Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The U.S. as the unexamined alternative

It's said that Americans as a whole know nothing outside of their own borders, and having grown up in that country to the south of us, I can't disagree. The U.S. is a remarkably insular country with an equally insular political culture, in which the American way is not just the best way of doing something, it's the only way. Never mind that the Germans or the Spanish or the Swiss may have figured out an innovative way of solving an institutional problem the U.S. has been grappling with for decades--American lawmakers are probably never going to know about it. And in the rare times that they do, they'll marvel at it but never take it seriously as a potential solution for back at home.

Canadians, though, aren't much better. This is because Joe Canadian's world may be slightly expanded from that of the Americans, but it's only expanded enough to include the United States. Ask him about how things work in the U.S., and he can probably muddle through a mostly-correct explanation, but ask him about the education system in Denmark, the health care system in France, or the voting system in New Zealand, and he won't be able to tell you any more than Joe American can. In fact, he would probably be hard-pressed to find these countries on a map. And this only-slightly-expanded insularity affects Canadian political culture as well, since every reform of our institutions is presented as a choice between the traditional Canadian way and the American way. It's better in Canada? Well, then we'd better keep doing it our way lest we end up like the Americans! It's better in the U.S.? Well, by golly, we'd better start doing what they're doing, and as soon as possible!

The definition of 'better' depends on the ideology of the government in power, of course, but the rationale is eerily the same every time. In a Conservative-run Canada, this means proposed reforms like electing the Senate, fixing election dates, and putting Supreme Court appointments before Parliament. But the same reasoning explains the Liberal approach to institutions like health care and higher education, where they look at the U.S., decide they don't want to be like that, and defend the status quo on those grounds. Where are the Canadian parliamentarians championing Australian solutions, or Swedish ones, or Dutch ones? And where are the Canadian voters who are clamouring for those reforms?

I figure that Canadians must have on some level bought into the American "we're the best country in the world" strutting, because they seem to believe that all they have to do to be the best country in the world is prove that they're better than the Americans, and then they're home free. But the sooner people realize that the goal of being better than the U.S. is an unambitious one on a good day, the sooner we can really start finding the best possible ways of addressing the defects in our institutions.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Another reason why I'm glad to be in Canada

(Second in a series.)

Two men who happen to work for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police fell in love and decided to get married. The media got a hold of the story, and then the bloggers followed suit. From the Canadian right, we have shock, from the American left, we have envy, and from the American right, outrage. But from Stephen Harper's Conservative government, though, we have silence. Why? Because Dear Leader won't let them talk about it.

The opposition is understandably trying to turn this into a wedge issue (shorter Scott Brison: "the Conservatives are Neanderthals!" shorter Libby Davies: "Harper should congratulate them!"), but me, I'm too busy grinning. Yes, it's unfortunate that there are elected officials who might make nasty remarks about someone else's wedding, but far more remarkable than that is the fact that if they were allowed to do so, Canadians would hold it against the Conservatives. While politicians in favour of gay marriage in my country of birth need to temper their positions or weasel out of bringing it up, while the Democratic Party is almost completely silent on any gay civil rights issues at all, our Conservative prime minister knows he needs to keep the anti-gay element in his caucus from speaking out if he wants to win the next election.

Even in a Harper-run Canada, the right-wing, anti-gay fringe can't win.

Just think about that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blogstravaganza: Waterloo Edition

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but the plans are finally coming together. The Waterloo, Ontario Blogstravaganza is this upcoming Saturday May 27th, starting at 2PM at the Waterloo Public Library's launch party for James Bow's novel The Unwritten Girl.

At 4:00 PM, after the launch party is over, we will be going en masse across the street to the Huether Hotel brewpub (a few of us gave it a test drive last weekend, and the brews are indeed yummy), located at 59 King Street North, Waterloo, ON N2J 2X2. If the weather is good--which looks likely at this point--we will go to the Barley Works patio, and if not, we'll end up at the Lion Brewery Restaurant, which are both part of the Huether. This is a multipartisan, non-ideological event, so if you blog about politics or read those who do, feel free to come join us. Whether this ends up a "can't we all just get along" sort of atmosphere or gets as contentious as some of the discussions we've had out here in blogland depends on you, but either way it'll be fun, right?

Definitely in at this point: IP of Idealistic Pragmatist, Greg Staples of Political Staples, Greg Bester of Sinister Thoughts, James Bow of Bow. James Bow, CC of Canadian Cynic, Pretty Shaved Ape of the terminal velocity of sausage, and m@ of an unknown blog. Possibles include Annemarie of verbena-19 and Scott Tribe of the Progressive Bloggers. Anybody else? Sound off!

[Update: Scott Tribe is looking for a ride from the Windsor/London area, if anyone's coming from there.]

[Upperdate: Annemarie of verbena-19 is also looking for a ride, from the Brampton/Caledon/Mississauga area.]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Toronto Star letter goof

I've mentioned before (as have a couple of other bloggers) that the Toronto Star has been in a bit of a crusade against proportional representation now that the Ontario Citizens' Assembly process has begun. The latest installment is the publication of a letter to the editor by Schon Golgerth of Toronto:

So Australian Prime Minister John Howard is counselling Stephen Harper on how to run a country? Howard is the soul of American outreach and its spokesman. He has abandoned Australia to American influence and to American interests. With the Australian voting system of proportional representation, he will stay in power and Australia will irretrievably become a U.S. satellite doing the big brother's bidding.
Sounds pretty scary, eh? I mean, by now we all know how annoying Howard is, what with his cozying up to the Bush administration and all. If this proportional representation thing is going to keep him in power, then it must be bad, bad, bad. There's one problem with Ms. Golgerth's reasoning, though: in Australian House of Representatives elections, they actually don't use proportional representation. They do use a form of preferential voting, but it's no more proportional than the Canadian "first past the post" system.

Now, my quibble here isn't really with Ms. Golgerth. After all, it's hardly fair to expect that everybody who knocks off a letter to the editor will know the ins and outs of various countries' electoral systems. And it's probably also too much to ask that the Toronto Star stop pushing their pet agenda. It isn't too much to ask, though, that any serious newspaper check to make sure that their hand-picked letters to the editor actually reflect, you know, reality.

Left-wing rhetoric, right-wing policy

When I was a lefty American still trying to make a life in the U.S., one of the things that used to frustrate me no end was the way Democrats always use right-wing rhetoric in an attempt to sell centrist policies to the American public. John Kerry, for example, in his speech accepting the nomination for the presidency, felt compelled to remind people that he had "broken with many in his own party to vote for a balanced budget" and that the U.S. was "a nation at war--a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any they have ever known before." Even now, the party website talks about "fair immigration reform that keeps our borders secure" and reminds would-be voters of the fact that they "led the fight to create the Department of Homeland Security."

Contrast this pattern with some recent quotes from prominent Canadian Conservatives:

Linguistic duality is a core value in Canadian society, and the government is committed to ensuring that both the letter and the spirit of the Official Languages Act are respected.
--Josée Verner, Minister for the Francophonie, May 11th Question Period
The recent budget of the Minister of Finance made major new investments into public transport and also into incentives for those who use public transport, as well as significant investments into renewable fuels. This is not an entire plan, but these are important actions.
--Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, May 15th Question Period
We want to work with older workers. We want to get them to stay on the job. We want them to get new jobs. That, of course, is because they are what makes us competitive. They are what makes us productive.
--Diane Finley, Minister for Human Resources, May 18th Question Period
and my personal favourite:
I am very pleased to announce $1.5 billion in additional spending for this year. Today we announced the enhanced spring credit advance program that will double the amount of maximum interest free loans to $100,000 per farmer. We will allow them to repay that until September 2007. We are changing the AMPA program to include more agricultural sectors to get access to the program. We are addressing the failures of the previous Liberal CAIS program by adjusting the inventory valuations back to 2003, 2004 and 2005. We are putting $950 million today into farmers' hands.
--Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture, May 18th Question Period
I'm sure I don't even need to point out that this is the exact reverse of the situation in the U.S.: the Conservatives are using left-wing rhetoric in an attempt to sell centrist policies to the Canadian public. Canadian lefty Murray Dobbin foresaw this in his post-election column in the Tyee, in which he recognized that "Stephen Harper only won, and barely won, because he pretended to be well farther to the left than he actually is. He had to. Otherwise, he would have been relegated to the dustbin of political history and he knew it."

Now, the good news in this is that it means that Canadians aren't forced to listen to Stephen Harper drone on about how "the values for which the United States stands are the values for which Canada stands," which Harper-clone Prime Minister John Howard of Australia said in his recent speech to a joint session of Parliament. If you can't imagine a Canadian Tory saying something like that, well, it sure ain't because they don't wish they could. Isn't it kind of delightful to think about our Tories choking on words like "pleased to announce one point five billion in additional spending" and "significant investments into renewable fuels" while only the Aussies get to talk about fun things like "spreading democracy," "individual liberty," and "free enterprise"? It sure makes me feel better.

The bad news, of course, is that the little rhetorical trick seems to be working a lot better for the Canadian Conservatives than it's ever worked for the American Democrats. Ipsos-Reid polling numbers released today have Harper in "majority government territory," which means that the voters are swallowing his faux lefty talk whole. And I have to wonder: is this tactic working so nicely for voters because it's so comfortably familiar?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another Harper-Bush comparison

This morning, the Canadian blogosphere was abuzz with the news that Harper is considering snubbing the annual parliamentary press gallery dinner that doubles as a comedy-hour-cum-roast. The news has now traveled far enough that it's reached the media watchers in that country to the south of us, where their own Dear Leader was recently subjected to the treatment Harper is eshewing. CBS's Brian Montopoli compares Harper with the already notoriously media-averse President Bush, and concludes that Bush doesn't look so bad by comparison. And Matthew Sheffield of right-wing media blog NewsBusters asks "Can Canada's Harper Teach Bush a Lesson in Media Relations?"

Congratulations, Mr. Harper, you're now being even more hamhanded with the media than George W. Bush. Not a bad accomplishment for the first 100 days.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Orange and green make grey

Political scientist and commentator Duncan Cameron brings us yet another column about "uniting the left." This time, though, it's the Greens who are sick and the NDP who's standing there with open arms, waiting to welcome their wayward brothers home. The hook sentence presented at the beginning of the article leaves no room for doubt about the column's aims: "What Canada needs now is a Peter McKay of the left, ready to put two warring parties together for the benefit of both." (Because, you know, the one thing Canada's left is really missing is our very own opportunistic, sniveling, ass-kissing sellout.)

I spoke out against a merger when the cries came from Liberal circles, and I see no reason not to make just as much of a stink now that they're coming from my own backyard. If anything, I'm even more appalled that an NDP supporter--and we're talking about a guy who wrote a paper in an edited volume that he called "The NDP and the Making of a Citizens' Party"--would make such a suggestion. Why? Because a major plank of the NDP's platform is electoral reform and proportional representation, and advocacy of a Green-NDP merger is entirely incompatible with that goal.

No one should need me to remind them that the entire point of electoral reform is to allow for real voter choice and stop forcing people to pick between the lesser of the available evils. Just as NDP orange isn't merely a faded version of Liberal red, the Greens aren't just NDPers who have gotten lost in the woods, either. The Green Party of Canada has its own political goals that are quite often at odds with those of social democracy. And you know what? That's got to be okay with us. When we get indignant about the Liberals saying that we're stealing votes that are rightly theirs, and then turn around and play the same sort of game with the Greens, we're being hypocrites of the worst kind.

It's this sort of thing that makes me so acutely aware how much the electoral reform movement needs nonpartisan and multipartisan citizens' groups like Fair Vote Canada--groups that are really willing to work for the good of the country rather than for the good of their own particular political fiefdom. Because no matter how good a political party's intentions are in other areas, when it comes to electoral reform, there's not a single one that's ever going to be willing to do the right thing once they have the power to make it happen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Drinking pragmatically this Saturday?

The big James-Bow-book-launch, southwestern-Ontario-Blogstravaganza event is still on for next weekend, but Canadian Cynic and I have been thinking there should be a warmup event this Saturday as well. Since I'm a mere visitor to this fair city of Waterloo, I'm unfamiliar with the local watering holes, but CC is suggesting that we find a place where we can get some local brews, and that's just fine with me. (When in Rome, you know.) So, anyone out there in K-W or easy striking distance game to join us? I realize that it's a long weekend, but surely some of you are as holiday-deprived as this idealistic pragmatist, yes?

The date is Saturday, May 20th, the time is 7pm, and the place is to be announced (though CC and I are taking suggestions).

[Update: The tentative plan is to meet at the Huether Hotel.]

[Upperdate: Location discussion going on over at Canadian Cynic's pad.]

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Up here in Canada, we've been following the immigration controversy to the south of us with interest. We know about the cross-country pro-immigration protests on May Day, we know the far right has been fighting back, and we know about last night's speech from President Bush that tried to walk a line down what passes in my country of birth for the political centre. Honestly, I didn't think there was anything new to say.

But then self-proclaimed Libertarian Vox Day (no relation to Stockwell) surprised me:

Dear Jorge plans to address the nation tonight, a speech wherein he will almost surely attempt to deceive citizens into believing that he does not wish the mass migration from Mexico to continue unabated. He will likely offer some negligible resources for law enforcement and border security – resources which will never materialize – in return for an amnesty program that will grant American citizenship to the Mexican nationals who have helped lower America's wage rates by 16 percent over the last 32 years.

And he will be lying, again, just as he lied when he said: "Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic – it's just not going to work."

Not only will it work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.
Granted, that passage is merely the context for his real point, which amounts to "if you build a fence to keep people out, you're also building a fence to keep people in." But I've been trying rilly rilly hard, but haven't quite found a way to read those words in any way other than: "The U.S. could use the tried and true methods of Nazi Germany to deport the unwashed masses of illegals." Does anyone see an alternate interpretation? Because although I'm not normally inclined to do contortions to give the likes of Vox Day the benefit of the doubt, I'm pretty sure that in all my fifteen-plus years on the Internet, I've never seen anyone make a Hitler analogy that was intended to support their argument.

Perhaps we should turn it into a contest. Ten points and a smooch go to the IP reader who comes up with the best word for invoking Godwin's Law on oneself.

[Update: Orac of Respectful Insolence figures out what the possible alternate interpretations of Day's words might be...and then rather eloquently debunks them.]

[Upperdate: Canadian Cynic points out in the comments that the article in question has since been edited. Apparently, it was Day's editor's doing. Fascinating.]

(Hat tip to Amanda at Pandagon.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

More on birthrates and immigration

Remember the kerfuffle about Canada's sinking birthrate and what should be done about it? All solutions proposed involved some form of government intervention, but while some seemed to prefer their social engineering to be about convincing more Canadian women to have babies, others argued that it should be about removing the barriers to meeting our current immigration targets.

Well, as of today it seems pretty clear which side of the fence our new Conservative government is coming down on:

The previous Liberal government's target of 300,000 new immigrants to Canada each year was too high, Immigration Minister Monte Solberg said Wednesday.

Appearing before a House of Commons committee, Solberg did not reveal exactly how many new immigrants he believes should be allowed into the country.

However, he said last year's level of about 260,000 new permanent residents was acceptable.
If the issue is not wanting to overstrain immigrant-heavy cities like Toronto and Montreal, then why not provide incentives for new immigrants to move to places like Calgary--places that are just clamouring for more skilled workers? Perhaps the esteemed minister thinks the monthly $100 baby bonus from the new budget will make lots of women want to get a piece of the action, so we won't have to bother. It's a pity their kids won't be starting work for another nineteen or twenty years.

Also related: it sounds like there's a baby boom currently going on in Edmonton. Maybe we'll just have to start relying on the City of Champions to populate the rest of the country.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A President and his fish

From U.S. blogger (and fellow Americanadian) Majikthise, I read tonight that U.S. President Bush had apparently "told a German newspaper that the highlight of his six years as President of the United States of America was that time he caught a relatively good-sized fish in his private lake." Because I'm well aware that these second-hand, foreign-language stories can end up like a game of telephone when transmitted through blogs, though, I decided to do a little digging. Unfortunately, this time it's even more embarrassing than Majikthise lets on.

First of all, it turns out that the "newspaper" in question was the Bild-Zeitung. I use scare quotes intentionally, because this isn't a newspaper as we know them here in Canada; it's a tabloid that makes our Sun series look like Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalism. The closest North American analogy would be the National Enquirer, except that in addition to Tom and Katie's baby and various deathbed confessions of ancient film stars, they also make an attempt to report on the issues of the day. What a U.S. president--even this one--was doing giving an exclusive interview to this paper is entirely beyond me.

Second, it turns out that a look at the original confirms that Bush did, indeed, tell the Bild-Zeitung that the best moment of his presidency involved catching a fish. Here's a translation of the relevant passage:

What was the worst moment so far during your term as President?

The worst moment was September 11th, 2001.

And what was the best moment of your term in office?

You know, I have experienced many great moments. It's difficult to choose the greatest ones. I would say that the very best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half-pound perch out of my lake. (laughs)
Now, I realize this comes nowhere near approaching some of the most embarrassing things this President has said, but there's something special about this one, no? If only because of its unintentional truthfulness.

Jack Layton's sinister mind control experiment

Let's start with a few quotes from some Liberal MPs, shall we?

"The NDP has already betrayed Canadians by trading our national child care program for 10 more seats."
-- Ruby Dhalla, Question Period, April 25th
"Last November, the NDP traded off a national child care system for their own short-term partisan gain."
-- Ralph Goodale, Question Period, April 25th
"Had the NDP not sold out, they too might have [called for the full implementation of the Kelowna accord]."
-- Anita Neville, Question Period, May 3rd
"Clearly the NDP abandoned our students in return for 10 seats." (translation)
-- Geoff Regan, Question Period, May 3rd
"The NDP sold out to a government that has no plan to create new child care spaces."
-- Carolyn Bennett, Question Period, May 3rd
"The NDP abandoned children in November."
-- Bill Graham, Question Period, May 4th
Trade. Betray. Abandon. Sell out. That's an awful lot of power the Liberals are granting to the NDP. But how exactly did a party with only nineteen seats do all these horrible things? Did they pull out some arcane parliamentary regulation that caused the Liberals to be banished to opposition without an election? No, they voted against the Liberals in a confidence motion--along with two other opposition parties that had far more seats--and sent them back to the voters of Canada.

No matter how you take it, this is a pretty outrageous line of reasoning. Instead of stomping my feet and whining right back, though, I'd like to take it at face value, and dissect its implications.

Implication 1. The NDP is responsible for the installation of the current Conservative minority government.
This first implication is pretty clearly contained within the above statements. And while it's never stated explicitly whether the NDP should bear this burden alone or together with the other parties, you might well notice that the Liberals aren't saying the same kinds of things about the Conservatives and the Bloc. When taken together with that fact, then, there are several other secondary implications here:
Implication 1a. The NDP isn't a political party in its own right; it's a somewhat more left-of-centre extension of the Liberals.
The purpose of the NDP isn't to represent the leftist ideals of the people who vote for them--it's to be the Liberals' lapdogs and do their bidding. When they fail to do this, they are not just worthless, but also evil.
Implication 1b. The Conservatives themselves are absolved from any culpability, both in terms of pulling the plug on the Liberal government and in terms of what's going on in their government now.
Even though the Conservatives also voted against the last government in a confidence motion, even though it's the Conservatives themselves who're sitting on the government side of the aisle and doing all these things the Liberals hate--it's still all the NDP's fault. Because Tories will be Tories, after all, but the NDP, well, they're supposed to be on the Side Of Good.

But never mind what this line of thought implies about the other parties. If we dig a little deeper, we find that it implies far more ridiculous things about Canadian voters:

Implication 1c. The rather large number of Canadians who had previously voted Liberal but who made a different choice this time weren't acting under their own free will.
Apparently they were all in Jack Layton's thrall. They were mesmerized by the moustache, beguiled by the bald. Even the ones who changed their votes to the Conservatives, or to the Bloc--it was all part of Jack Layton's master mind control plan. Mwahahahaha.
Implication 1d. The Liberals know better than the voters do about what's good for Canadians.
Perhaps we should stop having elections at all, and simply install a Liberal majority government in perpetuity. Think of all the taxpayer dollars we would save!

There's another major set of implications here, though, because the Liberals can't successfully pin the blame on somebody else without absolving themselves. Which brings us to:

Implication 2. The Liberals are not at fault for their election loss.
That in and of itself would be hilarious enough, but contained within that are two other secondary implications, namely:
Implication 2a. The sponsorship scandal, the income trust scandal, and a poorly run national campaign were so unimportant as to be meaningless.
Implication 2b. The Liberals have a right to govern, even when they screw up over and over again.
Whether this right is divinely inspired or simply awarded them by Queen and Constitution is left as an exercise for the reader.

In all seriousness, though: Wouldn't it seem more, well, reasonable to try and win back their wayward voters--people who stomped off in disgust because they couldn't support what they saw as a tired, corrupt party--by convincing those people that they're no longer tired and corrupt? By saying: "We were on the wrong path, but now we're on the right one. Look at the embarrassment of riches that is this Liberal leadership race. No matter who wins, we're going to come back stronger, and with a vision, and we're going to win the next election." Isn't telling those voters that they simply didn't know any better, and that the issues that caused them to change their votes never really mattered in the first place, and that there are no real choices in a country where the Natural Governing Party should always be in charge exactly the wrong strategy to take if they want to win them back?

If they think they're going to convince anyone but the most die-hard Grits with these kinds of statements, then they're far, far more inept than I'd ever imagined.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Attention southwestern Ontarians

If you're in or within easy reach of southwestern Ontario, there are two major reasons to come to the official launch of James Bow's first novel at the Waterloo Public Library at 2:00 on Saturday, May 27th. First and most importantly, James is one of the Canadian political blogosphere's longest-running and strongest voices, and he deserves our support for accomplishing the rather daunting task of managing to write and sell a novel. And secondly, right after the conclusion of the event, the book launch will turn into a blogstravaganza, with all the bloggers (and blog readers) in attendance going for drinks and conversation. I will even be there myself, as I'm spending the month of May in Waterloo to work with my colleague at the university here.

It's a few weeks off yet, but since it's coming up on summer and everybody's scattering to the four winds, you should all mark your calendars! It would be great fun if a whole bunch of you came out to say hello.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

En français, s'il vous plait

For a little while now, I've been downloading the CPAC podcasts--including Question Period--and listening to them as I zip about town. And lately, I've been noticing some rather unusual uses of French among anglophone Members of Parliament. Scott Brison, for example, asked a question in French the other day of an anglophone cabinet minister. Several Conservative ministers, though their answers have been in English, have nonetheless been switching to French whenever they talk about Quebec. And perhaps most interestingly, on May 1st there was even an extended sequence between Layton and Harper in French.

In Brison's case, the explanation is probably simply that he's running for the Liberal leadership and wants to prove that he speaks better French than many people give him credit for. But the other examples clearly reflect a courting of la belle province that's kind of fascinating.

Recursive hypocrisy

From the May 2nd edition of CPAC's Prime Time Politics:

You know, I like to think that when governments keep their commitments to people, that people will give them a long look. Because we've had such bad experiences over recent years in this country of politicians saying one thing, getting elected, and then doing something else. I'm not that kind of politician and the Prime Minister certainly isn't. And I'm actually proud to be part of a government that keeps its commitments to the people of Canada, and I hope that the people of Canada feel the same way.
-- Jim Flaherty, Conservative Finance Minister
Wow. I suppose that means we all must have imagined our esteemed Prime Minister enticing a Liberal to cross the floor and appointing him to Cabinet, appointing a Senator, refusing to eliminate the GST on gas prices that exceed 85 cents a litre, refusing to eliminate the GST on excise taxes at the pump, threatening to publicly humiliate any Cabinet ministers who don't toe the line, selling access to himself at expensive fundraising dinners, allowing former Hill staffers to work as lobbyists, appointing parliamentary committee chairs...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What we can't live with

If you read just one post on the new Conservative budget, it shouldn't be this one, it should be Declan's. But presuming you're able to stand just one more take on it, read on.

As a general rule, I'm too much of a pragmatist to be wired for outrage. What this means is that when I watch a government making bad decisions, my first reaction is always: "okay, this is pretty appalling, but can we live with it?" Ralph Klein's trademark "prosperity cheques," in which the Alberta provincial government chose to give each Albertan, rich or poor, a cheque for $400, was a classic example. Sure, we all have to go on paying for our health care premiums ourselves, and severely handicapped people have to continue living in poverty, but it wasn't going to, say, destroy the world.

In this Conservative federal budget, there are a number of other examples of bad decisions we can live with. The GST cut is pure politics--and lousy economics--but it's not going to kill anyone. Aboriginal communities didn't get the Kelowna Accord, but they got more than they would have probably gotten had the Conservatives gotten a majority. We don't have enough of a surplus to seriously pay down the debt, but hey, maybe next budget.

Then we have the decision to cut the anti-global-warming programs by 80% and replace them with a tax deduction for public transit passes. First off, there's something pretty hypocritical about bringing forward a program that only works for urban lifestyles when you've spent the last umpteen months criticizing the Liberal and NDP child care programs for doing the same thing. But far more importantly than that, this is a decision we can't live with. If we don't act now to slow down global warming, it will have irreversible effects on our weather, on disease, and on our agriculture. And at this point we're not talking about the distant future, either--the effects are already being felt now and will only worsen in years to come.

Far more than anything else, this is the greatest threat facing Canada today. If Harper isn't going to take it seriously, how does he expect enough Canadians to take him seriously enough to give him a majority government?