Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ten good reasons Liberals should support MMP

For all of those Liberal MMP naysayers/lovers of the status quo, I throw down the gauntlet in favour of Mixed Member Proportional.

Please explain to me how the following ten election results, produced by our antiquated 'first-past-the-post' system, are somehow fair, democratic and good for stability in Canada, let alone the Liberal Party. Our party has gotten screwed just as much as any party under the current system, winning far fewer seats than we'd otherwise deserve based on our popular support. Here are just ten provincial election results which beg the question: why do any Liberals support 'first-past-the-post?'

Liberals almost tie the Davis Tories in the popular vote, but come in third place behind the NDP because of first-past-the-post.

1975 VOTES
PC 36%
NDP 29%
PC 51
NDP 38
LIB 36

The Liberals win the popular vote, but still lose the election to the PCs.

1985 VOTES
PC 37%
NDP 24%
PC 52
LIB 48
NDP 25

The NDP lead was slight, but first-past-the-post over-inflated that protest vote to give the NDP a big majority and Ontario five years of disastrous government.

1990 VOTES
NDP 37%
PC 24%
NDP 74
LIB 36
PC 20

Reasons # 4 and #5 - MIKE HARRIS YEARS (1995 TO 2003)
The PCs under Mike Harris never won more than 45% support but with first-past-the-post they secured two comfortable majorities and used them to undermine health care, the environment and public education for eight very tough years.

1995 VOTES
PC 45%
NDP 21%
PC 82
LIB 30
NDP 17

1999 VOTES
PC 45%
NDP 13%
PC 59
LIB 35

Thanks to first-past-the-post, the PQ won a majority in 1994 with only 45% of the vote and plunged the country into the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. In 1998, the PQ won another majority, but this time with fewer votes than the Liberals. For those who say first-past-the-post promotes economic stability in Canada, how did five extra years of separatist rule benefit Canada's economy?

1998 VOTES
PQ 43%
ADQ 12%
PQ 76
LIB 48

Five more years of incompetent NDP government despite voters preferring change.

1996 VOTES
NDP 39%
PDA 6%
NDP 39
LIB 33

The Liberals do very well, but the system makes most Liberal votes irrelevant and unrepresented.

1991 VOTES
NDP 51%
PC 26%
LIB 23%
NDP 55
PC 10

Reason # 9 - MANITOBA ELECTION 1995
The provincial Liberals slip to just under 25% of the vote, but get clobbered by the seat breakdown. The party hasn't sufficiently recovered since.

1995 VOTES
PC 43%
NDP 33%
LIB 24%
PC 31
NDP 23

Reason # 10 - ALBERTA ELECTION 2001
PC voters outnumber Liberal voters by just over two-to-one. PC seats outnumber Liberal seats by 10-to-one.

2001 VOTES
PC 62%
LIB 27%
NDP 8%
PC 74

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Turncoat Comuzzi wouldn't win his riding as a Tory

As Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Joe Comuzzi sells what's left of his soul to Stephen Harper, he should consider the fate of Liberal-turned-Tory Senator Anne Cools. Cools joined the Tories after a career as a Liberal because Cools just hates gays so much. Despite representing pro-gay Toronto in the Senate, Cools made it her mission fighting against equality for gays and lesbians in Canada. She couldn't stomach the fact that most Liberals disagreed with her bigotry and promptly joined the Harper-crite homophobes during the 2004 federal election campaign. Her switch was touted at the time by Harper as a sign of growing Conservative support. Of course, in the end it had little impact as the Martin Liberals still won the June 2004 election.

Cools always struck me as kind of batty. I welcomed her departure from the Liberals. Now it's funny to see her turfed even from her new Tory home. Maybe it's time to quit altogether, eh Anne?

But back to Comuzzi, whose switch to the Tories has just been confirmed by CBC News (no link yet.) I met Joe very briefly when I used to work for his provincial counterpart, Michael Gravelle, at Queen's Park from 1999 to 2001. Unlike slacker Joe, Gravelle is a workhorse who is well-loved by his constituents and continues to win overwhelming victories in the riding. Gravelle won 73% of the vote in Thunder Bay-Superior North in 2003, the highest percentage by any Liberal in the province.

Contrast that with Comuzzi's bare wins in recent elections: he stumbled past a less-than-stellar New Democrat in 2006 by only 400 votes, winning only 36%. The Harper-crite candidate ran way back with only 22% of the vote. Such a slim victory over the pro-gay NDP followed of course Comuzzi's then-recent decision to quit the Martin cabinet out of "principle". Apparently, Comuzzi's staunch belief that gays and lesbians were second-class citizens and deserved to be barred from marriage was more important than staying a bit player in cabinet.

I'm not sure what Paul Martin ever saw in Mr. Comuzzi in order to make him cabinet material. It certainly couldn't have been his work ethic. I have vivid memories from my time in Gravelle's provincial office of issues exploding on the Thunder Bay front, and backbencher Comuzzi would frequently be out of the country on one of his regular southern vacations. His perpetual tan continues, as far as I can tell.

Comuzzi's personal hold on the riding has been anything but strong. It can be argued that the only reason he ever got elected was that he was on the Liberal ticket. The riding has been on the Liberal-NDP axis for several decades.

I hear Comuzzi won't be running again in the next election, even as a Tory. That's probably smart as he'd have even less of a chance of being re-elected as a Tory than say turncoat David Emerson. Perhaps this switch today will pave the way for Comuzzi to be appointed to Harper's cabinet later this year.

Good riddance, Joe. Perhaps we should thank Harper for cleaning out all the junk from our caucus like Comuzzi, Cools and Wajid Khan.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Pride Weekend to Everybody!

When gays and lesbians took one day this year to celebrate their lives in Moscow (after that city's bigoted mayor tried to stop them), they got attacked by neo-Nazis and other bigots and Moscow police did almost nothing to help. In fact, they let the neo-Nazis go and instead arrested many of the gay marchers.

Pride marchers in Jerusalem got stabbed by a Jewish Orthodox nut in 2005. This year, Jerusalem police had to arrest another extremist religious nutbar who was carrying a small bomb near Jerusalem's Pride parade.

If we needed any more proof of the evils of extremist religion, we got it. Any religion that inspires you to take this kind of violent action against your fellow men and women can only be described as toxic.

One must never buckle under and give in to these kinds of hateful threats. I congratulate those who are brave enough to show their pride despite such evil bigotry present in their own city and country.

We have it so lucky here in Canada. Our beautiful reputation of support and openness is now paying off tourism-wise at a time when we really need it.

I will be out celebrating this weekend with my partner. If you're in the Toronto area and have never attended a Pride parade, I suggest you consider coming downtown on Sunday afternoon to Bloor and Yonge - you will have loads of fun, I promise.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Congratulations to Bill Graham for years of service

Toronto Centre Liberal MP Bill Graham has announced he's resigning his House of Commons seat as of July 2, 2007.

It goes without saying that Graham has been an excellent MP, cabinet minister and interim Liberal leader. He's added so much to Canadian public life and he will be very missed.

Graham is also my Member of Parliament, which means we'll be having a by-election in the near future with Bob Rae as the federal Liberal candidate. (I was happy to cast a ballot for Mr. Rae in the nomination race in March.) This will make for a very exciting and interesting race for sure.

All major parties have their candidates nominated, including openly gay Muslim NDP candidate El-Farouk Khaki. There have already been some grumblings in Xtra, the local gay and lesbian magazine, against Rae's candidacy (based solely on his record as NDP Premier). It will be interesting to see how things develop on the by-election campaign trail, but in the end I'm confident that Mr. Rae will win the seat quite handily.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dion doesn't suffer fools like Shinan Govani easily

Today's column by National Post entertainment/gossip writer Shinan Govani, "He's OK except for the talking thing" kind of left me disappointed.

I always hate it when entertainment columnists who know little to nothing about political matters delve into the political arena.

Forget the fact that Govani writes for the anti-Dion National Post. One wonders how truly weird Govani found his encounter with Dion at a recent book launch party in Toronto, or how weird Govani's editors ordered him to feel. The bitchy line under Dion's photo accompanying the piece implying once again the Tory line that Dion can't speak English is true National Post-PMO talking points with visual aids.

Govani then moves quickly on to quote Larry Zolf's recent column that, "Dion's terrible, limited English...means that Dion cannot reach Ontarians, Maritimers, Westerners or any Canadians who are unilingually English."

Sure Dion's English isn't perfect, but I'm getting tired of hearing him described like this. Are we talking about the same guy?

My only solace comes from the fact that once Dion gets a chance to truly show off his decent English skills to Canadians, albeit with a strong French accent, all this talk of Dion being tone deaf in the English language will be swept away (along with that Tory bullshit about him not being a leader.)

The truth will sweep away the Tory spin.

The funniest part of Govani's column: "I tried to muff the awkwardness [to] make a wee joke. And because I had, earlier that day, just happened to be at a lunch with The Governator, I zinged to Dion: "It's been a bizarre day. I saw Schwarzenegger today, and now you." He looked through a I'm-Jodie-Foster-in-Nell-and-I'm-a-savage-child-of-nature-and-I-don't-understand-you kind of way. Tres weird."

Anyone who's ever met Govani knows he's about four feet tall, always overdressed and has one of the funniest sounding voices on TV (when he appears on TV.) He can be cute and coy at times, but mostly kind of annoying.

No doubt, Dion didn't recognize him. Why would he? He's from Montreal and works in Ottawa. He doesn't make the rounds on the Toronto entertainment circuit. Govani was undoubtedly shocked that his little insult failed to impress Mr. Dion.

Sure Dion needs to flex his social skills a bit more. But to write off this encounter as proof positive that Dion can't speak English is a little over the top.

I've heard that Dion doesn't suffer fools easily. Obviously after running into Govani, that's still true.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Isaiah Washington fired from 'Grey's Anatomy'

I'm not a regular watcher of the ABC drama 'Grey's Anatomy.' But I got acquainted with the show last fall when the controversy involving actor Isaiah Washington blew up into the open.

Washington got into a physical altercation on the set with show star Patrick Dempsey in which Washington apparently uttered the words, "I'm not your little faggot like T.R."

'T.R.' was of course Washington's co-star on the show, T.R. Knight.

T.R. Knight, an affable and attractive actor, who seems like a very nice guy as far as I can tell, felt compelled to come out of the closet publicly as a result of the incident. "I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me," Knight said at the time.

Washington faced no reprimand for the altercation. Months later, backstage at the Golden Globes, he uttered the homophobic slur again in response to a question on the incident. In front of his co-stars including Knight and the international media, Washington waltzed up to the microphone in response to a question on the backstage fight and said he never called T.R. a 'faggot.'

To deny he used the slur, he used the slur.

A huge public backlash ensued. Calls for Washington to be fired from the show got very loud. Washington went into major damage control mode. He apologized profusely. He even went to some kind of rehab program.

I don't know about you, but I've never heard of any kind of anti-homophobia re-hab program. Washington's frantic response was impressive, but unconvincing.

If a co-worker of mine had gotten into a violent confrontation in my workplace and uttered "I'm not your little faggot like Matt," I can attest that the workplace would have been sufficiently poisoned so that continuing to work professionally would be greatly challenged.

Washington's actions no doubt poisoned the workplace environment for T.R. as well as the rest of his castmates. He simply had to go.

Today, ABC made it official. Isaiah Washington won't be returning to the show next season.

His statement sent out today through his publicist seems to confirm the man's strangely irrational mindset (which got him into this mess in the first place) is still anything but cured.

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," is all Washington has to say with regard to his departure from the show.

He's not going to take it anymore? What does that mean? I don't know about you, but this statement conjures up images of Washington returning to the Grey's set in the near future with a machine gun. I certainly hope not, of course.

Monday, June 4, 2007

New anti-Dion Tory ads clearly anti-French

The more I am forced to watch the latest round of Tory attack ads on Liberal leader Stephane Dion (while watching CTV's Question Period or what have you,) the more obvious the despicable message the Tories are trying to spin.

Since the launch of their attack ads in English Canada, the Tories have always used clips in which Dion's shaky English is clearly on display.

But the latest 'Senate reform' Tory attack ad is the most blatant. In it, Dion is clipped that "some consider me to be a hero..."

As we hear, Dion's pronounciation of 'hero' in this instance is not particularly good.

When I hear Dion speak in English, be it during Question Period in the House of Commons, or during interviews or quick clips on TV, it's obvious that his English is improving. He seems generally comfortable in English, and only gets a bit tongue-tied during combative moments in the House or elsewhere. But he usually gets his message clearly across. Most Canadians can forgive some mangling of the English language as long as the overall message is clear. Dion's English is better than Chretien's ever was.

Yet the Tories are choosing to highlight the worst anomalies in Dion's English, broadcasting them to the masses in their advertising.

In the latest ad, after Dion mispronounces 'hero,' the Tory narrative blasts the text 'Hero?' on the screen and the narrator continues "A hero? He can't even..."

When hearing this, it sounds as if the Tory narrator is going to finish the sentence "He can't even pronounce the word 'hero'".

The Senate reform angle of the ads is obtuse and clearly of little importance to most voters, at least as far as I can tell. The ads insinuate that Dion should be responsible for assisting the government in passing its legislation. Leaders of the Opposition the world over are responsible for many things, but helping governments pass legislation is not one of them.

No, the point of these latest Tory ads is simply to showcase bad examples of Dion's English and use the implied narrative that Dion is not a leader because "he can't even [speak English.]"

This is classic, below-the-belt Harper. And a clear reminder of the dinosaur, anti-French attitude that permeates the Reform-Conservative tradition in his government and his party.

Dion speaks better English than most francophone Quebecers. I wonder how they'd feel to know that the Harper Conservatives are attacking Dion so clearly in this way.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

'When Tolerance Becomes Dangerous'

An excellent article appears in the Toronto Star today by Farzana Hassan, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, entitled, 'When Tolerance Becomes Dangerous.'

In it, Hassan makes a simple but often forgotten point: in our rush to accommodate various conflicting minorities, we frequently abuse, "the principle on which pluralism is based – one that acknowledges diversity, but after an agreement has been reached on what is civil, just and compassionate."

Over the last few months we've seen increasing conflict over the acceptance of cultural practices at odds with mainstream Canadian culture, especially in Quebec.

I've been conflicted myself on this very issue. As a homosexual, I'm a minority and will always be vulnerable to the impulses of the majority, rational or irrational. I used to buy into the philosophy of cultural relativism, where no one can assume that the culture in which they live is superior to any other. This was the basis of queer liberation in my mind: sure most people are heterosexual, but I'm not. The standards by which you judge yourself as heterosexuals cannot be applied to me as my experience and my sub-culture is fundamentally different.

But I've moved away from this kind of thinking in recent years. By this argument, I cannot criticize other cultures or religions that would oppress, even kill, gays and lesbians in other parts of the world. I would have no moral leg to stand on when criticizing the terrible homophobia on display in Russia recently, for example.

Instead, I think I now agree with much of what Hassan and many others argue. We must respect pluralism, and to do so that means we acknowledge diversity, but only after all show respect for what is civil, just and compassionate.

I also liked one of Hassan's last points in her article: "Last but not least, as we proceed with a redefinition of cultures and societies and the place of multiculturalism in them, let us not forget to invoke the compassionate elements of religion that foster love, peace and understanding, as well as forgiveness for transgressions."

Just because organized religion can be used in the most heinous and inhumane ways, we ought not throw the baby out with the bath water.