k.d. lang: Canadian
“Hallelulljah [Live At ‘The Max’ Sessions]”; ‘Hymns Of The 49th Parallel’ (2005)
(6pm) CTV Montreal With Mutsumi Takahashi:
1) Second Tory Budget: Canada’s government announced its new budget toady. We don’t have a financial deficit anymore. Your country still does. In fact Canada hasn’t had one for over a decade now and that makes this country pretty frigging unique. Mostly this has occurred because our federal government downloaded debt and responsibilities to the provinces without supplying any new funding. Then there was the twelve years or so where our government stopped funding the military. And taxes barely even went up… which was important. I mean, sending our overburdened and under funded soldiers into Bosnia and Somalia without the proper equipment, that makes sense. But raising taxes a few more points while maintaining military preparedness, that’s just crazy talk.
Anyway. Canada has had a conservative government for two years now which in the Canadian political spectrum is like saying we’re driving in the Left Lane, just a little closer to the yellow line. Our conservative party is known as the Conservative Party (it saves time) and they’ve been reaping some of the benefits of having Surpluses — that’s right, annual fiscal Surpluses — so today they can spend on things like $3.2B on Provincial Social Programs, tax cuts and incentives for the working poor, $1200 rebates on fuel efficient cars with $4000 levies on fuel hog SUVs… yes, this is Conservatism in Canada. There will be no general tax increase and another $2B in tax “relief” for “average” Canadians. The standard of living in this country, on a GDP per capita basis, has been going up consistantly over the past ten-plus years, which also makes us pretty freaking unique in the world. I’m sure this has nothing to do with Canada being a safe place for immigrants who are sick of being hassled by European Nationalists.
Canada’s GDP has passed the US$1.12T (T!) mark. That’s for a county of 32M people. For comparison the United Kingdom is at US$1.9T with 60.6M, Australia’s got US$650B with 20.2M and America’s still on top with $12.98T for a population of 298.4M (America could purchase countries 2-10 and still have enough left over to buy Microsoft and Google and some nice shoes. Think aboot that the next time someone tells you China’s taking over). Surprisingly most of this “newly discovered” Canadian wealth has very little to do with Canada’s rapidly expanding oil fields (we have more natural gas than anyone and as much oil as Saudi Arabia). That money will start to seriously pump into the system in aboot five years or so. We still haven’t even built the freaking pipelines yet. Canada: you can smoke The Weed here, there are gays getting married on every street corner, free lung transplants, Die Mannequin got a record contract… okay, daycare’s till a problem, but the handfuls of Lithium are free. And we’ve still got room.
2) Quebec Premier Reacts To Budget: The largest chunk of this budget’s money allocated to our ten Province’s goes to Quebec. The premier, Jean Charest, is in the middle of an election so this budget makes him look like a freaking Quebecois Warrior For Quebec… yeah, he’s okay with the budget. Charest leads the “Liberal Party” which, in Quebec, is the most conservative political party, and the only fully Federalist one. The number two party, the Parti Quebecois, wants to take Quebec out of Canada, while the number three party — the Action Democratique de Quebec (ADQ) — is a mix of the other two and just really wants to be liked. They’d also wait a few months before renegotiating Quebec’s place in Canada. Charest and our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, are pretty good friends. For politicians. Some of this budget was Harper doing a favour for Charest… which, if you like Canada with Quebec in it, makes a lot of sense.
3) Mario Dumont Reacts To Budget: This is the leader of the ADQ. He liked the budget as well. This election should be a breakthrough for the ADQ. Oh yeah… Canada also generates more hydroelectric power than any other country and the budget will allow for more East & West hydro sharing in this country. Basically this means Manitoba and Quebec can sell more electricity to Ontario. Tell me why — any random Lefty — Iran can have nuclear reactors but we can’t have new ones in Ontario?
Bonus — Quebec Is For Le Quebecois: Quebec has spent fifty years trying to redefine itself. For 350 years it was either a colony of France, a strange out of place attachment to the British Empire, or a fiefdom for the Catholic Church. I’ve written aboot this before somewhere in this blog but if you were Francophone and living in Quebec in the 1960’s you made 97 per cent less than an Anglophone. So “The Quiet Revolution” of Quebec, which started in the mid-1950’s and was led by the university aged children of French-Canadian veterans, swept away the Church and the influences of America and English-Canada and French-Quebecers were allowed to be French again. Only without the sneering. Around the mid-1970’s Quebec started taking in large groups of French speaking immigrants. Mostly from the Middle East, Haiti, Jamaica and North West Africa. It was a slightly cynical attempt to create a French Nation, as most Quebecers identified Culture as being “Language-First”. But the thing aboot being a Nationalist is the ultimate definition of a country becomes “Those Who Were Here Before You”. So now, with a growing immigrant population, Quebecers are stepping back and saying “this is not what we wanted. We wanted immigrants, just not their culture or religion.”
Over the weekend a large group of Muslim families and friends held a semi-private function at a “Sugar Shack” in rural Quebec. They needed a place to pray, the owner said use the dance floor. A photo of the men praying appeared in a city paper and people are going nuts… “they have to learn to accept the Quebec way.” That was the (paraphrased) reaction from the Premier. Other reactions included “it’s unreasonable to pray in Sugar Shacks.”; “I don’t mind if they don’t eat pork, but they shouldn’t pray…” [the owner of the Sugar Shack prepared a special Quebec Pea Soup for the Muslim families which didn’t include the usual massive glob of pork fat]. The owner said next time he’d supply a more private prayer space.
It isn’t just Islam. Conservative Jews have also been involved in conflicts with local governments, activists and institutions for decades. Quebecers, like Europeans, gave up on religion a long time ago. Unlike Europe’s reasoning — we’re old and tired and we just don’t care anymore — Quebec did away with their religion more out of disgust than anything else. And now they can’t figure out why people get insulted when governments limit religious freedoms.
(6.30pm) NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams
1) “War Without End”: Not the best headline I’ve ever seen. There is such a thing as “polite editing” where you know/think you’ve got a great/funny headline but maybe you modify it slightly so the families of 120,000 American soldiers serving in the Middle East and the relatives of another 60,000 dead Iraqi’s don’t turn on the TV and get confronted by your cute but totally erroneous attempt to make the newsroom laugh and/or appreciate your razor sharp wit.
Year Five of The Iraq War starts today. The report’s basic conclusion was that Years One and Two went pretty well, Year Three was a tie while Year Four was a complete Cluster Fuck. Which sounds aboot right to me. 3218 American soldiers have died with another 24,000 injured while — admittedly they made a guesstimate — 60,000 Iraqi’s have died. In a speech GW Bush said “It can be won… if we have the courage to see it through.” Then he said something aboot a big comeback in the fifth quarter… sorry. I hate Bush jokes, but I couldn’t resist.
It was the fucking looting. That was the turning point. After the looting the Iraqi people got scared, who the fuck was ‘In Charge’? The Americans couldn’t stop the looters so the local guys did. The Sadr-type guys. The people turned to the local “strongmen” because they understood that the Americans were not prepared to seriously govern and that was the beginning of the end. Or the end of the beginning. Then Bremmer disbands the army… sweet motherfuck. Read “Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. You’ll weep at the incompetence.
2) Car Bombs In Iraq: Fifty-five Iraqi’s killed… ever get the feeling that it’ll take decades before we can say “Iraqi” without adding the “killed”? Fifty per cent of American soldiers in Iraq are on their second tour. Weirdly enough this has created a downturn in the number of American soldiers killed because the ones coming back into the theatre of operations are more experienced at urban Baghdad warfare.
3) In Studio Interview: NBC’s Iraq Chief Reporter was in New York for a few days so he stood across from Brian and entertained some previously selected questions. Basically the answers boiled down to: “This surge could work depending on the definition”, “America is still not putting enough into diplomatic solutions”, and “the surge will take at least a year or more to take effect”. If I had a seven-year old child they could have memorized the same talking points and would have been just as earnest, but for a fraction of the cost.
(7pm) PBS: The News Hour With Jim Lehrer:
1) Invasion Anniversary: Jim was off for the evening, Gwen was filling in. The Iraq War was still going on regardless… as if it didn’t care aboot Jim or Gwen. Fucking war. 30,000 new American troops are moving into the region. They didn’t specify Iraq so some of them may be in Tehran right now, milling around in shops and drinking dark, thick coffee while partaking in the local sights and sites. President Bush was quoted as saying “our most important mission is protecting the Iraqi capital.” There were protests and marches in several American cities marking the anniversary. Cindy Sheehan even managed to tear herself away from Hugo Chavez for some face time on American television.
2) American Soldiers Killed: Eight more American soldiers were killed over the weekend.
3) More Iraqi Citizens Killed: There’s that “Iraqi’s Killed” thing again. The war in Iraq has now been going on longer than America’s involvement in WWOne, WWTwo and Korea. For whatever that’s worth. Does this mean the vets from those three wars get moved down on some list somewhere? It was the fucking looting… if they had just had some fucking soldiers in there to provide security. Oh well… next time.
(10pm) CBC: The National With Peter Mansbridge
1) Big Spending Budget: Canada is still getting used to having a conservative political party again. Until the early 90’s our conservative party, the Progressive Conservatives — who had been around since Confederation in 1867, were responsible for the largest majority governments in Canadian political history. But then they imploded in a way rarely, if ever, seen in a Democracy. They went from super-majority to two seats in the House of Commons. That’s like today’s Democrats not only taking a complete majority in the Senate, but also taking a 100 seat majority in Congress and Hillary taking the Presidency. The Conservative Party in Britain almost went through something similar when John Major was finally knocked out. It made no sense when it happened here, and it makes little sense now. Mostly it was based on four factors: 1) Canadians were tired of the PC Government, which had been in power for eight years; 2) the Liberal Party of Canada’s disinformation tactics in smearing the PC Party as liars, cheats and thieves; 3) the willingness for the “media” (re: the CBC and the Toronto Star) to repeat everything the Liberal Party fed them, and; 4) this weird belief among “Western Democracies” that the Fall Of The Wall meant “The Left” had won a victory so Conservative governments around the world were unceremoniously booted out. So here we are with a Conservative government for the first time in twelve-or-so years and no one, specifically in the “media” (re: the CBC and the Toronto Star) knew what to expect from their latest budget. Well, here it is (all figures CDN$):
Total Projected Revenues: $236.7B
Projected Economic Growth: 2.3 per cent and 2.9 per cent in 2008-09
Total Spending: $233.4B, up $10B from the current year
Total Projected Surplus: $3.3B
Program Spending: $199.6B, up 7.9 per cent from $188.9B spent in 2007-08
Total Canadian Debt: $472.3 billion, before a $9B payment over the next three years
Along with $6B in tax cuts there were $14B in new programs announced, including a new $310/child annual tax credit for parents.
2) Green Budget: In Canada, and — I think — most other Parliamentary Democracies a vote on the Budget is considered a “Confidence Vote”, which means if the Government loses the vote we get an election. The Conservative finance minister had barely started his announcement when the leader of the Bloq Quebecois — a regional federalist party whose goal is supposed to be getting Quebec out of federation — stepped in front of a pack of cameras and said “oui, I support this budget”. This means there will be no snap election (we’re in a minority government right now) and the other two opposition parties — the left wing NDP and the barely left of the Conservative Party, the Liberals — get to be… well, they get to freely oppose the budget. The problem is both the NDP and the Liberals have been chirping for months aboot how their plans are so much more Environmentally Friendly than the Conservatives plans… and now the Conservatives have laid out the most “Green” Budget in a generation so the NDP and Liberals are being forced to ask questions like “aren’t the Conservatives just taking your sole position away from you?” The problem with only having one public policy (re: environment) is you become irrelevant when that postion is adopted or put into place by the opposition.
Anyway. The budget (FINALLY) is giving Canadians a (up to) $2000 rebate when we buy a fuel efficient car. The big gas sucking SUV’s will now (FINALLY) cost up to $4000 more because of a levy on vehicles with mileage worse than 13Litres per 100km. There’s another $2B being injected into biofuel research, and tax credits for industries like the Alberta Oil Sands Project will be phased out by 2015, and there’s also another $4.8B for environmental programs.
3) Election Budget: The CBC is convinced we’re heading to a spring election because they consider this to be a “feel good” budget. Everybody gets something. The problem with that theory (there are several) is that every budget during the Fat Years is a “feel good” budget. Paul Wells, a columnist for MacLean’s Magazine (kind of a Time-Lite) had a post on his blog aboot this very issue a few days ago: [here]. I met Paul a few times when I was reporting in Ottawa. The last time was in a bar in the Byward Market which got really awkward because — when I introduced Paul as “one of Parliament Hill’s best columnists” to my very drunk brother and his buddy — they thought Paul was Andrew Coyne. Oh yeah, the government is going to fund that cervical cancer vaccine.
(11pm) BBC World News:
1) Iraq Anniversary: Iraqi’s Killed. Some BBC reporter got a tour of Sadr City hosted by some of Sadr’s Army. It was like a freaking travelogue. “Everything’s just great wherever the Sadr Army is in control… we never saw an American soldier… Americans have horns and hooves and talk with Jewish accents”. Fuck. Off. Fox News sucks giant elephant ass, fine. But sometimes — maybe more than that — the BBC is just as bad going the other way. Don’t even get me started on CBC’s Neil “The President Has Horns And A Tiny Penis” MacDonald.
2) Saddam’s VP Executed: Saddam’s long time VP — the guy who sent Iraqi citizens into Iranian bullets as cannon fodder, the guy who was considered to be the most brutal member of Saddam’s regime since Saddam took over, the guy convicted of having 150 innocents shot in the head — was executed today. His last words were “God knows I didn’t do anything wrong. God will condemn everyone who oppressed me.” God then laughed and pulled the switch.
3) Russian Coal Mine Explosion: At least 80 miners were killed in an explosion that occurred while the mine’s management were testing a new safety system. The mine is/was considered one of Russia’s most modern.