Thursday, April 26, 2012

Online Petitions not Recognized in Canada

A Conservative MP has stirred up controversy by introducing a motion to have a Special Parliamentary Committee to discuss the definition of when a life begins. While this particular motion does not do a lot, some groups are afraid that this is the beginning of reopening Canada's abortion law.

The NDP have said that it will not be a whipped vote but they will vote unanimously against it.  The Liberals will let they MPs vote with their conscience. The Liberal have featured on their website an online petition they created to protest the move.  Currently the petition has received just under 50,000 signatures.

Any Canadian Resident is eligible to petition the Federal Government as long as it follows certain guidelines.  Those guidelines include a minimum of 25 signatures and the petition must be hand written.  The petition is reviewed for meeting the appropriate guidelines.  Once it is certified it can presented in Parliament by an MP.  The Government is required to respond to petitions within 45 days.

The petition the Liberals are pushing cannot be formally presented in Parliament. If they put together a paper petition, not only could it be presented in Parliament but the Government would be required to respond to the petition.  The Liberals are more concerned with making people feel they have accomplished something at the convenience of their computer, instead of having a petition that Parliament needs to deal with.

If the Liberals, really want online petitions to count, they should be pushing for legislation to be passed to recognize online petitions. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Beit Shemesh Fault Line

6 days a week, I wake up in the morning and walk my daughter to school. There are only crossing gaurds on one side of the street, so she needs me to help her cross the other street before she is under the care of the crossing guards (who happen to be Grade 6 students). When the school day ends, I meet her at the park near the crossing guards. In a little more than a year, she will be 9 years old and able to do this walk all by herself.

About a 10 minute drive on the other side of town. Orot, a similar religous girls school opened moved into their new building at the beginning of the school year. Their experience is completely different. It is located near the border between the Chearedi Neighbourhood RBS B and the edges of 3 Datei Leumi communities. A group of men calling themselves the Sikirm (bearing the same name as the group who's zealousness to force the Jewish to fight the Roman's lead to the destruction of the second Beith HaMikdash) come out to intimidate the girls (Grade 1 - 6). Name calling, spitting and occasionally throwing rocks and bricks are all par for the course. Parents (and at certain points members of the community) have been escorting the children through the group of thugs to protect their safety. Last week a news crew filmed a scared 8 year old girl, as her mother tried to walk her to school. The image has inspired the country to take action.

The State does have a history of mistreating religious Jews. The Charedi community reaction to the backlash has been t0 fall back to being victims of Charedi bashing and everyone being against them. Most cannot even imagine that this is a direct backlash to their long tradition of using violence and political power to force their life style on others. When I was in Yeshiva, I was a block away from where they protested to have Bar Illan street closed on Shabbat. I saw wrongs on both sides. One night when a police car was hit with a rock, an arrest was made. They spent the night calling the soldiers Nazis, which in their world is a term for anyone who doesn't agree with them. The Nazi imagery that they used Saturday night should not have been a surprise to anybody.

In order to solve the problem at Orot, it is important to look at the real root of the problem. Most importantly this is a turf war. The Sikirm want the school for themselves and to expand the borders of their community and sphere of influence.

Moshe Abutbul was elected under the mantra of a Mayor for everyone. His actions have been anything but as he tries to cater to the Charedi community. In RBS A, the Mikvaot was split between those who wanted a "Mehdarin" experience and those who wanted to have the same standards applied by Jewish communities around the world. He tried to hand them over to the Charedi community and was only stopped by the backlash from the Datei Leumi community and leadership. He has been working to close the only secular school in RBS A, while telling parents he was trying to keep it open. Eventually the Minister of Education stepped in to declare that he will use his powers to guarantee the school stays open. The year my daughter entered Grade 1, school registration was delayed, waiting for the final decision of the school to be made.

When the Sikirm protested the opening of Orot in their new building, the Mayor tried to solve the problem by not allowing the school to open. Once again the Minister of Education threatened to step in, to make sure it opened. The Mayor falsely claimed that he was just trying to listen to the advice from the police.

In order to make peace it will be necessary to remove the political power wielded by the trouble makers in the Charedi community. This can be done both from a policy of not tolerating violence and limiting the dispoportional political power.

- Police should not be afraid to arrest those who are causing violence.
- There has to be a way to enforce a restraining order preventing, such ugly protests so close to the school.
- Following the lead of other democracies and raising the minimum threshold to obtain seats in the Knesset from 2% to 5%. This will allow knock out some of the extremist parties and cause the smaller parties to carry political weight more proportionate to their size.
- Eliminate vote sharing agreements and party mergers during election campaigns. These agreements allow parties with little support to leverage their votes and advertising allotments to in exchange for political favours.

It should be noted that the Charedi fighting does not spread to the communities of Bnei Brak, Beitar Illit, Kiryat Sefar and only seem to be limited to Meah Sharim and Beit Shemesh. The Beit Shemesh Charedi community is made up of a lot of people that cannot afford to stay in Mea Sharim. Mea Sharim is such an insulated community that they just cannot handle the idea that the rest of the world is not like them. Once you think your way is the only way, anything can be justified in the name of your beliefs.

Beit Shemesh will be getting a new Police Chief this week. Hopefully, he will have the skills and if necessary force to make it safe for the Orot girls to go to school. Once that is done, the Charedi community can start worrying about repairing their reputation and getting along as peaceful neighbours. The choice is theirs.

If the Sikirim had been stopped at the beginning of the school year, there would have been no need to bring in the media. Something that should be considered before starting the next turf war. Hopefully, my friends who's daughters go to Orot can let their daughters walk to school without worry just like I can.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Free Gaza Struggles to Keep Flotilla Interesting

There are some other bloggers doing a much better job of covering the Freedom Flotilla then I ever could. The turn of events of the last couple of days, make it very easy to overlook some very interesting details.

Free Gaza is claiming that two of their boats have been sabotaged. Turkish officials preleminary investigation has found that the Irish ship had not been sabotaged and was damaged before entering Turkish waters. They wouldn't buy ships that were not sea worthy, so they can blame it on Israel, would they?

Reporter Joseph Dana tweeted on Friday that CNN and CBS were planning on jumping ship if nothing happened on Friday. He was very clear that he was contemplating doing the same thing. Perhaps that was the motivation for the Audacity of Hope to set sail without permission of the Greek authorities.

According to the Free Gaza website the humanitarian aid on the Audacity of Hope are 3,000 letters of solidarity. As they are not willing to delivery their humanitarian aid through legal means, the people of Gaza will have to continue to suffer without such essential goods.

Free Gaza should note that International Law is not determined by whatever they feel like doing. If they want to avoid the legal and political delays, next time they should set sail from Syria and Lebanon.

Greek authorities are operating well within their rights to legally stop the flotilla. Free Gaza has the right to appeal through their court system. How can they be taken seriously as defender of International law, while they intentionally break Greek laws?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Back to the Future - Obama Style

During the last Israeli election, I attended a meeting at Yisrael Beytenu head quarters in Jerusalem. At the meeting, one elderly gentleman took great interest on the policy of land swaps in any peace agreement. The policy is based purely on logistics. There is inside the 'Green Line' that would make more sense in a Palestinian State and territory that Palestinians, now lay claim to that should fall within Israel's borders. This was not a major campaign platform, as there was no hope of negotiations getting that far in the short term.

Yesterday, President Obama made his big Middle East policy speech. While mentioning many of Israels major concerns, he managed to give the Palestinian leadership another opportunity to dig in their heels. He declared that a Palestinian State should be established based on the 1967 (re: 1949 Armistice Treaty) borders. On the surface suggesting land swaps may seem like step forward in recognizing the logistical impracticality on turning the clock back to a time where Israel's borders with Egypt and Jordan (re: West Bank & Gaza) were not recognized as permanent by any stretch of the imagination.

Unlike Israel, the Palestinians have no reason to establish practical borders. The right of return calls for their people to live in Israel rather than live in a Palestinian State that is supposed to represent their historical and national interests. On the flip side, Jews will be thrown out of a Palestinian State the same as when Israel pulled out of Gaza. Palestinians living in Israel have no reason to share such fears. Currently have severe limited access to Jewish holy sites under PA control. Visits to these sites need to be coordinated with the IDF or risk being killed by PA security forces. Palestinians don't have any such worries visiting to holy sites in Israel.

Obama's plan to freeze construction on land that was going to be swapped in any agreement was a complete backfire. It has provided great cover for the Palestinian leadership to avoid any type of negotiations. His statement that a Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 border gives Palestinian's everything they need to happily continue on the path towards unilaterally declared Statehood in September. With all of the contradictory foreign policies he has to justify, it is always easier to be harsh towards a friend than a foe. Obama has already pushed Israel farther than it is willing to go. Continuing the push, strengthens those who want to harm Israel, while sinking the President's very limited political capital. Perhaps it is time to start picking battles that are winnable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Canadians Vote for Stable Government

Once again the Canadian political landscape has been rewitten with huge changes. As the Conservatives finally have a Majority Government and the days of the Liberals being the Natural Government of Canada or the Government in Waiting might as well be ancient history.

Conservates 167 Seats (+23) -- Stephen Harper's unwavering support of Israel has been rewarded with the defeat of Liberals Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe. Now that he has a majority he can focus more on governing and spending less time on partisan politics. Highly ranked and skilled Lawrence Cannon was the only significant Convesrvative casualty of the election. The new influx of talent should allow for an even stronger cabinet.

NDP 102 Seats (+66) -- Under Jack Layton, the NDP played the roll of Effective Opposition, while the Liberals were floundering under Stephane Dion. They started by taking Outremont in a by-election and have grown in Quebec ever since. They will should serve the title of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition well. The only potential drawbacks that will emerge, will be from candidates that won who had no business running in the election.

Liberals 34 Seats (-43) -- It looks like Michael Ignatieff will join Stephane Dion and become the 4th Liberal leader not to become Prime Minister. He was ineffective at rebuilding the party. He lost his seat, along with former leadership race contenders Martha Hall-Findley and Gerard Kennedy. Bob Rae is the only one left from that group. The Liberals need to rebuild from the ground up with a real vision and a strong leader. Without the fear of an election or forming a coalition they have the opportunity they need. Now it is a matter of taking advantage of the time they have.

Bloc Quebecois 4 Seats (-44) -- They lost official party status. Gilles Duceppe lost his seat and resigned as party leader. This is good news for Canada and as bad as it gets for the Seperatist movement. In Quebec there is always room for a rebound but at least for the time being they will not be doing very much.

Green Party 1 Seats (+1) -- In 2008 Elizabeth May ran a horrible campaign. She tried to run a campaign on Foreign Policy by running against the very popular Peter McKay. She signed a signed a deal with Dion, to have the Party leaders not compete against each other. In the dying days of the election endorse strategic voting that would hurt her party. It made for an easy decision for the TV networks to not include her in the leaders debate.

This time round she took a different strategy. She moved over to the more cushy riding of Saanich--Gulf Islands. She spent the entire campaign in her own riding. With only 3.9% of the popular vote, costing the Green Party their vote subsidy. However she gets full credit for winning her seat. She can now be taken seriously and the future of the Green Party will be determined by her performance in Parliament. Exactly what her and her supporters wanted.

The best news about this election is the new Government will have time to govern and the parties will have time to recover before the next election. The Conservatives, NDP and Green Party will have a chance to prove themself while the Liberals and Bloc will have time to rebuild.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Choosing a Prime Minister King-Byng All Over Again

The Canadian First Past the Post electoral system is designed to create majority governments. As Canadians prepare to go to the polls in a few weeks, they face the possibility of electing a 4th consecutive minority government. If the Conservatives win another minority will Harper still be Prime Minister has become a real question.

Harper was the first one to spin the debate to keep his job, by attacking the concept of a Liberal, NDP, Bloc coalition. It put the ball in Ignateif's court and his response was gaurenteed to help the Conservatives. If he said he was willing to form a coalition, then his more left wing supporters have no fear in peeling off to the NDP because it would still knock Harper out. It would also alienate his more right wing supporters who don't like the idea of the NDP in government. Rejecting the coalition would make it more difficult to come in 2nd place and argue he has a mandate to be Prime Minister. This week Harper also said that the who ever has the most seats should form the Government. If they lose the support of parliament they should go back to the polls. Harper is taking the side of Mackenzie King side of the King-Byng affair.

Ignateif this week tipped off how he would become Prime Minister even if he loses the election. The Government still has to pass a budget. If the budget were defeated, the Governor General could act as Lord Byng did in 1926 and ask the Liberals to form a Government. Ignateif could keep his promise to not form a coalition as long as he is able to pass the budget. Fearing the backlash from voters of another election would buy him the time he needs to put the fingerprint he wants on Government.

There is another variable that has started to emerge. The NDP are polling strong in Quebec and are showing signs that they may beat the Liberals and form the official opposition. The more voters accept the possibility of a real NDP breakthrough the more likely they are not going to lost that support to strategic votes for the Liberals. They could repeat the above scenario with Layton becoming Prime Minister.

Canadians may wake up on May 3rd to discover they have no idea who they have elected to govern. As Harper, Ignateif and possibily Layton stake out their political ground the Governor General may be the one deciding who really won the election.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Canadians Going Back to the Polls

The writ has been dropped and Canadians are going back to the polls for another Federal election. For years we have heard rhetoric about how Harper is destroying Canada and we need an election "now". With the Conservatives leading the polls going into the election, those who believe Harper is truly destroying Canada have until May 2nd to make their case.

There are 4 likely out comes to this election.

1. A Conservative Majority Government, which may help reduce the partisan bickering as the Government and Opposition parties will have 4 years to focus on the governing rather than political posturing on questions like if and when an election is called.

2. A Conservative Minority Government, which just means going back to the same old, that has been in place for the last 5 years.

3/4. A Liberal Government that can focus on changing course from what Harper has offered while in the Prime Ministers seat. How different the course will be from the current Government will probably be less noticeable than the Anti-Harper camp has hoped. In the event of a minority Government, Ignatieff should get some breathing room to put his fingerprints on the government before facing the difficulties of strategic maneuvering through a minority parliament.

As a Canadian living abroad my most important concern is on Foreign Policy. The current Government has proven to be a friend of Israel and willing to make the correct moves even if they are unpopular. While the Liberals have Israeli supports, such as Irwin Cotler, we are more likely to see a foreign policy that more closely mirrors that of the Obama Administration.

Obama has created a big mess in Israel that has allowed the Palestinians to avoid the negotiating table and reintroduce terrorism into their political arsenal. The Palestinians are hoping to force the creating of a State that will be in a de facto state of war come September. It is important that countries that have stood up for truth, such as Canada do not lose their voice in such a critical time.