By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
Spoiler alert: Canada is shut out….again
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, an “annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 900 international restaurant industry experts” sponsored by S. Pellegrino, was released on Apr. 29.
El Celler De Can Roca restaurant in Girona, Spain moved up from being ranked second last year to first place, while the Copenhagen temple of foraged food, Noma, fell to second place after placing first for the last three years in a row. Rounding out the third position is Osteria Francescana, which has secured a spot in the top five for three years in a row making it the highest ranked Italian restaurant for the past five years.
Rounding out the top 10 are restaurants from the U.S., Austria, Brazil, Germany, Spain and England.
Once again, Canada did not make the cut–not even placing in the top 100.
Have we ever? Yes: Michael Stadtländer’s Eigensinn Farm came in at number nine in 2002–the list’s inaugural year–and dropped to number 28 the next year, while Susur Lee’s Susur, which closed in 2008, came in 49th place in 2002. But for the last 10 years, this country’s finest eateries have been shut out of the top 50.
There’s a bright side, sort of: The list’s organizers “believe it is an honourable survey of current tastes and a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the globe,” but ”it can never be definitive.”
By Patricia Treble - Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 3:34 PM - 0 Comments
He’s been the colonel-in-chief of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment since 1953, so when the RCRs wanted to replace its Colours from 1973, the duke of Edinburgh hopped on a plane for Toronto. On Saturday morning he oversaw the presentation of the new Colours–a ceremonial flag embroidered with the battalion’s battle honours that soldiers used to follow in combat–in front of Queen’s Park, the provincial legislature in Toronto. The Royal Canadian Regiment is the country’s senior infantry regiment. Formed in 1883, it’s been involved in every large conflict since then. The 3rd Battalion is based in Petawawa, Ont.
And given it’s a royal event, the temperamental spring weather was as well behaved as the crowds, with only a nip in the air to remind everyone they were outside, in April, in Canada. Until the sun started generating a bit of heat the only people who looked properly dressed were soldiers who took part in a “military capability” demonstration for the prince and Lieutenant-Governor David Onley. The snipers, who looked a bit like Star Wars Wookies in their camoflague outfits, appeared downright cozy. Yet though they were in full combat gear, surrounded by officers in formal red wool uniforms, the fashion contest was won by Philip, who wore a perfectly tailored blue suit, his medals and a spiffy straw fedora.
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:47 PM - 0 Comments
The much-anticipated Whatcott decision has landed, and to some surprise, the Supreme Court of Canada shied from the chance to get human rights commissions out of the business of judging speech.
You can read the decision in its entirety here. In a nutshell, the court struck down a phrase in Saskatchewan’s human rights code banning material that “ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity of any person or class of persons,” while upholding the section of prohibiting material that exposes members of identifiable groups to hatred. Those offended can still seek remedy from the province’s human rights commission.
“The protection of vulnerable groups from the harmful effect emanating from hate speech is of such importance as to justify the minimal infringement of expression,” the judges said in their unanimous decision.
Maybe this compromise was inevitable. To get human rights bodies out of the business of supervising speech, the high court would have to overturn its 1990 Taylor decision, which validated the jurisdiction of human rights commissions over speech, and set down a legal test of what constitutes hatred. That’s a lot to ask of any court.
But civil libertarians had hoped the SCC would do just that. Back in ’90, the current Chief Justice, Beverly McLachlin, had written a dissent to Taylor voicing concern that the law could interfere with free expression. She asked pointed questions during the Whatcott hearing about the vagueness of Saskatchewan’s law. There was reason to think she and her bench-mates might make a move.
To me, their decision to stand-pat represents a missed opportunity to erect robust legal protections around a bedrock Canadian value. And yes, my employer has a stake in this. But if we learned anything from the Maclean’s-Ezra Levant human-rights fiascos, it’s that the rights process is too blunt, too one-sided an instrument to deal with such a sensitive issue as speech.
A couple of other thoughts: all eyes should now turn to the provinces that have anti-hate speech provisions in their human rights codes, some of whose leaders have echoed the above-stated qualms. They’ve been sitting on the sidelines to see whether Whatcott would give them the cover needed to do the right thing, and now the onus is on them.
Here’s what Alison Redford told the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association about the relevant section of Alberta’s code when she was running for the provincial PC leadership:
“I want to amend and fine-tune the existing legislation, after consultations with stakeholders, to better define and protect free speech in light of challenges to the statute in recent years. Freedom of expression must be shielded, and Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act should be repealed.”
Over to you, Premier. Need a roadmap?
The decision also reminds me of a conversation I had in the thick of the dispute between Maclean’s and Islamic groups that complained about the writings of Mark Steyn. I was talking to Wayne Sumner, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto who studies hate speech, and I had raised the operative question: in the Internet era, can we get rid of anti-hate speech provisions in human rights law without giving oxygen to the hard-core hate-mongers, who are undeniably among us?
Sumner was unequivocal:
“The kinds of groups who engage in this sort of nonsense in Canada are so marginal, and regarded as so ridiculous by most people, that it’s hard to see how they have any impact at all. Did the ridiculous things David Ahenakew said in public about Jews running the world actually encourage any acts of anti-Semitism in Canada? Or did we just all laugh at them? So I think there’s a problem with the underlying justification of the law.”
But wait. Isn’t world history replete with examples of hate speech fueling violence and discrimination? Weimar Germany? Rwanda?
The professor’s answer:
“It’s important that we’re speaking specifically about Canada. If I thought there was an enormous reservoir of prejudice bubbling beneath the surface, just waiting to be released, I would think differently. But I don’t think that’s where multicultural Canada is at. The references to history don’t tell us much about our own situation.”
In other words, Canadian tolerance can stand the stress-test. It’s a bedrock value that—freely expressed—offers a better antidote to hatred than any regulatory body staffed by appointees. Time for governments to give it a vote of confidence.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
Numbers don’t match up in recent Toronto Real Estate Board press release
Everyone is watching Canada’s sputtering housing market these days. Is it the beginning of a crash, or a much-hoped-for soft landing? Every piece of new data is thrust under the microscope. But if you happen to live in Canada’s largest city, you should view the monthly sales figures served up by the Toronto Real Estate Board with an extra-critical eye.
Last week, the board issued a hopeful-sounding press release. After several months of falling sales—down 20 per cent in December—it said the first two weeks of January suggested a mood shift. Sales were up 2.4 per cent to 1,469, compared to the 1,435 reported a year earlier. Prices were up, too—by four per cent, to an average of $459,728 across the Greater Toronto Area, or GTA. “The new year started off on a positive note with residential sales slightly above last year’s levels,” Toronto Real Estate Board president Ann Hannah said in a statement. “I am cautiously optimistic about this result.” Continue…
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
… very little—which suits her supporters and critics just fine
Until a few weeks ago Theresa Spence was the chief of a remote, impoverished reserve called Attawapiskat. At 49, Spence had a history in child care work, and briefly made headlines last year when her community faced a housing crisis as winter beckoned. Beyond these few details, though, little was known, which ultimately didn’t matter when the hunger-striking chief emerged slowly from her teepee on an island in the middle of the Ottawa River, tired and somewhat stooped, to deliver a shocking statement to the outside world about how far she was prepared to take her protest: “I’ll die for my people.”
Spence’s protest on Victoria Island has galvanized activists, scored points with opposition politicians, not to mention a pair of former prime ministers, and forced Aboriginal issues into the headlines almost every day since she stopped eating on Dec. 11.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 5:27 PM - 0 Comments
The important events leading to the final decision
June 28, 2012: Progress Energy Resources reveals that it has agreed to a friendly takeover by Malyasia’s Petronas in a deal valued at $5.5 billion
July 23, 2012: Nexen announces that it has agreed to be bought by CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Company) in a deal valued at $15.1 billion. The proposed takeover was immediately viewed as a test of both Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policy on China and Canada’s foreign investment rules.
July 30, 2012: Some U.S. lawmakers call on the Obama administration to block the deal in the U.S., where Nexen own assets in the Gulf of Mexico. “I believe this merger could lead to a massive transfer of wealth from the American people to the Chinese government,” writes Edward Markey, a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Political opposition in the U.S. similarly stymied CNOOC’s attempt to buy Unocal, a U.S. energy company, in 2005.
Aug. 21, 2012: CNOOC slashes its dividend payments by 40 per cent to save cash to pay for the Nexen deal.
Sept. 6, 2012: Prime Minister Stephen Harper promises more clarity on Canada’s foreign takeover rules, which have been criticized for being opaque and susceptible to politics.
Sept. 13, 2012: Alberta Premier Allison Redford indicates her support for foreign investment during a trip to China, where she met with CNOOC officials. “We have always believed foreign investment assisted us with growing our economy so we are encouraging that,” she says.
Sept. 20, 2012: Nexen shareholders vote in favour of the CNOOC takeover.
Oct. 11, 2012: Ottawa extends its deadline to review the Nexen takeover by 30 days.
Oct. 19, 2012: Industry Minister Christian Paradis rejects Petronas’s proposed takeover of Progress, saying in a statement issued just before midnight, the deal failed a “net benefit” test. Progress responds the next day by promising to find a solution to the government’s concerns. “The long-term health of the natural gas industry in Canada and the development of a new LNG export business are dependent on international investments such as Petronas’, ” CEO Michael Culbert says in a statement.
Nov. 2, 2012: Ottawa extends the deadline for its Nexen decision by 30 days. The new deadline is Dec. 10.
Nov. 20, 2012: Petronas says it has extended the date for its takeover of Progress until Dec. 30, and has taken additional steps to win Ottawa’s approval.
Dec. 7, 2012: While announcing new guidelines for foreign investment in Canada, the government says both the Nexen-CNOOC deal and the Petronas-Progress Energy Resources Corp. deal will be permitted.
By Blog of Lists - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 4:02 PM - 0 Comments
1. Lucky iron fish: When Cambodian villagers were hemorrhaging during childbirth due to a lack of iron, University of Guelph researcher Christopher Charles found an answer—throw a small chunk of iron, designed to look like a local river fish, into cooking pots. The result: a huge decrease in anemia. “The iron fish is incredibly powerful,” says Charles.
2. Double-red traffic light: One in 10 Canadian men are colour-blind, a potential problem when driving. But in Quebec, Omer Martineau’s double-red traffic light design helps drivers distinguish between frequency and shape, proving that two reds are probably better than one.
3. Water Bobble: Each year an estimated 100 million plastic bottles flow through Toronto’s waste system. But the Water Bobble bottle, by Karim Rashid, has a replaceable carbon filter able to filter chlorine and contaiments from up to 150 l of water, all for $9.99 a Bobble.
4. Palm fibre packaging: Earthcycle Packaging, based in B.C., with design company Tangram, created compostable palm fibre packaging. Earthcycle’s coffee holders and produce netting decompose in about six months.
5. The Nouse: The Nouse—or “nose as mouse”—is from the National Research Council of Canada and allows disabled users to control computers with the tip of their nose and to click with a double-blink.
Source: David Berman, author of Do Good Design
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The answers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Bob Rae laments for the Harper government’s approach.
Canada is in the process of isolating itself — and only putting forward monologues that are fuelled by polls and short-sighted partisanship, and which abandon our basic values of dialogue, peace and unity.
This is not where most Canadians want us to be as a country. David Cameron and President Obama were on the phone with President Abbas, and are reaching out to Arab and Israeli leaders in the hopes of finding a solution. Canada should be picking up the phone as well, but it may be a while before we get an answer. It’s not always what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
The chief negotiator for the Palestinians says Canada has disqualified itself from the peace process. And while Britain and others react strongly to news of new Israeli settlements, the Globe reports a more muted response from the Harper government.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, November 23, 2012 at 2:48 PM - 0 Comments
HALIFAX – The premiers are calling on Ottawa to give provinces greater control over…
HALIFAX – The premiers are calling on Ottawa to give provinces greater control over immigration as they seek to improve their respective economies.
The provincial leaders concluded a meeting on the economy in Halifax today where they said immigration emerged as a key issue.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says the provinces want greater flexibility and space from the federal government when it comes to making decisions on immigration.
Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia says the premiers want to be able to determine where to settle immigrants and how many they are allowed to accept.
Clark says the meeting is a recognition that provincial governments drive the national economy, not Ottawa.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 3:29 PM - 0 Comments
Understanding polls on the volatile issue is harder than getting Parliament to talk about it
True that, and the accompanying Post story references a contradiction I saw in polls when writing my own recent piece on fetal rights. A clear majority of respondents will say they favour unrestricted access to abortion; yet the same poll will show majority support (especially among women) for some kind of regulation or oversight during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Example: last summer Postmedia published an Ipsos Reid poll in which more people (49 per cent) said abortion should be permitted “whenever a woman decides she wants one” than said it should be permitted “in certain circumstances” (45 per cent).
Yet the same poll had a 60-per cent majority in favour of “a law that places limits on when a woman can have an abortion during her pregnancy, such as during the last trimester.”
This sort of contradiction arises all the time in polling, flummoxing surveyors and reporters alike (which result deserves emphasis?). Personally, I’ve begun to wonder whether, when asked a simple question about if a woman’s access to safe abortion should be in any way restricted, most respondents imagine a woman in the early stages of pregnancy and answer with an emphatic ‘no.’
Then, when asked about a fetus in the late stages of development, a sizable number admit to qualms, tipping the result in the other way. Some pollsters randomize their question order to avoid this type of outcome. But it’s not always possible to do in a way that provides coherent results.
That said, the new poll clearly suggests the public is re-engaged on abortion, and reacting negatively to the idea of restrictions. Woodworth’s motion—and the frighteningly vapid remarks of some U.S. political candidates—seem like pretty good explanations for the turnabout.
Take a poll now, in the wake of the news out of Ireland, and it says here you’d get an even stronger response.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 1:26 PM - 0 Comments
Kevin Carmichael checks one of the Harper government’s favourite rallying cries.
While a valid bragging point in the aftermath of the financial crisis, Canada no longer is an economic standout among its peers. The International Monetary Fund identifies 35 countries as “advanced economies,” ranging from Australia to the United States. According to the IMF, Canada’s gross domestic product will expand by a little less than 2 per cent in 2013. That bests only European economies coping with the recession in the euro zone. Australia, Estonia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, South Korea, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, Taiwan, and the U.S. all are forecast by the IMF to outpace Canada next year…
Mr. Flaherty can accurately say that Canada’s growth is projected to be strong compared to a group of recessionary European countries. He can no longer accurately put on positive spin on Canada’s mediocre economic performance by seeking out favourable international comparisons. At best, Canada is in the middle of the pack.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. And so the fate of the nation seems to be found in the fine print of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Partnership Agreement. In there is either our bountiful prosperity or certain doom.
“Mr. Speaker, under the Prime Minister’s new Canada-China investment agreement, the Chinese state would have the right to buy up new oil leases and expand operations in Canada,” Thomas Mulcair announced this afternoon, leaning in then for emphasis, “as if it were a Canadian company. Any effort to limit ownership by China could be challenged, under the law.”
Great amounts of our democracy have lately been devoted to the affairs of China. And on this FIPA there are demands for still more debate.
“Let us be clear,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “The Prime Minister is exposing Canada to a scenario in which the Government of China could sue us if the Government of Alberta refuses to sell off its natural resources.”
Now the NDP leader turned to directly face and stare down the sitting Prime Minister.
“Is this how Conservatives stand up for Canada?” Mr. Mulcair begged.
Mr. Harper begged to differ. Which is to say he disagreed fully and entirely. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
After seeming not particularly concerned five months ago about Huawei’s dealing with Canadian firms, the Prime Minister is now maybe concerned about the possibility of the Chinese telecommunications company dealing with the federal government.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke cautiously when asked about the government’s plans to upgrade its communications network. “The government is going to be choosing carefully in the construction of this network and it has invoked the national security exception for the building of this network,” said Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s director of communications…
MacDougall did not say Tuesday whether this policy will exclude Huawei from winning bids for federal contracts. “I’m not going to comment on any one company in particular,” he told a news conference. “I’ll leave it to you if you think Huawei should be a part of the Canadian government security system.”
The latest questions were raised by Greg Weston’s report for the CBC. The NDP is pointing to Huawei as a reason to be concerned about the Nexen deal. The Wall Street Journal compares Huawei’s receptions in the United States and Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM - 0 Comments
A government official says Canada won’t be drawing red lines on Iran.
A senior Canadian government official said Friday, “Canada will not be publicly setting red lines. That is for others to do. We will continue to work with our allies to find a peaceful resolution on Iran.”
John Baird declined earlier this week to speculate about anything beyond diplomacy.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 2:59 PM - 0 Comments
This is long but it’s important. Bear with me.
Stephen Harper sounded concerned in Vancouver earlier this month as he discussed Chinese investment in Canada and Canadian investment in China. “We want to see this economic relationship continue to expand,” he said, “but we want to see it expand in a way where it’s a clear two-way flow and clear benefits for both sides.”
This is an odd thing to say because in February Harper asserted he had locked in assurances of clear two-way flow with clear benefits. He was in Beijing and he announced the conclusion of negotiations toward a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with the Chinese. “Today’s landmark agreement will further facilitate these flows by providing a more stable and secure environment for investors on both sides of the Pacific,” he said then.
This was a big deal, proof that Harper could get results where his predecessors had face-planted: Canada-China FIPA negotiations had been underway since 1994 and never concluded. Until now.
February’s announcement did not include release of a text of the proposed agreement. Neither did the announcement, early this month, that Canadian and Chinese officials had signed formal texts of the FIPA. We had to wait until Trade Minister Ed Fast tabled the text in the Commons yesterday to see it.
The text suggests there are good reasons why the Prime Minster should not feel reassured about Canadian access to Chinese markets. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 8:54 PM - 0 Comments
Here is the official news release on today’s meeting between John Baird and William Hague.
Below, apropos of today’s debate, is the full text of the “Memorandum of Understanding for Enhancing Mutual Support at Missions Abroad.” (I’ve copy-and-pasted from a Word document that was provided.) Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 5:08 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. After two general questions about the economy, Thomas Mulcair narrowed in on one particular side effect of the global recession: the trend of adult children compelled by financial concerns to live with their parents.
“Mr. Speaker, this weekend, British government sources leaked the details of a new agreement to create shared British-Canadian embassies in countries around the world. In these countries, Canada would now be represented by a desk at the British embassy instead of an independent Canadian diplomatic mission,” Mr. Mulcair reported for the House’s benefit. “Why did Canadians have to learn about this through the British press? If the Conservatives will not stand up for Canada in the world, why do they expect that the British will do it for us?”
The New Democrats stood to cheer their man’s indignation.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stood and kindly asked that everyone move along as there was apparently nothing to see here.
“Mr. Speaker, Canada has a strong and independent foreign policy,” Mr. Baird explained. “What we will be announcing in an hour’s time is that we will be moving forward with a small number of administrative arrangements where we can co-locate.”
Mr. Mulcair was unpersuaded. “Under this agreement, Britain would be the de facto face of Canada in the world,” he charged.
There was grumbling from the Conservatives. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
David Akin reports details of the conversation between the Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin during last weekend’s summit.
But none of this will surprise Russian President Vladimir Putin who as much warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their one-on-one meeting in Vladivostok on the weekend that the West should expect this kind of thing for “instigating” mobs in Egypt and Libya. According to officials in the room with the two men, Putin said Harper and other Western leaders are acting like “Trotskyites” – that was Putin’s line — for exporting revolution and promoting instability.
I’m not sure how Putin connects the dots between Stephen Harper and Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but Putin’s basic point to Harper was that Western leaders were being dangerously naive by meddling in the affairs of the dictators of the Middle East.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Campbell Clark tries to explain the Harper government’s decision to cut off Iran.
There’s no U.S. embassy there and the British left last November, when their gated embassy was stormed by protesters. Ottawa worried Canadians could be next in line as the enemy foreigners. If Israel launches strikes, Canadian diplomats believed they would be taken hostage. Ottawa, after all, has become Israel’s staunchest defender. The Harper government also had a September deadline to list Iran as a “state sponsor of terrorism” under a new law, and worried about retaliation…
It didn’t have to expel all Iranian diplomats to deal with safety concerns in Tehran. On Monday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney offered a new reason: Iranian diplomats were intimidating Iranian-Canadians. But the key reason, certainly, was that the government wanted to make it part of a statement about Iran as a rogue nation. That’s why Ottawa listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism on the same day as it made its surprise announcement.
Michael Petrou reported exclusively yesterday on Iran’s dealings in Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
Brian Stewart offers a theory on the Harper government’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran.
I believe Harper acted on new intelligence. But the warnings were likely more about the Iranian embassy activities in Canada than they were about the safety of our personnel abroad. Indeed, the sheer number of reasons given for the diplomatic break may mask the true one: Iran’s aggressive use of diplomatic cover to prepare guerrilla cells to attack in the west should Iran itself be attacked.
Western intelligence has been ringing top-secret alarm bells for governments for over a year, warning of an extraordinary build-up of Iranian personnel in Europe, Africa and particularly in Latin America, many of them believed to be linked to Iran’s notorious Quds Force. That’s the elite arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, tasked with “extraterritorial operations.” Iran has powered up its diplomatic arm in the Americas, from a handful of embassies a dozen years ago to 10 today, along with 17 “cultural centres” in various countries. Most posts are staffed with far more officials than required for normal duties – 150 in Nicaragua alone. In January, America’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, publicly stated that Iranian diplomats abroad were setting up sleeper cells designed to attack U.S. and allied interests around the world in the event of war.
Michael Petrou’s analysis is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Asked about how Iran might respond to Canada’s decision to cut diplomatic relations, the Prime Minister says nothing would surprise him. Iran dismisses the Harper government as “racist.” John Baird says he has no knowledge of military action against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu and Simon Peres praise the Harper government. Irwin Cotler assesses the situation.
Iranian students in Canada are worried. Iranian-Canadians in Calgary are concerned. Haaretz suggests sanctions and isolation may compel Iran to negotiate. The Tehran Times reacts to the move. Doug Saunders and Gus Van Harten question the Harper government’s decision. The Toronto Star worries about war between Israel and Iran. The Globe questions Mr. Baird’s reasoning and says it’s better to talk with your enemies.
The presence of an embassy and the retention of diplomatic relations is not evidence of support for or approval of a regime, it is an acknowledgement that it is better to talk, even to an enemy, than not.
Cardinal Richelieu devoted a chapter of his Testament politique to the imperative of continuous negotiation, stating, “I may venture to say boldly that to negotiate without ceasing, openly or secretly, in all places, and though no present benefits accrue, nor any prospects of future advantage present itself, is what is absolutely necessary for the good and welfare of States.” It is precisely because it is a threat to its own people and those in other countries that Canada should continue to talk with Iran and not retreat from its international responsibilities.
By Mark Richardson - Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 9:47 PM - 0 Comments
After driving from one end to the other, Mark Richardson reflects on the beauty of the THC
Trans-Canada distance: 7,605 km
Total distance driven: 26,286 km
NOW (Cobourg): Last month, halfway through this Trans-Canada journey, a journalist asked if I’d had the “aha!” moment yet. That gave pause for thought, but I had to accept it had not yet hit.
In fact, it took right up to the last moment of the drive before it struck in Victoria, at the end of the highway.
As I mentioned in the previous entry here, when Thomas Wilby in 1912 completed his All-Red Route in the REO and had just been feted in Victoria, he wrote that he “strolled out under the stars to the Douglas obelisk in the Parliament Grounds… Sir James Douglas, who had pre-visioned the day when vehicles would make the crossing of the Canadas to the Pacific!”
So after writing that late-night blog entry from the comfort of a hotel room beside that same provincial legislature, I decided to copy Wilby and stroll next door to look at the obelisk under the stars. Downstairs in the lobby, I asked the night manager where on the grounds the Douglas obelisk would be. He looked at me blankly. He Googled it with no success. He shrugged. “Maybe if you ask security there, somebody will know,” he suggested. “Perhaps it’s inside and you’ll need to wait till morning.”
I walked next door anyway. It was after midnight and the city was quiet, but the Legislative Building was lit up like a Christmas display. And right in the front, just a step from the sidewalk at the very centre of the grounds beside a grand Sequoia, was a 7-metre-tall obelisk in memory of the former B.C. governor Sir James Douglas.
Back at the hotel, I mentioned this to the night manager. “Of course,” he said. “I can see it now. I see it every day. I just take it for granted, I guess.”
And like Douglas’s vision, that’s the Trans-Canada Highway in this new millennium: long dreamed of, roughly achieved, and now taken for granted. Of course there’s a highway across the country – why wouldn’t there be?
Most of the people with whom I’ve talked about the Trans-Canada over the past few months are surprised to realize it’s only 50 years old. Very few can appreciate the challenges of driving across the country before it was built. Nobody can imagine a country without it, though they may not use it themselves for more than a local trip. But that’s the beauty of the TCH: In a nation as varied and regionalized as Canada, it has a different relevance for everyone while still providing a connection that’s more than just a strip of asphalt.
In Newfoundland, it’s the road across the province. In Grand Falls, a woman told me that “I use it all the time just to get anywhere. But my sister, she lives in Canada and she only drives it when she comes to visit me here.” By “in Canada,” she meant on the mainland, in Ontario, where roads thread everywhere. Then she thought for a while, and added, “I guess I’d use it to go visit her, too.”
In New Brunswick, it’s a fast and wide four-laner that hustles cars and trucks safely between the Maritimes and the rest of the country. The highway is very well built because it was always going to be a toll road, paid for by the truckers and tourists. Then politics got in the way and New Brunswickers have been paying for it ever since.
In Quebec, it’s the road to the Gaspe, again fast and wide through the flatland south of the St. Lawrence but an afterthought for the short stretch south-east of Riviere-du-Loup into New Brunswick. That’s changing now at great expense as the traffic fatalities of a two- and three-lane road can no longer be ignored and an all-new highway is being constructed alongside the old. It’s also the road to the north, for the TCH splits at Montreal to lead both to Ottawa and up to Val d’Or. “No it doesn’t,” argued the man at the transport ministry, incorrectly, when I asked about this. “Ask anyone in Quebec and they’ll tell you the Trans-Canada is the road to Ottawa.” Read into that what you will.
At Ottawa, the highway again splits and becomes less relevant for the first time since leaving the east, replaced by the utilitarian Hwy. 401 to southern Ontario. Instead, the TCH here is a tourist road, the old route from Ottawa to Toronto or to North Bay, good for Sunday drives and antique road shows. Most commerce from the west is with Toronto and the Trans-Canada is more of a state of mind than a means of transportation, literally sidelined by the busy 400-series highways. That’s okay. There should be some romance left for an icon.
It plugs through the woods of northern Ontario where there are three separate highways each claiming the status of our national road: the traditional scenic route along the north shore of Lake Superior that’s paralleled by the original logging route through Kapuskasing, and the southern border route that connects Thunder Bay to Rainy River, as well as the traditional route that winds beside Kenora. Here, the Trans-Canada is Everyroad, the only asphalt connection to the rest of the world.
When the woods and rocks give way to the flatland grass, the highway takes a deep breath and plunges across the prairie, running straight and wide as a cowboy belt all the way to the mountains. It’s the working link that connects the west, replacing the railroad in importance and general use. It splits in Manitoba and heads through both Calgary and Edmonton on its route to the ocean. People live alongside, even between; the median itself is farmed for hay.
And then, in British Columbia, it heads high over the mountains of the passes at Kicking Horse and Rogers before reverting again to a tourist road west of Kamloops, bypassed by the more direct Coquihalla. When the current Coke was opened in the mid-1980s, traffic on the Trans-Canada dried up as if a switch had flicked it off. Now, the volume of cars on the winding road is more like the original designers expected it to be.
Finally, on Vancouver Island, the highway slows into a morass of stoplight-controlled intersections – about as many as in its entire length elsewhere – on its route south to Mile 0 at Victoria. Here, the road is the only route to Victoria without taking another ferry and it crosses the mountain on the same short stretch of the Malahat Highway that was opened in 1912, when the Trans-Canada was first proposed.
So is it now all that was hoped for when Abert Todd ordered a medal struck, and its creation was anticipated within the decade?
Of course it is. It’s not a soulless interstate, good only for getting places fast on the superslab. Nor is it inadequate and poorly-maintained, though it’s frequently sub-par. It has its challenges but it’s overcome them in the most Canadian way possible: with lots of federal-provincial bickering, plenty of committees and discussion and a fair amount of back-room dealing, all dragged together through the blood, sweat and gears of super-human physical construction by normal people to change our country for the better.
The Trans-Canada Highway is the only link in this country that we can actually touch, that connects every province and is accessible to anybody, whenever we want it. And like peace and democracy, we must be able to take it for granted – it’s part of being Canadian.
By Mika Rekai - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
Maybe a new life awaits you in Nanjing
When Noel Muller returned to Toronto from China in 2010, he was thrilled to be home. Within a few months, however, the then-28-year-old teacher, fed up with unemployment—and with bunking in his mom’s basement—was back on a plane bound for China. Muller had spent a year in Jilin, a small city in China’s northeast, teaching English to local children. He’d been homesick, especially toward the end, and keen to start a permanent teaching career in Ontario. But within weeks of returning, Muller realized that might not be an option for him.
With the economy in the tank, he says, “all the jobs dried up.” And in a year in which over two-thirds of education graduates were unemployed, Muller certainly wasn’t being picky. He was applying for everything from tutoring positions to teacher’s assistant spots to a job teaching English as a second language. Then he got a call from his old boss in Jilin. “He was pretty desperate to have me back,” he says, “and offered me a substantial pay raise.” For Muller, it was an easy choice. “Adventure may have brought me here the first time,” he says, “but monetary considerations certainly brought me back.”
Muller is one of a growing number of young Canadian professionals pursuing careers in the new land of opportunity. In Canada, recent graduates were hit particularly hard by the financial crisis—youth unemployment here sits at 14 per cent, double the national rate—and have not fully recovered. Many are settling for contract work outside their field, often below their skill level. But in China, companies are hungry for educated young workers. And they’re willing to pay a premium for foreigners who can act as linguistic and cultural bridges between China and the West.
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
An Iranian religious education organization under the ultimate supervision of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is attempting to establish a school in Montreal — violating Canadian regulations about what Iran is allowed to do in this country, and worrying expatriate Iranians who fear Iran’s growing influence here.
The Rastegaran organization runs a network of private schools across Iran. Its website lists six international schools, including one in Montreal.
The Montreal school is not yet open, and it is not clear what concrete steps have been taken towards that goal. An August 5 note on the Rastegaran website suggests there was a desire to open the school by September 1. A source in Iran familiar with Rastegaran told someone making inquiries on behalf of Maclean’s that money has been allocated for a school in Montreal.
Last weekend, the Rastegaran schools’ director, cleric Hojatoleslam Val Moslemin Meshkaat, was in Montreal. Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, chargé d’affaires at Iran’s embassy in Ottawa, and cultural counselor Hamid Mohammadi both traveled to Montreal to meet with him.