Saturday, June 25, 2005

Gomery hires Martin's pal . . .

From the Globe. Hat tip: Grandinite

Former Liberal MP and Martin chum Raymond Garneau has been hand-picked by Justice John Gomery to be the guy who's going to make sure Adscam isn't repeated. From the Globe:

The fact that Mr. Garneau is a former provincial Liberal minister and a former Liberal MP, as well as a strong supporter of Prime Minister Paul Martin in the last Liberal leadership race, is causing concern in the opposition.

I haven't caught much tv the past day or two, and I only scanned the Post this morning, but I didn't see anything about this.

Is it because it's just so typical that it doesn't seem to be news?

The Bloc Quebecois said that Garneau's presence on the committee initially raised eyebrows, but the fact that Judge Gomery remains the sole author of the final report is reassuring.

So, it's comforting that the guy who is going to write the final report of the inquiry is the same guy who hired a Martin sympathizer to head a committee related to the scandal.

I don't know whether Gomery is fair and impartial. Even if I would like to believe that his is, this doesn't look good.

But apparently no one really cares. I did a google news search and a yahoo news search, and only the Globe has the questionable appointment in the headline, and some major news outlets aren't even carrying the story.

Is the media afraid of questioning Gomery's judgement? Am I wrong that this is a bad development, or does it just not matter?


Friday, June 24, 2005

Slinging arrows

I think what bothers me about this Parliament, and the media coverage of it is the focus by pundits about what the Conservatives aren't doing right.

Has there ever been so much scrutiny of an opposition party, even within a minority government?

I'm not suggesting that the Conservatives shouldn't be looked at, it's just the lengths commentators are willing to go . . . for example --

Last night on CPAC after the vote a reporter went around guaging reaction from Monte Solberg, then Stephen Harper. Harper seemed frustrated, but answered a few questions politely.

When Harper had moved away from the press, this reporter found a Liberal (forget his name) and chatted with him a few minutes, giving him puffball questions about the Conservatives. Finally the reporter told the MP about a scenerio he'd heard which he described as Machiavellian in nature. The scenerio had the Conservatives intentionally telegraphing their plans for the budget vote, and then deliberately having members absent so they vote would pass. Their reasoning would have been to be able to paint the Liberals as in bed with the Bloc and ready to make deals with anyone, blah, blah, blah.

The reporter suggested he didn't believe it, and even the Liberal sort of shrugged and seemed confused as to why this was being asked.

Once suggestions like this are made publicly, there are people watching who will just remember the words Conservative and Machiavellian being linked in a budget vote.

On another note -- I dropped by Rick Mercer's blog yesterday expecting something interesting or funny.

Isn't it hilarious that Rick Mercer bought to 'show' Jason Kenney. Remember Kenney suggested that Don Boudria was at fault that his name was taken for a website by an anti-same-sex marriage group. Kenney said Boudria should have remembered to register his domain name.

Mercer, with his usual scintillating wit, decided to turn the tables . . . only and are both registered -- to, guess who -- that's right, Jason Kenney.
So Mercer with extra eager cleverness, went the extra mile registered -- why that silly Jason Kenney, he only registered two variations of his name. It might never have occurred to him that someone looking for an MP would use the 'org' extention, but then he doesn't have Mercer's rapier sense of humour. Wow, that clever Rick Mercer showed him.

Mercer is the same guy who started a petition to change Stockwell Day's name to Doris.

He gets a government paycheque to be funny. Maybe that explains why he's not.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

An answer for everything

I think it's important to reply to the people who commented, and disagreed with or questioned my post on same-sex marriage. I think short answers in the comments section are not really enough.
All who disagreed with me did so respectfully, and in a debate that can become so emotionally charged, I want to thank them. Thanks to all those who answered supporting my POV.

Question Period said...
You've stated what the "true meaning and intention" of marriage is not ("to legally recognise the relationships of people who love each other") but you haven't told us what the meaning is (other than that it is discriminatory). Can you tell us what the true meaning and intention of marriage is?

As stated by a couple of my commenters, the purpose of marriage is the procreation and nurturing of a new generation. The only interest the state has for promoting (supporting or legislating) with regard to marriage is for the protection of children. If marriage were a purely adult institution, based entirely on sexual intimacy, the government would have no business in it at all . . . lest we forget the famous advice of PET -- the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

The state's interest in marriage is as the starting point of the family. That some people never have children is irrelevant -- the potential for children is always there in any opposite-sex relationship and is never there in any same-sex relationship.

VF said... Indeed, what is the true purpose of marriage and why do you think this discrimination is justified? You never answer either question in this post.You point out reasons for discrimination based on age being valid and I agree with them, but you point out no reasons for discrimination based on gender here being justified.

I have answered part of your question above.

Not allowing same-sex marriage is not discrimination on the basis of gender. It is exclusion based on not having met the criteria -- the criteria being an opposite-sex component. I have used the word discrimination in the broadest sense, meaning 'choosing' rather than the commonly assumed meaning of prejudice which implies 'bigotry'. Gay people are not prohibited from marriage, but in order to conform to the definition, they probably wouldn't be very happy.

What reason does the state have to support or promote gay marriage?
For the betterment of society? No. Society is not better for it (argue if you will that it is not worse for it either, but even if it's effects are neutral, the state has no obligation or motivation to support it.)
So gay people will feel better about their relationships? The state should not be in the business of self-esteem building.
To give same-sex couples the same benefits as opposite-sex married couples? In most ways, gay couples already have the same benefits as opposite-sex couples. The compromise solution would be civil unions, but gay-rights activists have rejected this.

Rights are subject to restrictions but there should be a justification for the restrictions, as there is with age.

The restriction on marriage is based on an opposite-sex requirement. The opposite-sex component is the one universal requirement -- it crosses cultures and religions. While cultural and religious differences allow for polygamy, child marriages, arranged marriages or marriages of close family members -- the one constant has been that those who are to be the spouses must be of opposite gender.

This is justified because marriage is, and should be child-centred institution. What you're really trying to say is that you don't see that as a valid requirement.
Well, what are valid restrictions? Number of people? A person can be sexually intimate with and in fact can love more than one person at a time -- if marriage is about love and copulation what difference does the number make?
Familial relationship? That restriction is based on religious prohibitions, not secular ones. The secular arguement is based on inbreeding and genetics -- but with the advent of effective birth control, one could argue that in a progressive society birth defects are no longer an issue. And what about same-gender familial relationships -- they can never procreate, so they shouldn't be allowed to marry?
What about age? In the Catholic church, a child takes his first communion at seven. The church presumes the child to be old enough to know right from wrong. Okay, that's too young? Why not ten then. Many children go through puberty at this tender age, isn't that an indication that they are old enough? Well, why not twelve -- that's the age at which society acknowledges a person can be held accountable should they commit a crime. Still not comfortable? Okay fourteen. The age of consent for sex is fourteen. If marriage is about love and sex, then fourteen should be reasonable.

If we are going to change the definition to include same-sex couples, what justification do we have to stop there? None. Any reasons we could use to justify the limitation of marriage to two people, of a certain age, not of close familial relationship -- these are all arbitrary, cultural rationalizations.
My point is that you can justify any position. If there is not just one, right, proper, true meaning of marriage, than any meaning is just as valid as its presenter makes it appear. Suggesting these truths are invalid because it's a 'slippery slope' argument is just laziness.

What about couples that know they are infertile, should they be allowed to get married? Or couples with no intention of ever having children? As these couples are allowed to get married, to draw the line that same sex couples are not allowed to get married for this reason would be arbitrary and inconsistent.Bob - You say that it minimized the role of creating families, but same sex couples can adopt children and raise them. Is this not creating a family? Should opposite sex couples who adopt be allowed to get married? If so, then why not allow same sex couples to get married when the situation is, for all intents and purposes, the same? Same sex couples have been shown to be as good at parenting as opposite sex couples in several studies by credible organizations, so the argument that they are inferior parents is not backed by any evidence that I have seen.

Almost everyone would agree that whenever possible, a child's best interests are served by being raised within a family consisting of both biological parents. Nature it seems is the biggest discriminator. It takes people of both genders to make a baby. Whether you believe in God, or evolution, or both -- the opposite sex requirement for procreation is natural.

Most societies share the belief that the responsibility for children should rest with natural parents. Who would or wouldn't be a good parent is not the point. The state has the obligation to support natural parents whenever possible. It isn't always possible, and the state intervenes. Should opposite-sex couples who are infertile be allowed to adopt? Of course. They reflect the natural, biological origins of the child.
But by enshrining gay marriage into law, the state is creating a class of children who will -- by design -- not be raised by at least one of their natural parents. Government endorsement and facilitation of 'legal' rather than 'natural' parenthood, is state sponsored social engineering.

Rhetoric said... You make an interesting argument. I feel though that I should point out that:1. Slippery slope arguments like "...the government has not only opened the door for the definition to altered again and again as various groups argue their rights are being violated by exclusion..." are a logical fallacy. Policy choices (e.g. SSM) should be made on their merits alone not based on the preceived likelihood that they might make another less-palatable choice more possible;

My pointing out a logical consequence of allowing same-sex marriage is not the same as using that as an argument against same-sex marriage. I have made my case against same sex marriage by stating that I believe people should be required to fit the definition, the definition should not be altered to fit the special needs of a specific group.

2. I think that the religious nature of marriage puts it in the realm of natural rights (freedom of religion). Would you not object if the government refused to recognise religious marriage ceremonies? Obviously natural rights can be limited where they are over-ruled by the common interest (e.g. jailed criminals loose their right to freely associate) but I think this requires a much higher standard.

I have difficulty answering this one because I'm not quite sure what you mean. It would seem that you are saying that marriage is essentially a religious thing and therefore a natural right. I would have to disagree with that because not all religious rites are also 'human rights'. Nothing of what I have said is based on the bible or any religion. As for the state not recognising a religious marriage - most worries about state recognition are financially motivated.

Your premise is that marriage is a natural right. If that's true, then unlike other human rights or natural rights, marriage is not necessary to live a full and satisfying life.

This bill is likely going to pass, if not now, then in the fall. The government has drawn on the equality provision of the Charter, and I believe the rights of individuals to voice dissent might be at risk because teaching against same-sex marriage, if one does so from a secular perspective, might be perceived as 'hate speech'. Also, the protection this bill offers to religions and clergy who refuse to marry same-sex couples will be at the mercy of the judiciary. Which will be the more important right -- the right of a priest to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony, or the right of two congregants to fully participate in the rites of their religion? Freedom of religion cuts two ways. Whose religious rights will be upheld?

I don't think this debate is over yet and the questions on both sides are important. This is societal changing legislation. For politicians to say that we've talked enough, devalues the concerns of those on the opposing side. Let's stop putting timeframes on it, and strive to get it right.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

As C-38 heads towards law . . .

The government is suggesting it will extend the session in order to pass Bill C-38, in effect calling the bluff of those in the Liberal caucus who are against the bill.

Before it becomes illegal for me to do so, I'm going to put out there a few reasons why I believe this bill is wrong, even if the amendments are adopted in order to give stronger protections to religions.

By using Section 15 of the Charter, and insisting marriage a 'human rights' issue, the government has not only opened the door for the definition to altered again and again as various groups argue their rights are being violated by exclusion, it has also opened the door for human rights complaints against individuals who continue to believe that marriage is the union of one man, one woman.

I don't believe marriage can be considered 'a human right' as Paul Martin and Jack Layton say. Some rights are subject to restrictions. These are rights bestowed by the state -- driving or voting for example. Other rights are natural rights, rights that exist as part of being human. The right to life and security of person fall into this catagory.

Marriage is a right bestowed by the state, and therefore it is subject to the restrictions of said state --- this makes it a right, but not a 'human rights' issue. The government has gone from saying: marriage is a right given to people who meet a certain criteria, to: marriage is a human right which cannot be withheld from anyone based on the Charter equality provision.

Those who don't believe this will eventually lead to such things as adult/child marriage, have not been paying attention to the evolution of sexual rights issues in western cultures.

The definition of marriage as we have known it, is discriminitory. . . and that's a good thing. Society teaches us that it is wrong to discriminate, but discrimination is a necessity. It allows us to pick and choose what is right for us as individuals and as a society based on certain criteria. Some discrimination is wrong. Discrimination based on race is wrong because there is nothing in any race of people which renders them so different from another race that a right should be denied them. Discrimination based on age is sometimes wrong. As a society, we have determined a fairly standard age at which the rights and responsibilities of adulthood are passed along to children because we conclude prior to that age a person hasn't sufficient maturity to make certain choices, or face certain responsibilities. The age varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but all societys use age as a basis on which to discriminate. We choose to discriminate against some people, for various reasons -- the protection of the individual or the protection of society.

One might argue that the love of a same-sex couple is as important, as strong, as meaningful, as the love of any opposite-sex couple -- and I've no doubt they would be correct. And that would matter if the definition of marriage, the true meaning and intention of marriage was to legally recognise the relationships of people who love each other.

There are all kinds of love relationships that are not given the special status of 'marriage'. That is because no matter the committment we make to another person, if we do not fit the criteria -- marriage is not an option. To suggest that marriage yield its definition in order to be inclusive, is like suggesting that motherhood should be redefined to remove the gender requirement. It just doesn't make sense.

In the case of marriage, same-sex couples were never excluded -- they were simply not included because they do not fit the criteria.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Toronto deserves its problems

If it's true what Margaret Wente says, Toronto deserves its problems. It seems we won't elect Harper because he 'has reverse charisma'. Except, we wouldn't know this is the likes of Wente weren't always telling us. I like Margaret Wente. Sometimes I even agree with what she writes. Not this time.

In her column of June 14, Ms Wente takes to task those who would blame Ontario for the troubles of the Conservative Party in general, and Stephen Harper in particular.

The column centres around a 'briefing session' of the Toronto Board of Trade to which Harper was invited. Wente points out that amongst those in attendance were members of the business community, who are as she puts it:

(Harper's) natural constituency -- pragmatic, fiscally conservative business types who are red-hot furious with Paul Martin (. . .) I grant you Toronto is no Tory stronghold. Even so, it shoulda been a gimme.

Wente starts by setting out the agenda of these business people:

The business folks were eager to find out if Mr. Harper understands their issues. The main one, in short, is this. The golden goose is on short rations. The city shells out billions more each year than it gets back in support from senior governments. Meantime, it doesn't have enough taxing power to clean the streets. The country's biggest economic engine is starved for maintenance money.

Let's put aside the fact that business in this country has closer ties to the Liberals than any other party. Let's forget that business depends on regular cash infusions from their friends in the federal government. Let's forget that the myriad of connections between business leaders, economic leaders, bankers, billionaires and activists in this country all criss-cross along the web of the Liberal Party of Canada. If you are big in business, your friends probably sit on the Liberal side of the House.

Forget all that, and just remember that in the 18 months since the last Municipal election, grants to arts and cultural organizations in Toronto have increased in both budget years. This year, a $2-million top-up of city money went to the arts, including $635,000 to plan the 'Year of Creativity' event -- since renamed "T.O. Live with Culture."
Our Mayor says of the increase: "It's not nearly enough but it's the best we can do at the moment," He talks of trying to get corporate sponsors to help with all this, but he refuses to allow for any private partnerships for city services that might lessen the strain on our budget because his union buddies wouldn't approve.

Instead of putting precious and increasingly limited resources into the arts, the City needs to focus on paying down debt, and finding a solution to real issues like the continuing garbage troubles (starting with clean-burning, power-generating incineration -- which our mayor refuses to even consider). The arts are an important aspect of any society, but their funding should be secondary to such mundane things as crime, grafitti, homelessness, litter, and the city's fiscal situation.

The Toronto City Council should be held to account when it comes to solving the city's budget woes and bringing down the deficit, rather than business turning to the feds for handouts that mightn't be necessary if the money already here was being used prudently

High costs, inefficient services and shabby infrastructure has resulted in business rapidly escaping the downtown core for the suburbs. The lost tax revenue doesn't seem to be a priority for city council, who would rather blame unfair federal funding than take action on the issues facing Toronto.

Bay Street, the city's financial core has homeless men lying on the sidewalk in the middle of the day and business people from Europe and the US stepping over them. The broken sidewalks, lack of green spaces, the panhandlers, and empty, unkept, litter-strewn lots are so common I doubt city council even notices them anymore. These problems need to be sorted out and could be sorted out by the city -- but in their myopic view of the world, they still see Toronto as the place to be in business.

But according to Wente, 'business' was not thrilled by Harper's take on the situation (which BTW did not include the harsh assessments I've made here):

Turning on his famous charm, Mr. Harper told the well-disposed crowd -- which included the head of Motorola Canada, the founder of the Timothy's coffee chain and at least one senior banker -- that as far as he's concerned, they're out of luck. Your issues aren't federal issues, he argued. He reminded them (in case they didn't know) that he was running for prime minister, not premier. He told them it was their own fault, for continuing to elect Liberals. Then, as the meeting drew to a close, Mr. Harper turned to an aide and asked (under his breath) if he should go around the table and shake people's hands before he left.

Then she provides a quote. No, not a quote from Harper, (not one word directly attributable to Harper can to be found in her entire column) -- this quote is from 'someone who was there' :

"Frankly, I've worked with actuaries, and actuaries have more personality."

Clever, eh? Someone has heard that Harper isn't that charming -- and they made a little joke about it. It must have taken them hours to think up something so witty.

Wente goes on to say:

So here's what I say to my dear Western friends: Don't shoot me. I'm just the messenger. I agree that we've probably got the worst government in a generation. The trouble is, as long as Mr. Harper stays around, we're stuck with it.

We're stuck with a corrupt, incompetent, lying, manipulating, gluttonous, pork-barrelling government because Stephen Harper wasn't willing to cut a blank cheque? Because he dared to suggest it is not the job of the feds to hand more money to a city like Toronto, a city that is squandering its own resources and alienating any new resources that might come its way. He dared suggest that the separation of powers laid out in our Constitution means something to him?

Here's a copy of a recent speech from Harper to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Harper's understanding of the problems facing cities is apparent here.

How long will Toronto continue to be the 'engine that drives this country'? The federal Liberals have hardly been a friend to the city. Cuts in transfer payments by Paul Martin in the '90s led to the downloading from the province to the cities. Now we have a Mayor more interested in 'artistic creativity' than creating a liveable city. How is that Harper's fault?

Toronto has to get its house in order and set priorities that include being a place where business doesn't need to feel ashamed. That isn't the job of the feds no matter who is in power.

Wente's rehashing of Harper's personality is weak journalism. The decline of Toronto cannot be blamed on Harper or his attitude -- nor can Wente or those business people for whom she's speaking suggest that Martin's attitude has been or will be any better for the future of economic growth in the city.

If we're stuck with the 'worst government in a generation' because Harper doesn't spout the same empty platitudes the Liberals have been spouting for years -- maybe we need a few more years of the Liberals and Toronto's socialist city council. Maybe when we've hit rock bottom, a way out will look good even if it isn't charming.