Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gay bars that discriminate; Poland and the Teletubbies;

There's a strange controversy brewing in Montreal over a gay bar that apparently bars women from entry. This story is similar to another from Australia in which a gay bar won the right to exclude heterosexuals from its premises. Personally I've never been comfortable with the idea of banning anyone in such ways. I don't feel uncomfortable hanging out in a gay club if women or heterosexuals are also present. I'm sure most gay men would agree with me, at least when it comes to a regular pub or club. Plus such discrimination sends out a hypocritical message: how can we demand others end discrimination against gay men when we're guilty of it ourselves?

This is a delicate issue as there are some reasonable examples of discrimination out there. Gay strip bars routinely bar women except on special women's nights. Many gyms cater exclusively to women and bar men from entry. Sexually active gay men can't donate blood to Canadian Blood Services.

Is this story such a big deal? Probably not, except that it gives anti-gay bigots extra ammunition to justify their continued calls for discrimination against gays. Their excuse will be, 'Hey gays discriminate so why shouldn't we?'


A hilarious story from Poland about Tinky Winky and his alleged homosexuality seems to have been resolved. Polish child rights ombudsman Ewa Sowinska mused recently the popular U.K. children's show 'The Teletubbies' promoted homosexuality. Sowinska's fears mimicked those of the late Jerry Falwell, who made similar comments in 1999. But now Sowinska admits her fears have been allayed by one of her country's leading sexologists.

"The opinion of a leading sexologist, who maintained that this series has no negative effects on a child's psychology, is perfectly credible," she said in a statement today.

All parents in Poland I'm sure will be very relieved.


There's a new one-stop website for queer news junkies. Chris Crain, the longtime editor of the Washington Blade and six other gay and lesbian publications, recently announced the launch of, which promises a compilation of news, entertainment and viewpoints of interest to lesbians and gay men, mostly from an American perspective, but also containing many other international stories. It'll certainly be worth checking out on a regular basis.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

30 Years of Star Wars; John Tory courts 'Friends of Dorothy'

Lots of talk about how Quebec Premier Jean Charest is about to fall on his tax-cutting sword in this weekend's papers. I'll leave comment about that to other folks, except to say that I think if Charest finds himself defeated in the Quebec National Assembly over his budget, it's probably best for Mario Dumont's ADQ to be asked to form a government rather than force another election so soon after the last one. Plus it would be amusing to watch Dumont struggle with his caucus of amateurs deal with governing a real province.

But my mind is instead on the movies this weekend.

It's been 30 years this weekend since I was a five-year-old boy enjoying the very first Star Wars movie. I still have clear memories of my first screening, including the gibberish scrolling upwards on the screen at the beginning of the movie. I was five so of course was not yet able to read. My dad next to me whispered in my ear, "It's a dark time in the universe, someone has stolen the plans to the Death Star, Princess Leia is racing back to her home planet..."

I still remember the light saber scene between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi and how shocked I was to see Kenobi let Vader strike him down. And how relieved I was seconds later when Luke could hear Kenobi's voice from beyond telling him to run.

I was hooked. I've been a Star Wars fanatic ever since, as I'm sure you can tell. This film changed movie-making probably forever. I aspire to such greatness in my own budding career.

Also on the subject of films, it seems Ontario PC Leader John Tory will be attending a special screening today at Toronto's Inside Out Gay & Lesbian Film & Video Festival. I read this story in today's Toronto Star, but can't find the online equivalent for some reason. This is Tory's attempt to court the likes of people like me, the 'Friends of Dorothy.' (Although 'Friends of Dorothy' has usually only been used to describe gay men, as far as I can tell, I'm sure Tory wants both gay and lesbian votes.)

It's true this is a nice change from previous Conservative leaders like Mike Harris and current PM Stephen Harper, who wouldn't be caught dead publicly acknowledging the existence of gays and lesbians. On that front, I'm pleased that Tory is so open-minded. I do think his openness is genuine.

The problem is that Tory leads a party that is still, at best, indifferent and, at worst, hostile, to urban/queer issues, and the arts in general. Such a visit to Inside Out has huge symbolic value, but I'm not sure what this means in real terms. It's an election year so it's easy to be cynical about such gestures.

After all, the bulk of the Ontario PC caucus remains a rural rump which includes the likes of Bob Runciman and other leftovers from the Mike Harris era. Added to the Tory slate recently was none other than rural extremist Randy Hillier, running for John Tory's party in Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, who has long attacked what he calls, "multiculturalism, urbanization, and absolute cultural tolerance."

What's this "absolute cultural tolerance" Hillier is talking about? I wonder what Hillier thinks of Tory's attendance at Inside Out today. I'm sure he won't have too many nice things to say in private, that's for sure.

Friday, May 25, 2007

John Tory's tricky math

It's music to my ears to hear the Ontario Grits starting to beat up on John Tory's health care plans (now that Tory has finally released some.)

It defies basic mathematics how a future Tory government could cut the health care levy ($2.6 billion per year) and then turn around and increase health spending by $8.5 billion, plus find $1.5 billion in savings.

Oh yes, those infamous savings the Tories always say they can find. Ontarians remember clearly what cutting "waste" from Ontario's health care system meant under Mike Harris.

Having worked briefly for the Liberal government at Queen's Park, I understood fully that health care remains underfunded in Ontario, even after the bold decision by McGuinty to bring in the so-called health care levy.

I guess Tory is recognizing that by promising to increase health spending. But how will he pay for it? This plan, on the surface, simply does not sound credible.

The Grits do have a great record in managing the health care system. The health care levy was necessary partly due to the institutionalized deficit the Tories created after years of tax cuts. The government was merely spending way more on basic services than it was bringing in. We had a huge problem.

The Ontario Liberals have fixed that mess and even balanced the budget. Public services are improving. Things aren't perfect, but it's very hard to decipher how health care could be anything but worse under John Tory.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why won't electoral reform work, Richard?

It's hard to return to work after a glorious and relaxing long weekend.

It's even harder to open the Toronto Star and read drivel like this.

Richard Gwyn never explains why electoral reform won't work. He also never explains why he's chosen to reject Dalton McGuinty's Liberals in this fall's provincial election in Ontario. He's not voting for the Tories or the NDP either.

If this article represents the best the anti-electoral reform naysayers can come up with, then we're in good shape for real change come this October's referendum.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tinky Winky Breaks Silence On Jerry Falwell

Moving words this morning from Tinky Winky on the passing of his arch nemesis Jerry Falwell this week. Very well spoken, I must say.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Opponents of 'list MPPs' should get educated before attacking...

I've been a huge advocate for electoral reform for years. Seeing majority governments elected with far less than 50% of the vote has always made my blood boil.

There's something perverse about how status-quo-lovers will defend the current 'first-past-the-post' system. Most point to the alleged 'stability' the current system brings. I'm quick to remind such people that the PQ got an extra five years in power in Quebec after winning less support than the Liberals in 1998 (43% to 44%.) How did our current system produce a more 'stabile' country in that case?

MMP, or Mixed-Member-Proportional, where the make-up of legislatures actually resembles the wishes of the electorate, seems to be the best alternative to our current system. It preserves the best of our current system, allowing for local representation, while bringing in an element of proportionality.

But there has been much talk about the proposal's use of so-called list MPPs to top up party results to ensure party representation roughly matches its popular vote (provided the party wins more than 3% of the vote.) Parties that win fewer seats among the 90 ridings in Ontario than their vote would allow them will be topped up by a number of list-MPPs to ensure they are adequately represented.

This element will likely be the biggest stumbling block to getting the MMP proposal approved in this October's referendum. It is controversial, but it represents the best alternative to our unacceptable status quo, in my opinion.

We are already hearing warnings from electoral reform doubters about list MPPs.

However, most of the naysayers have displayed little understanding about how list MPPs will actually work in practice. Take for example this Chatham Daily News editorial. The newspaper frets that party leaders and cabinet ministers would seek refuge from the electorate by putting themselves on these party lists rather than run in ridings.

However, based on how list MPPs will actually be chosen, this fear is unfounded. List MPPs will almost exclusively be opposition MPPs, not government MPPs.

Under Ontario's proposal, winning parties will likely win more of the 90 ridings than their popular vote would allow them overall, as per usual. Thus the party forming the government would be allowed few, if any list MPPs to top up their legislative representation.

Instead, opposition parties would grab most if not all list MPP positions.

Perhaps this will be a built-in check and balance on list MPPs as most will simply be stuck in opposition.

Parties that look well-positioned to form a government in future elections will suddenly find their lists unattractive to prospective candidates as those list candidates will almost surely fail to get into the legislature via the list.

Instead, those ambitious folks will have to seek an actual riding in which to run if they wish to participate in the government. Ironically, parties that look certain to lose elections will have the easiest time attracting quality folks to their lists, although those list candidates will seem destined for opposition.

Thus party leaders and prospective cabinet ministers will have to run in a riding if they want to have a chance to be in the government.

This is going to be a very interesting debate and I look forward to future posts as the issues begin to heat up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

John Ivison writes more fiction for the National Post

I couldn't resist commenting today on John Ivison's outrageous piece of fiction, 'Liberal camp set 'to blow very shortly'.

In it, Ivison writes about the recent Guelph Liberal nomination race.

I'm a native of Guelph and I knew the two main candidates, Frank Valeriote and Marva Wisdom, quite well.

In my humble and fair opinion, the best candidate, Valeriote, won the nomination fair and square. Valeriote has lived in Guelph his whole life. His roots run as deep as one's roots possibly can. He was a Catholic school trustee for years. And a well known community activist. Guelph has a substantial Italian-Canadian community and Mr. Valeriote will be the first MP of Italian descent to be elected (and I'm certain he will hold onto the seat in the next federal election.)

Ms. Wisdom was a nice person. I knew her well when she worked for the sitting MP Brenda Chamberlain (who in turn supported Valeriote). She too had decent qualifications, but her roots in the Guelph area were pretty shallow when compared to Mr. Valeriote. Her record of accomplishment was mostly within the Liberal Party apparatus, not so much in the local Guelph community. She had no name recognition in the city at large, while everybody was practically related to Mr. Valeriote.

Hence the reason that Frank Valeriote won.

This notion that somehow Gerard Kennedy played a role in manipulating the local results, allowing Valeriote to beat out Wisdom, is pure fiction and lunacy.

But what else can we expect from Tory spinmeister John Ivison?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dinosaur Pope Strikes Again!

I'll admit it: I greatly dislike Pope Benedict.

He's a neanderthal who represents the most regressive and oppressive forms of religion in the world.

He's still stuck in the middle ages, fighting old battles against alleged "evil".

He fanned the flames of Christian-Islamic hatred last year when he made some ill-informed comments about the history of Islam, condemning Islamic followers as being quick to use violence to achieve their ends.

Of course, the genocides caused by Christian/Catholic followers throughout history were somehow justified in their use of violence and oppression, it seems.

Now we see his comments about how North American Indians were "silently longing" to have their spiritual lives, their cultures and their histories wiped out by European Christian missionaries and settlers.

With a few idiotic words, this Pope has brushed aside literally 500 years of genocide and cultural and spiritual destruction.

But truth has never stopped neo-cons like Benedict from spreading their "message" to the masses. The Pope relies on ignorance and unconditional faith from his flock, whose abused children by Catholic priests the world over he regularly ignores.

If you want to see a great documentary that clearly depicts the role Pope Benedict played in covering up systemic child sexual abuse in his Church, check out the excellent 'Deliver Us From Evil' by director Amy Berg. It got nominated last year for Best Feature Documentary at the Academy Awards.

By no means does this Pope represent anything resembling the image of Christ as seen in the New Testament. That's my humble opinion having been raised a Roman Catholic here in Ontario. The Jesus I believe in, the Jesus of historical record, was nothing like this power-hungry, injustice-ignoring dinosaur.

The Pope could be playing a leading role in condemning real sin like the atrocities of never-ending war being perpetuated by governments like that of George Bush.

He could be leading a fight to end child poverty. Global climate change threatens the future of humanity and the rest of the planet, but on this issue Benedict is strangely silent.

His public comments about real social issues like poverty usually reverberate with the power of a pebble being dropped into the ocean.

The Pope could choose to be a major player in the world, but he chooses not to be. His archaic worldview keeps him quietly ensconced within his palatial residences in Rome.

Instead the Pope spends most of his time and energy attacking the weak and the historically oppressed - like North America's Indigenous Peoples, or women, or homosexuals, or anyone else who deviates from his repressive, anti-human world view.

The Roman Catholic Church continues to be a declining force, especially in the West. This is a good thing. There are a number of more thoughtful and progressive religious alternatives out there for those who want them. We don't need the Catholic Church like we did in previous centuries.

I'd like to think that soon the peoples of South and Central America will see this dinosaur for what he is: no friend of theirs.

The power of the Church and this Pope to harm humankind, as previous Popes so clearly did time and time again over the centuries, has clearly diminished in our modern age.

Despite all his attempts to win back that abusive power, I'm pleased to say that Pope Benedict will never represent any kind of moral authority to any progressive and just person again.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What a weekend for Gilles Duceppe and Pauline Marois!

What an exciting week it's been to be a Quebec separatist, I have to say.

I take back what I wrote earlier about the PQ marching back to a "normal" leader like Gilles Duceppe.

It would seem the party is in much more mood to stay outside the leadership norm of the male, heterosexual, married-with-kids stereotype.

When electing new leaders, I've noticed that most political parties tend to try to find a balance between the need to forge ahead and respecting the immediate past. Party members don't like to admit they made a mistake last time.

By electing a woman leader to replace a gay male leader (which now seems to be inevitable), the party will say it's still okay to pick leaders from outside the norm.

Will Pauline Marois have what it takes to take the PQ back to power? It remains to be seen.

Gilles Duceppe fumbled this very badly this weekend. He will be very hurt by this, no doubt. I think this next election will be his last as BQ leader.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ruszkowski / Quasi-police state? / Barack Obama is the best

I'm glad that Stephane Dion has made some changes in his office staff, notably the hiring of Nicolas Ruszkowksi as his Director of Communications.

National leadership is not something one can prepare for ahead of time. It's an on-the-job-learning experience, and it seems that Dion, true to character, is learning fast. A shaky, but not disastrous first few months will now give way to a more credible and inspiring alternative to the current jokers now occupying the government benches in Ottawa.

Speaking of the Harper Tories, who knew we were now living in a quasi-police state? This incident once again gives further proof of how much of an autocratic asshole Stephen Harper really is. "This'll shut them up," I'm sure he was thinking. Are the police taking direct orders from the PMO? Who's next on the intimidation list?

The civil servant in question has spoken out today against the government's tactics. Good for him.

Also on the subject of right-wing assholes, if we needed more evidence of the evils of Rush Limbaugh, look no further.

This kind of thing will likely help Barack Obama in the long run. I'd love to see Obama win the nomination and the presidency. He is the best antidote to the Bush & Cheney years.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The fate of Andre Boisclair

I've been a keen observer of Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair's roller coaster leadership, mostly because Boisclair is the first openly gay leader of a major political party, at least in North America.

His fall from grace has been largely predictable. Even during the 2005 PQ leadership race, in which Boisclair gave up a promising career on Toronto's Bay Street (strange career move for a Quebec separatist) to run for his party's top job, he showed poor judgment and an inability to connect well with ordinary people.

I wrote a handful of articles about Boisclair that year for Toronto's Xtra magazine, an English-language gay and lesbian bi-weekly. It seemed at that time that Boisclair's support was largely based on the false assumption that electing such a cool/edgy/gay, cosmopolitan and youthful leader, the PQ would open itself up to a new generation of voters. (Plus Boisclair's opponents simply weren't all that great.) PQ party members ignored the controversy over Boisclair's use of cocaine while serving as a cabinet minister in the 1990s, as well as his amateurish reaction to the controversy, shutting down scrums, hiding from the media, refusing to take interviews or criticism.

It now seems clear that Boisclair was completely wrong for the job. The reasons for his failure to connect with Quebec voters were multi-faceted, mostly a combination of Boisclair's arrogance and obvious political immaturity. But his open sexuality was also a factor. His appearance in a tasteless 'Brokeback Mountain' TV parody last fall merely confirmed his poor judgment, and reinforced his gay "ickiness". In the end, he was too 'Montreal' to sell in the Quebec hinterland.

I am certain that Boisclair's homosexuality had much to do with his inability to connect with ordinary Quebecers. It seems the general public needs little reason to fail to connect with political leaders from outside the typical mold.

White, male, heterosexual, conventional leaders normally are cut much more slack than leaders who don't embody these normalities.

If Stephane Dion were gay, he would be finished as a leader (who are we kidding, if Dion were gay, he would never have been elected leader of the federal Liberal Party.)

Like numerous female leadership candidates or other leaders from outside the traditional norm, Boisclair failed because he was not perfect. Boisclair wasn't a walking disaster during the recent Quebec election campaign, but that didn't matter. References to 'family values' by both Quebec Premier Jean Charest and ADQ leader Mario Dumont in their campaigns helped reinforce the subtle point that Boisclair simply wasn't an ordinary Quebecer.

Boisclair's homosexuality simply irritated a large number of heterosexual Quebecers. Add to this Boisclair's leadership shortcomings and the PQ had a disaster in the making. They're lucky they got 28% of the vote.

Of course, most Quebecers, like most Canadians, would never admit they wouldn't vote for someone because they're gay. When confronted with open homophobia, Quebecers and other Canadians typically give a knee-jerk reaction like, "Of course I'm not homophobic."

The election of PQ MNA Sylvain Gaudreault in Jonquière is an interesting case. Gaudreault, like his leader, is openly gay. A local radio shock jock, Louis Champagne, attacked Gaudreault's homosexuality on the air during the campaign, saying factory workers in the Saguenay would never vote for a "tapette," the French slang equivalent of "fag." Champagne suffered a huge backlash for his comments, and in the end local voters proved him wrong by giving Gaudreault a local victory.

At times, voters will go out of their way to prove the bigots wrong.

But when unchallenged, or when given no particular reason to favour a gay candidate, it seems voters will gravitate more to straight leaders or candidates.

It seems that Boisclair's leadership was doomed from the very beginning. I'm sure many PQ supporters will take a collective sigh of relief when he is finally removed (or quits) and is replaced by a more "normal" leader like Gilles Duceppe.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Elizabeth May's choice of words

I wasn't terribly troubled to read quotes from federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May's recent sermon/speech given in a London, Ontario church over the weekend.

We know that May has been more religious than not. Her past comments regarding abortion, for example, reflect my own feelings on the issue. I am not a particularly religious person as I don't closely identify with any one particular church or religious institution. But I have nothing but respect for people of moderate faith like May.

Like many other Canadian environmentalists, May has been trying to speak the language of adversaries, hoping to bring them over to the environmental cause. May clearly sees this issue as more than political; like Al Gore, she sees action on the environmental file as a "moral" issue. Thus her comment, "Through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can meet this moral obligation," is wholly appropriate.

However, May's comments comparing Stephen Harper's response today to climate change to Neville Chamberlain's response to the growing Nazi threat of the 1930s were a little too heavy-handed and I'm glad that Liberal leader Stephane Dion has distanced himself from them.

Said Dion today after Question Period: "We should not use it — for the very reason that in the spectrum of power, the Nazi regime is beyond any comparison," he said. Dion said that while climate change poses a global threat on the same scale as terrorism and nuclear proliferation, and is indeed worrying, "you don't need to go over the top."

Predictably, the National Post jumped all over May in their editorial today.

The Post also focussed in on May's comments regarding the position of many extremist Christians with regard to the so-called End of Days.

"In referring to Evangelical Christians, Ms. May stated that some "are waiting for the end [of ] time in glee and they unfortunately include President [George W.] Bush." Ms. May also described Stephen Harper's plan to deal with global warming as "worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis."

That's quite impressive: In one speech, Ms. May not only managed to insult Canada's Christians, but also the President of the United States and the memory of those who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Notice how the Post assumes if you insult the intelligence of extremist Christians who are praying to be among the "saved" when the Rapture finally strikes in 2012 (like Stockwell Day surely prays), you somehow are insulting all Christians?

Even gay Tory environment minister John Baird made this assumption today in the House of Commons: "It is inexplicable how they could not stand up against people who bash Christians..."

My message to Baird: As you are a gay man, I wouldn't be defending Evangelical Christians as a general rule.

Extremist nutbars are not mainstream Christians and when we insult them, we are not insulting all Christians.

Undoubtedly, there are hundreds of thousands of such extremist Christians (mostly in the U.S.) who continue to buy into the Republican and very non-Christian line that there is no problem continuing to spew as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as possible. These are the same nutbars who, when real environmental catastrophes begin to impact on us like increasingly violent hurricanes, will assume that these disasters are indeed the will of their God wrecking revenge on mankind for its supposed sins.

I'm glad that Elizabeth May thinks poorly of these folks. Perhaps May is too honest and straightforward for her own good.

We all have our angry moments when emotion overtakes us and makes us say some pretty inflammatory things. But most of us are not national party leaders. Elizabeth May is a smart lady with a great track record and tonnes of street cred. She runs the risk of seriously damaging that credibility if she continues to use such inflammatory rhetoric. I hope in the future she tones it down just a bit.