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FOR FAR LONGER than it was defensible to do so, the rabble and occupy elements of the opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper maintained the paranoid trope of an extreme and hidden agenda, whose Reform agents awaited the propitious moment to conquer the duped public by stealth. Eight years into the Harper Conservative era, it arrives as a historical irony – as well as a rebuke to an over laboured conspiracy – that the foremost reason to oppose Stephen Harper was also the reason many Canadians had tired of the Liberal Party of Canada. And that reason was the open contempt of the public shown by its government, a contempt whose exercise and underlying agenda was anything but hidden.
• Week of 03.11.2013 | “THE UNIVERSE IS EXPANDING”
How one video dragged Rob Ford into the dangerous world of gangsters | Conservatives condemn sex-selective abortion, assisted suicide as party convention winds down | Fifteen Tory motions to know about from the convention (and the Top Ten Conservative Motions that Didn’t Make it to the Floor) | New galaxy ‘most distant’ yet discovered | Recommended Article: Ben Franklin’s Daylight Saving Time Proposal Was Written as a Joke | Jailed Pussy Riot Member Missing Following Prison Transfer: Nadya Tolokonnikova’s relatives have had no contact with the jailed punk rocker for 10 days | 10-Year-Old Boy Discovers a 600 Million Year-Old Supernova | Music: Arcade Fire – “Flashbulb Eyes,” from the Album Reflektor | Hakimullah Mehsud, charismatic and ruthless leader of the Pakistani Taliban, killed by U.S. drone strike
ROUGHLY THREE YEARS ago, on a visit to the office of then Senator Consiglio Di Nino, I was shown a voting card signed by the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance members who on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 created the Conservative Party of Canada. Acknowledgement of this anniversary — ten years ago, exactly — was understandably absent from a voluminous Throne Speech which noted the approach of several other anniversaries, including Confederation and both World Wars.
SENATOR PATRICK BRAZEAU was again in the news this week and, as is so often the case, for ignoble reasons. After a report emerged revealing that he holds the title for most-missed days of Senate business, Brazeau took to Twitter and called the reporter who had written the story, Jennifer Ditchburn, a bitch.
His outburst (for which he eventually apologized, while trying to explain that he had personal circumstances that prevented him from being present in the Senate) will likely re-open the never-quite-closed debate over the Senate and its legitimacy as a patronage plum. Brazeau’s career is a good illustration of the Biblical maxim “The race is not to the swift,” and his habitual partisan rowdiness on the Internet does make one wonder if the upper chamber retains any hope of the dignity which is — at least in principle — its chief recommendation.
With little more than a pretty face and a modelling CV, the university drop-out Patrick Brazeau threw himself into aboriginal politics, joining the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, or “CAP,” just in time to inherit the position of President from the retiring Dwight Dorey. Brazeau well understood the art of political maneuvering. The Assembly of First Nations, under then National Chief Phil Fontaine, had by the mid-2000s cultivated a close working relationship with the federal Liberals. Paul Martin and Phil Fontaine, for example, were on especially good terms.
Brazeau shrewdly manipulated his niche of opportunity — the plentiful non-status, off-reserve aboriginals situated beyond the AFN’s mandate — and aggressively courted the federal Conservative Party of Canada. It was a shrewd move. Stephen Harper needed some aboriginal allies, and Brazeau needed funding and a political ally in Ottawa. Within three years, “National Chief” Brazeau (a title whose adoption turned the rival AFN leadership a lovely hue of purple) had the prospect of collecting a generous CAP salary concurrent with a Senate income.
Having absorbed the disappointing news that it was one or the other, Brazeau dispossessed himself of the weighty charge of national leadership and focused on moving on up to the East Block. Those of us who were around and paying attention will recall him cruising the nation’s capital in his Porsche SUV (purchased used, he pointed out) as local media reported some questionable CAP expenses, allegations of sexual harassment and, later, tardy child-support payments.
Brazeau has long been unpopular in Indian Country, where news of the sort summarized above travels swiftly. A more cautious fellow, having found himself in Brazeau’s blessed situation, would keep his head down, lest he risk his extraordinary good fortune. The Senator, however, never misses an opportunity to stir it up.
When his actions bring disrepute to an entire institution, as in this instance they have, a line is crossed. Patrick Brazeau owes an apology to his colleagues. He might also consider spending less time on Twitter (or, better yet, no time) and more on matters of substance. The Senate ought to be a place for grown-ups, and for debate, deliberation, and broad vision. Leave the antics to others, Mr. Brazeau.
IT’S NOT EXACTLY courage-forming to see the ideologues of the Conservative Party of Canada once again lining up for a one-way ticket — this expense to be drawn from the public purses of the provinces and territories — to the fantasy island of Getting Tough on Crime. By my count this is at least the third and maybe the fourth attempt to enact mandatory minimum legislation, previous bills having been put to rest (as often occurs) at the end of a parliamentary session.
OVER THE PAST few years I’ve had some off-the-record discussions with senior federal bureaucrats and politicians, folks who are in a position to know of what they speak. In such company the prospect of the politically practicable invariably rises to the river’s surface, through implication or, more often, inferences. Here the word “inference” alludes to the immovable fact that even in those cases where the spirit is willing, the flesh is bound to cabinet confidence and other such protocols of discretion. Hearing what I’ve heard, and seeing what I’ve seen, I’m not at all surprised by the outcome of the recent Crown-First Nation Gathering in Ottawa.