Archive for April, 2011

Diversity of views

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

If a person thought that Canada was one big, happy and homogenous country, then there’s no time like an election to disprove the theory. Canada’s differences come to full view as the political parties cross the country combing the streets and halls for votes.

As a person who has pounded the pavement and seen door-to-door campaigning both as a candidate and as a campaigner, the differences can not only be region to region but door to door. Go to one door and a certain party leader is the best thing since sliced bread. Go to the next door and the same party leader can be seen as the biggest crook in the country.

Studying politics and how people perceive politics is fascinating. How can one politician be loved by many and hated by equally as many? 
And how can parties be perceived to be left wing or right wing? The Manitoba NDP are seen as left wing and yet under Gary Doer they would pull off some middle of the road policies. Not so much lately but the left-wing policies of the NDP aren’t always practiced. In fact, the lack of left wing policies in that party is a real cause for anger among some party members as the true lefties in the party want to take the NDP way over into the socialist realm. 

The federal Conservative party under Prime Minister Harper are painted as being very right wing. If that were true, they would never have gone so far with the so-called “recovery package” plunging the country into huge debt. It can be argued legitimately that Harper was forced to do so by a minority parliament. Strangely enough, the Michael Ignatieff lead Liberals are screaming about the recently acquired debt load when it was in fact Ignatieff and his Liberal and NDP friends who said a year or so ago, that Harper didn’t go far enough to bail out the auto industry and that he didn’t spend enough money on the economy.

The problem as I see it is that few politicians have principles and political parties rarely have principles. Politicians rarely actually stand up for what they believe in if they are faced with losing a vote. Parties will rarely stand up for what they say they believe in if they stand to lose a vote. That’s why both politicians and parties are constantly waving around in the ever-changing breezes of public opinion, hoping to catch enough wind to fill their sails and propel them forward.

What I would like to see is both politicians and parties take a stand on issues. Ideally, political parties wouldn’t exist but that’s not going to happen. We would be a lot better off, ideally, if we elected all independent candidates and that the parliament elected the the prime minister and the cabinet ministers. Any astute observer of parliament or a legislature would be able to pick out the best prime minister or premier from among the elected group of MPs and MLAs. But that’s not going to happen. Five hundred years of parliamentary party tradition isn’t about to give way to us having a parliament of independents.

If politicians and parties took a stand on issues, it would be a whole lot easier to cast a vote. The reason that half the people don’t vote is that they feel all politicians are the same and that an individual’s vote doesn’t matter. It’s hard to argue with that logic as the lines between politicians and parties are often so blurred that a voter can’t  easily tell the difference.

In spite of all the above rather negative views, this federal election on May 2 is more clear cut than some. In spite of the fact that the Green Party has some good ideas, their overall platform and their leader simply aren’t credible. I know NDP leader Jack Layton, having met and talked to him several times. He’s a credible individual but his stand on some issues is so far from what I believe that there’s no way I would vote for him. The local candidate is almost unknown to us anyway. Michael Ignatieff is a decent man and there’s no question that local candidate, Wendy Menzies is a fine person. The Liberal party just doesn’t get it on either fiscal or social policy, so that leaves one choice for most of the people in this constituency, the Conservatve party.

Local candidate, Robert Sopuck is fairly well known, as are his views. He’s a big supporter of farming and sustainable environment. Harper, in spite of what some would criticize him for is the best leader. So the vote in this area will likely go overwhelmingly to the Conservatives. It’s the best choice for this area and it was my choice when I voted at the advance poll.

All that said, there lot’s of room for debate about where  we should go as a country and later this year as a province. The pages of The Banner are always open to people’s views, have been for 22 years and that’s not about to change.

Better than politics

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and it gave me a special feeling to see many people, a lot of them newcomers to Neepawa from the Philipines, streaming out of St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic church. Many were carrying palm fronds, signifying an observance of Palm Sunday, commemorating the day Jesus made what was described as  a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus went from a hero to a zero in many peoples’ minds in seven short days. The residents of Jerusalem, the Jewish people were looking for a messiah, a saviour. Most were looking for a political saviour, just as many in Canada today are looking for a political saviour. Jesus was very political, but he was no political saviour. His saving was, and is, aimed at each one of us personally, not collectively or nationally.
As a young man I asked, “Saved from what?” It was a legitimate question. Raised in a safe and loving home, in a quiet and caring community and by then off to university, what did I need to be saved from? I was safe in a physical or even emotional basis, I thought I was pretty much safe.
What I had never really thought about is that while physically safe for the time being and pretty much emotionally safe too, there was more to be considered. Life was good. But life, no matter how good, doesn’t go on forever. For some it stops young and suddenly, for others it stops slowly and at an old age. But rest assured, it stops for everyone, no matter how strong we are, no matter how weak we are. No matter who we are, life eventually stops.
Then what? If we believe that we are only a body and emotions, life ends with death. But if we believe that we have a soul (or spirit if you prefer) then it lives on after the body lays down a final time. For whatever reason, most cultures believe that a person lives on after physical death. The whole topic has been wrapped in tons of written pages and endless spoken words.
Safe to say, most believe that there is a time to be born, a time to die and a time to go into eternity. Some don’t believe that but most do. Most believe, to some degree or another, that there is a heaven and a hell.
The big question then becomes, how does one obtain heaven and avoid hell? If a person believes that there is neither heaven or hell, the question doesn’t matter. There is overwhelming evidence that there is a heaven and a hell but all the evidence in the world doesn’t really matter. Most people come to the conclusion on their own and are nagged by the question of where they will spend eternity after their physical death.
That brings us back to Palm Sunday. People were looking for a savior, a political one, but didn’t get what they were looking for. Jesus  was seized, beaten up badly, crucified and died. He was placed in a rocky tomb on what sounds like an ironically named Good Friday, lay there for what some Christians call Holy Saturday and his body was gone by Easter Sunday. 
Jesus appeared to many people after that day. I believe Jesus “rose from the dead”.
I also believe that Jesus did so, so that by believing in him I might be “saved”.
Funny words we use in the English language Christian dialogue aren’t they?
Jesus said that all those who believed in him would go to be in heaven some day. He didn’t say all those who were good, he said those who believed in him.
Unlike in politics, Jesus is a leader we can all believe in. Better yet, if we believe in Jesus, he gives us what he promises.

Flooding still a problem after 190 years

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

When a person loses their home to flooding, it must be a devastating feeling. One would not want to experience that once, let alone multiple times.
Admittedly, I have never lived in a flood prone house so my opinion may be slanted but why would a person buy or build a house in a flood prone area?
The many communities and farms of the Red River Valley have been diked, some for many, many years. They have it down to a science. Maintain the dikes, watch the flood forecasts, add sandbags as necessary. They also prepare for the flood season by having extra food and supplies on hand.
Henceforth, absolutely no building permits should be given in flood plain properties. The fact that we’re still being “surprised” by flooding speaks to the insanity of a lack of planning and prevention.
That all said, there are areas that are going to be flooded this year that may never have been flooded before. Freak ice jams can be an issue. More of an issue is the excess and non-licensed drainage of lakes and farm land. It’s a normal reaction for a farmer or a cottage owner to want to lower the water level. But we all know water has to go somewhere. Some neighbour, either near or far, will have to receive the run-off. In the spring time especially, there may well not be the capacity to receive it.
Keep your eye on the Shellmouth dam this year and the City of Brandon and everything in between. The Province of Manitoba has agreed to receive water from Fishing Lake in Saskatchewan into the Assiniboine by way of a new drainage ditch. We could certainly see some very interesting damage along the Assiniboine and the consequences may be felt all the way to Winnipeg and beyond.
It would have indeed been better if houses and farm buildings had not been built in the flood plain but the necessary measures have been mostly taken.
So it’s amazing that 190 years after the first documented and reported “flood of the century” that communities are still allowing construction in flood prone areas. Yes, it’s 190 years since the early 1820s Red River flooding when settlers reported that the only piece of land still sticking out of the water was the hill where Stony Mountain Penitentiary perches today.
Those years should have been sufficient warning that while the Red River Valley may well be farmable, it should never have been settled and built up with flood prone buildings.
Today, we still have some communities flooding and hear about them erecting temporary dikes. What’s with this temporary business when some of them are costing millions of dollars?
To be flooded once can be termed an accident. To be flooded twice could be called unfortunate, but to be flooded many times is called lunacy.
Municipalities and the province have been quite content to collect taxes and fees from property for many decades and yet there are annually floods prone properties that are still not protected.
Here’s the deal. The RMs and the provinces should either agree to buy out flood prone property or protect it. If homeowners turn down either offer, then they should be on their own for flood defenses.

Flashback-Liberals plan to “Screw the West, take the rest”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Thirty some years ago, the above headline quote was attributed to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff was away from Canada for 34 years. He’s been back for a few years now and is in the midst of a fight for his political life.
Columnist Ezra Levant points out that with the release of the Liberal party platform, it’s as if Ignatieff reverted back to the Canada he knew when he left. The Canada of Pierre Trudeau. Levant says the platform  consists of “Increased corporate taxes, increased oilsands taxes, oilsands tanker bans, more oilsands regulations and a complete halt to Arctic exploration. But billions for Liberal megaprojects. It’s the worst of Trudeau. It’s the old Liberal motto: Screw the West, and we’ll take the rest.”
How true! Ignatieff, being steered around by Liberals who are panting for Trudeau’s son Justin to rise to power, are trying to pave the way for the Liberal Party to tighten their grip on the Canadian mindset and  economy. Liberal policies have almost always involved having more control over the economy rather than less. Eastern politicians, mainly Liberals or like minded individuals have always treated the West like a poor country cousin. Go out for visit once in a while, pet a cow, toss a sandbag, gather up some oil, some wheat, some money and scurry back to Toronto to spend and to feast.
Toronto-centric politicians have even said Toronto (not Ontario) is the economic engine of Canada. Few have had the presence of mind or the guts to ask, “If Toronto is the engine, where do they think they get the fuel?”
The Liberal platform treats Canada’s “country cousin” hinterland as the golden goose and they have the right to steal the golden egg. It’s unthinkable to the Liberal Toronto minds that people in Manitoba or Alberta or Newfoundland could actually think for themselves. That we don’t need a Trudeau, a Chretien or an Ignatieff to think for us is something that never occurs to them. It’s laughable and hopefully enough people will see that while the Conservative Party of Canada is far from perfect, it at least gives a passing nod to the common people to be able to think for themselves. 
Conservatives believe that instead of a government run, one size fits all day care system, that parents are the best care givers. When that isn’t possible, parents are the best ones to choose where to get day care. Conservatives believe that oil companies have to make a profit in good times because sometimes there are very difficult times. Conservatives believe farmers need and want to make their living “from the market place, not the mailbox”. That’s a direct quote from Ag. minister, Gerry Ritz. Conservatives believe that we need to send our airmen on patrol and into battle in airplanes and helicopters that are less than 50 years old.
The Liberal platform is laughable. Also laughable is the horrified reaction from Liberal planners like Warren Kinsella. He still thinks that he and a few other Liberal power brokers actually got Jean Chretien elected to successive victories. What they don’t realize is that with the conservative vote divided between the PC Party of Canada and the Reform/Alliance Party of Canada a talking monkey could have run the Liberal war room against such a divided opposition.
No political party will ever be completely aligned with every policy belief that an individual holds. For me, the Conservative Party of Canada comes the closest by having the mix of policies and leadership that I can support. After several minority federal governments, Canada needs to move forward on several issues and the only way to get there is with majority government. This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247