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The Issue of Abortion

Brad Trost, MP of Saskatoon-Humboldt

So its been a while since my last post, I’ve been preoccupied with exams and what have you, but with the election coming up I thought I’d throw my opinions on abortion out there.  This comes partly in response to the comments by Conservative MP Brad Trost, that the federal government had ‘defunded’ Planned Parenthood.

Now I’ve thought long and hard about where I stand on the issue of abortion.  I don’t think either the pro-life or the pro-choice argument are inherently wrong, or alternatively that they are entirely exclusive from one another.  I am however, pro-choice.

Certain arguments that are positioned by the pro-life advocates I happen to agree with however, such as the argument that abortion is essentially killing a baby.  Before everyone responds with how many sperm die when they ejaculate or how a woman loses an egg every month, these are haploid cells that were not going to turn into a baby.  The fact of the matter is that when you get an abortion, the process of the building of human life have already started, and if left as is, the fetus will result in a baby.  At the point that abortions take place however, discounting late-abortions, the fetus has not developed to the point where it can be considered a baby, but rather it remains ‘a bunch of cells’.  I don’t think they can be disregarded as just ‘a bunch of cells’ without significance however, but rather as a bunch of cells that would have one day created a baby.

So now that I’ve taken the position that the fetus ought to be regarded as a future baby, I will carry on for why I think abortions should be fully legal and supported by the government.  Of course I will argue that a woman’s body is her own, and I nor any politician should have the right to tell them what they can or cannot do with it.  At this point I will also make the argument that the pregnant woman’s rights are of a greater value than of the unborn fetus, due to the fact that it is the mother who will be, under ordinary circumstances, raising the child.

However this should not be what the argument ought to be about.  I think what needs to be discussed is why women are getting abortions, how we can support women who do get pregnant, and how we can create conditions where abortions are not necessary in our society.  Right now however, I argue that they are necessary, and the option should always be available.

I think you would be very hard pressed to find a pro-choice advocate that would argue that life is not significant, because they are not anti-life.  The loss of life, even potential life is unfortunate to say the least.  Reasons why women may want abortions vary around lack of ability to provide for the child, the timing and life-circumstances of a woman etc.  Of course I don’t think women should have children if they’re not ready, but then why are they getting pregnant in the first place?  Not engaging in safe-sex?  Accidents?

As a man, I have to say that the condom is just not the way to go when it comes to safe-sex.  I’m not going to make the argument that its because they’re uncomfortable (which they are), and if men could take a pill, I’m certain we would.  But with everything from slips to tears, there is that risk that continues to be realized.  I think in order to address this issue, more needs to be put in place to get women on birth control methods that they can come to terms with (or hell, even the development of male methods of birth control).

If a woman is getting an abortion, chances are it is because she cannot afford to take care of it, or is too young to make that decision (of course there are exceptions).  This gives attention to single mothers, who are both more likely to get abortions, and without the pro-choice option are structurally disadvantaged.   Many are lucky to have family and friends to support them and what have you, but daycare is expensive, babysitters are expensive, and without someone else to take care of their child throughout the day, how is a single mother going to support herself and her family?

Things like increasing welfare, creating social housing, implementing a national daycare program, and increasing childcare benefits are in my opinion necessary to creating ideal situations for both children and mothers.  To get political here, women on welfare don’t need lower taxes, they need assistance that only social programs and services can provide.  If you’re on welfare, you’re not going to be paying taxes to begin with.  Stephen Harper can say he supports families by lowering taxes and giving an extra $100 to families with children under five or what have you, but this does not help those who need it.  You can whine and complain that people on welfare don’t work and go and spend all their money on booze, but for kids who grow up in households where their parents are on welfare, those government handouts are what keep them alive.

Now just to finish up on an entirely political note here, if you support a woman’s right to choice, and if you support single mothers, you would have to be an imbecile to vote Conservative in the upcoming election.  I don’t care if you have in the past, but don’t do it again if you support either.  I voted NDP in advance polling, and I would be thrilled if you did too, but even if you don’t, just don’t vote Conservative.


Why the Libya Conflict Continues


Libyan Rebel in Ajdabiya (Courtesy of CNN)

It has been nearly two months since fighting started in Libya, and it still continues despite help from NATO to the rebel forces.  Had we left Libya to deal with its own problems, they would have been resolved long ago, I have no doubt in my mind about this, but let me go into more detail.

The extension of this conflict was inevitable.  Gaddafi and his forces had the upper hand by a landslide, and the rebels stood no chance to begin with.  This changed when NATO got involved and crippled the military apparatus of Libya.  What this has done is essentially evened the odds, which has created an even more volatile region.  As the two armies of now more relatively equal size fight essentially to the death, as both desire control, large numbers of casualties will incur on both sides.  Had Gaddafi suppressed the rebels initially, the conflict would have ended, perhaps he would have learned that he needs to open up talks for a more democratic process, but the bloodshed would have ceased.

Let us not forget that Gaddafi’s initial coup was to stop the exploitation of his people and resources to the West, and to provide more to the citizens of Libya.  He has done this over decades of infrastructure development, creation of social services, and public works such as healthcare and education; however the media will not cover this, because Gaddafi is a socialist. Gaddafi has always been, despite Western media coverage, about the people.  I do not justify any human rights abuses that have been incurred along the way, however you cannot form an opinion on the issue without knowing the other side.  The Libyan rebels are not rebelling because they are starving by any means, but solely for political reasons.

What NATO has done, again, is exacerbate the problem.  By supporting a coup that was destined to fail from its inception, they must now either increase support by perhaps establishing ground forces to finish what they’ve started, or continue to sit by and watch this conflict pan out.  If left as is, this conflict will last a long time, and I suspect Gaddafi will win this war.  Therefore, I suspect NATO will be ramping up their forces.

Harper to Double TFSA

Harper in Richmond, Ont. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

So I woke up only to hear that Harper plans on double the limit of contribution for TFSA’s.  I’m not going to get too into detail here, but the fact of the matter is that Mr. Harper, the average Canadian does not max out their contributions to the TFSA anyways.  The ones who do, are the wealthiest 10-15% of the population.  With most Canadians struggling to max out their RRSP contributions, like myself, there’s a reason more Canadians are not picking up your TFSA, meanwhile this policy is sheltering the money of the rich and limiting the tax base for which we can help those in need.

For some numbers, Finance Canada estimated that the TFSA in 2009, the first year of the accounts, cost 45million dollars of potential tax revenue. Furthermore this number will continue to grow as those who can afford it max out their contributions and a larger pool of funds becomes untaxed.

It seems like every week Harper is promoting a new double-edged fiscal policy that liberate the rich, and eliminate services for those who need it.  I also like to note that CBC does not inform Canadians about the costs of these policies, nor does it mention why a majority of Canadians have not started these accounts; they can’t afford to contribute.  Canadians need more discourse!

Libya: Root of Conflict

Now I had always assumed that the Libyan intervention was not on humanitarian grounds, and that there was more to it than that.  Particularly I had a hunch that it had something to do with oil.  Well I’ve come up with a fairly short explanation for this entire intervention.

In early 2009,  Qaddafi had suggested that he would consider the nationalization of Libyan oil reserves to maintain a higher price on oil.  In doing this, Qaddafi could maintain the building of large scale infrastructure projects and increase the ability of the Libyan welfare state.  This suggestion of nationalization however, comes as a direct threat to Western investors who look to Libya for oil extraction.  Essentially, with Qaddafi in power there is a looming threat that Western oil companies can be kicked out of Libya.

Why Qaddafi would nationalize oil, is because ideologically Qaddafi is a socialist.  Throughout the last several decades, he has built an incredibly strong welfare state as a result of the oil profits, and by nationalizing oil he can maintain a high price of oil which will only help to improve this project.  Ideologically, there is a conflict between the notion of liberal capitalism and state-orchestrated socialism; therefore Qaddafi is a threat to western values and ideals.

The present context, wherein there has been a rebel uprising to overthrow the Qaddafi regime has provided the opportunity for the Western powers to intervene for ‘humanitarian interests’.  As the old saying goes ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, through supporting the rebel movement, the Western powers can ensure that Qaddafi and the threat of nationalization is done away with.

Conclusion: It’s all about oil.

Stephen Harper’s Canada

In his campaigns for the 2004, and later his successful 2006 election, Stephen Harper told us that he would change Canada.  Upon his victory, he stated “Tonight, friends, our great country has voted for change”.  Well Mr. Harper, this sure is not the Canada that I wanted; but I’ll go into my own views later.  First I want to examine a few of Stephen Harper’s promises for a new Canada, and how he has followed through.  It would be very hard to argue that he hasn’t been doing what he had set out to do, in fact Stephen Harper is an extremely skilled Prime Minister, however his policies simply do not benefit everyday Canadians.

Upon becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper said that he would, to name a few:

Stephen Joseph Harper

  • Cut taxes
  • Renew stronger relationships with the United States
  • Cut down on wait times for health care
  • Rebuild the armed forces

I won’t get into all of them, as I’m sure you have better things to do but let me address a few of these issues.

I think taxes are very important and I will tell you why.  Personal income tax rates in Canada are very low, and as a result we’ve all had more money in our pockets.  Currently our top tax bracket consists of those who earn over $130,000/year, and are taxed 29%.  In the United States, earners that make over $200,00/year are taxed at 33$.  If in Canada we were to adopt a 32% tax rate and apply it to earners making over $250,000/year (0.8% of Canadians), we would raise 2.06billion dollars.  Furthermore, a 35% tax rate on those making over $750,000/year (0.1% of Canadians) would result in an additional 1.2billion dollars.

So by taxing the wealthy at a rate less than they would be taxed in America, and by taxing the mega-rich a little more, we would raise annually another 3.26billion dollars a year.  I’m getting to something here.

Alongside personal tax cuts, corporate tax rates have gone from 22% in the 2007, to 16.5%, giving Canada the lowest corporate tax rates in the G-7.  However let’s look at the fact that business investment is not up, productivity growth has not changed, and full time jobs have decreased.  By re-instating corporate tax rates to 21%, the Canadian government will generate 5.4billion dollars.  This has cost the Canadian Government billions of dollars that could have been used to fund our health care system.  Ask any Canadian about the wait times in our health care system, and they will tell you how pathetic it is.  The only way to get served in a hospital, is if you’re in the process of dying.

What I’m saying is that with this 8.66billion dollars, instead of buying fighter jets, building prisons, increasing military spending, and paying for the ads of Stephen Harper’s economic action plan, we could have been reduced post-secondary tuition in half, provided affordable universal child care so single parents can have the opportunity to get out of poverty.  With 8.66 billion dollars, we could invest in securing futures, rather than occupying sovereign land abroad and bombing civilians.

I hope you like them, because they cost taxpayers 9billion dollars.

Lastly I need to discuss Stephen Harper’s addiction to guns.  In 2009, Canada spent 20.5billion dollars on our military, and as part of Harper’s First Defence Strategy, the budget has increased 0.6% annually (and is projected to continue to do so for the next 20 years).  What does this mean for Canadians?  It means not only will the Canadian government have less money as a result of our lower taxes, but an increased amount of our smaller budget will go towards the military at the expense of social programs.

Current Election Proposals

Income splitting:
The fact of the matter is, income splitting simply does not support the average Canadian.  Who does it support?  It supports men with high incomes.  Firstly, the reason I made the emphasis on men, comes from the fact that by supporting income-splitting we support the status quo, wherein firstly we have to take into consideration that women statistically earn 21% less than men.  Furthermore, given that women do work and make similar incomes as their husbands, they will receive no benefits as they are already on the same tax bracket.  Only households in which women who make considerably less, or do not work, will benefit from the carry over of incomes.  This promotes a nuclear family that undermines the very rights of women.

Secondly, this does not benefit the average Canadian.  Given that most Canadians live in families with two or more earners, which 18.7 million Canadians do, the disparity between the incomes of spouses must be very large in order to attain any benefits.  This does not help single parents, unattached individuals, and low-income households (who are already in a low or the lowest tax bracket and receive no benefit from splitting).  All this promise does, is gives tax breaks to the rich.  A single-earner family that makes $230,000 a year would receive an extra $9000.  Lastly the savings of the rich would cost the government $5billion dollars a year that they could be otherwise spending on our deteriorating healthcare system for starters.

This is not the Canada any of us should want to live in.  Where our government would rather occupy a foreign country to impose our ideals on them, to protect them a group that our closest allies trained and funded in the 1990s, than help our fellow Canadians live a decent life.  As income inequality in Canada is as high as it was during the Great Depression, Harper’s Conservatives do nothing to address our failing healthcare system, the skyrocketing price of an education, and the 300,000 Canadians that go homeless every year.  This is Canada, and this is unacceptable.

Related Links:

CCPA Alternative Federal Budget

Contemplating the Unthinkable Harper Majority

Canada watches it democracy erode

The Leadership Debates and Elizabeth May

Now as it is election time here in Canada, this big controversy has come up over whether leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, should participate in the upcoming leadership debates.  Furthermore there has been the talk of a separate debate between leaders Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper.

Green Party Leader: Elizabeth May

Personally, I am under the belief that Elizabeth May does indeed have the right to participate in the leadership debates on the following grounds:

  • Like May has argued it is undemocratic.  In the 2008 Federal Election, approximately 7% of voters voted in favour of the Green Party.  No she did not win a seat in the House of Commons but it shows that Green issues are indeed Canadian issues.
  • Media Bias.  Both the decisions to exclude May from debates, as well as assuming any one-on-one debates follow should not be the decision of the corporate media to make.  Yes these debates will run on their stations, however these debates are for the people of Canada.  Ideally any of the leaders should be allowed to debate with any of the others, politicians willing, without the interference of any corporate media.  Although Conservatives and Liberals are leading the polls, majority outstanding, they will still be required to work with other parties to pass legislature; however by turning the narrative to Harper vs. Ignatieff they are telling Canadians that these are your only options.

Alternatively as is being argued by the broadcasting consortium, May or the Green Party hold no seats in the House of Commons.  The way I see this is that the Green Party represents the interests of Canadians who view the environment as a serious concern.  They do not expect to lead Canada, nor does May expect to be the Prime Minister, but rather their goal is to show to the Canadian government that Canadians want these issues discussed.

The real question I think here is, what extent should private interests determine the democratic process?  Do the 6.8% of voters deserve to be heard?  Or how about the 83% of respondents to CBC’s poll, ‘should Elizabeth May be included in the leadership debates?’ What I’m curious is whether the consortium will indeed respect the will of the people, or whether private and corporate interests have truly poisoned our democratic process.

Edit: Not an American, but this is what I’m talking about!

Related Links:

Michael Ignatieff’s Challenge to Harper
Last Year’s Election Results
Harper’s ‘democracy’

Conflict in Libya

I’ve decided to bring some more discourse to the conflict in Libya, the leadership of Muammar Qaddafi, and the opposing rebel forces.  However before going into any discourse I believe that it is essential to discuss Libya in the context of history.

Libya had formerly been an Italian colony, known as Italian North Africa, until its independence in 1951, when King Idris declared himself monarch of the Libyan people.  Following the discovery of petroleum reserves, Libya became extremely wealthy however much of this wealth was concentrated in the hands of Idris and his homeland.  This lead to the coup in 1969 wherein Muammar Qaddafi became the new ruler of Libya.

So what has Qaddafi done in Libya since?

Relatively speaking, Libya has done quite well.

Within Libya, citizens enjoy the benefits of universal health care that is considered the best in Africa, free education in Libya and extensive government scholarships for Libyans studying abroad, the unemployed within the country receive monthly support payments in the range of $400-800/month.  There is no doubt that the welfare state in Libya is greater than any in Africa, and is comparable to many even in the Western world.

So where did this opposition movement come from?  I think it is necessary to note that Libya is not Egypt, nor is Tunisia.  This is not a movement by the people, through silent protest, this is a civil war with armed factions.  However like all things political, the conflict in Libya can be viewed on many levels.

In Egypt and Tunisia, for the most part, protests were nonviolent and the protesters were unarmed.  However alternatively, perhaps due to the eye of the international community, the governments of Egypt and Tunisia did not resort to the same level of violence that Qaddafi had in quelling the resistance.

The conflict first sparked on February 17th, as two protesters were killed in the city of Benghazi.  In response to this, with the support of the online community, a call went out to the citizens of Libya to step out into the streets to fight this injustice.  In response, supporters of Qaddafi in the capital of Tripoli went out to support the Qaddafi regime.

Personally, I have several suggestions, beliefs, and questions about the conflict in Libya.

The City of Tripoli

  • I hold the belief that Qaddafi should be removed from power, however I do not believe that it should be done through military force, but rather through diplomacy.
  • The democratic spirit that has swept the Middle East as of late is the catalyst of this uprising, and solely based on democracy rather than the lack of support of the people by the government as seen in Tunisia and Egypt.
  • Is it possible for the West to support Libyan democratic movements without violence?
  • Who are the rebels we are supporting, and what are their aims?
  • As Libya lacks a constitution and has been ruled since its independence by authoritarian leaders, who is going to replace Qaddafi in a country that lacks any opposition parties.

I question however the implications that military intervention has had on the region on several grounds:

  • There is no such thing as a neutral intervention.  The air raids and bombings of NATO forces on the Libyan military apparatus weakens the state’s military, therefore giving a competitive edge to the rebels.
  • This is a civil war.  The rebels in Libya are armed to the teeth with automatic rifles, explosive weapons, and even armored vehicles and tanks.  We are not supporting the people of Libya, we are supporting a militant group.  In Afghanistan in the 1990s, we supported a group of rebels that wanted to overthrow the government, they were the Taliban.  If we support these rebels before any discourse on who they are and what their goals are, how do we know that this will not just perpetuate conflicts between the Middle East and the West?
  • By intervening in the region through military force, are we not simply adding more violence to an already conflict-prone region that is stockpiled with an overabundance of arms?

On an end note, I’d like to put an emphasis on something Tariq Ali of The Guardian brought up:

The despot in Yemen, loathed by a majority of his people continues to kill them every day.  Not even an arms embargo, let alone a “no-fly zone” has been imposed on him.  Libya is yet another case of selective vigilantism by the US and its attack dogs in the west.

This is not a humanitarian intervention.  This is entirely political.

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