Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Most satisfying political images of 2008

Let's try to forget about the depressing state of Canadian politics and leadership at the moment (with the possible exception of Michael Ignatieff, who could become a great Prime Minister one day soon), and instead congratulate our American friends for turning away so thoroughly this year from the terrible legacy of George W. Bush.

As Bush's regime comes to an end, these images more than anything else proved for me the most inspiring and satisfying this year.

Ever the supportive wife, Laura Bush has reminded us the shoe attack was really just an "assault", not to be laughed at. True, but nothing compares to the murderous assaults committed by Bush and his Republican war machine against the Arab world over the last eight years (including the American tragedy of 9-11.)

We now have a chance to heal the evils of right-wing Republicanism. I never thought I'd write this, but thank you, America!

Have a lovely New Year, everybody!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 29, 2008

My favourite 2008 flicks and my Best Picture Oscar predictions...

Last year, I published a top ten list for the 2007 feature films I had seen by Dec 31. It was a pretty solid list, but not being a professional film critic with free tickets to see all major feature releases, it was incomplete. And upon viewing the great 'There Will Be Blood' in January of this year, my list became obsolete rather quickly as I now see that great flick as the best of 2007.

So I hesitate this year to provide any kind of similar top ten list, except to point out those films I most enjoyed this year, as well as predictions for this coming awards season (the best part of winter, as far as I'm concerned.)

My two favourite films of 2008: Slumdog Millionaire (pictured) and The Dark Knight. Both were absolutely astonishing and deserving of the Oscar nominations they're due to receive next month; I can't seem to decide which one I like better.

I also loved Milk, The Reader, The Bucket List, Rachel Getting Married and In Bruges.

The most disappointing film I paid money to see this year: George Clooney's Leatherheads (a complete waste of time and talent.)

Those films on my list I hope to see asap, in order of priority:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler
Gran Torino
Revolutionary Road

Thus, it's entirely possible that one of these or other films could overtake my current 2008 favourites (I love everything by director David Fincher, who made Benjamin Button and my 2007 fave Zodiac, among other great films). But we'll have to see.

With movie awards season now upon us, it's anybody's guess which five films will land a coveted Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. But I'm betting when the nominations are announced on January 22nd, these five films will be on the list: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire.

Of these, I expect that Slumdog will take the top prize in February. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dinosaur Pope demands we respect his worldview...

Just in time for Christmas, Dinosaur Pope reminds us all why we can't stand him and all he represents.

Of all the things affecting humanity this year, the Pope picks out my naturally occurring and beautiful love to attack as a threat equal to the destruction of rain forests?

The world and God's creation, I assure everyone, is nothing like the Bigot from Rome describes. It's far more beautiful.

When the Pope demands we respect the so-called "natural" differences he sees between men and women, don't forget he believes women are inferior. That's the "order of creation" he's demanding be "respected."

No thanks. Without a doubt, this heterosexist, misogynistic, misguided man is the single biggest weapon secular humanists like me have for promoting our cause.

And believe me, we will win in the end...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama's holiday gift to the world...

I've seen other shirtless/beach pics of President-elect Barack Obama, but man, this guy has been hitting the gym and is looking good! I think I may hit my condo's gym tonight after

Gus Van Sant's 'Milk' a great portrait of leadership...

Since seeing Gus Van Sant's Milk last week, I've been contemplating what to write about this great film that hasn't already been said? What did I like about it most?

There's Sean Penn's uncanny performance, he's still at the top of his game. There's Van Sant's subtle touch perfect for this vital history lesson in queer liberation. There's Dustin Lance Black's screenplay that so thoroughly explores Harvey Milk's unique journey from New York closet case to community leader. There's the meticulous attention to detail that makes it inspiring and unforgettable.

Harvey Milk (pictured in the suit) was the first openly gay man to be elected to major office in the United States (in 1978 as a local supervisor (like a district councillor) in San Francisco.) Milk chronicles Harvey's growth from ordinary man to icon.

The supporting turns are all wonderful. James Franco is mesmerizing, embodying the almost perfect partner that got away. Emile Hirsch is an energetic work of art in this flick. I won't soon forget his "Out of the bars, into the streets!" chants, nor his smooching scene with fellow cutie Joseph Cross. I agree with Susan Cole there weren't enough lesbian characters in this flick, but it's a minor flaw amid the great accomplishments.

This is a story about a community desperately in need of a strong voice to lead it, and how one man's greatness was tragically cut short because of a cold-blooded murderer's inability to cope with the world around him. Josh Brolin captures the disturbing contradictions of his character, Dan White. What an enigma! The climactic scene when White walks Milk into his office to shoot him dead makes clear that White was guilty of first degree murder, not the disgustingly lenient conviction for voluntary manslaughter.

The film does a beautiful job showing how one man's inspirational hope and unique political skills could push for greater gay acceptance. The climate against homosexuals in the 1970s, even in San Francisco, was clearly hostile. The fight over Proposition 6 in 1978, which would've banned gay teachers, shows how important Milk's strategy truly was. Milk advocated that all gay people "come out" of the closet to put a human face on the issue for their straight friends, family and neighbours.

It's sad that our community lost Harvey Milk so early. Sean Penn is probably right that Milk, had he lived, would've fought and raised greater awareness about AIDS much sooner due to his high profile and energy.

In the end, Milk is a portrait of an ordinary man finding it within himself to become the leader he and his community need him to be.

Every gay man (and as many lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals, etc. as possible) should see this movie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pink Christmas shocks Amsterdam

It seems Christians in Holland resemble many in Canada where they only like freedom of expression when they are the ones who get to practice it...

"By portraying Joseph and Mary as homosexuals, a twisted human fantasy is being added to the history of the Bible," wrote Christians for Truth in a statement ahead of this Amsterdam event.

For the record, it appears that Pink Christmas performers are portraying Mary as a drag queen, not necessarily a homosexual...

And which parts of the Bible aren't twisted to conform to human fantasy?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama's choice of Warren refuels 'Is Gay the new Black?' debate...

President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren to lead a prayer during his inauguration next month continues to inspire much controversy.

"By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table," wrote Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a letter to the incoming president.

In a news conference Thursday, Obama said he is a "fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." But he said he hopes to promote better dialogue between people of opposing views, and wants his inaugural to reflect that goal.

"That dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign's been all about: That we're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we — where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans," he said.

I admire Obama for his leadership in trying to bring some of the extremely divergent views held in his country together for his inauguration. Obama has always gone out of his way to be inclusive, including in his election night victory speech when he said, "It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America."

Obama thinks he's already got the LGBT community in his back pocket (and he's mostly right). So his choice of Rick Warren is meant to send an inclusive signal to the American Right which did not support him. I can see the sense in this. Obama is first and foremost a talented politician. No politician could ever get elected today President of the United States supporting full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Of all the states in the union, it appears only a handful of states in New England have little problem with the concept.

While Obama is no doubt an ally of the queer community at least in words, we have yet to see tangible proof his words will transcend into real action. The Human Rights Campaign have issued a five-point 'Blueprint for Positive Change' they hope Obama will adopt in the first months of his administration. They also have a petition on their site and I urge everyone to sign it.

All of this coincides with a new round of debate on the question, 'Is Gay the new Black?' Outrage continues over the recent referenda which confirmed that full equality under the law is a long way away for gays and lesbians in America.

But I agree with many that comparisons between the centuries-long struggle for civil rights for black people and the gay community's relatively recent struggle for equality are problematic.

Even stating that 'Gay is the new Black' seems to expose a stunning ignorance of the history of violent oppression suffered by black people. Nothing like slavery ever happened to LGBT people. Homosexuality was only explicitly banned in law in the western world in the last 125 years or so.

The only reasonable historical comparisons that can be made between the black and gay struggles for equality can be made in the last 40 to 50 years, long after slavery was eradicated. I do think that intellectual comparisons between segregation and failures to ban racial discrimination can be made to similar attacks on gay peoples' rights. But the comparison remains intellectual, similar to comparisons to the fight for women's rights and other rights.

On the other hand, in the gay marriage debate, many who reject the 'Gay is the new Black' mantra as false seem to conveniently forget that LGBT people aren't protected from discrimination in many American states. They forget that it's still legal to fire someone for being gay in many parts of the rest of the world. Homosexual acts can lead to execution in many countries, and certainly might include jail sentences. Institutional homophobia is alive and well in most parts of the world (by institutional, I mean written into the law books.) Such institutional racism is long gone in America, and many parts of the world.

Others continue to say that gays and lesbians can choose to hide their orientations if they choose, and thus homophobia isn't as painful an experience as facing full-on racism, which people of colour can't hide from. I've always found this argument troubling because 1) many queer people CAN'T hide their queerness no matter how hard they try, and 2) why should anyone be forced to hide who they are?

The argument is similar to those who discount anti-Semitism because some Jewish people can "pass" as average white Christians.

Of course, whether based on race, or gender, or religion, or sexual orientation, all forms of oppression are wrong. Any such oppression offends the universal principle of human rights: equal dignity and value for every human life. When you discriminate based on race, you violate this principle. When you discriminate based on sexual orientation by banning same sex marriage, you also violate this universal principle.

For some great insight on this issue, check out these two great pieces.

Is Gay the new Black? I don't think so. If nothing else, the fiery debate caused by the passage of Proposition 8 in California has helped to better inform all of us on the challenges we face and how to better strategize to get where we want to go.

There are many still who violently argue that homosexuals aren't part of the human family and deserve no recognition for their love and relationships. They hope to drive a wedge between the black civil rights movement and the gay rights movement, mostly because they know such tensions will only act to delay the drive to full equality for all. We ought not let such bigots get away with it.

Hate the singer, love the songs...

I used to be a huge fan of gay crooner Rufus Wainwright. I couldn't get enough of his sweet, melancholy melodies.

But when he totally trashed my city of Toronto (quite unfairly and unnecessarily), my love suddenly slipped away. I've barely listened to any of his music for months. (Yes I do sometimes let politics get in the way of my artistic appreciation). I guess he figured he could write off the lonely Toronto market without much consequence and perhaps he was right.

Now this little controversy with Rufus once again spouting off at the mouth has erupted - he dissed those who actually like the idea of getting married, and compared gay marriage to marrying one's dog.

The backlash was severe (and obviously widespread) that the opera-loving queen felt compelled to write a less-than-convincing mea culpa on his website yesterday. Unlike my friend Scott, I'm not so forgiving. Rufus is 35 going on 15, as far as I can tell. Grow some brains, Rufus, before spouting off and offending more of your select fan base.

In the mean time, I'll continue to try to forget the man behind the voice (and perhaps even ignore his next foot-in-mouth incident) and just focus on the great music.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back from shooting 'The Golden Pin'; Congrats to 'Slap Upside the Head'

I took the last few days off from blogging (and from my day job) to work on a short film project I co-wrote with Toronto director Cuong Ngo.

The film is called, 'The Golden Pin' and it's the story about a young closeted Vietnamese-Canadian swimmer caught between his conservative family and his gay lover teammate. The film stars L.A.-based actors Kris Duangphung and Ben Bela Boehm, as well as Minh Nguyen of North Dakota, Tien Nguyen of Toronto and Lily Nguyen of Kitchener, Ontario. Produced by Ngo and Igor Szczurko, shooting started in Toronto last Wednesday and ended Sunday. I'm exhausted after the intense schedule we've been keeping (I'm also an associate producer on the film) but I'm absolutely thrilled with how well it went. Ngo is a brilliant director and working with him has been an absolute joy. The crew he and Szczurko assembled was top notch.

Post-production begins now, and we're looking forward to the first screening in Toronto in April, with many more to hopefully follow. I'll keep you posted on these exciting developments.

In the mean time, I was pleased to read today that Slap Upside the Head won the Best GLBT Blog award this year at the Canadian Blog Awards. Congrats, it's very well-deserved without a doubt!

Once I recover from the lack of sleep, I'll be back to my usual blogging self. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The dawn of the Ignatieff era...

I feel a great sense of optimism tonight, seeing my candidate of choice rise to the Liberal leadership. I already love his tough talk. As we know, there is much work to be done, but I really feel the Liberal Party is back on a good track and will now be very competitive with Stephen Harper's Conservatives, both in the House and with Canadians again.

Let's enjoy this moment and then get to work tomorrow.

Day Without A Gay: "Call In Gay!"

Congrats to the U.S. organizers of this unique event. Sadly I'm at work today, but I'm with them in spirit.

As the site says, "Day Without A Gay" is a reaction against recent "anti-gay ballot initiatives in California, Arizona Florida, and Arkansas with anger, with resolve, and with courage. NOW, it's time to show America and the world how we love...Gay people and our allies are compassionate, sensitive, caring, mobilized, and programmed for success. A day without gays would be tragic because it would be a day without love. On December 10, 2008 the gay community will take a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes. On December 10, you are encouraged not to call in sick to work. You are encouraged to call in "gay"--and donate your time to service!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bob Rae is a class act...

...We already knew that, of course, but it was merely reinforced today. Bob took a bullet for the party today and did the right thing for his fellow Liberals and indeed all Canadians.

Now the new leader can get to work on rebuilding the party and challenging this pathetic government on the issues of the day, most importantly the economy. I wish Michael Ignatieff the best of luck as he embarks on this great journey. The country is depending on him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This Ignatieff supporter wants an open, party-wide vote for leader...

There are many interesting stories percolating tonight about the Liberal leadership. I'd be sad to see Dominic LeBlanc drop out of the race, but I do support the apparent plans to accelerate the process so that we have a permanent leader in charge as soon as possible. I also hope that leader turns out to be Michael Ignatieff.

I'm relieved to read in this Star piece that the party is considering giving "every party member a vote by a combination of phone and online ballots," presumably in a major vote in January following a televised debate or two between the remaining candidates. That would be excellent and clearly is the way to go. All 308 ridings should have equal clout in such a vote so that the result is as fair and as accurate a portrait of grassroots support as possible.

Any talk of appointing the leader based simply on the votes of MPs and senators would be illegitimate and damage that leader's credibility going forward. If the Ignatieff camp is pushing that, my advice is to stop doing so immediately.


I'm dead set against this talk of a caucus-only vote. I'll be thoroughly disappointed if Michael Ignatieff agrees to this.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why Stephen Harper is unfit to be Prime Minister...

At this time, I'm really thankful that 62% of Canadians saw fit to vote to deny Stephen Harper a majority government. In our archaic, VLT-style electoral system - into which you punch 38% for one party and it sometimes spits out 57% of the seats for that party - I'm thankful that the splits across the country on October 14th still denied Harper his much-coveted majority.

Why? Because Harper seems to have many personality disorders the longer he stays in office the more dangerous they become. He's an island onto himself. He's willing to pit one part of the country against another and shut down the people's Parliament all to hold onto power. He is simply the wrong person to be leading this country at this crucial time.

Here's an excerpt from Jeffrey Simpson's great piece in today's Globe which fleshes out why Harper is so wrong for national leadership (the article also rightly disparages Stephane Dion's motivations and abilities, but as a lame duck Liberal leader, the points are moot):

"How could we have gotten ourselves into this mess, angry Conservatives wondered a week ago, when the three opposition parties first appeared to be uniting against them, thereby threatening the Conservatives' grip on power? Conservative MPs stood and cheered, as they are supposed to do, for the economic statement they had not read, had not been consulted about, and for which they were unprepared to respond. Where, they asked, had that kinder, gentler, collaborative approach gone, the one Mr. Harper had seemed to have suggested would be his guide?

"The simple answer (apart from the fact that Mr. Harper has never really been terribly interested in other opinions) is that the Prime Minister miscalculated. The wider, and more important, answer is that he has no kitchen cabinet, no Rolodex of friends across the country, and no advisers whom he has deliberately chosen for their different views.

"Mr. Harper makes decisions himself, or in an exceptionally closed circle. When his worst instincts are on the loose, there are inadequate checks in the system he has created around him, and few people willing or able to curb those instincts.

"That's why at the very last minute, the Prime Minister's Office sent over to the Finance Department those political zingers to include in the statement, without ministers or deputies knowing. And that procedure illustrates wider truths about this government: the centralization of power in Mr. Harper's hands, his office's fundamental distrust of most ministers and their staffs, and the Prime Minister's insistence that politics should drive decisions. The way Mr. Harper acted, and the advantage he tried to gain, will be remembered now by all those who feared what he might do with a majority government."

Perfectly said.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The country is weaker today because of Stephen Harper.

Since 2006, Harper has strived hard to make this a one-man government. And after this completely unnecessary political and constitutional crisis, Harper is deeply wounded personally in the eyes of most Canadians. More and more are seeing him for what he is: a bully who would try to use the recession to viciously attack his opponents. We should be embarrassed to have this guy as our Prime Minister.

All players in this psycho-drama are damaged by this crisis. And they all have Stephen Harper to blame. But Stephane Dion probably doesn't have to worry - he knows he'll be gone in a few months. The rest will have to live with Harper's mistake.

Harper is badly wounded by this over the long-term, no doubt about it...

Proposition 8: The Musical

This video/musical satirizing the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California must not be missed. Brilliant!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coalition would bring stability to Canada; continued Harper minority will bring instability...

We now know the opposition parties want to defeat the government. We also don't need another election.

It's clear that if the Harper government is defeated on Monday and the coalition takes power, we'll know where we stand on government policy to fight the recession by Christmas. If Harper prorogues tomorrow and shuts down Parliament until the end of January, we'll have almost two more months of political uncertainty, followed by a likely Harper defeat on his budget.

If the Governor General agrees to Harper's request to prorogue tomorrow, she'll be seen as abetting in Harper's attempt to hide from parliamentary accountability. I hope the Governor General makes the right decision...

Xtra's Daily Round: Three Men and a Baby

I'm a huge fan of Scott Dagostino's Daily Roundup on It's a great resource for news and tidbits of interest to the LGBT community, always accompanied by Scott's unique wit. Today, he posted this hilarious mock-up which nicely satirizes our problematic Prime Minister at this time of economic crisis. Yes, Scott admits he's a writer, not a photoshopper! Looks good to me, Scott.

Why does Stephane Dion always have to be either crapped or pissed on in these kinds of things?

The Silver Fox humbled by Michael Phelps

I thought we needed a break from the ongoing drama in Ottawa with this light, little piece from this past weekend's '60 Minutes' featuring homoerotic icons silver-haired Anderson Cooper and Olympic gold god Michael Phelps. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Montreal Simon gets my vote, baby!

Sadly, I didn't make the final five in the Best GLBT Blog category in the Canadian Blog Awards this year. I want to congratulate the five finalists, particularly Montreal Simon, Slapped Upside the Head and Gay Persons of Color all of whom were nominated with me last year. Moved to Vancouver looks interesting, I must say. I'll have to read it more often. I'm not a fan of GayandRight, who seems more interested in demonizing Islam than promoting greater understanding of queer issues. Perhaps he's just been trying to appear as non-threatening as possible to his fellow hetero conservatives, hoping that shared hatred of the "other" will make his own otherness less threatening to them? I dunno. His latest post today: denying climate change and the connection between the rising amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rising temperatures. Ugh. Can I nickname him GayandWrong? He's the kind of conservative who reminds us why the Coalition for Change is gaining momentum in this country.

It's been a great year of blogging for me and I look forward to more. And since I'm not in the final five, that makes my vote quite easy: Montreal Simon all the way, baby!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ooh baby! Prime Minister Stephane Dion...

The Liberal caucus, including the three leadership candidates Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, have endorsed the accord negotiated with the other opposition parties to form a coalition government with Stephane Dion, the duly elected leader of the Liberal Party, as Prime Minister.

We are living in truly remarkable times. Stephen Harper has blown it by historic proportions, using the economic downturn as a chance to attack his opponents and throw red meat initiatives to his rabid base without doing anything to fight the recession. Harper has proven himself to be the wrong leader for the times.

December 8th can't come soon enough.

Michael Ignatieff on CTV's Question Period

Definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it already. Michael Ignatieff at his best, on CTV's Question Period Sunday morning...Andrew Steele is bang on the money here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Harper's sadistic tendencies blow up in his face...

Just when you thought things were getting tranquil in Ottawa, Stephen Harper reminds us how hyper-partisan and devious he can be in the face of an economic crisis, even sadistic in his attacks on his opponents.

Now the government has capitulated this morning, withdrawing its proposal to bankrupt the opposition parties and undermine Canadian democracy from its economic statement.

What a blunder! This party-financing announcement yesterday was a smokescreen to divert focus away from the government's bad math and weak projections. As a strategy, it blew up in Harper's face as the opposition suddenly united and began serious talks about ousting the government outright and forming a coalition. At best, this incident reminds the 62% of Canadians who don't support Harper why their disdain for him remains justified. This bully is a creep and he ain't changing anytime soon.

Now what? After so much bad blood and the opposition still incensed, will they turn around and allow this economic statement sans opposition bankruptcy to pass? We'll see.


The Grits, NDP and Bloc still seem intent on bringing the government down and negotiations continue. Meanwhile, Harper is pushing off any non-confidence votes as far away into the future as possible.

You reap what you sow, Stevie. You've failed to win a majority government on two occasions, yet you refuse to accept the fact that parties representing over 60% of Canadian voters have any say in the government's program or who governs Canada? You've signalled zero interest in listening to those parties (and to the Canadians who voted for them) on how to react to the ongoing economic recession. Furthermore, you've declared that your main priority at this time is to undermine Canadian democracy by trying to bankrupt your competition.

Leaders in minority governments are supposed to find common ground and win the confidence of the House. Harper has shown zero interest in doing so, in fact quite the opposite. Furthermore, his tricky fiscal update betrays a government intent on hiding the truth of the country's finances from the public. He is the wrong leader for the times. It's time for him to go.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Public officials should respect the law...

Regular readers of this site won't be surprised to learn where I stand on this issue. Public officials have a duty to abide by the laws of the land. My tax dollars as a gay man go to finance their salaries and therefore marriage commissioners must be willing to abide by our country's equal marriage laws.

I do think, where possible, such commissioners with strong religious beliefs should be able to pass along duties re: same-sex nuptials to other commissioners who don't share their feelings. Such a compromise wouldn't even need to be declared as long as the same-sex couple receives the public service they are seeking. But in remote areas where marriage commissioners are hard to come by and no alternatives are available, it's clear that those employed by the government to carry out these duties must live within the law. If they are unwilling, they should resign their posts. Period.

Orville Nichols's lawsuit will form an interesting test case on this issue. If previous rulings on the issue are any indication, he doesn't have much hope of succeeding.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grits ought not give up reputation for fiscal competence for Rae's sake...

It's now clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has blown the huge budgetary surplus they inherited in 2006 with their ill-considered cuts to the GST and other spending decisions. The result is in leaner times like today whatever buffers we had under the Liberals against slipping into deficit are now gone. Furthermore, the Tories are now struggling to explain to Canadians how this economic downturn could've escaped their estimations.

Conservatives have gained a reputation in government, both in Canada and the U.S., as bad fiscal managers, while Liberals and Democrats have earned a reputation for fiscal competence. This is quite the reversal from two decades ago when lefties used to be associated with deficit spending. But history is clear: Mulroney ran huge deficits, while Chretien balanced the budget. Mike Harris and Ernie Eves cut taxes too low, created structural deficits during booming times and undermined basic public services, a situation Dalton McGuinty had to fix with the imposition of the health premium and other value-for-money budgetary choices. The $13 billion surplus Harper inherited from Paul Martin just under three years ago is now gone.

Do Liberals today want to give up this reputation for fiscal competence by electing a man with a record of deficit spending even worse than the current Prime Minister? Already, Bob Rae's comments on the John Oakley Show last week downplaying the responsibilities of governments that choose to run deficits are coming back to haunt us.

To abandon the strategic advantage Liberals have earned through many years of fiscal prudence seems absolutely foolhardy. With all due respect, Bob, I don't care about the reputation you're trying to salvage or your leadership bid. Giving our opposition ammunition to attack Liberals (like you did last weekend in Mississauga and again with your comments on deficits) is hurting the party. This is not how you're going to win the leadership, I can assure you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moon Report: CHRC consultant stirs up debate over hate speech in Canada...

I'm not sure yet how to react to today's report by Professor Richard Moon, who conducted a review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission's (CHRC) procedures regarding hate speech.

In his report, Prof. Moon calls for the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which allows the CHRC to investigate and prosecute hate speech within the federal government's jurisdiction. If Section 13 is not repealed, which would require an act of Parliament, Prof. Moon recommends that Section 13 be changed to more closely resemble criminal prohibitions on hate speech.

"The use of censorship by the government should be confined to a narrow category of extreme expression - that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group, even if the violence that is supported or threatened is not imminent," Dr. Moon writes in his report.

The rightwing media and blogosphere have already had a field day today. And rightly so, as this report is a sort of victory for them.

I find myself mostly in agreement with Warren and the Canadian Jewish Congress that full removal of Section 13 is probably unwise. I'm wary of Prof. Moon's primary recommendation that Canada abandon the civil approach to combating Internet hate. If this were done, citizens abused by bigots would have to rely on police and Attorneys General to initiate prosecutions of hate speech. As we have seen, they are frequently reluctant to do so. Even less frequently do we get criminal convictions.

More realistic is Dr. Moon's recommendations for tightening up the procedures around Section 13, if outright removal isn't done. I do agree with his suggestion that only "extreme expression - that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group, even if the violence that is supported or threatened is not imminent" be targeted by our country's hate laws.

So while I see the wisdom in Dr. Moon's primary recommendation, I am worried that it constitutes a major retreat in the ongoing battle against hate speech in our society. Is it enough to simply have a criminal law on the books that outlaws hateful speech that promotes violence against an identifiable group, when that law is rarely if ever prosecuted? When people like David Popescu can advocate the genocide of gay people and walk away (thus far) free from prosecution?

The debate over this issue continues. For more on this, check out these two great posts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's that time of year again: Canadian Blog Awards

Okay please forgive me for some shameless plugging. The Canadian Blog Awards are on again this year and once again this site is one of many sites vying for a possible finalist position in the Best GLBT blog category. Round One voting takes place from today until Nov 29, after which five lucky sites become finalists in Round Two (which ends Dec 7th.)

I was thrilled to make the top five last year and would be thrilled again to make it this year. So if you're feeling supportive, feel free to scoot on over to the Blog Awards site and give me a vote. Thanks to everyone for reading!

Can't wait to see Van Sant's 'Milk'...

Holiday movie season is upon us. For a cinephile like myself, the onslaught of great (or at least the best the Hollywood studios can pump out every year-end) movie releases makes the earlier sundowns and colder temperatures easier to bear.

I can't wait to see director Gus Van Sant's 'Milk,' with Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin, chronicling the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. Milk, along with then-San Francisco mayor George Moscone, were assassinated by fellow politician Dan White a year later, in a case that coined the phrase, 'The Twinkie defense'.

Opening this week,initial reviews have been strong. Already, there is talk that Penn's achievement playing Harvey Milk will land him another Oscar nomination and perhaps his second Best Actor award. But it's early yet and movie awards season is just taking shape.

Milk's arrival on big screens coincides with the aftermath of California's recent passage of Proposition 8. The film, itself, delves into a similar California referendum in 1978 that would've banned gay and lesbian teachers and Milk's efforts to defeat it.

If you don't know much about Harvey Milk, I'd recommend a viewing of the extraordinary 1984 feature documentary, 'The Times of Harvey Milk', which won the Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Please expect a review from me of 'Milk' very soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If we ain't buying it, why are you still selling it?

If only Bob Rae would live by his own words today: "If they ain't buying it, you gotta stop selling it"...

Rae's comment appears in this Canwest story about how all three Liberal leadership candidates are pledging not to pursue a policy similar to Stephane Dion's Green Shift if elected leader. I, for one, am disappointed. The Green Shift was the right policy to fight climate change and evolve our economy for the future in a wise and measured way. It's unfortunate that Dion wasn't able to sell it properly and it was folly to think he could in a few short months, up against the Conservative propaganda machine. The Green Shift was good policy, but bad politics.

I did find some comfort in Ignatieff's spokesperson's comments stressing the need to find another way to balance environmental sustainability and economic growth. But Rae's words seemed overly harsh, saying the Green Shift was, according to the story, pursued without applying common sense, good judgment or the daily experience of ordinary people. Perhaps the reporter put words in Rae's mouth (as those words weren't directly quoted), so we'll see if he corrects the record. Otherwise, he's severely dissing Mr. Dion.

The Green Shift suffers one defeat under Stephane Dion and it's game over for shifting taxes from income and productivity to pollution, according to Mr. Rae. By that standard, one defeat is good enough to kill any option, I suppose. If Rae set that same standard against his own candidacy for the Liberal Party leadership, he wouldn't be running again this time. Many Liberals didn't want a former NDP leader as Liberal leader in 2006 and they still feel the same way today. So, Bob, if we ain't buying it, why are you still selling it?

But alas, one defeat doesn't mean an option is forever dead. The Green Shift wasn't the only reason the Liberals lost the last election. Much of it simply had to do with Dion's bad image and his inability to overcome it.

Tomorrow, Rae will launch his second bid for the Liberal leadership. I do wish him well, but I do hope he cuts down on the mudslinging soon. His new tough guy approach is making me nervous. Remember, Bob, Stephen Harper is the bad guy, not Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Much debate about Gay and hate speech...

I caught Kinsella and others on Michael Coren tonight debating hate speech laws in Canada. It was a very good discussion. Coren has mellowed in recent years, at least on his TV show.

I've written on the subject of hate propaganda or hate speech on a couple occasions. I still believe it's important that our laws discourage the promotion of hatred against any identifiable groups, especially vulnerable minorities.

I might agree with some of my conservative colleagues that some processes used by various human rights commissions could use some tightening up. But Conservative party members voted 99.9% on the weekend in favour of removing the rights of such commissions to prosecute hate speech. If this were to come to pass, we'd have less protection against hate propaganda.

Hate is a weapon used by bigots to inflict pain on their victims. I've always believed the primary purpose of hate speech is to provide the bigot with a special thrill knowing he or she is inflicting pain on those they hate. They don't have the guts to throw a rock, or actually strangle somebody.

So they throw little darts of hate instead. And they do inflict real pain. If I were a closeted teenager sitting in that Sudbury high school earlier this fall and heard an older, political candidate state that all gays should be executed , I would be devastated. The message David Popescu sent to that group of young people was, "it's okay to kill everyone who's gay." What Popescu did was evil and our laws should reflect that. We cannot live in a society that tolerates this type of willful, brazen promotion of hatred in front of teenagers.

The authorities have not yet charged Popescu with breaking Canada's hate laws. It's sad that our friends over at Gay don't agree with me on the importance of prosecuting hate propaganda. Conservative activists led by GayandRight launched the website at the party's Winnipeg convention. There has been much discussion about whether or not the term queer conservative is an oxymoron. I wrote about the issue of gay conservatives for Xtra Magazine in 2005.

I do want to congratulate the founders for launching this movement. I'm not one of those liberals who thinks queers can't be conservative. I've always seen great value in having queers inside the palace gates, so to speak. Once queer equality gains acceptance among the country's conservatives, that's it the battle is won (on a national scale) for queers and their allies. I know that gay conservatives, through their personal connections with fellow party members and other conservatives, do have a major influence.

So I wish gay conservatives well. We can agree to disagree on prosecuting hate speech, but I still respect them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This won't be an Ignatieff coronation, signals Rae...

It's sad to see this kind of pointless dust-up so early in the race for the Liberal leadership. So much for all that talk of civility between the two leading candidates.

I have no insider information on this as I'm about as far removed (by choice) as a partisan Liberal can get from the internal machinations of leadership campaigns. But it does seem odd that the three main candidates would've agreed to participate in the forum two weeks ago without knowing how the forum was going to be run. Bob Rae claims he had no idea that the media was going to be barred from the discussion. So you agree to participate in events without fully knowing what those events entail, Bob?

Warren implies that this whole kerfuffle (my word, not his) is merely part of Bob Rae's strategy to attempt to paint emerging frontrunner Michael Ignatieff as somehow Stephen Harper-lite and to go negative first out of the gate. Rae's comparisons to this weekend's Tory policy convention in Winnipeg, where most party discussions took place behind closed doors, and pointing the finger squarely at Ignatieff for shutting out the "public" from today's forum, make Rae's strategy obvious.

If a consensus is emerging this early in the race that the next leader should be Ignatieff over Rae, then it's clear that the only way Rae can win this thing is by demonizing his former roommate. That's a shame. Ignatieff will have to be careful not to be seen as wanting to protect a substantial lead at all costs and avoiding public scrutiny to do it. If Ignatieff's goal is to prevent Rae from getting any traction in this race, shutting down public exposure to himself and his message isn't probably the best way to do it.

Ignatieff now enjoys enormous advantages. It seems most of the Kennedy and Dion people are heading over to him. Grassroots party members like myself remain as hesitant as ever to anoint a former NDP premier the leadership of the federal Liberal Party. For many Liberals, Bob Rae remains a non-starter, an eloquent, likeable, capable, endearing candidate, but a non-starter all the same.

How many Liberals will be swayed by these kinds of attacks today? If it's a strategy by Iggy to keep the dialogue as brief as possible so as to maintain as strong a lead as possible, I think it may backfire. Rae may find himself getting the traction he so desperately needs if he keeps this up. Hopefully, the Ignatieff team will re-adjust its plans and show greater willingness to be flexible in future. Opening up what could be the only leadership forum before the end of the year wouldn't have been such a bad move. But now Iggy's opened himself up to Rae's attacks.

Ignatieff should remember this isn't going to be a coronation and all Liberals still want to be reassured that the guy they rejected in 2006 has learned a lot and is now a better politician. It's obvious that the more chances Rae has to share the stage with Ignatieff, the better it is for Rae. If Ignatieff wants to solidify his emerging huge lead, the best way to do that would be to debate Rae and Dominic LeBlanc as much as possible and show Liberals like myself that their pro-Ignatieff inclinations are correct.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I support Iggy

Michael Ignatieff is set to join the Liberal leadership race this morning. So let me be one among many to announce my support for him.

I supported Stephane Dion with all my heart in 2006. I was one of the original 18% of the party that did so (although I didn't make it to the Montreal convention, I merely voted for Dion during Super-duper weekend.) At that time, both Ignatieff and Bob Rae had failed to convince me either of them were right for the party leadership. My main stumbing blocks against Iggy were his support for the Iraq war plus his relative absence from the country in his adult life. Against Rae, it was his terrible NDP past, as well as his non-existent roots in the Liberal Party.

Today, I'm glad that Ignatieff has recanted on his earlier support for the Iraq fiasco. Two years later, Ignatieff's stints abroad seem less of a liability. We will have to defend them, if he wins. We'd do well to remind Canadians that most of his time abroad was spent in Great Britain (not America), as if that might make a difference (it just might). Surely Canadians can admire a fellow countryman who achieves great things outside of the country.

But surely Ignatieff's strengths will overpower these attacks. Ignatieff is a brilliant man, he's grown into a top notch political leader since first being elected almost three years ago. He is nuanced, sophisticated, but tough. Between he, Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, there is no question in my mind that Ignatieff is the best candidate. He's as progressive as Rae on the social issues, yet can credibly speak to the majority of Canadians in the centre of the political spectrum (unlike his former university roommate.)

I was surprised to see Gerard Kennedy pull out of the race yesterday. As he failed to maintain a national team after the 2006 race, his decision yesterday seems to make sense. Although if my straw poll on the right is any indication, it seems Kennedy still had much support out there. Regardless, the race is now very focussed between three main candidates.

In 2006, many Liberals including myself thought we'd embrace something very different in Stephane Dion to send a message to the public and to the party establishment. Sadly, our error gave us the worst election result in modern Liberal history. We can't let that happen again.

Iggy seems more than ready to take on the reins of leadership. I'm deeply curious to find out where Ignatieff will take the party and, if given the chance to govern, take the country. He's been a good soldier, now it's his turn to be the leader.


On an entirely different subject, let me say what a bizarre post this is. Don't worry, I won't be inviting you to my wedding...

Oshawa attack reminds us of our collective, tragic histories...

Much has already been written by other bloggers on this terrible incident involving a lesbian couple attacked last week in Oshawa in front of their son.

My heart goes out to Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou. For anyone who doubts that virulent homophobia isn't still a major problem in Canada, please remember this incident. This kind of violent attack is merely the most extreme form of homophobia going on out there. Taunts, homophobic slurs, sneers, rude comments, you name it, are still commonplace in most parts of Canada.

It's truly sad. It makes me angry at writers like Barbara Kay in the National Post who continue to say that the LGBT community has no shared commonalities or history, no common tragedies that bind us together like other "legitimate" minorities. Bruce had a lovely response to Kay's words on the weekend (it was his post that alerted me to Kay's column, as I don't normally read the National Post on a daily basis if I can help it.)

Last week, Kay wrote: "African-Americans, Jews, aboriginals, the Roma people and other historically disadvantaged ethnic or racial groups experience their collective memory through the narratives they inherit from their parents and grandparents and ancestors. Indeed, they are a true identity group because they have a collective history and common memories. The sufferings they endured are directly related to who they are historically, to characteristics and events they cannot change, to their skin colour and bloodlines, to the deeds of their ancestors. Where is their commonality with individuals disconnected from the great chain of human history, whose "identity" isn't a culture, an ethnicity, a race or a civilization - just a mere sexual preference that rules out both a collective past and a collective future, the sine qua nons of a true identity group."

Yes, sadly, LGBT people don't usually learn about historic injustices committed against gays and lesbians from their parents. No, we have to seek out our history on our own, usually in isolation and confusion. In fact, I would argue that it's that sense of youthful isolation from the mainstream (and even our own families), often initially leading to despair, and sometimes eventually followed by the experience of "coming out of the closet" that binds the LGBT community. Most of us share in these experiences and are profoundly changed forever by them. I remember quite fondly the friends I made after I came out, sharing stories of the closet and the joys of finally being true to oneself.

When we hear about a lesbian couple getting bashed in Oshawa, the entire community feels their anguish and anger. We don't need to have children to pass along our history (although it obviously helps), it lives in other ways: through art, through literature, through spoken word and collective memories and culture, through LGBT organizations dedicated to chronicling the LGBT experience for future generations. I'd recommend that Barbara Kay, if she purports to be a fair journalist, make a visit to the Canadian Lesbian Gay Archives and do a little learning before she publishes again on this subject.

What constitutes an identifiable group worthy of protection from discrimination in law and hate-inspired violence? Well, if the group has historically been targeted (because of how they looked or talked or dressed or kissed, etc) for discrimination in law, hatred, harassment and/or violence, that's about it, as far as I'm concerned. Heck if that community is still being targeted today for hatred and violence, we constitute a legitimate group worthy of specific protection. Take that, Barbara Kay!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann weighs in on Prop 8, marriage and love...

The great Keith Olbermann has a new fan in me, I must say. Even if you've long made up your mind on the issue of equal marriage, have a listen to Olbermann's great commentary on the subject. I've never watched Olbermann's show on MSNBC, but that will have to change.

It's truly sad that, based simply on some exit polls in California, that African-Americans are being "blamed" for the passage of Proposition 8. On this point, I have a couple of comments: one, it seems that the pro-equality folks failed to adequately reach out to ethnic minority communities in California during the campaign, as this commentary makes clear. Two, this isn't about race, it's about religion.

On my first point, there's no doubt that the lily white nature of most LGBT organizations and campaigns needs to change if our movement is going to broaden its support. Luckily, in Canada, we don't put minority rights to majority votes (at least yet.) Sadly, as long as America remains drunk on democracy, these kind of referenda will continue to be fought. Thus, the simple intellectual argument in favour of full equality isn't going to cut it.

I read earlier this week about an African-American man who voted for Proposition 8 who was quoted saying that the gay experience is nothing like the African-American experience as blacks are "born that way," while gays "choose" to be gay. This ignorance of the truth of queer life is astonishing. There's no doubt that the lying bigots who make up establishment religion in America and elsewhere have been successful promoting the myth that gays choose to be gay.


What's needed now is a greater effort among all LGBT people, especially LGBT people of colour, to educate their communities about the truth of their lives so fewer straights, like the one I mentioned above, cling to the lie that homosexuality is not a natural part of the human condition. And we also need to ensure that our movement stops being so lily white and does a better job of walking the "inclusive" talk we often preach.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New poll: Who should be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada?

As the Liberal leadership race starts to heat up, I thought I'd start a new poll on the subject. I've listed the declared and likely/possible candidates on the right of this page (in the order of strength, as far as I can tell), leaving out some names that have been mentioned but have, in my opinion, little hope of garnering much support. I'll keep the poll up for the foreseeable future to gauge support for each candidate.

Please expect a declaration of support from me for one candidate in the coming days or weeks.

On another unrelated note, the issue of Proposition 8 in California continues to stir emotions. It's nice to see various "churches" facing the consequences of their promotion of discrimination in law. If any other group of citizens in the U.S. had seen their duly-gained rights voted away by an ignorant, religious majority, there'd be considerable violence in the streets. Kudos to the protesters for keeping it civil. And God bless Arnold Schwarzenegger.


After less than 12 hours of voting in the poll on the right, it seems I greatly underestimated support for Gerard Kennedy, at least among my own visitors. Could it be that Mr. Kennedy has a great deal of strength among Liberal grassroots despite his Dion kingmaker status, plus his strange disappearing act following the 2006 leadership convention? We'll have to see.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fighting back in California against bigotry...

I can imagine how angry many LGBT citizens must feel in California or Arizona or Florida or anywhere else in the United States right now. Voting to exclude gays and lesbians from the lifetime commitment, responsibility and benefits of civil marriage is nothing more than pure bigotry that has no place on this Earth! Supporters of equality held a rally last night in Santa Monica. The following article was sent to me by activist blogger Julie Phineas at Lez Get Real and I thought I'd re-post it here verbatim:

Lez Get Real's own contributors were at the Prop. 8 Protest Rally held in Santa Monica, CA earlier tonight.

Streets were closed in the area to accommodate the gathering. Here is what happened at that rally, as reported to me via text message from p.Johanna:

"There was a reverend speaking and also another woman, who said this is a human rights issue. The crowd was really hyped. They said we need to stay angry! We need to keep going against Prop. 8 and towards civil rights and equality in the U.S. The crowd cheered in unison 'Yes we can! Yes we can!' They said we shouldn't be violent, but that we should work together to not be at the back of the bus anymore. The crowd yelled 'Equal rights! Equal rights! News channels began to arrive and it seemed like they didn't know this event was happening. A call was issued to march on the Mormon Temple at 10777 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles at 2pm tomorrow November 6th. Bring your signs and video cameras.

Jerry Brown the State Attorney spoke saying that the marriages performed between June and yesterday are still valid. They are fighting for us and it's a legal mess. They are working around the clock on this. Jerry Brown says that we need to walk together, to walk in solidarity. The crowd yelled together 'Yes we can! Yes we can!'.

Javier Angulo called for a Chicano clap. The crowd yelled 'Si se puede! Si se puede!'. A helicopter flew overhead, and the crowd cheered at it. Javier Angulo quotes Martin Luther King Jr. saying that he had a dream and Obama made part of that dream come true. He says that now our fundamental rights have been infringed upon, but hold onto hope - all the votes have not been counted. Regardless, he said to take pride in achieving social justice. He said that the Latino community is often overlooked, and that Latinos value social justice. He says we have an ally. At that point everyone, even other nationalities chanted 'Si se puede! Si se puede!'. The helicopter shined its light on the crowd. He said they were shining the light on discrimination.

At that point, the woman began to speak again and said that bigotry is not only here, but in Arkansas, Arizona and Florida, but said that years to come the people who voted Yes on Prop 8 and in the other States will be ashamed of themselves. The crowd cheered 'Shame! Shame!'. She said that we are on the right side of history. Now, we're mad. And when we get mad, we work harder and we work smarter. The opposition will wish they didn't mess with us. At that, the crowd went crazy. I would often hear, 'TAX THEM! TAX THEM!'

She continued by saying that if we look at Prop. 22 we lost by a higher margin. This time we were within 5 points. That is enormous progress. The crowd yelled 'Not enough! Not enough!'. They were very angry! She went on to say that we make a promise to our opponents that we will gain our rights back, and we will crush discrimination. She said don't lose heart; use this as a push; don't give up... vow to continue the fight. She said to talk to everyone you know and tell them why the vote was wrong and how it was wrong from the start. Tell them how the majority was tyrannical to the minority, she continued. Tomorrow we will march on the Mormon Temple. The crowd cheered. The emphasis seems to be against the Mormons, and to fight against them. The crowd cheered in unison 'Equal rights! Equal rights!' There was a sign next to me that said 'You can't amend love.'

At that point she told us the rally was over. She said that tonight do not take it to the streets. We aren't taking it to our streets, she continued, tomorrow we take it to theirs."

Impolitical has a great post on this issue too today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Land of the heterosexual free...

Like most queers, I have bittersweet feelings following last night's historic win by Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election.

Of course, I'm elated that a great man will now occupy the highest office in the world. The message sent to all by electing an African-American man named Barack who opposed the Iraq war will have profound significance and change the world. I wish him and his team the best of luck as they begin the battle to put America back on its feet.

But yesterday's votes in a handful of states on the issue of gay rights were a major blow to equality and freedom yesterday. While Obama's victory shows that Americans are turning the page on their Republican/war-mongering/racist/neo-conservative economic past, they appear to be regressing badly when it comes to their queer brothers and sisters.

California narrowly voted 52% to ban same sex marriage in the state.. This could reverse all of those beautiful expressions of lifetime devotion we witnessed thousands of gay couples make this summer. The state's attorney general, Jerry Brown, has said those marriages will remain valid, although legal challenges are possible.

Furthermore, anti-gay measures in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas were passed by the requisite margins. Glancing at various other ballot measure results from last night, it appears that heterosexual Americans did very well for themselves, like in California where they even failed to approve a social conservative measure that would've forced teenage girls to get parental permission before obtaining a legal abortion. Or in Michigan where medical marijuana was approved.

But sadly, Americans seem to be in no mood to embrace equality based on sexual orientation. Very sad, indeed. Obama himself refused to support equality, saying instead gays should be contented with less-than-equal civil unions. So while heterosexuals in California will continue to drink from the fountain of marriage, gays will have to contend with the lesser tap around back for a while yet, it seems.

Exit polls in California showed Proposition 8 was most favoured by African-American voters, while Whites were largely opposed and Latinos divided. Today, those same African-American voters are undoubtedly elated at finally breaking through with an historic win in the Presidency. I very much share their joy at this symbolic victory. Racism is evil and Obama's win last night is huge in the ongoing battle against it. Most people of colour I know are, of course, also very supportive of queer rights. For those friends, I truly share their joy.

But for the majority of African-American voters in California who voted yesterday to promote discrimination against gays and lesbians, I have little enthusiasm. How can one group understand so clearly the evils of discrimination, yet so disgustingly support discrimination against another group of citizens? It's beyond hypocrisy. Discrimination in law, whether based on race, or gender, or sexual orientation, is simply wrong and perhaps one day all Americans will understand that. Of course, that's a topic for another day perhaps.

With Manley out, things are looking good for Iggy...

With yesterday's predictable announcement that John Manley won't be a candidate for leader of the federal Liberal Party, I think it's becoming increasingly safe to say that this race will become a two-man fight between Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae.

Rae's already confirmed he's in, as has Dominic LeBlanc. Ignatieff is all but confirmed as in. I still have my doubts that Gerard Kennedy will run, and I haven't heard much from Martha Hall Findlay. There's talk that David McGuinty will throw his hat in the ring, but I have a feeling that most Liberals will no longer be willing to embrace third-tier candidates who want to come up the middle. We tried that last time and it clearly didn't work out.

This time, I'm sure that Ignatieff will be far and away the favourite to win. I haven't made up my mind as to who to support. I'll only say that in 2006 it seemed that Bob Rae ran a virtually flawless campaign, and openly admitted that all of his baggage was well-known. He placed a distant third. Ignatieff, on the other hand, ran a decent campaign but made serious gaffes along the way, hindering his ability to grow his support at the convention. Still he managed to grow his support from 29% to 45% of delegates by the end.

This time, I'm sure we'll see an even-better campaign from Iggy, designed to put to rest any unease some Liberals (myself included) may have with him. Despite Rae's considerable qualities, there's nothing he can do to rid himself of his NDP past. That's why Iggy will be the man to beat.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hoping the American Right gets its comeuppance today...

It all comes down to the next 12 or so hours and then the most exciting election in recent American memory comes to an end. We all remember the horror of watching George W. Bush claim a second mandate in 2004, despite his lies to the nation and the world about the Iraq war. That 2004 vote was coupled with major victories against same sex marriage in most states, except for Arizona which narrowly voted not to ban equality in its state constitution (unsatisfied, bigots are trying again in that state today). The result was an incredible depression for progressive Americans, who had witnessed their country literally and unapologetically embrace the corrupt Right. It's been glorious watching the Republicans struggle this year against the backlash. They even put up their most "liberal" candidate as their presidential nominee in John McCain, shunning the legacy of the last 8 years to try to eke out a victory. It doesn't look like it's going to be enough to stop the call for change.

With an Obama election, the U.S. has the opportunity to correct the profound mistake that was George W. Bush. The message a Barack victory would send to the world, as many already know well, will have profound historical implications. As John Ibbitson wrote so well in the Globe & Mail on the weekend, Obama has the potential of being one of the greatest presidents the U.S. has ever known. The stars have aligned nicely in this race for this incredible candidate.

But victories in the various referenda also taking place today on the issue of same sex marriage will also have a major impact on the issue of equality across America. The most important vote it seems is in California where thousands of gay couples could see their marriages dissolved if more than 50% back Proposition 8 today. It must be truly horrifying for many to contemplate. Polls have gone both ways on the issue, so it's anybody's guess how tonight with turn out. Similar votes are taking place in Arizona and Florida.

It'll be very bittersweet should Obama prevail across the nation, but voters in these states vote to deny or take away marriage rights from same sex couples. A victory for equality in California and the other states would constitute a major blow against the bigoted Right in the U.S. The sort of depression that set in among progressives following the 2004 U.S. election would likely be transferred over to the American Right in 2008. And how appropriate that would be. It's the result I'll be praying for tonight as I watch CNN.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

That other big American vote on November 4th...

With the U.S. presidential election taking most of the attention south of the border (as well as the numerous fights for seats in Congress and state legislatures), most LGBT citizens haven't forgotten about the cliffhanger of a referendum in California.

While Obama's lead nationally looks solid, the fight for equal marriage in California looks anything but certain. After California's Supreme Court ruled earlier this year to allow same sex marriages, opponents doubled their efforts to get the issue on the ballot on Nov 4th, this time promising to enshrine a ban against equality in California's constitution.

At first, polls showed Proposition 8 trailing in voter support as good news stories of happy gay couples getting hitched made headlines. But in recent weeks, anti-gay opponents closed the gap in voter support, at one point taking the lead in a couple of opinion polls after they ran a slew of misleading ads alleging that same sex marriage in California would force schools to teach homosexuality and cause churches to lose their tax exemption. These developments undoubtedly lit a fire under the pro-equality side, jarring them out of their complacency with the prospect that their right to marry could literally be taken away.

Money has recently poured into the pro-equality side. Ellen DeGeneres, who recently married her longtime partner Portia Di Rossi thanks to the court ruling, generously donated $100,000 to the cause. Three cast members from the popular 'Ugly Betty' TV show have launched a Spanish-language ad urging California Latinos to vote against Proposition 8.

Apple Computers also donated handsomely to the pro-equality side, which reinforces my own joy in having finally bought a Macbook last year. Businesses that have come out in favour of equality will no doubt face the wrath of the bigots pushing for entrenched discrimination, but I have a feeling those who support equality will continue to reward such companies and more than make up for any potential losses.

The big push against Proposition 8 in the last couple weeks seems to have tipped the race back toward the good side. The pro-equality side now has an eight-point advantage in the latest poll. Of course the situation is fluid, so no doubt the final result will remain hard to predict.

Check out the No on Prop 8 website here and consider making a donation to the cause of equality under the law south of the border.

On November 4th, I'll be up late watching the California results closely long after (hopefully) Mr. Obama is declared the new president.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ouch: The fantasy of Stephane Dion comes to an end...

I was hoping for an unambiguous result last night and I got it, but not the way I had hoped or predicted for sure.

Stephane Dion's leadership was the result of a grassroots revolt against the Liberal establishment which had given the party years of backroom bickering and the sponsorship scandal. When the establishment served up two highly flawed "frontrunners" in 2006 in Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, grassroots members like myself searched desperately for an alternative. I first looked at Gerard Kennedy in 2006, but backed away due to his bad French and his strangely inarticulate/monotone speaking style. After months of listening to Kennedy describe the need for "party renewal" in 2006, I still had no idea exactly what he meant by that. His refusal to back the "Quebecois nation" motion - which seemed more political posturing than heartfelt principle - will be the new albatross around his neck.

Stephane Dion was the anti-politician. We Liberals who supported him hoped his honesty and decency would attract voters back to a party overcome with sleaze and scandal in 2006. In the end, it seems that Dion's great flaws undermined his strengths.

Fellow blogger Far and Wide describes the situation very well today. Myself, I freely admit that I've been wearing rose-coloured glasses regarding Mr. Dion since 2006, frequently defending him against the many attacks. As someone who used to work in politics, but left because I hated playing the cynical "game" and the never-ending lying and schmoozing, Dion greatly appealed to me. It was satisfying to see the amoral establishment backing both a guy who supported the Iraq war and a "my principles are negotiable" NDP turncoat get overwhelmed by a grassroots uprising.

But today those rose-coloured glasses need to come off in the face of the cold, hard aftermath of yesterday's vote. I have questioned my own political judgment since Mr. Dion won and proceeded to underwhelm. At times, it was excruciating to listen to the vitriol levelled at Mr. Dion by objective members of the public, family and friends. The Liberals offered Canadians a thoroughly decent, honest, politically unskilled man prepared to fight for his great ideas - and the country handed the Liberals their worst defeat in modern history (in terms of the popular vote.)

It's now clear that Stephane Dion was a very bad fit for leader. He's grown minimally in the role and, in many ways, undermined his own campaign with his high-mindedness. The Green Shift was a good policy, but bad politics. It's a shame now that the need to effectively fight climate change will be undermined. To think that a complicated new tax reform would be seen as a potential vote winner says more about the man who proposed it than about the people who rejected the man.

There's no doubt that Stephane Dion should announce his resignation soon. The great experiment is now done and it failed.

Who should replace him? The flaws of Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae remain. While Ignatieff's support for the Iraq war continues to bother me, including his inability to say he made a mistake favouring it, I doubt that this issue alone would turn an election against him (it didn't hurt Harper either). I also doubt Ignatieff would be able to attract many more progressive votes than Dion did last night (but for different reasons.) Ignatieff's long absence from Canada, plus his generally smarmy style would likely be more difficult to overcome.

Having said that, Ignatieff is brilliant and he's a bit of a clean slate. He'd also put the Liberals firmly back in the centre of the political spectrum where we usually win. His approach to Quebec is reminiscent of Paul Martin and even Stephen Harper, an approach that hasn't exactly paid dividends. But an Ignatieff leadership would undoubtedly push the Liberal cause forward in Quebec and elsewhere. In the end, I'm sure Canadians would give Ignatieff a fair shot if he were to win the leadership.

Bob Rae's devotion to his new party has been admirable. He's as skilled as politicians come and quite likeable (more so than Ignatieff). He could've walked away after 2006, but he stayed committed. That alone will endear him to many Liberals who were turned off by his arrogant run in 2006. Bob Rae has walked the walk. Yet his baggage as a former Ontario NDP Premier remains an immense obstacle. I've never sensed any kind of "Bob Rae-mania" out there.

Of these two gentlemen, I still have my doubts, but I'm keeping an open mind. I haven't ruled out either of them.

As we move forward, Liberals should ask ourselves if we ought to stay on the left with a leader like Bob Rae or Gerard Kennedy, or do we need to aim to take back the Canadian centre with a leader like Ignatieff or John Manley or Scott Brison or some other person yet to emerge?

At this stage, I'm inclined to put aside some of my quirky political instincts - the kind that led me to support Stephane Dion - and try to get it right this time. When Stephane Dion steps down, Liberals need to elect a leader capable of earning back the confidence of Canadians and finally electing a strong Liberal government. The time for risky leadership experiments is over.

One final note: I was thrilled to see Frank Valeriote win handily in Guelph - my hometown - despite the strong anti-Liberal trend in southwestern Ontario. New candidates rarely achieve this feat. This guy is going to be a player in federal politics!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Canadian election predictions...

I chose to remain mostly non-partisan during this Canadian election campaign due to a temporary work assignment. But with it almost over, I think it's alright if I share some thoughts of a slightly partisan nature. Please expect my full-on leftie liberal stance to return to this site in short order.

The biggest loser in this election regardless of the outcome will be Stephen Harper (provided Canadians don't lose their minds overnight and give him a majority, which seems now extremely unlikely).

Every poll and prediction I've read of late puts Harper's Conservatives on the path to another minority government. It's possible they may manage to increase seats overall, with setbacks in Atlantic Canada and Quebec balanced off with mild gains in Ontario and British Columbia.

Still, it's clear that Stephen Harper called this election to win a majority government and sensed the timing was right. He was wrong on three counts: he completely misjudged the mood in Quebec, particularly over his hard-right policies re: culture and crime; he failed to anticipate how the recent market crash would impact on Canadians' hopes and fears and seemed completely out of touch right at the moment when most Canadians were paying close attention to the campaign; he hoped that Stephane Dion would fail to gain any traction and, with the help of Jack Layton's NDP, would lead his party to a historic defeat.

Now instead of a majority or even a strong Conservative minority that thrusts the Liberal Party into turmoil and establishes the Conservatives as the strongest national party, it seems that the Tories will actually lose ground to the Bloc in Quebec, who have emerged in this campaign as the biggest winners. Finishing third place in Quebec (including in the popular vote) will be a huge blow to Harper's Conservatives.

Stephane Dion may now live to see another day. It all depends on the seat totals and where the Liberals land in the popular vote. The Grits have spent most of this campaign mired in the low 20s, which would have been a new modern low for that party. But since Dion's strong performances in both the French and English debates, Canadians have finally gotten a chance to judge the real Dion. Low expectations created by the Tories actually made it easier for Dion to impress. In the end, it looks like the Grits are reclaiming much of their 2006 support. Of course, to drop or fail to grow in popular support cannot be seen as a major success for Dion. Truth be told, it seems most Canadians still find Mr. Dion somewhat wanting in the leadership department, although clearly it would appear that the public's views of Mr. Dion have improved over the course of this campaign.

This was Dion's first campaign as leader, let's not forget. Think back to other leaders and their first campaigns: Stephen Harper's disastrous 2004 campaign convinced many of us that he was simply unelectable, an impression that lasted until Harper proved us wrong in 2005/2006. No doubt, Harper learned many lessons from 2004 and showed he could beat the odds and the pundits. The same can be said of Dalton McGuinty and Shawn Graham and many others.

I supported Dion wholeheartedly in the 2006 leadership race because I loved his track record, his focus on the environment and his gutsy style. He's weathered the blistering attacks on his reputation by the Tories and is still fighting. No doubt, once this campaign is over, he'll be able to (hopefully) reflect on the mistakes he's made and work to be the leader he needs to be in order to win.

Dion is the anti-politician in this election. I quite agree with what Jason Cherniak says today. Many of us supported Dion in 2006 because we had little confidence in his competitors and hoped that Dion would rise to the occasion of leadership as he had to that of cabinet minister and defender of Canada. Dion still has some to learn, but I truly believe that he's had more success in this 2008 campaign than most first-time leaders. If the Liberals hold their own tomorrow night, there's no reason why Dion should step aside considering the weak position Harper will be in due to his crushing loss in Quebec and his confirmed inability to win a majority.

The strength of Jack Layton's campaign has likely positioned his party to play spoiler, denying the Liberals enough support to knock Harper's Tories back into opposition. The Greens will also make gains in the vote but will be hard-pressed to win any seats, thanks to our first-past-the-post voting system. Besides Elizabeth May, I do suspect that Blair Wilson has a chance to win his seat in West Vancouver, but that's only based on a hunch (with the NDP being quite weak now in that riding with the resignation of their first candidate, with the Liberal candidate being too new and the Tory being the same fundamentalist retread voters rejected last time...I suspect voters may go for something different.)

In the end, I think tomorrow night will go something like this:

NDP 19%
BLOC 10%
Others 2%

NDP 35

By province/territory:






CNS 39
NDP 15


CNS 12

CNS 28

CNS 19