Monarchism’s last gasp as protest against decline of old WASP hegemony in Canada (and Australia etc)

Posted: May 17th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Opening the cottage around May 24 in the northern lakes and forests.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2017. Toronto, Ontario.  This coming Monday we will celebrate locally what is known here in Ontario (and other Canadian provinces) as Victoria Day.  (In Quebec the same holiday is now more sensibly called  Journée nationale des patriotes.)

The holiday is nowadays defined as “the last Monday preceding May 25.” And this entrenches its status as part of the present-day Canadian people’s first long weekend of the summer season. It is nicely timed for opening cottages at the lake, getting serious about gardening in your yard, or just lounging around your urban apartment (condo), mentally preparing for the brief burst of treasured hot weather in June (if we’re lucky), July, and August.

Historically, the holiday was first celebrated in 1845 in the old United Province of Canada (ie modern Ontario and Quebec, somewhat organized as one province in partial response to the Lower and Upper Canadian rebellions of 1837–38).

Fireworks on Victoria Day (also traditionally known as Firecracker Day) at Ashbridges Bay in east end of old City of Toronto. Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star.

Then and for many years after Victoria Day was celebrated on the actual day of May 24 — which was in fact the actual birthday of Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, 1837–1901, Empress of India, 1876–1901, and first head of state of the Canadian confederation that will be 150 years old this coming July 1, 2017.

You might wonder why a holiday dedicated to the birthday of a Queen who lived across the ocean in another country, and has now been dead for 116 years, would still be celebrated in the diverse and almost grown-up Canada of today. A school-child’s rhyme that people my advanced age learned at their mothers’ knees might give the best answer : “The 24th of May / Is the Queen’s birthday / And if they don’t give us a holiday / We’ll all quit school.”

In the Toronto of the early 21st century the Victoria Day weekend has also acquired some sparse notoriety as a time when “Canadian republicans” who want to see the end of the British monarchy in Canada (and are nothing at all like “American Republicans”) come out to advance their argument on a (hopefully) sunny holiday afternoon.

This will remind at least a few of us as well that two nights before last showed how “King Charles III airs after sudden death of actor Tim Pigott-Smith … Recording of Tony-nominated performance airs Sunday on PBS.”  (Our local PBS station in Toronto is “WNED Buffalo.Toronto.”)

And this TV show then reminded me of the new “We don’t need a king bus ads in Toronto,” that the counterweights editors noted just a week or so ago : “Next to a somewhat bemused photo of next-in-line Prince Charles, the ads proclaim : ‘We don’t need a king — Our next head of state should be Canadian.’”

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French presidential election 2017, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, and the “We don’t need a king” bus ads in Toronto

Posted: May 8th, 2017 | No Comments »

Macron arrives at Louvre museum Sunday night after his quite commanding victory in the second round of the 2017 French presidential election.

So, as all the polls predicted again, the centre-left Emmanuel Macron (or just straight centrist, as the anglophone mainstream media seem to have decided?) has quite handily defeated the far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen (Donald Trump’s favourite?) for the presidency of the Fifth French Republic.

With all the vote now counted, 66.1% has gone to Macron, and a mere 33.9% to Le Pen.

According to the Associated Press : “Macron … celebrated with thousands of jubilant, flag-waving supporters outside the Louvre Museum in Paris on Sunday night … The European anthem ‘Ode to Joy’ played as he strode out to address the swelling crowd … ‘France has won!’ he said. ‘Everyone said it was impossible. But they do not know France!’”

Receiving news of French election results in Northern California — homeland of the Resistance in the United States.

In our view the people of France — in the midst of all their own hard enough current struggles — have once again stood up for what is most hopeful and forward-looking in some larger contemporary history.

As a website on the subject explains, the undeniably clever bourgeois red doctor Karl Marx “wrote on many occasions about the French Revolution [1789–1799], which he considered … the classic example of the ‘bourgeois revolution,’ in which capitalism overthrew feudalism, creating the legal conditions under which capitalism could flourish.”

The best side of French democratic politics has continued to transcend its own narrowest concerns, and speak to broader worries of the world — from the first republic established by the revolution and then interrupted by Napoleon and so forth to the present fifth republic, established in 1958 at another crisis point in French history by Charles de Gaulle.

“We don’t need a king” bus ads appear in Toronto in between first and second rounds of French presidential election 2017. What they are proposing for Canada has a few similarities with what two-thirds of the French people have just chosen for France.

La Marseillaise,” for example, a late 18th century “Chant de guerre” adopted by the revolutionary National Convention of 1795 as the republic’s national anthem, is in our view again easily the single best piece of words and music of its sort in the entire global village of 2017. It will forever have immense incontestable status as the national anthem of modern France.

Yet in striding to address his swelling crowd Sunday night to the strains of the European Union anthem “Ode to Joy” (aka the choral finale to the Ninth Symphony of the German classical composer Beethoven), President-elect Macron has shown that France today is still big and strong enough to stand up for the political progress long ago proposed by George Orwell in his “Toward European Unity” essay of 1947. (And for still larger themes of the free and democratic society, which also won endorsement from former US President Barack Obama.)

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Center of Resistance in (especially Northern?) California has its own American progressive allure in spring 2017

Posted: May 5th, 2017 | No Comments »

At Lagunitas Brewing on the outskirts of Petaluma, CA, late April 2017.

Why am I not surprised that I am yet again stuck with drafting another counterweights editors travelogue  — this time visiting the technical support masters in the (especially Northern) California bear-flag republic? Among the key current alleged insights submitted :

* ASIA IN AMERICA ON THE PACIFIC COAST. On the Atlantic coast the USA is still mostly about Europe and America (with an increasingly recognized crucial sidebar from Africa). On the Pacific it’s more and more about Asia and America. (Cf, eg, the Netflix TV series Master of None — which we first saw in Mill Valley, CA, even though it “was created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, and stars Ansari in the lead role of Dev, a 30-year-old actor who attempts to make his way through life in New York City.”)

* TPP REALLY DEAD? Obama’s multicultural Hawaiian youth helped him here. The Trans Pacific Partnership that Trump has backed away from (largely in fear?) tried to step further in this direction. (As in, sort of, George Orwell’s 1947 prophecy : “It may be that Europe is finished and that in the long run some better form of society will arise in India or China.” And note too : “’Secret’ TPP Trade Meetings Being Held In Toronto This Week” by Daniel Tencer at The Huffington Post Canada, posted on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 2, 2017.)

At the Depot, Mill Valley, CA.

* NO WAR ON CARS. In California even progressive politics remains in unbreakable thrall to the automobile. Life everywhere is like living in a parking lot and the most touted transportation future is the self-driving car. Despite a new Transbay Transit Center “at First and Mission streets, with accommodations for future high-speed rail service,” and several miles of track in the Central Valley, (Obama’s?) fast trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles remain an impossible dream.

* GEOGRAPHY & THE DONNER PARTY. Geography is both California’s stunning great attraction and omnipresent danger. The Donner Party’s tragic “winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada” — also on TV during our visit — foretold the continuing dark side of Golden State geography. (And topography too of course — and note as well : “Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, a major road in Marin County … closed for the second time this week [well late this past February actually!] between Fairfax and Woodacre due to a landslide over White’s Hill.”)

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We’re off to the bear-flag republic to study the natives, after 3 months of puzzling and mercurial new president

Posted: April 20th, 2017 | No Comments »

On Throckmorton Avenue in Mill Valley, CA, where not many residents like Donald Trump.

This coming Saturday morning the entire staff here (except for Dominic Berry, who has a big date with his current squeeze at a local sporting event) will be boarding an airplane at YYZ, bound for our regular seminar with technical support staff currently residing in the land of the Golden State Warriors.

(They are now, for the somewhat longer term they say, headquartered in Mill Valley — “about 14 miles [23 km] north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge” — with additional offices in Jerry Brown’s beautiful downtown Oakland.)

We’ll be back in our old streetcar-suburb editorial offices here in Toronto, north of the Great Lakes, at some point during the first week of May. And someone among us will report on our latest California adventures then.

Meanwhile, we leave parting thoughts for the time being on four (and a half) subjects, that may or may not be somewhat related :

(1) FRENCH ELECTION APRIL 23, MAY 7. The first round of the presidential election in France will take place this coming Sunday, April 23, just as we are settling into Mill Valley.

French actress Isabelle Huppert accepts award for best actress in a motion picture drama for her role in the movie Elle at the Golden Globes in Beverly Hills, CA, on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP.)

If the helpful Wikipedia site “Opinion polling for the French presidential election, 2017” is any guide (and of course it may not be!), the extreme right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen might actually finish first among the 11 official first-round candidates.

But don’t get too worried just yet. The centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron (vaguely Justin Trudeauesque in Canadian eyes) is at least likely to finish second (and may even be first). And he will go on to defeat Le Pen handily in the second round of voting between the top two first-round candidates on May 7. (While many may still wonder : what exact array of forces in the Assemblée nationale will Macron’s new movement try to govern with after he wins?)

Even the polling that may well be wrong, or at least misleading, also allows for some possibility that the scandal-plagued centre-right candidate François Fillon may finally do better than Macron (or Le Pen?).  And even the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon — “who can make fools of his rivals in debate” — has been polling strongly. (In one survey from April 13–15 he actually beats Le Pen for second place on April 23, only two points behind Macron in first!) Marine Le Pen herself claims she will defy the polling altogether and finally win everything!

Dominic Berry just wishes this was him! In fact it’s Hollywood actor Dominic Sherwood with friends Katherine McNamara and Emeraude Toubia, waiting for the April 23 first round of the French election.

The eloquent Jeremy Harding had an engrossing April 10 piece on the London Review of Books Blog called ‘The Outsiders‘.  It drew attention to certain similarities between Le Pen on the far right and Mélenchon on the far left. They share “the ideological confusion that Europe is experiencing, with the new hard right and an older left refraining from objections to the Trump ascendancy, and to Brexit, on the grounds that the real enemy is liberal market ideology and the European behemoth that drives it.”

Whatever else, “It’s going to be a very interesting election” — as the puzzling and mercurial President Trump himself has prophesied, in an interview with the UK Financial Times.

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Blue Jays 2017 : last year was close but once again denied .. how much longer will the window stay open?

Posted: April 10th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Baseball is back in the great white north, signaling spring revival, while also commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Blue Jays’ inaugural game (April 7, 1977) at snowy Exhibition Stadium on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

While it was an entertaining 2016 down at the ballpark known previously as the Skydome, last year once again ended in disappointment, this time dealt from a team based on the south shore of Lake Erie.

An omen of things to come — Aug 20, 2016, Cleveland, OH : Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Darwin Barney is tagged out at home by Cleveland Indians catcher Chris Gimenez in the sixth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Blue Jays, who had finished with an 89-73 mark during the regular season, beat the Orioles in the wildcard game and Rangers in the division playoffs, but were stymied by the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS.  Once again they were denied their first trip back to the World Series since they last won in 1993.

This has also not been an especially pleasant offseason for long standing fans. In a perfect world, the Toronto Blue Jays would still be showcasing Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, Major League Baseball’s most prolific power hitting duo for the past seven years.  But during an offseason where the Jays absorbed more than their fair share of curveballs, Encarnacion flew the coop to the Cleveland Indians, as a free agent in a rather sloppy divorce from his old team. And Bautista was left to flounder in the unwanted baggage section before being “reclaimed” by the team in late January.

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Mar-a-Lago dreamin’ : is the Trump administration finding its feet at last?

Posted: April 8th, 2017 | No Comments »

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, April 2017.

APRIL 8, 2017. GANATSEKWYAGON, ONTARIO, CANADA. Is it true that : “Missile attack on Syria a ‘win-win’ for Trump … Strike will allow US president to deflect attention from domestic crises and regain moral high ground”?

And does the departure of Steve Banon from the US National Security Council similarly mean that adults are taking over the White House at last?

Does “Nunes steps down from Russia probe, cites ‘entirely false’ ethics accusations” just underline the point?

And finally what is Xi Jinping, president of what still calls itself the People’s Republic of China, taking away from his “about 24 hours together” with the president of the USA “at Mr. Trump’s beachside Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida”?

I of course do not know the answers to any of these questions. Beyond just pretending to be wise and saying “time will tell.”

Post Cereals’ heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her daughter, the future actress Dina Merrill, in 1929 portrait by Giulio de Blaas.

What this latest Washington, DC action has done is wake me up to smell the coffee of the new “Southern White House” (aka “Winter White House”) at Mar-a-Lago  — Marjorie Merriweather Post’s 1920s fantasy in Palm Beach Florida, that Donald Trump turned into a money-making “members-only club with guest rooms, a spa, and other hotel-style amenities” back in the 1990s.

From the start my managing editor has been enthusiastic about “something short” on the Mar-a-Lago story. But when I first looked into the issue I told her : “Forget it — there’s already an excellent Wikipedia article on the subject. The best I can do is tell the world to read it.”

Saying she had more faith in me than that, the managing editor has urged me to carry on anyway — though again “briefly” of course (well … no more than 800 words, say : and not too much longer than that at any rate, even in the very end).

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In Quebec “drinking sometimes is not an option” : Is there any good in Andrew Potter’s snowstorm malaise?

Posted: March 28th, 2017 | No Comments »

[UPDATED APRIL 3 — DORIS DAY’S BIRTHDAY]. Someone has sent this issue to me for comment. I’m not quite sure why. I have never lived in Quebec myself. (I am, for better or worse, a born and raised Torontonian.)

I do have a son who spent four years at McGill University in Montreal. And my late and increasingly lamented mother-in-law was born and raised in (as best I can figure) Lévis and then Drummondville, in la belle province. She came to Ontario in her early 20s speaking almost no English. (And the big difference she noticed right away was that in Ontario politics was not as crucial as it was — and no doubt still is — in Quebec.)

My early years were also marked by two legendary trips to Quebec (in my own mind at any rate, of course). The first took place in the early 1960s when I was still in my (later) teens. One summer I hitch-hiked through Quebec with two friends, on the way to camping out by Percé Rock “in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.” I still remember giant letters “FLQ” (for Front de libération du Québec), painted on the majestic rock walls that mark some stretches of the St. Lawrence River. And I could go on almost forever about this trip.

St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal.

My second legendary trip was in the early 1970s, in my later 20s. It involved a larger group of men and women traveling via automobiles in winter. We stopped at someone’s remarkable aunt’s house in NDG (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce) in Montreal, and later visited Brother André’s remarkable St. Joseph’s Oratory. Then we had breakfast in Trois-Rivières, and finally landed in Quebec City for Carnaval de Québec. We stayed one night in rented rooms in a house in the suburbs, and then one night in an 18th century building downtown. In between we staggered around in the snow with hollow plastic canes full of alcoholic beverages, and met interesting people in the dark.

Carnaval de Québec comprend des défilés de nuit — ce qui peut sembler particulièrement bizarre si vous avez bu (ou vous êtes ivre!).

Again I could go on. I grew up at a time when Quebec in Question was much in the Canadian political air — even outside Quebec (and perhaps especially in Southern Ontario). But already I have too much background here.

The issue I am supposed to be commenting on is succinctly sketched in Benjamin Shingler’s CBC News website piece, “Andrew Potter resigns McGill post after Maclean’s essay on Quebec … calling Quebec ‘pathologically alienated’ and ‘low-trust’ provoked political fury.”

UPDATE APRIL 3, 2017 : Today is apparently Doris Day’s 95th birthday. (Congrats Doris, whose singing was much admired by the late great Canadian-born jazz critic Gene Lees.) Intriguingly she may also have (well, theoretically at any rate) some special connections with la belle province in Canada. Some two years ago La Presse in Montreal reported : “Les rumeurs veulent que l’actrice américaine Doris Day soit venue au Québec plusieurs fois à la recherche de sa petite-fille. Nous l’avons trouvée: Brigitte Boisjoli … La chanteuse québécoise a autant de pétulance que sa mamie virtuelle. Que sera sera!

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

Posted: March 23rd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

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!)