Could Dion Lose His Own Party’s Memebership?

The Ottawa Sun reports today that indeed it’s quite possible and that the recently vocal Quebec wing of the Liberal Party is stirring with a movement to invoke a clause never used before to revoke Dion’s membership in the Liberal party. I’m not sure how this would affect the Montreal area MP as past expulsions have usually come with the party leader’s blessing and hence the MP in question has been forced to either sit as an Independent or as a member of another party’s caucus. Maybe Dion can become the country’s first Green MP to follow up with his open flirtation with Elizabeth May last year!

While it would certainly embarrass Dion to have to register as a Liberal in another province (if it even comes to that), I think it’s safe to say that PM Harper will still be fighting against Dion in the next election as Dion has nothing to lose at this point in sticking around: there is already open dissatisfaction with his leadership; he’s never contested an election before and will never have the chance again if he cedes his right to do so now; he still has a massive leadership race debt to pay off and not many people will come out to hear the “failed former leader of the Liberal party” speak at a $200/plate dinner; his is under no obligation to have a leadership review vote and if his public image is any indication, he whole-heartedly believes he is the best Liberal leader the party could have right now and is morally obligated to stay on.

In the interest of fair play, I should confess that many Conservatives like myself would actually be more upset if Dion were to retire prematurely as he has done a fantastic job in helping us in Parliament. If another leadership race were triggered, it’d be hard to imagine how things would play out between now and October, 2009. The Liberals would probably want a quick race both to stop the bleeding they’ve been inflicting upon themselves since January, 2006 and to keep costs down both for the central party and the A-list candidates who are still fighting off leadership debts. Parliament wouldn’t change that much as the Conservatives pretty much has a majority as it is right now, although the Liberals would be in even worse financial shape than they are now with the extra costs, making it impossible for them to fight an effective election campaign (they’re currently prepared to borrow most of their campaign costs).

These prohibitive costs must be a small comfort to those who have surrounded themselves around Dion though as none of them actually involve the leader’s ability to deliver and because it’s still pretty well accepted that Dion’s days are numbered, with the only question being whether the last day comes before or after an election. Just remember Stephane, if this Liberal thing doesn’t work out, you’ll always have that fling with Lizzy last year!

Ontario’s Budget Goes Nowhere Fast!

The economy is eroding and prices are soaring for consumers. Indeed, when compared to just twelve months ago, the mood of your average Ontarian is much grimmer when it comes to the economy. Most specifically, Ontario is regaining the dubious honour that it had twenty years ago when it became dead last in Canada and even dead last in North America in terms of economic growth. The largest province of confederation, uniquely challenged by its close affiliation with the United States’ service sector and high concentration of manufacturing sector jobs, is melting down before our very eyes.

So how does the Ontario government respond today with its annual budget? A bunch of fluff: a new programme to retrain 20,000 workers for new jobs; special tax cuts for Northern Ontario and squeaky wheel businesses that need to be taken off corporate welfare if they ever hope to actually contribute to (as opposed to leech off of…) the tax pool; continuing the ill-fated planning that all governments since the ’60s have done of making Toronto the centre of the universe through the transit system just when many businesses are choosing to move outside of Hogtown due to congestion and killer municipal tax rates; increasing welfare rates by 2% so as to give people using the programme every reason to stay on the government dole; and killing off any notion of a surplus with little pet projects while offering absolutely nothing to the overtaxed families of the province. This is how the provincial government of Ontario, which will in all likelihood come cap-in-hand to the feds later this year, intends to make Ontario economically competitive in a time of high uncertainty. Tinker here, grease that wheel there and hope for the best.

The facts don’t lie though and they’re clearly pointing to us becoming a “have-not” province; not something that should mean that the feds owe us something, but an indication that the leading economic growth that we experienced under Mike Harris has officially evaporated. You can’t blame oil for Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick out-pacing our growth here either. Nor should the feds do anything more as they at least took their surplus last year and put it to some good use by giving us the most competitive business taxes in the G7. Juxtaposed to Dalton? Well, at least the kiddies’ll have apples at school when they want them!

What’s saddest of all is that only now will people begin to realize just how foolish we all were to elect a super-majority government on the basis of an ill-advised opposition leader’s pet project; if nothing else, Dalton’s health tax should have assured his Liberals that they would only receive a minority mandate. The fun’s only begun though since we still have another three feel-good, do-nothing budget to go from these folks. I can only imagine what we’re in store for next year, when the 20,000 PhDs that Dalton trains this year realize that all the retraining in the world doesn’t mean a hill of beans when there’s no jobs out there to apply said training with!

Stephane Dion’s Campaign Begins?

I know I could not stand to ever vote for this man.  But the whole article seems nonsensical.

FREDERICTON — Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion dished out election promises as party supporters wolfed down pancakes at a candidates breakfast in Fredericton this morning.

A small group of people turned out to hear Dion rally the troops for an expected federal election.

Only a small group came out for free pancakes?  Ahh… this one is too easy.

Dion was critical of the Conservative government, saying the Liberals would do a better job on such things as debt reduction and protecting the environment.

“We’re better!  Because we’re not Conservative!”  Useful.

He says that includes saying no to bulk exports of Canada’s water supplies.

Who cares?

Dion says in the next election the Liberals will announce plans to cut poverty in Canada by one third and child poverty by a half.

What poverty?  Will they call it “A Prius in every parking spot and an X-Box in every living room” program?  Oh wait.  The poor in this country already have X-Boxes.

Throwing money at “the poor” doesn’t make them not poor.  It merely raises the bar for what is considered “poor”.  The poor in Canada would be considered the top 10% richest in most countries of the world.

And, he said, in order for Canada to compete globally, his party would make university accessible to all Canadians, and not just those at the upper income levels.

Yep.  Because teenagers working at Superstore (Loblaws for you back east) can pay their way through school if they don’t go drinking every night (I know: I did it).  That makes them upper income… unless they take up drinking.  University is cheap enough, and for those who still can’t afford it, they could always get a scholarship… but that would mean not drinking your way through high school either, and isn’t that a human right in Canada?

Ugh.  This election is going to be like a raccoon trying to cross the 401 during rush hour.  A coon with a big red “L” stenciled on his back.

Brenda Martin and Canadians detained abroad

There seems to be a dash of useful commentary buried amid the chaotic ravings against the Conservative government for doing nothing to help Canadians who get shafted in foreign judicial systems. Stéphane Dion said:

“How, then, can he say that Canada will intervene with Saudi Arabia to spare the life of Mr. Kohail? How is it also possible for Canada to have legal assistance treaties with other countries — including Mexico?” Dion said.

The first problem that I have (and I would hope this should be obvious) is that the government can not rescue every single Canadian throughout the whole wide world who may be suffering obvious injustice. It is just impossible. Therefore, it seems unfair for the government to play favorites. [The irony is that governments always play favorites. Every time a government acts, it plays favorites. I wonder if the Liberals understand that.] Although, I am sure Dion only meant to ask a rhetorical question to highlight a double standard in state intervention but if that is the only way we can get intelligent commentary from the leader of the federal Liberals, so be it. On second thought, it would not surprise me if Dion’s political strategy involves the advocacy of saving every single Canadian throughout the whole wide world — I have yet to hear anything more mature come from his mouth in either official language.

[In other news, an RCMP search-and-rescue team take a few Griffon helicopters out to save a British adventurer trapped in her vain solo ski trek to the North Pole. Who pays that bill?]

Secondly, I am not too certain I want the Canadian government to have legal assistance treaties with other countries. The cynic in me fears that it is just a front for giving nation states political bargaining power for issues that have nothing to do with justice. Marc Emery is facing extradition to the U.S. for a non-crime in Canada.

I see no reason to trust a state that imprisons foreigners when they have the option of deporting and banishing them from their country. Incarceration is generally a bizarre state construct and this fact becomes more evident when we examine such inter-state or cross-jurisdictional cases. Brenda Martin said something very powerful, in my opinion:

“Right now there is so much negative publicity for Mexico, and for what? For a 51-year-old woman who allegedly received $26,000 illegally? [Someone] has to put this in perspective and simply let me go.”

She is right — unless they want something from her.

Maybe they think she can provide information to lead to further arrests. I do not know. Maybe the Mexican prosecutors just want to look tough to local Mexicans. Prosecutors love looking tough — it helps further their political careers. Maybe, like most bureaucrats, the more work they create for themselves, the more they get paid! Whatever the reason, the Mexicans can simply deport Brenda Martin to Canada and bar her from ever entering Mexico again.

Why would the Mexican authorities waste their time, effort and money on Brenda Martin? The actual fraudster, Alyn Waage, is already convicted and serving time. He insists that Brenda Martin is innocent and that they are holding her as collateral for a $500,000 bribe he was supposed to pay in exchange for his release. Sadly, that sort of corruption does not surprise me and it makes the most sense.

I have a lot of sympathy for Brenda Martin and her plight. However, I have no proof of what Brenda Martin was doing in Mexico. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is an innocent woman. A friend of mine, spent a few years in North African and Spanish jails after being set up on trumped up smuggling charges. Generally, I distrust most legal systems and my distrust is greater for foreign ones.

—-

Canadians travel to Mexico all of the time. Some get scape-goated for crimes but most have a peaceful vacation or business trip. One thing I do know for certain is that I have never been to Mexico and I can not afford to go there. Maybe one day, I will.

Why should my taxes go to pay for one person’s legal debacle in a country I can not afford to visit???? That certainly does not seem fair. Even if it is fair, it certainly is no way to run a country without going bankrupt.

Breathtaking Religious Ignorance at the Globe and Mail

On Easter weekend of all weekends.  It used to be that a college edumacation actually included the study of religion, so that even if you didn’t neessarily float that way, you had some grasp of what it means for those who do.

Evidently, comparative religion is no longer a required course in the alma maters of the staff at The Globe and Mail.

That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today – Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto’s West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country.

But at West Hill on the faith’s holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words “Jesus Christ” will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with “Glorious hope.”

The fact that this is a United Church will explain a lot about the move being reported on.

Ms. Vosper [the pastor of the church in question] has written a book, published this week – With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe - in which she argues that the Christian church, in the form in which it exists today, has outlived its viability and either it sheds its no-longer credible myths, doctrines and dogmas, or it’s toast.

Then what in the world is she doing pastoring a church?  This is like putting China on the UN Human Rights Council.  Wait a minute…

She is considered one of the bright, if unconventional, minds within the United Church, Canada’s largest Protestant Christian denomination.

By what count?  Total Sunday attendees?  Perhaps with the largest rate of religious apathy and church building closure from lack of interest?  The latter two would be accurate.  The former is certainly not the case anymore.  This move of hers would be the largest reason why.

She holds a master of divinity degree from Queen’s University and was ordained in 1992.

Doesn’t say much for Queens’ standards.  Or the United Church.  “What?  You don’t believe in Christ?  Great!  You’re just the kind of leader to lead this denomination into its rightful place as a footnote in religious history!”

Other Christian clergy and theologians have talked about the need to dramatically reform the doctrines of a faith that, with the exception of its vibrancy in the United States, has lost huge numbers of adherents throughout the Western world it once dominated as Christendom.

Notice how carefully this is phrased.  It talks about the Western world.  That much is true.  It has lost huge numbers of adherents.  But the adherents are being shed out of denominations that are doing just what is recommended above: compromising the message of Jesus.  Look at the statistics for churches in Canada: the churches that are experiencing the most growth are the ones who are compromising the least.  The United Church of Canada is shedding adherents faster than any other denomination, and this kind of move isn’t slowing the pace – it’s accelerating it.

On the other hand, in all parts of the rest of the world, Christianity is exploding like it has never before.  There are nearly 2 billion Christians now worldwide.  The underground churches of China are swelling like crazy – insiders suggest that the official government numbers are less than a tenth of the actual numbers of believers – perhaps as many as 130 million.  These places are not “reimagining the Gospel”, leaving out Christ.

In Canada, where 75 per cent of the population self-identifies as Christian, only about 16 per cent attend weekly services.

Pull the evangelical protestant denominations out of the mix, where the percentages are much higher because they actually talk about Jesus, and you’d see even smaller numbers.

But one of her colleagues who knows her well, Rev. Rob Oliphant, the progressive pastor of Toronto’s Eglinton St. George’s United Church, said, “While I’m somewhat sympathetic to the aims of it all – getting rid of the nonsense and keeping the core faith – I think that there is something lacking in it all. Gone is metaphor, poetry, symbol, image, beauty, paradox.”

But she isn’t getting rid of the nonsense.  She is getting rid of the core faith.  She is getting rid of perhaps the most central message of the Bible, of Jesus:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6

You take out the Jesus, you have a social service club.  No point in calling it a church anymore.  Which is why hardly anyone comes out to the “biggest protestant denomination in Canada” anymore.

For more information on what real churches are doing to address this issue without “throwing the baby (Jesus) out with the bathwater”, google something like “missional”.

In some ways, this article had a good point.  A lot of churches got away from what Jesus wants us to do – to live our faith in him – to live by his example, to serve our community, to love the loveless and the downtrodden.  And that is the key.  We serve because of Jesus, not in spite of him.  Take Jesus out of the mix, and you have a chain of United Ways, with steeples.