Walk a Kb or Two in my Moccasins- Nobody 'splained it to me like that!

Simple answers to Complex Questions and Complex Answers to Simple Questions. In real life, I'm a Greater-Toronto (Canada) Realtor with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd, Brokerage. I first joined RE/MAX in 1983 and was first Registered to Trade in Real Estate in Ontario in 1974. Formerly known as "Two-Finger Ramblings of a Forensic Acuitant turned Community Synthesizer"

Friday, April 22, 2005

In Search of a National Champion

With pride and delight I take up the 'big thoughts' challenge presented by Michael Ignatieff in The National Post's Issues & Ideas on page A19 and in the article about his lecture by Joseph Brean on page A4 of the April 16, 2005 issue. (below)

I respond to the expatriate Canadian from Harvard University not with a re-hash of the perpetual problems and grave issues or a list of the symptoms discomforting our country but with a selection of ideas to address the root causes of the dis-order and dis-ease afflicting Canada and Canadians.

I will not conclude my analysis with a call for a Royal Commission where everybody and his/her special-interest can get a kick at the can (again) as my learned & respected friend has done, but with a Calm & Sensible Revelation of practical, pragmatic truths aimed at ameliorating the historic disadvantage suffered by the "average, ordinary, middle-class, taxpaying, resident Citizen" and intended, with a bit of luck, to energize and give permission to 'that group' of Canadians to take charge of what is rightfully theirs.

I believe in Canada. I believe in the Idea, the Ideal and the reality of Canada. I think we have all the components and all the characteristics to really BE the best country in the world, but I think these components are just not being combined in quite the right recipe for us to enjoy the fullness and beauty of the intended finished product.

Off the top, I suggest that there is nothing new under the sun and therefore submit that I make these suggestions not as one person, but as a synthesizer/ blender/ cherry-picker of all the ideas that might work.

I've focussed on ideas that might work in Canada of the 21st century given the established Constitutions 1763-1985, the type of thinking widely held by Canadian plebeians, patricians and pundits and the current political circumstances, characterized by Mr Ignatieff as a "perfect storm" brewing thanks to:
1) the revelations of financial arrogance flowing from the Gomery Commission's inquiry into the Sponsorship Program (Adscam),
2) the absence of leadership or vision from any individual politician or political party currently on the national scene,
3) seemingly ceaseless bleating and complaints from the provincial and municipal orders of governance,
4) widespread public distrust and dissatisfaction with Canadian governance -its system, its leaders, its followers, its hangers-on, opportunists and profiteers.
5) almost universal public nescience (lack of knowledge through no fault of their own) of the historic evolution of Crown Government, the Parliamentary system and the Canadian Constitution simultaneous with the innate desire to 'make things better' if given the chance. Many of us armchair Prime Ministers hold the inherent belief that we indeed could fix the country in no time flat "if we had a long enough lever and a place to stand".

I hope that since we already have the 'place to stand', I can contribute some of the information that will create the lever to affect the transformational, re-making of Canada in the image in which it was conceived i.e. NOT Britain, but British, NOT France, but French, NOT the U.S.A., but North American, NOT Aboriginal, but autochthonous in our own right.

I have studied Canada from the perspective of person distant, but not-disinterested in the well-being and prosperity of each and every Canadian and not-disinterested in each and every Canadian institution. France views Quebec & the Francophonie from this position, and with due respect, perhaps HRH Queen Elizabeth II thinks from this perspective about Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

My premise is that Canada is ideally poised to BE the "New Jerusalem" of this new century, the new Hong Kong of trade, the new Switzerland of multi-culturalism and "value-added manufacturing", the honest-broker of international relations, the reasoned, honoured, trusted neighbour of the military giant that shares our border and the 'land of milk and honey' for its citizen - simply, THE world leader in peace, order and GOOD government - our government's original, written, primary principles.

The Secret Formula for achieving the Nirvana on earth that I describe?
Go back to these first principles.
Define the terms we hear bandied about - sovereignty, ministerial responsibility, authority, nation, citizen, duty, allegiance etc
Re-read the Rule Book - our Constitution(s) and Acts of Parliament - with the new/old definitions in mind and then apply it as written.

My approach is to remind readers that "things are not always what they appear to be", that in many cases the reality of "really big" or "really important" things is often actually opposite to the commonly-held perspective, that conventional wisdom is sometimes based on less than 100% of the facts and that 'de facto' may vary from 'de jure'.

In this series I want to answer 5 Questions:
1) How shall we live?
2) Who will decide?
3) How did we get in this mess?
4) How might we get out?
5) Whose Dominion IS this "Dominion of Canada"?

I will address 8 aspects of Canada Re-Built, each of them crucial to the real Repatriation of Canadian sovereignty, the transformation of the Canadian caterpillar into the Canadian butterfly and the Re-Confederation of the True North Strong & Free into a whole that is far greater than the sum of its "special-treatment" parts.

1) Executive & Legislative Powers - Our 'One Parliament'
2) Boundaries - What should a province be?
3) Distribution of Powers - Federal, Provincial & Section 94's Uniformity of Laws
4) Aboriginal Peoples - The Great Peace of the Iroquois Confederacy
5) Citizenship & Immigration - Who wouldn't want to immigrate?
6) Debt Consolidation & Elimination
7) Healthcare Funding - Take it off the Budget
8) Deemed Disposition of the Crown's Canadian Assets

Robert Ede

Wednesday » April 20 » 2005

In search of a national champion

Adam Radwanski
National Post
April 15, 2005

There's a rumour making the rounds that Jean Lapierre, the former separatist inexplicably installed as Paul Martin's Quebec lieutenant, has his eye on Jean Charest's job.
Mr. Lapierre, looking toward the Quebec Liberal leadership should Stephen Harper's Conservatives punt his current party from office, is supposedly doing what he can to make life difficult for the Premier by sabotaging relations between him and the Prime Minister's office.
Frankly, I have no idea if this is true -- nor whether provincial Liberals want anything to do with a guy who goes through political parties faster than David Kilgour. But the possibility should be shocking: If we're not careful, the non side in a referendum could be led by a serial flip-flopper who voted oui last time around, and an Alberta-first prime minister with no seats in Quebec who seems uncomfortable in Toronto, let alone la belle province.
What's really shocking, though, is that, in the current political climate, that possibility doesn't seem all that shocking at all.
Yes, Messrs. Lapierre and Harper are terrible candidates to convince Quebecers of the merits of staying in Canada. But so is virtually everyone else on the national political scene -- which is largely the reason we're facing the possibility of another referendum in the first place.
Adscam, which the Conservatives insist is the real reason sovereignty is back on the table, may be the trigger -- but a corruption scandal alone, even one involving unity efforts, isn't going to prompt a province to remove itself from confederation. Nor is nationalism on the rise, as La Presse's Andre Pratte claimed in The Globe and Mail this week, because Ottawa hasn't done a good enough job pandering to Quebec -- not when the current PM has granted the province more autonomy than his predecessor ever would have.
What has us waiting for one final "humiliation" to push sovereignty support over the edge is an utter failure of national vision from politicians of all stripes.
Instead of moving forward together, we have 10 provinces and three territories pulling apart. Since Mr. Martin came to office, the lone serious effort at setting national goals has been a daycare program that may never see the light of day. Otherwise, federal politics has become a perpetual struggle to accommodate the provinces -- not by reaching out to all at once with straightforward national initiatives, but by forcing them to compete against each other for handouts given to the ones that make the most noise.
But it's not just Mr. Martin who deserves blame. His predecessor may have billed himself as a champion of national unity, but by continuing the decentralization begun under Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien effectively neutered the federal government. Today, it's powerless to develop comprehensive social policy unless it's achieved the fantasyland scenario of having every single province on board. So the ability of the country to tackle common challenges -- be they health care, urban development or, yes, child care -- is virtually non-existent.
What's needed, desperately, is a national leader who passionately believes in Canada, and is willing to fight for it even if it means going head-to-head with various provincialists along the way. But what's most depressing of all is that there is absolutely nobody, either here or on the horizon, who fits the bill.
Mr. Harper and the hard-line strategists who surround him have long projected a cynical pessimism about the future of the country; even when he doesn't mean to, he conveys the sense that he thinks Canada is going to hell in a handbasket. Jack Layton, like other NDP leaders before him, is curiously averse to offending Quebec nationalists despite the necessity of a strong central government to implement all his proposed spending initiatives. And neither of their parties has anyone who'd favour a radically different approach waiting in the wings.
At the provincial level, the one premier who briefly appeared to put national interests ahead of provincial territorialism -- Ontario's Dalton McGuinty -- is now at war with Ottawa.
As for the federal Liberals, the prospects after Mr. Martin are dismal. Not one member of the weak field eyeing the leader's job is willing to go even as far as Mr. Chretien did in promoting the country as a whole above provincial interests.
The value of a single, charismatic champion of national unity -- someone able to sell a common vision and purpose -- cannot be underestimated. One can only hope that by the time we find that person, it won't be too late. (italics & bold added)
© National Post 2005

The coming constitutional crisis

Michael Ignatieff
National Post
Saturday, April 16, 2005

CREDIT: Gordon Beck, CanWest News Service
A giant Canadian flag is held aloft at an Oct. 27, 1995, No Rally during the Quebec sovereignty referendum campaign.
Most Canadians regard constitutional crises with dread. We rightly long for moments when our politics is not about constitutional law, but about bread, butter and welfare. But constitutional crisis is where we may be, once again, before too long.
The fundamental cost of the current political crisis is its impact on national unity. Whenever the next election comes, it might result in the failure of any of the federal parties to secure national representation in all of our regions, particularly in Quebec. This will weaken the federal ideal. Success for Quebec nationalist parties, at both the provincial and federal level, will build support for separation. The defeat of a federalist provincial party and the election of a separatist government is a possibility within the next three years.
Thanks to the 1998 separation reference and the 2000 Clarity Bill, clear procedures and clear questions open up the further possibility that this time a referendum to separate might yield an unequivocally clear result -- in favour of separation. Then we might all find ourselves unwilling participants in an experiment unprecedented in the annals of political history: not the break-up of a failed state, but the dissolution of a mighty, successful and admired G-8 country.
We are heading into another moment of existential challenge. Despite all the vital ties that bind -- flag, currency, the Charter, common social programs and economic prosperity -- we are aware that one vital institution that binds us together, the federal political party, is failing us.
The raison d'etre of our parties is to create national coalitions, from coast to coast, of Canadians united around a common, if competing visions. The current capacity of all of our federal parties to do this has been weakened for 20 years. The reasons why are complex: failures of leadership, indifference to ideas, a hollowing out of the parties themselves, their slow decline from vehicles of policy and coalition forming to professional election machines. But whatever the reasons, each of our national parties is now at risk of becoming merely a regional or sectional interest group, rather than a national coalition.
If none of the federal parties prove capable of creating coast to coast coalitions, if none of them prove capable of representing Quebec, Quebecers may begin to wonder why Canada represents them. Their political support may go to those parties whose loyalty is not to Canada but to Quebec. Other regions, if they become convinced that fiscal imbalances or regional disparities are not being justly managed by our federation -- through the brokerage function of our national party system -- may begin to turn alienation and discontent into something much more serious.
The argument that we are likely to face, if not now, then within the next five years, is one we have encountered since the 1960s: the claim that the constitutional arrangements of our country stand in the way of the full development of French Canada. The classic case argues as follows: Quebec is a nation, and a nation requires a state in order to enjoy full rights of self-determination.
Federalists have wasted a good deal of time contesting the idea that Quebec is a nation. I have never had difficulty conceiving Quebec as such. My central objection to Quebec nationalism is to its claim that it is necessary for their nation to have a state.
There are nations that require states: but only when discrimination, oppression, violence require it, when a national group cannot protect itself, except through the powers of state sovereignty.
It is torturing the plain meaning of the word "survival" to claim that Quebec's survival is at risk in Canada. The reverse is true. Canadian federalism has been the institutional condition for the transformation of Quebec. Since 1940, Quebec has undergone a demographic, economic, social and cultural revolution -- and the Canadian federation has evolved to make way for it, protecting the French language, reallocating powers over immigration and culture to guarantee la survivance.
At this point, I suspect readers are feeling the very special fatigue that overcomes us when we hear over-familiar arguments thought to have been rebutted long ago. Our constitutional weariness is the chief danger to the national unity of our country. Every Canadian who went through Meech, Charlottetown, repatriation, the notwithstanding clause and the referenda is tired of these arguments. Federalists thought they were done with this.
It is highly significant that Quebec's nationalists have battened on to the argument from fatigue. This is the new -- and especially dangerous -- form of justification for separation. It exploits federalist fatigue with a dubious claim of good faith.
The argument runs as follows: We Quebecers showed good faith: We participated in efforts to reform the federation from the 1960's onwards. We all tried, but we failed. Let us cut the Gordian knot. Let us free ourselves from the interminable travails of constitution making -- five regions, aboriginal peoples, two language groups. It's become too hard. Let's live apart.
What is dangerous about the case for separation -- it could be called the case from exhaustion -- is that it rings true for many Canadians across the country, for those who feel too many compromises have already been made, who put their faith in Meech and Charlottetown, only to see their hopes dashed.
To the argument from exhaustion, two rebuttals can be made. The first is that constitutional difficulty is simply the price of being Canadian. Canada just happens to be one of those countries that is committed, as a condition of its survival, to engage in a constant act of self-justification and self-invention. Constitutional dialogue among regions and languages is the very condition of our collective survival. To be tired of this is to be tired of Canadian life. We are one of those countries that lives the truth of Ernest Renan's remark about democracy: that it is une plebiscite de tous les jours.
We are a unique country, one that has always accorded full democratic rights to those who question the raison d'etre of our country's existence, provided they do so peacefully. As such we are an example to all multi-ethnic and multilingual states: Democratic toleration has rarely been pushed so far, but our form of toleration has to mean something more than pinched and reluctant acceptance of another's right to contest our existence. It must mean a continued willingness to engage, to argue, to persuade -- and above all, to listen. To listen to a competing account of our national history, a competing account of our national priorities, a competing account of our central disagreement. Few countries take on this burden of managing difference. We should do so with something better than resigned fatigue.
It is also dear to nationalists to pretend that when they speak for Quebec, they speak for all of Quebec. The reality is otherwise. The central argument against separation is that it divides Quebecers against themselves, Francophone federalist against Francophone separatist, Francophones versus Anglophones and Allophones.
In the service of a nationalist ideology that meets the political aspirations of one group of Quebecers, all other Quebecers will be forced to choose between Quebec and Canada. For at least 40% of the Quebec population, that is a choice they do not want to make. They want to remain what they are: Quebecers and Canadians, in a balance of identities that is best left to each individual to decide for themselves. The fundamental case for federalism in Quebec is that it leaves that choice to the different communities of Quebec to decide as they see fit.
What makes the current situation serious is that our constitutional crisis is rapidly becoming systemic: Atlantic provinces discovering new energy wealth are seeking to patriate this wealth for their own development alone. Hard-pressed Ontario is asking how it can meet the steadily escalating costs of its commitments in health and education and is raising fundamental questions about its historic role in equalization. Alberta has its own concerns with equalization. Saskatchewan wants to re-negotiate its deal. Strapped municipalities -- many of them larger than some provinces -- are asking where they fit into a fiscal federalism constructed primarily to distribute taxation and revenue between federal and provincial governments.
Successive federal and provincial governments have compounded the problem with case-by-case improvisation, making deals that are slowly provoking a systemic crisis, in which Canada backs its way, without fully intending it, into an ever more asymmetrical, and ever more unsustainable, fiscal crisis.
If our fiscal crisis is systemic then it needs to be dealt with systematically. A Royal Commission -- with bipartisan representation from all three levels of government -- is one possible way to re-order fiscal federalism for the 21st century. Of course, every red-blooded Canadian groans at the prospect of yet another Royal Commission, yet we forget that a previous Royal Commission, the Rowell Sirois report in the 1930's, set the framework for the post war transformation of the Canadian social fabric, including old age pensions, social security, unemployment insurance and ultimately health care.
The time has come to do something similarly bold and far-sighted in relation to the fiscal problems besetting our federation. Nothing would do more to address the risk of complacency and fatigue that besets the federalist cause, nothing would engage other regions in a national dialogue about our country's future, than a commission, with a targeted mandate to report, and a genuinely bipartisan, federal, provincial and municipal membership, to think long and hard about how to renew our federation's finances in the 21st century. The task of Canadian patriots, in other words, is not only to defend our federation, but to reform it.

Michael Ignatieff teaches human rights at Harvard University. This is an edited version of a speech that was delivered Friday at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
© National Post 2005

Wednesday » April 20 » 2005

'Perfect storm' threatens national unity: Michale Ignatieff
Commission needed on fiscal federalism, says possible Liberal leadership contender

Joseph Brean
National Post
Saturday, April 16, 2005
CREDIT: Jenelle Schneider, Calgary Herald
Michael Ignatieff is touted by some Liberals as their leader-in-waiting.
TORONTO - Michael Ignatieff, the Harvard scholar touted by some Liberals as their leader-in-waiting, yesterday called for a royal commission on fiscal federalism, telling a gathering of legal scholars that Canada is entering a constitutional "perfect storm," the cost of which will be national unity.
Wearing a Liberal-red tie to give his luncheon address at York University, Professor Ignatieff said the commission should "think long and hard about how to renew our federation's finances in the 21st century."
He lumped the most immediate constitutional threat, Quebec separatism, together with all the other federal-provincial-municipal tensions: from equalization squabbles with Alberta and Ontario, to Atlantic disputes over natural resources and the pleadings of cash-strapped cities.
"You can all see the doomsday scenario coming up," he said in the politically charged speech. "If this is a systemic crisis, we need to take this out of the political arena and think systemically."
All of these crises, he said, have undermined the traditional separation of politics and the law by linking a party's political fortunes to its constitutional stance. The parties, in turn, serve regional interests before national unity and behave like "professional election machines" rather than vehicles for ideas, he said.
"We do not want our constitutional law to become a plaything of political forces," he said, citing the case of Quebec nationalists, who inevitably exclude 40% of the province's immigrant or anglophone population from their visions of francophone self-determination.
"We have a battle on our hands, not just in Quebec, but in the rest of the country," he said. "We need some agile constitutional thinking. We need to think some very big, basic thoughts that we haven't thought for a generation.
"Let's face facts: We're getting into another moment of storms," he said, referring to the 1995 near-miss Quebec referendum and the new revelations from the Gomery commission about federal advertising spending.
"This time, a referendum might yield a clear result in favour of separation," he said, the result of which would be "not the breakup of a failed state, but the dissolution of a mighty, successful and much-envied country."
He also got in a dig at the Liberal sponsorship scandal, observing "we have spent 20 years believing that politics does not need ideas, only to discover that advertising slogans, embossed golf balls and money under the table are not particularly effective ways to secure allegiance of our people."
The chief danger to national unity, he said, is the weariness of Canadians for vigorous constitutional debate. After the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, and the 1995 referendum in Quebec, it is difficult to whip up support for yet another exercise in self-determination.
He said this "argument from exhaustion" -- that keeping Quebec in Canada has been more bother than it is worth -- "rings true for many Canadians across the country.
"We thought we were done with this. We are never done with this," he said. "To be tired of this is to be tired of Canadian life."
© National Post 2005

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