Not having to deal with constitutional challenges: Priceless

It seems a little redundant to write two posts slagging the Tories for access to justice issues in just three days, but I couldn’t pass this one up. A recent announcement of $1 billion dollars in cuts includes giving the axe to the Court Challenges Program, which provides federal funding (about $3 million per year) for minority groups wishing to challenge laws they believe violate their constitutional equality rights, and unable to finance their own legal team to face off against the goverenment’s.

The program operates at arms-length from the government, and on the basis of solicitor-client privilege does not disclose whom it approves funding for, or how much. Justice Minister Vic Toews has been particularly critical of this aspect of the program recently, though one would suspect that the Tories would need little excuse to get rid of a program which provides access to constitutional justice. When you decry any recognition of constitutional rights as judicial activism, it makes very little sense to provide those equality-seeking thorns with funding.

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A fortnight of hilarity

Our move to WordPress has so far been heralded as a great success in reinvigorating M&G, and quite possibly the greatest benefit of all is that we are receiving quite a bit more prominence in search engines such as Google.

We’ve managed to become the number one result for “Quip of the Week” after bestowing the honour only once, and even that is under review. We also held the I’m-feeling-lucky spot for “Turbot is ambitious brill” before the ephemeral nature of our tagline led us to return that honour back to the HMS Pinafore libretto to which it rightfully belongs.

Inside a ManateePeople with all sorts of inquiries end up at our blog now, including the expected searches like “Vic Toews” or “cpac house liberal canadian”; we shall endeavour to make their search results worthwhile. I’m not sure that we were quite what whomever was searching for “What does a manatee look like?” was after, and quite certain that we offered no enlightenment on “what does it look like inside a manatee”. I suspect someone after “driver faults” would have found either our tech support or traffic law sections somewhat lacking. And what is one to make of “steven harper condoleeza rice sex”?

~ Gnomes

Attrition tactician

One of the more baffling actions – or rather an omission – by the Tory government over the recent months is the delinquency of Justice Minister Vic Toews in filling judicial appointments. This peculiar volition is exacerbating the already difficult condition in which the members of the judiciary find themselves, unable to meet the requirements which the definition of access to justice requires.

Vic ToewsWhen questioned a month ago, Toews replied only with the banal supposition that more judges won’t solve court congestion, though he seem to exhibit some recognition of the problem and assured that judges would indeed be appointed to the vacancies. Yet this assurance, at the time seeming to convey some degree of contrition for the failure, has yielded only the most meagre fruition.

With the effects of this reluctance to fulfill the duties which his position demands being immediately felt, the least Toews could do would be to deign to share with us the mysterious cognition which is guiding his actions. According to the above rendition of this issue by the G&M, the Tories, while in opposition, urged reforms to the appointment process. While proceeding according to tradition may provide ammunition to his critics, the justice system is simply too important to be put on hold while the Toews orchestrates a transition to a new order, and already too overloaded to absorb any further imposition of systemic malnutrition.

~ Gnomes

The log driver’s faults

Despite earlier statements to the contrary, Trade Minister David Emerson and the Harper government have prepared a rather unsettling method of ensuring 100% industry compliance with the new trade deal.

The Log Driver's WaltzWhile the deal stands to result in the return of $4 billion of the $5 billion illegally collected by US Customs, it gives the remaining billion of the money owed over to the US government and softwood industry. The NDP had raised concerns that lack of industry support would mean taxpayers might be on the hook for this portion, but never fear, the Harper government will get the money by hook or by crook. Any company which does not willingly waive its right to the full amount will simply have the difference taxed away. Disparaging political opponents to the deal as anti-American and lumber companies opposed to sacrificing the full amount to which they are entitled as “free riders”, Emerson seems to be in full spin mode, and doesn’t seem capable at present of discussing the issue in non-hysterical terms.

In light of this, Gnomes’ earlier equivocation on the softwood deal is shifting to objection. It is one thing to lay down your rights for practical gain, to give up $1 dollar of lunch money to the schoolyard bully in order to retain $4, but it is quite another to join forces with the bully and, on his behalf, insult and punish those who do not give in so easily. While it injures the pride to bow down and give up one’s own rights, it injures the honour to force another to do the same.

~ Gnomes

Injustice or sour grapes?

Let me begin with the sour grapes, you can be the judge if I ever expand beyond them. In addition to my usual laziness and carelessness, some detail will be lacking in this post due to me having signed a privacy agreement with my employer regarding some details of my job.

Hello OperatorAfter avoiding employment for far too long, I recently began a job in the operator services department of one of Canada’s major communications companies. It is a horribly monotonous job that I perform for relatively low pay. Making matters worse, those working in the adjacent room to mine make more money, get pay increases more frequently, and receive their schedules with one week extra notice.

What is the difference between what they do and what I do? The difference is that nearly all calls coming into my department originate from other communications companies across North America who have contracted my employer to handle their operator services. Down the hall, the operators answer calls originating from my employer’s customers. My department was created to offset the declining revenues post long distance service deregulation due to the resulting increased competition. My department is a now a major source of revenue, and is steadily growing. The department down the hall is a money loser, and shrinking.

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Deal or no deal?

Well, this is already old news, but in an attempt to change the subject…

Much debate has ensued over the recently announced US-Canada Softwood Agreement, and it was very much up in the air as to whether the lumber deal would make it through the House of Commons. That was, of course, up until last Thursday when Gilles Duceppe announced that the Bloc would be supporting the deal. Many have disputed the deal as a farce, which I must agree it is, but I think Gilles put it quite well in his quote below.Gilles Duceppe

“I’ve consulted all the people involved in this dispute… It was the same answer everywhere. They don’t feel it is a good agreement but they just don’t have the choice.” – Gilles Duceppe

The truth is that there have been no less than four rulings against the US, by both NAFTA and the WTO, regarding this issue, and the US has abided by none. There is absolutely no reason to think that Canada can get any better deal through negotiation or legal means, however, there is definitely a history that shows that if Canada doesn’t accept this deal we may end up with nothing. It’s just too bad that the Liberals don’t see things as they are.

~ O’Smiley ~

Quip of the Week

The Quip of the Week award goes to the Prime Minister this week, for the following snappy comeback, as reported by the CBC:

Stephen Harper

Munson also questioned if Harper’s proposals would lead to the “Americanization” of the Senate, which is elected in the United States.

“I don’t think the Americans have particular monopoly on democracy,” Harper said.

It’s rather depressing to see a senator insult something simply by labelling it “American”. I’m a fan of archaic government institutions when their purpose is purely formal, like the Queen or Governor General, but the Senate is supposed to actually wield legislative power. The fact that senators are appointed, and can sit until age 75, is rather an embarrassment in this day and age. To oppose a democratic Senate simply because America has one… well, that’s just silly.

~ Gnomes

Gnomes’ new leaf

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that modern political discourse, this blogger’s meagre contributions to it included, rarely transcends empty partisan rhetoric, even by those claiming to be nonpartisan. Full of sound and fury, it signifies nothing. I wasn’t sure why this was the case, why I always assume the worst of those I dislike, why I am driven to elaborate and exaggerate their failings while finding it incredibly difficult to admit their strengths or even to support them in things I agree with. With this epiphany in mind, I sought to find common ground and empathy, even – nay, especially – with those against whom I have been most adamantly set.

Ted MortonAnd then I read the paper. More and more, when one reads about the Alberta PC leadership race, one reads the name “Ted Morton.” Once dismissed as a fringe candidate, his faction is proving itself organized and mobilized, and perhaps, just perhaps, capable of winning. Here is a man with whom I can find no common ground. His message, to me, is nothing but thinly-veiled hatred. Hatred of the rest of Canada, from whom we must isolate ourselves, hatred of our judicial system and the rights it guarantees, and let’s just not get into Bill 208.

In trying to discuss the issue intelligently, I find words fail me. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t write an entire paragraph on the prospect of a Morton win without using the phrase “worst human being ever.” So what can be done? Is there no choice but remaining above the fray or falling into vitriolic argument?

~ Gnomes