It is exceedingly difficult to find much fault with the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, particularly if one views it for what it is -- a negotiated deal. But it's becoming increasingly clear that a growing faction of what Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard so accurately dubbed Canada's "aboriginal industry" value practical improvements to the lives of native youth a great deal less than dogmatic adherence to some fantastical, idealized, and utterly impossible conception of how aboriginal-Canadian diplomacy is supposed to work.
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At a time when the Prime Minister's public feud with the Chief Justice is prompting Harper-haters in both press and parliament alike to offer blind, slavish adulation to some mythical idea of a Supreme Court that is both never wrong and beyond criticism, it's worth recalling just how arbitrary and disputable many of that court's recent rulings have been.
Here's a fun fact you probably didn't know -- Canadian judicial appointments are among the most corrupt in the entire world. That's the opinion of the human rights watchdog group Global Integrity, at least, who gave the integrity of Canada's judicial appointments a pitiful 32 out of 100 in their 2010 survey on good governance around the globe.
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For years, Canada's politicians have wondered who the middle class are and what do they want. This week, we add a fresh question -- are they satisfied with being number one? So now it's our middle class that "appears to be the richest," in the satisfied words of the Globe and Mail. Yet regardless of how sustainable it may be in the long term, having the richest middle class in the world could still prove deeply disruptive for Canada's increasingly middle class-centric political debate -- which exists in no term but the short.
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More and more, it's appearing the provincial New Democrats simply possess no real base beyond the narrow confines of what we might call "NDP World" -- militant union bosses, anti-everything eco-extremists, dogmatic staffers of the inner-city charity-industrial complex and out-of-touch professors in fringe faculties.
Alberta Premier Allison Redford was forced to resign last week following revelations that she had charged the treasury $45,000 to attend President Mandela's funeral. Redford's quick hand with the expense account chequebook, in turn, obviously brings to mind the shenanigans of our old pals in the Senate.
To be prime minister of Canada you have to know French. To be governor general of Canada you have to know French. To be chief justice of the Supreme Court you have to know French. This is an awful lot of power to concentrate in just 17 per cent of the population. There is a Marie Antoinette-like bit of victim-blaming ("Let them learn French!") popular with segments of the Canadian elite who simply can't fathom why more peasants can't find the time to study an exotic dying language utterly irrelevant to their daily lives.
In the fight against Quebec separatists, its often insisted that Canadian politicians need to "speak with one voice." And that might be true. Everywhere else, however, politics would improve immensely if we could choose between two clear ones. Canada is long overdue for a fundamental re-calibration of provincial politics. Perhaps at the next Manning Centre Conference, all of Canada's supposedly "right-of-centre" politicians can get together and agree to forge a new provincial political brand (say, the "Conservative Party") that's present in all provinces. And then maybe all the left-wing people can meet at, I don't know, David Suzuki's next garden party or something.
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With Quebec now facing an election where it looks increasingly likely that the separatist party will not only win a second term, but a majority government to boot, Anglo and Franco relations are being strained like never before. Separatism is poised to make its third great comeback. The question is whether any Canadians will be willing to carry the flag this time.
You can argue -- as I do -- that Canada's too immigrant-friendly and too multicultural, but the reality remains that ethnic diversity is now a basic Canadian fact of life. Upholding this nation's territorial and political integrity therefore requires a staunch commitment to the principle that national governments have a right to govern multicultural populations, and even stauncher opposition to any notion that foreign nation-states possess a right to infringe the sovereignty of others in order to protect "their" people living abroad. Canada is a country that worries about foreigners. But it's also a country that has a right to worry about itself.
Canadians do not want to be ruled by rich snobs. Such was the conclusion of a big survey commissioned by the Tory government last summer, but only revealed last week. The results exposed a Canadian public deeply critical of what they perceive to be an out-of-touch Ottawa elite comprised of "rich politicians" feathering their nests with perks and privileges "while taxpayers personally struggled to make a decent living." Unfortunately for the Liberals, Canada's got an awful lot more suburbanites than bigshots, and the polls suggest the two tribes aren't exactly on good terms.
What legislation like the Fair Elections Act reminds us is that in the realm of electoral law, America and Canada are, in fact, noticeably different. Though the reasons why are more complicated and nuanced than the simplistic narratives we're usually given.
Justin Trudeau thinks Canada's Senate has become irreparably corrupted through "extreme patronage and partisanship," and is trying to set a good example by opting-out of at least half of that equation. It's an exceedingly open question if Canadians even want the sort of reformed, "effective" Senate Trudeau's promising amid such great fanfare. The closer you look at the whole plan, in fact, the closer Trudeau's fix begins to resemble the classic solution in search of a problem.
Stephen Harper's first-ever trip to the Holy Land wrapped up this weekend, and the reviews were basically worse than I, Frankenstein. But if one specific outrage loomed above all others, it was the PM's January 20 address to the Israeli parliament, during which, in the words of Warren Kinsella, "Harper, a Gentile, literally took it upon himself to redefine anti-Semitism."
What does it say about Canada that two of the most popular things in the country right now are the Quebec Charter of Values and Rob Ford? We're continuously told these things are, in fact, grossly unpopular. But if the polls are to be believed, both actually enjoy a larger, stabler base of loyalists than many of the people doing the loudest scolding.
Do Prime Minister Harper's science priorities reflect the best interests of Canada? It's certainly a question worth asking, but you won't find the answer by interviewing the folks guaranteed to have the most biased perspective: laid-off scientists and the left-wing union that represents them. Though that's the CBC's preferred approach. Considering we're supposed to be talking about a war on facts, it is a tad ironic, though.
The Canadian press has been offering no shortage of year-in-review columns as of late. What's my pick for top story of 2013, you ask? I don't know if I have a headline per se, but I do have a theme: the decline of Brand Canada. If there's one thing Justin Trudeau, Rob Ford, and the Senate scandal have in common, after all, it's that they all prove, in different ways, that Canada is not nearly as serious, respectable, and mature of a country as we often like to believe.
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In the world of Canadian politics, 2013 was one of those years where interesting things seemed perennially on the brink of happening, but rarely did. 2014, in short, will be a year that spends a lot of time providing closure to the unanswered questions of 2013. My guess is there'll be a lot of "no's." Here are some predictions.
Calling an editorial "offensive" simply implies hurt feelings, which implies cruel motive, which demands censorship. Not a string of conclusions I'm eager to draw in a society with constitutionally-protected freedom of expression. No, the following five editorials are merely "outrageous," in the sense they got a great many folks riled up, shocked, annoyed, or befuddled. That's not always a bad thing.
So no more hockey for the CBC. For 60 years the mother corp has been permitted to blow millions of tax dollars providing the nation with this redundant subsidized "service" anyway, a more-than-half-century absurdity whose bluff is only now being called. Far from being a stirring symbol of CBC success, Hockey Night in Canada has long been the single most wasteful monument to the network's fundamentally confused mandate.
Ford's is the Canada where teenagers deal hash out of their parents' garages and play with shotguns in the basement. Where St. Patrick's Day is the biggest night of the year. Ford's going nowhere so long as his Canada has his back.
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Our constitutional amendment rules are so terrible, so poorly-written and caked with complex regulations designed to eliminate any hope of ever achieving any meaningful improvement to anything, we barely even know how to read some of them. And we're not talking about 18th century legalese here -- this stuff was written all of 30 years ago.
If Duffy is willing to spend day after day squawking on the Senate floor that the Harper government has "no moral compass" then the least he can do, as a gentleman similarly lacking that device, is set a good example and resign from the chamber Professor McCreery says is supposed to consist only of "honourable" persons.
Well, so much for a "different kind" of throne speech. Though Minister Moore and his bored allies in the press had gone out of their way to hype the idea that yesterday's state-of-the-Tory-agenda address to Parliament would be laser-like in its focus on the plight of Canada's middle-class consumers, Stephen Harper's #SFT13 ended up sounding very much like all the others -- hashtag notwithstanding.
At its core, the Prime Minister's role in the Senate expense affair is a story about the elected head of the government of Canada demanding some shred of accountability and ethics from a crooked political institution whose members believe they have no obligation to provide either. That's not a scandal.
Prime Minister Harper finally has his very own tombstone-ready one-liner, too: "he got us free trade with the Europeans." That seems to be the consensus bouncing around the Canadian punditocracy at the moment, at least. Everyone agrees this trade deal rules. An estimated 80,000 new jobs, an annual $12 billion boost to GDP, cheaper vino from Italy, yadda yadda. But perhaps there's another story here, too.
If you ever want an example of what it looks like when the media carries water for the government, just check out any Canadian news outlet in the run-up to a throne speech. Considering that throne speeches are basically just hour-long, ruling-party infomercials to begin with, there's something more than a little obnoxious about reporters and columnists falling over each other to endlessly "preview" the supposed "content" of the things. It's an overzealous style of journalism that regards the sharing every leak and scoop as a public good unto itself.
On parliament hill yesterday, Harper's fifth Supreme nominee, Justice Marc Nadon of the Federal Court of Appeals, sat before a motley crew of inquisitors for a three-hour job interview. The questions exchanged ended up being less "hiring committee" and more "bring your dad to class day."
National Post columnist Diane Francis thinks Canada and America should merge. Into one country. Called the United States. As in, we Canadians should all become Americans. If your blood is starting to boil, congratulations! This is what it feels like to encounter an idea that actually threatens and scares you.
I must confess that there was an awful lot about Canada's 2011 General Election I simply didn't "get." But I certainly didn't get why Michael Ignatieff, a perfectly ordinary if uninspired Canadian party boss, stirred such loathing his Liberals plunged to a historically unprecedented third-place standing. And neither, it seems, does he.
Government of Quebec
While there's little serious debate in the Canadian press about the overall need for the Quebec charter and the headgear bans within, there's still much back-and-forth to be had regarding why the Quebeckers created the thing in the first place, and whether those motives are sympathetic or sinister. It's entirely possible for the Quebec charter to be a cynical vote-grab stemming from the dark side of Canadian politics, while also allowing that the "problem" the headgear ban seeks to solve is real and legitimate.
Actually, maybe Pauline Marois' motivation in pushing a religious headgear ban isn't that mysterious after all. If we presume Quebeckers vote separatist because they genuinely believe their province is getting a raw deal staying in Canada, with part of that raw deal being the fact that the mean ol' Canadian government won't let them have the things they want -- like, say, a religious headgear ban backed by 69 per cent of the public -- then a heavy-handed federal lawsuit reenforcing this storyline might actually be in the Parti Quebecois' long-term partisan self-interest.