Monday, 29 December 2008

Christmas and New Year Message Links

Do you get annoyed when the media interprets speeches by government and opposition leaders, rather than letting you hear the entire message yourself? I do.

I often wish the pundits would stop explaining and playing 30 second blurbs of the speeches. I prefer to listen to what is said and make up my own mind what the message is.

In the Spirit of the Season, I am adding the following Christmas and New Year Message links. No comments. No interpretations. Just a chance for you to listen for yourself. I am sure you'll figure out what each of these people is trying to say. And you don't need me to explain.

The Queen's Christmas Speech to the Commonwealth

New Year's Message from the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean

Christmas Message from the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Christmas Message from the Leader of Canada's Official Opposition, Michael Ignatieff

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Monday, 22 December 2008

Sorting out Fact from Propaganda

Hi everyone. I hope your Christmas planning is going well and that all this snow shovelling isn't dampening your Christmas spirit. Here's a little political myth busting that the media doesn't seem to want to tackle. I posted this article on the TWG blog about a week ago. The Word Guild is an organizations for Canadian writers are Christians. Since I know many of my readers are of different faith perspectives, I'm also posting it here:

Let me begin with a verse from scripture: Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Now let me share a couple of historical facts that I've discovered that run counter to what you hear on the news. First, Michael Ignatieff's, promotion to Leader of the Opposition, without an election, is nothing new in our democratic tradition. Both Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, in Alberta, became Premiers without an election in their first terms. This has happened several times at the federal level as well.

As loyal members of their parties, the caucus members (MLAs and MPs) of our political parties normally accept their memberships' choice about who should be their leader in the Legislative Assembly or House of Commons.

That is convention. It is not law, although some parties do have by-laws, within their organizations, to require members of the party sitting in the legislature or Parliament (which includes the Crown, Senate, and House of Commons) to follow the party's instruction about who to choose as First Minister or Leader of the Opposition.

But, rarely, a party's caucus (MLAs or MPs who sit as members of that party) chooses a leader without a party vote. That too is acceptable in our system of Parliamentary Democracy.

For example, when Alberta Premier William Aberhart died suddenly in 1943, there was no party convention or consultation. Instead, the Social Credit Members of the Legislature got together at a caucus meeting and made Ernest Manning the Premier. The voters and the Opposition had no say in this decision. This is a perfectly acceptable way of becoming Premier in our system of government.

We are a Constitutional Monarchy. It is the role of the Crown to ensure that there is always a stable government in Canada and the Crown has several options to ensure it. The Crown can also deny unconstitional laws as the LG of Alberta did when William Aberhart tried to deny Freedom of the Press in the Province of Alberta. His decision was backed up by both the Governor General, the Provincial Courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada. I assure you that Albertans are very glad the LG took his job seriously enough in 1935 not to sign away our Freedom of Speech because the Premier asked him to. (Interestingly, this episode is not usually discussed by the popular media, although Lord Byng's decision to deny Mackenzie King an election is.)

Why? Because first ministers (Premiers, Prime Ministers - these words literally mean first minister- are elected as members of an assembly (legislature, House of Commons) for a particular riding (sometimes called 'constituency'). Canadians, like Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, and other Commonwealth Realms elect members of assemblies (Legislatures, Parliaments). They do not elect First Ministers.

It is convention that the head of the largest party becomes First Minister. The leader of the second largest party usually becomes Leader of the Official (or Loyal) Opposition (Also sometimes called Leader of Her Majesty's Official --or loyal- Opposition.

But coalitions are also acceptable: one coalition was between Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Georges Etienne Cartier. It led to Confederation.

In the 1950s, the parties of British Columbia formed a coalition to deny the Commonwealth Cooperative Federation power. In a rather dramatic story, typical of British Columbia's colourful political scene, the plan led to the election of W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit Party.

Learning one's history and constitutional framework helps us discern what is being said to us by our 'leaders' and, with prayer, leads us to where we need to go.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Role of the LOCAL MP

05 July 1858. The Province of Canada's new Inspector General rises to speak in the colonial assembly. He has an idea to end fighting and factions in the Canadian Parliament and to save British North America's economy. Why not federate the colonies? Why not bring Rupert's land into the arrangement? Perhaps even the colonies across the Mountains? Surely such a grand country will not remained embroiled in petty squables.

The House of Assembly (also called the Legislature or Parliament) agree to take a chance on Galt's idea, to move beyond their personal prejudices and grasp a bigger vision. They choose three members of their assembly: John Ross, George Etienne Cartier, and Alexander Torrance Galt put the idea before the British Government.

The idea is so big that, when the MPPs arrive in London, many British officials doubt it can be accomplished. But the Colonial Secretary, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, gives it a fair hearing. He likes the idea even if it is grand. (Not surprising, Lytton is a novelist and a friend of Charles Dickens.)

It take eight more years before Canada becomes the first nation within the British Empire (other than Britain herself). But, without that first vote in the Canadian Assembly, it would never have happened. Without the authorization of ordinary MPPs (MLAs) on all sides of the house, no moves would have been made.

Canada's House of Commons and Provincial Legislatures are the modern version of that 1858 Assembly. We elect members to represent us in these assemblies. No law in Canada can come into effect without their authorization. Or the Senate's. Or Royal Assent. (In short, the Cabinet has no authorization to govern on its own.)

Over the past 60 years, many Canadians have lost sight of the importance of making sure their Member of Parliament (or MP, MPP, MLA or MNA) carries their vote in these assemblies.

The role of political parties (and the highly paid hired hands in these backroom) has impinged upon the role of elected members of legislative assemblies. So much so, that many people no longer vote for their local member, they vote for a party. They accept that their member of the assembly should be follow the dictates of poltical parties and their funders. Several of these political parties capitalize on regional and ethnic divisions within the country to get support. (That's a separate post.)

But political parties have no Constitutional role in Canada. The Prime Minister is merely the Member of Parliament who has the confidience of the House. Much of the powers that job has garnered in recent years are in fact counter to democracy in Canada.

Given the current political crisis in Ottawa, perhaps Canadians will take greater care to elect members of their legislative assemblies that can represent them. Perhaps the role of political parties and ideologues will wane.

And perhaps Canadian kids will be taught how their system actually works.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Canada's Most Successful Coalition Government

Hi, It's late, but with all the hoopla over the possibility of a coalition government in Canada, I have to post this. Mr. Harper suggests a coalition government in Canada would be a violation of the electorate's will and he's blocking a motion of non-confidence for one week.

Is he right?

Since only a minority of Canadian voters voted for his party in the last election, probably not.

More importantly, has Canada ever had a coalition government?


What was the result?


In 1858, Governor General Sir Edmund Head asked Alexander Galt, MP for Sherbrooke to form a goverment after the MPs asked the Queen to choose a capital, then brought the government down because they didn't like her choice of Ottawa.

Much like today, Canada's parliamentarians simply couldn't keep it together and the country was sick of elections caused by parliamentary gridlock and fights between MPPs. (One time the legislators actually had to stop John A. Macdonald, MP for Kingston and Colonel Rankin, Member for Essex, from shooting each other on the steps of the legislature.)

Galt, wisely told His Excellency that he was not the man for the job as he could not command the loyalty of the majority of members in Canada's colonial legislature. Instead he recommended a coalition under the leadership of Georges Etienne Cartier and John A. Macdonald.

Ultimately these two men did join forces. Ultimately they did form one party. But in the beginning, Cartier and Macdonald shared power. And Galt joined their team on one condition -- that they made the federation of British North America into on nation their platform.

In our system, governments only stay in power when they can command enough support get their bills through the assembly. In our system, parliamentarians are under no obligation to support the government. Even the Prime Minister is elected to represent ONE riding. In that sense The House of Commons is designed to be an assembly of ELECTED EQUALS.

Unfortunately since the mid 20th Century, political parties (who do not answer to Parliament), interest groups, and backroom strategists have usurped the role of MPS and concentrated power in the Prime Minister's office rather than where it should be -- with the elected members of Parliment.

We can pray the current constitutional crisis will be as significant for Canada's future as the one in 1858. And we can insist that our leaders relearn the lessons Macdonald's generation learned long ago. Parliament only works when the party in power is smart enough to understand that the opposition is not obligated to support bills. They must sell their policies to the opposition and respect the role of Members of Parliament.

I will continue to blog on the this topic all week.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

In Flanders Fields

The nation's heart is found within its poets:

November 11 is Remembrance Day, the day we honour our war dead in Canada. I could write about Canadians who died for our country, 60,000 in WWI alone. I could give you statistics and facts. And it probably wouldn't mean much to you.

But the words of Lieutenant Colonel, Dr. John McCrae, a Canadian Veteran of the Boer War and World War I, will reach you. He died in January 1918, while World War I raged. He never lived to see the armistice; never returned to tell his war stories to Canadians.

Yet, his hope for us remains as lively as it was when he scratched these words on to paper as a battle raged. He remains a hero to his nation. For the past 80 years, every English speaking school child in Canada has recited these words.

In Flander Fields
By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
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.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Hot Apple Cider Author Signing

If you are in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on 09 October 2008, join Marcia Laycock, author of One Smooth Stone, and me for a signing of Hot Apple Cider: Stories to Warm the Soul and Stir the Heart(HAC) at Dove Christian Supplies, right across the street from the fountain, flowers, and forest of beautiful Galt Gardens (named for the city's co-founders, Father of Confederation Sir Alexander Galt and his son, Elliott Torrance Galt.)

Marcia and I will be at Dove between 10am and 4pm, sipping some of the store's fantastic lattes, or, better yet, hot apple ciders.

Marcia and I are both contributors to HAC.

Want to know more about this inspirational anthology of over 30 Canadian writers? Check out the Hot Apple Cider Website.

In the meantime, I'm working on more posts for this blog. I will have them up in the next few days. Stand by.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Fortis and Liber

It's sad. Too few Canadians actually know the meaning of their national and provincial symbols. Take the hoopla over Alberta's new licence plates. Talk over whether or not to put the provincial motto on the plates is causing a controversy.

Some quarters of our population think that putting 'Strong and Free', the English version of the Province's Latin Motto, Fortis and Liber, on licence plates represents Americanization of Alberta politics. Some Anti-Ottawa politicians and pundits think creating a distinction between Alberta and the rest of Canada is a great.(One gets the idea that they are more loyal to the land of their birth than the country that accepted them as immigrants.) Most Albertans do not.

But all sides in this discussion are way off base. It is ridiculous to suggest that ideas of strength and freedom are not linked to Canada's place within the British Empire. It lessens Alberta's place in the world to suggest the province does not share in that tradition. Or that the founders of the province were not loyal to those institutions.

'Strong and Free', in the Albertan context, has nothing to do with the United States of America. And while the ideas of creating and federating new Canadian provinces were radical in their day, the motto itself has little to do with political reform. It is a motto, handed to us by the Crown, indicating that our province's strength and freedom are tied to parliamentary democracy.

'Strong and Free' symbolizes Alberta's links to the Canadian Crown and pays tribute to the fortitude of Canadians who settled the NWT in the days before The District of Alberta, NWT, became a province. 'Strong and Free' is proudly Canadian. And Albertans remain deeply loyal Canadians.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Saturday's at the Fort (Macleod,Home of the NWMP)


01 July 2008

Lethbridge Author at Fort Macleod’s Saturdays at the Fort

Lethbridge, Alberta -- Jane Harris Zsovan (who writes under the name of Jane Harris) is pleased to share her love of Alberta’s history with visitors to Saturdays at the Fort, at the Fort Museum of the Northwest Mounted Police in Fort Macleod, Alberta this summer.

She will sign copies of Stars Appearing: The Galts’ Vision of Canada (2006), at two Saturdays at the Fort: The first runs this Saturday, July 05, from 11:00am to 4:00 pm.

She will make a second Saturdays at the Fort appearance, August 16, 2008, 11a.m.to4:00p.m.

Harris Zsovan is delighted to be part of this program of art, book signings and events in one of Alberta’s most historic towns. “Fort Macleod played a significant role in the development of the Canadian identity. The image of Canada (in the minds of Europeans, Americans, and even Canadians themselves) was influenced greatly by images of Fort Macleod, The Northwest Mounted Police, and The District of Alberta, N.W.T,” says Harris Zsovan.

Stars Appearing: The Galts’ Vision of Canada is the first book in the Vision of Canada Series, which uncovers Canada's role in inspiring the reformation of the world's most powerful 19th Century empire (The British Empire) into a federation of democracies. Jane is currently researching the people who made up Alberta society when The Marquis of Lorne, Governor General of Canada, visited Fort Macleod, N.W.T. in 1881; Alberta’s role in the 19th century Social Reform Movement, and the part Grand Valley, Ontario settlers played in pioneering communities in central Alberta.

Harris Zsovan’s articles have appeared in more than a dozen publications including Alberta Views, Alberta Venture, Award, The National Post, Western Standard, Microsoft Home Magazine, The Anglican Planet, Christian Week, Maranatha News and Faith Today.

In April 2008, Harris Zsovan contributed ”Jessie’s Generation: Canada’s Firebrands of Mercy and Justice” to Hot Apple Cider: Stories to Warm the Soul & Stir the Heart, an anthology of Canadian writers. The chapter tells one strand of the story Harris Zsovan hopes to capture fully in future books and articles: the social reform movement to Canada’s poor that began well before confederation.

For Information about Jane Harris Zsovan’s writing contact:
Jane Harris Zsovan

For Information about Saturdays at the Fort contact:
Kim Driscoll,The Fort-Museum of the NWMP
Fort Macleod, Alberta T0L 0Z0
Phone: 403 553 4703 Toll Free: 1-866-273-6841

Monday, 30 June 2008

Happy Canada Day!

July Ist, 1867 was a party up here. But the fireworks, poetry, and parties were hardly noticed in Britain, the United States or elsewhere. In her typical invisible way, Canada became the first British colony to transition into an independent nation state while remaining within the British Empire.

Our ancestors had to fire shots to keep republican invaders and Fenian terrorists from forcing their ideology on us. But, unlike other colonial nations, we never fired shots against an imperial master to gain our nationality. In fact, British North America survived because imperial links made its people less vulnerable to invaders.

On July 1st 1867, not many outsiders took the Canadian experiment seriously. Canadians celebrated, but the noise didn't wake up the neighbours. Lucky for us!

In the next few decades, Canada's success led to the creation of many nations. It also redefined what it meant to be loyal to the Sovereign. Colonials could build their own nations. They could redefine the role of parliament, classes, and the Crown without destroying relationships with their imperial cousins. (Deep study of Canadian history is the best way to understand why we choose the political and cultural institutions that have been rejected by our southern neighbour. It also helps explain the reasons Canadians often differ in their outlook from other nations.)

In 2008, Canada continues to be part of the Commonwealth of Nations, proving that interdependence is a valid path to Sovereignty! We continue to be a constitutional monarchy by order of our own parliament and provincial legislatures. Our system of government was entrenched in our Constitution in 1982 and cannot be changed without the consent of the federal parliament and every provincial legislature.

Our choices may bewilder our neighbours. But they are choices we have made. Canada's success proves independence can result from loyalty to old friends.

Happy Birthday Canada.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Quotes Worth Considering

Dr. Zahi Hawass Undersecretary of the State for the Giza Monuments, Egypt

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Undersecretary of the State for the Giza Monuments, Egypt

If Dr.Hawass's words are true, then they don't just apply to Egypt. Canadians must also be vigilant in uncovering and understanding their full heritage -- owning the past we can be proud of and owning the past we would change if we could. (Not picking and choosing aspects of our identity that absolve us of responsibilities.)

Only then can we embrace our full destiny, taking our full place in the world.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Removing Canadian Context in Media

Is it just my perception? Or are our major media outlets are doing all they can to water down Canada's political and cultural uniqueness?

I'd love to hear your perspective on this. If you can think of more instances of the obliteration of Canadian institutions or historical links in the popular media, please add your comments. And include your suggestions for halting this trend.

I plan to add to this list as I see more instances of this watering down of our heritage by the major print, radio and television outlets. Here's what I've come up with in the past hour:

The use of the word “May Long Weekend” instead of "Victoria Day Weekend" in media and advertising. A few newscasts did wish viewers “Happy Victoria Day‘ on Monday 19th May, but advertisers and most news reporters continue to use the bland and meaningless term "May Long Weekend."

Canadian media personalities who use who say ‘Loo tennant” instead of Left-ennant (Yes the word is spelled Lieutenant, and that may confuse a grade two student, but if you are old enough to report on Canadian issues, you should have figured out Canadian English.)

The use of the word ‘officer” instead of 'member' when referring to a member of a Canadian police force. Alternatively, Canadians broadcasters could use rank eg. 'constable', 'inspector', 'commissioner' when referring to individual members.

The use of the generic and vague word 'military' instead of “Canadian Armed Forces” when referring to the Canadian Armed forces.

The fact that two of Canada's three major television networks did not cover Prime Minister Harper’s meeting with the PM of Great Britain. Nor did they cover Harper's audience with the Queen on their National News broadcasts tonight. Only CTV showed video clips of the royal audience and only CTV covered the official London leg of the trip in any detail.

I also can't find much of anything about today's meeting between the Prime Ministers on any of the websites of Canada's national newspapers, although that could change by morning. That's truly puzzling, because the Governor General received ample attention when she met with the President of France a couple of weeks ago.

Is there an agenda here? Or is this just sloppy reporting? What do you think?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What I Sent the Globe and Mail

I never heard back from the Globe and Mail about this submission to their Op-Ed Page. Fortunately, I have a blog.

Is Time Running Out for Canada's Republicans?

Well, this was the week for republican rants in The Globe and Mail. Allan Fotheringham (05 May 08), gave a dubious account of history that linked Canada's Crown to the mess Mugabe's making in Zimbabwe. Then Bloc Leader, Gilles Duceppe, attacked the Governor General for doing her job by representing all Canadians, including Francophones outside Quebec.

So what's causing these outbursts from depression babies like Fotheringham (only six years younger than the Queen) and proto-boomers like Duceppe (who's turns 61 in July)? Could time is running out on their dreams of re-creating Canada/Quebec in their own images?

It appears that, even in like countries like Australia, supposedly way ahead of Canada on its path to a presidential utopia, republicans are in trouble. This showed up in my in-box this morning:

"The West Australian 2006 survey of youth attitudes showed that support for a republic in the 18 to 30 age group had fallen to 38%. Then the Morgan poll of 22 February 2005 found that only 37% of those aged 14-17 were in favour of a republic. Now in 2008, this has fallen to a dismal 23%, with 64% supporting the constitutional monarchy and 13% undecided. Some undecided voters may be just unwilling to reveal their intentions; in any event they tend to vote No in a referendum. And it is not only that young people are disinterested in a republic. It is that they are positively interested in their past and their heritage. The republican attempt to shred our flag has collapsed. It looks now as if the republican attempt to shred our constitution is going the same way. The overall result is equally dismal for republicans. Support for a republic is at 45%, the lowest for 15 years.

There are signs the same trend is showing itself in Canada. For example, a 2005 Globe and Mail poll put support for the Monarchy at an unprecedented 82%. A 2007 Angus Reid poll found that youth supported the monarchy more strongly than Canadians aged 35-54. (This increase in support among youth was evident even though the survey questions have been attacked as biased and confusing. For example, Angus Reid asked Canadians if they wished to end formal ties to the British Monarchy. In fact, the Queen ended formal links between between the Canadian and British Monarchies when she signed the Constitution Act of 1982)

Despite their negative nit-picking at our Constitution for the last 40 years, republicans haven't succeeding in convincing enough Canadians that their vision is best for Canada. They claim to support democracy and accountability. So why is it that they never mention this article in the Constitution Act 1982?

41. An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assemblies of each province:
(a) the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province;

In plain English: The Crown's place in Canada cannot be changed without approval from the Senate, House of Commons and every provincial legislature.

Since in some regions, like Atlantic Canada, support for the Crown reaches over 80%, that isn't going to happen anytime soon. Besides, on her worst day, the Queen's poll results are usually higher than the Prime Minister's.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the man who reformed of Canada's Divorce Act and legalized homosexuality, presided over the Repatriation of the Constitution. Trudeau was clearly not afraid of unpopularity or change. But in 1982, when he had his chance to weaken the Crown's place in the Constitution, he entrenched it. Why?

Maybe after years of governing this country, Mr. Trudeau came to the same conclusion the Fathers of Confederation came to in 1867: That remaining a Constitutional Monarchy with a shared Head of State is the best path for Canada.

Canada could have become a republic in 1867. It could also have become part of the United States. (Some British bureaucrats wanted to buy peace and trade with the Yanks at almost any price.) But those options were rejected. Not by the British. They were rejected by Canadians.

Canadians, not British bureaucrats, came up with the vision of nationhood for Canada, fully equal to Britain, and a shared Crown. They believed they could retain their cultural, economic, and political connections and still be a sovereign nation. That success of that vision led to the birth of dozens of nations. And eventually to the creation of the Commonwealth. Canadians should take great pride in this.

The guy who convinced Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George Etienne Cartier to pursue this dream was Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt. In the 19th Century, Galt was as controversial and enigmatic as Trudeau was in the 20th.

By the time Galt died in 1893, this one time annexationist and rebel, was as attached to his radical new vision of reforming the British Empire into a Federation (decades before there was a Commonwealth) as he had been to federating British North America in the 1850's and 1860's.

The Fathers of Confederation considered many options for Canada. But they came to the conclusion that a federated empire with a shared Crown was the best political, economic and cultural path for Canada.

Could they have stumbled on something that took psychologists like Abraham Maslow another 60 years to discover: that self-actualized, creative people flourish in an interdependent state that values relationships and gives them leverage in the world?

Maybe sharing a Head of State isn't a sign of immaturity. If so, then monarchists may have a broader view of Canada's place in the world. And maybe, just maybe, their eyes are more firmly fixed on Canada's future.


Thursday, 24 April 2008

Hot Apple Cider Hits Presses

I know. Blogs are supposed to have regular posts. And I’ve been silent for weeks. But I promise to be more prompt with posts in future .

You see, I’ve been waiting to make an announcement. And here it is:

Hot Apple Cider: Stories to Warm the Heart and Stir the Soul is published. So get yourself a warm cuppa’, sit down and enjoy a big helping of inspiring writing by some of the best Canadian authors around.

My author’s copies arrived the other day . But I don’t expect them to last long.

Hot Apple Cider: Stories to Warm the Heart and Stir the Soul has contributions from over 30 of Canadian authors. Their stories will inspire and energize you. And while the book is aimed at the Christian market, I think HAC is going to have a big impact on Canada’s publishing industry. I see this book crossing over into mainstream markets.

This inspirational anthology appeals to readers who just want to sit down and enjoy a good read. Most chapters can be read in less than half an hour. And these days, who has more than 30 minutes at a stretch to sit down and relax with a book?

I’m very excited to see my chapter Jessie’s Generation: Canada’ s Firebrands of Justice and Mercy included in this superb anthology of writers. My chapter’s about Canadian women who turned their world right side up without money, jobs or even a vote! Check out

And oh yeah, Stars Appearing: The Galts’ Vision of Canada is available at

(I’ll post an update of retail locations and signings for both books in the next few days.) I’m also working on brand new book — more to come! Talk to you soon.

Jane HZ