Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Random Thought on the C-38 Vote

Same sex marriage may have been a BQ platform, but 5 Bloc MPs voted against Bill C-38: Robert Bouchard, Serge Cardin, Roger Gaudet, Gilles Perron, and Louise Thibault. It's not enough to suggest a schism within the BQ, but Quebeckers who are against SSM can't say they weren't represented.

The Day After (Or, Harper's Hangover)

This session of Parliament is done until September.

Bill C-38 has passed into law, and gay couples have the right to marry.

It's still hot and smoggy in Ottawa.

Gas still costs 80-plus cents a litre.

And Stephen Harper, despite all the warnings that Andrew has given him, is still acting like a politician in search of votes.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says if his party forms the next government, the law will be revisited.

Harper made the promise one day after suggesting the adoption of the law lacked legitimacy because it relied on the support of the separatist Bloc Québécois. Harper said he believes Bloc MPs are the legitimate representatives of Quebec voters. But he argues most Canadians aren't buying it as a final decision since most federalist MPs are opposed to same-sex marriage.

Harper says a Conservative government would hold a free vote for all MPs on the matter, rather than forcing cabinet ministers to vote with the government.

The reputation of "Wile E. Harper" is solidifying: a man who considers himself a genius, but whose tactics always wind up exploding in his face. And this latest one is an example.

Let's say this government collapses in the fall, a snap election is called, and Harper pulls out a win. (Remote, but possible.) Between now and then, potentially several hundred gay couples will have gotten married in Canada. If Harper decides to "revisit" the issue, is he going to repeal the law -- and let public opinion form the idea that he's declared all those marriages to be illegitimate? Or is he going to try to work out some fancy legalese to re-designate all those marriages as "civil unions"? Or is he going to declare the whole thing a provincial matter -- and be accused of playing into the hands of the separatists again?

This is the danger. Although I think the Civil Marriage Act is a bad law (I don't believe it goes far enough to protect religious freedoms), it at least has the advantage of being relatively simple. Revisiting this law would be like revising income tax laws. And Canadians don't like income tax laws because they're so complicated they can't be sure if they've broken it.

I agree with Andrew: now that it's over with, this issue should die.

But I disagree with him on another point: he wants Harper and his brain trust to start talking about the Tory agenda, get it out into the public.


This is the wrong time for it. Summer is the time for kicking back and reflecting, to let the hair down. It's why the Mainstream Media always call July and August (particularly August) the silly season: politicians relax so much they do silly things.

Policy may be important, but people don't elect leaders based on policy. They elect them because they like to think they know the candidate.

Getting on the barbecue circuit is a step forward. Using the opportunity to talk about tax cuts is two steps back. What's needed isn't the policy wonk. What's needed is the man.

Does Harper jog? Bicycle? Does he like hip-hop? jazz? Can he dance with his wife? Can he sing? Can he grill a chicken without drying it out? Would he attempt to eat a 10-pound burger?

And just answering questions is not enough; you have to show your personality. At events where stage-managing is impossible to detect, if it happens at all. Hosting a segment of Juste pour rire, for example. Or roasting corn-on-the-cob at the Calgary Stampede. Or even -- dare I suggest it? -- treating Rick Mercer and his crew to poutine and pilsner at the local Hooters. That's the type of thing Stephen Harper should be doing.

(Hey -- Rick Mercer likes Brian Mulroney. So he's not likely to go rabid.)

There'll be plenty of time for the policy wonk stuff in the fall, when Parliament resumes. But for now, if Harper wants to prove he can be Prime Minister, he needs to get the people who vote for him to think of him -- not the frustrated politician à la John Kerry, but the Regular Non-Clarkian Joe.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

There IS Such a Thing as a Liberal With Integrity ...

... and his name is Joe Comuzzi, the now former Minister of State for Economic Development for Northern Ontario.

The junior minister, who had been responsible for federal economic development in northern Ontario since 2003, informed Prime Minister Paul Martin of his decision in what was described as an amicable conversation Tuesday morning.

Martin has said the vote on same-sex would be a free vote for backbench Liberals, but cabinet ministers are under orders to vote in favour of the bill.

Comuzzi, who represents the Ontario riding of Thunder Bay-Superior North, had abstained from voting on the bill at the second reading stage.

Another Liberal cabinet minister who has said he is opposed to same-sex marriage, Natural Resources Minister John Efford from Newfoundland, was absent for the second reading vote.

Note that Comuzzi has resigned from the cabinet and not the Liberal Party, so this has no effect on the House numbers. However, since this is a pretty junior ministry, Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell will fill in for Comuzzi -- at least until it's time to promote a new backbencher.

Best guess is that Raymond Bonin of the Nickel Belt may be in for a promotion. Of the five MPs representing Northern Ontario ridings, Bonin's got electoral experience (he came in with the first Chrétien government in 1993) and he's chaired the House Standing Committee on Northern Development, twice.

An alternative would be Brent St. Denis, the MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing. He came in at the same time as Bonin, and has sat on the northern development committee.

Outside shots include Roger Valley, from Kenora, who's a current member of the committee but only got elected in 2004.

There is of course the remote possibility that the Liberals could try to persuade Charlie Angus, the New Democrat MP for Timmons-James Bay, to join up with the Grits and take the position. But we all know that the Liberals would never! ever! promote an outsider to a ministry, even a junior one, just to secure their numbers. Especially an MP who was only elected a year ago. Right?

Sauron Lives!

According to New Scientist, this is a picture of dust particles in orbit around Fomalhaut, a bright star located just 25 light years away in the constellation Pisces Austalis. (I suppose that means it's viewable from New Zealand, meaning somebody Up There is keeping an eye on Peter Jackson's Middle Earth.)

The most likely explanation is that the gravity of one or more unseen planets is dragging the ring askew. The fact that the inner edge of the ring is relatively well-defined adds further weight to the argument because it suggests the unseen planets are sweeping up stray dust within the radius of the ring.

The image was captured by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, US, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center using Hubble’s coronagraph. This device blocks the glare of a star while gathering the faint reflected light from any surrounding ring.

Boy, they really can get imaginative with those image enhancements, can't they?

Same Sex Marriage: The Next Amendment

Yesterday in debate, the Bloc MP for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Richard Marceau, successfully moved another amendment for Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act:

11.1 Section 149.1 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (6.2):
(6.2.1) For greater certainty, subject to subsections (6.1) and (6.2), a registered charity with stated purposes that include the advancement of religion shall not have its registration revoked or be subject to any other penalty under Part V solely because it or any of its members, officials, supporters or adherents exercises, in relation to marriage between persons of the same sex, the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Marceau said, during the debate, that personally he didn't think the amendment was necessary, but the fact that it got unanimous consent tells me that it is.

Remember that the big fear from churches or other quasi-religious organizations is that they would be penalized for refusing to perform an SSM ceremony or allow one to take place on their property. This amendment is the explicit guarantee that's needed to discourage a court challenge by any gay couple snarky enough to try to gouge the local church for not letting them use their chapel.

Looking at the amendment, the definition of "religious organization" is wide enough to cover a church, or church-affiliated club, any members, officials, etc.

Will it be enough to satisfy the social conservatives? No, because the so-cons want the bill to be dropped altogether. But it might be enough for the rest of Canadian society to live with.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tigger and Piglet, R.I.P.

The Hundred-Acre Wood seems a little emptier today -- at least, the Walt Disney version of it.

First, Paul Winchell died Friday at the age of 82. He was probably one of the most versatile voice-actors on Saturday-morning cartoons; not only did he voice "T - I - double Guh - Er -- That spells Tigger!", but Dick Dastardly, Gargamel of the Smurfs, and Fleagle of the Banana Splits. (He was also an inventor, coming up with an early version of an artificial heart.)

Then, John Fiedler died on Saturday at the age of 80. He was the original voice of Piglet in Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons. Frankly, though, I remember him best as the fussy bureaucrat Mr. Hengist in the Star Trek episode "Wolf in the Fold." This was the guy who was later revealed as Redjack or Jack the Ripper, who tried to get Scotty framed for murder.

These two weren't Shakespearean actors by any means. But good character actors -- whether exuberant extroverts or innocent introverts -- are very hard to find in any day and age. The original voices of Tigger and Piglet will be missed.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Ken Epp Award Nominee: Gerry Ritz

Mr. Ritz, the Tory MP for Battlefords—Lloydminster, uses his private member's time to clear out his inventory of political clichés (which are bolded for your recognition):

Mr. Speaker, in his usual lame duck fashion, the Prime Minister gave our leader advice on attending barbecues, but I have some advice for the Liberal and NDP leaders as they run the barbecue gauntlet this summer.

Now that the mad as hell tour is history, the Prime Minister must begin the caught red-handed tour. He pledged to wait until Canadians knew all about ad scam before his last election call. Now that they know more than he wanted them to, he will have to come clean for the next election. He will certainly want to get himself in shape for that run. Luckily, a visit to his favourite private clinic will not take long; waiting lines are for suckers. And dieting should be easy: he can eat all the crow he wants, followed by servings of humble pie, washed down by a big can of whoop-ass.

The NDP leader must go on the sorry as hell tour. It is Canadian taxpayers who will be sorry as they remember the Liberal-NDP budget disasters of the early 1970s. His dilemma: should he peddle his assets on his bike or have his chauffeur polish his Kyoto-friendly Cadillac? And of course, should he eat his magic bean budget salad with his silver spoon?

A couple of comments:

First, sarcasm never works well as an attack, only as a defense mechanism. And, as last night's budget vote showed, the Tories have a lot to be defensive about.

Second, Canadian taxpayers aren't going to think about the budget disasters of the 1970s, because that's a political generation ago. (And the Tories keep forgetting that the average voter reads "budget surplus" as "we can afford more spending" as opposed to wasting money.)

Third, apart from general standpoint principles, Don Laytone hasn't really done anything to warrant an attack, even one as weak as this. No taping of MPs, no recruiting to the Dark Side. One of the advantages of the high ground.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Good for Grewal, Part II

Gurmant Grewal must really be starting to enjoy his stress break. First he's cleared by the RCMP and Transport Canada, and now he's cleared by the Ethics Commissioner for his dubious practice of asking for a bond from new immigrants (Adobe Reader required):

There was no real conflict of interest. No profit personal to Mr Grewal was either intended or
realized. That is, there is nothing to suggest that this practice actually furthered Mr Grewal’s personal financial interest in any way.

Mr Grewal’s actions did, however, place him in an apparent conflict of interest. The ambiguity, in the course of providing services to constituents, of requesting Personal Guarantees that are ostensibly to be backed by some sort of bond can reasonably be seen as raising questions of whether he would personally benefit. While the practice may have benefited many that might not otherwise have received his support, it also clouded the actual immigration process for other individuals. MPs must be careful not to develop unsanctioned supplemental requirements to the statutory regimes in place ...

I am convinced, however, that Mr Grewal’s intention was not to benefit personally but rather to implement some due diligence measures in a context where it is not possible to know personally all the individuals deserving of some special assistance ...

Mr Grewal has not fully complied with an obligation under the Code, but I believe that his actions were an error in judgment made in good faith. It is my recommendation that given that his intentions, however misguided, were reasonable and that the practice has now ceased, no sanction be imposed.

Angry in the Great White North has a lot of praise for this report, which he contrasts to the dog's breakfast that is the Sgro report. I suspect a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Office was under more pressure to clear Sgro than to clear Grewal; consequently a lot more people had to be interviewed to get a fuller picture of what was going on under Sgro's watch.

In any case, there is now one more hurdle to clear before Gurmant returns to his MP duties. Let's hope he doesn't trip over the tape.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

While Shawn Murphy Pimps for Anne of Green Gables ...

Hon. Shawn Murphy (Charlottetown, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I would like to take a moment of the House's time to extend an invitation for all to visit Prince Edward Island this summer.

Prince Edward Island has long been recognized as one of the world's top island destinations. There is something for everyone, from scenic touring to cultural experiences to outdoor activities.

Please come and spend some time on our famous beaches, enjoy our first class golf courses, take in one of the many seafood festivals or explore the timeless world of Anne of Green Gables.

Why not spend Canada Day in Charlottetown, the birthplace of Confederation. Enjoy the festival of lights, then spend an extra week for the jazz and blues festival. Harness racing fans like myself are already looking forward to the Gold Cup and Saucer Race during August.

Visit Prince Edward Island this summer. It is sure to be an unforgettable vacation.

Just exactly WHY do backbench MPs always feel like they have to do adverts for the provincial tourism authority, hm?

Brian Pallister's Doing His Vogon Imitation Again ...

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Madam Speaker:

Quebec Referendum, Liberals were sighing,
Chrétien to the rescue: let's get the flags flying.
We gave a few million to friends no denying,
But damn the taxpayer, the Liberals are buying.

The ad scam debacle, the Libs claim it's petty.

The Auditor General and Gomery prying,
Grits throwing money just like it's confetti,
A billion a day and the Liberals are buying.

Now comes the budget vote; could be a tight one.

Buying the NDP's so satisfying,
Five billion dollars of pure desperation,
Screw fiscal prudence, the Liberals are buying

Lure a defector, it's winning conditions.

Ambition's alive, but integrity's dying
Principle's traded for cabinet positions,
Put on your price tags, the Liberals are buying

I'm almost positive this guy's trying to get Earth destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass ...

The 24th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here.

I'd comment further, but I'm a little tired at the moment, having just returned from Atlantic City.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bloggers Underground; Or, Yes Shannon, There Is an Andrew

Last night I attended a meeting of the NCR Blog Mafia at D'Arcy McGee's, at the corner of Sparks and Elgin in Ottawa.

Also in attendance was Andrew Anderson of Bound By Gravity, proving once and for all for the benefit of Shenanigans fans that he does exist -- even though he sort of looks like it's doubtful here.

Joining him was Paul of Canadian Musings ...

... as well as our hostess herself and Bruce of Autonomous Source ...

... who later began to plot campaign strategies with Conservative nominee for Ottawa-Centre Keith Fountain.

Also present was Don from All Things Canadian, who didn't want his picture taken because apparently Warren Kinsella wants an image to show to his lawyers. (Or something like that. It's a little hard to tell after a Guinness, a martini and a vodka on the rocks.) Blair from Italics Mine got there just as I was leaving.)

It was a good time. We were in the basement of D'Arcy's, at a table set up underneath the speakers, so we all got the fun of trying to talk above a live band. And D'Arcy's is pretty good with the cocktails.

Definitely something to do again. Perhaps in the fall?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Good for Grewal

From CBC News:

Gurmant Grewal has been cleared of wrongdoing in two investigations launched after the Conservative member of Parliament tried to get Ottawa-bound passengers at Vancouver's airport to carry a package for him.

The RCMP and Transport Canada were investigating the June 4 incident to see if Grewal committed any offence.

Now the RCMP say the Newton-North Delta MP is off the hook because he had cleared security with the package before he started approaching people to do the errand for him.

Transport Canada also says Grewal broke no security rules.

Well ... I'm sure that's a relief. Gurmy may be on the eccentric side (we get that a lot in B.C. -- Grewal's pretty normal compared with Bill Vander Zalm), but hey -- at least he's not a dangerous eccentric. (Won't keep Joe Volpe from trying to paint him that way, though.)

(Hat tip: Small Dead Animals.)

Same-Sex Marriage: The First Amendments

Well, the House of Commons committee studying Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, just tabled its first report. And to no one's surprise, two amendments have been posted.

Here's the first amendment:

That Bill C-38, in the Preamble, be amended by adding after line 11 on page 2 the following:

“WHEREAS it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage;”

The positioning of this paragraph would make it part of the pre-amble, following the paragraph discussing the freedom of religion clause.

It doesn't seem to say a lot, does it? However, it's probably needed as court insurance: a preacher denouncing SSM in a sermon can point to this paragraph in the pre-amble and say, "I have not committed a hate crime. I have not acted against the public interest in denouncing the notion of gay marriage."

Or at least that's the theory. No one can guarantee that some bloody-minded activist won't try to get a church shut down over gay marriage. It'll be interesting to see if this is strong enough to survive a court challenge.

The second amendment is more interesting:

That Bill C-38, be amended by adding after line 42 on page 2, the following new clause:

“3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.”

Note the language here. It looks broad enough that it can not only cover churches but other faith-based organizations which own properties that could be used for SSM ceremonies. The word "sanction" could also be applied to cover such things as termination of employment.

However, look at the limitation: "any law of the Parliament of Canada." The problem is that it excludes provincial legislatures, and since recognition of marriages falls under provincial jurisdiction, this clause won't necessarily prevent a prosecution under provincial human rights codes.

The best that this can hope to be is a directive to provincial commissions. It's still an improvement, but only a minor one, and I doubt if it's strong enough to withstand a court challenge.

Will it be enough to mollify those backbench Liberals who are uncomfortable with the bill? I'd say a few, but by no means all.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Government Has How Much Money?

These figures were released by Statistics Canada today:

Canada's federal, provincial, territorial, and local governments (as well as the two major pension plans) recorded a combined surplus of $12.1 billion. This was $9.7 billion higher than the consolidated surplus in 2003/04.

Healthy chunk of change. But look how it breaks down:

The federal government and the Canada and Quebec pension plans accounted for the entire consolidated government surplus in 2004/05. Their total far more than offset a deficit recorded by the provinces, territories and local governments combined.

The biggest surplus was recorded by the Canada Pension Plan at $8.0 billion. Close behind was the federal government with $7.8 billion, its eighth surplus in a row. The Quebec Pension Plan had a surplus of $1.6 billion.

Well, it's impressive. Given the number of boomers now reaching retirement age, expect that surplus to shrink pretty quickly. I think we can expect the pension plans to become the next fiscal battleground, after health care.

On the other hand, provincial governments collectively were still in a deficit position of $2.3 billion in 2004/05, despite an improvement of $6.1 billion in their fiscal balance from the previous year. Local governments had a deficit of $3.0 billion.

Well, well -- ammunition for the Liberals. They can make the argument that they need the big spending programs, especially for cities, both in the budget bill and the NDP-inspired amendment.

Provincially, the largest surplus, about $3.5 billion, occurred in Alberta in 2004/05, with British Columbia coming a distant second with a surplus of about $1.3 billion.
Ontario had the largest deficit, $4.7 billion, followed by Quebec at $3.0 billion.

And one can easily imaging Premiers Dalton and Jean grumbling about the good fortune of Premier Ralph.

In 2004/05, federal revenues corresponded to 16.8% of GDP, down only slightly. However, federal expenditures corresponded to only 16.2% of GDP, a more substantial 6.7 percentage point decline.

During the same 15 year-period, the share of both revenues and expenditures of provincial/territorial governments fell slightly. But in 2004/05, their expenditures were equivalent to 21% of GDP, still five percentage points higher than the federal government.

During the past 15 years, provincial and territorial governments captured a much larger share proportionally of public spending.

The good news if you're an economic conservative: the federal government's role in the economy is shrinking. The bad news if you're a taxpayer: the provinces and the towns are playing a bigger role. Much bigger.

So where's all the money going? Mostly health and social services:

Of the $19.6 billion increase in spending, health and social services combined accounted for over one-half (56%). Debt charges, which were equal to 8.8 cents out of every dollar of government revenues, declined for the fourth consecutive year.

If you want a primer on current government spending, have a look at the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Should the Border Stay Undefended?

Prior to 9/11, a lot was made about Canada and the U.S. sharing "the world's longest undefended border." The War on Terror, of course, puts a question mark on the concept.

The latest development comes courtesy of the Canadian Senate's Standing Committee on National Defence. As reported in the National Post:

The committee, which has been studying the state of border security, is expected to recommend that the RCMP have an officer posted at each border crossing into Canada and, if that cannot be accomplished, to allow Canada Border Services Agency officers at the crossing points to have guns ...

The committee is also concerned about the number of border posts staffed only by a single CBSA officer, and about the limit to personal exemptions allowed travellers entering Canada from the United States, sources said.

The committee's report was released today, and can be found here. Here's what its says (from page 31 of the report):

The Committee’s assessment is that it is just a matter of time before an unarmed
border inspector attempting to exert the authority of a peace officer suffers
serious injury at the hands of persons who are armed.

The Committee also believes that border inspectors should really be peace
officers. They should be ready to guard Canada’s borders showing the same kind
of resolve and the same kind of restraint that Canadian police officers show in
keeping our streets safe.

Unless the federal government is prepared to provide an around-the-clock on-site
armed police presence at each and every border crossing at which Canadian
border personnel are stationed, border officers should be equipped with firearms
and trained in their proper use.

The recommendation is officially number 13 in the report. Naturally, some people have their protests prepared:

RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said in April that giving sidearms to border guards would be a "dangerous move" and contribute little to improving national security.
"I know being at the border can be risky and there are certain dangers," he said.

"But somebody who runs through the border and having a customs officer run out of his hut and shoot after them -- I'm not sure we want to do that."

It's a concern -- but it makes one big assumption: that the border guard is Joe Average Citizen who thinks like a TV rent-a-cop blazing away at the getaway car. People can be trained in the responsible use of firearms, including knowing when to draw and when not to. And training in the use of firearms is a big part of the Committee's recommendations.

Part of Zaccardelli's squawk can also be bureaucratic: the Mounties have always screamed bloody murder whenever part of their security duties is taken away from them. They put up a big fuss when CSIS was created, and this situation is no different.

Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan has also defended Canada's approach to border security.

"I don't think it makes a lot of sense, in terms of the expenditure of resources, to have every inch of that undefended border patrolled by Canadian, RCMP, or whoever it might be, 24/7," she told reporters in support of Comm. Zaccardelli's remarks. "I don't believe that is a rational use of our resources."

This is the big problem the Liberals have always had with national security: they think like accountants when they need to think like soldiers. National security is one of those issues where accountant thinking doesn't apply because you're trying to address an unknown threat.

From the executive summary of the committee report:

Is a takeout of a major crossing likely? No.

If a disaster were to occur at a land border crossing, would it throw a large wrench into Canada-U.S. trade that has grown so rapidly under NAFTA? Yes.

Can we afford to ignore such a potential catastrophe?

No, no, and no.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Monday, June 13, 2005

... And Yet, He Still Can't Figure Out Women

Your IQ Is 130

Your Logical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

IQ tests, remember, test your potential for smarts. It doesn't test for wisdom.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Music-Tagged, Or, The Ravisher's Revenge

Paul Denton over at Ravishing Light has seen fit to score his revenge on me for my book-tagging him. In this case, we have a music-tag, in which bloggers answer the following questions:

1) How many music files are there on your computer?
2) What was the last CD you bought?
3) What song do you have playing in ITunes?
4) Which five songs mean a lot to you?

Okay, here goes:

1) I'm not sure how to measure it, but I remember loading five audio CDs onto my computer. The thing is, three of them are sound effects CDs that I was using for animation projects: Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. Looney Tunes, and Star Trek the Original Series.

The other two are soundtrack scores: the first being The Best of James Bond : 30th Anniversary Limited Collection. Essentially title tracks and incidentals to all the films from Connery to Dalton (it was published before the Brosnan era). It was a deluxe, 2-CD set, which I like because the second CD includes something called The Thunderball Suite.

As for the other sound track, well, that's in:

2) the latest one I bought. Actually it's a replacement for one that got stolen from me earlier -- The Film Music of Akira Kurosawa. Title tracks from most of his movies beginning from the early 1950s to the present day. Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, Ran, etc.

3) That's an easy one to answer: I don't normally listen to music in ITunes when I'm working on my home computer. I either have the radio or the TV on in the background, or nothing at all.

4) Hmmm ...

a) The Raiders March by John Williams. Those of you who've seen the way I normally dress will understand why.

b) "That's Amore" by Dean Martin. I'm real big on the Rat Pack.

c) "Yojimbo" by Masaru Sato. Easily conjures up my favorite samurai hero.

d) "Theme from The Fellowship of the Ring" by Howard Shore. What can I say -- you hear those violins playing, you can't help but think of Middle Earth.

3) "Fly Me To The Moon" by Frank Sinatra. Did I mention I was big on the Rat Pack?

All right, let's find 5 more victims -- er, other bloggers to tag:

1. Canadianna's Place
2. Jay Jardine at The Freeway to Serfdom
3. Linda at The Great Pumpkin
4. Andres at Bound By Gravity
5. Shannon Davis at Shenanigans

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ujjal Needs a Stress Break Too

From an exchange taken during Question Period over the Supreme Court decision striking down Quebec's health insurance act:

Mr. Steven Fletcher (Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am surprised the member remembers anything. We have heard health care promises from the Liberals for 12 years. They have had a record of broken promises. They have not fixed wait times and no one believes they ever will.

The court has stepped in because of a decade of Liberal mismanagement. Will the government simply admit that it is the Liberal mismanagement that brought us to this point today?

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my memory is neither erased, nor doctored, nor spliced. What the hon. member should remember is that we have provided more than enough money and resources across the country to make our health care system--

Either Ujjie is trying to be subtly clever in referencing the Grewal Tape scandal, or it's weighing too heavily on his brain. (Well it is his ass on the line after all.) Either way, the fact that the Tories have now pulled an expert out to authenticate the latest version of the Grewal tapes (a local college instructor, to boot) puts the affair back in play, just when the Grits thought it was safe to dismiss it.

Ujjie: you might want to lie low for a bit. I hear Bolivia's real nice this time of year ...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Same-Sex Marriage : C-38 Version 2

It's an unfortunate thing about the Paul Martin type of Liberal: sometimes you have to kick him in the nards before he starts to listen to you.

Pat O'Brien's quitting the caucus was the kick that finally got him to seriously consider amendments to Bill C-38, the gay marriage bill.

Here's some of the report from CTV News (hat tip to Canadianna):

Prime Minister Paul Martin held a private meeting with more than 30 MPs was held last night, following a decision by Liberal MP Pat O'Brien to leave the party and sit as an Independent over the legislation.

CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife told Canada AM this morning that Martin and the MPs came to an agreement on four amendments with regard to Bill C-38.

Let's look at some of the amendments proposed here:

1. Stronger guarantees that Charter rights will not override religious freedoms

Right now, the relevant text of Bill C-38 reads: "It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs." It's weak, very weak. A stronger guarantee would have something like explicit invocation of Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (guaranteeing freedom of religion.)

2. Justices of the Peace who do not want to perform civil marriages of same-sex couples will not have to do so.

What's needed here is something to the effect of being able to refuse without suffering disciplinary action for refusing. That will involve negotiations with the relevant provincial agencies, but this section should and ought to serve as a directive.

3. Churches are not required to rent out their halls for same-sex weddings

Again, this could be worded more strongly, perhaps along the lines of "no religious institution or affiliate shall be compelled by authority to rent or lease its property for the purposes of a same-sex marriage." It certainly should be enough to get the Knights of Columbus out of court.

4. Religious educational institutions will still be allowed to preach that homosexuality is against God's law, without being subject to hate crime laws.

How that one got on the table, I'm not sure. But again, the wording has to be worked out: "still be allowed" gives the impression that the government allows the Church to preach a message, when in reality the preaching is none of the government's business.

Note that there's nothing here about definitions of marriage, traditional or otherwise. The lawyers at Justice have pretty much got the government's ear on this one; they're afraid of undermining the lower courts.

These amendments probably aren't enough to bring O'Brien back, but they might be enough to get the anti-SSM Liberals (and a few of the more centrist Tories) to lower their opposition. Stephen Harper will probably say that it's not enough for the Tories, but really only a full-fledged debate will tell for sure.

UPDATE (13h25 07 Jun): Well, it looks like the "Mister Dithers" persona of Paul Martin is back:

No consensus, however, has been reached, according to Scott Reid, the Prime Minister's communications director.

Reid said Martin only promised that he would be open to the four amendments, although MPs at the meeting apparently left with the impression they had a deal.

"There is a long-standing commitment that all amendments will be treated fairly -- whether they come at committee or report stage," said Reid. "The Prime Minister told caucus what he's said publicly -- as part of an open process amendments will be considered fairly on their merits."

But who defines "fairly"? Fast-tracking is hardly fair--it's what caused O'Brien to resign in the first place.

And Martin had better understand one thing: loyalty cuts both ways. If he says "it's a deal" in private and "I'm just being open to suggestions" in public, those C-38 opponets may also become open to suggestions -- of non-confidence.

Ken Epp Award Nominee: Loyola Hearn

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in case you have not noticed, summer is coming and everyone is planning summer vacations. All are asking, where can we go?

Why not visit the oldest settled part of North America? Why not come see where the Vikings settled 1,000 years ago? Why not come see famous archaeological sites, such as Lord Baltimore's colony? Why not come see 620 million year old fossils? Why not come see lighthouses, historic sites, scenic parks, wildlife and icebergs?

Why not come visit Cabot Tower from where Marconi sent the first transatlantic message? Why not see the St. John's regatta, North America's oldest sporting event, and visit Cape Spear, our country's most easterly point?

Why not come enjoy our festivals, experience our food, and meet the finest people in the world?

Why not visit Newfoundland and Labrador this summer?

Mr. Hearn: Why not use your private members' time to do something other than huckstering for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism?

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Libranos Get That Old-Time Religion

Well -- some of them, anyway. From Canadian Press (c/o CANOE News):

"People of faith are engaging in the democratic process in the Liberal party as well as the Conservative party," Charles McVety, head of Canada Christian College and a founder of the Defend Marriage Coalition, said in an interview.

McVety said his group, which opposes same-sex marriage, helped a number of like-minded Liberals secure nominations prior to last year's election.

Among them were Toronto-area MPs Paul Szabo, Tom Wappel, Jim Karygiannis, Dan McTeague and Albina Guarnieri, now veterans affairs minister, and Oshawa MP Judi Longfield.

Hmmm. Has anyone told Mark Holland about this?

Incidentally, it's a cliché that all Liberal MPs are trying to put their Christian connections back in the closet:

Karygiannis ... acknowledged receiving help from the coalition. He said he might never have become an MP without the support of Campaign Life Coalition, a member of McVety's group.

Campaign Life has sent out brochures endorsing Karygiannis in every election since 1988, with the MP paying the postage.

"I think in 1988 when I was first elected, Campaign Life probably turned things in my favour," Karygiannis said.

"I got elected by 800 votes. They had at that time something like 800 households (on their mailing list) and they sent a letter out . . . (saying) we recommend that you vote for Jim Karygiannis."

Heh. I wonder if Jim could invite Mr. Holland over for a church supper?

Oh, and if Mr. Holland should consider declining, or attacking McVety again, he might want to consider these words of wisdom from a fellow Liberal MP:

Toronto Liberal MP John McKay, himself an evangelical Christian, said such attacks on a religious group are potentially dangerous in a country as pluralistic as Canada.

Moreover, he said they may help push evangelical Christians, who make up about 15 per cent of the Canadian population and who traditionally haven't voted as a block for any one party, into the arms of the Tories.

"You can't continue to offend a particular group to its core . . . and continue to expect that they won't start to migrate with their votes."


The Liberals Lose One

Well, the Liberals now have a "one step back" in addition to their "two steps forward" (Belinda Stronach & Todd Russell):

Liberal MP Pat O'Brien, who opposes his party's position on gay marriage, says he's quitting the Grits to sit as an Independent.

O'Brien has long opposed the government's efforts to pass legislation to legalize same-sex marriage.

He decided to stick with the Liberals in April after Prime Minister Paul Martin promised expanded debate of the marriage bill.

But O'Brien said the "full and fair" debate he expected has not happened.

So--what are the implications here?

Well, the numbers breakdown goes like this:

Grits 133
Tories 98
BQ 54
ND 19
Ind. 4

In a confidence vote, assuming that Carolyn Parrish and Chuck Cadman vote for the government side (as they did on the budget vote) and the NDP continues to support the Grits, Paul Martin can only count on 154 votes, as opposed to 154 votes for the Tories/BQ/David Kilgour + Pat O'Brien.

However, Cadman cannot really be considered a certainty for the Grit side, and O'Brien may still think like a Grit in terms of economic policy.

In other words, O'Brien's leaving has effectively tossed Paul Martin's survivability back into chaos.

Is this an opportunity for Wile E. Harper? Probably not. Some of the other Tories may try to persuade O'Brien to join their caucus, but with the Grewal controversy still in the news cycle it's too soon to try to add to the ranks.

One other thing to think about. There are other Liberal MPs who are in strong opposition to Bill C-38, who may think along the same lines as O'Brien. Paul Martin must now re-consider his haste to get gay marriage onto the statute books; it would be somewhat ironic if this bill ultimately results in his government falling.

The 23rd Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here at West Coast Chaos. Be sure to read Temujin's excellent essay, including his ruminations on D-Day.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

What Will Bill Siksay Say on Monday?

In the House of Commons, Statements by Members is always a prime spot for individual MPs to show their stuff. Take this example from Friday's Hansard:

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the B.C. federal NDP caucus made a statement on the beating and humiliation in Richmond, B.C. of an Indo-Canadian youth.

This young man reported that he was assaulted, had his turban knocked off and his hair shorn. We deplore in the strongest possible terms this shocking attack. We are deeply concerned about the apparent racist nature of the attack. Our sympathy and thoughts are with the victim and his family.

The Indo-Canadian community has contributed much to our region and our country through its hard work and generosity and the richness of its faiths, languages, and culture. When someone from the Sikh community is attacked, we stand in solidarity with the victim and the community.

The Richmond RCMP has vowed to track down the people responsible and we support its call for any information from the public that will help bring the perpetrators to justice.

We call upon everyone in the lower mainland and indeed all Canadians of every origin and faith to work together to achieve a society where racist attacks no longer occur.

Now I'm sure Mr. Sikay felt rather pleased with himself about his statement. Right up to the point when he saw this story from CBC News:

B.C. police are calling off a hate-crimes investigation, after a Sikh teenager admitted he made up a story about a group of white men beating him and cutting his hair.

Police had appealed for tips earlier in the week, after the 17-year-old said five men jumped him behind an elementary school in Richmond on May 26.

Cpl. Peter Thiesson told a news conference on Saturday that the teen's wounds were self-inflicted. He said they snatched off his turban and chopped his hair, which – for religious reasons – had never been cut.

The teenager admitted on Friday that it never happened, Richmond RCMP said at a news conference Saturday.

"He disclosed to us that in fact he had fabricated the entire incident," Cpl. Peter Thiesson said.

"The injuries that we observed on him that required medical attention were self-inflicted, that he cut his own hair and that he disclosed this to no one."

I suppose we should cut Mr. Siksay a break. After all, commenting on a fake story, in a public forum such as Parliament, is nothing new.

If there's any lesson for MPs to learn, it's to think about a situation before opening your mouth (anyone for a bowl of Grewal?). When it comes to the news, things are not always what reporters see.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Into the Wild Blue Yonder ...

What military aircraft are you?

F/A-22 Raptor

You are an F/A-22. You are technologically inclined, and though you've never been tested in combat, your very name is feared. You like noise, but prefer not to pollute any more than you have to. And you can move with the best.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

Gee ... I always thought of myself as an F4U Corsair. Ah well ...

The Bookshelf Tag Shenanigan

Visiting some of my fellow Red Ensign brigadiers, I realized that an insidious game has popped up. And sure enough, despite my best efforts to keep my head ducked, The Bookshelf Tag Game has reached The Phantom Observer, courtesy of Shannon Davis.

The game -- a version of the "chain letter" gambit -- involves bloggers answering the following questions:

1. How many books do you own?
2. What was the last book you bought?
3. What was the last book you read?
4. Which 5 books mean a lot to you?
5. Can you tag 5 more victims--er, interested bloggers?

Well, here goes:

1. I'd have to say roughly, about 400. Most of these are paperbacks, stored in 5 full-length shelving units around my house. That's not counting the 50 or so that I've actually weeded, in a planned donation to the library.

2. Technically speaking, that would be vol. 15 of Rurouni Kenshin, the graphic novel series by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Skilful blend of dynamic art, action and humour.
Oh, prose book? Well, does How to Draw Manga: Basic Computones Vol. 1 count? (Since I draw on the computer, I'm training myself on black & white shading.)
Okay, then, I'd have to say Simon Singh's The Code Book. A fascinating read on the history of cryptography.

3. See above; I tend to read books almost as soon as I buy them. I read Singh's work over two pints of beer and a crab dip at Alexander's Lower Deck.
Oh, and for books I've just re-read -- well, I'm a sucker for the classics. And Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever is definitely a classic--his success at evoking the jet-set atmosphere of the early 1960's is almost without parallel.

4. Well, given my artistic ambitions, two of my picks are trade-related. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is a must-read for anyone interested in going into the comics business, while The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams (who directed the animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit) occupies the same spot for animators. (Some might argue for The Illusion of Life, which is certainly readable but also weighs a ton after a while.)
I've read a lot of books on history -- To Rule the Waves by Arthur Herman is a great book on the history of the British Navy -- but for non-fiction in general, really there's one that I like due to its emphasis on style: The Way You Wear Your Hat by Bill Zehme. The Frank Sinatra Style, with its emphasis on confidence, cockiness and cool, is definitely one worth hanging on to for styleless geeks like me.
As for prose fiction, you can't go wrong with either Tolkien or Ian Fleming, or P.G. Wodehouse, or the early Tom Clancy.

5. Who should I tag? Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha:

Steve Janke, aka Angry in the Great White North
Blair Hansen at Italics Mine
Ray at Raging Kraut
Paul Denton at Ravishing Light

All yours, folks ...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Notes on Reading the Grewal Transcripts, Part 3

Before we continue, it's necessary to consider if Gurmant Grewal's explanation of gaps is to be believed. I'm not wholehearted about this, but I do think his explanation is plausible. Certainly it's more plausible than Ujjal Dosanjh's accusation--er, explanation.

Anyway, the third file contains selections from various phone calls between Grewal and either Ujjal Dosanjh or Tim Murphy between May 17/18. (It's important to emphasize that these are selections, not the entire transcript.)

There's some to-do about the Ethics commissioner, but it seems obvious that both Dosanjh and Murphy are leaving that one alone. It's pretty clear from that transcript that all three are discussing getting an apology out of Citizenship minister Joe Volpe rather than putting pressure on the Ethics Commission. (One sort of gathers that getting Joe Volpe to apologize is equivalent to pulling his molar.)

The transcript has seen fit to highlight this passage from Murphy:

TM: The point I was making is, obviously the key is something like this happened, the first question people will ask you is, well what were you promised, did you seek it out or did they seek you, were you promised anything, did you ask for something. I think, we want answer to all those questions to be ‘no’. then we can be honest about that, right. So that we can be able to say, actually that can be a better position for you to say that you will be principled. Then you can say that no, I took the principled position. No one bought me with anything, right. In that world where someone like you is taking a principled decision, a courageous decision and the guys that make contribution to the community, an effective MP the guy who play an important role and will play more important role. Right and so but I thing if something happens tonight or tomorrow. We need to be able to answer honestly all these questions to the media at that time right, look what Scott Brison did, that is how it exactly happened with him, right. He was able to say no. that there is no promise made, obviously he hope to he can play an important role. And over time that is exactly what happened, right. I think we need to do on that basis. So that we can all be honest. I think that will be better for you from positioning point of view. And you will be able to say, ‘hang on a second, no no, I do it from principle’, right. Its not about me getting anything, nor anybody offering me anything. It is the right thing for my community and for my principles.

Technically speaking, this isn't an offer, but a way to spin the acceptance of such an offer. There's a certain irony in reading how a Liberal strategist uses terms such as "principled" and "courageous" for what is unquestionably an unscrupulous action.