Blog Posts by David Kilgour

  • With the right attitude, those little problems between Canada and the U.S. don't seem so bad. (Reuters)With the right attitude, those little problems between Canada and the U.S. don't seem so bad. (Reuters)

    From a Canadian perspective, Canada-U.S. relations have advanced to a point where they are capable of transcending a very unpopular president such as George W. Bush. While Barack Obama was welcomed into office overwhelmingly by Canadians, his misinformation to justify a presidential veto of legislation key tothe Canadian Keystone XL pipeline was a serious blow to good bilateral relations.

    The relationship overall is probably no better or worse than it has been for many years, largely because our two countries are now seen on both sides of the border as alternative civilizations and thus increasingly unlikely to diverge or converge on a range of public issues. Our expectations of each other are perhaps becoming more realistic.

    David Jones and I wrote Uneasy Neighbo(u)rs about the two nations in 2007. Some features of the relationship continue to apply, including the approximately ten-to-one disparity in population and GDP. Canadian differences with our neighbour today are still often

    Read More »from U.S.-Canada relations: With humour and patience, we can remain friends
  • In the small ocean of printer’s ink consumed since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech of March 3rd to the U.S. Congress swim four not-so-imaginary fish.

    The most frightened one is Israel. A 2012 opinion survey by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs revealed that two-thirds of Israelis believed that “if Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon it would use it against Israel.” The strongly peace-seeking Shimon Peres as Israel’s president asked in 2012 how the world could allow the Iranian leadership to “openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust.”

    A former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, in 2001 claimed that a single bomb would end Israel’s existence. Israelis fear both a direct strike by Tehran and one by a non-state actor with a nuclear weapon provided by it. Many also believe that the Middle East as a whole, with Iran in the lead, rejects Israel’s right to exist as a country.

    Other concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran relate to the toxic consequences

    Read More »from Obama’s Israel-Iran nuclear problem: Tough economic sanctions brought Tehran to the table

    House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)
    The Parliament of Canada should initiate the most broadly acceptable model of proportional representation (PR) for electing members to our House of Commons, mostly because doing so would create a chamber where MPs are elected in proportion to votes received rather than our present winner-take-all system.

    Canada, the U.S. and U.K. are the only major Western democracies still using the first-past-the-post voting system. Our election laws should no longer prescribe that the only voters electing MPs are those favouring each riding's most popular political party. Now the votes of those supporting minority parties — about seven million in the 2011 federal election — achieve nothing in terms of post-election representation. That model was created centuries ago and is simply out-dated for modern times.

    Réal Lavergne of the Fair Vote Canada civil society adds:

    “Among the world’s 35 strongest democracies, 25 use PR and only six use winner-take-all systems of one sort or another... Comparative

    Read More »from Election reform: Canada in desperate need of proportional representation
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) listend during a meeting with Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez. Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) listend during a meeting with Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez.

    Diplomats, politicians and business leaders sometimes overlook that China is its peoples, cultures and history far more than its unelected government. The criticisms many of us at home and abroad make are of the party-state governance, not the long-suffering citizens.

    Mao remains the overarching governance icon. Jung Chang and Jon Holliday end their biography, Mao, The Unknown Story: “Today (2005), Mao‘s portrait and corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square .... The current Communist regime declares itself to be Mao’s heir and fiercely perpetuates (his) myth.” Many historians today include him with Stalin and Hitler as the three worst mass murderers of the 20th century.  Chang-Holliday notes, "...over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao’s rule in peacetime."

    Many governance problems today stem from the conflation of Mao's totalitarianism and his successor Deng Xiaoping's reforms after 1978 into a system of 'Leninist governance/crony capitalism.' Corruption and violence are so

    Read More »from Working with China: World’s democrats must continue to engage with the party-state
  • Members of the Winnipeg Rifles stand at attention at a Remembrance Day service in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)Members of the Winnipeg Rifles stand at attention at a Remembrance Day service in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)

    The removal of Julian Fantino as Minister of Veterans Affairs in early 2015 by Prime Minister Harper is one of countless indications that Canadians hold strong views about how our veterans should be treated.

    Another is the widespread public opposition to the federal Justice Department spending to date almost $700,000 in legal fees to fight a class action by injured veterans in B.C. seeking lifelong disability payments rather than lump sum settlements. The lump sum approach was an all-party decision under the Martin government that has proven to have disastrous impacts on Canadian soldiers returning from the battlefield. The lifelong monthly payments model should be restored immediately as an option. The crux of the legal case is whether there is a binding social contract on governments for the care of veterans and their families.

    Those who serve in our armed forces, who are wounded while in combat or in training for such missions, should be given assistance to return to military

    Read More »from Support our troops: Canadian veterans shouldn't have to fight for benefits and services
  • The world can be proud of France for hosting the largest protest in its history last Sunday for the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket massacres. Reportedly, more than 3.7 million people across the country and 1.2-1.6 million in Paris joined the demonstration. Paris was the world’s capital that day.

    Marchers, including representatives from 50 nations, came from many parts of France, Europe and beyond. They were not protesting any religion; they were protesting terrorists pretending to be affiliated to a religion. ‘We stand together’ could have been the banner for all, walking arm-in-arm.

    The New York Times columnist David Brooks asserts that healthy societies allow “room for those creative and challenging (satirists) who are uninhibited by good manners and taste ... those who are funny, uncivil and offensive … don’t suppress speech, but … grant different standing to different sorts of people ... (S)cholars are heard with high respect. Satirists with bemused

    Read More »from After Paris: Effort should be spent on understanding faith communities, not hatred
  • The world in 2015: Tough times are ahead for all citizens

    Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade. (Reuters)Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade. (Reuters)

    The world will feel the impact of four international issues in the coming year:

    Oil. The current price war, caused mostly by the Saudi Arabian king’s drive for market share from rising non-traditional producers, has roughly halved the international price of oil from early 2014. Low oil prices will benefit most Canadians, providing vehicle owners and manufacturers with the equivalent of a sizeable tax cut. Our oil and gas sectors, including the oil sands, will suffer in the short run, but some in the industry think both oil and gas do best when international prices are ‘reasonable but stable’.

    Consequences of the oil/gas glut and collapsed prices are already emerging. Ironically, while the U.S. hydrocarbon-fracking sector is a major Saudi target, the U.S. is clearly the biggest national winner. The three per cent real U.S. economic growth expected in 2015 should help Canadian exporters significantly. Africa, the Americas, Asia, and most of Europe will also benefit from low prices.

    Read More »from The world in 2015: Tough times are ahead for all citizens
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein noted optimistically as her Intelligence Committee report on the CIA was released: history will judge (Americans) by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again’.”

    Her Senate colleague, John McCain, tortured in North Vietnam decades ago, stressed that its victims rarely reveal anything, saying whatever they think their tormentors want to hear.

    The use of torture by the CIA became widely known in 2003, when Amnesty International revealed its severe maltreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. To his credit, Barack Obama ended ‘enhanced interrogation’ by the agency in 2009, now admitting that the process “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world ... (making) it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.”

    Whether torture saved lives – as claimed by defenders of the practices  is directly rebutted in the report, which cites the agency’s own documents to conclude

    Read More »from CIA torture: Regardless of the reasoning, we must be better than this
  • Missourians are internationally known for their slogan, “I’m from Missouri; show me.” What happened in the state to African-American teenager Michael Brown last August has resulted in two sharply differing versions of what occurred. Significantly better race relations for residents of Missouri and America as a whole will require both sides to show a new willingness to reconcile and an iron determination to avoid similar tragedies in future.

    The protester view is that the unarmed Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman, while his hands were held up. His body was left in the street for 4-1/2 hours. The outrage was compounded when a grand jury refused to indict Wilson for any crime.

    The other side says that Brown had stolen cigarillos from a store just before being confronted by the officer. When ordered to walk on the sidewalk instead of the street, he charged and was attempting to seize Wilson’s gun when the officer fired in self-defence.

    In the background are

    Read More »from Ferguson: Americans must learn to respect their neighbours and act as one national family
  • Vladimir Putin was snubbed at the G20 meeting in Australia by virtually every leader over his repeated violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. This would have caused a less pugnacious Russian president to reflect on his long-demonstrated contempt for international covenants intended to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

    When confronted by Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Ukraine, Putin repeated his serial falsehood by denying the occupation. He left the conference prematurely, seemingly disdainful of other participants despite claiming otherwise in a subsequent Moscow press conference.

    Before the G20 meeting, Putin had sent Russian aircraft close to Canada, the U.S.,U.K., Denmark and the Baltic states. Four Russian warships crossed international waters near Australia. Russian troops without insignia on their uniforms again crossed into eastern Ukraine with 32 tanks and 16 howitzer artillery systems on Nov. 7, in violation of the Minsk truce agreed to by

    Read More »from Putin flexes his muscles: The West must continue to stand up to the Russian bully


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