Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pauline Marois: Another Façade for the PQ

On March 20, 2006, we thought that Pauline Marois left politics for good. Yesterday at 5:00 PM, Pauline Marois was elected by acclamation as the new leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ). Many people would say that Quebeckers should give her a chance to show her ideas. Nonetheless, it's hard to see what was the point of electing Pauline Marois without pressing her to clearly explain her ideas.

In the interview that she gave to journalist Bernard Derome yesterday, Marois was asked if she would rather prefer to have an opponent in the leadership race. She looked really elated while saying that during the leadership race, no one else threw their candidacy in the ring. That rather looks like arrogance. Thanks to former leadership candidate Gilles Duceppe, Marois didn't really fight during the leadership race.

Apparently, she met 4000 members of the PQ and that they "know what [she has] in store [and] in [her] heart." Does it suggest that there weren't much talks about her ideas? So far, she just made a few appearances in the media to affirm that she intents to "modernize social-democracy" and that there's no need for the PQ to think about immediately organizing a referendum once elected. However, do all members of the PQ really wanted to have her as a leader?

That remains a good question. On the 15th of November 2005, 104 577 people (76% of the PQ's members, back then) casted their vote in the leadership race that everybody probably remembers. At that time, while André Boisclair won that leadership race with 53.7% of the votes, Pauline Marois just got 30.6% of them. Apparently, it was said that Marois was just too old in comparison with Boisclair, who was seen as the representative of changes.

After Gilles Duceppe resigned from the previous leadership race, militants of the PQ embrace Pauline Marois as their new leader. Why did virtually all members of the PQ start singing eulogies for someone that most of them rejected back in 2005 just because she was too old? Absurd though it might sound, members of the PQ just went so much through hard times with André Boisclair that they're ready to accept any big shots to take his place.

Let's remember that Agnès Maltais, a deputy of the PQ, said yesterday that "no one in Quebec or in Canada has the experience" of Pauline Marois. Where are her ideas? What does Pauline Marois mean when she upholds that social-democracy must be modernized? Which social policies must be abolished? What does she think about religious accommodations? What must be done, according to her, "to produce wealth in order to redistribute it"? What must be done to solve the problems with our pathetic health-care system?

Personal observation: Full silence or trivial speeches from Mrs. Marois.

Without a doubt, militants of the PQ didn't learn anything from what they went through with André Boisclair. Instead of electing someone for his ideas, these people, back then, chose a man - because of his young age and image - who couldn't clearly communicate with people. As a result of that, during the previous provincial election, Boisclair defended a political program in which he didn't believe in!

Yesterday, militants of the PQ just massively supported Marois just because she was seen as a saviour regardless of her ideas. Don't forget that she said that she was "chosen without opposition" to Bernard Derome yesterday! Moreover, in the first week of the leadership race (in the month of May), Marois wisely said that "there's a reflection to do on the [PQ], its roots [and] its capacity to listen to people."

All in all, despite electing Pauline Marois by acclamation, militants of the PQ chose their new leader the same way they showed appreciation for André Boisclair in 2005. In other words, the election of Pauline Marois was just about the image and not about a debate (or rather a presentation) of ideas. The PQ is not done with looking like a joke. Does the PQ still want to claim that it's a party full of ideas?


Made by Pierre Morin aka MisterP, posted by Élodie Gagnon-Martin

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Quebeckers' Incomprehension on Afghanistan

Yesterday, a military parade was held in Quebec City. It was formed of 2000 soldiers who are part of the 5th Mechanized Brigade and the Royal 22nd Regiment, which will be sent in Afghanistan in July and August for 6 months. Apparently, 70% of Quebeckers are against the mission. No surprise here. Quebec has always had a mainstream tradition of being opposed to Canada's military commitments oversea.

Soldiers with the Canadian battle group take positions for a second day of operations to root out Taliban just west of Kandahar. (John Cotter/Canadian Press)

However, this opposition to this country's presence in Afghanistan can hypothetically be due to most Quebeckers' lack of information on the mission itself, according to Jocelyn Coulon, the director of the University of Montreal's Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations.

According to many anti-war protesters who talked yesterday, Canada is taking part to an "imperialist" adventure. In a poll conducted by Léger Marketing, 62% of Quebeckers believed that Canadian troops are in Afghanistan so that Canada can be in good terms with the USA rather than participating to the restoration of democracy and peace.

The mission is evidently led by troops of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Nevertheless, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the NATO's general secretary, reminded everybody during a press conference in Montreal yesterday that the mission in Afghanistan is done with a mandate from the Security Council of the United Nations (UN). Needless to remind you that the UN forbids military occupation mission.

Moreover, many UN's representatives are in Afghanistan to contribute to the development and reconstruction of this Central Asian country. This means that many provinces of Afghanistan are stable, especially those who are far from the border shared with Pakistan.

Obviously, Scheffer also added that Canadian troops are making quite a difference not just in the province of Kandahar, but also in Afghanistan. Indeed, do you need to be reminded that most Afghan people support the presence of the NATO's troops on their national territory?

Reconstructing Afghanistan is not just a job done by soldiers, unlike what many people think. According to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the reconstruction is the result of a "complementary and mutually reinforcing efforts of the Canadian Forces, Canadian diplomats, development experts and civilian police." In fact, Scott Gilmore, the executive director of Peace Dividend Trust, stated that "whether it's microcredit, health care, justice, or private sector development, [the CIDA] and Canadian agencies are making an impressive difference in Afghanistan."

Many people believe that the mission in Afghanistan is devoid of humanitarian aid. Hopefully, with the help of the CIDA, which is responsible for the construction of many schools in Kandahar, 6 million children will be enrolled in schools in 2007-2008. Besides, with the economic programs conducted by the CIDA, over 220 000 women obtained saving services and small loans that will help them to test their entrepreneurship, which is something that they couldn't do under the Taliban's governance that isolated Afghanistan from modern influence.

If we also take in consideration the villages that have been reconstructed with the help of the CIDA in the province of Kandahar, 334 000 landmines were destroyed (as of January 18, 2007). Therefore, this contributed to free millions of square metres of land for agriculture and housing.

All in all, believing that the province of Kandahar is solely under the grip of Canadian troops is plainly wrong. Canada's mission in Afghanistan has a military aspect and also a humanitarian one as well. In fact, while Canada, through the CIDA, is supposed to spend over $100 million a year from 2003 to 2011, the CIDA spent $39 million in 2006-2007 to support international reconstruction and development activities in Afghanistan. After all, some myths about Canada's presence in Afghanistan need to be destroyed.


PS: Notwithstanding the opinion expressed by myself, this blog post was dedicated to Émilie, one of my former college classmates. I wish you the best of lucks in your future career in international development.

Yours truly,

Anh Khoi

Friday, June 22, 2007

Italian Neo-Realism and Iraq

With my daily visit on the web meant to feed me in terms of news, I saw a very interesting thing on the web site of Radio-Canada. Today, journalist Sophie-Hélène Leboeuf shares with us a very interesting news on Iraq. If you look at what she said, she was talking about a new way to write History. From what I know, in the previous centuries, people used to write what they felt in their memoirs or even a notebook.

When the camera was invented, many people started to make on their own their movies even though they knew it sucks like hell. Now, with the quick development of Internet, it is now possible to become known around the world. Why is that so? Well, you don't need the budget of a James Bond movie to promote your art work and be part of the marketing process.

An American company called Chat the planet was part of a web project called Hometown Bagdad. Since March, this web project is actually part of a vlog (meaning video blog for the ignorant people out there :-P) that shows you 38 episodes of a web video series. This video series shows you the daily life of many people living in the Iraqi capital city of Bagdad in a very spontaneous way, which means with no acting at all.

By the way, the filmmakers and the "actors" have always risked their lives whenever they shot the clips.

That almost makes you think about Zhang Yimou's film Not one Less (and by extension Italian neo-realistic movies) which used non-professional actors. However, before you start watching the episode, the videos' length can vary between 2 to 8 minutes and they look a lot like documentaries. Enjoy watching the first episode!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quebec's Educational Conundrum

Quebec is currently facing a shortage of teachers. For instance, a science teacher in High school can hardly be found that Quebeckers schools hired 142 teachers last year. These 142 science teachers didn't even have a teaching licence.

Talk about so much open-mindedness from Quebec's educational system! If you're not qualified to teach any given subject, maybe you'll be hired if you studied in a Quebecker university. Unfortunately, many people don't notice Quebec's lack of open-mindedness towards qualified immigrants when it comes to granting teaching licence.

For instance, this is what Bernard Tremblay, the director of working relations from the Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec (FCSQ) said:"I've always had the feeling that [Quebec's] ministry of Education had an approach that is opened enough. We don't believe that the ministry of Education's attitude restrict the access to teaching for qualified people."

Despite the few improvement that we've seen in the past years, Tremblay's comment definitely falls apart. Either Tremblay is a total idiot or just someone who spills out a speech that was all made up beforehand. In fact, the Centre d'appui aux communautés immigrantes welcomes on a daily basis many immigrant teachers who face difficulty to obtain the provincial teaching licence, according to its director Anait Aleksanian.

Secondly, the ministries of Immigration and Education recognize the legitimacy of most immigrant teachers' diploma and qualification at a certain extent. Still, many of these people can't get a licence because according to the rules of Quebec's ministry of Education, virtually all immigrant teachers 1) never went through a "psychological and pedagogical training program" (in French: formation psychopédagogique) containing at least 30 units (450 hours) and 2) never studied in Quebec's universities.

A "psychological and pedagogical training program" contains classes of psychology, didactics and class management, for instance. Furthermore, a note in the section 1.4 of the rules published by the ministry of Education says that "teaching experience, no matter how vast it is, can't replace the psychological and pedagogical training."

Now, that's a hell of a good joke!

If you come from a foreign country and that you have 10 years of teaching experience under your belt, you can't even get your licence under Quebec's pathetic standards. Besides having to go through a "psychological and pedagogical training", immigrants teachers must also study 4 years in a Quebecker university to get their B.A. in Education.

Evidently, immigrants should adapt themselves to our standards, but what's the point to ask them to study for an extra 4 years something that they already studied in their homeland? Is Quebec averring that immigrant teachers will never adapt themselves to our standards unless they take a mandatory 4 years trip in any of our given universities?

No wonder why many immigrant teachers (and also some Quebecker students) prefer to go in a university located in Ontario to get a certificate in Education that only requires 1 year of studies!

Obviously, the most shocking truth is rooted in the statistics. While the government of Ontario issued teaching licences to 3626 immigrant teachers out of 4000 in 2006, Quebec's government only issued its licences to 428 immigrant teachers out of 951.

Quebec's stats are so low because most immigrants teachers either decide to study in another field of knowledge, turn themselves to another job or go in Ontario in order to get their teaching licence. We can really wonder if our province has the morbid ambition to have a shortage of teachers.

Remember that trade unionist Gérald Larose once affirmed that "a society's future lies [in what we have] between our ears." Unfortunately, how can that thing located between the ears of each of our children be fed if we stick to our pathetic standards? It would take another column to say why Quebec should take Ontario's educational standards as an example, despite their flaws.

Friday, June 15, 2007

French Election, Nicolas Sarkozy and J.R.R. Tolkien

In two days, the second round of the French legislative election will be held. Apparently, Nicolas Sarkozy's own political party is seen as the leading party to the point that some French people actually fear the upcoming political context in France. In fact, that fear can be seen in this video that I found on the blog Place de la République and there are also other things that will be shared. So watch the video and tell me what you think about it.

Besides, have a look at the image that you can find on the web site Vivre avec Sarkozy, an anti-Sarkozy web site.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

American Military Money in Iraq

Yesterday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) announced the release of its annual yearbook on armaments, disarmament and international security. According to the SIPRI's report, “world military expenditure in 2006 was [worth] $1204 billion in current dollars, [which means a 3.5%] increase since 2005.” Obviously, the USA outranks every countries with its military spending of $528.7 billion meant for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the press conference, one interesting statement was made.

“It is worth asking how cost-effective military expenditure is as a way of increasing the security of human lives, if we talk about avoiding premature deaths and disability due to current dangers[,]” said Elisabeth Sköns, the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme Leader.

Of course, the statement of Sköns can be applied for the context in Iraq. Therefore, is the American government's financial management of the war in Iraq effective as a way to guarantee the security of Iraqi and American lives? Given the tensions that has characterized Iraq, the chasm between Sunnis and Shiites might get bigger.

According to an article published yesterday in the New York Times by John F. Burns and Alissa J. Rubin, the USA “has spent more than $15 billion in building up Iraq's army and police force, whose manpower of 350,000 is heavily Shiite.” Moreover, American military officers decided to provide Sunni Arab groups with weapons, ammunitions, money, supplies and fuel so that they ally themselves with the USA's troops against Al-Qaeda. Despite having ties with Al-Qaeda in the past, these Sunni Arab groups turned themselves against it because they disapprove Al-Qaeda's strategies, particularly suicide bombings that have killed a plethora of Iraqi civilians.

An American military official declared that the tactic certainly works. For example, the province of Anbar, the desert hinterland West of Baghdad, is no longer a dangerous area for the American troops, because insurgents of Al-Qaeda less and less attack them. Furthermore, these Sunni Arab groups are even willing to “[alert] American troops to the location of roadside bombs and other lethal booby traps.” (Burns and Rubins, 2007)

In short, while the number of suicide bombings diminished in and around Baghdad, American military officers also thought about using the tactic called the “Anbar model” in areas mostly inhabited by Sunni Arab groups such as the district of Amiriya along with the provinces of Babil (mostly inhabited by Shiites), Diyala and Salahuddin.

Ethnic map of Iraq
Nevertheless, this tactic evidently has a dark side. Indeed, the weapons and ammunitions provided by American troops to Sunni Arab groups can be used by the latter to attack Shiites. Needless to say that Sunni Arab groups perceived Shiites as Persians, which is a reference to the ties between Iraqi Shiites and their Iranian counterparts. That tells us that the relation between Sunnis and Shiites didn't thaw if we take in consideration the presence of Shiite militias in Iraq. Strange though it might sound, these Sunni Arab groups “show few signs of wanting to work with the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki.”

Many American officers who spoke their mind up against the “Anbar model” averred that the their colleagues are feeding both sides of an upcoming civil war by 1) arming Sunni Arab groups, 2) building up Iraq's army and police force (mostly made of Shiites) and 3) witnessing the existence of Shiite militias. Besides, with the decrease of American military manpower, any weapon given to Sunni Arab groups can possibly be used against Shiites or even American soldiers. Moreover, nothing guarantees us that American soldiers can have a good grip on Sunni Arab groups.

Finally, the tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiites can hardly be erased. Many observers fear that Iraq will go through a war of sectarian domination between the Sunnis and the Shiites. In fact, Sheik Khalik al-Atiyah, the deputy Parliament speaker, “said in a recent interview that he would rule out any discussion of an amnesty for Sunni Arab insurgents, even those who commit to fighting [Al-Qaeda],” according to the New York Times. In short, sectarian rivalries are looming straight ahead in Iraq, because the American government never knew how to handle its unjustified military trip in Iraq.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Environmentalists' Smallness of Thoughts

According to environmentalists and politicians of opposition parties, John Baird, Canada's Environment minister, must resign, because he didn't bother to respect the Kyoto Protocol in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What if Stephen Harper was right about the very usefulness of these people's sacred cow? Respecting the Kyoto Protocol by the book won't be of any help to Canada.

The Kyoto Protocol's weakness lies in its denial of any given country's own domestic particularities. In fact, France, Germany and Great Britain can reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas more easily than Canada because their economy is not mostly built on the exploitation of natural resources (ex: oil and natural gas). In fact, think about the pollution created by the exploitation of oil sands in Alberta.

Do people know what are the protocol's objectives? Apparently not in some cases. Nevertheless, far from me be it to state that climate change is a nonsensical theory! Canada must do everything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All in all, this nation's fight against climate change will be done with a slower pace despite the laments of environmentalist clerics like Steven Guilbeault, David Suzuki and Daniel Breton.

In the first place, it was the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) that made Canada adhere to the Kyoto Protocol. As opposed to what Jason Cherniak upholds, the LPC made it impossible for our country to stick to our international engagements nowadays. From 1993 to 2006, the Liberals were upholding that emissions of greenhouse gas must be tackled. However, they never brought forward any environmental regulations.

In 1990, the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions was at 596 million megatonnes (Mt). These emissions' intensity reached a summit of 747 million Mt in 2005 (click on the next graphic to enlarge it), because of the Liberals' inaction according to the latest report from Environment Canada. In short, the lack of formal policies contributed to the increase of emissions of greenhouse gas in Canada from 1993 to 2006.

Given the Liberals' pride for Pablo Rodriguez's Bill C-288, which is "[an] Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol", they try to dump their past mistakes on the Tories. However, one question remains: since Canada's emissions of greenhouse gas were at 747 million Mt in 2005 (which is 32.7% above the Kyoto Protocol's target) how do you make sure that they get to 563 million Mt by 2012 in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol?

Taking radical measures would seriously give no time for industrial polluters to adjust themselves. Moreover, the heart of Canada's economy would be hit. The Bill C-288, which is a radical measure, puts too much pressure on Canada. Indeed, our country would be deprived from the bulk of its revenue provided by natural resources.

Hopefully, on April 26, 2007, John Baird came up with a pragmatic green plan and he understood that "doing nothing (just like the Liberals) was no longer an option." With this plan that could have been better, Baird clearly indicated that industrial sectors must become 18% more energy efficient in 2010. Moreover, by 2015, Canada might save $6.4 billion in health-care expenses, because fewer people will be suffering from pollution-related illness.

Had the Liberals taken action against pollution in 2005 (or before this year), Canada would have certainly been close to the Kyoto Protocol's objectives nowadays. With the actions taken by the Harper government in April, Canada will be able to meet the Kyoto Protocol's objectives by 2020, despite being eight years behind the year indicated in the protocol (2012). In fact, we can't achieve in 5 years, with radical measures, something that we should have striven to do since one decade!

With that being said, even though I'm not a warm supporter of the Tories, I'd like to say that the Liberals should have known back in 1998 that the signature and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol don't act as a national legislative regulation. Hence, that explains the necessity to promulgate in the House of Commons a set of formal environmental laws so that citizens and industrial sectors can comply.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Climate Change: Canadian Arrogance on the Agenda

On Wednesday, Canada's Prime Minister will take part to the G8 summit in Heilingendamm, a city in the North of Germany. Moreover, climate change will be on the agenda. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, affirmed that members of the G8 are to reduce 50% of their greenhouse gas levels by 2050 while using 1990 as the baseline. Before he said that Canada is not in a good position to suscribe to Merkel's vision, Stephen Harper admitted that Canada can be a role model for countries like India, China and the USA.

Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, in Germany.
Harper spent his time blaming the Liberals for not doing anything while it was them who signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol! After all, the leader of the Conservative Party is not necessarily wrong when he blames the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC). Nonetheless, that doesn't give a reason for Harper to take people for idiots. He also has his share of responsibility in the pollution of Canada. In short, Canada has no lessons to give to other countries in environment.

While the Kyoto Protocol was ratified by Canada in 1998 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the Liberals' mandate concerning environment was all talks but no bangs. What did the Liberals do to fight climate changes? Not much! In fact, Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions reached an estimated 758 million megatonnes (carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2004, which is 27% up from the levels of 1990! All in all, if we stay in the circle of the Kyoto Protocol, Canada's environmental record (speaking about the increase of greenhouse gas emissions) can be put next to that of Australia (+25%), Greece (+27%), Portugal (+41%) and Spain (+49%).

While some Liberals are so good in presenting themselves as the clerics who wish to follow the Kyoto Protocol, it seems that some of them tend to forget that their governments did nothing. In fact many of them, especially Pablo Rodriguez, should remember that Canada’s 2004 emissions of greenhouse gas were 34,6% above the target to be achieved in the period of 2008 to 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, which means 563 million megatonnes. This is due to the lack of national regulations.

As for Stephen Harper, he shouldn't think that his environmental record is more impressive. In fact, after his election, Canada's exportation of oil towards the USA increased. Furthermore, the exploitation of oil sands in the region of Cold Lake, Peace River and Athasbasca (three regions of Alberta) also increased. I also don't need to tell you how polluting is the exploitation of oil sands. Obviously, Stephen Harper's target in his fight against climate changes is smog. However, by 2010, Canada's emissions of greenhouse gas will be 47% higher than its legal objective if he keeps doing what he actually does.

What must be understood is that Canada's visible difficulty to fight climate change is rooted into its dynamic economy. Indeed, our economy depends a lot on natural resources. Now, it's good to see that our country is getting rich thanks to our natural resources. However, the downside of such an economic benefit is the pollution that it creates. What needs to be done?

Since Canadian politics is a bipartisan game of finger pointing played between the LPC and the Conservative Party, I don't expect some solutions to be brought forward in the House of Commons. The challenge that Canada will face is going to consist into juggling at the same time with the fight against climate changes and also with making profits with our natural resources in an environment-friendly way.

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