Before Stephen Harper


Once upon a time Canada made sense – no need to beat our chests, or compete with world powers, we knew who we were. Canadians softly carried the burden of both great wars. Our chests,  swollen with respectful reverence and gratitude didn’t require beating. Recognizing a great truth,  Canada distinguished itself as global peacekeepers – we knew what it meant to be Canadian. That was before Stephen Harper.

Stephen Harper’s Canada teeters on the brink of calamity for every ideal and principle “my” Canada holds dear. Before Harper’s election victory in 2006, Canadian troops functioned as “non combat” observers and deterrents. Harper wanted to play with the “big boys” , moderation and principle had no place in Harper’s Canada.

Increasing the defense budget from $15 to $23 billion, placing Canadian soldiers in active combat in Afghanistan and the Middle East, losing Canada’s seat on the United Nations Security Council (over his stance on Israel), beating his chest like a war mongering imbecile – Harper managed in a few short years to erode the very meaning of Canadian.

This week the Harper government announced planned legislation to increase powers of Canadian spy agency CSIS. Fresh off souring popularity in polls following the attack on Parliament Hill, Harper swiftly seized an opportunity to beat his chest.

Stephen Harper prefaced his plans with..

“Violent jihadism is not just a danger somewhere else,”

“It seeks to harm us here in Canada — in our cities and in our neighborhoods, through horrific acts, like deliberately driving a car at a defenseless man or shooting a soldier in the back as he stands on guard at a War Memorial.”

Canadians, he said, “are targeted by these terrorists for no other reason than that we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents.”

Violent jihadism “is not a human right,” Harper stressed. “It is an act of war, and our government’s new legislation fully understands that difference.”

What this Canadian understands Mr. Harper is your role in making Canada a target. Before you, Canada stood for something, Canadians don’t want your brand of macho foolery – we want our Canada back.

A closeup image of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper from "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, running April 5 through June 3, 2014.

Painting of Stephen Harper by George W. Bush

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/stephen-harper-case-powers-combat-163012406.html

Justin Trudeau


Far from being a list maker, stuff rattles about  my head – coming to the surface for no reason I can discern. Such was the case as I vacuumed the living room tonight and this ponder drifted to the surface. More accurately, my thoughts progressed from mild annoyance at the Republican vendetta against Obama, to a few minutes hard thinking on how “the people” could take back our political systems, and finally – Canadians I admire. Go figure; it doesn’t have to be a logical progression to get me fired up. By the time the room was clean – I had a serious ponder on the tip of my tongue.

Off the top of my head, three men came to mind. Romeo Dallaire, Tommy Douglas, and John Ware. Far from being “listed” because of political, religious or moral grounds – these men stood out among many, as people who genuinely cared. People who lived by a code of ethics, sense of national pride or duty and acted not out of self interest but a far greater purpose. People who put others before themselves, people who stood for something.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/romeo-who/

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/tommy-douglas/

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/ponder-john-ware/

I can’t shake the feeling that our world needs a few more people willing to stand for something; people who can’t be “bought”, swayed or manipulated. We need people willing to go out on a limb – people tenacious enough to bring about change. I’d just about given up on the concept of a Canadian politician possessing these qualities – then I heard Justin Trudeau’s speech after being elected as leader of the Liberal party earlier this year. I can honestly say – I haven’t felt excitement like this in decades – maybe never. Justin Trudeau is a breath of fresh air; a man who just might be able to clear the dust out of Canadian politics. Trudeau, despite his political father’s legacy – doesn’t reside in the “old boy’s” club. He loves Canada, believes in restoring all of what makes Canada a special nation and doesn’t give a rat’s ass what stuffy Conservatives think. I suspect that someday, somewhere, some Canadian will write about what a “great Canadian” Justin Trudeau is.

An excerpt from his speech after winning the Liberal leadership. Following – a link to the entire speech.

“We are fed up with leaders who pit Canadians against Canadians. West against East, rich against poor, Quebec against the rest of the country, urban against rural.

Canadians are looking to us, my friends. They are giving us a chance, hopeful that the party of Wilfrid Laurier can rediscover its sunny ways.

Hopeful that positive politics has a fighting chance against the steady barrage of negativity that you and I both know is coming soon to TV screens across Canada. The phone messages, our volunteers tell us, have already started.

To adapt a sentiment from the great American President Franklin D. Roosevelt: never before in this country have the forces of negativity, cynicism and fear been so united in their hostility toward one candidate.

The Conservative Party will now do what it does. It will try to spread fear. It will sow cynicism. It will attempt to convince Canadians that we should be satisfied with what we have now.

For at the heart of their unambitious agenda is the idea that “better” is just not possible.

That to hope for something more from our politics and our leaders, more humanity, more transparency, more compassion, is naive and inevitably, will lead to disappointment.

And they will promote that divisive and destructive idea with passionate intensity. They will do so for a simple reason…
They are afraid. But… And I want to make this perfectly clear… My fellow Canadians, it is not my leadership that Mr. Harper and his party fear.

It’s yours.

There is nothing that these Conservatives fear more than an engaged and informed Canadian citizen.

My friends, if I have learned one thing in this life, it’s that our country is blessed with countless numbers of activist citizens, from all walks of life, and of all political views. They have come out by the thousands over the course of this campaign.

They’ve gathered by the hundreds in places like Ponoka Alberta and Oliver BC, Prince Albert Saskatchewan and Île-des-Chênes Manitoba. Canadians who thought they were sending community leaders to be their voice in Ottawa, but instead got only Mr. Harper’s voice back in their communities.

We’ve seen their hopeful faces in crowds of Canadians gathered in Windsor and Whitby, Mississauga and Markham. Middle class Canadians who are putting much into the economy and getting too little in return.

We’ve seen hard-working Atlantic Canadians from Edmunston to Halifax, from Summerside to St John’s, who have decided that this is a government that does not share their values.

To my friends in Labrador, I look forward to seeing you very soon.

We’ve met young Aboriginal leaders from all across this country, from Tk’emlups to Whapmagoostui, who are simply tired of being forced to the margins of this country. With the courage to walk 1600 kilometres through a Canadian winter to make the point that they will be Idle no More.

Francophones who live in Shediac, Sudbury, St Boniface and all across this country who want their children to live and thrive in French, your determination inspires me, it must inspire the entire country.

Quebecers, from Gatineau to Gaspé, who want to re-engage with this country. With their country. Who have no time for the divisive issues of their parents’ past, but want to work with Canadians who share their values to build a better country for all our kids.

I want to take a moment to speak directly to my fellow Quebecers. Your engagement and your support in recent months has been deeply moving. I have learned so much from our conversations and our meetings I take nothing for granted. I understand that trust can only be earned. And my plan is to earn yours.

I feel confident about the future. I want to share with you why

Quebecers have always been builders. From Champlain and Laurier to today, they have actively participated in shaping our country, together with so many other Canadians. Our work is not complete. We face enormous challenges

Helping the middle-class make ends meet. Reconciling economic growth and environmental stewardship. Playing a positive and meaningful role in the world.

To rise above these challenges we must demonstrate our audacity and ambition, my friends.

Audacity and ambition, always.

Lets be honest. We will not convince everyone. There will always be skeptics. People who say that our country is too big and too full of differences to be effectively managed, or for everyone to be represented. They are wrong my friends.

I am not claiming that it will always be easy. That there will not be any obstacles along the way. That we will not have to make some compromises.

Canada is a grand, yet unfinished project. And it is up to us, together with all Canadians, to build the country that we want.

The time has come for us to write a new chapter in the history of our country.

Let’s leave to others the old quarrels and old debates that lead nowhere. Let’s leave to others the ultra-partisan rhetoric and the old ways of doing politics. Let’s leave the personal attacks to them.

Quebecers, let us be, together, once again, builders of Canada.

So that our country can match the height of the dreams and ambitions that are shared across this country. So that we can leave our children a better world than the one that we inherited from our parents.

My friends, the Liberal Party will regain the confidence of Canadians when it proves that it is here to serve them. This is the task at hand. This is what will guide me as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

To the new generation of Canadians and to all the young people who are not engaged by politics, I have a very simple message for you.

Your country needs you

It needs your energy and your passion

It needs your idealism and your ideas

The movement we are have been building over the past 6 months, it is yours. It belongs to you.

It is the movement with which we will change politics.

It is the movement that will allow us to reform our political institutions, to make reconciling the environment and our economy a real priority, and to play a positive and constructive role in the world.

My fellow Liberals, Canadians are looking to us. This campaign has been their campaign, more than just ours.

They want something better. They refuse to believe that better is not possible. They see the country their parents and grandparents worked so hard to build, and want to hand an even better country to their children.

Canadians share deep values that cannot be shaken, no matter how hard the Conservative Party may try. Optimism. Openness. Compassion. Service to community.

Generosity of spirit.

We want to believe that change can happen. We want leadership that will shape our best instincts into an even better country.

But Canadians will not suffer fools gladly. Canadians turned away from us because we turned away from them. Because Liberals became more focused on fighting with each other, than fighting for Canadians.

Well, I don’t care if you thought my father was a great or arrogant. It doesn’t matter to me if you were a Chretien-Liberal, a Turner-Liberal, a Martin-Liberal or any other kind of Liberal. The era of hyphenated Liberals ends right here, tonight”

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/14/justin-trudeau-speech-full-liberal-win_n_3082219.html

Oh Canada! Please Don’t Call this Beer…


As trivial as this may sound; the one thing Canadians universally snickered about was weak American beer. I’m not referring to craft beer – I’m talking blue collar, mass produced everyday beer. Years before the micro/craft brew market exploded, Canada drank beer that made American suds laughable. All the slick marketing, merchandise, Super Bowl commercials in the world couldn’t hide the fact – it was weak, tasteless, and inferior to Canadian brews.

I admit, my first experience buying beer in America made me feel like a kid in a candy store. The novelty of liquor displayed in grocery stores at a fraction of Canadian prices was blinding. Young and stretching every penny it seemed a dream come true. At home liquor was only sold in government stores; never open on Sunday, closing at 6 PM except for Friday nights when 9 PM gave us a few extra hours to plan the weekend.

As inexpensive as that beer was we just couldn’t drink it.

The other day I was given a case of Canadian 67. I vaguely remembered a television ad for it; four guys drinking and laughing it up – pleased because it only had 67 calories. Taking a closer look when I got home, I realized why. It was a mere 3% alcohol. I cracked one and nearly gagged. This couldn’t possibly be Canadian beer. Worse than any dishwater American beer, it tasted like the inside of an old drain pipe.

I’m begging you Canada. Have some self respect and stop calling this beer – it’s embarrassing. We’ve come a long way; liquor is available until 11 PM – even on Sundays. Beer parlors are now brew pubs offering up to 30 choices on tap. Beer  is an integral part of Canadian culture; call this travesty beer and we’ll be the ones snickered at.

Stephen Harper, Please Explain Yourself


Throw us a bone Stephen Harper, we deserve an explanation; any morsel of common sense will do. The question is simple – why do you believe Canadians should have fewer restrictions on guns?

With callously impeccable timing; on the anniversary of 14 women being gunned down at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, the Harper government plans for gun reform hit media with a bang. Perhaps scrapping the poorly managed “long gun registry” , with barely a murmur from mild mannered Canadians, set the stage for further madness. Without reasonable explanation I can only guess.

What shred of logic leads to the conclusion; hand guns and assault rifles should be declassified, making them readily available. Are we to go moose hunting with semi-automatic weapons, or pull out a hand gun when attacked by a bear? Despite considerable pondering, I fail to see why police should abandon regulations that require illegal guns to be destroyed. Likewise the wisdom in extending gun licences from 5 to 10 years.

The question is simple Mr. Harper. Sadly, my expectation for a straight answer is non existent. My only hope is that Canadians will wake up and ask – what are you doing to Canada Stephen Harper?

Stephen Harper with his cat; Stanley.

Pondering Stephen Harper


Now that Barack Obama is safely in the White House, I’ve turned my thoughts back home. The problem is – I’m not recognizing what I see. Even more disturbing, is the fact that Canadians by nature are a cheerful bunch, willing to accept, overlook, and forgive. We pride ourselves on a set of ideals that this Canadian sees evaporating before my eyes.

The Harper government is now denying chemotherapy to refugees. I can’t think of many things more un-Canadian. For one refugee lucky enough to have settled in Saskatchewan, the provincial government stepped up to cover the costs.

Under Harper, Canada’s military spending is at its highest since the second world war. His government pushed for an extension of military involvement in Afghanistan. He insisted that Canada be involved in the NATO response to Libya, with Canadian jets flying 10% of the sorties. He has been critical of the UN, and outspoken in the defence of Israel.

Harper’s reformist ideology seemingly lacks a place for women, in the form of pay equity or equal rights. The abortion debate has reared its ugly head again, and funding has been cut by almost half for women’s programs. From the arts to environment, principles that Canadians hold dear have been replaced by an unrecognisable right wing agenda.

The Canada I see is not the Canada I know. My Canada is the voice of reason. A nation of peace keepers; the home of Romeo Dallaire and all the unsung heroes from Croatia to Rwanda. My Canada accepts religion, sexual orientation, and race. My Canada doesn’t choose  Justin Beiber over a meeting of provincial premiers, even if Beiber is Canadian. My Canada likes to visit America but remembers what it is that makes us Canadian.

I’m not sure why Stephen Harper wants to re-make Canada, I’m certain however, that we like it just the way it was.

Justin Bieber and Stephen Harper Friday

Canadian Federal Election Caps


I won’t even try to disguise this post as anything other than another gentle wake up call for America. At the risk of coming across like Michael Moore, I ponder what it will take for you to wake up? The spending on this election could finance a small country. At what point did you lose your way? If you aren’t bothered by an election and political system sold to the highest bidder, fair enough. Knock yourselves out, obviously I don’t understand what it is to be American.

Being the good neighbour that I am – may I at least offer you a window into another option?

In Canada contributions to political parties are capped at $1,200.00. Furthermore, it is illegal for unions or business to contribute anything. A candidate may only spend $1000.00 of his own money on his campaign, and a cash contribution may not exceed $20.00.

I realize it may be difficult to comprehend such a pittance. I understand that the concept of financial influence not being tolerated may come across as “quaint” or un- American. I assure you, we get the job done in a timely fashion. We may not be happy with the results yet sleep well at night knowing it was a democratic process.

http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&dir=bkg&document=ec90557&lang=e

This Little Girl is Tired of Obama and Romney

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ufkCzmR7PQ