Do not Pass Go

Unlike a very large number of its citizens who have already made up their mind, successive Canadian government have been spinning in the wind with the issues around recreational drug use.
Those of us who are old enough remember attended the Le Dain Commission public hearings on the non-Medical use of Drugs in the late 60’s, early70’s. About 12,000 people attended and participated in these hearings which were held across Canada. A number or prominent individuals gave testimony including John Lennon. It was a big deal.
Go Directly to Jail
In June 1970 the Commission delivered its interim report, calling for the decriminalization of all drugs. Going far beyond suggesting decriminalizing marijuana, commission chair Gerald LeDain recommended a maximum fine of $100 for possession of any drug, including "hard drugs" like cocaine and heroin. Although the Commission report was widely praised for its thoroughness and thoughtfulness, as might be expected, its conclusions were largely ignored by the federal government.
Over the years, as other countries relaxed their attitudes toward recreational drug use, particularly pot, Canada typically couldn’t make up its mind. Tolerance varied depending on where you lived. For a while, particularly in B.C. and Quebec, people smoked weed openly in some bars. A practice you most likely wouldn’t have wanted to try in Saskatchewan.
 In 2005 Cannabis surpassed wheat as Canada's most lucrative agricultural crop. Canada's  cannabis market is estimated to be worth $8.5 billion annually, approximately three times the size of Canada's largest legal crop. In British Columbia alone the growing and selling of marijuana it is estimated to be worth $6 billion a year.
Several polls since 2003 have found that a majority of Canadians agreed with the statement, "The use of marijuana should be legalized", the latest being the 2009 Angus Reid poll, with 53% for legalization   
The Green Party of Canada supports the legalization of cannabis. The Liberals have several times toyed with the idea of decriminalizing the drug.
The New Democrats previously supported the legalization of the cannabis until   Jack Layton reversed his position on the issue in 2009. Before that, Layton encouraged people to “join the party” and support the NDP because he believed they should be allowed to smoke marijuana in the comfort of their own homes or in cafes without being considered criminals.
In the end no one was brave enough to make the move. The right wing and the RCMP would raise a fuss, no question, there is a lot of job security in fighting pot use.
These days, even in the face of the American anti drug crusade, California is moving to legalize possession of marijuana for personal use.
In Canada our government under the direction of Stephen Harper is attempting once again, to move his crowd, and us, off in another completely different direction.  Harper wants to toughen up punishment for drug use. Harper wants anyone who is found growing a more than five pot plants in the backyard to go directly to jail. This is all part of Harper’s tough on crime legislation but as usual, his legislation is much too far reaching. Parts of the bill make sense but to say that in the government’s view growing six plants is a serious drug crime is sheer nonsense.
 Going to jail for seven to ten months for growing six plants in the back garden or under a grow light in the basement makes no sense at all.
I simple can’t understand why these guys don’t understand that the real problem here is not the substance but the prohibition of the substance. 


I wonder Where They Learned This Stuff

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with Stevie Harper
I note in the Globe & Mail that the Canadian Government is “deeply concerned” by a report that Ethiopia is using aid money to routinely reward supporters and to punish those who fail to support it.
 A Human Rights Watch investigation came to the conclusion that Ethiopia is abusing the foreign aid it receives. Farmers who fail to support the ruling party are denied access to fertilizer, seeds, loans and other agricultural aid.
It is also reported that the government is using the foreign aid program to purge the civil service of anyone with an independent political view.
I don’t really understand why any Canadian is shocked by all this. It sounds like the way Harper delivered the infrastructure money earlier this year. Conservative ridings got well in excess of what ridings who voted for other parties got.
And here in Saskatchewan I know plenty of smart and effective civil servants who lost their jobs when Brad Wall’s right wingers took over from the NDP just because the new governments wanted to put their own people into power, to pay off political favours and to get rid of anyone who might have a connection to the previous political party no matter how well they did their jobs.
Canadians never seem to be put off by these practices. It sounds like old style Canadian politics. And we put up with it.  I do understand that the practice is repugnant but I don’t know why the Conservative government would be pissed about it. The practice is directly from Harper's own rule book.

Sometimes You Have to Wonder

I have to say that the Canadian electorate, when it comes to accessing political systems, parties and leaders are one of the most screwed up groups of people in the world.
First let me say that our great fear of change allows us to be lead around by the nose by politicians who work their butts off seeking that magic 40% or so voter support. Reach that number and a majority government is almost guaranteed. 
Doesn’t that sound really dumb?
Yet, try to talk about Proportional Representation and most Canadian’s eyes glaze over. This seemingly bright nation can’t seem to figure it out. Our first past the post system is screwing us.
I was reading the results of a very recent Angus Reid poll yesterday and I confess that I came away shaking my head.
If you look at Canadian’s voting intention 34% would vote for the Harper Conservatives, 26% would support the Liberals lead by Michael Ignatieff and 18% would support the NDP.
Ok, I guess we could easily come to the conclusion that Canadians like Harper and his bunch.  
Not so fast though.  Canadian were asked to select up to six words or expressions from a list, that best described the party leaders.
  • When it came to Stephen Harper the five words chosen most often were secretive, arrogant, dishonest, out of touch and uncaring. Only 2% thought he was exciting.
  • The NDP’s Jack Layton in contrast was described as intelligent, down to earth, honest, compassionate and open.
What do you think? A kind of collective schizophrenia? Go figure.
Surprisingly, the divisive debate over the long gun registry, supported by about two thirds of Canadians seems to have done little to boost support for the Liberals nor the NDP nor did it hurt Harper.
Encouragingly, the Green Party moved into double digits nationally for the first time at 11%. Interestingly in British Columbia the Greens very nearly surpassed the Liberals. Higher than the Bloc nationally but our voting system will guarantee a large number of Bloc seats and the Greens will continue to struggle to elect anyone.  
In Saskatchewan where citizens seem to like getting screwed over, support is still high for Harper and his bunch of loyal, but not too bright foot soldiers.
Very few people think we will or should have an election in the fall so in the meantime Harper and his gang will carry on dismantling our country, the Liberals will continue to gaze at their belly buttons and wonder how they ever were so dumb to pick Iggy over Bob Rae, Gilles Duceppe, the avowed separatist and perhaps the best politician of the lot, will continue to build up is Canadian Federal Government pension and Jack Layton will dream about being Prime Minister and prepare for his last election as leader.

Saskatchewan Potash Soap Opera Continues

Little Stevie must be in a bit of a quandary over the Saskatchewan position on the proposed takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan by the Australian firm BHP Billiton. The Saskatchewan government has been acting a bit like a banana republic in their in backroom talks with BHP trying to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the company but their demand of $1 billion dollars and hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure money, was a bit rich. These guys are very large global players and one suspects that Brad's small town negotiators were much of a match. This isn't much like making a deal in Swift Current.  Billiton walked away from the table. 
Now Harper and his gang of thugs in Ottawa (well mostly Harper really) have to decide if they will continue with their policy of openness to foreign investment or, if they will ignore their policy in favour of supporting what Brad Wall calls his “special relationship” with this Conservative government.
Now truth be told, this issue of foreign ownership when it comes to Potash is mostly bullshit anyway. As Wall well knows, that horse left the barn years ago.
  • The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has it’s head office in Chicago.
  • Mosiac  the other major Saskatchewan potash player has their head office in Plymouth Minnesota.

Why pretend that these are Saskatchewan companies anyway? A bit of honesty would be refreshing here.
Right now Ralph Goodale, Saskatchewan’s only Liberal MP is getting great mileage out of the events saying that  if Harper doesn’t act on the Saskatchewan request and reject the BHP effort  they “...do so at great peril” ,also noting that if the government goes along with Wall’s request it puts Harper’s investment strategy into a tailspin.
The great herd of Saskatchewan Conservative Members of Parliament are not surprisingly, very  quiet about it all. But, no one ever expected for MPs like Tom Lukiwski  to speak out for his constituents before he was absolutely certain which way the wind was going to blow.
Historically Harper never really gave a damn about Saskatchewan anyway. We remember the broken promises on transfer payments. He never saw a problem with welshing on that promise and nor did his lackey Saskatchewan MPs.
It will be interesting to see what happens.