David McLaren
NOC Featured Blogger
Published: Saturday 21 June 2014

The boy followed the old man along the road that wound up from the city. He had to run sometimes for the man was old but he was strong, and the axe the boy carried was heavy. At least they were above the sting of the tear gas that still hung heavy in the streets below. But they were not above the wood smoke that even now partly obscured the Parthenon. The winter of 2013 in Athens was not the coldest on record, not as cold as it was when I camped out on a boat in the Piraeus harbour so many Christmases ago. But it was cold enough for people to burn things. The city was swept of bits and pieces of scrap cardboard and wood, and now the elderly were breaking up their furniture. In November, the government had jacked upthe tax on heating oil 450%.Along with Greek tables and chairs, the Greek economy was pretty much in ashes. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund were keeping the country from burning to the ground by pouring money on its economy. The price for their beneficence? An austerity regime of tax hikes and draconian cuts to government jobs and services.In the winter of 2013, so few could afford to buy heating oil, that the government lost revenue on its sales. And the air in Athens turned black with burning wood.Who knows how it got so bad? Credit default swaps hid the real economy. ...

Published: Sunday 27 April 2014

Sally’s choice was this: either pay the heating bill or fix her car. She chose the car because without it she couldn’t get to work, and if she couldn’t get to work, she wouldn’t be paid. Sally is a personal support worker making $15 an hour after a decade on the job. But today, on one of the coldest days in December, she’s walking the picket line, on strike for a better deal. She’s not sure how long she can afford to do this because, while she’s on the line, she’s making $0 an hour.Katie’s been working been working for fast food chains for over a 15 years. She’s now the afternoon shift manager at a big multi-national and earning a dollar more than minimum wage. She’s got two children in school and she’s in debt to a pay-day loan company. She tells me she might go back on social assistance. At least that way she’ll be able to see her kids.Charlie wrecked his back dragging rock out of a limestone quarry. The doctor at the ER said he should rest it for at least 6 weeks. But that’s what’s left of the work season. There’s no union at the quarry, so no benefits, no time off if he’s sick, no one to back him up if his boss tells him to do something dangerous. So he does what he’s done for the last week. He drags himself out of bed, downs an OxyContin with his coffee and waits for his buddy to pick him up.These are not their real names, but their work is real enough: low wage, part time, temporary work. If you’ve got a family to raise on that kind of work, it’s all guts and no glory. It’s soul crunching. It’s precarious work and it’s a plague that’s spreading. Half the jobs in Toronto are precarious. Almost 95% of the jobs created in Canada in 2013 were part time, ...

Published: Thursday 17 April 2014

It is an easy thing to dismiss Ford Nation.Here’s how Jeffery Simpson does it in the Globe and Mail: “[They and their leaders] prefer to lecture rather than reason, to posture as … the “people” against undefined but dangerous “elites,” and live in an intellectually self-contained world where curiosity is banished and slogans take the place of deliberation.”And he goes on: they’re tough on crime, yet revel in the Mayor’s misdeeds. They vote for fiscal prudence, yet support his imprudent and expensive Scarborough subway. They insist on personal responsibility, but let their own off the hook.To the elites, they are a mess of contradictions and political incorrectness. If he wasn’t an enemy of the state of Ford Nation before, he is now.You can hear the disdain, even in pollsters’ numbers: they earn in the lower regions of the 99% and almost half don’t graduate high school. They’re young (18-34) or old (over 55), and they live to the north and east in Toronto and here and there in rural Ontario.They account for 16% of Rob Ford’s support—and Tim Hudak’s and Stephen Harper’s.Mike Harris, with his “Common Sense Revolution” was the first conservative to court them. Stephen Harper has made a science of them. Rob Ford is them.Ford Nation loves it when their guys do things that aren’t elite-like: smoking crack cocaine for example, or squabbling with the liberal press, or being in contempt of Parliament. (Remember the Tory line? “It’s just the ...

Published: Thursday 23 January 2014

On Wednesday November 27th 2013, John Baird officially redefined Canada to the world as a corporate shill.Prime Minister Harper told Ed Fast, the Minister of International Trade after the 2011 election that he wanted Canadian foreign policy to focus on foreign trade. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s new Global Markets Action Plan is the result of that order. But it isn’t all that new—it’s been developing ever since Bev Oda scrawled “NOT” on CIDA’s funding approval letter to KAIROS.Actually it’s been developing a lot longer than that.In 1965, George Grant publishedLament for a Nation. In his eulogy for a sovereign Canada, he argues the Liberals got and held power by merging their political policies with the ambitions of corporate North America: “Liberalism is the perfect ideology for capitalism … even the finest talk about internationalism opens markets for the powerful.”For Professor Grant, John Diefenbaker was the last Canadian nationalist. Yes, he cancelled the Avro Arrow, a fighter jet ahead of its time. It was too expensive to build, largely because the US refused to buy any. But when the US pushed the Bomarc missile on him, he refused to arm them with nuclear warheads.It was a move mocked by the Liberals under “Mike” Pearson and booed by Bay Street. In the “Defence Election” of 1963, Dief was out and Mike was in. The Americans were happy and President Kennedy promptly sent over nuclear warheads for the Bomarcs.Mr Pearson was an ...

Published: Wednesday 31 July 2013

I’m looking at a map of northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire. It’s a pretty patchwork of colours in the shape of a crescent moon: deep sea-blue for Freewest Resources, orange for KWG, bright sun-yellow for Probe, grass green for Fancamp, sky-blue for the Freewest/Spider/KWG partnership. They are some of the thousands of claims staked by mining companies in the Ring of Fire—5,120 square kilometres in the water sheds of Hudson and James Bays and chock full of chromite, nickel, copper and zinc worth well over $100 billion. That’s a sizable chunk of boreal forest, itself a carbon sink of the order of the Amazon rain forest. Imagine you are on the shore of McFaulds Lake. You’re looking at trees and rock and muskeg—swampland—millions of acres of it. Turn around and you’ll see KWG’s base camp and maybe a drill or two pulling up core samples of chromite. Well why not? you ask. There’s nothing there. No so. It’s home for everyone from black flies to black bears to First Nations peoples, Cree and Anishinaabek, whose ways of life will be forever altered if and when all those pretty coloured claims become mines. Some people are growing impatient for those mines. Keith Hobbs, the mayor of Thunder Bay says “Everybody can get rich on this. … We’re tired of hearing, ‘It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.’ It needs to ...

Published: Friday 22 March 2013

 I come to bury Chavez, not to praise him. Barak Obama says he was authoritarian. And the President is an honourable man. John Graham, former ambassador to Venezuela says he couldn’t manage his own economy. And he is an honourable man. Stephen Harper says he was undemocratic. And he is a Right Honourable man. So are they all, all honourable men. And yet … Hugo Chavez gave people free education while others indenture their citizens. He put in place the most robust electoral system in the south. He narrowed the gap between rich and poor even while the gap grows wider in the north. Poverty, infant mortality, public debt—all cut by half. His will, shall I read you his will? It is simple. To the people of Venezuela he gives them their own country’s resources, and the money earned from their extraction. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar had Marc Antony to rehabilitate his reputation. His Richard III had no one. Shakespeare says the King was a murderer, a usurper, and a twisted tyrant. And Shakespeare was honourable man. But Tudor generals dumped Richard under a Leicester parking lot and Tudor historians heaped upon the ...

Published: Monday 25 February 2013

 The Ring of Fire. It sounds like something out of a Tolkien novel. Welcome to Mordor Ontario, an area of 5,120 square kilometres in the James Bay watershed chock full of nickel, copper, zinc, gold, palladium and chromium—especially chromium (the element at the centre of Erin Brockovich’s crusade).* The Lords of the Ring are some 30 exploration companies, such as KWG and Noront, who have staked over 31,000 claims. Cliffs Natural Resources from Ohio is the principle mining company. They’re after chromium, a vital ingredient in stainless steel. But others are coming in, including the Chinese state-owned Sinocan Resources Corp. The Crown, in this realm, has two heads—Stephen Harper and Kathleen Wynne. Ottawa has responsibility for some environmental oversight through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and Ontario collects royalties, or will, after the 10-year tax holiday it gives remote mines. In fact, Ontario’s mining tax regime is so generous, compared to other provinces, it amounts to a subsidy. (Throw in the oil sands and the Crown gives more money to mining companies than it spends on First Nations’ health, education and housing.) The federal government’s recent omnibus bills have so severely crippled the Crown’s environmental regulatory muscle that you might as well hang a sign on the north that says “(Ring ...

Published: Sunday 13 January 2013

 It is telling that the Idle No More movement started with four First Nations women—Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean who gave the first “Idle No More” teach-in. Sylvia McAdam is a lawyer, as is Tanya Kappo, who first tweeted #idlenomore. Perhaps they are of the “New People” of the Anishinaabek Seventh Fire prophecy. Perhaps they are of those who refuse to see themselves as victims, but rather as human beings with rights that are being eroded and responsibilities that need taking up, Time will tell, as it has told of past abuses and as it is telling of present wrongs.In 2007, Mr Harper gave the Kashechewan First Nation a choice. Either stay where they were put in 1957, or move to Timmins—stay in a place where you might get sick again from E-coli or lose your land and move to town. To become what? Beggars? Assimilated? The people suggested a third way and asked Mr Harper to move them upstream, to their original home. He refused. During the pomp and ceremony of Mr Harper’s apology to Aboriginal Canada for the Indian Residential School System, a First Nation’s commentator on the CBC radio said “at least it was well written.” (I think it was Mary Simon, but I can’t find the clip on the CBC website and queries have gone unanswered). It was her way of wondering if the apology was sincere and would ever lead to reconciliation. Perhaps she had seen this sort of thing before. Such apologies are cheaply made and dearly bought. They give only the appearance of reconciliation, because only equals can be reconciled. An apology is insincere if made to people abused, for ...

Published: Sunday 13 January 2013

 It is telling that the Idle No More movement started with four First Nations women—Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean who gave the first “Idle No More” teach-in. Sylvia McAdam is a lawyer, as is Tanya Kappo, who first tweeted #idlenomore. Perhaps they are of the “New People” of the Anishinaabek Seventh Fire prophecy. Perhaps they are of those who refuse to see themselves as victims, but rather as human beings with rights that are being eroded and responsibilities that need taking up, Time will tell, as it has told of past abuses and as it is telling of present wrongs.In 2007, Mr Harper gave the Kashechewan First Nation a choice. Either stay where they were put in 1957, or move to Timmins—stay in a place where you might get sick again from E-coli or lose your land and move to town. To become what? Beggars? Assimilated? The people suggested a third way and asked Mr Harper to move them upstream, to their original home. He refused. During the pomp and ceremony of Mr Harper’s apology to Aboriginal Canada for the Indian Residential School System, a First Nation’s commentator on the CBC radio said “at least it was well written.” (I think it was Mary Simon, but I can’t find the clip on the CBC website and queries have gone unanswered). It was her way of wondering if the apology was sincere and would ever lead to reconciliation. Perhaps she had seen this sort of thing before. Such apologies are cheaply made and dearly bought. They give only the appearance of reconciliation, because only equals can be reconciled. An apology is insincere if made to people abused, for ...

Published: Thursday 6 December 2012

 About a month ago, the Harper government dropped the first shoe of its new foreign policy—economic agreements with the 3rd world and China. The latter will be at our expense but it looks as though our agreements with developing countries will be at theirs. Canadian mining companies are implicated in dozens of cases of human rights and environmental abuses: Dorato Resources in Peru, Barrick Gold in Tanzania and New Guinea; Centerra in Kyrgyzstan; Excellon in Mexico; Hudbay Minerals in Guatemala. There are others. If the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement we signed with China is any measure, the agreements we are signing in Africa and South America will allow Canadian mining companies to run roughshod over other peoples’ rights and their ...

Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
“No matter how you look at it, Americans rebuked the GOP for its money politics, its race-based electoral tricks and its policies that favour the 1%.”

So the 2012 US election is over at last. Democrats won the White House and the Senate and the popular vote for both. They even won the popular vote for the House of Representatives—by half a million votes. But the GOP won the House because Republican governments at the state level spent the last two years re-drawing congressional district boundaries to favour Republican candidates. It seems Americans are in for more of the same legislative gridlock as before the election. How Congress deals with the looming fiscal cliff will be telling. If you look at the exit polls, the vote split along America’s fault lines: income gap, religion, and race. Mitt Romney won amongst white males (especially Protestants), but Obama won women voters, blacks and Hispanics. Race still matters in America. It matters so much that Republican governments in several states tried to suppress the black and Hispanic vote by purging voter lists and by passing laws reducing early voting hours or requiring voter ID. And now, to their credit, some Republicans are admitting the intention of those ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012

 My Dear Lord Raglan,I am but a few leagues from you and your great house at Usk and travelling westward. However, I regret to say that I am storm-stayed in a small village on the border of Gloucestershire and here I must rest, for the coachman refuses to challenge the hurricane that howls about the public house in which we sought refuge late last night. I am entrusting this letter to one who must ride to Usk today in order that you might be apprised of my delay and to tell you of a most extraordinary encounter.As I wrote to you last month from my office at the Times of London, I have with me a phonograph cylinder of Lord Tennyson reading his famous Charge of the Light Brigade, made just this year, and another, blank cylinder, on which I propose to record your thoughts concerning that engagement and indeed, the whole of the Battle of Balaclava—that most dreadful encounter with the army of Tsar Nicholas. My editors could not think of a more appropriate way to mark the 40th anniversary of that fight than to interview the grandson of the commander of the British forces in the Crimea.But to my extraordinary encounter. Last evening, by the glow of the publican’s fire, I was browsing through a yellowing copy of the Illustrated London News from 1855. It was a fortuitous discovery because the issue contained Roger Fenton’s famous photographs of the Crimean War. Although not of the editorial quality of The Times, I spent a most pleasant hour browsing through the pictures in that publication. Embraced by the warmth of the hearth and the whisky I had been served, my chin fell upon my chest and the paper slipped from my hands.“Do thee want truth of that photograph there, guv’nor?”

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
“If China doesn’t like something we do to protect our environment or our health, it will sue us … not in open court, but in secret arbitration.”

 I am a veteran of the free trade battles of the 1980s and I’ve got the political scars to prove it. NAFTA’s been in effect for some 18 years now, but I still don’t know whether it’s a good deal. I do know that of the 16 trade disputes we launched under NAFTA, we’ve lost every one. US companies, however, have won most of theirs and they’ve taken home $170 million of our money in compensation. So when I look at the deal our PM signed with China in September, I worry. And you should too. If China doesn’t like something we do to protect our environment or our health, it will sue us … not in open court, but in secret arbitration. An example is needed. Let’s say a Chinese company wants to set up a huge windfarm in Grey and Bruce Counties and they meet all our governments’ existing criteria. You and your municipality don’t like where the windmills are going, or their numbers, or how the company does business. (China, by the way, is a major manufacturer of wind turbines now, and under this agreement, it has no obligation to use turbines we build, or to hire locally.) So your municipality passes a bylaw that blocks construction. The Chinese consider that to be an action disallowed by the Agreement. The company sues Canada under the Agreement’s dispute arbitration provisions. You lose. Canada and maybe even your municipality are on the hook for millions of dollars in compensation and the company gets to go ahead and put up its turbines anyway. It’s called the Canada-China Foreign Investment ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
“What’s going on in America right now is a coup by any other name. It’s time President Obama took a page or two from the counter-insurgency tactics of President Roosevelt.”

 They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?—“Brother, can you spare a dime?” E. Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney, 1931 In the summer of 1933, General Smedley Butler (ret) sat in the otherwise empty dining room of the Bellevue-Stratford in Philly and tried not to let his jaw drop on the tablecloth. Gerald MacGuire sat across from him and spoke quietly about what it was that JP Morgan and Irénée DuPont wanted the General to do. They wanted him to lead an army of veterans against the government of the United States. They wanted FDR and his New Deals gone and they had the money and the influence to do it. They would force the President to appoint Butler Secretary of General Affairs and “persuade” Roosevelt to take a back seat to their agenda. “You’ll see,” said MacGuire. “They’re organizing things right now.” And lo and behold, a few weeks later, the press announced the creation of an influential but secretive group called the American Liberty League. Most of the money came from Irénée DuPont. Most of the influence came from JP Morgan, J Howard Pew, President of the Sun Oil Company, and Alfred P Sloan, head of General Motors. General Butler was no great fan of government either. But he was a patriot. And when the Congressional Committee on Nazi Propaganda and Un-American Activities ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
“Among us there are some, both mad and bad, who pick up the threads of political discord and act in ways that unravel the social fabric and test our national character.”

The gun is now a part of Canadian politics. Richard Henry Bain killed one person and injured another at the PQ rally last Wed night. He was ill, it seems, and a recluse, like many of those who suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically erupt into violence. It’s tempting to leave it there, at the feet of a mad man. But, like so many other, similar mad men, Mr Bain has tapped into something deeper and darker in our national psyche. Some old business we’ve left unfinished. He’s English, and when he yelled “the English are waking up” he tainted the next four years of politics in Québec. We must be careful that the blood he spilled does not stain us in ‘the rest of Canada’. I remember, now, my last visit to Québec. I chatted with two students from the Université de Québec about the federal election. The conversation was polite—not the sycophantic politeness that makes you cringe. It was a respectful courtesy—discourse without rancour or rhetoric. It was pure Canadian curtesie, to use the old English word, politesse to use the French … tough stands argued bravely, with honour and a smile.  Their wit and their charm were disarming, and typically Canadian. Is it still true? It’s only been a year. Have the hate-filled politics of our neighbour to the south finally infected us? Among us there are some, both mad and bad, who pick up the threads of political discord and act in ways that unravel the social fabric and test our national character. But whenever ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“There are ways to spur economic development. Some of them have been recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, others inaugurated by First Nations themselves.”

In John Milloy’s A National Tragedy, there are before and after photographs of an Aboriginal boy. In the before photo, his hair is long. He is dressed in buckskins and beads and posed against a buffalo robe. He is as he was when as he came to the Regina Indian Industrial School. In the after photo, he is beside a potted plant looking as though he could have stepped into Eton with his short hair and neat uniform. Even his name has changed—to Thomas Moore, after a particularly rakish Irish poet popular in regency England, perhaps. But his eyes tell a different story. They have not changed and they say more of what has been guarded than what has been lost. The after photo does not have the effect the administrators of the Indian Residential School System had hoped for. It is not a picture of transformation from savage to civilized. It is a parody of the whole colonial project. Parody is what comes of applying our very Western European ideas to peoples with cultures very different from ours, as the culture of Turtle Island most certainly is. Residential schools with hunters planted in rows like radishes. Houses with tissue paper walls—suburbs on muskeg. Prisons bursting with Aboriginal people being ‘rehabilitated’—sweat lodges behind bars. “Sell a country? Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?” said Tecumseh to William Harrison. “Didn't the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?” “We have a different understanding,” said Red Jacket to a young missionary come to civilize the Seneca. “To you the Creator has given the book; to us He has given the land.” Or, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who knows better than most that belief is the bayonet point of the colonial project) says, “When they arrived, we ...

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“The International Joint Commission is charged by both US and Canadian governments with managing water diversions in and out of ten lake and river systems that dare to cross the border without a visa or VISA.”

 Living on a First Nation and looking across the boundary line is a little like looking through the wrong end of a telescope—your field of view is wider, the picture is clearer, and Canada looks a lot further away than it really is. People who have lived on a reserve will know what I mean. For those who haven’t, well Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore; although which side of the boundary is Oz depends a great deal on which side of the line you’re standing. It’s a perspective you can’t get anywhere else in the country, and it’s wonderfully useful for examining the workings of Canada and the US. Take the IJC for example. The International Joint Commission is charged by both US and Canadian governments with managing water diversions in and out of ten lake and river systems that dare to cross the border without a visa or VISA. The IJC was formed because, in 1900, the Army Corps of Engineers built the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to link Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River System. The level of the Upper Great Lakes dropped precipitously and someone said, “Oops, perhaps we should have talked to Canada first.” And the IJC was born. The IJC still carries the Corps’ can-do attitude. It can suggest ways of managing the Great Lakes, but now all the parties have to agree before they do it. However, it’s still not very good at dealing with the consequences. For example, it obtained agreement that the St Clair River should be dredged to make room for ocean going “salties.” The big ships brought all kinds of invasive species that are rapidly changing the food cycle in the water column and wreaking havoc with the fisheries. To examine dropping water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan, the IJC formed the Upper Great Lakes Study Group. The scientists who undertook the ...

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
“This small, one story embassy on the ground floor of an apartment building is besieged because some guy leaked a lot of embarrassing information. He hasn’t even been charged with anything.”

What is it that’s making governments in the West so afraid of information? Britain has platoons of police surrounding Ecuador’s embassy in London lest Julian Assange tries to make a break for it. The PM is threatening to storm the place—an act of war by the way. Not that Ecuador would win, but still. It’s positively Kafkaesque. This small, one story embassy on the ground floor of an apartment building is besieged because some guy leaked a lot of embarrassing information. He hasn’t even been charged with anything. There are no reports of harm to secret agents; no military objectives compromised. But a lot of thuggish back-room chicanery (not to mention war crimes by our side) has come to light. Maybe that’s why the US has a secret indictment signed, sealed and waiting for his delivery. Our own government is not nearly so dramatic. But it is just as paranoid. Mr Harper has cut the long-form census. He’s axed the world-class Experimental Lakes Area. He’s muzzled our scientists. He sees no data, hears no data and speaks no data on everything from crime to climate change to the cost of jet planes. The demos in democracy is you and I. If our governments can’t be transparent, if they are so afraid of scrutiny that they suppress or process or dismiss what we, the people, should know then it falls to you and I with help from whistleblowers like Julian Assange. 

Published: Wednesday 4 July 2012
“Nuclear power plants are obliged to store their used fuel bundles on site—in pools for ten years, and then in dry storage containers.”

 At the beginning of everything, the Navajo were shown two yellow powders. One they could use—it was maize pollen. The other they were told to leave in the ground. That was oxidized uranium.No one talks of “clean” nuclear energy anymore, not when you consider the whole fuel cycle.Early mining in the NWT rendered Deline a “village of widows” because of the high mortality rate of Dene men who worked, unwarned and unprotected in the uranium mines.The same thing happened to Navajo in the southwest US. Their ancient lands have been devastated by uranium mines, turning their creation story into apocalyptic prophecy.Contamination during the operation of a nuclear plant is a constant concern. And the spent fuel from the core of a nuclear reactor is high level nuclear waste. It takes a million years (give or take a few millennia) before it’s safe to stand beside.So why do four municipalities in southwestern Ontario want to be the nuclear waste capital of Canada?Fourteen other communities—11 in northern Ontario and 3 in Saskatchewan are also in the running. But Brockton (Walkerton), Saugeen Shores, Huron-Kinloss and Central Huron are all inside a 4-hour drive from London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, Toronto and the US border. One community in the same area, Kincardine, has already agreed to take

Published: Wednesday 27 June 2012
JP Morgan lost $2 Billion but no body on Wall Street seems to mind. Maybe the best way to understand that news story is by remembering a very old story …

Once upon a time in a distant land, a miller boasted to his king that his daughter could spin straw into gold. Intrigued, the king locked her up in a roomful of straw and told her, “If you can spin this straw into gold by morning, you shall be my queen. If not, you shall die.”The poor girl was at her wit’s end. She could barely spin wool, let alone straw, let alone into gold. Around midnight, a little man snuck into her room and asked, “What will you give me if I spin this straw into gold?” She gave him her necklace. By morning, when the king came to check on things, he found a room full of finely spun gold.But, he didn’t get to be king by playing fair, so he locked the poor girl up a second night. Again the little man came and this time she gave him her ring. And again the little man spun a room-full of gold. And again, the greedy king locked her up for a third night.This time, when the little man came around, the poor girl had nothing to give him. The little man said he would still help her—on the condition she swore to give him her first born child as a death pledge or, in the language of the land, a ‘mort-gage.’She agreed and again the little man spun all the straw in the room into gold thread. The king took the gold as his dowry and made the girl his queen and they lived happily ever after—until the day of the birth of her first child.The little man came back for the mort-gage. The queen wept and ...

Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
“Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?” With those words Republican Senator Joe McCarthy set off a 10-year witch hunt in the US for just about anyone whose political colour was a redder shade of pink.

“Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?” With those words Republican Senator Joe McCarthy set off a 10-year witch hunt in the US for just about anyone whose political colour was a redder shade of pink. He was finally censured by the Senate but not before he ruined a lot of lives and dealt a body blow to democracy in the USofA. Whenever I came across the old news reels of that time, I thanked God I didn’t live in a country that would permit that sort of bigoted, callow, scape-goating attack on its own citizens. I can’t say that anymore. In the House Finance committee, a week or so ago, MPs were hearing expert testimony on the impact of Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Bill. Randy Hoback is a member. He’s the Conservative  MP from Prince Albert Saskatchewan, which is not far from Tommy Douglas’s old riding. Hoback attacked the credibility of United Steel Workers economist Erin Weir by demanding, “Have you or have you ever been a member of the NDP party, or are you presently a member of the NDP party?” Clearly Hoback is not as eloquent as Joe McCarthy was, and so he blunted his own attack. But his demand resounds like a siren. Was it a question of his own making? Or was it one that the Prime Minister’s Office put in his mouth? Not that it really matters ... for it begs another, more important question. What are we becoming that a democratically elected Canadian can even ask such a thing, and in such a manner, in the heart of our Parliament. 

Published: Friday 1 June 2012
The idea of a free education which has deep philosophical and political roots in France and Québec? OK … but does it run deep enough to pull thousands of young Québecois into the streets week after week?

What are we to make of 100 days of mayhem in Montreal? Étudiants en grève—students on strike. Coddled kids with a mistaken sense of entitlement? Yes there’s some of that. But if it were just that, the strike would have fizzled out long before now. The idea of a free education which has deep philosophical and political roots in France and Québec? OK … but does it run deep enough to pull thousands of young Québecois into the streets week after week? Ah-ha! The unions have hijacked the demonstrations. The Québec unions are there alright, and they’re a lot bolder than their English cousins. But the people on the streets were … and are … students. Dial down the diatribes for a bit and what do the streets of Montreal look like? They look like Toronto or Seattle during a G20 meeting. They look like Occupy Wall Street. We say we want the young engaged in the political process. But they’re young. Why are we surprised they engage in a way we don’t approve of? Listen. Our sons and daughters, in Québec this time, are trying to tell us something. Their leaders are articulating it even if we, in English Canada, can’t hear them. No jobs in the future. No money in the money bank. No food in the food bank. Dishonest business leaders. Dishonourable political leaders. The house is burning down and the pumps don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles … to quote an old Bob Dylan tune from the sixties … except the real vandals are not the black-masked kids we see on TV. Mais c’est la vie, hein? (shrug) That’s way it is, eh? What can you do? But then, maybe that’s the problem. 

ABOUT David McLaren
David McLaren is an award-winning writer living at Neyaashiinigmiing on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. He has worked for government, in the private sector, with civil society and First Nations. He can be reached at http://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/.
Follow David McLaren via RSS
Make your voice heard.
Write for NationofChange
The United States can be an exceptional place.   Where else can a talking United States military...
For those of us interested in understanding what is driving the conflict in Ukraine, now seriously...
Information transference has never seen a brighter age in our society. Now with the help of...
The world can be a disheartening place. You turn on the news and hear about the economic turmoil in...
Online classes have become omnipresent in college course catalogs, allowing students to learn from...
You’re an HR professional, which means you’re charged with putting together employment offer...
Before 2008, real estate was the way to make great profits. Between 2008 and 2014, the stock market...
Part I - Rationalizations With the Israelis once more inflicting collective punishment in Gaza (a...
Remember the film Jaws? Remember how the whole town was affected by the presence of the predatory...
What would a psychiatrist call this? Delusions of grandeur? US Secretary of State John Kerry, July...
Part I - Dogmatists in the Justice System Scattered throughout the ranks of U.S. federal...
For many, Australia is all about Melbourne, The Great Barrier Reef and Sydney. While these are...
There you are, ready for a business pow-wow, in front of a glittering, glimmering office complex,...
If you run a small business that doesn’t mean that you can’t think big. In fact, when you think...
Tea Party politicians don’t like people who are out of work. In Congress and in campaigns they...