Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quebec Superior Court Dismisses case to Stop Construction in Modiin Illite

The Palestinian town of Bil'in has tried to stop construction in Modiin Illit by turning to the Quebec Superior Court. The town tried to claim that since the construction company Green Park is based out of Montreal the Quebec courts should order a halt to the construction. They wanted to claim that the mere construction of the homes is a war crime.

The reasoning behind the ruling was that the jurisdiction belongs to the Israeli courts and should be taken there. The Israeli courts have handled hundreds of claims dealing with Palestinian complaints regarding land claims. The route of the security fence has been altered many times as a result of these law suits.

The courts were wise in avoiding making political decisions across the ocean. The construction is located in the neighbourhood of Kiryat Sefer. This Haredi community has full autonomy over their religous life including an approval committee for new residents. It is a community that takes no interest in the political aspirations of the nation. They simply want a place where they can raise their families according the way they see fit.

The construction is located just below the boundaries of where the current housing is already built. It is the most logical place to put more housing to provide for a growing community. The land is located a mere 1/2 km from the Green line. The commonly held belief is that any final status agreement will have Israel borders redrawn to include this community in exchange for land that would be better suited to a Palestinian political entity somewhere more practical. Palestinians have repeatedly rejected any land compromise. Palestinian leadership would rather have hundreds of thousands of Jews kicked out of their homes rather than take include land settled by Palestinians in Israel proper to be included in a future Palestinian State.

Issues of settlements are part of a comprehensive political solution. Israel has proven that they are willing to expel citizens for political gains. Forcing Israel to make concessions on final borders without the benefits of negotiation and compromise only undermines the whole process. Israel has already tried the focus on small issues and has received terrorism in return. The bigger problems must be solved first and then everything else will fall into place. Anything less is unacceptable.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Loyal versus Effective Opposition

During Stephane Dion's reign as the leader of the Liberal Party the NDP lay claim to the title of "Effective Opposition". They opposed government confidence no matter what. They even declared their intention to vote against the budget without even reading it. This forced Dion to explain why he was going to be against legislation he would allow to pass. At the same time Liberals were digging through old closets for scandals, the NDP were bringing up current issues that were relevant to the current Government.

Michael Ignatieff was supposed to bring change with the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition performing their duties to keep the government in check. With the threat of an election as the spring session wrapped up, the Liberals reached a deal for government compromises on EI in order not to take down the government. Things appeared to be back on track.

With the return from summer break the Liberals were not satisfied with the promised changes and Ignatieff declared they would bring down the government at the first oppurtunity. It seemed like a simple turning the tables on the NDP to make them look bad the same way they had been battered by the NDP.

Jack Layton turned the tables on the Liberals by declaring their support for the EI changes. They would keep the government afloat until they are delivered. Other government funding would not face being lost in the shuffle of another election. By voting in favour of popular legislation they have once again demonstrated they are able to be the effective opposition. Canadians have noticed as the Liberals have once again started dropping in the polls. In the long run effective government will trump a constant change in government. Ignatieff better tread carefully or he may find himself on the losing side of an election he could have avoided.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Change of Tact, Pressuring Hamas to Free Shalit

It has now been 1179 days since Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. This week his family is once again stepping up efforts to put pressure on the government to have him return home. Their latest move takes a tactical change putting pressure on Hamas, instaed of just the Israeli Government.

This week a Rosh Hashannah care package for Shalit has been travelling the country. Later today The families of 1000 Palestinian prisoners will hold a rally in Gaza. Simultaneously a rally to free Shalit will take place in Israel near the Gaza border crossing. The care package will then be delivered to Gaza in the hopes of making it to Shalit. When the Shalit family is satisfied he has received the package, 1000 care packages are scheduled to be delivered tomorrow to Israel and distributed to the prisoners.

The Palestinians families lost their ability to visit their family members as a direct result of the Shalit kidnapping. The rally on the Gaza side has Palestinian placing blame on Hamas for their suffering. Delivering the package would bring some comfort to a young man about to spend his 4th Rosh Hashanah locked away in captivity. Refusal to deliver the package is a further example of how Hamas would rather let their thousands of their own suffer, rather than bring comfort to one lonely person.

On Tuesday Hamas said they will make sure Shalit does not get the package. Hamas is once again letting their true cruelty show. This time it is obvious to all of the Palestinians involved. This is probably just an isolated incident, but Hamas is losing some support with elections scheduled to take place next year. This has the potential to eventually grow into something bigger with the Palestinians finally rejecting Hamas rule and possibly having Shalit return home. We can only hope.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Employment Benefits Target Older Workers

The last session of Parliament ended with the threat of another election. The reason for going to the polls would have been the Government's refusal to reduce the qualifying period for unemployment benefits to 360 hours. Instead an agreement was reached between the Liberals and Conservatives to use the summer to come up with a solution.

The Government announced their plans for temporary changes to employment insurance. Benefits will be extended by 5 to 20 weeks for people who have been working 7 of the last 10 years with limitations based on if they have collected benefits during that time. A ways and means motion on Friday will determine if this will be approved or if Canadians will once again go to the polls.

The Liberals and NDP took the approach of focusing on the benefits for people unable to hold jobs for a long period of time. The Conservatives have focused on older workers who have been in the work force for a long time. This demographic tends tend to have the hardest time adjusting to unemployment. The extra time may be enough to make the difference between time to retrain properly or jumping back into the job market. If all it takes is a few more weeks for upgrading skills the entire economy benefits.

Election fever has hit Ottawa once again. It will be hard to sell why this improvement is worth bringing down the government. The NDP and Liberals have an inverse relationship in terms of when is best for them to go to the polls. They target many of the same voters, the Liberals want a majority government and the NDP want a minority Liberal government. This leaves the Conservatives in the best position to serve up legislation that the opposition parties will have no choice but to vote down. That will not happen until the polls put them in clear majority territory. When you are playing a game of chicken, anyone can lose. The best scenario for Canadians is to hold of on an election and have the government get some work done, followed by a majority government to put an end to the election fever games.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Will Voters Choose Turnip or Change

It would not be hard to think that Dalton McGuinty is on route to be remembered by history as one of Ontario's greatest Premiers. He was first elected on a campaign of no tax increases. He then brought in a health premium, which he had to apologize later and admit it was really a tax. When Toronto was collapsing under the financial burden of cost down loading, he came to the rescue by giving Toronto new taxing powers.

His re-election campaign framed him as the "champion of education." He demonstrated that he brought labour peace to the education by locking up contracts until after the election. This time he promised, no new taxes.

His second term has seen a York University strike. Student living in fear of losing their entire year waited until the last possible moment for the Province to step in. Toronto swimming pools have been endanger of closing because they happened to have been built in schools instead of community centres. A year ago, when he could have got concessions from the federal government to bring in the HST, he was against it. Now that the economy has tanked and the feds have nothing to offer he is in favour of another tax grab. Plus the Afrocentric school that did not fit in his narrow view of education, is now open in Toronto. Smart Hydro Metres have been brought in which guarantee price increases for almost everyone. Not to metion a summer filled with scandals of mismanaged government programs.

There is a theory that the Liberals could run a turnip in Toronto and win an election. That theory will be put to the test on Thursday. A by election in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's will take place with Sue-Ann Levy, as the challenger to the Liberals unchallenged reigns.

The attacks on her during the first few days of the campaign were disturbing. She was attacked for being high profile, Jewish, Lesbian candidate. She was a decoy, designed to check off riding demographics. Liberals could use this strategy because that is what they represent. A Conservative candidate must some how be a decoy because the Conservative Party could not possible represent the interests of these groups.

Sue-Ann Levy is a highly qualified candidate. As a Toronto Sun reporter she has been successful at exposing the many problems that exist in city hall. She understands how politics works and what needs to be done to improve the system. She would be a tremendous asset to the job that needs to be done at Queen's Park. A win would also send the message to the Liberals that they need to tighten up under understand that unlike last time re-election will be based on their performance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Marking Turning Points in History Wolfe vs. Montcalm

This weekend Quebec City will be marking 250 years since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The battle turned the French colony over to the British. The British decided not to interfere with the existing system of law, language or culture. That decision has defined Canadian culture until this day and still remains a point of conflict in French/English relations.

One of the events planned for tomorrow was to reenact the battle. In elementary school late 1700s early 1800s was my favourite time period to learn about. I had a teacher who did reenactments. He played a part in reacting a battle in a made for TV movie and took a week off of school to reenact the Battle of Waterloo. He was my teacher when we took a class trip to Quebec City, including visiting the Plains of Abraham. Battle reenactments are a great way to make learning about this time period more fun and interesting.

The plan was cancelled because some Quebecers found it offensive. The official reason was that there was the possibilty of protests becoming violent. Instead the anniversary is going to be marked at the same venue, by reading the FLQ manifesto. The FLQ wanted Quebec independance. They planted bombs, kidnapped and murdered Government officials. Their actions resulted in the 1970 October Crisis. The War Measures Act was implemented suspending civil liberties and giving police powers for mass arrests.

This is becoming a common theme around the world. If a group is capable of violence than governments will bend over backwards to try to accomodate their point of view. Groups that will not be violent do not require the same kind of appeasement. In some cases the victims are criticized or even charged for inciting the violence.

Government officials may feel proud that they have protected the safety of their citizens by avoiding violence. The truth is they have just set the stage for the next battle which will mean a choice between violence or further concessions. It is important to be mindful of viewing the world from different perspectives. If threat of violence determines public policy instead of priniciples and public discourse, all of society loses.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Anti-Israel Boycott Reaches Toronto International Film Festival

This past year, In Toronto, the best way to guarantee success is to be the victim of an Anti-Israel boycott. The Boycott of an LCBO in April, saw their Israeli wines sold out in 15 minutes, with other kosher wines sold as a substitute. The jump in sales in other stores. A Palestinian attempt to usurp the Dead Sea scrolls brought about similar results where they are being displayed at the ROM.

This year the Toronto International Film Festival choose Tel Aviv to be the feature city. Tel Aviv has been celebrating their 100th anniversary, plus Israel always brings the type of open thought that film festivals are supposed to bring. A film has already been withdrawn in protest and there are a bunch of people in the industry supporting the boycott. There will be a big conference on the first day of the festival to bring maximum attention to the call to boycott.

Cameron Bailey decided that this issue was important enough to respond. In a letter he defended TIFF decision to choose Tel Aviv as the feature city. Towards the end he the protest by saying

"John writes that his protest isn’t against the films or filmmakers we have chosen, but against the spotlight itself. By that reasoning, no films programmed within this series would have met his approval, no matter what they contained. For us, the content and form of films does matter. In fact, when I met with a number of the signatories earlier this week, I encouraged them to see the films before passing judgment on the programme. Regrettably, they chose a different route. We know some of them to be veterans of Toronto’s battles against censorship -- all the more surprising to watch them denounce a film series without seeing the films in it."

If he had stopped here, he would have gaurenteed a sold out festival. He succinctly pointed out how silly it is that people recalibrate their moral compass when Israel is involved. The Jewish community would have cause to rally around the festival. Just an other example of out of touch with reality celebrities buying into the the nothing good can possibly come from Israel attitude.

Unfortunatly, Bailey choose to add a final paragraph to his letter.

"We recognize that Tel Aviv is not a simple choice and that the city remains contested ground. We continue to learn more about the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. As a festival that values debate and the exchange of cultures, we will continue to screen the best films we can find from around the world. This is our contribution to expanding our audiences’ experience of this art form and the worlds it represents."

Bailey has managed to find a backhanded way to try to show support while claiming that the film festival should be exempt. Tel Aviv is the city where all the world's embassies are because they refuse to recognize Jerusalem in any way shape or form as part of Israel. Anyone claiming Tel Aviv as contested ground is either incredibly ignorant or sees the only solution for the Palestinians is the elimination of Israel. A perfect rebuke ruined by the need to keep everyone happy.