Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007, Here's to a Great 2008!


To all, please party responsibly tonight. For me, like 40% of Canadians, I intend to cuddle up next to my partner, order in some Chinese food and enjoy a couple of DVDs and maybe a little spice later on...lol. A quieter New Year's Eve for us has been long in coming.

By this time next year, I look forward to watching the new Democratic President-elect, whomever that will be, preparing to meet with our new Prime Minister Stephane Dion to discuss how to better coordinate efforts to fight climate change and other issues of international significance.

Am I naive about Dion? Don't think so. Dion continues to be the most underestimated politician alive in Canada today. And I get the feeling he likes it that way.

All the best for the New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Ten Movies I Saw in 2007

I admit I'm no film critic, although I've been an avid film fan my whole life. I simply don't have time to see all of the flicks I want to see in a year. Thus I provide this list now only in the interest of being timely (with New Year's Eve around the corner.) I doubt anyone would be interested in my Top Ten Films list in February after I've seen all the 2007 films I want to see.

2007 TOP TEN FILMS THUS FAR:

Zodiac (Director David Fincher is a genius, one of the best directors working today, this film was gripping from start to finish. It wasn't about finding the Zodiac killer, it was about the hunt itself and our collective fascination with evil, with great performances and great 1970s art direction. Superb in all ways.)

Into The Wild (Wow, Emile Hirsch emerges as a great young actor in this beautifully shot tale by writer-director Sean Penn about the youthful rush to escape from the frustrations of modern life. The lead character learns the truth sadly too late that, "Happiness is only real when shared...")

Atonement (Simple, focused adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel, with great performances by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, very moving and exquisitely produced.)

Away From Her (one of the most beautiful cinematic portraits of love I've ever seen, Canadian Sarah Polley confirms her brilliance and Julie Christie is mesmerizing.)

Hairspray (absolute fun, entertaining from start to finish, I loved John Travolta in this, I don't care what others say. Plus the best, queer-friendly PG-rated eye candy I've seen this year. Zac Efron is one hot babe!)

Amazing Grace (Wonderful history lesson about William Wilberforce, who led the charge to end the British slave trade in the early 1800s, this film reminds how establishment forces will always fight for the status quo, no matter how evil, all in the name of the almighty dollar and why it's so important to continue the fight for justice despite seemingly insurmountable barriers.)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (gripping, great tale about Irish liberation from British rule and the splintering of the Irish Republican movement in the 1920s, told with unflinching intimacy and very thick Irish accents.)

Manufactured Landscapes (beautiful, terrible Chinese workplace images I'll never forget. 'Made In China' will never seem the same again.)

A Mighty Heart (superbly directed by Michael Winterbottom, I've never seen Angelina Jolie give a better performance, her screams after learning of her husband's death haunt me still.)

Control (beautifully shot in black & white, we learn of the origins of the British 70s band Joy Division, forerunners of New Order, and particularly the troubled life of lead singer Ian Curtis, played by the beautiful Sam Riley.)


If only to provide some insight into how successful certain movie PR/hype campaigns have been, here is my list of 2007 films I have yet to see, but which I am very excited about viewing as soon as possible:

- No Country for Old Men
- Juno
- Charlie Wilson's War
- There Will Be Blood
- Michael Clayton
- Sicko
- No End In Sight
- 3:10 To Yuma
- Gone Baby Gone
- Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
- I'm Not There


Obviously, I haven't yet seen many of the year's reported best films. So you can take my Top Ten list with a grain of salt.

The most disappointing films I saw this year:
- Danny Boyle's Sunshine (cool premise, but stupidly executed, explored no new territory and collapsed into an uninteresting hide & seek horror movie by its end.)
- Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Cate Blanchett will likely never doubt her instincts again after reluctantly agreeing to re-visit Queen Elizabeth in this unaccomplished letdown of a sequel to 1998's Elizabeth.)

Harper forces his square Conservative pegs into Canada's progressive holes...

It's long been very clear that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper loves the top-down approach to management. Under Harper's leadership, any remnants of the old, populist, grassroots Reform Party have been wiped away in the united Conservative Party. The party running Canada today is far more autocratic than it ever was under Brian Mulroney. It's a hard-right, one-size-fits-all Conservative Party with no room for any kind of progressive dissent. There is truly no home for Red Tories or old Progressive Conservatives in this new creation.

Witness the treatment of progressive Conservative Mark Warner, who was removed as his party's candidate in Toronto Centre in the fall because he wanted to raise issues of concern in his downtown Toronto riding like housing and AIDS funding (both of which Harper loves to ignore.) Party central would have none of it and fired him. Now a new Tory candidate, Don Meredith, has been imposed on local party members and Toronto Centre voters.

Who is Don Meredith? His Wikipedia bio states he's the chair of the GTA Faith Alliance, "a group of churches and religious organizations" which focuses on the issue of youth violence, particularly involving gangs and guns. He's also a preacher, having graduated from the Rhema Studies of Theology Association and is the Senior Pastor of Pentecostal Praise Centre Ministries located in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Meredith is also a member of the Police Chief’s Advisory Council for the Toronto Police Services and has also been a member of the York Region Community Police Liaison since 2004, as well as a member of the R.C.M.P. Consultative Committee since 2005.

Does Meredith live in Toronto Centre? It appears he's based in York Region, way north of Toronto Centre. Of course, Liberal candidate Bob Rae doesn't live in Toronto Centre either, but most will agree that Rae's impressive progressive credentials, high profile and experience will be easy sells in this downtown urban riding. The NDP's running El-Farouk Khaki, a Canadian refugee and immigration lawyer and human rights activist, who also founded Salaam, the first queer Muslim group in Canada and second in the world. Both Rae and Khaki present credentials largely in sync with Toronto Centre voters.

But what exactly qualifies Meredith as a candidate in Toronto Centre, which contains the largest LGBT voting block in the country? An uber-religious background as a preacher and a whole lot of policing/anti-gang/gun-fighting experience. Hmmm...guns and religion.

I think it's fairly easy to decipher the themes Harper wants Meredith to raise in this by-election, set for March 17, 2008. This isn't a Conservative Party interested in listening to the concerns of downtown voters and bringing them to Ottawa; this is a Conservative Party interested in telling downtown voters the issues it thinks are important. Of course, turning a deaf ear to downtown Toronto will play well for the Harper-crites outside of the GTA, which of course is their real strategy.

With his uber-religious background, I'll be curious to find out Don Meredith's personal position on same sex marriage, that is if he's allowed to share it with local voters. I'll email his campaign as soon as they set up a website for the guy and wait to hear back. I am a resident of the riding after all.

Law-and-order types are running for the Tories elsewhere too. The Tory candidate in the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Rob Clarke, is a cop.

The Tories are also apparently trying to recruit controversial B.C. conservative/Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt to run federally. Mayencourt, who represents a downtown Vancouver riding in the B.C. legislature, introduced a private member's bill that targeted aggressive panhandlers and squeegee kids and earned Mayencourt the ire of poverty rights groups in his province. That bill eventually became the highly controversial B.C. Safe Streets Act. Mayencourt is also openly gay.

So it appears local candidates can be gay (Mayencourt), Aboriginal (Clarke) or of African-descent (Meredith) just as long as they also toe the hard-right Conservative Party line.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rick Mercer's masterpiece: "Oil is like sunshine"

Too funny not to share...

Conservative blogger gladly ignores climate change reality in favour of idiotic ideology

Want proof that many in the Conservative grassroots are gladly walking us toward further environmental degradation and destruction, check this out. These types of folks are running our country, I'm sad to remind. Hopefully by this time next year, we'll be rid of Stephen Harper and his climate change deniers.

Here's a sample of how this guy thinks:

"Many global warming activists will even admit that the whole movement is designed as a wealth re-distribution program from wealthy nations to developing countries. Logic be damned, "captialsim (sic) is evil" is their rallying cry. Of course, government must be the answer because onyl (sic) government can solve our problems!"

Spelling mistakes were his, not mine. I've found a large number of homophobic bigots also have difficulties in the spelling department. And this guy expects us to respect his position on climate change?

Here's a quick lesson in climate change, Strongconservative:

- The temperature on the planet is directly linked to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The higher the level of carbon dioxide, the higher the overall temperature on the planet.
- Due to human consumption, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen FAR ABOVE where they have EVER been in the history of the world.
- In the next 50 years, human consumption levels will push that amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to astronomical heights after which it will be too late to take effective action without seriously undermining our economies and greatly harming future generations to come.
- Taking real action to curb emissions now will help avert drastic and disastrous consequences in the future, when truly draconian actions will HAVE TO BE IMPLEMENTED. How will future generations, forced to live with quotas on electricity use, bans on motor vehicle use and major industrial shutdowns, look back and judge us now in 2007?

Yet conservative idiots continue to push their misspelled lies. I guess we couldn't expect much from a guy with this logo on his site: "Give war a chance. Peace through strength and victory...."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Nollaig Shona Daoibh


True to my (partly) Irish heritage, this phrase in the headline is pronounced 'NO-Lihg HO-nuh JEEV' and it literally means "You have a Happy Christmas." It's meant to address two or more persons with best wishes. "Nollaig Shona Duit" (NO-Lihg HO-nuh ghwich) is the phrase to be used when addressing one person.

Seasons Greetings to All! And to All a Good Night!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Toronto's NOW Magazine Hacked!

I wanted to provide a link to a great article by NOW Magazine editor Alice Klein this week, but earlier this morning the publication's website was victimized by a hacker or hackers. When you logged on, you found a dark screen with only the words, "Umm... Sorry, but you've been hacked. Fuck you media. .g0d wuz here."

But things seem to be fixed now. Klein's article is the best thing I've read in NOW (outside of the Movie section) in years. Normally NOW takes the kind of pro-NDP-no-matter-what stance that she criticizes in her piece, but perhaps her article signals a new era in fair, progressive news coverage for the rag. In it, Klein calls on NDP Leader Jack Layton to put aside his old-fashioned, overly partisan schtick and work with Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion (as they have already done) to help ensure Stephen Harper's Tories don't win again. Sage advice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Like leader, like candidate"?

Hmmm....interesting words from Quebec Tory Senator/Cabinet Minister Michael Fortier that will likely come back to haunt his party.

Fortier attacked Liberal candidate Justin Trudeau yesterday for disparaging the recognition of a Québécois nation. Fortier, the federal minister for Montreal, maintained Trudeau, the Liberal candidate for the next election in Montreal's Papineau riding, was speaking for Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion when he criticized the nation motion adopted a year ago by the House of Commons as divisive and problematically vague. As we know, Mr. Dion supported the motion in question because it recognized, in his words, a sociological reality in Canada. Mr. Trudeau has every right to speak his mind on this issue.

But Fortier suggested the La Presse headline, "Like father, like son," should rather have read, "Like leader, like candidate."

So every statement from every party candidate can be considered reflective of the leader's own position? I guess this means we can take any and all statements by all Tory candidates from here on in as reflective of Stephen Harper too. Oh that'll be fun, I must say.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'd be happy to watch Hillary Clinton get older in the Oval Office

Stories like this make me very inclined to support Hillary Clinton for both the Democratic nomination and the Presidency in 2008.

Clinton's been taking a bit of a beating in recent days, but this kind of talk will boost her campaign, not hurt it, especially among women. The U.S. presidential race will be the most exciting story of 2008, I'm sure most news junkies will agree. I'm still making up my mind between the current Democratic contenders. My dream candidate, Al Gore, continues to say no (for now.)

New Star on the Hollywood Screenwriting Scene: Ex-Stripper Diablo Cody writes for EW

Unlike most people, I tend to notice when some obscure screenwriter suddenly makes it big with a breakout movie hit and gets some press for it. Screenwriters rarely garner much attention in our celebrity-obsessed culture. Writers, by their very nature, are shy, unassuming people who shun attention ;-). I'm in my element when I'm alone at my computer with a glass of wine, not surrounded by schmoozing media types at some god-awful industry party. This puts me at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other media types who seem to feed off of such social interactions. But I figure when it comes to other scribes, I must be somewhat typical. There's no such thing as an extroverted writer.

I have a couple of feature scripts in pre-production with a Toronto production company. I get paid for the first script when it goes into production, the second when it's sold for distribution. Oh the joys of being a non-union writer.

One short film script I penned was filmed last year by ClearLight Films, a new Ireland-based production company that set up temporary shop in Toronto last year to build some Canadian partnerships. They're back in Dublin now, but we're trying to get our creation Coughing Fit into various festivals and there's talk of more collaboration.

The break-out scribe this holiday season is no doubt ex-stripper Diablo Cody (pictured), who penned the new comedy Juno. I have yet to see Juno, but the previews look quite charming. Cody's been nominated for a Golden Globe, and most foresee an Oscar nomination early in the new year. She's also been given a column at Entertainment Weekly. She's clearly mega-talented.

I mention Cody (not her real name) because she too is a blogger. Apparently, some film producer was a regular reader of her Pussy Ranch site and got in touch with her to see if she'd become a screenwriter. Wow!

If there are other film producers out there looking for up-and-coming screenwriters with loads of talent who will work for little or no pay (to start), drop me a line. You'll make my day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Baird's Bali flop will haunt Conservatives

You've got to love headlines like this. Conservative Environment Minister John Baird's performance at Bali last week was no doubt completely orchestrated by the Harper PMO, hoping Canadians, busy with the holidays, wouldn't notice. It was well-noted over the weekend how Baird skipped out on crucial negotiations in Bali, sending bureaucrats instead with no power to bargain or deviate from Stephen Harper's obstructionist stance.

With regime change a certainty in the United States next year, wouldn't it be nice to beat the Americans at first electing a leader for whom real action on climate change is a greater priority? I would love to see a press conference in early 2009 with Prime Minister Stephane Dion and President Al Gore or Barack Obama talking about how Canada and the U.S. are working together to save the planet from environmental catastrophe, not scheming to find ways to speed it up...

Here's an excerpt from Chantal Hebert's great article today:

"At every step of the way, Canada was portrayed – by its domestic critics and its international counterparts – as a leading voice for the obstructionist camp. Its insistence that it was not undermining an activist international consensus on climate change was undercut by its obvious isolation. It is hard to argue that one is building bridges when they so obviously lead nowhere.

"For the Harper government, the Bali meeting could have been an opportunity to square the circle of its repositioning on the environment, by stepping in front of the upcoming American parade. Instead it locked itself in step with a moribund administration.

"For as long as the debate was focused on the Kyoto Protocol, blaming the Liberals for Canada's lagging climate change record was a credible Conservative mantra. But last week, the debate shifted to the future and, with the spotlight squarely on them, the Conservatives were only too easily portrayed as climate change isolationists rather than activists."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gay film director helps Pope with makeover?

Isn't Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli gay? Apparently so. It makes this Pope Benedict makeover story all the more interesting.

Check out this similar post for more background on Zeffirelli's filmography, which includes Callas Forever, Tea With Mussolini and of course the 1968 version of Romeo & Juliet which featured the very hot Leonard Whiting as young Romeo in the buff (pictured).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A few Canucks & Scottish cutie James McAvoy snag Golden Globe nods

Enough of the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. I'll let other bloggers wax on at length about that ongoing circus.

I prefer lighter discussion this close to the holidays, like today's nominations for the Golden Globe Awards, the forebearer to the Academy Awards early next year. Yes, movie awards' season is back to keep our hearts warm this terrible winter.

A handful of Canadians are amongst the Globe nominees this year:

- Ellen Page for her comedic turn in Juno.
- Ryan Gosling for his comedic lead performance in Lars and the Real Girl.
- David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises earned a Best Dramatic Feature nomination, as did his star Viggo Mortensen in Best Dramatic Actor.
- International icon Julie Christie earned a well-deserved Best Dramatic Actress nod for her role in Sarah Polley's directorial debut Away from Her.

Overall, the British historical drama Atonement starring Scottish hottie James McAvoy (pictured) led the competition garnering seven nods, including Best Dramatic Actor for McAvoy.

The funniest nomination: John Travolta for his turn as Edna Turnblad in the wonderfully gay Hairspray, also up for Best Comedy/Musical. Travolta was great in one of the best films of the year.

For a full list of the nominations, click here. Stay tuned for my Golden Globe predictions closer to the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm ashamed of the Harper government's actions in Bali

I wholeheartedly agree with Montreal Gazette columnist Janet Bagnall that, "Canadians should be ashamed of our government's actions in Bali."

In her column today, Bagnall summarizes the importance of the Bali climate change conference and how Stephen Harper is actually making matters worse for the planet, not better. What a contrast to the 2005 Montreal conference on climate change where Stephane Dion helped Canada lead the world.

Bagnall writes: "Bali must be the political response to the recent scientific reports by the IPCC," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "All countries must do what they can to reach agreement by 2009, and to have it in force by the expiry of the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period in 2012."

But Canada, for one, seems to have no intention of doing any such thing. Our country, one of the world's Top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases, will, under the Harper government, continue to undermine negotiations under cover of seeking "fairness."

Fairness, to the Harper government, consists in waiting until other top emitters sign on to a post-Kyoto agreement before it commits itself to anything. China, India and the United States would have to agree to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions by a fixed number before Canada acts.


Ban Ki-moon says it best in this Times Online piece:

“The world’s scientists have spoken with one voice: the situation is grim and urgent action is needed,” Mr Ban said at a gathering of 190 countries on the Indonesian island of Bali. “The situation is so desperately serious that any delay could push us past the tipping point, beyond which the ecological, financial and human costs would increase dramatically. We are at a crossroads: one path leads to a comprehensive climate change agreement, the other one to oblivion.”

Man, I can't wait until Stephane Dion becomes Prime Minister and we finally get some actual and much needed leadership in Canada on this issue. Here's an excerpt from Dion's column in today's National Post:

"Canada can and must lead the world toward a sustainable, low-carbon economy by reaching for the top, not racing to the bottom. We can do better than simply "aspire" to action in the distant future.

"Finally, we must help developing countries adopt the new technologies and forestry practices that will allow them to reduce their emissions -- and that will showcase Canadian business ingenuity at the same time.

"Global warming is already inevitable and we will have to adapt, both at home and around the world. There is much work to do in Bali to create a blueprint for the future. And Canadians know that this is not a job for the reluctant or the faint of heart. That is why, whether or not Prime Minister Harper and Minister Baird choose to do the right thing, I will be in Bali, standing for my convictions, and for the hopes of millions of Canadians and people around the world."

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Second That: Why I Don't Link To Bourque Newswatch Anymore

Fed up with Bourque.org, I criticized his site earlier this year for many of the same reasons listed today by James Bowie. I missed the Bourque link back in August that Bowie says is his main objection to that news aggregator site, but wow!

I agree with James: if you want a quality online news link site, you can't do better in Canada than National Newswatch.com.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Jodie Foster reveals her lesbian lover


Yay for Jodie Foster! I've long admired her talent. I'm not one of those commentators who believes all queer celebrities are obliged to "come out of the closet". But when one does, even after years of speculation, they should be congratulated.

Foster referred to her partner Cydney Bernard during a speech after receiving an award by the Hollywood Reporter at a Power 100 breakfast earlier this week. Jodie thanked, "my beautiful Cydney who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss."

Cydney is also co-mother to their son. With the salaries she commands, plus two Oscars, Ms. Foster could obviously take the risk involved with this acknowledgement.

No better than any other party: NDP's junkyard dog tactics

Some NDP supporters like to pretend their party is different from other parties, more principled, less sleazy. Those of us who've seen how low the NDP will go know better. They'll even stoop as low to attack an opponent's artistic freedom in order to get a few more votes as they did in the 2001 Beaches by-election in Ontario.

Two incidents this week - NDP MP Irene Mathyssen smearing Tory MP James Moore as well as deputy NDP Leader Libby Davies' public admission regarding their attacks on Abbotsford Liberal candidate David Oliver in 2006 - should remind all that when it comes to playing dirty, these folks don't have anything to learn from Liberals or Tories.

Liberal Ralph Goodale said it best here:

"The NDP have this sanctimonious air that they like to put on ... but the fact of the matter is what they've engaged in here has been a kind of political bottom-feeding."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Dipper who cried "Wolf!"

Ouch, what a blunder. Perhaps this incident will teach NDP MP Irene Mathyssen a needed lesson to look more closely before smearing a colleague. To see the possible unfair damage done to James Moore's reputation, check this out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Memo to Ontario PCs: Keep John Tory, he's better than the alternatives

Check out this new website/blog set up to stoke the flames of anti-John Tory sentiment within the Ontario Progressive Conservative grassroots.

Congrats to the designer of this site, Nick Kouvalis, for having the guts to put his name out there on the anti-leadership front. As a former grassroots party member, I know how hard it is to stick your neck out and attack a sitting leader, regardless of how poorly that leader may have performed recently.

But looking at the rotating images of possible Tory successors on this site - Elizabeth Witmer (boring has-been), Tim Hudak (goof), Christine Elliott (too novice) and Frank Klees (I love funding for private religious schools) - I'm struck that the author of this website is probably doing his cause little help. None of these folks would make a better leader than John Tory, as far as I can tell.

I'm as shocked as most that John Tory so badly blew this recent Ontario election. Because of one promise to fund more religious schools within the public system, Tory's entire campaign went right off the rails. It was a miscalculation of historic proportions and paved the way for one of the most undeserved re-elections in recent history, that of Dalton McGuinty.

It's easy to understand why some Tories would be furious with Mr. Tory, particularly those on the far right of their party who never liked him much. But those right-wingers can't escape the fact that Tory went down in 2007 on one of their pet issues: private religious school funding. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Tory tried to frame his support for that issue in the most reasonable terms possible. He ditched the ill-conceived tax credits brought in by Jim Flaherty when he was Mike Harris's finance minister and promised to ensure these schools would abide by provincial standards.

Mr. Tory was right on one count: the status quo in Ontario - funding one public system and one separate Catholic system - is unacceptable in a modern, pluralistic society that values equality. The problem for Tory was the vast majority of Ontarians, myself included, see the solution as getting rid of the Catholic system, not entrenching religious education by creating all kinds of new religious school systems.

Tory also completely botched his sales job during the campaign, backtracking on it in a cowardly fashion, eventually killing it mid-campaign by promising a free vote on the issue. After that, it was only a question how large the Liberal majority would be. Since the Oct 10th vote, Mr. Tory has rightly promised to drop the religious school funding promise altogether.

Four years is a long time. By 2011, memories of Tory's 2007 mistakes will have faded, certainly among the electorate. By all accounts, Tory has been exemplary in running the Ontario PCs and getting it out of debt since he became leader in 2004. He still represents a moderate brand of conservatism that can sell in Ontario, if he can recover from his current electoral wounds.

In 1999, Dalton McGuinty completely blew the Ontario election, but managed to stay on as leader. He worked harder and improved his performance. Four years later, McGuinty had transformed and better impressed Ontarians with an inspiring, promise-heavy campaign (too many promises as we now know). After eight years of Tory rule, his 'Choose Change' motto resonated.

There's every reason to believe that John Tory can do the same thing. By 2011, it's highly likely Ontarians will have had enough of Dalton McGuinty.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Stephen Harper stands out as small man of humanity

I couldn't resist pointing out this great article in today's Toronto Star by writer Michael Byers about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's nasty efforts on the global climate change file. A must-read for today.

Here's an excerpt:

"Whatever his motives, Harper's stance is downright nasty. For rather than simply sitting on the sidelines, he's actively seeking to block urgent [environmental] action on the part of other countries.

"It's time to put the long-term interests of humanity ahead of domestic politics.

"British Prime Minister Gordon Brown understands this. So does California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. So too does Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who has promised to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

"Want to see a small man, van Loan? He's sitting right beside you – playing games while the planet burns."

Get ready for battle of ideas, Dion says

Good reviews for Stephane Dion coming out of the Montreal meeting of federal riding presidents this weekend. This strategy works for me.

Among other good quotes from Dion this weekend, this gem: "In the last election, (NDP Leader) Jack Layton asked Canadians to lend him their vote. And what did they get? Stephen Harper. Many Canadians will demand their vote back – with interest!"

I'm one of those progressives who lent his vote to Jack Layton in 2006. I'll most definitely be taking it back in the next election and voting for Stephane Dion's Liberals.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Stephane Dion, one year later...

I was a huge supporter of Stephane Dion during last year's leadership race. I didn't start out the race that way, I was originally more supportive of Gerard Kennedy. However, Kennedy's speaking style (in English) left me very flat and it seemed unlikely he'd be able to beat out either Ignatieff or Rae, both of whom were unacceptable to me as a longtime, loyal Liberal who opposed the Iraq war.

In the spring of 2006, some Liberal friends drew my attention to Stephane Dion's candidacy, whose campaign had been flying under the radar. I knew Dion well from his successes promoting the Clarity Act. I read up more on Dion's accomplishments in government, as well as his emphasis on environmental sustainability. He seemed like a honest, principled and truly decent man, very different from the man he would succeed. I was hooked. Despite a poorly-run central campaign (at least in Ontario), Dion seemed to have genuine grassroots Liberal appeal as a viable alternative to Ignatieff and Rae. The rest was history.

I don't regret my support for Dion last year for one moment. Given the options, I'd make the same choice today knowing what I know now. Dion wasn't a perfect choice for leader. But he was the best of the group of candidates offered, none of whom possessed all the qualities needed to hit the ground running. Dion's main weaknesses: his English, as well as his unrefined political retail skills.

I must admit I have occasionally worried about Dion over the last year. He's seemed slow to acknowledge and address his shortcomings. At times, he's seemed alarmingly unaware of them. He claims to be working hard to improve his English, but he shows only marginal improvement in that department. Much more intense English immersion is needed as soon as possible. His handling of the Outremont by-election was stunningly inept for a leadership test that became so crucial. But since that loss, his actions to re-configure his team, including recruiting Senator David Smith to co-chair the national election campaign, have eased many concerns.

Last year, I argued that Dion had proven a quick study at taking on new challenges in previous roles and excelling. I argued that national leadership would be Dion's greatest personal challenge and he would rise to the occasion to become a truly great national leader and Prime Minister. Dion has been slower to show the progress I hoped to see. I do see many improvements, but there is still much work to be done. Surrounded by a strong team of colleagues and staff, I hope and trust there is a plan to get Dion to where he needs to be.

There is evidence that things are coming together. He's done well at the Montreal meeting this weekend. Dion's messaging is slowly starting to become clearer (although he needs to stop using the terms 'Republican' and 'ideological' to describe the Harper agenda. Those words mean little to most Canadians. I'd much prefer Dion use 'heartless' or 'uncaring' to describe the Harper agenda, versus the 'generous, fair-minded Liberal plan for Canada'.) His re-emphasis on environmental issues as well as other topics that help distinguish the Liberals from the Harper Conservatives can only help position the party as the clear alternative to the government. His plan to go to Bali seems heroic. I also hope he takes the January break to take a trip to Afghanistan.

In the end, I still see great promise in Stephane Dion, as do many Liberals, I suspect. Deep down, most Liberals admire the guy and, dare I say it, even love him. We saw the qualities in him last year that made us take a leap of faith and anoint him leader. Since then, many of those qualities have been blurred by Tory attacks and near-constant media sniping.

If Dion can adopt a clearer and simple message (like he did last year so successfully during the leadership race) and find a better way to connect emotionally with ordinary Canadians, both in English and in French, he will be successful. The typical communications strategies of previous leaders - screaming across the floor during Question Period, speeches at huge rallies, glad-handing in markets, etc. - won't necessarily work for Dion. His handlers need to find the venues that highlight Dion's personal strengths and stick to them. It's time to get creative when it comes to selling Dion to the public.

Because the issues at stake are so important, I do believe that Dion's success will be Canada's success. We can't afford too many more months of Stephen Harper's regressive Conservative leadership, especially on the environment.

Stelmach stands up for gays, shuts out Chandler

This is interesting. Alberta PC Premier Ed Stelmach has ousted Christian activist Craig Chandler as his party's candidate in the Calgary-Egmont riding for the next election.

Chandler's crime: a group he once headed broke Alberta human rights law when it posted on several websites a letter by Stephen Boissoin, a member of Concerned Christian Coalition. Boissoin's letter was originally published in a Red Deer newspaper and stated gay activists are "perverse, morally deprived individuals who are spreading their psychological disease" and these activists and those defending them are just as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps. The Alberta Human Rights Commission ruled Friday the letter was hate material. During deliberations, Boissoin admitted that, "Chandler was aware and supported what he was doing."

A few things strike me about this move by Stelmach:

1) Stelmach is a very different man than his predecessor Ralph Klein. I highly doubt Klein would've taken this sort of action. Concern for human rights was never high on Klein's agenda. This move confirms a move to the centre for Alberta's leadership.

2) Boissoin was very much guilty of spreading hate, as far as I can tell. His letter urged readers to take any and all action to fight the "wickedness" of homosexuality. Two weeks after his letter was published, a gay youth was attacked in Red Deer.

3) Chandler's association with Boissoin is clear. By publishing the despicable letter on various websites, Chandler endorsed its contents.

This incident should stand as a warning about the rhetoric that can be used in public discourse. Clearly, Boissoin went over the top with his vitriol. I would say the Alberta panel's ruling was very justified.

I've been following Chandler for a few years. He's an outspoken Christian activist with a high public profile. He once ran for the Reform Party and ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. Many of his public statements have always struck me as a "church" man toting the "church" line.

I once saw Chandler featured in a terrific CBC documentary entitled, "God Only Knows: Same Sex Marriage." The documentary showcased what happened when the pastor of a gay community church in Vancouver exchanged lives for two weeks with Chandler, billed as a socially conservative, religious-right lobbyist from Calgary. It was an incredible piece as both men seemed to get along well and find much common ground. They even came up with a compromise position on how to make same sex marriage acceptable to some Christians: get the government out of the marriage business altogether, only let churches conduct marriages and therefore not have to change the public definition of marriage (as there'd be no public, civil definition.) This would allow gay churches to conduct same sex marriages as they see fit.

The part of the documentary that most struck me was watching Chandler join his gay pastor friend at the gay community church in Vancouver. The off-the-cuff comments from Chandler witnessing the gay Christian celebration from the pews were very revealing. Away from the cameras, Chandler was heard telling the gay pastor's same sex partner that he could sense "God's presence here."

Chandler seemed much more reasonable than his public persona would have us believe. Yet this incident, posting a letter now deemed hate material on various websites, has come back to haunt him. I don't think Chandler is as bad as has been portrayed, at least on the gay issue. (His comments about people moving to Alberta having to adopt 'conservative principles or leave' were ill-advised, but hardly criminal.) In this incident, Chandler's merely guilty by association.

Chandler may not have a home anymore in Stelmach's Alberta PC Party. This is just politics.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Alberta panel denounces ex-pastor's anti-gay comments

This is excellent news. This case came about after a former evangelical Alberta pastor, Stephen Boissoin, published a venomous letter in the Red Deer Advocate in 2002 which attacked, "Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them...as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities."

The letter urged readers to, "take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness" of the "homosexual machine." Two weeks later, a gay youth was assaulted in Red Deer. Darren Lund, a local high school teacher at the time, filed the complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which led to yesterday's ruling.

Boissoin tried to defend himself by claiming he was merely aiming to inspire a "spirited" community debate with his hateful letter. But the panel rightly dismissed that argument.

Deliberate or not, Boissoin's words had the effect of completely dehumanizing a group of his fellow citizens and inspiring any and all attacks against them. Violent homophobes for generations have used similar words to justify many forms of violence against their victims.

True to form, Boissoin's Christian colleagues are being anything but Christian in their reaction, complaining again their religious freedoms are more important than the rights of homosexuals to live safe in a community where violence against them isn't promoted by abusive community leaders.

"If you really can't speak out your religious viewpoints, that is tyrannical," says Jim Blake, the national chairman of what is now Concerned Christians Canada.

As far as I'm concerned, people of any religion (or non-religious affiliation) have every right to express dislike or disdain for any group of people or any type of behaviour, without that expression being judged as "hate material" or "hate speech."

But clearly this is a case where the pastor went completely overboard with his published rhetoric. He wasn't merely expressing a religious viewpoint. His call for readers to take action and use "whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness" of the "homosexual machine" clearly can be interpreted to include promoting violent action against LGBT citizens. Justice has been served in this case.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Congrats to Australia's Labor Party, hurray for one less climate change denier on the world stage...

It's always a wonderful thing to see a progressive party sweep aside a neo-conservative government, especially in a place like Australia which has many similarities with Canada.

Check out ABC's website coverage of Kevin Rudd's big win here.

This result is sweeter because defeated neo-con John Howard was not only a close colleague of our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but this means one less climate change denier on the world stage, and less support for George Bush's Iraq fiasco. All in all, a great day for progressive-minded people in the Commonwealth.

Speaking of which, now Stephen Harper is truly officially isolated as the lone voice obstructing action on this issue amongst Commonwealth countries.

Apparently, our national government - elected solely because voters were tired of the scandal-plagued Liberals - is fighting like mad to stop a proposed statement by Commonwealth countries that would bind Canada to cutting greenhouse gas emissions substantially. Harper's problem: the wording of the statement targets developed countries, not developing countries.

"We are not blocking a binding target," the Prime Minister's spokeswoman, Sandra Buckler, has said. "We are, however, looking for a declaration that is as strong as the APEC declaration [which was agreed to by China and the United States] in terms of the importance of comprehensiveness — that all countries, notably major emitters, must contribute to reducing [greenhouse-gas] emissions. We would not support a binding target only for some emitters, especially if that excludes major emitters."

Of course, the APEC declaration Buckler refers to only sets aspirational — voluntary — emissions reductions targets for major emitters. Voluntary reductions of course means no substantial action to fight the climate change crisis we are facing. The issue here isn't getting China and the USA to agree, the issue here for Harper is stopping any binding targets, either in the developed or developing world. How despicable.

The sooner Canada elects Stephane Dion the better!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Funny: '300' Parody from 'Robot Chicken'

Check out this absolutely hilarious spoof of the feature film "300" by the geniuses who make the popular cult series "Robot Chicken."

Harper government slowly bleeding AIDS groups dry

This is disturbing, but again unsurprising. Who says Stephen Harper needs a majority to re-make this country in his own neo-con image?

As of early November, the Conservative government hadn't decided which groups across the country serving people with AIDS would get federal cash in 2008 and 2009, according to documents obtained by Capital Xtra.

Public Health Agency of Canada faxed a letter to organizations who run AIDS programming on Nov 9 saying that the AIDS Community Action Program would see a short-term extension until March 2009. It also suggests cash will only be available to groups already receiving money. And it comes with a warning.

"All Grants and Contribution programs are currently being reviewed to ensure that they are closely aligned with the Agency's priorities, current research and evidence," says the letter.

Without a majority, this is how the Tories prefer to put their socially conservative stamp on the country: by stealth. They pulled similar moves last year when they removed the word "equality" from the Status of Women mandate and shut down the Court Challenges Program, among other changes.

Just think about what legislative changes the Harper government would embrace if it had a majority...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cardinal Ouellet's small first step & Dion's good move

Let me add my voice in reaction to yesterday's open letter from Canada's senior Roman Catholic clergyman Cardinal Marc Ouellet. His full letter can be found here.

The Cardinal's letter was itself a reaction to the hostility he received last month after testifying at the Bouchard-Taylor 'reasonable accommodations' commission. Some also say he's trying to reposition the church, which has largely fallen out of favour in the secular province.

In his letter, the Cardinal recognized that priests sexually abused children and scolded women for not bearing more children.

"These scandals shook the confidence of the people toward religious authorities, and we understand that," Cardinal Ouellet wrote. "Forgive us for all this harm!"

The line that got my attention was this:

"As Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, I recognize that the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics, prior to 1960, favoured anti-Semitism, racism, indifference toward First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals."

Of course, the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics (and others) after 1960 have also caused great harm and continue to do so.

Still when I first heard about this open letter yesterday, the cynic in me fully expected the apology to be directed toward everybody except for homosexuals. For the Cardinal to mention "homosexuals" as being undeserving of abuse they've received and to issue an apology is very significant. This follows years of the Cardinal attacking equal treatment under civil marriage laws, so obviously the Church is not guilt-free when it comes to spreading, shall we say, indifference or disregard to the lives and loves of we friends of Dorothy.

But I will admit this was a small first step by the Cardinal in reckoning for the wrongs of the past.

************************************

On another note, I'm very happy to see that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and his team in Ottawa have taken up the cause of Ontario's under-representation in the federal parliament and come to the defence of Premier McGuinty (who faced snide and small-minded attacks this week from Tory Anti-Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan). This is very smart.

Conservapedia/Extremist-Propaganda...

I came across this site recently - truly disgusting propaganda, is all I can say about it.

It's always annoying that far-right extremists can co-opt the term "conservative" to suit their own over-the-top ends. I know many decent, reasonable, moderate conservatives who aren't raving, far-right loonies like the people who set up this site. I guess those moderate conservatives will just have to keep using Wikipedia?

Check out the stats on the most popular pages on this extremist site to find out the kinds of people who frequent it. Once again, the far-right's strange obsession with hot man-on-man action continues. What are they telling us?

If nothing else, this proves that just because you can publish an article on a website ending with "...pedia" doesn't mean there's any truth to the content.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spooky Day hurting the Harper government

For the latest bit of proof of this, check out yesterday's Toronto Star editorial. I couldn't agree more.

Stockwell Day's initial reaction to the tragic death last week of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was to lecture Canadians for not being as outraged over impaired driving deaths (as if we aren't). It was a typical Day/neo-con extremist response. If the victim isn't someone most neo-cons can relate to, it's not that important and the issue can be skirted and minimized.

Every time Day opens his mouth and the super 'Public Safety Minister' appears below him on the news or in Parliament, a chill goes down my spine. I'll never forget how much of a wacko leader he turned out to be. I don't think most moderate Canadians will forget that either. The fact Day continues to hold such power in the Harper government scares the crap out of me. We know he's got a huge following in the Conservative Party's grassroots and among the extremist Christian community in Canada (all one per cent of them.) That's why Harper keeps him in place and seems to give him more free rein to make dumb public comments like this. It sure does keep those extremist Christian dollars flowing into Conservative Party coffers.

As I've said before, Day is a nutbar and most mainstream Canadians know it. He often seems to be holding back, frequently on the cusp of saying what's really on his mind. These boys can never be trusted with anything close to a majority.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Away from Her: One of the most brilliant cinematic portraits of love I've ever seen


I realize I'm several months behind on this (as this film debuted last year at the Toronto International Film Festival), but I finally had a chance to view Sarah Polley's quiet masterpiece, 'Away from Her' over the weekend and wanted to write about it.

If you haven't had a chance to see this film (and judging from its respectable, yet small box office in limited release earlier this year, you haven't), you should definitely consider seeing one of the best films of the year.

I'll admit, the subject matter about an older couple (Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, pictured) struggling to deal with the onset of Alzheimer's disease might deter some viewers looking for a quick or dumb Blockbuster fix. Yet you'd be missing a quiet gem and one of the best Canadian films in years. I don't recall seeing a more beautiful portrait of selfless love in a movie (from any nation) than this.

Based on a short story by Alice Munro, the film follows the sudden degeneration of Julie Christie's character Fiona and her husband Grant's struggles to assist her. She makes it difficult for him (and the film hints this may or may not be due to the disease). Her condition becomes so bad she decides to check in to a nearby seniors' care facility. While there, her memories of her marriage seem to fade entirely and she develops an affection for another man, leaving Pinsent's Grant in a funk. Grant then figures out a beautiful way to possibly bring his wife, growing increasingly depressed and remote, some possible happiness.

Most people will see this movie to check out Julie Christie's exquisite performance. She is mesmerizing for every second of her time on screen. The rest of the cast circle around this screen icon and give perfect performances, especially Pinsent. There has been talk of late that Christie will win another Oscar nod for this performance, which would be a delight. I also hope that Pinsent will be acknowledged by the Academy, either in the Lead Actor or Supporting Actor categories. Polley, as writer and director, may also be acknowledged by the Hollywood elites. How wonderful that would be and ironic for an artist who has shunned the Hollywood lifestyle for years. I'm sure this film will dominate the upcoming Canadian Genie Awards, with Pinsent and Christie in their respective leading Acting categories, and Polley in both the writing and directing categories.

The ending brought me to quiet tears. It's been a while since a film made me cry, I tend to be a hard emotional nut to crack. So when it happens, I must take note. I intend to buy this movie.

Polley's achievement here is absolutely astonishing. At such a young age (28), Polley has written and directed a quiet masterpiece about the tragedies that can occur at the end of relationships and the undying and complicated power of love. I won't forget this film.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NDP crushed in Saskatchewan heartland, will media pundits now gang up on Jack Layton too?

Hmmmm...Just wanted to point out something. The Liberals lose in one Montreal by-election in September and all hell breaks loose, the media start printing any and all utterances of discontent from Liberal party workers on the nation's front pages and declare that Stephane Dion's leadership is hanging by a thread.

Meanwhile, the NDP under Jack Layton fails to elect a single MP in the party's cradle of Saskatchewan in two elections, where the old CCF was born, and nobody seems to notice. The NDP won five seats in Saskatchewan both in 1993 and 1997, dropping to two MPs in 2000. But when city slicker Jack took over, the NDP dropped to zero in 2004 and again zero in 2006. Prospects for electing federal Dippers in that province in the next election remain bleak. Yes the NDP was more popular in Saskatchewan under Alexa McDonough than under Layton.

Now the NDP has been crushed in the provincial election in Saskatchewan, losing by almost 15 percentage points to the centre-right Saskatchewan Party.

Should we expect new commentary now on how Jack Layton continues to have zero traction in such an important NDP province, how Layton was no help to his provincial counterparts and how this loss by the Saskatchewan NDP is a further blow to Layton's leadership and prospects there? If one NDP worker in Saskatoon now says Layton isn't popular on the Prairies, will it make the front page of the Globe & Mail? Looking through today's post-election news coverage, it doesn't seem so thus far. Strange that.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Democracy has gone wrong in my Conservative Party," says former Guelph Tory MP

Great coverage today in Guelph's local weekly on this week's ouster of local Tory candidate Brent Barr.

It goes without saying the decision to oust two democratically nominated Conservative candidates hasn't gone over too well for Stephen Harper's backroom manipulators.

The fact both candidates were considered moderates within the party cements the fear those in control of this new Conservative Party are still very much of the old Reform Party ilk.

Ousted because he wanted to raise urban issues in his downtown Toronto riding, the treatment of Mark Warner should concern every urban Canadian. Suddenly, our federal government has decided issues of concern to urban dwellers seem to be of no relevance to the national agenda, or at least the Conservative national agenda. Royson James wrote an excellent piece today on how this move not only writes off Toronto, but all growing urban centres in the country.

But the removal of democratically elected candidate Brent Barr in Guelph continues to mystify. Barr, by any standard, was an excellent candidate, urbane, successful in business, well-spoken, and yes moderate on social issues. There seems to be little reason for removing someone as qualified as Barr.

The last non-Liberal to represent the Guelph area in the House of Commons, Bill Winegard (who served as a cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney's government) probably speaks for most old-time Tories in the area when he said, "I think democracy has gone wrong in my Conservative Party," Winegard said. "Something has gone wrong."

Barr hasn't ruled out running as an independent against whoever the Tories end up appointing to replace him. I hope he does as it would likely bury the Tory appointee's chances in Guelph.

On cue, already the woman Barr beat for the nomination isn't ruling out seizing the crown she lost earlier this year. Gloria Kovach claims she was shocked to learn of Barr's removal this week. But she added she thought this decision, "...would never have been made by the party lightly. So I believe it would have been made in the best interests of Guelph. I don't believe it should hurt whoever the candidate would be."

Whoever is chosen to be the next candidate "has an excellent chance of representing Guelph, because the government is doing a great job," she adds.

Hmmmm....She certainly sounds like someone about to be handed the Tory nod by party brass over the wishes of local party members.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Harper fires two pro-equality Conservative candidates, overthrows local nominations

Tory thug Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suddenly sacked two of his most progressive candidates set to run in the upcoming federal election.

Both Mark Warner in Toronto Centre and Brent Barr in Guelph had won their local nominations last spring.

Allegedly, they've been ousted because the central party didn't like how they were campaigning locally. Warner had been attempting to play up issues of concern in his downtown Toronto riding such as housing, health care and cities issues. Warner said the party had been fighting him on these issues, even blocking him from participating in a Star forum on poverty earlier this year and pointedly removing from his campaign literature a reference to the 2006 international conference on AIDS in Toronto – which Warner attended but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not.

Warner is also in favour of same-sex marriage.

Connie Harrison, a downtown Toronto poverty and housing activist, was shocked to hear about how the Tories had dumped Warner, a black man, born in Trinidad and Tobago, who immigrated to Canada as child in the 1960s and went on to attend Osgoode Hall law school and have a significant career in international trade law.

"They want to prove that they are not scary. It's behaviour like this that tells the rest of us, yes they are," Harrison said yesterday.

Brent Barr ran in the 2006 election in the Guelph riding and managed to increase Tory support there from 25% to 30% (roughly the same increase for the party overall in Ontario). He says he's been campaigning hard since winning the local nomination again this past spring. Barr, too, was one of the few Tory candidates actually in favour of same-sex marriage. He suspects he's been pushed aside to make way for a star candidate in the traditionally-swing riding.

"The Conservative party is ignoring the democratic will of our membership, our volunteers and the over 18,500 people who voted for me last year," says Barr.

I'll be watching very closely to see who the Tories appoint to replace these progressive-minded candidates. Very scary, indeed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Congrats to Michael Gravelle!


Congratulations must go out to Michael Gravelle, MPP for Thunder Bay Superior North (and my former boss) on his appointment today as Minister of Northern Development & Mines in the McGuinty cabinet. Michael is an exceptional human being and he so deserves this. I'm thrilled for him.

All in all, pretty solid picks today by McGuinty, in my humble opinion. Congrats to all and good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More on J.K. Rowling's outing of Dumbledore


Author J.K. Rowling (pictured) is reportedly stunned by the enormous reaction she has received since 'outing' her 'Harry Potter' character Albus Dumbledore as gay.

Some have praised her move as a step forward for gay recognition (myself included), while others have criticized Rowling for not making Dumbledore's sexuality clearer in the books. Many have cynically argued Rowling's revelation is merely a publicity stunt designed to garner new attention and lay the groundwork for some kind of upcoming 'Harry Potter' encyclopedia.

Personally, I doubt Rowling is after greater book sales. Potter readers had long speculated about Dumbledore, noting he had a mysterious, troubled past. Now I'm sure many fans will re-read the seven books looking for additional signs of Dumbledore's orientation (as if they needed another excuse to do so). Rowling has defended herself by pointing to a quote in the final book in which the character Dumbledore describes the intense feelings he used to hold for rival wizard Gellert Grindelwald, "You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me..."

In a funny way, this public outing of Dumbledore is similar to how most young people discover the queer tendencies of many of their own high school teachers. I remember many teachers in my high school who seemed to be a little different, but of course nothing was ever admitted. Even today, many queer teachers keep their private lives secret from their students. The truth tends to come out afterwards. Potter fans, having grown up knowing and loving Dumbledore, are now discovering the truth about him in a very similar way.

I don't doubt Rowling's motives. She has said recently, "It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could love other men. He is my character. He is what he is and I have the right to say what I say about him." Good on her.

Monday, October 22, 2007

J.K. Rowling Outs Dumbledore


I'm sure many have now heard the interesting comments by 'Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling over the weekend that her character, Dumbledore, in the Potter series has always been gay. This is a stunning development and one with many cool implications.

I will admit, I haven't read all of the Harry Potter books. My partner is much more of a devoted fan, and I'm sure this revelation will please him. I have seen and loved all of the movies in which the character Dumbledore has been played by actors Richard Harris (who passed away in 2002) and Michael Gambon (pictured).

It's obvious why Rowling would have had difficulty revealing that Dumbledore was gay earlier. The 'Harry Potter' books were originally marketed for children. Most of those fans have grown up with the series, the first book published in 1997. The seventh and final book, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' was released this summer with much fanfare. I'm sure most devoted readers will now have little difficulty accepting that their beloved Dumbledore was actually queer the whole time.

There has always been something magical about how Rowling used a children's book series to explore some very non-Christian ideas. I've always suspected that Rowling might have been partially motivated to write this series in order to help dispel the negative connotations so-called 'witchcraft' has had in mainstream Western culture for centuries. She has also stated one of her main goals was to encourage her young readers to "question authority" and think for themselves.

We have long seen many Christian extremists attack the 'Harry Potter' series. This revelation that the headmaster at Hogwarts has always been gay will give them more reason to hate it. And more reason for me and many others to love it (I was raised Catholic, by the way, although today I like to call myself religiously 'open-minded.')

It will be interesting to see how the remaining two films yet to be produced from the Harry Potter books will treat this revelation. Personally, I don't care if the movies make explicitly clear that Dumbledore is in fact gay, as the author now says. I'd be happy with a funny wink or some other slightly feminine gesture that makes subtle reference to it without giving it away completely.

Suddenly, Daniel Radcliffe's recent nude appearance on a London stage in the play 'Equus', to be soon repeated on Broadway, takes on a whole new significance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dion did the right thing today

I'm happy to be contrarian and express a different opinion than most on today's proceedings on Parliament Hill. I also think many folks, particularly in the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal Party (the people who foolishly believed and continue to believe Michael Ignatieff is the new Messiah) have spent too much time hanging their own leader out to dry for weeks. It's time to take back the knives and wipe them off.

The media spin circling around Dion since the September by-elections has been ferocious. Minor issues have been spun into major crises in the media. All because of one by-election defeat, the resignation of a Quebec party official warrants major news coverage. Meanwhile, the decision by a local riding association in Nova Scotia not to put up a Tory candidate in defiance of the Prime Minister's orders barely gets a mention in the press.

We don't need a federal election right now. We don't want a federal election right now. Plus if one were to happen this fall, we'd likely get the same Parliament we have right now: Conservative minority (with plus or minus 5 or so seats), Liberals with about 100 or so seats, a slightly weakened BQ and the NDP with 25 to 30 seats. Maybe we'd have one Green MP in Elizabeth May. But all in all, an election now would confirm the status quo.

Enough already. Can we please let Stephane Dion get on with the job of rebuilding this shattered party and stop the useless sniping from the galleries? Let the guy do his job. Dalton McGuinty had three years to rebuild the Ontario Liberal Party before blowing one election in 1999, and he was able to stay on to win twice. Surely Mr. Dion deserves better than he's getting right now all around. I'd rather wait until we know Dion and the rest of the party is ready to defeat Harper and his goons than waste millions on a pointless election which produces the same Parliament we have now.

There's a reason Harper didn't put a poison pill in his Throne Speech: because he knows he hasn't yet earned a majority government and the people aren't ready to give him one.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Looks like we're stuck with First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future

What a thumping MMP took yesterday in Ontario!

It seems obvious to me this was a very clear repudiation of any form of proportional representation for Ontario for the foreseeable future. Only once Ontario becomes less conservative, less cautious and more willing to experiment with new voting systems, can proportional voting, in whatever form, be considered again.

Voters are smart. The old saying 'The voters are always right' still applies. We can't simply reject this vote against MMP as the result of widespread public ignorance of the question. In the end, I think voters knew very well what they were voting for and what they were voting against.

It surely seemed from my discussions with hundreds of ordinary Ontarians on this issue that discontent with the current system was palpable. Most people know they don't like First-Past-The-Post.

However, Ontarians aren't willing to make a giant leap toward something like MMP unless they're convinced it will be better. They clearly weren't convinced of that.

In many ways, the referendum result was much like the election result with voters opting for the devil they know rather than the devil they don't.

The future for electoral reform remains unclear. I do think MMP would have worked very well were it to have been adopted. But clearly Ontario voters are not interested in moving to a proportional system at this time.

So what are the alternatives after this? Preferential balloting? Run-off voting?

I'm not convinced either of those two options would be much better than our current system frankly. They would still shut out smaller parties and force voters to choose between the two biggest parties in their ridings. At least under our current system, the Green Party could conceivably elect a strong local candidate with a strong local machine. See Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound last night for a historic result for the Greens in Ontario. Clearly the Greens are on their way up under our current system.

I said two days ago that for First-Past-The-Post to be safe in Ontario, it would need at least 60% voter support. It won 63% support. Right or wrong, I think we're stuck with the current system for the foreseeable future. I doubt any political leader would entertain revisiting this issue again for a long time.

Congrats to the winners! And also congrats to Dalton McGuinty and his team for a job well-done on the election campaign trail.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

For First-Past-The-Post to be "safe", it'll need more than 60% support...

Much has been said during the Ontario referendum campaign of the 60% approval threshold imposed by the Ontario government on the new Mixed Member Proportional system.

Supporters of voting reform have decried this threshold as an unfair impediment to change. If voters are choosing between two systems, why does one system win with only 40% plus support?

Others have said that any change to our voting system requires greater public consensus than simply 50% plus one. The onus is on reformers to win 60% plus support in order for this change to go ahead.

I tend to accept the 60% threshold. Right or wrong, it's the rule that's been adopted in this referendum race. Such a vote in favour of change would be truly historic. In fact, according to the referendum law passed by the McGuinty government, if MMP wins 60% plus tomorrow, the government must implement it.

The supporters of the status quo have focussed almost exclusively in this campaign on attacking alleged shortcomings of the new system. They've spent almost no time explaining why our existing First-Past-The-Post system is better.

The reason for this is simple: First-Past-The-Post is antiquated and no longer produces governments that reflect the wishes of voters. Most anti-MMP folks in this referendum have openly admitted the existing system is flawed and some kind of change is necessary.

Since we've imposed a 60% threshold for approval for the new system, I think we should turn this rule on its head, at least symbolically.

Considering the lack of information out there for voters to make a decision, the fact that the new system is competitive in recent polling, and might even win over 50% support, shows a great deal of discontent with the existing system.

If First-Past-The-Post barely wins, like with a 52% support level over 48% for change, this will hardly be a ringing endorsement of our current system.

I think supporters of electoral reform should apply the same standard for approval to the existing system. First-Past-The-Post must win over 60% support from voters tomorrow in order to be considered "safe" for the next while. Anything less will show a strong desire for change in Ontario and will ensure this issue does not go away.

Monday, October 8, 2007

New voting system ensures second place party will never win the election again...

I posted this information on the other blog I've been working on the last three months. But it bears repeating. How anyone can support a system as broken as First-Past-The-Post is beyond me. Sometimes lust for power knows no bounds:

Another disturbing aspect of our existing system is its tendency to distort voters' wishes so badly that sometimes the second place party among voters actually wins the election.

This has happened in six out of 10 provinces in recent times: Ontario, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

The new Mixed Member Proportional system will fix this and ensure seat totals match the popular vote. Under the new system, the party that elects the most MPPs will be asked to form a government.

The people choose the government, not the system!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I've cancelled my subscription to the Toronto Star because of its biased referendum coverage

This is a copy of a letter to the editor I sent this morning to the Toronto Star. Enough is enough.

Dear Editor,

re: Electoral reform a backward step

I've been disgusted by the Toronto Star's unfair, biased coverage of the Citizens' Assembly referendum for weeks.

You've misinformed your readers by frequently referring to new province-wide MPPs under the new system as "appointed" or "selected."

In fact, all MPPs under the new system will be elected directly by voters. Voters will have two ballots, one for their local representative like now and one vote that will count right across the province and directly elect 39 new province-wide MPPs. Those 39 new province-wide MPPs will be accountable to voters, giving voters much more representation at Queen's Park than they have now. Those new MPPs will ensure that party representation in the legislature matches the party vote overall.

The Star's analysis around the need to reform our antiquated system has been willfully ignorant. Other jurisdictions with MMP have governments that are very stable and effective. Fringe parties almost never hold the balance of power.

For a paper that purports to support the little guy, the disenfranchised and the weak, your opposition to a voting system that would ensure all Ontarians have a voice in the legislature and that voters' wishes at election time aren't distorted by an archaic system is truly disappointing.

As such, I have cancelled my subscription to your paper. I will no longer give money to a newspaper that's willing to misinform readers on crucial public issues.

Sincerely,
Matt Guerin

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Modernized voting system has deck stacked against it

Capital Xtra, serving Ottawa's LGBT community, published this article by reporter Laura Mueller this week on the referendum debate.

Here's an excerpt:

"Despite the doom and gloom perspective extolled by critics of MMP, history has shown that minority governments have been good for queer rights — a Liberal-NDP coalition added sexual orientation to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1986. And let's not forget that minority governments at the federal level gave us universal health care, old-age pensions, and unemployment insurance among other popular legislation.

"Nathan Hauch, longtime political activist, says that minority governments limit the ability of social conservatives to scale back gay rights.

"The politics of divide and conquer, which can have very negative ramifications for [queer] voters, will be far less attractive for political elites" in minority governments, says Hauch."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tequila

A hilarious spoof produced in the same vein as American drug commercials. Thankfully, such commercials are banned in Canada. I found Tequila very helpful getting over Outremont last week (just kidding ;-))

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dion will learn from Outremont and come back stronger

Yes I was very disappointed by the by-election losses in Quebec on Monday. Congrats to the NDP on their second-ever Quebec win. We'll see if it holds in the general election (the last Quebec NDP by-election victory in 1990 didn't exactly translate into new Quebec support in the subsequent federal election.)

No doubt, the loss in Outremont will serve as a wake-up call to both Liberal leader Stephane Dion and the party as a whole. I don't buy the allegations that supporters of other failed leadership candidates deliberately sabotaged efforts in Outremont.

But the badly run campaign (apparently Liberal signs didn't show up in Outremont until September, almost a month after NDP signs went up) shows much work needs to be done to get the party's organizational structure fixed. I'm sure Dion knows that now.

Stephane Dion was never a natural politician. His areas of strength have always been in policy and driving the country forward in government, not organizing a well-oiled by-election effort. But Dion has also shown a remarkable ability to adapt, to take on new challenges and re-invent himself. Leadership of the party is the greatest challenge he will ever face, and I'm confident that Dion will view the losses as a chance to improve.

Even the conservative media is coming to the defence of Dion, which says a lot. Check out today's columns by Greg Weston in the Sun and John Moore in the National Post.

And while you're at it, check out this letter in the Montreal Gazette from a voter in Outremont. Very revealing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sheila Copps isn't naive, so I guess she must be nuts!

Sheila Copps today called anyone who supports the Citizens' Assembly recommendation for change in the October 10th referendum "naive or nuts."

That's right - the 103 randomly selected, ordinary citizens who studied the issue for months and put forth a moderate, reasonable proposal that balances the best of our current system with fairer results are "nuts" and "naive."

Remind me again why this woman was chased out of federal politics?

So I'm happy to be called naive or nuts by Sheila Copps, I guess lol. Granted, I don't buy Copps' analysis at all.

Copps engages in some unoriginal scaremongering in her over-the-top attacks on the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system.

She spends most of her column fretting how so-called extremists could gain control of the Ontario legislature under MMP with only 2% or 3% per cent of the seats. This scenario is highly unlikely as tiny parties (which don't yet even exist) wouldn't hold the balance of power. A party with 43% of the seats will need more than 1% or 2% to get over 50% of the votes after all.

Ontario has no history of extremist movements garnering significant amounts of public support anyway. That won't change just because our voting system changes. The 3% threshold in the MMP proposal is high enough to keep out such extremists, in my opinion.

Why isn't Copps just as frightened by the very real horrors we see under our current voting system?

Under First-Past-The-Post, the separatist PQ won a majority government in Quebec in 1998 with fewer votes than the federalist Liberals!

In recent decades, our current voting system has handed the second-place party a victory in 6 out of 10 provinces, including Ontario in 1985. Now that's scary.

The only way to change our voting system is to take it out of the hands of politicians like Copps and give it to the citizens. The Citizens' Assembly is proposing a fair, modest recommendation that will give us stable, representative government that reflects the will of the people.

Rick Anderson: CBC Newsworld

The Chair of the Vote For MMP campaign in Ontario, Rick Anderson, appeared last week on CBC's Politics. Anderson speaks eloquently about the referendum campaign and why Ontario voters should choose the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change on October 10th.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Filipino prisoners exercise/dance/re-enact Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video

One of the strangest, most interesting things I've ever seen on Youtube. There are other videos of these prisoners doing other routines, including "I Will Follow Him," from Sister Act.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Queer Issues in the 2007 Ontario Election

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) has released its list of questions that LGBT voters should consider asking local candidates on the hustings before the Ontario election on October 10th. I agree with CLGRO on all four issues.

Here is the link.

No tax funding for faith-based schools

The Progressive Conservative Party proposes to provide tax funding for non-Catholic faith-based schools. They say it's an issue of fairness and will help to integrate Ontario's increasingly diverse student population into the mainstream. We say it will provide tax money, including the taxes paid by queer people in Ontario, to finance the perpetuation of homophobia by schools controlled by the religious right. Many of the denominations that run faith-based schools view homosexuality as sinful, evil and abnormal and promote life-long celibacy for queer people who refuse to be cured. It's bad enough that tax funding is already provided to Catholic schools, when Catholicism also promotes these views. Fairness does not require that more tax money be provided to promote homophobia and intolerance. Fairness requires that no tax funding of any amount be provided to faith-based schools, whether Catholic, other Christian denominations or other faiths.

More proactive measures to eliminate homophobia and create queer-positive environments in all schools

The provincial government must make it a priority of the Ministry of Education to ensure that all schools are free from homophobia - whether expressed in attitudes and beliefs, systemic biases or as acts of harassment and violence - and are safe and welcoming for queer students, teachers and staff. School safety and anti-violence programs must specifically include anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia initiatives. There must be a requirement for ensuring mandatory responses to reported incidents of harassment and violence and effective provisions for enforcement and disciplinary action. School equity policies and programs that specifically prohibit the inequitable treatment of queer students, teachers and staff must be mandatory and must include effective measures for monitoring and ensuring compliance.

Reinstate sex reassignment surgery for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage for sex reassignment surgery was eliminated in 1998 under the former Progressive Conservative government and has not been reinstated under the Liberals. As a result, a fundamental health need is inaccessible to a majority of trans people who seek to have sex reassignment surgery because of prohibitive costs. The Ontario government must publicly fund sex reassignment surgery and related medical procedures, including access to hormones, electrolysis, and counseling, and whenever possible, ensure that these services are delivered in community-based settings.

Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination

Trans people in Ontario have no explicit legislative human rights protections. In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the inclusion of gender identity in the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure that trans people have the same protections in respect of employment, housing and access to services as do other Ontarians. The failure of the Government of Ontario to act on this recommendation is unacceptable. The next government must commit to immediately amending the Code to include gender identity.

Make Your Voice Heard and Your Vote Count!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Chaser's War on Everything - Terrorist security response


I'm really beginning to wish we had this Australian show available on regular cable in Canada. These guys are funny. Here is a segment which examines how security responds to an American tourist recording a video as opposed to someone dressed "slightly differently". They pulled off a similar stunt today in Sydney at the summit of leaders from Pacific Rim countries with a motorcade using Canadian flags (we're flattered) and someone dressed up as Osama bin Laden. I'll post a video of that when it becomes available.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

John Tory digs himself in deeper

John Tory's ill-conceived private religious schools promise continues to dominate pre-campaign coverage. This admission today will only make things worse for the rookie leader. It illustrates clearly the can of worms Tory has opened, and it's likely going to get worse.

Many new leaders in their maiden campaigns make mistakes on the campaign trail. For the lucky ones, they still find success and power. But John Tory doesn't look lucky to me.

Poll results show the Liberals moving ahead of Tory's Tories, enough to possibly win a majority government. If this keeps up for John Tory, we can safely predict a comfortable Liberal majority on October 10th. My fingers are crossed.

************UPDATE*************

More damage control Thursday from Tory on this subject: Creationism in science class would disqualify schools for funding: Conservatives. A can of worms, indeed.

Friday, August 31, 2007

First Gay Couple Legally Married in Iowa

The march toward equality for LGBT citizens continues in the United States.

This is a huge victory for equality in that country. Congrats to the couple who was married today as a result.

I hope and pray this good decision holds up under the inevitable appeal to Iowa's Supreme Court.

**********UPDATE*******************

About 20 gay couples had applied for marriage licenses by 11 a.m. today when the Polk County Recorder announced that she had been instructed to stop accepting the applications. Recorder Julie Haggerty said the instruction came from the county attorney's office after Polk County Judge Robert Hanson, the same judge who threw out the ban, verbally issued a stay of his ruling at the county's request pending appeal. Equality under the law can be truly fleeting, can't it?