Tory Teachable Moments

Tory MP Brent Rathgeber’s civics lesson for the day:

“Democracy and Parliament are not being sidestepped — they are only being suspended.”  [there’s no more thank gawd]

So don’t worry y’all, democracy is safely on holiday with the HarperCONs and will return when they decide they’re up for it.

Then there’s Tory MP Gary Schellenberger who’s off to the Olympics during the suspension of democracy.  [here]

There’s something to be said for Rathgeber and Schellenberger.  They’re more honest than their fearless leader.

The Facebook movement to stop the Tories in their plot to supercede the will of the people is here.  If you’re on Facebook join us.  If not it’s worth getting an account just to join us!  95,306 members and counting as of 9:41 p.m EST with rallies planned across the country for January 23rd.  I can’t wait to hit the streets, I really can’t.

If it takes a prorogation to get Canadians on the move and paying attention to the our decaying democracy then I’m glad Harper did it.

UPDATE:  Jack Layton and NDP MPs won’t accept any free tickets for the Tory Olympic holiday.  [here]


must clarify—Parliament is being suspended–democracy is much larger and much broader and of course continues everyday in Canada.

Whew!  *wipesweatfrombrow*

How Long Does Change Take?

[This post will be updated with links]

Six months ago I explained the dearth of posts at my blog by posting this from Chris Hedges:

A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. And we are dying now. We will either wake from our state of induced childishness, one where trivia and gossip pass for news and information, one where our goal is not justice but an elusive and unattainable happiness, to confront the stark limitations before us, or we will continue our headlong retreat into fantasy.

I agreed with Chris then and couldn’t agree more after a week of hearing, seeing and trying not to listen very much to stories about Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs and minor car accident.  Six months ago, I couldn’t think what part, even what very small part, I could play waking people up.  So much wrong, so much to do, so many people really wanting “something” different but not knowing what or how to get it anyway, so many victories for darkness, so much fragmentation, so little time, too much space.  I believe many more people want “justice” than are able to figure out how to articulate their desire in the first place; and certainly not how to make it so in the second.

Recently, two US Senators and the American Conference of Bishops prompted some questions and I began to formulate something like a coherent response, if not exactly an answer. 

In 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Roe v. Wade.  In a nutshell, necessarily simple, they decided that a woman may abort a pregnancy for any reason up to the point of fetal viability.  No doubt Roe v. Wade was a victory for women but it was far from a straightforward one, in part due to America’s constitutional system and in part because of the wording of the decision itself.  The definition of “viability” has continued to be a contentious issue for one thing; for another, ensuing state restrictions on abortion, when litigated, made important incursions on the territory staked out in the case.  One thing is clear, however: the decision was never accepted by rightwing, Conservative Christians and the people who represent them.  The onslaught has been continuous, successful enough and often devious – as in the very recent activity of the US Conference of Bishops in negotiation with House representatives trying to get a healthcare reform deal.  Voila Stupak/Pitts.  What women were thought to have won they have had to win (and lose) over and over again since 1973.  Perhaps that victory has never been as threatened as it is right now.  It’s important to see that the threat comes not just from the “wingnut” right but also from among anti-choice Democrats – once touted as the natural allies of feminist objectives.

The history of reproductive rights in Canada is more than a little different.  In 1988, in R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the entire section of the Criminal Code that criminalized abortion and there has been no replacement of that law.  Incursions on women’s reproductive rights have occurred less visibly via hospital boards that refuse to permit abortions at Catholic hospitals or hospitals controlled by other religious denominations; via supply and demand problems respecting the availability of abortions in the healthcare system – some doctors refuse to perform abortions; because some doctors or hospital boards have imposed their own limits on when, in a term of pregnancy,  they will perform abortions; and because of the unaddressed accessibility problems of rural and First nations women.

In some ways, the difficulties that American women experience in trying to access full reproductive rights are more visible.  But in many ways they parallel the problems experienced by Canadian women.  The Stupak/Pitts amendment seemed to come out of nowhere.  There have been several points in the process of trying to achieve healthcare reform when the abortion issue has been raised but it doesn’t seem that anyone expected it to come out of negotiations with Nancy Pelosi, a couple of cultish Christian congressmen and the Conference of Bishops.  But there it is, the congressmen were ready and willing, the bishops pounced and the Democrats caved.  Some of those same Democrats who supported the amendment then went ahead and voted against the reform bill!  And what did the Dems gain by supporting the amendment?  The vote of one Republican (reprobate).  That’s right folk.  One.

We haven’t seen anything quite so dramatic in Canada – a few slippery Conservatives have tried to pass disguised private members bills by us but always unsuccessfully.  The point is though, the rightwing is there, more than ready and more than willing if not quite so able, thus far, to pounce in just the way that Stupak and Pitts, a whole bunch of Reprobates and more than a few Democrats just did.  Witness the comments of Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott just a few weeks ago:

“a growing body of research reveals significant health problems caused by abortion,” including breast cancer, cervical injury, uterine perforations, hemorrhaging and infections.

He said further that pro-life women view abortion as “part of a male agenda to have women more sexually available”.

Following on Mr. Vellacott’s comment, this exchange took place in the House of Commons:

Mme Lise Zarac (LaSalle-Émard, Lib.): Monsieur le Président, le député de Saskatoon-Wanuskewin a récemment émis des commentaires sur l’avortement qui insultent et dénigrent les femmes. Le député fait des affirmations qui sont médicalement inexactes pour hausser son programme idéologique moral.
   La ministre de la Santé dénoncera-t-elle les croyances de son collègue au sujet du droit des femmes de choisir?
Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC)
   Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I note for the member that all members of Parliament in the House are required to have their opinion. It does not mean it is the opinion of the cabinet.
   Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it looks like the muzzles are off. The Conservatives are sounding like Reform Party extremists.
   The member for Saskatoon-Wanuskewin’s comments are completely degrading to women. He claims that abortion causes ‘a greater risk of breast cancer’ and he asserts that ‘abortion is part of a male agenda to have women more sexually available.’ His comments show an odious attitude toward women.
   Will the Minister of Justice stand up for women and denounce these vile comments?

Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I again will note for the member that each member of the House is able to have their own opinion. It does not mean it represents the government.
   What I will highlight is that this government under the leadership of this Prime Minister has made significant investments in Status of Women Canada. We have three pillars of focus: economic security, violence against women and women in leadership roles.
   We also have the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canada’s history and the highest level of funding at Status of Women Canada, the highest level in Canada’s history with an increase in the number of grass root organizations that are now able to receive funding to support the most vulnerable women in Canadian society.

Guergis would not renounce Vellacott’s statement even though they were incorrect and even though they were degrading to women.  Apparently she believes that the presence in this government of a larger number of women will suffice to shut women’s mouths even if those representatives are not advocating for them.  And she is not averse to lying.  This government has stolen funds from Status of Women and has done absolutely nothing to guarantee women’s economic security – remember the governments attempts to make inroads on pay equity in the public service last year?

But we cannot blame all these betrayals on the CONS alone.  Liberal and NDP members have also been willing to turn their backs on the women who elect them.

For instance.  The much discussed private members bill to do away with Canada’s long gun registry.  It’s a classic rightwing hot button issue and in case not many people have noticed, it’s contradictory as hell alongside the usual “law and order” kvelling done by the nuts.  Crazy like foxes they are though.  As someone who’s noticed has pointed out, though the “right to bear arms” is a classic American cris de coeur of the Christian right, it’s been adopted by the Canadian right too.  Why?  It provides a brilliant wedge between rural and urban constituencies and helps to frame other, conservative v. “liberal” debates.  It’s also a divisive issue between men and women – even rural women are overwhelmingly pro-registry.  It’s been estimated that, in tight races, the gun registry is “vote-determinating for about 5% of the voting public”.  It’s not stupid, crazy people who use this issue to their advantage.  But it just might be stupid people who ignore it.

I’ve also watched how the issue divides “progressive” men and women.  If you can achieve this political result simply by introducing a system to register (not “control” mind you, just register) you’ve gained a lot of ground on the cheap.  Similarly, watch progressive Americans, men and women, try to rationalize the passage of Stupak-Pitts.  “We don’t like it but it was a ‘compromise’ we had to make for the greater good”.  Over and over again.  As if you can trade off the rights of one group of people (a mere 52% of the population no less) for the rights and needs of another.  But over and over “progressives” are willing to do it while women scream “betrayal” and bear accusations, not only of hysteria, but even of selfishness.  This must make conservatives just bliss out.

Then there are the more quiet betrayals.  I’m not sure how they end up being quiet but it’s been done by the HarpyCons with the passage of criminal legislation that provide for mandatory minimum sentences for a load of offences, and with the agreement of both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties of Canada no less.  Thanks guys.  Love women of Canada.

Here’s why the mandatory minimums are a women’s issue.  The m.m.s have a disproportionate effect on groups who have experienced historic and current political, social and economic disadvantage.  One of those groups would be women, in this case, particularly First Nations and African American women.  First Nations women are the most rapidly growing group in the prison system.  They are vulnerable to arrest because of police targetting and the poverty,  and social and political injustices that have led to increased drug useage.  First Nations women suffer disproportionate effects once they’re imprisoned.  Often primary caregivers, they’re separated from children for long periods of time and often lose them to foster care forever.  Programmes for women in general receive fewer monetary and staffing resources than those for men.  Women in general are subject to strip searches and body searches in prison that put them at great risk.

African Canadians, also over-represented in our prison population, are similarly at risk for similar reasons.  But women, and particularly African Canadian women, are especially at risk, as pointed out by Professor Elizabeth Sheehy in her recent evidence to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:

Women are often caught up in the prosecution of drug offences through their relationship with male partners, often while having minimal actual involvement in drug transactions.  Acting as drug mules is a crime committed often out of economic desperation.  African Canadian women will be the subgroup of women most dramatically affected by mandatory prison sentences.  They are already over-incarcerated at seven times the rate of white women.  Some commentators and judges have observed a growing presence of African Canadian women accused as drug couriers.  It seems evident that the new mandatory sentences will augment the number of women currently imprisoned, with African Canadian women and their children feeling the worst effects.

Professor Sheehy ended her comments with these words:  “I believe Bill C-15 is an affront to our commitment to equality and non-discrimination.”

An affront?  Yes, I agree.  But it’s an affront that very few people know about and that therefore even fewer are concerned about and that the opposition parties of Canada have chosen to ignore so absolutely that Bill-C15 has been passed through the House and now awaits only Senate approval.  There are all sorts of reasons that women’s groups haven’t picked up on this issue in an effective way but I’m not going to blame the women.  I’m looking at the people who women, feminists especially, voted for to represent their interests.  I’m looking at Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton, the Liberal and New Democratic Parties of Canada who have seen fit to add their votes to the Conservative votes needed to pass this legislation.

The legislation effects vulnerable groups most but those vulnerable groups are less able to shake the sturdy trunks of the political trees/parties that represent them.  The always waiting, not stupid rightwing is there to pounce.  The mandatory minimum sentencing issue fits squarely with the conservative “law and order” agenda which would be an absolutely irrational policy if it were actually meant to affect law and order.  But it isn’t.  Surely the rightwing is not quite so stupid as to believe that longer prison sentences for drug users and dealers does anything at all to prevent crime – there’s just too much empirical evidence showing that it doesn’t.  No, once again this is a divisive issue being used to achieve political ends, not the least of which is the building of a prison industrial complex to rival that of the United States of America.  It might not “work” but it sure does make a lot of money, create lots of jobs and make constituents in ridings that host prisons pretty happy.

The “liberal” parties supposedly elected at least in part to represent the interests of women and minorities are quite willing to sell out these constituencies out because it just doesn’t do them much harm.  So far.

I, for one, want to make it hurt.  I want to keep sorting out the links between these rightwing policies and liberal betrayals and putting them out there.  I want to defeat the HarpyCons but I also want to make it dead clear that, as a woman, I can’t find a blessed party that truly represents me and my sisters and others for whom I care.  I reject a “headlong retreat into fantasy”.  I’ll not sit around waiting for this culture to die.  That might all sound a little melodramatic but there it is and it suits me just fine.

On this day, December 6th, 2009, when I want to reflect and grieve the women’s lives lost in Montreal in 1989 and all the women of this country who died before or since as a result of intimate partner violence and public violence against women – all those whose names we don’t know – I’ve actually had to time defending my right to define, with my sisters, the meaning of the event and the meaning of those lives and deaths.  When women are murdered because they are women, we still have to fight to say so.  We are so far away, still, twenty years later, from doing those things that must be done to begin the end of male violence against women that we still struggle for the definition itself.

I wish no person physical harm.  But I do want to make that hurt by defeating this government and any other government that thinks it can lead a country while ignoring the needs of half its population.

Pay Equity

Who will fight to uphold women’s right to pay equity?  Certainly not Stephen Harper and his (neo)Cons.  Not Michael Ignatieff either.  We can count on the NDP but on their own, they can only hope to get this bill separated from the budget bill so that there’s some chance of it being voted down now that Iggy has decided to sell women out and support the government on the budget.  Women fought hard for this most basic of rights, equal pay for work of equal value.  Why on earth should they be put in the position of having to bargain for pay equity with their government employer over and over again?  How long do you think it will be before the private sector insists on the same “privilege”?

This from Linda Diebel’s blog, the Political Decoder:

The unravelling of rights is exactly what’s happening with the Conservatives’ new “Equitable Compensation Act.” There’s an Orwellian title for you – like the Patriot Act. The change the Conservatives slipped into the recent budget – after failing last year – has nothing to do with equitable pay. In fact, it’s the opposite. It removes any chance women in the federal civil service have of fighting for pay equity by denying them the right to complain to the Human Rights Commission, or to go to court, when they believe there is discrimination. Instead, pay equity issues are to be solved as part of the regular bargaining process but – get this! – if anyone agitates on the basis of pay equity, they face a $50,000 fine. So the Conservative regime is forbidding a woman from fighting for herself and, simultaneously, penalizing her union from fighting for her.

Once this legislation is passed, a woman working in the federal public service will have fewer rights than women working elsewhere in Canada.

“We fought this battle so hard 30 years ago,”  [NDP MP Judy] Wasylycia-Leis said in an interview … “and I never thought we’d lose what we won. It’s shocking. They are taking it away in one fell swoop with the stroke of a pen . . . It hurts.”

There is still a way to stop it, she says. The act is part of the budget legislation and Wasylycia-Leis and her NDP colleagues are trying to divide it off into a separate bill that would then face its own vote in the House that, hopefully, wouldn’t be a non-confidence motion. If the Liberals and (one would think) the Bloc unites with the NDP, it could be defeated. The act should be in committee the week of February 23 and the House not long after.

Wasylycia-Leis says she’s embarrassed men in other parties haven’t fought harder for such a basic right for women. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, she argues, could have refused to support a budget that contains this new pay equity regime, instead of demanding only  progress reports.   “Maybe,” she said, “they’re not aware what this does to women.”  [emphasis added]

Oh they’re aware Judy.  But I know you know that.  I would prefer it a great deal if this bill was called what it is – the Inequitable Compensation Act.  At least that would be honest.  But then, we’re talking about politicians.

I’m supposed to be too old to be shocked.  I’m shocked.

Remembering Rosemary Brown

This is the first of my contributions to Black History Month.  I loved Rosemary Brown from the moment she hit the national scene in Canada.  I miss her voice so much and perhaps particularly now, when women’s rights are being sold out to an ailing economy by cynical politicians and economic inequality stemming from racism and sexism has created a great divide.



Rosemary Brown was elected to the provincial legislature of British Columbia in 1972, becoming the first black woman in Canadian history to be a member of a Canadian parliamentary body. A busy mother of three as well as an active member of the New Democratic Party, she ran for leadership of the federal NDP in 1975 but lost on a fourth ballot to Ed Broadbent. Rosemary served in the B.C. legislature until 1986, when she became a professor in women’s studies at Simon Fraser University.

Born in Jamaica, Rosemary grew up on the tropical island. After emigrating to Canada in 1951 she studied at McGill University and the University of British Columbia, then pursued a career in social worker. A determined feminist, Ms. Brown worked throughout her life to promote equality and human rights. Her campaigns includes efforts to eliminate sexism in textbooks, increase female representation on boards and prohibit discrimination based on sex or marital status. Rosemary’s dedicated community service won her a multitude of honours, including honorary degreees from many universities and selection as an officer of the Order of Canada.

On the day of Brown’s death, the National Film Board of Canada completed work on a documentary/memoir of Brown and her “co-grandmother, Ruth Horricks-Sujir.  You can read a bit about it and view a clip here.  I’ve seen it several times – it’s wonderful.

There’s more about Rosemary Brown at the African American Registry and a great collection of remembrances by Penny Kome at


From James Laxer:

In this life, there are times when you have to make fundamental choices. You go one way or you go the other. The Liberal Party had such a choice to make: between the formation of a progressive coalition government with the NDP, or propping up the Harper government. The first choice would have allowed for the presentation of a budget to parliament that really would have offered hope to Canadians in a dark time.


In the face of this, Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals have made the second choice. They have decided to prop up the Harper government. If I had to speculate about the reason for this, I’d conclude that they are more comfortable with the Conservatives and the business community than they are with social democrats, trade unionists and wage and salary earners.

So be it. This is not a personal matter. Although the media is trying to make it seem that social democrats are miffed because they have been jilted by Ignatieff who is now dating the Prime Minister, it’s really about whose basic interests a party chooses to serve. The Liberals have made things very clear. That’s sad, not for Jack Layton and the NDP, but for Canadians who deserved better.

Read the whole thing here

And make sure you read Broadsides

Dion Redux

So Michael Ignatieff and his “new” Liberals are going to make the Cons submit to giving a report card on their economic plans.  Given the problems that Iggy has with the budget, this simply isn’t sufficient.  Here’s part of Iggy’s response:

The budget introduced yesterday is far from perfect. It does not fix the employment insurance system for thousands of workers who have lost their jobs in the past several weeks. It still threatens pay equity for women. It breaks their promise to every province from only two years ago on equalization.

The Cons can’t report on what they’re not even going to try to do.  But heck, who cares about workers with insufficent employment insurance?  Who cares about equalization payments – they only provide for social services – we don’t need good social services anyway, right?  And for sure, who cares about women doing the same work as men for less pay?  Not the Cons.  Clearly not the Liberals either.

For some reason, the Harper budget lets Iggy wiggle away, just as Dion wiggled away from taking responsibility for the last four years.  More Iggy:

To say that action is long overdue is an understatement. Canadians deserve action.

We deserve action so what we get is a “report card” that will tell us what the Cons aren’t doing; that will tell us how badly they’re doing what they are doing; and that will tell us that they’re not doing enough.  Is that all the “action” we deserve?

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe swiftly condemned the budget as a failed “ideological” document that does not address the needs of the jobless and the most vulnerable, or move Canada toward a greener economy.

Their parties intend to vote to defeat the government on the budget, and Layton publicly pressured Ignatieff to do the same.

Layton said the budget fails on the very tests – helping the most vulnerable, protecting the jobs of today and creating jobs for tomorrow – that Ignatieff had set out.

“He has a choice to make,” Layton told reporters.

“It’s either to prop up the Harper government and allow it to continue in a fashion that is clearly wrong-headed, or to pursue the agenda laid out by the coalition, which would create jobs for the future and would transform our economy and would really protect the people who are suffering the most from the economic crisis.”

Well, Ignatieff has made his choice – a coalition with the Conservatives.  Dion all over again.

More on the big problems with this budget:

The federal budget contained more than $3 billion in spending to address the environment, but it fell short of markers set by those who had called on the Conservatives to deliver a “green” economic stimulus plan.


critics say the federal government’s plans fall far short of national public transit and other infrastructure needs while spending too much taxpayers’ money in Alberta’s oil sands and not enough on renewable energy.

Neither have the Cons paid sufficient attention to the crises in Canada’s cities.  Toronto for instance:

Mayor David Miller badly wanted to embrace the federal budget that tossed billions of dollars before municipal governments. Here was an opportunity to play nice with the Stephen Harper government for once. But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had to spoil it all by wrapping the gift in familiar, stultifying red tape that left Miller crestfallen.

“We are looking for a partner that will invest in our priorities, not their own,” Miller said barely an hour after the budget was tabled.

It may seem like nitpicking from someone who doesn’t share Harper’s politics. It’s not.

Experience has taught us that the Building Canada Fund that is to deliver the budget infrastructure goodies is cumbersome, inflexible and too slow afoot. For example:

Through some miracle, Toronto, the province and York Region agreed in March 2006 to extend the Spadina subway line from its terminus at Downsview to Highway 7. All that remained was funding approval from the federal government.

The Harper government put money aside for the project in the Building Canada Fund, and it sat there, and sat there. It took more than two years before the federal government approved the spending last September. The first construction dollars will be spent in 2009.

Understandably, mayors get testy when they find out the new $4 billion infrastructure fund that is supposed to get projects going immediately is tied up in the same Building Canada Fund that is excruciatingly bound in red tape.

“I hope we can get the federal government to change their minds on this,” Miller said yesterday. “Placing rigid requirements on funds like this does not work. The dollars need to be invested, not written down on paper. This is full of red tape.”

Well the Cons aren’t going to change their plans if somebody doesn’t make them.  Iggy is not that person.

Thomas Walkom at The Star:

It almost certainly won’t stop Canada’s economy from going into recession (technically defined as six months of economic shrinkage). Even finance department officials acknowledge that.

And while it will slow the steady rise in this country’s jobless rate, it won’t reverse it.

Mike McCracken, of the economic forecasting firm Informetrica, calculates that even after some $35 billion in fiscal stimulus over the next two years, (and yes, the proper figure is $35 billion not $52 billion as the government insists) the national unemployment rate will continue to creep up.

Indeed, the most important element of the budget will probably receive the least attention. That’s a two-page section – first laid out in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s aborted November economic update – that gives the government carte blanche to bail out any financial institution facing difficulty.

Unlike a similar $700 billion U.S. scheme, there is no upper dollar limit to the Canadian plan.

As for the rest of the budget, it’s a mish-mash of proposals – some sensible, some less so – calculated to appeal to key constituencies and to demonstrate that the Conservative government cares.

That’s what it’s all about – convincing people that you care while you’re busy not caring.  Ignatieff is going to sign on to this budget and he’ll have to bear the consequences for that.  It’s now his budget as much as it’s Harper’s.  I guess that is to be expected.  Chantal Hébert at The Star:

Ignatieff has no cause to reject Jim Flaherty’s latest budget on ideological grounds. On that score and in contrast with last fall’s fiscal update, the Conservative economic blueprint is almost painfully spineless.

If its authors are guilty of anything this time around, it is political plagiarism of the most craven kind.

In their quest for parliamentary survival, the Conservatives have cut and pasted a lot of old-style Liberal spending initiatives and spread them pretty much across the board.

It is hard to think of a constituency, friendly or hostile to the Conservatives, that will not get a piece of the multibillion-dollar stimulus package the government has cobbled together.


The odds that the budget will help the Conservatives buy their way out of a tight parliamentary corner are higher than the odds that it will allow Canada to spend its way out of a recession. In almost every instance, the government has gone for the quickest and most-likely-to-be-popular fix.
Take tax relief, the hill on which the Conservatives ultimately planted their tattered flag yesterday.
About 10 per cent of the total stimulus package is devoted to the kind of permanent, broad-based tax relief the Liberals had warned against in the days leading up to the budget. But the bulk of it is targeted to middle- and low-income Canadians, and the Conservatives are betting that Ignatieff will not risk defeating the government over a tax cut.

Canada needs courageous leadership during this economic/social/environmental crisis we are living through.  Clearly, we’re not going to get it.  Canadian voters are as responsible for this as our leaders.  We won’t get what we don’t demand.

I’m giving the last word on the budget, Ignatieff’s response and Jack Layton’s position to James Laxer:

Michael Ignatieff began his press conference in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa today by saying that the Harper government’s budget was deeply flawed. For a moment, I thought he was about to do something interesting, to propose serious and substantive amendments to the budget. But then he dropped the clunker. The Liberals, he said, will propose an amendment requiring the government to provide periodic updates on how the budget is working.
There you have it. Michael Ignatieff went away last night, laboured, and brought forth a mouse.
Explaining himself in answer to questions from the media, the Liberal leader was embarrassingly sophomoric. The Liberal-NDP coalition had been useful, he said, because it had forced the government to put many useful measures in the budget. On the other hand, he said the budget remained a “Conservative” budget that likely would not work. Nonetheless, he said he intended to vote for it. Provided, of course, that his “Mickey Mouse” amendment is acceptable to Stephen Harper. By turns, Ignatieff sounded like Demosthenes, thundering down condemnation on a government that has repeatedly failed Canadians, and then like an apple-polishing pupil asking for a report card from the head master. Rule number one in politics: you can’t have it every which way. If you vote for the Conservative budget, it becomes your budget Mr. Ignatieff, no matter what font the government uses to print its reports for you.

In answer to questions that suggested that perhaps he had thrown the game away, Ignatieff could have replied in the manner of Hamlet: “Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe.”

Having decided “not to be” as a serious opponent of the Harper government, Michael Ignatieff could consider a career on the stage.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton has become the real leader of the opposition. He showed courage when he reached out to the Liberals to form a progressive coalition that could provide Canadians with the leadership they need to cope with the economic crisis. He tried the option of working with the Liberals. Michael Ignatieff has walked away from that option. Layton has retained his integrity and his clear understanding of what the country needs. Progressives now have one party and one party only available to them: the NDP.


UPDATE:  From the YWCA via Antonia Zerbisias via mattt

 “The government has set up some very inclusive spending with this budget for First Nations, seniors and people with disabilities, but we don’t see an awareness that Canadian women are very vulnerable in hard times,” says YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior. “Two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage are women, many taking any work they can find to hold family and community together.  Government stimulus spending must take this into account.”

More from the YWCA at Broadsides here

And, I’m watching The National – Keith Boag just called Jack Layton “too bitter” to compromise with Ignatieff and said he’d been “jilted”.  So now Jack is the scorned woman.  What if Jack is simply the only one who has any scruples in Ottawa?  Ignatieff is so smug he makes me barf.

On December 6th

NDP MP Megan Ellis’s statement at the December 6th Not-So-Silent Vigil in Halifax [EDITOR’S NOTE: Megan Leslie, not Megan Ellis – with apologies. I also apologize for the formatting. It got messed up when I changed templates and I can’t seem to fix it.]

Hello. Thank you for asking me to be here today.

I have been attending December 6th events my entire adult life. It never feels any less somber. Less affecting. Less urgent. Nineteen years later, and where are we?

I was 16 when the Montreal Massacre happened. The victims seemed like adults, I remember thinking that. Women in their early 20s, studying engineering. It was all pretty far away from my teenage reality a small mining town. But when I look at this list now, and read these 14 names and ages, it strikes me. They were so young. They seemed like adults, and yet, I’m several years older now than the oldest victim was then.

I’ve noticed over the years that we are very careful with ourselves when we discuss this shooting. We do not to say the name of the killer, just as I am not going to today. We also only talk about the fatalities. Not of the hit-list the shooter had prepared, containing the names of several prominent feminists, many of whom are our friends. We hold the events at arm’s length, and we squint. In looking for answers, we ask ourselves: “why?”. Because we can take comfort in that answer to “why?” It contains phrases that allow us some distance: “Lone gunman.” “Isolated incident.” “Psychotic break.”

Oh, we let ourselves think. That’s why. All of those reasons are separate from me. Unique. I am not culpable. I am not in danger.

But the question we don’t let ourselves ask is what. What is it about our culture that made the shooter blame “feminists” for all his troubles? What is it going to take to change things? What can *I* do?

The answer to these questions is unsettling, because it makes us face uncomfortable facts: We live in a culture of casual misogyny. We live in a culture that pays attention to women most often when it wants to berate us, blame us, or compare us to each other. And we don’t do enough to fight it. Like when hundreds of Aboriginal women go missing. When the word “equality” is taken out of the Status of Women mandate. Like when on my first day in Ottawa as a new MP, another MP said something so sexist and so degrading to me that my first thought was “what am I wearing? Did I ask for this?” When victims of violence are referred to in the media as “hookers” and “junkies” rather than “women” or even “people”.

As a woman, we’re subject to these warning shots all the time. Be pretty. Be good. Be careful. When we talk about December 6th, we place it as an extreme end of a spectrum that begins with domestic violence. I am acutely aware that domestic violence touches many more lives than we are likely to ever know . It is a pandemic problem that provincial and federal governments have done little to address.

But I do not feel that the events of December 6th were an exaggerated version of domestic violence. I believe they were an extreme form of the gender terrorism that happens so much all around us that we hardly even recognize it for what it is anymore. In the wake of these shootings, big plans were made. We promised ourselves an end to violence against women. And here we are today, for the nineteenth time, saying “Never again”, and trying to believe it.

We need to do better than this. We need to call out sexist behavior, even if it causes social friction to do so. We need to support women who are working to create and reflect a culture of non-violence and possibility. We need to tell the media that they won’t talk us into hating ourselves and each other. We need to remind our government that women count. We need to look after each other, and ourselves.

The handbill for this event asks us to make a commitment to act against violence against women. I commit to naming sexism and gender terrorism. And I commit to going easy on myself when I don’t have the strength to stand up against it. And I commit to seeking support from others to make sure I have the strength to name it the next time.

On December 6th, 1989, fourteen women were shot because someone thought that they’d stepped out of line. On that day, all of their power and potential was taken from them. On this day, and on all days, we owe it to them to not waste ours.

From an e-mail sent by Martin Dufresne to the Par-L list.

Ant-Depression Policy

From Duncan Campbell on “Making coalition government work“:

The NDP was founded as the CCF in 1932. With the depression as a back drop, people’s movements came together in Calgary and agreed to plan a better world. The party today needs to agree to take seats in cabinet, and form a joint caucus with the Liberals for a two-year period. All must pledge to make the new government work because, if it fails, both parties will bear the blame. A Conservative party, likely under a new leader, would be the beneficiary.

The NDP needs to show it can govern nationally. The Liberals need an anti-depression policy. Canadians needs the two to make whatever concessions are necessary in order to make a coalition government work.

Read the whole article here

The Libs Re-Brand

From MediaScout:

The Liberals are pushing their star players onto the election game field this week, hoping that with a little back-up, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion will be able to better woo voters and quiet the growing tide of discontent from within the Liberal party’s own ranks. In Halifax yesterday to announce plans for a new pharmacare system, Dion was flanked by Bob Rae, who loudly endorsed his party leader and took several comical shots at Stephen Harper. Many of the Big Seven today point out that the Liberals are stacking their offensive line with Liberal heavyweights Michael Ignatieff, Scott Brison and Bob Rae in the hopes that shifting the focus onto the Liberal Party brand rather than on their flailing leader will kick start their campaign. It is believed that this will also help to quell dissent among Liberal insiders who have been criticizing their party leader’s poor performance and handling of the campaign. Feeling emboldened by Rae, who acted as a feisty warm-up act to Dion, the Liberal leader yesterday spoke directly to the current economic problems ailing the country, and even joked about his awkward handling of the English language admitting that “Mr. Harper, he speaks better English than me. OK. But I say the truth better than him in English and French.”

Not surprisingly, it is the Star and the Globe that devote the most space in today’s paper to the campaign tactics of the Liberal party. The Star’s Chantal Hébert urges the Liberals to focus on the economy, and says they shouldn’t be pulling Bob Rae out of the closet, as his track record as premier of Ontario won’t help on the economic front. An editorial in the Globe points out that having Bob Rae as the warm-up to Dion before he spoke in Halifax yesterday had the negative side effect of underscoring “Dion’s lack of charisma and his comparative weakness as a public speaker.” The media’s political pundits have been criticizing the Liberal party at every turn in this election, tearing apart their Green Shift plan and the party’s uncharismatic leader. That has had the effect of making it difficult for usually centrist media outlets, like La Presse and the Globe, to stand behind their usual man. But as Rick Mercer jokingly pointed out on The National yesterday evening, it would take a lot to completely tarnish the Liberal party’s brand name — as he says, “The Liberal party is one of the most successful brands in the Western world. They’re like the political equivalent of Coca-Cola.”

Quite apart from the fact that it makes Dion look bad to have Bob Rae come out to try to save his ass – and because I couldn’t care less if Dion’s ass gets saved – it really does burn my ass to hear Bob Rae rip into jack Layton for helping to elect Stephen Harper last time ’round.  Bob Rae.  Ripping into the NDP.  His former party.  BLECH!

NDP Surge?

From the Angus Reid Global Monitor:

Many adults in Canada would be satisfied with the New Democratic Party (NDP) becoming the largest opposition party in the country, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 62 per cent of respondents think the NDP would do a good job as the official opposition in Ottawa.

Conversely, 51 per cent of respondents think the NDP would not do a good job as the next federal government.

The polling data:

Polling Data

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  Agree Disagree Not sure
The NDP would do a good job as the official opposition in Ottawa 62% 29% 10%
The NDP would do a good job as the next federal government 38% 51% 11%

Source: Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,007 Canadian adults, conducted on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9, 2008. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Complete poll (download pdf)

It surprises me little that the Liberals aren’t looking strong.  Stéphane Dion has been compromising Liberal politics for years now, giving in to Harper policy and legislation in order to avoid going to the polls.  As has been mentioned on this blog before, Dion’s inability to forge a respectable opposition to the Conservative government has not led to confidence in his own leadership abilities or in the party itself.  Can he change that in a month’s time?  Who knows, but my prediction is, no he can’t.

It’s very early days yet, but when larger numbers of people head over to the NDP, even seeing them as providing a more effective opposition rather than a government, it has to be a terrible sign for Stephen Harper – a sign of a profound lack of confidence in his abilities.  And if that keeps up, I’ll be a happy political camper.  Layton’s NDP by no means embodies my political aspirations, but it comes a helluva lot closer than anything else.

At Accidental Deliberations, you’ll find a post covering the possibility that the NDP may pick up more seats than its hoping for in la belle province.

I’m also one of those who is pleased that Layton is running for Prime Minister, rather than as Leader of the Opposition.  Go for gold!  I think his confidence inspires confidence in the voters and allows Layton to engage with the issues against the man he really wants to get.  The decision to run against the Liberals in the last campaign drove me nuts.