Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dr. Ted Hsu: an "uncommon" and worthy candidate

On October 9, the endorsed a political candidate for the first time. Dr. Ted Hsu, in our estimation is a "game changer" for Kingston and the Islands Liberals, to succeed Peter Milliken who is retiring, after serving the riding admirably since 1988 and retiring as the longest serving Speaker of the House of Commons in Canadian history.
No matter who wins the Liberal nomination on November 7, at the K-Rock Centre, no one will "replace" Peter Milliken. However one of the candidates will succeed him, and represent the party in the next federal election.
Why is Dr. Ted Hsu a game changer?
First, his academic credentials are platinum and unique among the candidates, with a doctorate in physics from Princeton.
Second, his perception of the need for a differen kind of politics, in which "honest accounting" replaces accounting that does not place all energy sources on an equal footing, for example, thereby enhancing the likelihood that conservation, and reduced emissions of carbon dioxide will actually occur, within our lifetime, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
Third, his successful role in both business and more recently as executive director of  the non-profit S.W.I.T.C.H. dedicated to the achievement of a more sustainable community, position him as a leader in the field of "on-the-ground" entrepreneurial eco-leadership.
Fourth, his assiduous attention to detail, timing,  the subtleties of relationships plus his integrity and his political frankness, including his own willingness to own a 'mistake' in approach when necessary, one of the learnings from his studies in physics, render both the constituency and the country, should he be elected, a change in the way politics works, for the better. He balances the many details while never losing focus of the big picture on any file.
And lastly, it is the experience of being in a room with him, for the very first time, that engenders a confidence, a trust and a hopefulness, without either high rhetoric or unachieveable goals and promises, but with modest yet meaningful expectations that are realizable, given his capacity to bring different voices together to achieve common, and very necessary goals.
The Liberal party is blessed with the largest membership in a single riding, with 2800-plus members in the Kingston and the Islands Liberal Riding Association. The leader, Michael Ignatieff, is gifted by the calibre of candidates offering their names for the Kingston nomination, at a time when the national party will  likely have trouble attracting candidates of this calibre in some ridings, for the next election. The booking of the K-Rock Centre for the speeches and the preferential ballot next Sunday is a signal that at least in this area Liberals are both alive and well, and seeking a better Canada through their commitment to overturning the Harper government, something the nation desperately needs.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reductionisms of love, faith and ministry

The most discouraging discovery of a decade serving as a clergy in both Canada and the United States was the discovery that much of what passes for legitimate "theology" and "faith practice" is little more than a bromide resulting in a kind of forced infantilism. The level of reductionism that has been inflicted on scripture by those espousing and prosletyzing a life as a disciple of Jesus Christ Resurrected is astounding.
The t-shirt emblazoned "WWJD" (What Would Jesus DO?") seems to express much of the problem. That product may have generated a potfull of cash for its creator; however, there is little doubt that it does not substitute for the real work of re-visiting our lives, in all of their complexities and all of their pain and mining the nuggets of insight, wisdom, love and learning from those investigations.
When we are beaten as children, and told repeatedly, "You are no good and you will never be any good," we do not understand either the beatings or the put-downs. We ask ourselves, "What is the meaning of all of this meanness?" "Where does it come from?" "What is wrong with the person who is doing these things to me?" And we come to believe that, because this person loves us (after all they gave birth to us so they must have something akin to love for us?), there must be some truth in their punishments and their denigrations.
And we keep seeking, inquiring into the lives of our friends, teachers and acquaintances usually to no avail. It seems that they do not have our experience; their mothers are not beating them or heaping 'dung' on their sense of themselves while that same parent is also singing in the church choirs, and baking pies to deliver to church suppers, and to bereaved families, and donating hundreds of quart baskets of raspberries to neighbours and friends. To a confused adolescent, there is something askew in the collision of these pictures: of a malicious, out-of-control woman who beats me ( and my sister) and of the most professional and caring nurse, benefactor and soprano.
And so, thinking that going to church, and becoming a member of a church would enhance an already tattered reputation with that mother, at twelve, I agreed to join. And to my dismay, the only question I was asked by the clergy, in order to qualify for ''admission" was, "Do you take Jesus Christ to be your personal Saviour?"
At twelve, I had no idea what that question meant; yet I understood that the expected response was an unequivocal "Yes!" and I delivered the expected response. Then I took communion, in the same pew with my parents, during a Sunday service.
Doing the expected also included attending Sunday school, where the teacher propagated something about "dispensations" whatever they are, for three or four years. I never "got it" about those things.
And while these years were passing, I was dutifully reading the Holy Bible, once again "doing the expected."
And then, when I was sixteen, I was listening to a homily from this transplanted Irishman from Balleymena, outside Belfast, when I heard, "If you are a Roman Catholic you are going to Hell; if you drink wine you are going to Hell; if you go to dances or movies or wear make-up, or cook meals on Sunday, you are going to Hell!"
And something snapped inside me. In my little mind, I heard myself say, "That's bullshit!"  I did not then, and do not today, believe that such poppycock could be extracted from either the words or the spirit of the scripture.And I never went back to that church, except, unfortunately, when I got married, and my parents "expected" the wedding to be in that church with that clergy.
In university, I searched out clergy like Rev. George Goth in London and Dr. Andrew Lawson in Toronto, who were preaching nothing like I had heard back home from the pulpit. They were both searching, probing and prodding in their pilgrimage for and to God. They were inspiring in the extreme, compared to the theological gruel being served back home. And they had the respect of and for their congregations.
Many years later, after confirmation in the Anglican church, I enroled in theology at Huron College where I found in a class of 17, there were 12 more students expressing the same kind of simplistic, reductionistic views of their theology and their vision of their prospective role as clergy. Five of us were considered 'liberals' and were virtually ostracised by the 'twelve' fundamentalists. One of the twelve actually proudly stated his purpose, "to convert all the people I meet to Jesus" and objected to a discussion of the meaning of evangelism as inappropriate for such classes. Another protested when some students asked questions in class, "Never mind that stuff, just tell us what we need to know and let us get out of here and get busy saving the world," was the way another of them put it. There was a fervent zeal to their 'faith' if that is what it was.
And then, when I finally began active ministry, I found many people fossilized in a similar, reductionistic, loudly judgemental faith that was nothing more than the projections of their fears of imperfection onto others, especially the clergy.
Simplistic explanations for what is essentially a monstrous mystery never can work, no matter the fervency of those pursuing that simplicity. God, the life of Jesus Christ Resurrected, the meaning of the various books and passages in scripture: these are not some simple subject reducible to aphorisms, as many in the church want.
Several of my experiences rank as both sad and tragic, and in most of them I played an intimate part, although looking back, I am not clear what I would have done differently in most.
  • I was dubbed a heretic for recommending books by Scott Peck and Matthew Fox and for changing Christian Education curriculum from David C. Cook's fundamentalism to the much more inclusive and global and refreshing and inspiring The Whole People of God; 
  • had homilies judged as heretical and 'new age' for bringing real life situations into focus through a lens of the lections for the specific Sunday;
  • followed a clergy whose last act was to shoot a dog and then turn the gun on the owner, all of which information was never conveyed to me, as part of my orientation;
  • had the residence I lived in broken into by angry parishioners who drove my successor out of the parish with their relentless pressure; 
  • was threatened and told to leave by wardens who were clinging to their need for control when I named that need; undermined by others whose appointment as warden I rejected because they had not done, and were not about to do, any spiritual work of their own, content and proud they were to continue to manage the 'public' performances that passed for their lives;
  • rejected as a potential clergy by a corporate 'suit' who boasted, "I am proud that I helped to drive the last priest out of our church, because he was not spiritual enough, and you're not spiritual enough either." And when I asked where he would like to be in his spiritual life three years hence, he laughed demonstrating he had no idea what I was talking about, and changed the subject.
  • had additional assignments refused, as Honorary, after I requested an honorarium for gas, to make the fifty-mile trip from my residence to the church twice weekly;
  • was the subject of a secret 'kangaroo trial' conducted by a priest who was threatened by my "leadership" when parishioners told her I was a leader and she was not.
What I also learned was that generations of English teachers, and clergy had not penetrated even through the skin of hundreds of skulls, let alone directly into the minds within, with the insight about the difference between literal, empirical truth and poetic and mythical truths. The people sitting in the pews, for the most part, at least my experience, are very uncomfortable with the notion of poetry, and beauty and anything smacking of aesthetics, as expressions of a God-given gift of imagination. And the church has, not surprisingly, a large tradition of paying homage to God through artistic expressions in stained glass, in oratorio's, in dance and in many parts of scripture, which cannot legitimately be reduced to 'rules' for living.
Nevertheless, attempting to bridge that chasm of resistance is nothing less than hernia-inducing. One bishop who told a clergy to "fill the coffers and the pews" was rebutted, in one case, by a clergy taking his own life at the altar, partly in dramatic protest against the manipulation that following those orders would require. Turning the church into little more than a sanctimonious business or corporation is not going to bring about transformation in the lives of the parishioners sitting in those pews, even if it brings honour and praise from peer bishops and the corporate leaders who "fund" that parish.
It is the reductionism of the christian faith to the generation of numbers of dollars and memberships that has and will continue to destroy the christian church, no matter the significant protests of individual pilgrims whose lives attest to a very different form of theology, devotion and discipleship. It is the literal, empirical addiction to those numbers that reduces every individual to something much less spiritual than his/her humanness and spiritual life requires.And those christian leaders who have confused their leadership roles as CEO's of just another corporation, (and the Anglican and Episcopal churches are renowned for their corporate memberships, attitudes, philosophies and theologies) who have abdicated the spiritual dimensions of their potential in favour of (you guessed it!) another reductionism: that God is impressed by greater and greater numbers of people and dollars in the church community. As one American parishioner put it to me, tragically, "Jesus was the world's best salesman, didn't you know?"
And like Adrienne Clarkson who, when she heard the comments of her students about the poetry she was trying to teach, left her teaching post at the University of Toronto, before those comments destroyed her appreciation of literature, I resigned in some considerable and not-so-politically-correct dramatic fashion and have not returned to formal worship except for the occasional eucharist.
And to think that those beatings and those  put-downs were generated in the name of the Christian God as was that heinous homily and those bastard treasurers' reports to which the church is addicted.
And I continue to protest reductionisms of the kind my mother imposed, and the kind the church insists upon, in its selfish attempt at self-promotion, rather than resting comfortably in the trust that God would have it incarnate.

Greek 'meta-researcher' finds much medical research swiss cheese

David H. Freedman, in the November 2010 edition of The Atlantic, documents some explosive research being conducted at the Univeristy of Ioannina's medical school in Greece. One study shows that, for whatever reason, the apendices removed from patients with Albanian names in six Greek hospitals were more than three times as likely to be perfectly healthy as those removed from patients with Greek names.(P.76)
He interviewed Dr. Jophn Ioannidis, a 'meta-researcher,' who has become one of the world's foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team have shown, again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies--conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fiber or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain--is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong. He charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed....
In poring over medical journals, (Ioannidis) was struck by how many findings of all types were refuted by later findings.(p.78)
The studies were biased, (given that) the researchers headed into their studies wanting certain results--and lo and behold they were getting them. (He quotes Ioannidis)
 'There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.' (p.80)
To get funding and tenured positions, and often merely to stay afloat, researchers have to get their work published in well-regarded jounrals, where rejection rates can climb above 90 percent. Not surprisingly, the studies that tend to make the grade are those with eye-catching findings....and attempting to undermine the work of respected colleagues can have ugly professional repersussions.
'A pervasive theme of ancient Greek literature is that you need to pursuse the truth, no matter what the truth might be,' (Ioannidis) says.
In one published paper Ioannidis laid out a detailed mathematical proof that, assuming modest levels of researcher bias, typically imperfect research techniques, and the well-known tendency to focus on exciting rather than highly plausible theories, researchers will come up with wrong findings most of the time. Simply put, if you're attracted to ideas that have a good change of being wrong, and if you're motivated to prove them right, and if you have a little wiggle room in how you assemble the evidence, you'll probably succeed in proving wrong theories right. His model predicted, in different fields of medical research, rates of wrongness roughly corresponding to the observed rates at which findings were later convincingly refuted: 80 percent of non-randomized trials, and as much as 10 percent of the platinum-standard large randomized trials. The article spelled out his belief that researchers were frequently manipulating data analyses, chasing career-advancing findings rather than good science, and even using the peer-review process--in which journals ask researchers to help decide which studies to publish--to suppress opposing views. (p.80)
In another paper Ioannidis looked at forty nine of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the last 13 years...Of the 49 articles, 45 claimed to have uncovered effective interventions. Thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or significantly exaggerated. If between a third and a half of the most acclaimed research in medicine was proving untrustworthy, the scope and impact of the problem were undeniable. (p.81)...
'Often the claims made by studies are so exaggerated that you can immediately cross them out without needing to know much about the specific problems with the studies,' Ioannidis says.
But of course, it's that very extravagance of claim (one large randomized controlled trial even proved that secret prayer by unknown parties can save the lives of heart-surgery patients, while another proved that secret prayer can harm them) that helps get these findings into journals and then into our treatments and lifestyles.(p. 84)
'Even when the evidence shows that a particular research idea is wrong, if you have thousands of scientists who have invested their careers in it, they'll continue to publish papers on it,' he says, 'it's like an epidemic, in the sense that they're infected with these wrong ideas, and they're spreading it to other researhers through journals.'
Another anomaly: even when a research error is outed, it typically persists for years or even decades.
He looked at three prominent health studies from the 1980's and 1990's that were each later soundly refuted and discovered that researchers continued to cite the original results as correcct more often than as flawed--in one case for at last 12 years after the results were discredited.(p.85)
And finally:
We could solve much of the wrongness problem, Ioannidis says, if the world simply stopped expecting scientists to be right.That's because being wrong in science is fine, and even necessary--as long as scientists recognize that they blew it, report their mistake openly instead of disguising  it as a success, adn then move onto the next thing, until they come up with the very occasional genuine breakthrough. But as long as careers remain contingent on producing a stream of research that's dressed up to seem more right than it is, scientists will deep delivering exactly that.
"Science in a noble endeavor, but it's also a low-yield endeavor,' he says. 'I'm not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life. We should be very comfortable with that fact. (p.86)
For the whole piece, see
Brave Thinkers

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science
By David H. Freedman

Friday, October 29, 2010

Smallness from small teachings by small men

By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, October 25, 2010
Like so many, Mr. Dryden, a latecomer to politics, is appalled by the smallness of the enterprise, the daily avalanche of vituperation, the tabloidization of the discourse. Great causes and great ideals are dwarfed by the pettiness. He says his Liberals have long suffered from the absence of conviction and direction. With nothing big on the table, the party has looked inward.
Mr. Martin is, of course, referencing the Ken Dryden book, Becoming Canadian.
And, also of course, both Dryden and Martin are right and the plague is not only infecting the Liberal Party. It is the blight on every school, church, family and corporation and government in the west. We are beset by a capacity to see only fog beyond the next few minutes. Small business failures are demonstrably attached to short-term thinking and acting. Basketball teams without a game plan, and entering the first quarter with a plan for only the first two minutes may win those minutes, but often come adrift for the rest of the game.
Churches and clergy and christian education leaders who focus on the act of conversion are deliberately ignoring the most important possibilities of their charge: to open the hearts and minds and spirits to the awe and wonder of their own selves, all the other "selves" in the community and all the beauty of the universe that is, without doubt, a blessing, a gift and a treasure, as is each individual, in the eyes of God. Casting the satanic pall of "evil" as the focus of the enterprise reduces those casting that pall and all the recipients of it to moronic agents of evil, given the deceptive reduction that accompanies that "pall" ("We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God," as Paul is alleged to have written in his letter to the Philippians?)
It is, one assumes, the position of the christian church that such a teaching renders the adherents humble, as opposed to narcissistic, if the lessons and the discipline focused on the "divine" that is a part of every human being. (We are made in the "image of God" as another Biblical passage reminds us.)
Short sighted pictures come from and generate more FEAR. Fear that we are not good enough for the God who created us. Fear that unless and until we are broken, in an act of full surrender to the will of God, we remain lost, outcast sinners, bound for an eternity of some kind of hell. Who needs it with that kind of sentence?
Combine the psychological, emotional and spiritual destitution that accompanies the "wages of sin is death" and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden for allegedly commiting an act so natural and beautiful that it can only bring health, life and new life to those engaged in its majesty in a spirit of vulnerability, and what is left is a capacity to clutch and grab and see about as far into the horizon as the mountain of fear before our eyes will permit.
Can't is the word the follows each and every potential shift in how we do things, even if the way we do things is not working. We take more preventive acts to avoid, ward off and dodge problems thereby consuming more energy than a trip to the top of Everest, both literally and symbolically, would demand, rendering such a voyage beyond our capacity both to imagine and to execute. We are, as a result, left to wander in the slough of despond (as John Bunyan tells it) confused by our own blindness, fogged in by our own fears, grounded like so many jets after another warning from Al Qaeda, because the terrorist by name and by phantom picture, has frozen our engines on the tarmac, lest we become victim to the external attacks of a bunch of plastic bomb makers willing to kill and be killed for the phoney promise of an eternity with 72 vestal virgins.
Satan, another name for Liar, has taken up residence in our collective unconscious, and until we come face to face with his lies, he will shackle our hopes and dreams, by chaining us to our fears for a very long time.
Have we completely lost our minds?
And nowhere is the question more appropriate and relevant than right here in "our home and native land," Canada.

Dollars bring academic freedom under fire

By Michael Valpy, Globe and Mail, October 29, 2010
The story of Dr. Thakur being bounced out of his job as inaugural director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ont. has led to claims of violation of academic freedom and demands that Dr. Thakur receive apologies from Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, led at the time by Mr. Johnston, and the private think thank created by Mr. Balsillie, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

The inquiry report, written by professor Len Findlay of the University of Saskatchewan, vice-president of the Humanity and Social Sciences Federation of Canada, said Dr. Thakur was treated as an academic star until the moment he resisted CIGI’s intention to “sit at the table” in the school when academic matters – such as what courses would be taught – were discussed. Dr. Thakur considered the academic content of the school to be the province of the universities, not of Mr. Balsillie’s private organization.

(Dr. Thakur is quoted about the future):“I think it’s the way of the future. As public authorities cut back on spending, universities are being forced into more and more private-donor partnerships, and getting the balance right will be critically important.”
If this is not a "canary in the coal mine" story, then I don't know what to call it. In Canada, public funding of universities covers a portion of the actual costs, including buildings, staffing and research. However, the balance comes from the private sector and there is increasing evidence that the private sector is having trouble keeping its hands off the levels of decision-making. Most of the business schools have a corporate donor's name attached to their "brand." Some universities have stadia named after corporate sponsors.
The Asper School of Busines, University of Manitoba
The DeGroote School of business, McMaster University
The Desautels School of Business, McGill University
The Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary
The John Molson School of Business, Concordia University
The Odette School of Business, University of Windsor
The Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario
The Segal School of Business, Simon Fraser University
The Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University
The Sprott School of Business, Carleton University
The Joseph L.Rotman School of Business, University of Toronto
The Kenneth Levene School of Business, University of Regina
The Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia
The Shannon School of Business, University of Cape Breton
The Ted Rogers School of Business, Ryerson University
The Telfer School of Business, University of Ottawa
It is in research funding that there is most cause for concern. If a corporation wishes to donate millions, or even billions, to a university, through capital projects, for "vanity" purposes, there are few academics who will object. However, when the grants come from the companies seeking to have their products and/or services warranted by the researchers who are recipients of those grants, not only academics but also the public has cause for concern.
If the recent story in The Atlantic about the research being conducted on medical interventions is any indication, the research has to be "sexy" to attract the funding, and it also has to be "newsworthy" to achieve the status of publication in peer review journals. Both of these observations, by a team of researchers in Greece, make any reader concerned, and perhaps even worried.
When the federal government announces research funding at local colleges and universities, anyone listening carefully to the proposals knows that the government is seeking "positive consideration" at the next election from the voters in that constituency.
The university system, it seems clear, needs a transparent board to receive grants for research, to be administered by that board, whose members are at arms reach from the individual universities, and the academics whose reputation is so vital to their professional credentials must take this charge upon their collective shoulders.
While they have an legitimate interest in the firing of Dr. Thakur, because of the unwelcome influence from the RIM executive, they also have to think and act forward in their own, and their students' ethical interests.

Frye's Centre for Comparative Literature spared from budget Axe

By Joe Friesen, Globe and Mail, October 28, 2010
The renowned Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto has been pulled back from the brink after an outcry from scholars around the world and the determined protests of students and faculty.

The director of the centre said he has been assured that the school, which was slated to close at the end of this academic year, will survive.
“Comp. Lit. is saved. The centre will stay open and we’re taking students for next year,” said director Neil ten Kortenaar. “I think it was the outcry from around the world. We had a lot of support from a lot of big-name people in academic circles.”
It was a battle that pitted the forces of streamlining and cost-cutting against those who would preserve structures of academic and historical significance. It appears either the university lost the appetite for the fight, or the threat of amalgamation produced enough compromise from the departments involved to satisfy the administration’s appetite for reform.
Sometimes the right decision takes a lot of hard work, even if the obvious is less than obvious to those who are responsible for making it.
When one is focused on the task and responsibility for administring a budget, one, anyone, has a tendency to lose sight of the bigger picture. Sometimes, mere cost cutting abandons more than it achieves.
However this decision was finally arrived at, both internally and externally, the University of Toronto is a better place going forward today than it would have been had Frye's Centre for Comparative Literature been chopped.
And based on the quote from the centre's director, the weight of the combined thrust of both students and faculty and the opinion of scholars around the world tipped the balance in favour of retention.
This decision cannot be considered merely a toast to its founder, although that in itself would have justified its life extension; it is a lens on the perspective of the University of Toronto that will not only permit, but also foster, a comparative meta-approach to world literature that the Canadian culture so desperately needs.
While there is a 24-7 global news cycle on such outlets as CNN and BBC, news is no substitute for the much more telling impact of the world's writers, poets and scholars that require a different kind of examination. Also, along with the high-tech innovations of the 'social network,' the books and the insights and the imaginative cultures  that emerge from the unconscious of those living in the most remote hills and valleys, or on the most dry, windswept deserts, or in the camps of the world's most desolate steppes have been, are, and will continue to be a beacon into the future for those both privileged and honoured and humbled to study their writings.
It is from all the regions of the world that our thought leaders must continue to come and the next generations of scholars needs to explore those complex narratives if we are to expect to bring any kind of recognition to our shared humanity in a meaningful way.
Frye has pointed an insightful finger in a direction; his intellectual family's task is to find out where he is pointing.
This little voice in this little corner would like to see the Centre serve as a model for other academic pursuits in that comparison with the scholarship of all countries in various disciplines, and even in combined disciplines is more and more needed. We have paid homage to a kind of specialization that has given us much new knowledge and information. However, humans need road maps for discovery to assist with the next few centuries of discovery, and we must never lose the capacity for integrated conversation, scholarship and experiment. Only by keeping in touch with all cultures, literatures, histories and anthropologies will we come to a conscious awareness of who we are in all our diversity, complexity and commonality.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Certainty, absolutes and faith

I know that, as House Speaker Tip O'Neill used to say, "All politics is local;" however, it is time for us to revisit the slogan.
The whole world is now "local" given the economic and environmental issues facing all citizens, countries, governments and agencies. And yet, the pettiness and the smugness and the "parochial" or provincial attitudes continue to dominate our discourse. And nothing seems to be accomplished on the really important and globally local issues.
Clean air and clean water and enough food and a place to live and adequate health care...these are all necessities of life, if we consider seriously the capacity of the world to both envision and to deliver such a menu everywhere.
However, I received a phone call last evening asking if I knew the candidate's position was on a merely local issue. I discussed with others another call made in a political campaign in which the candidate's position, nuanced and sensitive, on abortion, was a reason for some to move away from supporting that candidate.
Where have I been living? I thought that both capital punishment and a woman's right to make a choice including access throughout this country to therapeutic abortions, were both established law.
Now, with the conviction and incarceration of Russell Williams, at least one Canadian columnist is blowing the trumpet for a return of the death penalty for Williams and, presumably for others of his ilk. No one likes, respects or has any legitimate justification for the actions, attitudes and mind-set of people like Russell Williams. However, on a very basic level, killing him will remove the opportunity to "pick his brain" in both the metaphoric and the literal senses, in order to better comprehend and to better prevent a repeat of his dastardly acts of horror. The argument about deterrence continues to both attract and confound those whose speciality is statistics and therefore is difficult to either support or refute from a numbers perspective.
On the abortion front, there certainly was a dust-up over the Ignatieff attempt to paint Harper's government with hypocrisy in their apparent removal of abortion funding for third world women from the foreign aid budget. And there is no legitimate reason for anyone to deny women here or in the undeveloped world access to therapeutic abortions, while at the same time, not wanting abortions to serve as a cheap out for promiscuity. Seeking to reduce the numbers of abortions can be a legitimate goal of both sides in this debate. However, the "right-to-life" cause, established and sustained by the Roman Catholic church, is simply impractical and unethical, given the relative importance of the institution's claim on a person's decision making freedom and the absolute necessity of the individual to make a decision, with her medical team and hopefully at least some part of her family, that best adresses all of the issues presented by any pregnancy.
The church's position has been propagated for centuries, as one of those "God-given" and "Pope decreed" absolutes, which, by their very nature, beg the question of the ethics of absolutes. The New Testament itself is replete with moments of clarity and illumination that point our eyes and our hearts and our minds to the situation in which the individual finds him or herself. And, to think that the mind of God can be reduced, through human "insight, intuition, knowledge and certainty" to a simple maxim, applied to every individual everywhere and always, is to both play god and to make a mockery of the very powerful deity we seek both to find and to worship.
Similarly, a considerable amount of both ink and air time in our political and religious discourse have been dedicated to the proposition that gays and lesbians are somehow outside the orbit of being created in "God's image" in another attempt by the religious right to express their absolute certainty, their conviction and their superiority in that conviction, that they know the mind, attitude, perspective and directives of God in a very unchallengable way. Neither they nor "all the king's horses and all the king's men" can put this mythology back into the can of absolute truth, just as they are unable to do on the death penalty and the abortion  issues.
In fact, it is the certainty that some claim about their knowledge and insight into the mind and heart of God that is the most frightening aspect of any religious expression, both inside and outside the sanctuary.
And, for this scribe, the Jews have the most sustainable approach...never to be uttered too often.
They start from the position that they do not and can not know the mind of God. And while they diligently pursue the questions and the possible answers to that inquiry with a dedication that would serve all people of faith well, their debates constitute their best attempts to open their eyes, their minds their hearts and their spirits to the light, love hope and spirit of God...even though both the premise and the pursuit are messy in the extreme.
After all, what kind of God would be worthy of our worship and our adoration who (which,that) would have us wrap up our lives in fossilized tenets and bow to those human expressions of the mind, heart and vision of God?
There is a lot of work for us to do, as humans, in our pursuit of justice, compassion and equality for all, everywhere, and we might start at home with our individual and family discussions of what it is that we can say we know, with certainty, with conviction and without fear of contradiction by a temporal, human institution, no matter how divinely "inspired."
One of the tenets of all faiths is, or at least ought to be, "Question authority" and that includes the authority of those who "lead" those faiths.
Certainty closes options, eyes and inquiry. Uncertainty, doubt and continual openness to new insights underpins and sustains new life...and what God worth examining would not wish for his/her disciples to consistently seek and sustain new life.
"The glory of God is man fully alive" is a phrase we inherit from the Benedictines. And the kind of closed certainty that we hear in much of our political and theological debate would not seek to promote that aim.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ignatieff finally sees "the light" on F-35 fighter jets

While I completely agree with Michael Ignatieff's decision to "scrap the deal on the F-35 fighter jets" and "start from the beginning with a fully open and competitive process," I also have some caution about how he came to his position.
It was as a result of the Auditor General's exposing of the debacle that is the helicopter purchase that prompted the Liberal leader to become clear in his position.
While the bureaucrats serve a very important function in our parliamentary system of government, even they do not and should not trump personal conviction based on a thorough assessment of all the facts.
The AG's report, while significant, is not and should not be the necessary sine qua non for the Liberal leader to arrive at his "cancel" position. In fact, Ignatieff's timing brings into question his priorities:
  • Does he want to cancel the deal because he wants a better purchase process, one that will meet the smell test of the Auditor General? or
  • Or, is he opposed to the purchase because the country does not need fighter jets for either our defence posture or our external affairs posture?
  • Or, perhaps even a third, he wants both positions expressed in his decision?
Peter Mansbridge, of CBC"s One on One asked Ignatieff directly if he would cancel the deal several weeks ago; Ignatieff fudged saying the government had not made the case for need, best price and secure contracts including jobs.
The government's argument, made today again by Industry Minister Tony Clement, that some 12,000 jobs will be lost to Canadian aerospace workers now working on the F-35 for shipping to other countries is not a reason to cling to the contract. These jobs will continue so long as other countries continue to purchase this aircraft. And other aircraft will be designed and built deploying Canadian aerospace workers. They are not now, and will not be in the future, dependent on the Canadian government's purchase of this aircraft.
And we, the Canadian public, must not be either cowed or seduced by the government's flimsy arguments for jobs and the use of the new plane for "recruiting" purposes.
Little wonder the big questions are not being adequately addressed by this generation of Canadian political leaders, when the Auditor General provides cover for the Liberal leader to reach a decision that was staring him in the face months ago.
However, "better late than never," as we often heard when we were late for supper after an afternoon of playing in the fields near home.

The New Middle Age: 60's and 70's

By Natasha Singer, New York Times, October 24, 2010
For the first time in history, people aged 65 and over are about to outnumber children under 5...
If the cost of maintaining aging populations could lead to World War II-era levels of government debt, solution to the crisis will require a mass-scale collaborative response akin to the Manhattan Project or the speace race, says Michael W. Hodin, who is adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and researches aging issues.
Governments, industry, and international agencies, he says, will have to work together to transform the very strudcture of society, by creating jobs and education programs for people in their 60's and 70's--the hypothetical new middle age--and by tackling diseases like Alzheimer's....
Finally, governments and companies may need to view aging populations not as debt loads but as wells of expertise.
(First, we welcome, with open arms, the inclusion of the Book Review and the News Section of the New York Times into the Sunday Toronto Star. Without in any way hinting at or advocating for the "annexation" of Canada into the U.S., we are delighted to have access to some of the best journalistic writing on the continent. Also, the opinions of thinking Americans might just nudge some Canadian thought leaders to push their envelope a little, catching a little of the American trait of "risk-taking" and actually thinking less 'conservatively'.)
Now, more to the point of the case of the aging being seen as a resource, not as a debt load on the society's accounts.
Warehousing our aging population, while it may have seemed 'enlightened' a century ago, no longer works for anyone. Our's is a generation that, for its time, was the first to graduate from university, in many of our families. We were the ones who sought careers in teaching, law, medicine, social work, architecture, psychology, engineering and the sciences, including electronics in such massive numbers. We were the beneficiaries of an explosion of opportunity the likes of which our parents could never have imagined.
There may certainly be aspects of our generation that some find less than wholesome; however, we are a bank of intelligence, of adjusting and transitioning skills, given our ride through the stormy seas of the dramatic changes witnessed over the last 70 years.
We were rasied after the second war, when there was plenty of plenty. We participated in the revolution of the sixties and early seventies. We are represented in pop culture by the likes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul  Simon and Art Garfunnkel, Bob Dylan, John Kennedy and Pierre Trudeau. We lived and breathed "change" from the military industrial complex, of which Eisenhower so eloquently warned. While our efforts may not have brought complete peace, we planted the seeds of non-violence. Our's was not so much a fight on the battlefields of Europe or Korea, but our's was a battle in the buses of Selma, Alabama, and Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, and the open challenge to the "suits" to get more real and less detached from the needs of the street.
There is still so much work to do, to bring the "establishment" to its knees, especially about the relationship between the individual and the system. It is not the system that serves the individual, so much as the inverse: the system would not exist without the individual. Humans are the energy and the creativity and the hope and the life-blood of any enterprise, and we collectively have permitted the profits and the trade agreements and the numbers of both production and consumption to guide our policy and our think tanks in a dangerous direction.
We still need hundreds of new think tanks that can see the "human" implications of global warming  (for example) for what they really are, including their implications for corporations seeking to jam their heads into the sands because of the increased costs of doing anything to counteract this tsunami of toxins. We still need think tanks staffed by our generation to bring the continent back from the brink of complete co-dependence on the rules and needs of those profit-seekers whose perspective excludes the impact their decisions have on human beings, and their families.
We cannot sustain either pensions or health care, without bringing our generation back to the bargaining table, including back to the workforce. We need to consider new options such as paying the grey-beards and the blue-rinse set to continue teaching, coaching, mentoring and not relegate us to a "volunteering" role only. We are not interested in being a "drain" on our children and grandchildren; we still want to earn our keep, and we are far more capable, both intellectually and physically, than we have been given credit for being.
Look for example, at the twelfth election of Hazel McCallion as Mayor of Mississauga, at 89!
When she is not longer the "exception" but the norm, then our generation will have been accepted into the ranks of the useful, the imagination and the contributors...and there are millions of mind-sets that need to change to bring such a transformation about. And we are definitely capable of bringing such a transformation about. We have the intellectual skills, and the political will and the new technology to bring about such a change in perspective. It is not only that we can meet legitimate needs of the society, but the society can no longer afford to exclude us from the process.
Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated as Mark Twain so succinctly reminds us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Literacy Advocates: "change to be effective"

By Carol Goar, Editorial Board, Toronto Star, October 25, 2010
Conference of Literacy Advocates meets in Toronto
They asked a lot questions. How could small, local organizations like theirs take on this role? What barriers would they face? Why was it so hard to get media coverage? What could they do about it?

They weighed the risks of change. They might lose their government funding for being too critical. They might lose their charitable status for being too outspoken. They might lose some of the donors and volunteers for being too assertive.
They got some unsettling advice. One speaker suggested they’d have to change if they wanted to be agents of change. They were predominantly white, she pointed out, and most Canadians facing literacy challenges are not. Another said they’d have to shed many of the habits and procedures that give them stability in uncertain times. A third told them there would be periods when their efforts appeared futile and progress seemed negligible.
Before Peter Gzowski became the spokesperson for Frontier College and their literacy program, I had the opportunity to interview Frontier's then president and its most promising graduate, Tracy Lecuyere, whose mentor, the college president's wife, had provided the literacy skills for him and others, using such significant teaching tools as downtown Toronto street signs, shop signs, bus and subway and streetcar advertising signs.
I was then (in the mid-eighties) host of a local public affairs radio program, sponsored in part by a local community college. This was then one of many attempts to bridge the gap between potential community college students and those who felt excluded from a college curriculum by their inability to read and write.
In the middle of the radio program with both the president and Mr. Lecuyere, I gave the college's mailing address, only to be brought up short by an on-air phone-in caller, "Please," she asked, "would you give us the phone number of the college."
And I had one of those "wake-up" moments that, for hard-headed and supposedly successful, white, male 'educators,' have to come with a substantial public audience. I had been so caught up in my own ways of doing things, that I had missed the most obvious of realities: those to whom this show was directed were not able to use the simple device of the post to meet their literacy needs.
I recognized my blindspot, and my "out-of-touchness" with the very audience for whom I was hosting the program and began to do the leg work for a national public affairs radio program, syndicated in private (as opposed to public, CBC) radio stations. It was my belief then, and continues nearly three decades later, that private radio does little, if anything, to address  the most basic of human skill gaps: the skill of being able to read and write, on which, one would have to assume, their continuing audience needs depend.
Shortly after my mini-aha moment, I was granted an interview with the then Secretary of State in the conservative government of Brian Mulroney, the former "tiny perfect mayor of Toronto," David Crombie, whose brother at the time served as president of Cambrian College in Sudbury. I made my pitch for his support and advocacy for the national radio program concept, to which he readily and whole-heartedly agreed, but then added, "John, I have no money for this."
Now we are learning of other 'literacy advocates' hosting a conference, addressed by the Human Resources Minister, Diane Finley, without the promise of a single dollar of government money, to support the national disgrace, that nearly 20% of our population do not have the basic skills of reading and writing.
She (Finley) did not offer anything concrete. She did not promise to fight for them at the cabinet table as Prime Minister Stephen Harper embarks on his deficit-cutting drive. She certainly did not mention the $17.7 million her ministry chopped from literacy programs in 2006. (from the Goar story in The Star).
In terms of government priorities, Literacy ranks right up there with the political clout of dog barking in terms of the attention it is paid. It has the sex appeal of those same street signs to which literacy adovcates must point in their attempt to integrate illiterate people into the basic geography of their community. Illiteracy is a national blindspot, just as is homelessness, and hunger and poverty, about which we speak volumes and do so little as to virtually commit the national crime of 'negligence' in our haughty, white superior comfort and complacency.
Whatever it is that change agents seek to change, they first must become acquainted with their own impotency. They must become, in this case, just as incompetent and lost as their potential clients; they must also come from the same groups as their potential clients; they must see the world from the perspective of those clients. And they must shed all of the protective colouration that they have acquired in their own personal/professional proficiency. They must, in short, lead from their own vulnerability and not from their strength.
It is a lesson long in the learning. Recall, it was the 'christian missionaries' who came to the new world to tell the native population just how sinful and reprehensible was their lifestyle, compared with the correct puritan and christian lifestyle of the european culture in which they were reared. And look at the damage resulting from that form of imperial pedagogy.
Students know implicitly and intimately when teachers are phoney. And they also know that they will refuse to learn from those teachers. They may go through the 'motions' of making nice, without actually acting out their refusal, but they will not fully engage in their own learning from those teachers.
And the same principle holds for literacy advocates.
Your personal/collective 'enlightenment' is needed to begin to wear down the national embarrassment of our failure to share our skills with our neighbours seeking to learn to read and to write.
How can any society seeking to earn the imprimature of egalitarian, and  enlightened and healthy continue this national state of unconsciousness and even carelessness and arrogance on this issue?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Are we Worthy of this Canada?

By Andrew Cohen, Ottawa Citizen, October 17, 2010
Now he (Ken Dryden) makes his case for an engaged Canada in a slender, penetrating book, called Becoming Canada: Our Story/Our Politics/Our Future. It's a sobering if elegant assessment of our politics and a crie de coeur for a self-aware Canada.

"We have paid a huge price for having the wrong sense of ourselves as a country," he writes. "It has forced us to live under a ceiling of expectation and ambition that is so far below what we can do and can be."
If you see yourself as modest or inconsequential, he says, you cannot address unemployment, hunger, poverty, climate change, political dysfunction or any other problem. To do better you have to think bigger.
As he says, it's time for "the how" not "the what"; "the way" not "the will"; "the us" not "the me"; for "purpose, not politics."
To Dryden, we can no longer accept that big, exciting things happen elsewhere -- like the election of Barack Obama -- because that is America and this is Canada. Just Canada. Lil' ole Canada. We need to talk about aspirations, even if our conversation doesn't understand the language of hopes and dreams. It might not be the government's currency, he says, but it should be ours.
Read more:
If you see yourself as modest or cannot address unemployment, hunger, poverty, climate change, political dysfinction...To do better you have to think bigger.
To be sure, it is a Canadian creed to see ourselves as modest, inconsequential and it is also a Canadian fact that none of the larger issues are being addressed.
We are a country of political yahoos, little six-inch tall gremlins grabbing for every last morsel that falls from the table of our "rich" uncle to the south. Jonathan Swift could easily have been writing about Canadians in Gulliver's Travels.
And, once in a century someone enters the national consciousness who tells us that we are merely striving for the lowest rung on the ladder of civilizations and we can do better. And we suddenly say, "Oh, that sounds like a novel approach," and elect him Prime Minister (as in Pierre Trudeau).
In this iteration of the theme, Dryden, he of few Liberal Party votes in his leadership bid, says what everyone knows to be true ever so elegantly and almost quietly, so that no one will take issue by hearing him in the fullness of his national aspirations and then shooting him down.
As the  Molson Canadian advertising spot declares, we are made from the land, this beauiful, big, sprawling and magnetic "backyard" that is our heritage, from the cosmic gods. And, periodically, as in the winning of gold at the Vancouver Olympics, we all luxuriate in "standing tall" and then, like 34 million bears, we crawl back into our holes, silent unless and until some piece of drama awakens us from our national unconsciousness.
And yet, we cannot walk anywhere on the TransCanadaTrail, and not be in awe of the magnificence of the autumn colours, the strength of the rock outcroppings (on the Canadian Shield) and even the fortitude of our ancestors who built our national rail lines, many of them now integrated as part of the "trail." We are one of, if not the most, privileged peoples on the planet, given our resources, our honourable attempts at integrating differences (even though there is an argument that this is fairly superficial) and our tradition of compassion and civility.
However, compassion and civility, without vision and confidence and assertiveness and pride, are like salt and pepper without a main dish, reliable, perhaps even a little dramatic in terms of the capacity to "add flavour" but certainly not servable as an entree.
Canadians, in a somewhat religious, perhaps puritan mode, disdain confidence as "snobbery," and disdain the "future" in deference to the "past" as our talisman and touchstone for national ambition.
We have, it is said often in public ceremonies, generations of proud leaders behind us, while we disavow any ambition to generate proud leaders for tomorrow. We would prefer to denigrate and even to dismiss a new idea than plant it in an incubating garden and nurture it and watch it grow.
We would love to see someone else step forward and take the responsibilty for leadership, than face the heat of the public "eye" including that of the media, and even to those who do (as in hundreds if not thousands in the current municipal elections across Ontario) we pay polite lipservice to their front-door visits, without actually engaging them in dialogue about anything more complicated than "lowering taxes," that placebo offered by all non-thinking political aspirants, which is really no substitute for articulated, imaginative and novel policy ideas.
In our universities across the country, there is not one chair for "future studies" as one sure sign that we are not interested in such "speculation," because presumably it is not verifiable using the scientific method.
And while continuing to worship at the altars of national banks, and one or two national institutions (like CBC's "The National"), we complacently plod along thinking we are the best in the world because those very banks did not implode during the recent recession/depression, while those very institutions chalk up the largest profits in their history, at our expense, without so much as a "how-would-you-like-to-make-this-country-grow" with your idea to potential innovators.
We have a Health Care Act that is verging on erosion, in need of new energy and imagination and perhaps new funding formula. And we collectively do nothing except perhaps call another commission to study it, making it "off limits" for political debate.
We have an education system that lurches from one pedagogical fad to another, without taking seriously its intimate and dangerous trends in staffing, curriculum and in failed practice in both leadership and citizenship education.
We have a private investment in "tarsands" oil, without a national policy for preserving the environment to accompany the project.
We fail to even discuss a national financial regulatory agency, a minimum requirement coming out of the implosion of 2008.
We fail even to discuss with any urgency, a national policy for climate change and global warming.
We fail to take seriously the provincial barriers to labour movement, trade restrictions, and energy requirements, putting provincial hegemony ahead of national aspirations and national need.
We fail to move, or even to discuss, the appalling conditions of child poverty, homelessness and hunger here at home, preferring platitudes of piety and dispassion to getting our hands dirty from rolling up our sleeves and moving the mountains of vested interests out of the way of a sea-change.
In fact, sea-change is our greatest enemy, our greatest fear and our national impediment to development.
As myopic local leaders of small projects put it, "That (idea or person or way of thinking or operating) will bankrupt us!" leaving new approaches to their silent death on the boardroom tables, where they can be swept away with the crumbs from the timbits, at the end of the meeting. Like the amoeba, Canada moves inexorably and inevitably "away" from the light, in the smallest and most silent of movements.
We cannot deny our obsequiousness to the false gods of political correctness, while at the same time, noting our unconscious smugness that we are the best place in the world to live. We cannot deny our intimidation by the outside world, while attempting to "please" those very outsiders in our Afghan commitment.
We cannot deny our failures to generate significant national debates, while seeking representation in the inner sancta of world debates.
These ceilings are not imposed from without; they are our own design and construction. And we can only hope that their "papier mache" reality will emerge from the fog of our unconsciousness, and dissipate through collective aspiration, action and accomplishment.
Like individuals, the nation will have to "behave" its way to full health and full development.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Memo to McGuinty Government: Move to make Ontario tobacco free by 2030

By Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star, October 19, 2010
Leery of charges that Dalton McGuinty is “Premier Dad,” the Liberals are shelving a new report recommending more curbs on cigarettes, including non-smoking clauses in apartment leases, generic packaging, and licensing of retailers.
In a 44-page blueprint entitled “Building On Our Gains, Taking Action Now: Ontario’s Tobacco Control Strategy for 2011-2016,” Ontario’s anti-smoking panel urged sweeping measures to reduce smoking.
With cigarettes contributing to the deaths of 13,000 Ontarians annually and costing the health-care system $6 billion a year, Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, said more must be done.“It’s time to change our approach,” Perley said Tuesday.
He is one of 25 leading health experts on the blue-ribbon panel struck by McGuinty’s government last year to design future anti-smoking strategies.
Among their 65 recommendations was a call to amend the Residential Tenancies Act so landlords could make “a non-smoking policy a material term of the lease” to protect tenants from neighbours’ second-hand smoke.
But McGuinty, who faces re-election on Oct. 6, 2011 and has in the past been accused by opponents of trying to socially engineer behaviour, quickly stamped out any further anti-smoking laws.
We often hear executives comment, "Some issues, if left alone, will disappear on their own."
Cigarette smoking, costing $6 BILLION in Ontario, and 13,000 DEATHS not going away, if the McGuinty government continues a "hands-off" approach to the new recommendations.
It is a "no-brainer" for a contemporaty government to step up to the plate and require apartment leases to include a clause prohibiting smoking. Licensing for retailers would be another move in the right direction.
Here is a summary of the recommendations of the committee taken from the actual report:
The use of tobacco products persist as the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Ontario. This alone should be sufficient motivation for government and its partners to invest extensively in comprehensive tobacco control.
Nevertheless, members of the Tobacco Strategy Advisory Group were careful to achieve consensus only on those recommendations that are practical and achievable over time. The recommendations also take into consideration: public support, economic realities, and the responsibilities of different ministries within the Ontario government, several levels of government, and organizations both private and non-governmental.
Most of the following recommendations require action to be initiated in the first year of the government’s new five-year strategy, but acknowledge that some key elements will not fully materialize and be implemented until later in the five-year timeframe.
NOTE: The order in which recommendations are listed do not indicate relative priority or urgency.
Addressing the source of the problem in Ontario
De-normalize and de-legitimize the tobacco industry (Section 4.1)
Because tobacco products and the tobacco industry are ingrained into our culture, society and economy, this process of de-normalizing and de-legitimizing the tobacco industry and its products must happen at several levels: financial, government, and in the social environment.
Financial: divesting tobacco (4.1a) Divest provincial pension plans and other investments of tobacco holdings and amend legislation to allow other institutions (e.g., Ontario universities, hospitals) to divest their tobacco investment holdings.
Government: transparency and vigilance (4.1b) Implement the provisions under the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 guidelines to prevent tobacco industry interference in the setting and implementing of tobacco control policies. Mitigate tobacco industry activities by establishing a quick response team of key public health, government and NGO leaders.
Social: counteract tobacco industry marketing to the consumer (4.1c)
The tobacco industry increasingly relies on innovative marketing tactics to sustain demand for their products, using the social and cultural environment that influences the behaviour of individuals and groups. Recommendations in this section reflect key components of marketing: “product and package” “price”, “placement” and “promotion”.
Product and Package: used by the tobacco industry to attract and retain customers
 Amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and Regulation to prohibit the distribution and sale of all flavoured tobacco products (excluding menthol).
 Ban flavourings in all smokeless tobacco products through regulations under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act within year one of the revised Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy,
 Ban smokeless tobacco products in Ontario by the end of the 5-year revised SFO Strategy.
 Mandate plain and standardized packaging (including both outside and inside the package).
 Prohibit the approval, sale and marketing of any new tobacco product or non-therapeutic nicotine product.
Price: low prices attract young people and reduce the incentive for smokers to quit
 Establish a minimum retail market price for tobacco products.
 Implement a substantial increase in provincial tobacco taxes.
 Increase cigarette taxes to address inflation and align with tax increases in other provinces.
 Mobilize municipal police and other enforcement personnel to assist in enforcing contraband controls:
• Empowerment of municipal police
• Establish joint operation groups
• Educate and empower non-police officials
 Apply a provincial tax-paid marking to every cigarette sold in Ontario, in order to help distinguish tax-paid, legally tax-exempt products from contraband.
 Develop and fund a broad anti-contraband public education program targeting both youth who use contraband and their parents to lay the groundwork for proactive enforcement activities.
 Engage in dialogue with First Nations leadership and communities to:
• achieve a mutually-satisfactory approach to stop the sales of tax-exempt tobacco to ineligible individuals and
• develop and implement strategies to address the production, distribution and sale of contraband tobacco.
 Reform the provincial allocation system by either reducing the allocation or establishing a provincial refund/rebate system for tax-exempt, legally
manufactured tobacco products supplied to a reserve.
 Implement tax markings/stamps, a tracking and tracing system and enhance enforcement (border controls, investigations, intelligence, inspections and seizures) for tobacco products.
 Reduce non-retail supply of tobacco products to underage youth with a focus on public education, and enforcement specific to youth and young adult settings.
Placement: 14,000 tobacco retailers in our communities and around our schools
 Move toward a system of designated sales outlets, by employing methods such as licensing strategies and zoning by-laws, to continuously reduce the number of tobacco retailers and locations permitted to sell tobacco products.
 Increase the number of specific places that are prohibited from selling tobacco products to match or exceed bans in leading Canadian provinces.
 Develop and implement tobacco vendor compliance strategies that continue to reduce availability of cigarettes to underage youth.
 Require, by statute, that tobacco manufacturers (including importers selling tobacco products in Ontario) meet stated annual reductions in the number of under-aged tobacco users in Ontario.
Promotion: even the act of smoking is part of tobacco industry promotion
 Refresh the tobacco product package-based health warning system in a timely and continuous manner, ensure that a 1-800 cessation helpline number is included as part of the health warning system, and align mass media campaigns with these warnings.
 Close existing exemptions on tobacco product advertising and promotion.
 Introduce legislation to further restrict marketing via tobacco product packaging, tobacco related accessories, movies and other forms of media.
 Further decrease the visibility of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke in public, particularly on patios, in front of doorways, outdoor sport and recreation spaces using regulatory and awareness raising tools.
 Require adult ratings for movies (18A) and video games (Mature) with any tobacco imagery.
Increase control over tobacco growing, manufacturing and importing (Section 4.2)
As long as tobacco products remain a legal product, more needs to be done to monitor all aspects of growing, manufacturing and importing to ensure that materials — including raw tobacco leaf, cigarette filters and papers — do not fuel the production of contraband tobacco products.
 Legislate tobacco manufacturer reporting requirements that match or exceed what is currently required by the Federal government.
 Work to control tobacco farming by creating a “task group” with key partners (for example, OMAFRA, NGOs, farmers, and other stakeholders) to develop recommendations for reducing tobacco farming. Recommendations may include:
freezing the number of licenses issued by the marketing board;
ensuring licenses remain non-transferable;
putting a ceiling on acreage used for tobacco growing; and
switching to acreage contracts as opposed to contracts by weight.
 Prohibit the supply of raw leaf tobacco to unlicensed manufacturers, importers, storers or carriers by requiring all Ontario tobacco manufacturers, importers, storers or carriers to have provincial permits, and rendering raw leaf subject to seizure if no such permit exists.
Ending the cycle of addiction: preventing new tobacco users and helping existing users to quit
Efforts to decrease the supply of tobacco products must be simultaneous with measures to decrease the demand for tobacco products.
Preventing young people from getting addicted to tobacco products (Section 5.1)
With more than 13,000 Ontario former customers dying each year, and thousands quitting, the tobacco industry needs new customers to help maintain its business.
 Implement media and social marketing strategies using traditional and non-traditional media (e.g., viral and interactive media channels) to change social norms related to tobacco use.
 Align initiatives in schools, colleges, universities and communities with other activities (e.g., media and social marketing, policy interventions) within the provincial tobacco-control strategy, including:
 the development, implementation and enforcement of comprehensive youth and young adult tobacco control policies within and across settings (e.g., schools, colleges, universities and communities); and
the development of programs/initiatives that enable the mobilization of youth, through peer-to-peer approaches to decrease the social norm associated with using tobacco products, protection from exposure to tobacco industry product use and the de-normalization of the tobacco industry;
 Require ads that aim to de-normalize tobacco companies and decrease the social norm associated with tobacco products preceding all movies and video games that contain tobacco imagery, as well as warnings on movie and video game packaging.
 Require, by statute, that tobacco manufacturers (including importers selling tobacco products in Ontario) meet stated annual reductions in the number of under-aged tobacco users in Ontario.

Fight Stereotypes...and "macho" foreign policy

By Linda McQuaig, Toronto Star, October 19, 2010
Redesigning Canada’s role in the world has been one of the key changes attempted by the Conservatives. They’ve spent years trying to sell Canadians on a new narrative — about Canada as a nation that keenly shoulders heavy burdens in real wars, having shaken off that girlie peacekeeping stuff. Harper-era TV ads for the Canadian Forces have shunned peacekeeping images and instead urged young Canadians to “fight chaos; fight terror; fight with the Canadian Forces.”

But this attempt to repackage us as a warrior nation has always been a top-down effort, orchestrated by Conservatives and our military establishment, not a grassroots yearning among Canadians for a more muscular role in the world. Indeed, exactly the opposite has been the case.
In polling done last year for the Department of National Defence, Ipsos Reid found Canadians not only strongly attached to peacekeeping, but becoming increasingly so.
Macho foreign policy, through the agency of the Canadian military, is not only not popular among the Canadian people, it is also not sustainable as a national posture on the world stage. In fact, all these claims about a "principled" foreign policy of which Canada and Canadians can be proud, in the backwash over the vote to exclude Canada from a Security Council seat, for the first time in our history of such pursuits, shows just how far out of touch with both the home constituency and the international community the Harper government really is.
If peace-keeping is considered "girlie stuff" as McQuaig puts it, and real in-the-open-field gun-fights between Canadian soldiers and Afghanistan Taliban, the manly stuff or real war, the Canadian government mistakes this conflict with a bunch of insurgent infidels, who while persistant and proud, are no Fuehrer and his Nazi hundreds of thousands of tyrannized troups with hundreds of bombers and the skill and knowledge to develop ever more lethal killing forces.
Without in any way disparaging the valiant efforts of our troops, and the troops of the U.S. and other NATO allies, (some of whom are not even permitted to engage in combat by their home governments) this Afghan conflict never should have become a war of the kind of dimension it has become. As Condolezza Rice points out in her interview with the Star's Olivia Ward in today's edition, "originally designed as a light footprint, with the Afghans doing most of the fighting," this war is more about peace-keeping and nation building than about conventional war.
And, just as the "right" denigrates Obama's "community development" career on the south side of Chicago, as "work without responsibility" compared to the work of a governor (Palin, for example), the right also denigrates nation building and community development and peace-keeping as compared with outright combat.
Engaged in a battle of stereotypes in their own minds, the "right" cannot imagine new models and new instruments and new thinking for new and different situations, as exemplified by the Canadian government's regressive, untendered purchase of 65 F-35 Fighter Jets, and millions more in prison cells for prisoners "whose crimes are not being reported." Taking out Suddam Hussein could and would have been done more effectively and more efficiently with far less loss of life and far less political damage in Iraq, by a force like the Israeli force that freed the hostages in Entebbe in Uganda. But the "macho" president and his "macho" Veep, and his "macho" pentagon had to make a Cecil B. DeMille production out of it. Similarly, taking out Osama bin Laden could and would have been more likely to succeed with a more agile, more focused and more 'intelligent' force like the Israeli force used in Uganda in the 1970's.
So too, on a smaller, more modest "Canadian" scale, is the Harper government milking the "combat" component of our Afghan commitment as the "new" more macho Canadian posture on the world stage.
While the whole world, both inside and outside the country, knows that the new "man" is more reflective, and collaborative and collegial and firm and resolute and evolved in his personal and in his political life, without being a bully or a hero or a bigot, a mysogynist or a misandrist...and peace-keeping is a far more sustainable and necessary posture in the coming decades, especially given the instability of the world's environment, economy, political stability and inter-connectedness.
Those not glued to their rear-view mirrors, with their eyes firmly on the road ahead, know that war is as obsolete as the neanderthals who claim global warming is a figment of the imagination of select scientists, and as obsolete as the "macho" warrior who marched and massacred through the pages of history on all continents.
So Messrs. Baird, McKay, Cannon, and Harper, along with Messrs. Bushcheney, Rumsfield, McCain and Palin, "Get over your addiction to hard power and prepare for entry into the real world of the 21st century.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Men/Women hard-wired differently

By Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail, October 17, 2010
Human nature is malleable. But on the whole, female ambition really is different from male ambition. Women want challenging work, so long as it’s compatible with having close personal relationships. By contrast, a fair number of men are driven to succeed, no matter what. This relentless will to dominate and win is at least as much hormonal as it is cultural. It is fuelled by testosterone, and it also explains why some men are willing to take insane risks. Men are far more likely than women to wind up as either millionaires or roadkill.

Meantime, a million years of evolution have hard-wired women to be risk-averse, for obvious reasons: If they’re not around, their babies will die. Risk aversion is extremely useful for raising children, as well as for making sure the food gets on the table and that society proceeds in an orderly and humane manner. These are not small things. Civilization would survive quite well if something wiped out half the men. If half the women were wiped out, civilization would probably collapse.
There is a group of researchers at Cambridge University in Great Britain who are actually studying testosterone as one of the principal causes of the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. They actually theorize that men upon entering the "arena" have increased levels of testosterone, and as they experience more and more positive results, their levels rise even higher, leading to behaviour that helps to explain their inordinate "greed" and carelessness with respect to the impact they may be having on others.
While Ms Wente's observations seem reasonable in the extreme, for a male observer to have come to such a conclusion might have risked more public disdain than a woman making the same observations.
Taking risks, and wondering if and when the next risk might appear, or attempting to generate it....these are not foreign scenarios for men, while, risk-avoidance is similarly much more common for women. And the "yin-yang" of this tension is at the centre of many of the conversations between the two genders.
Both points of view, including the possibility that hard-wiring accompanies each, are necessary, and neither is "better" or more "responsible" than the other.
We have all had conversations about specific risks: starting a business, running for parliament, taking a sailing voyage around the globe, quitting our jobs and selling our possessions to enable a stint in public service in a third world country...and in many of the conversations, the initiative comes from the male, with the necessary caution and detailed preparation and investigation coming from the female....and this is neither a problem nor a disease.
We are, indeed, hard-wired differently; thank God!
And to attempt to change either the hard-wiring, or the political correctness of either gender is foolhardy.
And, finally, to take the politically correct gloves off enabling a face-to-face conversation between the genders to begin, without either one starting from a position of "denigration" and "disdain" is a most refreshing development.
Thanks to Ms Wente, and to the Globe and Mail for bringing the question of public responsibility for "boys" (of all ages) to the national consciousness.

Oxymoron: Canada's Walk of Fame

By Gregg Quill, Entertainment Reporter, Toronto Star, October 16, 2010
Old-time Canadian humility took a back seat Saturday to something resembling Hollywood glitz and hustle, as six of this year’s inductees into Canada’s Walk of Fame — singers Nelly Furtado and David Clayton-Thomas, TV star Eric McCormack, author Farley Mowat, filmmaker/actor Sarah Polley and Olympic athlete Clara Hughes — ventured down a red carpet almost a block long, in the middle of Toronto’s Yonge St., while an estimated 5,000 fans packed the downtown core to cheer, wave, gawk and approve.
It seems oxymoronic to use the phrase "Canada's Walk of Fame" given this country's resistance to celebrating the accomplishments of our own, except perhaps in the privacy of a dark November night in the early 1990's, meeting a Canadian "star" like Dr. David Suzuki walking along College Street when we might  pause, look back and quietly ask, "Is that you David?" and when he responds in the affirmative,  reply enthusiastically but still not too loudly, "Please keep up the good work!" (A "real" memory!)
We are a peculiar people, Canadians. Or is that, we are a peculiar people, Ontarians. I remember a night, in 1987, when our youngest daughter was nine, and together we were watching an Ontario Junior A hockey game, when the hometown team scored. With most of the 2500 others, I jumped to my feet to cheer, only to hear a very small voice beside me say, "Dad, please, you're embarrassing me" Today, at 32, that 'little girl' mocks her own aged nine behaviour when she sees it in adults at the Bell Centre while attending Montreal Canadiens' games. Nevertheless, that was what it was like then.
There is even some surprise when, in 2010, the Air Canada/MLSE management finally risks asking the Maple Leaf fans to "sing" the national anthem without a soloist, after the experiment has proven quite successful in other Canadian cities. In a CBC poll this week, women across Canada were asked about their satisfaction with their sexual lives, and once again, Ontario polled lowest at 40%, while prairie women gave positive responses 59% of the time. Repression seems to have more than one face.
And there is certainly a "puritan" streek to this reticence; to the anal and frightened  I have been called a "gusher," and "too intense," and "a communist," (by two students overheard in the YMCA sauna by a colleague) mostly for the simple reason that I have and share opinions if and when the conversations seem ready.
Of course, my pereption of "ready" is usually premature, given my energy level and my hope that such levels will at last be echoed, reflected and perhaps even supported by others.
That some 5000 people appeared to witness the ceremony, in Toronto, of some of our Canadian stars is a little surprising, and a little encouraging. There is always a danger that the selection committee for such choices will have missed other 'candidates' through simple oversight, or through some ideological rejection and making choices of some clearly obviates the public celebration of others.
By let's not continue the 'darkness' that could accompany this kind of celebration. It is a sign that some 'light' is actually seeping into our consciousness, and permitting us to lend our thanks, and our name to significant accomplishments in various fields of human endeavour.
However, let's not expect such celebration to expand to include our national government and our national accomplishments, beyond the Order of Canada, where the sheer longevity and dedication to some particular cause that appeals to the selection committee(s) merits a small white medal, and a ceremony with the Governor General.
This is not Hollywood North; this country is proud to be different and proud not to sink beneath the respectability that both genenrates and sustains what some call "modesty" and others call "false modesty" or the "lack of confidence." The small incidental dramas that play out in every Tim's and every pub and every lab and every office merit our attention, and for the most part, we are only interested in the achievements of another, if those achievements contribute to our own capacity to laugh at ourselves.
When Ron James, for example, jokes that he, as potato-chip addictee has found potatoe chips "in the flavour of the foods we should be eating, and even the baked potato" and pauses to let that little gem gather the appropriate attention and laughter is deserves, we "know" of what he speaks. We and he are one. We know of our own appetite for the crunchy rippled craving, even when it only carries the "taste" of more healthy foods. We simply love the irony.
We are much more comfortable altering the photos on Rick Mercer's website, than we are attending a ceremony honouring our accomplished citizens. We know how fleeting and ephemeral is any kind of fame. And while we know that our kids will fantasize about achieving it, we also know that that is not a road we aspire to have our children follow, knowing just how hollow public acclaim really is.
When that little daughter expressed a desire to become a model, around fourteen or fifteen, I passed along a piece in the New York Times Magazine dedicated to the life of the fashion model, so that she would grasp its backroom culture, along with its carpeted walkways' starlit fame. She told me, years later, that she had deduced, "You didn't want me to become a model!" from having received the piece.
"Not at all," I rejoined, "Just wanted you to know what it was all about." She has no regrets about not being a model.
Congrats to the honorees of the Walk of Fame! There is no fear here that it will become a "big event" in our national consciousness. We hardly even recognize former Prime Ministers, except with the occasional statue on parliament hill.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stogran: Needed by Liberals as a Candidate

Pat Stogran, currently Veterans' Ombudsman, soon to be released from his post, would make an ideal "hot-sauce" candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada. And if ever there were a political party looking for some "hot sauce," it is the current Liberal Party of Canada.
Stogran is relentless in his advocacy for veterans returning from Afghanistan, systemically, not individually only, and that brought him into view as "dangerous."
The people "in charge" (not only in the military, but in corporations and not-for-profits) have a fear and loathing of anything even smelling of the odor of "systemic" perspective.Why is this?
Fear and loathing attend those circumstances that might expose weakness, failure to measure up, failure to take the mission seriously, failure to ask, when something is not going right, "Why?" and not just once, but at least FIVE (5!) times. And only when a CEO, or a PMO, or a Minister of Veterans Affairs is prepared to ask the question "why" at least five times, will that CEO/PMO/Minister find the answers s/he ought to be looking for.
Hiccups in manufacturing, health care provision, social service delivery, even financial services always have more than one presenting cause, and only by looking past the obvious, and the first answers to "why" does the organization begin to uncover the dynamics that might be leading to the glitch. And the risk to such a process is that those respsonsible will be found "wanting" under their current "m-o" (modus operandi, or way of operating). It takes an especially confident and open and courageous organization and leadership to willingly open to such scrutiny. And clearly, the Canadian government, and particularly Veterans Affairs, |(although rumours out of Ottawa for years provokes questions about other departments, especially Health Canada) are not organizations open to the scrutiny of a "systemic" approach.
Listen carefully to some corporate "talking head" explain a situation of some trouble for the organization, and the reasons will remind the listener of a cartoon character, simplified to the bare bones, in order to present the most positive image possible, covering the honest, and perhaps more "ugly" details with make-up.
Stogran is not now, and probably never was, comfortable with the superficial answers to complex problems.
And the country needs such minds, hearts and voices with passion and conviction to remove the veil of both secrecy and denial from our public institutions.
Three cheers for his integrity, his passion and his leadership! The Liberals would be fortunate to recruit him!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A northern optimist cheers for Democrats in November

By Sean Wilentz, The New Yorker, October 18, 2010
For the fractious Tea Party movement, Beck—a former drive-time radio jockey, a recovering alcoholic, and a Mormon convert—has emerged as both a unifying figure and an intellectual guide. One opinion poll, released in July by Democracy Corps, showed that he is “the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters,” seen not merely as an entertainer, like Rush Limbaugh, but as an “educator.” And in the past few months Beck has established his own institute of learning: the online, for-profit Beck University. Enrollees can take courses like Faith 102, which contends with “revisionists and secular progressives” about the separation of church and state; Hope 102, an attack on the activist federal government; and the combined Charity 101/102/103, a highly restrictive interpretation of rights, federalism, and the division of powers.
Read more
One simply has to take issue with Wilentz' use of the imprimature, "intellectual guide," as a way of describing Glenn Beck. And a for-profit university in his name is an insult to legitimate academics and academic institutions everywhere, especially in the U.S.
Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell...perhaps Beck's earlier mentors, to name only a couple of egomaniacs who developed their own 'university' programs under a banner of religious fear and fundamentalism.
It is the fear and fundamentalism that frightens.
When all about us is swirling in wind currents of "deconstruction" and "destablization" and "erosion" and "atrophy" and job losses and apocalyptic horrors have the benefit of a podium and a 24-7 microphone, there is no surprise that people like Beck will take advantage of the opportunity.
Name-calling, character-assassination, bigotry, exaggeration and ego-strutting...these are not now, and never were substitutes for authentic policy debate, critical examination of workable options. The John Birch Society scarred the political landscape in the Kennedy presidency and, according to Wilentz, provided the model on which the "Tea Party" movement is based. Fifty years ago, it was communists that provided the target for fear-mongers, and today, their vaccuous attacks are like heat-seeking missiles, directed at the current, first black president, Barack Obama. (They never miss an opportunity to seeth his middle name, Hussein, between their lips, in utter contempt.)
Caught between two wars begun by his predecessors, Bush/Cheney, and Wall Street gluttony, permitted by deregulation begun under Clinton and brought to fulfilment under Bush, walking warily between threats from terrorists without and cancers within, Obama and his administration have done more than most "normal" observers and critics could and would have accomplished under extremely trying conditions, (like a "just-say-no" Republican party).
And yet, he is demonized, even to the extent that the Chamber of Commerce is now found to be importing "foreign" money into the November elections, on behalf of the Republicans and their aim to dismantle the Health Care Reform Act, to make the Bush tax-cuts permanent, to block any attempt to confront global warming and climate change, to privatize social security, and to remove the "draw-down" date from Afghanistan, in favour of more military spending.
And leading the "energized right" are people like Limbaugh, Palin and Beck...whom the Democrats would be foolish to underestimate, especially given the levels of fear and anxiety sweeping through every town and hamlet and city south of the 49th. Try to imagine a candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, former CEO of E-Bay, spending $140 million of her own multi-million estate on her race for the governor's mansion in California. And then add the Supreme Court decision opening the flood-gates to undisclosed money for political advertising. And there is no surprise that Bill Clinton, yesterday, in another of his campaign appearances, announced this is my 67th appearance in this election cycle.
And Michelle Obama is garnering $30 a ticket, up to $30,000 for the opportunity of special seating and a photo-op with the first lady, as the Democrats unleash their most powerful political voice, in their bid to hold onto both Houses of Congress.
The Vice-president, Joe Biden, declares, in his electioneering speeches, "The predictions of the demise of the Democratic party are premature!" And one, even one on the north side of the 49th, can only hope that his optimism is based on reliable polling. More of the Republican intellectual, cultural and ethical rigor-mortis that we saw from 2000 through 2008 is not a remedy for anything except pandering to the rich.
And Beck's Fox-supported campaign notwithstanding, Obama's vision, his integrity and his accomplishments merit the cooling to fizzle of the tea party "high" which has no more legitimacy than a quick "joint" in an otherwise smoke-and-mirrors-filled bar.

Can. Centre for Policy Alternatives calls F-35 purchase: "Pilot Error"

Pilot Error: Why the F-35 is Wrong for Canada
Press Release from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, from CCPA website, October 14, 2010

OTTAWA—The planned purchase of 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets is the result of a ‘pilot error’ by the Canadian government, says a new report published today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The report, called Pilot Error: Why the F-35 stealth fighter is wrong for Canada, concludes that the purchase of 65 stealth fighter jets is not based upon Canada’s realistic requirements.
“This is a massive commitment of defence spending on ‘flying Cadillacs’ that is being driven by defence contractors, not by a clear-eyed view of Canada’s defence needs,” says Steven Staples, author of the report and President of the Rideau Insitute.
“Defending and controlling Canadian and North American airspace doesn’t require purchasing high-end first strike stealth fighters,” added Staples, suggesting that the expeditionary role of Canada’s fighters should be phased out.
The report carefully examines all of Canada’s current and future security requirements and addresses specific claimed benefits of the F-35. It finds that the F-35 Stealth Fighter has no real comparable advantage over less-costly fighter jets other than offering stealth technology and “shock and awe” capabilities.
“Canada has only deployed fighters twice in the last 30 years, and CF-18s were not needed at all in the almost decade-long war in Afghanistan. What’s more, Canada’s small stealth fighter contribution to any allied expeditionary efforts in the future would be marginal at best,” says Staples.
Instead of purchasing the F35, the report recommends the government:
Curtail the expeditionary role for Canadian fighter aircraft.
Stretch the life of Canada's existing CF-18 fleet by restricting the aircraft to the North American/domestic air surveillance and control role.
Investigate the acquisition of the next generation of unarmed long-range, long-endurance pilotless aircraft.
Use the money saved by the above measures to contribute to Canadian and global security in more effective ways.

Petition Opposes F-35 Purchase for Canada

Whereas the $16 billion for purchase and service of 65 F35 FighterJets is the largest single purchase in Canadian Military History;

And Whereas there has been no open tendering process for this purchase;
And Whereas the Canadian Parliament has not been granted a full opportunity to debate the purchase;
And Whereas the Canadian Government's arguments for the purchase include a specious potential military engagement with Russia over the underwater/ice mountain range in the Arctic;
And Whereas the Minister of Defence has argued publicly that the purchase "will enhance recruitment prospects" for the Canadian military, when there is little or no evidence of recruitment targets remaining unfilled;
And Whereas the Canadian economy includes both large debt and deficit figures;
And Whereas the Canadian people require much of these funds to be applied to human needs like housing, clean water, sanitation and education;
And Whereas this purchase moves Canada closer to additional military engagements when the Canadian people seek to settle international conflicts (including those generated by terrorists) through intelligence and security measures, and not through open warfare;
And Whereas, Canada's repuatation as a peace-keeper and a peace-seeker is being permanently altered through this purchase;
Therefore, we, the undersigned seek to petition the Canadian government to cease any actions that would move this purchase closer to fulfilment and
we also petition the Canadian government to hold a full and complete parliamentary debate prior to entering into any contractual obligations on behalf of Canada and
we also petition the Canadian government to open the process of the purchase of a new fighter jet to a full, open and international tendering process with full disclosure of all submitted bids and the full analysis of their relevant merits.
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