Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Minority Report

Okay, quite possibly the cheesiest title I've ever used for a collumn, but it's apt. Canada has become obsessed with minorities; two kinds of minorities, specifically, and both of them are political.

About three years ago we got our first taste of decent, moderate government in a very long time when we elected a minority liberal party into office; when it was revealed that the liberals had run an elaborate "screwing taxpayers" program for several years, we booted them out of office and elected a conservative minority. Neither government has been bad for the country, which is a new and interesting result which caught many a Canadian off-guard.

For the first time in two decades the government is accomplishing things; the face of the country is changing. There is actual progress - which is supposed to be the mot d'ordre in a democratic society but which has been sorely lacking in ours for a very long time. The reason for this is that our parliamentary system allows a majority party virtual dictatorship of the country - there is no hope of genuine opposition or discussion when a majority government presents a bill; it's rammed through without hesitation or consideration. Minority governments are different; discussion and opposition are natural and constructive elements in such governments and our entire country is better for it.

So we've decided that we like it, and we'll probably get another minority government when the feds call their election this summer. In fact, we like the results so much that, on monday, for the first time in over a hundred years Québec will find itself with a minority provincial government. Hopefully that might bring an end to the unpleasantly stagnant state of la belle province's legislature.

Which brings us to the second Minority which has Canadians obsessed of late; visible minorities. It seems, lately, that if you aren't white and christian, and you have a complaint, well all you have to do is whine a bit and a politician will be there to pander to your needs. It is insulting that equality is no longer viewed as equality under the law but rather as different social groups bowing to each others' practices in an attempt to avoid offending them.

Minority politics have invaded and they are devastating to the progress we've tirelessly pruned our majorities to achieve. Freedom of religion has poisoned the social discourse; it is one of two things (the second of which I won't deal with right now) in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that must be changed; what we need is Freedom from religion.

It's been stated in countless collumns and discussions all over this province and city, but I think it bears repeating: there is no Right to Comfort nor is there any Right to Freedom from Offence. If our steadily multiplying legislative minorities keep that in mind, we may yet see our way clear of the quagmire that the religious whiners have dragged us into.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Predictions for March 26th

It is fairly obvious at this point that, barring unforseen skeletons in a party-leader's closet or some other freak turn of public opinion, the election will yield a minority government (I'll have an in depth post about that soon enough), so here are the possible outcomes, in my opinion:

(Note that the following numbers are not representative of anything beyond my level of certainty)

Minority government: 95%
Liberal Minority: 70%
PQ Minority: 26%
ADQ Minority: 4%
Liberal Majority (yeah, unbelievable long shot): 3%
PQ Majority: 2%

So, come tuesday, I expect to see Charest half-smiling in the newspaper and I also expect to once again have proof that my riding is incorrigibly PQ.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Okay, can we all agree to just stop? Seriously, we have to stop. Alright, here's the public service announcement, then:

Everybody... Seriously... Stop.

This hijab debacle has seriously got the entire province's panties up in a knot and it's seriously disconcerting. In an attempt to help clear the air, I'm going to try to deal with both sides of the issue - or at least the miscommunications people seem to be having.

First, to those who would allow the hijab during a youth soccer tournament, I'll expound a few different points which may shed light on why myself and other rational-minded folk - leaving aside the plain old biggotted, "conform or leave" bunch - choose to oppose your rather vociferous outcry. Afterwards, I'll attempt to get into the other side of the argument and explain to those of my own position why sensitivity is a virtue.

Before I continue, I'd like to make one thing clear: I have no problem with anyone wearing whatever the hell they want on their heads, toes, knees or balls at any time of the day, my qualm over the hijab extends exclusively to this one issue.

When asked about the hijab question, the officials at FIFA simply stated that the rules already covered the issue and went about their business, at which point people starting kicking up a stink because the rule didn't specifically address 'headgear' when in fact, it had. The hijab is a danger to the player wearing it and therefore is prohibited, end of story; some cannot see how it is a danger, and that much boggles my mind. It is a scarf that wraps its way around a person's neck, in a game where - whether against the rules or not - children clutch and grab in the heat of competition.

Other reasons include the obvious: a uniform only promotes teamwork if everyone has the same one; rules are made that everyone follow, otherwise they'd just be guidelines, etc. I think the major source of dissent here, though, comes from something much more ineffable; people have become tired of saying 'yes' to everyone with a complaint - more specifically, people have become afraid of losing the power to say 'no' through the only means they have: the democratic process.

Indeed, some fear it's already been lost; they are willing to try to get it back and they'll fight the battle on any front that'll do, even one so trivial as a young soccer player's hijab.

On the other side of the argument, there is the question of equality and freedom of religion/culture (I include culture as it seems that the further this question is pushed, the further the argument gets from one that is exclusively religious). These are, if not founding, then at the very least fundamental values of our society, keystones of the Canadian way, as it were, and it is our duty to respect them as everything we have in this country rests on them.

On that point there is general agreement, and none of the dissent which I spoke of earlier, so I'll move quickly past it - noting only that it is an argument of merit - and on to the more ubiquitous, though slightly less meritous argument most used by those I've mentionned above, that is that "in their country, we would be expected to conform, why should it be different for them, here?"

This argument should not even have any air-time, ever; it is stupid and reactive and the answer to it is so painfully self-evident that I find it almost insulting to have to address it here. It should be different for them here because the countries they fled here from are run, for the most part by despotic, irresponsible, tyrannical and downright criminal governments and are themselves in worse shape than that. It should be different here because this country is better than those places. Our government doesn't demand "conformity or death," (which is, at its root, what some of these talibanesque regimes do demand) and it never will. We should not be looking to their mores to guide what is good and right in our own society.

The relative danger of the hijab is also in question; while I view it as a definite choking hazard, the fact that it's a thin fabric worn relatively tight to the head (and that I don't know exactly how it's fastened) would tend to lend credence to the argument that it isn't dangerous after all - though with all the safety hysteria parents were pumped full of these last twenty years, this is a rather peculiar time to start going soft.

In fact, that's what prompted this article; a journalist in this morning's paper accused the 'no-hijab' (as I'll call it, for now) side of attempting to hide their politicking behind soccer's safety regulations, and I will admit that there is a bit of that; there's a bit of cloaked politics on both sides of the issue. For the 'hooray-for-hijabs' side to jump in and say, "to hell with the danger, it's a small one and an acceptable risk," after years of trying to wrap every child in bubble-wrap screams agenda.

It's a roundabout way of saying it, but people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.