Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the Grand Coalition

James Bow writes eloquently about why we should throw out the Conservatives:
In two and a half years, we have seen how Stephen Harper governs. He is not pragmatic; he is an opportunist. He believes in openness and accountability only when it suits him. Most importantly, he refuses to respect the democratic will of the Canadian people; twice denied a mandate to govern with majority power in the House of Commons, he has consistently refused to reach out to any party in the opposition to govern cooperatively. Government has been a battle for him, and his opponents, be they on the opposition benches or standing in the streets, are not Canadians with legitimate points of view of their own, but enemies to be crushed and humiliated.
That, of course, describes the problem only in the broadest way; James provides a thorough list of examples of Conservative hypocrisy, mismanagement, and general immaturity. I look forward to seeing Harper on the opposition benches and urge the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc not to back down.

Friday, November 28, 2008

May you live in interesting times...

Well, PM Stephen Harper certainly excels at setting traps for himself. I'd never have guessed that we'd be on the brink of a Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition government this weekend, but we may well have one in time for Christmas:
Negotiations by Opposition parties to form a coalition began hours after the Harper government failed to introduce an economic stimulus package in its annual economic and fiscal update yesterday.

Instead, Harper proposed billions in spending cuts, the suspension of the right of public servants to strike, pay equity changes, and a small but significant reduction of public funding for political parties.
I think there are lots of good reasons here to bring down the government, but the public funding for political parties issue is probably the spark that lit this fire. (Each party annually receives $1.95 for each vote it received in the last election, which was implemented to lessen the impact of wealthy donors being able to disproportionately influence political parties, along with corporations and unions. The much larger indirect subsidy comes in the form of tax credits for people who donate directly to the parties.)

This proposal concerning party funding was bizarrely attached to the Harper government's otherwise Harrisite "fiscal update" (spending cuts? compounding a recession?), in what can only be seen as a naked attempt to harm the finances of the opposition parties, if not cause their outright bankruptcy. That this comes during an unprecedented global economic crisis when compromise and consensus are warranted in Parliament is despiscable. I don't think Canadians are terribly interested in Harper's game, but are at least a bit concerned with the tanking stockmarket and the looming collapse of the auto sector, to name only two things. In this regard, I do think the opposition is more in tune with "average" Canadians (i.e., though who aren't political junkie who live for Harper's games of chess). Instead, Harper's playing chicken with the fate of his own government:
Angered over the lack of an overarching spending package to kickstart the sluggish economy, the Opposition parties cried foul.

Now the Liberals say they will introduce a motion of non-confidence in the government.

NDP Leader Jack Layton and Stephane Dion have discussed "roles and responsibilities” in a new coalition, an NDP official confirmed.

It is expected that Layton would have a place in the new cabinet, and “various players would play different roles,” the official said.

Liberal finance critic John McCallum said a new government would roll out a stimulus package that was "a whole lot faster and a whole lot bigger than anything they would provide.”
Anyway, I'm not sure whether Dion would be the leader of this still-hypothetical coalition. It's a possibility, but since the confidence vote has been postponed (by Harper, a sure sign that he's attempting to buy time for some sort of last ditch attempt to save his government), I expect the Liberals will have sufficient time to figure out their leadership issues, at least temporarily, so that we'll soon be treated to the spectacle of a joint Liberal-NDP cabinet with tacit Bloc support. Interesting times, to be sure!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Still here

I've been remiss in posting lately, but I'm glad to say that I survived my anatomy exams (at least, I'm pretty sure I did - we don't get the actual results til later this month). After a brief respite, I'm back into the thick of it - and feeling very glad that I've taken genetics and biochem in the past. I find it a bit difficult to get out of the studying mentality and I feel I'm becoming mildly obsessed with being in the hospital - my elective is really just that interesting and fun. To maintain this feeling, I'm watching (and, sometimes, criticizing) House, though it's not really very good this season, and I've even tuned into the pre-emininent "medical" soap opera, namely Grey's Anatomy.

But how bad is Grey's Anatomy? Bad. The characters don't strike me as being anything approaching real people and, worse, they get away with things that even Gregory House would probably find unthinkable. Last week, in fact, several characters were dissecting cadavers in a storage room (for surgery "practice" I guess), unbeknownst to the senior resident. Where did they get them? Well, it turns out these bodies were simply unclaimed, so that the interns (shouldn't they have finished their residencies by now?) decided, hell, why not cut them up? Usually, of course, most cadavers used for dissection are expressly donated to science for that purpose, and otherwise there must be express authorization from the relevant authorities under laws like this. Setting aside the questionable ethics and the fact that they casually eat and drink in the same room (absolutely disgusting), the consequences consist entirely in a Stern Lecture from the senior resident about Why What They Did Was Wrong and Bad, Bad, Bad. To compare, at Dal, letting someone into the lab who's not unauthorized or otherwise removing *anything* from it would have "serious consequences" - expulsion quite probably. I guess we can say that they at least weren't experimenting on live patients.