Sunday, March 30, 2008

Islam 'recognizes homosexuality'?

These stories are very intriguing and encouraging. Moderate Muslim scholars meeting in Jakarta recently said there were no reasons to reject homosexuals under Islam, and that the condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality by many Muslims was based on narrow-minded interpretations of Islamic teachings.

I've been greatly disturbed lately by the numerous discussions and proclamations about Islam's alleged incompatibility with the West. Web pages devoted to spreading misinformation or misunderstanding of Islam are all over the net.

Of course, as a queer liberal, I'm no fan of Muslim fundamentalism. But I'm also no fan of Christian fundamentalism, or any kind of religious fundamentalism, for that matter.

I don't see the need to single out Islam as being allegedly incompatible with Western values. In reality, the statement could and should be instead that, "Islamic fundamentalism is incompatible with Western values," such as democracy, equality, freedom, etc.

But by that standard, one could also argue (although probably unsuccessfully due to being shouted down) that Christian fundamentalism is incompatible with most "Western" values. While there are some Christian churches that do accept and embrace homosexuality as part of the human fabric, most mainstream Christian religions officially reject homosexuality, or greatly struggle with it. The Catholic Church continues to treat women differently than men and frequently attacks modern, "Western" sensibilities.

Like these Muslim moderates in Jakarta, there are many Christian scholars who also agree that homophobes have misinterpreted biblical scriptures, taking passages out of context, in order to wrongly argue against homosexuality. See this previous post for more information.

Generally speaking, I don't see Islam as any different than Christianity when it comes to homosexuality. I've known of many moderate Muslims who are also gay or lesbian. Many see no conflict in their respective identities, at least no greater conflict than your average gay Christian sees in his/her life. And now more possible reform from within Islam is in the works as well.

I wonder if my blogging colleague at Gay And Right will be writing about these moderate developments in the Muslim world on his blog anytime soon?

I want to see moderation, democracy and human rights take hold in the Islamic world. We need more Turkeys, and fewer Irans for sure. We can't force change, of course, no matter what George W. Bush says. And the Muslim world isn't the only region in need of more respect for human rights and equality.

Islam is as diverse and complex as Christianity. There are moderates and there are extremists on both sides. It's true that there aren't many Christian suicide bombers, but few in the Christian world see themselves as the victims of history either, hopelessly dominated by a rich and indifferent Islamic world. (Not that anything can justify suicide bombing, or any form of murder, let me be clear.)

I hope that one day all of this simplistic, borderline-xenophobic, anti-Islamic talk gives way to more thoughtful and informed discussion about the greater incompatibility of all extremist/fundamentalist faiths with so-called Western values. And we stop seeing all Muslims as one homogeneous, unchangeable group.

The problem isn't with Islam, it's with religious fundamentalism of all sorts.

Al Gore for President! Stephane Dion for PM!

This story about Al Gore emerging as the compromise candidate, er make that saviour of the Democratic Party excites me greatly. It's hard to see the two current frontrunners giving up and handing the nomination over so easily. But stranger things have happened.

And finally, someone with some historical analysis and no apparent axe to grind gives Stephane Dion a break from the unfair onslaught of negativity he's been facing lately. Perhaps somebody should send a copy of this great Jack McLeod piece to Chantal Hebert?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

National Newswatch: Stephane Dion looks like Dr. Charles Smith?

Looks like that other national news aggregator, National Newswatch, doesn't much like Stephane Dion either, at least subliminally. Check out how the site has arranged photo links to news stories this hour: three unflattering Dion links surround the one link to the 'Disgraced pathologist says errors not all his fault' story about Dr. Charles Smith, who bears a startling resemblance to the embattled Liberal leader - grey hair, glasses et al.



Why should the Tories keep paying Whore Bourque for unflattering Dion headlines when they can get them for free from these neo-cons at National Newswatch?

I remember when Dion had a feisty reputation for being direct, clear, even cute and very effective. Boy, that narrative has changed drastically, hasn't it?

******** UDPATE (5:00 PM EST) **************

The subliminal editorializing seems to be over for now...lol.

Annuale - Skit from SNL

This hilarious "commercial" originally aired on Saturday Night Live in late February, but I just saw it this past weekend on the repeat with host Tina Fey. It's one of the funniest spoofs I've seen on the show in months. Too funny not to share!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is Guelph Tory appointee Gloria Kovach a supporter of 'Focus On The Family'?

The Tories are excited about their chances in a possible Guelph by-election to be held later this year (if the government doesn't fall beforehand), according to Tory spin doctor John Ivison in today's National Post.

If this is true, the Harper-crites haven't learned much from their recent shellacking in Toronto Centre, where Tory appointee Don Meredith came in a humiliating fourth behind the Green Party, after party bosses fired duly-nominated candidate Mark Warner late last year.

The duly-elected Tory candidate in Guelph, Brent Barr, was also removed by party central on the same day as Warner. The party claimed Barr wasn't doing enough to win the riding. In response, Barr showed reporters the holes in his shoes from canvassing since he reclaimed the Tory nod (Barr carried the Tory banner in Guelph in the 2006 election, increasing the vote by four per cent.)

This observer wondered if Barr's removal had more to do with his socially liberal views (while a fiscal conservative, Barr was a rare Conservative supporter of equal marriage for gays and lesbians) than any alleged campaigning shortcomings.

The person who lost the Tory nomination far and square, local councillor Gloria Kovach, was more than happy to be handed the nomination on a platter following Barr's undemocratic removal by party central late last year. It seemed Kovach was more in tune with central party messaging and ideology.

As a native of Guelph, I remember Kovach's first election to local city council in 1991. Around that time, it was rumoured she was a supporter or even a member of the U.S.-based right wing Christian group 'Focus On The Family', which counsels its followers to reject their gay and lesbian children. I even recall her mentioning the group while questioning a presenter at local council many years ago.

I emailed Kovach last week to see if, indeed, she has been a supporter of Focus On The Family: "I remember shortly after you were first elected to [Guelph] city council in 1991 you made reference during a council session to the U.S.-based right-wing group "Focus on the Family". A lot of time has passed since then, but I seem to recall at that time you had confirmed you were either a supporter or a member of Focus on the Family.

I have some questions for you...Have you ever been or are you currently a member or supporter of "Focus On The Family"? And do you still support the aims of this group? Do you support equal marriage rights for all Canadians, including gays and lesbians?

If my understanding is incorrect and you have never been a member or supporter of Focus On The Family, then I apologize. Worried that this email might be ignored by your campaign, I have copied some media in the Guelph area so they are at least aware these questions are being asked of you."


The very next day, she replied with this:

"Matt,

Thank you for your email, your interest and for taking the time to write.

The only time I have heard of the group that you are talking about was shortly after I was elected. A person writing for one of our local papers wrote a defamatory and incorrect article about me citing something about that a link to that group. I understand that the person was subsequently dismissed from writing for that paper owing to the total inaccuracies of the article. I am not familiar with his group.

Gloria"


So Kovach immediately denies any connection to this group, although she failed to answer my query about same sex marriage. Hmmm....

Yet check out this post on the Blogging Tories discussion board earlier this week from 'Swan Song':



Obviously I'm not the only one who's wondering about Kovach's possible connections to Focus On The Family.

Guelph is a very progressive town. The Greens got almost 20% of the vote in Ontario election last October there, with the NDP not far behind. There's no doubt someone affiliated or possibly affiliated with 'Focus On The Family' would be a bad fit for Guelph.

Yet the Harper-crites went out of their way to remove a pro-equality Tory in favour of Kovach. I think I'll be trying to track down that article Kovach refers to in her emailed response back to me asap for more insight.

****** UPDATE *******

Reader John left the following comment regarding Kovach's alleged connection. It bears repeating: "Gloria is far from a social conservative. In fact, it's the old reformers in Guelph that have a problem with her because she's a single mother. They even started a rumour last year that she was gay...That whole connection with Focus on the Family was invented by an NDP mogul in Guelph named Edward Pickersgill, who subsequently got in a a lot of hot water from the paper for making the accusation."

If this is true, then I'm greatly relieved.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Screw the 'At-Issue' panel, read Susan Riley instead

After last night's unfair pistol-whipping on the National, it's important to remember that the CBC's 'At-Issue' panel (or other members of the chattering media establishment) never elected anybody to anything. These same folks declared Stephen Harper dead politically as late as November 2005, let's not forget.

It's clear that Chantal Hebert continues to hold a massive grudge against Stephane Dion, perhaps over the Clarity Act; she has had almost nothing positive to say about Mr. Dion since he won the leadership. In that leadership race, she spared no opportunity to grill him over the coals for being "out of touch" with modern Quebec. At least modern Quebec as she sees it. She's merely been lucky that the Conservative advertising campaign against Dion has been so effective, and many of her Ottawa colleagues have bought into it.

Also what qualifies Gordon Gibson to speak for British Columbia? Just asking.

It does seem strange that a guy who wins 3 out of 4 byelections and 41,136 votes on Monday night (Stephane Dion) is declared the bigger loser over the guy who won zero seats and only 10,297 votes (Jack Layton).

Stephen Harper won one seat and took 24,780 votes, but he's declared the big winner of course. The Greens took 8,645 votes, but still managed to steal Jack Layton's and Stephane Dion's thunder.

Last night's panel was the kind of commentary particularly condemned in this excellent piece today on the Obama effect by Susan Riley, easily the best read in the paper's this Good Friday.

Here's a snippet:

"Is there an Obama here (in Canada)? Not yet. But the Green Party and its articulate leader, Elizabeth May, while still on the political margins, offer a glimpse, at least, of less destructively competitive, more positive, vision. It started with May and Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's agreement not to run candidates against one another in the next election, an unorthodox, principle-based alliance aimed at advancing a green agenda. As the Greens become more threatening -- their surprising surge in Vancouver Quadra apparently came at the expense of Liberal votes -- the relationship may fray. For now, however, says May, "if Stéphane Dion can keep trying to be collaborative, I'll try too, even if we're in a system that discourages co-operation."

Let's not forget the 'At-Issue' panel, led by Chantal Hebert, had little but condemnation for the Dion-May move in Central Nova.

For more on this, check out my friend Mushroom's similar post on Obama's authenticity today as well. Sobering reading after so much crap in the MSM this week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My take on Quadra: B.C. urban voters give Dion another chance...

Last night's by-elections turned out pretty much as I expected and/or hoped. I had hoped that Martha Hall Findlay and Bob Rae would romp on home in their Toronto ridings, and they didn't disappoint. They crushed their opponents. The results were the best they could be for the Grits. The Tories were stagnant in the semi-suburban riding of Willowdale and were humiliated in Toronto Centre.

The Liberals increased their margins of victory in two out of three strongholds. Yet of course the Tories are crowing about their near-win in Vancouver Quadra.

As a Torontonian, I can only guess what exactly happened out there. While both urbane and cosmopolitan, there's no doubt voters in Vancouver are different in key ways from those in Toronto. For one, Vancouver voters are a part of the Harper universe. Torontonians have been explicitly neglected by the Harper government from the beginning. When Harper was shut out of both Vancouver and Toronto in 2006, he recruited turncoat David Emerson from Vancouver-Kingsway into his cabinet. He made no similar gestures to Toronto MPs, claiming that Jim Flaherty way out in Whitby can speak and represent Toronto's interests.

Clearly the Tories have written off most of the G.T.A. and the results last night reflect that.

But the Tories have not written off Vancouver. They put up a very strong candidate, ran a negative, stealth campaign and focussed on appealing to Quadra's Asian communities.

So voters in Vancouver Quadra had to make a decision: stick with their usual voting habits or switch back to the Tories (the riding was solidly Tory up until John Turner won it for the Grits in 1984.)

There's no doubt that Stephane Dion is very far from sealing the deal with Canadians. Quite the opposite. The poor guy has yet to make much of an impression at all on most English-speaking Canadians. The forums in which Dion's strengths are highlighted - intimate, one-on-one interviews in which the strength of his character and integrity shine through, the image that made so many Liberals take a leap of faith in 2006 - are not the forums in which most Canadians have seen Dion lately. They continue to see him ask awkward questions in the House of Commons, provide tiny sound bites during scrums or give laboured speeches in front of packed halls.

Currently, English Canadians don't really know what Mr. Dion is offering. They know what his opponents are saying about him. But most voters are pretty fair and intend to wait to judge for themselves.

While Dion remains an enigma to most Canadians, a kind of funk seems to have set in among voters. Most are unhappy with all their current choices. Some, but not enough to win a majority, seem to be sticking with the incumbent Tories. But more are moving to the Greens. We saw that last night in Toronto and Vancouver.

Vancouver is clearly in Stephen Harper's sights. Quadra was no doubt a seat they wanted badly. If the Tories had won, it would've been disastrous for Dion's leadership, as we know.

Instead, the voters of Quadra have given Dion a bit of a reprieve, by the slimmest of margins, of course. Considering Dion is almost a non-entity out on the west coast, even a win is pretty incredible. Quadra voters signalled a desire for change last night, but also indicated they are far from sold on Dion's Liberals.

Dion has a great story to tell Canadians. Clearly, Canadians are waiting to hear it. My question to the Liberal brain trust in Ottawa and to Stephane Dion in particular: what are you waiting for? Get out there and tell it. Stop letting your opponents define you before voters. It's time to get on with telling Dion's amazing story.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stephane Dion wins 3 out of 4 ridings, Greens make gains, NDP collapses...

Looking at the preliminary by-election results tonight, it's clear that this was a very good night for Stephane Dion's Liberals...

Before the Tories and the NDP try to paint this as bad news, let's look at the numbers...

TORONTO CENTRE
Liberal vote up from 52% to 59%. Congrats to Bob Rae! The NDP collapses from 24% to 13%. Greens tie NDP for second place. Conservative vote drops from 18% to 12%, FOURTH PLACE in urban Toronto. Clearly the firing of Mark Warner and the appointment of Don Meredith undermined Tory fortunes more than badly: they were CRUSHED.

WILLOWDALE
Liberal vote goes up from 55% to 59%. Congrats to Martha Hall Findlay! Tories are stagnant at 30%. Greens beat out NDP for third.

VANCOUVER QUADRA
Greens up from 5% to 14%. This accounts for a good chunk of the decrease in Liberal support to 36%. But a win is a win. The vote shows if you want to beat Conservatives in most parts of B.C., you've got to vote Liberal. Congrats to Joyce Murray! The Tories go from 29% to 35%, the only urban area in Canada where they gained significantly, but not enough to win. The NDP goes nowhere and almost comes in fourth.

DESNETHE-MISSINIPPI-CHURCHILL RIVER
Looks like the protest against Joan Beatty's appointment worked its wonders. Congrats to David Orchard, well done! And congrats to Rob Clarke. But the NDP is still a distant third in the cradle of the CCF, the Liberals in a strong second.

So the Liberals strengthen their hold in the GTA. An appointed Liberal candidate does well, but loses in Saskatchewan. The Greens cut into Liberal support in the Vancouver by-election, but the Grits still win on the west coast.

The Liberal Party is the only party with significant support everywhere across the country. Stephen Harper's Conservatives were CRUSHED in urban Ontario.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Good for Art Hanger; Michael Coren, will you marry us?

Yes you read that split headline correctly. The world must be going topsy-turvy, I must say.

But I believe we must offer praise where praise is due. On most issues, Art Hanger is the last Conservative MP I'd single out for appreciation, especially considering his past stances on equal marriage. But good for him for having the guts to stick his neck out and criticize the possible sale of Canada's top space company and a multi-million-dollar taxpayer-funded satellite to a U.S. firm.

Alliant Techsystems, which builds land mines as well as other top weapons of war, is waiting to hear from Industry Minister Jim Prentice on whether its proposed $1.325-billion purchase of Canada's MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (or MDA) can proceed.

As the National Post article describes: "MDA...is considered the backbone of Canada's space industry and over the years the federal government has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the company to build it up as Canada's premier space technology firm. Under the deal, Alliant would also become owner of the recently launched Radarsat-2 satellite, the world's most advanced radar imaging spacecraft. Canadian taxpayers spent more than $420-million on the spacecraft. Radarsat-2 is also considered Canada's most advanced system to keep watch over the country's Arctic territories, including those areas contested by the United States."

The Post article makes clear how many ex-Harper/Tory cronies have been hired by the U.S. monster company to work as lobbyists to convince their former buddies to let this sale happen, including Emanuel "Manny" Montenegrino, who has in the recent past represented prominent Conservatives in legal matters, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I'm sure Alliant is very happy that Stephen Harper has yet to enact all of those new anti-lobbying rules that were supposed to be implemented with the Federal Accountability Act. And here Canadians thought Harper was going to clean up Ottawa, not make it worse!

All I can say is: hurray for Art!

******************

In other news, Michael Coren again argues that equality under the law makes polygamy inevitable in Canada. Don't you ever get tired of re-hashing the same arguments, Michael?

In response, on behalf of my same sex partner, I'd like to ask Michael, when this inevitably comes to pass, will you marry us? You'd look so cute between us in bed, I must say. And you'd get to enjoy the supple pleasures of two much younger men...Talk about heaven on Earth...lol.

Hmmm, on second thought, I think I prefer just one life partner, not two. You can't give 100% of yourself to two people, obviously.

But seriously, human societies have every right to define marriage as they see fit. Marriage is, above all, a human institution, despite what the fundies say. Personally, I don't think we need to change marriage in Canada to include more than two persons, but if society deems it necessary, then I'll support it. If polygamists think their freedom of religion is being undermined by our country's anti-polygamy laws, then they should take the issue to the courts and see what comes of it.

"Chicken Little Coren" believes the courts will inevitably side with the polygamists. I don't.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The problem with Stephen Harper: Megalomaniac with a malignant narcissism

I came across this great article by writer Rebecca Finch which beautifully dissects the flawed personality of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. At the risk of possibly being sued for libel (lol), I'm providing the link and some excerpts. Everyone who struggles to figure out the Harp and what makes him really tick, read this article.

Excerpts:

"It has been talked about a lot the past couple of years. Canadians, supportive or not, cannot seem to pinpoint what it is about Stephen Harper that makes them distrust him, that seems cold, unapproachable… wrong. And then, mixed up with this confusion, is the question about whether or not his intentions as Prime Minister of Canada are good...

"Over the years here at the Metaball, I have made no secret of my dislike for Stephen Harper. Originally it was based on the same basic intuition all Canadians feel when staring at those glassy, watery eyes; eyes that only show a glint of real emotion when they're blazing in delight over the taunting or jeering or destruction of someone else, or accidentally revealing an astoundingly low self-esteem and less surprisingly high sense of paranoia...

"The truth of the story behind the making of our great leader, our genius in office, our strategic master, is nothing but the story of a megalomaniac with a malignant narcissism, unable to get over his childhood to the point it becomes part of the greater pack of lies his administration is building itself upon, a grudge-bearing nerd who in his attempt to cover up any reminder of his own nerdish leanings goes a little too far in trying to categorize his opponents as such..."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clinton-Obama ticket: Bring it on!

I like this talk lately coming from the Clinton camp of a possible Clinton-Obama presidential ticket. It jibes with what I was saying early last month (on Super Tuesday, in fact) about how Obama's surge has garnered him the right to be on the ticket, either on top or as Clinton's running mate.

Like most progressives, I've been back and forth in this race as I like both candidates immensely. (Of course, being a Canadian Liberal means my opinion counts about as much as Ian Brodie's, I guess.) Both Clinton and Obama have their strengths and weaknesses.

I've seen a new side to Hillary Clinton over the course of this campaign. I have no doubt that, were she to lose the nomination to Obama, I'd feel a huge sense of loss. I don't think I'd feel the same way if Obama were to lose the nomination this year.

As I said to some colleagues back in January, if Obama doesn't get the top spot this year, he can and will likely come back in the near future to take the Democratic nomination. If 2008 is not Obama's year (and Clinton loses in November to McCain), we'll see Obama back in 2012. If Clinton wins in 2008 (with Obama as her running mate), we'll definitely see an Obama nomination in 2016. He'll be a still-young 54. (Even if Obama doesn't become Clinton's V-P, he'd still be the frontrunner in 2016, no doubt.)

However, if Clinton loses to Obama this year, that might be the end of her presidential aspirations. And we won't be seeing a woman in the White House this generation, sadly.

Both are superb candidates. Both have equal chance of beating John McCain this fall. I say give it to Clinton and hopefully Obama will accept her offer to be her running mate, despite his predictable protests of late.

If not over climate change, then when, Stephane?

This is really starting to hurt. I'm starting to see why folks like Darren have grown frustrated and left the party altogether.

If the Harper government deserved to be defeated now over anything, it would be over its pathetic approach to fighting climate change. This was supposed to be Dion's big issue. Showing up to cast a token vote against the government doesn't cut it, Stephane, sorry.

I still support Stephane as leader, despite his many flaws. I had hoped he'd grow into the role of leader, but I've seen, like most, almost no evidence he's even aware of his shortcomings. I have no idea what he's thinking he's accomplishing with this constant refusal to face voters over the key issues he says he thinks are important. He's only destroying what little credibility he has left. The howls of laughter from people he should be winning over are beginning to give me headaches.

Part of me still suspects the folks Dion has chosen to advise him deep down don't have his interests at heart. After all this time, why is the party so not ready to face voters? Something must be done asap to fix this.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The stuff Royal dreams are made of...

Talk about a royal PR coup! Good on "the Firm" for being so willing to exploit the lusty appeal of young Prince Harry on his recent mission to Afghanistan.

I wonder if this shirtless football match with his fellow soldiers was his idea, or that of his brilliant handlers. One thing's for certain: this Afghanistan deployment for young Harry was a major win for the young prince, for the royals in general and for the Afghanistan mission. There was something very mindlessly colonial about the whole thing, with royalty standing side-by-side with the U.K. military establishment in its endeavours. But somehow this picture made all those concerns just melt away, at least in my mind...lol.

Said Harry to a journalist while shooting a desert interview: "Once this film comes out there'll probably be every single person, every single person that supports them will be trying to slot me," he said. "Now that you come to think about it it's quite worrying."

Now that you come to think about it? Ah, Harry, yes you're very pretty, so we forgive you for not being too bright.

I no doubt agree that Harry's desire to join his troops at the frontlines was genuine.

The Afghanistan mission is seen as less controversial than Britain's Iraqi fiasco, so there was some sensitivity in choosing where he should be deployed. I don't even mind the media black-out that took place for most of Harry's stay in the Middle East. When the black-out was finally lifted (prematurely by the DrudgeReport), we still got the rare treat to see the young hunk shirtless or in military fatigues doing his thing on the ground.

We all win with this one! lol

For more on Harry's Afghanistan excursion, check out Towleroad...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mulcair loses it for good reasons; it's time for independent experts to re-examine gay blood ban

Just a couple of comments today.

Quebec NDP MP Thomas Mulcair lost it on some Tories yesterday in the House of Commons. However, the issue Mulcair was raising completely explains his anger. It's true that Kulenthiran Amirthalingam, a gay man, will face the possibility of time in prison and whipping for committing homosexual acts if he's forced to return to Malaysia. He must be allowed to stay in Canada.

If Mulcair's outburst gets this issue more attention, all the better.

UPDATE - Reporter Elizabeth Thompson provides additional insight into Mulcair's actions over this issue on her blog here.

In it, she describes a video (which Mulcair also viewed just before he held a press conference on Parliament Hill to call attention to the case of Kulenthiran Amirthalingan) depicting the kind of corporal punishment Amirthalingan could face as a homosexual man in Malaysia. The video is available on www.liveleak.com entitled 'Malaysia Caning Judicial Corporal Punishment'. I haven't yet worked up the courage to view it.

Sadly, Thompson reports that "Amirthalingan was deported Thursday and is expected to arrive in Malaysia later today. Amnesty International is monitoring to see what happens to him once he arrives."

******************

This is also interesting. The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood has been contradicted by the five-year ban on gay men donating organs. If our organs are safe after five years, why is our blood off limits for a lifetime?

It seems officials with Canadian Blood Services and Health Canada are stuck in the 1980s mindset. It's time to appoint an independent panel of experts to look further into this issue to come up with policies that can keep the blood supply 100% safe, without promoting the old-fashioned stigma that gay men are diseased. Healthy, safe gay men should be allowed some way to donate blood as they do organs. These bans make our health care system weaker, not stronger.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Minor mea culpa on Bill C-10 controversy

Well it appears I need to offer an apology for my (over?)reaction last week to the Globe & Mail stories that the Stephen Harper government is planning to stop funding film & TV productions in Canada they deem "offensive."

It's now clear that the language in Bill C-10 is very similar to language used in a previous (and never passed) bill introduced by former Liberal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps back in 2003.

Back then, Copps tried to amend the Income Tax Act so that the Minister of Heritage could provide tax credits for a film or TV production if he/she were convinced that, "public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy..."

This is identical with the current wording in Bill C-10. It seems this policy change has been bouncing around bureaucratic backrooms for a long time.

It's not clear when or how "contrary to public policy" got converted into "anything deemed offensive to Charles McVety," as the Globe & Mail stories implied.

Obviously, this whole controversy again reminds us to take what we read in our nation's newspapers with a grain of salt.

No doubt much of the outrage we've seen levelled against this possible change was inspired by the suggestion the Tories were going to yank funding for films like David Cronenberg's 'Crash,' 'Breakfast With Scott,' or American projects like 'Brokeback Mountain.'

Like the 2003 proposal, the Tories' Bill C-10 only aims to penalize Canadian producers who make films "contrary to public policy," while exempting American or other foreign productions altogether. So American films filled with extreme violence can continue to shoot away in Canada without any risk of losing their generous Canadian tax credit support. (Canadian producers that receive an indigenous tax credit can offset 25% of their labour costs, while foreign producers that tap the production services tax credit can offset 16% of labour costs. While the percentage is smaller, the dollar figure is generally much higher due to the larger budgets involved with U.S. productions.)

This is the most bizarre aspect of this new policy and, in my mind, absolutely undermines the stated intention of the change: to ensure Canadian funding doesn't go to support projects deemed 'contrary to [Canadian] public policy.'

Why should Canadians fund American productions through tax credits when those same films, if produced by Canadians, would be denied tax credit funding?

Liberal or Tory-inspired, this is still a terrible idea. Check out this great article by Alex Strachan which sums up nicely what's wrong with this entire policy, including:

"Bill C-10, it seems to me, is flawed because no one can really decide what is too violent or pornographic or foul-mouthed other than you, the person who watches TV and goes to the movies, and effectively foots the bill to keep the whole machine up and running.

"Bill C-10, it seems to me, is flawed because it would add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an industry that is already overburdened by bureaucracy.

"Bill C-10 is misdirected, it seems to me, because tax credits are not the same as production funds. Decisions about tax credits ought to be made based purely on financial considerations, and nothing else."


This is a can of worms, it's simply not workable and should be shelved completely, much like the Liberal proposal was back in 2003.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The only Canadian contest that counted last night: Genie Awards

Forget about that provincial backwater vote last night, where an inarticulate farmer with no meaningful plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the worst polluting enterprise in the country (Alberta's oil sands) nor plan effectively for rapid growth can win an overwhelming majority. I make no apologies when I say that Alberta proved itself to be, once again, an infantile democracy last night.

No, the only contest that counted in Canada last night were the Genie Awards. Congrats to Sarah Polley and the rest of the winners for the great Canadian film Away From Her.

The federal plan to deny tax credits to filmmakers who dare to make films that offend the likes of Charles McVety sure took a beating at last night's ceremony, which federal Heritage Minister Josee Verner shamelessly skipped.

Check out this Globe article for some great quotes from some of the winners about the Tory plan to censor Canadian artists.

My favourite quotes of the night:

"Censorship has had a little work done and is trying to make a comeback," said host Sandra Oh, the Grey's Anatomy star. "I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound very Canadian to me."

Producer Robert Lantos also hammered Ottawa, saying "Eastern Promises is a screenplay that is chock full of the powerful, frank, honest, original scenes. Just the kind that if some barbarians have their way, is no longer going to be permissible in Canadian cinema."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Didn't Stephen Harper and the rest of his Tory crew libel every Liberal as "corrupt" just three years ago?

This is rich of Stephen Harper, who used to insinuate ad nauseam that every Liberal in the country was "corrupt" due to Adscam.

Now with the shoe on the other foot, he's not so fond of these kinds of attacks anymore. What a total hypocrite!

I say to Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, Ralph Goodale: let the hypocrite sue! And while you're at it: put forth a motion in the House as soon as possible to defeat this government over its leadership's alleged involvement in bribing a dying man to win his vote.

Slimebag Harper is a menace to this country and the rest of the planet. He simply must go now!