National Fiddling Day and…

No doubt the double entendre was unintended. However, when a bill calling for a National Fiddling Day is introduced late the same afternoon as a quietly tabled report showing extreme climate effects on Canada’s boreal forests, and coming the day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper shunned the UN global climate summit, we are unfortunately left with an image of Nero fiddling amidst the fires of Rome.

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How to save the CBC, climate: tune in, demand better

University of Toronto geography professor Danny Harvey recently filed a motion with the National Energy Board urging them to reconsider its refusal to consider the climate change impact of the proposed trans-mountain oil pipeline expansion.

Prof. Harvey’s logic is pretty straightforward. It goes like this:

• New and expanded oil pipelines will facilitate the expansion of tar sands production.
• Expanded tar sands production will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.
• Increased greenhouse gas emissions will worsen climate change.
• Worsened climate change will jeopardize the well-being of Canadians, including future generations.

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Big Issue Ignored

How can it be that we have a provincial election with a myriad of political parties represented and the world’s number one great issue isn’t meaningfully discussed, or even mentioned? Human-induced environmental destabilization is already affecting us with strange and extreme weather and, due to global warming, will only greatly increase with time as we pump more green house gases into our atmosphere. But that is merely one paramount issue ignored during the election.

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A journalist worthy of attention

Paul Adams, veteran of the CBC and Globe and Mail, who now writes for iPolitics, makes consistently intelligent observations about the dilemma of Canada’s “progressive” opposition parties. In his book, Power Trap, and in his columns, he observes how petty tribal rivalries between the Liberals and New Democrats have blinded and crippled both parties, preventing them from effectively addressing the truly disastrous havoc that Stephen Harper and associates are inflicting upon our democracy, social fabric and environment.

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Canada’s third national policy — us

Canada’s Third National Policy is an essay every Canadian should read, and an idea that every Canadian should embrace.

In Canada’s Third National Policy, Rod Macdonald and Bob Wolfe argue that Canada has evolved through three national policies.

Canada’s first national policy (np1) was a response to the Great Depression of 1873 and consisted of tariffs to prop up Canadian manufacturers, immigration to the prairies and the construction of a transcontinental transportation infrastructure. Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy of 1879 was a superb — if cynical — campaign slogan, and it still fires the ambitions of his party today.

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SLAPPing democracy in the face

What’s gone wrong with democracy? That’s the question recently posed by the British magazine The Economist, which observed that even in established democracies like Canada, “flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife.”

The Economist’s diagnosis of what ails democracy is disturbing. Politicians have been captured by special interest groups (read: powerful industries and their lobbyists) and undermined by anti-democratic habits like, say, proroguing parliament to dodge inconvenient questions and indefensible lapses of judgment.

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Mayors back bullies

BY JULEE BOAN

First published in The Chronicle Journal Monday March 3, 2014

In 2010, two municipal councillors from Thornhill, Ont., advocating for the protection of prime farmland in their community were sued by a developer who accused them of trespassing on his land. The developer seemingly forgot that he had leased the land back to a local farmer who had given the councillors permission to hold a news conference on the side of the road at the farm.

The lawsuit was, of course, dismissed as nonsense by the courts. But it took two years and substantial lawyers’ fees to resolve. In response, one of the councillors said, “To us, this looks like an attempt at intimidation and bullying … In my opinion, this is a SLAPP suit.”

A SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is a lawsuit initiated against one or more individuals who speak out on an issue of public interest.

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Senate is a sideshow, Harper’s the problem

Proposed new rules would limit power of prime minister, increase that of MPs

Sure, change has to happen with the Senate, but far more important is the runaway power we allow our prime minister. This is what needs to be reined in if we ever want to keep straight faces when calling our country a democracy.

Stephen Harper, with his dictatorial grip on Conservative MPs, has fired up all available power tools, either allowed by our Constitution or not mentioned in it, and has kept their engines running full tilt.

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Proroguing participation in environmental decision-making

As our prime minister prorogues Parliament (again), environmental advocates are suing the federal government over new rules restricting public participation in hearings conducted by the National Energy Board (NEB) on major energy projects, including Enbridge’s proposed reversal of its Line 9B pipeline.

Some background: In 2008 the government passed the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The unobjectionable purpose of this legislation is to make environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable. In passing the act, the government acknowledged the “need to integrate environmental, economic and social factors in the making of all decisions by government.”

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Making a buck and turning a blind eye

So it’s OK for John Baird to “quietly” allow Canadian gun dealers to sell fully automatic assault weapons, banned in Canada, to Colombians (Canada Opens Colombia to Gun Sellers — story in Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, Jan 3, 2013). It’s OK for Canada to contribute to mayhem in far-off places, as long as there’s a buck to be made at home. I’m guessing we’re already selling these Newtown specials to certain gun-happy Americans.

Read moreMaking a buck and turning a blind eye