The following was originally written for The Other Press, but unfortunately failed the deadline. It has been since edited and posted here for your reading pleasure. Here’s an exception to the rule I mentioned in the previous post.
Let’s start with an anecdote on timing: I intended to buy a general-audience ticket to the federal Liberal leadership debate in the days leading to the event at the Westin Bayshore hotel (which I confused with the one near Canada Place). Unfortunately, all the tickets were sold out, perhaps months before the event, and the only tickets available were the ones for the post-debate reception only. It was thus a fortunate thing that this first in a series of debates between candidates for the leadership of the current third party in the House were broadcast en direct on the major news networks, including the not-much news-oriented CPAC, on which I mostly watched the debate.
Now that we’re done with this attention grabber, the debate can be summarised as mostly located on the centre, with little bulges to the left and right. The nine candidates – four women and five men, five relative knowns and four unknowns – faced the audience and each other on questions around Aboriginal issues, Pacific trade, electoral cooperation, social housing, electoral reform and resource development. For the most part, the candidates’ responses showed the classic centrist commitment to combining ideas from the left and right, though in some cases clear left-right positions showed, more notably perhaps in the case of two women, Joyce Murray and Martha Hall-Findlay.
If there was any stark difference that came up between the candidates, it was on the issue of electoral cooperation with like-minded parties against the Conservatives. Alone amongst the candidates, Murray advocated and prioritised electoral cooperation with the NDP and Greens to defeat Harper in the next election, while the rest insisted on the capacity of the Grits to defeat both the current government and the Official Opposition, whether through its abilities of inclusion and fielding a candidate on every riding. Nearly all of them supported electoral reform, mostly in the form of preferential voting. Concerning Aboriginal affairs, most of them expressed support for the Kelowna Accord, which surprised me. Consultation and partnership with Aboriginal peoples, the need for their economic development and government support for the latter prevailed in the discussion, with Hall-Findlay and Deborah Coyne calling for the abolition of the Indian Act. Some of the candidates cited Idle No More and its positive impact.
The topics of social housing, Pacific trade and resource development dominated the debate and provided for interesting comments. One heart-touching highlight of the event was a woman’s story of how social housing helped her recover in life. The need for a national housing strategy, review of current housing programs and provision of affordable social housing were mentioned, with Justin Trudeau citing economic growth as an important step towards the latter. Support for increased economic ties with the Pacific by some candidates was tempered by others’ expressed desire to protect Canadian sovereignty and interests, most notably by Murray. On resource development, ideas mentioned included disincentives and incentives in favour of sustainable energy, “greening” of oil sands products and domestic oil processing. Some of the candidates, such as “tech” candidate George Takach, supported a carbon tax, with Justin wisely avoiding to call it as such.
As mentioned earlier, Murray and Hall-Findlay represented clear left-right positions during the debate, more so for Murray. If she was alone on support for electoral cooperation and marijuana legalisation, Hall-Findlay was alone on support for a Western pipeline. The two differed also on the issue of open markets vs. sovereignty, not to mention Hall-Findlay’s emphasis on fiscal responsibility. Overall the event was a largely cordial affair, with polite exchange of views and a bout of nice banter between a few guy candidates involving science.
What can be said of all this? Personally, there is no problem with being a centrist, as long as it benefits the Canadian people most. Of the candidates, I liked Coyne and Murray the most due to their nationalist positions. Word of that day: “evidence-based policy.” And did I say Justin sounded a little to his dad’s right?
In his 21 July 2011 article in the Guelph Mercury, Matt Bondy spoke about a new type of Canadian nationalism propagated by the Conservative government. This kind of Canadian nationalism, Bondy argues, revolves around three elements- “military, monarchy, and — maybe counter-intuitively — French Canadian nationalism.” The first element is symbolized by the recent government sponsorship of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The monarchist element is represented by recent royal visits, while the inclusion of French-Canadian nationalism can be represented by the Commons-wide resolution to recognise Quebec as a nation within Canada. Bondy finalizes his article with this:
“If the Conservative party is successful, after the next four years these conservative cultural and political values will have so decisively marginalized the alternative, liberal nationalisms made available at election time that the Tories will be the so-called natural governing party.”
The Conservative nationalism described in the article is problematic on all three aspects. On the military aspect, government emphasis on the military’s role in the country is part of the change in our foreign and defence policy from one oriented towards peacekeeping, diplomatic solutions and relative non-taking of sides to one of participation in (mostly US-led) policy initiatives against “enemy states” (like the Islamic Republic), lack of hesitation to use military force if necessary to achieve diplomatic goals, and a renewed alignment towards the West (particularly with the US and Great Britain). There is no problem with the emphasis on the monarchy in Canada – after all it forms a part of the heritage of this country, and one that separates us from the Union – but to elevate one aspect of the Canadian heritage to the relative non-elevation of other aspects of that heritage (not that the government doesn’t talk about it if important) like that of the First Nations and French-Canadians, is one-sided and partial. Yes, those 1812 ads really do include First Nations (Tecumseh) and French-Canadians (de Salaberry), but they are both “unified” under the monarchy. While the monarchy is important, it isn’t the sole important thing in Canada. As for the French-Canadian aspect, that resolution might have been made for political purposes, and in any effect may have lost its importance in the Conservative ladder of nationalist themes after its victory in Ontario during the last federal election.
The type of Canadian nationalism Bondy describes, and perhaps supports, in his article is problematic for Canada. It shifts us away from an independent type of nationalism that puts the needs of country and people first to a type of nationalism that not only is militaristic but also US-inspired. The importance of the military and “monarchy” effectively the Canadian version for “country” in the US – the “Conservatives” of today are bringing us ever closer to become like the US.
Anyone who has lived in Canada long enough will be conscious of this country’s traditional conflicted relationship vis-a-vis the United States. Anyone who has studied in college or university, who has taken up a course that has something to do with Canada, will know that not only the U.S. but other core industrialised countries have taken advantage of this country’s preference for natural resources export over domestic industrialisation, making Canada a source of their raw materiel and market for their manufactured goods. In this matter, Canada has become no different from other nation-states and regions of the periphery, exploited for the prosperity, well-being and security of the core region, despite the First World nature of this country not to mention its own possibility for, and indeed active, global exploitation. Due to this almost-similarity in political and economic conditions, an idea comes to mind when it comes to Canadian foreign policy, which traditionally aligns with the First World.
Canada must realign or reposition its foreign policy in favour of developing countries.
At first sight, this won’t appear as shocking. Hasn’t this country provided numerous amounts of aid to those developing countries? Has it not advocated those countries’ causes to the world stage, both as country and through the efforts of its globally active citizens? What I am speaking here is the whole realignment of Canada’s foreign policy with that of those countries it shares the most political and economic conditions with. Canada and the so-called developing countries are natural resources exporters and manufactured goods importers. Any domestic industrial base is almost, if not wholly, foreign-owned, even if it may be domestically-operated in Canada’s case. Internal and external politics is influenced or controlled by the bigger countries. Such a similarity in conditions necessitates that Canada realign with those places it shares the most when it comes to exploitative experience. Canada is the “Third World” of the First World.
Changes have occured since the term “Third World” appeared; it is now a much-denigrated term. Countries that have once been categorised as such have now risen to positions of global influence – the so-called BRICS as well as other nations mainly in Latin America and eastern Asia – and are now challenging the established developed nations for political and economic influence on this world. Should Canada unite ranks with the First World in the face of such a challenge? Well, no. Rather, it should develop an independent foreign policy that would depend on its sovereignty and values. Alignment with those economically and politically oppressed, who might share the same history with Canada even though not the same poverty, is part of such a policy.
(Inspired by the 3 1/2 Time-Outs Tuesday by Acts of the Apostasy, once or twice – or a few times – a week GUBAT features comments on various events and topics appearing on the World Wide Web and beyond. Enjoy…)
First of all, I would have to say the above phrase was written a few whiles ago (with a current addition involving dashes), which may give you an idea of how long I didn’t – or failed – to touch this blog. Well, here I am and back, so let’s get this show on the road:
= the theme song for “Skyfall”, co-written and sung by Adele, differs from the previous two songs of the Craig Bond films in that while those songs are kinetic, with energy and noise, this one is laid-back, melancholic and sad. It gives yours truly the idea that this latest outing of the OO7 franchise is going to be a tragic one.
= so the younger Trudeau has finally decided to join the fray also known as the Liberal leadership race. Moi concerns: the supporters may say he has the dedication, good intentions, and “values” to enter the race and that he doesn’t need to be as intellectual as his father to be competent as a candidate – or Opposition leader or PM. It’s just that not only because of his youth – he still has got some time in his political life and yes, the family – but, you still need high intellectual ability (not to insult Justin) to be effective as leader of either opposition or government. I still just don’t see Justin as fitting for those roles.
UPDATE: this article by Dan Arnold on the National Post has made me stand up and take notice, if not reconsider, my anti-Justin position. And this article by Greg Weston makes you stand up also, especially the possibility of an opposition Liberal leader for the near future.
Most of us know the historical event that is the 1917 Russian Revolution. Due to losses to the Central Powers in the Great War and economic & social turmoil at home, the Tsar Nicholas II abdicated his throne and replaced by a Provisional Government later to be led by Alexander Kerensky. The government’s decision to continue the war coupled by continued domestic conflict and ineffective policymaking led to its eclipse and replacement by the Bolshevik party under Lenin. Then followed five years of brutal civil war where millions of lives perished and lands wasted. Under the command of Baron Peter Wrangel, the remaining White armies fled from the Crimea before the victorious Red Army for exile. In Yugoslavia, he established the Russian All-Military Union (ROVS by its Russian initials), dedicated to maintain White ideals and pursue continued struggle against the USSR. Though its political and military importance had declined since, its status as the sole remaining organisation of the White movement and its chief standard bearer is important still, all the more so since the events of December last year.
I have included as a link here “IZ PUT”, which can be found on the right side of this blog. It is the blog of Igor Ivanov, current president of the ROVS. It contains articles by him about the history of the White movement, decommunization, the current political situation in Russia, among other related topics. I do hope, as Mr Ivanov surely hopes, that this might enlighten those in the West about the recent history of Russia, its tragedies, and its present condition.
Today is Saturday the fourth of February in the uber-cold wilderness, both urban and rural, of Russia. Today the anti-Putin, anti-Systemic opposition movement, of various hues and orientations, is going to mount a rerun of 10 and 24 December. Today they are going to again show, to the ruling regime and its agents inside and the world outside, that they still have the numbers and “juice” to maintain their unity and make all the more known their demands, which include the ouster of the head of the Central Election Commission and launching new parliamentary and presidential elections. Some political forces will hold protests separate from the main one, while pro-Putin forces are also going to organise their rally in parallel to the anti-Putin rally.
My thoughts on this. One thing that surprises me is the response from one of the main opposition figures in the country, the leader of an organisation that has launched numerous anti-government actions since Yeltsin’s era in contrast to the response from similar radical groups. It may be due to Mr Limonov’s quite extensive experience in anti-government ranks or that it’s just part of his nature, moulded since his young days in Kharkiv and influenced all the more by his involvement in punk during his NY exile. Or maybe there is truth to what he said, that any protest arranged with the government is destined to be a failure – and worthless. Yet not to join simply because it’s something negotiated with the “state”-labeled enemy would only prevent oneself from making one’s advocacy heard, from the opportunity to take advantage of the situation to forward one’s goal. The necessity to make the need for change, massive change in Russia all the more obvious is all the more imperative.
The protests may have started by the time this is posted. What can only be said here is that the need to make the desire for renewal and change in Russia known – after such a long time of apathy and non-participation – is very good news, and such a short time, a short opportunity that may never come again and can be squelched by the Putin regime any period must be taken advantage of in the most ultimate manner possible.