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Saturday, August 30, 2008

the suave councillor from ward 5.

Avenue Magazine has a great piece in this month's edition on Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson.

Lisa Gregoire wrote the article after following Iveson around Edmonton in the months following his high profile victory over incumbent Councillor Mike Nickel in the October 2007 municipal election that brought him to City Hall.

Iveson, a strong advocate for public transit and smart growth initiatives, was voted most effective City Councillor in SEE Magazine's 2008 Best of Edmonton and has been credited by Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen as being the coolest head on City Council.

blair wilson.

On the eve of a federal election call, Canada has found itself with its first Green Party MP: Blair Wilson.

(h/t Calgary Grit)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

a response to scott tribe on stephen harper's fears.

After reading Scott Tribe's latest post on why Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been scared into election mode, I felt the need to engage in some friendly dialogue and write a response to Scott's post. In his post, Scott suggests that:

1) Harper knows the economy is going to tank in a few months, or he’s going to be in the red with his next Budget, so he prefers to go now then later, when he and his government and Mr Flaherty would take more heat over mismanaging a Liberal surplus into a deficit situation in less then 3 years.

2) The Committees looking at the in-and out scandal will be highly embarrassing for him, as perhaps will the actual court case result against Elections Canada.

3) He knows he’s faring crappy in the 4 byelections, knows he wont win any of them, and doesn’t want Liberal momentum going into the House this Fall.

First, I don't see any evidence that Harper has been scared into election mode. It seems pretty evident that the Conservatives have succeeded in manufacturing a ‘crisis’ in parliament and framing the debate around an ‘impending’ election call. Is there really a crisis in Parliament? Of course not. Is there need for an election? No. It's fairly clear that the Conservatives believe that, regardless of polling results which place the Conservatives in a tight race with the Liberals, they can increase their seat total in the next election, which is generally why political leaders at all levels have done the very same thing since Confederation in 1867. I don't see any reason why Harper's motivation is any different than that of say... Pierre Trudeau circa 1974.

The economic downturn in Ontario is hardly something that can be squarely pinned on the Conservatives, and after only two years in office it is reasonable to believe that the Conservatives could use their partisan spin machine to attempt to pin the downturn on "13 years of Liberal economic mismanagement..." If anything, the economic mess in Ontario's auto sector has more to do with inefficiencies of the automobile manufactures than the policies of Conservative or Liberal governments.

Though the lack of respect towards Parliament that the Conservatives have shown towards committees such as the House Ethics Committee is reprehensible, I don't believe that the In-and-Out scandal will have traction on the doorsteps. It may be a big deal inside the Ottawa bubble, but I have a hard time imagining that this will lead Conservative voters to change their minds in a 2008.

I'm also not sure how winning a handful of by-elections in constituencies which they already hold (minus St. Lambert of course) would give Stéphane Dion's Liberals any momentum. The financial and organizational mess within the Liberal Party isn't likely convincing Harper to change his mind on calling an election. After sitting in the Opposition benches for two years, it seems that the Green Shift is the first solid policy announcement that the Liberals have proposed and though Dion's messaging is getting stronger, it may be too little too late. It also may be that the Liberals are underestimating the bitter taste that Paul Martin and Adscam left in the mouths of Canadians just only two years ago. After two years in the dog house (and a pretty comfortable minority parliament-style dog house at that), it is hard to believe that the Liberals have spent enough time outside the Ottawa bubble to understand why Canadians didn't trust them to govern in 2006.

Even though people aren't jumping up to warmly embrace him on the street, I don't believe that Canadians feel Harper has done an awful job as Prime Minister. With the lack of a credible or charismatic opposition leader to knock him off his Prime Ministerial pedestal, I don't see anyone moving out of 24 Sussex Drive anytime soon. And though I strongly disagree with many of their policies -- including the introduction of draconian copyright legislation, short-sighted cuts to federal arts funding, the lack of seriousness on climate change and environmental issues, and the politicization of MPs taxpayer funded resources -- I have a hard time not predicting an increase in the Conservative seat total in the next election, and I can hardly believe that Stephen Harper is afraid of that.

federal candidate update.

With talk of an impending federal election grabbing the attention of the nation (or not...), I've updated the list of nominated federal election candidates in Alberta.

Calgary-Northeast NDP candidate Vinay Dey is the newest candidate on the list. Dey will face off against Tory Devinder Shory and Liberal Sanam Kang.

In 2004, Dey ran for the federal NDP in Calgary-Nose Hill against Tory MP Diane Ablonczy. On the provincial level, Dey ran in the 1989, 1993, and 2004 provincial elections. In 1989, Dey challenged then-Calgary-Egmont Tory MLA David Carter, in 1993 he ran against Calgary-Cross Tory Yvonne Fritz, and in 2004 he challenged Calgary-Fort Tory MLA Wayne Cao.

(h/t Pundits' Guide)

Monday, August 25, 2008

asphalt the new solar?

Not only could it be a new source of renewable energy, but it could also mean less potholes...

pulling the pmo out of by-election discretion.

Ned Franks' op-ed in today's Globe & Mail caught my eye:

There is no good justification for the Canadian practice of giving discretion to the prime minister in setting the time of by-elections, and for the long delays between vacancy and by-election. Neither practice serves parliamentary democracy and the constitutional right of Canadians to be represented in Parliament.

Friday, August 22, 2008

examining the past while looking to the future.

As David Swann joins Mo Elsalhy and Dave Taylor in the race to replace Kevin Taft as the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, I thought it would be interesting to take a historical look at the past leadership races of that party. Though I promise more real analysis later (including the significance of two candidates being Calgary MLAs and all three having been first elected in 2004), here's a quick look at the races since 1988:

With a 4-seat Liberal breakthrough into the Legislature in 1986 after a 19 year electoral drought, Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore and rookie Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Grant Mitchell pushed long-time leader Nick Taylor out of the leader's chair at a 1988 Calgary delegated convention. Decore's coalition (which included Liberals, New Democrats, Red Tories, and right-wing Reformers) challenged the dominance of both Premier Don Getty (who would lose his Edmonton-Whitemud seat to Liberal Percy Wickman in 1989) and Ray Martin's Edmonton-based NDP opposition (who would be wiped out in the 1993 election).

Laurence Decore - 801
Grant Mitchell - 385
Nick Taylor - 259
Decore resigned in 1994 after having led the Liberals to win 32 seats in the 1993 election (and intensifying the Battle of Alberta...), leaving Edmonton MLA Bettie Hewes as interim leader until a new leader was chosen. This race attracted a full-lot of candidates that included Edmonton MLAs Grant Mitchell and Sine Chadi, Fort McMurray MLA Adam Germain, Calgary MLA Gary Dickson, and expelled Lougheed-era PC MLA Tom Sindlinger. Rumoured candidates who stayed out of the race included Calgary MLA Frank Bruseker and Calgary Mayor Al Duerr.

As the final ballot featured a race between Mitchell and Chadi, many prominent Decore supporters, including Jim Lightbody, Patricia Misutka, Nancy Power, and Ted Power, were seen supporting Chadi (leading many observers to believe that 1994 was an extension of the Decore-Mitchell/Chretien-Turner-Martin power struggle).
This race featured no shortage of controversy caused by dubiously malfunctioning phone lines and questionable absentee ballots during the phone-in vote, after which Chadi and Germain launched appeals of the results. The real and perceived problems in this race dogged Mitchell into the 1997 general election.

It would later be revealed that Chadi has expressed interest in joining the Tory caucus, to which Premier Klein responded "...I've indicated subsequently that Sine is not the kind of person that we would like to have in our caucus."
1st Ballot

Grant Mitchell - 4,799
Sine Chadi - 3,772
Adam Germain - 1,663
Gary Dickson - 706
Tom Sindlinger - 64

2nd Ballot
Grant Mitchell - 4,934
Sine Chadi - 3,794
Mitchell stepped down after the Liberals only won 18 seats in the 1997 election. Stepping up to run were Edmonton MLAs Karen Leibovici and Linda Sloan, Lethbridge MLA Ken Nicol, and former PC Cabinet Minister Nancy MacBeth.

In 1992, MacBeth (then Betkowski) faced off against Ralph Klein for the PC leadership following Don Getty's resignation. In this race however, with the support of 5 MLAs and 35 former candidates, MacBeth easily defeated her MLA opponents by winning the support of the majority of members in Calgary and Edmonton, while Nicol bested her in rural Alberta. As a party outsider and former Tory, MacBeth faced strong resistance and opposition from within the Liberal caucus. After leading the Liberals to disastrous results in the 2001 election, electing only 7 MLAs and being defeated in own her seat by Tory Mark Norris, MacBeth resigned only days after the election.

Interestingly, MacBeth's election marked the first time in Alberta history that two parties in the Legislature were led by women (along with NDP Leader Pam Barrett).
Nancy MacBeth - 4,271
Ken Nicol - 2,042
Karen Leibovici - 1,038
Linda Sloan - 285
Having been quietly acclaimed after MacBeth's resignation, Ken Nicol resigned as Leader in early 2004, opting instead to run for Paul Martin's Federal Liberals in Lethbridge. As interim leader, Edmonton MLA Don Massey led the party until Edmonton MLA Kevin Taft was easily elected against two relatively unknown candidates. Taft faced little opposition from former Alberta First Party leader Jon Reil and Forensic Psychologist Jon Parsons Friel.

Though Taft inherited a party with 7 MLAs and a million dollar debt, he led his party to win 16 seats in the 2004 election and pay down a significant amount of its debt. Following the setback of winning 9 seats in the 2008 election, Taft announced his resignation.
Kevin Taft - 2,354
John Reil - 205
Jon Parsons Friel - 174
NOTE: Most of the information I used to write this post came from newspaper articles and books such as Quasi-Democracy? by David Stewart and Keith Archer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

fringe review: occupied.

OCCUPIED follows the story of five random Edmontonians who cross paths under a bizarre set of circumstances in a very unlikely place -- the men's washroom at Churchill LRT Station. Though I wasn't aware of the existence of public washrooms at said LRT station, OCCUPIED introduces you to an entertaining cross-section of characters (including a high-strung lawyer, a city employee, a vagabond, a bagel concerned professional, and a hapless wanna-be lawyer) and their discussions of materialism, post-modernist thought, and the general hectic pace of life.

Overall, it was an entertaining and enjoyable show. Check out VUE Weekly, SEE Magazine, and The Edmonton Journal for more reviews of this Fringe show.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

fringe reviews: busty rhymes with mc hot pink and hamlet (solo).

My August 19 Fringe adventure began by joining a friend for a brisk walk from the University of Alberta to the Strathcona Community Hall where me and two friends settled in to watch a boisterous performance of BUSTY RHYMES WITH MC HOT PINK (aka Penny Ashton). A crude, sexually confronting, and hilarious show, MC Hot Pink reveled the audience with her unique poems and songs about all those lovely politically un-correct topics that make some people squirm.

Though I still can't understand why the Edmonton Journal rated Busty Rhymes as 2 stars out of 5, I was pleased to see that the Edmonton Sun, SEE Magazine and Vue Weekly had some sense to each award the show four stars. Though I would strongly recommend against bringing your Mormon in-laws to see this show, it was quite entertaining to take in as a group. Vue Weekly interviewed MC Pink earlier this week:

After crawling our way out of the unnaturally hot (and un-airconditioned) Community Hall, we headed over to the Next Act Pub for a burger and beer, which was followed up by another couple of beers at the always fun Fringe Beer Gardens. Packed to the brim on this hot evening, these beer gardens are great for meeting up with friends. Recent encounters have included a great conversation with Ward 4 City Councillor Ben Henderson, who had just finished his cameo appearance as the Mayor in David Belke's THE ADVENTUROUS TIMES OF KEVIN GRIMES. I haven't seen him yet, but I have heard rumours of Nathan Fillion sightings on the Fringe grounds this year (if someone can snap a picture of Fillion Fringing, I will post it).

Soon enough, 11pm hit and we were sitting in the Academy at King Edward to watch the spectacle that was HAMLET (SOLO). This intense performance by Raoul Bhaneja was incredibly intense to take in. Shifting from character to character, and having memorized the entire Shakespeare piece, Bhaneja gives quite the impressive performance as he shifts characters from Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, the Ghost, Polonius, Laertes, Horatio, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, and Fortinbras. It was a great show, though I would recommend seeing an earlier show, rather than bringing in the early morning hours in a hot school gymnasium.

Check out reviews from The Gateway, Vue Weekly, SEE Magazine, the Edmonton Journal,

Like MC Hot Pink, Vue Weekly also interviewed Bhaneja earlier this week:

david swann enters the liberal race.

A day after Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman declined to enter the race, it is being reported that Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann has entered the race to replace outgoing Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft.

Swann, who has recently returned from the Water is Boss conference in Fort Chipyewan, will face off against former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy and current Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor. More later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

laurie blakeman announces her leadership intentions and opts to stay out of the race.

Though many had predicted that the four-term MLA would make the run, Edmonton-Centre MLA and Opposition Finance Critic/House Leader Laurie Blakeman announced today that she will not be seeking the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party.

An actor and theater manager by trade, Blakeman was first elected in the downtown Edmonton constituency in 1997, and since then has been the bane of the largely male rural PC caucus who occupy a large portion of Ed Stelmach's front-bench.

Though I'm disappointed that Blakeman won't be running, as she would have been a serious, outspoken, urban candidate who could have made an otherwise dull race interesting, I can fully understand why she isn't joining the race. Currently in financial dire straights, the Alberta Liberals need a leader who can fundraise some serious cash over the next three years, something Blakeman honestly admits is not her strength.

Read Blakeman's media release and statement announcing her intentions.

Declared candidates in the race to replace Kevin Taft include former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy and current Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor.

Monday, August 18, 2008

not expecting a knight to lead a real nuclear debate.

Regular readers will have noticed that I have remained quite skeptical about the expansion and development of nuclear power in Alberta (and I'm not the only one). Unfortunately, as is the case with many important public interest issues in Alberta, the expansion of nuclear power (partially to fuel the already dirty oilsands operations) is not getting the attention or critical debate that it deserves (care to theorize why this could be?).

Over the past couple months, I have written a number of posts on why I believe nuclear expansion is short-sighted move that could have long-term concequences for Albertans long after the private companies involved come and go (unless those companies plan on sticking around to deal with the nuclear leftovers for the next 10,000 years). In order to provide some balance to the nuclear debate on this blog, I am happy to post a link to some intelligent commentary from William Tucker. Tucker will be posting a three-part series on nuclear energy for on the New York Times' Freakonomics blog. You can read Tucker's first post here.

edmonton fringe festival reviews.

As Edmonton's 27th Annual International Fringe Festival rages on through the next week of scorching hot summer weather, questions will inevitably be raised over 1) where to find show reviews, and 2) which ones to trust? Well, you're going to have to figure out #2 on your own, but I can help you with #1. Here are a couple links to some review sites:

Official Fringe Website 30-second reviews
CBC Edmonton - Gilbert Bouchard's Fringe Buffet
Edmonton Journal Reviews
Edmonton Sun Reviews
The Gateway: Cellmates: The Musical!, Hamlet (Solo)
Vue Weekly Reviews

I've only seen a couple of shows so far (including JEM ROLLS and CELLMATES: THE MUSICAL, but am planning to check out BUSTY RHYMES and HAMLET (SOLO) tomorrow). I'm also pleased to report that the 2008 Fringe Beer Gardens have met the gold star levels of the 2007 Fringe Beer Gardens.

UPDATE: SEE Magazine has amazingly reviewed every single Fringe show.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

an expensive nuclear option.

A new report (pdf) written and released by Amory Lovins and Imran Sheikh argues that the nuclear option as a dangerous, complicated, and not particularly reliable alternative to fossil fuels. The report also warns of the creation of millennial-lasting pollution and that the money and resources used developing the nuclear option could be more productively spent on renewable energy.

(h/t DeSmogBlog)

Friday, August 15, 2008

indulging in copious amounts of fringe.

With temperatures rising above 30C in what are now the deepest days of August, the appropriately named 27th annual Edmonton International Fringe Festival - The Big Kahuna embraced the summer heat as it began this week.

Being the first Friday of Fringing, I decided to take it easy, enjoy the sun, the busking entertainment (including the always entertaining Be Arthurs), and of course... the food. As is the case for all of Edmonton's summer festivals, Green Onion Cakes (with hot pepper sauce) are a staple (and they remain tasty). But, if it is cream of the iced variety that you crave, look beyond the Fringe grounds for your fix. I discovered through a quick investigation of most of the Fringe vendors that the average price of a regular cone sits around $4.00. But if you wander a block south of the Fringe grounds, you will discover an iced cream stand on the south side of Whyte Avenue sitting between Hudson's and the Commie where you can purchase a two-scooped sugar cone for the great price of $3.75 (later this weekend, I will post a review of the beer selection at the always popular Fringe Beer Gardens).

In completing my Friday night, I joined a sold out crowd at B-Scene Studios to absorb JEM ROLLS' epic 8500 word monologue of a poem to the most wonderful and vacuous of all 20th century creations -- the shopping mall. Rolls' show was an incredibly fulfilling way to complete the first day of my 2008 Fringe experience and I would strongly recommend that everyone try and check it out.

Over the next week, I plan to see a number of shows -- including 1UP, 25 Plays About... Love, Albertine Five Times, Cellmates: The Musical!, Cinderella, Killing Kevin Spacey, Sad Victoria's Pelican Day, The Tool Tall Princess, and Rocket Sugar Factory. I'll be posting some short reviews and updates of my 2008 Fringe adventures as the week progresses.

If you have any suggestions on shows feel free to post them below or send me an email.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

water is boss.

Next week, a group of American journalists will be going on a public relations tour to visit the EnCana Carbon Sequestration test site and the Athabasca oilsands operations, care of the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC -- but that's not all that is happening along the Athabasca River this week.

For the past month, members of the Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Society (KAWS) have been traveling the of the Athabasca River Basin and holding conferences in communities along the river in order to raise awareness about the importance of the river and the effects contamination and overuse of water by oilsands operations. KAWS' tour will culminate at a large conference in Fort Chipewyan, downstream from Fort McMurray's oilsands operations, whose residents have seen an increasing number of cancer rates in recent years. Fort Chipewyan's former Doctor, Dr. John O'Connor, will be delivering the keynote address. at the conference.

In 2006, O'Connor publicly raised concern that an increase in cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan may be the result of the copious amounts of arsenic dumped into the water by oilsands operations along the Athabasca River. Instead of increased support to deal with this medical concern, Alberta Health and Wellness and Health Canada brought forward professional misconduct charges against O'Connor (three of which have been dismissed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta).

In 2007, the Alberta Medical Association unanimously passed a motion in support of Dr. O'Connor and the Canadian Medical Association passed a resolution calling for whistleblower protection for doctors like O'Connor. Though they leveled charges of professional misconduct against O'Connor, the government is currently conducing a comprehensive report on cancer rates in the region.

Monday, August 11, 2008

canadians deported from china.

How many Chinese do you suppose will be deported from Canada during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games?

BEIJING — Seven Canadians have been deported from China following a rash of pro-Tibetan protests in Beijing in recent days that has prompted Chinese authorities to tighten security further.

Steve Andersen, 28, from Edmonton, and Maude Cote, 28, from Montreal, along with a Tibetan-German woman were arrested by plainclothes police officers after they reportedly unfurled a Tibetan flag just after 3 p.m. Sunday in Beijing, just outside the southern entrance of Tiananmen Square.

A short time after those arrests, Mike Hudema, a prominent spokesman for Greenpeace in Alberta, was detained along with four other people from Edmonton and Vancouver in a Beijing hotel, their luggage thoroughly searched before being questioned individually in the basement.

The five Canadians who were detained at a Beijing hotel before subsequently being deported were identified as Mr. Hudema, 31, Jasmine Freed, 27, Paul Christopher Baker, 29, Denise Ogonoski, 26, and William Nelson, 26.

david emerson for edmonton-east.

The Edmonton Journal ran an interesting piece this weekend speculating on the potential of Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson to run in Edmonton in the next general election.

Infamous for joining Stephen Harper's Conservative Cabinet only days after being re-elected as a Liberal MP for Vancouver-Kingsway in 2006, Emerson is rumoured to be seeking a different seat to contest in the next election (the last time Vancouver-Kingsway elected a Conservative was in 1958). Though there was no shortage of backlash against Emerson's crossing the floor from constituents and opposing partisans, I believe that Emerson's lack of partisan loyalties is the point which they are missing.

It should have become pretty clear that David Emerson did not enter elected politics to join the "Liberal" or "Conservative" clubs, but to use his skills, experience, and knowledge to do the best job he could as an MP -- and it is understandable that being a Cabinet Minister (be it Liberal or Conservative) would put him in a much more effective position to complete this goal. Unlike some politicians, who would cross the floor for more opportunistic reasons, it isn't hard to see that Emerson isn't interested in playing the game of petty partisanship.

Would Emerson be a good fit for Edmonton? Raised in Grande Prairie, Emerson earned his Bachelor and Masters in Economics from the University of Alberta, a Ph.D. in Economics from Queen's University, and has served as British Columbia's Deputy Minister of Finance, CEO of the Pacific & Western Bank of Canada, and CEO and President of the Canfor Corporation. A heavy weight who would inject as powerful amount of bench strength into Edmonton's parliamentary delegation, Emerson could fill the high-profile political void left after Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan's defeat in 2006.

Which constituency would Emerson run in? With Reform-era MPs John Williams and Ken Epp retiring and the Conservatives having already nominated candidates in both Edmonton-St. Albert and Edmonton-Sherwood Park (Brent Rathgeber and Tim Uppal), and most of the remaining Conservative MPs on the younger edge of the Parliamentary age scale (under 50), the pool of available seats in Edmonton is narrow.

I'm left thinking Edmonton-East. After 11 years in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Peter Goldring is an unlikely pick for cabinet, and though I'm sure he served an extraordinary term as the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, it's not unreasonable to speculate that the 64-year old may have reached the height of his parliamentary career. Though Emerson would face a strong challenge from former NDP MLA Ray Martin, Edmonton could prove to be friendlier territory than Vancouver-Kingsway, should he choose to seek re-election here.

Overall, if he decided to contest the election in Edmonton-East, Emerson could represent Edmonton well in the next parliament if he decided to return to the city of his Alma mater.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

nothing screams confidence like...

... the water company giving out free water filters.

This past week, EPCOR stopped by my house to test the neighbourhood water (Queen Alexandra is an older neighbourhood and apparently still has a few lead pipes), which was fine, but I was a little amused/concerned when I saw that the EPCOR water sample collector had left a complementary water filter for our use.

I'm generally a big supporter of tap water (as opposed to the scam which is bottled water), but I'm wondering if there's something we should know that EPCOR isn't telling us...

Friday, August 08, 2008

germany pushes the boundaries.

After passing a municipal law in June 2008 requiring all newly built or renovated buildings to install solar panels, an epic debate over this renewable energy law is now taking place in the City of Marburg.

Germany is aiming to slash their national greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

the state of urban herbage.

It's been a while since I've written about my feelings towards the state of urban herbage, so I thought I would share an interesting book that a friend passed along -- Agropolis: The Social, Political, and Environmental Dimensions of Urban Agriculture by Luc J. A. Mougeot.

Agropolis is available online for your reading pleasure care of the International Development Research Centre.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

boycott beijing 2008: cheek refused entry over darfur.

Times Online:

Joey Cheek, an American Olympic gold medallist who has been leading a campaign to stop China from trading arms with the Sudan, has been refused entry to the Beijing Games.

Cheek, who won gold in the men's 500 metre speed skating event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, has recruited nearly 400 Olympians and former Olympians worldwide to his cause, called Team Darfur, and was refused a visa at the Chinese embassy in Washington yesterday.

"Despite the fact that I've always spoken positively of the Olympic ideal, and never called for a boycott or asked an athlete to break an IOC rule, my visa was revoked less than 24 hours before my scheduled departure," Cheek said. "The denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur."

continuing the beijing boycott.

As Canadian athletes prepare themselves for competition (in which I wish them good luck), I am continuing my personal boycott of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Following the most recent embarrassing statement from International Olympic Committee Chair Jacques Rogge regarding previous statements on freedom of the press in the People's Republic of China, I was pleased to see Canadian IOC delegate Dick Pound raise some overdue criticism of China and the distant international committee. But Pound's criticisms only touched the surface of a larger issue which the IOC has chosen to ignore -- the dire state of human rights and political freedoms in China.

In 1999, as recently quoted by Ken Silverstein, Condoleezza Rice stated that: "Economic liberalization in China is ultimately going to lead to political liberalization. That's an iron law." Nine years later, the "iron law" of economic liberalization seems to have come along with iron shackles, rather than the political liberalization Rice may have had in mind.

A March 2008 report from the U.S. Department of State describes the People's Republic of China as "an authoritarian state" with a poor human rights record which has seen"tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and the press" including "increased efforts to control and censor the Internet." The report also accuses Chinese authorities of other human rights abuses including "extrajudicial killings, torture and coerced confessions of prisoners, and the use of forced labor, including prison labor. The government continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, writers, activists, and defense lawyers and their families, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under law."

The Chinese Government has also been unwavered in its military and diplomatic support of the brutal regimes in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, and North Korea.

So, I'm left with a couple of questions: Why did the IOC believe that it was appropriate to reward an authoritarian regime such as China's with the international prestige of the Olympic Games? And will the international attention for the games force China into the "political liberalization" that Rice predicted?

For more information, both Amnesty International and Reporters Sans Frontières are good sources.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

two former politicians walk into a radio station...


Klein: "Jean, welcome to The House."

Chretien: "I'm happy to be in your house Ralph, but happy to be out of the other House (of Commons). There is a good life after politics."

Klein: "Yeah, I'm doing a lot less and making a lot more money."

Chretien: "Same for me Ralph, but when we were in politics we weren't in it for the money, but for the fun of it." It would be hard to imagine the personality-challenged antagonists of today -- specifically Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Alberta's Ed Stelmach or Ontario's Dalton McGuinty -- engaging in respectful chummy talk now or even a few years after they leave office.