Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Monday, February 26, 2007

Al-Qaeda: Kyoto Friend or Foe

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While we're on foreign affairs (see post below: Rethinking Foreign Aid), what's al-Qaeda's position on Kyoto? ChuckerCanuck says that al-Qaeda missed Dion's memo on Kyoto:
Its frustrating that Al-Qaida didn't get the memo from Liberal party headquarters: the whole terrorist business was so 5 years ago, its time to sunset all the silly paranoid stuff and move on to other business, like global warming. Actually, maybe they did get that memo and their call to attack our oil industry is only to help us meet our Kyoto commitments.

Chuck's being sarcastic, but the post ends up making a good point: How do the "Liberals [...] argue that the tools they crafted after 9/11 are now suddenly useless?" (Couldn't they be useful the environment from massive oil fires?)

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ReThinking Foreign Aid

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Blogroll partner Xavier Dube of Keep Right has an interesting post up called Three Strikes for Foreign Aid. While Xavier makes a good critique of foreign aid's (FA) problems - mainly that most FA dollars don't work to alleviate poverty and instead go to enrich dictators and despots - I have to disagree with his conclusions. I was writing a comment and decided instead that it would make for interesting reading for Centrerion readers. Here's my reply to Keep Right's author.

Ironically, Xavier, you oppose the "blanket solution" of foreign aid yet support a blanket solution of capitalism and globalization. While you're right that those two forces have worked in some places, they've been miserable failures elsewhere.

Consider the case of Bolivia, where the water system was privatized with disastrous consequences. That's part of what got an extremist coca grower like Evo Morales elected. Capitalism with little government intervention.

Craig Kielburger, founder of Save the Children recently spoke at a conference I was attending. He cited this story of a Kenyan village where this child had to walk miles to fetch water, then carry it back in heavy containers - a real burden if ever there was one. Yet his village had a well! Some western company had made a deal with the government that they'd have exclusive access to the water in the region so they could grow flowers (for export to the West). So the government capped the well. Here you have investment and jobs created for kenyans. But it was clearly not a conscionable solution - une solution equitable, as we say in French.

So while I agree with you that lots of aid dollars do get wasted on despots, and I also agree that we should focus on economic development rather than charity, I draw a different conclusion from you. We shouldn't just "end" foreign aid.

Foreign aid needs to be carried out in a smarter manner, with a focus on encouraging local entrepreneurship and SMEs/PMEs. Making the businesses responsible to the communities in which they exist and to their employees (employee stock ownership plans might be particularly useful) will help not only the founders escape from poverty, but will also help the community. "Let me help you help yourself," in other words. Note: I can't claim the idea as my own, it really comes from a book I just finished called Small Giants, about financially succesful companies that are also helping their communities prosper.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cow Farts and Global Warming Quip

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So La Presse reported not too long ago that cow farts were a major cause of global warming. So here's what we do.

Harness the cow farts and figure out how to burn them. Then BAM! We've got a renewable energy source.
The ethical dilemma is that farmers will breed their cows to create the biggest farters in their herds. And that's just animal cruelty.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Regulate Management and Business Conduct

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This is a call to governmental actors to regulate management and business conduct.

In the Olymel saga here in Quebec, a factory's workforce was threatened with layoffs unless they accepted paycuts, and management was simulatenously promised raises. This is just a most recent and local example of business ethics and management conduct run amok.

I've come to the conclusion that government needs to intervene once again to regulate managerial ethics and business conduct.

Management guru Henry Mintzberg recently gave an interview to La Presse. In it, McGill's world renown expert discussed Quebec's lower productivity level as compared to the rest of Canada and the US.
Mintzberg's view was that this was the result of Quebec not generally adopting the same abusive and short-term views as are prevalent amongst management elsewhere. The problem isn't in Quebec, Mintzberg said, but with business practices elsewhere.

For example, the practice of laying of thousands of workers creates short-term productivity gains. Managers tend to be remunerated for those. Yet these cuts leaves the firm bare for the long term.

Professor Mintzberg expressed himself - rather eloquently - as follows:

"Je dis simplement que la productivité n'est pas la seule mesure pour évaluer la santé d'une entreprise, d'une économie et d'une société.

Si c'était le cas, le grand modèle à imiter serait Wal-Mart. Avec ses salaires, son antisyndicalisme et les économies de bout de chandelles qu'elle réalise aux États-Unis dans l'assurance santé de ses employés.

On ne construit pas une économie saine et équilibrée de cette façon. Tout ce que l'on réussit à faire, c'est de gonfler la richesse de quelques-uns et augmentant le nombre de laissés pour compte. Malheureusement, le modèle Wal-Mart, son organisation «lean and mean» fait des ravages."
I couldn't express it any better myself. Here's a translation:

"What I am saying is simply that productivity is not the only measure with which to assess the health of a company, an economy and a society.

If that were the case, the great model to follow would be [the] Wal-Mart [model]. With its [minimium-wage] salaries, anti-union philosophy and corner-shaving savings achieved at the expense of its employees' health care benefits.

We don't build a healthy and balanced economy in such a manner. All we really accomplish is to increase the wealth of a handful of people while increasing the number of people left out by the wayside. Unfortunately, the Wal-Mart model and its "lean and mean" organization is creating havoc."

Here are some ideas for our MPs, MPPs and [in Quebec] MNAs to consider:

1. A professional code of ethics for managers. We have workers' rights, but something more is clearly needed. That something more is managerial obligations. Positive obligations setting out things that must be done, in addition to workers' rights concerning what cannot be (e.g. discrimination).

2. An explicit stipulation that management's salaries fluctuate on the same level as those of the average worker. COLA raises only for the sales staff? COLA raises for the sales VP and managers. (COLA: Cost Of Living Allowance; managerial slang for raises tied to inflation.)

2.a. Similarly, the number of executive level managers laid off should be proportional to the number of workers laid off. Don't need that factory? Guess you'll have to drop the assistant VP of Production.

3. Make having a chief ethics officer (CETO) and department mandatory for publicly traded companies and companies over a certain level of revenue. Make these executive level managers responsible for specific tasks and areas such as ensuring fairness in human resource management.

4. Consider some of the ideas of the Complete Guide to Ethics Management.

5. Look at the great reasons for why managers should be ethical at this forum and see what legislative initatives can be implemented. The forum thread looks at "why managers should be ethical" and considers many interesting points, including notable the environment.

It's time for our politicians to step up to the plate and legislate some strong ethics into our increasingly laissez-faire business environment.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

China to Emit 470 Million More Tonnes of Greenhouse Gases: How Bloggers Can Fight Back

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Gay and Right has an interesting scoop from the Financial Post. While I disagree with his conclusions (see the comments), Ottawa's gay right-wing blogger cites some interesting material from the Post:

China's going to emit 470 million more tonnes of greenhouse gases next year. It's the sort of thing that really disgusts you and gets you frustrated with corporate Canada and the rest of the corporate West for helping them out. Like Bombardier for example. So what can bloggers do?

As longtime readers likely know, this blog is #1 on Google for some select keywords. The most important factor to rank on Google is the number, quality, and text of links pointing to your site. For example, the Bombardier link above will help increase that site's ranking for the search "Bombardier". Bloggers can link to that page above and to others (preferably with the sole word "Bombardier").

The result will be that people looking up Bombardier on Google (and also on Yahoo and MSN) will see negative press for these companies. Hopefully this negative PR will discourage companies from doing business in China, or at least from taking on such clearly problematic projects.

If anyone has other environmental concerns that can be affected with similar linking projects, I wouldn't mind keeping a list and linking to them here. Just post in the comments.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tanning in Quebec's AntiSemitic Heat

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Anti-Semitism and intolerance towards Jews is doing just fine in Quebec, thankyou very much. Just when you thought antisemitism was under control and La Belle Province was becoming more tolerant... Three antisemitic events in the past few days have troubled me deeply, including one direct, personal experience with antisemitism. My opinion on the majority of Quebecois' respect for minorities as being nonexistent has been reinforced exponentially.

Story 1. "Jews Control the Media," says ignorant Quebecois.

Yesterday afternoon, I was meeting a pair of Quebecois (Harper's definition of Quebecois) acquaintances at a cafe to talk business. For about 45 minutes we were relaxing around the table, talking about potential contracts and advertising. The woman in the duo was pretty focused, and when she talked it was clearly relevant to the discussion. When the guy spoke, he kept going off into tangents (somehow it was essential to share his interest in the old Mission Impossible television shows).

In spite of the pointless asides, the discussion was moving forward.

Then, out of nowhere, the guy made a 180 degree sweep with his head, checking that nobody besides myself and his partner were in earshot. He leaned in and told us that the Jews control the media, which explained, he said, why you couldn't get the news that mattered from the media. He mentioned how it had been done in France, with the Jews placing a number of them in the high ranking management positions. He fixes his posture and continues, saying something about the CRTC. (With the background noise, I can't hear it properly.)

(As he's saying all this, I'm feeling my blood starting to boil and my brow getting sweaty. Somehow I'm controlling myself from exploding and lashing out at this incredibly ridiculous, patently false and slanderous assertion. But I'm iiiitching to answer back...)

At first I was shocked and in disbelief at what I was hearing, thinking perhaps I hadn't understood. So I tried to suss him out and have him explain what he meant. Perhaps sensing my anger, he nuanced himself to say that of course it wasn't that all Jews controlled the media, but they had gotten a lot of their people into the important positions.

"Je suis juif," I said, expecting him to turn purple. He tells me he doesn't have a problem with that and says something about how it's not all the Jews who control the media.

To make a long story short, I ended up
  • pointing out some basic facts,

  • telling him that I'd never heard such a filthy antisemitic thing in my life (being tactful enough not to call him an antisemite himself, though that's certainly what I felt),

  • adding that furthermore, he was associating with Nazis old and new, plus antisemites of all sorts and all politics by saying Jews control the media, and that

  • cutting the meeting off moments later
  • .

Amongst the things I pointed out were that (a) Jewish people don't control the media in France, nor the CRTC here in Canada. That (b) if we did, there'd be no chance that a network like al-Jazira that plays pro-terrorist videos, antisemitic propaganda and so on would have gotten a license for Canadian distribution. (c) Further to (b), reports on Israel and Jews and "accomodements raisonnables" would be much more balanced.

Somewhere in there I also pointed out the crucial fact that for his far-fetched theory of media control and disinformation to be even mildly coherent, all the Jews in the media world would have to have the same [right-wing, in his theory] views. Not only is there diversity of thought (can you imagine??), but people in the media tend to be left-leaning, and that also goes for Jews.

2. "Pay $10,000 to someone who violated your freedom of religion," says Quebec Human Rights Commission. "I agree," says Andre Boisclair.

So that was one antisemitic event that got under my skin this week. Now, as you may have heard, the debate on "accomodements raisonnables," or reasonable accomodation of minorities' religious practices, is all the rage here in Quebec.

Literally. La Presse's "letters-to-the-editor" editor recently wrote about how the huge majority of mail he's been reading is saying that reasonable accomodations have gone too far. Reading some of those letters, it's evident that the Pure-Laine Quebecois are reeally ticked.

Now the whole issue's been flipped on its head. The Quebec "Human Rights" Commission is telling the Jewish General Hospital that it should pay $10,000 to an ambulance driver by the name of Yvon Verreault for asking him to eat his lunch elsewhere. Verreault's spaghetti wasn't kosher (kosher-ness, or kashrut, is determined by Jewish dietary laws written in the Torah, or what Christians call the Old Testament). For the hospital to maintain its kosher ceritifications, it has to ensure that some designated eating areas follow the laws of kashrut.

As the Suburban puts it so accurately in "More Intolerance":

Ironically, by siding with Verreault, the commission is going against the very reasons why the hospital came into being, to fight discrimination. It wasn’t so long ago that Jewish doctors were not allowed to practice in hospitals in Montreal. That’s why the city’s Jewish community raised the money to build their own institution, and did so in 1934.

Now, for some bureaucrat confused about the role of the Quebec Human Rights Commission (protecting them, not attacking them) to say something like that isn't altogether shocking. Like I said, a large swath (probably the majority, IMHO) of French-Canadian society is openly hostile to Jews. But for the leader of the Parti Quebecois to say he agrees??? Looking back, I now remember blogging about how the separatists were bad news.

3. "Teach Kids Religion," says Quebec Ministry of Education.

Finally, in yet more high-quality news coverage by the Suburban, Tommy Schnurmacher lets the English-reading population know that the Ministry of Education is forcing religious education back into schools. As Tommy writes:

"We are not dealing with a single course that’s an overview of world religions.

We are not talking just theory.

We are talking about hands-on participation in mandatory class projects on Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and, of course, aboriginal spirituality."

"It also forces schools to teach religious views which are anathema to their own beliefs.

Devout parents, be they Jewish or Muslim, may not wish to see their children drawn into another belief system that, in many cases, is a direct negation or contradiction of their most deeply held beliefs."


"As part of the pilot project at the Solomon Schechter Academy, kids were taken to visit a nearby church where they were addressed by the priest who taught them about Christianity.

I heard about this visit from a concerned parent who only found out about the trip after the fact.

His nine-year-old son said he had not wanted to go, but had been told by his teacher that he had to. [Lecentre: Doesn't speak very highly of the teacher, incidentally, if he/she can't use a little judgement and let the kid out.]

In other words, he was forced to enter a house of worship against his will.

This is not freedom of religion. This is forced religion.

Now, if you know anything about Quebec society, the civil service is French. That may not be politically correct, and I'm certain there are some solitary anglos with desk jobs, but the reality is that our government's day-to-day affairs are run by Quebecois. Which brings me back to my main point: most of Quebecois society is deeply intolerant.

(As an aside, has anyone else noticed that the outrage tends to be at its highest when its a case of reasonable accomodation involving Jewish people, yet when Muslims are involved, the accomodation is considered fine and dandy? My theory is that those Quebecois showing their intolerance know that the accomodations being given to Muslims AND to Jews are fine, but it's an excuse to be antisemitic in a socially acceptable way, so why not?)

Others discussing the reasonable accomodation debate:

Multiculturalism under attack
Adam Daifallah on Herouxville's code (scroll down)
Racism v Reasonable Accomodation

Here's some on Quebecois Antisemitism and Racism
A piece reflecting my sentiments on Quebecois Nationalism and Racism
A survey where 59% of Quebecers (note, not only Quebecois were polled, though I'm sure their percentage was up there as well): 59% of Quebecers say they're racist.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

French Apathy Towards Iran: Remember the Basij?

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It's no secret that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. It seems to me that French sources tend to be a large source of apathy and even sympathy towards Iran, besides that regime's traditional support from other admirable countries like China and Russia. Two anecdotes come to mind in particular:

Soon to be ex-President of France Jacques Chirac recently came out on record with an appalling complacency towards Iran getting the bomb. Chirac essentially said that there was no big deal about Iran acquiring nukes because if they tried to shoot one at Israel they'd be destroyed themselves moments later. Not only is this disgusting coming from the President of a country that closely collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust, but it shows amazingly poor understanding of Iran's leadership.

During the Irak-Iran war that lasted from 1980-1988, Iran sacrificed tens of thousands of children to clear Iraki minefields . They were known as the Basij, or Basiji. (See also MEMRI's Inquiry and Analysis Series on Basij Week, as well as Global Security's piece on the Basiji.) Ahmadinejad glorifies the Basij and associates himself and the regime with them at every opportunity.

Does France's President actually believe hundreds of thousands of dead would deter the Iranian regime? Why would this time be any different? This isn't the Cold War: MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) isn't a viable theory against an enemy who isn't concerned about incurring casualties.

The second point about French inertia regards an article I read in La Presse, by the dogmatically close-minded, blindly anti-American and anti-Israeli left-wing writer Jocelyn Coulon. Coulon wrote about how Iran was daring to defy the US and Israel. The 'daring to defy' language gives a despicable regime the appearance of being some poor oppressed darlings. In addition, it obfuscated the fact that a nuclear-armed Iran would be
(i) against nuclear non-Proliferation, which movement the left started and continues to supports, and
(ii) in defiance of the UN, another institution the left considers absolutely crucial. I hate hypocrites.

Here's the text of another letter La Presse refused to print:

Jocelyn Coulon ne cesse de montrer à quel point la gauche tient un discours incohérent. Alors que Coulon n’hésite pas pour critiquer les Etats-Unis en matière de droits humains, il ne trouve rien à dire au sujet du bien pire rendement de l’Iran. L’Iran, meurtrière de Zahra Kazemi. L’Iran, qui appelle au génocide du people Juif et à la destruction d’Israel.

Ainsi, Coulon a de la misère à comprendre pourquoi on traiterait ce pauvre minou de régime de «démoniaque» et pourquoi on voudrait l’empêcher d’obtenir la bombe atomique. Par ailleurs, on m’a enseigné au CEGEP que la lutte contre la prolifération nucléaire était une lutte amorcée est soutenue par la gauche!

Le discours incohérent de M. Coulon, représentatif de la gauche moderne, est de ceux qui me maintiennent dans le centre, alors que j’ai bien des sympathies en matière sociale avec la gauche.

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