All is not what is seems (Editorial Board Edition)

With a long period of contemplative quietude behind it the Origins of Politics returns. Much has transpired during this  period of dormancy and  this post from Michael Valpy marks a reflection upon  some preferred themes; media, corporate power and the illusions of autonomy therein.

Thomas Hardy wrote in his diary in 1882: “Nothing bears out in practice what it promises incipiently.” Which in journalese means, “If a story looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Bringing us to Jesse Brown’s account in his Canadaland blog  of how The Globe and Mail came to editorially endorse Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives in the Ontario election.

Continue reading

Why I’m a Liberal. Why I fear Justin Trudeau.

As part of our ongoing series of guest essay posts, we introduce Mr Grant Bishop. Mr.Bishop is a Liberal who doesn’t think Mr. Trudeau, touted as the future of politics for Young Canada, is worthy of being the party’s leader. He’s passionate, and meticulous in developing his final judgment. It’s a long read but a good read. His assessment is closely argued and hammered into stone.



I have voted Liberal my whole adult life, except for voting Green in 2000 (for Chris Milburn in my then Kingston riding that Peter Milliken was certain to win).  Like many committed liberals, I nonethless eschewed a partisan label.  Yet, I always felt the Liberal party, more than any other, aimed to facilitate individual achievement while recognizing that we’re not born on a level playing field. Continue reading

Good Trudeau, bad Trudeau

A political party leadership campaign is about what standards should be set for the nation.

It’s about what message the party sends out about its relevance to the country and the world to the next generation of voters. It is about all of our dreams, our vision, our imagination of Canada, about our attachment to Canada.

Justin Trudeau, all but annointed by the news media as the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, had an obligation to turn up in the House of Commons to vote on Bill C-398, legislation proposing reform to Canada’s access to medicines regime (CAMR) enabling inexpensive generic antiretroviral drugs to be sent to Africa for the treatment of those with HIV-AIDS.

He chose not to be present. Continue reading

Who connects the dots on the Robocalls?

Canadians may be staring at their own Watergate. They may be staring at a widespread attempt to fix the last federal election by people with links to the upper levels of the governing Conservative Party of Canada.

That’s a big accusation, and nothing is proven. But it’s what you get when you bring all the evidence together.

The one party member to break silence has gone on CBC to label what took place a “massive scheme.” The Canadian news media — with the exception of two dogged Postmedia reporters, Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor — have disgracefully swept the story into the shadows, presumably because it is Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians (or, as the mainstream media say, “left-leaning Council of Canadians”) that has gone to court to try to nail the Conservatives with electoral fraud. Continue reading

What do the young remember?

Whoa! Let’s re-run the video of University of Toronto’s Service of Remembrance at the Hart House Soldiers’ Tower on Friday, Sept. 9. A grey day, emotionally enough, with the St. Catherine’s bell of Massey College tolling across the upper campus at the 11th hour  but not, by tradition, on the 11th day of the 11th month because that would be Sunday this year and the campus would have been near deserted.

Think first of two numbers: 1,100 and 100.

The priest conducting the service said more than 1,100 University of Toronto students died wearing their country’s military uniforms in two world wars, almost enough dead to fill U of T’s Convocation Hall. Someone somewhere will have the numbers of all the young Canadians from all the campuses across the country who went to war, and died. They shall grow not old.

As Ted Brown grew old. Continue reading

When Freedom of Religion Isn’t.

The problem for ideological governments — especially those that get tangled in religion — is inconsistency. The devil forever pops up in the details of their behaviour.

Thus Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told a U.S. audience in May of this year that, until the Harper government came to power, Canada had gone soft on defending fundamental freedoms like freedom of religion (he focussed on attacks against Christians and Jews).  And days from now, the government’s $5-million-a-year Office of Religious Freedom will open under the aegis of Mr. Baird’s department.

And yet last week, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced he was cancelling contracts of parttime chaplains in the federal prison system to save money — contracts which includes virtually all the system’s non-Christian chaplains.  Forthwith, he said, non-aboriginal federal inmates would have their spiritual needs met by existing staff chaplains, all but one of whom is Christian (parttime aboriginal spiritual leaders were exempted). Continue reading

The Big Question – Gerald Caplan on the Left-Right divide in Canada

Origins of Politics returns to the big questions theme, having talked to Gerald Caplan about whether a new political alignment exists and whether a ‘unite the left’ campaign is in Canada’s immediate political future. While Mr. Caplan requires no introduction, among other glories, he has been involved with the NDP, provincially and federally, serving as federal party secretary. He was co-chair of the Mulroney Task Force on Canadian Broadcasting Policy and Bob Rae’s Ontario Royal Commission on Learning. He is an international expert on genocide and has published widely on the Rwandan genocide. He also appears regularly in the Globe and Mail. We’ve asked him to comment on broad trends in Canadian politics. This is part one of the conversation.

Origins of Politics: So, if we accept the notion that the country has trended, as per the Manning Centre and others, towards some kind of centre-right alignment, and that the Harper Government will be in power for some time, and given the ascendance of the NDP (with promises of more success to come in BC for example) what can we expect from the Left in the next little while? (Feel free to dispute any of these assertions of course)

Do the NDP and CPC work together to kill off the Liberal Party, clarifying the political spectrum for a voting public that continue to lose interest and trust in their elected representatives? Or will we see a Unite the Left movement – and should we? Really we’d like to hear where you think the NDP will end up, especially under new leadership…


Gerald Caplan: OK. Very expansive questions but let me try a few things. It’s not clear to me whether most Canadians have trended rightwards in recent years, as per the manning Centre. It’s part of the genius of Preston Manning that he often seems to me be saying thoughtful, impartial things when in fact he’s almost invariably ideologically self-serving. You may know that I like to ground my comments in some kind of legitimate data, for instance pissing off my party for decades by arguing that we have no chance to form a national government. But it seemed to me the evidence—every federal election since the CCF was created, until 15 months ago—was incontrovertible. Continue reading

Go Donna! (part three)

Part three of our interview with Olympian Donna Marie Vakalis – what do programs like Canada’s Own the Podium mean if you don’t compete in one of the targeted sports?

Origins of Politics: Are touched by this Own the Podium campaign?

Donna Marie Vakalis: My familiarity with it is in terms of it as a funding program and as a group of people who determine who get funding. So as someone who participates in what we call a non-targeted sport or a sport that is marginal, we don’t qualify for funding for Own the Podium, we’re completely left out.

OoP: Not good. Continue reading

Go Donna! (part deux)

Part 2 of Origins of Politics’s conversation with Donna Marie Vakalis, Olympic competitor for Canada in the modern pentathlon, in which she talks about blind horse dates, the meaning of competition and how to compete in a sport that gets no funding. See Donna’s website Donate. Cheer her on.

Origins of Politics: Oh that’s why I see [on their website] something about you and horse blind dates?

Donna Marie Vakalis: Exactly. Yes. That was what Jordan [the host] said, “Oh, it’s like a blind date with a horse.” And they just riff on that for a few seconds and it was one of the most hilarious commentaries on Pentathlon I’ve ever heard where one of them was the horse and one of them was the rider saying you know “Oh, it’s so awkward when you have to split the cheque” and like “Oh, do you want to hang out after?” It was pretty funny. Continue reading

Go Donna!

Donna Marie Vakalis of Oakville, ON, is now at London’s Olympics Village, about to compete for Canada in the modern pentathlon — a five-event contest of pistol-shooting, fencing, 200-metre freestyle swimming, horse-jumping and a 3-kilometre cross-country run. She’s a 32-year-old master’s in architecture and a former fellow at University of Toronto’s Massey College, tiny, funny, eccentric and very, very smart. She spoke to Origins of Politics about, among other things, going blind-dating with a horse.  See her website Donate. Cheer her on.

This is part 1 of our conversation.

Origins of Politics: Hi. How are you feeling?

Donna Marie Vakalis: I’m feeling pretty well, yeah, it’s… feeling kind of strange sort of.

OoP: How so strange? Continue reading