Thursday, August 27, 2009

Expect a Slow Down.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the blog, I've got something I need to say.

I know I haven't updated in awhile; and that quite a few things are going on that deserve talking about. The by-elections scheduled for late September, the Government's budget problem on overestimating the price of potash...

But, allow me to explain why I've let the blog fall over to the wayside.

Rather than be a sit down, back seat driver that criticizes the way things are being run; I've put my money where my mouth is and gotten involved in the political process. As such, I am currently standing for nomination to run as a political candidate here in my riding of Saskatoon-Humboldt.

It's a time consuming process, and as such, I won't have as much time as normal to scan the news headlines and reflect and respond to them. In September, we'll know whether or not I've been selected as the candidate.

If I am not, expect the blog to return to normal operating status.

If I am, then expect the blog to be more of a personal reflection on political events as well as a means to talk a bit about policy on a deeper level, rather than headlines.

Either way, the blog will continue.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moving Right Along

Source: CBC NEWS: Former Child Soldier Loses Fight to Stay in Saskatoon
Source: CBC NEWS: Former Child Soldiers Fights to Stay in Saskatoon

A former child soldier from Burma/Myanmar; lost his fight today to stay in Saskatoon. Nay Myo Hein, who deserted the Burma Army at the age of 14 and came to Canada, was told today that he would be deported back to Burma.

Hein maintains that he risks imprisonment, torture, and even worried for his life if he were to be returned to Burma. Hein came to Canada by working on a container ship, which he abandoned and then came west. Hein had applied for refuge status with the Canadian Government, but the application was rejected because the Immigration Board did not believe Hein's life was in any danger.

Let's do a quick history lesson on Burma:

It democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi in 1993, only to have her shut out and placed under house arrest by the ruling military junta. Suu Kyi has often been released from her house arrest, only to have new charges brought against her to keep her confined.

Burma is also a country that was hit hard by a cyclone in 2008, and the ruling military government dragged it heels to allow UN workers to distribute food and medicine and other supplies throughout the country.

The reigme is also often referred to as one of the worst offenders for human rights violations in the world.

Yet, given all this information that can be found quite easily, the Immigration Board does not believe that a child soldier who deserted the army is in any danger when he is returned to the country.

After all, desertion is a pretty serious charge. In the United States, a desertion charge can lead up to a treason charge against the person; a charge that can result in prison, or in that person's execution. And the United States is a modernized country; just imagine what a military junta is going to do to a deserter.

The fact of the matter is, the Conservatives opened a can of worms with their visa restrictions on Mexico and Czech Republic citizens. The minister responsible, and even the Prime Minister, have said that these restrictions were to ensure that CREDIBLE asylum seekers weren't thrown to the wayside in a myriad of worthless claims.

Yet, here is a man with a reasonable case to make against being returned to Burma; a CREDIBLE asylum seeker, and the government is failing him.

The only recourse left for Mr. Hein is receive a 'reprieve' from Peter Van Loan, and hopefully the Conservatives will show that they do actually care about 'credible asylum seekers' and at least give Mr. Hein's case a closer look and learn that the right thing to do is to keep him out of Burma.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Response to From My Cold Dead Hands Comment...

Well, I must admit a bit of shocking surprise when I logged on today and saw that my last post had generated quite a few comments. I must say I'm a tad disappointed that there were mostly comments that objected to the view I presented, as I would have liked at least one agreement, but I guess that's how things go sometimes.

Many of the commentators put forward their own statistics, links and opinions and I thank them for that. I have been going through the information they've provided and I feel that I should comment slightly on it.

I do not wish for this blog to become a 'they said, I said' response format, so I hope that I can say what needs to be said in this post and we can put the issue to rest on the blog...At least until something comes up in the news again to warrant further discussion.

Since there are quite a few people to respond to, I shall break this down in a person-by-person response. This does mean though that I may repeat myself.

Anonymous:
I looked into your link, and was unable to find the complete text you have pasted. The one argument I can make against it, of course, is that the age of the statistics is biased towards a time when the UK was indeed going through dangerous spikes. Links to British Government publications, which can be found below, often cite 1995 as being a particularly bad time.

Also, the US figure is only ESTIMATED. This provides a problem as, from my own experience, estimates usually turn out to be quite wrong and way off the mark.

Jayde:

I appreciate your linking to the Home Office website with the English Government, but I must point out that your statistics are little off. You provided a link for the 2006-2007 year, which is in contrast to the link I provided detailing 2008. The following link: Crime in England and Wales 2008/09; provides a picture that shows violent crime on the decline.

According to the report, found on page 7/12, weapons were only used 21% of the time in violent crimes; which equals to about one in five violent crimes. To further compound the matter, firearms were only used in 1% of those violent crimes, while overall firearms use by criminals fell 17% in 2008/09 as compared to 2007/08.

Offenses resulting in injury also fell 47% in the country. The report cites the reduction of imitation weapons as a major contributing factor in this number. (For those who don't know, imitation weapons refer to replicas which can and have been converted into live fire weapons. More information can be found here: 500,000 fake guns a year reach Britain|News|This is London)

In addition, in regards to your original source, I would point out that the highest violent crime rate according to the source was domestic crime; so things such as spousal and child abuse, rather than breaking and entering.

Sadly, I cannot comment on the link provided by you in regards to England and Scotland being dubbed more dangerous than Northern Ireland, because the link did not work. I attempted to find the source myself on the UN Crime and Justice website, but was unable to do so.

You ended your comment mentioning that the RCMP says they don't really use the registry and believe that it should be abolished. I was unable to find a link to support your comment, but I was able to find this: Winnipeg Free Press: Canadian Police Want to Keep Gun Registry Going.

The article also ends on a note I feel should be presented here, since you mentioned the United States. The California Attorney General Report on Firearms concluded that firearms within the state were used far more often by males to kill females and that firearms were rarely used against criminals or stop crimes; rather they inflicted harm on the people the firearm was meant to protect.

I would like to see a source for your ending argument, about the police wanting the registry abolished, because all I can find on my own is overwhelming support within the police community for the continuation of the registry.

Michael:

Sadly, I didn't see any sources to back up your arguments. However, I shall respond to them as best I can and work with the assumption that somewhere they are possibly recorded as fact.

I do thank you for providing a picture of use for a semi-automatic weapon, as I likely would not have considered the need for a follow-up shot on an animal before it runs off into the wild. However, I suppose I could argue, that the purpose of hunting (other than enjoyment or food) would be to become a better hunter, and develop the ability to kill an animal with a single shot.

After all, a single bullet would be more humane to the animal than a burst fire of five or so tearing through them. I would also argue that hunters who use longbows and other varieties of archery equipment could tell you all about the value of a 'good first blow' rather than just firing and hoping to finish the animal off.

As for your objections to my other arguments; in regards to saying that I am suggesting passivity over objectivity, I do not believe so. A person does indeed have a right to defend themselves from a person who is seeking to do harm to them. John Stuart Mill, a political philosopher, would suggest that the harm principle comes into play.

That we are able to do what we need to do in that it prevents a greater harm from occurring to ourselves. However, Canadian law would look on that within reason. You cite that we have a means to protect ourselves in regards to the claim of 'self-defense'. But, self-defense is not black and white, it is a very grey area.

For example, if a person breaks into your home with a baseball bat as their weapon and you proceed to shoot them on sight...Well, your self-defense trial would be over shortly and you would go to prison. The fact of the matter is, that we do not allow the 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality.

A person with a baseball bat poses no actual harm to a person armed with a gun, and as such, you stepped outside of your legal limits when you fired the weapon as you were in no physical danger and were not actually defending yourselves.

It is the same with the RCMP. I've spent some time touring detachments and have had relatives and friends within the RCMP, and they'll tell you all about the conflict 'wheel' that they use. That if a person is harmed with this, they can respond with that. The first response is not to go to the gun, but other things such as pepper spray or a tazer or a baton.

Self-defense is necessary when dealing with someone who is going to harm you or your loved ones, but if we hold our police to a standard of reasonable action, then we must adhere to it ourselves.

I suppose you'd ask well, what if they have a gun instead of a baseball bat? Well, that's a more difficult situation. Some would say that just the threat of you shooting back would be enough to get someone to submit, while others would say no you need to shoot first. But again, this can fall back to the problem with self-defense.

After all, that air gun they might have been carrying posed no harm and you shot them outside of your legal right to do so.

You also mentioned that areas with higher gun ownership see lower amounts of violent crimes. You cite the United States, and say they have low rape, home invasion and assault rates. You do not provide statistics, so I suppose it's my job.

Using the American Department of Justice website, which unfortunately only had this data up to 2005, there were 15,687 homicides (which can be broken down in to categories such as assault) throughout the United States. Unsurprisingly, guns and firearms were often the highest percentage in relation to these crimes.

You can look for yourself here: Bureau of Justice

Also according to the Bureau, from 2007 results found here; throughout the United States there was:
1,408,337 total violent crimes
16,929 murders and non-negligent manslaughter
90,427 forcible rape
445,125 robberies
885,856 aggravated assaults

Looking at those numbers, Assault/Rape/Robberies, your argument that the US sees less of these crimes seems to be a moot point.

Of course, I'd welcome any statistics you can bring that would counter these.

You also argue that because I don't see a logical use for a gun outside of hunting, that I'm naive in some way. Perhaps, in some ways I am, I can admit that. You suggest that others don't share my lifestyle and wouldn't agree with me. Well, that is where you might be wrong.

Going back to the Winnipeg Free Press article, in 2001 61% of Canadians wanted stricter gun laws. While 63% favoured outlawing gun ownership completely for private citizens. Now, I'm not completely against gun ownership so I'm not in that 63%; but I would say I am in the 61% that want stricter laws.

As such, given the polls findings, I'd say there are quite a few out there who seemingly share my 'life style', as you put it, and think something more needs to be done and that there is no use for guns outside of hunting and sport shooting.

You also challenge my definition of the Militia, well, here's some thanks to Dictionary.com:
1. a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.
2. a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.
3. all able-bodied males considered by law eligible for military service.
4. a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.

When the Second Amendment would have been written, the definition of a militia would have followed 1 - 3. Furthermore, the concept comes from a time when all able bodied men would be required to help defend the country/King from invasion and other threats.

But if you literally read the Second Amendment as written, all it does is guarantee the right of a person to own a gun to defend the nation. It does not give them the right to use it as self-defense, nor even for hunting, rather it simply states that for the purpose of defending the nation all able bodied men exist within the militia of the United States and can carry a gun for that purpose.

So, while it gives them the gun, it doesn't give them the right to use it outside of the defense of their country...If you want to squabble over definitions, that is.

Anonymous:

You stated Vermont, so allow me to use the Bureau of Justice to provide the same facts I did above.

In Vermont alone, there was:
772 violent crimes
12 murders/non-negligent manslaughter
123 forcible rape
80 robbery
557 aggravated assaults

So, while people might be carrying concealed weapons; 10% of the population according to your undocumented claim, it doesn't seem to be doing much to stop crime rates. Considering the high assault rate and the higher rape rate, it would seem that the fear of being shot is not considered at all by the people committing these crimes.

Rishi Maharaj:

As I noted in my response to Michael, self-defense is a tricky issue and one that is often to easily bandied about as a reason for gun ownership. I do appreciate that you did indeed reference that self-defense requires that the action is necessary, which is often a caveat that people leave out when they make the self-defense claim.

You too reference Vermont, and I suggest you read the above.

Now, you do make a very compelling argument from a standpoint. That if self-defense is a right, how can you say that the tools of self-defense should not be a right? I must admit, I've never quite heard that argument before...

But, I must also admit that I am not overly swayed by it. You assert that governments exist to secure fundamental human rights, not legalize them or enshrine them. You balance this argument by referring to abortion and how while not decriminalized, was often impossible for a woman to get done properly back in the day.

From a philosophical standpoint, your argument is quite sound.

However, in practical terms, I don't think it is. Governments do protect basic human rights, which is why we have them. But they are required to do one important thing that people often forget: Governments protect us from ourselves.

For example, going back to good old John Stuart Mill, a utilitarian principle would suggest that drug laws are useless. After all, a person is only harming themselves through drug use and therefore should be allowed under philosophical principle to use drugs to their hearts content.

As such, since humans have a basic right to do what they wish with their own body, your argument would suggest that governments have no right to prevent a person from using drugs. The same goes with a woman or man who decided to turn to prostitution as a career, since it is their right to do what they wish with their body.

Now, I am not saying that you support these things. What I am saying is that your argument must protect them, not just gun rights, otherwise it is a hypocritical argument and is not actually sound in either reality or philosophy.

To the point, governments exist to place limits. If a person could sit back and do drugs all day while contributing nothing to society, they likely could, under a Millian principle and your argument. Government prevents that through the use of laws against drug use, the purchase of drugs, and the very act of being intoxicated or high while in public.

The same is true of gun laws. A person could, under no gun laws, decide that they want to shoot parking metres. Or that they want to jump through the air whilst firing two guns just because it looks cool, while not actually shooting at anything.

Laws are in place to prevent this from happening, such as regulations about where and when a gun can be fired to laws that prevent destruction of public property. Government is not the evil monster that some people make it out to be, it is actually here to improve our lives and make life just a little bit better for all of us.

As such, going back to the key of your argument, access to guns is not the ONLY means of self-defense available to people. You make it sound as though guns are the only option of self-defense, which they are not, and as such do not constitute the sole tools of a basic right.

You end your comment on a question, posing about why criminals do not target or take on police officers or attack police stations. To an extent, you're right. The idea of storming a building full of armed people is not the greatest idea.

But you also forget to mention that there are more deterrents than guns. Anything worth stealing in a police station is tightly guarded and locked up, which means that a criminal would need to get keys or access codes to get anything of value. So, while armed cops might be somewhat of a deterrent, the idea of not getting anything easily is also there.

Secondly, and more importantly to my point, normal citizens do not really take the same precaution as cops do in regards to locking things up. How many of us have safes where we store our most valued objects? Probably not that many.

But how many of us have laptops worth hundreds of dollars? Televisions worth more? Jewelry, artwork, etc, etc, etc...Luxury items that we don't lock away every night, but leave comfortably sitting in their place until we replace them or move; and all we secure them with is a locked door and window.

Criminals may not be suicidal, as you said, but they aren't stupid either. The easier target will always be the average citizen's house, as opposed to a police station, regardless of how many guns the homeowner has.

And if you truly want criminals to reconsider a life of crime, then support a political party that addresses the key problems of poverty, social programs, and other social problems that force people into a life crime. Crime is a bit like a wart that way, you have to treat the root not the surface if you want it to go away.

Anonymous:

I do appreciate the history you've put into your post, and I do feel that I've addressed those concerns as time as gone by with the previous responses, but there are two things I must address.

First, you mention how the governments seem to be turning their back on this 1000 year old legislation. Think about that for a moment. Government is like an organism, it evolves and it changes to suit the times. A 1000 year old document is unlikely to apply to our times, given the rapid advances in technology.

For example, if the legislation was written when swords were the predominant weapon, then there would be a right to bear swords and people would be fighting over that today. As for guns, guns have changed a lot in the last 1000 years.

We've gone from muskets and saltpeter weapons, to guns that are rapid fire and able to inflict a great deal more damage than those in the past. After all, why should there be a law against having a gun you can fire once that takes 10 minutes to reload? There isn't much worry about that if the person misses their first shot.

Laws and government change, it's a pure and simple fact. If they did not, they would stagnate and lead to the second point...

Secondly, you mused the idea that coups are always from the military. Can I ask you a personal question? When you get into your vehicle of choice, do you have one of those little yellow "Support our Troops" stickers/magnet?

If you do, how can say support our troops one moment...And then say that we need guns because our military might take over the country? Now, if you do not have one of those stickers, this point doesn't apply.

However, I do feel the need to point out the general fear mongering. When you've seen a military coup, who is it usually against? Some dictator or self-important ruler who has gone beyond his or her power and is changing the nation in ways that harm and change the nation in ways that are unfavourable.

Now, some of you will say, there are documented cases of democracies being overthrown by military coups...Burma being such an example. In most of those cases, we see a major difference between those armies and ours.

In addition to potential outside political pressure for the coup, armies in these countries often carry more prestige than Canadian Officers. Generals are given a lifestyle that they want to maintain and fear losing, after all, no one stays a General forever. As such, a coup is more about personal politics than it is about military vs democracy.

It is usually an ambitious person who seeks to keep the lifestyle they've become accustomed to and know that there is no other way to keep it than to seize power for themselves. I do not believe Canada is at risk for this kind of personality, namely for the fact that our generals are not given villas and servants and other perks that would drive someone to want to keep their power.

Not to mention a pretty good pension system for soldiers who retire from the forces, there is no motivation for a coup with Canada, and the mere suggestion of it is simply a weak tactic used to distract people from actual fact.

Dave:

As I've mentioned before, I am not preaching pacifism. Self-defense is something that everyone is entitled to, but what I am saying is that guns are not the only means of obtaining this defense. People seem to think that protection = gun, and that is simply not the case.

In addition to firearms, and the police, there are numerous other means of defense. Alarm systems, for example, are just as effective as warding off intruders into your home. My uncle and aunt had an alarm system for years while living in Saskatoon and never had any problem.

And even if they had, the alarm going off would cause an intruder to leave the premises before the police had shown up. There are always different courses of action to deal with the same problem, and I for one, do not believe that guns are the sole course.

Anonymous:

I may very well take you up on that offer to visit a gun range one of these days. As I noted in my original post and in this one, I am not for taking away guns from citizens but I do believe more has to be done to limit unnecessary firearms and ensure that guns are owned for a purpose.

I do appreciate your mentioning the historical and engineering aspect of firearms, and also appreciate that you approached the subject with an open mind. I do acknowledge that not everyone is going to agree with what I say on this blog, much like I won't agree with what others say on theirs, and it's nice to see that someone can read this blog, disagree with it, but still be courteous and respectful. So, thank you for that, and maybe (once I get everything in order), I'll see you one day at the gun range.

DaveC:

Your first link, which suggests Home Office numbers are deflated, may contain some truth but it also defuses the argument you're making. The number that was excluded from the official list referred to gun crimes that did not result in a gun being brandished, used as a blunt instrument, or fired. Rather, those gun crimes that didn't make the list were cases of illegally trafficking a weapon into Britain or not having the weapon registered. So, while gun crimes are slightly higher when those figures are added, it does not add to the overall number of violent gun crimes within Britain.

Your second link, however, is more alarming. It states that children as young as 12 are carrying guns in Britain, and that the 'shock' of this has worn off on the public.

Now, consider this for a moment, why are children carrying guns? Is it the example set at home? The glorification of them in media? Likely, it is a combination of both. The article does not make reference to where the children secured the guns, but I'd imagine that it is likely from home due to carelessness on the part of the parent who owns the weapon.

This of course, brings us to Canada. Gun ownership poses certain risks, especially when children are present within the household. As I mentioned before, from the Winnipeg Free Press article, the California Attorney General Report suggested that guns in the State harmed those they were meant to protect more than criminals.

I'm not saying that all gun owners are this irresponsible, but what I am saying is that some of them would be. No one is ever 100% responsible, to assume so would be a fallacy. So, in the case of children as young as 12 in Britain walking around with guns; it has to be a majority of these guns are coming from home where they were not secured properly by those who owned them.

There is, of course, a chance that some of these guns come from outside of the home. In those cases, it is not the fault of responsible gun owning parents. But the fact still remains, that gun ownership within the home could be responsible for younger children having this access to guns when the owners are irresponsible for the firearm's storage.

I wish I could say the rest of your comment was as eye opening, but sadly, you too strayed into the realm of fear mongering.

You list countries that turned on their citizens and took away their weapons and then slaughtered them, but you fail to mention that most of those countries were not a democratic state when this occurred.

And furthermore, to Germany, to include it on this list is a bit of a stretch. For all its own citizens it may have killed during the course of WWII, it was the toll on people outside of its borders that saw the worst of it. Polish citizens, Russian Soldiers, and numerous other NON-German citizens suffered under that regime, and simply having access to guns would not have stopped it.

Then you refer to our Former Prime Minister choking a man who got too close as proof of your argument as to why it could happen here in Canada.

Re-watching the video of the incident you mentioned, ask yourself, what would you have done? When the Prime Minister is walking through a crowd, it's sort of parted and he or she would stop here and there and shake hands and accept pats on the back as they walked by.

Now, come face to face with a protester who is directly in your path, and ask, what would you have done?

Keep in mind, that in 1995 (one year before Chretien had choked the protester) Andre Dallaire had broken in to 24 Sussex Drive, armed with a knife and intention to assassinate the then Prime Minister. So, of course, an unexpected person standing in a place where they shouldn't be standing could have been interpreted by the Prime Minister as a potential threat and he did, as many of you have advocated in comment, and undertook in self-defense.

As for the Second Amendment questions you raise, go back and look at my response to Michael to get my opinion on that and the definition of what defines a militia.

And while your last quote does make some sense about the outlawing of things driving them underground and making them a greater threat than what they are now; ask yourself if you hold this to be true of everything?

As I said in response to Rishi Maharaj, the argument is only sound provided that you apply it to everything. Obviously, as we've seen with drugs, laws have driven the trade underground and led to dangerous situations because of it. But the same is true of anything that has been outlawed, and if that is the case, then by using this argument you must agree to decriminalize everything outside of physical harm laws because we've just driven everything underground.

If you don't, then as I said, it is a hypocritical argument and does not serve to further your point.

But in direct regards to it; outlawing guns would not drive them underground. We've already seen an underground movement to bring guns into this country, despite the fact that they are legally available already. Is there a chance that outlawing them would cause this to inflate? Yes, there is a chance. But there is also a chance that outlawing them could increase public safety.

As I've said before, I do not support the outlawing of guns because there are practical uses for them. However guns that serve no practical use and just sit on the shelf collecting dust, waiting for the time when they may have to be used to defend my family, do not need to be in existence.

I am not challenging the ownership of firearms; what I am challenging is the necessity of them when a person does not use them for hunting or sport shooting, or any other form of actually using the firearm.

To state that a person should have one simply because they can, is to open the floodgates for more dangerous arguments that will simply make this world a little bit more dangerous.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

From My Cold, Dead Hands...

Source: CBC NEWS: Duck Shooting Video Leads to Charges Against 3 Sask. Men
Source: CBC NEWS: Reward Offered to Help ID Illegal Duck Shooters
Source: CBC NEWS: Hunt on for men who Shot Ducks From Car Window

This is a bit of a short source, and may not seem political, but allow me to give a chance to explain why I've decided to talk about this.

When I read these articles, the first thought that popped into my mind was the issue of gun control. How some groups would argue that this is proof that gun control is too lax in Canada; while others would argue that 'leftists' would try and use a few 'bad eggs' to support taking away guns from 'law-abiding' Canadians.

Growing up in the riding of Yorkton-Melville, I've heard a lot about gun control during my life time. I've heard both sides of the argument, the idea over freedom and the idea over restrictions, and I like to think that I've chosen the right side on the issue.

I would like to start off by saying that while I don't own a gun, I've always been interested in the idea of taking up hunting at some point in my life. As such, I don't believe that a person should be restricted from owning a weapon for the sake of hunting.

However, there are limits. Why does someone need a semi-automatic or fully automatic rifle to hunt? Is an assault rifle really needed to take down a deer? A moose? Ducks?

The answer, of course, is no. The further question, which really complicates things, is the question of whether or not a person should own a gun solely for the sake of protection. The person does not engage in hunting, but simply owns the gun and keeps it stored away for the day when they might need it to protect themselves or their family.

The problem with this argument is the problem of escalation. When criminals start carrying knives, we start carrying knives around home to defend ourselves. They start using guns, we want a gun. And so on and so forth.

The bigger problem, of course, is that simply providing access to a gun is not a means of stopping crime. Were that so; if every Canadian had a gun or some kind of weapon, surely there would be no crime...

So what does that tell us? Unlike the Cold War, where the threat of the use of weapons was enough to prevent full scale war; the threat of gun use is not a deterrent in the face of crime. This is because if someone is driven to the point where they need/feel they need to commit a crime, then the risks are not outweighed by the benefits.

Sure, the person could shoot them; but they could also get away with whatever they are planning. As such, simply allowing guns for the sake of protection seems like an effort in futility.

As such, I do not believe that guns for the sake of protection while serving any no other use should be an option for Canadians, as there is no logical use for them.

This of course brings us to the gun registry. Much maligned by Conservatives since its inception, the gun registry has always been under constant threat of destruction and has been repeated subverted during Stephen Harper's tenure as Prime Minister.

Many people say, well the opponents anyway, that the gun registry is a waste of money. That it is an unfair tax against law abiding citizens who use their guns for sport or hunting, and that it does nothing to stop crime.

This is because of a misconception. The Firearms Registry alone is not going to reduce crime statistics. What is will do, however, is protect RCMP and City Police officers by allowing them to know whether a situation could be more dangerous than reported. No one is going to object to protecting our police officers in the line of duty, yet moving to scrap the gun registry would do exactly that.

I'm not saying that everyone with a registered gun is likely to shoot a police officer, what I am saying is that is allows officers to know whether a domestic abuse call is likely to include a person with a weapon and thus allow proper precaution to be taken.

The registry here poses a problem in that its implementation has been flawed since the beginning. But, then let's look at a country that seemingly had done the job right.

If you look at the United Kingdom, mainland Britain in particular, you see incredibly low gun related crime rates. According to these statistics, crimes committed in Britain with guns represented only 0.3% of all crime, or 1 in every 300 crimes. (Source: GNC Comment - Annual Gun Crime Figures)

Compare those 2008 figures with Canada; where gun crimes represented 2.4% of violent crimes. (Source: CBC NEWS: Gun Crimes Among Teens on the Rise: StatsCan) To make matters worse, the same statistics show that gun crimes were often two to three times higher in the Western Provinces than in the Maritime Provinces.

So, why does Britain have such a lower gun crime rate than Canada?

Well, probably the main reason: Britain has one of the lowest counts of private gun ownership world wide, and as legislation restricting and prohibiting many types of weapons from being owned privately.

Furthermore, all certificates for guns licensed within Britain are issued by the local police authority and require the owner of the weapon to provide a good reason for EACH firearm they own. With the exception of Northern Ireland, self-defense is not considered an acceptable reason.

So, is that the answer? To follow the British example and require gun owners to demonstrate why they need to own the weapon or weapons they do? To further restrict certain weapons from public ownership?

Perhaps. It's often true that what works for one country won't work for another, so a Canadian made solution would be better.

What can be said, though, is that Canadians are indeed becoming as infatuated with 'gun culture' as our neighbours to the south. We, like them, are beginning to think that we have an inherent right to own a weapon.

And much like them, some of us begin to believe conspiracy theories that suggest the government wants an unarmed populace or will move to take away all their weapons; for a variety of reasons.

But where in Canadian law does it say that we need weapons?

And for those who argue in favour of the American Constitution, please read the following sentence:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,shall not be infringed. (Source: The United States Constitution - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net)

The second amendment is often cited by Americans who defend gun rights; but they often ignore that fact that private citizens do not constitute a militia and that it is these militias that are given the right to arms.

The fact of the matter is that Canada has no such legislation that enshrines gun ownership into our rights and freedoms. And even if we did, I fear it would become as twisted and as misquoted as the American equivalent.

So, perhaps this is only going to end one way: Either the guns are going to go, or we're going to live in a nation that begins allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons with a permit or allows them to store one in the trunk of their car.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the Canada I know...And it doesn't sound like the Canada I would want to be a part of.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Promises, Promises...

Source: CTV NEWS: Renovation Tax Credit not yet Approved: Expert

Here's a scenario for you all; you're sitting at home on a weekday night, watching some television after a hard day's work or play or what have you. Your show takes a commercial break, and suddenly there is a happy couple telling you about the Tax Renovation Credit and how it helped them get up to $1,350 dollars back from their renovation.

The commercial ends with a friendly voice over telling you all about how the Renovation Credit is all part 'of Canada's economic action plan' and tells you where to find more information. Well, according to an expert, there is a key piece of information that they are leaving out: This program has not yet been approved by Parliament.

Yes, that's right; a program which is being given massive television screen time (personally, I see this commercial about 2 - 4 times a day, depending what channel I'm on) has yet to actually be legally put into effect.

To compound matters, the ruling Conservatives seem to be neglecting this fact. Our illustrious Prime Minister has gone on the record saying that 'there's no better time to renovate your home' than now, a message which seems to refer to this program. Has no one told the PM that the program isn't legally active yet?

Allow me to try and put some perspective on this:

Let's say instead of a commercial for a tax credit; it is a movie trailer. The movie looks like something you'd like to go and see this weekend, but then it ends by telling you that it doesn't open in theatres until 2010.

Now, consider it without that warning and to make it worse, theatres are already selling tickets. You buy one, or several, and then read closely in the fine print that the movie isn't in theatres until 2010. Now, this is a bit of ridiculous example, I'll admit, but it does prove my point.

Most people wouldn't rush out and buy something that they're not going to be able to use for a little over a year; with the exception of die-hard fans for a very anticipated movie, for example.

By not telling Canadians that the tax credit isn't actually approved, this leaves Canadians in a bit of a jam. Someone may decide and agree with our PM that now is a great time to redo the plumbing in the bathroom, or adding on that garage; and they will spend money on those projects expecting to get some of it back through taxes.

However, there is no guarantee that Revenue Canada will honour these tax credits given that they are not legally bound to do so. After all, since the law isn't on the books there is no rules that really govern them about how to proceed. Sure, it's all there in the bill, but that's not legally binding and could change by the time the bill is actually passed.

So, if Revenue Canada wanted to play it safe, what would they do? Deny, deny, deny (to borrow a phrase from Nova Scotian singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett) the claims and reject the tax credit for those who apply for it.

But, I hear you asking, why would the Conservatives spend all this money advertising and why would Harper add his two-cents if the program isn't actually working yet?

I'm glad you asked.

Since the economic crisis began, the Conservatives have taken the typical laissez faire attitude in regards to economics. The idea that the market is self-regulating and will eventually work itself out; the idea that markets have highs and lows, and that we are simply experiencing a natural downturn that will eventually change on its own.

That sounds silly, doesn't it?

Of course, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition weren't too happy with this classical Liberal view and began to demand the government act to 'right the ship' so to speak. Eventually, the government agreed to spend money on stimulus spending and various programs to keep Canada from being swept under financially.

Since the dawn of the announcement, there has been nothing but debate. The Liberals demanded Economic Updates in the House of Commons to see how this stimulus money was coming along; while everyone else continued to say that the money wasn't coming fast enough or wasn't being spent in the right places.

You know there's trouble when programs that would qualify for public works money (such as railways) are denied the funding they've applied for, and many others outside of Parliament continue to say that the money is not being approved or provided fast enough, and that there isn't even enough of the money to begin with.

John Baird, Jim Prentice, Jim Flaherty, and even Stephen Harper have likely heard these complaints at one point or another.

And speaking of points, here's mine.

The reason why the Conservatives are advertising this renovation tax credit is a ruse; a simple means of showing Canadians what they are doing during these tough economic times. It's a simple idea and a simple gesture to show their 'good governance' and provide Canadians (who were faced many times with threat of an election) a reason to vote Conservative.

To put that simply; the Conservatives are hyping this tax credit as proof of why they should be in government.

But now that the truth has come out, will the bubble burst?

That remains to be seen. What doesn't remain to be seen however is the ever growing possibility that those who take advantage of this not yet approved tax credit could see themselves paying more than they bargained for when their tax credit is denied.

And in that case, the Conservatives, much like those home owners, are going to find themselves paying for their policies.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rearing Its Head Again...

Source: Leader Post: Details of Sask. Medical Isotopes Proposal to be Released Next Week

We all knew that it was coming, and we all could see just how much Premier Wall was gushing about the prospect of a nuclear isotope facility in Saskatchewan; and it seems that next week we're going to have the chance to see just what they've been planning.

Before I repeat myself with some of the things I've previously ranted about in regards to a nuclear Saskatchewan, I feel the need to point out one very important thing:

Richard Florizone, a man who has been instrumental in pushing for nuclear power in Saskatchewan, is currently the Vice-President of Finances and Resources at the University of Saskatchewan; a post he's held for probably a little over two years.

Now, I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but it seems odd that after his appointment the University of Saskatchewan seems to be a prime spot for this reactor.

Take that as you will.

Now, I could sit here and type out all the problems I've mentioned before: How this simply opens a backdoor for the Saskatchewan Party Government to circumvent the will of the people (who seem to overwhelming oppose nuclear power in the province) by getting their foot in the door; or the problem of what does one do with nuclear waste?

But, I have ranted about those in great detail on about two or three prior posts on this blog; and simply, I don't need to repeat it when it can simply be looked up.

What I am going to say, is that we are seeing a potentially devastating situation here. I'm not saying that there is going to be a nuclear disaster, not that kind of devastating; the kind of devastating I'm talking about is an isolation in the political process.

We've elected representatives to be exactly that, representatives. The idea of holding public consultations and speaking with constituents is what a democracy is about; instead, we are seeing a shift towards the dangerous mood of party driven politics and arrogance.

Allow me to explain.

As I mentioned awhile back while talking about Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz, his famous response to me was the idea of 'if people didn't agree with me, they wouldn't have voted for me.' This is what we are seeing with this annoucement.

A government that thinks being elected means their entire policy is suddenly approved; that it doesn't come down to what the people actually want, it's what they were elected to do. This is a common defense for these politicians 'I was elected to...'

But how many people really vote based on policy?

I guarantee you that there are voters who simply vote a certain way because that's how they were raised; or that's the party that they've always voted for; or that they knew the candidate personally, and any other numerous other reasons people for a representative outside of their policy.

Perhaps worse, are people who pick and chose their policies. For example, let's say a person is an environmentalist. But they are also pro-life, and they consider this issue to be more important than their environmental leanings. As such, they'll likely vote Conservative over that one key issue rather than a party that can represent all their issues.

So, while a person did indeed vote for them, they didn't necessarily agree with all of their policy points.

That is what we are seeing here. People in Saskatchewan often cite voting for the Saskatchewan Party because after 16 years of NDP Government, it was time for a change. Now this issue doesn't factor into the thinking of Saskatchewan Party MLAs. Rather, they're under the misguided idea that they were elected to impliment all of their policies, and that is why they were elected.

This is indeed, not the case. Given that public consulations were strongly against the idea of nuclear power, the Saskatchewan Party found itself at a crossroads. We were elected to explore nuclear power, so we need to explore it. Who cares if people are telling us they don't want it now that we're in power, we were elected on our policy!

See what the problem is here?

So, what is the solution? As I see it, there isn't one. Party Politics is a dangerous game, especially when elected officials are too blind to see that a vote is not an endorsement of all party policy. This is the price we pay for a political system driven by party politics. After all, how could you organize a government without some form of party system?

So, the solution is rather simple: If parties are going to hold consultations, honour them. Even if your party policy contradicts the results, you were elected to REPRESENT people, not force a doctrine upon them.