Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Revisiting Richard and Reform

A little while ago, I posted about an article by my friend, Richard Albert. Richard has a great mind for democracy. I don't know where he comes down on specific policy points, nor do I know where he would consider himself to fall on the political spectrum (we've never actually chatted about politics), but it seems that he has a very good perspective on many political issues. He's not worrying about partisanship; he's worrying about the health of our (and others') democracy. His is certainly a good voice to have.

In my earlier note, I stated that I tended to agree with him on the main point of his article (before going off on a tangent about the Conservative government under Stephen Harper). I've thought some more about it, and I'm not sure I can totally agree with him.

The issue at hand is term limits for Senators in Canada (specifically 8-year term limits), as proposed in a new government bill. Richard notes that "term limits alone would not improve the legislative capacity of the Senate." This is undoubtedly true. He states the senate will need everything from "more powerful committees, to a more invigorated membership, and to a more equitable allocation of seats among provinces" in order to improve (not to mention an actual democratic selection process).

Further, he states,
The eight-year term limit moreover does nothing to breathe democratic legitimacy into the Senate. Quite the contrary, it continues to concentrate power in the hands of the prime minister, a lamentable trend we have seen only accelerate over the last three decades.
The first sentence is true, to a point. The second sentence is true, but perhaps beside the point. Without the 8 year term limit, we have senators appointed by Brian Mulroney. It's true that power to appoint senators is inappropriately concentrated in the PMO, but why is it worse to concentrate it in today's PMO rather than 1990's PMO? If Prime Ministers are going to appoint senators, I'd rather that we have senators appointed by Prime Ministers in this millenium. As warped as it is to leave the choice of legislators up to one man, it seems incrementally more democratic to give the population an opportunity to select someone else to re-visit those choices every now and then. It's like the sober second thought of the tyranny of the PMO.

Richard goes on to state,
The larger point, though, is that the term limits bill will do more harm than good. Instead of using Senate reform as a vehicle to diffuse power away from Ottawa and into the hands of the provinces and their citizens, the Harper government has cleverly cloaked the eight-year term limit as a critical step toward democratizing the Senate. But all it will really do is further entrench federal control over the institution that was meant to give voice to provincial concerns.
If we take off the first sentence and the last sentence and a half, I'm on board. Though I suggested above that this proposal incrementally improves the democratic legitimacy of the senate, I think the increment is too small to be of much use to society. However, I'm still unwilling to state that this is a step backwards for democracy.

Now, perhaps Richard is getting into some realpolitik sort of thing. He may very well be right that a tiny superficial step towards democratic legitimacy will placate the masses and leave us with no popular desire to continue moving towards a fully democratic senate. If this is his point, I think he has presented it improperly; he has combined the two arguments (it's a tiny step forward, but it will stop all progress) without clearly defining each, or clearly defining which argument is his focus.

Still, I don't think we've had a government more committed (even if they're barely committed) to democratizing the senate than the Harper government. I can't imagine that their intent is to foil further democratization. I think they're just trying to score points with the electorate. This isn't a point in their favour, but it doesn't mean they're an obstacle to a democratic senate.

All that being said, if this is the crux of Richard's argument (and I think it is), he's well on point:
If the Conservatives really were serious about Senate reform, they would work with the other parties to strike an all-partisan plan for new rules regulating the election, eligibility, and function of senators. But they have not chosen this course.
In his conclusion, Richard's thoughts dovetail nicely with my thoughts on a lot of the Conservative government initiatives:

"Their current approach... exposes just how far they have elevated political expedience over the larger national interest."

Health Care as a Right

I'm wondering, when health care is discussed as a right, why is it that, generally*, people are speaking of the provision of health care as a right (ie socialized health care) rather than the ability to attain health care as a right (ie the ability to purchase services or insurance)?

Just wondering.

(*I have no empirical evidence, it's just been my experience.)

Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Filling my own ditch

As happens all too often, today I accidentally hit "print" when I meant to transfer a few sensitive emails to a different folder while at work.

As I was walking from the printer to the shredder, I wondered, would this make John Maynard Keynes smile?

Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More from my friend Richard

Here's another recent article from my boyhood chum, Richard Albert.

The article is about Senate reform in Canada, and I think his take on the specific issue at hand (term limits) is pretty much on target. I am guessing that we agree on an eventual final goal of Senate reform, some type of democratization. I don't know if we agree on the specifics of such a development, but, then again, I'm not totally sure about what exact form I would like to see the Senate take (though I certainly want to see its continued existence).

Richard does make a good point about how Harper's "conservative bona fides have come into doubt in the face of a distinctly, and indistinctively, unconservative record: prolific government spending, careless fiscal projections, skyrocketing deficits, and a ballooning national debt."

Richard also notes Harper's other means of shoring up the conservative bona fides: "to abolish the gun registry, to compel harsher sentences on criminals, and to inflict tougher penalties on young offenders."

Both of these points distill quite effectively my disappointments with the Harper government. I quite liked his selection when he first became Conservative leader. He was wonkish, not overly "political" and not as focused on "traditionalist" or social conservatism as some others might be (I'm looking at you, Stock).

But what on earth has he done? Has he behaved as a principled wonkish conservative (and I'd suggest we judge "principled" on a sliding scale for politicians)? Most definitely, he has not. I'm still glad that neither Paul Martin, Stephane Dion, Jack Layton or Elizabeth May are Prime Minister, and, if I had to wager, I'd say that I'll likely vote Conservative in the next election, but it doesn't mean I'm really happy with him, or the party in general.

No offence to the Green Party, but...

…maybe this ‘government crisis’ will stop people from casting “protest votes”.

One big problem with minority governments and proportional representation is that it gives undue power to people hardly anyone wants to have any power. If the “Every Man Grows a Moustache Party” always wins 5% of the vote/seats (never any more, never any less), and we regularly see major parties just inches away from a governing majority, you can bet that there will soon be a whole bunch of Magnum P.I.’s on the streets of Canada. The Moustache Party, caring nothing about anything but forcing all men to have moustaches, will prop up any other minority government as long as the Moustache legislation is never repealed. 95% of Canadians may think it’s bunk, but that doesn’t matter.

In the last few elections, people spoke of their fondness for minority governments, often saying it kept a good check on the ruling party. Now that a minority situation keeps a good check on the will of the people, the populace might be less enamoured with them. I wonder if this could really hurt the Green Party, and possibly the NDP. It’s pretty obvious that we are a long way from having any party other than the Tories or the Grits “winning” an election, no matter the gains of the GP or NDP. As odd as it may seem, lots of people will swing from Conservative to NDP (atleast in the past), just to keep from voting for the Liberals. I have heard a number of NDP supporters say they would never actually want the NDP to govern. People could be horrified that by supporting a “third party”, they might actually wind up sending that party into power. It might focus people a little better – getting them to vote for the best (or least bad) viable option, rather than voting against the viable options. Naturally, true supporters of the “third parties” would likely stick with them, as they are generally voting on principle rather than revulsion.

At the same time, this probably really helps the Bloc. The federal gov’t will never support separation, but if you are a federalist in Quebec who wants the province to stay on the federal dole, the Bloc certainly looks more and more like the best party to achieve that end.

Of course, like most things in life, I have given this very little thought.

Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

Revisiting the Patriot Party of Canada

The other day, I noted the existence (or one-time existence) of the "Patriot" Party of Canada. The title of the post was rather inflammatory, though I don't think, necessarily, inappropriate. However, I do feel a minor clarification is in order.

I have no reason to believe that any of the members* of the Patriot Party of Canada are fascists. It's a loaded word, and I doubt a valid (all-encompassing) descriptor. However, the platform of the PPC is fascistic, or, to put it another way, has fascist tendencies. It likely would qualify as Liberal Fascism.

To make sure that this is not misconstrued, fascist does not necessarily equate to Nazi and it does not necessarily equate to racist. It seems pretty obvious that the PPC is not racist (though racialist might apply).

I know this is a significant claim that I haven't yet supported, but I will. It certainly wouldn't be fair of me to make the statement without offering any support for it.

*Funnily enough, in 1993, I lent support to Marianne Wilkinson in her bid to secure the Progressive Conservative nomination in Kanata (or whatever the riding was called). Small world.

Sarah Palin

This is a pretty good endorsement.

I'm quite pleased with this selection. She has the potential to be a great politician...

...and if she fails, the only cost is a McCain presidency. I'll be down with Jindal '12.

Months ago, I made a bet with a friend about the VP picks. Bayh didn't come through for me, but my long shot, wishful thinking choice of Palin paid off. Now Chuck owes me a beer. Which, I guess, is fitting for John McCain's running mate.


Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

July 1st

So it's Canada Day (for a whole two hours in the Eastern Time Zone). Historically, there has been much to be proud of as a Canadian; however, these days, I can sometimes find it difficult to take pride in my country.

With "Human Rights" Tribunals sitting in judgment of speech, politicians demanding that grandparents have inalienable rights to see the wee ones, and people still paying attention to Colin Mochrie, it can be difficult to be proud of the ol' Dominion.

Today I have decided that I still love this country, and I still have a sense of patriotism (and it has nothing to do with Alexander Keith's, Tim Horton's or George Stroumboulopoulos).

So I wish you all a happy Canada Day.

Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

If Patriotism equals Nationalism, and Nationalism equals Fascism, then what does Patriotism equal?

This is horrific.

I don't know if the "Patriot" Party of Canada still exists (their site is dated 2001/2002), but, G*d, I hope not. There is so much wrong with their platform and their philosophy, it's difficult to even start.

If you read through their platform, nausea is justified. I'm sure they don't realize it, but they are proposing a form of Fascism. (I hesitate to drop the F-bomb, as it's pretty inflammatory; however, in this situation it is warranted - so I qualify it with "a form of").

The fact that they wrap this exercise up in "Patriotism" is abhorrent. Their platform runs counter to western liberal democracy and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Perhaps, from time to time, I will rebut all the foul refuse that they propagate; it can be my first recurring feature!

I think I just saw a beaver cry.

Ban the Bloc / Scare the Piss Out of Me

I am very lucky to have a lot of very intelligent friends.

For example, there's my old church friend Richard Albert. When I was a kid, I wanted to play football and become a lawyer. Richard went to Yale, played football and became a lawyer. He's obviously a better person than I.

Anyway, he wrote an article a little while ago about the idea of banning the wretched Bloc Quebecois. Check out the article. If you start getting horrified before you reach the conclusion, you've got your head on straight.

The most important cartoons in the world.

You can find the Danish cartoons here - passed along without comment.

Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I am Mark Steyn

From Mark Steyn's America Alone:

"Time for the obligatory “of courses”: of course, not all Muslims are terrorists — though enough are hot for jihad to provide an impressive support network of mosques from Vienna to Stockholm to Toronto to Seattle. Of course, not all Muslims support terrorists — though enough of them share their basic objectives(the wish to live under Islamic law in Europe and North America) to function wittingly or otherwise as the “good cop” end of an Islamic good cop/bad cop routine."

Agreement is not the point.

Originally posted at somedayallthiswillhavetobefixed.blogspot.com.

Some day, all this will have to be... Canned Goods and Ammunition

I will be expunging all political content from my other blog, Some day, all this will have to be fixed. The political content will be moved to Canned Goods and Ammunition.