Stuff Still Happens IV, the Reckoning, week 20: The issue that won’t go away

If you want an example of how Canada and the United States differ, look no further than developments in Alabama this week.

Alabama – a southern U.S. state with such a long history of fanatical conservatism and institutional racism that even people from Mississippi look down their noses at them – became the latest state to pass restrictive abortion laws. Actually, calling them ‘restrictive’ is like calling the Ku Klux Klan a fraternal organization. Alabama’s senate (25 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 85% male) passed the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The bill prohibits abortion in almost every circumstance, and makes exceptions only for the health of the mother and for fetuses with “fatal anomalies” that make them unlikely to survive outside the womb. Impregnated by rape? Sorry, missy, you’re out of luck. Impregnated by rape by your granddaddy? No deal, sweetheart.

It was signed into law by the state’s 74-year-old governor, a woman.

Alabama is not alone. Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi have similar laws, most of which outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be even before a woman might know she’s pregnant, essentially making abortion illegal. Don’t these laws seem just a little restrictive, to put it mildly? Sure they are, and their proponents know it. The idea is to force the laws to go before the Supreme Court, in the hopes that the conservative-leaning court will rule in their favour, thereby overturning the famous Roe Vs. Wade decision that made abortion legal in the U.S.

So while Americans gird themselves for a long, divisive fight, where does Canada stand? As usual, quietly on the sidelines.

Canada currently has no abortion law. We’ve haven’t had an abortion law on the books since the existing laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has no laws restricting abortion.

This is not to say that the issue is settled here. There are plenty of pro-life Canadians who would like to see the procedure outlawed, or at least curtailed in some way. So why don’t we have abortion laws here?

I think it’s in part due to our natural reticence, our aversion to open conflict (Americans LOVE conflict), and a more liberal bent. Nobody wants to talk about abortion: it is the third rail of Canadian politics.

Justin Trudeau, desperate to burnish his feminist image after having the temerity to turf two female MPs, commented on the Alabama law this week, saying he is “deeply disappointed” by “backsliding” on abortion rights in the U.S. and around the world. What Trudeau should have said was nothing, because Alabama laws have no bearing on Canada, and they are none of our business. But Trudeau is clearly hoping to ignite the debate here, knowing that there are more than a few Conservative MPs who would fall into the ‘pro-life’ camp.

On Thursday, the Liberal Party of Canada sent a fundraising email to supporters calling it “alarming” that dozens of Conservative MPs had attended the recent March for Life, a yearly anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill. The email, which listed the Conservative MPs who attended the rally, accused them of “working to roll back women’s rights.”

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called it typical Liberal desperation.

“I’ve made it very, very clear. Canadians can have absolute confidence that a Conservative government after the election in October will not reopen this issue,” Howdy Doody said.

And there, in a nutshell, is the difference between Canada and the U.S. While Canadian politicians prefer to look at minefields from a distance, Americans politicians charge in with both feet.

Australians went to the polls this week, in an election that was labeled as “unlosable” for the opposition Labour Party. Didn’t quite turn out that way.

Incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Liberal National coalition (in Australia, in keeping with their down under vibe, the Liberal party is actually conservative) won a third term in office, defying all the polls for what even he called a “miracle” win. Climate change was a huge issue, with the Labour party running on a high-profile campaign of taking action on climate change, improving funding to services, and ending tax cuts for top earners. Every poll gave the win to Labour, but the voters thought otherwise, as yet another country rejected climate change fears and left-leaning politics.

Justin Trudeau …. are you watching?

And now, the New York Times corrections of the week:

• An article on Page 101 about sour foods misstates the nationality of the historian Herodotus; he was Greek, not Roman.

• The By the Book feature on May 5 transposed the names of a writer. She is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, not Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi.

RIP

The Grim Reaper has been taking it pretty easy so far this year, but the man in black kicked it into high gear this week.

The Louvre Pyramid in Paris, one of the most famous of I.M. Pei’s buildings.

Doris Day, 97, the wholesome, all-American actress and singer, famous for her virginal image and mild slap-and-tickle comedies like Pillow Talk. She was also a major recording artist back in the day … Herman Wouk, 103, author (The Caine MutinyThe Winds of WarWar and Remembrance), and Pulitzer Prize winner (1952) … I.M Pei, 102, one of the world’s most famous architects … Tim Conway, 85, beloved comic actor, a regular member of The Carol Burnett Show’s brilliant cast … Grumpy Cat, 7, one of the original Internet sensations.

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Stuff Still Happens IV, the Reckoning, week 19: The Greens are coming, the Greens are coming!

Don’t look now, folks, but the Green Party has quietly become a force in Canada.

In British Columbia, the Greens hold the balance of power in the minority NDP government. In the PEI election this year, Greens formed the official opposition, and briefly looked like they might win. And on Monday, they elected their second MP, when Paul Manly won a byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The seat was held by the NDP.

Manly was the Green Party’s candidate in 2015 in the same riding and finished fourth with 20 per cent of the vote.

The emergence of the Green Party as a force would be bad news for the mainstream parties. The last thing Justin Trudeau’s floundering Liberal party needs is a place for disaffected voters to park their vote. It’s also not encouraging that the Liberals finished a distant fourth in the polling, a spot usually reserved for the Greens or the last of the die-hard Communists. The rapidly-sinking NDP, under Jagmeet ‘the Unelectable’ Singh, don’t need another party on the left of the spectrum (the fact that the Greens stole the seat from the NDP must be sending off alarm bells in Dipperville). And it’s not good news for Andrew ‘Howdy Doody’ Sheer’s Conservatives, either. Byelections are often used by the electorate to express their disapproval of the governing party – that’s what happened, all right, but they didn’t choose the Conservatives.

It’s easy to put too much stock in byelections. There is no shortage of MPs or MLA who win a byelection, only to be defeated the next time out. But I have no doubt that there is plenty of discontent in the land. Trudeau is looking worse by the day, while Sheer has all the charisma of a damp sponge. And, say what you like about Canadian tolerance blah blah blah, there is no way Canadians will elect a prime minister in a turban (no offence to Sikhs). The Greens, at least in the foreseeable future, will never be more than a fringe party, but there may be just enough disaffected voters who cast their votes for a Green candidate to make a difference in October’s election.

Elsewhere, much of the world seems obsessed over trivialities. In last Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, a disposable coffee cup could briefly be seen sitting on a table at Winterfell, wherever that is. I long ago stopped watching Game of Thrones (after a season or two, I completely lost track of who was killing who and for what reason), but millions of people watch this show obsessively. How else to explain how a split-second shot of a Starbucks coffee cup could have been spotted? Or better yet, how did the produces not notice it?

Elsewhere in entertainment, a silly movie called Avengers: Endgame, the 1,427th superhero movie produced in the last five years, has taken in an astonishing $2 billion – and it’s three hours long. Superhero movies have completely taken over the multiplexes, so much so that the summer movie season for cranky old goats like me is a no go. I loathe superhero movies – so self-important, so loud, so uninvolving, so stupid. Judging from the millions who have packed theatres, I am in the minority here.

And finally this week, the ultimate triviality: the welfare numbers in Britain rose by one when a woman had a baby this week. That’s all I’m going to say about this. I’m so bored, I can barely finish this sen …

And now for something completely different – New York Times corrections.

I subscribe to the Times online, and some of my favourite reading is their list of corrections. The Times has an admirable desire to get things right, no matter how minor or seemingly bizarre. Here, for your reading enjoyment, are some actual corrections from the past week from the Times.

  • The combined print and e-book and hardcover best-seller lists last Sunday misspelled the surname of a character in Anne Hillerman’s novel “The Tale Teller.” She is Bernie Manuelito, not Mauelito.
  • The 36 Hours article on April 21, about Mendocino County, Calif., misstated the price of a bag of glass at the International Sea Glass Museum. It is $4.95, not $4.50.
  • An Opinion essay last Sunday on socialism misidentified the author of the papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. It was Pope Pius XI, not Pope Pius IX
  • An obituary on Monday about the former United States senator Richard G. Lugar referred incorrectly in part to his service in the Navy. He enlisted in 1956, not 1957, and he was commissioned an ensign, not a second lieutenant. It also misstated when he married Charlene Smeltzer. It was after he studied at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, not before. In addition, the obituary referred incorrectly to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, a program to help destroy surplus stocks of nuclear weapons. Congress passed it shortly after it was proposed by Mr. Lugar and Senator Sam Nunn in 1991; it did not take “almost a decade” to persuade Congress of the need for the program. The obituary also mistakenly included one item on a list of issues addressed by the Lugar Center, which Mr. Lugar established after leaving office. The center has not sponsored studies of education.
  • An article last Thursday about new underwear options for transgender people used incorrect pronouns when referring to the brand director Christian Dominique and the designer Sky Cubacub. They are nonbinary and use the pronouns “they,” not “he” or “she.”
  • An article on Tuesday about skin infections acquired while travelling misstated how leishmaniasis is spread. The disease is spread by sand flies, not sand fleas.
  • An article on Page 18 about imaginative vases misstates the name of a vase by Esque Studio. As a picture caption with the article notes correctly, it is Pushmepullme, not Pushmepulleme.

RIP

Peggy Lipton, 72, who became famous as the female member of the 1968-73 series The Mod Squad, about a group of hip young people who were forced to work undercover for the police. The tag line for the show was: “One white, one black, one blonde … the Mod Squad”. She was married to Quincy Jones, and their daughter is Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Angie Tribeca) … Jean Vanier, 90, Canadian humanitarian who dedicated his life to improving conditions for people on the margins and founded two worldwide organizations for those with developmental disabilities … Bert Cooper, 53, a U.S. boxer who challenged for the world title three times; in his career, he fought Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, and Michael Moorer … Harold Lederman, 79, well known boxing judge and analyst … Jim Fowler, 89, host of Wild Kingdom and frequent talk show guest.

Stuff Happens IV, The Reckoning, week 18: Jason Kenney goes to war

No one can say that Jason Kenney is easing into his new job as premier of Alberta.

After appointing his cabinet this week (one from Edmonton, as expected, most of the rest from Calgary, as expected), Kenney proclaimed legislation passed by the NDP government that allows the province to shut off fuel supplies to B,C., the so-called ‘turn off the taps’ legislation. (For those of you confused by this, government bills only become law when they are proclaimed. Go figure.) Kenney has taken dead aim at the B.C. government as the major opponents of the TransMountain pipeline, even though the whole process is in limbo right now until yet another round of consultation is done, and the Liberals in Ottawa make up their minds about the project.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the law is unconstitutional, which means that, yet again, courts will make the decision. Frankly, I don’t believe Kenney is churlish enough to ‘turn off the taps’ to B.C. Such a move would be potentially crippling to B.C., which gets 70% of its gas from Alberta. The NDP legislation was to make the point that it could be done; Kenney, by enacting the law, is saying he could do it at any moment.

It would be stupid, cruel and un-Canadian to make such a move. The ball in this game is clearly in Ottawa’s court. Although Horgan has said he will use every tool in the toolbox to block the pipeline, there is nothing for him to do until the feds make up their minds about the pipeline.

(On another matter, I watched Question Period on CTV on Sunday, where Evan Soloman interviewed the leader of the Green Party in B.C., Andrew Weaver, who holds the balance of power in BC. Weaver was wearing a ratty red and grey stripped sweater, over top of a rattier plaid shirt. He looked like he hadn’t washed his hair in a week. OK, we get it … you’re a Green Party guy. But would it hurt to wear a tie for a national TV appearance?)

Kenney certainly made his move with an eye towards gasoline prices in Vancouver and elsewhere in B.C., where a litre is going for about $1.70, highest in North America – and the summer driving season is fast approaching. Why so high? Well, it’s Vancouver, where everything and everyone is high.

Ha-ha. There are many reasons, which I won’t go into there because I don’t really understand them. Part of it is gouging by Big Oil, a chronic crime in this country that no government dares to address. Another big part is taxes: according to the finance ministry, provincial taxes for each litre of gasoline in the Vancouver region are 34.39 cents, comprising a 17-cent tax for the regional transportation agency TransLink, a 6.75-cent BC Transportation Financing Authority tax, a 1.75-cent provincial motor fuel tax and the 8.89-cent provincial carbon tax. I suspect that the no. 1 topic of conversation in B.C. is the price of gas, and by threatening to turn off the taps, Kenney is making the point that if you think $1.70 is awfully high, wait until there’s no gas for your car.

And now, only more trivial matters.

Female professional hockey players (yes, the exist) have long complained about the lack of respect (in terms of crowds and money) they get compared to the NHL. This week, the top women players in the game – names like … er … no one comes to mind – all sent identical tweets saying “we will not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

Wow. This is a bold move that will really upset their fan base (parents and boyfriends or girlfriends). The Canadian Women’s Hockey League won’t be impacted, however, because it has shut down due to lack of, well, everything.

I am confused by their strategy. Nobody watches women’s hockey. It’s not on TV, and the crowds arrive at the games in the same car. So, how does a withdrawal of service for a product that nobody wants going to help the situation? This falls under the category of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Remember Smart cars, those rinky-dink two seaters that found favour with the smart set? You don’t see many of them around anymore, do you? There’s a reason for that: last year, only 345 Smart cars sold in all of Canada, and only 1,276 in the U.S. So it wasn’t a great surprise to hear this week that the car’s maker, Mercedes, is pulling out of North America.

RIP

Red Kelly, 91, legendary Detroit Red Wing and Toronto Maple Leaf … Peter Mayhew, 74, and actor you’ve certainly seen but would not recognize – he played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies … John Singleton, 51, director of Boyz N the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious and others. He was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award as best director.