Tuesday, February 27, 2007

We'll agree to disagree

May I take a moment out of the two upcoming elections to discuss the most disparate, wussified leadership I have seen in my 28 years in my nation's capital and here? I am flashing back to the first outcry about Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen with zero ties to any terrorist organization who was deported by the US on his way back home chez nous. He was sent to Syria and monstrously tortured for several months until finally he was returned home. At the time I recall screaming at the top of my lungs about yes, sovereignty, one of my favourite topics. At the time there were many security issues going on and a lot of us were sort of shaking our heads at our kindly but misguided neighbors wondering what on earth they were going to do next. I lost my sympathy though, when one of our own was shipped off to Syria for no good reason at all. I wanted leadership at that time, and unfortunately all I had was Paul Martin. He and his caucus, including the Ambassador to the US failed to do anything at all to get our boy back and I was outraged. No public statements were being made, no meetings appeared to be held and no firm position was being taken either way.

Flash forward, we went through an entire election, painful, dull, pointless, exhausting. Our new government has actually renamed themselves exactly that and has been changing the letterhead on all forms and documents since then. Their big deal is the fact that the last government was corrupt and according to little Stevie, these new guys are all good. We'll ignore for a moment that despite every scandal, every wasted dollar on corrupt practices we still had a decade long surplus and enough money to pay for all our fabulous Canadian social programs. We'll focus instead on the fact that as this new government is so cozy with the Bush Administration, an administration suicidally out of touch with it's own people, that our own Minister of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday that we would "agree to disagree" about Mr. Arar still being on a security watch list in the US for reasons no-one can ascertain. Agree to disagree? From the boys who are all about fighting corruption in government? That means if they were in power at the time of the kidnapping (for that indeed is what it was), Maher would still be in Syria, but probably not recognizable as a human being by this point.

Agree to disagree. We didn't agree to disagree about softwood lumber, we went five times to the tribunal in charge and they agreed with us entirely until Stevie decided to cave. A truly upright David vs. the vicious Goliath to be sure. Didn't we agree to disagree that CIA planes land anonymously in Canada so that technically our airports and landing strips are being used for transporting dangerous terrorists? Well, according to their captors anyway. Agree to disagree. I don't recall agreeing to anything when the DEA asked the RCMP to deport our own citizen, a pot activist from BC because he sold legal substances over the internet. I'm fairly certain we said no on that one, and arrested him, but kept him here to be tried for.....well, not actually breaking any of our laws really.

We did indeed agree to disagree about fishing off our coasts and as such, Newfoundland has had a strong and viable economy since they joined confederation.

I find this government, particularly our PM and Foreign Affairs Minister to be irresponsible to the point of stupidity. I find them to be out-of-touch with Canadians. I find their rational for their legislative behaviour disturbing and unsettling. I suppose they would agree to disagree.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

all agog, heart a flutter...

Oh god he's running! I got the news at work the other day and immediately after that email, several more came speeding in. My girlfriends thought that because I live near Papineau Metro that I live in the Papineau riding. They were just as a twitter as I was to find out that Justin Trudeau will be running up there and I couldn't wait to imagine for a moment that he would need to go out and talk to the people...he could come to the door!

My riding is Laurier-Ste. Marie, the stronghold of none other than the silver fox, Gilles Duceppe. It's a little pointless to step to the party leader in his own riding. He knows it too and campaigns minimally here, so it's usual in my neighborhood to have a quiet, more reflective election cycle. I remember the last time I had to get my hands dirty with this little number and someone came to the door from some party, I honestly can't even remember which one. It was early on Saturday morning and I wasn't feeling social, particularly towards those who had me answering the door in the freezing cold in my light, zebra pj bottoms and a David Bowie t-shirt. I just wasn't in the mood, so I pretended I couldn't speak french and made them try to convince me to vote for them in our second official language. Those of you who know me have heard me express myself sometimes quite vehemently in french, but I just can't help but play with door-to-door volunteers!

Anyway, they came up with first a question: "you will vote in the next election?" I nodded and said I guess so. Then the inspiring twist to bring me onside with them, whoever they were: "you wanna vote for us?" I said I would think about it and went to get another cup of coffee.

Volunteers work extremely hard during election campaigns and they deserve some credit if only because a lot of the time they come up against people like me. I am amazed not only by those who fight a battle they know they won't win, but a lot of the time by those who bother at all. Our turnouts according to Elections Canada are in the high-sixties to low-seventies fairly consistently. That means that whoever is bothering to go out and get people engaged in any way at all is either going to get people whose minds are already made up, or more likely, those who just don't care.

I sort of wish this time that there was some kind of showdown happening, it would be much harder to bother being jaded and cynical about the whole thing if there was a chance of a fight between Trudeau's best boy and the Dupe. In that case I can promise, I wouldn't be answering the door in my pjs, and who knows? I might even get a sign or two. As it stands, I know it's going to be a better-than-usual turnout at least in the riding kitty-corner from me. I know I'd be waiting there on election day with a tiny camera and a lot of hope.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Go Green in the Great White North

On February 15th, the Montreal Gazette reported yet again that the pentagon calls our claim to the Northwest Passage excessive and tenuous. The suggestion from our neighbors is to work through the UN to protect our own claim. This is and has been the position of the US for pretty much the entire time the North has been at all an issue.

The last time we visited this issue was when a US submarine used the passage without notification or permission and surfaced to find no Canadian presence to enforce the claim. They insist that the passage is "international water" and no permission or notification is necessary. It's a merry-go-round of sovereignty we've all heard before but now there's more at stake.

Global warming has significantly decreased the size of the glaciers in the arctic as well as increasing the ambient temperature in the area. This makes for a more desirable and cheaper route to Europe. So before what was a question almost of courtesy that would affect wildlife and habitats under the care and cost of the Canadian Government, is now a question of toll. Shall European and American companies and governments use the Northwest Passage on a regular basis for a smile and a wave or at a premium? I have my doubts that we will effectively convince other countries to abide by our wishes.

The traffic increase expected will have a direct effect on the First Nation people who inhabit the area as well as the animal population. These citizens of Canada are our responsibility and as such it is Canadian taxpayers who will cover the costs of environmental damage done to our coastal land. A reasonable subsidy only if the countries and companies who wish to use the passage pay a toll, such as is the norm for any other international travel.

But we can't complain that they don't take us seriously. The European Union agrees with the US that the passage should be considered international, so at the moment, like softwood lumber, it's our word against theirs. I doubt the current leadership would lift a finger to ensure the Canadian economy and habitat is properly funded and cared-for, particularly since part of such an undertaking would have to include deployment. That's right, we'd need to send people way up north to enforce such a rule and don't think for a moment that because it's warm enough to melt a glacier means it's warm enough to enjoy full-time. I have though, a solution to suggest: Go green.

Currently there is research into tidal hydroelectric generation taking place on several fronts, the most promising seems to be Blue Energy International. The basic idea is that rather than using a dam (extremely damaging and mostly pointless) an underwater buoy is built with a turbine inside that the tide itself forces water through. This generates an enormous amount of electricity without the ecological damage of a dam or nuclear power plant. It also allows for sale of said electricity for a profit that pays for the construction of the turbine itself. Finally, it allows for a raison d'etre in the north. It is unfortunately true that currently few politicians, business people or regular citizens like yours truly have much of an interest in the north. The ecosystem to be found there is occasionally visited by the discovery channel or bored celebrities trying to destroy the traditions of our native people in the name of animal rights, but on the whole, it's not newsworthy. Proof of this is the fact that the pentagon recommendation made the 4th page behind a full-colour photo of a man bicycling in the snowstorm on valentine's day last week. But if our coasts were places of economic interest such as electricity generation, we might have a reason to insist that other countries and companies respect our reasonable claim on the waters off of our coasts. If we are to allow them to contribute to the production of greenhouse gases by fueling tankers with fossil fuels, the least we can expect them to do is subsidize our greener efforts while in our country.

We might also get some heat to the Innu while we're at it, as electricity is only one of many basic human necessities our First Nations citizens do without. The reservation system is in a deplorable state all over Canada. I assume that should we move forward in this simple and viable method, we can at least begin to integrate the ways and knowledge of natives with those who would need to build and administrate a northern tidal power plant.

There is an election coming and I can only assume once more that no mention of our sovereignty will enter into any discussion from any candidate. The liberals changed their leadership, so this time instead of choosing between 4 rich, white men to represent me, I'll have to choose between the same 3 rich white men and one other new rich white guy to lead our country in the best interest of all Canadians. I usually think hard about it, I look at all the angles, all the issues and the men themselves. I want to know what type of decision-makers these people are along with what drives them, can they be pressured? Will they be held-hostage by interests other than their own? This time I'll make it simple on all of them. Whoever bitches about lumber first (no-one so far has even mentioned it) and/or whoever clearly states that there is an issue of sovereignty to be solved in this country, that person will get my vote.

Monday, February 12, 2007

That's how he's gonna do it!

I've been going crazy trying to see the angles on Iran. It wasn't jiving and all the negative "new findings" about them seem to have taken place right out in the open. But this is the way, this is how the red's win south o' the border once again. The democrats have no faith in Iran but they are all running on anti-war platforms. Their troops are depleted, the country is in massive debt and Iran is tripping along nicely with their nuclear arms program. They're going to have to take military action against Iran in the the next 4-8 years, but they won't have troops back from Iraq yet and enrollment is so low they're going to have to instill a draft in order to even discuss deployment. No matter what they do they won't have enough resources of any kind to make any difference at all and the republicans will be able to come back and say, see! I told you!

Actually, any candidate would have that against them no matter the party, but a republican isn't going to win (I know, famous last words). Why does this matter chez nous? They're only in primary season, so I've got over a year to foam at the mouth on the subject. We're having an election shortly (god yes, another one) and because Iran is a million times more dangerous than Iraq ever was coupled with the fact that we already have troops in Afghanistan means that we will have to have a frank discussion about joining our neighbors since: 1. They are going to ask us publicly and make us look like assholes if we say no and 2. Iran actually does threaten the rest of the world at large. We are known for our history of refusal to engage unless absolutely necessary (except for WW1 and Korea where we got sent a lovely note inviting us to join in and we said "okay"...hey wait! those are two out of three wars we ever fought!) but this time the necessity will be obvious. A subject like this gives a reasonable seeding ground for the new conservative party and don't kid yourselves my lovlies, they are new. This is not the party of Diefenbaker, these are not fiscal conservatives. These are not people so concerned over preserving our social services by carefully balancing our books in order to consistently afford them, these are a new breed. These are vicious, hateful reptiles with cues from the south like I've never seen. Their political meetings take place at church functions, their hate-mail is covert and they can think of nothing better to persuade us mainstreamers with than blame-the-other-guy. Him, over there.

This is a time of examination. It's coming up and sooner rather than later. It reminds me of that ancient curse, "May you live in interesting times." If I were you at the moment, I'd get interested.