Snow Removal

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I haven't had anything to say about the Canadian election yet, because not much exciting has happened. The Conservatives, my choice, have been sure and steady but are unfolding a very cautious program with many Liberal lite elements. The Liberals are slowly falling apart, as their lack of vision, and their sense of entitlement to power, is just reinforced the more they use their scare tactics: portraying the Tories as sinister, American-style Christer Republicans, something out of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.

In Monday night's tv debate, in an act of desperation, Prime Minister Paul Martin threw out an impromptu addition to the Liberal party's campaign platform, advocating the removal of the Notwithstanding Clause (NWC) in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This clause allows the federal and provincial legislatures to pass laws, notwithstanding the provisions of the Charter, for a period of five years (renewable). In other words, the NWC allows the legislatures to override any court decision that a piece of legislation is unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights. The NWC was added to the Charter by those who insisted on preserving the British convention that Parliament is the supreme authority in the land. The Charter has been favored by those who want to see the courts play a more activist role in protecting rights against the state. So now, at the end of the era in which all forms of legal discrimination against people by sex, race, ethnicity, religion, have been effectively removed, the Liberals would risk upsetting our balance of powers between legislature and courts in order to highlight their key campaign idea that "Stephen Harper and the Conservatives want to take away your rights". It's just like what the American Democrats say about George Bush, without actually being able to point to a right the big bad white guy has or would take away. Cynical bastards.

As for the third party, the NDP, perennially lost in the seventies, they have little to say but "We're not corrupt Liberals, so vote for us and we'll be sure to get you all the welfare state you want".

Well I love Canada for what it is, but politically groundbreaking it is not. Still, I am pleased to note the Conservatives are rising in the polls. And this may be a sign of the overall decline of wacky pc, centrist, elitist, liberalism in the west. For anyone wanting a feel for the campaign I recommend David Warren who captures my thoughts in this column.

39 comments:

terrye said...

Cynical Bastards???

I am shocked truepeers. Perhaps we are a bad influence.

But it is true that cynicism is one of the left's less endearing qualities.

Right up there with sneering.

flenser said...

The Charter has been favored by those who want to see the courts play a more activist role in protecting rights against the state.

I realize that this is an accuate description of how some (not truepeers) would describe matters, but it strikes me as utter rubbish

The courts are the state and they are engaged in telling people what they can and cannot do, what they can and cannot say. "Protecting peoples rights from the state" is so deceptive on so many levels.

Given that Canada has a frontier background like Americas, I'm surprised at how little libertarian sentiment there seems to be up there. True libertarian, I mean.

truepeers said...

Here's a story about cynical Liberals, told to me by one of Paul Martin's key organizers in British Columbia. He tells it as story of what the Liberals in BC have to overcome, but the fact they still tell this old story is telling about the elitism and centralizing tendencies of the Liberal party.

The time is the 1930s or 40s, and it is election night. A naive young reporter corners the Liberal Senator in a hotel.(Remember that Canadian Senators are appointed, often friends of the Prime Minister, and often politically important - a key go-between, between the PM and local interests - in provinces that don't elect members of parliament from the governing party.) The reporter asks, Senator, sir, what would be an ideal result for the Liberal Party tonight? The Senator chews on his cigar and growls: a majority government and not a single damned seat from British Columbia.

There is nothing new about Liberal corruption, but maybe we are now grown up enough we can no longer live with it.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

David Warren sez: Truth to tell, the Conservative Party and its predecessors have never been scary. Not even Diefenbaker was scary; not even Meighen. And especially not that puppydog, Stockwell Day. None would ever have dreamed of paddling seriously out of the mainstream. We have a long history of wet cloth, on that side of the House.

Truth to tell, no Canadian has ever been scary in the whole history of Canada. Canadians just don't do scary.

terrye said...

It seems there is a big difference in the political views of different regions.

I talked to a Canadian [from the western part of the country] who was saying that he felt Canada would be better off if Senators were elected and if the less populated regions had representation the way we do in the Senate.

It does sound like the Liberals might lose and after all these years in power it will not be pretty.

truepeers said...

Ahh Flenser, very true indeed. If there is one body that needs more popular democratic oversight, it is our Supreme Court.

All institutions, including nations, are best understood in terms of their origins. WHile you are right that Canada is in some respects a frontier society, I think the more powerful influence on our founding culture was the fact that English Canada was first the home of losers, refugees, from the first American civil war (Revolutionary war). These were people who were rejecting a model of (American) nationhood to cling to an imperial vision. In doing so, they lost much of the Republican tradition that was first a part of English and then American culture.

In so many stories of the development of Canada, it is the state that leads the way into the new frontier. There is truth to these stories; but the point is that we don't often tell the other stories about people who made it on their own, whether on the geographic frontier, or in other fields of endeavor. Canadians are generally too loyal to the non-national state that was the basis for their primary institutional loyalty, as survivors of a bitter war. And they are very suspicious of those who would go first, however necessary firstness is to creative human endeavor. This is part of the reason western Canadians, many descendants of hardy frontier settlers, feel alienated from central Canada and its values.

truepeers said...

On second thought, we have a lot of stories about people let down by the state, or the system, left to live lonely, impoverished lives of unrealized potential. But it seems to me these stories call out, like the prodigal son, for a return to the fold. It's like we are perennial refugees in search of some homecoming.

Buddy Larsen said...

Slightly off, but anyone who wants to trip with a major thinker/writer, dig into David Warren's archives. His year after 911 is just sublime. Not in the feel-good way, but in the opening up vast swaths of cognition way.

truepeers said...

MHA has apparently never heard of Karla Homolka.

Anyway, Terrye, it will be not be pretty indeed for a lot of people who are presently sucking the teats of the Liberal state. Furthermore, the Liberal party is divided between the old school loyal to Jean Chretien, and the Paul Marti camp. THere are signs this division is behind some of their campaign problems, as the blame game and jockeying for position is already under way.

chuck said...

MHA has apparently never heard of Karla Homolka.

Lord, that was disgusting: Karla Homolka.

Buddy Larsen said...

'perennial refugees searching for home'--Geez, 'Peers, dontcha think it's the land--the latitude, the overwhelming entity of White North? As in "Black Robe" (and echoing thru "Last of the Mohicans"), Nature is always at everyone's elbow.

I've been there--Rainy Lake Julys and Augusts, and them ain't 'summers', they're 'springs'--and they cut straight to September winter.

I think that accounts for such an outsized number of Canadian comedians--indoors, close to people, working the subtlety of humor, humor because you're snowed-ass in and you damn well better be laughing about it.

Ya think?

truepeers said...

Buddy, I wouldn't be surprised if you could trace a lot of our humour to isolated lumber and mining camps, with the SCots, the Irish and the French wags working there.

There are two sides to the snowed-in side of things, however. One of our great scholars, Northrop FRye (originally from New Brunswick) once reputedly said - I haven't found the source - that Southern Ontario was the most brutally inarticulate place on earth. There's some truth to that, and maybe it's from being snowed in and not talking to anyone.

But actually, in early Canada, the snow often improved transportation - sleighs being faster than carts - and perhaps the sociability of farmers in their down season (that's the image of French Canadians that I have).

Yes the land can be daunting, but that's the flip side of feeling let down by the state: they brought us here, to the great white north, and left us alone to scrape for our survival.

chuck said...

But actually, in early Canada, the snow often improved transportation

Still does, or at least it did twenty years ago. Driving to Alaska on the Alaskan highway was much easier in winter.

Buddy Larsen said...

Ha, right--the wilderness doesn't give a damn whether you live or die; the state does, but not whether or not you still want to.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Nope, I had never heard of dear Karla before. Disgusting, yes. Scary, no. Hell, I could meet your Karla and raise you any number of American psychos. What about BTK, who used to stalk the very neighborhood in which I grew up, while I was there? Apparently used to sit in his car and look for victims while parked right in the grocery store in which I worked? Now that's scary.

charles henry said...

This is part of the reason western Canadians, many descendants of hardy frontier settlers, feel alienated from central Canada and its values.

Canada's west continues today as the Land of the Second Chance for eastern and central canadians who want to make something of their lives. BC and Alberta offer a magnetic sense of opportunity to a whole new generation of canadian settlers, like the Old West did for the US.
The people out here want to DO things... it's very refreshing.

truepeers said...

MHA, I'm glad I didn't ruin your dinner, because I remember Karla and Bernardo ruining some of mine. But I think you're point is pretty good; I haven't often been scared in this country.

Chuck, yes, and we have ice roads/bridges too - some places you can only reach, by land, in winter.

Charles, I knew you were a Canadian, and I'm glad I didn't insult you with that Southern Ontario shot!

charles henry said...

Truepeers, don't worry,
If Quebec is Canada's France, Ontario is our Sweeden.
I must say, I found your post above on Canadian history very insightful, but aren't you breaking the oath we all take: Americans must remain benevolently ignorant of Canada, while Canadians must become malevolently well-informed about the US..!
Seriously though I thought your capsule description was very well stated.

truepeers said...

Thanks CH. We have to break the usual rules about Americans in times of war. :) But seriously, I have too many American friends and relatives to believe they are very different from us, even if my experience is more with the blue staters. Compare, say, Mexico.

In some important sense, Canadians are a kind of American; the old `British North American' is an apt label in many ways. What I like to do is understand Canadian sympathies - national, provincial, local - in terms of both British imperial and national (English, Scottish, Irish, American), monarchical and republican, traditions (not to forget la belle France, etc.). We all have a bit of all of these in us, but the mix is different according to place and time, and it is appreciating these differences that interests me. The anti-Americanism that is common among a certain type of Canadian is just a silly way of not coming to terms with what we are. We need to assert differences, but it is better to do so in a way that maximizes our appreciation of htem.

Buddy Larsen said...

That's why you're Truepeers, Truepeers--it's one thing to be a born pangloss--and that's a nice thing, of course, if automatic optimism is a little less than persuasive to those who've caught the drift of it--but it's an entirely different thing altogether to study philosophy and human nature and come to the conclusion that it's in every way the right thing to extend a hand even if it may get bitten.

Skookumchuk said...

Could the culture that manned the corvettes in the stormy North Atlantic ever do so again?

Buddy Larsen said...

Dieppe, Skook--read the battle of Dieppe.

Skookumchuk said...

I know, but that was a long, long time ago. A very different Canada.

And part of their zeal was their attachment to Empire, an Empire that no longer exists.

I mean, right now, they are having trouble deploying 6 CF-18s to Afghanistan. It is beyond them logistically. This from a country that had at the close of World War II the third largest navy in the world.

Buddy Larsen said...

Liberal Party, tho--not "Canada"--think Clinton Era--was that "USA"?

Skookumchuk said...

buddy:

Liberal Party, tho--not "Canada"--think Clinton Era--was that "USA"?

True enough. I have relatives on the Canadian Prairies and know what you mean. I guess a better question is whether the Liberal cultural lock can ever be broken. And what happens if you break it? What would that mean to the relationship?

Buddy Larsen said...

It may be a race to break the liberal lock or become a Chinese colony.

But I think ridding any political culture of what we call 'liberalism' can have only salutary effects on relationships--which are by definition 'better' when based on truth rather than pretensions of truth (which to me is the heart of that thing we call 'liberalism'--damn the ruined terminology).

charles henry said...

Truepeers, you’re so right about the need to see simple things in their true complexity, whether it’s people or their ideas. It’s my wish that the combination of the Canadian election, this year’s US mid-term elections and the presidential race on the horizon in ’08 will finally shatter the old model of a thermometer as the container of our discussions, and move us towards the color wheel as the more suitable model to frame our disagreements within. There are so many details to accommodate, frequently contradictory ones, and the old thermometer-style grid is not only antiquated it’s harmful because of how it limits our ability to define the terms of discussion.

charles henry said...

About the Canadian military, like so many things, part of the challenge is that “like follows like”, that the people most able to fill the shoes of the heroes Buddy and Skookumchuk describe have an incentive to move on to where more such people can be found, namely the US. Why stay somewhere where your values will be maligned when there’s a potential home right next door ready to welcome you precisely because of those same values?

Buddy Larsen said...

Never thought of that--guess because USA never has gotten quite so far under the liberal wing. Yet.

Knucklehead said...

TP,

To Canada's everlasting misery, much more important than the fact that it became home to Loyalists following the American Revolution was the fact that it was home to French emmigrants. Canada and New Orleans received far too many of those.

Buddy Larsen said...

The toads in NOrleans are toads because of gov't policy, tho, Knuck. South Louisiana is full of Frenchmen who are extremely independent and self-sufficient. They just never got swept into the 'let me help' gov't net.

truepeers said...

Knuck, you have a point, but I might also have to agree with Buddy on that one. France never seriously colonized New France. There were only 60 000 New French at the time of the British conquest (and no printing press in New France) and this after almost 160 years of settlement. So, in various ways, it was a pretty self-selective bunch, the small numbers a little surprising considering that life was in many ways better for the peasant in the New world that in crowded old France. But that's the French! And most of the settlers broke with French traditions and did not gather in villages, but rather initiated the North American tendency to live on their farmsteads, strung out along the rivers. A fairly high degree of independence was thus necessary, howevermuch they were peasants who did not have outright title to their land and had to support a ruling aristocracy and church. The fur trade voyageurs who paddled across the continent, often packing a couple of hundred pounds on the portages, is a true enough symbol of the French-Canadian spirit.

Overtime, the land filled up, the freedom in the system declined, the weight of supporting the landowners became more unbearable, and there was, in the 19thC., social unrest, variously Republican and church-oriented. Industrialization and urbanization created their own dependencies that the church wanted the noble farmers to resist, not very successfully, in the name of avoiding cultural assimilation to the protestant and anglo. THe great transformation of French Canada in the 1960s from a church-dominated society to Quebecois welfare state nationalism is in large part about the growth of the middle class and its desire for safe white collar jobs. But it was also a rejection of a church-dominated ruling class in favor of greater freedom. I think this kind of stateism is slowly waning now in Quebec. Montreal is at last an economic boom town again. There remains something of that independent-minded frontier spirit in French-Canadian culture. hard to know what to make of it, however.

truepeers said...

Having said that, I think Trudeau made a mess of things, trying to build a vision of Canada that does not ring true to our past in many ways, a vision that was an attempt to discount the force of Quebecois nationalism. In this sense, we got into a lot of trouble with the French, by trying to build up the Ottawa state in response to the separatist fear. We are a country that needs decentralization and a lot of regional autonomy, as was the norm until the 1960s. Trudea saw the local or provincial politicians of his youth as corrupt and overly-powerful oligarchs, as they were in many respects; and so he built up the federal state to free us from them. Well, you can see the problem in this idea, unintended consequences...

truepeers said...

Could Canada do more militarily today? Of course it could if enough people wanted to, if they grasped the need and purpose of a strong military. BUt so many don't. We've become free riders, since our only potential nationstate threat - the USA - is also our protector, and a force with which we could never compete, except as guerillas. But if AMerica becomes more concerned with and strategic about pushing the rest of the marginalized world into the system of democratic nations and global trade, I think you could see Canadians stepping up to play a greater part in the Barnettian, nouveau imperialist, vision, if AMerican leadership were intelligent and focussed.

The financial and logistical requirements are not, in theory, beyond a people who are quite worldly in many ways, and capable, e.g., of organizing major mining businesses in the most distant lands.

Buddy Larsen said...

You're right, 'Peers--these things are top-down in some crucial ways--Americans should keep two things in mind when regarding Canadian attitudes; one, a military build-up has to be led from the top, and two, how can we expect a new generation of Canadian leaders to trust a nation which just had 8 yrs of President Bl*wJob and the Dixie Mafia running our business?


IOW, we've been inadvertantly playing to the side of Canadian politics that we least like, and it plays back to what we ('we' as in those like here on this blog, I mean) least like in our own country.

I vaguely recall the fear--even down in Texas, that Canada was gonna split in two under Trudeau, and send chaos onto the continent.

I read a Steyn recently that just destroyed Trudeau--centering around a D-Day ceremony. Anyone else see that?

truepeers said...

There is a story about Trudeau, as a young man, motorcycling around Outremont - the upperclass francophone district of Montreal - in a German (Nazi?) uniform - and refusing to join the military to fight in WWII. Some say he wore the Swastika - and there was a good deal of antisemitism in Quebec, as elsewhere, in the 30s - others say it was just a stupid youthful lark. I don't really know, but I'm willing to bet that Steyn was picking up on that story as a sign for an account of Trudeau's attitudes to the military and war through his career.

Trudeau was one of the architects of the Canadian hate crimes law in the 1960s, which at the time was promoted as an attempt to make impossible the kind of hate tactics the Nazis used to gain power. Perhaps it was a reflection of his own guilt at his youthful mistakes. In any case, to my mind the law is an unwelcome presence in our politically-correct environment today, and not on the side of the Jews, if you know what I mean.

Buddy Larsen said...

I'm, not familiar with the law, but if it's one of those 'special' laws 'for' 'special' people, then you are right, the backlash makes the cure worse than the malady.

Buddy Larsen said...

It's common in the south--USA-to encounter people who have not a racist bone in their body, but are angry at blacks for accepting 'special' laws like affirmative action and college quotas.

Despite all good effects, this one bad one cannot be denied--a successful black person will always have some number of whisperers about 'advantage'.

On the whole, I'd say the effect of this 'help' has been to separate people, and create suspicion and resentment where it would not otherwise exist.

truepeers said...

No, I wasn't referring to affirmative action. We have a law that limits free speech; you can't promote hatred against an identifiable group. BUt this becomes problematic in a pc age when merely giving offense, or being actively critical, say of Islamic values, can get you in trouble with the law.