Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My afternoon with Adrienne

Before I relate a short encounter to you, let me refer you to Paul Wells' piece in Maclean's discussing Adrienne Clarkson's legacy. I agree heartilly.

Paul refers to Clarkson's masterful oratory. I once had the opportunity to hear her speak from up close - she was standing about 5 feet away from me. That's because Adrienne Clarkson and I received our doctorates together. I suspect it wasn't her first, but it certainly was a first for me. The University of Ottawa granted her an honorary doctorate at the Fall convocation where I received my PhD. After receiving my hood, I got to shake her hand, find my seat on the podium, and then enjoy her address. I also got to say a few words to her afterwards at the reception. It certainly perked up the endlessly long ceremonies that mark a bilingual graduation ceremony at U of O.

I hope that future governors general can live up to her example. She brought class and elegance back to the office, and made it a position that people paid attention to. I happen to believe that Canada should sever its ties with the monarchy, and would prefer that the position of head of state be Canadianized. Hopefully Canada will find a way of doing this without spurring a constitutional crisis, and our politicians will not let the fear of said crisis prevent us from making the effort.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Noriega on our northern border?" Boisclair and the United States

A thought occurred to me about the revelations of Andre Boisclair's cocaine use in the past. According to this Leger poll, pointed out to me by Justin at Holy Beaver, the vast majority of Quebec voters don't think that this revelation matters to them. I'm curious to see if those numbers hold up, but let's assume that they do. Let's also assume that Boisclair wins the leadership and that his personal popularity helps the PQ win a referendum on sovereignty.

Can you picture the reaction in the United States of an independent Quebec on their northern border run by a former cocaine user?! That mental image makes a tiny little part of me root for Boisclair and for a referendum win. I somehow suspect that his drug profile never came up on his Harvard application.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A test of Quebec's liberal values

The liberal nature of the post-Quiet Revolution Quebec electorate has become one of the hallmarks of Canadian political landscape. But where exactly do their limits lie?

I suspect that we're about to find out, now that PQ leadership candidate André Boisclair has admitted to cocaine use. This is a double whammy, given that he admitted to having done this while a provincial cabinet minister.

I suspect that if these revelations had come about in the middle of a simple election campaign where Boisclair was just running for a simple seat, he might still get elected. But this is ultimately a leadership race where the PQ rank and file are trying to decide who they want to lead them in a future referendum campaign. As someone who would like to see such a referendum defeated, I cackle with glee at the prospect of being able to splash the phrase "Just say no!" across an image of Boisclair's face.

Do I think that this is necessarilly fair, or that Boisclair's past performance was severely hampered by drug use? Not really. I think that Canadians would be shocked at how many people have used cocaine, and how many of that number have not become addicts. But politics is about optics, and that's an image that the sovereignty movement cannot risk. The leadership campaign just got thrown wide open.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Sharia and Uniformity

Dalton McGuinty's decision to not only block the implementation of sharia-based arbitration tribunals, but also all other religious-based tribunals is an interesting turn of events, and one that I would not have predicted. I'm not sure how long it will be before Christian and Jewish groups get upset with him for this decision.

A quick scan through the Progressive Bloggers reveals divergent opinions. Robert McClelland at My Blahg sees this as a short-sighted decision. He argues that subjecting sharia-based arbitration to Charter scrutiny could have aided in the process of implementing Islamic law reform.

Bradley Banks at A Little Bit Left is heralding the decision as a step away from the mixing of religion and state. I tend to side with Bradley on this one, as I tended to view religious-based tribunals as yet another step away from a common set of laws and practices guided by the state.

What I am wondering now, although I believe it to be unlikely, is whether Dalton McGuinty is going to make this decision a precedent for other areas of Ontario policy. Specifically, will he use this decision as a model for how to deal with religious education? Currently, Catholic schools receive government funding in Ontario, a status protected by the Constitution. Other religious groups have been clamouring for access to public funds for their schools, arguing that what is given to Catholics should be extended to them as well. There is merit to their arguments, insofar as one believes that the state should fund religious education. I fall in the camp that believes it should not, and I would welcome a decision on the part of the Ontario government to abolish public funding for religious education, and to seek a constitutional amendment allowing this change. If Quebec and Newfoundland can get rid of their confessional school systems, it could be done in Ontario as well.

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