Liberal Principles– Oxymoron?

The Liberals remember a principle at a convenient time

Campbell Clark


Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez responds to a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 11, 2020. Rodriguez declared in the Commons last Thursday that the government now tell its staffers to refuse to testify.PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

It’s not surprising that Justin Trudeau’s government is moving to stop opposition MPs from calling Liberal political aides to testify before parliamentary committees. But it is still shocking to see them do it in a wholehearted defence of a principle, ministerial responsibility, that they have neglected so much.

The battle over aides comes up in minority Parliaments because opposition parties can use their collective majority in committees to summon political advisers and grill them. For the government, that can be distracting. Or embarrassing. Or worse.

The Commons ethics committee wants to hear from Prime Minister’s Office advisers Rick Theis and Ben Chin about the WE Charity affair, as well as an adviser to former finance minister Bill Morneau, Amitpal Singh. The defence committee is trying to call Zita Astravas, chief of staff to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, about the handling of sexual misconduct allegations against the military’s former chief.

So Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez declared in the Commons last Thursday that the government now tell its staffers to refuse to testify. And he showed up at the Commons ethics committee in place of Mr. Theis, insisting that as a minister he would answer instead.

Mr. Rodriguez more or less admitted the Liberals have had enough of the WE hearings, but he wheeled out that important principle of Canadian government, ministerial responsibility, to argue there is Something Greater at Stake.

This is the part where Mr. Rodriguez should have started to blush.

For starters, as Mr. Rodriguez recalled, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives made the same claims in 2010 to try to prevent staffers from being called to testify, and also sent ministers in place of the summoned aides. But what he didn’t mention is that at the time, the Liberals accused the Conservatives of being undemocratic and hypocritical.

This time, there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around.

Ministerial responsibility is an important principle of Canadian democracy. And it is nice that the Liberals have rediscovered it, since they neglected it for so long.

It is not, as some Liberal MPs at Monday’s hearing seemed to think, merely a principle that ministers speak to Parliament and staffers don’t.

It is the doctrine that ministers are responsible to Parliament. For individual ministers, that means they are not just responsible for their political staff, but also for all the civil servants in their department and for their entire portfolio. They answer to Parliament for it. It is an accountability mechanism.

And it was thrown out pretty quickly in the cases the committees are pursuing.

What happened when the Liberal government was accused of picking an organization close to Mr. Trudeau, WE Charity, to administer a $900-million student volunteer program? Youth Minister Bardish Chagger said it wasn’t her – civil servants did it. The PM said it wasn’t his idea to use WE – in fact, he said he pushed back when civil servants recommended it.

The government was happy to see Rachel Wernick, an assistant deputy minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, testify she was the one who decided WE Charity should administer the program.

But by then, there was no ministerial responsibility at stake. It had been discarded to protect politicians. The question the committee was chasing was whether the politicians were more involved in choosing WE than they claimed.

And in the case of Mr. Sajjan’s handling of sexual misconduct in the military, it’s probably not wise for the government to use the term ministerial responsibility at all.

The defence committee wants to ask his chief aide, Ms. Astravas, about the handling of an allegation of sexual misconduct against Jonathan Vance, the military’s former top officer. The defence department’s ombudsman at the time, Gary Walbourne, said he brought a confidential allegation to Mr. Sajjan, and offered to show him evidence, but the minister refused to look.

How did Mr. Sajjan respond? He said Mr. Walbourne, who reports to him, should have done more. He said he passed it on the “appropriate authorities” at the Privy Council Office – the central civil service department which reports to the PM. Who was responsible? Not ministers.

It would be nice if ministers took responsibility for their portfolio. It would be nice if opposition MPs didn’t overuse their nearly unfettered power to summon witnesses. In the end, these minority-Parliament battles are nearly always ended by an election. In the meantime, ministerial responsibility is a principle that the Liberals have suddenly rediscovered at a convenient time.PLAY VIDEO2:58The Conservatives are seeking to force senior Liberal staff, or the prime minister himself, to testify before committees. But the Liberals say the Tories are abusing their powers in the House of Commons to make petty partisan attacks against civil servants and staffers.


Please Advise! Did Conservatives Just Solve Climate Change?

Pretty clever, their vote of no confidence in science, right Dr. Steve?

Steve Burgess 22 Mar 2021 |

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here

Well, it was just a suggestion. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Heeding the urgings of their charismatic leader, the recent Conservative party convention introduced a resolution acknowledging that climate change is real. The motion was voted down. What are your thoughts on this?


Luke Warm

Dear Luke,

Well, naturally Dr. Steve is relieved. He believes in democracy. Without democracy what are we but a bunch of ignorant Americans, storming the Capitol? The voters must be respected. If the Conservative party decides to vote climate change out of existence, out it goes. They’ll not be swayed by the sales pitch of a smooth young charmer like Erin O’Toole.

Perhaps this is just the sort of bold inaction we require. Perhaps it is time for the people of this country to deal with the issues by ignoring them. Vini, vidi, exivi — I came, I saw, I left. Then I went to the art gallery with a tinfoil chapeau and a sign about vaccine microchips.

Last weekend, Dr. Steve encountered a vehicle caravan cruising around Vancouver with signs urging people to ignore Dr. Bonnie Henry and the phony COVID scare and watch out for nanoparticles something something Bill Gates. No doubt they were passing through on their way to the Conservative convention. Anyway, message received, brave truth-tellers. Let us now move past the COVID hoax and concentrate on the threats that really do exist, such as Bigfoot.

There is no doubt Bigfoot is real — he’s currently a top rental on Netflix, for which he can perhaps thank the government of Alberta. After its famous “war room” decided to tackle the animated feature Bigfoot Family as a piece of virulent anti-oil propaganda, the free publicity flowed like a gusher of black gold.

In the movie, Bigfoot battles the evil oil company Xtract that wants to ruin an Alaskan valley. Premier Jason Kenney might have been expected to endorse this film as a shocking example of how foreign oil companies do business and the subsequent need for domestic production. Instead, Alberta’s Conservatives attacked the movie (perhaps because it was produced in France — the country that also produced the Trudeaus, remember). A war room petition complained the feature “shows oil being extracted by blowing up a valley using glowing red bombs that look like something out of an action movie. Tell Netflix this is wrong…”

Well, it is wrong, clearly. At the oilsands they actually use massive dredges that turn the area into a moonscape, then dump the material into huge trucks for processing, which takes much longer. They only wish they had magical glowing red bombs. Someone ought to look into getting some of those — it’s probably a more environmentally-friendly method.

These petition drives do get somewhat complicated, though. Can the Alberta war room guide people through the complex ideological tangles involved? One must protest the terrible Bigfoot Family movie but without of course endorsing “cancel culture” and all its left-wing evils; one must stand up for the sanctity of Dr. Seuss while at the same time condemning the environmentalist garbage peddled in Seuss’s The Lorax, which was made into another scurrilous animated diatribe.image atom

Alberta’s War Room Creates a Job


Being right-wing in the U.S. is just as much a juggling act. Anti-big government, pro-legislating morality; pro-America, anti-voting; pro-Capitol Building rioters, anti-Black Lives Matter protesters; pro-Space Force, anti-Jewish space lasers; anti-woke, pro-“Wake up sheeple!”

And the Conservative Party of Canada is looking boldly to the future, but climate change is a myth.

One can sincerely sympathize with Erin O’Toole. Politics is a retail business. You don’t get elected giving people what they don’t want. Nor do you get elected by responding to government policies with, “Us, too!” The uncomfortable fact is that many Canadians still want to deny climate change. They may believe in Bigfoot, but not in his environmental message. The natural political home of such people is the Conservative Party of Canada. O’Toole can talk all he wants about a new kind of party but ultimately he has to dance with — and for — the ones that brung him.  [Tyee]

Human nature and car boom-boxes

Just happens to be one of my pet peeves!

Matthew Wright

Humans are an odd species. A few weeks back I was enjoying a cup of coffee at a footpath table, outside a café in a small shopping centre. A vehicle pulled up nearby, sound system absolutely thundering. The car stopped, doors and windows open, and somebody ran into a shop. They obviously weren’t going to be there long.

The music was a slow 4/4 beat with burping low-frequency bass, topped by vocals that seemed to consist mostly of aggressive shouting.

The issue was less the genre (which I believe was gangsta rap) than the way it was being played. The driver had turned the volume up to the point where the bass set the speakers buzzing. One of the reasons drivers do this is physics. It takes half a wavelength for any frequency to reach maximum amplitude. Thirty hertz, which is about the frequency of the bass notes this guy…

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When Kenney’s done with the threat of ‘Bigfoot Family,’ he should get to Sesame Street

Robyn Urback


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton on Feb. 25, 2021.JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

There has never been a more frightening time to be a parent. No, it’s not because we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and there is a continuing opioid epidemic going on, and a looming national mental-health crisis that threatens to engulf children struggling with the litany of present-day changes.

It’s because there is an animated film on Netflix that, if left unchecked, might make kids believe oil tycoons are big meanies.

I’ll pause here to allow parents who may be triggered by this news to put down this column and go idle their cars, for comfort.

Bigfoot Family tells the story of a scientist dad who, having been genetically mutated into “Bigfoot” in a previous film, takes on an oil company that is planning to destroy a wildlife preserve. The company takes Bigfoot hostage after he sneaks onto the “Extrakt Oil” grounds, leaving it up to his son, wife and their animal friends to rescue Bigfoot and save the Alaskan valley.

Mercifully, the energy war room created by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is fighting back against this animated children’s film. In perhaps the most expensive taxpayer-funded movie review ever, the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), as it is officially known, launched a web page and letter-writing campaign targeting Netflix Canada’s head of communications, urging her to correct misinformation in the film that “ignores the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.” Indeed, in a film about a man-turned-sasquatch featuring a talking bear and raccoon, it is important to be accurate.

Mr. Kenney himself joined in the censure this past week, calling the movie’s depiction of oil executives “vicious” and claiming it defamed the oil and gas sector in Alberta, where the cartoon film is notably not set. He added that CEC has every right to shine a spotlight on such “outrageous lies.”

Now, critics of the United Conservative Party might suggest the war room’s attack on a children’s film is merely a way to deflect from the party’s falling poll numbers, to unite a fractured caucus against an easy target, to cool tensions from the government’s dust-ups with doctors and teachers and to distract from the fact Alberta currently has the highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Why, some might even argue that as long as we’re attacking fairy tales, we might as well start with the one Mr. Kenney sold his province back in 2019, when he promised a return to the oil-and-gas glory days of the past through tax cuts, pipeline creation – over which he has little control – and a surgically sharp war room that would reveal and discredit Alberta’s oil enemies, which would somehow lead to prosperity.

But I’d posit the attack on Bigfoot Family is only because the CEC hasn’t yet taken a hard look at Sesame Street.

The show, of course, is much more nefarious in the subtlety of its anti-oil propaganda. It is purportedly about a busy urban street, but it almost never features vehicles – an underhanded and wily mechanism of waging the war on cars in the minds of vulnerable toddlers. A recent episode, brought to you by the letter “C” (for carbon tax?!) centred on Oscar the Grouch, who is content to live in a garbage can even though a home built with Canadian lumber and fuelled by natural gas would be much more comfortable and nearly as sustainable. And don’t get me started on the questionable living arrangements of Bert and Ernie – although I’ll grant that may be out of the CEC’s purview and more of something for the UCP’s Education Ministry to consider, in keeping with its work to inform parents if their children join gay-straight alliances in school.

Indeed, as long as the CEC is doing the important work of targeting children’s programming for no measurable benefit, I’d implore them to take a hard look at Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – where the factory uses hydraulic and human energy at the expense of fossil fuels – and at The Flintstones, where characters start their cars with their feet, which is the type of future Greenpeace wants. It might also explore the possibility of outlawing the ubiquitous threat that naughty children could receive a lump of coal in their stockings at Christmastime – as if receiving a lump of coal is ever a bad thing.

There are so many things that parents – particularly Albertan parents – have to worry about these days, so it is reassuring Mr. Kenney’s fiscally conservative government has put its resources toward a children’s movie that is surely topping the list. I do hope the UCP thinks aboutmy proposal to expand the CEC’s mandate to other popular programming, which is something the caucus needs to consider now that certain members have returned from their vacations to Hawaii.

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Is there anything essentially natural?

There is nothing called natural in itself. Any given repetitive behaviour is perceived as natural by its subject and by others. Therefore, is natural the synonym of repetition?

Rituals and habits are referred to as a second nature. Then, what is the first nature? Speaking of human nature, perhaps the first nature (the core human nature) is the ability to learn, to adapt, to repeat and to evolve. The Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau defines human nature as “perfectibility”, the capacity of becoming perfect.

This is the reason why breaking habits isn’t an easy task. It is shedding an “old nature”. The brain is a ritual machine, functioning with schemes and patterns followed by rewards if well repeated. Addiction is in this picture. To change habits, to shed the “old nature” requires thought changing and new habits.

Replace, repeat, reward!

Published by maylynno

Philosophy teacher, PhD. I am a fitness lover and an art enthusiast. I love to write mainly about philosophy and about subjects that matters in our daily life.

Map Monday: what happens to all that plastic?

Maybe we could all use less and reuse more?

Robby Robin's Journey

It was back in December when a fellow blogger, Kavitha at SunshinySA Site,
posted what for me was a sit-up-and-take-notice fact: Coca Cola scores hat trick as world’s worst plastic polluter worldwide.  Yes, for the third year in a row, Coca Cola labels were identified on discarded plastic trash more frequently by cleanup volunteers around the world than any other brand.  What a frightening unintended consequence of having such popular products.

[Click on any map to zoom in on details.]

Read more at:

This realization reminded me of the horrifying moment a few years ago when I learned that the plastic waste that we have all been conscientiously separating out and putting in recycling bins every other week hasn’t been recycled at all.  It’s been being sent to developing countries in Asia for them to recycle – or to put in their landfills instead of ours. …

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Climate Change Will Reshape Silicon Valley As We Know It

The next entrepreneurial revolution will arise to combat the crisis of our lifetime.

rooftop solar panels
  • HIGH-PROFILE ENTREPRENEURS LIKE Elon Musk, venture capitalists like Peter Thiel and Keith Rabois, and big companies like Oracle and HP Enterprise are all leaving California. During Covid-19, Zoom-enabled tech workers are discovering the benefits of remote work from cheaper, less congested communities elsewhere. Though working from home was intended to be a temporary measure for millions of workers in the early days of the pandemic, there is now no clear end in sight. Almost a year later, workers continue to untether themselves from city centers as companies permanently go remote and rethink how they conduct business.WIRED OPINIONABOUT

Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and the author of WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us.

Is this the end of Silicon Valley as we know it? It is my belief that it is—but the reasons why the Silicon Valley party may soon be over run far deeper than the flight of talent. One of the most compelling is that the greatest opportunities will no longer be found in the overbuilt sector of consumer and business internet applications. Instead, they’ll be found in climate tech.ADVERTISEMENT

Climate change is the defining crisis of our time, and as it becomes more imminent, our efforts to address it will become the epicenter of the next entrepreneurial revolution. The recent news that Elon Musk is dueling with Jeff Bezos for the title of world’s richest person is a harbinger of what will be the biggest VC opportunity of the 21st century.

Electric vehicles are only the tip of the iceberg. A recent PwC report found that climate tech investment increased from $418 million per year in 2013 to $16.3 billion in 2019, growing at five times the venture capital market rate over the last seven years. Heating and cooling systems, agriculture, raw materials, and manufacturing are all overdue for reinvention as we strive for a greener future, creating the promise of even more innovation on the horizon. The climate will also reshape residential and office construction, insurance, finance, and agriculture, in regard to where and how food is produced. Massive climate migrations have only just begun; tens or hundreds of millions of people will need to be resettled. Will we offer them shantytowns, or will we help them become settlers building a new, better world? Experience teaches us that the best opportunities come when businesses solve urgent problems for their customers. What could be more urgent than this?

With the innovation that is needed to transform entire businesses and economies to net zero emissions, there will be more billionaires created over the next two decades than during the internet boom. Apart from Musk, many of the already-minted climate billionaires are outside the US. Bloomberg recently named a few: China’s Zeng Yuqun, Huang Shilin, Pei Zhenhua, and Li Ping (electric vehicle batteries), Li Zhenguo, Li Chunan, Li Xiyan, and Lin Jianhua (solar panels and films), and Wang Chuanfu (electric vehicles); Germany’s Aloys Wobben (wind turbines); and Spain’s Jose Manuel Entrecanales (renewable power generation). Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors are not leaders in these sectors, but there are great fortunes yet to be made.

Venture capital will be key to commercializing the technologies needed to address the climate crisis. Capital follows opportunity; it is not the birthright of a particular industry. Take a look at Chris Sacca, the former Google special projects lead turned investor who built one of the best-performing venture funds of all time by investing in companies such as Twitter, Twilio, Uber, Instagram, and Stripe. His new fund, LowerCarbon Capital, is focused squarely on the climate opportunity. A minority of its investments so far have been in San Francisco or Silicon Valley.

Of course, who gets rich by helping society transition to a new energy economy is unimportant compared to the question of whether we will summon the political will to do so in time to avoid the most disastrous consequences of climate change—which could, at their worst, bring an end to civilization as we know it. So far, advocates have tried to motivate that political will through fear, but pitching the huge economic opportunity is far more likely to be successful.Most Popular

Leadership is essential, though—and not just from industry, but from government as well. Tackling climate change is a complicated undertaking, and only a crash mobilization of the economy to electrify everything can get us there in time—an argument that Saul Griffith, Alex Laskey, and Sam Calisch of the nonprofit Rewiring America have made. Without a World War II–style mobilization of private industry, markets won’t move fast enough to replace technologies that are still powered by combustion, like gasoline vehicles and natural gas heating and cooling. Waiting for the natural replacement rate on infrastructure will take decades that we don’t have. We will need a heroic four- to five-year effort to complete a 100 percent transformation of our energy infrastructure.

One of the gifts—if you can call it that—of crises like the pandemic and climate change is that they may teach us that we no longer have time for frivolity. Climate change requires large amounts of real investment capital. Unlike the money invested in internet companies that’s been used to buy unprofitable growth, money invested in Tesla was used to build factories, manufacture cars and electric batteries, and roll out national charging networks. The path to high returns may take longer, but the need is real, and so is the value created.

For investors and entrepreneurs, there is a clear call to action: Work on stuff that matters, invest in solving problems, and make a real difference in people’s lives. There’s no doubt that climate tech is the new frontier in venture investing, and solving a global crisis will require the best of what we have to offer.

Map Monday: understanding history through animated maps

These are good and especially at this point in History which I think most of us forget that we are history. I especially like the Viking part as my Viking brother-in-law keeps reminding me of how great Norway was and still is small but mighty!

Robby Robin's Journey

More than once I’ve presented maps of empires throughout history as Map Monday offerings, in part to remind us all that things don’t stay the same. Empires (and nations) rise and empires (and nations) fall. It’s a reality that most of us don’t stop and consider often enough, because our worldview is constrained by our own experiences and our own timeframe. Our worldview is a snapshot in time. But history has many lessons to teach us, and one is that change is inevitable, especially if we do not pay attention to what’s changing around us.

The history of Europe is one case in point. Throughout the centuries – even millenia – centres of power and the well-being of citizens across that continent have waxed and waned. Wars have been fought over raw power, religion, culture, languages … you name it.  I think that’s why I personally consider the European Union…

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