Sunday, March 26, 2006

No Sermon this Sunday.

Thoughts havn't entirely coalesced this week, not for a lack of material, in fact, just the opposite, a lack of focus is more like it. After the dust up on Cherniak's blog this weekend maybe I need to cover morality and tolerance.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hypocrites

I picked this up from a comment attributed to Michael Ignatieff on Cherniak’s blog.

"I've never regarded hypocrisy as the worst of all virtues, perhaps because I'm a bit of a hypocrite myself."

I believe the context of the above quote is Michael’s initial support for the Iraq war which he later regretted. If one were to peruse the political blogs and forums on the Internet, you wouldn’t have to look very far to find accusations of hypocrite or a “flip flopper” being hurled at people for simply changing their mind. Others, such as John Kerry in the 2004 US Presidential race have been accused of hypocrisy for seeing moral choices as shades of grey rather than black or white.

It is not hypocrisy for one’s views to evolve, change and/or mature over time. In fact I would argue that anyone whose views don’t change over time either lives in a very isolated environment, lacks self awareness or is comfortable with cognitive dissonance. Likewise, no one is completely internally consistent.

I’m 42 years old. In my youth, I would have described myself as a moderate conservative. I voted for Brian Mulroney (twice) and Kim Campbell. I then moved to the United States for 10 years. Even in California, it didn’t take long to appreciate the benefits of Canada’s “liberal” social reforms of the last 50 years. Even in a region as obviously wealthy as the Bay Area, disparities in education, healthcare, opportunity, employment, etc. are striking. What is also very apparent is the way in which opportunity and wealth are distributed along racial lines. Black and Hispanic communities are by and large poor, have poor schools and poor infrastructure in stark contrast to Caucasian and Asian communities.

In the 10 years I was in California however, my core values didn’t change all that much – I have always felt that just societies must work for all people. My political outlook and views on the ways to achieve social justice are what changed. I can no longer accept that minimal governments, free markets, the private sector and private charity alone are the best mechanisms to address the obvious disparities in the social well being of the poor and at risk members of society.

Part of my own gradual enlightenment was also due to my completing my undergraduate degree at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit School with a strong history of social responsibility. The mandatory “breadth” courses in history, philosophy, and political science that were missing from my earlier technical school education speak volumes on the value of a liberal arts education regardless of one’s major or field of study. I am now literally a few days away from completing my MBA at the University of British Columbia. A business school education has actually sharpened rather than dulled my social conscience.

So I am accepting of change in myself, most people are, but what about other people? I marched in and cheered the street demonstrations in San Francisco leading up to and immediately following the start of the war. This much to the consternation of a few of my friends who were San Francisco fire fighters. I can understand they had to deal with crowd control, blocked streets and public safety. At the time many of my friends did not appreciate that they were seeing democracy in action. Many of them have since come to the realization that the war was not just a mistake, but was an immoral initiative from the start.

Michael Ignatieff, an early supporter of the war, once he saw how the war was executed, that it was sold on a bunch of lies and that only token efforts were given to creating a workable society in the aftermath, has repented of his earlier position. Once he saw that his writings on the limits of torture were being construed as support for torture, he clarified his views. Unfortunately, like with Senator Kerry, the talking heads that dispense what passes for news to the public just don’t get nuance.

George Bush is not a nuance guy. The public likes that in a President. Black, white, Axis of Evil, Evil Empire, Patriots and Terrorists – what else is there? I can’t however accept this. I don’t mind leaders making mistakes; I will still criticize them when I feel they are making a mistake. But to stay with a failed policy or continue repeating a mistake is inexcusable. I would have at least some level of respect for George Bush if he came out and said – “Okay, Iraq was a big mistake, but we are there now and we have to make the best of it”.

I have previously called Stephen Harper a hypocrite because things he said as president of the National Citizens Coalition and during the 2004 election campaign were inconsistent with his public postures during the 2006 campaign. Harper supported the Iraq war, and has never really repudiated that stand. In the past, Harper has expressed his undying admiration for the US conservative movement, whose political agenda reads like a manifesto for jingoes, robber barons and oligarchs. He has criticized Canada’s social welfare system and mocked the unemployed. He now says all this was a joke. But Harper is not a hypocrite, he is far worse. He’s a conniving weasel who wants it both ways. He seeks to appeal to the Alberta wing of the CPC with all of the neo-conservative (neo-liberal really) themes, but at the same time, in order to get elected he couldn’t sound like the scary Stephen Harper of the NCC and Canadian Alliance. Given the choice, I think I’d take the hypocrite.

Not Nuff Nads

We are happy to report that the recent inflamation and swelling of Lyle Oberg's testicles appears to be subsiding after some agressive treatment by Dr. Klein late in the week. While they at one point had swollen almost to the size of marbles, they appear now to be slowly returning to their normal size and should once again resemble dried peas by this time next week.

Useful Idiots

Under the headline “May God bless and keep the Christian Peacemakers … far, far away” and a quarter page illustration titled “Ingratitude” Margaret Wente in this morning’s Globe and Mail assails the recently rescued members of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) for their failure to thank or recognize the efforts of the military and intelligence forces who rescued them from the Swords of Righteousness Brigade – a private “kidnap for profit” group operating in Iraq. Fair enough. I too think the rescued peace workers could have showed more grace by recognizing the heroic efforts of their rescuers. All war opponents should take note of this. When soldiers enlist, they do not have the luxury of picking or choosing their missions. The vast majority of them do a very difficult job honourably, a few rise to heroic and unfortunately, the actions of a few are inhumane and deplorable. Responsibility for the mess in Iraq however lies squarely on the civilians who sent them there.

However Ms. Wente goes on to not only rail against the CPT for their lack of gratitude, but to attack their motives, mission, purpose and character, and in the process demonstrates what a empty shill for the “lets remake the middle east in our image, and to hell with the consequences” neo-liberal PNAC ideologues she really is. Who but a partisan shill would continue to support such as demonstrably failed policy as the Iraq war, as the country, and potentially the whole region, slowly spirals into sectarian violence and civil war. What were the reasons for the war again? Was it weapons of mass destruction? Oh right none were found. Was it 9/11? Oh right, no connection to Al Qaeda. Was it humanitarian intervention? Oh right, 30,000 to 100,000 dead civilians and an escalating civil war, not to mention Abu Ghraib. Somehow when it comes to standing on moral principles I would trust the Christian Peacemakers just a bit more than Ms. Wente and the people she shamelessly shills for.

In her column however, Margaret Wente abandons any journalistic integrity – if she had any left after her March 2005 editorial praising the discredited work of climate change denier Steve MacIntyre as a climate change expert. In this current piece however, Ms. Wente makes the mistake of assigning or associating other people’s words and opinions to the three rescued Peacemakers and then attacks them on this basis. She writes:

“I heard of friend of Mr. Loney’s, Ted Schmidt, who is a former editor of the Catholic New Times. He got straight to his talking point, which was a passionate denunciation of the occupation in Iraq and of the Catholic Church for not opposing it. He said it was a lucky thing that Stephen Harper wasn’t in charge last fall ‘There is a good chance that if Mr. Harper had been Prime Minister and these people had known that Canada was a part of this operation, … they might not be alive’.

So let me make the distinction that Ted Schmidt is not one of the three rescued peace workers, Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden or Norman Kember, and he does not speak for them. Mr. Schmidt has a valid point, in light of the fact that Tom Fox, the lone American in the groups was executed. However it is shoddy to criticize the CPT on the basis of what a friend of theirs has said.

Ms. Wente goes on to say that radical Palestinians and Hamas have endorsed the Christian Peacemakers.

The Christian Peacemakers are also well known on the West Bank, where they stand in front of Israeli bulldozers that arrive to raze the houses of Palestinian suicide bombers. Why were the hostages lives spared? Perhaps the season has less to do with the affecting please of family members that were broadcast on Al Jazeera and quite a lot to do with the ringing endorsement that came from radical Palestinian Imams and members of Hamas. “Freedom for the Iraqi and Palestinian people. Shame and disgrace on the Zionist and American occupation” said a press release issued by Hamas and several other groups.

First of all, Israel has not just bulldozed the homes of suicide bombers, but the homes of any Palestinians thought to be supporting terrorists. This is done without any burden of proof or due process, the decision is usually left up to military commanders in the field.

However, it is true that a group representing virtually all of the Palestinian political parties (not just Hamas) issued a statement on November 29th appealing for the kidnappers to release the members of the CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team) in Iraq. Here is the full text of the [translated] statement – see if it leaves the same impression as the highly rhetorical salutation/sign-off that Ms. Wente quoted and mischaracterized.

In the name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful "O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done."-The Holy Qur'an, 49:6

The Islamic and National forces in the governorate of Hebron/Palestine express their deep regret for the kidnapping of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq.

The Islamic and National forces in the governorate of Hebron/Palestine have had long experience confronting Israeli crimes and violations with the CPT since 1995, and wish to confirm that the members of this group have had and still have a major role in confronting Israeli crimes and violations, and in the protection of the property and the lives of the Palestinian citizens.

More than once they placed themselves in front of the occupation's tanks, and they confronted Israeli occupation bulldozers with their bodies defending Palestinians' homes against destruction. They accompanied our children when they were threatened and attacked by Israeli settlers on their way to and from their schools. Because of what they were doing, the CPT members were subjected to arrest, beating and pursuit by the Israeli soldiers and settlers in more than one location in Palestine. Many of them were denied entry to Palestine, or deported by the occupation authorities because of their activities in confronting the occupation.

We appeal to our brothers in the resistance and all those with alert consciences in Iraq, with whom we consider ourselves to be in the same trench confronting American aggression and occupation, to instantly and quickly release the four kidnapped persons (two Canadians, one Briton and one American) from CPT, in appreciation for their role in standing beside and supporting our Palestinian people and all the Arab and Islamic peoples.
Freedom for the Iraqi and Palestinian people.
Shame and disgrace on the Zionist and American occupation.

The Islamic and National Forces in the Governorate of Hebron

Some might read this as an endorsement, others as an appeal for the lives of people who, driven by compassion, have put their lives on the line repeatedly in the cause of humanitarianism. More telling of Wente’s distorted worldview, by quoting the single line of over blown rhetoric and associating all of the groups in the Palestinian government with radical Imams and Hamas, Ms. Wente radicalizes all Palestinians and portrays them as terrorists. In this case, the only crime they have committed is to appeal for God’s (Allah’s) mercy towards the hostages. This may have been what kept them alive for four months.

But Wente is not done yet. She goes on to compare the CPT to “Lenin and Stalin’s useful idiots” aiding the cause of Saddam and Al Qaeda, like “westerners who defended Russia and denounced the West”. The CPT was in Iraq before the war, trying to lessen the humanitarian impact of the UN Sanctions regime. But Al Qaeda was not active in Iraq prior to the occupation.

The only current connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq is the elusive and ethereal Abu Mousad Al Zarqawi – who has incidentally regrown a leg recently. Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath party were secular Arab nationalist, the sworn enemies of Al Qaeda’s Islamic fundamentalists. The current insurrection is a marriage of necessity to drive out the American occupiers. Saddam was nominally a sunni muslim, but only got religion when he had a quarter of a million troops on his border and started quoting the Qur’an like Mike Tyson’s cellmate. Al Qaeda has its roots in Sunni Wahabism which while fundamentalist is at odds with the Shi’a fundamentalists of Iran. If you want to talk about radical Islam, look at what replaced Saddam. The Americans have installed a weak, Iran friendly Shi’ite government in Iraq, that is barely able to restrain the Mahdi army of the radical Shi'ite fundamentalist cleric Muqtada Al Sadr or the Kurd militias. The American coalition and their apologists have been able to accomplish in three years what Iran’s Ayatollah’s couldn’t do in over a decade of wars. Talk about useful idiots.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Riccota or Cottage?

In the most inane poll yet, the Globe and Mail asks "Would you be more or less inclined to vote for the federal Liberals if fiddler Ashley MacIsaac were leading the party?"

Since TG&M has committed its staff to such deep analysis I have some suggestions for some future polls.

  • Who is a better ambassador for Canadian hockey, Todd Bertuzzi or Danny Heatley.
  • Who is more irritating, Celine Dion or Shania Twang
  • Rocky or Bullwinkle?
  • Survivor or The Apprentice?
  • Nipple electrodes or the anal pear?

Smells Like Mean Spirit(ed)

Story from Common Dreams - Exxon Exxposed

If Exxon-Mobile does not represent everything that is wrong with corporate America I don't know what does. The Wall Street Journal story, picked up by Common Dreams, reports that the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has audited Greenpeace on the basis of a tip from Public Interest Watch, a group that received 97% of its funding from Exxon Mobile.

Now Exxon has for years engaged in a public mis-information campaign on Global Warming and in support of the Iraq war (which incidently drove world oil prices into the $60-$70/bbl range for the first time). A partial list of Exxon's donations in 2002 include:

  • Acton Institute for the Study or Religion and Liberty ($30,000) (Anti-Kyoto, Pro-SUV, Anti-Environmentalism)
  • American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research ($200,000) (Anti-Kyoto/Global Warming deniers, pro-Iraq war, pro-gun, closely linked to and rents space to PNAC, board members include Lynne Cheney, Richard Perle, Robert Borke, Richard Cohen, Newt Gingrich and Exxon CEO Lee Raymond)
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation ($50,000) (An association founded to seed right wing think tanks across the world. Linked to Fraser Institue, Manhatten Institute, Pacific Research Institute etc.)
  • Cato Institute ($30,000)(generally libertarian, advocats of privatization of social security, vocal deniers of global warming science)
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies ($145,000)(generally non-partisan, includes Democrats and Republicans amoung its membership: Madeleine K. Albright, Harold Brown, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Warren Christopher etc.)
  • Committee for Economic Development ($75,000)(no information)
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute ($405,000)(Strongly Anti-environmental, Anti-Kyoto, Global Warming Deniers)
  • Foundation for American Communications ($175,000)(no information)
  • Frontiers of Freedom ($233,000)(pro-big tobbacco, pro-big oil, RJ Reynolds, Phillip Morris and Exxon are Founding members, Anti-environment, anti-kyoto, global warming deniers)
  • George C. Marshall Foundation (90,000)(one of the chief disseminators of anti-global warming misinformation and pseudo science.
  • Reason Foundation ($50,000) Libertarian, strongly anti-environmental
Source: Wikipedia

But now it appears that Exxon's war on environmentalism and climate change science has taken a new offensive. Attack the oppositions organization by sicking the IRS on them. Greenpeace by the way was cleared in the IRS investigation. According to a 60 Minutes story, Exxon was also the lobbying influence behind the White House and NASA's attempts to silence NASA Climate Changes scientist James Hansen. I guess if you can't win on the message, attack the messengers

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kangaroo Courts

The US interrogator who supervised the brutal beating of former Iraqi major general Abu Hamad Mawoush, then stuffed him upside down in a sleeping bag and sat on his chest until he died, got 60 days confinement to barracks and forfeiture of $6000 worth of salary.

The US First Lieutenant threw 19 year old Zaidoun Hassoun off a bridge into the Tigris river causing his death was sentenced to 45 days confinement to barracks. The original charges of conspiracy, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice carried sentences up to 29 years, but he was convicted on lesser charges of simple assault. The explanation was that the commanding authority did not pursue the manslaughter charges.

So now we see a story in the Globe and Mail where a dog handler who turned his vicious dogs on inmates in a contest with another dog handler to see who could make the inmates soil themselves may face charges up to 24 1/2 years in prison. I wonder how many days he will spend in the dog house.

Edited 03-24-2006: Well I guess this has been answered. Mr. Smith got 6 months.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Conservative Childcare Program

While fliping to "Crossing Jordan" last night, I caught a few minutes of a CTV interview with Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley - I think it was Pamela Martin interviewing her on the proposed Conservative tax credit based childcare program. After getting over the distraction that Ms. Finley never blinks, the interview was pretty much the BS that I expected it to be. However right at the end of the interview, Ms. Finley indicated that initial indications from both the Liberals and NDP were that they would not vote against this legislation. This was a bit of a surprise for me. Pamela Martin then confirmed after the interview that she had spoken with both Bill Graham and someone from the NDP who had confirmed that they were not going to vote against the governments first major legislative initiative.

Between the Liberals, the NDP and most of the Bloc, social progressives still control Parliament. Parliamentary committees are also generally representative of the make up of the House of Commons. We really do not have to accept this crap from the Conservatives. While the government controls the legislative agenda, once a piece of legislation is out there it can and should be amended. In fact in this case, if NDP, Liberal and Bloc work together, they should be able to completely rewrite this bill to resemble a childcare program that we can actually support.

This of course means that the opposition parties would have to coordinate their opposition and work together more than we are accustomed to seeing in Canada. While I would not advocate a unite the left movement, I could see a progressive caucus forming in this Parliament around shared social objectives such as healthcare, childcare, environmental protection etc. I can also see such a united opposition being quite frustrating to the Conservatives. Perhaps I am just naive.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Christianity and the Religious Right Wrong - Installment II

Installment I can be found here.

It’s Sunday, time for another sermon on the Religious wrong and Social Responsibility. I’ll start with a question, what is a social conservative?

Classical conservatism is an ancient philosophy that advances tradition above other values such as reason, equality, justice or egalitarianism as the foundation for governing human societies. Conservatism, while ancient, was probably first formalized by Edmond Burke (1729-1797), in Reflections on the Revolution in France, in response to the 18th century Enlightenment in general and the French Revolution in particular. Burke argued that traditions such as family, church and state draw on the wisdom of generations while reason is untested by time or may mask the prejudice of its proponents.

Conservatives do not oppose change per se, but prefer organic change to radical or revolutionary change. Burke strongly supported the American Revolution, but vigorously opposed the French Revolution which were pretty much contemporary events. It is important to note that conservatism is neither right wing nor left wing and does not favour one tradition above another. Lenin was a revolutionary, Stalin a conservative and Gorbachev a reformer, but all were Communists. Conservativism then is ideologically ambivalent; supportive of entrenched power, regardless of who wields it.

It is not surprising then that modern conservatism’s connection to the traditions of family, church and state is attractive to many modern day Christians. But is this the place, philosophically and politically where the church rightly and morally belongs? The answer to that depends on the extent to which the traditions of family, church and state support true Christian values.

Clearly there is some overlap between Christian values and what American conservatives call family values, but there are just as obviously some huge disconnects. A so called “culture of life” that protects a fetus and a catatonic soccer mom, but justifies the execution of criminals and the torture of prisoners is not even internally consistent let alone consistent with Christian values. Economic policies which under the guise of fiscal restraint, slash programs (head start, Medicaid etc.) designed to ease the burden of the poor to pay for an unjust foreign war and tax cuts for the wealthy are likewise morally deficient. How this is rationalized in light of the preponderance of Christian teaching on social responsibility defies not only reason, but tradition as well.

As I am writing this, I am listening to a Christian radio station, and have just heard back to back to advertisements which cause me to shake my head. Focus on the Family, an organization that is currently fighting against a public health program to immunize young women against human papilloma virus, the leading cause of cervical cancer, says that “Loving your neighbour is easy – just give to our ____ fund …” while a Bellingham, Washington “ministry” provides a shelter exclusively for “whole families (defined as those having both a mother and father) in need” – I guess single parents and non-traditional families in need should look elsewhere. Is this not sick and wrong?

Does anyone other than me not see a major disconnect between this and the values exemplified by Christ? Are the poor, meek, humble, righteous and poor in spirit no longer blessed? How is this consistent with Proverbs 14:31 which says “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.”

It is also, sadly, increasingly difficult to separate the community of faith from the community of wealth, power and privilege. The parallels between the self righteous religious rulers our Lord called vipers and hypocrites and the religious right of our time are deniable only to those willing to suspend reason. Jesus offered grace and forgiveness to sinners and outcasts and reserved his wrath for the self righteous and corruptors, selling religion (sacrifices) and sitting in smug judgement of the poor, sick and disadvantaged. So why does His church expend such energies condemning sinners and praising the ruling establishment that exists on the backs of the poor.

The golden rule has become “Those with the gold make the rules”, and sweat equity now means “your sweat, my equity.” The poor have been deceived. Freedom without options, a vote without a voice and free speech when “they” own the channels are not currency neither will they provide sustenance. All the while a church, addicted to wealth, gives without sacrifice, ministers to those it deems worthy of its offerings, and seeks God’s blessing. God does not bless this.

They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways. The church asks “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

God through Hs prophet Isaiah answers “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58: 2,3,6-7).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Let My People Trade

Much has been said about the Kyoto Protocol and its provisions for global emissions trading. It has been described by some as a provision for the exportation of wealth, and by others as some form of foreign aid. Neither of these descriptions accurately captures the mechanism.

Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocols authorizes Annex I countries to meet their Kyoto emissions reduction quotas in part through the purchase of credits (there are actually three different types of credits, but we will just call them credits for now) from other Annex I nations. As these transactions are only between Annex I, i.e. developed nations, this is hardly a wealth transfer or aid to the developing world (which is not a bad thing either). It does however provide an advantage to countries which are aggressive in reducing CO2 emissions and are able to achieve compliance quicker.

Global emissions trading as a mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has a lot of advantages:

  • It is a global solution. Global warming is a global phenomenon, caused by the global over production of greenhouse gasses. All countries must therefore contribute to the solution.
  • It does not dictate how a country domestically achieves compliance; it simply provides a market based incentive to do so.
  • It benefits from comparative advantage and increases flexibility. It may be much cheaper for Country A to reduce emissions by a certain amount than for Country B. If Country A is in Kyoto compliance, then it would be far more cost effective for Country B to purchase credits from Country A than to achieve the same level of emissions reduction through domestic programs. This scenario is then a win-win situation. In addition to the global abatement benefits, Country B achieves credit for emissions reduction at a lower cost and Country A gets a benefit for reducing emission below the required level. The planet doesn’t really care where the reductions occur.
  • It has already been demonstrated to be an efficient and effective abatement regime in the US. The US, under the Clean Air Act or 1972 adopted a SO2 emissions trading regime. Under this regime SO2 targets were met far ahead of schedule with savings over the life of the program estimated to be greater than $10B.

Finally, let us not confuse a global CO2 emissions trading program with a domestic cap and trade program – considered by many to be a cornerstone of compliance efforts in Canada. A cap and trade program is likely to be a key part of any domestic Kyoto implementation plan – even the Conservatives new “made in Canada” approach. Domestic cap and trade system work because within an industry, they make dirty (CO2) producers more expensive and cleaner (CO2) producers less expensive. This provides the essential conditions for a market based domestic abatement approach and may finally put renewable energy, subsidy wise, on the same footing as fossil fuels.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Stealth Minister

Has anyone seen the Minister of International Trade recently?

It appears that the new Ambassador to the United States, former Mulroney Minister of Finance Brian Wilson has now taken the lead on the Softwood lumber negotiations. As one of the architects of the Canada US Free Trade Agreement, Wilson is a skilled negotiator (with a silky smooth falsetto and a gift for harmonies) and is respected in both countries.

As the Minister responsible for the 2010 Olympics, Emerson was also notably missing from the Olympic Flag raising ceremony in Vancouver last month.

He hasn't been seen at his constituency office in Vancouver (the scene of a recent sit-in occupation, and more recently a convenient recepticle for 2 large bags of manure), pretty much since he crossed the floor.

He is being sued by three seperate groups of Vancouver Kingsway constituents.

He has appologized to Liberal campaign workers, but so far refused to make ammends by doing the right thing, resigning his seat to face the voters.

At what point will the Stealth Minister of International Trade realized that he was elected first and foremost to represent his constituents. His legitimacy in Ottawa is rooted in Vancouver Kingsway - he can not escape this fact. He can not claim to represent this riding if he can't even show his face at his constituency office. This will not blow over. At this rate, the Minister might as well join former Senator Andrew Thompson in Mexico.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Iran out of Options

Two articles (here and here) on TomPaine.com offer a grim prediction of coming US and western policy in the middle east. The problem is, neither really offers an alternative approach. Clearly the pieces are starting to fall into place in a familiar order for a showdown between the US, or the UN Security Counsel and Iran over its nuclear weapons program. But what do we really know about Iran's nuclear programs.

Here is a good start: Iran and the IAEA Part II.
Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Nuclear Material Safeguards Agreement, but Iran is not a signatory to the Missile Technology Control Regime. Iran has recieved considerable techology assistance from the former Soviet Union, Russia, Pakistan and North Korea in the develepmont of its nuclear energy and balistic missile techologies.

Russia has offered to sell Iran all the enriched uranium they require for nuclear energy production if the proper audits and control are put in place, but Iran insists on developing its own enrichment facilities. Iran insists that it is pursuing a peaceful nuclear energy program - but then why remove the IAEA seals and controls from the existing facilities?

The IAEA has raised a number of questions about possible violations of the IAEA Nuclear Safeguards Agreement (SGA) that Iran is a signatory to. Iran has also not signed the IAEA Additional Protocols (AP) agreement (although it has agreed to voluntarily abide by most of its conditions).

Some of the IAEA concerns relate to activities undertaken by Iran in the 1980s and 1990s, procurement and developement of gas centrifuge techology (aluminum tubes anyone?), the construction of a heavy water reactor that produces plutonium as a by product and construction of plutonium seperation techology etc. The problem is that like in Iraq, most of this technology is dual use - plutonium seperation technology can also be used for medical isotope production, centrifuge techology can also produce Low Enriched Uranium for a civilian fuel cycle etc. Also as in Iraq, it is important to determine what nuclear activity is current and what documents and components are relics of the 1980's and early 1990s when Iran was at war with Iraq.

The big problem is, that IAEA has only raised questions. Most of the intelligence on Iraq's clandestined nuclear activities is coming from the United State - which has absolutely no credibility after the Iraq debacle. Also not really helping the situation is US rhetoric towards Iran. "Axis of Evil" type statements do not help to resolve the situation and after the absolute failure of US policy in Iraq, make it look more and more like the US goal is to establish a permanent hegemony in the region.

In fact, all of the would be mediators in this issue have compromised positions. Germany and France's positions (Continental Europe really) and stature in the Islamic world have been compromised by the publication of the Danish cartoons. How can Europe possible appear neutral and unbiased toward Iran after such a gratuitous display of intolerance? Russia, China and Pakistan are compromised by past complicancy in the illegal transfer of nuclear and missile techology to Iran. The United States and the UK are obviously damaged by Iraq.

To me, it is like watching a car accident in slow motion, knowing what is going to happen, but not being able to stop it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dick of the Week.

This week, you get to decide if Harper is a Dick or a Quail. The Bernard Shapiro ethics investigation provides us with the perfect opportunity to determine Harper's true nature.


I guess it really comes down to the end game. If Harpo pulls this off, flips Parliament the bird, refuses to cooperate with the ethics commissioner and gets Shapiro replaced, in true Dick Cheney fashion he will have solidified his stature as Canada's top dick in charge. If on the other hand Parliamentarians call his bluff and he is forced to cooperate with Shapiro, he is truely a wounded quail.
Well, now you get to make the call, is Harper a Dick or a Quail and like an Ohio Republican, vote early, vote often.

Is Harper a Dick or A Quail?

Dick: A Dick is Loathe to cooperate with a Liberal Appointee. When the covey flushes a Dick is always on the right end of the shotgun. Parliament, Blam! Ethics Commissioner, Blam! Opposition, Blam! Voters, Blam!
Tricky Dicky: I am not a crook - Richard M. Nixon.
A tricky Dick doesn't need a shotgun to bag his bird.
Tory Blue Quail: The Tory Blue will occaisionally take one for the team but when the shot starts flying, it is more likely to scurry under a bush.
Dan Quayle: What a waste it is to lose one's mind - Dan Quayle.A Dan Quayle blithely struts into certain danger, unware of the loaded Dick in the blind.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Friday, March 10, 2006

Christianity and the Religious Right. Wrong

Why is it that evangelicals have so readily embraced the social conservative agenda, an agenda which includes marginalization of the poor and exaltation of the rich, privileged and powerful, thinly veiled racism, intolerance, an erosion of civil rights and an ultra-nationalist aggressive foreign policy? From an evangelical’s theology is God a conservative? What does the bible teach about a range of issues that have come to be known as conservative Christian values? I would like to tackle the foreign policy issue first. I will try to tackle Christian social responsibility in future instalments.

The bible contains no teaching on public or foreign policy. God is more concerned with souls than “pols”. If you hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible however, there are many events where God spoke to or issued judgements upon nations. In ancient times God used pagan states as tools to implement his judgements against Israel and through his prophets delivered judgements against some of these same nations. Based on this pattern it appears that there are many who believe the United States is a tool of God; exercising His judgement against the Islamic world for their treatment of modern Israel. I don’t believe this position is theologically supportable.

At the time of Christ, the contemporary Jewish theological thought was that the Roman Empire was a vile pagan judgement upon God’s people from which God would eventually deliver them. If that line of thought held true, one could only conclude 2000 years later that God had abandoned His people. What we now see is that without the rise of Rome, Christianity would not likely have spread from Palestine to Europe. The pagan empire was a necessary tool that God used to spread His gospel or grace. From this we see that it is dangerous to think that as a state God is on your side and that God’s will is not easily determined on a geopolitical scale.

The prophets are dead. The Apostle John was the last prophet of the biblical age and his writings were directed first century believers not at nations, states or peoples. The prophet John the Baptist proclaimed that “The Kingdom of God is at hand, prepare ye the way for the Kingdom”. But Jesus taught that “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but my kingdom not from hence." Those who had hoped the Messiah would deliver Israel from the Romans were disappointed forming the mob that yelled “give us Barrabus”. One of Jesus’ 12 Apostles, Simon the Zealot was an anti-Roman terrorist prior to his calling. There is no evidence that he returned to his activist ways. He is known to have preached the gospel in Egypt and Persia and possibly even in Britain.

From the teaching of Jesus it would easy to make a case for individual pacifism. Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers”, “Render not evil for evil”, “Love your neighbour” and “Turn the other cheek”. These teachings concern individuals with eternal souls, not nations or states however a theology of pacifism is easily supported. Making war in God’s name, passing judgement on nations and peoples on His behalf is simply not a Christian value. It is not supported by scripture and is inconsistent with orthodox Christian teaching. The duty of a Christian then to a state of war is a personal decision and should consider the gravity and humanity of the cause.

What's Up with This?

It's March in Vancouver. Yesterday our cherry tree was beginning to bloom, the daffodils are up and blooming, the Canucks were losing, it must be spring right? Time to start biking to work, play some tennis, a little gardening, spring skiing (at whistler, not Queen E. Park).








Here is the cherry tree now - with the snow in the background. These were taken at 9:00AM. At 6:30 when I got up, it was far more impressive, the melt has already started. The sun is out, clouds are already starting to clear. Maybe later in the day after they have cleared from the north shore mountains I will post some a pictures of the world's most beautiful skyline.

Say - what's it like in Edmonton or Regina today?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

UBC Research Gala

Just got back from the UBC annual research awards gala where over 350 faculty and researchers were honoured for a wide variety of local national and international award. One of them was my wife who was honoured for a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Career Investigator award.

Some of the more notable awards were:

Brett Finlay and Robert Brunham from the UBC Centre for Disease Control and Dept. of Microbiology at the Michael Smith Laboratory were honoured with a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Partnership award for their work in isolating the SARS virus and championing international collarboration on the SARS Accelerated Vaccine Initiative.

Martin Barlow from the UBC Math Dept. was admitted as a fellow in the Royal Society of London - the world's oldest scientific academy. His work is on something called Markov Chains.

Daniel Pauly from the UBC Fisheries Centre recieved an International Cosmos Prize - an international award annually awarded for research that promotes "The Harmonious Co-existance of Nature and Mankind" - for his work on sustainable fisheries.

John Zaritzky - an oscar winning director from the Dept. of Theatre and Film was also recognized for his Gemini Award recieved this year.

Robert Hancock - Microbiology and Immunology was honoured for his Royal Society of Canada McLaughlin Medal,

Plus many many more. Basically, I got fee wine and cheese, listened to the UBC Opera Program do a few arias from the Marriage of Figaro, the Borealis String Quartet and the UBC Singers (choir). Good thing I didn't have to drive.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shout out to some Incredible Women

On international Women's Day 2006, I would like to salute some incredible women have and are makeing a difference, and whom I very much admire (neither my mother nor my wife would appreciate me putting their bio and photos up here).

Nancy Barry: Ms. Barry has been President of Women's World Banking since 1990, and has served on the WWB Board of Trustees since 1981. WWB is a global not-for-profit financial institution devoted to increasing poor women’s economic access, participation and power. Founded in 1979, WWB is at the forefront of microfinance globally. The WWB global network of 55 microfinance institutions and banks provide financial services to over 15 million low income women and men in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America and the Middle East. WWB had led work to build performance standards in the microfinance industry, and financial policies and systems that work for the majority.


Marian Wright Edelman: Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. The mission of the Children's Defense Fund is to Leave No Child Behind® and to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Edelman speak at a University of California at San Francisco founder's day dinner and on top of everything else, Ms. Edelman is a powerful and moving orator.



Louise Arbour: Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour is best known as a chief prosecutor for tribunals into the genocide in Rwanda and human rights abuses in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. She earned an international reputation for courage and tenacity and gained the respect of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, as well as human rights groups around the world. In February 2004, Arbour announced she would leave the Supreme Court in June to become the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She will replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003. It takes takes courage to step into a position when the last person to hold this office was assasinated for defending human rights in Iraq.


Hillary Rodham Clinton: Ms. Clinton is included because she has earned my respect, not because the mere mention of her name will attract trolls from every corner of North America. She is a highly accomplished women which appears to be a threat to some men. Her credits include Editorial Board of the Yale Law Review, Counsel to the Children's Defense Fund (she interned with Ms. Edelman), and was asked by President Clinton to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. As a driving force in health care reform in the US she came close to pulling together a package that would have provided for the first time, universal access health care to all Americans. Unfortunately, the poor and uninsured have no constituency with the US Congress. As the first women Senator for the State of New York she continues to work for progressive change. Flame on if you must


Cindy Sheehan: A late addition, this is one tough mother. While I disagree on her "bring the troops home now" stance, I can't say have a better moral solution to the human tragedy that is Iraq. I also admire her for continuing to speak out while being constantly vilified and attacked by the GOP attack dogs. G. Gordon Liddy, a former Nazi sympathizer even accused her of being anti-semitic. She has been called anti-american, a terrorist sympathizer, an extremist, and every obscene name in the book, often by people who have sacrificed little for thier positions.



Louise Fr├ęchette: Another late addition on the recommendation of a commenter. She is the first Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. The post of Deputy Secretary-General was established by the General Assembly at the end of 1997 as part of the reform of the United Nations, to help manage Secretariat operations and to ensure coherence of activities and programmes. She is a former Deputy Minister of Defense and assistant deputy minister of trade and has served as Canada's ambassador to Argentina, Uraguay and Paraguay. She is being proposed by some as a potential leadership candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Something that needs some policy attention as the Liberal Party seeks new direction

Transparency and Accountability

CTV: PM preparing to dump ethics commissioner

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is either so arrogant as to think that he can get away with replacing the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner while Mr. Shapiro is in the process of investigating him, or he is too clueless to understand that this is more than a problem of bad optics. The ethics commissioner is a Parliamentary officer. If he can not be independent and must be concerned for his job if he investigates the Prime Minister then the office and function of the ethics commissioner in Parliament is empty and meaningless. The precedent this will set is injurious to Parliament.

Since the Ethics Commissioner can only be removed for cause, and this would require a resolution of the House of Commons - is this really something that Harpo wants to put before the House? Regardless of what they think of Shapiro, the opposition caucuses would be foolish to support such a motion.

I'm not sure at this point if this is an uber-dick move, or quail scurry and cover.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Democracy is like a Box of Chocolates ...

Is democracy an end, a means or just another human right? When you look at Palestine, Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, Indonesia and Singapore you come to the unmistakable conclusion that more democratic does not necessarily equate to better human rights. All of these countries have systematic human rights abuses to some extent, and none have exceptionally strong democratic traditions.

Cuba routinely represses all dissent, any expression of free speech that is critical of the state and most religious freedoms. Cuban prisons are abysmal, and officials that violate its meagre human rights laws do so with impunity. However Cuba’s health and education level are rated by UNESCO to be the best in entire hemisphere. Youth illiteracy rates are close to zero, infant mortality rates are on par with those in the United States, all Cubans have access to zero cost healthcare, the doctor to patient ratios are among the highest in the world.

Singapore is democratic in structure, but one party has held power since the republic was founded in 1959. Freedom of assembly, speech, the press and religion all have restrictions placed on them. Assembly of more than 5 people requires a police permit. But Singaporeans enjoy a very high standard of living, very low crime, universal healthcare, excellent education, good protections for women, children and some minorities etc.

Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez is democratic, has enacted many land reforms and has universal healthcare, but dissent is repressed, the courts lack independence, prisons are abysmal and police brutality is common place.

Indonesian is democratic in name only. The government is dominated by one party at all levels, and the military is still the most influential political movement in the country. It is believed that only a strong man, with the support of the military can keep the dozens of ethnic minorities in the sprawling archipelago together. Human rights are an inconvenience that only tolerated when the international community is watching.

In Palestine, democracy is on the rise, but it brought the Hamas, essentially a terrorist group bent on the destruction of Israel, to power. Not exactly what most of the western world had hoped for.

So in this light, it is not surprising that the United States’ zealous push for democracy in Iraq has not brought with it an improvement in human rights. American forces picked up the practice of turture where Sadaam left off, and have now passed the bloody torche to the Iraqis. With over 1300 Iraqis killed in the last week, Syria and Jordon lining up to support Sunni factions and Iran supporting Shi’a factions, installation of a weak democracy may have just plunged the whole region into war. While I disagree with the justification for the invasion of Iraq - once you are there you have a moral imperitive to restore order, protect the civilian population and rebuild the infrastructure. It seem however that the American plans focused too much on paper constitutions and elections and not enough on the human suffering in the streets.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fun with Dick and Quail

I’ve decided to have a little fun, and have come up with a classification scheme for our favourite conservatives.

A Dick is well …. a dick. A dick is a leader, never a follower. He is smart, tenacious, focused, rich, dirty, nasty and mean spirited. He takes great delight in shooting at small defenceless upland game birds, octogenarian lawyers, liberal senators, journalists, foreign leaders, and Vietnam veterans. A dick however is usually smart enough to have other people (quail) do the dirty work or take the fall for him.

A quail longs to be a dick, but generally lacks either the brains or the tenacity. When attacked, quail depend on stealth, but when flushed, they are easy targets for dicks with guns. Quail however are often lucky; occasionally an octogenarian lawyer will graciously step into the line of fire allowing the quail to escape unharmed.

Some Notable Dick and Quail


Dick Cheney
Need you ask? Dick is the archetype dick, the US Alpha Dick. He is simultaneously the head dick and a dick head.

Dick

Goerge W. Bush
This may surprise some, but he is really a quail masquerading as a dick. He is not smart enough to be a dick on his own, but it is convenient for the Alpha Dick to have a bird brain in the lime light.

Quail

Stephen Harper
A marvel of evolution (which he doesn’t believe in), but he has evolved from a BBQ circuit quail, where he was nearly stuffed and roasted to head dick in charge in a remarkably short period of time.

Dick

Ralph Klein
Able to take down a 17 year old page with the flick of his wrist, willing to toss thousands off the welfare rolls, throws spare change and homeless and tells them to get a job. In Canada, Ralph is the Alpha Dick.

Dick

Peter MacKay
In Peter we see the typical behaviour of a wounded quail as he sulks off to the family covey when injured.

Tory Blue Quail

Gordon Campbell
While Gordo emulates and aspires to Ralph’s stature, he is neither smart enough or mean enough to rise above his quailness. A true dick would have got someone else to take the blood alcohol test for him – or at least found a way to delay the police having access to the scene for 16 hours or so. A true dick would never have blinked in his war with BC teachers and hospital support employees.

Dan Quayle

David Emerson
A newly minted convervative, the jury is out on Emo. While his crossing the floor and flipping the bird to his constituents clearly demonstrates dick qualities, there is a certain lameness about the way in which it has been handled that leads me to believe that when the covey flushes Emo will be on the wrong end of the shotgun.

Dick? Quail? You make the call.

Bill O'Reilly
Now I know what you are thinking, but his pathetic whining about Keith Olberman puts Bill in the Quail zone.

Bob White Quail

Bernard Shapiro
Ethics Commisioner made the mistake of stepping in front of a loaded dick.

Sorry Ass Lawyer

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Grizzly affair

Globe and Mail Story

In a surprise move, Alberta has placed a three year moratorium on grizzly bear hunting in the province citing uncertainties surrounding grizzly populations in the province. British Columbia faced the same uncertainties in 2000, and intially moved to ban grizzly hunting. One year later however, bowing to pressure from the guiding industry, Premier Gordon Campbell lifed the moratorium citing .... wait for it ....

uncertainties surrounding bear populations in the province!

It would seem to me, that if bear populations are in doubt, the responsible thing to do would be to stop the hunt at least until research can verify the sustainability of the bear population. Now before you all accuse me of being a bleeding heart, city dwelling, dork, I am not opposed to hunting per se. I used to hunt myself, and having grown up in communities like Ft. MacMurray (population 1200 in 1969), Port Hardy (population about 2000 in 1973), Golden (population 3000 in 1976) etc. I still own a (registered) hunting rifle, I have just neither felt the compulsion to go hunting nor have I had the time. I am opposed to trophy hunting in general, and trophy hunting of endangered or threatened species seems to be pretty stupid.

Travelling to Montreal

I'm going to Montreal at the end of April and will have my two young boys (5 and 7) with me. I have a couple of days to kill and would appreciate any suggestions for kid friendly activities. Last time we were there for just one day, we went to the Biodome - they really enjoyed that, so we will probably go back. We are also going to Ottawa, but I have been there several times and have a pretty good idea of what they will enjoy seeing there.

Friday, March 03, 2006

American Taliban

What kind of a parent puts the life and health of their child at risk rather than accept that they may be or may become sexually active? This story is from Sojourners Online - an organization of progressive Christians for peace and justice, you can find the link on my side bar. I'm not sure if this story is linkable or if you need to subscribe to see the content, but here are some excerpts.

When it comes to teen sex, all parents hope and pray that their children make wise choices. Children as young as 12 or 13 weigh decisions with consequences that could impact the rest of their lives in a dramatic way.

Parental anxiety therefore is unavoidable, all the more so because they realize that the ultimate choices their teens make about sex are beyond their control. That begs a question: If a child violates the moral code that parents set, are those parents willing to put their child's life in mortal danger? Tragically, some Christians are willing to answer, "Yes."

A little-known debate is smoldering at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that may burst soon into a major fire. Two pharmaceutical companies - Merck and GlaxoSmithKline - have designed a cervical cancer vaccine. In clinical trials the Merck drug, Gardasil, is proving to be up to 100% effective in fighting the dominant strain of the virus causing cervical cancer. The pharmaceutical companies and a growing movement of public health advocates want all girls to be inoculated with the vaccine as they presently are for other high-risk viruses.

The Family Research Council is leading a charge of Religious Right groups to halt any such national inoculation program. The human papilloma virus (HPV) that generates cervical cancer is most typically passed along through genital contact with others. The Religious Right bloc concludes that offering a vaccine for HPV would undercut their promotion of sexual abstinence for adolescents.

So the logic of the religious right goes - I would rather my daughter risk cancer than have her vaccinated and have a conversation with her about reproductive choice and the risks of sexually transmitted diseases.

Progressive Wasteland??

Is there any chance for a progressive resurgence in Alberta? I’m talking progressive as in giving a damn about the poor, aged, infirmed, disadvantaged, mentally ill, homeless, neglected, and minority members outcasts of Albertan society that many pretend don’t exist. I’m talking about progressive as in giving a damn about sustainability beyond switching to coal after you have steam blasted and sucked every last barrel of oil out of the soil creating great lakes and frozen deserts of contaminated water and soil. One would think that somewhere in the province of Alberta there is a core of people who have some consideration of those who have been left behind, for cultural diversity or even for the natural legacy left for their own children.

In the 2006 Federal Election, every urban centre in Canada with the exception of Calgary and Edmonton elected at least one Liberal. The New Democrats are at least competitive in one or more ridings in every province except Quebec and Alberta. While the Liberals managed to get 4 members elected in 1993, their Alberta caucus was cut in half in 1997 and cut in half again when David Kilgore (who could never really decide what party he belonged in anyways) resigned and sat as an independent 2005.

In Edmonton, at least you can attribute the Conservative sweep somewhat to vote splitting as two Edmonton seats were won by the Conservatives with a close plurality (Edmonton Centre, Edmonton Strathcona). But in Calgary, there was not a single riding that was even close. This is pretty much the only province where you can basically send your neighbour to vote for you, because they all vote the same.

Provincially, Alberta has always been ruled by political dynasties and their federal voting record has pretty much followed the same pattern.

The Progressive Conservatives, Reform, Alliance and Conservative Party of Canada have swept every rural riding in Alberta since 1972 and only lost 4 urban Edmonton ridings in 1993.

I know there are progressives in Alberta, so I personally do not believe that the answer for the Liberal party in Alberta is to become more conservative. The Liberals under Cretien and Martin were more fiscally conservative than the PC under Mulroney. While the “Stephen Harper is a scary SOB” strategy may resonate with some progressives even in Alberta, I don’t think it makes a compelling case to vote Liberal. I think the difference is leadership. Stephen Harper is not a great leader, but neither was Don Getty. Conservatives in Alberta do not need a reason to vote Conservative. Progressives in Alberta need a dynamic leader and clear vision for Canada that includes Alberta in order to vote Liberal.

That’s why I am excited about a meaningful wide open Liberal leadership race, and why I unofficially endorse Gerard Kennedy as the next leader of the Liberal party of Canada.

Okay - the last sentence was a bit of a non-sequitor, but I'll explain why Kennedy in some future post. Until then .....

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Healthcare Outcomes

An anonymous comment on Calgary Grit’s blog posted a statement that Canada is ranked 30th among OECD nations in health outcomes, but is third in spending on healthcare. I think he needs to wash his hands after where he obviously pulled that little gem.

I believe the source of this little dropping of wisdom was probably the Fraser Institute’s “How Good is our Healthcare.” But even they didn’t distort the data as badly as this. The Fraser Institute observed that:

Canada does not rank first in any of the seven healthcare outcome categories or in any of the comparisons of access to care, supply of technologies, or supply of physicians.”

Also – the report said that Canada was third in healthcare spending per capita among nations with universal access healthcare systems, which is why I am assuming that the anonymous poster was referring to this report. A report which concluded (as you could imagine considering its source) that Canada needed private healthcare.

If we break down the seven measure of general health outcomes used in the Fraser Institute report, here is how Canada fares against other nations.

  • Infant Mortality : Canada ranks 20th among OECD nations with 5.2 deaths per 1000 live births. However let's look at the numbers. Is 5.2 deaths per 1000 live births (20th) significantly worst than 5.0 deaths per 1000 live births (15th – Australia)? Perhaps this is why if you go to the OECD report rather than the Fraser Institute version, they show these as whole numbers. Canada is still ranked 20th, tied with 8 other nations, but just behind 14 nations tied for 4th over all. When you rank things by fractional percentages you need to know the margin of error on the measures. In this case, the WHO used whole numbers which is a good indication of the accuracy of the measurements taken across countries.
  • Life expectancy. Canada ranks 3rd on the OECD scale. The Fraser Institute however does not use this measure. Instead, they use Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) – where Canada ranks 7th and express this as a percentage of Life Expectancy (3rd over all) as a measure of the effectiveness of our healthcare system. By this measure (HALE/LE * 100) Canada ranks 22nd among OECD countries at 90.3%. Again, by ranking based on fractional percentages on a scale calculated from 2 different measures (calculated by the authors – not used by WHO or OECD) with god knows what margins of error, this tends to spread the scale. Is 90.3% (ranked 22nd) significantly worse than 91% (ranked 11th)?
  • Perinatal (under 5) Mortality – Canada ranks 12th.
  • Mortality (deaths per 100,000) Canada ranks 9th.
  • Mortality Amenable to Healthcare (deaths per 100,000 from causes considered amenable to treatment in the healthcare system): Canada ranks 4th.
  • Potential Years of Life Lost (a measure that gives more weight to mortality early in life) Canada ranks 8th.

So while the Fraser Institute was correct in saying that we did not rank first by any measure and ranked 22nd according to one hybrid measurement manufactured by the authors, of the indicators of gross health outcomes included in the OECD report, Canada only ranked out of the top 12 in 1 measure.

Here are some comparisons of specific outcomes across countries from the Commonwealth Fund five country comparison of Health Quality.

Australia:

  • Breast cancer screening rates are higher than in other countries (+) [AU=74% vs. NZ=63%]
  • 30-Day AMI (acute myocardial infarction) case fatality rates are lowest (+) [AU=7.3% vs. CA=11.1%]
  • Childhood leukemia 5-year relative survival rates are lowest (-) [AU=69% vs. CA=81%]
  • Pertussis incidence (whooping cough) per 100,000 people is higher than in other countries (-) [AU=31 vs. ENG=1.3]

Canada:

  • Childhood leukemia 5-year relative survival rates are highest (+) [CA=81% vs. AU=69%]
  • Kidney and liver transplant 5-year survival rates are highest (+) [kidney: CA=94% vs. US=83%; liver: CA=87% vs. ENG=71%]
  • AMI 30-day case fatality rates are higher than in other countries (-) [CA=11.1% vs. AU=7.3%]
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) incidence per 100,000 people is the second highest of the five countries (-) [CA=20 vs. ENG=1.3]

England:

  • Suicide rates (per 100,000 people, all ages) are low compared to other countries (+) [ENG=6% vs. NZ=13%]
  • Polio vaccination rates (age 2) are highest (+) [ENG=95% vs. NZ=82%]
  • Five-year survival rates (relative) for breast cancer are lowest (-) [ENG=75% vs. US=86%]
  • Five-year survival rates (relative) for colorectal cancer are lower than in other countries (-) [ENG=53% vs. NZ=65%]

New Zealand:

  • Colorectal cancer 5-year survival relative rates are the highest (+) [NZ=65% vs. ENG=53%]
  • Non-Hodgkins lymphoma 5-year relative survival rates are highest in Australia and New Zealand (+) [NZ=67% vs. ENG=58%]
  • Suicide rates are highest, particularly among young people (rate per 100,000 people ages 15-19). (-) [NZ=25.1% vs. ENG=3.3%]
  • Ischemic stroke 30-day mortality rates are highest (-) [NZ=11.8% vs. CA=9.0%]

United States:

  • Breast cancer five-year relative survival rates are highest (+) [US=86% vs. ENG=75%]
  • Cervical cancer screening rates are higher than in other countries (+) [US=93% vs. CA and NZ=77%]
  • Asthma mortality rates (per 100,000 people age 5-39) are increasing (-)
  • Kidney transplant 5-year survival rates are lowest (-) [US=83% vs. CA=94%]

You will notice that each country leads the other four in at least once indicator and lags the other four in at least one indicator. If you really want to of course you can dig and find some specific health outcome in which Canada lags other countries, but by all indications, Canada’s general healthcare outcomes are among the best in the world.