The Results Are In — And So Is Trudeau!

A couple of weeks ago, John Fioravanti wrote a guest post about what was then the upcoming elections in Canada.  At the time, the race between incumbent Justin Trudeau and newcomer (Trump clone) Andrew Scheer was neck-in-neck.  Last Sunday, the much-awaited election took place and John has graciously written a new guest post to explain and help us understand the results …


CANADA’S FEDERAL ELECTION: 2019

john fioravantiOn Monday, October 21st, voters in Canada returned Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party to power in Ottawa with a strong minority government. The party standings in our 338 seat House of Commons at the time of this writing is:

LIBERALS – 157   CONSERVATIVES – 121   BLOC QUEBECOIS – 32

NEW DEMOCRATIC – 24   GREEN PARTY – 3   INDEPENDENT – 1

For readers who are unfamiliar with the Parliamentary democratic system, here is a brief explanation. We have two legislative bodies that make laws. The House of Commons is elected and electoral ridings are drawn by the principle of representation by population. Members serve 4-year terms and all stand for election at the same time. The Senate is a body appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. All bills must pass both houses to become law, but only the House of Commons can force a new election before the mandatory 4-year term has expired.

FOUR PARTY LEADERS

Left to right … Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau

We do not have a separate election to choose the Prime Minister. The PM and the Cabinet are selected from elected members of the largest party in the Commons.

Canada’s Prime Minister is the leader of the party that wins the most seats in the Commons in an election. He/she is appointed by the Governor General who represents the Queen. The PM and Cabinet must maintain the support of a majority of elected members in the Commons or resign their appointed positions in the executive branch. In a Parliamentary system, the members of the executive branch are first elected to the legislative branch – the House of Commons.

In 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals won a clear majority of the seats in the House of Commons. But Trudeau lost ground in 2019 and was left with a strong minority. He needed 170 seats to win a majority and fell 13 short.Electoral Map 2019A look at the electoral map of Canada makes it clear that the country is fractured along regional lines. The greatest number of Liberal seats came from eastern Canada – the Maritime Provinces, Quebec, and Ontario. The Conservative’s stronghold was west of Ontario – especially in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Third place Bloc Quebecois support came exclusively from Quebec as its party platform is Quebec nationalist – to protect and nurture the French language and culture in Quebec. The BQ cares not about the rest of Canada.

I was very disappointed that Elections Canada pegged voter turnout at 66% of eligible voters. That bodes ill for democracy in Canada and it also speaks to voter disapproval of all the parties. Another interesting fact is that the Conservatives won the popular vote netting 35% while the Liberals trailed with just 33%. The Liberals had concentrated support in the large urban areas – especially Montreal and Toronto, while Conservative support was concentrated in the less populous rural areas.

Trudeau Family

Justin Trudeau & family — election night

It is fair to say that Trudeau was spanked by the voters for his transgressions in the SNC Lavalin affair and the blackface pictures. His party won 20 fewer seats than in 2015. On the other hand, it is clear that Scheer was not embraced by voters and was criticized for his attack-style campaign. One commentator said that Trudeau’s political problems should have been enough to turf the Liberals out of power altogether. Scheer failed to capitalize.

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Andrew Scheer & family — election night

To me, the big message of this election was that the voters are fed up with partisan politics determining how Parliament will tackle or ignore the serious problems facing the country. The only party that put forward a comprehensive platform on the environment was the Green Party. They finished with 3 seats, just one more than in 2015. Our Indigenous Peoples are suffering throughout the country with excessively high poverty rates and many reserves have filthy drinking water. This is a terrible travesty. The only party that has addressed these issues to any degree is the Liberal Party – yet they have accomplished very little in this regard.

Politicians need to wake up to the reality that they must work together as leaders, not partisan plotters, for the benefit of ALL the people. This is why the voters inflicted a minority government on the country. It is true that minority governments are unstable because the opposition members outnumber the government members in any and all votes in the Commons. It is also true that this built-in threat forces politicians on all sides to work together and exercise compromise for the benefit of all.

Canada has elected minority governments in the past and some worked well, while others did not. On average, statistics point out that minority governments last less than two years! What happens then? We have another very expensive election. As I see it, we need to commit financial resources and energy to bring carbon emissions under control so that one day soon our country will no longer depend on fossil fuels. We also need political parties to operate respectfully and cooperatively and serve the nation instead of themselves.

Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce … Redux 2019

Today is a very important day in a couple of ways.  It is Thanksgiving Day in (most of) Canada, and it is also Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S.  So, rather than dwell on the depressing latest news about the stench in Washington, I thought it would be more fun to take a look at these two holidays!  Yes, I realize it is Columbus Day, as well, but frankly that has been over-hyped for a long time, and you probably know a lot more about it than you do these two.

Since I have already done a fairly in-depth post about the Canadian Thanksgiving, I will share that first, and have an additional post later this afternoon about Indigenous Peoples Day.


🇨🇦 Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Now, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Scandals — A Guest Post By John Fioravanti

Today is a good day to step away from the Trump circus here in the U.S. and see what’s happening in the rest of the world.  A few days ago, I asked if any of my friends in the UK or Canada would be interested in writing a guest post about the situation in their own country, perhaps help us all understand a bit better.  John jumped right in and provided his take on the issues that have injected a bit of chaos into Canada’s upcoming elections (21 October).  His post led me to ask some questions, which he happily answered, so there is a Q&A at the end of the post.   Thank you, John, for taking the time to do this for us! 


john fioravantiI will preface my remarks with the admission of bias. I have been a supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada my entire adult life. While I do not think that the party or its leaders have always been right in their decisions, I do believe that this party has done more to advance the interests of all Canadians than the other major party, the Conservatives. As well, I do not present myself as a legal expert.

The SNC Lavalin affair was an internal Liberal Party squabble that the Conservatives twisted into a full-blown scandal. Jody Wilson-Raybould was Trudeau’s Justice Minister and she was asked to intervene in a criminal case involving the Quebec engineering giant, SNC Lavalin. Trudeau and his office repeatedly asked her to use a new legal tool to reduce the impact of the criminal outcome of the case to protect 10,000 jobs in Canada. She refused to budge. When Trudeau made Cabinet changes, she lost her plum position and was moved to a less prestigious portfolio. As far as I’m concerned, this was a huge mistake on Trudeau’s part. She then, quit the Cabinet in a huff. Another senior Cabinet minister, Jane Philpott, supported Wilson-Raybould and resigned her portfolio as President of the Treasury Board.

Both women went to the press citing wrongdoing on the part of Trudeau and his office. The Conservatives jumped all over the squabble claiming it was a terrible scandal. Trudeau tried to keep things civil within the party, but both women kept criticizing him and his office in the press. Their behaviour was a total violation of party solidarity, so the Liberal Caucus (elected Liberals in the Commons) voted to expel both women from the party. In the upcoming election they are both running for re-election as Independents.

In August, the Ethics Commissioner filed a report claiming that Trudeau actions were a violation of ethics in government. Believing he did nothing wrong, Trudeau refused to submit his resignation.

A couple of weeks ago, someone (a Conservative muck raker no doubt) found pictures of Trudeau taken in 2001. He had attended a masquerade party and wore black face as part of his costume. For this he has been branded a racist. Good grief! It may have been a stupid thing to do, but racist? He’s not done anything like that since, and he has worked hard to advance the cause of refugees in this country (most are people of colour). The charges of racism are the opposition parties’ pathetic attempt to bring him down in this election.

I don’t buy any of it. And it looks like most people here in Canada don’t either. Recent polls are showing the Liberals and Conservatives in a virtual tie with the Conservatives ahead by 1%. It will be a very interesting evening on election night as we watch the results pour in from across the country on Monday, October 21st.


Q&A:

  1. In this country, politicians (including the president) are often bought and paid for by large corporations, notably the fossil fuel and firearms industries. Do you think that Trudeau’s motivation in asking Ms. Wilson-Raybould was at the behest of SNC Lavalin, or was it genuinely, as Trudeau said, in order to save jobs?
    • Yes, large corporations and interest groups donate to politicians and political parties up here too. The Conservatives always have the biggest war chest at election time because their policies align best with Big Business. In the SNC Lavalin affair, Trudeau asked then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the engineering giant a type of plea deal. Trudeau told the press that SNC Lavalin communicated that if they were successfully prosecuted, they would move up to 10,000 jobs out of Canada. The CEO of the company subsequently denied this on national TV. His denial was later repudiated by written proof provided to the news media of his letter to the Trudeau government. According to my research, SNC-Lavalin employees donated $110,000 to the Liberals between 2004 and 2009. The company later reimbursed these individual contributions – in violation of Canadian election laws. The company also donated to the Conservatives on a smaller scale.

  2. Your system, being somewhat different than our own, leaves me with another question: You say that both Philpot and Wilson-Raybould are running for re-election as independents this month.  Would that be re-election to the Cabinet positions they previously held, but left?  What do you think their chances are?
    • Our system is very different from yours, Jill. Your president selects cabinet members from a pool of experts belonging to his/her own party and then the Senate confirms most of those appointments. Our Prime Minister selects his/her cabinet from the elected members of his own party in the House of Commons. Often, the PM doesn’t have the expertise among these people, so each government department has an expert civil servant, the Deputy Minister, who will instruct and advise the actual cabinet minister – who makes the final decisions. Jody Wilson-Raybault and Jane Philpott are running for re-election to their seats in the House of Commons – as is Trudeau and the other party leaders. Cabinet ministers are not elected to Cabinet. If your party wins the most seats in the general election, that leader is appointed Prime Minister by the Governor General (represents the Queen) and the PM, in turn, will select the Cabinet from his own elected members. So our Executive Branch is not separated from our Legislative Branch. Cabinet Ministers are answerable to the entire House of Commons during the daily Question Period. Most often, Independent candidates are not elected. However, these are different circumstances, so the Media is watching their ridings closely. Will they get back into Cabinet? Not a chance! It is interesting to note that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer invited both women to join his party. They turned him down flat.

  3. I’m torn on the blackface issue.  Recently, similar pictures surfaced showing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface back in his college days.  For me, that was a deal-breaker, and I did see it as racism.  Still do.  But yet, I find that I would not wish Trudeau to be replaced, or voted out because of it.  Which, of course, leaves me questioning my own values.  I think the reason I am more tolerant in Trudeau’s case is because he has taken a very accepting and welcoming stance regarding Middle-Eastern immigrants that puts the U.S. to shame, so I really don’t see Trudeau as a racist.  How has he responded to this … has he explained or apologized?  Do you think there is any way he could negate the effects of this?
    • Trudeau has apologized many times for the blackface pictures. Although people may take offence, by itself, it does not constitute racism. If you combine that instance with racist, anti-immigration remarks since then perhaps the moniker fits. As you point out, Trudeau has done more to help Middle Eastern refugees get into Canada than the US has done. He also met the first planeload of refugees when it landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto and helped in the distribution of winter coats and other winter clothing. He shook their hands and welcomed them warmly. I saw that on TV. That’s a racist? I think not! He apologized saying that it was a big mistake on his part and there is no excuse. So he has not tried to justify it in any way. Sometimes, I think we have become hyper-sensitive about racism. It is ugly and it exists here in Canada – always has – but this man is not a racist.

  4. I don’t know much about Scheer, other than I do not like his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. What’s your take on him?
    • Andrew Scheer is an acolyte of the previous Conservative leader, Stephen Harper. I despised Harper because he was an autocrat within his own party. No elected Conservative in the House of Commons was allowed to make ANY statements in public without approval from his office. That Conservative caucus was muzzled the entire time Harper was Prime Minister. As well, like Donald Trump, Harper would never appear at an open Town Hall Meeting to field questions from We the People. He appeared only at Conservative rallies that could be controlled. I have no doubt that Scheer will behave similarly. He talks about putting more money in the pockets of the middle class, but I don’t believe it. The Conservatives have ALWAYS cow-towed to the rich 1% and why would that change by this Harper acolyte? Yesterday, Scheer announced that he would reduce Canadian foreign aid by 25% in order to fund his promises to the middle class. That is not playing well in the Media. Canada has only 33 million people – 10% of your population and we have never been able to afford a large foreign aid package or a large military budget, but Canadians are sensitive to their reputation in the UN and the world. Scheer is slapping that sentiment in the face. Like Doug “the Thug” Ford elected Premier in Ontario a year ago, we have no idea exactly what Scheer would do if he was elected. I don’t trust him and he is not an impressive speaker.

Thanks again, John, for this enlightening post and conversation!  

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A Call To … Write? Opine? Enlighten?

I frequently like to feature guest posts from my readers on a given topic.  Here in the U.S., we have had so much chaos in our lives these last few months that it sucks all the energy out of the room, and leaves us with little energy to look past our own troubles.  But, the UK is facing a possible “no-deal” Brexit which could be devastating for them, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been throwing his weight and his rhetoric around, making things even worse.  And our neighbors to the north have also had their share of troubles in the form of a couple of scandals surrounding their Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that has cast a shadow on his chances for re-election next month.

I would love to have some of my UK and Canadian friends contribute a guest post helping us here in the U.S. better understand your situation, and also giving us your perspective, as opposed to just what we read in the news.  Any takers?  If you’re interested, shoot me an email, or leave a comment here.

Thanks guys!

A New World Leader …

Today, I would like to pay tribute to our neighbors to the north by sharing the work of one of my favourite New York Times columnists, Nicholas Kristof.  His words need no further introduction from me.

Thank God for Canada!

Our boring neighbor is a moral leader of the free world.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

February 6, 2019

After the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted concern about Saudi Arabia’s imprisoning of a women’s rights activist, the crown prince there seemed to go nuts.

Saudi Arabia announced that it was expelling Canada’s ambassador, halting flights to Canada, ending purchases of Canadian wheat, recalling students from Canada and selling off Canadian assets. Did the United States or other Western countries stand up for an old friend and ally, Canada?

Not a bit.

“The United States doesn’t have to get involved,” Heather Nauert, then the State Department spokeswoman, told reporters.

Yet Canada stuck to its principles. When a young Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, fled to Bangkok last month and warned that she would be murdered by her family if she was forced home, it was Canada that again braved Saudi fury by accepting her.

Freeland was at the airport to welcome Alqunun as a “very brave new Canadian.” And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t mince words, saying, “We’ll stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world.”

Canada may be one of the world’s more boring countries, as yawn-inspiring as sensible shoes — wake up, reader, I know you’re snoozing!— but it’s also emerging as a moral leader of the free world.

There’s no one else. The United States under President Trump is on a nationalist tear. Britain’s leaders seem determined to drag their people over a Brexit precipice. France is distracted by protests. Germany is preparing for succession.

So Canada is stepping up.

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Jessie Thomson, left, and Amany Alhadka, right, were among the countless Canadians who helped Syrian refugees acclimate to their new country.CreditCreditJustin Tang for The New York Times

During the worst of the Syrian refugee crisis, President Barack Obama admitted just 12,000 Syrians and provoked a furious backlash, including Trump’s Muslim ban. Canada accepted 40,000 Syrians, with Trudeau appearing at the airport to hand out winter coats to these new Canadians.

All around the world, doors to refugees were clanging shut. But Canadians were so eager to sponsor Syrians that organizations were clamoring for more of them. Canadian politicians are mostly rewarded for showing compassion.

Trump gets headlines with his periodic threats to invade Venezuela to topple President Nicolás Maduro, but Canada has been quietly working since 2017 to help organize the Lima Group of 14 nations pushing for democracy in Venezuela. When Canada recognized the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, he won credibility because nobody sees Ottawa as an imperialist conspirator.

Canada has spoken up about the mass detention of about one million Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China even as Muslim countries have mostly kept mum, and it detained a Chinese executive at the request of the American government. China retaliated by arresting Canadians and sentencing one to death, but Canada is sticking to its guns — even as Trump undercut Canada by suggesting that the case against the executive might be dropped for political reasons.

For aid programs in the developing world, countries usually try to finance big, glamorous projects that will get lots of attention. Instead, Canada champions programs that are extremely cost-effective but so deathly boring that they will never be discussed on TV — initiatives like iodizing salt to prevent mental impairment.

Reader! Wake up!

Still, Canadians can be devious. A couple of years ago I sought an interview with Trudeau for a piece about Canada’s successes — and he kept stalling. Aides explained that praise from an American might damage his relations with Trump. That may have been the first time I’ve had a leader resist laudatory coverage.

Whenever I say something nice about Canada, I get indignant emails from Canadian friends pointing out the country’s shortcomings (which are real). Fortunately, Canadians don’t seem capable of mean emails. Not even of mean tweets. One study found that Americans’ tweets are loaded with curses and words like “hate”: Canadians’ tweets are larded with “awesome,” “amazing” and “great.”

(Note: Ignore all the bits about Canadians being nice when playing hockey with them. In the rink, they’re brutes.)

Off the ice, Canadians pursue policies that are preternaturally sensible. Canadians regulate guns, oversee the banking sector so as to avoid financial crashes, and nurture entrepreneurship and economic growth without enormous inequality.

Typically, more Canadians use mass transit, and the country has better traffic safety laws, so that the vehicle fatality rate there is half that of the United States’. If the United States had Canada’s traffic death rate, we would save more than 20,000 American lives a year.

Today there’s a vacuum of constructive global leadership. Canada may be incapable of a mean tweet, but it’s tough when necessary — and it may be the leader the world needs.

I want to move to Canada!!!

America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By John Fioravanti

I have been so pleased by the excellent guest posts I have received from friends in the UK — David, Gary and Colette — as a part of Project Coexist, giving us a chance to see how people outside the U.S. view us these days, in light of the changes in our nation.  Today I am happy to share with you another excellent point-of-view from Canadian friend, John Fioravanti!

America Today: A Canadian View

I appreciate Jill Dennison’s generous invitation to be a guest on her blog site. As a retired high school history teacher, I don’t presume to be an expert on this topic or any other – nor do I claim to speak for any Canadians other than myself. Having said that, I believe that many Canadians are profoundly saddened and anxious by developments on our southern border since the Trump Administration took power.

Having taught American history for many years, I have some understanding about the events and ideas that shaped America from its colonial days. Like all nations, the United States has evolved throughout its history in many significant ways. Today, I see America at a crossroad as many of the foundational values are being tossed aside for political expediency.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Diplomacy is a dirty word in the Trump White House and I am horrified that the president resorts to bullying and personal insult in his conduct of relations with Canada and the other Allies. Where is the dignity and respect that normally characterize international relationships – especially with allied nations? These were the tactics used against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau throughout the NAFTA negotiations. The worst part about that episode was that it utterly destroyed the trust that existed between Canada and the United States throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.

Mulroney and Reagan sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” at the 1985 Shamrock Summit.

I never expected Trudeau and Trump to become fast personal friends since they are divided by their political ideologies. Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan were both conservative leaders and good friends. Stephen Harper, a conservative, did not become friendly with the liberal-minded Obama. Yet, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau became good friends with Obama. My point here is that the political leanings of our national leaders often determine the temperature of the relationship. Under Donald Trump, that temperature has become decidedly frigid, and that benefits neither nation.

As I consider Trump’s poor behaviour in Washington and on the world stage, I am most concerned with his complete break with truth and honesty. I am appalled that so many millions of Americans still support him. Do they not value truth and honesty? Or are they just willing to subvert those values as a fitting sacrifice to achieve their political agenda? These are very troubling questions. I fear for my American cousins and for the rest of the free world.

Much has been written about the divisions within America. Donald Trump did not create those divisions, but he has single-mindedly exploited them to appease his base. In like manner, he has driven a wedge of distrust between the United States and her traditional allies. At the same time, Trump pays public homage to authoritarian leaders around the globe. His chaotic foreign policy has resulted in trade wars with allies and foes alike and the result is the isolation of America on the world stage.

I live a short two-hour drive from our southern border at Niagara but I have not driven across to visit friends in New York State since Trump took power – nor will I until America votes him out of power. That makes me sad. His mercurial policies cause me to be anxious and fearful about travelling in the States. Perhaps that is silly but it is my truth.

As a youngster, I remember being glued to the TV news as America’s cities burned during the race riots of the 1960s. As I listen to the white supremacist rhetoric and watch news reports of children and minority groups being targeted in mass shootings in America today, the old horror of those bygone days rears its ugly head.

Canada has its fair share of problems too. We have racial divisions of our own. There are people in Canada who think Donald Trump is a great example to follow. As a liberal, I’ve always done my best to accept that others have differing political and social views to my own, but I fear that American conservatism characterized by dishonesty and a total lack of integrity has made inroads among Canada’s conservatives.

Today, America is writhing in the midst of a political stalemate that has caused a partial shutdown of the federal government. Neither Trump nor the Democrat leaders in Congress are willing to blink. Meanwhile, thousands of federal workers find themselves used as political hostages who may lose their savings, their homes, and their peace of mind as a result. This is morally reprehensible!

Presupposing America can emerge from the next two years in one piece, will American voters elect leaders who will take steps to heal the nation and heal the broken relationships with the allies? Who can be certain? The divided house called America is frightening to behold. The fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

Thank  you so much for your perspective as one of our two closest neighbors, John!  I’m wondering if there are plans in the works in your own government to take steps, such as building a big, beautiful wall, to protect your southern border, for under our current circumstances, many of us may be fleeing to the north to escape political persecution here!

Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce – Redux

Canada t-givingA little while ago, I was skimming today’s comments and saw one from my dear friend Emily, wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving.  And then I remembered … Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday on the second Monday in October!  How could I have forgotten?  It seems that Emily reminded me last year, as well! Anyway, I immediately began looking for information to write a post, but it mostly sounded familiar, and I remembered this post from last year.  Since there are a number of new friends to this blog, and since most of us probably forgot, as I myself did, about this post from last year, I am repeating it this year.  My heartfelt best wishes to all our Canadian friends … enjoy your turkey,  trimmings, and Trudeau!  Love ‘n hugs from your cousins down south!paragraph divider 2Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Thanksgiving-CanadaNow, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.

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U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now — A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Earlier this week, after Trump spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, and later the Security Council, I asked our Canadian friend, John Fioravanti, if he would be interested in doing a guest post from the perspective of how Trump’s “America First” isolationist policy will affect the rest of the world.  He did me the honour of accepting my request, and so, without further ado, I turn this stage over to John …

U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now

john fioravantiI thank Jill Dennison for her generous invitation to host me on her amazing blog site. Every day I read and enjoy Jill’s posts because she always gives her readers food for thought. I hope my offering below will do the same.
Those of us living outside the USA know how dangerous American isolationism is to world peace and prosperity. The current Trump administration is determined to turn the clock back more than a century in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy. The President emphatically denounced ‘globalism’ in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25th this year. As a retired high school history teacher in Canada, I’d like to enlarge on my first statement that U.S. isolationism is a very dangerous path to follow.

Tuesday, President Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

Some historians would argue that the United States was the most powerful nation on the planet in 1900 but no one knew that yet – not even the Americans themselves. While the great European powers of the day were engaged in a struggle for supremacy and jockeying for the most advantageous position by way of formal alliances, America remained entrenched in her isolationism. Her only concern with the looming European conflict was how it would impact trade and her own economy. Attacks on American shipping by German U-boats in European coastal waters roused the U.S. Congress to declare war in 1917. President Wilson understood that America needed to adopt a global perspective in foreign policy and suggested the creation of the League of Nations at the end of World War I. The idea was embraced by the Allies but the U.S. Congress turned their backs on the world by refusing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Without American participation, the League was doomed to failure. The rise of Hitler, the fall of France, and near-defeat of Britain were not enough to compel Congress to emerge from the comfortable cocoon of isolationism. No, it took a direct attack on U.S. territory in Hawaii by Japan to trigger American entry into World War II in 1941. The costs of that war in blood and money were monumental – not to mention the unleashing of two atomic bombs in 1945 that brought Japan to its knees and ushered in the age of nuclear deterrence. I do not blame the American people for the horrors of these wars – that would be preposterous. However, I do blame the idea of isolationism. The United Nations was established at the end of World War II and survives to this day. It’s main mandate was and is still to prevent a third world war. If America had turned its back on the idea of isolationism in 1919, or America First as it is styled today, would the League of Nations have failed to maintain peace in Europe? We’ll never know, of course, but it is a chilling question nonetheless. For the next seventy-one years after World War II, America turned her back on isolationism and took on the mantle of the global policeman. Her newly-minted atomic weapons gave her the military authority. In 1945 American military power was awe-inspiring and unprecedented in world history. American wealth rebuilt western Europe from the shambles of warfare in order to shore up her Allies. The United Nations, headquartered in New York, became the embodiment of the ascendance of globalism in human affairs. Over the next several decades, the UN established World Courts to bring war criminals to justice all over the globe. The Security Council embraced a Canadian suggestion to create Peacekeepers in order to keep opposing military forces separated in areas of crisis until diplomacy could establish solutions. UN agencies were created to address human suffering from natural disasters as well as from the devastation of local wars. The UN took the lead in supporting policies of freedom and equality throughout the world by taking strong stands against discrimination suffered by women and the LGBT communities. The UN evolved from just a tool to avert another world war to a force for fairness and justice in every aspect of living in the modern world. Isolationism is an ugly policy. It turns a blind eye to the evil that is perpetrated outside of its national borders. In other words, your suffering is none of my business. I am not my brother’s keeper. This is not to say that the American people are ugly. They are not. I have lived beside the United States all of my life and consider us to be like brothers and sisters. Like all siblings, we have our differences, arguments, even fights. Unfortunately, Trump has allowed his distaste for Justin Trudeau to play itself out in the worst way. That is ugly. In a little under two years, the Trump administration has bullied and alienated America’s allies. Trump berated NATO leaders about their levels of contributions to the alliance after President Obama had negotiated a process for those contributions to be increased over time. Many of these same allies are also America’s best trading partners. Trump decided that these partners were treating America unfairly and hammered them with tariffs. He used the same bullying tactics with Mexico and Canada in the talks to update the NAFTA treaty. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would not be bullied by American tariffs, Trump retorted with rhetoric normally reserved for enemy countries. American policies in the Middle East have served to further destabilize an already dangerous part of the world.

Trudeau makes a point while talking to Trump at G7 Summit.

As America withdraws from her traditional role as leader of the free world and alienates her allies, one doesn’t have to look too far into the past to see a likely outcome. America First is driving anti-immigration policy in the Trump administration as well. The people who are being barred from entering the land of freedom and opportunity are refugees from the Middle East, Central America, and South American countries where life has become unbearably dangerous. Trump’s policies are hurting a lot of good people around the world. History has also proved that restricting immigration is self-defeating since many immigrants and children of immigrants have made significant contributions to the growth of technological innovation and the overall economy in the United States.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of the Apple computer, son of a Syrian political science professor.


Many thanks, John, for your words of wisdom … keep that pencil handy, for I may want another soon!  Meanwhile, I have an open stage here and would love to hear from some of my other friends outside the U.S.: Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany … please let me know if you’re interested in contributing a post from your perspective!

The Bully Goes To NATO 😱

Consider this:  you have a child who is cruel and a bully, the one who kicks sand in all the other children’s faces and shoves them off the swings.  Now, he is invited to a birthday party … not because anybody wants him there, but because the parents of the ‘birthday boy’ felt it was the right thing to do.  You understand all too well the dangers of your son attending the party, you realize he could spoil it not only for the ‘birthday boy’, but for every child in attendance.  Do you allow your son to go to the party, or do you do the right thing and keep him home, perhaps spend some time explaining why he isn’t being allowed to go?

We the People unfortunately have just such a bully, and later this month he will be attending an event that he seems prepared to ruin: the annual NATO summit.  Remember the last such event he attended, the G7 hosted by our close friend and ally, Justin Trudeau of Canada?  Remember how he insulted every one of the other 6 leaders there and demanded that Putin/Russia be allowed back into the group?  And remember how he insulted Trudeau after leaving the meeting, refusing to sign off on the joint communique?  Remember the 2017 NATO summit where he refused to endorse the collective defense clause and then … then in order to be first in front for a group photo, he shoved Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro?

There is every reason to believe that this year’s NATO summit will turn into an even bigger disaster, for he has already laid the groundwork.  Last week Trump sent letters to eight of the 29 NATO members criticizing and threatening them for not yet having met the guidelines of defense spending.  Donald Trump has either no concept or an erroneous concept of how the NATO collective defense program works, and he sees his own role as being considerably larger than it is.

NATO is based on the principle of collective defense: an attack against one or more members is considered an attack against all. So far that has only been invoked once — in response to the September 11 attacks on the U.S. To make the idea work, it is important for all members to make sure their armed forces are in good shape. So NATO sets an official target on how much they should spend. That currently stands at 2% of GDP. The 2% target is described as a “guideline.” There is no penalty for not meeting it. It is up to each country to decide how much to spend and how to use the money.

A few things are worth noting:

  • Jens Stoltenberg is the Secretary General of NATO, not Donald Trump
  • The 2% target is a ‘guideline’. Many countries are not in a financial position to be able to spend 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on military, and at least one nation, Germany, has other reasons for not being able to spend 2%
  • The agreement was that member nations would work toward the goal of spending 2% of GDP on military/defense by 2024! This is only 2018
  • European members of NATO are spending more on defense than in the recent past. Most have increased spending as a share of GDP since 2014, and in economically difficult times
  • Nations do not pay this 2% to NATO and no nation owes any portion of it to the U.S.
  • Thus far, the U.S. has been the only nation to receive the benefits of this program

Trump is a bully, and the letter he sent to several nations was a thinly veiled threat.  Here is the letter he sent to Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada:NATO letter-Canada

He was also particularly contentious toward Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, that letter said to contain the harshest language of the eight letters, though I am unable to find a copy of the letter to Merkel.

Chancellor Merkel backs plans for Germany’s defense budget to eventually reach 2 percent of GDP. However, her Christian Democrats’ junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, are against massive defense spending increases and demand funds be used more efficiently.  I would note here that the U.S. Congress should also be demanding that our own funds be spent more judiciously, for we have a ridiculously and unnecessarily burdensome military budget, while we are cutting safety net programs for the poor, ignoring infrastructure needs, and making health care unaffordable to all but the wealthy.  Our own priorities are truly skewed, and Trump reminds me of a little boy playing with his army soldiers.NATO defense spendingNote that there are only five nations that are currently able to meet the 2% defense spending goal, yet Trump singled out our closest allies for his letter-writing campaign. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords, pulled out of the Iran deal, criticized our allies at the G7 summit, and harshly imposed unwarranted tariffs on our European allies, and now he is bullying them ahead of the NATO summit.  What could go wrong, eh?

“Why the president would find it necessary to send a letter like this in advance of the NATO summit is a mystery. It shows a lack of understanding … and sets the wrong tone in advance of an important summit in mid-July. This isn’t how you ‘prep’ for a NATO summit. Letters like this will only backfire.”  — Julie Smith, a Europe expert with the Center for a New American Security.

International relations are difficult at best when the parties involved have a full understanding of the issues.  Trump has no understanding and does not listen to those who do. He is a loose cannon and stands to do even further harm to our relations with our allies, making this nation far less safe than it has ever been perhaps since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I do realize that nobody has the power to stop Trump from going to Brussels on July 11th, but I certainly wish there were a way to keep him home.  I’m thinking duct taping him to the potty?