Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why I'm defending the Charest tax cut...

...or at least, why I'm defending his right to cut taxes using equalization money. Hint: it's not because I want the bigger refund next year. Or because I think it's a great idea.

It's because, as I point out (see link above), it is "entirely legitimate and consistent with the mandate of the equalization program."

And because virtually every province receiving equalization this year (with the exception of New Brunswick, where the recently elected Liberal government there actually ran on a platform of raising taxes and raising spending) is enacting a tax cut of some stripe in their respective 2007-08, with precisely none of the reproach and hyperbole coming from national media or leaders of envious "have" provinces that has been directed at Quebec.

I'm an anglo Quebecer, quite transparently not soveriegntist nor "autonomiste", and what few readers I have are most likely anglophone, and/or residing in English Canada. But I live in Quebec and thus feel firsthand the consequences of allowing arcane debates over fiscal federalism to be blown up into highly politicized, often hysterical, pissing matches where all manner of interest in fact and truth is lost.

And if anything else, the events of the past year should demonstrate conclusively that there is precious little political hay to be made in manufacturing fiscal injustice dragons and putting on a show of slaying them.

The reaction to Charest's tax cut proposal, and the absence of any similar reaction to tax cuts in other provinces, demonstrates to me (a) the folly of mixing politics with transfer payment policy, and (b) the fact that, even at a time when the threat of separation is supposedly remote, the two solitudes remain as far apart as ever - and that no one seems particularly concerned about it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Waiting on Memory Almost Full

Paul McCartney's new album, Memory Almost Full, is out on June 4. I already bought "Ever Present Past" on the Itunes store. And I have "Dance Tonight" (via youtube) on a loop as I write this. The latter is almost too good. As a songwriter I'm insanely jealous. As a Paul fan, well, first Chaos & Creation in the Back Yard and now this? I'm feeling totally spoiled.


I've been on Facebook for 48 hours now. Having waaaaaaaaaaaayyy too much fun. Am not yet Stephane Dion's friend. He probably doesn't mind; apparently he's already got a few. Best new toy in many a year.

Of course, this will ultimately require that I finish the job I started (in a convoluted, roundabout way, of course, becuase that's how I do things) on this post. I will. Not tonight, but soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stop the Presses! Ungrateful Have-Not Province Takes Equalization Money, Cuts Taxes!!!


Charlie, the Reitman's Bag, and the Sneeze

So if I'm gonna descend into the depths of blog perdition by writing about my cat, and posting pictures of said cat, I might as well go at it in style. Hence, some vital stats:

Born: March 10, 2007

Walked out of my dreams and into my arms: May 6, 2007

Weight at 2 mos.: 3 lbs, 6 oz.

Gender: Male

Favorite Toy: Hard to say, but I've been at the computer most of the evening wrapping up something for work for tomorrow, and he's spent the last 15 minutes thrashing about in a Reitmans shopping bag, which is the longest I've seen him play with anything that wasn't his own tail. I will be keeping this in mind when we head to the PetSmart in Gloucester this weekend.

As I write this, he crawls out of the bag, hops up on my knee and then up onto the computer table, walks right up to the monitor and.....sneezes.

I'll be back with the Windex. Meantime here's Charlie mauling a sweatshirt I got at Disneyland in 1988. It's now his blankie. One less thing for ebay....

Again with the not blogging...

I think it was like this back when I was 7 and tried - quite unsuccesfully - to keep a diary.

And when I was school, and we had to write an entry in our journal every day. At one point, I got around this annoying task by riffing on - in 25 words or less - whether or not I'd "had fun" at recess earlier that morning. Teacher wasn't impressed....

I'll post some info as to why I'm busy lately... but for now here's a clue...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Further to the below...

A couple more things that occurred to me after writing the original post. Some of these thoughts were developed in the comments below; others came to me as I wrote in on Colby Cosh's interesting post over at

1) Denis Coderre is a lot of things, not all of which are flattering, but he is not a separatist. Similarly, while some Quebec hockey writers are known to go over the top when it comes to French-English flare-ups, they're not all cut from the same cloth in that regard. My citing François Gagnon (below) was deliberate in that regard, because he is decidely not a wingnut. He and his colleagues may have had a rough ride over the Kovalev thing (which I ain't goin' nowheres near for all the tea in China), but he's not a reflexively anti-English talking head.

I raise this because, more than once, I've seen or heard suggestions that this whole thing is reducible to separatists and/or anti-anglo types trying to stir merde. This kind of dismissive sterotyping is plain wrong. The issue should be discussed on its merits, not dismissed because the guys doing the complaining are francophone Quebecers.

2) On the merits of the issue, I want to come back to the point that this is all the NHL's fault. They're the ones who failed to send a strong message about not tolerating anti-francophone taunts or other ethnic slurs; they could have, for example, fined the Coyotes team and/or the coach for failing to control his players. And they're the ones who allowed this gaping chasm between the official record and Cormier's report to go unexplained, despite persistent questions in the francophone media.

3) Having said it's all the NHL's fault, and having already said that I believe Shane Doan's accounting of the incident, there are all sorts of things that Doan could have done to stop the snowball effect. Doan could have been more proactive in speaking out against that type of language. He could have said something like: "Everyone knows that epithets and insults go back and forth on the ice all the time. And ususally there's little or no evil intent behind it. But the NHL is an international league, and we have a responsibility to set an example by respecting one another. As a captain of an NHL team, as a [insert your choice of 'person of integrity' and/or 'Christian' and/or whatever], I can promise that I won't condone or tolerate that kind of behaviour from my teammates." Instead he allowed himself to get drawn into a legal pissing match with Denis Coderre.

4) When all is said and done, the system worked. The Committee heard Hockey Canada's side of the story. They voted to endorse the team. Then they adjourned. It took less than two hours. This did not prevent Parliament from debating such matters as Afghanistan or Kyoto or Danny Williams. Some perspective, please.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I'm probably going to regret this, but...'s not, as some are suggesting, a total waste of time for Canadian Parliamentarians to be debating the Shane Doan situation. I say this, by the way, even though I actually believe Shane Doan when he says he wasn't the one who directed the "f***'in frenchmen" slur at the four French-Canadian officials who worked the Habs-Coyotes game in question, way the hell back in 2005. I'll accept his assertion that, as a devout Christian, he doesn't ever ever use the F-word. I'll even accept that Doan is sincere when he says he would have made the exact same argument about four California-native refs officiating a game in LA; goofy and legitimate accusations of homerism abound in hockey (remember the 2002 women's hockey gold medal game? Damn American refs....)

Okay. Still. It's beyond dispute, and Doan acknowledges, that there were anti-French slurs (mostly of the juvenile, schoolyard type) flying all over the ice, and that Doan was indirectly drawn into it. It's also beyond dispute that the NHL, by (a) clearing Doan, (b) not investigating the incident further and (c) failing to publicly back Cormier, miserably failed to read the mood in Quebec.

Finally, it's also beyond dispute that waaaaaaaay too many people outside Quebec can't, or don't bother to, follow what's being said in the francophone Quebec media. If they did, they'd know that this issue never actually went away, that anger over the gaping chasm between Michel Cormier's report and the NHL's tactic of basically washing its hands of the whole affair has been simmering. Hockey Canada should have seen this coming, should have been prepared, should have dealt with it head-on. The fact that they didn't make an effort to understand or anticipate the sentiment in Quebec (or at least among the francophone Quebec press) is a massive failure on their part.

François Gagnon (sportwriter for La Presse, frequent guest on the anglophone CFCF-Montreal sports show SportsNight 360 and blogger, gets it exactly right:

"Ça fait 18 mois que c’est arrivé cette affaire là. Dix huit mois qu’on en parle dans tous les médias du Québec et nos collègues de Toronto n’ont pas cru bon une seconde s’intéresser à ce qui se disait ici. Et c’est justement parce qu’ils se réveillent à la dernière minute que cela fait tout un plat et qu’on se retrouve encore à dire que les francophones passent leur temps à se plaindre dans le reste du pays.


"[Doan] a été nono dans ses commentaires. Il a manqué de jugement, et de respect. Mais je suis convaincu qu’il n’a pas de haine viscérale contre les francophones. Il n’a pas la moindre idée de l’impact de ce qu’il a dit. C’est tout!

"Mais les grands coupables dans ce dossier sont les responsables de la LNH, Colin Campbell en tête, qui a balayé le fait français sous le tapis comme on balaie les restes de poussières que la balayeuse a laissés derrière elle.... Les grands responsables sont les dirigeants de Hockey Canada qui ont eu l’audace de dire qu’ils n’étaient pas au courant de l’affaire et qui se sont mis les deux pieds dans la merde comme des enfants se mettent les deux pieds dans le premier trou d’eau qu’ils croisent sur le chemin de l’école."

What he's saying, in not so many words, is that if there are still two solitudes in this country, it's because too many people aren't trying hard enough.