Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't even talk about boycotting Olympics, it's a pretty childish idea

I know I haven't posted for a long time, but I wanted to make my opinion known about the political controversy surrounding the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Firstly, concerning the calls for a straight out boycott. I am extremely opposed to such a boycott, as it is completely unfair to the atheletes (who, by the way, are actually the focal point of the Olympics) and it wouldn't actually accomplish anything. The former is quite obvious but the latter is unfortunately not. I first learned about this in a recent edition of Maclean's magazine which contained an article by John Fraser. Basically he said that the Chinese government will not be budged by any outside power concerning it's policies towards non-Communist groups that pose a threat to the government or its vision of China. They know how a group can pounce up and take over a country, as that's what the Communists did themselves in China, and they have decided that they must exterminate any threat to the Communist Party, be it spiritual movements, unions, pro-democracy groups, or separatists. To put all that into a sentence, the Chinese government will do anything to crush any threat to the Communists no matter what the West wants.

Unfortunately the people who are protesting and demanding a boycott have not realized that it just wouldn't work. Yes, it would be a setback to China but it's not worth potentially losing their (the Communist's) influence. And of course it wouldn't destroy their economy or anything.

Let's take the politics out of the Olympics. If you have a problem with human rights in Tibet (and personally I am against what China is doing there) find other ways of expressing that. And when you find that idea, remember to think about it first before you start advocating it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's wrong with the ZENN car?

Within the past couple of weeks, there has been talk of the previously unknown ZENN car. The Canadian company Feel Good Cars has had their low-speed electric car, ZENN, publicized on CBC News and CBC's Rick Mercer Report (click here to watch) within the past while. Just this month, Transport Canada deemed that the car can be sold in Canada. However, it is still up to the individual provinces to licence the car. In fact, only British Columbia has so far allowed it on its roads. (The reason that the company is afloat is that it can sell cars in the United States.)

For a simple car, it has attracted a lot of controversy. So why is Canada so reluctant to licence it? It is actually a Canadian-made car! It is environmentally friendly! What's the problem? The only flaw with it is that one cannot drive on a highway or expressway with it because its speed is limited to 40 KM/H (which is still plenty good for a city, where the speed limit is often 50 KM/H, but usually traffic is not nearly as fast!). The car is a wonderful environmentally-friendly alternative to a gas consuming car (you argue that electricity still burns fossil fuels? Pay a little more and buy green power!).

Now let's talk about the specific provinces. I could understand (although not agree with) Ontario not approving it for economic reasons, being that it should, economically speaking, support Ontario's auto sector and thus buy its cars, instead of buying Québec made ZENNs. In the territories, there could be too much snow for such a little car. Alberta would have to support gas-hungry vehicles. Okay, those provinces have their excuses. But what about the rest? In my home province of Saskatchewan, life isn't really fast-paced in the rural areas anyway; and with our boom, which has brought a lot more traffic jams, one could easily use a ZENN car for commuting during rush-hour in Saskatoon. And what kind of excuse could Québec have (other than the fact that their drivers probably go to fast to accommodate a slow car)? The car is actually made right there!

And unlike many past electric cars which have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, ZENN's basic model starts at only US $12,750 (and it does include a lot of features for such a low price). For that price many people in places without transit could get a very cheap method of transportation, not to mention the gas savings.

So please support this green Canadian car! Sign ZENN's petition online now! Still not convinced? Luc Couillard of the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport tried out the car for two weeks in Montreal. Read his review now!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What happened to the Blogging Dippers?

One of the first things I did when I got up this morning was go to my computer and go to the Blogging Dippers website wanting to see if there had been any commentary yet on the Saskatchewan election. There was only one article by "Giant Political Mouse" that mentioned that there was an election last night. (Even as I refresh the page as I write this article there is still only my own article on the election.) I know that there are bloggers here that are from Saskatchewan, but where are they?

When I started blogging just about a year ago, the Blogging Dippers was an action-packed place to be; there was commentary on everything under the sun, and lots of it. There was also pages and pages of the summaries past articles that had been written; now there are only fourteen (so in order to actually get a look at everything a Blogging Dipper posts, it's necessary to check the site every 8-12 hours!). And why is it that, out of those fourteen spaces, I see only six different blogs? With less summaries to see, there is less to see and thus less of a reason to go to the site and see (get my logic?).

I do realize that people have lives outside of writing on their blogs, but it is a real shame to see the only New Democrat blog aggregate having so little life to it any more. Every week, a woman from Macleans (her name is Katie O'Maley, or something like that) appears on CBC Politics with Don Newman to talk about what's going on in the blogosphere. When she first started (at the beginning of this season of the show), she did the recognize the existence of the Blogging Dippers. However, it has been weeks since she has mentioned us; now she talks about what's on the Blogging Tories, Lib Blogs and the Progressives. But no us; no NDP. Perhaps it's because there just isn't as much life here anymore. Perhaps that means we need to give it life.

And lately, out of the articles that are written, there has been barely anything about actual current political events. Not too much about the mini-budget, the Liberals abstaining, etc. etc. (That's why we don't get our opinions on CBC, because we aren't really giving the NDP view on the current, top stories anymore!) While I do enjoy reading the articles written on topics that I've never actually heard of before, and I have no problems against that, I do wish that we could be actually discussing current affairs, too. If we don't the NDP and Jack Layton are the ones who lose, because they don't get any backing from the blogosphere, like Dion and Harper do.

As far as I know, I don't even think we have an active blogger who lives in Ottawa! I know for instance that the Tories have Stephen Taylor. But who do we have actively blogging from the centre of the action?

Let's get this sorted out. Let's get the NDP message out again through blogs. Let's start writing precise political commentary. Each of us doesn't have to do it everyday, but if we all write even once a week something really great, the Blogging Dippers might just rise from the dead.

End of the SK election, end of an era

What can I say about last night's Saskatchewan election? While I was obviously hoping that all the polls were wrong and that the NDP could narrowly get into power once again, everyone was expecting a Saskatchewan Party government. Yes, there were some specific seats that surprisingly went from NDP to Sask. Party, but the grand total, province-wide results weren't all that different than I was expecting.

What the Saskatchewan Party will do in government is anybody's guess. They could go along with what they've promised to do, or who knows, they could go back to the Devine-times style of government. But either way, the 16 year string of NDP governments is over. While it would have been nice to add at least another four years to that, one can't expect to be in government forever. At some point, people are going to change, and when you really think about it, we should be thanking the Saskatchewan people that they didn't decide to change in the 2003 or 1999 elections (which even then would be a pretty good run for a single party to be in government). I guess this is just the type of rotation that naturally occurs in politics.

To a more local level, I was expecting that Frank Quennell (NDP) would get re-elected in my own constituency of Saskatoon Meewasin. However I was upset that Serge LeClerc (Sask. Party) won in Saskatoon Northwest (although not actually surprised). I was really hoping that Ken Winton-Grey (NDP) could pick up that seat, and for awhile, it was looking possible.

So in conclusion, I am not going to at all speculate as to what the Saskatchewan Party government is going to do with it's next half-year (until next summer) and it's next four years in government, and I think that anyone who does start speculating is quite irresponsible (unless that person is an opposition politician, because that's what politicians are supposed to do; they get paid for that). The soonest real hint that we're going to get will be their first throne speech that should be delivered within a couple months.   But I guess that's the way politics flows.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

20 years since the death of Rene Levesque

I know, I know, the anniversary was on the first of November, but it's never too late. In commemoration of René Lévesque, the Parti Québecois is selling t-shirts with René's face on them, the leaders of all three parties in the National Assembly delivered speeches in his honour, and because of those two things (along with some smaller commemorations), René Lévesque has risen again as a topic of discussion; of course now that someone's dead, people usually just talk about how great he was.

While Lévesque was one of the first real Québec sovereignty leaders (which is what Pauline Marois highlighted), he also made inroads for social change, the nationalization of resources in Québec (such as Hydro Québec), and cleaning up Québec's government (which is what Mario Dumont and Jean Charest highlighted).

Even though I've lived in English Canada all my life, I am too much of a Francophile/'Québecerphile' to provide a truly English Canada 'review' on him. So this time I can just report the facts, but I would love to read a take on him written by a true Anglophone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sask. leaders' debate observations

Last night, the Saskatchewan election leaders' debate took place in Regina between Brad Wall (Sask. Party), David Karwacki (Liberal) and Lorne Calvert (NDP and incumbent premier).

Here is what I noticed last night, written in point form:
1. The format of the debate must have ticked a lot of people off.
      While the statement speeches were handled quite well, I felt that the bickering that occurred during the actual debate times must have turned off people who already had a hunch that politics is 'skum-bag' sport.
2. Brad Wall focused much more on the NDP's history and his independent review than his actual policy.
      Last night, Wall focused on two broad points: a) his platform has had an independent review by an economist (and that economist said it was balanced); and b) Saskatchewan pretty much is falling apart under Calvert. However, Wall really didn't mention much about his exact ideas and—for the ones he did bring up—how those ideas will make Saskatchewan better. I think if people should know exactly what this change that's being proposed to them is, and how this change is actually constructive and will make everyone's lives better (i.e. that the change is not like switching from sugar-packed Lucky Charms cereal to sugar-packed Captain Crunch cereal).
3. David Karwacki did surprisingly well.
      While I am in no way handing my support to Karwacki's platform, I was surprised how well Karwacki did in the debate. He didn't seem like the unelected leader of a third party who-has-no-current-MLAs type of guy. He did truly seem like a real contender who has a good chance.
4. Lorne Calvert ought to have made the point more clearly that the boom was started under his government.
      While Calvert did mention several times that Saskatchewan is experiencing a boom and has increased prosperity, I never actually heard him take credit for that. The job boom logically means that there is more jobs, meaning that either companies are starting here or are expanding here, meaning that the business climate is good here, and since the jobs are getting filled, it means that people have a desire to live here. That is definitely something worth taking credit for; all of this did happen under this NDP government.
5. Karwacki was fixed on Saskatoon.
      While Wall and Calvert gave a pretty provincial take on things and issues, Karwacki's points were very much Saskatoon-centric. He was talking about Saskatoon crime, Saskatoon traffic and infrastructure, Saskatoon as a young people magnet, and Saskatoon people who he talked to during the campaign. While it is true that his own constituency where he is running is in Saskatoon, and his party's only real shot is in some select Saskatoon constituencies, it really doesn't make him look fit to be a party leader—never mind a premier—who actually has the interests of such foreign places like Estevan and Regina in mind (kinda reminds me of Gilles Duceppe's 'geographical bias').
6. The taped questions by Saskatchewan residents often had a bias against the NDP.
      I noticed that many of the questions asked by the people had a strong, obvious bias against the status quo (a.k.a. the NDP). For instance, one guy from Swift Current said that the roads in Saskatchewan are terrible and that it's impossible to drive somewhere without stuff falling off your car. Since it's currently the NDP who is in charge of the roads, and is backing up their track record on highways, that question is completely out of line. The question itself shouldn't have a political position.

And finally my number seven point, which, while not really having much to do with anything, is something I still think should be said for those who missed the debate. I noticed that after the first question (which was asked by an older guy in Regina with the subject of what are you damned politicians going to do with my hard-earned money), Karwacki actually laughed a bit (this was caught on tape because he was the first one to answer the question). I think this was because, with absolutely no offence to the questioner, the guy did have a kind of 'funny' or 'different' voice/vocal expression. I am not at all saying that Karwacki is losing all electoral chances to do this, but it does make him look like a snobby jerk.

Despite my above points, there was enough substance in last night's debate. However, I do not believe that there was an actual winner; no one really screwed up or said anything down-right stupid. A week until the election … isn't it all so exciting?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

UN moving to Montreal? C'est possible.

Originally reported in Montréal's La Presse newspaper, but reproduced in Montréal's English-language paper The Gazette, officials from the City of Montréal, the Québec government, and the Government of Canada have been lobbying the United Nations to move its headquarters from New York City to Montréal.

This whole story started when the United Nations decided that its buildings in New York needed to be significantly renovated. They discovered that this would cost $1.9 billion. Canadian officials devised a plan to give the United Nations a chunk of land in Montréal's Old Port that is nine times bigger than its current lot—with a whole new block of buildings on it—for less money than it would cost to renovate its current infrastructure in New York. (Even though it's in a popular tourist district, this particular section is "well removed from tourists".)

I believe that this would be a great move for the United Nations. Montréal is a truly bilingual city, which would be a great compliment to its two official working languages policy (the two languages being English and French). Montréal is also located, at least at the moment, in Canada, which is a lot less repulsive place for the UN to be than the United States.

Looking at it from our perspective as Canadians, this would bring a lot more attention, fancy diplomatic people, money, and quite possibly even more influence to Canada.

While Canada's proposal would still save the UN money, I strongly believe that it needs to be made even more attractive. Canadian officials need to mount an international campaign underlining that Canada is a much more 'authentic' home for the United Nations than is business, money-oriented New York in the cocky United States of America. Montréal has culture, life, and diplomacy ringing through its streets; that's what we have to present to the UN member-nations, as well as the UN itself. (It also wouldn't hurt to make it even more financially cheap for the UN.)

Just FYI, the New York renovations aren't set to start until the spring, so we still have some time to pitch our idea.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Election over throne speech?

My answer: quite likely. Here is what I think each party's motives/thoughts are:

Conservatives:
The Tories have been trying for quite some time to reach 40% in the polls, which is generally considered the minimum support needed to form a majority. This week, they met that goal. Harper and his party desperately want a majority government. Now that they're this far, a decently financed election (which is something they can do) could be enough to actually obtain that majority.

Additionally, Harper has been setting the stage for an election, by taunting the Liberals to either support their throne speech or face an election. To me, this looks like Harper thinks his speech won't be an instant sell to the Grits.

Liberals:
On one hand, Dion and the Liberals are in no health to fight (never mind win) an election. On the other, supporting Harper's throne speech (which he is making sound a bit more radical than we are used to) is only going to make Dion look worse.

However, Dion has been hinting that he very well might vote against the speech. If he thought he wouldn't support it, he wouldn't have done all the ranting against it—and against the possibility of his party supporting it.

NDP and the Bloc Québecois:
Both of these parties seem as though they are prepared to, and will, vote against the government as long as its speech isn't a left-wing suck-up (which it probably won't be).

There's what I think. What's on your mind?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marois has a seat in the National Assembly, politics changing in Quebec

Pauline Marois, the new leader of the Parti Québecois, has won the by-election in the constituency of Charlevoix.

What does this mean for Québec and the rest of Canada? For federalists, this is in fact good news. Marois has stated that she, at least at this time, doesn't have the intention of pursuing the dominant sovereignty aspect of the PQ's platform. So with Marois winning this seat with 59% of the vote, showing her popularity, it means that Marois should be sticking around for awhile holding back the sovereignty agenda. What she'll do in the Assembly is something that we'll have to keep an eye on.

This adds to the list of recent events that shows a change in direction of Québec politics. All of a sudden in the past year, we have experienced the following:
- the first minority government in Québec since the 1800s
- the rise of a Francophone conservative party (the ADQ), and its position as the Official Opposition
- the federal Conservative Party going from zero to ten seats in Québec in one election, followed by another seat in a by-election
- an uncontested female leader of the PQ who has no immediate intention of pursing the sovereignty of Québec
- the first NDP MP in Québec since 1970

Remember Québec in the 60s and 70s? The passion, the patriotism, the anger of the public were all present; people were genuinely involved and passionate about the future of their province. Also, people were fairly centre-left. Nowadays, it seems as history is no longer an insight into Québec politics. More and more people are going Right to the conservatives, which thirty years ago would have been unthinkable.

In the August 13th edition of Maclean's, Québec filmmaker Pierre Falardeau was quoted as saying, "Quebecers have become imbeciles. This is a population that lives in the suburbs and shops at Wal-Mart. It's a collective problem. Where are the intellectuals? Where are the artists? Where are the thinkers, the ones who are meant to make us reflect?"

While many people would disagree with that interpretation, the former revolutionary-type province of Québec is changing. How much more it will go to the Right, and be like the rest of Canada, is yet to be determined.

Monday, September 24, 2007

California politicians close to deal on health care

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is close to reaching a deal with the opposition Democratic Party on introducing universal medical coverage in the State of California.

While members of Schwarzenegger's Republican Party are very skeptical about it, and even publically against it, many of the groups who are traditionally against such health care reforms haven't really spoken out against it as was expected. Some major corporations aren't even really against it as they, too, are facing problems with rising health care costs.

Click here to read Schwarzenegger's health reform plan

A recent poll found that 72% of Californian adults support the governor's plan.

Isn't it great to see that even a Republican governor is fighting for health care for all, regardless of their ability to pay? We should all hope that this will go forward and become law in California. Between Schwarzenegger and the two leading federal Democratic leadership candidates, the health of low-income Americans is looking a lot better.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thibault to be questioned by National Assembly

A former lieutenant-governor of Québec, Lise Thibault, has been asked by all three parties of the National Assembly to explain some excessive expenses before the Public Administration Commission.

These excessive expenses, in fact, totalled up to $700,000 which she spent on personal gifts and meals; sometimes these expenses of hers were made simultaneously in different cities! During media questioning, she has said that she doesn't regret anything.

In my opinion, it is despicable for a public official to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of non-business expenses using tax money. While she did have some 'royalness' because of her position, that still doesn't make her the God of our money to do whatever she pleases with it.

The Commission is investigating to ensure that this doesn't happen again, and the president, Gilles Taillon (ADQ MNA), even mentioned criminal charges. In the case that these were wrongful expenses of tax money, I hope that the Commission will find out information that could possibly create criminal charges against Thibault, like anyone else, doesn't have the right to misspend so much of other people's money; money that could have been put to healthcare or other beneficial programs.

This case is not closed yet; we'll have to see what the Commission finds out and decides. After Thibault has made her appearance, I'll blog on this again.

P.S. What are your thoughts on this potential scandal? Have any other info? Please leave a comment.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Outremont and Quebec politics

I noticed something recently, there is currently no Blogging Dipper who is regularly blogging on Québec politics. For that reason I am going to take up monitering Québec politics along with federal and Saskatchewan politics, until a Québec resident takes up blogging from the NDP perspective. Since it is necessary that the NDP be an active and noticed presence in Québec for it to make significant gains, there needs to be a blogger who regularly provides his or her take on Québec politics.

Since I have a new 'mandate' in my blogging, I will try to blog more in the future, time permitting.

And finally, my best wishes to Thomas Mulcair in Outremont tonight, along with the other two NDP candidates in the Québec by-elections. Let's get Thomas in the House!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fall federal election to go with provincial elections?

Stephen Harper has finally decided that he'd like to wipe the order papers free of the opposition's bills from last spring and start a new session with a throne speech. Of course, a throne speech brings up a very good point for the opposition parties to call an election.

Already, Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québecois, has said that his party will vote against the throne speech if it does not make a firm commitment that Canada will withdraw from Afghanistan in February of 2009. Stéphane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party, has stated that his party will vote against it if it doesn't say that it will comply with Kyoto.

So it is starting to look quite possible to have a fall federal election. However, the opposition parties may be a bit more reluctant (hopefully they'll be reluctant, for the sake of election workers) to bring down the government when there is an Ontario election scheduled for October and the likelihood of a Saskatchewan election, too.

While I think it is a good idea to end this Harper-cratic government as soon as possible, I just don't think this fall is the time for that; let's wait until spring.