressing his commitment to forming government with the Liberals. Nothing close has happened with the Liberals and the Conservatives. Jack Layton is clearly playing fast and loose with political terms.

As for the Liberals approving the Conservative budget, this does not show they are not worthy of being Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Rather, it shows that unlike the NDP, Liberals do not make a mindless opposition their modus operandi. What Layton seems to be advocating as proper opposition is an opposition to any of the government's initiative, with no regard for any particulars. Layton, in a roundabout way, is saying that opposition consists of opposing any initiative, simply because of which party originated it: the Conservatives.

Layton is trying to pull off a strategic coup against the Liberals. He knows that they are not going to pull the plug on this government until legislation is presented that they cannot accept and until their party is election-ready. In this way, Layton hopes he can keep maintaining he is the real opposition if the public accepts his definition of opposition.

The Liberals are understanding opposition to be what it is meant to be. They know that opposition consists of improving legislation that the government presents if possible, and not allowing the legislation if this is impossible. They are not being pulled into the childish game that Layton wants to play, a sort of name-calling if you will.

The Liberals are showing they have the mettle of an opposition, making a key change to the Conservative budget for example. In fact, they are wisely using their power as the Opposition. They hold quite a lot of sway over Harper at the moment because the Prime Minister wishes to seem non-partisan and co-operative in light of the current crisis and the change down south. He therefore will not flatly refuse the Liberals, and if he does, the Liberals can effectively force an election, showing to the world his inability to grasp the serious nature of the current times.

From the Liberals position, not only are they being a real opposition, as opposed to Layton's mindless naysaying, they are using their role as the Opposition to more greatly influence the law-making of this country. They are an Opposition that has understood the power they hold, and how to best use it, something that Layton is either unwilling or willingly unable to understand.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Monday, March 23, 2009

Donating to political parties

My mother recently received in the mail a letter from the Liberal Party of Canada asking her to consider donating to the party. What I found out was interesting: for most donations, you will receive a 75% tax-credit. In essence what this means is that if you donate 100$, you receive 75$ back from the government. Thus to donate 100$, it would only cost you in real terms 25$.

There is a great lack of donations to parties other than the Conservatives in the country. If the 62% of voters who did not vote for a Conservative truly want to stand a chance in opposing Harper, then they should be willing to donate to the other political parties. After all, it does not cost you much at all, and it makes a great difference relatively.

Now, for that donation to have the best effect, and go farther in stopping Harper's scare tactics and negative campaigning (Stephane Dion character assassination perhaps), it is best to donate to the LIBERALS. The Liberals are likely to be the governing party if the Conservatives are not in power, so even if you are a NDPer or Green, really, your money is best spent helping the Liberals. Or donate to the Liberals and your own party.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Immigrants must speak an official language to acquire citizenship: minister

Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, said Friday that there should be a new requirement for those wishing to acquire the citizenship of their country of residence. From now on, the government wishes that immigrants will have to speak either French or English to receive a Canadian passport.

In some people's minds, this policy may present a certain level of bigotry, an intolerance wholly un-Canadian. But let us consider what exactly it means to be Canadian, or for that matter a citizen of any nation.

Nationality springs forth as an expression of a shared identity belonging to a group of people. One of the clearest components of such an identity is language. If people don't share a language, then what else do they share that makes them a nation. A nation, after all, is not a country. Otherwise we would all be citizens by virtue of where we live, automatically. A farcical nationalism that would be.

It may be difficult to accept, but if you don't know the basic traits of our national character, then how can you maintain that you should be a Canadian citizen. Citizenship by naturalization is not a right, it's a privilege, and as such, if someone holds to obtaining it, then they should be ready to learn one of the official languages, and a bit of Canadian culture while they're at it, too.

At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, living in Canada simply is not a good enough reason to be awarded Canadian citizenship. There is a lot more to being a Canadian than living here. It is such policies that will make sure that being a Canadian does not degenerate into a meaningless badge.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wish I worked for AIG

On quite a posting spree since I just started this blog. XD

So, you may be wondering: why does a sixteen year old want to work for AIG? I mean, sure they're a successful bank, but don't I have more lofty ambitions in life?

Well, you see, if I worked for AIG, after a while, I'd be able to go and do whatever I want. All I need to do is to work for them, collect all those bonuses they're giving out, and TADA!!!!!!!!!, I'm rich.

That's probably what the AIG executives were thinking when they collected that bailout that the US government handed out to them recently. Why not take a perfect opportunity? The taxpayers won't miss the money will they? It's only 165 million dollars. What's the big deal?

First of all, it might not seem like much to them, but it's worth quite a bit to the average household. In addition, it's a principle they are breaking. There is a trust between them and the government representing all Americans in relation to this money. They have abused that trust, and now they should owe up to the consequences.

In times of such economic turmoil, you would think that they would do away with such over the top bonuses. They are just that: bonuses. They are not salaries that are owed to the employees. If AIG needs such huge loans because of their inability to steer themselves clear of bankruptcy, perhaps they should consider why they ended up with this problem. Using bailout money they were desperate to obtain to pay hefty bonuses to a select group of executives does not sound like a proper strategy to deal with this problem.

Obama is furious about this. Good, now let's see what he does.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Harper's at it again.

Here we go again. It really is amazing how many times Stephen Harper changes his line. Remember in the election campaign last year, how Stephen Harper told us that our banking system's fundamentals were foolproof, and that there was no possibility that we could experience a recession such as the one down south?

Well that has changed, but Harper is still sticking to his guns. Today he continued with this trend, telling us that we would be out of the recession soon, with surpluses as soon as 2013.

Now that in itself is not the whole problem, although Harper is going against the predictions of some slightly more experienced people in the field, such as the former Bank of Canada governor, David Dodge. Dodge maintains that the recession will not end year and that capitalism as we know it shall be significantly altered.

Not only is Harper going against the predictions of most economists, he is showing a disturbing trend: Change your line over and over again, because the people won't notice and in the meantime they'll just buy whatever you say.

Harper says that his predictions aren't rosy or unrealistic. Well, one thing is sure about them: They'll probably change next month. You wait and see.
Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers If you liked this post, please vote for my blog at Canadian Blogosphere Canadian Blogosphere

Progressive bloggers