Justin Trudeau’s “New Deal” for Cities

Bret Edwards

Justin Trudeau speaks to municipal leaders in June 2015. Liberal.ca

Justin Trudeau speaks to municipal leaders in June 2015. Liberal.ca

Cities played a key role in Canada’s recent federal election. New seats were available in many urban and suburban areas of the country after the House of Commons expanded to reflect recent population shifts and increases. Political parties also devoted large chunks of their platforms to cities in an effort to woo these voters. In some cases, their maneuverings began even before the campaign. In June, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau spoke at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference, promising a “New Deal” for cities and communities. Declaring that municipalities “still don’t have the resources they need to deliver the services that citizens expect”, Trudeau acknowledged that the federal government should be “held to its responsibilities, financial and otherwise” at the municipal level. During the election, he doubled down on this commitment by vowing to run budget deficits in his first three years and invest $125 billion over ten years in building and upgrading urban infrastructure.

In the wake of the Liberal victory, public attention has quickly returned to Trudeau’s New Deal program. “How will you help Toronto, Mr. Trudeau?”, asked Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail days after the election. In Calgary, the Herald ran a similar piece called “What a Liberal government means for Calgary”. And in the Toronto Star, Royson James argued that by making urban issues such a large part of his campaign, Trudeau has now put himself in a position where he would neglect cities at his own peril. “Cities…were good to Trudeau this election,” he wrote. “They’ll be expecting the Liberals to reciprocate the love.”

Reading these and other recent stories, one gets a sense from their language and tone that many Canadians see the federal government as a natural partner for cities that should be counted on to reliably support municipal needs over time. But historically this has not been true. Continue reading

History in the Making: Witnessing South Africa’s #FeesMustFall Campaign

By Susanne M. Klausen

A Cape Town protester holds up a sign evoking 1976 Soweto Uprising. (Imraan Christian)

A Cape Town protester holds up a sign evoking 1976 Soweto Uprising. (Imraan Christian)

It’s been an exciting and inspiring week in South Africa watching the student movement #FeesMustFall in action. (The name builds on the recent successful #rhodesmustfall campaign that resulted in the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town, or the UCT). The students have placed the demand for free, quality education front and center on the public agenda here.

It all started at Wits University last week and rapidly escalated. On Wednesday, October 21, I was working in the national library when I heard the stun grenades go off at parliament, followed by screaming. By the time I got there the students, who had broken past police and gained access to parliament grounds in order to disrupt the speech by the finance minister, had been dispersed. Dispersed but certainly not defeated. At the UCT the faculty and campus workers (who are facing impending outsourcing), led by the students, regrouped and, among other things, marched to the downtown police station demanding the release of the arrested students. The police actually had the nerve to charge six of the students with Treason, i.e., the fact they climbed the fence and got to the front of parliament was called an attempt to overthrow the government. They’ve been widely mocked and criticized for this so surely the charges will be dropped.

Across the country, at most if not every single university, students have blocked entrances and exits to campuses, occupied buildings, etc., resulting in campus shutdowns. Continue reading

Chilean Refugees: Lessons of Past and Present

By Francis Peddie

Image from the North American Congress on Latin America Archive of Latin Americana at the New School for Social Research

Image from the North American Congress on Latin America Archive of Latin Americana at the New School for Social Research

The image of a dead child on a beach has brought international attention to a long-simmering crisis. The photos of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body has focused the media on the humanitarian catastrophe that is Syria. Broader awareness of the Syrian refugee situation has provoked response among European and North American citizens, with many voices calling for admission of more asylum seekers, and others opposed for reasons of security or cost. Demonstrations and lobbying have obliged government leaders and opposition politicians to define their positions and hopefully take action to open the doors to refugees —or keep them closed.

The Syrian crisis, through the tragedy of the Kurdi family, has unexpectedly become an election issue. Since the Kurdi photos, political leaders have been addressing the issue and attempting to define their positions. Two examples are Stephen Harper’s defense of Canadian refugee policy and quotas as measures protecting the security of Canadian citizens, while Justin Trudeau referenced past examples of rescue efforts, such as the airlift of Asian Ugandans carried out by his father’s government in the early 1970s. These two positions reveal the tension that has traditionally existed regarding refugees: the fear of harm to society versus the imperative to provide shelter to the vulnerable. Continue reading

Soldier-Candidates and the 1917 Wartime Election

By Matthew Barrett, Queen’s University

Mowat (1)At a 1923 meeting of the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA) in Ottawa, General William Antrobus Griesbach, former Member of Parliament for Edmonton West and Senator for Alberta, remarked on the expected role of the ex-soldier in Canadian political life. “I had an idea at one time,” he explained, “that after the war over half of the Canadian parliament would be men who had served in the war. I had an idea it would hardly be possible for a man to be elected to parliament who had not served his country in the war on active service.” To his disappointment, at the time of this speech, only a handful of sitting MPs had fought in the Great War. Although he cautioned against organized political action by veterans’ groups, Griesbach argued, “I say that the ex-service men should be active in politics, active on all sides.”[1]

Nearly a century later, the number of elected representatives with military experience is small; in the 41st Parliament, 13 of 308 members in the House of Commons. Canadian military personnel and veterans’ lack of success in electoral politics suggests that a military career makes for an uneasy transition into political candidacy.[2] The current federal election campaign does demonstrate, however, that veterans’ issues can emerge as key policy issues. Continue reading

From Tragic Little Boys to Unwanted Young Men

By Veronica Strong-Boag

Canadians are easily sentimental about babies and toddlers. Look at the ready adoption of global infants or September 2015’s outpouring of grief for the three-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi. Once victims of poverty, exploitation, and conflict reach adolescence and beyond, however, sympathy frequently evaporates.

Refugees are a case in point and gender consorts with age to matter. Girls and women suffer recurring abuse and stigmatization (Dauvergne, Angeles & Huang) but boys and men have a special place in the hierarchy of the demonized. Males beyond childhood are only too readily branded rapists, drug-dealers and addicts, thieves, lay-abouts, and, increasingly, terrorists. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that male teenagers and twenty somethings are somehow less worthy. The image of one drowned little boy cannot redeem his elder brothers. Continue reading

‘Tomorrow: Sunny': The Rise and Fall of Solar Heating in 1970s Canada, part 2

By Henry (Hank) Trim

In this installment of my four part series on solar energy in Canada, I examine how small numbers of environmentalists introduced solar technology to North Americans and successfully championed it as the centerpiece of the first sustainable development strategies. (Click here to read part one)

Solar energy has a long history. The first efforts to use solar energy occurred in 19th century France where Augustin Monchot experimented with a solar steam engine. In the early 20th century, American engineer and inventor Frank Schulman built a series of “sun engines.” His experiments culminated in a solar thermal power plant used for irrigation in Maadi, Egypt in 1913. Unfortunately for Schulman, the First World War, improvements in the internal combustion engine, and falling oil prices largely ended interest in solar power.

NASA’s space program rekindled interest in solar energy in the 1950s. Continue reading

Facing Down R.B. Bennett

By Karen Bridget Murray

Richard B. Bennett accepts a gift from Indigenous children (1932). Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3362410

Richard B. Bennett accepts a gift from Indigenous children (1932). Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3362410

A growing chorus is calling for a statue to honour R. B. Bennett on Parliament Hill. An eight-foot high sculpture has already been made and reportedly held in storage in Ottawa. It has been suggested Bennett be placed facing east, towards his childhood home of New Brunswick. The renewed interest in Bennett’s place in Canadian history reached a crescendo just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was winding down its important work. This opportune moment invites us to ponder the 11th prime minister’s role in the “national crime” that was the residential school system.[1]  Bennett’s response to reports of the mass flogging of children at a residential school in Nova Scotia is a good place to start. Continue reading

One Monument Too Many: Why R.B. Bennett Doesn’t Deserve a Spot on Parliament Hill

By: Sonya Roy and Steve Hewitt

bennettwIn recent years, non-experts, with the Harper government leading the way, have advocated and pushed for a conservative rewriting of Canadian history in an effort to find “heroes”[1]. This “great man” rewriting of Canadian history focuses on White, middle-class politicians and businessmen, militarism, and monarchism and leaves out the experiences of ordinary people and related subjects such as the labour movement, social justice struggles, immigration, feminism and colonization. A perfect example of this trend is the 20 August piece in the Globe and Mail “Let’s give R.B. Bennett his due” which portrays Bennett through the lenses of “happy history” as some sort of benevolent and prescient Canadian “Daddy” Warbucks. In making this case, the authors, a collection of journalists, an ex-politician, and a former civil servant, fail to engage in any way with considerably less savoury aspects of his time in office that might help to explain why he does not have a monument on Parliament Hill and why he should not have one in the future. Continue reading

Compassion or Exclusion: An Election Issue?

(this op-ed was originally published in The Record)

By Marlene Epp

Za'atri refugee camp in Jordan, 2014. Home to 83,000 Syrian refugees. Wikimedia Commons.

Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, 2014. Home to 83,000 Syrian refugees. Wikimedia Commons.

Right now, it would be judicious of the Conservative government to relax its tight restrictions on refugee sponsorship and annual quotas in order to gain favour during an election campaign. But what is really needed is an election campaign that puts forward an overall and ongoing framework of inclusion and compassion for refugees in addition to a politically-expedient and crisis-driven response.

The world’s attention is focused on the current crisis of human security in which thousands of Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa are seeking asylum mainly in Europe. Many Canadians are demanding that our governments at all levels do more to open the nation’s gates to desperate people fleeing conflict in their homelands. Often, reference is made to Canada’s history of welcoming refugees, especially the more than 60,000 people who came to this country from Southeast Asia over a period of just two years in the late 1970s, or the 5,500 who were whisked to safety out of Kosovo in 1999. Continue reading

On Guard for Canadian Parochialism, Part One

By Gilberto Fernandes

Wikipedia Commons.

Wikipedia Commons.

Since coming into power in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken various steps to redefine Canadian citizenship and reassert its “value” under a territorial, militaristic, loyalist, conformist and Anglocentric interpretation. As numerous commentators have noted, these reforms have unfolded within Harper’s broader campaign to (re)define the meaning of being Canadian along conservative ideals and British traditions. Conservative officials deny the existence of such an underlying agenda, arguing their reforms simply addressed specific problems in the system, such as massive fraud and application backlogs. Recent citizenship debates in English Canada have dwelt mostly on the question of whether it is a right or a privilege; on issues of legality and process; and on measures of loyalty, attachment or worthiness. But there is more to it. In this three-part series of posts, I explore the historical narratives and political myths supporting the Conservative government’s parochial views on Canadian citizenship, and how they affect Canada and its expats’ places in the world. Part one will focus on the policies; part two on the historians; and part three on Canada’s diasporas.

It’s about history. But whose?

How can a country so proud of its well-documented immigration history be so uncaring and ignorant about its emigrants? Continue reading