Friday, October 29, 2010

The gravy train is alive and well in big spender Stephen Harper's PMO

The annual cost of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office has ballooned to nearly $10 million, a jump of 30 per cent since 2008. Clearly, Harper is a hypocrite when it comes to Canadian tax dollars.

Two years ago, on the eve of the recession, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said: "We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror."

Clearly, he and Harper are full of CRAP on this issue.

I hope Michael Ignatieff and the Grits play this issue for all its worth, reminding Canadians that Harper is the worst manager of the public purse we have ever seen. Harper is spending more than any government in history. We are throwing away billions on G20 summits, high-priced, sole-sourced military equipment and expensive communications lackeys surrounding the Prime Minister.

For those who think Rob Ford's win in Toronto is good news for big spender Stephen Harper, think

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Use the word 'bigot' wisely

Toronto mayor-elect Rob Ford has said some pretty bigoted things in the past (unnoticed by the National Post editorial board, it seems.)

He once said of Asians (on March 5, 2008): "Those Oriental people work like dogs. I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over."

The ignorance displayed in this statement was shocking and provoked outrage from many. Ford later apologized profusely for these comments, but many Torontonians rightly concluded that any public official dumb enough to utter such generalizations in public could be labeled a bigot.

In a June 2006 debate at Toronto city council on funding for AIDS prevention programs, Ford spoke out against funding because, "If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line. These are the facts." The implication? It doesn't matter if gays or people "doing needles" die from AIDS.

Do I think Rob Ford today is a bigot? He sure has acted like one in the past. Today, I suspect he's learned greatly from his mayoral run this year (or at least learned to keep his mouth shut more often). I like to think having a gay man like George Smitherman as his main opponent has shown Ford up close just how normal gay men can be. I hope the hateful attitudes he displayed in 2006 against gay men have evolved as a result.

What is a bigot? The term is loaded. I've found using it to attack homophobic opponents is frequently unhelpful. It shuts down the conversation. It's only a good idea when you have absolute proof of foaming, ignorant hatred.

While Ford has certainly spoken like a bigot in the past, he hasn't done so much this year. People can change and grow. Even Ford. Also, I don't remember Tim Hudak saying anything particularly bigoted. Stephen Harper has viciously attacked gay marriage in the past, calling it, "a threat to a genuinely multicultural country." While incorrect and typical of Harper's willingness to divide Canadians, Harper's previous comments don't necessarily constitute bigotry.

But there can be no doubt that homophobic bigotry has been fairly widespread within the conservative movement over the years. There have also been bigots in the Liberal Party, the NDP, all parties. But like other parties, Conservatives have gradually evolved, partly thanks to the hard work of gay Conservatives in their midst (a topic I once wrote about for Xtra.)

The old homophobes remain in the Conservative midst, although they are slightly harder to spot. But not always. Take Ontario Tory MPP Randy Hillier, who once said, “Using taxpayer’s dollars, our governments [unfairly] support and promote Quebec, Native, Arts, Homosexual, Urban and Multi-cultures.” Hillier's campaign manager during his failed 2009 leadership bid, Tristan Emmanuel, now a senior Ontario Conservative adviser, has said that gays are, quote unquote, “sexual deviants.” As Warren Kinsella points out, Hudak has promoted these two men within his party. Similar folks dominate Stephen Harper's office in Ottawa.

Glen Murray was unwise to re-tweet recently that Ford, Hudak and Harper are simply bigoted. He provided no context for his comments except some Tamil radio ad campaign which wasn't produced by any of them (at least that we know of.) Throwing the word 'bigot' around is not helpful. It cheapens the debate and weakens our ability to confront real bigotry. There's enough of the real stuff around, we don't need to waste time attacking straw men.