Centre of the Continent

Thoughts from the middle of North America

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Disaster Politics

So the provincial Conservatives will be going hard at the incumbent NDP MLA’s over perceived flood botched flood response. Comments asking those affected to compare themselves to victims of other disasters was a horrible thing to do – true or not. All of that aside, only a desperate party would use a natural disaster to try and gain power.

When it comes to water, Manitoba is full. It really does not matter what was done, someone was going to suffer. Perhaps the Conservatives would like to return to the days when there was no control systems in place? To the situations like the 1997 flood of the century or worse. These are water levels not seen in at least 350 years. Hugh McFadden can spout all he wants about what he calls mistakes but he produces no expert to dispute the actions of the government. He can only echo the cries of the rightfully upset victims and try to give credibility to a few “what if’s” and “maybe’s” . If only the decision was made to lower the lever of Lake Manitoba earlier. Maybe there didn’t need to be a deliberate breach. We can all be arm-chair water drainage experts and claim we could have done better but I certainly don’t have any proof to back it up. Neither does anyone in the provincial Conservative party.

I absolutely support any and all efforts to return all this year’s flood victims to as close to where they were before as possible, but we must be realistic. First homes and businesses need to be given priority. Summer residences and cottages, not so much. More importantly, the opportunity to learn from this must not be allowed to pass. As nice as lakefront beach houses are, there is a risk assumed with that as assuredly as if the home was built on the side of a mountain in an earthquake or avalanche prone area of the world. That known risk is unfortunately part of the cost of building there.

I can see the demonizing ads now. Two elections ago it was crime. Overall crime rates were and are still falling. (Don’t believe what you read in the Sun.) There was a guy – the stereotypical criminal – trying to scare the elderly into voting for a Conservative government. Who will the Conservatives use this time? Perhaps a caricature of Mother Nature? Fortunately for the NDP, governments rarely change when things are going well.  The economy in Manitoba is growing and is stable. Things have been managed well through the recession and while that is little comfort for the flood victims, their anger alone won’t be enough for a Conservative victory.

And don’t forget …

It was under Howard Pawley that we lost the Jets and he was kicked out the very next year. NHL hockey is back and after that first pro puck drops, nothing else will really matter. The Manitoba NDP will be one of the first to reap the benefits come October.


Practical Socialism — Part Two

I wanted to continue with my thoughts on what is a new breed of socialism in Canada. The federal NDP will be voting on a resolution to remove the word socialism from the party’s constitution this weekend but in no means does that signal the end of the left. Contrarily, it will help to ensure it’s continued prosperity.

In North America, socialism is a frightening word. It’s mere mention brings up irrational connections with communism, Marxism and the totalistic Red Scare of the cold war. I have to admit that I was inspired by Monte Solberg’s commentary for the Ottawa Sun. (Who’s afraid of the NDP? Me! – June 13, 2011 — {LINK} ) The most enlightening aspect of his piece is that for all of the attempts to horrify the reader, I actually found it supportive of the causes the NDP is fighting for. This is utterly amusing.

The New Democrats want to severely limit the interest on credit card debt. This is to help reverse the trend of working people piling up more debt then they can ever pay off. In an interview on Sun TV, Mr. Solberg went so far as to say that this would prevent people getting credit in the first place. This is part of the point. Talk to any debt councillor and they will tell you that the worst issue they have to contend with is companies offering credit to those who in their current financial state, shouldn’t be approved. This is a good thing. Large interest rates on store credit cards and quick convenience store loans are there to compensate for the percentage of bad debt the lenders know they are in store for. It makes much more sense in the long term to not extend bad credit at all. These extended-period, mega-interest monies are usually for unneeded items that to the debtor offer a little short-term gratification. There are cases were this credit is being used for necessities and that is a even bigger issue altogether.

The same goes for cell phones and the fairness measures that the NDP wants to institute. Tempting customers with the latest smart phone and giving to them free for signing a 3-year contract is virtually usury and extortion. In a sensible world consumers should pay for their hardware upfront and then they can come and go as they please. For basic communication, less expensive phones can always be available. This is yet another debt trap that consumers can do without.

Bill Maher likens conservative philosophy to a religion; no matter how much damning evidence may be put in front of them, a conservative continues to have faith in their standard policies. The belief that cutting the taxes of the rich creates jobs and prosperity is just such case. The eight years G. W. Bush was in power were the least productive in the U.S.’s history. With all of the corporate tax-cutting and Wall Street pandering the economy there only netted three million jobs. At the same time, the US federal government nearly doubled it’s debt. It likely won’t happen but the American Government is but weeks away from defaulting on it’s treasury bonds. How can this policy and it’s forced continuation be seen as successful? Yet, it is the model that our own Conservative government wants to follow. Will higher tax rates lead to some corporations leaving Canada? Yes. If a corporation does not wish to be a part of our social structure then it is a taker and is welcome to leave.

Monte Solberg is taking up the cause of the big banks, big telecom and big oil. These are the most profitable sectors in our economy. Show me a major player in any of these fields that even came close to any kind of economic calamity. Can you say the same of your family and neighbours? These companies don’t need government help to make a profit.

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Free Speech vs. Right Speech

warninglabelThe Sun News Network is asking the CRTC to step in on a pricing disagreement with Bell Media. This is one of the most hypocritical actions I have ever witnessed. On day one of Sun’s young life Ezra Levant went on a CRTC bashing rant and stated in no uncertain terms that the CRTC has no business interfering in the media. Furthermore, the business of the media should be a free marketplace with little or no government interference. As with most issues with the far right, I am finding that their opinions and principles are not as rigid as their tirades would make them appear.

OK. That was a bit of a rant of my own. I’ll continue with what really disturbs me when it comes to the right and free speech.

My real issue with the right is with the horrible dark side that comes out if there is something they disagree with. Ethan Baron published his feelings on the election results. I invite you to read it in it’s entirety here. In short, he is disappointed by the Harper majority and saddened as a newly anointed Canadian. Charles Adler posted a link to this story on his Facebook page. Here are some responses:

“As a 6th generation Canadian…I implore this “new” Canadian to please leave MY country if he cannot abide by the decision of the Canadian electorate…!”

“That is the most insulting garbage I have ever read. The guy should be fired. Are people not allowed to execise (sic) their democratic rights if they don’t agree with a nobody like him. What an arrogant human being.”

“Go back! Leave Canada. We don’t need people that haven’t put their time, sweat and blood into this country to have such high sense of entitlement. But i’m (sic) sure they want the social benefits and Canadian pensions… I’m disgusted that canadian (sic) citizenship is given so freely to people like that!”

Rather then debate or argue rationally, the right insults and taunts. I included the last quote because what the writer did not bother to research was that Ethan Baron has been working in Canada for 20 years. It’s just recently he got his citizenship.

Charles Adler likes to stir things up. Here’s another story he posted to his page: “American Indians object to ‘Geronimo’ as code for bin Laden raid”. This one drew out an even worse reaction — all out racism.

“and they wonder why we sent pails instead of toilets.”

“FN’s are just worried that the war on terror will become brown v red! Heya howa.”

For none of these will I post a name. While this isn’t about calling out any specific person I also acknowledge that thankfully these comments don’t represent the every Conservative or right-leaning thinker but as is often seen when the dark blue curtain is lifted, these ideas are just below the surface of the Conservative Party.

No Conservative MP or staffer would be able to make these comments without being reprimanded by the party. The problem is that these extreme views start to creep into policy. The Canadian Council on Social Development, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Office of the National Science Advisor, the Canadian Child Care Federation, the Office of Democratic Governance, The Law Reform Commission of Canada and the National Association for Women in Law are just a few organizations that have had their funding gutted or eliminated. These defenders of the disadvantaged in Canada were targets because their ideas too often contradicted the government’s will.

“Defunding” is the new catchphrase for discrimination. Most often what is defunded are the groups that support sectors of the population that are disadvantaged and less likely to be Conservative voters.

This is subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) oppression that must be fought against at all costs.


All comments quoted were responses to posts by Charles Adler on his Facebook page and were readable at the time of this post.

“New Canadian just can’t believe in a Harper majority” – Ethan Baron, The Province, May 4, 2011 – http://www.theprovince.com/mobile/iphone/story.html?id=4714587

“American Indians object to ‘Geronimo’ as code for bin Laden raid” – Neely Tucker, The Washington Post, May 3, 2011 – http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/american-indians-object-to-geronimo-as-code-name-for-bin-laden-raid/2011/05/03/AF2FZIjF_story.html