Tuesday, July 31, 2007

U.S. gay website names five hot Canucks


Okay, enough of the serious stuff. Today I came across this nice article by John Kennedy in the Ottawa Citizen entitled, "Gay website names five hot Canucks".

The website in question is of course the popular AfterElton.com. They came up with a top 100 hotties list that gay men everywhere can enjoy.

It's hilarious there was little congruence between AfterElton's list and People Magazine's Sexiest Men Alive. George Clooney came in at No. 92, Brad Pitt was ranked No. 12 (okay, well-deserved) and Matthew McConaughey made it to the No. 38 spot. Tom Cruise not only didn't make the list -- he didn't earn a single vote.

It seems straight women and gay men continue to differ somewhat over what constitutes male beauty. Only Brad Pitt ranks highly with both groups.

At the top of the AfterElton hot list is American heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal (pictured). I couldn't agree more. I've been in love/lust with Jake for years, long before Brokeback Mountain came out.

But the five Canucks on the list are quite deserving, in my opinion: Vancouver's Ryan Reynolds, 30, placed No. 6 on the list; London, Ont. native Ryan Gosling, 26, came in at No. 24; Keanu Reeves, 42, who was born in Beirut, but raised in Toronto, made the list at No. 62; Transamerica star Kevin Zegers, 22, ranked No. 70, followed by Montreal-born diver Alexandre Despatie, 22, at No. 73.

Congratulations, gentlemen!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Moderate Muslims come out swinging against John Tory's policy of segregation in public education

I was very glad to come across this news release from the Muslim Canadian Congress on John Tory's vote-losing private religious schools promise.

As I posted earlier, this is a big-time wedge issue that will give many Ontario voters good reason to stick with Dalton McGuinty this October (in addition to the various other reasons to stick with the Liberals.) It speaks to Tory failures of the past with regard to public education, as well as to one of McGuinty's greatest selling points: his steadfast support for public education in Ontario.

Here's an excerpt from the MCC release:

MCC supports equal opportunity in education for all Canadian children. The same high quality of education must be available to all. Every child has the right to a fully trained and qualified teacher, a professionally developed curriculum, a complete range of facilities and activities, an education, which emphasizes the challenges we can foresee, and the need for training in mathematics, sciences, modern technology, and languages. An education with an uncompromising commitment to excellence, the will to develop new methods and strategies, always to improve, never to be complacent or satisfied. MCC believes that segregated schools cannot and do not meet these standards.

MCC insists that immigrant parents do not have the right to deny their children full access to the opportunities that are available to all Canadians. Every child has the right to learn with and from children of other backgrounds, to be taught the rights and duties of a Canadian citizen, to master Canada ’s official languages. Every child has the right to learn Canada’s culture, which includes history, the rights and freedoms which are embedded in the Canadian constitution, our vast and unique geography, our music, sports, literature, how Canadians do business, and how we interact with each other formally and socially.

Friday, July 27, 2007

John Tory's private school promise still worst mistake this week

What a tough week to be an Ontario Liberal!

First we have the cookie controversy with my friend Warren Kinsella. On the scale of one to ten (with ten being the worst), I'd give this incident a one or two. This was very minor in the greater scheme of things, and I'm sure Kinsella knows it. A mere bump on the road.

Of course the resignation of Mike Colle yesterday and the whole grants mess has contributed to a negative perception of the government as a whole.

The McGuinty government was perceived as having a fair, decent record. While some promises haven't been kept, the government sure did try to move in the right direction. This scandal will damage that reputation, but not fatally, I think.

I remain convinced that McGuinty's main message - fixing public services like public health care and public education - still resonates with Ontarians. Public education is on the mend in Ontario. Public health care is in better shape today than it was in 2003. The $5.6 billion deficit left by the Tories is now gone and public finances are in good shape overall (despite some problems at the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration of course), as the Auditor General confirmed in his pre-election report back in June.

What the Ontario Liberals need to do after this disastrous week is launch an aggressive defense of their record, reminding voters of the improvements they've made since 2003. They're already doing this with their Dalton.ca site, but more needs to be done and I'm sure it will.

One big silver lining this week - and I do mean BIG - is John Tory's fleshing out of his private religious schools promise. While memories of cookies and Lisa Macleod will have surely faded by October, Tory's ill-advised policy on increasing segregation in public education will not.

What Tory did this week was give every progressive person in Ontario who opposes this kind of segregated approach to public education a big reason to stop him. Tory has done the typical Conservative thing and, with this policy, has divided up the province into two: those who don't mind religion mixing with education, and those who do.

Now progressive voters who might have flirted with the NDP or the Greens have a very good reason to stick with McGuinty's Liberals.

Most will agree that the future of public education in Ontario is under threat from John Tory's terrible private religious schools promise. If the election gets polarized around this issue, it will work to the Liberals' benefit.

Judging from the hostile reaction seen in letters to the editor and elsewhere, there is little doubt that Tory's policy is a vote loser. For every vote he gains for it, he'll lose three or four, as long as this issue remains front and centre. And we have every reason to believe that it will.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gilles Duguay can't even get basic historical facts straight when attacking Dion

Tory Outremont candidate Gilles Duguay launched into a fairly amateurish attack today while trying to throw dirt at Liberal leader Stephane Dion's record.

I'd suggest that Harper's sacrificial lamb in this upcoming by-election do better research before he opens his mouth again to spout another feeble attack.

"I'm telling you, if you read his CV, the man has been in cabinet since 1995, and if this university professor, descendant of a famous university professor, didn't know anything about the sponsorship scandal, I suggest you ask him whether he knew anything or not," [Duguay] said.

I, like most Liberals and journalists, have checked Mr. Dion's CV very closely. Much more closely than Mr. Duguay obviously did. It's a historical fact that Dion entered the federal cabinet in January 1996, several months after the 1995 referendum campaign. Dion's stellar performance on the national unity file with the Clarity Act continues to be the stuff of legends.

Furthermore, the Gomery Inquiry made very clear that Mr. Dion was absolutely not involved in the sponsorship scandal. Most Quebecers concur with that opinion. Perhaps Mr. Duguay should read a copy of the Gomery Inquiry Phase I report which reads, "On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility to any other Minister of the Chr├ętien Cabinet [excepting Jean Chr├ętien and Alfonso Gagliano], since they, like all members of Parliament, were not informed of the initiatives being authorized by Mr. [Jean] Pelletier and their funding from the Unity Reserve."

If he can't even get his basic facts straight before opening his mouth, what kind of a Member of Parliament would Mr. Duguay make?

Monday, July 23, 2007

John Tory promises more segregation in Public Education in Ontario


John Tory's policy on handing out public funds to private religious schools continues to annoy me.

Today, Tory announced that former PC Premier Bill Davis will help to set up the policy if Tory forms a government later this year. I guess Davis' moderate credentials are meant to ease concerns over this badly-conceived idea.

Today's announcement is the unfortunate end result of a bad promise Tory made in the heat of the 2004 Ontario Tory leadership race.

Tory clearly made the promise partly to defuse some of rival Jim Flaherty's divisive appeal amongst the far right of the party. Flaherty had introduced truly offensive private school tax credits in 2001 when he was Finance Minister under Mike Harris. At that time, the Tories saw no problem handing out public funds to parents who sent their kids to Upper Canada College or to religious private schools, even though those schools weren't teaching the province's curriculum, participating in standardized testing and hiring accredited teachers.

Premier Dalton McGuinty wisely kept his promise in 2003 to cancel this bad policy.

Today, John Tory says his policy will provide public funding directly to the private religious schools instead of to parents. It also rules out sending public funds to non-religious private schools like Upper Canada College. Only those religious schools that promise to teach the province's curriculum, participate in standardized testing and hire accredited teachers will get funding.

No mention is made in Tory's policy whether religious schools will be required to hire teachers of different faiths, like Catholic boards must. Tory also doesn't mention if these private religious schools will have to adhere to Ontario's human rights laws and anti-hate laws. It's entirely possible that that an extremist Muslim school where students learn that homosexuals or Jews are going to hell or that women are inferior to men could get public funding under John Tory's scheme. They'd only have to ensure their students were also taught basic mathematics, wrote standardized tests and that their teachers were properly accredited.

The whole thing will cost at least $400 million per year when fully implemented if all private religious schools come online, Tory says. That assumes private school enrollment levels don't jump as a result of public funding. It remains to be seen how many religious schools will accept Tory's conditions for public funding. Most, I'm sure, will lobby John Tory very hard to ease some of those conditions.

Through this policy, Tory reportedly wants to ensure that Ontario's schools reflect the province's diversity in the 21st century.

I wrote about this subject last week in this post in which I described my experience going through the publicly-funded Catholic school system. Essentially I found my Catholic high school educational experience to be almost indistinguishable from those in the public system. The only significant difference was that I was denied access to students of other faiths and backgrounds during my formative years. The whole thing left me quite sheltered from Ontario's diversity. It was only after I left the segregated Catholic system and went to a secular university did I gain access to other types of people for the first time.

I completely agree with the comments published today by Liberal Education Minister Kathleen Wynne on Tory's policy: "The end result of this poorly thought out policy is gutting the publicly funded education system in favour of private religious schools...Our publicly funded schools bring together all walks of life. This kind of politics of division is what the Conservatives trade in."

Tory can call upon his old friend Bill Davis all he wants to make this appear more "moderate" and "reasonable". The truth is - Tory's policy will lead to the permanent balkanization of Ontario's public education system. It truly stinks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We need more integration, not segregation in Public Education

I'm a product of the Roman Catholic Separate School System. Both of my parents worked as teachers in that same system (although neither of them actually taught me, although my father did supply teach in a few of my high school classes.)

I spent my high school years in the closet. They were horrible years, as you can likely imagine. However, I can't honestly say that my high school experience was any worse than most students.

I would describe most of my Catholic teachers as very progressive. Not once do I recall any teachers standing in front of class to proclaim that 'homosexuality was a sin.' In fact, I recall the opposite. One family studies teacher once specifically encouraged a class to respect gays and lesbians. Homophobia was no worse in my school than any public school, from what I have gathered.

Another phys-ed teacher in my Catholic high school once warned students that women have the right to choose whether or not to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Incidentally that phys-ed teacher was one of the few teachers in our school who wasn't actually Roman Catholic.

Obviously, Catholic education was far more enlightened, at least at my high school, then you might imagine.

Most of my teachers adhered to the principle that they are there to enlighten and educate, not indoctrinate. In fact, the only times I remember being told what to believe were on visits from the Bishop or during one of the more unpopular school masses. And even then few students listened. Theology classes in high school became places to question one's faith.

Roman Catholic immersion was much stronger, at least in my memory, in the primary grades where First Confession and First Communion were integrated into the class curriculum. Even Confirmation in Grade Eight was emphasized. But in high school, there was little evidence that our Catholic schools were in fact much different from public system schools, except for maybe the uniforms.

In fact, my high school had a reputation of being a drug haven, although I confess I never experimented with narcotics until university. In high school, I had known some Protestants who went to other schools, but I rarely associated with them.

Once I left the Catholic system and enrolled in secular University of Guelph, it was then that I understood what I had been denied in the Catholic system.

I remember sitting at a library computer in first year when the young man next to me started chatting with the girl next to him. The subject of religion came up and he mentioned that he was "Jewish." That was the first time I had actually found myself this close to someone Jewish - age 19.

I'm sure this might sound absolutely astonishing to people who went through the public education system. Sure I was taught by both my parents and all my Catholic teachers that anti-Semitism was wrong. But that lesson had always remained theoretical. I had never known anyone who was actually Jewish. The same goes for anyone Muslim. I have since made many Jewish and Muslim friends, I'm proud to say.

The true diversity of Ontario had been denied to me. Instead, I came to look at my primary and secondary education as quite sheltered.

I have since made up for this, of course, in my adult life. But I've always felt that there was something inherently wrong with this type of segregrationist approach to teaching young people.

The constitutional right held by Catholics to their own "Separate School System" is a throwback to a bygone era. It reflects an approach to education that is inherently flawed.

Sure it is unfair to provide public funding to Catholic schools, and not to other religious schools.

But the solution is clear: end funding for Catholic schools, not make the problem even worse by further institutionalizing segregation. Ontario needs to follow in the foot steps of other provinces and publically fund one education system for all.

Parents who choose to shelter their children and hide them from the world in segregationist systems can do so, but not on my buck.

Until the province does the right thing and integrates our public education systems, we have to live with the status quo of two public education systems in Ontario, one for Catholics and one for everybody else.

Faith is a personal matter best left to the home and to places of worship. Not the classroom.

With his plan to further segregate public education in Ontario, John Tory is very, very wrong. This is probably the best reason to keep John Tory in opposition, in my humble opinion. Dalton McGuinty's policy on this issue is to be commended. While he may not agree with me (at the moment) that we need to have one public system for all, at least Dalton is not willing to make the problem even worse.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pope Benedict, World Divider, Strikes Again


The dark ages have returned to Rome without a doubt.

First the Latin mass approved again to make sure those low-life (in Benedict's mind) Catholic followers in the flock can't understand what's being said on the altar, and now everyone outside the Roman Catholic faith is somehow bad. By drawing the line in the sand between Roman Catholics and everyone else, that is the implicit message this neanderthal is sending.

Hmmmmm....

Benedict seems to be on a crazy holy war mission, attacking everyone outside the tent.

That's not very Christ-like. In fact, it's very Anti-Christ-like.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

New Dalton.ca site signals interesting strategy for Ontario Grits

A new website has been launched by the Ontario Liberals called Dalton.ca.

I will admit, it's a pretty slick site and very daring. It openly acknowledges many of the major promises on which McGuinty's government failed to deliver, including closing coal-burning power plants by 2007, reducing Highway 407 tolls, not raising taxes, etc. But it does so by putting those broken promises in better context, using messaging that I'm sure will convince some that they were necessary.

McGuinty's 'black & white' messages are succinct and clear. I think he, and the party machine, should be congratulated for admitting the obvious (promises were broken, hopes raised to very high levels in 2003 have been dashed).

Such an admission might actually garner a lot of respect from some voters.

The Liberals have made progress on a number of key policy areas, especially improving public education and health care. The problem is most voters don't seem to know it. When we remind voters that waiting times for knee replacements and cataract surgeries are way down, or that primary school class sizes are dropping, many just shrug.

This new strategy of admitting broken promises but highlighting the strengths and accomplishments of the government in the same breath, and making Dalton the main spokesman for this message (thus hopefully reminding voters that Dalton is just an ordinary, hard-working guy like them) could very well do the trick of getting the Liberal government re-elected.

As it stands now, I'm still betting that McGuinty's Liberals will be reduced to a minority government. It will take a very aggressive and effective campaign by the Grits, combined with a weak campaign by John Tory, to help secure another majority. And I'm not betting that John Tory's campaign is going to be weak.