Friday, July 01, 2005

Martin's parliament was a success

Paul Martin heads off for the summer gloating over his government's successes this term.

I agree.
  1. In late March, early April, the government, seeing that the Conservatives were ahead in the polls, feared the Conservatives might use this opportunity to bring down the government -- the Bloc and the NDP were against the budget so the only thing preventing a non-confidence vote was the Conservative decision to abstain. Paul knew he'd be facing an election with Gomery still big and the opposition leading in the polls. Clever Paul decided to do what any megalomanic would do -- the government yanked 'Opposition Days' --- thereby removing any threat that the opposition could bring business to the House. He began to filibuster his own budget to prevent it coming to a vote. No one really noticed. Success.
  2. The three opposition parties were justifiably outraged at their parliamentary rights being arbitrarily revoked. Harper, as the leader of the official opposition decided to call Martin's bluff. The government wasn't going to allow them to bring business to the House so the Conservatives would now vote against the budget rather than abstaining. Bloc and the NDP were already against the budget, if the Conservatives were to vote against rather than abstain this would bring the government down. Paul Martin wasn't about to be outdone. Martin took to the airwaves and whinged, giving rise to the infamous statements: 'Let Gomery do his work!' and Canadians don't want an election! The media came away parroting those lines. Instead of focussing on the government actions that had thwarted democracy and created the acrimony in the House, the media reported that Harper was 'angry' without out hammering the issue of why. The absence of this sort of commentary suggested he was unjustified. Success.
  3. Not to be left out of the 'movers and shakers' lane, Jack Layton got up that same night and pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He offered that rabbit to Martin and the gang in exchange for being allowed at the big people's table. Jack started the now ritualistically recited mantra that he was committed to 'making this parliament work' . Paul Martin took the bait. Between the two of them, and Union activist Buzz Hargrove they cooked up a deal in a hotel room. The deal would provide vague outlines of where the NDP wanted money directed, but had none of the specifics of a 'real' budget. Layton called for $4.6 billion in new spending after the removal of corporate tax cuts from the original budget. The NDP could lay claim to influence. The Liberals were saved by a hair. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives could be painted as being against post secondary education, against the environment, against foreign aid, against cities, against affordable housing -- all on the back of a budget which will never come into fruition due to conditions of deficit reduction etc. (which can't possibly be known during this mandate). Canadians would be duped into believing that this budget was necessary. Business received a nudge and wink that their tax cuts would stay, and the socialists convinced their constituency that money would begin to flow immediately. For the price of a lie, the Liberals bought 19 votes. Success.
  4. At the first opportunity (May 10) the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois indicated their lack of confidence in the government by passing a motion in the House, adding an amendment to a bill which called on a parliamentary committee to request the government's resignation. The motion passed, 153-150. Despite the fact that this motion clearly indicated the government did not have the confidence of the majority of MPs, the government ignored it declaring that the motion was a procedural one (without benefit of Opposition Days -- removed in #1 above-- no business could be brought forward by the opposition in the usual manner, the government refused to bring the budget to a vote -- so this route was taken as the only route available). The opposition points out that according to parliamentary conventions, the government is obligated to quickly introduce a formal confidence vote which, if passed, would necessitate the dissolution of Parliament. The government came out the next day with the following statement: On May 17, voters in British Columbia will be going to the polls in a provincial election.Next Tuesday and Wednesday, I will be in Regina to welcome the Queen to Canada. On Thursday, May 19, I will be in Ottawa. And I am proposing that there be, on that day, a vote on the budget bill. This vote will be a matter of confidence. . . By scheduling this vote, I am respecting my obligations to our Parliamentary tradition.I call on Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe to respect their obligations – to demonstrate respect for Parliament and for Canadians by ensuring this House is able to function between now and the day of the vote, and by committing to Canadians that they will honour and recognize the outcome of the confidence vote. People didn't take to the streets decrying the assault on democracy. There were no rallies, no protests and very few suggestions that this was in fact wrong. The Liberals used Paul Martin's itinerary, and unrelated events in the country, to grant themselves a full week in which to shore up it's shaky grasp on power. Success.
  5. May 17 Conservative MP Belinda Stronach crossed the floor and joined the government. Her principled stand included accepting a plum Cabinet role. Stronach, considered by many to be a 'moderate voice' within the Conservative Party, used this opportunity to slag Stephen Harper, saying: "I do not believe the party leader is truly sensitive to the needs of each part of the country and just how big and complex Canada really is." She suggested she was uncomfortable with the Conservatives 'working with the Bloc' to bring down the government because it threatened national unity. This confirms Jack Layton's 'in bed with the separatists' suggestion, so the media runs with it (ignoring the fact that without the that the role of the opposition parties is to hold the government to account -- without co-operation on issues of confidence the government could never be toppled). Harper's leadership was questioned by pundits and conservatives. The shadiness of the deal proved less interesting to the media than the subsequent remarks of some provincial Conservative MLAs and the broken heart of her ex-boyfriend Peter MacKay. The one week delay in the confidence vote has benefitted the governing party -- hence the reason behind the unheeded calls for a quick confidence vote. Success.
  6. Then there were the Grewal tapes, where the borderline criminal behaviour of the natural governing party was dismissed because of questions of 'who approached whom' and whether the taping was 'entrapment'. The charge of tape doctoring put out there by the Liberals was echoed by the media, and 'confirmed' through tests to copies of the tapes. There is still no word as to whether the RCMP will investigate, and they are in possession of the real tapes. This episode caused the Toronto Star to accuse Harper of having provoked the Prime Minister's "seedy vote-buying". At worst, the parties appear to have engaged in criminal behaviour, at best their behaviour had the appearance of being unethical. Only Grewal came away from this scandal bruised. Success.

The Liberals were undoubtedly successful this year. They clung to power at the expense of Parliamentary convention. They muddied the concepts of right and wrong. They made lies into the truth, and truth irrelevant.

Some blame the Conservatives for 'not communicating the message'. Blame Harper, his communications staff, blame anyone you want, but it was you and me. We acquiesced as we watched a government ignore the will of the majority of the House, and decide to stay on anyway. There were mild protestations of a few, familiar with parliamentary custom and procedure. Their observations barely sparked debate beyond conservative blogs.
There was no country-wide outrage.
There were no protests. There were no riots in the street. There was public questioning of the Conservative leadership. There were admonitions about the 'angry Stephen Harper' and the 'impatience' of the opposition, and 'power hungry Conservatives.'
The Liberals stole parliament, and most people seem to have decided it belonged to them anyway.

These stories are part of our national heritage now. They are part of what it means to be Canadian.

Happy Dominion Day.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Harper's Bloc comment

I've been reading about how inconsistent Harper is being by suggesting the SSM vote was a result of a deal between the Liberals and the separatists.

The point he's trying to make is that when the Bloc and the Conservatives (and even the NDP various times in this parliament) voted together to hold the Liberals to account, they were doing what a vigorous opposition should. They were making the government accountable, and following the will of their constituents.

The Bloc is not a national party. It is a regional, protest party. The majority of those who voted for the Bloc were not voting in a separatist agenda, they were voting out Liberal corruption. They were not necessessarily voting for the Bloc policies on anything, let alone SSM. They were voting against the Liberal Party. To infer wholesale agreement with the SSM issue based on the outcome of the last election, is taking license.

When the Bloc and the Conservatives voted together against the budget bills, when they attempted to push through non-confidence votes -- each party was acting consistently with its mandate. They were expected by their constituents to challenge government assaults on democracy ( the removal of the opposition days) and then to vote against spending they felt to be either imprudent, or not beneficial to their constituents. They fulfilled that obligation.

When the Bloc voted for closure on C-48 on Thursday, thereby guarenteeing it would pass, they were throwing their principles out the window. Some might say they have no principles because they're separatists, but I disagree. They were also guaranteeing SSM would pass because the numbers were there. But the numbers were only there because of the circumstances leading up the the last election.

Although same-sex marriage has the highest level of support in Quebec (polls show anywhere from 54% to 60% in favour). I didn't see 40% of the Bloc standing up against it.

I realise the numbers are not as simple as that, but I think Harper's point is that the although the Bloc represents the majority of Quebecers in Parliament, they are not uniformly representative of Quebeckers views on anything except Liberal corruption. The Bloc has inferred an endorsement of same-sex marriage by their constituents, but if the polls are to be believed 40% of people in Quebec remain opposed.

If Liberal corruption, and an unestablished Conservative entity had not made Quebeckers feel compelled to purge the corruption by using the Bloc as their means of protest, the SSM vote might have gone very differently. Even if Conservatives remained without a seat in Quebec, if Qiebeckers hadn't had the need to punish the Liberals, they might have voted in Liberal candidates who reflected their views on this kind of issue.

The polling numbers show nationwide are almost a 50/50 split -- sometimes 47/53 one way or another, but the numbers are close.
If the Bloc had accurately reflected their constituents, about from 17 to 21 of their members might have voted against the bill. Add to that the number of Cabinet Ministers who would have voted against if a true free-vote had been allowed by the Liberals, and this bill might well have failed.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Public funding, public rules?

The right of 'religious freedom' is not a stand alone right. Entangled with it are the rights of freedom of thought, and freedom of expression. Sometimes I think the left forgets this.

My previous post 'Religious bigotry' sparked some interesting debate. Sometimes I think it's important to bring this kind of debate to the front page. When I do this, it is because I believe that the commenter is representative of a lot of people on the other side of whatever issue. In this case, the commenter is not particularly speaking for same-sex marriage, but rather in favour of removing funding for separate schools who teach their religious views on this issue. While I understand his reasoning, the underlying disrespect for the views of religious people is typical and I can't just let it go without pointing out the inconsistencies of the argument that gays should be allowed freedom, but religions should not. Koby tries to make public funding the key, but I respectfully submit that the funding isn't the issue. Gay sex is the issue.

(Koby, I suggest that you read the 11th comment, by Linda in the 'Religious bigotry' post from yesterday. You might get a better understanding of moral relativity.)

I will be posting the comments along with the answers and I do not correct the spelling and grammar of the commenters. Koby's arguments are in italics. They are in response both to my post, and to replies I made to his initial comments.

Koby's argument started out that no schools should be taking a stand one way or another.

One, should schools recieving public money (many recieve provincial funding in addition to being tax deductable) be taking a stand one way or the other.)

In the next paragraph he said:

(I)t is not the opposition that most people find offensive, but rather the arguments used (e.g., that homosexuality is wrong, that homosexuality is a mental disorder) . . . One of the reasons for providing public money to private schools and the vast majority, some 90% are religious schools, is to keep some control on what is being taught. Public money public rules . . . Of course, if, as some of claimed, religious schools are not playing by public rules, all public funding, in whatever form, should be removed.

I suggested that I agreed, with the proviso that gay advocacy should not be allowed in public schools either. After that, Koby seemed to think schools should be taking a stand -- so long as it was the 'correct' one:

Just so we're clear, sex ed that does not talk about homosexuality is incomplete. For one, gay students have less of a support network and for this and other reasons are more vulnerable then other students.

Name calling or slurs are wrong against anybody and parents and educators have a responsibility to encourage respectful behaviour amongst all students. All teenagers are vulnerable, but I would argue that gay youth have more outreach available to than other marginalised youth-- say fat ones, or kids with acne -- because in today's sex-driven, self-gratifying culture, it's chic to be gay.

Aside from that, talking about homosexuality in school and promoting it are two very different things. Public school sex-education is about learning the anatomical functions, reproduction, and pregnancy & disease prevention. When schools bring in gay activists (which they do), they aren't giving a lesson in anatomy or biology, they are promoting their agenda and expecting acceptance from an impressionable, captive audience.

It used to be that those who pushed for sex-ed in schools were in favour of leaving out the 'morality' issues, but your statement implies you expect the school system to be advocates for 'vulnerable' gay youth.
As for the RC schools teaching the morality side, they do teach the existence of homosexual acts and birth control, with the explanation and rationale for the church's position on them. Nothing in what they teach is intolerant -- unless you equate 'tolerance' with 'approval' in which case I suggest you invest in a dictionary. The Supreme Court allowed separate school funding knowing full-well the implications of that decision.

I could care less what they (parents) think about "gay rights activists". I am not a moral relativist. The arguments allegedly showing homosexuality to be morally wrong are a joke. The same goes for divine command ethics. Recognition of this has laid the foundation for homosexual Canadians having been granted many of the same rights and protections given to other groups and to Canadians as a whole.

The bulging Catholic schools system and the growing private schools system are indicative that parents want a say in what their children are being taught -- whether Koby 'could care less' or not. If school is to teach kids the 3Rs let them do that without imposing on them the post-modern, liberal, secular, morally relative worldview -- then tell me that Catholic schools should be limited in what they can teach their students or have their funding revoked.

You think you and the government know what's best for the nation's children. By what authority do you proclaim that 'homosexuality is not wrong'? You mock and disparage anyone with whom you disagree, but you haven't presented a cogent argument to support anything you say. You just make sweeping statements that have no foundation. The arguments allegedly showing homosexuality to be morally wrong are a joke. If that were true, this would not be a contentious issue. It would be a given.

Explaining to our children that homosexuality exists and that homosexuals should be treated with human respect, is fine. Giving gay activists a forum to present the 'positive' aspects of their lifestyle is inconsistent with not teaching morality. Sexuality and its expression will always be a moral issue. It isn't about accepting the right of homosexuals to live and work along side everyone else in society -- they already have that right, and so they should -- this is about de facto endorsement of their sexual behaviour. The state has never said homosexuality isn't wrong, it has said that homosexuals should not be discriminated against. It is not discrimination to teach that certain behaviours are wrong -- even if the government sanctions those behaviours (abortion, divorce, premarital-sex, promiscuity).

Giving homosexuals the same rights and protections as other Canadians makes sense -- not because they are homosexual, but because they are human. Equating their sexuality with hetrosexuality is disingenuous. As expressions of 'love' a person might believe they are 'equal' but believing that they are not 'equal' acts at their core is just as valid an opinion, biblically based, or not.

The abortion debate, by the way, is infinitely less clear cut once one moves beyond the ridiculous notion that personhood begins at conception.

So it's magic that all of a sudden this fully formed human pops out of a woman after nine months? Before birth, it was just a blob of cells and then it hits the air - and what do you know -- a person.

Anyone who has ever had an ultrasound while pregnant knows that not only is that a living thing inside of you, but it is also a person. The argument that at some point during gestation that it acquires 'personhood' defies logic and science. An embryo has all the criteria to be defined as life. The pro-abortion crowd chooses to ignore evidence against their rationalizations in the name of 'choice' and as a result an entire generation has been indoctrinated with the notion that life begins when the mother (note -- not host-- mother) says it does.

Does it never occur to the pro-abortion side that while a tiny skull is crushed in and suction rips a fetus from the womb in one operating room, in a second, doctors are using all available means of neo-natal care to save a baby of the same gestation period. The only difference in the two is 'choice'. Call it what you like if it makes you feel better; what you call it will never make it right.

The debate with regard to rightness or wrongness of homosexuality is settled. Do not believe me? Step into a first you ethics class in any university in Canada.

Please. Universities are bastions of political correctness and forced conformity. When universities don't struggle with issues like this, you know they've got it wrong. Places of higher learning are supposed to engage in debate, not indoctrination. The fact they you could believe the argument 'settled' because they told you so at school, shows an utter lack of critical thinking skills.

The Catholic Church can pronounce homosexuality a sin all it wants. After all, a sin is simply what the bible says is a sin. It is all a matter of biblical interpretation. However, to pronounce homosexuality a mental disorder is another matter all together and most certainly a bigoted charge, but certainly not unconstitutional.

And in your world, there is no sin, except the sin of thinking differently from what the professors tell you. As for believing that homosexuality is a mental disorder, that's not bigoted -- it might be wrong, but it isn't bigoted.

Instead of being a reactionary, you might consider that the people who believe this are conceding that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice, that it is part of a person's innate make up. Your fear that homosexuality might be thought a mental disorder suggests an intolerance of the mentally disordered. How bigoted of you. Besides, it isn't bigoted to note that homosexuality is different from the norm -- they make a big display of that every year at PRIDE. Bigoted is demanding that everyone think the way you learned in uni.

BTW, the American Psychiatric Association never stated that homosexuality isn't deviant or perverse, just that if a person was able to accept it within himself, that is isn't a psychatric issue. Remember too, that they 'delisted' homosexuality as a mental disorder at a time when there was great social upheaval and a push for 'free love', open sex, etc.

I don't hold much esteem for their opinions anyway. They recently issued opinions on paedophilia suggesting that child/adult sex is not really harmful to children. They've since modified their position somewhat, saying that it wasn't quite what they meant, but in 2003 the APA seriously considered delisting pedophilia as a mental disorder too. 'People whose sexual interests are atypical, culturally forbidden or religiously proscribed should not necessarily be labeled mentally ill, they argued. Different societies stigmatize different sexual behaviors, and since the existing research could not distinguish people with paraphilias from so-called "normophilics," there is no reason to diagnose paraphilics as either a distinct group or psychologically unhealthy, Moser and Kleinplatz stated.' 'However, the APA failed to address whether it considers a person with a pedophile orientation to have a mental disorder. "That is the question that is being actively debated at this time within the APA, and that is the question they have not answered when they respond that such relationships are 'immoral and illegal,'" Nicolosi said.'

A growing number of intellectuals who are chomping at the bit to make this their next project of 'tolerance' with the APA quietly leading the way. I'll give their opinions a pass, thank you.

(From my response to Koby)"Why is it that liberals believe that walking into a public school and teaching my children at the altar of liberal secularism is a-ok, but if a RC school teaches its doctrine it's wrong. Both schools receive public funding. Each is being taught a particular value system. Who decides which one is the right one?"

I suppose if you are moral relativistic you could take such a position. At any rate, the position of the state is clear. Homosexuality is not wrong . . .

The position of the state is not clear. The state says discrimination against homosexuals is wrong. That does not translate to: homosexuality is right and good. You are making the leap that if one teaches against homosexual acts, one is teaching against homosexuals. It is consistent to insist on respect for all humanity while disapproving of certain behaviours.

. . . and for the state to provide money for those who would want to teach otherwise violates one of the main tenants of Canadian society namely tolerance. Supreme Court Justice Clair L’Heureux –Dube drew the appropriate analogy in passing judgment on the Surrey school board: "Parents may be extremely racist, but we don't prevent the school from teaching that racism is bad." If RC wants to teach that homosexuality is wrong, let them do it entirely on their own dime.

Equating race and homosexuality is non sequitur. Race is what you are, not what you do. Homosexuality is who you are and what you do. All churches, all schools, have a responsiblity to teach 'tolerance', but tolerance and approval are vastly different things. While I am with you when you say that discrimination against homosexuals is wrong, teaching against homosexual acts is neither intolerant, nor bigoted. Just remember that even Catholic dimes go into the education pot. What are we teaching on their dime?

Now, there are some things that leave one open to ridicule. Believing that the earth is flat is one. Believing that the earth is only 6000 years old and that dinosaurs roomed the earth with humans is another.

And some would say believing that an orifice designed for eliminating waste is just an alternative to a vagina and is in no way repugnant -- is ridiculous. After all, your finger fits up your nose, but that isn't where it belongs.

Those on the pro-same sex marriage side consistently argue that all they want is what is just and fair. In their enlightened view, freedom of thought is okay, so long as it doesn't contain a hint of old fashioned 'morality' and is approved by the state.

In this worldview, the teaching of values becomes the right of the state. Biblically based values are voided by their very foundation. Secular values require no foundational argument but are accepted by virtue of being non-religious (and of course because the universities teach to it).

Citizens are obliged to take guidance on issues of conscience from the state, which derives its 'values' through a thought system whereby all acts or behaviours are equally valid -- a sort of, it's okay, so long as it's not hurting someone -- the 'fun's fun till someone loses an eye' creed.

The state takes its authority from being separate from religion, which it pretends to mean that it is somehow separate from pious dogma. The state orthodoxy is based on self-esteem building without expectation of personal responsibility. It is based on personal freedoms (determined by the state, of the state and for the state) and uniformity of thought, and does not brook dissent. If that seems paradoxical, it doesn't matter; logic and consistency are not part of the debate. Non-adherents are painted as radicals, and against freedom -- which gives the government the right to restrict their freedoms (in the name of freedom).

Koby, to suggest that you are not a moral relativist, is deluding yourself and indulging your vanity. In your assessment of things, we are all moral relativists. Our value systems are the ones we seek to promote and preserve. The difference is where we derive our inspiration.

I believe there are moral absolutes and universal truths. I believe they are part of something bigger than you and me, and governments and nations.

You believe the collective will of the governing party (or the judiciary) is the supreme light by which we should be guided.

You perceive me to be a moral relativist (which you use pejoratively) because you can't accept that there is more than one reality. While I believe in universal truths, I am aware that my beliefs cannot, and will not be accepted by everyone-- so I seek compromise. I will live along side you but teach my children what I know to be true. I will hold my convictions, but accept a middle ground solution. I refuse to endorse same-sex marriage, but will accept civil unions. But your side doesn't accept there having to be compromise. You speak of freedom, but seek to limit mine.

You believe in -- what? The wisdom of the courts? The teachings of your profs? There is no central authority in your orthodoxy -- it comes from you -- what you think, what you feel, what you need. You, and those like you, don't give up when it comes to imposing your worldview on the rest of us. Where I can tolerate your existence -- you cannot tolerate mine. You want to purge the world of those who think like me, and you want to start with state indoctrination from the cradle (national daycare) and continue it in a public school system that won't abide such heresies as personal opinion. The state teaches to its test of correctness -- whatever that happens to be at any given moment.

Koby, you might be right that RC and private schools teaching against homosexuality should not be funded through public money, but if that is so, neither should your brand of (in)tolerance.

Koby insists:

Homosexuality is not wrong and for the state to provide money for those who would want to teach otherwise violates one of the main tenants of Canadian society namely tolerance.

Why is it so difficult for some people to accept that not everyone sees the act of gay sex as equivalent with the act of heterosexual sex? Homosexuals and heterosexuals are equal. The value of their respective sexual expression to society is not equal.

If society is going to fund and endorse public schools as being the starting point of gay advocacy, then suggesting that separate schools shut up because they are publicly funded, moves from being a funding issue to a freedom of speech issue.

If you really think separate schools should stop preaching, then start believing that public schools should too. At least be consistent.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Religious bigotry

The same-sex marriage issue has brought the issue of homosexuality to the fore, like nothing before.

Despite the 'in yer face' approach of ardent gay activists, the mainstreaming of gay culture has been a relatively quiet revolution.

A few years ago, you'd have never seen gay people represented on television, let alone representing constituents -- now, not only do we have popular programmes with gay people as positive, likeable characters (John from NYPD Blue, Will from Will & Grace, Sean from Coronation Street, Ellen of the Ellen show) but there are even gay reality shows (Queer Eye, My Fabulous Gay Wedding) intended to appeal to a wider audience. Openly gay politicians like Scott Brison are voted in for their stands on issues, rather than for their gay advocacy (Opinions on Brison's jumping ship are irrelevant -- he wasn't elected as a gay politician, he was elected as a politician who happened to be gay.)

The vast majority of Canadians who oppose same-sex marriage, even those who consider homosexuality a sin, also support civil unions and gay rights.

Imagine then my surprise to read this quote by Dr. Miriam Kaufman, a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children, in an article called Growing Up Gay from the Toronto Sun:

While most public school boards have some form of anti-homophobia education and more schools have gay-straight alliances, students in religious schools are getting vastly different message, Kaufman said.
"Within the separate school board, schools are having kids pray that same-sex marriage will be defeated," Kaufman said. "The message is that gay people aren't really people and aren't entitled to loving, committed relationships." (emphasis added)

How does she manage to make the connection between being against same-sex marriage, and believing gays are less than human, and not deserving of happiness?

It is this sort of off-hand analysis of religious opinion on morality questions that creates anger on both sides. There are many in the gay community (Kevin Bourassa and his followers) who would wholeheartedly agree with the doctor's theory and are already suggesting that the tax exempt status of churches be removed should the continue to advocate against same-sex marriage. How long before religious education is threatened for teaching the doctrine of the church?