Our Times 3

Canadian Politics

  • A Tale of Two Economies

    While the overall unemployment rate in Canada is low and the media paint a reassuring picture of broad-based prosperity, the reality is that disturbing new divisions of sector and region are being overlaid upon already deepening class differences. The past 25 years saw remarkably little progress for most Canadian workers. While real (inflation-adjusted) GDP per person has risen by about 50 per cent since the early 1980s, driven mainly by increased productivity, workers’ hourly wages have been remarkably stagnant.

  • Talkin’ Harper Cabinet Blues

    Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow has described Stephen Harper as “the staunchest right-wing ideologue ever to occupy the Office of Prime Minister.” Not surprisingly, Harper’s dark-blue Tory cabinet looks rather like George W. Bush’s Canadian dream team, with its stamp of social conservatism and punitive predilections, as well as its enthusiasm for deep integration with the U.S., for plumping the military and for all the mantras of neoliberal policy: free trade, privatization, castrating the public sector. Here’s an unrepentantly selective profile of several key players.

    From Harris to Harper

  • Figuring Out and Fighting Harper

    The January federal election results unexpectedly yielded a minority Conservative government. The Great Moving-To-The-Right Show is having yet another run. In Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada now has the most ideologically committed neoliberal in power since Margaret Thatcher. The five priorities Harper has announced – an accountability package, a cut in the GST, a market-based childcare system, a law-and-order agenda centred on sentencing and a reduction in health-care wait times through increased delivery flexibility – all reflect these commitments. These proposals are embedded in the overall strategic priority of aligning Canada even more tightly with the U.S. through increased overseas military commitments and further economic integration. Canada’s takeover of the NATO command in Afghanistan and increased troop deployment is already sketching in the new terrain. It could hardly be more pressing for the Left to take stock of what the Harper government is and might become.

  • Election 2006

    Despite the high spirits at the NDP victory party in Toronto on election night, it’s hard to fathom what there was to celebrate. Their popular vote increased only marginally, their seat total fell shy of affecting the balance of power and they failed to make a breakthrough in Quebec. Before an adoring, T.V.-friendly crowd on election night, Jack Layton claimed his party had earned the trust of millions of “ordinary Canadians.” Yet a more sober assessment might give cause to wonder why the party accomplished so little.

  • Horowitz’s Red Tory

    eorge Grant’s conservativism derived from skepticism about the religion of progress. He took issue with the doctrine that technological progress requires more educated and civilized participants in a global economy. Politicians no longer talk of progress. The current cliché is “moving forward.” To examine Grant’s writings in the 1960s, brought together in Volume 3 (1960-1969) of his Collected Works (Arthur Davis and Henry Roper, eds., University of Toronto Press, 2005) and ably edited by Art Davis and Henry Roper, is to gauge how much we have moved forward in the last forty years.

  • The Horowitz Paragraph

    Dear Jack,

    I see that you have lined up with Harper (and Martin) behind the brutal (and stupid) Yankee practice of minimum sentences for crimes involving guns (and what next?). The right-wing editors of the Globe condemned you all on January 13 for pandering to law ‘n’ order hysteria. Are you not embarrassed? I suppose not. A social democrat has gotta do what a social democrat has gotta do. And a naive, unrealistic, soft-on-crime small-c communist has gotta write you this Dear Jack letter. Don’t bother answering, I know you’re very busy trying to win as many seats as possible at any cost, and I know what you’ve gotta say.

  • Selling the Tory Majority

    Okay, here’s the ugly truth. I refused to vote in the federal election. I turned my back on my ballot. I skipped the whole thing. When all was said and done, it felt like the only responsible thing to do.

  • The New Secularism

    I always learn something from going on right-wing U.S. talk shows like Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox. Once he introduced me as a columnist for “a left-wing Canadian newspaper.” I said I hated to use the pittance of time I was given between his long diatribes to defend the Globe & Mail. But I couldn’t let what he had just said stand: the Globe is in fact a conservative, business paper. He scoffed: “It’s a secular paper!” That’s what I mean by learning something. Alongside Afghanistan under the Taliban and the Iran of the mullahs, the U.S. is that rare nation that defines the left-right political spectrum in terms of the secular and the religious.

  • The Perils of Faith-Based Multiculturalism

    The controversies over decisions by the Ontario government to allow and then ban the use of Shari’a (and other religious laws) as the basis of arbitration are not over. Religious groups and their supporters continue to push for minority religious rights. In Canada, as in other parts of the world, religious sentiments are on the rise. Conservative religious leaders have become more vocal and demanding, and governments are giving in to their demands without much regard for the serious consequences for democracy and citizens’ rights.

  • The Politics of Money

    Since the U.S.-backed overthrow of progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the severe level of political repression launched by the new government has left tens of thousands of Lavalas (Aristide’s political party) supporters the victims of rapes, incarcerations, firings and murders. One tragic aspect of this story is the extent to which Canadian federal government money has been able to buy the support of supposedly progressive organizations and individuals. Today they continue to align themselves with Canada’s brutal pro-coup policy.

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