Entries from July 2006 ↓

In the crosshairs

Apparently I have been targeted by the Arab community in Canada for electoral defeat. This news was given to me yesterday by an Ottawa reporter following up on a media release I have yet to read.

As I was told, the community is (of course) outraged at the Harper government for its pro-Israeli stance and (also, of course) hopping mad at me for the comments I made regarding dual citizenship and the exodus from Lebanon. My understanding is that ridings where Tories won with a relatively small margin, and which have a reasonable-sized Arab community, are going to be battlegrounds. Halton could be ground zero.

So, the reporter asked, what do you have to say about that?

And I said, basically, they can go to hell. That applies to any group which threatens to vote against me in the hope that I will say something different in order to win their support. I mean, what are they thinking? Do I value being an MP more than I value doing what’s right? Am I afraid of having my ass tossed out of my lovely green chair in the House of Commons because one community or another ganged up and tipped the vote? Would a threat make me change my mind?

Sure, I campaigned the hardest in my political life to win this seat. I spend eight months at it, full-time. Tossed my job. Tossed my income. Sold my dream home so I could move a few miles away, into the riding. Neglected and destroyed some important business interests. Walked and walked and walked.

After 13 years of Liberals in a part of the country that used to be 100% Tory, I got it back. But despite all my efforts and 300 volunteers and maxed-out spending, we won this by just a couple of thousand votes. It seems the voters here had some faith yet to gain in this party, this candidate and this leader. They put us all on a short leash. Wise people.

So, after all that work, well publicized as it was, perhaps there is a feeling that Garth Turner would do anything to keep what he won. And if there is, then there are a lot of delusional folks out there. Instead of issuing threats, they’d be better off going and signing up with the Halton Liberals, because that is a cause truly in need of help.

Since getting this job I have tried each day to make the right choice for the people who elected me, and to speak the truth as I saw it. Obviously that decision came with a price. I paid it. Carried on. Getting elected is not a path to re-election, and any politician who wakes up every morning figuring out how to score more votes deserves to wake up scared. The people will always make the right choice, even when a bunch of them have traded in free will for a mob mentality.

So, go ahead and make me a target. Just save a little of the bull’s eye for the last guy to say he’d do the same. Does anyone find it ironic that Israel’s biggest ally, the Righteous Right, and its biggest foe, the Arab community, both have it in for me?

It’s quite amazing how much trouble I get into.

Consequences


Rode my bike down the Guelph Line this afternoon, cut east through the farms and country acreages on Derry Road, along the majestic outcropping of limestone that defines this piece of the Niagara Escarpment, then past the blue sign that says “Welcome to Milton.”

A few hundred yards on, the treeline by the road disappears, as do the houses, the barns, the horses and the split rail fences. I gear down to see maybe seventy-five or a hundred acres of farmland stripped of topsoil, edged with low black and orange plastic fencing. It’s Sunday, so the site is silent. Lined up in the middle of it are about forty pieces of orange and yellow equipment, giant earthmovers, bulldozers, scrapers and tamping wheels. They sit amid a forest of orange stakes jutting out of little mounds of fertile dirt left by the machines. In the front, on eight-by-eight posts, is a giant billboard with a picture of an infant on it. “Traditions,” says that headline. Buy a new home here and start a tradition that will last generations.

I stop the bike, stare a while at the line of equipment, and wonder just what this field will look like in a few generations. Hell, it’s hard to imagine what it will be in nine months – covered with houses, crawling with cars and full of people trying to grow spring flowers in dirt they just bought at Canadian Tire.

As I have told you many times, the defining feature of Halton is houses. They grow like weeds. People pay a lot to move here on the edge of the Toronto metropolis. It is expensive, busy, desirable, trendy and under pressure. Local government has opened the door to development, in part because it means more revenue from property taxes and a larger share of the federal gas tax. The school boards, both of them, are spending vast sums on new buildings and platoons of portables for the ones they just built. Roads cannot be widened fast enough. The 401 is a mess. Toronto smog days now extend all the way out to Milton, Oakville and Burlington.

I write about this because there will, of course, be consequences. Already are. Not just with real estate values, traffic patterns and unmet demand for community services. Not just the growing number of disaffected youth looking for something cool to do in a hick town. Not just the lack of affordable housing. Not the paucity of urban transit. Not just the social stuff.

Instead, this field stripped to its subsoil nakedness in the blistering late July sun is a symbol of something far more serious than those human problems which more taxes can solve. This is a rape of the land. There are other consequences.

Spoke with Peter, my farmer neighbour a day or two ago. He farms pieces of land all over the place now, from up in Georgetown to down close to Burlington. No choice, since to survive you need an economy of scale, and that’s the way land is now in this region. Small farms are disappearing for many reasons and virtually no young people are getting into the business. The average farmer is now 62 years old. In fifteen years, well, do the math.

Peter shakes his head, says no country without a stable food supply can survive. Talks about the problems here, in Saskatchewan, in Quebec. He combines with a machine that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is worn out long before it’s paid for. With commodity prices as they are, no farm can survive without subsidies. What’s the point?

This summer it has been 30 degrees or close to it almost every day where I live. Tomorrow the humidex is forecast to be 45. I read that Canada has never been warmer. The States, too. Yesterday came word of a study that showed the amount of sunshine hitting the earth is decreasing measurably, and yet we still get hotter – thanks to all the crap we have thrown into the atmosphere.

There are now restrictions on the amount of water people can put on their lawns. There are heat emergencies declared just about every week in the city. People with breathing problems are told to stay inside. Police are breaking into parked cars to free pets dying of heat exhaustion. The polar ice cap is melting and the sea is rising.

And I’m standing in front of 40 pieces of heavy equipment too hot to touch with an ungloved finger in a field denuded of vegetation where every molecule of moisture is being fried.

I hear that in October the Conservative government will be unveiling as new green plan – air protection, water protection, a made-in-Canada Kyoto strategy – and I can hardly wait. I’m not alone, watching a skinny coyote run across the gouged, empty dirt, looking for shade.

Our present patterns of behaviour cannot reasonably continue. Here in sprawl country the causes and the effects are obvious. It will take more than federal statues to change them. I would welcome a discussion on this issue as vigorous and passionate as the one we have been having over a strip of middle East land that is already a desert.

Here’s your torch

I hope this is one of the last postings I will make on the issue of passports, dual citizenship, Canadians of convenience and how much you and I as taxpayers should fork out to rescue people who do not live here. It is with happy hands that I am passing on the torch to others.

For example, the big guy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now taking the thing over. Here’s what he said last week: “The government has taken the view on this particular occasion that, given the circumstances, given how suddenly it came upon us, that we would spare no expense to protect and to secure the safety of any Canadians who wanted to come to Canada,’ Mr. Harper told reporters. ’I will tell you that we will review this. We will review lessons learned in this and we will make an assessment for future: what we believe we can credibly do and what we cannot credibly do. But, in this case, our objective was to get as many people who wanted, out as quickly as possible and, obviously, to give precedence to residents, but we didn’t restrict it to residents.”

Good. Canada as global Boy Scout must be reviewed. Go rescue Canadians who have walked into a firefight or in the way of a volcano, but let’s hold the line at hiring ships to evacuate locals from the whole countryside who may once have lived in Sudbury.

And, while we’re at it, let’s review what we will do for free. After all (as I said earlier), if you get lost in the woods in the Rockies, expect to pay big bucks to have the SAR boys haul your butt out of there. So why are we rescuing non-residents half way around the world and bringing them here for nothing? In the States rescuees have to sign a promissory note. The amount billed may be nominal, but the principle is large. It’s called fair and equal treatment of all people receiving a benefit. It’s also a matter of taxpayer respect.

And then there is Kevin Sorenson. He’s the Conservative MP from Crowfoot, Alberta (would you believe the guy got 80.2% of the vote in the last election??), who’s chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs committee. Good on Kev, because he’s called his committee together for Tuesday to chew a while on this whole thing.

Kevin Sorenson “The crisis in the Middle East has raised many questions in the minds of Canadians,” says Kevin in a media release. “ How can there be 40,000 Canadian citizens in Lebanon? How many Canadians were in Lebanon as tourists? Do other nations have similar numbers of citizens in Lebanon? What could the Canadian government have done earlier, if anything, in the evacuation process to ensure it went faster and easier? When did we first learn that so many of our citizens requested to be evacuated? “

Hey, man, good questions! We have been asking them here now for a couple of weeks and I am delighted that machinery of government is now in gear. Damn quick, too, I might add.

So I will be seeing Kevin this week at our national caucus. The big guy, too.

More importantly, I saw a whole mess of voters when I was in the Home Hardware (paint) and the Home Depot (flooring) this afternoon. The Canadians-of-convenience issue was on the lips of every one of them, unprompted. And the opinion was unanimous. We was had.

So, here’s your torch.