Monday, 31 August 2009

Diefenbaker Conservatism (traditionally Canadian & Communal)

We can thank Prime Minister, John George Diefenbaker, for giving Canadians their own Bill of Rights. Like our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who represents an Alberta riding, Diefenbaker was an Ontario born- Conservative. He moved west as a child and, eventually, represented a Saskatchewan in Canada's House of Commons.

Diefenbaker's training as a criminal defence lawyer strengthened his committment to Human Rights. Unlike some right wing Canadian Conservatives in 2009, Diefenbaker, opposed Capital Punishment because he believed innocent men and women were sometimes convicted in CDN courts.

He was a true old-style prairie populist: committed to Canadian independence from the US, strengthening Canada's international position internationally, and retaining Canadian institutions like the Crown. 'Dief' also championed Human Rights and public health. It was his government that created the Canadian Bill of Rights, the Royal Commission on Health Services, and the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act.

Many so-called populists (who appear to champion big business and the erosion of rights would do well to read Canadian Bill of Rights: The rest of us would do well to get a thorough understanding of what Canada's Conservatism tradition really is.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Regretting my own cowardice

I took this post down a few days ago, simply because I was afraid of suffering professionally for stating the obvious about Canadian politics and Canada's relationship to the United States. I also thought some people might not see be able to understand that some aspects of this letter to Mr. Harper are tongue in cheek. I regret that. The day we give in to bullies is the day we give up. So I'm reposting:

I am appalled at federal government's willingness to go along with hearsay and to allow any Canadian to be tried in the American media. Further, I am appalled the government's demonstrated willingness, in several instances, to turn Canadians over to torture in other countries, simply to pursue a 'friendship' that is more wishful thinking that reality. Countries have interests that sometimes align with other national communites. They do not have friends.

Monday, 24 August, 2009

Right Honourable Stephen Harper, MP
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2

Dear Right Honourable Mr. Prime Minister:

Did a little on line research that I think might help prepare you for your next trip to Washington. I wanted to know if America really is our 'best friend,' like you've told us.

If Americans like us, it just doesn't make sense that I keep hearing stories about Fox News having to apologise for threatening invasion and insulting our Armed Forces. And I wondered why the MLB forgot to find someone to sing our national anthem at a Major League Baseball game a few weeks ago. And why did Dr. Phil sneer when David Foster talked about Canada and Celine Dion. (No, I will not make a Celine joke.)

So, I decided, to take a look at American websites, like CNN and TMZ, which of course, is actually TMZed in Canada and pretty much everywhere else proper English is spoken.

Some of the 'news' sites seemed to think we aren't allowed to make an appointment with a doctor and that Canada kills its elderly and disabled people. (That must be why most of my relatives die when they reach their late 80's or early nineties? I want this practice stopped immediately. No one should be dying in Canada.)

But my favourite site was TMZed. It had the most stuff about what Americans think about Canada on it.

TMZed was following the Jenkins' manhunt. (It's the case where an unfortunate American realtor/pin-up girl was murdered when she decided to go visit her ex-current boyfirend in Las Vegas; and her Canadian boyfriend/husband realtor/reality star reported her missing then became a suspect in her killing after he escaped from the US Coast Guard and walked across a road to Canada.) I know it's enough to make your head spin. Apparently, life is real complicated in the States. No wonder they think we're boring.

Here`s what I learned on TMZed, following the Jenkin's search. Americans don't know that Canadians are their 'best friends.' More interesting stuff, I never knew about Americans:

Americans who comment on TMZed, by and large, do not believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. They believe that it is ok to harass parents of people charged with crimes at their place of work (Eg. One individual posted Mr. Jenkins' father's website and told people to email him hate mail.) Guess the 18th century 'rebellion' really was just a bunch of colonists not paying their taxes and wanting to move on to Indian Territories without treaties. Sad.

They appear to believe that a person`s right to live is determined by their looks and lifestyle and that sex trade workers deserve to die. (A lot them thought the young woman in this case deserved her fate because she was a quote: 'skank'.

They believe that is it ok to rape and torture prisoners in jails (against international law.) In fact, some commenters were hoping to have Mr. Jenkins' raped and tortured by the other inmates, even though he had not been found guilty of anything. (I'm sure the American Ambassador and Obama don't think it's ok to rape and torture prisoners, do they? And you don't either, do you? I certainly hope not. Otherwise, I will not vote for any Conservative candidate as long as you are leader.)

Comments like 'Canadians are stupid, are pretty common' on TMZed. Somebody commenting on the site even said that no one should ever date a Canadian man because they are, apparently, all sociopaths. (I'm married to a Canadian man and he seems ok. I'm sure there are no sociopaths sitting in the House of Commons, either. Right?)

They also think that most of us are pining away to get a green cards. I'm not. Are you?

Many Americans believe that when a suspect has died, that no other possiblities should be pursued, even though the suspect was known to have a serious gambling addiction and to be involved with loan sharks. And the parents of the suspect do not believe he committed the crime. (I guess the concept of proven 'beyond a shadow of a doubt' doesn't matter anymore to most Americans.)

They also appear to think that it's ok to council people to commit suicide.(This morning there were comments on TMZed by individuals who hoped that threats of prison rape and torture were read by Mr. Jenkins. They also hoped those comments provoked him to kill himself. This is most perplexing for a nation that claims to believe in 'innocent until proven guilty' and promises to give fair trials to everyone, including Canadians.

Neither TMZed or its bloggers seem to be aware of recent court rulings that make anonymous slander of individuals on the internet something that can be prosecuted. (You may want to mention these observations to Obama, when you next see him. Ask him about the 'friend' thing too. He needs to come clean on this.)

A couple more requests: Please pull our troops out of Afganistan immediately. We should not be helping people that think torturing inmates is ok, treat our citizens with disrespect, and can't figure out if our national police force is called 'mounty', 'mountain', or 'mountain.'

Oh yes, I know you think that this is not a U.S. war because our NATO and Commonwealth partners are participating. You think the war is protecting our own security. I used to think that, too. But I started doubting it when Afghanistan passed a law that allows men to starve their wives for having too many 'headaches' at bedtime. And, I really don't think we should be siding with people that think it's ok to rape prisoners and drive suspects to suicide before they get a fair trial.

Another thing, when you head to Washington to meet Obama this fall (assuming you are not in the middle of a general election campaign) can you please refrain from calling America our, 'best friend.' It's kind of embarassing because you, Mr. Brown and Mr. Rudd all insist your countries are America's 'best' friend. (Maybe you should take your rightful leadership role as the Prime Minister of the largest Commonwealth Realm. Just pull the Aussie and Brit PM's aside at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and demand that the three of you sort the thing out, once and for all. You cannot ALL be the Obama's best friend.)

You might also ask Brown why he hogged the Queen in the photos at last G-20 meeting. Oh, right, you probably don't want to bring up the photo shoots in London. Darned BBC, can't even respect a PM's need for a mini-break.

How about you get your speech writer to come up with something polite & positive, but more honest? Perhaps we could call the Americans our 'closest geographical neighbour whom we trade stuff with.' Or maybe this: 'The owners of that lovely White House we admire so much that we have not lit it on fire in nearly 200 years.' Awkward, I know. Work on it.

When you go to Washington, be nice, but don't act like you really need a "friend." (And try to get out of that oil clause in NAFTA. Or at least demand that they refine the stuff here. If they balk, remind them about the Softwood Lumber thing.) Stand up and make us proud. Tuck your shirt in, but don't buy a new suit. The Americans won't be watching and we already know what you look like.

Thank you for you reading my letter.


Jane Harris Zsovan
An actual Canadian who will vote in the Next General Election
I really think we owe 'real Americans' on TMZed and the other websites I visited a thank you for their honesty. It's good to know how they really feel about Canada, their largest trading partner.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Tom Wickersham: Serving Many Ways

I did this interview with Tom Wickersham, Alderman for the City of Lethbridge in December. Unfortunately, the 'Christian' publisher', who ordered the article, took down his website & left town in a hurry. Not sure what his story was, but a few of us didn't get paid.(Stuff like would turn most people cynical. Not me. I tried to find a new market.)

Well, I quickly found out interviews with municipal politicians from outside the two largest cities, especially those written by writers from outside the two Golden Circles, don't get much ink in Alberta.

That's too bad because Tom grew up on the site of Fort Kipp. That experience shaped him; and his vision for our province is worth the read. Enjoy!!

Tom Wickersham: Serving Many Ways

Fast Facts:

Born: April 1, 1944, Galt Hospital, Lethbridge, Alberta,
Spouse’s Name: Arline
Family Stats: Married 47 years (December 02, 1961). Tom and Arline Wickersham have four children: three sons and one daughter, 13 grandchildren, and 2 grandson-in-laws.
Elementary School: Coalhurst.
High School: Winston Churchill High, Lethbridge.
Church Affiliation: Victory Church
Career History: Chicken Farmer (1991-1999), Fireman (1965-2001), City of Lethbridge Fire Chief and Director of Disaster Services for the City of Lethbridge (1992-2001), Alderman (2001-PRESENT)

City of Lethbridge Alderman Tom Wickersham did what many little boys dream of doing: He grew up to be a farmer and a fireman. But for the past seven years, this former City of Lethbridge Fire Chief has devoted himself to municipal politics.

In addition to his regular city council duties, Alderman Wickersham serves as Liason to the Green Acres Foundation, Lethbridge Regional Police Commission, Airport Advisory Board, Municipal Planning Commission, Sub-division and Development Appeal Board, City Affordable Housing Committee, Community and Social Development Committee and Downtown - Heart of the City Committee. He is also a member of the Child and Family Services Authority Board for the Province of Alberta. He and his wife Arline attend Victory Church.

What do you like about City Council?
`We`re an eclectic group of diverse people,`` he says.
`We`re not running under a party banner, that`s what make municipal politics so interesting,` says Wickersham. You just have a whole mix of different opinions and & I think it works well. It about who you are, not what party you represent.`

What was it like as a kid on your parents’ ranch on site of Fort Kipp?
It was fascinating. We bordered where the half-way house going to Fort Macleod was.
Mr. Fuller, who was an English gent, had a little cottage near us. He always had tea on and he smoked a pipe. The house was always warm and had a sweet smell of pipe tobacco. He fascinated me with the history of the ranch hands and traders, and some of the history of our ranch.

After school, I`d visit him. He always had a peppermint for me.
He grew up in this area and he would spin stories about wildfires and what it was like in the early days. He told me about Fort Kipp. At that time you could still see the outline of the foundations.

He had jars of arrowheads that he had picked up when the fields were broken. He had two gunbelts. One had a notch He bought it from a fellow who claimed he had killed a man.) I tried to get my dad to by those gunbelts.

The wagon ruts of the whiskey traders were still visible then. It was a great time. Mr. Fuller made it come alive.

How did you become a fireman?
I had a desire to serve and make a difference. As a young person grassfires fascinated me. I loved fighting grassfires.

I knew I didn`t want to be a police officer because, when people call them, they don`t really want to see them. As a fireman, people want to see you come right away.

I got married at seventeen. So, I was hitting the ground running, raising the family

I had a good job at Horton Steel, but we got laid off. During the two months that I received EI, I played a lot of chess with a firefighter. He said that I should apply to get on the fire department. At that time, it was very hard to get hired. 150 to200 people would apply for one job.So I became a member of the Lethbridge Auxiliary Police.

After that, I would go in about once a month to talk to the Personnel Manager at the City of Lethbridge to ask about openings. When a position came open, I made application and was one of two people hired.

How did you become Fire Chief?
I didn`t really aspire to become fire chief. I enjoyed learning things and trying to make a difference.

I have always been interested in continuous learning – I took college courses and I made myself available for any kind of education. I still try to take every advantage of seminars, education, and personal development life is continuous improvement, we never stop learning.

When the position came open, I was encouraged by co-workers and others that I should apply. (I had already been promoted to captain, union president, and vice president for the Canadian Association of Firefighters.)

How long were you a member of the Fire Department?
36 years.

You became an alderman a month after retiring as Fire Chief. Why?
I still wanted to contribute to our community.

When I became fire chief, I took on the role of Director of Disaster Services for the City of Lethbridge. It`s a very challenging role and I was in that role for nine years, 1992-2001.

Retirement is doing what you enjoy doing. I thought it would be an honour to serve as an alderman. In serving, I believe you should strive to make a difference and leave an organization better than when you started.

I retired and ran for council.

Does Your Faith Impact Your Work on City Council?

I believe it is the values in our beliefs that govern all decision making. I firmly believe that we should treat people with dignity and respect and that we should be honest and have integrity in our decision making; being true to our values and beliefs while representing the community.

We must respect the most vulnerable in society. If we start to elevate ourselves above those people then we get disrespectful. That applies to our parents as they get older and become more vulnerable and to people who are homeless.

What Challenges do you see for Lethbridge’s City Council?

Challenges ahead include homelessness and affordable living; Being able to maintain our infrastructure for our community. The next few years will be a challenge as far as the economy is concerned. We as a city council, giving the times have passed a responsible budget that will maintain services and infrastructure. We’re committed to downtown revitalization. That`s going to be a challenge.

One of the main initiatives of council is moving forward with the West Lethbridge Centre. That is going to be a very exciting development that will take us to the future as far as development for Lethbridge.

How did you operate a chicken farm while serving as our city’s fire chief?

For a number of years Arline farmed by day and I farmed by night. Without a question Arline has made a lot of sacrifices for my career and my family. Fire fighters work shifts, they miss many family events because they are working. Family support is crucial. Arline still makes sacrifices for me now that I am on council.

Do you still own the chicken farm?

No we sold that in 1999.

What is your vision for council?

I believe that if we, as council, walk together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect we will succeed. My goal in doing that is creating a viable healthy attractive city.