Category Archives: Politics (MC Archive)

Politics columns that appeared on Jason Menard’s previous Web site, Menard Communications.

Vigilante Justice, Vigilante Politics

By Jason Menard

Earlier today, local radio station AM 980 asked why are “some so quick to embrace vigilante justice?” It’s for the same reason we embrace vigilante politics. We want the quick fix. We want the satisfaction of having our needs met. And, most insidiously, we think we know everything.

Vigilante justice is immediate, visceral retribution for a crime. Often it’s a crime so heinous that we’re willing to dispense with long-developed traditions. We’re not willing to wait.

Some treat politics the same way. They don’t like the status quo, so it’s time for a visceral response. Unhappy until the bloodletting begins, it’s all about sacrificing process at the altar of action. Continue reading

Advertisements

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

By Jason Menard

It’s almost time for the bell to ring, announcing the first round of this Parliamentary battle, and the only question that remains is whether the opposition will come out swinging or if they’re prepared to feel out the competition for a while and wait for the right time to deliver the knockout blow.

As the Conservatives and the opposition Liberals prepare to go toe-to-toe in the ring over issues like childcare and taxation it will be interesting to Canadians to see whether the Grits, still licking their wounds from the spanking they received in the recent federal election, are willing to throw down the gloves and get ugly in defense of their principles.

For the Liberals, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Allow such show-stoppers as the scrapping of the Liberal daycare plan in favour of the $100 per month per kid plan favoured by the Tories or the slashing of the GST and rollback of previous Liberal personal tax cuts, and the Liberals run the risk of being perceived as compromising their ideals. And for a party that’s reeling from the sponsorship scandal and a public that questions its integrity, this is one perception that must be shed.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the only way that can be done is for the Liberals to stand their ground, come hell or high water – or at least yet another election call.

Already, Opposition House Leader Ralph Goodale has started to hedge the Party’s bets, casting the burden of responsibility to its co-opposition members, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc. By stating that these two parties could conceivably prop up the Tories, even if the Liberal vote against these key measures, he’s effectively deflected the question of standing for one’s ideals two the smaller members of the opposition.

This will be a Parliament of perception and posturing. The NDP is on the verge of slipping from the image of being the King Maker to becoming the royal whore – hopping into bed with whomever’s in power to further their own agenda of power. If anything, the NDP should be philosophically more opposed to the Conservative agenda, especially when it comes to issues like social programs, yet they’ve been the most conciliatory speakers when it comes to consensus building in the House of Commons. The NDP runs the risk of alienating its very own traditional supporters and losing them to a newly emboldened Liberal Party – especially if Jack Layton supports a less-than-favourable Omnibus bill in order to maintain political continuity.

On the other side, Gilles Duceppe has to be a little worried about support in his own back yard. While talking the good talk about the idea of his party sweeping through la belle province, he has to be a little rocked by the fact that it was Stephen Harper who walked the walk and eroded his base of support by scoring huge gains in Quebec. Does he risk returning to the polls and testing his supporters’ patience for yet another election?

In the end, does this all embolden Stephen Harper even more? After a few missteps in the early part of his tenure, the ducks are all in a row for him to push through an aggressive first foray into this political battle. Does he gamble that the leaderless Liberals don’t have the stomach for jumping into a snap election? Does he hope that the question marks surrounding the other opposition parties mean that their preference will be to wait for a better time to act?

Harper has to decide what the more prudent strategy will be. Does he enter the House of Commons in a consensus-building manner and hope to negotiate what he wants, or does he seize the opportunity to make dramatic changes and enact a substantial – and controversial – component of his party’s political platform, trusting that the time isn’t right for his opponents to make a move. It’s a bitter pill that he’ll be forcing the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc to swallow – Harper just has to judge whether they have the stomach for it.

In the world of boxing, the boxer always has the edge on the puncher – but in the Canadian political ring, Harper has to opportunity to be both. He can come out swinging, landing the heavy blows, and out-strategize his opponents right from the opening bell. But the only way that works is if the opposition isn’t willing to step up and go toe-to-toe with the Conservatives.

The opening bell is about to ring. This is sure to be one fight to watch.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Tory Puts Faith in Wrong School Plan

By Jason Menard

When it comes to faith-based education, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory has the right idea – just the totally wrong way to implement it. To meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural Canada, we have to embrace the thought that less is more.

It’s time to bring religion back to schools – but not in the traditional way. To meet the needs of its students, the public school system should offer a mandatory faith component that exposes children to all the world’s belief systems. We can easily make do with what we have, we don’t need to add more – especially when through addition of schools we’re actually subtracting the exposure our children have to each other’s cultures.

Already we’re facing a funding crunch for our two existing school systems. Both public and Catholic school boards are forced with dealing with changing demographics, dwindling attendance, and outdated buildings. The addition of public funding for more faith-based institutions won’t help either financially or socially.

Tory’s argument is that by validating faith-based education through the auspices of public funding, we’ll be creating an environment where all religions are blessed by the approving scepter of government finance. And while that’s fine for us adults, how exactly does that filter down to the kids?

In essence, this plan would stop kids of different religions from interacting. Children will be placed in their own corners and prevented from mixing with others. And, more importantly, they’ll be prevented from learning.

The way to fix this problem isn’t with more public funding of faith-based education – it’s with less. And that starts with the elimination of the Catholic school board. By consolidating the resources currently duplicated across two school boards, our educational system would be able to better manage resources, combine efforts, and use existing facilities to cope with shifting demographics.

We live in a secular society that’s growing increasingly multicultural. To offer taxpayer-funded services for one religion and not the other isn’t right. However, that doesn’t mean you just eliminate the one religion. Rather, you create a system that embraces the teachings of religion – all religions.

Religion should have a place in schools – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t believe in any one religion. But despite my lack of belief, I fully understand and support the idea of exposing our children to all the world’s religions. Not only will this open their minds to new ideas and experiences, but it will help them understand the people around them.

A public school system with a faith component would have a greater impact on global acceptance of religion than Tory’s validating-by-separating agenda. When students learn why their friends mother wears a hijab, or why their friend can’t mix meat and dairy, that makes it seem less strange. Our religious and societal differences no longer become fodder for mockery, but they become aspects of intrigue and respect.

In addition, students will see that despite the various differences and belief structures found in religion, the underlying message of all is basically the same – and that’s about being good to each other and being the best person we can be. By experiencing a faith class where that message is reinforced by exposure to the world’s religion, our children will be able to grow up in a world where our religious differences don’t matter as much.

Unfortunately, ignorance breeds mistrust and fear. Unless one is exposed to a religion, some of the practices, clothing, and imagery can seem odd. And kids deal with things they don’t understand by shunning them. However, imagine the benefits of having one public school system, where children of all faiths come to learn together and share their personal experiences. Then there would be no need to fear the unknown, because we’d have a better understanding of each other.

Then, just maybe, those kids can teach their parents a thing or two about tolerance.

Of course, there will be those who want their children educated in an environment that’s solely focused on their own belief system – and that’s their right. It’s also their obligation to pay for that privilege. Again, we live in a secular society – our obligation to our children is to teach tolerance, not make equal educational services available to all.

It’s a new world with an ever-changing demographic. The days of the Protestant/Catholic school board split are long gone – today’s Canadian mosaic is richly woven with threads from many different races, cultures, and religions. What better way to foster understanding and respect for each other than by learning about the very things we hold dear – our beliefs and our culture.

Sometimes less is more. We don’t need more publicly funded religious-based schools – we just need to reallocate the resources we have now in a way that makes sense for today’s children.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Regifting in its Finest Form

By Jason Menard

Some people frown on regifting, but many others of us have, at one time or another, taken something that was given to us and passed it on to someone whom we felt would appreciate the gift more. So if we’re willing to do this for cutlery, paintings, or other less-than-ideal resents, why are we so stingy when it comes to something that matters — something like organ donation?

For the thousands of people currently waiting for an organ transplant, a regift of your organs could be the greatest present they’ll ever receive. It’s potentially the gift of hope, the gift of a future, and the gift of life. Frowning on regifting? Not me. Not when it comes to organ donation.

Since I’ve been old enough to make the decision on my own, I’ve always committed to posthumous organ donation. When I pull out my health card, there’s that black strip along the back reading “donor.” The entire process was so insignificant that I don’t even remember doing it — but the long-term ramifications for someone else could be life-altering.

At least, that’s my hope.

First off, I hope to use my organs for a long, long time. But if something happens to me and I’m shuffled off this mortal coil a little earlier than I expected, then I certainly hope that what’s inside of me can be of use to someone else. And don’t think this is a matter of trying to live on through the lives of others. Simply put, I won’t be needing those organs, so it’s kind of selfish of me to keep them to myself — or reduce them to a pile of ashes once I’m gone.

I can also completely respect those who for cultural or religious reasons decide not to participate in organ donation. That is their choice, their lives, and I respect their right to live it the way they do — just as I hope they respect my choice. I’d like to think that if I’m wrong and I do need my organs wherever death takes me, then whomever is there to greet me will be more than willing to comp me a new set, understanding that I gave them away to help others. Most religions feature a forgiving deity so I’m hoping compassion and caring for others would count.

And if the one who greets me at the afterlife ends up being a stickler for original parts, then I guess I’ll have to live (or die, as the case would be) with that — comforted by the fact that at least I went out on a positive note.

It’s the people who just don’t get around to it until it’s too late that I have a problem with. Sure, nobody likes to dwell upon their own mortality. Nor are too many people fond of being cut open and picked apart like the tubby guy on the Operation board game. But one moment of compassion, one stroke of a pen checking off the right box can make such a difference to those who truly need it.

Assumed consent is a flawed solution for this problem. It leaves too much room for error and too much opportunity for an unintentional disrespecting of someone’s religious beliefs. And while live donation is an option, I’m afraid I’m a little too selfish for such a selfless act. After all, if I give away a kidney and mine fails, I’d be a little miffed. And I don’t know if I’d be able to handle knowing that I sold an organ that my own child or parents may need in the future. If I’m to be condemned for showing preferential treatment for my family, then I guess I’ll have to hang on that crime.

Nor do I like the idea of forcing someone to fill out the form as a prerequisite to obtaining an essential piece of documentation, whether it be a health card or a driver’s license. This, after all, is still a country where people are free to make their own choices at their own leisure.

For me, the decision to donate my organs is a no-brainer (pun fully intended). But I can appreciate that others may have to ruminate over the issue. We all process death differently and we all have different motivations guiding us towards our eventual decision. Unfortunately some people take far too long to make up their mind.

So what’s the solution? Sadly, there is no one perfect answer. Greater education and greater access to organ donation forms are the two ways to bring people around. Why not leave self-addressed stamped forms at various government institutions so people can fill one out on the fly and mail it off! And think of the sheer humour in someone filling out a form allowing for the harvesting of their liver while their in line at the liquor control board!

Why not have fun with the whole thing? Why not put a stack of organ donation forms at a men’s urinal with a message stating, “Enjoying using your kidneys? So would hundreds of others waiting for a transplant. Fill out this form today!” Information doesn’t have to be preachy to be effective!

In the end, the more people know, the more likely they are to make an informed choice. The easier we make it for them to donate, the more likely they will. Human nature is to resist things that are forced upon us — but human nature is also to give!

And hopefully people will get the message sooner, rather than later. Because as welcome as these regifts would be for those awaiting an organ transplant, for many of them time is running out. Whichever way you choose, just choose and let your family know.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Only Opinion that Matters Can’t Be Heard

By Jason Menard

How far is too far? How much is too much? And what right to we have to make decisions for other people – both living and yet-to-be conceived?

Those are the questions that are constantly laid out before us and questions for which there appears to be no globally acceptable right answer. And even when we feel comfortable with our own decisions as to what’s the right answer in our lives, life continues to throw us new curveballs – just to keep us on our toes, and less certain that we’ve figured things out.

The latest head – and soul – scratcher is the story coming out of Montreal of the mother who has frozen her eggs so that her daughter, who is undergoing a procedure that may affect her fertility, could give birth in the future. In the end, the daughter would be giving birth to her biological half-sister, yet expected to raise her as a mother.

Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it for us to decide?

Morality is such a fine line to tread when it comes to making decisions. My wife goes outside in a tank top and shorts, and I’m fine with it. People from other cultures may look down on that because she’s exposing too much skin. That’s they’re choice and they’re entitled to their beliefs, just as I am to mine. Gay marriage? I’m fine with it – after all, I figure it just strengthens the depth of my bond to my wife when I’m involved in an institution that celebrates love in all its myriad forms. But, if your God tells you it’s wrong, who am I to say no? Everyone’s entitled to their beliefs as long as you’re respectful of others’ rights to do the same.

But when it comes to the unborn that’s a different story. We’re not talking about people who have the ability to make a decision for themselves – we’re talking about future humans who have yet to be conceived. And, in the case of the Montreal family, you’re talking about a decision that will have ramifications for the rest of the child’s life.

I believe in pro-choice, in that the woman has the ultimate right to decide. However, abortion is about terminating a pregnancy – preventing, for whatever reason, a child from coming into an environment where it is not wanted. That is a horrible decision for anyone to have to make, and it’s not aided at all by those who look down upon the women who have struggled to choose this option. As a 33-year-old male, I figure I’m the last person who should have an opinion on abortion – although I seem to be in the minority with that view judging by the plethora of middle-aged white men and past-the-age-of-childbearing women who take to picketing hospitals that administer abortions. It’s always easy to condemn something that will never impact your lives. Personally, I’d rather leave that moral debate to those who are impacted by it.

But this case in Montreal troubles me. This isn’t about ending a life – we’re talking about creating a life and submitting the person to a life of challenges and questions. This is a decision that will only have a minimal impact on mom and daughter (or, in this case future grandmother and mother), but will resonate within the resulting child for years. While the decision of the mother to freeze her eggs for her daughter’s use is an altruistic one that seems to have been made with the best of intentions – the desire to allow her daughter the joys of experiencing childbirth – the problem is that common sense seems to have been left out of the equation.

There are several other options available to women who are unable to conceive naturally. Research and science have developed a number of procedures, treatments, and techniques that have given hope to a generation of women who previously would have been written off as “barren.” As well, there are far too many children waiting to be adopted into a loving, caring family. Who knows what technology will emerge in the next 20 years?

Has anyone thought of how the unborn child will feel when they grow up, eventually finding out that grandma actually is her biological mother? Has anyone thought of how this child will deal with the impact of the scrutiny that will eventually find him or her as the child’s story comes out? Will there be resentment? Anger? Confusion?

Maybe it will all work out for the best. Hopefully, if the mother’s eggs are used in the daughter, the resulting child will be born into a loving, caring family where it is wanted. But is it right for us to make those decisions as to how our children will be born?

Again, this is a decision that’s best left to the family, as they’ll have to deal with the repercussions. But, hopefully, at least one opinion will carry more weight than all others – the opinion of the unborn child. Because, after all, that’s the only one that matters!

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Political Lesson – What’s in a Name?

By Jason Menard

What’s in a name? And does carrying one of the iconic surnames of Canadian politics hold any sway in today’s day and age? Justin Trudeau is hankering to find out, but chances are any victory he’ll enjoy in an upcoming federal election will be more due to geography than genealogy.

Love him or hate him – and there are few Canadians who are indifferent – it would be hard to vote against Pierre Yves Elliot Trudeau as the most dynamic politician ever produced in the Great White North. Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 until 1984, Trudeau guided this country through both its most defining and divisive period – ushering in the Constitution and dealing with the ramifications of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and the October Crisis.

To this day, the name Trudeau inspires reverence in some and utter disgust in others. And it is into a wide and powerful wake that his son Justin has officially thrown himself, in announcing his intention to run as a Liberal candidate in the next federal election.

To his credit, the younger Trudeau has taken his time coming to this announcement. To many, the public’s seeds of interest were planted during Prime Minister Trudeau’s state funeral in 2000, wherein Justin delivered a compelling speech that prompted many to see that the elder’s gift for oratory had passed to his offspring. At that time, speculation began that Justin was planning a foray into politics – something he continually brushed aside as a concept that was before its time.

Seven years later, the time is now. The writing was on the wall even during the Liberal leadership convention where Justin was a dominant presence in the failed bid of Gerard Kennedy, and eventually joined Kennedy in throwing his support behind the eventual victor Stéphane Dion.

And now, Canadian politics again has the name Trudeau as part of its vocabulary. The question is, does that matter?

In certain levels of politics, name recognition carries an enormous amount of weight. Municipal politics, for sure, is one forum where a familiar name can sway those voters who haven’t taken an active interest in the issues or candidates. But federally the equation changes. At the federal level there’s a delicate balance between voting for the candidate and the party. In fact, we’ve seen recent examples of parties that have specifically counseled for strategic voting in order to keep a less-than-savoury party out of power.

So does the Trudeau name matter? In the end, no. But what it does do is put an enormous amount of pressure on Pierre’s eldest. It can be argued that Justin enters the political fray as an outsider with limited political experience, in addition to being the ultimate insider, privy to a familiarity that can only be bred by being born into the arena.

Because of that, there is a heightened requirement for the younger Trudeau to show that there’s more to him than a pretty face and iconic name. He will have to work harder than most to ensure that his policies are firm, the research behind them is solid, and his ability to clearly and directly express his points is at its peak.

To start, Trudeau has to win back a long-assumed riding for his party. After speculation that he would be parachuted into the safer confines of Outremont, a Liberal – and federalist – stronghold, Justin will now run in the Papineau riding of Montreal. In fact, he’s literally taking baby steps in his progression — according to the Government of Canada Website, it’s the smallest riding in all of Canada at only nine square kilometers in size.

However, it’s a riding that after years of Liberal rule fell into Bloc hands during the last election. Since 1957 the riding has been officially Liberal – and prior to that it was held by an Independent Liberal Adrien Munier (who later joined the official ranks). Only in 1949 did a candidate with Conservative leanings win the riding – Montreal mayor Camillien Houde. In the 2006 election, Bloc candidate Vivian Barbot wrested power for Liberal incumbent Pierre Pettigrew by less than 1,000 votes.

So with almost 50 years of Liberal ties – and a continued preference for left-leaning parties, it’s not as if Trudeau has been thrown into the lion’s den. It’s the perfect, safe, choice for the Liberal party to find out what’s in a name.

A teacher by trade, Justin now has time to learn the job on his own. Because as familiar as his name may be, when it comes to federal politics one’s birth certificate can only get you so far. And if he doesn’t believe it, he can turn to another former Montreal MP with political family ties for confirmation – Paul Martin.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Flip, Flop – If Only we Could Make ‘em Fly

By Jason Menard

We’ve been burned before, but somehow this transgression burns a little hotter and seems even more egregious than those in the past. With Independent, né Conservative, now Liberal MP Garth Turner jumping ship, any semblance of credibility and responsibility is lost amongst this nation of party hoppers.

Why is this particular floor crossing so bad? Because Turner was one of the most outspoken of all when it came to condemning party hoppers. Of course, in retrospect, this change of heart should come as no surprise – after all, even the staunchest critics learn to walk in step once the shoe is firmly on the other foot.

Over the years, I’ve been a firm advocate of the idea that elected representatives should have to run in a by-election in their riding once they’ve changed parties. After all, party affiliation is a significant factor in the decision-making process for a number of voters. And many average voters appear to agree with me – a fact I discovered when I decided to stop watching and start taking action.

An on-line petition that I started when Liberal MP David Emerson succumbed to the lure of a Conservative Cabinet petition drew roughly 1,000 signatures from across this country, and a significant amount of media attention. In most of my conversations, people felt that they had been deceived. In addition, this was the second such petition I championed. The first one I penned when my MP, Pat O’Brien, decided to leave the Liberal Party for independent status.

In both cases, I was against the idea of a voter’s voice being made to sing a different song than what first was intended. But while voter indignation remains, MP support seems to be blown aside whenever the winds of opportunity comes. During my attempt to make Mr. O’Brien do the right thing through letters and a petition, one of my staunchest supporters was Conservative MP Joe Preston.

This was the same Joe Preston who co-sponsored a private member’s bill by Helena Guergis which would have attempted to curtail activities like – at the time – Belinda Stronach’s defection. But oh what a difference a year makes. I e-mailed, repeatedly, Mr. Preston when the Prime Minister raided David Emerson. And guess what kind of response I got.

And now we come to Mr. Turner – a man who has staked his political reputation on integrity. A man who was expelled from the Conservative Party due to his unwillingness to toe the party line has now danced all over the concept of integrity.

How do you think the Conservatives in Mr. Turner’s riding — who probably weren’t too pleased with his independent status – feel about their votes being cast for someone wearing Liberal red? Is that their best representation?

The simple solution is to have a by-election. Allow the representatives in the riding to voice their opinion. If they feel that Turner is their best representative, then affording the constituents the opportunity to express their true feelings would validate his position. And if they choose to vote in another manner, then at least the riding will have the representation it chooses.

This shouldn’t be a matter of legislation. There shouldn’t be a law enacted to demand that any candidate who changes party must call a by-election. That’s why I choose not to start another petition – it’s time for politicians to choose to do the right thing instead of being forced to do so through legislation. It should be a matter of integrity and honesty.

Unfortunately, that’s something that seems to be in short supply. And actions like this – party hopping for opportunistic reasons, whether it’s for personal gain or to increase one’s status in parliament – simply undermines the integrity of all the MPs in Parliament. In addition, for a voting public that already has shown remarkable apathy towards the electoral process, actions like this that completely undermine the act of voting only serve to further disenfranchise the average citizen.

Simply put, if someone’s willing to jump parties for their principles, then they should also be willing to stand behind them. And when it comes to this issue, the only way to stand is to run – by calling a by-election and allowing the voters to have their say.

O’Brien, Stronach, Emerson, and now Turner. Who’s next? How many times must the parliament floor be crossed before one’s vote is rendered meaningless. When a Liberal vote can turn Conservative blue – and vice versa – on a candidate’s whim, what’s the point of casting a ballot?

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved