It’s Time To Take Back Our Canada


To those of us who are .. let’s say, pushing sixty or older. It’s a bitch. Every day, another wheel falls off, we need another new ‘script, and our everything hurts. So why are we still here, eh?

older canadians2It’s because we are needed. We have education, information, insight, perspective. We’ve seen history. We have assimilated what’s gone before, and we aren’t easily fooled.

We have the opportunity to change the direction that our current government has pursued. Canadians are a proud people, and we should be; the list of accomplishments in our history is lengthy and laudable. And yet we’ve remained modest and true to our values.

But, as Ralph Nader, a man who has seen Canada from both the inside and the outside, recently noted,

“When you’re modest, as a culture, you begin taking it for granted, and when the counter-attack comes, when the corporatists come in, and the militarists come in, you’re not ready. And I think that’s what’s happened to Canada in the last decade or so.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7ZvVEm5XU

Canada needs us now, not to be cynical or to brush aside the value and power of our voice or vote. It’s OUR time to rally the troops, to cast a jaundiced eye on the last decade, and to say, “Enough’s enough. This is not the Canada I love. This is not the Canada I want to leave to my heirs.

I’ve felt for some time that this is the most important election of my lifetime. Canada is at a crossroads. It could go either way. We’ve jumped into a war with the Middle East that’s done little but bring us to the attention of extremists, putting our country in jeopardy for the sake of an egotist’s photo ops.

tarsands before afterOur beautiful land has been raped and pillaged, sold to the highest bidder, and left ravaged. Our First Nations people, from whom we essentially rent the land, have been threatened and silenced as they have striven to honour the Earth, and keep the land and water safe for all of us.

The Trans Pacific Partnership, which the Harper Government has been so eager to sign, “effectively subverts and substitutes commerce over democracy, in all the signatory countries. It’s not about tariffs or quotas; It is a trans national autocratic system of government, a subordination of environment, labour and consumer rights to the supremacy of commercial trade. And they call consumer protection, and environmental protection, non-tariff trade barriers, that can be reversed by secret tribunals – not Canadian courts, not U.S. courts, special secret tribunals, whose judges are really corporate lawyers. “

It’s time – right now – to call a halt to corporate interests taking precedent over the rights of citizens and tax payers. We’ve enjoyed the best this country could give us. It’s time to show our politicians what made the Baby Boomers a force to reckon with. It’s time to take back our country.

We weren’t afraid when we stuck those flowers in the muzzles of soldier’s guns. We weren’t afraid when we grew our hair long, smoked pot, went to booze cans, and stood up to the cops. We can’t be afraid now, either.

young_vote_infographicWe need to inspire our kids and our grandkids, and show them that fear, prejudice, racism, xenophobia, austerity, and inaction are NOT what we stand for. We stand for a Canada –

strong and free, and unafraid.

We, who were privileged to shared in all the benefits past prime ministers have secured for us; the social safety nets for the vulnerable, the freedom to unionize without corporate interference , a respect for the land and each other, a health system once the envy of the world, now threatened by proposed cuts … we took all of that for granted. We can’t do that anymore. We need to stand up for our country and the values that made Canada the peacekeepers, the forward thinkers, and the envy of the world.

Let’s show the kids that their world doesn’t have to look like the Hunger Games, Canadian pitted against Canadian  ..  it can look like a Canada that values every citizen, and that looks to the future, without shrinking from what’s to come.

oh canada song

The Bare Necessities


(originally published August 8, 2015 – https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/roxanne-tellier-the-bare-necessities/ )

Happy Face RoxI woke up in a great mood this morning. With reason – the last few days have been filled with music and food and friends and more good food. I’m a simple person. My needs are few. Oh, I may grumble and stew and frown at times, but overall … I’m pretty much a human happy face emoji.

I fell off the career ladder at least a decade ago. These days, I can’t even manage the bottom rung. So, like so many others of my generation, I’ve got less work stress, but a heck of a lot more money stress. You take the good with the bad.

Not having a ‘real job’ means, unfortunately for those who read my columns, that I have a lot of time to spend on reading and researching and analyzing what goes on around the world. Not liking a lot of what I’m seeing, these days.

They say that time is money, but I don’t know that I’d make a very good rich person, no matter how I came by the moolah. Money’s pretty much useless once you’ve covered the basics, like water, food, shelter and clothing. After that, you have to make an effort to find things to spend on. It’s all relative. No shoes to new shoes is nice. No shoes to Louboutin’s is nice too, who doesn’t love a red sole? But shoes is shoes is shoes, really.

no shoesIn an ideal world, no one would go hungry or homeless. Sadly, our world is not ideal, largely because of a lack of empathy and a lack of will. If you see a homeless person begging for food, your empathic response may be mitigated by an inability or an unwillingness to help.

In an ideal world, people who amassed wealth would be spending their efforts and money on finding solutions to real problems, like inequality or climate change, rather than casting a gimlet eye on what others are doing with their bodies (and especially private parts,) that offends their senses. yoda offended

If what drives you to get up in the morning is a need to regulate other people’s uteri … get over yourself. If your face gets all red at the thought that there might be even one destitute person on welfare who’s using that whopping $25.00 a day to buy illegal drugs, you seriously need to re-consider calling yourself a Christian.

(Saddest of all – the average welfare payment in the U.S., at about $9,000.00 a year, is in the top 20% of all global income earners. That’s some pretty astounding inequality.)

California water not equalIn Friday’s closing monologue, Real Times’ Bill Maher talked about entitlement amongst the very wealthy, citing the Washington Post headline, “Rich Californians balk at limits: “We’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

“Now, I’m sure that the majority of very rich people have always been greedy and selfish, but, this crowd today takes it to a whole new level. Somehow it’s not enough to spend lavishly on themselves, they have to actively take from others;  their water, their benefits, the last bits of beauty in the world.

psychopathsIn his non-apology apology, Dentist the Lion Hunter used the word ‘legal’ over and over; what he did was ‘legal.’ Sure. Because the rich buy politicians to write laws to say that whatever they want, is legal. Like our elections now. More than half the money given to presidential candidates so far has come from just 400 families. Perfectly legal. But you know, for that kind of money, the rich shouldn’t just get to tell politicians what to do. I think they should get to hunt them. That would be the ultimate trophy to go with your trophy kill, and your trophy car and your trophy wife. What could be better than a trophy Republican’s head on your wall? Scott Walker’s eyes already look like cheap taxidermy, and Chris Christie’s leg would make a lovely umbrella stand. And if that sounds wrong, we’ll make a law that says it’s legal.”

The machinations of elections in the U.S. and Canada are in full swing. It’s interesting to see that the would-be leaders are more passionate about how they’d save the economy than bigger and more pressing issues like climate change and inequality. I believe neither issue was raised in the first presidential nominee debate, and in the Canadian debate, Harper could not have been more indifferent to aggressively tackling either.

No, the sexy issue on the table is ISIS. Fear mongering has replaced any pretense of responsible leadership. The horrors of potential terrorism on our own soil, as unlikely as being hit by lightning while in the process of cashing your winning lotto ticket, have superseded the harsh realities that we actually do live with every day. Draconian laws that take away our rights and freedoms; irresponsible spending of tax dollars on politicians’ egos, while our infrastructure crumbles; the very real consequences of ignoring climate change while forest fires rage in B.C. and severe drought in the Prairies threatens our breadbasket… Nope … let’s talk about terrorism, regardless of the facts that the odds are 1 in 20 million that you’ll be in a terrorist attack. Because … fear is a thrill, just like a roller coaster ride. rollercoaster fear

What successful politicians understand, beyond how to spend other people’s money, is the soft underbelly of the public. Capitalizing on what motivates every soul to get up and get through another day. As the great prize fighter Rocky Marciano once said, “Hit the heart and the head will follow.” We like to think we’re level-headed, intelligent people, able to logically decide who will next lead our country. But in all of our choices, there are really only two choices – the rational reason, and the real reason. And the real reason is always … fear.

sleazy sales dudePoliticians today work from the same Bible as super salesmen. Rather than have voters change their behaviour and opinions to adapt to their vision, they adapt to their constituents, learn their thought processes, and find out what keeps them awake at night. Sly, but effective.

Forget the separation of church and state, as important a concept as that may be. What we’ll hit ‘em with is fear. Fear that someone is doing something they shouldn’t be allowed to do, or that their home, family, religion, or money is under attack. And we’ll umbrella that message with a cry to patriotism, and a shout out to a God that is clearly always on our side. (He’s a multi-faced dude, that God.)    god on side

What that message means to every voter, whether in Canada or the U.S., is that the really important ‘things that really do happen and shouldn’t’ issues, are swept under the rug. Your odds of being in a terrorist attack are miniscule, but if you’re a First Nations youth, your odds of being fostered out from your family, or of your being arrested, are staggeringly high. In the United States, 49 percent of black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males have been arrested by the age of 23. There’s some day to day stuff I’d rather see addressed.

I’m all for protecting the country, but not at the expense of the freedom of those of us who live here, and who physically and financially support the country. There is something indescribably obscene about a Prime Minister who fills Parliament and the media with carefully controlled images of himself, at a cost of billions of taxpayers’ money, while 1 in 7 Canadians (4.8 million people,) live in poverty.

Any would-be politician who told the truth to the people, who straight up said, “hey, we’re in big trouble. The party’s over. Time to clean up the mess,” would never get elected. Carefully controlled and contrived issues aimed at election and re-election sweep the bigger, inevitable crises in the making further under the rug, to be dealt with, sometime, somehow, by someone other than themselves.

There’s no better way to describe this sort of pandering and lala land thinking than with Donald Trump’s words on ‘ObamaCare’ at the debate. “It’s gotta go,” Repeal and replace with something terrific.”

trump-quotes“Something terrific.” Nothing that actually exists, or that may even be possible to create, just “something terrific.” I’ll get my interns on that , stat.

Here’s the thing. Politics used to be about choosing a leader who was smarter, more informed, with hopefully a better grasp on their emotions than you have, and a driving need to improve the well-being of their country. Now it’s about galvanizing dispirited, frustrated voters with rhetoric and appeals to base fears, by politicians who regard spending time actually running the country as detrimental to their real job of getting elected and then re-elected. It’s hard not to see the ridiculous squabbles in Parliament and Congress as anything but an unruly classroom of bratty twelve year olds, killing time until recess.

And what that ends up creating is a country where millions of voters can’t even cover the basics, like water, food, shelter and clothing. We’re so busy fighting an imaginary enemy that we don’t see the real adversary right in front of us; apathy, and surrender to whatever distorted messages corporations and politicians funnel into our increasingly empty heads.    milk on head

It’s remarkable, really. From prosperity to austerity, from hope to despair, from security to nameless fear and dread. Quite a feat, when the most that the majority of us want to attain is a relatively bump free ride from birth to death.

I’ll take my bare necessities, seasoned with music, good friends, and the occasional delight of a delicious meal. And I’ll wash that down with a cold beer and a gratefulness for what I have.

John Baird – Bouquets and Brickbats


Political junkies were surprised and excited when rumours began that Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird would resign his position, effective immediately, and also resign as an MP, to take effect within days. Speculations as to woil prices cartoonhy, and especially as to why NOW, filled the mainstream and social media.

Was this the beginning of a Conservative meltdown, as oil prices tanked, the loonie dived, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sabre rattled and proposed new security measures accused of restricting civil liberties?

National Post columnist John Ivison speculated that there was a rift between Baird and Harper over Canada’s sanctions on the Russian government. Some wondered if being pelted with eggs and shoes by dozens of Palestinian protesters in January 2015 had shaken his resolve. (Activists from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party earlier called for a boycott of Baird because of Canada’s Baird Palestineperceived pro-Israel stance, and its opposition to a Palestinian bid to pursue war crime charges against Israel.)

Still others noted that, by not running in 2015, Baird also qualifies for his pension, of $100,00 per year, under an old rule, at age 55. Parliament increased the qualifying age to 65 years old but that policy only covers those who are elected or re-elected in 2015.

Or maybe it was just that, after two decades in public office, he’d simply decided it was time to seek other opportunities, possibly in the private sector. He is said to be finalizing two offers.

Mohamed FahmyOn Monday, Baird reported that Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is in jail in Cairo, would be released imminently, which would be his last diplomatic victory.

Although Baird’s stances were often provocative, even prompting Conservative colleagues to tease him of having a partisan nature, he was well liked by many in the other Parties.

“I quickly learned thoBaird resignsugh to make a difference, to really make a difference, you can’t be defined by partisanship, nor by ideology. You need instead to be defined by your values,” he said in his resignation speech.

Since being named foreign affairs minister in 2011, Baird has spoken out against controversial issues at home and abroad.

In 2012, he addressed a British audience on human rights, saying that Canada would not stand by while its “Commonwealth cousins” criminalized homosexuality and ignored other fundamental freedoms, including the rights of women, minorities, and the right to practice religion. Homosexuality is illegal in 41 of 54 Commonwealth member states.

child marriageIn 2013, Baird spoke at a United Nations session called “Too Young to Wed,” about child brides forced to marry. Baird said “It’s been felt that in some cultures, in some places, this was a social reality. And for the good of the conference, would I mind shutting up,” adding that forced marriage is “unacceptable” and can be ended within a generation.

But he’s made a few gaffes along the way – his request for gold-embossed business cards was outed and ridiculed. He was always on the move, traveled more often, and to more out of the way places than any Canadian foreign minister before him. To his credit, he traveled commercially, but some of his trips didn’t make much sense, and were thought to be a drain on taxpayer funds. He recently flew to Brazil for President Rousseff’s second term swearing in, and attended Persian Gulf conferences that were not important to Canada’s needs.

John BairdIn 2013, a scandal occurred when CTV News reported that Baird and six friends stayed for eight days at the official residence of Canada’s high commission to Great Britain, Macdonald House.

His diplomats were not fond of his frequent, high-maintenance visits. Apparently he wasn’t very fond of them either. In 2014, Baird quietly ordered his department to cut millions of dollars out of a foreign aid program and to call the cut a “surplus.” He blamed the cuts to the program on the bad performance of Canadian diplomats. Associate Deputy Minister Peter Boehm revised the figures in a May 13, 2014 memo, which read “per your instructions, $7 million was declared surplus.”

foreign aid surplusThe NDP Foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, felt the minister was being deceptive. “It’s what I would call a parlour trick, to make it appear like they’re sound fiscal managers, when in fact in this case, Minister Baird is trying to make people believe that his cut of $7 million is in fact a surplus. This is exactly the same thing that they did with regards to lapsed funding.”

Canada’s former Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, wrote  “The Conservative government has managed the austerity program launched in the 2012 budget with deliberate secrecy. They did not inform Parliament of the details of their spending plans…Austerity is difficult and they did not want to pay a political price for making difficult trade-offs…their strategy was to limit planning information to shut down debate and evade accountability.”

baird_IsraelDuring his time as Foreign Minister, his critics have also accused him of selling embassies and ­unflinching support for Israel, diminished backing for multi-lateral institutions and a “distinctly un-Canadian” stance on foreign policy.

However, he leaves behind many who say he played a large part in shaping Conservative foreign policy and personalizing Canada’s diplomatic relations with the international community

NDP MP Paul Dewar, his party’s foreign affairs critic, told Embassy that Mr. Baird brought the Conservative Party’s foreign policy “into the limelight.”

Canada in the world“John Baird made Foreign Affairs—for good or bad—relevant again within the Conservative government. Prior to that, it really wasn’t a portfolio that was important to the government because of the players involved. They didn’t have as much of an interest or an understanding of the role,” he said.

Harper has appointed International Trade Minister Ed Fast as the interim foreign minister.

Running On Empty


It’s minus -21C today – that’s 5 below zero in Fahrenheit – and it’s so cold my cats have cat I has a sadgone beyond being angry and have become despondent, either staring sadly into space or denying the existence of the world with their heads smacked up against a wall. I’m sitting at my desk, wrapped in a black flannel poncho, and wondering where I’ve left my fingerless gloves.

I sprang from my bed this morning, rested and brimming with ideas of ‘great social and political import,’ but instead of researching, I’m waiting for oatmeal to cook – this is not the sort of day you face on an empty stomach.

On days like this I am very grateful for the science and technology that allows me to stay warm. I’m over the moon that I can flip a switch and have light to see by, and flip another switch to start up my computer and read mail and messages from family and friends. I’m really pleased that I have warm clothing that just rests in my closet until I want to wear it, and I’m grateful for the closet being part of a house that has walls and a roof that keep out the worst of the cold.

Silly-HolidaysWe often take for granted what less fortunate people would consider luxuries. We set aside a day here and a day there to give lip service to the giving of thanks, the honouring of lovers, parents, veterans and a host of others to whom we see fit to throw a bone. “Here you go, secretaries. It’s not much, but we’re calling today National Secretary Day! As soon as you’ve read that card, I’ll have a coffee with two sugars. Thanks for being you!”

Our culture has moulded us into people that can never have enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re missing out on something – a new power drill, an iPhone6, a bigger or tidier home, a more luxurious car, vacations in the sun, and most importantly … money, money, money!

and then we'll get himEven though studies have definitively shown that those with heaps of money are not significantly happier than those with enough to comfortably cover their needs, we’re still told that it is only with the amassing of wealth that we can really be content.

In reality, rich people are not all tanning by their dollar-shaped pools while chatting casually with the men and women we’ve elevated to media stardom. They’re far more likely to be spending their time trying to get yet more money, in any way possible, and are probably more anxious and hostile than you are when trying to decide whether to go with a name brand tin of peas or the generic house brand.

Scrooge-PorpoiseBeing addicted to money is like being addicted to drugs; at first, a small amount gives you a buzz, but as time goes by, you need higher and higher doses to maintain the high. And if money is your drug, that upward spiral contains another component – a need to have more than anyone else, to have it all, regardless of whom it damages. Exorbitant, mindless wealth precludes empathy towards those who struggle to survive on minimum wage or government assistance.

“The peasants have no bread!” “Then let them eat cake,” tittered Queen Marie Antoinette. Her joke, rather than having them rolling in the aisles, soon had heads rolling from the guillotine instead.

That anecdote is likely only the fabrication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical, “Confessions,” but has been used ever since as a cautionary tale of the perils of great wealth and self-indulgence in the face of social unrest. One would think the lesson would be self-explanatory, but apparently the accumulation of wealth does not always translate to the accumulation of historical knowledge.

In Canada, we can point to arriviste Kevin O’Leary, who, with a net worth of US$300 million that the true 1% would consider pocket change, can’t seem to stop patting himself on the back. When he’s not crowing over his own wealth, he’s exhorting the poor of the world to pull themselves up by their socks – even if they don’t own any socks.

But of course, that’s the dream we’ve been sold since the Industrial Revolution. “Come, work for me, make me wealthy and I will share my largesse. You too can be like me, all you need do is work hard, save your money, and keep your nose to the grindstone.” And we bought it, for decades. We called it the Protestant work ethic, and called anyone who didn’t agree lazy and stupid.

scrooge silly pleasures“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–5 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (Wikipedia.org)

We forget that his essay was his observations on the Germany of his time, and not a ‘how-to’ manual. Weber considered himself agnostic. His argument was that Catholicism, with its emphasis on doing good works in the hope of eternal salvation, rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake, impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West.

Capitalism depends upon everyone in the society believing in the same goals. When the West had a booming middle class, there was room within the prosperity to dream of a country free of traditional constraints. We could reach out a hand to those who needed help, be they poor or infirm, or young or old. That sense of community resulted in government safety nets and a surge of infrastructure building that connected and included all of the people, regardless of their economic place.

North America looked at what they had wrought in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and found it good. Good enough to not make a priority again until it started to collapse around us.

glittering TorontoIt’s been decades since the roads and bridges and communities were put in place, decades in which the needs of the wealthy became more important in politics than the needs of the tax payer. In Toronto, once Canada’s most glittering city, our highways are clogged with commuters, while our transit system is woefully inadequate to shuttle workers from their homes to their jobs. The local politicians have been arguing about whether to tear down the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway since the 1990’s. And the majority of our subway system, which opened in 1954, is held together with patches and prayers.

business and politicsThere’s blame enough for everyone at this sorry state. Although we love to complain about ‘the system,’ every aspiring politician has to present a platform that will be seen to not only address community issues, but cost the tax payer less. Once in office, the newly elected official can point to budgetary concerns, and remind us all that there aren’t any funds since he’s cut taxes, just as we requested. Or that they are working on a solution, but we mustn’t hope to see real change until some year in the future where they will hopefully no longer be held accountable for the project and the additional costs incurred during the delay.

Politics on crosswordFor corporations, political concerns are less about the community, and more about expediting the accumulation of more wealth. Despite needing an infrastructure that allows workers to arrive at the work place on time, and roads and other delivery systems to get product to consumers, the emphasis is placed squarely on tax cuts that they have convinced politicians, and even many consumers, will result in a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Corporations spend billions on pushing forward measures that will deny workers fair wages and benefits, and will spend yet more on media essentially blackmailing consumers into giving them what they demand. Health care, no. More tax cuts, yes. Or we’ll take our ball (company, franchise) and go home. Many even believe that we have no other alternative but to agree.

The last several decades of austerity for the general public, but unheard of wealth for the few, is slowly shaping us into a timid, obedient mass, who are only valued as long as we are able to further enrich business through our labour and consumption of goods and services.

hedonic-treadmillThe pursuit of happiness has become a joyless pursuit of money, dooming its followers to an endless treadmill of greed and desperation. You’ll never catch up to the 1%, no matter how hard you try, but real happiness and satisfaction can be had in a life that encompasses empathy, generosity, and gratitude for what you’ve achieved.