Corriere Canadese

English Articles

The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher
 
TORONTO - Despite the best efforts of Canada’s major Media outlets, the Trudeau’s abandonment of the Electoral Reform initiative is as stimulating and exciting as a bottle of sleeping pills for insomniacs.
 
Was he – or anyone else, for that matter - ever sincere about changing the way we govern ourselves? Probably. There is no shortage of examples inefficient, dysfunctional even, crying out for adjustment or outright abandonment if one wanted to point them out in Canada’s governance structure.
 
Except for the odd tinkering with constituency boundaries to accommodate demographic dislocation and population growth, the structure of Federal Government has remained virtually unchanged since 1867.
 
Some think the model has served Canada well. They demand “reverence” for Governance institutions that have guided us to where we are today – one of the premier countries in the world, economic ally and social. 
 
Others, think we could always do better. It is unlikely that we would find them among the ranks of the 144 first-time elected MPs in the government ranks. We might find some among the remnants of the Opposition parties who are casting about for a raison d’etre (as they should) or for issues upon which to impale the government.
 
The ever-ubiquitous Trump is for them a daily reminder that in a perfect electoral system, not one that was “rigged” from the get go, the Donald might well have been relegated to the dustbin reserved for electoral casualties.
 
He lost the popular vote by a wide margin – 3 million votes – but triumphed in the Electoral College, a body of 538 members whose majority determines who will be President. “Rep by pop” is not necessarily the ultimate model of democratic expression favoured by Americans.
 
Nor is it the choice sanctioned by the British Supreme Court which last month confirmed an earlier court decision essentially invalidating the results of the Brexit vote. While the popular vote in the Referendum to leave the European Union favoured a withdrawal, The Court determined that only Parliament can make that decision. The referendum is a mere guide, not a binding instruction by the public, for parliamentarians.
 
In Italy, where Constitutions are a “living document” (subject to change with the times), and electoral structures last as long as a chameleon’s disguise, experiments with Electoral Reform are as frequent as those applied to the Scientific Method.
 
Italians have tried “first past the post”, “proportional representation”, “a perfect bi-cameral system” that combines elements of both, a run-off system between the top two, and a proportional system that guarantees a majority to whichever party achieves the 40% popular vote threshold.
 
The latest model to bite the dust, as it were, was a Constitutional re-structuring of its bi-cameral system combined with a direct election of MPs. This proposal was voted, and approved, on six separate occasions in both Houses.
 
When put to the public for approval in a binding Referendum, as is required for [all] Constitutional changes, the public said “no thanks, try something else!”
 
What proposal did Justin Trudeau’s Ministers for Democratic Institutions (Reform) put forward? On what model(s) did the MPs on the Parliamentary Committee entrusted with providing the House of Commons with advice stake their political career(s)?
 
What models did the Kindergarten graduates who designed the on-line model for public input consult? 
 
Back to sincerity. I would like to reform the system. But It would be foolish to do it for the sake of just doing it. Canada collectively has made a decision to opt for a system that comes close to guaranteeing “governability” with some semblance of authority. 
 
When our political leaders, Academics and Media put some skin in the game to address how their proposal for Electoral reform will buttress our sovereignty against the persistent and creeping threats of parochialism and globalization, the discussion can take on a more serious tone.  
 
TORONTO - Two weeks into his Presidency and the Donald is still befuddling his critics. It seems that they are only now beginning to discover who he is and what he represents. Too late. The election took place last November.
 
Since then, despite protests and the remonstrations of experts and “leaders” everywhere, he has repeatedly reinforced one theme: heck with the rules, we’re doing it my way!
 
Political insiders and communications professionals are developing a new industry trying to figure him out. Meanwhile, as people and the Media get “comfortable” combatting one flare-up, he starts another fire.
 
There is nothing he is unwilling to “offend”. He boasts about his proven business acumen (a euphuism for cutthroat, unscrupulous business practices) as he muses about or threatens trade deals. Countries – ours included – scramble to prepare for some revision or accommodation to placate his demands. Experts emerge out of the woodwork with advice on the “whys and hows”. 
 
There is nothing to figure out. His approach is simple: “if you have what I want, I am taking It”. No ethics, no moral code, no guiding principle, no sense of collective responsibility to mitigate his approach other than the goal to “Make America Great Again”.
 
Everything is justified by in the context of that “ideology”, that “movement”. We’ll give power back to the people who rightly own that power, he and his surrogates repeat.
 
A renowned mid-twentieth century thinker and historian, Christopher Dawson, whose views were shaped by the European/World experiences pre and post two World wars, in his The Movement of World Revolution (1959), observed that those “who come to the top in revolutionary movements are never the wisest or the most farsighted of men”.
 
Do not expect too much, in other words. For those who followed his rise to the Presidency, Trump’s wife, Melania, made equally insightful observations: I have two boys at home, one is eleven, the other just happens to be seventy years old.
 
Observers are at a loss to find a rationale in his Cabinet-making, his intemperate public musings, his seemingly irrational Presidential Orders…and so on. He does not appear to distinguish between policy and process or the inter-relationship between them.
 
People are “piling on” with their criticism. The “ideology” and “philosophy” that served as the underpinnings for the structures that sustained social order domestically and maintained a semblance of international co-operation in foreign affairs are being challenged by the Trump Doctrine.
 
There are no rules but his rules. Since he has, to date, proven himself to be the most amoral of private/public figures in recent memory – at least in Democratic societies – we can expect to live under the aegis of “alternative facts”; no matter the circumstances. 
 
His supporters (and he has many) trumpet their victory in this “war of ideas” on America’s future – and ours. In such a “war”, Professor Dawson observed that “it is the crudest and most simplified ideology that wins”.  In other words, “we’re good, they are evil”, therefore all should unite behind me to right all wrongs.
 
If people, like the millions of women who braved great odds to march against “Trumpism” immediately after The Donald’s inauguration, are concerned, professor Dawson would remind them that history is not very comforting.
 
He says, the world has “seen great and highly civilized countries [become] infected by epidemics of ideological insanity, and whole populations … destroyed for the sake of some irrational slogan”.
 
TORONTO - It turns out that Alexandre Bissonnette is not a Muslim terrorist. Just a misguided murderer -  by early indicators, a troubled right wing extremist sympathizer.
 
His mind was not clouded by some religious, “superstitious thoughts” or dated rituals. But, his victims are just as dead as if their assassin were a fundamentalist executioner. Their families, just as innocent, and their lives just as destroyed.
 
At least he surrendered himself and the public did not have to be subjected to further negative speculation of who would commit such a heinous and hateful crime.
 
In the context of the “Trump-liberated” climate of religious/racial suspicion, the finger-pointing was all too convenient, and troubling.
 
Now we know who was the trigger man. We do not have to rely on the investigative practices of the Suretè de Quebec, which is ill equipped to delve into these types of criminal behaviour.
 
A very humbled and grieving Premier, Philip Couillard, sorrowfully and regretfully acknowledged that the society he heads also has “its devils, like xenophobia, exclusion and intolerance”.
 
It is a powerful admission coming from the leader of one of the most secular yet most inward-looking cultures in the Western World.
 
He should be complimented for the admission. It renders his expressions of condolences to and solidarity with “ relative newcomers” a little more sincere.
 
The Corriere Canadese extends its heartfelt condolences and offers its prayers for the families of the killed and injured.
Theirs is an involuntary sacrifice no one should ever have to make in a civilized society. 
 
TORONTO - I love Toronto. There is no other place I’d rather be. I have grown up here; went to school here; met my wife and raised a family here. After all, as a bonus, there is the prestige of its reputation as “the Centre of the Universe.
Every one else in the Country “hates Toronto” because they know this to be true. Pure envy, I say.
But there must be something in the water that affects political thought and political process. It even affects politicians whose intellectual standing in the public forum is well established, in the municipal as well as at the provincial level.
Somehow, Mayor Tory succeeded in convincing Municipal Council to approve the imposition of a toll for the users of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. 
Cannot do without the revenue stream it would generate ($170 million estimate), he said. Moreover, those “foreigners” from the 905-area code are using our roads, clogging up our streets with their cars and not contributing.
City Council budgeted a whopping $335 million last year for the purpose of “minimizing [traffic] congestion”. How? 
Here’s a thought: budget an additional $89.7 million to expand bike lanes (842 km of them on the streets and in the parks). That involves taking current road space away from those relying on cars.
Tough luck for commuters. They should get jobs within walking or biking distance of their homes. Or take public transit like the Mayor.
905-ers cried foul. If only the weather would co-operate and businesses re-locate, they whined. Those who live beyond the northern barrier on St Clair Ave - the raised streetcar tracks for the uninitiated – chimed in their support. “Downtowners trying to keep the uncouth barbarians from their precious enclaves”, they said.
Opposition parties at Queen’s Park pounced on the opportunity to embarrass the Premier, hobbled as she is with an extra dose of unpopularity. They promised to overturn Municipal Council’s decision.  Toronto and the economy it generates goes beyond the borders claimed by the Downtown Progressives.
What was the Premier to do? Why the answer was self evident. Give Toronto the money and spread some more of it (about $250 million in total) to all the other municipalities, thereby eliminating the need for tolls.
Hero? Not quite. Council and the Mayor are outraged. Now they must devise some other technique to keep 905-ers and their evil cars from downtown. But they get to keep the cash. 
It was never about the money, they say. It was about managing traffic congestion. Just to be clear, not the congestion at Keele and Wilson or anywhere along Lawrence Avenue, Sheppard Ave, and the list goes on.
The Premier just gave away some of our hard-earned money to people who didn’t need it and cannot put it to good use. But, it’s the Toronto way.
 
TORONTO - It seems that the Ministry of Education remains unconvinced that the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is serious about addressing issues of discrimination and human rights. 
 
After receiving a written “action plan” by the Board on what measures it would take to deal with the ethnic/race-based bullying in its schools, the Minister, in display of disappointment, has decided to nominate not one, but two Ministry Reviewers with the task of setting things right.
 
The Board’s position on Staff, Student and Trustee conduct on issues of Human Rights and student welfare came across as “milktoast-like ” at best, according to a reliable source. No surprise here. 
 
Voluntary participation in sensitivity training is poor substitute for the psychological damage inflicted on and suffered by children in the care of the Board.
 
The real issue is Leadership. It is under the mandate of the Board’s Director of Education that these conditions were allowed to emerge and develop, seemingly without the administrative responses the public should come to take for granted. 
 
The public, and some Superintendents, have taken to challenging his commitment to issues of human rights and his competence to deliver a strategy for the Board that would include respect for the cultural diversity and for the dignity of individual children/students.
“An urgent review of the board is needed. I am appointing Patrick Case and Sue Herbert to review the governance and performance issues at the YRDSB”, Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education wrote in a statement.
 
“The reviewers will recommend improvements, particularly regarding equity, accountability and transparency, to regain public confidence in the school board. In addition, they will recommend ways to improve the working relationships at the board, including amongst trustees, between the board and the director of education, between the director of education and senior staff, and with the community.  
 
In addition, they will review whether board members and the director of education are fulfilling their legislated duties”.
 
A Ministry Reviewer assigned to examine the procedural competencies invoked in this sad affair may even uncover the special talents that the Director, Mr. Parapally, brought to the table to earn him a contract whose compensation conditions were unique in the province.
 
At a Board meeting earlier this week and consistent with his style, Mr. Parapally remained silent, almost aloof, in the face of parent protestors who had come to present a petition signed by over 1600 parents anxious to have him and the Board right the wrongs their families were suffering at the hands of the YRDSB.
 
“My colleagues and I want all students, parents, staff and community members to have confidence in our publicly funded education system, and to ensure transparent and accountable school board governance that nurtures and respects inclusive and equitable education”, the Minister wrote in the statement.
 
The other York Region Board would do well to heed the signs – the Ministry is not willing to shoulder the burden of locally created problems.