@ the 100th Meridian

Living, Working, and Wasting Time in Southern Manitoba

Page 2 of 7

A Majority is Harper’s Only Option

Sometimes the data doesn’t appear as it seems. Take the latest data on the CBC Poll Tracker from Éric Grenier of ThreeHundredEight.com:


Looks pretty straight forward. If the election was held today, the New Democrats would get more of the popular votes, but the Conservatives would most likely win more seats. Conventional wisdom is that Stephen Harper would form a minority government. Traditionally, that is what would happen. The Governor General will ask the party with the most seats if it can form a government. This is where it gets dicey.

In this situation, Harper has to try to form a government. To do anything else is to admit defeat. After all, he formed a minority government back in 2006, increased his seat count in 2008, and got a majority in 2011. The man has experience governing in a minority parliament.

However, this year would be different. Going from a comfortable majority to a minority would be seen as a defeat. During the first minority governments of Stephen Harper, his party was always showing an upward trend; this would show a downward trend. Also keep in mind that back then, the other two parties were hesitant to force an election against a Conservative party that was increasing in popularity while their own fortunes might be failing. It was in this way that Stephen Harper kept the confidence of the House; everyone knew that he had a legitimate mandate.

This time I’m not so sure.

If the Conservatives come in with a result any lower than a majority, they lose. Sure, if the current numbers were to be somewhat similar on election day, then the Governor General will ask Mr. Harper if he can form a government. The only thing that will stop that is if Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau agree to form a coalition government in the first hours following the election. Chances are a formal coalition is not going to happen as it is not in Justin Trudeau’s best interest as leader of the party to give up that leadership to Tom Mulcair. The machinery of the once dominant Liberal Party would never let that happen, it would be too much of a defeat.

Here’s the thing though. As I understand our Parliamentary System, you do not need to have the most seats in parliament. You don’t need to form a formal coalition. All you need to govern is the confidence of the House. That puts Tom Mulcair in charge.

It is not that difficult to reason that Stephen Harper’s government falls at the first non-confidence motion introduced in the House of Commons. After almost a decade of Conservative government, the opposition parties would not be able to say that they have confidence in the Government. For the NDP and Liberals, a confidence motion will defeat the Harper government, neither can be seen to support him at this point.

This puts Tom Mulcair in a very interesting position, he doesn’t need Justin Trudeau, just his party’s votes. As long as he gets more seats than Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, Tom Mulcair most likely becomes Prime Minister before the following election. With so many overlapping policies, the Liberals would surely have to give their support to the NDP if just to throw out the Conservatives. A formal coalition doesn’t seem to be required. Personally, I think Mulcair knows this and his offer of a coalition was an attempt to make himself look like the bigger statesperson.

In this election, I’m sure everyone is playing to win. However, for the NDP or Liberals, while a majority would be nice, first place the more likely prize, but in this case second place is pretty much as good. For the Conservatives anything less than an outright majority is devastating.

Believe it or not, despite the numbers, it is Harper who is in the most precarious position this election.

Future of the Senate

Tom Mulcair is right. The Senate of Canada most likely needs to be eliminated. In Canada, in 2015, it does not make sense to have an appointed body passing or blocking legislation. This Canadian equivalent to the the elitist House of Lords in Great Britain smacks of a bygone era.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting rid of it anytime soon. The Supreme Court ruled last year that without provincial approval, the federal government cannot alter the Canadian Parliament, which includes the Senate, in any substantial way.

That requires opening the Constitution.

Last year I proposed a way that the Prime Minister could push through Senate Reform, basically by bribing the provincial premiers into it by passing the power to appoint Senators to them. It is elegant in a few ways, it gives the provinces more power (which is irresistible), it most likely means elected Senators because premiers would not want to be seen as undemocratic, it removes power from his successors (something Chretien seemed to revel in), and it takes any Senate situations such as the current expense scandal far far away from the Prime Minister.

I still think that this is the most likely way that we would see senate reform; passing the responsibility to the provinces. What Quebec or Ontario premier is going to pass up on the ability to at least have some influence on who represents their province?

That all being said, I would like to see a referendum this fall, just as a number of NDP and Conservative MPs have suggested, that asks the Canadian public directly if they feel that the Senate is still needed in a modern Canada. If the vote was overwhelmingly against keeping the Senate, and I suspect it would be, then the provinces may have no choice but to allow the elimination of the Upper House.


To me, the question seems simple. “Notwithstanding the constitutional amendments required to abolish it, do you feel that the Senate of Canada should continue to exist?”  The reason for the first part of the question would be to eliminate those who would vote to keep the senate because they felt the constitution wouldn’t allow it or that opening it up might prove difficult. The question is about whether or not you want the Upper House to stay, not whether or not you think abolishing it is impossible. Before moving ahead, we need to ask this basic question.

We need to know Canada’s answer.


The main recommendations from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission came out today. In it were 94 recommendations (pdf) for the various governments of the country to follow.

Skimming through the recommendations, it became apparent to me that many of the sections came under headings that in the Canadian constitution come under provincial jurisdiction, but because of the Indian Act are the responsibility of the federal government when it comes to our country’s First People.

This brings me back to something that I have been saying for years now. If the federal and provincial governments really truly want to meet First Nations people as an equal partner, then First Nations need to be recognized as a “province” by those same governments. I also find it telling that when I look at the map, the three jurisdictions with a higher overall Aboriginal population are also the three that we do not give full provincial powers to, namely the Yukon, Nunavut, and North-West Territories.

One of our early steps as a nation towards reconciliation should be to acknowledge these regions deserve and are owed a full seat at the table. As such, I would propose that we should move toward making the three northern territories into full fledged provinces, as well as the First Nations of the south comprising a 14th “virtual province” which would be true self government and would replace the out-dated, and frankly racist, Indian Act. It seems to me that only then, when the Aboriginal people have their own real self-government, can this country move forward.

I realize that this would require a round of Constitutional amendments, but that is what is required to show real leadership on this front. Opening the Constitution is hard, but that is why we should do it, because it is hard.

The Honourable Justice Murray SinclairAnother thing that occurred to me while watching today’s proceedings, was how many of the recommendations in this report can improve Canadian lives in general, and not just those of Aboriginals.

One case in point, the recommendation that denominational schools be required to not only teach the dogma of their religion, but also would have to teach a course on other religious practices including that of Native Spirituality. I’m assuming that such a course would require teaching of all of the major religious practices in Canada, perhaps meaning a better understanding between these groups.

Another case mentioned by Justice Sinclair  was the importance of media sources, and in general the CBC. With the cutbacks, many northern Canadians are losing access to the CBC unless they have cable or satellite. Often it was their only source of media information. But it is not only the north, it is also other areas of rural Canada also. The city of Brandon is on that list, we no longer have a CBC or SRC broadcast tower in the region since the loss of CKX on channel 5 a number of years ago. That again, not only affected Brandon, but communities such as our neighbour Sioux Valley who no longer have a reliable CBC signal either. This is a  cultural link we need repaired, for rural Canadians coast to coast, native and non-native alike. It reflects who we are as a people, as Canadians, in a way that the commercial broadcasters cannot.

The promise of Canada is of a country where people from everywhere and of every cultural background can live together in peace and prosperity, a promise that is not realized if we cannot even achieve that dream for our earliest inhabitants.

Opportunity Missed in 2011

We need to commission a study.

The Eighth Street Bridge in Brandon is on the public’s minds this week as it is once again partially closed in its march toward the end of its usable life as a traffic bridge. The city closed it down to one lane until structural tests can be done to see where the bridge currently stands.

I have been a vocal opponent, at least online and in this blog, of the rebuilding of the structure. At $20,000,000 to $34,000,000 we just cannot afford to replace this bridge. I’m also not convinced that the Daly Overpass is actually the problem with 18th Street. The problem is too many cars that should be elsewhere. The question is, what should we do about it? I’ve discussed both these topics before.

A bridge unneeded…

Is the Daly Overpass the Problem?

Now, I don’t know what all the solutions are, but i have some ideas. I don’t seem to be the only one either. Local resident and Winnipeg Free Press columnist Deveryn Ross also has written about problems in the area. In particular the Canadian Pacific (CP) railroad main line that goes right through this area. In fact, the CP yards sit right there, hence the need for the 8th street bridge to traverse them.

Time to pull up tracks in Brandon?
(Deveryn Ross for the Free Press)

In his article, Mr. Ross talks about moving the rail lines, especially since there are currently three bridges traversing them that need to be upgraded or replaced, or in the case of 8th street, converted for other use. Moving the line might be cheaper than building the bridges. Who knows?

This is why we need a study.

Of course, this should have been done back in 2011 when we commissioned a consultant to look at the options for the 8th street bridge. Of course, the consultation was useless since it didn’t even consider not replacing the bridge. A total waste of money.

A proper study at the time would have looked at the reasons for a bridge, the need for a bridge, and what other options may be available to rectify the problems in the area. It would have considered rail lines and bridges as an entire system. It would have looked at rail line or at least rail yard relocation. Not doing this has already cost us a ton of money, and it is about to cost us at least $40,000,000 more. Forty million is the price tag quoted by premier Selinger to replace the 1st street bridge starting this fall, a number that given past experience with the Thompson bridge, will most likely balloon out of control. New CP Rail Bridge at PTH-110 (Google Earth)There was also a new bridge built on the CP main line for Provincial Highway 110, the Eastern By-pass, to pass under the tracks. Chances are CP would not be too keen to abandon a brand new bridge. As for 1st street, in the four years since 2011 it has been found to be in such a state that we must replace it immediately, no time for alternative plans.

However, there is perhaps a solution somewhere in there. Maybe the main line stays where it is but we move the yards outside of the city, either east or west. If you reduce the line to just one or two tracks inside the city, then 8th street can become a level crossing. Put another level crossing around 22nd street and perhaps you reduce traffic on 18th to the point where the Daly Overpass can handle the traffic in its current configuration. Perhaps the solution is in one of my other posts. Perhaps the solution isn’t any of those but something that the engineers haven’t looked at yet, because nobody has asked. Some people claim that some of these solutions will cost too much, but the reality is that they don’t know, because we haven’t examined the problem adequately.

We need these answers. We need someone to look into them. We need this done before we spend $60,000,000 or more, lots more, on the Daly Overpass. This doesn’t even consider the costs of replacing all this infrastructure again in 50 years, and 50 years after that. How many times are we going to keep making the same short-sighted decisions?

If the past has taught us anything, it is that not looking at options early enough can become costly in the future. We backed ourselves into a corner with 1st street. I hope we don’t repeat the same mistake.

Why are spaghetti straps not reasonable?

A number of weeks ago I did a couple of posts about the niqab debate and what is considered reasonable accommodation in Canada.

What’s Reasonable

Still contemplating what’s reasonable…

Basically, I came to the conclusion that if someone truly wants to wear an article of clothing and are not being coerced into it, then that should be their choice. My issue is whether or not someone is being coerced. I also made the point that it should not just be a right given to those with religious beliefs, but everybody. Basically, if we allow a niqab in a courtroom for religious accommodation, then we need to allow just a plain old hat in that same courtroom. If one person’s head can be covered because their religion says so, then any other person should be allowed to also irrespective of religious belief.

My main issue was with politicians making this about choices when I really felt that it was part of an effort to gain favour with a religious minority. Justin Trudeau especially made a point of it. Again, a quote from his speech that week:

“For me, this is both unconscionable and a real threat to Canadian Liberty. For me, it is basic truth that Prime Ministers of liberal democracies ought not to be in the business of telling women what they can and cannot wear on their head during public ceremonies.”

It seems to me that the quote can be expanded upon a little bit. If Prime Ministers should not be in the business of telling women (or men) what they can wear on their heads, then it seems to me that any governing body should not be able to tell women what they can wear period. Seems like a reasonable assumption, given the facts.

facebook-prom-dressThat brings us to this week.

Lauren Wiggins is a 17 year old student in Moncton, New Brunswick and she was sent home for wearing the full length halter dress that you see at the right. She was told that it was “inappropriate” and a “sexual distraction” and that it was therefore not allowed.

She wasn’t taking it either. After being told by her vice principal that she should wear something different, she penned him a letter which she also posted on Facebook. Apparently the letter went somewhat viral, at least enough for the CBC to notice and do a story on the incident. Ms Wiggins’ letter is no longer available on Facebook, but I will post the contents below:


Dear [Vice Principal] Sturgeon,

I have a concern I would like to bring to your attention. In today’s society, a woman’s body is constantly discriminated against and hypersexualized to the point where we can no longer wear the clothing that we feel comfortable in without the accusation and/or assumption that we are being provocative. This unjust mindset towards women is absolutely absurd. The fact that authority figures, especially males, can tell young women they must cover up their shoulders and their backs because it’s “inappropriate” and “a distraction” is very uncomforting.

Schools are the social building blocks in an adolescent’s life meant to teach them how to communicate and develop relationships with others and also learning about themselves and who they want to be. It’s preached upon us to be individual, to be ourselves. The double standard here is that when we try, we are then told we’re wrong. We may not truly dress, act or speak how we want because authority figures, and I use that term very loosely such as yourself, tell us we can’t. Yes, I understand there are restrictions to how much and how little of your body that shows, but that applies when people show up in their bikinis or bra and panties.

Though I do believe women should legally be allowed to publicly be shirtless considering males are, it’s mindsets like yours that keep that as something that is shamed upon. So no, Mr. Sturgeon, I will not search for something to cover up my back and shoulders because I am not showing them off with the intention to gain positive sexual feedback from the teenage boys in my school. I am especially not showing them to receive any comments, positive or negative, from anybody else besides myself because the only person who can make any sort of judgment on my body and the fabrics I place on it is me.

If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control.

Thank you, have a nice day.


She nails it. She is so right. Why shame her when it is the boys with the problem? And sometimes it isn’t even boys with a problem. Sometimes, nobody is even noticing, except for hyper sensitive school administrators.

Let’s take the current rules in Brandon School Division into account. Policy 7004 was amended back in 2005 to establish dress code rules. That is very recent. In the division policy it is written as follows, highlighting is mine:

Appropriate Clothing

In establishing and providing for respectful, safe and secure school environments, the wearing of appropriate clothing by students is an important factor. Students are expected to wear appropriate clothing in the school at all times during the school day.

  • a) Definition of Appropriate Clothing
    Appropriate clothing is that which is acceptable to the established norms of the school community, staff and school administration. Appropriate clothing is free from: – inappropriate words, phrases and images; being sexually explicit or revealing in nature; – inappropriate accessories that may cause potential harm to self and others.
  • b) Headgear
    Headgear as such, includes hats, toques, bandanas and hoods. Headgear is to be removed when entering the school during the school day. Headgear, to comply with medical or program requirements, may be permitted in designated areas by permission of school administration. Headgear worn in recognized religious observations may be approved through consultation with parents and administration.
  • c) Concealing Clothing and Accessories
    Concealing clothing and accessories includes school bags. Containers, such as backpacks, large bags, gym bags, not required immediately for physical education, must remain in lockers or other designated areas. Policy 7004 Page 8 of 16 Student Conduct P Outerwear such as large, bulky jackets and trench coats will not be worn in the school building during the school day. Outerwear is to be removed and left in student lockers or other designated areas.

The handbook at my children’s school goes on to expand on it like this,

“Clothing such as strapless/spaghetti strap tops, bare midriffs or short skirts/shorts are not appropriate for school”

It is not lost on me that this language is aimed squarely at girls. Really? What kind of message are we sending here? This is a kindergarten to grade eight school, meaning that the bulk of the kids in the school have not even reached puberty yet. If an 8 year old girl wants to wear her favourite clothing to school, who in the hell is sexualizing an eight year old so much that she can’t wear something that shows her shoulders or tummy. She is 8 years old! Anyone sexually distracted by that should be having their head, and maybe their hard drive, examined! When I was that age, way back in the early 1980s, girls wore that stuff all the time. No one cared! Now, in an attempt to be “fair” to teenage girls, we stop prepubescent girls from wearing harmless little outfits, instead of doing the logical thing and letting teenagers wear what they feel comfortable in too! I don’t care if she is 8, 12, or 15; If someone is distracted enough by a choice of clothing, like Lauren Wiggins says, then perhaps they should be sent home to practice self control.

My only question now, when are politicians such as Mr. Trudeau, the defender of clothing choice, going to come to the defence of Lauren Wiggins?

What to do with an old “New” Target?

So, what’s to become of that Target location at Shopper’s Mall? Hell, what about the old Safeway?

Former Brandon Target, Zellers, Walmart, and WoolcoIt’s a big question, and like StarFM’s Tyler Glen wrote in today’s paper, many in Westman have a long list of places they would like to see in town.

I have my own ideas too. Top of my list are London Drugs and Sears. There seems to be a rumour that Sportcheck is going to move in to the old Safeway, but let’s pretend for a moment that the rumour is false. If that is the case, then that would be the best location for a London Drugs. With that in mind, my hope would be that Brandon could land both retailers.

Why London Drugs and Sears? Frankly, we need more general merchandise stores, and in particular, quality family apparel. Sears fits into a niche that Brandon has not had since Eaton’s left in 2000, a major department store with higher quality clothing for the whole family, appliances, and full service cosmetics counters. As a former Eaton’s employee, I know for a fact that those cosmetics counters were quite lucrative in this city, a fact not lost on Sears such that a few times a year they park a temporary Clinique or Estee Lauder counter right down in that same mall.

Now, the fact that Sears has been seen as a declining company the last few years has not been lost on me, however, unlike Eaton’s I do not think that they are going anywhere. Canadian’s still need places to shop, Sears is still very solvent, and I have reason to believe that their new management has a good plan to get them out of the product lines that have been dragging them down. And let’s be honest, Brandon shoppers would flock to Sears if they opened here. Sears has everything that Target promised, but has a history of actually delivering in Canada and a tried and tested distribution network.

So, what’s the problem in Brandon? My guess is that the biggest problem is renovating a store to actually be a Sears. Sears and Target look different, and spending money on what some would consider an experiment might be considered to big a gamble. Also take into account that the Target location may not be big enough for a “full line” Sears store and you may see what hold the company back. Expensive renovations and not being able to deliver the “full concept” might be what gets in the way.

I have a solution.


What? Where the hell did that come from? Actually, from Sears. Sears Canada’s parent company in the States, Sears Holdings, used to be named Kmart Corporation before it bought out Sears a number of years back and changed its name. Kmart bought Sears and now as a result, Sears own Kmart.

So what does that have to do with Brandon? Lots actually. The Kmart brand has been gone from Canada for almost 20 years now, but Canadians are familiar with it and have memories of shopping there. It is a known brand that can be refreshed. It’s colours are also closer in line with Target, in particular red. Opening up a Kmart store in Brandon would allow Sears to redefine the Kmart brand in Canada as a leaner version of Sears as opposed to what it was when it left, reduce significantly the amount of renovations needed to open the store considering the current renovations are only two years old, and give the company a way to be in smaller communities such as Brandon that are big enough for more than a catalogue store, but perhaps not the full line. I suspect that there are five or six cities in Canada at least that the concept could fit into, and it gets the company into some markets that would support it very well. I think that properly executed, they could be some of Sears Canada’s best performing stores.


As for London Drugs, my feeling is that they are a nice sized store that would work well in Brandon. It puts a pharmacy back in the mall, along with one of Canada’s major electronics and photo retailers. Every time I’m in St. Vital mall, I am impressed with how diverse London Drugs is in a relatively small footprint that would easily fit where the old Safeway was. Not to mention that they are a solid Canadian based retailer that understands the Canadian market and whose distribution network passes right through our city. In short, I’m surprised that they are not here already.

Let Elizabeth May debate

Elizabeth May should probably be in the election debates this fall. She is the leader of a national party with two MPs currently serving in Ottawa, and they run a fairly full slate of candidates across the country. The Green Party of Canada is truly a national party.

Of course, the other parties would like to keep her out. In an election, getting exposure is the number one priority, so limiting your opponent’s exposure, if you can manage to do it, is something worth doing to improve your own chances. The big three established parties, formerly four with the Bloc, will therefore use their “official party status” in the House to try to keep May out. Since the three have a lot of pull with the broadcast consortium that televises the debates, they will generally get their way.

I don’t understand why they have any pull at all.

Frankly, in my mind the debates should be scheduled and determined by our independent election watchdog, Elections Canada. They are a neutral third party, and should therefore form the rules and tell the party leaders where and when to show up. Every election I hear about negotiations between broadcasters and the parties to make these debates happen. It’s like we didn’t know the damn things were coming every time the writ is dropped.

As for rules, I think it should be pretty simple. For your leader to be in the debate, you should need to be running candidates in at least 25% of ridings (I think even 40% or 50%) would be reasonable, in at least two different provinces. I would also like to see the two province rule applied to the House, so that a one issue and single province party like the Bloc Quebecois could never happen again. A party should need to represent more than one narrow interest to get national funding. It would also prevent an Ontario-centric party from forming at any time in the future. It promotes nation building as opposed to regionalization. These simple rules let the Green Party,  a national party, in and they keep the regional party out, namely the Bloc.

I don’t think that this is too far fetched of an idea and I really don’t understand why it hasn’t happened before now.

I also have my own reasons, I have narrowed my choices down this year to the NDP and the Greens, and I have to admit I’m leaning heavily Green. Their policy statements cover a lot of the same ground, but the Greens cover a few points that the NDP don’t touch on, that I find important . It seems that the Greens are actually unafraid to take a stand. I respect that. I also want to see how the leaders of those two parties perform those nights.

I want Elizabeth May to have a fair chance.

The free ride should stop

Religious freedom is not under attack in Canada.

Just because some religious folks are now being challenged about their beliefs, or about the special treatment that religion gets in our society, does not mean that religion is under attack. Despite that, yesterday in Ottawa you would have thought that religion had been under intense attack by “atheist fundamentalists” for years now. I’m not even sure what an atheist fundamentalist is.

In recent weeks, James Lunney, the MP for Nanaimo-Alberni left the Conservative caucus in the House of Commons to sit as an independent because he had been feeling muzzled about his religious beliefs. He then subsequently tweeted his thoughts on evolution. He doesn’t believe in it. When people started responding to him on twitter he got angrier, and among his tweets said

which got more people calling him out.

Unfortunately the good Doctor (of Chiropractic) does not understand what a scientific theory is. Evolution is a fact. There is enough evidence to support that evolution has happened and is happening. Contrary to his belief, we have observed evolution in the laboratory and in nature. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection refers to how evolution takes place. We believe, and we have mountains of evidence to support it, that evolution happens through the process of natural selection, where the most beneficial traits in a particular natural situation that allow an organism to adapt to that environment favour that organism surviving over others in the same ecosystem. The theory explains much of the evolutionary fossil record that we have observed, and nothing in that record contradicts it.

What Mr. Lunney does not understand is that at no time during this debate has his religious freedom been under attack. Religious freedom does not mean that you get to say any ridiculous thing that you want and that nobody can challenge you on it. Mr. Lunney can think anything he wants, but that does not mean that other people cannot tell him that they think that he is wrong. That is all that has happened here. At no time was Mr. Lunney prevented from practising his religion. He has made up a controversy.

So, yesterday Mr. Lunney stood up in the House and asked to speak on a point of privilege. The Speaker questioned whether it really was a point of privilege, but eventually he was allowed to say his piece. Of course, CBC’s Power and Politics got a hold of the story and convened the following “debate” a short time later.

The debate was between Ian Capstick and Charles McVety. Mr. Capstick gets very passionate about his views in this exchange, and there is a point that he probably goes over the top, but for the most part he sticks to one simple fact; why do religious organizations get charitable tax breaks from the Government to support their religion?

It’s a good question… and it is never answered. Mr. McVety through most of the interview keeps personally attacking Capstick as an atheist fundamentalist and against Canadian values. He never answers the question. It is a valid question.

Now let’s be clear. Religious organizations do a lot of good work in Canada and abroad. By all means they should be able to register an arm of their organization as a charity to further that work. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious group getting a tax break just for being a place of worship. It is not right for the taxpayers of the country, of the province, and yes even of the city or municipality to be forced to fund a faith group that they do not belong to. It’s government supporting religion. It’s not acceptable.

It’s not just federal tax breaks either. As said before, local government is in the same game too. In the City of Brandon for example, a look at the tax map will show a glaring discrepancy. Take Brockie Donovan Funeral Directors, looking at the data on the City’s own web site, the net tax bill for that property was $26,857.63 with City and School taxes taken into account. Across the street, Central United Church, an arguably larger building but with a much smaller parking lot, is billed $1,530.50 which is down from the year before. Yes, Brockie Donovan is a for-profit business and as such should probably pay more than the church, I’m willing to go that far. However, over 17 times more seems ridiculous to me, especially when it could be argued that the two organizations are in very similar practices. In fact, I suspect that over the course of a year, Brockie Donovan conducts many more “religious services” to many more denominations than does Central United Church. The discrepancy seems incredibly large to me. It may not be popular, but the practice of government funding religious organizations through obscene tax breaks can and should be questioned.

As a proud Pastafarian, using this logic, I could open up a Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster downtown, complete with beer volcano and bar, and expect the taxes of the Double Decker and of The Dock to support my “church”, blatantly unfair to them, but discriminatory against Pastafarians if not allowed in the current environment.

Asking religious organizations to play by the same rules is not an attack on religious freedom, it is a demand of equality.

Same old Federal Liberals

My flirtation with the Liberal Party of Canada is over. I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I thought that maybe things would be different. I thought maybe they had learned their lesson.

They have not. They are the same old Liberal Party that I couldn’t vote for in the past.

On paper, the Liberals have always been the party that seemed to most mirror my own outlook on things. The Canada that they purport to envision as a land of equal rights and equal opportunity is the same grand vision of Canada that I hold. The problem is, they never deliver. They always campaign one way and then govern another. You never know which way they are going to go. They have no conviction.

In my last two entries, here and here, I shared my doubts about the statements by Liberals Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau, when they defended a person’s right to wear whatever they want. I had this strange feeling that when push comes to shove, they didn’t really mean it.

They don’t.

The proof, Bill C-309, the “Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act.”

From Wikipedia:

Bill C-309 is a private member’s bill, criminalising the actions of protesters who cover their faces during tumultuous demonstrations and introducing a five-year prison sentence for the offence introduced before the Canadian House of Commons in October 2011 during the 41st Parliament. On February 15, 2012, a 190-97 vote confirmed that the bill would enter a second reading and be sent to the House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
The proposal was introduced in the context of the 2012 Quebec student protests, and the riots following the 2011 Stanley Cup championship in Vancouver. However, in both circumstances a vast majority present were not wearing masks.
On June 19, 2013, Bill C-309 became law, banning the wearing of masks during a riot or unlawful assembly, carrying a maximum 10-year prison sentence with a conviction of the offence. The Liberal and Conservative parties voted unanimously in favour of the legislation. The Bloc Quebecois, Green Party and NDP cast 96 votes against the bill.

The Liberals voted unanimously in favour of the legislation. They voted for a law that would allow for a 10 year prison sentence based upon what someone was wearing.

10 year prison sentence! For wearing a face covering!
The Liberal Party of Canada supports that!

Yes, so do the Conservatives, but they are not the ones who have spent the last week saying that they would defend a Canadian’s right to wear whatever they want on their face. Which way do you want it guys? You can’t say that one set of Canadians get to cover there faces anywhere and everywhere and then not allow the same right for everyone else. Think about it, anyone who claims to be wearing a face covering for religious reasons gets to go home, while all others face up to a 10 year prison sentence. This is not hypothetical, this is the law of the land.

All of this has been brought to the fore because the Conservatives have been pushing through their anti-terror bill, C-51. Those such as myself believe that the bill is just the Conservatives pandering to their base, enacting unneeded laws to combat a problem much smaller than they purport it to be. The new bill tramples individual liberties in the name of battling terrorism. Most law experts from various universities across Canada believe the bill is too far reaching, and like other Conservative bills of late, runs amuck of the Charter. The Liberals have also said such things. They believe the bill is flawed. The bill is most likely what caused them to go on their latest offensive about the culture of fear that they say the Prime Minister is creating.

They’re also going to vote for it. You don’t vote for something you’re against… unless you’re afraid of losing votes. Well, they’ve lost mine.

They do not stick to their convictions.

So now, do I choose the NDP or the Greens?

Still contemplating what’s reasonable…

For some background, one should read my previous post, “What’s Reasonable?”

Let me be clear, I do not think that someone should be required to remove a hijab in a court room, in a citizenship ceremony, or elsewhere in Canada. Like my spouse has said, “If you can see someone’s face, what the hell difference does it make?” And really, that was the point of my previous post, that what someone wears on their head should be their own business if it is not interfering with the rights of others. My further point is that we should not be making that distinction on religious grounds. If someone wants to wear a hat or any other secular head covering in any of those same places, then they should be allowed to.

Tom Mulcair of the NDPAs this week has went on, this debate has exploded into the news, egged on by both the Prime Minister and Justin Trudeau, aided and abetted by Tom Mulcair. The issue this week is more to do with the niqab, a full face covering with only the eyes visible, as opposed to the hijab which leaves the full face visible. The rhetoric has been turned up quite a bit.

Now, the prime minister has framed this argument as being about womens’ rights. It would be a laudable argument if I thought for one moment that the Conservatives were actually pursuing the issue for womens’ rights. I have a hard time believing it. When the PM says that the niqab comes from a place that is anti-woman, he is not telling an untruth. It is a patriarchal practice, not actually required by Islam, that limits the way that a woman can dress. Yes, I am aware that some women will choose to wear the Niqab, but my gut tells me that the majority wearing it have been coerced somehow into making that “choice”. I really do not know where to stand on this one, while I respect someone’s right to choose, I would like to know that they are actually getting to choose. If there is a threat, implied or real, in their community if they do not wear the garment, then it is not a real choice. Banning the niqab seems extreme, but I have to wonder sometimes if there is an argument to me made.

As for citizenship ceremonies, it has been pointed out that identity is confirmed when completing required documentation, so perhaps if one is wearing the niqab of their own free will, then that should be the end of it; that is what the Federal Court has said.

But this is where I start to have problems with our left-of-centre politicians. At this point in my life, I lean to the left. Truth be told, I’m probably quite left on some issues. I previously stated, I’m also an atheist. I wholeheartedly agree with Trudeau, Mulcair, and even Marc Garneau, who tweeted earlier this week.

Marc Garneau, LiberalNow, I’m quite sure that he was talking about the right of a woman to wear whatever she pleases. Considering the way that the week has gone, it would not be a bad presumption. This is where I question the legitimacy of such a statement.

Again, a hypothetical situation. What if I decide one day to go to the mall. I walk around to various stores, look at some things, buy some others and go home. Sounds pretty normal. What I didn’t mention is that whole time, I was wearing a ski mask.

Is that okay?

Sure, it’s weird. A ski mask inside a store serves no useful purpose. It might make people nervous. But, should someone be allowed to ask me to remove it? If I refuse, should I be arrested? Being weird is not a crime. Sweating like a pig under the damn thing, while uncomfortable, again is not a crime. My reasons for wearing it should not matter. If I want to wear it, of my own free will, then I should be allowed to wear it whenever or wherever someone would be allowed to wear a niqab. To allow less, would be religious discrimination. The fact that I do not get to do something a religious person does is discrimination based on the fact that I am NOT religious. It is the same thing.

Would Mr. Garneau defend me in that case if i came and begged him? His statement says he would, my gut says he wouldn’t.

My main point again is this. Religious rights are great if they are applied equally and fairly to everyone, otherwise they are religious privileges. That is not okay. Again, as an atheist, it seems ludicrous to me that we would make laws and award privileges based upon a deity that in all likelihood doesn’t exist. I find it extremely perplexing that the pre-amble to our constitution mentions the Judeo-Christian God. If that is not privilege, I do not know what is. My opinion is that it even weakens the document. Canada should be a nation based on the rule of law, God should not enter into it.

On the other side of this argument is Mr. Harper and the Conservatives. At the end of the day, I cannot vote for them. Bill C51, the antiterrorism bill, just goes too far in so many ways, and is just the latest in a number of bills that I suspect go against the Charter. This government has a history of attacking Charter rights in the name of security or law and order. Historically, they also have a decidedly Christian slant to their party. It would probably be fair to say that their opposition to the niqab is probably more about who wears it and what their religion is, than womens’ right. I’ve frankly had enough of that behaviour.

So, I still don’t know what is reasonable, but I also suspect that a lot of people who have decided in their mind what is reasonable, would actually not be very reasonable when it comes down to it.

I’m still confused.

« Older posts Newer posts »