Saturday, May 05, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Gerald Caplan looks at the principled leadership which Stephen Harper embarrassingly made into an attack on the NDP as an example what Canada desperately needs now:
Repeating that war settles nothing, Mr. Woodsworth declared: “I rejoice that it is possible to say these things in a Canadian Parliament under British institutions. It would not be possible in Germany, I recognize that ... and I want to maintain the very essence of our British institutions of real liberty. I believe that the only way to do it is by an appeal to the moral forces which are still resident among our people, and not by another resort to brute force.”
He alone rose to record his opposition to the declaration of war.
In the words of Tommy Douglas’s biographers Thomas and Ian McLeod: “This event is considered by many to be one of the finest moments in the history of the Canadian Parliament. Even as every other member of the House of Commons voted to declare war, Mr. Woodsworth was recognized for his courageous ethical stand and his commitment to his principles.”
Through two decades as independent MP and then as leader of the small CCF parliamentary rump, no one challenged the King government more profoundly than J. S. Woodsworth, constantly seeking the better angels of Mackenzie King’s nature. In the end, addressing his own historic motion for war, the prime minister said:
“There are few men in this Parliament for whom I have greater respect than the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. I admire him in my heart, because time and again he has had the courage to say what lays on his conscience, regardless of what the world might think of him. A man of that calibre is an ornament to any Parliament.”
And Tabatha Southey comments on the NDP's proud history of time travel which serves as the only logical explanation for the Cons' spin.

- Meanwhile, Jeffrey Simpson criticizes the Cons' efforts to rewrite Canada's past:
In the last budget, for example, funding was reduced for Library and Archives Canada, the CBC, Telefilm Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Parks Canada by a government that had already scrapped plans for a National Portrait Gallery. (The government also is eliminating support for scholars in other countries who study Canada.)
By contrast, the government found money in a “restraint” budget for projects that will allow it to highlight those scattered and fading (or faded) remnants of our history that suit the government’s political agenda: recreations of the War of 1812 (a political civil war on each side and a cross-border military conflict), medals commemorating the Queen, and yet another royal visit, this one offering Canadians (or at least the handful of them who will care) the emotional surge of seeing their future king and queen: Charles and Camilla.

For the Harper Conservatives, there’s no sense of contributing to a new or evolved sense of Canadian identity, but rather a reaching back and dusting off of fragments of the past that suit their politics – which is why the military and the monarchy are their favoured subjects for historical attention.
History is never written in stone; it’s always being checked and rechecked, written and rewritten. Arguments about the past never cease, and it’s intellectually worthwhile for such arguments to be made by those who learn history and/or write it, often with the support of the very institutions the government’s now cutting.

When governments take up the pen, fill it with the ink of public money, and start rewriting the past, political agendas chase the search for historical understanding.
- Kelly McParland sees haste and secrecy as the two main products of the Cons' omnibus budget legislation. Bill Curry reports that the Cons plan to dictate who's eligible to receive EI benefits with no input from anybody else - least of all the workers who have paid into the program. And Thomas Walkom observes that the Cons' strategy looks to be to attack wages and the environment exactly as much as they can get away with without inciting outright panic:
The Harper revolution has never been about abortion or gay rights. This prime minister has little interest in social conservatism.
Rather, the revolution is economic. It is aimed at eliminating regulations — particularly environmental regulations — that interfere in profit-making. It is aimed at reducing wages (which is why the Conservatives take swipes at unions whenever possible). It is aimed at scaling back any social programs — from Old Age Security to Employment Insurance — that help keep wages up.
The revolutionaries dream of a day when the elderly, energized by the reductions in their pensions, will be vying for jobs at Walmart.
But it is a stealthy revolution. The country must remain complacent. Otherwise, we might object.
- Peter O'Neil notes that provinces are joining the group of voices concerned about the effect of a free trade agreement with Europe which would lock in higher pharmaceutical prices for no apparent benefit.

- And finally, Martin Canning comments on the future of political micro-targeting.

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