Monthly Archives: March 2007

I have a bad feeling about Quebec

Call me weird, but I’m worried about the Quebec election. Not the result, but the fact that discussion of it is taking place in two, how shall I put it, solitudes.

Do you know why many Quebecers voted for Mario Dumont? OK, it’s also baffling that many Ontarians voted for Jean Chrétien. And some things about the election were strange in the usual way — for instance, politics being shaken up by an anti-establishment outsider first elected at 24 (versus Jean Charest’s 26 and André Boisclair’s 23) whose 1987 high school yearbook ambition was “to become premier.” But when it comes to Quebec’s place in Canada, it’s like we don’t even speak the same language.

Take Jean Charest … please. Anglos of the Juh swee uhn Kaybeckwaââ variety have long called him a federalist champion of Canada. Which reminded me of an old Hagar the Horrible cartoon where (if memory serves) a bartender announces “You gotta be real tough to drink in this place, sonny,” Hagar growls, “We’ll see about that,” drains his glass, goes “Ack gahrg give me a glass of your water” and the bartender replies grimly, “That was a glass of our water.” Continue reading

Vote buying has become the Canadian way

My bonnet is full of bees. My pet peeves constitute a menagerie. And I constantly grind a shed full of shiny axes. My excuse is they come in handy. For instance, I must wave three of them at the federal budget: Our Conservatives are not conservative, our governments are giant vote-buying machines and most politicians are too dim to grasp it.

Obviously, this government is Conservative in name only. Program spending is to rise from $175 billion to $206 billion in just three years. But it’s not only the scope of the spending or the gleeful way it is unveiled. It is the evident conviction that there is nothing government cannot or should not do, from $2 million for free MedicAlert bracelets for children to increased tax breaks for long-haul truckers’ meals. I am not saying kids should get sick or truckers should faint from hunger behind the wheel. I am saying any Tories who remember once thinking government had some other purpose than trading money for votes have evidently long since forgotten why they used to care.

It is true that this budget, in the finest Mulroney fashion, predicts a dramatic slowdown in spending later while causing a dramatic increase now. But modern governments chronically exceed their spending targets. Do the Tories not know this, or not care? Either way, they are not conservative. Continue reading

Dull swords used in cut and thrust of debate

What rude men. While my unfortunate wife pondered the substance of Tuesday night’s Quebec political leaders’ debate, I concentrated on their demeanour. It was appalling.

Pompous, windy and belligerent, they spent the evening jabbing fingers at one another, talking over one another and calling one another liars. Exactly how you provoke a fight in a bar. And they wonder why they get no respect.

I’m not saying politicians shouldn’t contradict one another. I’m saying the way they go about it is childish and disgraceful. From leaders’ debates to question period it’s all purple faces, mock indignation and pointing fingers. They all seem to dream of reliving Brian Mulroney’s ‘You had an option, sir’ crushing of John Turner over patronage, as if his subsequent conduct hadn’t made a mockery of those words and contributed to a further decline in the quality of our governance and the civility of our politics. Continue reading

Sympathy for the Devil

Hey everybody. I’ve thought of a way politicians can spend more money. On themselves, no less. They could spend millions hiring new staff. Isn’t that swell?

No, really. I mean it. There is much that is wrong with our government, but it is not always what you think. For instance, a significant reason for Parliament’s generally shoddy performance is not that MPs are lazy but that they are overworked. And here’s another important point that frequently confuses citizens and candidates for office: It is not what politicians spend on themselves but what they spend on us that accounts for bloated, swelling public budgets. Voters clamour for wars on waste and expanded social spending. Politicians oblige.

Facing a chorus of boos, I console myself that surveys show journalists already rival politicians for unpopularity. One possible reason is that we are almost the only people in the country who take them as seriously as they take themselves. (Another is that we are lurid, ignorant and biased, but let us not get distracted here.) And while I am a right-wing zealot you may, within limits, include me in the indictment for being fixated on political affairs. Continue reading

Don’t insult one’s religion – unless it’s Christianity

Well, it’s Lent, when Jesus-debunking news stories rise from the dead. This time it’s a tomb with the whole family gathered, including his wife and kid. Unless it’s just the dusty bones of decency and good sense in those boxes.

In a way it’s a backhanded tribute that, to the modern mind, Christianity is like a train wreck: gruesome, but they can’t look away. Newspapers don’t greet major Buddhist festivals with claims that Siddhartha Gautama was a cokehead, or open Ramadan by saying Mohammed was — (do NOT fill in this blank). As we said while not reprinting the infamous Danish cartoons, never would we insult someone’s beliefs or faith tradition — and by the way did you know that Jesus wasn’t resurrected, plus he had sex with Magdalene.

This latest Christ-married-and-founded-the-Merovingians-or-some-other-“potential-dynasty” fantasy is a brain wreck. Continue reading