Tuesday, August 23, 2005

1,2,3 Magic!

Recently, over at Bound By Gravity, I got caught up in a debate with a group of Conservatives and Libertarians, about exactly what "socialism" was and what the nature of government was.

Yes, I know. This has been debated from Thag Simmonds in the caves, through the ancients, Emmanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, John Locke, Karl Marx, George Grant, right up to Jay Jardine, MWW, Martin B. and the others. It's not like we are going to answer this.

But if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there, so the saying goes. Back in my days as a social worker, working with disturbed children in Toronto, we had a little thing called "1,2,3 Magic". We told the kids to describe what their lives and their world would look like if we could wave a magic wand and make everything alright for them. It was a great tool to help these kids focus on treatment, to give them a goal and for us to understand them better.

Now, in the above debate, and others on BBG, we've talked a lot of political theory and a lot of ideology. We've criticized each other but offered no vision of Canada that we are striving for. Indeed, the same can be true of our national and provincial leaders in the last few years - no one is telling us their vision of the country and why we should vote for them or join in their cause.

Well, here is our chance in the blogshpere to share our vision of Canada if we could wave our magic wands and make Canada 'alright'. I would like the bloggers of all political stripes to describe in the comments their vision of what a "perfect" Canada would be like. It will give us insight into each other and possibly show how much we agree on things rather than differ. I think it will also show that "left-right", "socialist-libertarian" dichotomies are too simplistic.

I'll start off and demonstrate the format:

Canada is now represented at the Federal level by a combination of Proportional Representation and individual voting. This allows the parliament to more accrurately reflect the will of the electorate, while maintaining regional balance. The parties too have better regional balance, thanks to PR. There are a lot more "coalition" governments and cooperation and the government is much more responsive to the people. Parties like the Greens finally have some seats and a voice. Still, independants can obtains seats and peole can still vote for individuals in their areas.

There is no senate, since it is an unneeded expense.

Similarly, the provinces don't exist anymore either. Returning to the principle of subsidiarity - that government is most responsible and responsive when closes to the people it serves and whose needs it addresses - most of the powers formerly held by the provinces have been "downloaded" to municipalities, be they cities, regions or districts. In some less densely populated areas, these municipalities look similar to the old provinces. The added benefit, besides saving billions by eliminating a level of government, is that native peoples are now about to effectively self-govern once again, since they now have the power to do so. The Indian Act has been totally abolished. The Feds provide most funding "by right", as cash transfers with no strings, for municipalities to do as they like. The elimination of the provinces, direct transfers to municipalities and proportional representation in the Federal Parliament has all but eliminated the problems of regionalism, including separatism, from politics.

In an attempt to be fiscally accountable, every dollar collected, spent and transferred can be accounted for. If the Feds give money to a region as part of a program to add more MRIs, there is accountability by that region to prove that the money was spent on MRI machines and not on ice machines and floor scrubbers (as happened in Ontario in 2000). The Feds, of course, are under the same rules. An audit of any program or Ministry can be requested by any other level of government or private citizen. The audits should be relatively easy, since all levels of government are required to keep meticulous books on income and spending.

The Charter is still the law of the land.

The Federal government still retains powers of national importance - Defense, Intelligence, Trade, Foreign Affairs etc.


We still have a free, universal, publicly funded healthcare system. The additional funds from the elimination of the provinces has bolstered healthcare across Canada. The Federal government has returned to the idea of laying down the guildlines - free, accessible and portable - and provided the lion's share of the money, due to its taxation powers. The municipalities provide the implementation, decide on where the money needs to go at the local level. For instance, in some areas, prescriptions and dental care are also covered.

Most municipalities have continued with the "healthcard" system as we have it today, though some have chosen the Green Party approach. These "Green" districts have total public funding for health but private delivery and its consumer driven - each person is given a yearly amount for their healthcare on a debit card, which carries forward if the don't use it. They can only spend this on healthcare or prevention. They can add their own money if needed. In a creative combination of public and private healthcare, doctors, labs, clinics that don't provide services well, or have long lines or "cheat" the system by ordering unnecessary tests go out of business. Patients can sue for fraud if it is discovered that unneeded tests were performed and have their health dollars returned. In the off chance that an illness outstrips the amount of health dollars on a card, these municipalities have a reserve fund. Also, the health dollars are transferable between healthcards, so individuals may trade or donate their health dollars to help out in these situations. Once health dollars are on the card, they may not be removed or traded for cash - health use only. The municipalities decide, within their boundaries, what that extra use might be. The other municipalities and regions are watching these experiments closely.

Of course, all this is possible because the number of health professionals has risen dramatically. Part of the extra funds available by dissovling the provincial level of government went into graduating and hiring more doctors. Restrictive rules unnecessarily limiting the number of good foreign trained doctors were simplified. The combination of these two things increased the number of doctors dramatically. In addition, some responsibilities that doctors are currently required to do - simple diagnosis, physicals, simple prescriptions, setting broken bones, check ups etc - were downloaded to "doctors assistants" or nurse practiioners.

The result of this, along with the hiring of more technicians and nurses, is that waiting lines for doctors, surgeries and diagnostic tests has been virtually eliminated. There is once again competition between family doctors (and the new nurse practitioners) for patients and very few of these professionals are not accepting them. Getting a second opinion is relatively quick, should you need it. Rural areas have no problem attracting and retaining doctors, partly because these doctors get their full tuition reimbursed and partly because the slightly less competitive environment relative to the urban areas means a good income. As well a very small parallel private healthcare system has been able to start and survive due to the number of healthcare professionals in the market. Most people don't need to use this private system, since the public system is more than adequate and the public system is not affected, since there are enough medical professionals to staff both without bleeding the other (similar to successful European mixed models, such as France).


Canada has a 100 000 person Armed Forces, 25 000 of which are Reserves. The Forces are are used primarily for Canadian soveriegnty (patrolling the Arctic in frigates and on the ground), rapid reaction for UN and NATO peacekeeping and peacemaking (no more Rawandas or Darfurs, helping in Afghanistan) and for Search and Rescue operations at hope during emergencies and natural disasters. Reserve members are also trained as first responders for terrorist attacks and natural disasters so that these events are handled quiclkly and effectively by local personnel. The Forces are equipped with the latest weapons and equipment for their missions.

Our mission in Kandahar continues but is a success. Walking patrols and "community policing" type interaction with the locals has brought most of the Afghanis to our side and the city is now safe and being rebuild. These guys are true heros.

Canada is also becoming a world leader in "honest broker" intelligence gathering and dissemination. Our skills in telecommunications, technology and our view in the world as neurtal third party ahs given us the ability to collect and share information relatively free from the "tell them what they want to hear" mentality of some of our allies intelligence services and has removed the ability to purposely manipulate the intelligence for political reasons from them as well.

Trade and the Economy:

Canada's trading base has diverified to the point that NAFTA disputes no longer cause the remarkable economic pain they once did. We trade with China, India, the EU and many African nations. Many third world countries are able to trade with us because we have lowered some barriers to them. This means that foreign aid efforts are self-sustainable. At the same time, we ensure, on a company by company basis, that goods imported are created by fairly paid workers in good conditions, and not political prisoners or wage slaves. The competition has revved up the economy and made domestic companies more efficient and productive.

Canada has moved away from being totally based on natural capital and raw materials, to more finished products. Mad Cow crisis are now a thing of the past, as Canada now tests every cow processed in our own abbatoirs. More abbatoirs and rendering plants have sprung up so that the cattle industry is not dependent on live cattle exports. Softwood lumber has followed suit.

Canada has also beome a world leader in information capital - telecommunications, information technology and processing.

Thanks to the lower cost of doing business in Canada due to our socialized healthcare system, many US and world companies continue to open plants and offices here.

Trade between regions is barrier free, since the elimination of provinces also eliminated interprovincial trade barriers. East-West trade is as important and robust as the North-South once was.

Policing and Public Safety:

With no provinces, most municipalities now have their own police forces. The Federal government still maintains the RCMP for rural areas and small towns and to act as a liaison or conduit between police departments. The mounties also work closely with Customs and the Forces for border patrols and airport safety. The OPP and SQ were either absorbed into the RCMP or certain detachments became the municipal force.

The idea of fiscal accountability has been applied to information and the RCMP has become a clearinghouse and enabler to ensure information is shared effectively among police services. These forces no longer have "turf wars" over information.

Social Issues:

Crime rates have communed to drop, mostly because of attacks on poverty. The demise of the provinces has given the municipalities the ability to address the issues of good affordable housing properly again, in light of their own local needs. Cities like Toronto are returning to their successful programs of infill hosing development and "rent to own" programs that were very successful in the 70s and 80s at creating good affordable housing in good neighbourhoods.

A good public childcare system, paid for by the Feds and administered by the municipalities, has allowed those that wish to stay home to do so and allowed those that wish or need to work to do so, while also providing a safe, educational and fun place for their children.

The minimum wage is actually one a single person can live on. At the same time, the cost of housing has dropped from 6 times the annual income of all wage earners in the home (as it was in 2004) to the more traditional level of 2.5. Homes and rental units can now be afforded by a wider variety of people. A single breadwinner can now support a family again, if they choose to, and these families have much more disposable incomes, instead of spending between 50% and 60% of their earnings on shelter.

This has also created the old idea of "neighborhood's" again. Instead of sprawling burbs with nothing but homes and sprawling area's of big-box stores and parking lots, many burbs have re-zoned and allowed commercial enterprises in. They are modeled on the Wharton Village in London, the Annex in Toronto or the Glebe in Ottawa - a main or "high street" with shops, stores, schools and parks all within walking distance of the residences. The result has been less care travel and more face to face interaction. Stronger communities have sprung up, creating another bulwark against crime and decay.

The government is usually interested in providing the services that promote harmony and orderliness among people. At the municipal level, this is easy to do. We still have courts, police, firedepartments and health inspectors. Marriage continues to be recognized as the consentual union of two people civilly. The government does not recognize religious marriage as the two are totally separate.

In general, we have retained our "socialist" ideals of caring for our fellow citizens and ensuring no-one slips through the cracks while becoming more efficient at using market forces to achieve these ends.

This isn't perfect, and there are likely still issues that are as yet unforseen, but Canada is better, more prosperous, more fair and more flexible in dealing with the constant change and challenges that face us.

And the UN keeps ranking us #1 ;)

I'm sure this both shocks and surprises some people. Now let's hear yours. Just the description please, we can debate each other in another thread if needed.

Monday, August 22, 2005


DazzlinDino over at The Blogging Party of Canada has tagged me with the Quote Meme. So here goes.

"Know your enemy, know yourself and in a hundred battles you shall not lose" - Sun Tzu The Art of War

Essentially, trying to solve a problem with out understanding it is stupid. Rushing headlong into something without knowing what you are capable of and your opponent is capable of is stupid. To do so courts disaster (see, Bush and Iraq). To follow Sun Tzu's advice means victory.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Pretty much self explanitory, with the added note that Dr. King expect people to do this through non-violence.

"They that give up essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve niether liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Something to keep in mind when you call for additional police powers and think arbitrary, indefinite detention is ok as a means to fight terrorism.

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg" - Thomas Jefferson

Best explanation of the reason for the separation of Church and State I have seen. And it nicely debunks the whole "US was founded as a Christian Country" myth.

"A movement without followers is irrelevant" - Mark[Section 15]

Hell, even one of us lowly bloggers comes up with an inspired gem sometimes. Apply to Al Queda and see how to really win the "War on Terra".

"You keep on thinkin' Butch, that's what your good at" - The Sundance Kid

Becasue I freakin' love that movie.

And lastly,

" 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' - the rest is commentary" - Old Jewish folk tale

That pretty much sums up every religion on earth. If more of us followed this piece of advice we'd be better off.

So now I tag

Mark at Section 15
Andrew at BBG
And Skippy the Wonderdog, when he returns.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Point Proven

Thank you Peter Rempel for helping me out and proving the point I was trying to make in my previous blog article.

In case some of you missed it, it was a little satire on how the right has been acting in the whole Jean affair. Robert McClellend got it, and let Peter know in his own special way:

"It’s not a smear, you dishonest jackass. The point of the post is not to claim that Poilievre is or was a member of the Alberta separtist movement. In fact, he quite clearly states it’s an unfounded allegation. The point of the post is that if unfounded allegations were enough for the right whingers to demand the GG answer the question of whether or not she was a separatist, then an unfounded allegation should be enough for him to demand that Poilievre answer the question of whether or not he’s a separatist.

And Rempel, the GG is a meaningless position in Canada. Poilievre is an Ontario MP. If he were an Alberta separatist it would have far more consequences than if the GG were one.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this up. As you know, all that matters in politics is that the accusation is made and that it get attention."

For days before the video turned up, the right-wing was screaming for Jean to reveal how she voted in the 1995 Referendum or what she thought of the ex-FLQ member who renovated her library. They each immediately assumed she was guilty of being a separatist and wanted her blood. All driven by rumours and innuendo from the separatists themselves.

No benefit of the doubt. No innocent until proven guilty. Just guilty.

After being attacked as a Martin drone, a separatist sympathizer and accused condoning the FLQ acts, I had enough. I remembered that little allegation from the Election prediction page from May when I was reading it back then. It was posted May 22, 2005 by an anonymous person claiming to be a Liberal supporter and ex-PC. I never gave it much thought, because, as I have said elsewhere, I didn't (and don't) really care. It probably wasn't true and even if it was, its was water under the bridge, since Peirre Poilievre then went on to join the Reform Party and later the Alliance and Conservatives. He even worked for Ezra Levant (ok, that might actually make him look more like an Alberta separatist, but I think you get my point). But since he's my MP, and I don't particularly care for him for other reasons, un-related to the Jean affair, I thought I'd use him as my example. I then discovered he was exploiting Jean for political gain himself. Very serendipidous. Not a surprise, coming from Poilievre, but serendipidous nonetheless.

So I wrote a nice little article, attacking a Conservative as they had attacked Jean before the video came out - based on unsubstatiated, unfounded claims of links to separatism. In this case the alleged link was even more serious - instead of simply associating with separatists and possibly harbouring pro-separatist feelings, Poilievre was alleged to have actually joined and been active in a separatist party.

Well, lo and behold, instead of attacking Poilievre as they had attack Jean, demanding an explanation, they defended him. They defended him exactly as I and others had defended Jean, before the video came out.

So if it ok to attack Jean based on little or no evidence (remember, I'm talking about the time before the video. The attack was well underway when the video surfaced, so it didn't start all this), why isn't Poilievre, who currently holds a much more dangerous position for a separatist to hold than Jean would, held to the same standard of scrutiny and derision? You don't suppose its because he's a Conservative do you? I mean, although this was a satire, most of them didn't get it. For all they knew (since they clearly thought I was serious), a video of Poilievre drinking it up with Alberta separatists at a University of Calagry pub would turn up on Tuesday.

The bottom line, as Peter Rempel, bijoux55 and a host of other bloggers in various comments threads have shown, there is a double standard in conduct. Any malfeasance on behalf of the Conservatives is to be forgiven and minimized. On all others, especially the Liberals or those asssociated with them, it is the ultimate evil that needs to be fought and destroyed lest it overtake us all.

This was never about Jean, the Governor-General position or separatism. This was another attempt, started by the separatists themselves and carried on by the right, to embarass and annoy the government and the Liberal Party, at any cost, as loudly as possible. It was meant to gain cheap political points and sensationalism. It was meant to exploit the ignorance, fears and hatreds of average Canadians for political gain. It was another example of the vicious, negtative attack style politics that has infected Canada in the last 6 months, a style that most Canadians are growing quite weary of.

And the video? Hardly a "smoking gun" but as even Paul Martin and many Liberal bloggers have pointed out, it was disturbing. But in the intervening 12 years, she and her husband have not joined a separatist party or been involved, actively or otherwise, in separatist politics. And twice in the last few weeks, she has re-stated and re-iterated her loyalty to Canada quite clearly. Even after the video, that was good enough for me. It was good enough for Stephen Harper. And I suspect, good enough for most Canadians, who have better things to worry about.

Now for the record, I don't know or care if Poilievre was ever a member of an Alberta separatist party. He probably wasn't, for what its worth. My criticism of his exploiting this situation for his own personal, political gain stands, however. Even the leader of his own party is satisfied, yet he continues. Those of you who live in or near this riding know that exploiting situations for personal, political gain is nothing new for Pierre Poilievre. He's been doing it since he became an MP and this is not the first time. My dislike for Poilivre stems from a living in Nepean-Carleton and watching his antics and watching him operate, not from any of this or any unfounded allegation of being a former separatist.

So when next the right start the hand wringing over another issue, remember how they acted in repsonse to this and what they are really like. And aways keep this in the back of your head:

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."
H. G. Wells, The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914)
English author, historian, & utopian (1866 - 1946)

I hope they all remember the taste they got here of the stuff they regularly dish out, and think about it before the start dishing it out again.

By the way, the Monty Python reference (which I thought would give this away as a satire, but I guess I underestimated my target audience) was:

Alberta Separatist Party -> Separation Party of Alberta

is from

People's Front of Judea -> Judean People's Front ("Splinter!")

From 'The Life of Brian'.

Too subtle?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pot calling, the kettle is black

I've tried very hard not to blog about the Michaëlle Jean affair, though I have commented in many blogs about it. In my opinion it was an irrelevant smear campaign, meant to embarrass the Liberals at the expense of Mme Jean's reputation. I fully expected it to simply go away with Mme Jean's re-commitment to Canada, on behalf of herself and her husband, the other day.

Now, it was a minor issue and that should have been it.

But it wasn't.

Pierre Poilievre, CPC MP for my riding of Nepean-Carleton here in Ottawa, thinks differently. He is asking for his constituents, and members of the Royal Canadian Legion in particular, to write to the Queen directly. Now the Legion here owes him a great and well deserved debt of gratitude, as he and MPP John Baird hosted a BBQ last month that raise over $30 000 to help them rebuild the Manotick branch, which had been destroyed by fire the month before. I attended myself and thought they did a good job in a non-partisan event for a great cause. Now Mr. Poilievre is asking these folks to write the Queen and tell her of their concerns about a candidate for Governor General with "ties to the FLQ and support of the separatist cause".

Clearly Mr. Poilievre is a true patriot and wishes to fight for Canada. He certainly wouldn't be trying to make political hay from this, would he?

So imagine my surprise to discover that it is possible that this same Pierre Poilievre, CPC MP for Nepean-Carleton, was once an active, card-carrying member of the Alberta Separation Party. According to this allegation, made in May, long before Michaëlle Jean's name came up for GG:

"Pierre was Ezra Levant's communications director. As a Young PC, I saw Pierre and his antics while he was a card-carrying member of the Alberta Separatist Party. I challenge Pierre to prove me otherwise. He knows its true. Once the residents find out they are represented by a Stock-a-holic, they will go streaming back to the Liberals" [Emphasis mine]
Now, I know what some of you will say : "Big deal, an unfounded allegation made by a Liberal and former PC". No different in veracity and tone than the allegations leveled at Mme Jean.

Well, it seems to me that if we are to hold Michaëlle Jean to such a high standard, even though she is getting a largely ceremonial position and the extent of her "crime" was that she once had a toast with separatist and perhaps maybe sort of supported their cause 10 years ago, we should certainly expect to hold Pierre Poilievre to the same standards. Actually he should be held to a higher standard, since he is an elected, sitting MP with real power who could in the future, sit as a government member or even in Cabinet. And it seems that Pierre, rather than simply cavorting and associating with separatists, actually was active in, and joined a party whose purpose was to destroy Canada.

I wonder what all those veterans he was feting last month, and who are now writing to the Queen at his behest, would think about him if they knew that? I wonder what his supporters in my largely conservative riding would think of that now, since none of us knew that during the last election? You don't suppose Pierre Poilievre is exploiting this for political gain, do you?

I as a resident of Nepean-Carleton need to know if my sitting MP was ever a member of a separatist party. I need to hear from him a re-commitment to Canada. It is far more important for him to "come clean" and admit it, than it ever was for Michaëlle Jean.

And he might want to take down that hypocritical website too.

Unless, of course, its ok to forgive past mistakes and youthful indiscretionions, but only if you are a Conservative. I guess it's ok to accept a change in political heart, but only if you are a Conservative. I guess its ok to accept a recommitment to Canada, unless you are a Conservative.

So tell me, how's that moral relativism working out for ya?

Note: In order to try to clarify this, I have written to the Ottawa Citizen asking them look into this, since it is both a local and national story around here. I've asked a few fellow bloggers out west for help to. If any of you reading this have any information that either supports or refutes Mr. Poilievre's past links to Alberta separatists, feel free to post it, so we can know for sure.


So Peter Rempel didn't get it. And neither did bijoux55. Robert McClelland did. Andy did. Perhaps you guys ought to read it again. And look for the Monty Python reference. And take this little hint.

Monday, August 15, 2005

And, I'm back.

Well, it appears that a lot has happened while I sunned myself on beautiful Trinity Bay in Newfoundland. DazzlinDino can now rest easy - we'll debating again soon!


Anyway, for those who are interested, I was able to complete the following while I was away:

Hells Angels by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson - His first foray into gonzo journalism and its a fantastic read. Of course, Thompson could write a cook book and I'd read it. He's a fantastic writer.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - The actual writing in this book was terrible and sophmoric. But it has one hell of a plot that is, despite what the Catholic Church says, is based on historical facts (I have read much of his shocking facts before, elswhere). Brown can take these facts and sew them together into a great story. Now, if he could learn to write like Thompson, he'd be one of the greats.

Ghost Wars by Steven Coll - This is a fantastic historical examination of the CIA and its involvement in Afghanistan from 1979 to September 10, 2001. If you want to know the context of Al Queda and terrorism today, you need to read this book. Coll lays it out there, bare for all to see, how the cottling of Islamic fundenmentalist by the CIA under Reagan and their funding by Pakistani and Saudi intelligence comunities created the problem we all face today. It is also a stinging indictment of both the Clinton and Bush administration's lack of action on Al Queda, placing more importance on business relationships than on fighting terror and the misssteps of various intelligence organizations when they did try to do something. If you claim to talk about Al Queda "hating us for our freedoms" but haven't read this, you don't know what you are talking about. Coll also provides close to 200 pages in footnotes, citing personal interviews and other primary sources, in case you think he's a liberal shill.

Anyway, once I get caught up reading the happenings in other blogs and getting settled into work, I'm sure I'll have a post to share.

And for those that care, I'm still reading Secrets and Lies by Bruce Schneier. I intend to pick up and read his other book Beyond Fear, about security in general and The Coming Dark Age, by Jane Jacobs.