Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Sunday, May 22, 2016

For the good of the country, let us all hope the Rolling Stones are now too old to tour.

In conversation, I have called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ‘the Dauphin’ given that his only qualification before being elected as an MP was that he was his father’s oldest son, and whether  you agreed with Pierre Elliot Trudeau or not, he was brilliant intellectual and a Canadian parliamentarian of the first order. Certainly, nothing in Justin Trudeau’s career trajectory would lead one to assume parliamentarian was an objective let alone a career goal given the lack of heft to his political resume.

This is why Justin Trudeau always struck me as more Maggie’s Boy than Pierre’s.  And just like the Pierre, the country tired of Maggie’s antics very quickly.  Be that as it may be, never did I imagine the possibility that Justin Trudeau believed the people kicked out a dictator and elected him King.  My bad. 

Last week, we were treated to Trudeau’s wife pleading for funding a team to help her serve the people. A Chef, two nannies, a team of housekeepers as well as 1 personal assistant wasn’t enough for the un-elected spouse of a Prime Minister with no official role or responsibilities other than to her family and hobby ‘career’ and I due use the term ‘career’ in the loosest sense of the word.  In fact, being Prime Minister does not even require a spouse.  Many of our Prime Minister’s were spouseless. In fact, the elder Trudeau was first elected Prime Minister as a bachelor. 

Last week, when Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau whined for alleged entitlements, and given her rather bizarre behaviour of breaking out in song during a speech; it felt like it was shades of Margaret Trudeau all over again, and I thought, good G-d, did Justin Trudeau marry his mother? 

Nowhere is Trudeau’s lack of political and common sense more on display than the behaviour he exhibited this week in the House of Commons. His majority government nearly lost a vote when Team Trudeau couldn’t be bothered to show up enmass in the middle of a workday for a vote on a bill they proposed. The government’s defeat was only narrowly averted when the Speaker of the House voted to break the tie and sided with Team Liberal.

And then came Wednesday. Thirty seconds after the bell rings, and while the bell is still ringing, the Prime Minister rises from his seat, charges across the floor to barge into Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and lays his hands forcefully on the opposition whip to drag him into his seat so the vote on a Liberal motion limiting Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition time to debate a forth coming right-to-die bill. In the process, he inadvertently strikes another MP in the chest.  All the while Liberal MPs pound on their desks cheering on the downright shameful behaviour of their leader. 

According to Parliamentary rules, if Liberal Government Whip Andrew Leslie had just sat down in his seat, the vote could have commenced immediately.  Parliamentary rules require only 1 whip needs to be seated before a vote can be cast.  And thirty 29 seconds after the bell rings does not seem to be an unreasonable delay.... as long as your birth certificate does not read entitlement  Justin Trudeau.

One could reasonably assume a Prime Minister, and as Liberal party leader had enough control over his own whip to ensure he was seated at the call to vote, and consequently, there was no need to cross over to the opposition side of the house to seek out a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to bully.  One could reasonably expect a Prime Minister would be familiar enough with the rules governing conduct in parliament but apparently knowing the rules of the house Justin Trudeau aspires to lead is not part of his resume. Hence, both reasonableness and irony are lost in the SunnyWays of the Justin Trudeau government.

In Canada, the head of our government is her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth ll.  We are a constitutional parliamentary monarchy and not a republic. The opposition parties are always referred her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. It seems an archaic way of speaking and harbours back to a time so long ago its rationale is lost and forgotten by most, but the reason we maintain this tradition, is remind ourselves, that good subjects can disagree on points of law and hold differing opinion which are as valid as the majority opinions, although not necessarily binding under the laws which govern our country.  Opposition MP’s collectively represent citizens who are not in agreement with the majority, but who still have the right to be consulted and heard.  It is the duty of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to oppose and utilize any parliamentary tools at their disposal in fulfilling their duties in parliament. 

A Prime Minister should never exercise his privilege to abrogate the rights or responsibilities of opposition parties.  In the past, when the Liberals and NDP did they stint as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition those rules worked for them. The fact that the Liberals now find those rules inconvenient only prove  the conclusion those rules are needed more than ever.

Due to the Prime Minister’s own antics, he has proven the aptness of the Conservative party’s ad advising Canadians that Justin Trudeau is  ‘Just Not Ready’ to be Prime Minister. And they ought to know, given they were tasked to work with him in a previous parliament.

I will give the Prime Minister credit for one thing. He’s good at apologizing and since we are Canadians, perhaps it is time for a Ministry of Official Apologies to be established - given the Prime Minister’s  baleful ignorance of house rules and we still have 4 and half more years of his governance.  In the end, it will save us all time.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Pass the popcorn 'cause the Republican big tent circus Republican nomination race just went bestial. 

In response to a National Enquirer story investigating the allegations that family values candidate Ted Cruz has had 5 mistresses, Ted Cruz goes on the record with his denial.

“Well, let me be clear. Donald Trump may be a rat but I have no desire to copulate with him.” Ted Cruz.  

Ted Cruz is considered a powerful public speaker and a man of eloquence but he may be best remembered as the only American politician who publicly intellectualized copulating with rodents....

If this republican nomination process goes on much longer; John Oliver will not have a job.

Monday, March 14, 2016

New Brunswickstan

Maclean’s published an article on New Brunswick days ago which asked the age old question; can anything save New Brunswick? The article has been up for days and last time I checked, there are no comments. This could be because no one reads Maclean’s anymore. As a rule, I know I don’t. Or it could be that no one cares. Of course, I would be remiss if I discounted the possibility it could be a combination with a large dose of both.   
It wasn’t a bad article – as far as it goes, but there is one glaring omission.  If you want to discuss New Brunswick and omit any mention of the Irving family and their generational strangleholds on the province, well, that’s a large part of the how and why modern New Brunswick is the way it is. If you want to begin the process of meaningful change it is hard to overlook how the Irving family has been playing politics and treating the province as their personal fiefdom for four generations. I’d put it this way; the Irvings are New Brunswick, and the rest of us, are just tourists.
Take Saint John, the largest city in the province. It’s an old international port city with some of the most interesting examples of Loyalist Empire and Victorian architecture. The first and only time I encountered Soviet sailors in Canada was in a Shoppers Drug Mart in uptown Saint John. They were trying to buy perfume. The sailors were quite relieved to see me and assumed mistakenly, because of my looks, I had to be able to speak Russian. Alas, a few simple words were all I could muster. Nyet Soviet.

I have never seen a city which goes begging for the process of gentrification as badly as Saint John. It has the potential for being a crown jewel of Canadian cities, if only; it could attract young families willing to invest in living in Saint John. Real estate prices are 1/6th of Toronto’s, and for less than a $200,000 investment you could buy and restore, with top of the line upgrades, a home which would sell for close to $2 million in Toronto, but those families won’t come . There is very little work even though it is the kind of place your children are safe enough to walk to school at age 6.  Let me not mince words, a great deal of why that is, is because of the Irving investments. 

The smell of Saint John is all-pervasive and overwhelming. Enter Saint John and you enter the smell of Dante’s Inferno. When I first arrived in Saint John in 1980, I was could not believe how any modern government would allow a company to get away with creating such noxious odors in an urban environment. It’s not just the Irving Pulp and Paper mill, there is the Irving Oil Refinery as well, and periodically, the smell of oil and gas gets added to the all-pervasive sulfur mix.  I haven’t been back to Saint John since the 80’s, but apparently, nothing much has changed.

I can say all this because, I don’t live there and I am not dependent on the Irving's for my livelihood. One out of twelve of New Brunswickers are directly employed by the Irving.  It doesn’t sound like a great number, or a number which would be an impediment, but when you start to understand how interconnected the Irving’s business interests are,  and how many non-Irving businesses are either entirely or indirectly dependent with Irving largess, that 1/12th starts to grow exponentially.  Want to raise taxes on Irving interests or make them clean up their environmental act? They’ll threaten to leave the province and take away the jobs, send you a bill for paving a road or building a needed causeway. Take your pick.

Take the Fourth estate. It is almost entirely and utterly owed by the Irving family. There is no other media monopoly exists in the country exists like the Irving’s media interests. This is one place in the country where people think, ‘Thank G-d for the CBC'.  What happens when a non-Irving media tries to establish a presence in the province? Take a look at this CBC report from  2007.

The federal government needs to take a serious look at media concentration in New Brunswick, according to Senator Joan Fraser, co-author of a June 2006 report that raised questions about Irving media holdings. Her comments come as Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc. takes a former publisher to court in the midst of his efforts to start a new newspaper.

"We didn't find anywhere else in the developed world a situation like the situation in New Brunswick," Fraser told CBC News on Friday. The senate report examined the state of all of Canada's news media. All of the English daily newspapers in New Brunswick are owned by Irving and its other entities, as are all of the weekly publications, with the exception of the Sackville Tribune and the St. Croix Courier, and some radio stations.

Irving is also one of the largest employers in the province, with interests in the forestry, retail, construction, transportation and food sectors. "The Irving interests are bigger in New Brunswick than the whole federal government is in the whole of Canada, if you see what I mean, proportionately," Fraser said.
 Read about the saga of the demise of the Carlton Free Press and how the Irving’ used the courts and their wealth to drive the little paper that didn’t grow out of business. Competition is for suckers, much like environmental and pollution controls. 

In fact, this wasn’t the first time the Senate looked into the Irving Media interests. Senator Keith Davy’s warned about it in the seventies. Nothing has change, and the Irving Media Empire has grown only larger and more entrenched.  

New Brunswick got on the bilingual band wagon early.  Probably the potential for graft and handouts from the federal government was seen as too lucrative an opportunity to be denied to the political class. The act of becoming a fully bilingual province was considered to be ‘forward-thinking’  and the prevailing political wisdom of the time was that an entirely ‘bilingual’ province would give a provincial economic leg up against the rest of the Canada with a thoroughly bilingual population. Just like theories of a flat earth, this promised economic reward never got off the ‘dreaming the impossible dream’ stage.   If anything, the reality of provincial bilingualism saddled New Brunswick with unnecessary debt which continues to bleed provincial coffers dry. The province can barely afford one public school system, let alone two. The province of Quebec has nothing  on the signage bullies in Dieppe.

It’s geographically a large province and the population is spread out. Public transportation linking rural communities with the cities is practically nonexistent. The car is king here but you were never know it from the state of the roads.  There was a time when New Brunswick was thriving, then it entered Confederation, and well, it’s been downhill ever since. 

And yet, it is undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful provinces in the country.  While parts of the province are definitely snowy, the climate is much milder than what can be found in other parts of the country.  Growing up, one of the treats of my mother’s annual track home was eating at any of the fish shacks or roadside diners that use to dot the roads and by-ways of the province. It was probably one of the few places in the continent where (in season) freshly caught salmon or lobster could be considered fast food.  The bread was divinely ‘home-made’ fresh, much like the pies and cakes. 

Those places are mostly gone, and in their stead, are Irving gas station diners where processed food is more often the norm - not always, but all too often.  Contrary to what you make think, New Brunswickers are a resourceful people, but like institutional racism, the entrenched fiefdom of poverty means anyone who can hightails it out of the province as soon as possible or be ground down.

I was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick; my mother was born and raised in Northumberland Country.  She lives in the house she born in, the same house her mother was born in, the same house my great-grandfather was born in – and so on all the way back to two escapees from a life sentence of indentured servitude brought them to the New World.  The house started as a log cabin and each generation added their mark. Now it is a large rambling 5 bedroom home, the last homey house at the end of the road going nowhere. The house sits on 100 acres of prime timberland but the market value of the house and land is about $35,000. I jest not.

My mother met my father when she was working on the air force base as a civilian clerk. The air force base outlasted their marriage, but it too is now long gone. I spent the first two years of my life in New Brunswick and never returned until my 17th birthday when I came back with my mother. Her father was ill, all her sisters had moved back. She wanted to go home but would not return without me.  I managed two weeks, before I made the decision, I had to get the hell of there or spend a life toiling in despair.  

The people were some of the most decent you could find, but to them, I was always an outsider. I remember one woman in a clothing store asking me where I was from as she couldn’t place my foreign accent.  See what happens when you are raised by Eastern Europeans in Upper Canada?

I worked the hardest I have ever had to work in order to save every penny I could. I had a job as a chambermaid, waitressing at truck stops and fish shacks. At one point, I had three jobs and got by with only 5 hours sleep a night. I even worked as an assistant lumber broker for Leonard Ellen Lumber. I held the dubious distinction of being the worst lumber broker in the Maritimes. It took me nine months to save $3,000 and I returned to Toronto May 1, 1980. It might not seem like a lot of money, but when the minimum wage was around $3.25 or less (if you worked in the hospitality industry) and I still had to pay to live. My first work’s pay in Toronto was for $175.00. I felt like a queen. My knees, hands and back thanked me. I never went back to live. What I did learn was that survival in New Brunswick meant working at a Sisyphean task. 

My mother is old and quite frail and still manages to live in her girlhood home.  Last year she came to spend the winter with me and the Last Amazon.  This summer, her twin sister had a stroke, so my mother refused to leave her Mamie.  I worry about her.  Toronto scares her. It’s too big and loud, and more importantly, she feels the innately the vulnerability of old age here. The hard edges of Toronto citizenry makes her feel like there is always a knife poised at her throat. 

Toronto depresses her and she feels there is no room to breathe. The restaurants are better than when she was young, but she tells me everyone looks so used up and worn out.  She sees no joy in the faces of the crowd. And I get that now. But since she used her beauty to marry for looks rather than wealth; it is only here I can make a living. 
I have gone back, now and then, to visit my mother, I have sent all my children to spend time in the last homey house at the end of the road going nowhere.  It’s a place of great beauty and where the stars shine so bright and hang so low at night it makes you believe you only need to stretch out to grasp them in your hand.  I miss the solitude of the woods and the sound of the river but one cannot feast on beauty alone. 

Can New Brunswick be saved? I sincerely don’t know, but I suspect it will take more than any provincial government to put all the things right which are so clearly so very wrong.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Please Clap Party

Politico is reporting that the Republican donor class is researching the feasibility of running an independent for President in a new party if Donald Trump becomes the nominee.  I want to suggest that the party be called the Please Clap Party.  Why 'The Please Clap' party? Glad you asked. Settle back and watch. 

Stumping for the Donald or Why America in an Election Cycle is the Greatest Show on Earth.

No country has anything like it. Enter the Stump for Trump Girls - Diamond and Silk.

On Hillary Clinton:

On Megyn Kelly:

On National Review and the GOP establishment: Meet the Red, White and Blue:

Much is made of the hold that the Democratic Party has on the African American community, and in order for any Democratic Nominee to win the Presidency, it requires the African American community to turn out for the Democratic Nominee but what if they do not?

I wasn't sure if the "Sisters" were creating parody videos until I starting searching You Tube. Apparently, The Black Trump phenomena is alive, well and stumping for the Trump.

Donald J. Trump, not just for angry old white people anymore. It's at times like these, that I can say, from the bottom of my heart: G-d bless America.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wear a Hijab day ‘cause Muslim fundamentalists need love too.

One of the most boned-headed ideas of I heard of for a while is the Wear a Hijab Day for Ottawa women sponsored by The City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) (Ottawa is the capital of Canada).

Apparently, Ppresident Gamal Abdel Nasser thought the idea of suggesting women wear the hijab was outrageously funny.

But really what’s next? And where does it end? In a 'cut your clitoris day' so you empathize with women of Female genital mutilation?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Economic Traitors

I voted against NAFTA. I thought it was a bad idea then, and nothing I have learned since, has made me change my mind. The innate inequalities between US and Canada were too vast. A higher standard of taxation, differing minimum wages, pollution controls, health and safety, costs of operating, standard benefits were literally worlds apart. I do not have enough hands to count all the people I knew who lost their decent jobs to companies relocating their manufacturing to the United States. Furniture, cabinetry makers, small appliances, electronics, shoes, clothing, food and auto industries were either decimated or hit hard in Canada. Then came, the expansion of NAFTA with the entry of Mexico, and the nightmare just rolled on.

Many of those workers never found replacement jobs that provided even close to the same standard of living. Many of those workers did ‘retrain’ but their age and educational level often worked against them. It’s amazing what the impact 3-4 years of low wage retail sector employment and accumulative debt will do to your financial future. The 90’s was all about being turning Canada into a technical tech hub so we trained our young to be techies since we had destroyed our manufacturing sector. Then came 2000’s and so began the rapid outsourcing of white collar and technical professionals. 

Everyone tells you globalization is here to stay. You cannot turn back the tide. It’s a lie but I understand whose interest it is in to prompt this myth and let me give you a hint; it is not ‘we the people’.

Rarely do we get a glimpse inside the modern day robber barons, but this video originally posted on Facebook gives us a glimpse of life behind the corporate veil. The video begins with a Carrier official addressing their workers. “It became clear that the best way to stay competitive, and protect the business for the long-term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterey, Mexico.” No doubt notice was given in order for the company to be in compliance with the WARN ACT.

The Carrier official entreats the crowd to understand, it’s not personal, but the business, the thing must be protected at all costs. Their lives and fate are meaningless outside this Borg. This thing is what must be protected at all costs.

Carrier indianapolis plant is closing 2017
Posted by LaKeisha Austin on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There is an act of irony here. Carrier is relocating to Mexico to produce a product for re-sale in the United States, a product, a thing, that these very American workers may not be able to purchase in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, Carrier was granted a US$5.1 million 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit in order to expend its Indianapolis operations. In a just state, this should be repaid in full with interest before it leaves the US. Instead, it’s ‘we the people’ who have underwritten the profit and shareholder value for this crony capitalist. Frankly, I would lose no sleep if the Carrier workers started to tar and feather these economic traders. Why any economic traitor should be allowed the safety and security of the Nation state at the expense of ‘we the people’. I never thought I would quote Pat Buchanan but he put it most succinctly, "Globalization is the economic treason that dare not speak its name."

There is a solution. A system of tariffs based on the equalization of wages, workers and human rights, subsidizations, health care, pensions, environment and health and safety standards for the importation of products made in countries who have no or lower standards than our own would go a long way to protect ‘we the people’. The only role for the nation state in the modern era is to protect and promote the well-being of ‘we, the people’. If the nation state does not protect ‘we the people’ then the Nation betrayed the social contract.

As for me, since adding shareholder value has become an all-encompassing pre-occupation with our business leaders, I am waiting for the day wherein, Boards all over the corporate world, recognize CEO’s can be outsourced to China, and a Chinese CEO can be had for USD$270,000 instead of millions.

Now that’s real shareholder value.