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Layton, NDP Question Toronto Police G20 Actions

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Received an email from my pen pal Jack Layton today in response to my message to him and the NDP about a lack of NDP response to police misconduct during the Toronto G20 meeting.

In part, Jack said, and I quote:

Thank you for your previous email outlining your concerns over the recent G8/G20 Summits in Toronto.

New Democrats feel that these meetings failed to deliver concrete action on the most important issues facing the world. Instead, Prime Minister Harper fought to keep subsidies flowing to oil companies and taxes low for the big banks.

The G20 meetings fell short on several fronts, offering no movement to allow African nations to have a formal voice at the table, providing none of the anticipated new commitments on nuclear disarmament, and failing to adopt a strategy to curb abuses in speculative markets to protect our economies from future economic crises. The only real announcement was an agreement by the G20 leaders to reduce their annual deficits by 50 per cent by 2013.

It didn’t have to be this way. Prior to the meetings, we outlined sensible, pragmatic steps that the Canadian government could take to show leadership in helping eradicate poverty, tackling climate change, and reforming the global economy. I invite you to read our proposals at this link:

Now that the summits are over, many questions remain. Not least of which questions about the implementation of security plans including:

– Why did the federal government ignore the concerns and suggestions of the local government in holding the summit in downtown Toronto on a weekend?
– Who requested the temporary suspension of basic civil liberties for the duration of the summits? Moreover, why was this done in secret?
– What role did federal officials play in the Integrated Security Unit in policing the summit?
– Will the government compensate Toronto for the damage that Harper’s summits have caused?

We take these questions very seriously. We want the House of Commons Public Safety Committee to get to the bottom of these lingering questions and develop a post-summit accountability report on both the spending and operations sides of the summits.

First of all, I am very grateful to the party for responding to me I vote New Dem 99.99% of the time when I live in Canada – I could not vote for a candidate like Bev Desjarlais, for example, if I am aware of their positions – but I am not there right now so they don’t have lot to gain by being nice to me.

Of course, Layton did not write to me personally. It was a mass mailing to (among others) people who contacted them with the same complaint I had. I, and many others I am sure had complained that the NDP was not taking a strong stand on a critical human rights issue, namely the right of everyone in Canada to assemble freely and demonstrate peacefully. It appeared at the time that the New Democrats were reacting to and maybe even pandering to the understandable revulsion of the public and right wing media to the violence in Toronto. Much has been written and said about exactly how and why that violence occurred,but I won’t go into that here.

I am glad to see my old party finally addressing (however tepidly) the out of control police behaviour in Toronto that G20 weekend. And again, I think it is clear that the lack of response to the crackdown had become a problem for Layton among NDP members and supporters. But it should not come as a surprise t anyone that if there is one thing that all NDP voters and activists agree on it is that the party needs to at all times stand on guard for human rights. To not do so invites cynicism about the party which is supposed to be more idealistic than the Libs and Tories.

Of course, Layton and the New Democrats are also quite rightly criticizing the Shock Doctrine agenda of the G20 summit, which is what the demonstrations were supposed to be about. Good for them.

Written by slothropia

July 7th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Jack Layton has Obama/Rae Syndrome

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Below is the text of an email I just sent to the Federal New Democratic Party of Canada in response to this statement by the party:

Statement on the vandalism in downtown Toronto by NDP Leader Jack Layton
Sun 27 Jun 2010

New Democrats tonight add their voices to all those calling for an end to the violence and vandalism taking place in downtown Toronto.

Peaceful and lawful protests are important in a democracy and help raise important issues. Torontonians have often marched and protested peacefully on these streets, with virtually no serious incidents.

And then I wrote:

I am currently living in the U.S. but am a Canadian citizen and when I live in Canada I am a New Democrat. At one time I was active at the riding, provincial/territorial and federal levels. I was a federal councilor for the Yukon 1n the 1980’s and a provincial candidate for the NDP in the 1990 Ontario election.

From where I sit, it looks as though the NDP is making a horrible mistake by not condemning the police violence in Toronto as well as the vandalism caused by a small number of protesters. Actually, given that the police have used agents provocateurs in the past, perhaps we should be careful when talking about who did what in the streets.

Perhaps public opinion can’t yet see the police violence or the fact that almost all of the demonstrators were peaceful. But the truth will out.

Remember how Tommy Douglas and the NDP opposed the War Measures Act in the face of public opinion and media criticism. What does Canada think of Tommy Douglas now?

The NDP should be very wary of making the same mistakes Bob Rae made when he alienated his base, as Barack Obama is doing now. Many NDP supporters are horrified by the actions of the police as well as the vandalism. Oh and by the way, breaking a window is wrong but it is worse to break a peaceful demonstrators head.

No matter the short term cost, do the right thing and political rewards will one day follow.

Written by slothropia

June 28th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Gordon Campbell Wants to Walk into a Buzzsaw

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Gordon Campbell has made Carol James a very happy woman.

Would-be Liberal successors to Premier Gordon Campbell can take a summer break: Mr. Campbell has reaffirmed his intention to seek another term in 2013.

Mr. Campbell said Thursday he has every intention of running for a fourth term in the next provincial election.

Of course a week is a long time in politics and three years is a lot of week. Social Credit – I mean the B.C. Liberals – may have something to say about when the B.C. Premier will be available for recreational drinking and driving on a full time basis.

Also, the B.C. NDP has blown big leads before, and Social Credit – I mean the B.C. Liberal party – has been known in the past to outmaneuver the Left Coast (sort of kind of) Lefties.

Still, Gordo should carefully check the email addresses of those messages of support he is receiving.

Written by slothropia

May 14th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Canadian Content

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Mah Fellow Merkins,

I’m working on a longish post about the upcoming Canadian election and it turns out that at least one of the opposition parties is advertising weven though the election has not been called.

For those who don’t know, the New Democratic Party is the centre left, social democratic party up there. The Liberals are more centrist. Layton is the Leader of the NDP and would be Prime Minster if they finish first and Leader of the Opposition if they come in second.

Written by slothropia

September 6th, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Is “24” Propaganda?

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Seriously, is the Pope Catholic?

Olberman did a piece this evening about how some folks, like tonight’s interviewee, Robert Greenwald, think there may be a didactic component to the Fox throat grabber. Raw Story was good enough to capture the video. View and decide.

I am in no position to analyze, criticize, praise or condemn 24 because I have only watched one or two episodes of the series, and these were in the early, pre 911 days. It seemed like propaganda to me then, but of a very broad type. It was promoting an attitude to law and order and defense that I have no trouble characterizng as right wing. But what they have been up to lately, je ne sais quoi.

There is a certain irony about the show. How many of my bazillions of American readers know that Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of Canadian politician and Baptist preacher, Tommy Douglas, the first socialist leader of a government in North America. His father of course is Canadian born actor Donald Sutherland, and his mother is Tommy Douglas’ daughter, Shirley Douglas, herself an accomplished actor who was married to Donald from 1966 to 1970.

Here is some of what Kiefer’s grand dad accomplpished during his two decades as premier of Saskatchewan:

  • the creation of the publicly owned Saskatchewan Power Corp., successor to the Saskatchewan Electrical Power Commission, which began a long program of extending electrical service to isolated farms and villages;
  • the creation of Canada’s first publicly owned automobile insurance service, the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office;
  • the creation of a large number of Crown Corporations, many of which competed with existing private sector interests;
  • legislation that allowed the unionization of the public service;
  • a program to offer free hospital care to all citizens—the first in Canada.
  • passage of the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, legislation that broke new ground as it protected both fundamental freedoms and equality rights against abuse not only by government actors but also on the part of powerful private institutions and persons. (The Saskatchewan Bill of Rights preceded the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations by 18 months).

In 1964, Tommy Douglas became leader of Canada’s socialist/social democratic/centre left New Democratic Party (NDP). He never came close to federal power, but universal health insurance eventually was adopted by the Canadian fedreal government.

One of Tommy Douglas’ most challenging moments came in 1970, when he and the NDP opposed the imposition of the War Measures Act in response to the October Crisis. This lost votes for the NDP in English Canada with no discernible reward gained in Quebec.

So Kiefer has a genuine left wing heritage, and not just from Tommy. His mother, Shirley Douglas, has a long history of activism. With Kiefer and her two other children she and Donald Sutherland moved to California in the 60’s. They divorced in 1970. Shirley became active in the civil rights and anti war movements and was part of a group called Friends of the Black Panthers. On one occasion, she and other members of that group were arrested on weapons charges that were later dismissed. Despite her innocence, Shirley Douglas was denied a work permit and returned to Canada with her children.

Apparently things have been smoothed over because Shirley got to play Madeleine Albright in last year’s ABC propaganda flick, The Path to 911(!!!).

Also on Countdown tonight, a story about Lehrer’s interview today with W.

As I have said many times, it’s great for his opponents whenever Bush tries to sell anything (howz that Social Security provatization coming, anyway?). So if I want the troops to come home, it’s a good thing when Bush tries to promote the surge/escalation/augmentation.

Among the President’s goofy utterances this day,  he was asked whether he had called upn the American people to support the war effort.  He said in response (and I am paraphrasing) taxes are bad, mmkay? So he is oppoesed to raising taxes to pay for the war. He also said that people sacrifice when they have to watch all that icky war violence on teevee. Don’t believe me? Roll the video and see for yourself.

Written by slothropia

January 17th, 2007 at 12:55 am

Dion to Lead Canadian Liberals

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The Liberal Party of Canada chose a new Leader on Saturday. His name is Stephane Dion, a former cabinet minister in the Chretien and Martin governments. A leadership contest was made necessary earlier this year when Paul Martin Jr. resigned as Liberal Leader after losing the last election to the Conservatives and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Dion becomes Leader of the Opposition and will try to lead the liberals back into power when the next election is called.

Before I can explain what this might mean for Canadain politics and Canada/U.S. relations, I need to compare and contrast the main political parties in the two countriies.

In the Canadian federal parliament, there are currently four parties with elected members. Here they are with their U.S. counterparts (if any):

  1. The governing Conservatives = the Republican Party
  2. The Official Opposition Liberals = The Democratic Party
  3. The Bloc Quebecois = No equivalent party
  4. The New Democratic Party = The Green Party and part of the Democratric Party

There is also a Canadian Green Party, but they have failed to elect any members to date. The Canadian Green Party is not quite aligned with the U.S. franchise, and until recently has been measurably to the right of on some issues.

The Conservatives are conservative (like the GOP), and the Liberals are centrist (like the main body of the Dems). The New Democrats are a centre left, social democratic party, nominally aligned with the labour movement and strong on environmental and social equality issues. New Democrats would be comfortable in the U.S. Green Party or would be with Dennis Kucinich among the Dems. Note that Bernie Sanders, the new socialist Senator who will caucus with the Democrats, is from Vermont and can probably smell Montreal poutine from his back porch.

There is of course no U.S. equivalent of the Bloc Quebecois (BQ), a centre left party whose reason for being is to facilitate the separation of Quebec from the Canadian confederation.

So the centrist Liberals chose Stephane Dion as leader. As a Liberal, he is by definition a Quebec federalist, meaning he wants to keep Quebec within Canada. In that sense he is a centrist. He has served as Environment Minister and is thought to have more liberal credentials on those issues. No doubt the Greens, NDP and BQ will attack his performance in that portfolio. Otherwise Dion should be expected to be a traditional pragmatic Liberal leader and will run from the left and govern from the right.

The current Conservative Prime Minster is a political ally of Gerge W. Bush and the Republicans. The Canadian electorate is overwhelmingly opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, but Harper will never say anything negative about anything done by W.

Were Dion to become Prime Minister, we could expect some level of friction between the White House and 24 Sussex Drive (the Ottawa residence of Canadian PMs). Dion would probably be able to get along better with Presidents Clinton, Obama, or Edwards. But not necessarily. Lester Pearson was one Liberal Prime Minister who did not always get along with the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. That was about Vietnam.

Canada and the U.S. are tied together economically. These days, that is mixed news for Canada, with the falling U.S. dollar and a massive federal deficit. Neither country has to date figured out how to deal with globalization and are therefore losing manufacturing jobs (moreso by far in the U.S. btw).

Naturally, Dion is of much less interest to the U.S. govenment and media and other interests if he does not become Prime Minister. How likely is that? It is really hard to say right now. He has a lot problems to overcome if he wants to win the next election, probably next year sometime.

For one thing, the Liberal party is in a mess, divided between a number of factions and up to its red eyeball in debt. Dion is unpopular in his own province of Quebec because he is seen as limiting Quebec’s aspirations. It remains to be seen if he can communicate effectively with English speaking Canadians.

Meanwhile, he and the Liberals are vulnerable to attacks on policy from the other four parties. If I had to bet right now, i would say that the Liberals will tread water in the next election, winning about the same number of seats. The Conservatives might gain a little at Liberal expense outside Quebec, but will probably only win enough to form another minority goverenment. The BQ will gain a little, though the Libs will gain a little at Tory expense in Quebec.

The New Democrats will gain seats outside Quebec, especially in the Western provinces of B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

So the next parliament will look a lot like the current one, with maybe one Green Party Member added to the mix. As far as Dion is concerned, the question is whether he will be around as Liberal leader long enough to rebuild the party, assuming it is in fact possible to do so.

Written by slothropia

December 3rd, 2006 at 2:47 pm

The Shape of Things to Come (on November 7)

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Let me tell you a little story.

In the summer of 1990, I was a candidate for the New Democratic Party (hereinafter to be referred to as the NDP) in the Ontario provincial election. I did not win but I nearly double my parties vote over the previous election. You can look it up if you want. See Ontario Provincial Election 1990, Ottawa Rideau riding.
A little background before we continue. As EVERYONE knows, in Ontario as in most of Canada, there are three viable parties: the centre right Conservatives (or in some provinces Progressive Conservatives), the centrist Liberals and the centre left New Democrats. There are also two Quebec sovereignist parties, one each at the federal and provincial levels, and the Greens. In two provinces the centre right party has a different name but they’re really the same crowd.

Getting back to 1990, the Liberals had a majority government and the NDP was the Official Opposition, meaning that in the provincial legislature, the NDP had the second largest number of seats and had certian privileges as a result. During question period, for example, the Official Opposition gets to ask more questions.

The Conservatives, or Tories, were the third party, but a few years earlier they had been defeated for the first time in over forty years.

At the end of July, the liberal Premier, David peterson, called an election even though he had two years left on his mandate. It was a needless election and called at the height of summer, when Canadians like to forget about all things drudgerous and boring. This includes work and also politics.

The Prime Minister of Canada at the time was the Conservative Brian Muroney and he was very unpopular. The Leader of the Ontario Tories was – umm, let me think. It’ll come back to me. Oh never mind. It doesn’t matter. The poor bugger never had a prayer anyway.

The Canadian and Ontario economies at the time were beginning to slow down, and people were feeling a little anxious and insecure. They had two parties they could punish: the Liberals and the Tories. One was in powere provincially and the other federally. People in Ontario often confuse the two.

All this was good news for the NDP, and it was not long into the campaign before it became apparent that I and especially my fellow NDP candidates were going to do very well indeed. I remember the moment I knew that the NDP would win the election. it was about ten days before election day when I heard that the Premier had announced a reduction in the provincial sales tax.

Stop yawning! Pay attention!

I know, it sounds like a really mundane issue, and it was. But it was a significant surrender on the part of the Liberals, the party in power. One of the very minor planks in the NDP platform had to do with reducing sales taxes in favour of more progressive income taxes. Peterson was drowning and in desperation tried to grab a lifeline from the opposition.

When I heard that news, I knew that the election was being fought on our turf. So I was not surprised (much) when we did in fact win a huge majority. This turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing, but that is a tale for another time.

Anyway, that is what I was reminded of today as the President of the United States tried mightily to explain why the policy in Iraq was no longer stay the course, but had instead become “benchmarks”. The Republican position on the Iraq, the top issue in the campaign, is no longer viable, let alone defensible. This election is being fought on Democrats’ turf.
The Democrats will win the House at least. Unless…this gets in the way. Or this. Or this.

One thing that worries me is how a lot of the GOP spinners arre telling tv audiences how they’re mighty GOTV machine is already at work and will save the day. Campaigners have to sound positive before elections, true, but are they preparing us for a surprise result?

Written by slothropia

October 25th, 2006 at 9:36 pm

News from the Great White North

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(Updared 9:32 pm, September 9, 2006)

This post is for anyone who is tired of hearing about The Path to 9/11, The Senate Intelligience Committee report that concludes Bush lied and other U.S. political news.

How about some refreshing commentary about some cool and bracing Canadian news?

Vatican Scold Sticks his Nose Where It Don’t Belong
The CBC reports that Pope Bennedict is upset with Canada for allowing gay marriage (also known to some as equal marriage) and abortion. He says the policies “resulted from Catholic politicians ignoring the values of their religion”.

Or maybe they were doing what they thought was best for all Canadians. Canada does not have the constitutional separation of church and state that the U.S. does. In fact,as an example, Catholic and other confessional schools are publicly funded insome provinces. But religion and electoral politics are kept very far from each other by public sentiment. It is bad form to ask about a candidate’s religion there. Here, candidates have to wear their religion (figuratively) on their chests.

Sadly, the Catholic Church in Canada has recently started to interfere coercively in public affairs. Catholic Members of Parliament have been denied communion because of their votes in the House of Commons.

Hey, Popy! Render unto Caesar, eh?

Yukon Premier Acts Like a Real Dick – Nixon That Is
Canada has three territories, governments that aren’t quite provinces. Just east of Alaska is the Yukon Territory, right where Jack London left it. The Yukon Premier, Dennis Fentie, has called an election for October 10.

At the dissolution of the legislature, three parties held seats there: the governing Yukon Party (the local branch of the right wing Conservatives) the oficial opposition centrist Liberals and the centre left New Democrats (NDP). Two seats were held by independents.

Yukon districts range in size from around 150 voters to close to a thousand. Candidates have a chance during a campaign to talk to every voter over and over and over. I know. I have been a campaign manager in Yukon elections. It is so very different from American elections because there is no tv advertising, and no polling because a large chunk of the electorate have neither phones nor internet access.

Elections are like family feuds, because everybody knows everybody, even though everybody is really spread out geographically.

But get this; the NDP Leader is under treatment for leukemia. No breaks for sickies, I guess.

Many people speculated that Fentie would not call the election until NDP Leader Todd Hardy had completed treatment for his recent diagnosis of leukemia. But the premier was unapologetic.

“There’s absolutely no guarantees that if we waited until Nov. 4, Mr. Hardy would be able to conduct a campaign,” Fentie told a news conference after his speech.

Harsh, dude. Very harsh.

Toronto Film Festival Excitment Reaches Fever Pitch
The Toronto Film Festival
opened on September 7. Highlights include:

  • Bill Clinton will get a 60th birthday party with entertainment by Billy Crystal and Tim McGraw.
  • The Dixie Chicks, are expected in town soon to help launch the documentary devoted to them called Shut Up and Sing.
  • Michael Moore will speak as part of the festival. And will be sneak-peeking parts of his newest doc, Sicko — a reported takedown of the U.S. health care system.
  • A new movie called Bobby about Robert F. Kennedy is being marketed as a look back to a more innocent, long-lost, and notably liberal era.

Hey! These are all Americans. Oh well, Sarah Polley has her first directorial effort on display, a film called Away From Her. Break a leg, Sarah.

OK, That’s enough Canadiana for now.

Written by slothropia

September 8th, 2006 at 11:14 pm