Monday, May 30, 2005

A Scandal that pales Gomery Goes all but Forgotten

Pardon my outrage here, but I get upset that a human life is apparently worth about $1. A court in Hamilton accepted a plea agreement that will have the Canadian Red Cross pay $5000 fine in exchange for pleading guilty to the charge of "distributing and adulterated drug."

What drug you may ask? Contaminated blood and blood products. The Canadian Red Cross will pay a mere $5000 for its role in infecting at least 2000 Canadians with HIV and 10,000 with Hepatitis C. At least 3000 people have died (as of 1997, when the stopped counting). More thousands and their families have been devastated by this.

Yet it took 8 years for ALL victims to receive compensation, even though that is what Justice Krever reccommended in 1997. And the Red Cross will pay $5000.

For killing more than 3000 people and condemning another 9000.

That's 3000 more than were killed by the Spnsorship scandal.

That's about the same number as were killed September 11, 2001.

Think about that next time you get worked up about the "corrupt" Liberals and how devastating the Spnsorship scandal is for Canada. Think about that when you wish to argue how "immoral" Same Sex Marriage is.

Get some perspective.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A brief history of Marriage.

After reading some of the posts in my Same Sex Mariage post below, as well as some of the sites of those who made comments, I feel it is nescessary to to make some clarifications and present a little history lesson so both sides of the issue can know where the other may be coming from. So, in the best tradition of Edward T. Bear, I present:

A Brief History of Marriage

Despite what some of our more adamant posters would like to believe, marriage is not solely a religious institution, but civil institution - "...a system of rules to handle the granting of property rights...". As a civil institution, it has existed since ancient Roman and Greek times. Most marriages in the world were, until very recently, Arranged Marriages, for this purpose - business arrangements that were economic liasons for growing family wealth, rather than love or even procreation. While the "holiness" of marriage was recognized in Christianity early on (in Eph. 23-32, for instance), the actual marriage as a ceremony and a sacrament within the church did not take place until the 12th century:

"For much of the first Christian millennium, the imperial state regulated marriage (and thorny questions such as divorce), while the church was content to recognize and sometimes celebrate the holiness of marriage, if not sexual intercourse."

Further during the first 1200 years of Christianity :

"Christians married according to the civil laws of the time, in a family ceremony, and often without any special church blessing. Christians married according to the civil laws of the time, in a family ceremony, and often without any church blessing." [Emphasis mine]

It was not until 1563 that witnesses to weddings, including an officiating priest, were required by the Church.

During this time civil marriage and religious marriage often did not coincide. The early Christian Church was more interested in celibacy as a sacrament, and often simply recognized pre-existing civil laws. For instance, same sex marriage was recognized in ancient Rome and this extended into the Christian period (see Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality by John Boswell, University of Chicago Press, 1980). There is even evidence for Church-sanctioned same sex unions in ancient times, including a liturgy (see Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Villard Press, 1994). Ironically, it was an idea from Christianity that helped bring about one modern aspect of marriage that all sides agree on - consent. In 866, Pope Nicholas 1 decreed "If the consent be lacking in a marriage, all other celebrations, even should the union be consummated, are rendered void", thus bringing into marriage the idea that consent of both parties was required or the marriage was not legal. This helped bring about the end of marriage by kidnapping, rape or capture, which was, sadly, common in ancient times. Although arranged marriages continued for centuries, there was at least some input by the parties involved

Religious marriage is not a constant and is a varied as the religions themselves. In the West, the Christian and Jewish idea of monogamy for life is prevalant(with exceptions like in Bountiful BC). There are religous ceremonies for marriage. In the East, marriage ceremonises are a local custom rather than a religious institution. Buddhism, for instance, has no marriage ceremony. Islam and cultures in parts of Africa and Central Asia allow for polygamy, where marriage can have ceremony or not.

There are as many traditions about marriage as there are cultures and religions on the earth. Even those traditions are of fairly recent creations. Marriage itself has changed and evolved almost constantly throughout the ages.

Civil marriage - marriage recognized by the state for social reasons of property and family - has undergone some fairly significant changes, in recent times. It was not until 1948, in Perez v Lippold, that the California Supreme Court became the first court in the US to declare the ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional. Before that 40 US states, and most of Canada, banned the practice. Judges often used words like these to uphold the ban:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
Sounds familiar, no? Yet today most of us today would not consider interracial marriage wrong or immoral. And when the ban was lifted, despite an overwhelnming number of the public agreeing with the ban, nothing happened. Society continued as normal. A full ban on these kinds of laws did not take place until the Supreme Court of the US ruled in 1967.

In 1965, the US Supreme Court ruled that the ability or desire to procreate was not a pre-requisite for marriage under the law.

This little history shows how wide and varied the idea of marriage can be, as well as how it has changed in both ancient and modern times. A definition that I like is from my first link above:

"Many people hold the view that regardless of how people enter into matrimony, marriage is a bond between two people that involves responsibility and legalities, as well as commitment and challenge. That concept of marriage hasn't changed through the ages."
From this, I would like to point out that the current legislation before parliament is in regard to civil marriage, not religious marriage (hence the name - The Civil Marriage Act). If has specific provisions that state that marriages can be refused on religous grounds. It lays out how the state recognizes marriage, not any religious institution. For instance, the current marriage laws allow for divorced people to re-marry, yet the Roman Catholic Church does not. Some religions do not recognize marriages with other faiths. Some faiths recognize polygamy, while the civil marriage act does not. None of this will change with the passage of the new act. If your religion does not recognize or wish to perform same-sex marriages, it will not be forced to do so. Currently, religous ceremonies are recognized as civil marriages only out of convenience - provincial laws recognize religious ministers as equivilent to Justices of the Peace or Judges for this purpose. This is so couples don't have to go through two ceremonies - one civil, one religious - if they marry in a church, as is the case in some jusridictions. That is why your minister requires a marriage licence (a civil marriage document) and has you and witnesses sign both the church registry AND provincial documents (for name changes etc). I signed these documents at the alter during my wedding. But it is still possible to have a religious ceremony only or a civil ceremony only.

And as evidence of this, Ontario has had legal, same sex marriage for over two years (due to the ruling in the Supreme Court of Ontario), and no religious institution has been forced to marry a gay couple. As a matter of fact, nothing has happened in the last two years to affect my marriage or anyone elses.

I hope this will quell the fears of those who are worried about gay marriage and those who disagree on semantic grounds. Perhaps it can also show why many straight people also do not find Same Sex Marriage a threat in any way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Question for Conservatives and their supporters

Well, since I got such high quality responses to my first question, I thought I'd ask another.

When parliament resumes next week, one of the big issues they will have to tackle, apart from the budget in committee, will be the Civil Marriage Act, more commonly known as Same Sex Marriage. I have asked this of my MP, Pierre Poilievre of the Conservative Party of Canada, and have not received an answer. At all. All he says is that his "polling" tells him he should vote against it.

So I'm going to throw it wide open, in an effort to stimulate real, honest debate on the issues. Conservatives and their supporters please tell me:

What is wrong with same sex marriage?

What harm, if any, will come from allowing same sex couples to marry in Canada?

Please explain this to me and provide reasonable evidence to back up your claims. In all honesty, I have never heard a reason as to why from the anti-gay marriage, other than quotes from the Bible and some vague mumbling about "family" and "traditional" and "morality". If gay marriage is a real threat to Canadian families, please present the evidence for this. I will be happy to ban gay marriage if you can prove that it is indeed harmful in some way.

And in order to nip the "you're gay" arguments in the bud, I'm a straight, married father of two. And I can't for the life of me figure out how letting two men or two women get married will do anything negative to my marriage or to the lives of my children. I can only see positives coming from it.

But please, convince me if you can.


I would be remiss if I didn't point everyone to an exceptional article that politicagrll has over at her blog. Its an well thought out article and a very good, scientific arguement in favour of Same Sex Marriage.

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Question for Conservatives and their supporters

Now that it's passed second reading and has gone to committee, I would like to ask, seriously, Conservatives and their supporters to tell me what is wrong with the "NDP Budget?"

Does it plunge us into deficit? No.

Does it raise taxes? No.

Does it help a large number of Canadians? Yes.

The $4.6 billion is being spent on things that ordinary Canadians want - the environment, affordable housing, a reduction in post-secondary education costs, protection of wages in the event of a company bankruptcy and foreign aid to help the poor around the world - rather than giving it to large corporations in the form of tax breaks. The same corporations that haven't done anything productive with the tax cuts they've received over the last 10 years, yet still made record profits.

This budget is still balanced, the debt is still being paid down.

So I ask, what is the problem?


Well, aparrently we are positively economic geniusess compared to the paragon of Neo-Conservative ideology just to the south of us.

"Bank of Canada governor David Dodge offered a bankerly rebuke to the United States on Monday for its borrow-and-spendthrift ways, which he suggested are a threat to world economic stability"

Now are you sure we want to be like them?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Well, THAT was interesting.

153 to 152. Probably the closest score in Canadian history.

And now that this thing is over, lets all move on, shall we?

I was serious below when I said that there are some non-partisan issues that all MP's can work on. Stephen Harper seemed gracious and I hope this election stuff can be put behind us until after Gomery reports. Lets move on and pass the new Civil Marriage Act, update the military and finaly getting a foriegn policy that doesn't require a phone call to Washington to check if its okay first. Lets get the budget passed and get childcare deals out to more provinces.

In other words, lets put the last few months behind us and actually get something done in parliament.

I know there are memebers of the CPC that feel the same way.

Besides, I'd much rather go after this guy for a few days, since I grew up near Ipperwash and Kettle Point and I know lots of guys on the reserve there. And I think they and the George family deserve a little justice.

Tick, Tick, Tick...

Like a Hitchcock movie, the hours of Thursday, May 19, 2005 tick away. The suspense is building. Do they have enough? Will someone get "sick" again?

What with false alarms about appedicitis, bribery and\or entrapment (depending on your, ah, viewpoint), which independent is leaning which way and "What are those Newfies thinking about right now?", I fully expect a hostage taking to occur before 3:00 pm EDT.

You know, like someone who has the connections to get Belinda Stronach's phone number actually getting to Belinda and keeping her in a pit in the basement of the Barrhaven home of an unnamed Conservative MP until 7:30ish, where she will be released into the streets of Gatineau in a drug-induced haze.

Or perhaps a Conservative MP will be baited into a meeting about "an offer" at a West End restaurant. He will be seen at 5:00pm in the back seat of a black Lincoln, talking to someone as the car leaves the restaurant parking lot. He will not be seen again (well, until 2010, when rumours that he is, in fact, buried under the South Side Stands at Frank Clair Stadium will surface in an RCMP wiretap).

None of this will surprise me.

What a day. Who says Canadian politics are boring?

Tick, Tick, Tick....

Update 16:05:

No hostage taking yet. But working 4 blocks from the Hill, the rumours are swirling fast.

#1. Stephen Harper, in a surprise move, will cross the floor himself and join the Liberal Party. Apparently he has decided that this is the best way to become Prime Minister - rise up from within and wait for Paul to "retire" or perhaps have an unfortunate accident. "Besides, " said Harper to reporters, "being a Liberal is where the money is at."

Jay Hill, the Conservative House Leader, was reached for comment but could not be understood over the sobs and crying. He and most of the Conservative caucus are heavily sedated and were last seen entering "The Bare Fax" in Ottawa's Byword Marktet.

#2. A small alien ship has landed on the lawn of Parliamnet Hill. A large metallic robot exited and is now silently standing guard over the ship. Most ominously, a large blue "C" is emblazoned on the side.

The weather today is calling for a plague of frogs followed by light showers of locust near supper.

#3. The Lord God decended to Ottawa and was seen walking around Sparks street talking to Jack Layton. A large number of Liberal and Conservative MPs are reporting strange illnesses and are leaving the Canadian capital in droves.

A spokesman for God has stated that, with Jack's help, this whole sad affair will be ended soon.

Those are the hot ones. If you have any more, feel free to post them. It's been awfully quiet in the blogsphere today, as if everyone is holding their breathe. I'm bored of that. Let's have some fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Creating an Issue that isn't there, 101

Upon arriving home and cheking my mail tonight, I found a mailing from my MP, Conservative neophyte Pierre Poilievre. There, splashed across the entire back page, was this quote:

"The Government is pursuing a national daycare bureaucracy which will impose higher taxes on working families to pay for it and will take choices away from women and families. How is that fair? Working families from Barrhaven in my riding are discriminated against because they make the sacrifice to keep one parent in the home."

- Pierre Poilievre March 22, 2005 in the House of Commons

Powerful stuff. Of course, being a married father of two and sole bread-winner in my family for the last 5 years, I was intrigued. And since I am a member of the NDP and stand for fair taxation, I wanted to investigate further. There are some issues that are non-partisan and I am willing to support a Conservative when they have a good idea.

Unfortunately, that Conservative won't be Pierre Poilievre.

First is that bit about imposing "higher taxes on working families to pay for it" above. This is absolutely not true. The money for the National Childcare program comes from our $9 billion dollar surplus. No new taxes to get money from a surplus - we've already paid and the government already has the money. As a matter of fact, Poilievre himself seems to acknowledge that fact when, later in the same mailing, he says this:

"Conservatives will give child care dollars directly to parents. Conservative will take the dollars that the Liberals have set aside for a government daycare bureaocracy and give it directly to all parents regardless of income"

-Pierre Poilievre's riding mailer, May 18th 2005, page 2 [emphasis mine]
Wait a minute, I thought they were going to raise taxes to pay for it? Now the money is "set aside?" Well there is the first problem.

Second is his assertion that families that choose to have one parent stay at home are being "penalized". Since that describes me, I did a little digging and found that this is what he means:

"If they believe in equality, why is it that the family that lives in one house and earns $50,000 a year with a single income while keeping one parent in the home pays a much higher rate of taxation than the family next door with two different incomes of $25,000? They have the same family income, yet one is penalized."

- Pierre Poilievre, Member Statement, April 19th 2005

Wow, that does seem unfair. Lets check this out. According to Ernst and Young, a person making $50 K in Ontario will pay $10,585 in income taxes, while two single people $3713 each or $7426, a difference of $3159.

That's outrageous! Or is it?

First, this is not a fair comparison. It fails to take into account the various Child Tax Credits. That alone would eliminate nearly $1200 dollars of that $3159. It also fails to take into account the ability to to transfer income to a spouse that exists in the current tax laws.

But more importantly, its not a realistic comparison. People who make $50 K won't quit their job and get a $25 K job with their spouse so they can save a few hundred in taxes. Conversely, someone making $25 k can't double their income so one of the spouses can stay home. Poilievre and the Conservative Party seem to have a disconnect from reality.

The real reason parents go back to work instead of staying home is that the cost of living is so high, the have to go back. A person making $50 might be able to afford for only one person to work to support a family. A person making $25 k cannot. I personally make over $75 K and I have a hard time doing it. And that's in Ottawa, one of the more reasonable places to live. Had we stayed in Toronto, my wife would have had to go back to work, simply becasue we could not afford to live otherwise. No amount of savings on taxes would have been considered in the descision. That's the point - there is no real "choice." Most dual income families are that way due to nescesity, not want.

In that light, the tax difference is then a tax break for low income working families who have no real choice but to have both parents working. Its called Progressive Taxation. And a good National Childcare program would help these parents.

We already have to ability to claim child care and day care in our current tax system. The problem isn't with taxes, its with finding and affording daycare. When my wife and I looked into it in Toronto, we discovered that we would have had to get on a waiting list 5 months before our daughter was concieved to get a downtown spot or almost 6 months to get a spot in Newmarket (we lived at Younge and Eglinton at the time, literally one block from where my wife worked!). And being a Conservative, I'm sure Poilievre can appreciate the supply and demand pressure on the cost.

So, it is my personal experience that a national program like the one in Quebec, would provide cheap, available childcare and increase the choices for working Canadian families, who have no other choice but to have both parents working. Considering 61% of Canadians make $30 k or less, that's a lot of working famiies.

I can afford for my wife to stay home with my kids. I'm lucky. I don't mind paying extra so others can get a break.

And that is how you take a good thing in the tax code and twist it around for your own political gain. But I guess if you don't have a platform that most people would agree with, you have to get people to like you somehow.

The Belinda Chronicles

Time to don my hip-waders and slug through the swamp that is the Belinda Stronach affair and what it means, really.

While the conservative pundits and Stephen Harper himself seem to be painting Stronach as a opportunist who is doing this only for her career, it seems a fair amount of Canadians disagree. While there are some negative letters to CBC, most are quite positive.

So what does it all mean? Well my take is that this is more trouble for the Conservatives, who, despite being given a gift by Gomery, are stuck at around 30% support, where they have always been. There is something deeply flawed in the party. I don't think that the merger between the Alliance and the PC parties went as smooth and is as nice as it was made out to be.

Consider Belinda: a smart, successful business person who supported the merger. She tried to run for the leadership. She represents the voice of moderate conservatives across Canada and, especially in Ontario, that uniquely Canadian beast called the "Red Tory." She tried through out her time in the party to change things and influence them, but to no avail. At the Conservative Convention in Montreal, she and the 25% of the Conservative Party that support same-sex unions where booed and heckled when presenting their arguments. Ralph Klein made quite overt sexist remarks directed squarely at her during his speech to that same convention.

She didn't move or "switch", the party switched out from under her. The party she joined no longer exists. It was taken over by the far-right Alliance and is "Conservative" in name only. Paul Martin was right - there is a reason they dropped "Progressive" from their name. Joe Clark tried to warn us, but we wouldn't listen. Well, thanks to Belinda, I think Canada is listening now.

Where else can Belinda go? To the Liberals, who have been moving right for 10 years. It is a natural fit.

Of course all this means that people who used to vote PC should more rightly choose the Liberals rather than the Conservatives.

Conservatives, including Harper, are falling all over themselves to paint Belinda as an "opportunist". To which I have to ask, if she were only concerned with her career, why would she jump ship to a party in such trouble? Why would she go to a party and a government that could very well loose the next election because of its very public flogging at the hands of Judge Gomery? Does that sound like "opportunism" to you? Jumping ship to a government that may only last two more days?

No I suspect she realized that Conservatives are not the Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, John Crosbie conservatives of yore. She is showing us that there is no room for moderate voices in the Conservative Party and that Stephen Harper has only his interests at heart when he makes decisions.

When I heard Harper calling Belinda an "opportunist" I laughed right out loud.

Pot calling, the kettle is black...

Harper flip-flops again

Well, the intrigue on the Hill continues. I now appears that Harper is trying to drive a wedge between the NDP and the Liberals on the budget. Now, after weeks of railing against the "monsters" in government he is willing to support the original (read: Conservative) budget as put forth by the "corrupt" Liberal Party back in February.

Let's not be too quick to think he's given up, or "blinked" as wonderdog indicates. I personally see this as another move on his part to "have his cake and eat it too." That is, he can still force and election on the second vote. Then he can say that he supported the budget but no the "deal with the Devil." That would take a lot of wind out of the Liberal sails in an election. And Harper can continue to demonize the NDP as spenders and creators of deficits.

Never mind that nothing in the NDP ammendments does anything to create a deficit. The books are still balanced. Only instead of the corporate tax rate dropping from 21% to 19 % it stays where it is. The $4.6 Billion that this cut would have given to the largest corporations now goes to housing and the environment.

Never mind that this new version of the budget is the reason the Liberals have enjoyed a resurgence. The deal has been hailed by various provincial governments and endorsed by the Toronto Star as a good deal for Canada.

Never mind that two day in a row, TD Canada Trust, one of the country's largest financial institutions, has indicated that Canada's largest coprorations don't need corproate tax cuts because they haven't done anything with the cuts they have already recieved - the have made record profits but have not re-invested their cuts or created any new jobs.

Never mind that the same TD Canada Trust further reported that the poorest of Canadians have a disproportionalty high tax burden, thanks to the GST [I'll find that link and post it soon].

If Paul Martin is smart, and the events of the last couple of days show he just might be, he would continue pressing on with the NDP ammendments. They would increase his popularity and hammer the final nail in the coffin of Stephen Harper. Not only will Harper have failed to support the tax cuts when he had the chance, he failed to stop the Liberals and NDP from doing something he detests - public spending. If both measures pass, I would expect to see Harper trying to draw EI benefits by the fall.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thanks to Princess Monkey ...

While disspelling some myths over at myblahg
Princess Monkey thought I should start my own blog on progressive issues. Well, since I have been known to post quite a bit in places like slashdot and kuro5hin and I also like to go head to head with the neo-cons on the NDP bogs, I thought 'Why not'?

Thanks Princess!

So here I am. My hope is not to degrade into partisan, emotional name calling, but rather to tackle issues with logic and facts. I want to present cogent arguements with links to the relevant facts and let readers and other have intelligent debates. I find that is most effective when dealing with neo-cons and right wingers.

In other words, nothing like this:

If you guys weren't such wusses and actually played team sports when you were children - hackysack does NOT count - you would realize true competitors don't even flinch at blows like this. Focus, focus, focus. Watch the Lewis-Tyson fight, it may help you to understand. This eats up two news cycles, max., and isn't nearly enough to stop The Conservative Juggernaut.

Wake me up when Belinda The Homewrecker busts up the marriage of one of her New Liberal colleagues - if she can find a male heterosexual Liberal, that is ;-)

Also, its fun to watch them descend into madness when they can't argue back. Great fun.

Anyway, more to come later. Back to watching Mike Duffy try to embarrass Beleinda Stronach on Newsnet.