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Canada Flirts With Death Penalty, Shrugs at Climate Change

by gobacktotexas Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 07:05:41 PM EST

Very bad things are happening in Canada.  I knew the recently elected conservative government was bad, but the extent to which it is so exceeds belief.  

Diary Rescue by Migeru

First there is this giant step backward on the death penalty:

OTTAWA - Canada deserves to be blasted by the top European human rights watchdog for washing its hands of Canadians facing the death penalty abroad, Bob Rae says[...] Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government announced earlier this month that it will no longer seek clemency for Canadians sentenced to death in countries such as the United States, where they've received a fair trial. It also announced that Canada will no longer co-sponsor United Nations resolutions urging a worldwide ban on the death penalty.

The announcements marked a reversal in longstanding Canadian foreign policy. Harper has denied suggestions the moves are a prelude to reintroducing the death penalty in Canada, which abolished executions in 1976.

On this last, point, whether this is a prelude to Canada reintroducing the death penalty, Canadian Liberal leader Stephane Dion points out that it is illogical to say it is not:

"They say it's abroad. Canadians facing the death penalty abroad will not have our support, but what is the logic? If you're not ready to fight the death penalty abroad today, that means tomorrow you will restore the death penalty in Canada."

At the same time, the anti-Kyoto, anti-science conservative government is doing all in its power to shut down meaningful global action on climate change:

OTTAWA - There'll be no room for opposition MPs in the Canadian government's inn at next month's crucial climate-change talks in Bali, Indonesia.

Environment Minister John Baird's office confirmed Wednesday that representatives from the three opposition parties would not be welcome as part of Canada's official delegation at the United Nations conference.

That's a departure from a long-held government tradition of bringing critics along to major international conferences - opposition MPs participated in the last major UN environmental conference in Nairobi last November, for example. This coming meeting will set the stage for a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and does not include the developing world[...]

Environmental groups have also been told they would not be part of the Canadian delegation.

If Canada wants to go back to the dark ages, it seems to have a government which is more than willing to take it there.  The thing I must ask as an American who has long respected the Canadian "model" is: why would Canadians so easily abandon it?

Parts of Canada (e.g. Alberta) look a lot like red states in the US. And they've been pivotal in electing this current government.

Whether this represents a long term trend to the right in Canada, or just the machinations of a party in power, I don't know.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 at 04:38:40 AM EST
I really doubt it represents a long-term shift.  I could be wrong.  But, yes, central Canada can be every bit as right-wing as Red America.

It's a small portion of the country, though, and history is not on its side.  Haven't the Liberals enjoyed some obscene portion of the time in power throughout the history of Canadian democracy?

I think, once in a while, countries simply find themselves in the mood to kick the ruling party out.  That's been the essential history of liberalism in America:  The Republicans will be in power for a long time, but eventually liberal ideas will make it into the mainstream, and the Dems will win and push them through.  A generally rightist country occasionally letting the left in to do some house-cleaning as ideas progress.  Sometimes it lasts a while, sometimes it's just brief.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 11:28:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I too doubt it will be a long-term shift, but the Cons can do significant damage while in power, especially if the Libs and BQ continue to vote for Conservative budgets as a way of avoiding electoral catastrophe.

Central Canada isn't exactly "right-wing," save for Alberta. They vote for Cons at the federal level but both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have had NDP governments at the provincial level for decades. True, Sask did just throw out their NDP government, but it was more due to exhaustion with the NDP and a clever campaign by the neoliberal Sask Party than any conscious decision to abandon their province's historic social democracy for the right.

And of course, the equivalent states in the US - North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas - can have their conservatism overstated as well. Those states have either turned to Democrats in recent years, or like ND never left them - although all three continue to vote for Republican presidents.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 12:48:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would Canada abandon their model? The Liberal Party (centrist) has collapsed due to scandal and thoroughly incompetent leadership (first Paul Martin and now Stéphane Dion) and not enough Canadians see the progressive left as embodied by the NDP as a legitimate party of government.

Canada's media is controlled by a few right-leaning moguls and even the Liberals helped this by hollowing out the CBC. Neither the CBC nor the right-leaning media have treated the NDP with the seriousness they deserve - they've governed several provinces effectively, have consistently increased their vote numbers over the last 10 years, and have a very competent parliamentary caucus. At the same time, this Canadian media has not really played up the true nature of Harper's Conservatives nor the widespread opposition to their policies. Watching Canadian media you think these Cons are just a bunch of nice guys trying to do right by Canada; their far-right agenda is carefully masked.

Added to that, the Liberals successfully scared left-leaning voters away from the NDP and toward them by saying they (Libs) were the only party that could block Harper's Conservatives (much like American Democrats have said). They weren't, of course, but the NDP can't trigger new elections alone, and so the Conservatives govern Canada with a minority government that will likely last quite a while.

There have been significant protests against the Conservative agenda, particularly the "deep integration" that would tie the US and Canada closer together, but these haven't been given the sort of coverage they deserve.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 at 05:19:58 PM EST
How is PM appointed in Canada when there is no clear mayority in parliament?

From Wikipedia I see that either a big coalition (cons + lib), an anti-conservative coalition (lib + Bloc Q + NDP) or an conservative + Bloc Québécois coalition would have a mayority. But as I understand it instead there is a conservative minority government?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 11:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The tradition in Canada is to allow the largest party to form a government. However, they have to actually govern with the votes of the other parties - the Cons alone can't pass a budget, so they need votes from the BQ, the NDP, the Liberals, or some combination of the three.

The Cons have in fact gotten those votes, because neither the BQ nor the Liberals want another election (whereas the NDP is ready for one anytime, figuring they can only benefit). Both the Liberals and the BQ are in political free-fall - the BQ lost several of their seats to the Cons and continue to sink in polls, and the Liberals have fared poorly everywhere outside of Ontario. The current Liberal leadership under Dion is uninspiring, lagging in the polls, and still has debt from the 2006 election.

So neither the Liberals nor the BQ want to vote against the government because to do so would trigger an election they would lose.

It's not clear what the mechanism would be to cause a shift from a Con minority government to a Lib-BQ-NDP government if the Cons lost a confidence vote. It might well be up to the Governor General, who is a Liberal appointee - but the Canadian tradition is to hold an election when a government has lost the confidence of the Commons. Further, a Lib-BQ-NDP coalition would be extremely unwieldy, assuming the Libs and the NDP would stomach having the separatist BQ in government with them. Lib-NDP coalitions have happened before (and been EXTREMELY beneficial to Canada) but right now they don't have the seats to pull it off.

Yet another complicating factor is the Green Party, which polls well - almost even with the NDP in some polls - but whose viability is questionable at best. They have no seats, usually their support evaporates at an election, and there are persistent rumors of a deal struck between Elizabeth May (Green leader) and the Liberals, where the Greens agree to basically go after the NDP. But they are a wild card that have to be considered going into any election.

Basically, the Cons never receive more than 35% of the votes of Canadians, but because the other 65% is so divided, it's enough to keep them in power. Canadians either are not shown the depth of the threat Harper poses to their system and their values, or the main parties (Libs and BQ in particular) are so bent on preserving their own shrinking piece of the pie that they won't unite to fend off the common enemy.

13 years of Liberal government left a LOT of bad blood, and it's going to take time to work that out of the system - time which Harper and the Cons intend to use to their advantage.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 12:39:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this diary. Good info.
As an American expat, I have come to realize that there is a huge store of international good will built up by the  last 40 years of Canadian policy. Embarrassingly, I have saved my family's American asses at least once from angry popular recriminations by allowing people to think we were Canadian, instead of American. Sadly, I sense a change there- The growing recognition of Harper as a Bush sychophant is washing away the work of a half-century. Do Canadians realize this, do you think? And if so, one must ask why he's still there.
Though I've read some on the subject, and have heard all the rationalizations, I'm still a bit mystified as to how he got past security, let alone into the Prime Minister's office.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 06:55:58 AM EST
I really don't understand the shift to conservatism going on in the rest of the developed countries.  We Yanks finally start to see at least some light at the end of the tunnel, and you damned Europeans and Canadians start electing lunatics.

I expect it from the Aussies, who might have the one leader more crazy, though less powerful, than ours.  But come on, guys.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 11:22:29 AM EST
It is a stunning and saddening development, but as I explained above, neoliberal political methods WORK - they work really well, as shown by both Canada and France (two nations where you'd never have expected an "Anglo disease" loving right to come to power). Control the press, gin up a sense of crisis, discredit the center-left, and crack down/ignore the resulting protests.

What folks like Stephen Harper or Nicolas Sarkozy have done is exploit fundamental weaknesses in liberal capitalist democracies, and their success suggests that the "liberal capitalist democracy" model is too vulnerable to be counted on. As we push back against them, we need to build a much more social democratic future, to provide democracy and equality the security they deserve.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Fri Nov 23rd, 2007 at 12:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that part of this is the fact that the world has largely had good economic years (at least superficially) for the past decade or so - and a bullish market enables Ponzi scams. And as many ETers are fond of pointing out, many of the right wing's pet projects are unsellable to the public. But you can usually make them more superficially appealing by packaging them in a Ponzi scam - that's basically what's been going on on the subprime market if I read Jerome correctly. And it's pretty much what's been going on on the Danish housing market as well.

So, assuming that there are more dishonest scammers on the right than on the left, good times will favour the right.

Additionally, one should not underestimate the degree to which outright autocrats have gained legitimacy in the eyes of the scared due to their ability to play the terrorist card virtually uncontested. It is highly unfortunate but true that most people will support a whole host of outrages against democracy to 'protect' them from the semi-fictional threat of terrorism. And when one of your political specialties is outrages against democracy, well terrorism helps your cause.

The fact that the neo-libs'/conservatives' corporate masters own the media also help them of course...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 24th, 2007 at 06:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
one word (I'm on the run again):  Anschluss.

Canadians need to wake up and take a good look at what life is like South of the Border:

A short article with haunting photos in the New York Times by Sara Corbett titled "Patients Without Borders" spoke heartbreaking volumes about the state of health care in the rural areas of the United  States of "A lot of uninsured". Yes, hundreds of thousand of people still live far outside urban centers -- and if you think health care is hard to obtain and the wait is long in major cities full of hospitals and clinics, try getting medical care in small towns. Managed care/competition - the Clintons answer to the health care crisis in the 90's - never made it to small-town America.

Most summers the residents of Wise County, Virginia are visited by volunteer doctors who work for an organization called Remote Area Medical (RAM). The organization also provides free medical services to poor countries with little to no health care infrastructure like Haiti and Guyana South America. Wise County has much in common with the aforementioned countries. When the fairgrounds opened at 5:30 am of the first day 800 people were standing in line. By midmorning 1,200 were waiting. Over 3 days 2,500 were seen but hundreds had to be turned away. An array of medical personnel went to work to provide basic health care to the poor and uninsured. And 78 dentists extracted more than 3,700 teeth. One patient had 12 teeth pulled out. A doctor quoted in Corbett's article said "If you spend a day here you see there's something wrong with health care in this country." Something is indeed wrong, criminal even. Here's another number: rationed care is responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths every year.

I want every presidential candidate both Republican and Democrat, every politician who voted against SCHIP, every person in power who doesn't believe that health care is a human right, or is against single-payer, to stand in line in the rain for hours to see a doctor. To receive health care only once a year in a fairground that must be bleached clean of horse manure before health care providers can work, to register in a barn, to be examined and treated in an animal stall - feet sinking into wet hay and mud - or in a musty old, threadbare tent that offers no privacy. To have 12 rotting teeth pulled out in one day! And then goddammit tell me the private, for-profit health care system works.

This is what the Washington Consensus programme of "reform" will do to Canadian health care if not stopped.  The Cons have already eroded the Canadian NHS  quite a bit, but that's nothing to what it could look like if they are not sent packing and soon.

Howard down, Harper and Dubya to go...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 07:53:04 PM EST
Okay I'll bite.

First, Canadian politics are in significant flux right. While the Liberals are almost bankrupt and nobody likes the leader and the PQ are in freefall in polls. It's not as bad as it looks. For everything that the Conservative government have been doing, they haven't managed to gain any distance on the Liberals. They're essentially tied in the polls or within each others margin of error. BUT, the Liberals face a massive problem, their fund raising system was based on large donations from wealthy individuals and corporations while the Conservatives built an exceptional system of small donations from individuals (a la flip of the US situation). However, with the new restrictions on donations to political parties, the Liberals are scrambling to sustain their funding while the Conservatives are fat and rich right now.

Second, Canada has a dirty little secret on Kyoto/Climate change (no pun intended). Currently, Canadians say that the environment is the most important public policy initiative in Canada (beating health care, education,etc.). The only problem is that Canadians talk a good game but aren't even trying to come through. We use more energy the almost all other countries, produce more then our fair share amount of pollution, etc. However the debate has degenerated into a blame US/China because we Canadians are perfect Angels. The conservatives know this, so they'll really only start caring about the environment when the Canadian electorate cares about the environment.  

I'd argue that the Conservative government isn't a run away government, but more of a reflection of the electorate.

by Digitking on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 02:47:23 PM EST
and has been so for over 20 years.

The previous Liberal government didn't deny climate change, but didn't do much about it either.  And it cut and slashed social programs much more so than the current conservatives.  Not since 1984 has there been a genuinely liberal government.

There is a growing, and ugly, hostility towards nonwhite peoples in Canada.  A new law has been passed requiring Muslims - only Muslims - to show their faces while voting.  Whites are still free to vote by mail.

Canada is often thought of as a kinder, gentler version of the United States, but it's not.  Its social programs are about par with the US (it does have public health care, but this is badly frayed and its public-pension system is much less generous than the US).  It may not be fighting in Iraq, but on Afghanistan its prime minister - headed for a majority in the next election - is as bellicose as any Bush.

by tyronen on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 12:25:41 AM EST

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