While the sovereignty referendum campaign was gearing up in Quebec in 1995, a team of Saskatchewan officials headed by Premier Roy Romanow considered the possibility that the Prairie province might leave Canada in the event of a Yes win.
The tantalizing footnote to Saskatchewan history is contained in a new book by Toronto Star columnist (and CBC At Issue panelist) Chantal Hébert that's being released Sept. 2. CBC and other media have received advance copies of the book.
In The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, it's revealed that Romanow set up a special committee to assess options for Saskatchewan if Quebec were to separate.
Zoé Zebra, a 22-year-old porn actress, wants bigger breasts. So on Friday, Sept. 5, in a trailer parked next to Club 77, a strip club in Gatineau, Que., she plans to have sex with 25 men. Their encounters will be taped for a future porno film. She also hopes the proceeds will help pay for plastic surgery.
Let me be very clear: I fully support the legal right of skanks to be skanks. The state has no business in the porno trailers of the nation. I also support the legal right of insecure and talentless women to promote themselves shamelessly. I'll even express a very limited and grudging admiration for her entrepreneurial zeal. It's a character trait that is sadly lacking in much of Quebecois society. The very least we can say about "Zoe Zebra" is that she has not followed the well worn Quebec path of working for the government. She's a skank-ho but a private sector skank-ho.
There is, however, a distinction not often enough made in the modern world between the legal and the moral. The state should permit almost anything short of violence and fraud. What sort of behaviour an ethical individual should tolerate is something else. This is the sort of behaviour that should be roundly condemned, not because sex is evil but because this is a form of self-immolation that civilized men and women should never condone.
This is beyond porn. This is a flagrant plea for attention and a call for abasement. She hates herself and wants to feel as low and as high as possible. Such women and men have always existed in human history. The modern age has moved them from marginal figures to a common reality. If the Victorians shamed sex our age has cheapened it. Neither is a psychological healthy place. The very obvious key to this woman's problems is spelled out clearly in this interview. When asked about what her family thought of her proposed actions she replied:
My father disappeared before I was born. I have seen him since, but I don’t want any contact with him.
I can well imagine. Relationships break down for a wide variety of reasons. An otherwise decent man might very well abandon a child in extreme circumstances. The balance of probabilities, however, leads us to less charitable interpretations. The cynical, emotionally unstable and desperate wreck of modern womanhood begins with terrible fathers. The nightmare girlfriend, the flaky friend and the many times divorced mother was often born of a loveless union. You can say it's just sex, until you see and live with the consequences.
I've seen too many vacant eyed, desperate creatures who practically seek out abuse and exploitation. This is a very sad little girl who is a long way from a home she likely never had. This is not a confident woman playing, for a time, the role of a high class call girl. Nor is this a porn actress that has carefully developed her career. We shouldn't be celebrating her choice, we should be pitying a human soul that has sold itself so very cheaply.
But we don't. If a man publicly declared he was having himself beaten senseless by twenty-five other men, we would be appalled. If a woman announced that she would starve herself for twenty-five days to raise money for cosmetic surgery, we would be disgusted. But since it's about sex we are not allowed any judgement or any discretion. Our moral faculty must be suspended in the presence of the magic word. This isn't liberation. It's a form of spiritual slavery that has slowly eroded an entire society.
Near the end of A Christmas Carol we have this famous wrenching scene:
Spirit of Christmas Present: My time with you is at an end, Ebenezer Scrooge. Will you profit from what I've shown you of the good in most men's hearts?
Ebenezer: I don't know, how can I promise!
Spirit of Christmas Present: If it's too hard a lesson for you to learn, then learn this lesson!
[opens his robe, revealing two starving children]
Ebenezer: [shocked] Spirit, are these yours?
Spirit of Christmas Present: They are Man's. This boy is Ignorance, this girl is Want. Beware them both, but most of all, beware this boy!
Ebenezer: But have they no refuge, no resource?
Spirit of Christmas Present: [quoting Scrooge] Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?
To Dickens the character of Scrooge was the epitome of soulless materialism. The pursuit of profit to the exclusion of common humanity. Yet we are not so different from that Victorian stock figure. Dickens hated, and failed to understand, the power of capitalism. That seems almost a small mistake compared to the one we make today. The one we choose to make for fear of being denounced for the high crime of prudery.
Material poverty as Dickens understood it has been banished in modern Canada, save for the government tolerated squalor of some aboriginal reserves and housing projects. The callousness that Dickens inveighed against lives again in the area of sexual relations. We would think it a hard thing not to feed the hungry, or fail to help sick, yet moral wrecks like this young girl walk the streets and we very smugly, very callously, celebrate their choices.
The propaganda campaign was remarkable, the repression more so, as though the policymakers feared that a little dissent could turn the whole country antiwar. "Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way." That was Wilson's warning to the war opponents two months after he asked an obliging Congress for a declaration of war on Germany. "They had no small idea, as yet, just how much woe was to befall them," Kennedy writes.
A continuing saga of statist overstretch and pretension:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced measures to promote an economically viable, job-creating, commercial agricultural industry in Canada’s North. These include support to help establish a permanent campus for the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) in the Northwest Territories, and the launch of the Northern Greenhouse Initiative, which is aimed at advancing the commercialization and enhancing the productivity of greenhouse projects across Canada’s North.
Agriculture of the Northwest Territories is nearly impossible except for limited cultivation south of the Mackenzie River area
So naturally a bright light in the PMO thought what the heck, let's quite literally plough a few million dollars into the subarctic tundra and see what happens. For those questioning the sanity of those concerned in this endeavour I remind you, gentle reader, that in politics everything makes perfect sense. So long as you're a politician.
The Northwest Territories happen to be represented in the House of Commons by the NDP. The other two northern ridings are held by the Tories. The riding of Western Arctic as its known was lost by a margin of 2139 voters. If you're a government trying to pick up a few marginal seats, the Western Arctic looks like a good place to buy. A few million tossed in just the right way and the Boys in Blue have a straight three across the Canadian North.
The official goal of the project is to allow the North to reduce some of its pricey food imports, which is perfectly laudable if you're a private investor. The nutty part is that they want to reduce prices by growing food in government subsidized greenhouses. It's a form of import-substitution that was mocked by no less a figure than Adam Smith:
The natural advantages which one country has over another, in producing particular commodities, are sometimes so great, that it is acknowledged by all the world to be in vain to struggle with them. By means of glasses, hot-beds, and hot-walls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine, too, can be made of them, at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and Burgundy in Scot- land? But if there would be a manifest absurdity in turning to- wards any employment thirty times more of the capital and industry of the country than would be necessary to purchase from foreign countries an equal quantity of the commodities wanted, there must be an absurdity, though not altogether so glaring, yet exactly of the same kind, in turning towards any such employment a thirtieth, or even a three hundredth part more of either.
I love the phrase "acknowledged by all the world." Poor Adam Smith never met Stephen Harper. The Tories, while negotiating a free trade deal with the EU, are fighting against the theory of comparative advantage in the Canadian north. Just in case you didn't grasp how terrible an idea it is to promote agriculture in the North:
Although his current crop is still only half of the typical yield in Alberta or Ontario, it is impressive by the standards of Norman Wells, N.W.T., where the average high temperature crosses 13C only three months a year. It took Mr. Whiteman years of trial and error attempts at working with compost, fertilizer and vegetable matter, to bring his “dead soil” to life. And the nutrient-deprived soil was not where his challenges stopped.
One admires the tenacity while questioning the opportunity costs. If Mr Whiteman wishes to continue has battle with the elements, the best of luck. But let him do it with us own money not ours.
As reported by The Toronto Star, when police raided the home of Denis and Margaret Deneault in August 2006, they found illegal drugs, including hashish, cocaine and ecstasy. The Deneaults were charged, and the police bragged about their conquest in multiple press releases. But here’s the crucial point: The Denaults were never found guilty of any drug (or other) crimes related to the police’s storming of their house. In 2009, the government abandoned its prosecution of the couple for unknown reasons (this time with no crowing press releases). And that should have been the end of the matter.
And we're still laughing now. By-elections in safe Tory seats are near meaningless. The base doesn't bother showing up because they know it doesn't matter. The greatest organizational problem facing any major political party isn't reaching the middle, it's motivating their base. Had the fate of the government hung in the balance the margins in those by-elections would have been much wider.
That NEP still stings can be attested to by a quick chat with many Albertans of a certain age, or by a glance at news article comment treads. Click on a story about Justin Trudeau and, almost inevitably, there is a NEP rant. It's been thirty-four years since that inter-regional vote buying scheme was foisted upon the Canadian West by a deeply cynical Liberal government. It's been more than a quarter century since the Mulroney government belatedly scraped the program, years after global price had rendered it's statist pricing scheme a dead letter.
But the population of Alberta today is nearly twice what it was in 1980. The majority of modern Albertans have no personal memory of NEP. It's a folk memory kept alive by the oil industry and conservative commentators. For a large swath of the electorate it's not the memory of NEP that is holding them back from embracing Trudeau, it's the Liberal Party's political leanings and culture. They don't trust a political party which is based out of Toronto, which will win and lose the next election based on what happens in the 905, and that instinctively regards Alberta as a backwater saved from complete disgrace only by the presence of the much beloved Mayor Nenshi of Calgary.
There is something of the federal Liberal Party that smacks of Alison Redford. Put aside the meaningless party labels. Redford was a Liberal in all but name. The tremendous sense of entitlement, the barely disguised contempt for the common Albertan and the basic failure to understand the culture that has created Canada's most successful province. The spoiled heiress who came home to run the family business in a socially responsible manner. That faint odour is detectable among every Liberal Party operative I've ever met.
Justin Trudeau doesn't emit the same level of entitlement. He's isn't intelligent enough. But there is a sneaking suspicion among the more observant voters that maybe, just maybe, the lad isn't writing his own off the cuff remarks. That cleverer men are at work and that, should the unthinkable happen, it is they who will govern the nation come 2015.
Albertans remember NEP but they're hardly embittered dead enders about it. That sort of angry obsession with the past is characteristic of only one region of the country: Quebec. It's not a healthy fascination with what came before, it's an alternate universe to project one's fantasies upon. Quebec is obsessed with the past because, at a very basic level, it doesn't believe it has a future. A dynamic place like Alberta has a future. The province has completely surpassed the heights it reached during Peter Lougheed's glory years. That's why Albertans have moved past NEP in a way that the Quebecois have never moved past Lord Durham.
What worries Albertans about Justin isn't his daddy's name, it's his daddy's bad ideas and tremendous arrogance. A repeat of that the whole country could do without.