The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. And it’s a command Albertan Christians are well versed in:
I was surprised to learn a couple years ago that the United Kingdom’s supposedly National Health Service could be overridden by a local ordinance. Northern Irish residents, despite being British citizens, were being denied NHS coverage for abortions that the NHS provided to any other British citizen, simply because Northern Ireland as a region is still living in the bronze age when it comes to reproductive freedom laws.
I am pleased to see this will no longer be the case. The Guardian reports on all the complexities:
The government has announced a major concession to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in Great Britain, in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion at a vote on the Queen’s speech.
(Par for the course, Conservatives need to have a political knife at their throats to advance on human rights law.)
Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. It was due to be voted on this afternoon.
And Philip Hammond told the Commons that the government would fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland.
Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have an abortion legally there.
In a letter to MPs outlining the new funding, the education secretary and equalities minister, Justine Greening, hinted she had personal sympathy with the issue. She wrote: “As minister for women and equalities, I share the concerns of many colleagues about the experience of women from Northern Ireland obtaining an abortion through the NHS in England.”
She added: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen. This is clearly a sensitive issue and one which has direct implications for equality in treatment of women from Northern Ireland.”
Greening said that the Equalities Office would fund the payments for the terminations with additional funding for health services. “This will mean no English health service user is disadvantaged as a result of this change,” she wrote. “Funding for the services will be made available through the government Equalities Office, allowing the Department of Health to commission services in England for those from Northern Ireland.
Regardless of the circumstances, I am happy for Northern Irish residents. However, the coverage will not include travel costs, as I understand the Northern Irish government will still refuse to supply the service. This means the prior problem of poor women being unable to access appropriate care remains.
The Guardian also reported on its live coverage of the government’s concession a fracture in the Tories–seven of them defecting to stand with Labour & co. on the issue of reproductive freedom. This is a serious development considering the last election delivered no majority parties. The Tories have been trying to set for a “confidence & supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, a far-right fundamentalist party, but even those negotiations seem to be deteriorating.
If we’re lucky, this is a sign that Labour might be able to punch above its weight again in the future.
Postmedia, the corporate near-monopoly on Canadian news outlets, is heavily invested in convincing the public that the same austerity which got us into the mess we’re in is the solution to our problems, because the filthy rich owners of Postmedia don’t want to pay taxes. An entire genre of “the sky is falling” hit pieces have graced print media for the past couple years as Canada’s left-wing governments engage in Keynesian economics to keep things running during the recession. Debt and deficit hysteria has given corporate oligarchs a convenient fig leaf, with cries of “but the credit rating!” concealing the grumbling about their dues to society.
By every reasonable metric, the Albertan NDP have been the most competent leadership the province has seen in years.
By contrast, corporate oligarchs are getting exactly what they want in Saskatchewan–and yet, it has not arrested Saskatchewan debt either, causing their credit rating to continue tanking.
Yesterday was the longest day of the year, and Standard & Poor’s chose the summer equinox to downgrade Saskatchewan’s credit rating from AA+ to AA.
It was the second time in the past 12 months Saskatchewan’s credit rating has been dropped by the famous New York credit rating agency, whose pronouncements are taken ever so seriously by conservative opposition parties here in Alberta.
But you could have waited all day and long after sunset – which took place at 10:07 p.m. here in the capital of Alberta, if you were wondering – to see a press release from either the Wildrose Party or the Progressive Conservative Party condemning Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and his conservative Saskatchewan Party government for this obvious failing.
Because it’s certainly never taken this long for an angry press release to appear from the offices of either of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties when the same thing happened to Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government for the same reasons.
It turns out that increasing debt caused by keeping the lights on in resource dependent provinces in the face of low oil, natural gas and other resource prices has had pretty much the same effect in Saskatchewan governed by conservatives as it has had in Alberta governed by social democrats.
That said, a good economic case can be made that Alberta will be in far better shape as both provinces recover from the downturn because the NDP has not laid waste to health care, education and other public services, as the Saskatchewan Party is doing.
Regardless, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded Alberta’s credit rating for the second time, from AA+ to AA last month, the Wildrose press releasecalled it a “disastrous credit downgrade.”
“This is totally unacceptable,” wailed Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who is already a candidate to lead the still-unbirthed United Conservative Party.
“Credit rating agencies don’t care what politicians say, they care what they do, and the NDP are doing nothing but dithering while Alberta’s deficit spirals out of control,” shrieked Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, another UCP leadership candidate.
The real motive of the you-see-pee (United Conservative Party) has nothing to do with the provincial government’s credit rating, and everything to do with the same smash-and-grab that allowed capitalists to loot the public sector during a downturn, leaving the little guy to eat the recession while the capitalists sip martinis in the Cayman Islands.
I hope Alberta’s blue collar recognizes that.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, much to my frustration, seems to be coated in the same Teflon as the country itself, our squeaky clean public relations obscuring our role in American torture programs and a smattering of other egregious human rights violations around the world. While it is true (and important) to acknowledge that these programs were engineered by our former Conservative government, the Liberals have been slow to remove them, including the notorious Conservative Bill C-51* which greatly enhanced domestic surveillance powers. Said powers had a chance to flex their new muscles in 2015 when they persecuted civil rights organizers for actions that were not their own.
Unfortunately, too many people seem to be getting distracted by the inane “we caught Trudeau topless!” puff pieces to notice. Conservatives peddled a stereotype of the average Liberal voter who claim to have selected him because “his hair is pretty.” I don’t have any data to corroborate exactly how true that perception is, but I do know that the Liberals have not been substantially different from the Conservatives on areas of government that matter to me, and that I have seldom underestimated the depths of human shallowness.
So, back to business: Once we scrape off the Teflon, what are the Liberals actually doing about the human and civil rights violations they’ve inherited? In a word–fuck all.
In opposition, the Liberals were being squeezed by this bill. C-51 was the Conservatives’ attempt to assert they were taking muscular measures against terror. It came after two attacks in 2014, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and on Parliament Hill, and not long before the 2015 election. The bill was initially very popular.
But gradually, a campaign developed against a bill that civil-liberties advocates labelled an overreach. The NDP said they’d repeal it. But the Liberals, worried about looking either soft on terror or too much like the Tories, said they’d vote for it, and repeal the “problematic” elements later. A dodge.
So when the Liberals took power, it appeared to be one of those things they’d have to address quickly. A significant chunk of the left-leaning voters that elected the Liberals saw it as one of those Harper-legacy items that had to be undone. But from day one, they delayed.
That turned out to be shrewd. Time cooled the angry politics around it. The protest organizers – who had argued that Bill C-51 gave authorities powers to violate rights, interpret protests as security threats, and collect and share too much information on Canadians activities – directed their energy to influencing the consultations.
(Hey, about that “interpret protests as security threats” thing…)
“While this consultation was taking place, that’s certainly, for example, where my organization was investing its energies,” said David Christopher, spokesman for OpenMedia, an organization that played a sizable role in drumming up the protests.
Now, Mr. Goodale can go forward in calmer waters. Some of the controversial elements of C-51 didn’t really become the focus of criticism during the consultations. C-51 gave CSIS ill-defined powers to disrupt threats, rather than just gather intelligence; in the consultations, people expressed concern about that, but it wasn’t clear what they wanted in its place.
However, the consultation did find people aren’t sanguine about the accumulation of electronic-surveillance powers by government: warrantless interception of metadata, sharing of information between government agencies. Canadians want those things controlled. But some of those Canadian intelligence agencies will be arguing they need latitude.
Read more about Liberal waffling and stalling here. And remember this for the next election: The Liberals are saying one thing and doing another.
*Not to be confused with the Liberal Bill C-51.
Edit, June 20 2017: I wrote this post a few days ago before this news came up. Everything above is irrelevant. Bill C-59 is ten steps in the wrong fucking direction. I take it back–Liberals are not “waffling” on civil rights–they’re actively expanding its violations.
…my existence has now been federally recognized in Canada. Bill C-16 just passed in the Senate, and is off for Royal Assent.
OTTAWA, June 15, 2017 /CNW/ – The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has issued the following statement:
“Our Government is very pleased that Bill C-16 was passed by the Senate today, bringing us one step closer to strengthening laws against discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime based on gender identity and gender expression.
“In Canada we celebrate inclusion and diversity, and all Canadians should feel safe to be themselves. Trans and gender diverse persons must be granted equal status in Canadian society, and this Bill makes that status explicit in Canadian law.
“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that everyone can live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose. It will protect people from discrimination, hate propaganda and hate crimes. Once it receives Royal Assent, the legislation will add the grounds of gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Gender identity and gender expression would become prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the updates to the Criminal Code would protect trans and gender diverse Canadians who are targeted because of their gender identity or expression from hate propaganda. These changes would also require a court to treat the commission of an offence that is motivated by hate based on gender identity or expression as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
“I would like to acknowledge the courage and the leadership of the trans community and their decades of effort to achieve equality. Their dedication, resilience and tireless advocacy for equal rights inspire me.
“Finally, I would like to thank Members of Parliament and the Senate for supporting this important piece of legislation. Diversity is our strength. I am proud of the steps we are taking to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally.”
I agree. Diversity is our strength. After all, Bill C-16 has probably been the only law on the books in which the religious right, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, the alt-right, and Joe Everyman all gathered under the same banner–the Sign of the Asshole–to righteously stick it to those unemployed, underemployed icky trans people who somehow simultaneously control the entire healthcare industry and all of academia while needing to access homeless and crisis shelters at the same time.
The Liberal Bill C-51* revisits anachronistic, centuries old laws scattered about the Criminal Code, which includes oddities like pretending to practice witchcraft (actual witchcraft was presumably permitted?), blasphemy (fuck the Pope!), falsely claiming a Royal Warrant and several other oddball-to-modern-standards laws.
More seriously, the Code is being cleaned up in a few ways:
Fethullah Gulen was a controversial figure long before the attempted coup in Turkey–he’s an Islamic scholar who interprets the Qu’ran emphasizing altruism and public service (which, believe it or not, was not well received). While I will always be somewhat uneasy with any theology simply by virtue of its epistemological weaknesses, I can at least acknowledge that Gulen’s theology is “more” compatible with my own morality than most theologians. Basically, it boils down to “don’t be a dick,” Gulen’s blind spot for Kurds notwithstanding.
Nonetheless, he’s been living in self-imposed exile in the United States, and his movement of altruistic public servants is being scapegoated as the perpetrators of the attempted coup. Politicians sympathetic to Kurds have been jailed, over 200 journalists who’ve criticized the government are facing a variety of treason charges, academics can’t publish anything remotely critical of their government without getting visits from the secret police, and over 150,000 people have been arrested on evidence as wafer-thin as “used an encrypted messaging app,” with around 50,000 put in pre-trial detention–Oh, and massive portions of the judiciary are in said pre-trial detention, so there’s no infrastructure to actually try the accused. Some have been waiting for their trial since last July.
The hobbled judiciary has announced that it seeks 3,623 “aggravated life sentences” for Fethullah Gulen’s supposed role in the attempted coup, an accusation disputed by British and German intelligence. One wonders how long it’s going to take to try the other 50,000 accused, almost all of whom were not likely involved in the coup at all given that they’re a smattering of public servants, academics, or even just people who Tweeted something mean about Supreme Snowflake Erdogan. Really, that should always be the first barrier to legitimately believing in a conspiracy–you’d have to believe that many people can organize competently.
What I find especially disturbing is that the Supreme Snowflake’s supporters are fine with all of this. They’re fine with Turkey’s ascension to the EU being utterly torpedoed. They’re fine with what few democratic institutions they had being knocked down. They’re fine surrendering the right to a speedy trial. They’re fine with laws structure with absurdly low standards of evidence such that an accusation is functionally equivalent to a conviction. They’re fine with the relatives of accused being arrested and charged and prosecuted to give leverage for forced confessions. They’re fine seeking government approval for speech.
I’d say it’s unreal, but I believe it. I don’t want to, but I do. Until the infrastructure of Erdogan’s dictatorship comes down on them, they’ll be just fine with it. That’s intensely frustrating. It doesn’t occur to them to question whether it is right to seek 3,623 life sentences for a preacher whose message boils down to “help your community,” because the person saying Gulen deserves it is wearing a fancy uniform.
I’m, uh, not well equipped to refute that accusation.
According to the press secretary, Trump’s budget provides over $300 million to replace 40 miles of “border fencing.”
“Just one question about the photos,” Spiering interrupted. “Are those photos of fences or walls.”
Spicer insisted that his photos were of walls, even though he referred to them as fences earlier.
“There are various types of walls that can be built under the legislation that was just passed,” he opined.
“That is a fence,” Spiering said.
“That is called a levee wall,” Spicer replied.
“It’s not the wall the president promised,” CNN correspondent Jim Acosta observed.
“Hold on, Jim, we’re going to take turns,” Spicer said.
“So you’re basically just telling the president’s supporters to be satisfied with this existing tough-guy fencing thing until he’s ready to build the wall?” Spiering asked.
“No!” Spicer exclaimed. “What I’m telling anybody is that the president said he’s going to build a wall and he’s doing it. And he’s using the best technology.”
“Tough-guy fencing thing.” New band name?
Union-busting Kevin O’Leary, former leadership hopeful for Canada’s Conservative party, dropped out of the race last week.
He was a latecomer when he officially jumped in to the race in January, joining an already crowded field of candidates, some of them eager to discredit the reality TV celebrity.
Even before he registered, rival Lisa Raitt, a former cabinet minister under Stephen Harper, lambasted O’Leary in a news conference, warning his Donald Trump-style tactics would divide the Conservative Party and ruin any chance of its return to power.
“If principled and pragmatic Conservatives don’t join together, we will see our party hijacked by the loudest voice in the room,” she warned.
(Somebody might want to warn Raitt that “principled Conservative” is an oxymoron.)
He also faced character attacks from outside the party, including a broadside by his former Dragon’s Den co-host Arlene Dickinson, who accused him of a “total lack of empathy” for Canadians who put their heart and soul on the line.
“Kevin is funny. I often enjoyed a glass of wine with him. He’s also intelligent and a savvy self-promoter,” she wrote in an opinion column for CBC News. “But at his core, he’s an opportunist. He doesn’t do anything that doesn’t offer a path to power, fame or fortune — and that should have us all afraid.”
The O’Leary campaign attracted much media attention, in part for gaffes along the way.
He faced an angry backlash for posting a video of himself shooting a handgun and other automatic weapons on his social media accounts on the same afternoon a public funeral service was underway for three of the six victims of the Quebec City mosque attack.
The posts were quickly pulled and his spokesperson apologized for the mistake, but damage was done. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called it “obviously crass, insensitive and exceedingly dumb.”
He faced more accusations of not being a serious contender when he took time off the campaign to peddle his own wines on an American home shopping channel.
Man, that sounds familiar.
O’Leary left the race Wednesday with a frank admission that he was bowing out and throwing his support behind former cabinet minister Maxime Bernier. He said it would be foolish, even selfish, to pursue the leadership knowing he does not have the path or probability of winning the next federal election.
Of course, Bernier, the new Conservative favourite, is still a total shitheel.
But at least one of our mini-Trumps is out. Still a few more to go though.