Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

Politics and its Discontents: Explaining Justin Trudeau

No matter what the Liberal leader says or does, his popularity ranks at a consistently high level. While part of the explanation for his standings in the polls surely lies in the Canadian people’s weariness with the Harper regime, a regime that has shown itself, through its practices of division, neoliberal politics and fear/hate-mongering, to be unworthy of public office, there must be more to it than that.

Rick Salutin, writing in The Star, offers up an interesting perspective in a piece entitled Paradoxical public art of seeming human. His thesis is that the more a person appears like (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror: Targeted Charities Begin To Fight Back

It was with a certain pleasure that I read in Monday’s Star that some international aid charities are banding together to challenge the Harper-directed CRA witch hunt into charities that promote views counter to government policy:

A dozen such groups conferred last week about a joint strategy to present to agency officials next month, a reversal from the last two years, when many charities refrained from speaking out for fear of aggravating the taxman.

The challenge by a dozen charities, many of which have been or currently are being subjected to CRA audits/witch hunts, is being conducted under the aegis (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Well Said!

The other day I wrote a post critical of the ‘blame game’ being played by the NDP’s Andrea Horwath to excuse her lack of progress during the recent Ontario provincial election. In a similar vein, Star letter-writer Michael Foley of Toronto offers his excoriating assessment of her rationalization:

Re: Liberal scare tactics cost party at polls, NDP leader says, June 26

I want to make this very clear, Andrea Horwath. I did not, nor have I ever voted out of fear. I vote for the leader who offers the best ideas for all Ontarians.Horwath apparently lost because of an (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Sad Record Of Our Last Parliamentary Session

Star reader David Buckna, of Kelowna, B.C., offers a searing and accurate assessment of our latest session of Parliament:

Federal MPs are back in their ridings for the summer, and will be out hitting the barbecue circuit. When I think back to the second session of the 41st Parliament (January to June), the following things come to mind:

1. The Orwellian-sounding Fair Elections Act. More than 150 university professors signed a petition stating that the Fair Elections Act “would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections.” On April 25, (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Thomas Walkom Misses The Mark

One of the reasons I subscribe to The Toronto Star is the quality of its columnists. Tim Harper, Martin Regg Cohn, Thomas Walkom, Heather Mallick, etc. rarely disappoint. However, no one is perfect, and today’s column by Walkom is not up to his usual critical standards.

Entitled Conservatives’ downfall could be Stephen Harper’s dismissive tone, the piece seems to suggest that if Harper were nicer, people wouldn’t perceive his government in nearly as bad a light as they do:

When the obituary is finally written on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, it is the tone that will stand out.

(Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Reading Recommendation.

I have a deep respect for Alex Himelfarb, the director of the Glendon School of International and Public Affairs and tireless proponent of responsible, progressive taxation. The latter, as one can well-imagine, likely makes him persona non grata in many circles, but those are likely the same circles that close out responsible thought or discussion on any topics that might threaten to puncture the artificial and insular world they encase themselves in.

It is, of course, easy to take the expedient route, as have politicians like Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Mulcair at the federal level, and, here (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Two Sentiments That Will Resonate With Many

Today’s Star brings two letters, one on despotic rule and the other on electoral reform, that many would find hard to argue against:

Harper’s on a lonely road to political isolation, April 15

Aristotle once remarked that all forms of government — democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, tyranny — are inherently unstable, all political regimes are inherently transitional and that the stability of all regimes is corrupted by the corrosive power of time.

To prolong the viability of democratic form of government, his advice had been constant turnover of leaderships to renew the political process.After eight years in power, Prime Minister (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Sometimes, Clicking Your Heels Does Not Send You To Kansas

This thoughtful letter explains why:

Re: Tory MP takes aim at elections watchdog, April 9

When it comes to fairness and objectivity, I have more faith in the former auditor general of Canada, Sheila Fraser, and in the current chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, than in Pierre Poilievre, the arrogant Conservative minister of state for democratic reform. Whenever I see or hear the minister denigrating an upstanding Canadian citizen who has had the courage to express a sincere concern about the government’s so-called Fair Elections Act, I can’t help imagining Poilievre clicking his heels together each time he meets with (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Toronto Police Are At It Again

This is what happens when you have a ‘blue wall’ culture, facilitated by a police chief who often seems more politician than top cop. Sure, it is unfair and inaccurate to portray all police as abusers of their authority, but when it happens again and again, with little consequence, people can be forgiven for being wary of those who are supposed to protect and serve the public.

Here is one such victim:

The above is Curtis Young, arrested in January of 2012 for alleged public intoxication obstructing justice and later assaulting and threatening police officers.

As reported in The Star (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: C’Mon, We’ve All Been Thinking It

And now, thanks to Michael de Adder, we’ve got a picture to go along with those thoughts:

Recommend this Post

Politics and its Discontents: Another Informed Star Reader

Christine Penner Polle of Red Lake offers some observations that I suspect few but the most ardent ideologues would dispute:

Re: Ottawa plans cuts to climate programs, March 12

Have we Canadians fallen down the rabbit hole? We are living in a Mad Hatter world where our federal government is slashing funding to Environment Canada’s climate change efforts at the same time scientists are raising the alarm about the threat of an unstable climate to our civilization, and where even staid, small “c” conservative institutions such as the IMF and the IEA are urging swift action to decrease emissions from (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: This Just In!

And it is very encouraging, in that it appears Canadians are beginning to wake up to the true nature of the Harper regime:

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe that the ruling Conservatives are settling political scores with their Fair Elections Act, a new poll has found. You can read all about it here.

Recommend this Post

Politics and its Discontents: Andrea Horwath: Labour’s Fair-Weather Friend?

In light of her refusal to say much about anything, a political disease she may have caught from her federal cousins, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is being viewed increasingly as little more than a political opportunist. Probably the most recent example of this sad state is her reticence to articulate a position on Ontario’s minimum wage.

Two weeks ago, Martin Regg Cohn offered this:

When did the party of the working poor lose its voice? Listen to the sound of Horwath clearing her throat when she finally emerged from the NDP’s Witness Protection Program this week — nine days (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Heather Mallick And The Climate Of Fear

Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick has a lacerating assessment this morning of the political landscape we now inhabit, thanks to the machinations of the Harper cabal. Owen, over at Norther Reflections, has a post on her piece that is well-worth reading.

I shall only add this from her column:

What an extraordinary thing to live a pleasant life in a western nation and yet fear your own government. But the Canada Revenue Agency’s new audits of environmental charities like Tides Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence in the midst of their continuing warnings about the effects of (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Economic Fact Check

Contrary to what our self-described economist Prime Minister would have us believe, the jobs that are being created in Canada today are but a pale echo of what once existed. Responding to a January report about the creation of 29,000 new jobs, Star readers have this to say:

Jump in jobs eases economy fears, Feb. 8

The article begins by saying “the labour market started 2014 with a bang adding 29,400 jobs,” presenting a positive tone regarding unemployment. This is misleading. From 2004 to 2008, according to Statistic Canada, nearly 350,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs disappeared, to be replaced by a (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: UPDATE: A Shameful Minister With No Shame

I can think of not one positive thing to say about Julian Fantino. Apparently, Toronto Star readers can’t either:

Fantino ‘absolutely regrets’ clash with veterans, Jan. 30

There is no possible excuse for the shameful treatment of our veterans by the federal Conservative government. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s arrogant and disdainful behaviour with a delegation of veterans who met with him to lobby for keeping eight regional Veterans’ Affairs offices open is another low point of his career. He should resign or be fired.

These veterans put their lives on the line for our country without questioning whatever political (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: I Shop, Therefore I Am

First and foremost, how do you see yourself? Are you a citizen more than a consumer, or vice-versa? Are high-minded principles and vision your defining characteristic, or is how to get the best value for your money what drives you?

The questions that I just posed are, of course, on one level ludicrous, inasmuch as they suggest an either/or answer. Realistically, or at least ideally, we can be both. Yet to examine the rhetoric of our political ‘leaders’, our lives are defined by angst over cable selection, gasoline prices, and cellphone bills, and little else.

One of the books I (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A World Badly In Need Of Inspired Leadership

Since he was elected to the position, I have written several posts related to Pope Francis; several of them express a renewed hope that the plain-speaking pontiff can generate some hope in a world badly in need of inspiring leadership, something almost wholly absent in our current crop of politicos, obsessed as they are first and foremost with the attainment and retention of power.

In response to a recent article by the Star’s Carol Goar, readers offer their perspective on what politicians could learn from Francis:

Goar: World leaders respond to Pope’s message, Opinion Jan. 12

Carol Goar’s piece on (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Narrowcasting And The Internet

Narrowcasting can be defined as the process of aiming a radio or TV program or programming at a specific, limited audience or consumer market. While it is a term that is applied to traditional media, Noah Richler suggests in an interesting article in today’s Star that increasingly, the Internet, by the choices people make, is quickly becoming a medium that is narrowing, not expanding, our capacity for critical thought.

While his article perhaps does not constitute a fresh insight, Richler points out that we are becoming increasingly susceptible to what he calls the tyranny of measurement, our propensity toward (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Lion In Winter

Like a bloated, aging and wounded lion who realizes his hold over his pride is at an end, Conrad Black is lashing out. Still licking his wounds from lacerations received at the hands of the CBC’s Carol Off, Black used his column in Saturday’s National Post (which as a rule I do not read, but more about that later) both to justify his journalistic ineptitude and to strike back at his growing list of adversaries who include Star editor Michael Cooke, Star columnist Rosie DiManno, The Star itself, and well, just about anyone else who finds fault with him.

(Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Lesson In Humility For The Good Lord?

While I readily admit to not having wasted my time watching Conrad Black’s interview with Toronto’s pretend-mayor, I did take special delight in the dressing-down he received at the hands of As It Happens’ Carol Off, as noted yesterday. One hopes that he learned something about real journalism from the encounter.

Today, two Star letter-writers offer their comments on the actual interview. Short version: they were not impressed. And given the fact that Star reporter Daniel Dale has decided to sue Vision TV, Zoomer Media, and Rob Ford, perhaps Moses Znaimer will have reason to reconsider his decision to employ (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: We Are All To Blame

Here is a letter from today’s Star that puts responsibility for the proliferating problem of deceitful, inept, corrupt and demagogic political leaders where it belongs: on all of our shoulders:

Re: How to cover a deceiver without airing mistruth? Opinion Nov. 6

Publisher John Cruickshank’s wonderful piece addresses what should be a deep concern in our society: the prevalent and amoral use of “spin.” In the 1960s, when I was being raised in Toronto, we called “spin” what it was: a lie.

The temerity of many people in our society, most notably those with whom we should have the (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Debt Owed To The Media

As fashionable as it is to denigrate the mainstream media for their frequent timidity and conservatism, public knowledge about both Rob Ford’s disgraceful performance as Mayor of Toronto and the current Senate scandal embroiling Stephen Harper, impeaching the integrity and honesty of both politicians, would not exist were it not for a diligent media, especially the press.

I have often stated in this blog that I am both proud and pleased to subscribe to The Toronto Star, given the integrity of its work and the fact that many of its investigations have resulted in change at both the local and (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: More On Quebec’s Purity Charter

If the above interests you, you may wish to take a few minutes to check out Haroon Siddiqui’s column in today’s Star. Entitled Pauline Marois issues fatwa on Quebec secularism, his thesis can be summed up in his final paragraph:

Marois is engaged in an ugly cultural warfare of the rightwing Republican kind. She is using religious minorities to fire up her base constituency. She figures that the more English Canada reacts strongly, the better for her. But we cannot fall into the trap of abandoning fundamental Canadian constitutional values.

While Siddiqui concentrates on the damage the Quebec purity (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: On Tasers And Tim

As usual, Star readers offer their penetrating commentary on recent events and the benighted Tim Hudak. Enjoy!

80-year-old woman tasered a day after rules changed, Sept. 4

I find it extremely disturbing that Peel Region police officers called to Thomas St. and Erin Mills Parkway on Aug. 28 around 3:30 a.m. were unable to “talk down” an obviously anguished 80-year-old woman. According to the article, the woman was “walking along the road,” which is not at all busy with traffic at that time of the morning. Surely, even if they could not get her off the road of her (Read more…)