Parliament is a terrible place to have the blockades debate

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Image: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

The line that rang hollow to me in Justin Trudeau's address to the House on Tuesday about the rail blockades was, "The place for these debates is here in this House."

That's a highly discouraging thought. Anyone who has sat through a question period surely emerged knowing that wherever important decisions get made in Canada, it's not in Parliament.

Where else could the debate occur? Tony Penikett, leader of the Yukon government from 1988-1993, helped settle large-scale Indigenous land claims there. The results contrasted massively with the snail's pace elsewhere. He says solutions in the north happen because Indigenous and settler groups know each other and can work out agreements.

That doesn't apply in the rest of Canada. Northern demographics and history are unique. But the north too was highly colonized. Their degree of success at least rings a note of hope.

And solutions can happen in Ottawa -- if there's a sense of urgency. When this same government panicked over SNC-Lavalin's legal peril for foreign bribery, they swiftly devised and passed a complex solution. Then, when Jody Wilson-Raybould threatened to torpedo it, they ditched her, fast. They renegotiated NAFTA with impressive speed when Trump warned he'd can it.

Indigenous land claims are tough issues but so were those. And electoral reform would've been ridiculously simple but they didn't deem it urgent.

I can't resist thinking, for comic relief, of a lighter crisis in Ontario: Doug Ford's license plate catastrophe. He changed their colour to blue, a Tory tint, since, his incompetent minister Lisa Thompson said, the previous plates were Liberal white. (Huh?) But the blue ones are hard to read or photograph at night. Everyone's verklempt including the police. First, Doug said there was no problem, then he blamed the plate maker, 3M. But the point is, it got action.

Doug spoke twice, personally, with 3M's president because "public safety is the top priority" for him. The redoubtable minister said, sounding like Justin, "we are listening" and working with "manufacturers, stakeholders and the public through this process" (very like Justin). The company pledged to "address the readability issue."

Even NDP Opposition leader Andrea Horwath lowered her invisibility shield to denounce the disaster but "stopped short of offering her own solution," sticking Doug with that.

I find this story endearingly Canadian and reassuring, though I'm not sure why. We bumble along, but in our own way. Canadian culture does exist.

Who’'s afraid of socialism?

The death ray for Bernie Sanders' chances was supposed to be his "self-avowed" (weird but ubiquitous descriptor) socialism. It's murky though.

A majority in the U.S. say they're not socialists but may prefer Bernie to other candidates. When it's between socialism and capitalism, socialism tends to lose. But Bernie isn't very socialist and the U.S. isn't very capitalist.

He rightly says the U.S. owning class uses government relentlessly to impose their own interests; he calls it socialism for the rich and people seem to get that. There may be a time lag here allowing people to hold contradictory views. It's one of those contradictions that don't really matter since it's based on semantic vagueness, not real-world differences.

If it helps: I talked to some students recently about how they receive their music. I said if I like something, I still have an urge to download it though I get everything through streaming now. I asked if they want to own music they like. Someone responded, "It depends what you mean by own."

Wham. I thought I knew. But the very meaning of ownership is changing for the young. They share and rent. Owning isn't only out of reach (houses, cars) but in cases like music, nonsensical. Bernie somehow benefits from this shift.

OTOH, we don't know where it will settle. Saskatchewan had North America's first socialist government, the CCF (now NDP) in the 1930s. Farmers there voted "socialist" but balked at having their farms "socialized."

At this week's U.S. debate, Michael Bloomberg accused Bernie of communism and Bernie called it a cheap shot. He's a socialist like Denmark is socialist, which has a monarchy!

Long live Queen Margarethe II. Viva el socialismo democratico!

Rick Salutin writes about current affairs and politics. This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Image: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

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