Monthly Archives: June 2006

Our national narrative, told properly

Happy Canada Day everybody. Despite that no-good low-down murdering rat Henry VII.

No, really. Thanks to Robert Fulford’s The Triumph of Narrative, I’ve been pondering Canada’s story for the last year. And now I’m grinding my teeth because I finally read Josephine Tey’s 1951 The Daughter of Time, in which a bedridden policeman investigates whether England’s vilified King Richard III really murdered his nephews, and concludes it was an outrageous Tudor frame-up abetted by Will Shakespeare.

It matters because Canada’s story includes Britain’s long struggle for liberty. If we even have a story any more. Trendy post-moderns deny the very possibility of coherent narratives. But as Mr. Fulford says, woe betide the individual or the nation that loses the thread of its own. I fear we have. Continue reading

The taxes are insane, and I’m going that way too

They say madmen don’t laugh. So you see that I am not mad. For I laughed when I saw my property tax bill. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Here, look. I’m afraid you’ll have to pick it up for yourself. I can’t seem to get my arms out of the sleeves of this nice canvas jacket the men in white helped me into.

I remember how it was … before. Public policy always put me on edge. But I thought I had redlined in the Trudeau years over windily self-satisfied political incompetence. Then I opened my property tax bill and executed an elegant final plunge into the steaming cauldron of venomous resentment. I saw red, and went into it.

I’ve always been careful about money. Even a bit odd. I can’t deny it. I do yard work in shoes I bought when Jimmy Carter was president. I use the same coffee cup all day to save dish detergent. It took me months to agree to my wife’s “proposal” to throw out a treadmill I bought used in 1998 and was busted three different ways. I live a life of almost compulsive frugality, with the occasional wild spree of tax-paying extravagance. Continue reading

Messing with the Constitution isn’t reform, it’s vandalism

What’s left of our Parliament will probably recess for the summer before passing bills setting fixed election dates for the House of Commons and eight-year terms for senators. But don’t pass out on me yet. Messing up our Constitution remains a lousy idea.

It might seem silly as well as boring to fuss over the details of Bills C-16 and S-4 when the House just passed a $227-billion budget in its sleep. MPs’ control of the public purse is the cornerstone of parliamentary self-government, yet the opposition parties forgot to vote against a budget a year after the Tories forgot they even were the opposition and deliberately didn’t. But our system is a coherent, if elaborate, structure, so watching Conservatives who are meant to revere tradition digging away at any part of its foundations instead is disquieting.

Let’s not start with “fixed” election dates. A law requiring an election every four years wouldn’t work. What’s to stop a prime minister, with a majority or without, manoeuvring to lose a major Commons vote at a convenient moment, or fiddling the legislative calendar to bring up key legislation just before the four-year mark? D’oh. Then we’re told citizens would recognize and punish such deviousness although they’re currently too dim to notice an early election call at all. Continue reading

We need uncompromising belief to win the war of ideas

My, what a big pile of ammonium nitrate they have. The better to blow us up with, I imagine. If so, they must be stopped, by persuasion where possible and by force where necessary.

Do not dismiss the latter option too lightly. Persuasion fails if a machete through the neck impedes the smooth flow of your argument. The last words of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh were apparently: “We can talk about it. Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” But they couldn’t talk because his Islamist assailant shot and stabbed him before pinning an abusive note to his mutilated corpse to which no reply was feasible.

Do not dismiss the long-term importance of ideas too lightly either. In 1911, G. K. Chesterton wrote: “About half the history now taught in schools and colleges is made windy and barren by the narrow notion of leaving out the theological theories … Historians seem to have completely forgotten two facts – first, that men act from ideas; and second, that it might, therefore, be as well to discover which ideas.” Continue reading

Letter to a foolish politician

To: The Hon. Michael Bryant, attorney general of Ontario

Dear Sir:

In a recent letter to my friend Dennis Young (reference #M06-01001) you explain that you asked the federal government to impose a total handgun ban because criminals may steal handguns from legitimate owners and, I quote you here, “No hobby is worth a life.” I wonder if I might prevail upon you not to babble in this fashion.

Surely you realize many more people drown in Ontario than are fatally shot by criminals. And most drownings result from hobbies such as swimming and boating or (says a Canadian Institute for Health Information press release) “walking near water,” whereas many firearms murders don’t involve collectors’ or sports shooters’ stolen weapons. If you seriously believe “No hobby is worth a life,” consistency requires that you seek a ban on these other recreational activities first. If not, why did you say it? Continue reading