Canada has its own populisms .. and rebellions — in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan!

Posted: March 23rd, 2017 | No Comments »

Preston Manning with BC premier Christy Clark : who would you rather meet in a dark alley?

Last week the irrepressible Preston Manning had an article in the Globe and Mail on how “Canada’s elites could use a crash course in populism.”

He cited  Tom Flanagan’s Waiting for the Wave and W. L. Morton’s The Progressive Party in Canada as useful reading for any elites actually wanting to take the course he recommends.

Not surprisingly, he did not cite such related volumes as S.M. Lipset’s Agrarian Socialism : The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan (1950, 1971) or C.B. Macpherson’s Democracy in Alberta : Social Credit and the Party System (1953, 1962, 2013).

(Mr. Manning is a right-wing rather than a left-wing populist — and both the Lipset and Macpherson books are broadly left-wing.)

Preston Manning’s populist father, on tour in Western Canada, summer 1951.

There are nonetheless two passages in Preston Manning’s piece that strike me as probably worth repeating. The first is : “it is probably safe to say that Canada’s political and media establishment have never really understood populism in this country and are therefore ill-equipped to understand or respond to its current manifestations.”

(Well … One finer point I have trouble with here is that, to me, Canada — happily enough — has a number of political and media establishments : one of which may actually include Preston Manning, and another of which speaks French, etc, etc. Mr. Manning occupies more solid ground when he focuses on … “Ottawa” say.)

My second worth-repeating passage in “Canada’s elites could use a crash course in populism” is just the article’s concluding paragraph (which does finally land on more solid ground) :

Canada has had its own past experience with populism — some of it bad, much of it good, but all of it instructive. Given the uprising of populist sentiment in our times, today’s politicos and pundits would be wise to revisit and learn from that extensive and instructive experience. Failure to do so, especially at the national level, could mean that Ottawa will be the next capital city to be the last to know what is going on.”

I would (I should make clear, in the interests of science) never vote for or otherwise politically endorse Preston Manning. But I do think there is wisdom in these two quoted passages from his recent Globe and Mail article.

Early CCF ad. Tommy Douglas’s CCF government in Saskatchewan, first elected in 1944, pioneered public health care in Canada — supported federally with the Medical Care Act of 1966.

At the same time, to me there is still something crucial that is missing in Mr. Manning’s crash course as well. And, to seriously instruct today’s politicos and pundits who haunt the bars and restaurants of the Sparks Street Mall, the Byward Market, Elgin Street, and on and on it should be included.

When Preston Manning talks about populism in the adjacent United States, for instance, he alludes to two figures from the 19th century — Andrew Jackson and William Jennings Bryan. But in his Canadian examples he sticks to the 20th century, which he knows directly himself.

Canadian populism in the 20th century, however, has its own 19th century ancestors. And all our 21st century  political and media establishments could probably profit from pondering them somewhat more deeply than usual, during the 150th anniversary year of the 1867 confederation.

Painting of the Assembly of the Six Counties by Charles Alexander Smith. The Assembly of the Six Counties / Assemblée des six-comtés was a gathering of “Patriotes” held in Saint-Charles, Lower Canada on October 23 and October 24, 1837, despite a June 15 Proclamation of the government forbidding public assemblies. It was the most famous of various public assemblies that became a prelude to the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–38.

To make a potentially quite long story very short, I’m just talking about the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–1838, the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, the First Riel or Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870, and the Second Riel or Northwest Rebellion of 1885.

Many further things could be said about the 19th century rebellions in Canada — which at least strike me as crucial precursors of all 20th century (and beyond) Canadian populisms.  But that might just confuse things unnecessarily for the moment.

In any case, click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below for four further quick notes, on : (1) The Rebellion Tradition in Canada Matters (too) ; (2) Louis Riel and Justin Trudeau ; (3) 18th century ancestor — “The Conspiracy of Pontiac” ; and (4) Another late 20th century descendant : the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution Act, 1982.

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A footnote on what Citizen X thought Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said about Russia on TV

Posted: March 13th, 2017 | No Comments »

Many thanks to high financier and jazz guitarist Leyland Gordon for this photo of late-season shinny, in what most people nowadays would call downtown Toronto, March 2017. Though born and raised in Alberta Chrystia Freeland now represents the downtown Toronto riding of University–Rosedale in the Canadian House of Commons.

“Such usually thoughtful writers as Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal, Colby Cosh of the National Post and Paul Wells of the Toronto Star” are apparently on her side.

So our Canadian Foreign Minister does not need help from the likes of me, in responding to the arguments skillfully advanced by David Climenhaga in “CHRYSTIA FREELAND SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED FOR HER GRANDFATHER’S SINS, BUT FOR MISLEADING CANADIANS ABOUT THEM.”

We each have our own perceptions of these things, however, and I feel compelled to quickly jot down mine — in the endless struggle for individual freedom of thought across the global village.

The crux of Mr. Climenhaga’s case against the Hon. Ms. Freeland (“and her staff”) is in his third-last paragraph : “it is the fact she and her staff tried to pass off her grandfather’s history, which we now know to be true, as Russian disinformation that should concern us all, regardless of our views about Russia’s policies …”

Chrystia Freeland has coffee with Ukrainian journalist and politician Yegor Sobolev in 2014. A Canadian of Ukrainian descent, she does support an independent Ukraine. Just as most Canadians support an independent Canada, right next door to the United States! Another reason she is not admired by the Putin government in Russia.

I just want to record that I saw Chrystia Freeland on TV, discussing the habits of the present Russian government in such matters. And I took it as a confirmation of what Russian officials were saying about her maternal grandfather (that during the Second World War he was “chief editor of a pro-Nazi publication in occupied Poland, territory that was later part of Ukraine”) — of which she was all too aware.

Ms Freeland did make critical remarks about this Russian use of her family history. But from what she said on TV, it did not seem to me that she was accusing the Russians of lying about her grandfather. (If the smear was just plain wrong she would have denied it altogether.)

As I understood her, our hard-working foreign minister (who has also done a good job guiding Stephen Harper’s long-simmering Canada-EU free trade agreement through what may actually be its almost final phases) was criticizing the Russians for dragging up ad hominem arguments about an opponent’s ancestors — in their efforts to denigrate our kind of democratic government.

Swimwear-clad snowboarders party on the shores of Russia’s Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, in winter. PHOTO: BATO BUDAEV/I'M SIBERIAN.

(See, eg, this  Ottawa Citizen report : “‘American officials have publicly said, and even Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada,’ Freeland told reporters after they raised questions about … her grandfather.”)

To me this kind of Russian government behaviour really is something that “should concern us all, regardless of our views about Russia’s policies.”

What does Chrystia Freeland’s maternal grandfather have to do with any foreign policy issue between Canada and Russia today — or with the capacity of his granddaughter to effectively advance 21st century Canadian interests in dealings with Russia?

(Especially when it is also apparently true, as one comment writer on David Climenhaga ‘s excellent ALBERTAPOLITICS.CA website has reported, that Ms. Freeland’s “mother once ran for the Bolsheviks, er, I mean the NDP, in Edmonton-Strathcona”????)

An automobile and a model at the First Motors of Russia retro cars exhibition dedicated to the 110th anniversary of His Imperial Majesty Nicholas II’s Personal Garage, March 2017. “Nicholas II had the largest car fleet among the European monarchs.”

And what kind of political debate is it that so quickly stoops to such dark and irrelevant depths, and tries to make you responsible or accountable for your grandparents’ political thoughts?

Not one I want anything to do with. I’m with the very knowledgeable art-historian-tour-guide from a recent visit to St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland (also Vladimir Putin’s home town).

Asked if President Putin was popular in Russia because he was a strong leader, she just said “Yes.” Asked if she supported him herself, she just said “No” and smiled.

As if to say there is still happily some individual freedom of political thought even in Russia today. (Which also appears increasingly addicted to European, North American, and Japanese automobiles.)

But that’s no thanks to President Putin. And Mr. Putin’s government’s main substantive objection to our current Canadian Foreign Minister does seem to be that she stands up for the values of what Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982 calls the “free and democratic society.”

On Lady Evelyn River, Temagami, Ontario. Photo by Greg Stott, World Wildlife Federation–Canada.

(Just as she stands up for an independent Canada, right next door to the United States!)

Those at least strike me as very good reasons for we the people of Canada to continue supporting Chrystia Freeland in her hard work — regardless of what her maternal grandfather may or may not have done, in another time and place.

Meanwhile, for some lively related discussion, see “#auspol live Greg Barns speaks with Randall White on the state of Canadian Politics & Justin Trudeau” — on “PolitiScope,” Denise Shrivell’s innovative and impressive new political website from down under in the Land of Oz.

(Which is also striking contemporary blows for individual freedom of thought and realistic in-depth democratic public policy debate, among various English-speaking peoples in the diverse and multicultural global village today.)

Are Liberals really “defying Trudeau” .. esp looking back to John A. Macdonald etc, etc, etc, 1873–1896?

Posted: March 10th, 2017 | No Comments »

PM Justin Trudeau with some backbenchers in background, Canadian House of Commons, January 25, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters).

[UPDATED MARCH 11]. Perhaps with half their minds on reported divisions among US Republicans over the new “Trumpcare” health bill in Washington, DC, our Canadian mainstream media have lately been giving we folks back home such headlines as :

* “Liberals defy Trudeau, approve genetic testing bill he calls unconstitutional” (CTV NEWS) ;

* “Liberal backbenchers defy cabinet wishes and vote to enact genetic discrimination law … Insurance industry opposed to bill making it illegal to demand the results of genetic tests” (CBC NEWS) ;

* “Liberal backbenchers vote against Trudeau, pass law banning genetic discrimination” (VANCOUVER SUN) ;

* “DISCRIMINATION GÉNÉTIQUE … Les députés libéraux servent une rebuffade à Trudeau” (LE DEVOIR).

Just a few further points : to start with, it was a so-called “free vote” in the Canadian House of Commons. MPs were not expected to vote as party whips instructed. So none of the Liberals who voted against the Trudeau cabinet’s declared position on the issue were breaking any rules.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant shepherded the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, also known as Bill S-201, through Canadian House of Commons. (SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS).

Second, as reported by the Canadian Press, the “bill passed by a vote of 222-60.”

There are 338 seats in the current House, five of which are vacant at the moment, 180 current Liberal MPs, and 30 members of the cabinet. Pondering all these numbers, it seems reasonable to guess that some democratic majority of Liberal MPs present supported the bill. (UPDATE MARCH 11 : And see Aaron Wherry on “What happens when Liberal backbenchers rise up” for further details here.)

Meanwhile, out of respect for the “Insurance industry opposed to bill making it illegal to demand the results of genetic tests,” let’s suppose the Trudeau cabinet also opposed the bill and officially advised its Liberal backbenchers to do the same.

Of course, the executive branch did not actually say it was bowing to the insurance industry lobby. It claimed it opposed the bill because addressing such matters in Ottawa intruded on provincial powers, under the Constitution Act, 1867.

(And Canada’s first aboriginal/indigenous justice minister, the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, wrote to provincial premiers, urging them to urge their federal MPs to oppose the bill on constitutional grounds.)

So … the insurance industry can take some heart from the Trudeau cabinet’s opposition — and feel that any contributions of whatever sort to the Liberal Party of Canada it may have ever made were not altogether in vain.

Print of the Battle of Batoche during Louis Riel’s ill-fated Northwest Rebellion of 1885, based on sketches by Sergeant Grundy and others, published by Grip Printing & Publishing Co. in Toronto.

At the same time, democracy has been served by the ultimate passing of a bill that is almost certainly in the interests of the great majority of the people of Canada.

If advised that this is just how democracy works in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, some might say “And what is wrong with that?” And we’d find it hard to disagree ourselves.

We felt strengthened in this position when, just after we read about these contemporary Ottawa adventures, we finally received the next installment of Randall White’s work-in-progress, tentatively entitled Children of the Global Village — Canada in the 21st Century : Tales about the history that matters.

If you go to our “Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” page, on the bar above (or just CLICK HERE), you will find a short introduction to the project, along with the “Prologue : too much geography.”

This is followed by links to the currently completed six chapters in Part I, four  chapters in Part II, and the first chapter in Part III on the old Dominion of Canada. You will now find as well a link to Part III, Chapter 2 : “Arduous Destiny : Canada’s alternative to the Great Barbecue, 1873-1896.”

Once again we caught up with Dr. White and his irresistible business manager at the Tim Horton’s across from Kew Gardens in Toronto. And he explained :

“This chapter, which has been far too long coming, has a lot to do with the high tide of John A. Macdonald’s prime ministerial career, the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Battle of Batoche, and the tragic hanging of Louis Riel on a cold November morning in Regina, 1885.”

He went on : “Our politicians today could still learn something from this era, I think. At least individual MPs not in cabinets had more freedom then, in most cases. And the system still worked well enough. In any case, I promise the next Chapter 3 — on ‘Sunny Ways : Imperial Preference, New Boom, and Last Best West, 1896–1911′ —  will not take so long.” (That at least is what the author hopes.)

UPDATE MARCH 11: According to an article on Canada’s new Genetic Non-Discrimination Act in the online Science magazine : “To delay and potentially kill the legislation, Trudeau’s government is considering not sending the bill to the governor-general (a tactic that doesn’t appear to have been used since the 1920s), and instead asking Canada’s Supreme Court to rule on the bill’s constitutionality. That process could take up to 2 years.”  We sympathize with retired Liberal Senator James Cowan, “the bill’s original sponsor,” who “says he can’t fathom the rationale behind the government’s stance. ‘Is it really up to the government of Canada to defend provincial jurisdiction, or the insurance industry?’” We still wonder : how serious is the cabinet about its declared position? Why hold a free vote in the first place if you are in fact deadly serious?  (And note too, according to the Science magazine article : “More than 100 Liberal members voted for the bill” — out of a total of 180, 30 of whom are in the cabinet!)

How about the Pontiac or Louis Riel Block? : global-village Canadiana (and North Americana) in the winter of 2017

Posted: February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

Northern Lights, Tom Thomson, 1915.

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA ETC, Mid-to-late February 2017.

RE : Steinmeier in Germany, Rosenbaum on Trump, Carlos Fraenkel on a mosque in Quebec City, and a footnote on changing the name of the Langevin Block in Ottawa to the Pontiac (or Louis Riel) Block.

I first started pondering this quartet of obscure but deep political thoughts on the day that the snows came down. It was a winter wonderland in the old streetcar suburbs.

We went for coffee on the local main street, under rejuvenation through contextual condo development — the unsettling new urban mainstream in affordable housing. And somehow the flow began, in between other things with more immediate priority :

(1) We had just heard that the Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier had been elected President of Germany. I think  this should be more interesting to Canadians than it is in the winter of 2017. I could not convince my coffee-drinking partner, but that’s just the point …

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, president (ceremonial head of state) of Germany. Critic of Donald Trump and Brexit in the UK. And according to Chancellor Angela Merkel : “an excellent president who will enjoy wide support.”

The President of Germany is nothing like the President of the United States. As the Associated Press explains, the office “has little executive power, but is considered an important moral authority and symbol of the country as its host for visiting dignitaries.” It is in fact very much like the present office of Governor General in Canada.

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany — or as we say in Canada, following the UK and France, prime minister (or premier ministre) — remains the practical chief executive of the German federation : or “head of government” as opposed to “head of state.” And her next electoral test is not until September 24, 2017.

Meanwhile, Ms Merkel relates to the new President Frank-Walter Steinmeier more or less as Justin Trudeau relates to Governor General David  Johnston.

And what should be interesting to we Canadians in this 150th anniversary year of our 1867 confederation is that the office of President of Germany is one model for what the office of Governor General of Canada could evolve into, after the sad passing of Good Queen Bess II — offshore in the United Kingdom.

Model Valerie Poynter celebrates Canada Day 2012, with help from photographer Spencer Edwards.

The crux of the issue is how do you select what some branches of Canadian officialdom still call the Queen’s representative when there is no hereditary monarch to make the choice? (Strictly in theory of course : even in Canada today the real choice is made not by the monarch but by the democratically “elected” Canadian prime minister — which is probably even worse!.)

As the Associated Press explains again, in 2017 the new German President “Steinmeier was elected in Berlin by the assembly made up of the 630 members of parliament’s lower house and an equal number of representatives from Germany’s 16 states.”

In Canada this would imply an independent Canadian Governor General (or President even) “indirectly elected” by the current 338 members of the Canadian House of Commons, and an equal number of representatives from the 10 provinces and three territories.

This is the more conservative option for choosing ceremonial heads of state in independent parliamentary democracies. A variation on the theme also appears in the modern constitution of Canada’s fellow Commonwealth of Nations member, the Republic of India.

Personally, I lean  towards the more progressive and democratic option of direct election by the sovereign people — as now long (and successfully) practised in Ireland and Iceland. But I think involving Canadian provinces in some nominating process makes sense as well.

Northern Lights, A.Y. Jackson.

In any case this is no doubt already a more elaborate discussion of the issue than many Canadian citizens seem ready for at the moment … .

Some among us may nonetheless have to start pondering such things sooner than we think. In the early 21st century all of us who live in the country and take an interest in its future are stumbling towards our collective liberation, at last.

[For Rosenbaum on Trump, Carlos Fraenkel on a mosque in Quebec City, and changing the name of the Langevin Block in Ottawa to the Pontiac Block  click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.]

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Boris Johnson’s US citizenship renunciation .. and notes on the French presidential election April 23 / May 7

Posted: February 10th, 2017 | No Comments »

UK Foreign Secretary and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (left) and US President Donald Trump : two peas from a New York pod, even if US tax laws have finally prompted Boris to renounce the American citizenship he earned by being born to British parents living at the time in New York City.

I woke up yesterday morning to a brief but provocative text statement, at the bottom of the screen on Toronto’s cp24 cable TV channel. It read something like  : “UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, born in New York City, renounces US citizenship.”

Like perhaps millions of others around the world, I wondered. Is even the current UK Conservative MP (and former Mayor of London) Boris Johnson renouncing his US citizenship, because he disagrees so fundamentally with President Trump’s recent immigration-policy actions against citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East?

A little knowledge, however, really is a dangerous thing. On deeper examination I am now quite convinced that (unfortunately) Mr. Johnson’s renunciation has nothing to do with Mr. Trump — even if they do have somewhat comparable “blond” haircuts.

“BoJo” with Cheeky Girls, back when he was Mayor of London.

See, eg : “Boris Johnson officially gives up US citizenship” ; “UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Renounced US Citizenship in 2016 … British politician’s name on latest quarterly list from Treasury Department” ; and “Boris Johnson Renounces US Citizenship … The British foreign secretary had previously complained about a US tax bill.”

Not surprisingly, The Guardian in the UK has the most exact summary : “Boris Johnson among record number to renounce American citizenship in 2016 … Foreign secretary had previously protested against ‘absolutely outrageous’ US tax obligations after sale of his north London home … Johnson was born in New York when his [British] parents worked there, but has not lived there since he was five years old. His decision does not appear to be an attempt to distance himself from the politics of Donald Trump, but may instead be a move to ensure he is out of reach of America’s Internal Revenue Service.”

Marine Le Pen on the campaign trail : globalisation and 'Islamic fundamentalism' are undermining French culture. Can she “pull off a Trump in 2017”? Current polls say no.

Meanwhile, there is bigger news from Canada’s first European mother country. And I have lately been trying to catch up with the increasingly intriguing French presidential election, some 10 and 12 weeks hence on Sunday, April 23 (first round) and Sunday, May 7 (second round).

Here are the current five major candidates — from “far left” to “far right” : Jean-Luc Mélenchon, FI (France insoumise) ; Benoît Hamon, PS (Parti socialiste) ; Emmanuel Macron, EM (En Marche) ; François Fillon, LR (Les Républicains) ; Marine Le Pen, FN (Front national).

Until recently it seemed the race would ultimately reduce to François Fillon of the right-wing Les Républicains, versus Marine Le Pen of the very right-wing Front national on May 7.  But then M. Fillon was hurt by a scandal about appointing family members to lucrative government jobs.

Centrist (or centre-leftist?) Emmanuel Macron of new En Marche party/movement : suddenly he seems to have become the unexpected candidate of change, for the moment at least?

The latest polls are showing that the more centrist or centre leftist (and even former Parti socialiste cabinet minister) Emmanuel Macron, who has started a new “En Marche” party (“On The Move in English”), will finish up against Marine Le Pen of the right-wing extremist Front national on May 7 — and finally defeat her handily.

Put another way, the race has unexpectedly shifted somewhat leftward. It is still early enough days, however, and one big question about  Emmanuel Macron is what kind of governing coalition he could put together in the legislature. So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, for further immediate details see :

* “Macron to beat Le Pen in French election run-off vote, says Opinionway poll” ;

Jean-Luc Mélenchon arrives at Elysée Palace for dinner with Raul Castro last year. This Morocco-born man of the French far left has no chance of becoming France’s next president, but still strikes a compelling pose. Photo : AFP/ Alain Jocard.

* “Spotlight: French presidential election 2017: Macron or Le Pen?” ;

* “Emmanuel Macron’s Unexpected Shot at the French Presidency … The former economy minister’s surge in popularity makes him the front-runner—for now” ;

* “Who’s who in the French presidential election? … With months to go until the final vote, the battle for the Élysée Palace has already proven extraordinary” ;

*  “Can Marine Le Pen win the French presidential election? … The far-right leader says globalisation and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ are undermining French culture” ;

* “Look left for the next French election surprise.”

Very finally (and believe it or not), back here in our home and native land / terre de nos aïeux : “Trudeau’s Approval Rating Tops Trump In US And Canada: Poll.”

Electoral reform in Canada 2017 : a relic of the 4½ months in 2015 when New Democrats looked like winners?

Posted: January 31st, 2017 | 3 Comments »

CW EDITORS NOTE : Nous adressons nos plus sincères condoléances à tous ceux qui ont été touchés par l’épouvantable tuerie mortelle d’une mosquée de Québec, dimanche dernier. Nous appuyons les propos du premier ministre Trudeau sur ce méprisable acte de terreur contre le Canada et tous les Canadiens. Et nous accueillons chaleureusement ses rassurances auprès du million de fidèles musulmans de notre pays: «Trente-six millions de cœurs rompent avec les vôtres» / “Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours.”

Economist magazine projections of what did happen in 2015 Canadian federal election (first past the post), and what would have happened under proportional representation. A bare majority in Canadian House of Commons at this time is 170 seats.

[UPDATED FEBRUARY 1]. From the start of things in the last federal election campaign, I’ve had trouble understanding the mainstream media’s obsession with the electoral reform plank in the 2015 Liberal platform.

Between the lines, at the very least, it has always seemed clear enough that what finally became Justin Trudeau’s majority government was only half-serious at best on this issue.

The crucial Liberal message was : “We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.”

As the report of this parliamentary committee in the real world has subsequently confirmed — and surely not to the surprise of many honest observers —  there is no practical version of electoral reform on which all the federal parties (or even just the three largest) can agree.

To start with, forget about “mandatory voting, and online voting.” They are just distractions (just rejected out of hand by the committee). And right at the start they were further signs that the Trudeau Liberals were mostly just blowing smoke on electoral reform.

NDP MP's Nathan Cullen and Alexandre Boulerice hold press conference on electoral reform in Ottawa, spring 2016. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP.

From here, for decades New Democrats have liked “proportional representation,” which would broadly mean that each party gets a share of seats in parliament equal to its share of the cross-Canada popular vote. (Note that both the present Trudeau Liberal and previous Harper Conservative “majority” governments won just under 40% of the popular vote in the elections that brought them to office!)

The NDP’s long-favoured proportional-representation electoral reform, however, could mean that Conservatives would be almost permanently shut out of forming governments in Ottawa.

And/or the Canadian people at large would be condemned, on some accounts at any rate, to perpetual Liberal-New Democrat (or vice-versa) coalition governments. (Perhaps only occasionally relieved by Conservative minority governments, in semi-secret alliance with some revived Bloc Québécois ????)

CW EDITORS UPDATE, FEBRUARY 1, 2017 : It is just one day since Citizen X wrote in his conclusion to this piece (click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below) : “like others I would not be surprised if at some point between now and May 4, 2017 the Trudeau Liberals back away officially from their 2015 platform commitment on electoral reform.” And as of 12:55 PM ET Aaron Wherry on the CBC News site has reported :“Trudeau government abandons promise of electoral reform …”

X tells us this has happened a little earlier than he was imagining, but “as predicted I am not surprised.” He underlines as well his very last sentence (again click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below) : “Proportional representation may be a good thing, from several points of view far above the partisan political wars. But right now only the federal New Democrats really believe in it. And if they ever managed to win a majority of seats in parliament with not quite 40% of the cross-country popular vote, they might start changing their minds too.”

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“History has many cunning passages” : remembering the remarkable spring of 2009 on January 20, 2017

Posted: January 20th, 2017 | No Comments »

. Bird n Diz at Birdland in New York, 1951 — Charlie Parker (alto sax), left, and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), right, alleged founding partners of bebop jazz — still the hardest kind of jazz to play properly, according to Charlie Parker’s old colleague, Red Rodney.

What can be said on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States of America? Our view is not much at all.

If we had to pick a quick quotation, we’d go with the passionate cultural conservative T.S. Eliot, who was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and went on to become “the greatest French poet in the English language” in London, England : “History has many cunning passages.” Beyond this, we have two further gestures :

(1) For some time now a piece by our Citizen X from May 2009 has been finishing close to the top of our daily list of visits to more popular postings — “Save the last dance for Manmohan Singh .. democracy in India pulls off a surprise in Obama’s early days.”

Much of the traffic involved  is, we believe, malevolent and spam-oriented. But this piece has been finishing close to the top of our daily numbers for so long now that at least some of its popularity must be authentic.

Accordingly our Dominic Berry has just today quickly knocked together a slightly revised version of the original Citizen X posting (far too long, but you can skip the four appendices) — which we’ve, as it were, re-posted with the following note at the end :

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. (Doug Ball/CP).

Second  (and as yet only slightly revised) edition, Friday, January 20, 2017. On the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of  the democracy in America that took such a very big step forward during the no-drama presidency of  Barack Hussein Obama, 2009–17. In the firm conviction that something as big in history as the past eight years in the USA can never really be erased or reversed. Especially when the former president concludes his regime with a 60% approval rating from the American people, via the lying pollsters who did manage to get the Hillary Clinton popular vote victory in the 2016 US election right.

(2) We’ve also been especially impressed by several related news items from the past several days :

* “President-elect Donald Trump will enter the White House Friday with most national security positions still vacant, after a disorganized transition that has stunned and disheartened career government officials.” (From the far-from-left-wing Foreign Policy magazine daily online “Situation Report,” Thursday, January 19, 2017.)

Marshall McLuhan (r) with Woody Allen in Annie Hall, 1977.

* “‘Learning Curve’ as Rick Perry Pursues a Job He Initially Misunderstood,” by Coral Davenport and David E. Sanger in the New York Times, Wednesday, January 18, 2017. See also : “Trump offered Rick Perry a job neither one of them understood” one day later at MSNBC.

* “Scum of the earth lowlife packs a bag for Trump’s inauguration,” by Steve Lopez in the  Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, January 18, 2017. This is both the most intellectually impressive and entertaining lying media piece we’ve come across on the Trump inauguration. (Eg : “So stop bawling, California. We are out of step, thank God, because civil rights, human rights and environmental protection are civic virtues in the Golden State, and we’re going to build a kale-powered bullet train through almond and walnut orchards, come hell or high water … The wall will get built, and we’re still not paying for it … That’s the Trump plan in this new era of magical thinking, details to come … You’re damn right I’m going to Washington … I’ll report back soon on whether I think we should give more thought to secession.”)

Our thanks to the wonderful WWF Bear’s excellent photographer. And congrats to all the brave consenting adults who immersed themselves in Lake Ontario for the future of the planet on March 12, 2015, at Balmy Beach in Toronto. The lake is cold enough in August.

* “President-elect pays out $25-million Trump University settlement,” by Kristina Davis in the Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, January 18, 2017.  (Which nicely begins with : “Three days before his presidential inauguration, Donald Trump paid out $25 million in compliance with the settlement reached in three Trump University lawsuits.”)

Finally, this past Tuesday, October 2, 2016 our editor in chief opined :“as long as there is no real chance of his actually winning, the political career of Donald Trump may finally be more interesting than even he thinks.” On the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration we have asked Dr. White what he thinks now. And he just said that he plans to visit the overwhelmingly most populous US state of California this spring, to see if it actually has seceded from the union yet!

Was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest success in 2016 the seduction of right-wing hockey icon Don Cherry?

Posted: January 14th, 2017 | No Comments »

Father and son in Peterborough, Ontario, May 1989.

Up here in the northern woods the imminent departure of Barack Obama and accession of Donald Trump in Washington has focused attention on our own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — summarized by Mark Bonokoski of the Postmedia Network several days ago as the “eldest son of Canada’s Philosopher King.”

This time last year Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government was just settling into office, after it took a clear majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons (184 out of 338 or 54.44%), with a mere 39.47% of the cross-Canada popular vote, in the October 19, 2015 general election.

Less than a month later, on November 7, 2015, I posted my own initial reaction to the Trudeau II government, in “On the new era in Canada. Alexandre Trudeau, Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, and Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.”

I’m told it is still attracting some new visitors in January 2017 — perhaps, cynics have suggested, because it includes the F-word in its final sentence. It also includes comparatively rare allusions to the prime minister’s younger brother, who now lives in his father’s legendary art deco house on Avenue des Pins in Montreal (aka Maison Ernest-Cormier).

For most of 2016 both Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government in Ottawa managed to do very well in opinion polls — and considerably better than the party’s not quite 40% popular vote in the October 19, 2015 election. Yet as the year concluded all this began to moderate.

Pierre Trudeau’s legendary art deco house on Avenue des Pins in Montreal, now the home of Alexandre Trudeau and family.

On December 15, eg, pollster Angus Reid reported : “Is the Honeymoon ending? Trudeau’s declining job approval in Ontario drives ten-point national slide.”

As the pollster explained, even with this 10-point slide in December 2016 : “More than half of all Canadians (55%) still approve of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s job performance.” (Though it no doubt is interesting enough as well that the number was 65% in September 2016.)

Similarly, a Forum Research poll conducted early in December 2016 showed that “the Liberals dropped from 51 per cent a month ago to 42 per cent nationally.” (Though, again, 42% is still somewhat better than the share of the cross-country popular vote they won in the 2015 election.)

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Our quiet northern agenda for 2017 — 150th anniversary of the 1867 confederation in Canada

Posted: January 8th, 2017 | No Comments »

Emperor Meiji moves from Kyoto to Tokyo 1868, as imagined by Le Monde Illustre.

In the United Kingdom and the United States 2017 will be the year we start to find out just how crazy Brexit and Donald Trump are really going to be. We make no predictions. But we are trying to pretend we’re mentally (and financially) prepared for almost anything. L’histoire a beaucoup de passages astucieux.

Meanwhile, we will be focusing on our own backyard  — up here in what the conclusion to Harold Innis’s 1930 Canadian history classic perhaps somewhat over-exuberantly called “the northern half of North America.” (Or what we have more recently alluded to as “the most northerly part of North America entirely covered by ice 20,000 years ago, now known as Canada.”)

One excuse is that July 1, 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of the present Canadian confederation of 1867 — in the wake of the American Civil War, and just before the ironically christened Meiji Restoration in Japan.

Toronto Street Railway snowbound — by W.N. Langton in the Canadian Illustrated News, 12 February 1881.

(We agree as well that it is not quite right to call this date the 150th birthday of Canada. Modern Canada is both much older and younger. “Canada” itself is an aboriginal or indigenous word. And as the editor of the admired first volume of the Historical Atlas of Canada explained in the late 1980s, research since the Second World War “has tended to confirm Harold Innis’s general insights … As Innis maintained, the pattern of Canada has been taking shape for almost 500 years … .” And then it is also true that, as noted elsewhere, “Canada today is a much younger country than even many Canadians imagine. There was no such legal status as a ‘Canadian citizen’ until after the Second World War. The first Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on January 1, 1947” — a mere 70 years ago in 2017!)

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Looking back on the fourth quarter of the fateful year 2016

Posted: December 30th, 2016 | No Comments »

Campfire 1916 by Tom Thomson

As noted in our review of the first quarter of this fateful year, back some two weeks ago : “The short story about 2016 in the English-speaking global village is just Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump in the USA.”

Brexit was the big surprise of the second quarter. The electoral college victory of Donald Trump was the big surprise of the fourth quarter.

(While Hillary Clinton took more of the popular vote, by a quite dramatic 2.8 million votes — and the “Cook Political Report has shown that just three counties, representing 77,759 voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, determined the outcome of the election” practically.)

We offered our immediate assessment of the Trump surprise in : “Northern lights on US election VI : trying to be positive about democracy in America 2016, as it happens,” Nov 8, by Citizen X ; and “What happened? … without rigged system of the electoral college Trump wouldn’t have won,” Nov 9, by Randall White.

Back in October the same pair of contributors had offered what would later seem relevant reporting with : “This isn’t the first time Donald Trump has pretended to run for President etc …,” Oct 4, by Randall White ; and “Northern lights on US election IV : history will not be kind to FBI’s last-minute Orwellian intervention in 2016,” Oct 31, by Citizen X.

(This last piece began : “FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute intervention in the 2016 US election — regarding certain freshly discovered ‘emails of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin that were found on a device seized during an unrelated sexting investigation of Anthony Weiner’ — has cast a dark Orwellian shadow over democracy in America in the early 21st century.”)

Meanwhile, we had tried to remember that, whatever happened among the “Yankees to the south of us” (who “must south of us remain”), we still had our own exotic public life in the rising new “free and democratic society” in Canada. And late in October we posted “Maybe new Advisory Board for Senate Appointments in Canada should experiment with selection by lottery too,” Oct 28, by Randall White.

A full month later we counterweights editors ourselves noted : “As much as we want to escape the long arm of Donald Trump in the US (and other) mainstream media during the last lame-duck weeks of 2016, we keep bumping into it all, like it or not.”We expanded briefly on this thought in “Reaction to Justin Trudeau’s Fidel farewell just one early sign of new age of Trump .. well, sort of .. maybe?,” Nov 28, by Counterweights Editors.

This brings us to the current final month in the fateful year 2016. And we will end both this exercise and the soon-to-be old year of 2016 with a further two contributions from the same pair of fourth-quarter contributors noted above.

The first is “Private night thoughts inspired by Stephen Marche on the Obama years, in the Los Angeles Review of Books,” Dec 7, by Randall White.

Early Snow 1916 by Tom Thomson.

The second is “Belatedly discovering Zadie Smith .. and Olbermann’s back : 2016 holiday gifts from the world wide web,” Dec 20, by Citizen X. (And the wise and wily X ended here with a quotation from the culture writer Marta Bausells : “This year needed Zadie Smith. 2016 was crying out for her particular clarity …” Whatever, we’re glad X discovered her for us at last.)

So a very happy new year / bonne année, whoever you are and wherever you may be. And here’s to all of us, in a year when virtually no one remotely sensible seems to be even just pretending to know just what may or may not happen — especially in the United Kingdom and the United States. (And many other places in today’s global village too, including the most northerly part of North America entirely covered by ice 20,000 years ago, now known as Canada).