Category Archives: Politics

Frye on “the separation of church and state”

From The Double Vision, which aptly anticipates the increasingly intrusive religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism into politics:

In the course of time the movement begun by the Reformation did achieve one major victory: the gradual spread throughout the Western world of the principle of separation of church and state. Something of the genuine secular benefits of democracy have rubbed off on the religious groups, to the immense benefit of humanity, and depriving religion of all secular or temporal power is one of the most genuinely emancipating movements of our time. It seems to be a general rule that the more “orthodox” or “fundamentalist” a religious attitude is, the more strongly it resents this separation and the more consistently it lobbies for legislation giving its formulas secular authority. (CW 4, 174-5)

I’ve expanded an earlier post to provide some sense of how and why that is already happening here.

“The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada”

Marci McDonald has started a blog based upon the book she published last year, The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which is in turn based upon her earlier article in The Walrus, “Stephen Harper and the Theo-Cons.” The article is a concise review of the American-inspired and Alberta-based republican nationalism that most Canadians do not seem to know anything about. It will no doubt surprise many how deeply embedded this movement is in the Conservative party, and that it seems to be achieving increased access to the institutions of government. It has, at the very least, ready access to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Religion is of course a private matter. But when it begins to impinge upon the public sphere, particularly in government, then it must be scrutinized and made accountable.

Over the next little while we’ll be rolling out a number of passages from Frye in which he discusses the necessary subordination of religion to secular interests in a democracy.

A thorough-going review of McDonald’s book here.

An interview with McDonald on TVO’s The Agenda here.

Rupture (Reposted)


Bill Maher’s Armageddon weather forecast

It’s 6.30 and we’re still here. But then so probably is our pro-family values (i.e. anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion), pro-corporate and anti-NGO evangelical prime minister. But as long as we are all here and in it together, we should pay close attention to any overlap between public policy and the fundamentalist religious beliefs of Stephen Harper and those who advise him.

For example, the proposed “Office of Religious Freedom” doesn’t sound like it’s about “freedom” at all, but about imposing particular religious values upon our foreign affairs and commitments, where they have no place. Harper and his supporters in the evangelical community can believe to whatever degree they wish that Armageddon is coming and that Canada has a specific role to play. That’s their business. But they can’t make it a problem for the vast majority of Canadians who do not share it.

Update: Article 11 of the “Statement of Faith” of the Christian and Missionary Alliance based in Colorodo reads:

The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent(32) and will be personal, visible, and premillennial.(33) This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth which is an incentive to holy living and faithful service.(34)

Articles 10 and 11 of “The Statement of Faith” of the Canadian CMA, of which Harper is a member, read:

10. There shall be a bodily resurrection of the just and of the unjust; for the former, a resurrection unto life;22 for the latter, a resurrection unto judgment.23

11. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent and will be personal and visible.24 As the believer’s blessed hope, this vital truth is an incentive for holy living and sacrificial service toward the completion of Christ’s commission.25″

There appears to be a deep-seated premillennarian disposition in CMA theology which is not explicitly present in the Canadian branch of the church, but the shared theological base seems otherwise consistent. particularly with regard to the resurrection to “life” of the “just” and a resurrection to “judgment” of the “unjust.”

Furthermore, Marci McDonald’s reporting suggests that there are elements of a growing premillennarian faction in Canada, apparently encouraged by increasing American influence and the use by the PMO of American religious advisers. In any event, the shared doctrine that the second coming is “imminent, personal and visible” seems to indicate an exclusionary fundamentalism. That in turn appears to be consistent with openly proclaimed intolerance for secularly evolved priorities defined by generations of popular will and expressed by many decades of government initiatives and legislation. The hostility to women’s rights, gay rights, and rights in general has to be coming from somewhere, and its sources do not seem to be just a difference of political opinion.

We’ll be returning to the efforts pursued so far by the Conservatives to turn back these secular advances, as well as their continued efforts to do so on other fronts: such as the law and order bill promised within the next 100 days that will reportedly compel Internet Service Providers to provide the police with increased power to conduct internet surveillance of citizens without warrants.

Quote of the Day 2

Further to Bob’s earlier Frye quote, here’s Rick Salutin in today’s Toronto Star:

We now live in a permanent state you could call the tyranny of the minority. You could also call it the tragedy of the majority. We’ll have had 10 years of a government desired by 40 per cent of the voters, while 60 per cent, who largely agree on what they’d like, will get zero representation. Everyone played by the rules of the game, but it’s a stretch to call that game democracy.

The Conservative “Majority” In Perspective

Besides the fact that this majority government represents a minority of the electorate, it is also an anomaly of a split vote on the left, most especially in the Greater Toronto Area. This is another way of confirming that most voters were looking for a way not to vote for the Conservatives.

Don’t let lazy reporting or even lazier punditry obscure the facts: a large majority of Canadians — just over 60% — voted to the left of the Harper Conservatives.

Thomas Walkom explains:

For Canadians unnerved about a Stephen Harper majority government, two facts about Monday’s election stand out.

The first is that virtually all of the Conservative gains occurred in and around Toronto. Of the 24 new seats Harper won across Canada, 18 came from the Greater Toronto Area — including nine from Toronto itself.

Or, to put it another way, Harper owes his majority to the voters of the GTA. His gains elsewhere were minimal. In fact, the Conservatives lost seats in both Quebec and British Columbia.

The second notable fact is that most of these GTA gains resulted from vote splitting between Liberals and New Democrats — vote splitting that, ironically, was fuelled by a last minute surge of support toward Jack Layton’s NDP.

In Toronto’s Don Valley West, for instance, the NDP won 1,182 more votes than it had in 2008 — just enough to deny victory to Liberal incumbent Rob Oliphant.

This NDP vote increase occurred even though the party’s candidate, Nicole Yovanoff, spent virtually no time in the riding, instead flying off to Kenora to manage another New Democrat’s campaign.

Conservative gains resulting from vote-splitting also occurred in suburban ridings outside Toronto like Bramalea-Gore-Malton that, until Monday, had been Liberal strongholds.

All of which is to say that pressure will be redoubled on both Liberals and New Democrats to unite the so-called left.

As to that last point, yes, it may be time. The left must unite so that it can do what most Canadians want them to do, and that is to govern.

Vote Suppression

An earlier effort to suppress the student vote occurred at the University of Guelph two weeks ago. It now appears the region from Guelph to Kitchener in Ontario was specifically targeted for vote suppression right up to election day.

From yesterday’s National Post:

OTTAWA — Elections Canada is warning voters to be wary of any telephone calls suggesting a change in the location of their polling station.

The federal agency has received reports from ridings across Canada of people calling voters to give false information about polling locations or other changes in voting polls.

“It’s happened in some isolated pockets across the country,” said Elections Canada spokeswoman Diane Benson. “We’re concerned about it. We’re concerned if electors are being given false information.

“We do not communicate with electors by telephone,” she added.

The bogus calls have been made to voters in Guelph, Ont., as well as in Manitoba and B.C., according to media reports.

Frank Valeriote, the Liberal candidate for Guelph, took to Twitter to warn voters in his riding about the bogus calls.

“Guelph voters receiving calls indicating their polling station has changed,” he wrote. “Disregard these calls. It’s a lie to suppress the vote.”

Benson said voters should check their voter information card and can verify their polling station using their postal code at

Voters can also call their returning office.

Similar incidents from other parts of the country are being reported by the CBC, along with some telling variations. An excerpt:

A different type of voting problem was experienced by several Montreal voters.

When Robin Warren showed up to vote on Monday, she said her name had been crossed off the voter list.

She had to sign an affidavit swearing she had not voted already.

While Warren was at the polling station, she said another woman who lives in the same apartment complex had an identical problem.

“On my way back home after we dealt with all this I ran into another group of ladies outside and all their names were crossed off the list, and they had to go through the same thing of signing affidavits. There’s something not right here. There’s too many people in one building,” Warren said.

All of these are familiar Republican tactics over the past decade.

Who is most likely responsible for this? Liberals, New Democrats, or Conservatives? Frank Valeriote is the Liberal incumbent in a Liberal stronghold, and the youth vote trends strongly to the New Democrats. That leaves the Conservatives, who we know tried to shut down the University of Guelph special ballot — and who, of course, also happen to employ Republican consulting firms.

How many incidents like these do we not know about?  Will Elections Canada be allowed to launch a full investigation? Will those responsible be held accountable?

For the record, it does not matter whether or not these tactics can be regarded to have succeeded on any scale large or small. It only matters that they occurred at all. This needs to be traced to the source.

The Will of the People

Frye in The Great Code:

For us democracy, as a source of loyalty, does not mean only the machinery of elections or a greater tolerance of religion and art or a greater relaxation of leisure, privacy, or freedom of movement, but what all these things point to: the sense of an individuality that grows out of society but is infinitely more than a social function. (CW 19, 119)

It is a truism that the results of any election must be respected.

But the fact that 60% of the electorate voted against a government that seeks to polarize the country as a deliberate political strategy, and routinely demonizes the opposition through co-ordinated smear campaigns, says a lot about where we are today. The solid majority of voters who cast ballots against this government may have to respect the results, but they are not required to pretend those results are fully representative of the will of the people. The built-in flaw of our first-past-the-post system is that minority governments more comprehensively represent the majority, while majority governments almost invariably represent a minority. We accept the results, but we understand their limitations and push back against them by way of our constitutional guarantees of free speech and free assembly.

Given their past behavior, the Conservatives will almost certainly press a legislative agenda that will offend the majority that made a particular point to vote against them. It is especially important to remember therefore that democracy is not just about what happens on election day. It is an everyday process. It is a full-time commitment. This government, like all governments, needs to be monitored and the concerns of the majority of citizens who voted against it must be articulated so that they will not be ignored. The next election when it comes ought to be an extension of what we are willing to do from this point on to protect our interests and to support our democratic traditions and institutions. Stephen Harper has tellingly made reference in the past to “real Canadians,” an unacceptable formulation. All Canadians are real Canadians, even if they do not vote for the Conservatives and will continue to vote against them at every opportunity.

It’s worth repeating: government is not our master but our servant. Those who govern may not always remember that, which means that we can never allow them to forget it.

Last Poll

Here’s where we are today, based upon an aggregate of the latest polls:

Almost 63% of Canadians are set to vote against the Conservatives. Here’s hoping we get a parliament representative of that.

Vote. If you are not registered, you can still go to your local polling station and vote if you produce ID and a piece of mail with your address on it.

Election Day: Orange Crush?

Frye in his “Speech at the New Canadian Embassy” in Washington, DC:

Then again, Canada has had, for the last fifty years, a Socialist (or more accurately Social Democrat) party which is normally supported by twenty-five to thirty per cent of the electorate, and has been widely respected, through most of its history, for its devotion to principle. Nothing or proportional size or influence has emerged in the United States. When the CCF, the first form of this party, was founded in the 1930s, its most obvious feature went largely unnoticed. That feature was that it was following a British rather than American tendency, trying to assimilate the Canadian political structure to the British Conservative-Labour pattern. The present New Democratic Party, however, never seems to get beyond a certain percentage of support, not enough to come to federal power. Principles make voters nervous, and yet any departure from them towards expediency makes them suspicious. (CW 12, 643-4)

There seems to have been an unprecedented reversion to those principles in this election, leaving the NPD at the very least poised to form the Official Opposition.

It’s become apparent in the last week that there has been a significant shift from the centre left to the hard left among a significant number of Canadians as the NDP goes into election day with support as high as 35% nationally. At the same time, there’s been an equally unprecedented collapse for the Liberals, who have fallen to 20% nationally as a result of years of vicious and unrelenting smear campaigns against its leadership. The biggest and most surprising of these unexpected developments is the NDP lead in Quebec, where it has traditionally only been a marginal presence. This makes sense: if Quebecois voters are looking for an alternative to the Bloc and the Liberals are no longer an option, that leaves the NDP, whose policies are a good fit for the hard line support of social programs in that province.

Just about everything about the Conservatives is disdainful — inheriting a massive budget surplus from the Liberals, which they quickly squandered with record deficits and compounded by commitments to still more corporate tax reductions, as well as tens of billions of dollars earmarked for jet fighters we don’t need, and for the construction of jails despite our diminishing crime rate. And that does not take into account Conservative corruption at all levels, including two findings of contempt of parliament, and the criminality that surrounds the PMO, which includes the possibility of jail time for two Conservative Senators and two more senior Conservative operatives for breaking federal election law.

Here’s your Conservative Party legacy, 2011: criminal corruption, massive debt, contempt, jets, jails.

However, if the vote on the left is split in enough closely-contested ridings, the Conservatives might still eke out enough votes to sneak past with a marginal majority. Even in this unfortunate event, more than 60% of the population will have voted against Harper and everything he stands for. Sadly, our first past the post system may accomplish that for him. It could conceivably occur even if Harper goes into this election with less support than he had in the last one.

In other words, this is still something of a crap shoot. It may be we have never seen an election so volatile or an electorate so clearly scrambling to find the best means to deny Harper his majority.

We already know what he’s got in store for us if he gets it.

So our best hope is what some are calling the “Orange Crush”: the NDP breaking decisively into opposition status and confronting a vulnerable Conservative minority whose days are numbered. That could effectively end Harper’s career: the Big Brother and Maximum Leader portion of it anyway.

So let’s hope for that Orange Crush breakthrough, and the right distribution of votes to break for the left where it is most needed.

A sign a desperation: Harper yesterday pleaded with Liberals to vote Conservative to stop the NDP juggernaut. Given the ugly things he’s said about Liberals, calling them, among other things, “sheeple” and “Lieberals” over the years, not to mention the open contempt he displays for liberal principles at all times, that may not happen to any significant extent. The polling shows that a majority of Liberals fear a Harper majority, for obvious reasons. It may be that enough of them will not find it in themselves to cast a Conservative vote.

But we’ll see. The decisive battleground will likely be Ontario. And the Conservatives themselves seem not to believe, based upon their own internal polling, that they can pick up the seats they need there to offset expected losses in Quebec and British Columbia.

However it turns out, it will be an historic day: either a day in which the majority of Canadians prevail with a massive shift in support for the NDP, or a day they do not and the Conservatives win a slim majority with which they can impose an agenda most Canadians do not support.

So let’s keep that in mind as we set out to vote today while encouraging everyone around us to do the same.