A paper for those of us a little older…
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The Personal, The Public, The Political by Jim Foulds

 

Jim Foulds

 

In Defence of Parks
Recently a City administration report pointed out that when the Waterfront Park is taken out of the calculations, an astounding 55% of Thunder Bay’s parks are in very poor condition. Astonishingly, that same administration recommended cutting the Parks budget even further. Are they nuts? A small example: they recommended cutting both the sleigh rides and the Muskeg Express from the budget to save a paltry $28,600. This was a classic case of being penny wise and pound foolish. Councillor Andrew Foulds managed to save The Muskeg Express but the sleigh rides were cut. As he argued this is death by a thousand cuts. [Full disclosure: Yes, Andrew Foulds is my son.] If they continue to cut a little bit here one year, a little bit there the next year and so on, finally one day we will wake up and find we will have no Parks budget at all.
Sure we badly need roads, sewers, sidewalks etc. And sure we’re still suffering from the years of those foolish “no tax increase” city councils which saw much needed infrastructure spending postponed so often many of our roads have gone to hell in a hand basket. But things like parks, pools, and libraries are not frills, they are the essential soul of a city. They are what make a city, a city. They deserve to be fully funded by all of the taxpayers, not put on life support, kept alive by volunteers like The Coalition For Waverley Park. The trouble is: too many of our people with money, power, and influence can and actually do escape the city in search of the things parks, pools and libraries give us.
That’s the dirty little secret that liberal democracies and the middle classes in the early 21st century don’t want to face. People with moderate middle class incomes and above can and do buy the books and the apps for their Ipads that they want. They go on the Mexican or Caribbean holidays they want, and they flee to their summer cottages or camps. But for those who are confined to the city by economic circumstances, parks especially are an oasis of nature where a game of pick up baseball or tag can spontaneously take place. Or a single parent family can have a picnic.
It is ironic that in Canada’s Sesquincentential (Canada’s 150th birthday) the bean counters targeted the very thing that the former city of Port Arthur chose as a worthy project for Canada’s 100th birthday — Centennial Park. And why did that hidden jewel, the Conservatory, which was Fort William’s Centennial project, previously have to be rescued by a superhuman effort by the Friends of the Conservatory? How does this get to happen? How does anyone come to the conclusion that it’s not within the public mandate to offer sleigh or train rides to kids? I just don’t get it. Is it because these kids’ parents might not notice or vote? Or is it because in the cry of the Great God of Efficiency to streamline administration the Parks division is now a very junior partner lumped under Engineering and Operations where roads, sewers and water take priority? If “cut, cut, cut” is the way of the present, in the future can we one day expect to see a group called The Friends of the Cumberland and Court Street Sewers?
When I was a kid in the late 1940s and early 1950s after delivering our 145 newspapers on a hot sweaty afternoon, my brother, Bob and I would bicycle down to our summer camp at Boulevard Lake for a refreshing swim. For those of you who didn’t get it, I am speaking in metaphors. We didn’t have a summer camp. Boulevard Lake was and is a public park. We used to bike the three miles from our home to partake in this magical place in the middle of a city. The Fort William kids of a certain class used to do the same with Chippewa Park. Or go to Dease, Widnall or Heath Pools. Who knows how much mental health was delivered or petty crime was avoided? Or just how much pure unalloyed joy was provided?
So, I’m outraged when I learn that the Parks budget might be cut even more over the next few years. Have we lost all sense of what our city should be about? Don’t we cluster together in cities so we can we can help one another and help our neighbours who might be less fortunate than ourselves? Or am I being naïve now that I’ve reached my eightieth birthday?
Urban parks, trails, and playgrounds are every bit as important to our infrastructure as are our water treatment plants, our sewers and our roads. They are balm for the soul; they uplift the spirit, and they refresh the mind. Goodness knows, after April, the cruellest month with a vicious ice storm, we need every bit of green and playing space this grey city can offer.
For those who say we can’t afford them, I say we can’t afford not to afford them. I hope you do, too. Tell your City councillor.

February 2017

Let’s face Donald Trump’s Brave New World.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump, surely one of the intellectual and moral pygmies of the twenty-first century, officially became president of the United States of America. That actually made me question the value of electoral democracy, something I’ve devoted most of my life to. Although I predicted he would be elected two weeks before it happened, I still haven’t emotionally come to grips with the reality that his presidency is bound to be a very dangerous gong show.
Simply because of the power of his office he can now do great harm to the entire world. And likely will. Let us be clear. Trump made wildly false claims throughout his run for the presidency. All the evidence indicates he will continue to do so as president. Those who hoped the gravity of the office would moderate him were simply fooling themselves. So far, he has continued to brand any information or any opinion that he doesn’t like as a “lie” or “false news.” The scariest implication is that it will be impossible for any foreign government to trust him. That means it will be impossible to negotiate with him. And those who hope they can hide from the fallout of his actions are also fooling themselves.
As the Guardian put it, his inauguration speech was, “bitter, blowhard and banal.” Instead of speaking to the whole nation or – heaven forbid – reaching out to the world, he spoke only to a narrow range of his supporters as if he were still running for election.
Therefore, I do think The United States is a nation in danger of tearing itself apart. We should take no joy in that. Neil MacDonald in a commentary for The National called Trump’s victory the beginning of an American descent into brutality, dating its origins to the Archie Bunkerism of the 1970s. Me? I’ve always had the uneasy sense that there is part of the American psyche that is all too ready to revert to violence. I trace it back to the brutality of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, through the lawlessness of the Ku Klux Klan, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, the Viet Nam war, the senseless adventurism into both Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the almost non-stop internal random acts of rifle shootings. The American record of both external and internal violence is extensive.
Just as I repudiate the gunslinger/international policeman/bully part of the American psyche, I recognize the idealism expressed in the politics of Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama and in the literature of Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Eugene O’Neill, and Arthur Miller, and more lately in the public statements of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro.
So I refuse to believe that the end of the world will occur because Donald Trump has become the U.S. president. As Barack Obama wisely told his daughters, “This is not the end of the world; the end of the world is the end of the world.”
So we must cheer, support and rally around every civilized act that tries to contain, control and limit Trump’s power and every figure like him. For example, I was heartened by the over two million people who showed up at the women’s marches in 60 countries (plus Antarctica) around the world to protest Trump’s inauguration [100,000 in London, 3 times as many in Washington as showed up for the inauguration]. But the opposition to Trump must be relentless and ongoing and take many forms. So I also applauded the much-maligned Hilary Clinton for showing up at the inauguration. Not that she was showing support for Donald Trump but that she was showing support for the democratic system as she knew it and supported it, and worked in it all her life. Just as I understood John Lewis, the Civil Rights activist and Congressman who decided to boycott the ceremony for equally justifiable reasons.
But if the political left is to have a future anywhere it needs to recapture from Trump this essential truth. At its core, politics should always be about dignity and justice. And you can’t have dignity without having economic justice. For most people that still means a decent well- paying job. But unlike Trump, it will mean having more than a slogan. It will mean having a plan that narrows the gap between the top ten per cent and the bottom 90 %; a plan that creates real jobs and real work for those who need and want the dignity of work; a plan that brings the banks under control. That’s simply not going to happen in Trump’s America. Will it happen in any America? Well, there was this guy called Bernie Sanders. Someone needs to take up his mantel and expand it to gather enough support to actually win in four years. Is it probable? No. Is it possible? The odds say otherwise, but yes, it’s possible. After all, I’m now spending the winter in Portugal, a democratic country that in 1976 elected a socialist prime minister after thirty years of dictatorship.
That’s why I refuse to believe Trump’s election will be the end of the world. Scary? Yes. The end of the world? No.

January 2017
Charley Faust filling in for Jim

I was sitting in a truck stop servi-centre at Kilometre 259 on the autopista just outside Santa Clara, Cuba, waiting for Fidel. I had biked the eight kilometres in daylight and had just got some good sunset photos before darkness fell like a curtain. The procession that was carrying Fidel’s ashes was expected to arrive around eight o’clock. There was a great deal of excitement as people came and went with a sense of anticipation in the air. While I was waiting, two scooters showed up, their riders carrying a bundle of small Cuban flags for the servi-centre staff. Totally dark now, I might need to look for a ride back after the procession. Hasta la victoria siempre, Fidel.
Eight o’clock came and went and it became clear that the procession would not come by before ten. I opted to ride my bike back to Santa Clara to watch. Pockets of residents had gathered at every crossroad waiting in the dark with flags and posters, chatting excitedly, taking pictures of each other to document this decidedly historic event.
Eventually I arrived at the outskirts of Santa Clara where the divided highway was lit with street lamps for about a kilometre. I coasted slowly down the hill, both sides of the road lined with people of all ages: families, youth, students, old guard, some with tall flags, many with small flags and posters. I found a place about half way down the lit up corridor and settled in for the wait. Bus loads of people kept arriving for the next hour. There was an atmosphere of respectful anticipation; not quite festive but not somber either. These were town folks with a dialect that I found very difficult to follow. But waiting in line brings its own familiarities and soon, I too was taking pictures of people and having my picture taken to mark the moment. Eleven o’clock rolled around, then eleven thirty. I am certain my cycling clothes made me stand out if my general appearance didn’t and I wished I had a Canadian flag to let people know where I was from.
It was after midnight when a police car came by and announced the entourage would be coming along in five minutes. Everyone jockeyed for position at roadside as anticipation heightened. Finally the moment arrived. A couple of motorcycles, a lead white car, a large green truck, an open army jeep with army personnel, and the second jeep towing a specially outfitted trailer with the glass covered, quarter-sized casket containing the ashes of “el jefe” or “el Comandante” or just plain Fidel, rolled past. The crowd waved flags and chanted “Yo soy Fidel” (I am Fidel) or shot video or photographs. And just as quickly, it was over. After all the waiting, it had come and gone in less than a minute. People looked around digesting what had happened and congratulating each other; then slowly started drifting off in the direction of town and the ongoing artistic celebration at the Plaza de la Revolution. I was dog-tired from a day of cycling and a night of waiting and was ready for bed.
As I cycled back to our casa particular I reflected on the conflicting and mostly negative international media reports I had read since Fidel’s death was announced. But what I witnessed was not orchestrated. These people were there because they wanted to be there; they wanted to witness the moment and pay tribute to a man who captured the hearts of generations of Cubans and was a respected leader and voice for working people in Cuba and elsewhere.
Fidel is known for his relentless defence of the environment, a national literacy campaign and a public health care system regarded as the best in the developing world. Cuba exports thousands of medical personnel around the world in response to natural disaster and disease. Castro’s commitment to the struggle for independence in Angola is seen as the beginning of the end of apartheid in southern Africa. This, of course, brought him into conflict with those who sought to colonize Cuba and with those who feared the spread of socialism among other Latin American countries.
The question of human rights violations invariably comes up and is used to dismiss anything good that might have come out of the Cuban revolution. I do not defend human rights abuses under any circumstances, but our place in world events is not black and white. Fidel Castro Ruz left a legacy of steadfast struggle to improve the lives of working people everywhere and in the process, inspired generations of Cubans and others to continue the work he started. For me, it was a privilege to stand for hours at the side of the road in the dark and pay respect to one of the great world leaders of my generation. “Yo soy Fidel”.
December 2016
Jim and Judy Foulds reporting from
Jibacoa, Cuba, November 2016
Winston Churchill once famously said that democracy is the worst of all political systems except for all the rest. The recent election of Donald Trump should make us question that.
In 1959, a group of idealistic Cuban kids -at 32 Fidel Castro was the oldest – swept to power in Havana, determined to create a better world for the Cuban people.
Within a few years American capitalism, along with the Mafia, had been expelled from the island. Compensation for expropriated property had been offered but refused. For example, the DuPont family was offered $25,000 for their half of the Varadero peninsula – the amount the Duponts had declared it was worth for taxation purposes.
Universal health care and free education systems were established with a school and a doctor in even the remotest communities. Brigades of idealistic young people were mobilized to teach the whole population to read and write. Roads were built across swamps and to connect remote mountain villages. Ironically, the road built across the Zapata Peninsula allowed the regime to repel the American invaders at the Bay of Pigs.
Everyone was guaranteed a job, tourism was discouraged and tipping was illegal.
But there was a cost and that cost was the curtailment of individual freedom and initiative. “Why did they educate us?” one friend plaintively asked. A popular Cuban joke was, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”. Only state media could broadcast.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the sudden withdrawal of Soviet support and subsidies brought incredible hardship to the Cuban people. A different Cuban friend once said to us, “In the 80s we lived in paradise, in the 90s in hell.” In the 90s, all the cats and dogs and the animals in the zoo disappeared; another friend said to her two sons, “You can catch a cat but I won’t cook it”; there was no soap no matter how much money you had; oranges rotted on the ground in the countryside for lack of gasoline to transport them to the cities. We sat on a plane next to someone who was bringing toothpaste to the Canadian Ambassador in Havana. Most of the population lived on rice and occasionally beans.
But Cuba survived. Mostly because of the agonizing decision to invite foreign capital to invest in tourist hotels at 49% ownership so Cuba could get American dollars to buy oil on the international market. But survival came at a cost. Tourism and tipping created 2 economies and 2 classes of people, those who had access to American dollars (later CUCs worth 25 times the Cuban peso) and those who did not. It also undermined the equality principles of the revolution.
Nevertheless, the Cubans did diversify their agricultural base and their trade largely with South America, Asia and Europe. They also re-established some manufacturing.
Next to the stock market, tourism must be the most corrupting of activities, and one can certainly see the corruption at work.
Today Cuba is full of tourists, people who want to see Cuba “before the Americans arrive”. There is a recognition of the uniqueness of Cuban culture and history that may be in danger of being destroyed. Almost as though Cuba is frozen in time. But Cuba cannot be seen from a tourist resort with a day trip into Havana. The real Cuba is far from the beaches of Varadero. It is to be found in countless small towns where ordinary working people go about their daily lives hoping for a better life for their children as we have found over the last 28 years.
Moreover, the Cuba of today is quite different from the Cuba of the 80s and 90s. One of the biggest changes has been the development of a mixed economy with the growth of the private sector and the free market. For example, for over 20 years, licences have been granted for private restaurants. The problem is, these paladars buy up much of the food available in the free market, thus driving up prices and creating shortages for the population. The search for affordable food continues to be a daily challenge . It used to be that everyone helped each other, trading their skills but now we are told that when someone does you a favour, they want to be paid.
And what of the future? Who knows? Twenty years ago a young Cuban explained, “You must understand. We are not comunistas. We are not socialistas. We are Fidelistas.” But now Raul Castro is over 80 and the Heros of the Revolution are known as the Geriatricos. If the idealism of the Castro kids has evaporated over the years, there are still some fine things to cling to. Cuba still has universal health care, free education and a literacy rate of 97%. If there are two economies, there are still not the obscene differences experienced in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. There is a billboard in Granma province which announces, “200,000 children in the world will sleep on the streets tonight. Not one is Cuban.”
Donald Trump’s American won’t be able to say the same.
Sadly Fidel Castro died the day after Jim and Judy sent in their article.

November 2016
Electoral Reform: Part 2
When I look at the gong show that is the American presidential election these days Canadian electoral reform seems like an insignificant topic. But I promised a further discussion and so here it is.
Remember Justin Trudeau’s 2015 clear and unequivocal election promise? “2015 will be the last election held under the first-past-the post system.” That’s when the Liberals were a third party and the Harper Conservatives held a majority government with a mere 39.6% of the popular vote. What a difference a majority Liberal government makes with a mere 39.5 % of the popular vote! So on October 19, Mr. Trudeau began to muse that perhaps first past the post wasn’t so bad, after all. He had discovered that Canadians weren’t ready for major electoral change. As Rex Murphy put it, “First past the post was poison when Conservatives win, a honey donut when Liberals win.” A year later, perhaps Mr. Trudeau had actually read his briefing notes and discovered that changing the electoral system is very complicated.
But I am happy to see Mr. Trudeau renege on this promise.
I recognize the flaws in the present first past the post system. Large numbers of citizens don’t bother to participate and it often allows governments to make sweeping changes that the majority of its citizens do not support.
Proportional representation in its various forms is the darling alternative proposed by left wing think tanks, many political scientists, and those who study European politics. I don’t agree. In the first place, the more I read, the more complicated these systems are to understand and implement. If voters don’t understand, they won’t participate. Secondly, with increased representation for smaller parties, it almost certainly guarantees coalition governments that are formed behind closed doors. And the electorate never knows what deals have been made. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it gives too much power to the party hierarchies and political bosses in determining which members are declared elected. That’s because they select the candidates who sit in parliament as a result of the popular vote the party receives.
Mixed member proportional representation which tries to overcome the problems of pure proportional representation creates its own problems by having two types of MPs. Those selected from a “slate” dependent on the popular vote of each party and those elected in each constituency. This means, without constituency responsibilities, the “party” MPs, will have all the power positions such as house leader, whip, etc. They will be responsible only to their party and to parliament. They would control the parliamentary agenda. They will never need to face an electorate. Nor listen to voters. Whereas the constituency MPs will be responsible to their constituents (the cornerstone of our democracy), to parliament, and to their party. They will need to work twice as hard. This creates an unacceptable two-tiered system.
The ranked ballot or preferential ballot whereby voters rank the candidates in their preferred order almost certainly guarantees a permanent Liberal government. How democratic is that? For most Conservatives would vote Liberal as their second choice and most NDP voters would vote Liberal as their second choice.
So my bet is that Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal party are already drafting legislation to come up with the ranked ballot. The Liberals will be laughing all the way to the ballot box.
None of this political science nonsense takes into account that most people vote for a mixture of reasons: the political party, the leader, the candidate, the issues (local and national) and the political atmosphere (desire for change, etc.) at the time.
I do agree that our present first-past-the post system can’t continue as is. Too many governments are elected with huge majorities with less than 40% of the vote. But the advantage of first past the post is that people understand it. It brings about a clear winner. There is also a clear connection between the citizen/voter and the parliamentarian.
So, let’s make first past the post more democratic. First, make voting compulsory. Those who don’t want to vote, can formally decline their ballot at the online or real ballot box. If you don’t vote, you get a small fine. If you don’t pay the fine, you don’t get to renew your passport, fishing licence, driver’s licence or some such thing.
Why not have a run-off election in every constituency where the first place candidate doesn’t get 50% plus one of the vote? That way, the local citizen/voter gets to make the hard choice every time. You could drop the bottom candidate (in the case of three) or any candidate who doesn’t get 22% of the vote on the first ballot when there are more. You could have the run-off election a week after the first election and if a second run-off was necessary, five days later. The advantage? The local citizen/voter always gets to say who is going to be his/her representative in parliament. There would be a clear winner with 50% plus 1 or more in each constituency. The criticism? People will say it’s expensive. But it’s clear, it’s understandable, and it’s better than having party bosses decide who is going to sit in parliament for you.
Democracy is worth every cent.

Oct 2016

Electoral Reform: Part 1
Voting is a responsibility, not just a privilege or a right. During the Second World War that important idea was instilled in me by my parents who voted in every single election that was held — including municipal elections which occurred annually in December. I still have the picture of them of them coming home from the polling stations on those freezing dark December days to supper which Mom had left waiting in the oven.
With that image in my mind, I recently went to the forum on electoral reform hosted by Minister Mayam Monsef.
I’ve always tried to give politicians the benefit of the doubt. But frankly, the event was pretty bad. It was patronising and I felt manipulated. The format was designed to make people believe they had participated when they really hadn’t. No one was consulted in any genuine sense.
There were 63 people in attendance. Almost ten were staffers. After inadequate presentations on the alternatives to our present first past the post electoral system, people were divided into groups where they got to discuss five questions for five minutes each. Then about three of the groups got to report for one minute. One minute! This is the new Liberal Government’s participatory democracy in action.
There was no open wide-ranging discussion or debate. A number of people present had given electoral reform a good deal of thought. We heard none of their ideas. Under the new politically correct mantra of a “respectful conversation” any meaningful exchange of individual ideas was muted to mush. But the Liberal government will say, “We have listened to Canadians and this is what you have told us.” I suspect they will now come up with the outcome that they intended all along. (Although I didn’t attend it, I’m told much the same thing happened at the forum on the East-West Energy pipeline proposal.)
The government has dictated that the new electoral system must meet the following five principles: 1) effectiveness and legitimacy; 2) engagement and participation in the democratic process 3) accessibility and inclusiveness of all eligible voters while avoiding undue complexity in the voting process 4) safeguard the integrity of the our voting process 5) local representation.
It’s hard to quarrel with that. But it is ungrammatical bureaucratic flimflam.
Briefly here are the electoral possibilities:
1) First Past the Post: Our present system: Every citizen can vote for a local MP, who is usually a member of a political party, but independents can run. The winning candidate doesn’t need a majority, just a plurality to win — one more than the second placed candidate. The party with the largest number of seats in parliament usually forms the government. The winner seldom gets 50% of the vote and governments are often formed with less than 50% of the popular vote. Political parties with 15 % of the popular vote may wind up with no seats in the House of Commons. In the last election Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a majority government with only 39.5% of the vote. In the previous election Stephen Harper’ Conservatives formed government with 39.6% of the popular vote.
2) Pure Proportional Representation: Citizens vote for the political party of their choice. Each party is awarded seats based on the percentage of the votes it receives. There are various complex ways of selecting the MPs based on lists of preferred candidates drawn up by the parties. It’s fair to the political parties but fewer than 3% of Canadians actually belong to political parties. Does it protect the local constituency’s interests? Or the voter’s desire to vote for a good local person?
3) Mixed Member Proportional Representation: Before election day, parties nominate candidates to run in each electorate district or constituency. Citizens vote both for a local candidate and for a political party. Each party’s seat count is proportional to the share of the votes it receives in the election. Seats are held by a combination of directly elected MPs and candidates from party lists. This creates two tiers of MPs and probably doubles the size of the present constituencies or doubles the size of the House of Commons.
4) Preferential Ballot: Political parties nominate candidates at the local level and voters rank their first, second and third choice candidates. (Independents can also run.) If the first place candidate doesn’t get 50% of the vote, the second place votes are counted to see if he or she goes over the top. It’s not as simple as it looks, because sometimes the second place candidate can win, if the first place candidate doesn’t get enough second place votes from the second and third place candidates.
Every electoral system has faults. In my next column I’ll discuss why I think all of these are so flawed that we instead should refine our present first past the post system and put the responsibility and the power squarely back on the local voter where it belongs. I call it First Past the Post Times Two.

Sept 2016
Courage in the face of Negativity
Negativity seems to be gripping the world these days. But instead I’m going to try to weave together some minor miracles that occurred over the summer.
As my wife, Judy, and I were walking along the Marina in mid-August, with sailboats in the harbour, kids swooshing in the skateboard park, children and parents enjoying the playground, youngsters in the splash pad, she said to me, “I wonder if all those people who opposed this development will admit now that they were wrong?”
I replied, “I wonder if the same will ever be said about the Event Centre? I hope I live to see it.” The trouble is the Nabobs of Negativity seem to have thoroughly intimidated our government. If the Event Centre doesn’t go ahead we’ll never know. And another great positive opportunity lost.
Thunder Bay has one of the most spectacular natural settings imaginable. Surely as citizens and as taxpayers we should try to match and reflect that natural beauty as best we can with the man-made structures of our city. And that includes things like an Art Gallery, a Community Auditorium, an Events Centre, a well-maintained Canada Games Complex as well as neighbourhood rinks, playgrounds, swimming pools and parks. These aren’t frills. They are essential to something worthy of being called a genuine city, not just another northern frontier town — just as a hospital, a university, or a community college are. That simple walk at the Marina was a minor miracle.
Another miracle anecdote. As well as our three grandchildren here in Thunder Bay, Judy and I have two grandchildren, Hannah and Dylan, in Toronto. To celebrate a significant birthday, Hannah’s other grandmother offered to take Hannah and their mother on a “girls’ dream trip” to Paris. So when our son, Michael, asked Dylan where he would like to go on his dream vacation, he immediately answered, “Thunder Bay!” So, as I write, this eight-year old kid from downtown Toronto and his lawyer dad are fishing on Arrow Lake with his Thunder Bay City Councillor uncle and his three cousins. Just over two years ago Dylan was in a hospital bed in Montreal recovering from a tricky spinal operation. If that’s not a modern minor Canadian miracle to celebrate, what is?
Now, let’s take a leap. With Bernie Sanders out of the picture I wasn’t going to pay much attention to the American political scene. However, I became not merely genuinely repulsed by Trump, but genuinely persuaded by Hillary Clinton. Now that’s a miracle.
She must be one of the most courageous people on earth. Just think. Every second of her life has been examined in excruciating detail. Yet she is still standing and still wants to serve the public. It’s true she’s not a great speaker. But without the managerial and power-brokering skills to go with them, speaking skills alone won’t get the job done — as Barack Obama’s career unfortunately shows.
Hillary Clinton’s startlingly persuasive speech to the Democratic Convention made me reflect. Where does all that negativity I spoke of come from? Is it because she’s smart? Is it because she’s a woman? Is it because of Bill? Is it because she’s part of the establishment? All of the above. But, by definition all successful politicians become the establishment. Many of them in one way or another are outsiders as well—from Napoleon to Lincoln to Nelson Mandela.
So what, if over the years she has lived and survived in a corrupt world? Haven’t we all? She’s done it publicly. Most of us have done it privately. She may have failed to get the Medicare package Obama hoped for, but she tried. At least Americans got more than they previously had. In Canada, we too are learning our Medicare has its limits. She may have used her private emails when she should have used State Department ones, but no real harm seems to have been done. She may have accepted big fees for speeches, but isn’t that the American way? I would readily admit she seems to have ambition and toughness, too. Aren’t those admirable qualities in a leader?
Although Jimmy Carter is reported to have said there are no good candidates running for U.S. president, Hillary Clinton comes from the same Southern religious tradition as he does. Their Credo goes something like this: “You do as much as you can for as long as you can.” I have to admire that.
Although the code is “I don’t quite trust her,” really, the big knock against Hillary Clinton is that she has too much experience, that she is overqualified for the job. I hope Americans give the world a break and put at the helm of their country someone who knows what the job is all about.
This column is about and for people who get up every day and put one foot ahead of the other and say, “I can do this.” From those who built our Marina to an eight year old who goes fishing with his cousins, to a Hillary Clinton who wants to be President of the USA, in vastly different ways on vastly different stages, they bring out the hero hiding in all of us.

June 2016

Trudeau Lost, Parliament Lost, Canada Lost,
Alberta Gained

The treasurer in Tommy Douglas’ first CCF government in Saskatchewan once asked him, “Why do we have to play by the rules when the other guys don’t?” Tommy’s reply was simple. “It’s because the rules are all we have. They protect us, too, you know.”
Even a hockey player as talented as Sidney Crosby is expected to play by hockey’s rules. When you become a parliamentarian, even if you are as powerful as the Prime Minster, you’ve tacitly agreed to play by parliament’s rules. You don’t get to change them arbitrarily. That’s why Canadians ultimately defeated Steven Harper. He broke the rules too often and too much. And that’s why May 14 to 21 was a terrible, very bad, no good week for Justin Trudeau and his federal Liberals. The reality is the Prime Minister broke his contract with Canadians. He specifically campaigned on doing politics differently—more inclusively, more collegially, more sunnily.
Nobody said it was going to be easy.
Justin Trudeau’s grabbing of Conservative Whip, Gord Brown by the arm and the accidental elbowing of Ruth Ellen Brosseau may be a minor incident in the House of Commons. But it took place in full sight of his party, the television cameras and the Canadian public. I took no joy in my Prime Minister having to apologize for his behaviour, not once, but three times. Nor in the NDP and the Conservative opposition’s “inside baseball” games in the House of Commons. On the other hand, the true elite Liberal/Trudeau arrogance and sense of entitlement surfaced starkly and shockingly. The “Sunny Days” mask did not merely slip, it was ripped away. In spite of all the careful grooming, the endless Energizer Bunny selfies, the celebrity political persona of Justin Trudeau gave way to an impatient 44-year-old brat who simply wanted to get his own way. NOW!
Think about it. If this incident had happened in a work place such as a school, a hospital, or a factory floor there would have been severe consequences. Somehow, Peter Pan gave way to a middle-aged man who will not quite do.
A wide range of commentators including Tim Harper of the Toronto Star have pointed out that the lead-up to Trudeau’s act of impatience should worry Canadians even more. The Liberals had already put the fix in on electoral reform; they had almost lost a vote on a previous important bill on the RCMP because a number of Liberals didn’t bother to show up to vote, and they introduced procedural motion M6. That motion would have arbitrarily taken way any real tools the opposition would have had to fight or improve faulty government legislation. It would have given cabinet ministers the right to declare legislation to “be deemed to have been passed” at any time in a debate. As Conservative leader Rona Ambrose rightly said, the Liberals didn’t want an opposition in parliament, they merely wanted an audience. All too quickly, the Trudeau Liberals had begun to behave exactly like Steven Harper’s Conservatives. Perhaps worse. Neither the NDP nor the Conservatives (nor the press) made it clear just how arbitrary procedural motion M6 was. Luckily, Trudeau’s impulsiveness forced the government to withdraw that motion. But let’s be clear, Canada has just avoided a very authoritarian law by a whisker.
Tragically, the most important questions facing humanity got lost in the uproar. The substance of Bill C14 got sidelined. What is the meaning and value of our human lives? Do we have the right to terminate our own lives? Under what conditions? With whose help? Who makes that decision and when? You can’t get more fundamental than that.
Strangely, the language of the Liberal government legislation didn’t reflect the unanimous Supreme Court decision that gave rise to the legislation in the first place. As Sheila Noyes pointed out in in a cogently argued letter in the Chronicle Journal on May 21, in its present form the legislation was a betrayal of Canadians. If that’s what the NDP was trying to demonstrate in the House of Commons, it sure didn’t come across. Nevertheless, it doesn’t absolve the government of its primary responsibility—to govern responsibly.
Now let’s look at how another rookie leader, Premier Rachel Notley, did govern responsibly. Faced with an equally difficult crisis she knew both the extent and the limits of her power. Fort McMurray, (whatever you think of its product) is crucial to her province’s economy. It was suddenly faced with extinction by the worst forest fire in the province’s history. The lives of Fort Mac’s people and the community itself was at stake. In the face of this adversity, did she falter? Did she lose her cool? Did she try to exceed her grasp? No. She got on with the job. She did what she could do, and she let those who were supposed to do their jobs, do their jobs. She marshalled her considerable power to give aid to those who needed aid.
Rachel Notley displayed grace, strength and determination under pressure and adversity. That’s something Canadians have a right to expect from their leaders. Both in government and in opposition. Albertans got it. Canadians did not.

May 2016

April was the Cruellest Month

Judge Vaillancourt was undoubtedly correct in law when he found Mike Duffy not guilty on all criminal charges. But I couldn’t help recalling Charles Dickens’ words from Oliver Twist; “If the law supposes that . . . the law is an ass. . . I wish the law’s eye . . . had been opened by experience.” Canadians saw a Senator who shamelessly spent taxpayers’ money on lavish personal comfort while aboriginal citizens were living in Third World conditions. Those conditions drove 11 young people to attempt suicide in Attawapiskat on one weekend in April 2016. There is something seriously wrong with these two contrasting pictures. Attawapiskat haunts me.
Although I care profoundly how our society’s values became so skewed, I care even more profoundly about how we get beyond this point. That’s why I reacted with blinding unreasoning fury when I heard former Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s remark, “Ya know, sometimes, people just have to move.” Here was a man who was Minister of Indian Affairs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He must have known about the effects of over 100 years of residential schools – about the ripping apart of generation after generation of aboriginal families, of the deliberate destruction of a way of life, of the government policy of beating the Indian out of the Indian.
I suspect that until the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, most Canadians did not. However, a man who has been both Minister of Indian Affairs and Prime Minister had a responsibility to know. Did he not have even a passing knowledge of the inquest into the deaths of the seven aboriginal youths who did move to Thunder Bay in search of education and a better life but instead lost their lives by drowning, suicide, or misadventure between 2000 and 2015?
He dismissed the many Attawapiskats of Canada as no longer worthy. The residents should move out in search of jobs and a better life, health care and education.
Tell me I’m hopelessly naïve – and I know we are a long way from the following ideal now– but I’d like to see a Canada where our aboriginal citizens would feel comfortable living on or off reserve as they choose. And I’d like to see the rest of Canadian society comfortable with embracing that.
Chelsea Jane Edwards gives me hope. I didn’t recognize her name. I should have. Years ago she helped lead the campaign, Shannen’s Dream, to get a new school built in Attawapiskat after her friend, Shannen Koostachin died. Then Ms. Edwards went on to lead a national aboriginal youth educational campaign, Our Dreams Matter Too. As a teenager she made presentations to the Canadian Parliament and the UN. Presently she’s taking policing courses at a college in New Brunswick. Recently she gave two most astounding CBC radio interviews — one on As It Happens. Her calm and knowledgeable assessment, her voice of hope, her youthful yet realistic idealism should lift all our spirits. And guess what? She wants to go back to Attawapiskat. That shows courage determination, and commitment. This twenty-year-old woman with enormous potential wants to make the world a better place at home. For all its enormous flaws for Chelsea Jane Edwards Attawapiskat is home. Like Thunder Bay home is for me. Or Toronto, or Ottawa, or Newfoundland are for other people. Remember, she has not only seen Attawapiskat, she has lived it from the inside out. She may fail to improve it, but she is determined to try. And my money is on her, not on Jean Chretien.
I know many exasperated Canadians who are not racist also say, “Money alone is not the answer.” That’s true, but two facts are indisputable. Less money is allocated per student for education on reserve by the federal government than is allocated by provincial governments per students off reserve. 2) Less is spent per capita on health care on reserve than off reserve. Those two tiny steps could and should be taken immediately.
Governments have responded to the immediate crisis at Attawapiskat by flying in emergency help. Canada must now respond to the larger underlying issues. The government should start by implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. The rest of us should at least read it. I would guess it provides us not with a bible, but a heck of a good road map.
In 2011 when the last big crisis blew up around Attawapiskat I wrote a column that was eventually used in a university sociology text book. That’s when I thought I knew something. This latest crisis has forced me to acknowledge that I know next to nothing. But I think I know this. Home, moving, money, health care, education, social services, suicide. Attawapiskat is about all of these things and much more. It’s about identity. And not just about aboriginal identity, it’s about Canadian identity. There will be many more failures along the way. But if Canadians – aboriginals and non-aboriginals alike – don’t start making the journey to find our mutual identity and salvation together we’ll have lost our souls and our country forever.

April 2016

The World’s Gone Mad Today
For me, the Sleeping Giant is a symbol of security, permanence and comfort. However, as I stare out it over it in mid-March it is impossible not to feel an overwhelming sense of depression. Simply put, the world’s gone mad today.
Let me explain. I’ve just come back from a glorious six weeks in southern Portugal where I had been isolated from the world’s troubles.
But as soon as I got back to North America, what did I behold? Negativism, despair, and social collapse. As I heard the shallowly optimistic federal budget, and about the potential closure of many Thunder Bay schools, the short-sighted cuts to fundamental infrastructure that the majority of city council made, and the horrible details of the latest bombings in Belgium and as I reflected upon the deal concocted by the European Union to keep the Syrian refugees from entering the sacred soil of Europe, (not to mention the forgotten millions of refugees in Africa) and the absolutely astounding news of Donald Trump’s ascendancy, I found the world is not the place I had hoped for.
Make no mistake. Donald Trump could not only win the Republican nomination, he could win the American presidency. If you think it can’t happen, let me point out 1) Both Hitler and Mussolini were elected politicians. 2) Sinclair Lewis’ novel, It Can’t Happen Here clearly demonstrated that Americans are as susceptible to charlatans, bigots, and fascists as anybody else. 3) American culture is fundamentally attuned to violence. Think of the majority of their movies. Think of their gun culture. I’ve read that for every 100 people, U. S. citizens proudly bear 89 firearms – more than any other nation in the world. Those guns kill more people per year than have all international terrorists combined over all time.
Just like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump plays on people’s fears with an appeal to violence. He’s a genius at getting news coverage. He scapegoats Mexicans and Muslims. The damnable irony is that he masquerades as the champion of the regular folks who feel abandoned by traditional politicians. In reality he’s a billionaire thug who got his start in life from a millionaire father. Donald Trump is a racist, a bigot, and a fascist who has shown just how corrupted the American political system has become. As Eve Enslee wrote in The Guardian, Trump is the product of an America where the rich can buy anything including democracy. Nevertheless, Ms. Enslee believes he can be stopped. I hope she’s right.
For years, when I felt overwhelmed by the excesses of our neighbours to the South I used to turn to Europe for a sense of civilization. But Europe doesn’t look so civilized these days. When I see Syrian refugees penned up in refugee camps, turned back at borders, shipped back to (read deported to) Turkey, Europe bombed, and responding to the bombing with more bombing, and their initial natural instincts of generosity turn to national self-interest, my soul wants to cry. France and Britain, which were at one time my ideals of what was good in civilization, now seem perilously close to adopting the barbarian tactics we should all deplore.
So here we are in Canada caught between a disintegrating American Empire that never achieved its idealistic potential and a Europe whose post Second World War project looks ready to both implode and explode. Why? Simple. Because all of us in the West don’t have the courage, the generosity, or the vision to share our wealth and good fortune with the rest of the world on a permanent basis. What the followers of Donald Trump fail to understand and what the entire West has to figure out PDQ is simply this. America can’t be great again, Europe can’t be great again, and Canada can never be great unless the whole world is great — most of it for the first time. That means everyone in the world must have a share both in its work and in its bounty. As a wise philosopher and economist from the 19th century once wrote, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Really, how can you quarrel with that?
Are there glimmers of hope?
Yes. 1) While Donald Trump dominates the headlines and the television, 75-year-old Bernie Sanders has broadened the debate of ideas, enriched American democracy, and even made the word socialist possible once again in the USA. 2) My old friend and colleague in the Ontario legislature, Stephen Lewis, at 78, still travels the world – including a passionate breakfast speech here in mid-March on behalf of Respect/Diversity Thunder Bay — arguing and working for justice and equality for all. 3) At almost 80, David Suzuki continues to fight the good fight on behalf of the planet.
And finally, yes, as I watched the sunrise over the Sleeping Giant with my wife and one of my grandchildren from my living room on Good Friday morning I was reminded that the world is still a wondrous place worth defending and fighting for.
To wildly paraphrase John Keats: things of beauty, honesty, integrity, and courage in politics and elsewhere are a joy forever. Ugliness, deceit, cowardice and bigotry are not.

Feb. 2016

Three Memorable People
This month sketches of three memorable people I’ve encountered in my life.
Margaret Phillips:
Margaret Phillips was the Recreation Director in Kenora when I first met her in 1960s at the Quetico Centre. Since that time, our lives have intersected many times, always to my benefit. The recent celebration of her life fully acknowledged her feminist and social activism but her life was so varied I want to note her support for non-profit housing, culture and recreation in the 1960s and 70s and espcially her enormous contribution to the writing community of Northwestern Ontario. Without The Northern Woman’s Bookstore, there simply would have been no consistent showcase for many of our writers. Finally two personal anecdotes: 1) When I was running for the leadership of the Ontario NDP in 1981/82, Margaret was on a sabbatical overseas. About a month before the convention, I looked up from my desk one hectic day to see her striding down the hallway towards me. “What can I do to help?” she asked. That was vintage Margaret, “What can I do to help?” My last and most touching encounter occurred in hospital. I was lying on a stretcher as we were both waiting to be wheeled in for X-rays. She called my name and asked, “What’s wrong?” When I told her, her response was immediate – she was more concerned for me than for her own well-being. That was too was typical of Margaret Phillips. She was always thinking more of others than herself. Intensely private in many ways, she never shied away from public positions. Our Northern community has lost one of its finest citizens.
Rene Levesque:
I would never have met Rene Levesque if I hadn’t been in politics. It was only briefly. He was the only politician I have ever met who had genuine charisma. After Levesque’s Parti Quebecois separatist government was elected in the late 1970s, Premier Bill Davis held a reception for him at the Legislature. In those crisis days of Confederation, Davis wanted to keep communication open. As soon as Levesque came into the room you felt the electricity. Decades earlier on television as a journalist he was not nearly as magnetic. In person, barely five feet tall, he was larger than life, a cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth, he glided effortlessly around the room, shaking hands and exchanging more than pleasantries. When Levesque asked one member why he was a Liberal he replied “I believe in Liberal principles.”
“That’s funny,” Levesque shot back, “they have none. I know. I was one, once.” [I must point out that Eric Kierans’ first-rate memoirs paint a glowing picture of the admiration he and Levesque had for each other as they worked together creating Hydro Quebec by bringing the many exploitive private power companies under public ownership during the Lesage Liberal government in the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s.]
It is important to note that Levesque’s PQ advanced the social and economic well-being of his province. Many, including me, strongly disagreed with his separatist goals, but admired his political integrity.
Robert Nixon:
Absolutely a straight shooter you could take his word to the bank. And I had to. Here’s how and why. In spite of a long and distinguished career as a parliamentarian (He was the Ontario Liberal Leader on three occasions) he never clicked with the Toronto media. I had always liked and admired him. When the David Peterson Liberal government came to power in 1985 with help of a two year Accord with the NDP he became Minister of Revenue, the Treasurer, and House Leader. I was NDP finance critic. Although the NDP and the Liberals were not a coalition, Bob Nixon’s budgets and his budget bills needed NDP support. So he and I with one or two trusted staff would meet privately before budget time. A high level of give and take, trust and absolute confidentiality was established. We discussed frankly what was and what was not possible. It was important that I read my caucus and leader well and he do the same. To avoid foul-ups, I would get all legislation and background briefing two days ahead of presentation to the Legislature. On one occasion one of his deputies failed to inform me of a revenue bill he tabled in the legislature for debate. I sent him a note to that effect. Within half an hour an assistant deputy minister was in my office briefing me. In those days having a high ranking civil servant come to the office of an opposition member was unheard of. Yes, there can be honour and trust amongst politicians.
As I was writing this, a report by Oxfam showed that a mere 62 people are as rich as 50% of population of the entire world. Makes you despair, doesn’t it? But the lives of Margaret Phillips, Rene Levesque and Bob Nixon — three vastly different people — show a glimmer of hope. Even though political power and social activism may be limited against the raw power of corporate greed, their lives prove it is important to exercise it nevertheless. They did. They made a difference.

Jan. 2016

Two Images and two Billionaires
This is the story of two images and two billionaires. The billionaires are Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg’s the guy who just shielded his Facebook fortune from U. S. taxes by putting 99% of its shares into a so-called charitable foundation. If you don’t know who Bill Gates is, think Microsoft. Now for the images.
Who could ever forget the image of Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on the shore of a Mediterranean beach? It haunted the world and galvanized governments into action. It reminded the Western world of our humanity. It forced us to pay heed to the New Testament parable that taught us that everyone is our neighbour. It by-passed our minds and went straight to our generous hearts.
It even made Western governments respond. For a while I naively thought the West was going to do something fundamental about the refugee crisis and third world poverty. As always in these situations, non-profit groups, churches, agencies and individuals stepped up. But then the nabobs of negativism with their twisted voices of suspicion took over. What if there are terrorists embedded amongst these refugees? Fear began to replace generosity and kindness. Suddenly some countries began putting up barbed wire fences to keep out the advancing hordes. And here in Canada, the shamelessly unrealistic Liberal election promise of 25,000 refugees in the country by the end of 2015 was reduced to 10,000. As of December 26th, 2,413 had arrived and another 4,905 were approved by the Immigration Department. Increasingly, Justin Trudeau looks like a man who is just a tad rash with the promises and a bit light on the deliveries. But Canadians will cut him some slack. After all, before he rests he does have a very full agenda to keep. And most Canadians will welcome the refugees whenever they finally arrive.
In early December a much different photo from the Paris climate talks sent a chilling warning to the hairs on the back of my neck. In the middle of five elected world leaders there stood Bill Gates pledging 1 billion dollars to fight climate change. Good old generous Bill. Right? Wrong. As Gerald Caplan pointed out in his insightful article in the Globe and Mail “The World shouldn’t have to rely on the generosity of Bill Gates.” Gates not only shields his enormous wealth from taxation by hiding his assets in an allegedly charitable foundation, he uses that charitable foundation to provide funds to such needy private companies as MasterCard. That’s right! MasterCard. I’ll bet you never realized that MasterCard needed a charitable donation. Neither did I – especially to set up something called a “financial inclusion lab” in Kenya. MasterCard made $3.1 billion profit in 2013. You see, the Gateses and the Zuckenbergs of this world don’t just use their charitable foundations merely to make themselves look good, to avoid paying taxes, and incidentally to help some charities, but Gates at least has used his foundation directly to subsidize some companies’ bottom lines. Can Zuckenberg be far behind? Makes me wonder just how Bill Gates got to be so darn rich in the first place– besides using the usual techniques such as grinding his competitors into the dust and turning out shoddy products like Windows 8. But there he was. Good Guy Bill, promising to invest $1 billion to fight climate change. Bill Gates, elected (as Caplan pointed out) to exactly nothing, right there amongst the most powerful governments in the world, dictating how climate change should be fought. Does it make you stop and think? Become cynical? Throw in the towel? All of the above?
Yes. But we can’t. Why? Because no matter how little power we have, we must exercise it every moment we can, every time we can. Because if we don’t do that, and insist that our elected leaders do that on our behalf, the Bill Gateses of this world will fill the void. They’ll find it increasingly easy to dictate their views to our elected leaders. And instead of paying their rightful share of taxes so all of humankind can benefit, they’ll keep on cherry-picking which worthy causes like MasterCard their charitable foundations will be doling out money to. And they’ll be deciding how and when to fight climate change and poverty, not in the public interest, but in their interests and on their timetable.
The essential point is this. It is just because the Gateses and the Zuckenbergs of this world are so powerful that we have got to exercise whatever power we have. We must never, ever cede any of it. It’s hard not to give up because mostly we lose. But sometimes we win. And when we win we will know why we were here.
Neither we nor our elected leaders should be star struck by the obscene wealth of the likes of Bill Gates. My wish for all our elected officials from Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair on down in 2016 is to use their elected power wisely and well on behalf all humankind. I suspect that that power could be exercised more vigorously on our behalf than we realize. Let us wish them well in doing so.

Dec. 2015

A Turbulent Fall
The Personal:
It’s been a turbulent fall, personally, politically, and internationally. Judy and I have moved from our home of 43 years. One grieves over so many things – the loss of treasured books and the final realization that some of the projects one always hoped to finish never will be completed. A house is just a house, but a home is a living thing. We are now turning our condo into our home. It’s not there yet, but it will be.
The Political:
That was some federal election wasn’t it? The Liberals deserve congratulations for running a well-timed and smooth campaign. I hope it doesn’t sound too churlish but I have an admittedly unrealistic modest proposal. Let’s ban political polls during election campaigns. The last campaign was almost entirely about who was leading in the polls and who best could get rid of Harper. The personality of the prime minister became the dominant issue. Unfortunately, from the beginning of the campaign, style dominated over substance . But think about it, without polls, in the best of all possible worlds, voters, political parties, leaders, candidates and the media would actually be forced to focus on issues such as the future of the country, the economy, climate change, eliminating poverty, a federal minimum wage or the Middle East. Ideas and debate rather than style might become part of our political discourse. The almost daily reports of polling in the last election cheapened both our politics and our journalism.
The NDP went into the election with high expectations. For the first time in Canadian history it looked as if it could possibly form not just a provincial, but a national government. However, it was not to be. For someone like me who worked on my first CCF/NDP campaign in 1959 the results were a huge disappointment. But not devastating. After all, it did come a very strong third, with representation in all provinces except Atlantic Canada. Canadians showed that they are not ready to revert to a mere two party system. The CCF/NDP has been around for over 75 years and isn’t going away any time soon. But there are certainly lessons to be learned. The first is simply this. Never underestimate your opponent. In this case, the NDP vastly underestimated both Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal party. In particular, it underestimated the grip the Liberal party has on the Canadian psyche. But if the Liberals can bounce from third to first, then the NDP should be planning to do just that in the next election.
Although it has always been my contention that any serious political party should always run for power, it should also run on principle. In particular, it should never run merely as a “government in waiting.” It smacks too much of arrogance. Canadians have shown they are willing to take a chance on the NDP when it runs as the champion of the “little guy” both on principle and for power. The balance is important. That has been the key to success of every one of the more than fourteen successful NDP premiers from Tommy Douglas to Rachel Notley.
The International Scene:
I am no expert when it comes to international affairs. But the terrible bombings in Paris, the unrest in the Middle East, the ongoing threats by ISIS make the world feel about as unsafe a place as it has ever been. But that does not mean we should close our hearts and our borders to the thousands of refugees who rightly need a home here. Of course one’s heart goes out to the victims of the bombings in Paris. Like everyone I’m horrified by the callous disregard for life by the murderers.
But I do know is this. Western policy towards ISIS does not seem to be working. In fact, nothing much since George W. Bush began his ill-fated War On Terror seems to have worked. We bomb them and they bomb us. Does it matter who started it? Bombing begets bombing. Let’s acknowledge that the life of a Syrian baby or any child in the Middle East has the same value as the life of a French, American or Canadian child.
Here’s what puzzles me. I’m probably hopelessly naive but in almost all previous conflicts aiming for a cease fire, then getting an international agreement cutting off supplies of armaments to the warring factions used to be a path to a solution. Nobody’s explained publicly why that’s not possible in the present situation.
Obviously it will take finer and more skilful diplomatic minds than mine to find a way out of the present quagmire. But I wish with all my heart that one is found soon. Many of us have worked in our own ways to pass on a better world to the next generation. I have two children and five grandchildren for whom I’d like to see a new day dawning. Wouldn’t it be truly miraculous if the coming holiday season could be the beginning of a lasting peace? Blessed are the peacemakers, for it is only through them that we shall all inherit the earth.

Oct. 2015

A Country Worth Saving

Just in case, you don’t know, Andrew Foulds, the NDP candidate for Thunder Bay Superior North in the federal election, is my son. I have struggled mightily whether or not I should comment on this federal election at all. But as it may be the most important one in my lifetime it would be a total cop out for a political columnist to remain silent on the issue. Background, upbringing and life experience colour everyone’s view. No one is a totally objective observer. The fine South African playwright, Athol Fugard, observed, “There is only one truth a man can tell – his own.” So here goes.
During my time in politics I used to give a stump speech that began “Politics is an honourable art and the men and women who practice it are by and large honourable people.” For example, you couldn’t find more honourable people than Bob Nixon of the Liberals, Tom Wells, of the Conservatives, or Mel Swart of the NDP. Faced with Duffygate and Stephen Harper’s pursuit of ignorance and stupidity coupled with Kathleen Wynne’s stonewalling of the truth over the Mississauga gas plants, Ornge Air ambulances, and the sell-off of Hydro One it would seem foolhardy to make that argument today.
Nevertheless, I will make it. You don’t hear about the thousands of decent municipal, provincial, and federal politicians simply because the media don’t go looking for honesty, sincerity and integrity. They aren’t news. Never were, never will be. Keep that in mind as you face today’s political scandal-scape.
The good news? Harper has so demeaned Canadian politics, the polls consistently show that 70% of the Canadian voters want him out. Recently, as I was putting up signs for Andrew, a voter said, “I’d vote for Satan to get rid of Harper.” I replied, “Luckily you don’t need to.”
Can I be fair to the Liberals, the Greens, and the Conservatives while my son, Andrew Foulds, is running for the NDP? All I can say is, “I’ll try.”
I think it is pretty self-evident that Harper has sacrificed the traditional Conservative ideals which favour small business, civil liberties, and intelligent regulation to protect individual citizens against big government and big business, on the altar of the rich — and especially the oil patch. The manufacturing sector of Ontario and Quebec and all provincial governments have been told to kiss off. Harper is not a genuine Conservative, but represents the worst of modern American neo-conservative Republicanism.
Both Tom Mulcair’s NDP and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals offer alternatives. But have they captured the imagination? Trudeau sounds like a sports announcer and he does need to show he can govern, not just advocate. Tom Mulcair has shown he has the experience to govern, but he hasn’t let his feisty and caring personality out of the box often enough. Both have stuck to their talking points all too often. Boring. Both need to show more spontaneity. Is it too much to ask for vision?
As I write, the polls, the pundits, and the anecdotal evidence all indicate that any of the three major parties – including, for the first time, the NDP – could win the national campaign. But only by a whisker. So, if you are part of the 70% who really, really want to get rid of Harper, how to vote?
Don’t second guess yourself. It is never wrong to vote for what you actually believe in – even if you think you are going to lose. Keeping ideas and ideals alive for public debate is important.
But remember, perfection is never on the ballot. No leader, no party, no candidate, no set of policies is ever going to reflect your beliefs 100%. Look instead for the party, the candidate, the policies, and the leader who satisfy you the most — however imperfectly.
Who do you trust? Who has the best track record of working with administrators, voters, and community groups? Who has the best grasp of, not just one, but a wide range of issues – income inequality, the environment, the economy, health care, seniors, immigration, international affairs? Who looks to the future not the past? Who tries to unite and not divide?
I’m voting for my son in this election not merely because he’s my son but because I know that as a scientist, he’ll weigh all the evidence before him when he has a tough decision to make. Then he’ll make it, without fear or favour, not merely on behalf of his party, not merely on behalf of his constituents, not merely on behalf of Canadians, and certainly not on behalf of himself, but on behalf of humanity. And when he makes mistakes, he’ll pick himself up and start all over again. You have the right to expect the same of whomever you vote for.
This election may be Canada’s last chance to become again the Canada I desired. My father was a section man. My son is running to be an MP. I’m proud of both.
I’m lucky. I can vote for someone and something I believe in. I hope you can do the same. Good luck with your decision however tough and imperfect it may be. This country is still one worth saving.

 

 

Politicians and Citizens Can Both Fail to Have Vision
Pity those poor betrayed left-wing people who voted for Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals because of her first “progressive” budget, now that she has announced she’s selling off 60% of Hydro One. That’s a huge mistake. It’s a valuable public resource .
Ever since Mike Harris broke up old Ontario Hydro, Ontario’s electricity policy has been a mess – with prices sky-rocketing and gas plants cancelled for political reasons at an enormous cost. This latest sell-off will create a short term cash gain for the provincial Liberals, but long-term pain for Ontario’s electricity consumer. As former NDP leader Howard Hampton once remarked, “Even on its worst day, old Ontario Hydro couldn’t have messed up this badly.” For all its many flaws, publicly owned and operated Ontario Hydro protected your interest far more than our increasingly privatized system has done. Old Ontario Hydro needed reforming, not wrecking. Dividing it up into three public companies (one to produce, one to distribute, and one to regulate) would have been a much smarter way to go. Ontario Hydro was created by a Conservative government more than 100 years ago to protect the public interest so it could provide electrical power both to manufacturers and to household consumers at cost. Not any more, under Harris, McGuinty and now, Wynne.
At first, I thought Kathleen Wynne’s move to shed sixty per cent of Hydro One was simply a desperate attempt to get cash so the Liberals could meet their promise of balancing the budget by 2017/18. Then as more details of the provincial budget came out I realized it was more devious than that. The provincial Liberals want to use that money to solve the transportation gridlock problems in Southern Ontario, especially the GTA. Wynne’s government is sacrificing the interests of all of the electrical consumers across the province to satisfy the transportation needs of the Greater Toronto Area. That certainly should get every Northerners’ blood boiling. I’m afraid Kathleen Wynne may very well go down as the Premier for Downtown  Toronto.
Wynne’s Liberals may be engaging in clever politics, but it’s terrible public policy. A Government’s role is to adjudicate amongst the conflicting interests of society as best it can to serve and protect all its citizens. This move fails that test.
I visit Toronto often enough to realize transit gridlock is a real problem, but solving it on the backs of all of Ontario’s electrical consumers is a grave mistake. Frankly, the Ontario Opposition parties haven’t helped much. They too refuse to examine the possibility of either introducing toll roads or realistically raising taxes. I believe the electorate would accept these if presented and executed properly. I still have enough faith in both politicians and the electorate to believe good public policy and good politics can go hand in hand.
You might find that strange with Mike Duffy’s trial on full display these days. But it’s important to keep in mind that both Duffy and Pamela Wallin were journalists, not politicians, appointed by Stephen Harper, not elected.
We always knew the Harperites didn’t much care about child poverty, income inequality, or climate change. And his government’s steadfast refusal to launch an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women highlight his government’s disdain both for violence against women and for aboriginal issues.
But the Harper government’s vaunted grasp on the economy is beginning to look shaky, too. Even the Governor of the Bank of Canada said Canada’s economic outlook for the first quarter of 2015 was “atrocious.” Harper’s Conservatives have put all their eggs in Big Oil’s basket. But that basket is looking increasingly empty. Not only are the Oil Sands an environmental liability, they are now an economic liability – amongst the most expensive oil in the world. Even with the recent budget – which is politically clever, but fiscally unsound – the Emperor looks increasingly as if he has no clothes.
On the other hand, Thunder Bay had a fully-clothed plan for an Events Centre that was well-researched. It would have helped to launch Thunder Bay into the 21st century. But it was, temporarily at least, shot down by a tight-fisted, unimaginative federal government.
The trouble with the Event Centre proposal might have been that is was just a bit too risk-taking – one of those ideas that is a full step – instead of only a half step – ahead of the majority of its citizens. After forty-five years, that old Port Arthur- Fort William bugaboo still hangs over this city like an invisible undertaker’s pall. Thunder Bay’s Inter-city sits like a donut hole of commercialism between the two former downtowns. The best location for the Event Centre was undoubtedly smack-dab in downtown Port Arthur. That was just too much for traditional Fort William Gardens lovers. And the idea of actually combining an arena with a convention/event centre was just too visionary for traditional hockey fans and curlers over 50 who might need to walk more than five minutes. It’s too bad they forgot about the future of the city, downtown businesses, and our young people. What a wonderful city Thunder Bay could be if only its citizens would measure up to its natural surroundings!
Not only politicians, but citizens, too, can fail to have political vision. Pity, that.
Three Modest Proposals to make Canada a Fairer Place

1. Stops the tax cuts. Since 2009 The Harper governments’ tax cuts have cost Canadians over $15 billion. Think what it could have done with that money. It could have kept all the Veterans Affairs Offices open; it could have kept the ELA open without palming it off to the Ontario government and non-profit agencies; it could have had an inquiry into the over 1,000 murdered and missing aboriginal women; it could have funded an infrastructure program that would have revitalized Canadian cities so we wouldn’t need to be dodging life-endangering potholes from coast to coast; it could have transferred funds to cash-strapped provincial governments to ensure that Medicare is truly a national program; it could have funded aboriginal schools at the same rate as our provincial schools; it could have developed a social housing program, a national Pharmacare program, a youth employment program, a national day care program; it could have kept the taxation office in every town like Thunder Bay open with real people to actually help taxpayers. It could have kept the CBC as a healthy, vital, world-class broadcasting system we could all be proud of. It could have reduced homelessness and dependence on food banks. But no, our government isn’t into providing service these days. Somehow it seems to think austerity is working. News Flash! It isn’t.
So the next time someone promises you a tax cut, or even to hold the line on taxes, ask yourself “What is this going to cost in human suffering? Who is it going to harm, what else is going to be cut?” Then ask yourself, “How much of that tax cut is going to benefit me?” With income splitting (Harper’s latest gimmick) fewer than 15% of the population benefit – almost entirely in the highest income brackets. That means more service cuts. Or you and I will be picking up the slack.
2. Let’s start a National Pharmacare Program. Presently one in ten Canadians simply don’t pick up the medicines their doctors prescribe for them because they can’t afford it. First recommended by a Royal Commission in 1964, Canada is the only developed country in the world with a so-called universal health care system that doesn’t have a national drug program as part of it. And that’s disgraceful! Recently a study published by the respected Canadian Medical Asssociation Journal showed that a national Pharmacare program could reduce private and public prescription drugs by 32% or a whopping $7.3 billion. And cover everyone! Instead of costing us money, Pharmacare would actually save us money. How? First, it would lower the cost of both generic and brand name drugs by bulk buying. Second, it would avoid having people seek much more expensive health services such as emergency room care because they weren’t on the prescriptions they needed. And it would avoid the present costly bureaucratic “co-ordination of benefits” between public and private plans.
Our present system is a terribly inadequate patchwork of private and public schemes which leave far too may people unprotected – especially the young, the self-employed and those working for small businesses that can’t afford a drug plan.
Pharmacare is not a luxury. Prescriptions are an essential part of 21st century medicine. Let’s finally give Canadians the medicines they need.
3. Make the Rich Pay their Fair Share. Nothing seems to stop the obscene increases in take-home pay of the top CEOs of the world. By 11:41 a.m. of Jan. 2 this year Canada’s top 100 CEO’s had pocketed an average of $47,358 – what the ordinary full-time working Canadian makes in an entire year! The average take home pay compensation for these CEOs was over $9 million. The CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada makes 303 times what the average bank teller earns in a year.
Not their own sense of decency, not their own corporate boards, not shareholder activism, nor public disgust has reined in their greed and entitlement. Our governments should at least start demanding that they pay their fair share of taxes. Most of these high rollers avoid paying taxes at the same rate that you and I do because they get most of their pay through stock options and bonuses that are taxed at a much lower rate than “earned income.” When they cash in their stock options they pay taxes at half the rate that the regular tax-paying Jane and Joe do. In 2013 alone Canada’s top 100 CEOs cost the rest of us taxpayers half a billion dollars in lost revenue.
I have two small suggestions. First, close this tax loophole. Tax them at the full rate. Second, let’s institute a higher federal tax rate of 32% (instead of the present 29%) for anyone earning over $250,000, and at a 35% rate above half a million dollars. I really don’t think that’s picking on them. Remember, below a quarter of a million dollars they’ll just be paying the same taxes as you and me.
We need a government that has a peoples’ agenda, not a corporate one. Remember ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people?” Let’s try it.

In Politics, Talk is Cheap
When I was a child growing up, all  I ever wanted to  do with my life was write stories  and sit around  a  camp fire and sing songs like  Michael Row The Boat Ashore. Then I realized that if that’s all I did, poor old Michael (whoever he was) would probably freeze his backside off somewhere in the middle of Lake Superior while I sat safely on the shore. My upbringing, my reading, and my experience convinced me that we needed to help each other out if we were to get through life safely.
I’ve always been torn between two conflicting urges. One, to run away and hide from the world. The other, to try to make the world a better place, so that it wouldn’t be quite so awful. This latter instinct won out and turned me to politics.
Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve also been torn between my interest in the arts (mainly theatre and literature) and my interest in politics. By 1963, I had worked on three CCF/NDP election campaigns, but had not joined the party. That summer I went to a lecture by Tommy Douglas sponsored by the Vancouver Institute. Instead of a political barn-burner, it was a thoughtful presentation on both the necessity and the difficulties of democratic socialist governments. I remember the key passage that convinced me to join the NDP. Tommy had been outlining the socialist goal of making the world a better place where ordinary people were better off materially, of making life more secure through social security, and of the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP struggle to bring in Medicare. Then he said something like, “Governments shouldn’t do these things merely so a person can be healthy or so they can be better off materially. They shouldn’t do it so people can buy more consumer goods like bigger cars and larger homes. The Saskatchewan government did it so people could also enjoy things of the mind and of the spirit. The worlds of philosophy and of the arts should be open to everyone. What’s the use of a person being healthy if that person has nothing to be healthy for?”
For me, that, and defending the rule of law have always been what democratic socialism is all about.
However, I have never believed that the NDP was a purely socialist party. The NDP was deliberately created in 1961 to broaden the base of the CCF to try to achieve power. So, within the broader NDP, I am a democratic socialist. Politically, I feel at home there. Sometimes barely, I admit. Although I like many individuals who vote Liberal, the Liberal party could never make me feel at home.
For the past few years, several people have desperately told me, “We’ve got to stop Harper.”  I agree. However, it took me some time to figure out these were mainly well-meaning Liberals trying to tell me that, although the NDP is the Official Opposition, it should fold its tent into the Liberal one. I have a different option.
Whether you like it or not, in a federal election you are voting not only for change (or the status quo), you are voting for a party, its policies, its leader, and its local candidate. Even if one or two of those thing are weak I’d still vote NDP.
Here’s the latest reason why. As I write this column, Justin Trudeau severely criticized Harper’s anti-terrorism bill, but then said the Liberals would vote for it, anyway. As the Globe and Mail pointed out, trying to fix the problems in the deeply flawed legislation later “is like buying a bull and hoping its excrement can be sold as perfume.”
After examining the legislation thoroughly with his caucus, Tom Mulcair and the NDP decided to strongly oppose it. In politics, talk is cheap; action which may cost you votes, is not.
The Globe uncharacteristically praised the NDP, for doing its job as the Official Opposition – protecting the freedoms of Canadians against an arbitrary government.
I recalled then that Tom Mulcair had resigned from the Liberal cabinet of Jean Charest on a matter of principle over the environment. Later Jack Layton convinced him he was actually a New Democrat. To sum up, Tom Mulcair has had experience in government. He has democratic socialists within in his NDP caucus. So in the next federal election, I’ll be voting for a defence of civil liberties, restoring funding to the CBC, a national day care program and a decent minimum wage. Relatively small, but important building materials for the beginning of a better Canada.
The Liberals may be leading in the polls, but the pollsters were badly wrong in the last B.C., Alberta, and Ontario elections. In the House of Commons where Harper needs to be stopped, the NDP has 95 seats to the Liberals 36. On the battlefield where you, rather than the media, get to vote, the NDP has a huge lead. It’s going to be an important election. Whatever the result, Canada will never be the same again. To stop Harper, I’ll be voting for someone and something, not just against someone. What about you?

Despair, Courage, Honour, and Hope

The dismal state of the world in December almost drove me to despair. Two events especially made me sick to my heart’s core. First, the Dalhousie University male dental students’ Facebook page advocating the chloroforming and raping of women colleagues, and secondly, the senseless murder of over 100 children in Pakistan in response to western Drone attacks. Talk about man’s inhumanity to women and children!

Happily, I thought of William Faulkner’s acceptance speech on receiving the Nobel prize for literature. “The writer’s privilege,” he said, is to remind us “of the courage and honour, and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of [our] past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be the one of . . . the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

Let me start with the personal. In Montreal last summer our Toronto grandson, Dylan, underwent a tricky spinal operation in which some of the nerves had to be severed. The eight week Rehab at the Shriners’ Hospital afterwards wasn’t easy. My wife Judy and I spent two eight-day periods there so our daughter-in-law could get some time off during the day. The good news? The operation and the Rehab have been very successful. Six months later, Dylan is running, walking, bicycling, swimming, and able to use ordinary shoes instead of braces during weekends and evenings. Huge progress for a very courageous, indomitable six-year-old boy. And every one of Faulkner’s words from “courage” to “sacrifice” apply not only to him but to the parents who made the difficult decision about this “elective” surgery. Think about parents all over the world who quietly make courageous and difficult decisions every day about their children.

Now for the public figure. When Jean Beliveau died last month, the outpouring was unbelievably genuine. He was a sports superstar who always had time for the fans. The Canadiens thought so highly of him as a prospect, they bought a whole league to secure his services, and thus became the winningest NHL team in history. Beliveau’s numbers speak for themselves: 1,125 games, 507 goals; 712 assists; 176 play-off points in 162 games; (that’s more than a point per game); 13 all- star appearances; 10 Stanley cups as a player; 7 as an executive.

Hundreds of anecdotes testify that he was superstar as a person too. He never refused to sign an autograph. Thunder Bay writer, Joan Baril, was teaching at a Canadian military base in Quebec when Beliveau was invited to a function. When the kids spotted him crossing the schoolyard afterwards they emptied the school, essentially swarming him for autographs. For an hour and a half he stood patiently signing for every single child. For those who didn’t have paper, he wrote on the back of their hands.

All his public appearances and fundraising went into a foundation for disadvantaged children. He never had a corporate box, just two seats in the Forum behind the player’s bench. He refused Brian Mulroney’s two offers of an appointment to the Senate. Jean Chretien wanted him to be the Governor-general. He turned it down so he could be close to his grandchildren after they unexpectedly lost their father. (The story only came out years later.) Beliveau said, “You don’t replace a mother or a father, but there are a lot of things a grandparent can do; I couldn’t leave them behind.” Other great stars like Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden testified to the positive influence he had on them and the game. Roy MacGregor said he played hockey “as it is played in . . . dreams . . . flowing, graceful, and magical.” I’ve only seen clips of Beliveau playing. I’ve only heard or read stories of his public and personal behaviour. But the word “respect” strikes me. He respected the game, his opponents, his teammates, his fans, his family, his province, his country, his talent and himself. He played the game and lived his life with honour. We are all the better for it.

“Okay, Foulds,” you’re saying, “so you’ve shown us that private and public figures can display the qualities that Faulkner talks about, but what about the politicians? Name one who has come through with anything close to courage and honour.”

On December 17, 2014, the politician most of the world – and I – had written off, Barack Obama, surprised the world. He began to normalize U. S. relations with Cuba. It may only be a beginning, but in the present toxic U. S. political environment, it took courage and honour to recognize that the five-decade embargo had harmed both countries. (When they get around to discussing human rights, let’s hope Cuba puts free universal health care for Americans on the table.) When Judy and I heard the news, we drove home and I toasted my Cuban friends and President Obama with a shot of Havana Club rum. Over the twenty-five years that we have been travelling to Cuba we know Cubans who have displayed courage, honour, hope, pride, compassion, and sacrifice. Many Americans are capable of such qualities as well. Obama is appealing to those qualities. Ernest Hemingway would be pleased with him. At this moment, so am I. And the world should be, too.

The Trouble With Right Wing Economists

The trouble with right wing economists – even intelligent and well-meaning ones – is that they reduce the role of citizens in our society to being merely taxpayers, as if we had no other responsibility in our community other than to pay taxes. In that way, they try to reduce the public debate to one issue – taxes. And cowardly politicians of all stripes – forgetting that taxes are the price of a civilized society – have bought into the devil’s bargain of promising not to raise them.

Right wing economists view people only as puny self-interested economic creatures. They fail to realize that human beings are gloriously, irredeemably varied – interested in ballet, fishing, hockey, star-gazing, gardening, politics, rocket science, hop-scotch, knitting, stamp collecting, climbing Mount Everest, snorkelling, and tiddly-winks. In other words, sometimes human beings will deliberately pursue an activity that does not result in a profit. And sometimes they will even sacrifice their own interests to benefit someone else’s. How else do you explain the generous outpouring towards charities in times of need?

Led by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (and more slyly by Brian Mulroney) the more calculating right wing economists and politicians started to exploit this “generosity instinct” in the 1980s. The first food bank opened in Edmonton in 1981 as a “temporary” stop gap measure – “until the economy recovered.” About a year later one popped up in Toronto. Well-meaning volunteers rushed to fill the needs of the needy. Today Toronto has well over 200 food banks. Thunder Bay has half a dozen; and in March 2014, over 840,000 Canadians (the majority are children and people working for minimum wage) used food banks (up 24 % since 2008). Food banks are now a permanent blight on the urban landscape of our nation. Charity has replaced economic justice.

However, right wing economists still argue that the minimum wage should not be raised. Nor should we raise taxes to close the gap between rich and poor. It would be bad for the economy, they say. Far better to have the needy line up at food banks staffed by unpaid volunteers and beg. In reality the churches, the charities, and the volunteers are letting governments, society and taxpayers off the hook.

Also in the 1980s, governments started to lay off the workers who cleaned up the debris that accumulated along highways. “Adopt a Highway” signs sprang up and well-meaning volunteers – bamboozled into believing they were cleaning up the environment – sprang into action, not fully realizing they were taking away people’s livelihoods. That led to today’s phenomenon where far too many enterprises (not just businesses) from hospitals to hostels, from theatres to sports franchises, from universities to youth centres all have “business” models that depend on unpaid volunteers or internships. Is it any wonder young people can’t find work?

We would have a far healthier economy if we paid our unemployed young people to do many of these jobs. Right wing economists argue that the economy can’t afford it. That’s because they get the most fundamental economic question backward. They think humanity should serve the needs of some abstract thing called the economy. Any sensible person realizes that the economy should serve the needs of humanity. And I believe taxes should also serve the needs of humanity.

I have a real problem with people who have a problem with taxes. Why should we mind paying taxes to put young people to work? I would like to pay taxes to put anybody to work. I’d rather do that than hand out charity. It’s more productive, more efficient, more dignified, and more just. As I said in a letter to the Chronicle Journal in early November “At a fundamental level, I celebrate the fact that all Canadians share the burden of our public health care system through our taxes. That’s what being a Canadian is still all about – sharing the burden.”

When I hired a roofer to come and fix my roof this summer, I expected to pay him. When a plumber came to change my toilet, I expected to pay him. So when a garbage truck rolls down my street and collects my garbage, and the snow plow comes down my street and clears the snow from my street, why shouldn’t I expect to pay for it?

It would be terrible waste of time and person power for the garbage collector or the snow plow driver to stop the machine and run up to each house to collect a fee every time. So we’ve devised this system in order to pay for this service. It’s called taxation. It’s the most efficient way to pay for a whole host of services from education to the military. So I can’t understand why right wing economists argue that we shouldn’t be paying taxes – or we should pay as few taxes as possible.

I thought economists liked efficiency.

I suspect they don’t like taxes so they can save money to live in gated communities. Maybe they want the rest of us to have more dollars to invest in necessary private consumer goods like striped toothpaste instead spending it on a frivolous tax-funded program like national dental care for children. What bothers me most is that most of us have bought into propaganda that taxes are bad.

Me? Let me pay taxes and give me economic justice any time.