Monthly Archives: October 2007

Shell Of An Economy

From Rick Salutin, in a thought-provoking column titled A nation consumed by retail:

What will an all-retail economy look like, when that day arrives? My stretch of College Street in Toronto is pretty much restaurants and cafés, rarely broken by even a futon store or 7-Eleven. Can a society survive by serving each other lattes? People rise in the morning, go to their posts and start feeding the customers. But everyone does it, so they’re all running in and out, serving and being served. I have to finish this croissant so I can rush back and make you a falafel. I extend the metaphor to those who serve information or entertainment. That’s the shell of an economy left when you produce almost nothing for basic need. Not to mention the small matter of dignity involved in making things you need and use each day.

Tough On Crime

As a disclaimer, I happen to think that the oft-repeated phrases “tough on crime” and “soft on crime” are near meaningless. Too often, the stuff we’re told is “tough” is either ineffective or damaging (see mandatory minimums and the presumption of guilt), while the stuff we’re told is “soft” would actually lessen the incidence of crime (see the legalization of marijuana).

That being said, the Harper Conservatives want to get “tough,” so let’s get tough. And if we’re going to start somewhere, we might as well start with our own government.

  • Stephen Harper’s government is breaking international law. By failing to even try to meet our Kyoto targets, we have turned our back on the world and become an international embarrassment.
  • Stephen Harper’s government is breaking domestic law. Parliamentarians, working on behalf of the majority of Canadians, passed a law requiring the government to introduce a plan to meet Kyoto targets. The government flat-out ignored the law.
  • The federal Conservatives are accused of breaking election spending limits by $1.2 million during the last federal election campaign, which they only narrowly won. The scheme involved circumventing legal spending limits by funneling money through local campaigns in order to pay for national advertising. Elections Canada is of the opinion that this is not legal. But, just when it was starting to become news, Harper attacked Elections Canada over the almost-non-issue of whether or not Muslim women can be forced to show their faces before voting. The distraction worked (with the added bonus that it made Elections Canada look like the bad guys) and the Conservative AdScam disappeared from public view, just in time for the conservatives to attempt to block a house committee investigation into the potentially illegal spending (which they eventually succeeded in doing by proroguing Parliament.)
  • The federal Conservatives are accused of breaking the law with regards to how they collect and use private information about citizens, triggered by the discovery that they had created a list of Jewish Canadians. Their defence has ranged from “we didn’t do it” to “sure we did it but so did those other guys.”

I don’t know how Harper can afford the constant repairs to his glass house. He must have a great arrangement with a window contractor. Regardless, if Harper wants to get tough on crime, he needs to start with himself. Then, once he’s removed the plank from his own eye, we can talk.

The Harper Kremlin

It’s hard to believe how much I used to agree with Stephen Harper when he was in opposition. Don’t get me wrong–I almost never saw things the same way as he did on matters of policy. But on process and Parliament, Opposition Leader Stephen Harper was absolutely right to call for more transparency and accountability, and, specifically, for the Prime Minister to respect Parliamentarians and refrain from centralizing power and stifling dissent. When the Opposition Leader became PM part of me thought, “oh well, at least we’ll see some positive action with regards to governance.” If you ever want to accuse me of being naive, there’s your proof.

Since being elected, Harper has made protester-choking Jean Chrétien look like the king of listening and consensus-building. After awhile, however, all of the evidence becomes overwhelming, and we forget old scandals as new ones take their place. In today’s Globe, Lawrence Martin reminds us of this damning chronology, saying that “in just 20 months, [Harper] has become master of everything he’s touched. To search the annals for another Canadian PM who accumulated so much cold-blooded authority in such a short time is to come up empty.”

  • One of the first things Harper did was to eliminate the position of Deputy Prime Minister, kicking off the “storyline…of imperious control.”
  • The Conservatives created a 200 page manual instructing committee chairs on how to disrupt and sabotage the mechanics of our democracy, including storming out of meetings if necessary (which, in time, they did).
  • Last August, the government ordered the RCMP to remove journalists from the Charlottetown hotel lobby where caucus was meeting so that they couldn’t ask nettlesome questions.
  • Unlike past governments, the Harper government does not reveal the dates of cabinet meetings in advance, making it next to impossible for the media to know to show up and ask questions afterwards and further ensuring that MPs will not be allowed to speak. Martin adds that “our diplomats are in the same boat. The extent of their gagging is also said to be unprecedented.”
  • If journalists want to ask the government a question, they must do so from a pre-approved list. “Journalists got an early sense of what was coming when Mr. Harper tried to ban them from covering ceremonies for soldiers killed in Afghanistan.”

Looking over my past posts, I’m also reminded of when Harper said that questioning the government’s foreign policy amounts to having a “passion for the Taliban,” when he tried to hide a pay raise for senior officials, when he hypocritically appointed committee chairs instead of allowing them to be elected by parliament, when his government bought positive news headlines, etc.

Then, Martin explains, last week saw a rush of evidence to further substantiate our concerns about Harper’s leadership:

  • Last week, only two cabinet ministers were allowed to speak to the media about the throne speech. All 123 of his remaining MPs were silenced, unable to represent those who elected them.
  • Last week, we found out about plans to spend two million of our dollars on “robust physical and information security measures.” That’s code for a government-controlled media briefing centre where Harper would be able to more easily curtail the press’ pesky freedom. (These plans were abandoned and denied as soon as they were discovered.)
  • Last week, accusations and evidence emerged that the Conservative party has been using a partisan party database to track government constituency work. There are a number of problems with that, the primary one being that it’s illegal.
  • Last week, the duly elected executive in Bill Casey’s riding was told that even if Conservative members want him to be their candidate again, Harper will not allow it.

Then, today we learn that the elected riding president has been removed in accordance with Harper’s wishes. There’s also a report in today’s paper that under this government compliance with the Access to Information Act has “both slowed down and decreased,” a fact which “goes against the Harper government’s promise to bring additional openness and transparency to Ottawa in the 2006 election campaign.” This extreme centralization of power and interference with the media’s ability to do its job is perhaps more reminiscent of Putin’s Russia than any other “democracy.” Martin concludes with these words:

The march of democracy in this country is intriguing. Mr. Chrétien took a protester by the throat. This PM, who came out of the populist Reform Party movement, has practically the entire government by the throat.

It is fascinating, if not chilling to see his shrewd acts unfold. There are many who think his strategy, a sort of reverse glasnost, is succeeding. There are others who think that building his version of the Kremlin in Ottawa is not what the people had mind.

Bring Gramma Home

From Mike Nickerson…

“You may have heard that my wife, Donna Dillman, started a hunger strike outside the gate of the uranium mine proposed for up river from Ottawa. Donna stopped eating Thanksgiving morning, October 8, and aims to continue until there is a moratorium placed on uranium exploration and mining, at least for Eastern Ontario.

“Needless to say I am concerned about the woman I love shrinking away in a camp on highway 509 without running water or electricity. This story, however, has much more to do with the grandchildren. Donna & I have four, two of which live 30 km. down wind from the proposed site. If drilling and mining were to go ahead, these young people would be subjected to the various radioactive dusts and gasses that inevitable drift up when steel and dynamite, crushers and sorters break up uranium bearing rock.

Bring Gramma Home!

“Aged between one and a half and eight years, the grandchildren are oblivious of the problem their grandmother is boldly calling public attention to. They only want her to come home.

“You can help. Make a sign that says “Bring Gramma Home” and put it in your window, on your lawn, or wear it on your lapel. When anyone asks what’s up. The conversation is started & you can tell them.

More Than a Family Concern

“While the personal story of grandchildren asking for their grandmother has popular appeal, the stakes of this issue are far more profound.

“The danger of radioactive contamination and other environmental degradation is shared by more than a million people who live downwind and downstream from the site (Sharbot Lake to Ottawa). Hundreds of millions more face similar dangers from other such sites around the world.

“Sooner or later we are going to have to pay respect to what the Earth and Sun offer on an ongoing basis. Nuclear energy is only tempting us to think that we can ignore this responsibility. Were we to shift our electricity demand to nuclear power, uranium reserves would be depleted in 30 to 40 years. Then, the grandchildren would find themselves saddled with the same problems we are trying to avoid today, except that the problems would be far worse. The resources available for working on solutions would be diminished and there would be quantities of radioactive waste, here, there and about, to haunt them for tens of thousands of years to come.

“Both the Earth and the Sun are hugely abundant. Together they have enabled life to thrive for thousands of millions of years. Humans are fully capable of being successful here. By saying yes to living within the natural process of life on Earth, we can avoid freeing the genie of uranium from the rock in which it is trapped. Civilization is now at the height of its possibilities, if this generation cannot meet the challenge of sustainability, how do we expect the grandchildren to do so when it comes to be their turn?

“As countless generations have cared to deliver a better world for those who followed, we are responsible to the grandchildren of today.

Help bring Gramma home.

Thank you.


Mike N.”

Other ways you might help

Contact your local media and tell them to
cover this courageous stand to protect the entire
next generations of grandchildren.

Forward this email [blog post] to your associates and
ask them to help bring Gramma home.

To stay informed about Donna’s hunger strike, she posts a regular blog at, the web site of the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium CCAMU. For regular updates subscribe to “The Uranium News.” by writing to: of by joining on line.

See “Ongoing Projects” at for other possibilities.