Stephen Harper's decisions on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and the United States have officially shut the last nails on the coffin of Canadian relevance in global governance. The Conservative government's hard power strategy officially commits Canada to the role of a fireman in an incandescent region, at the taxpayer's expense, with zero influence on the regional levers at the core of the Middle East's most pressing fires today. It is time for the opposition parties to fine-tune their foreign policy chops in the coming official campaign period in order for Canada to chart its way back to the world's bargaining table.
It's well known that people who consume news media are more likely to be civically and politically engaged, but where people get their news has now shifted. With more and more people opting to search for news not only online, but on social media platforms, politicians and their teams are now faced with the challenge (and opportunity) of being in that space and using it appropriately.
This past week, the outgoing Chief of Defence Staff -- the man at the very top of that metaphorical hill -- unwittingly let us all have a peek at the highest levels of thinking around this problem. Why would we accept Lawson's mumbly assertion that the military is powerless to alter people's "biological wiring"? This is actually a huge part of what the command structure has always done. The military indoctrinates soldiers so that they do such things not just without question, but to the best of their ability. So why is it so hard to indoctrinate them into a reasonable understanding of why sexual harassment is unacceptable?
Consider me one of the millions of Canadians offended by the Senate spending scandal. But it's not for the reason you might think. The auditor general spent around $23 million on this investigation, and found less than $1 million in questionable expenses -- out of $180 million worth of expenses investigated. So we, the ever-patient, ever-indulgent taxpayers, spent $23 million to find out that 0.5 per cent of Senate expenses were questionable. Should we be outraged? Yes, by the dollar cost of the investigation and by the cost to the reputation of Canada's upper house.
The latest depressing revelations about the Senate make it clear that the institution cannot continue in its present form. The vast majority of Canadians now agree that reform or abolition of the Canadian Senate is overdue. It is time to bring the people of Canada into the centre of the process and directly consult Canadians on any proposal for constitutional reform through a consultative referendum.
Throughout our history, Canada has welcomed newcomers with a smile. They were -- and are -- nation builders. Under the Conservatives, this smile has become a scowl and we have unfortunately witnessed a decade of decline in three major areas: family reunification, refugees, and citizenship applicants.
Recently, I was fortunate to attend the Global Symposium on the Role of Physicians and National Medical Associations in Addressing Health Equity and the Social Determinants of Health held in London, England. I sat down with Dr. Simpson to explore the stories, the evidence and the politics that come into play when doctors are actors for social change.
On Wednesday our parliament passed bill C-51; a bill which takes a sledgehammer to the principles in the Charter. How could a controversial bill with 52 per cent of Canadians opposing it and only 33 per cent supporting it pass? Ignoring the voices of your constituents is dangerous, especially in an election year.
Bill C-51, dubbed the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, should cause Canadians deep concern. Its provisions, if passed into law, would jeopardize many of our most basic rights and liberties and would only serve to undermine the health of our democracy. Any limits imposed by Parliament on our basic rights and fundamental freedoms must be "reasonable"; they must not be overly broad; and they must be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. On the thirty-third anniversary of the signing of the Charter, we should demand that Parliament scrap Bill C-51 altogether.
It is fast becoming apparent that the Newfoundland government "investment" in the commercial seal slaughter is simply a make-work project. Encouraging fishermen to make economic decisions based on markets that will never materialize serves only the executives of the seal processors. More than 35 nations have already prohibited their trade in the primary products of Canada's commercial seal slaughter and there is no future in commercial sealing. It is time the Canadian and provincial governments put their support behind a fair sealing industry buyout.
Even after the Conservative government buckled to pressure to amend the anti-terrors laws, Canadians can still be deemed too dangerous to travel by airline and won't be allowed to challenge the "evidence" against them. As lawyer and author Faisal Kutty puts it, Canadian Muslims can be considered "too guilty to fly, but too innocent to charge." Bill C-51 is a reckless attempt to win over an understandably fearful electorate under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Marginalizing the very Canadians who are on the front-lines of this struggle is worse than poor policy -- it's a threat to all of us.
Bill C-51 is complex, dangerous, and poses a serious threat to free expression in Canada. If found to be in violation of the proposed legislation, citizens and visitors could wind up slapped with censorship orders, detained without due process or imprisoned for up to five years. Is the federal government giving itself and its agencies more power to fight ISIS-like terrorism, or is it using high-profile tragedies to illegally spy, surveil and silence innocent citizens and its political enemies? Silencing Canadians with the threat of prosecution is tantamount to a chilling or denial of freedom of expression and association, among other Charter rights.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's political slogan has been "building the team and the plan." So far, his "team" will be forced to be pro-choice and pro-marijuana, and his "plan" is legalizing marijuana, being against fighting terrorism, and placing a price on carbon. The Liberals' position of vacuous nothingness should be garnering far more attention than it has been -- the Press Gallery has only started to actually seriously question Trudeau -- but Trudeau has been ably abetted by a series of New Democrats' missteps.
After my meeting with the Health Minister Rona Ambrose in November, 2014, I was under the impression that labelling genetically modified foods was up to the scientists at Health Canada. But when I asked two of Health Canada's senior officials about it, I was told that it's not a health and safety issue; therefore it is not within their mandate. Shouldn't the Ministry of Health and Health Canada be looking for conclusive proof that GMOs are safe? I think that is a better way to look out for the health of Canadians.
In Canada, Stephen Harper led two minority governments before his 2011 win gave him a solid majority. Britain's David Cameron became prime minister in 2010 by virtue of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and would clearly prefer a majority of his own. By imitating Harper's Canadian Crunch, he may have improved his chances.
It's pretty clear that in the public discourse around C-51, there are serious fears on each side. One side is afraid of terrorism infiltrating Canada; the other is afraid of abuse of power through government surveillance. How are we to get back to a real public dialogue, instead of talking past one another?
Conveniently, the fear appeals being made by ISIS, Al Shabab, and the other myriad terror groups we tend to lump together are quite literally textbook examples of fear appeals. What's more, the terrorists and our own government actually work together for a good part of the process, increasing the fear we feel for their own insidious ends.