The race to replace former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak launched in earnest Saturday with an endorsement from former premier Bill Davis.
MPP Christine Elliott scored the nod from the Tory titan, who helped her open her campaign office, along with federal Conservative MPs and seven of her fellow caucus members.
"The thing that I think is so admirable about Christine is not her function as somebody who's a member of the house, it is her understanding of the needs of people with some difficulties," Davis said.
"She's mainly associated with some of those less fortunate than ourselves and that's the kind of person you love to see in public life and you love to see as leader of our party."
Which is, of course, the sole and total purpose of government. Heaven forbid that the state might concern itself with locking up criminals or ensuring the roads don't have potholes. No doubt Ms Elliot is delighted with the endorsement and, if she was not already, she is now automatically the front runner. An endorsement from Ernies Eves or Mike Harris, the only other living Tory Premiers, would by contrast be regarded as toxic.
To those beyond the confines of the Imperial Province it's hard to explain the Bill Davis Phenomenon. The closest thing would be Alberta's fascination with the late Peter Lougheed, Davis' almost exact political contemporary and indirect rival. During the constitutional trench warfare of the late 1970s and early 1980s it was Lougheed and Davis that defined the provincial spectrum. Davis as Trudeau's near silent partner in patriation. Lougheed as the western rebel fighting for provincial rights.
Leaving aside the constitutional battles of that rapidly fading era, the two men had much in common from an ideological standpoint. Remove the rhetoric and some details of personal background and you are left with two standard issue post-war Red Tories. One just also happened to be a blue eyed sheik.
Bill Davis exists in a strange kind of ethereal splendour for the Ontario electorate, most of whom are too young to have ever voted for the man who last fought an election in 1981. The rather messy details of his political career, in particular his two maneuver filled minority governments, are forgotten or unknown. What Ontarians love is not Bill Davis, they love the idea of Bill Davis.
Many years ago, in a version of Ontario that never really existed, the government had lots of money and was ruled by wise and compassionate men. There was not a problem, not a worry, that the noble politician and his clever ally the bureaucrat could not and would not tackle. The Great Pot of Money that sits behind the Speaker's Throne was endless in those days. Who could not be loved when they promised to be all things to all men?
Then through dark forces that Golden Age was lost. The common man was tossed into the harsh world of cut backs, downsizing and capricious austerity. The vision vanished and now we sit in a fallen world. That lost age was the Age of Bill Davis. A time that never was. A time when government worked well and honestly for all the people. What people are in love with is not Bill Davis but his myth. They have spent much of the last thirty years electing cheap knock-off successors. Each in turn has run up a provincial debt that dwarfs his own.
Myths are expensive things. Especially on the taxpayer dime.
Far over the dark fields, I looked towards the German lines, and, now and then, in the distance I saw a flarelight appear for a moment and then die away. Now and again, along our nine-mile front, I saw the flash of a gun and heard the distant report of a shell. It looked as if the war had gone to sleep, but we knew that all along the line our trenches were bristling with energy and filled with men animated with one resolve, with one fierce determination. It is no wonder that to those who have been in the war and passed though such moments, ordinary life and literature seem very tame. The thrill of such a moment is worth years of peace-time existence. To the watcher of a spectacle so awful and sublime, even human companionship struck a jarring note. I went over to a place by myself where I could not hear the other men talking, and there I waited. I watched the luminous hands of my watch get nearer and nearer to the fateful moment, for the barrage was to open at five-thirty. At five-fifteen the sky was getting lighter and already one could make out objects distinctly in the fields below. The long hand of my watch was at five-twenty-five.
Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
I memorized the poem, many years ago, as I'm sure you did. It is a ritual of Canadian childhood. While achieving acclaim in America, it never become indelible in the American mind. Through out the Empire and Commonwealth it achieved iconic status, spurring the creation of the poppy campaigns seen every November. The poppy somewhat confuses Americans. For the Chinese it has other connotations.
The reading of the poem, the solemn viewing of grainy film, the occasional visit by an aged veteran - in my case a Canadian participant in the Great Escape - is part of the catechism of Canadianism. Why did they die? For freedom. Why did they suffer? For Canada.
It was all a very earnest attempt, by ernest teachers, to impart, as best they could, the nature of a war few of them experienced. They - unlike most of us - knew someone who was there. An uncle, a father, a grandfather. The names chiselled on walls that were only names to us, were to them family names and off-tint photographs.
To most of us, the students, the ritual, however much we wanted to feel what we were suppose to feel, was largely empty. There can be no places further apart, in mind and feel, than Flanders in 1917 and Canada today. We were much too lucky to understand. There was no personal connection. The odd student had escaped from a far away war-torn country, but was often too young to recall or understand. Most our families had not fought in the war. Our ancestors were buried elsewhere and for other reasons.
The war became real to me, as far as it can to someone like me, when attending the University of Toronto. It was the same school that John McCrae attended, more than a century before me. His name is inscribed near Soldiers' Tower. The names that had been inscribed at my elementary school were names from along ago, from people who were adults. They were two steps removed.
The names at Soldiers' Tower had been my age. They had walked the same halls. The difference between myself and them was only the accident of time. Most of the names were those of officers. In addition to all the burdens of war, these early twenty-somethings had the burdens of command. Imagine yourself at that age, trying not only to survive but to lead others into life and death. Only chance separated myself and them, as it had separated the survivors and those on the wall.
For all our secularism, and professed multiculturalism, we are still at root a Christian country. Except in the very early years of Canada there has always been, at least in English Canada, a fairly strict separation of church and state. The rhythms of our culture, as of most Western literature and art, however are Christian.
When the word sacrifice is used in remembrance ceremonies its origin, and echo, is Christian. It is Christ on the Cross. Just as He suffered for us, they the soldiers suffered for us. To the believer, then, November 11th has a double meaning, as it would have to those who first marked Armistice Day nine decades ago. Even a comparatively secular contemporary writer, Rudyard Kipling, infused his short short The Gardener with Christian allusion and allegory.
For good, and ill, Christianity is no longer the living religion it was then, or even thirty or forty years ago. It is seen today as a weekend hobby, resorted to in times of crisis, and then pushed to back of mind. Little, arguably nothing, has come to replace that living force in our culture. David Warren alluded to this in a recent column on Faith and Freedom. You can deny, as I do, that freedom requires faith. It does require, however, some sort of system of belief and value. A nation driven by whim and will is not a nation that will long be free. The Founders of both Canada and America understood this fact. They deferred, to a greater or lesser extent, to religion to provide that moral backbone for society.
While the message of sacrifice lingers in modern Canadian culture, the existence of evil is denied. There is no evil, we are told, only misunderstanding and reaction to suffering. This is why Remembrance Day has become only a ritual. Its meaning is lost, not only because of time, but because the spirit of that age is gone.
They who built the Cenotaphs and Soldiers' Towers believed in suffering, in redemption and in evil. Re-read the poem above, that last jarring stanza. "Take up our quarrel with the foe." The message delivered by those earnest school teachers is the pointlessness of war. That is not, however, what John McCrae believed. Like most of his generation, like most of those thousands of Canadians who lie buried with him in northwestern Europe, they believed in evil. More than this, they believed they fought for something good and against something evil. War was horrible, yes, but it was sometimes necessary to fight evil.
We all die, some of us die in great pain. From disease, from famine and from natural disaster. What separates death from natural causes, however horrific, and war is morality. War is a product of human thought and action, and so can and must be judged morally. That is why we remember and must, because of the moral dimension of war. We do not honour suffering for its own sake, we honour it because of what they sought to preserve. Let me close by quoting another poem, one that would have been familiar to John McCrae and his fellow officers:
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods,
And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?"
It's from Macaulay's The Lays of Ancient Rome. Churchill memorized the poem while at Harrow. It was a standard text for generations of schoolboys. It faded from the curriculum in the years after the First World War. Macaulay was a Christian memorializing the feats of Roman pagans. While their creeds separated the stoical Romans from Victorian Englishmen, the themes of honour, duty, family and values worth fighting for crossed that divide. That we modern Canadians cannot understand Macaulay, and cannot understand that last stanza of In Flanders Field, is the unacknowledged tragedy of the last century.
The Government of Canada is providing $440,000 through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund to support the expansion and renovation of Port Stanley Festival Theatre. With this support, the organization will improve the physical conditions for artistic creativity and presentation and increase the facility’s economic viability.
Joe Preston, Member of Parliament (Elgin–Middlesex–London), made the announcement today on behalf of the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
There being nothing else to worry about at the moment:
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is upset over an editorial cartoon that ran in the Toronto Sun newspaper just prior to Monday's municipal election, featuring mayoral candidate Olivia Chow.
Mulcair says the Andy Donato cartoon is racist, sexist and offensive.
In the cartoon, Chow, a former New Democrat MP, is depicted in slanted glasses and a Mao Zedong-style tunic.
Those with longish memories will recall that Donato used to depict Bob Rae in a Mao jacket. That was back in those dark and terrible days when Rae served as Premier of All Ontario. Has it been twenty years? It seems less. As bigoted atrocities go this ranks somewhere above failing to tip a black waiter but noticeably below the Chinese head tax. But what the heck? It'll boost Sun circulation for a few days, remind everyone that Andy Donato is still alive and allow Mulcair a few minutes of air time that don't involve him pretending that terrorism isn't terrorism. Perhaps that should be Donato's defence: He was a lone wolf cartoonist.
Leaving aside the inherent wickedness of portraying a social democratic Chinese immigrant as a Chinese Communist skateboarder, or whatever, the essential point of the cartoon is clear enough: Olivia Chow is famous because she was married to Jack Layton. While she seems relatively skilled at the mediocre dark arts of NDP skulduggery, the Dungeons and Dragons of Canadian politics, she would be just one among many without her famous late husband.
It's an unsettling trend, albeit a small one. Canadians have never been very big on political dynasties. It contradicts our self-image as a low key meritocracy. It also suggests too great an interest in political life. A strange hobby obsessed over by a moderately nerdish minority that, for reasons best left unspoken, drags in a large swath of the population for a few minutes every four years or so. The typical Canadian knows enough about politics to recall the name of whatever bastard, or the occasional bitch, that he's suppose to blame for everything and anything until the next election.
Before the Chow-Laytons and the Trudeaus there were the Bennetts out in BC. Unfortunately both had run a hardware store and so we're acquainted with actual work. This made them immune to most forms of Leftist thinking. It also means that they've been routinely denounced as bourgeois villains for the last six decades. Too busy stocking the shelves, or seizing control of the ferries, to bother about elevated matters like social justice. The more enlightened politicians are treated with greater sensitivity. Draw an arguably bigoted cartoon about the wife of the late leader of the opposition and you'll get the current leader to act upset on national television.
Mere days ago Mr Mulcair was nearly killed by a deranged gunman who was seeking religious martyrdom. That act, carried out in the halls of Centre Block, he refuses to acknowledge as a terrorist act. He equivocates on grounds of incomplete evidence and pending investigations. A silly cartoon in a Toronto daily and his reluctance is over. Mr Mulcair is more than ready to state a clear and frank opinion. Here's a little glimpse into the mind of the modern Canadian Leftist, a faint echo of the Danish cartoon fiasco, to hell with actual bullets in actual doorways. What really matters is how a picture makes you feel.
If passed, the proposed legislation and supporting amendments to the Highway Traffic Act will make highways and roads safer by:
Increasing fines for distracted driving from its current range of $60 to $500 to a range of $300 to $1,000; assigning three demerit points upon conviction; and adding distracted driving to the existing list of novice driver conditions.
Applying current alcohol impaired sanctions to drivers who are drug impaired.
Introducing additional measures to address repeat offenders of alcohol impaired driving.
Requiring drivers to wait until a pedestrian has completely crossed the road before proceeding at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers.
Increasing fines and demerits for drivers who door cyclists, and requiring all drivers to maintain a distance of one metre when passing cyclists, where practicable.
Helping municipalities collect unpaid fines by expanding licence plate denial for drivers who do not pay Provincial Offences Act fines.
Ontario is investing in public libraries through the new Ontario Libraries Capacity Fund.
The province is providing $10 million over three years, as announced in the 2014 Budget, to help public libraries better meet the needs of Ontarians by improving IT resources.
The fund will help libraries improve and expand internet and wireless services, develop user-friendly websites, enhance collection development with new technology, such as e-books, and encourage innovation and research.
Amazon is the latest — and largest — company to offer unlimited e-books for a monthly fee. Here’s how Kindle Unlimited, which Amazon announced Friday, compares with rivals Scribd and Oyster.
PRICE: Kindle costs $9.99 a month, while Oyster costs $9.95 and Scribd $8.99. All three offer the first month free.
How much money could be saved if the libraries were to be shut down and replaced with services like these? For those below a certain income threshold the government could pick up the subscription price. Heck they could throw in a free ebook reader. That would put the taxpayers back about $80.00. Within a few years these virtual libraries could pay for themselves. The real estate portfolio for Toronto's library system must run into the tens of millions at least. Enough capital could be raised from the sale of the sites and buildings to establish a literary trust for low income readers. The librarians themselves could be pensioned off. Not exactly a young man or woman's career these days.
The losers? The public sectors that would lose a small, but significant, trickle of union dues.