Monday, May 2, 2011

Orange Crush

In the spirit of the Andrew Coyne’s somewhat controversial endorsement of the Liberals and criticism of the Harperite Party of Canada-this ain’t your old man’s Tory party-I will now make a rather shocking endorsement of my own: I will be voting NDP!

Not for the first time, I hasten to add. Actually in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a dyed in the wool Dipper and have been since 2004 (the year that I joined). I have always believed that this was a party that had the potential to unite the left across the country, even before the orange wave (or orange crush, if you prefer) made such an allegiance fashionable. The latter was especially true in my native Montreal, where for years the party was a regarded as being something of a fringe outfit, until 2007 and a monumental breakthrough in the formerly Liberal fortress of Outremont, in the form of a blue chip NDP candidate named Thomas Mulcair. His arrival on the scene (from Charest’s government) brought about a rebranding of the party in the eyes of, first the media, and then the average joe voter, who previously though that he only had a choice between the old school my-way-or-the-highway Trudeau federalism of the Liberals, on the one hand, and the obstructionist sovereigntist party of the Bloc (never mind the Tories, they have been MIA in Qu├ębec since the Mulroney years). Along came Mulcair/Layton’s (the Batman & Robin of Canadian politics) vision of asymmetrical federalism which supports greater autonomy for the province without compromising on national unity, and all of sudden Quebecker’s started to take notice. What we’re seeing now in the polls, are simply the fruits of this refreshing progressive, intelligent discourse on the place that Quebec should occupy in confederation.

Now we see the rest of the country jumping on board the orange bandwagon in seemingly record numbers (I know I’m tempting the political gods, as I write this) and many pundits are saying that this is apparently a spill-over from the rise of the party in Quebec. Quebeckers have historically expressed their collective political will en masse, and, by all accounts, this appears to be one of those historic tipping points (as I write this Nanos wrote: “the separatist BQ on Monday will be dealt a resounding rebuke from Quebecers registering their worst showing in BQ history”). Quebec has a funny way of communicating with the rest of the country. In a roundabout way, it looks as though Quebeckers may be indicating to the rest of the country that they are ready once again, to try and reconcile their political differences with them. It seems that this election, which nobody wanted, much less though would usher in a sea change of the political landscape, has proven all the pundits wrong ( including your truly). The country seems to be fed up of the business as usual on the hill and is increasingly looking for an alternative to the Liberal/Tory same old story of Canadian politics.

Jack Layton did not overhaul his campaign platform, change his image or give his party a radical makeover, since the last election. He simply carried on doing what he has done since he came to be the leader of the NDP back in ’03: promoting a moderate and responsible socially democratic vision of the country. In other words, he simply had to be himself.

So vote for the Grits if you think they represent a “change”, even though they have been in power for 75 of the last 100 years. Vote for the Tories, if you think it’s the economy stupid, and don’t care or don’t understand the importance of parliamentary democracy. Vote Bloc if you couldn’t care less about the rest of the country. But I’m sticking with the NDP today.

The Future is Unwritten

Monday, January 24, 2011

What doe Sudanese example mean for international law of secession?

As I write this, a new country is in the process of being born. Like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes of what even President George W. Bush, acknowledged as the world most recent example of genocide. The votes have not been completely counted yet, but the results of the referendum on secession, have never been in doubt. In all likelihood, barring a dramatic collapse in the negotiations between north and south, by this time next week the world will witness the emergence of a new predominately Christian and ethnically African country in southern Sudan.
Aside from its support for human rights and self-determination in general, we as Canadians have yet another reason, to watch carefully as this situation unfolds: the parallel between the legitimate independence process of Sudan and the one that’s being proposed by the majority of constitutional experts and politicians in Canada and Quebec.

Ever since the Supreme court reference on secession in ’98, the opinion of the court that ruled out use of a UDI-unilateral declaration of independence-by a sovereigntist government in Quebec, there have been some in the hard line camp-i.e. Daniel Turp, Jacques Parizeau-who refuse to accept that the Canadian constitution imposes upon all parties a duty to negotiate a secession. Matters were confused further, by the opinion of the International Court of Justice last summer, on the question of Kosovo’s decision to go it alone -see my August 2nd piece on this matter. Basically, the Court seemed to be supporting the hardliner’s argument that a UDI can lead to effective independence, at least in the case of Kosovo. Thus, by analogy, this could apply to the staunch secessionist’s claim in Quebec regarding a UDI.

However, now we have a seemingly contradictory precedent in international law in the case of Southern Sudan-the official name remains to be seen. How does this affect the hardliner’s claim to be able to leave the rest of Canada without so much as a Dear John letter? At the very least, we can now see that there are no simply no hard and fast rules regarding secession in international law. It appears that each case is unique and must be treated accordingly. At the risk of going out on a limb, though: I would argue that a case of external self-determination- i.e. the creation of new nation state-even one that the resulted from a well-documented genocide, requires some sort of referendum and negotiations on the critical issues that concern all the parties.

The Future is Unwritten

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Matty Burrows: the unknown football Legend!

Have you seen this goal? The goal that made semi-professional footballer toiling in obscurity in one of Britain’s most lacklustre leagues (i.e. Northern Ireland). You haven’t? Alright let me set the scene for you: In game Glentoran and Portadown (no disrespect, but these two backwaters probably weren’t even on the map before this) Burrows receives a well placed cross from a team mate on the edge of the penalty box and proceeds to convert it into one of the greatest goals ever scored, by rising to meet the ball and kicking with it with the heel of his boot. Thus, resulting in a mind blowing behind-the-back volley that went in despite the efforts of a hapless goal-keeper. Frankly, this description can’t begin to describe it. It’s that brilliant!

This goal was brought to the attention of the Sep Blatter and his corrupt cronies (don’t get me started, on Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup) in Geneva, and FIFA promptly added the goal to their highlight reel of the 10 best goals of 2010. The list of nominees includes some of Footballs greatest virtuosi ( Messi, Snyder, etc.) and someone like Burrows will no doubt be flattered just to be mentioned in the same breath. But Matty shouldn’t be too modest. His goal is one of the finest technically you’re likely to see anywhere. However, it’s difficult to compare it with for example Snyder’s goal in Holland’s awesome defeat of Brazil in the World Cup semi final. Let’s face it, when it comes to the importance of a goal, so much depends on what was at stake when it was scored.

The Future is Unwritten

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ignatieff Holds Town Hall in Outremont

Liberal leader Michael Igantieff was in town last night to open his series of Town Hall meetings across the country.

Despite the notable absence of such provincial lieutenants as Marc Garneau and Justin Trudeau, a hundred mostly Liberal sympathizers turned out for the event.
Questions ranged from highly critical to supportive and touched on a number of topic including the recent Gun registry controversy, that Liberal strategists are attempting to exploit as a wedge issue in the riding of Outremont, in their attempts to win it back from NDP Deputy leader and spokesman in Quebec Thomas Mulcair.

On the matter of the recent Maclean’s article about Quebec corruption, Ignatieff described it as “Quebec bashing” and suggested that only Quebeckers have the right to engage in such criticism.

Other surprises included the leader’s claim to have spent 5 years working with convicted criminals when he was a graduate student and his assertion that this has resulted in him in developing an “utterly unsentimental” attitude towards people in prison.

Ignatieff had rather strong words for the Bloc Quebecois, whose quest for Sovereignty, he described as a “form of Tyranny.” Although he regards the party as legitimate.

Undoubtedly the most amusing moment of the night was when one Concordia Student stood up and performed a tune on his mandolin which was a parody of 1234 by Feist that contained humorous lyrics about the Liberal’s infamous sponsorship scandal. Ignatieff seemed frazzled by the song and made childish joke about the fellow’s appearance.

The Future is Unwritten

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Copyright Reform Luddite Style!

What can we the consumer’s expect from the Bill C-32 the government’s proposed copyright reform? Sadly, though the bill may be a slight improvement on Harper’s last ill-conceived attempt at a new legal frame work for the digital age, it remains hopelessly out of touch with the two stakeholders who arguably should have the most say in this process: artists and the public.

While Harper paid lip service to the importance of public consultation and transparency, primarily through town hall meetings and online debates, this appears to have been mere window dressing, in the end. Overall, C-32 seems to favour the lobbies that represent the music and entertainment interests, whereas consumers and artist’s interests are very much a secondary concern.

Case in point: many musicians favour an extension of the blank copying levy (which compensates for revenue that might be lost when consumers make private copies) a potentially valuable source of revenue that is sometimes derided as an “ipod tax” by critics.

Worse yet, the new law would make the enforcement of digital locks a priority. Annoyingly, this gives the corporations the power to sue consumers who break such “locks” even for the purposes of creating a copy of a legally purchased DVD as a back up, for up to $ 5,000 in damages! You’ve got to be fucking kidding!!!!

One would think, this kind of criminalization and penalization of regular folks, would be an affront to Harper’s supposed populist sensibilities. However, as we’ve seen before, this government’s grasp of science & technology (i.e. climate change) often borders on luddism. The digital revolution has forever changed the entertainment business, just don’t tell that to the flat earth society that controls the government!

The Future is Unwritten

Monday, August 2, 2010

Republic of Quebec? Has the ICJ given Quebec The green light to separate?

Last weeks opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case, is sure to cause a firestorm of controversy that will provoke debate in this country for as long as the question of Quebec’s place in Canada remains unresolved.

Already, much of the legal punditry is wringing it’s hands in anticipation of the inevitable crowing by the separatists over how the international community is now on their side, no matter what the feds say! However, as one who has studied this question in great detail, I must tell you we shouldn’t get too carried away.

For starters, the ICJ opinion is just that: one interpretation of the law, as opposed to a legally binding decision that would force the parties to act a certain way (i.e. requiring Serbia and others to recognize Kosovo as a state). In fact, the court was careful not to rule on the matter of whether Kosovo is now a full-fledged state, with all of the rights and responsibilities that entails. Thus, this still remains basically a political decision, to be decided on a case- by-case basis. Though, Kosovo certainly has more and more credibility, in that regard.

More importantly, the current political climate doesn’t bode well for the separatists/sovereigntist/autonomist (or whatever the hell they are calling it these days!) cause. A recent CROP poll indicates that the movement is in the doldrums at the moment with only 24% of Quebecers identifying themselves as sovereigntist, and a massive 58% agreeing that the whole business has become “outmoded”! While this does not mean the end of separatism as we know it this country, as we know how volatile an issue this can be, it does suggest, however, that we will not be hearing any harping from the BQ and PQ in this matter, anytime soon. It’s, frankly, putting the cart before the horse, to engage in a rather obscure legal debate about international law before we have resolved the political situation in Quebec.

The Future is Unwritten

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why the Leafs and Liberals Stink

With the Grits kicking off yet another cross country tour this summer (dubbed the “Liberal Express” by party flacks) the other day in Ottawa and, given that only 1 in 4 Canadians approves of Count Iggula, this move smacks absolutely of desperation and a lack of originality. Thus, It’s high time to make a long overdue but highly apt comparison between two Canadian institutions that are seemingly in terminal decline: The Liberal Party of Canada and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit two things: A) I’m both a Dipper ( Duh!) and B) a lifelong Habs fan. I relished every second of last season’s unexpected trip to the Eastern Conference finals, aside from the drubbing we suffered at the hands of those dirty Flyers! But even if I weren’t, I would make this case, because the similarities between these two fading national brands, are striking!

On the one hand, we have the Leafs, perennial laughingstocks of the NHL. Holders of the record for the longest Stanley Cup drought in Hockey (1967), now that the Chicago Blackhawks put an end to theirs. A team that, rather like the Grits, has a reputation for poaching other team’s best players and ruining them (Owen Nolan, Phaneuf, etc.). But most galling of all, especially to the millions of hockey fans who support one of Canada’s 5 other teams, there is the absurd claim, made mostly by the Leafs marketing department, that they are “Canada’s team.” What a slap in the face to all of us poor schmucks who support Les Canadiens with their 100 year history, and their 24 Stanley Cup victories! Worse, the Leafs are conspiring against the expansion of pro hockey in this country by putting the kibosh on Jim Basillie’s attempts to bring another hockey franchise to southern Ontario!

On the other, we have the similarly pompous sounding “Natural Governing Party of Canada.” Notwithstanding the past four years, naturally. The Grits also have a knack for taking the best and brightest (using the latter a tad loosely) from other parties and killing their careers ( i.e. Belinda, Bob Rae, etc.). Much like their moronic counterparts at the Toronto Maple Leafs, Liberals don’t look kindly upon any competition on their turf and are capable of the most odious behaviour when challenged by their opponents (i.e. trying to lump Thomas Mulcair in with the Gun nuts!). Also, like the Leafs, Grits have become so complacent after years of being in power that they began to take their supporters for granted and have not regained their former glory since.

There is one major difference, however: The Leafs are, paradoxically, in spite of years of bumbling, the wealthiest franchise in Canadian sports. Whereas, the LPC are in all kinds of financial difficulty at the moment, especially when compared with the robust war chest amassed by the Tories, without any relief in sight.

The Future is Unwritten