• Pro-European Union activists sing the national anthem during a rally in Kiev, Ukraine.

    Three months of protests in Kiev and now across western Ukraine and into its Russified east are parts of a renewed struggle for post-Soviet democratic integrity and national sovereignty by a courageous and long-suffering people.

    Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence after 28 million — 92 per cent of eligible voters — voted in their 1991 referendum to declare independence from Russia. Many Canadians have a long and close history with Ukraine.

    The Ukrainian sense of nationhood survived centuries of foreign occupation and oppression. In 1918, an independent Ukraine was proclaimed, but it survived only until 1920; two years later, most Ukrainian territory was incorporated into the Soviet Union. The national poet, Taras Shevchenko, termed Ukraine “this land of ours that is not ours.”

    Canadians of origin in Ukraine (numbering about 1.2 million) have played an important role in our own history. In the three waves of immigration from what is now Ukraine,

    Read More »from Uprising in Ukraine: Western nations must heed the cries for help
  • Protesters prepare to clash with riot police in central Kiev, Ukraine.

    Ukraine was for up for sale.

    The European Union (and the West in general) wanted to buy it on the cheap.

    Russia made Kiev a much better offer — and Kiev took it. Bluntly, Putin out-clevered the West.

    Now the EU/West and many Ukrainians are highly irritated over having lost the bidding war and throwing hissy fits day and night.

    And the West is being regaled to intervene to reverse the nefarious Russian embrace and move Ukraine back into the Western fold.

    To intervene actively, however, would be expensive, divisive, antidemocratic, and perhaps even end with a civil war.

    [ David Kilgour: History dictates that Western nations must heed Ukrainians' cries for help ]

    The foregoing is a simplistic, but not inaccurate, way to characterize the essentials of Ukraine’s current imbroglio.

    More Background. Ukraine is a Texas-size country (the largest entirely within Europe) with a population of 46 million. Potentially very wealthy, its eastern farmland is some of the best in the world; it is

    Read More »from Uprising in Ukraine: Canada and the U.S. have no reason to intervene
  • Ford Assembly workers install a battery onto the chassis of a Ford Focus Electric vehicle.

    Canada’s economy has done better than most since mid-2009, but recent job losses, deflationary pressures and a rapidly falling dollar indicate more problems ahead. The situation calls for some major initiatives, most notably rebuilding our troubled manufacturing sector.

    Statistics Canada says that nearly 46,000 jobs were lost across the country during December alone, sending unemployment to 7.2 per cent. The loss of 60,000 full-time positions was offset by the creation of only 14,000 part-time ones. More large cuts have since been announced by Bombardier in Montreal, Sears Canada and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. The job losses have caused our dollar to hover around 90 cents, the lowest level since 2009. But on the bright side this can help our manufacturers to compete internationally.

    According to The Economist's indicators, Canada’s unemployment level in November before the December setbacks was already 6.9 per cent, compared to 7 per cent in the U.S. and 12.1 per cent across Europe.

    Read More »from Canada’s economy: Time to resurrect the manufacturing sector to spur new growth
  • Finance Minister Jim Flaherty following federal-provincial finance minister meetings in December.

    It is almost difficult to remember the pre-2008 era of impregnable optimism for the U.S. economy and with it, the global economies generally.

    It was indeed a period of “irrational exuberance” as then-Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan put it, but was based on what were believed to be economic verities: that inflation was under control; that real estate had “sky’s the limit” prospects; that banks/loans/mortgages were adroitly attended by gimlet-eyed accountants; and that tweaks and twitches by government would resolve any peripheral economic problems.

    But then the U.S. economy (along with much of the West) crashed and burned in 2008; it is still struggling to extricate itself from the mire. We are a long/long way from reaching equivalence with the economy of the mid-2000 decade.

    For the United States, start-the-new-year optimism has taken counsel of its hopes. Inflation has remained low and the Fed has apparently decided to stop pumping money into the economy. The stock market

    Read More »from Canada’s economy: Dull and plodding, but prudently avoiding America’s extremes
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during Question Period.

    Representative democracy, including Canada’s parliamentary system, is ultimately based on the view that a nation’s citizens own their government, not vice versa. Even elected heads of government and their political parties can sometimes swallow their own governments in the absence of effective checks and balances. There is little doubt, for example, that some of the changes implemented in 1969 by Pierre Trudeau’s first government marginalized MPs beyond what is healthy in a Westminster-style Parliament.

    Authoritarian governments of various stripes have emerged from initially fair elections, as with Nazi Germany after 1933, when the executive branch is able to subvert democratic rights. In a number of nations in central and Eastern Europe after 1989, and earlier in the Americas, democracies were restored or created by courageous citizens fed up with bad governance. Non-violent and strategic citizen protests were important factors in achieving democracy in a number of countries. South

    Read More »from Reform Act: If leaders have lost their following, there should be a way to oust them
  • Conservative MP Michael Chong in Ottawa.

    With his private member’s bill (Reform Act 2013), Tory MP Michael Chong has tossed a sputtering grenade into Parliament. The question is if it will be adroitly defused, amended into meaningless platitudes, or explode — essentially altering modern Canadian parliamentary practice.

    The Chong proposal flies in the face of recent democratic expansion for leadership selection; it would make leaders less secure and hence less effective in advancing their policies. It would promote internecine political back-stabbing rather than caucus cohesion. In some elements, it is almost “American” (and thus un-Canadian) and, thereby, makes a reasonably effective legislative system less so. Bad idea; its time should be never.

    The bill would:

    • Permit 15 per cent of a caucus to trigger a leadership review at any time. A secret ballot of 50 percent would remove the current leader and begin the process for selecting a new leader;
    • Remove the leader’s authority to oust (or readmit) a member from caucus; that power
    Read More »from Reform Act: Chong’s proposal creates more confusion, not more democracy
  • Children walk past a mural depicting Nelson Mandela during different stages of his history.

    There must be very few places on Earth, following the avalanche of words written since his death, where the basic life narrative of one of humanity’s most revered beings is not now known. What are the most important lessons Nelson Mandela taught all of us?

    The first time I grasped his unique role in modern world history was in the late 1990s during a visit to Robben Island near Cape Town, the prison from which there was no escape, certainly in the 1960s and 70s when the apartheid regime sent there its most determined political opponents. "The authorities attempted to impose a complete blackout, they did not want us to learn anything that might raise our morale or reassure us that people on the outside were still thinking about us," Mandela noted in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

    Entering Mandela’s small former cell with Eby Ebrahim, his fellow prisoner for many years, was the most unforgettable of many memories that day. Other former inmates, mostly well-known African National

    Read More »from Post-Mandela South Africa: Current leadership can learn from his lessons of the past
  • A well-wisher writes a message on a poster of Nelson Mandela.

    The protracted global gathering earlier this month for South African leader Nelson Mandela, combining official state mourning culminating in (semi) private internment, has ended.

    He leaves behind a poignant but fragile legacy with the most relevant question being whether the South Africa that he constructed will long outlast his departure. In short, was he the implicit safety-valve restraint on a society that more resembles a boiling pot with the lid screwed down than a solid democracy?

    It is rare that any figure, regardless of international status, prompts such an assembly of world leaders upon death. Coming as it did shortly after the 50th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it sparked some partial parallels, notably the long cortege of leaders and the profound national mourning.

    It was shameful that so much media attention focused on the three-person "selfie" featuring Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the illiterate sign-language

    Read More »from Post-Mandela South Africa: Racial tension and violence are likely to return
  • Spectators read the newspaper while waiting to see the funeral cortege of former South African president Mandela.

    Newspapers occupy a vital role in Canada and every democratic nation and probably always will, despite those who argue that electronic media can adequately replace them. To many observers, television news simply adds visuals to news carried first by print publications.

    In 1961, President John Kennedy noted, "It is to the printing press…the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his newsthat we have looked for strength and assistance, confident that with its help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent."

    Daily newspaper circulation in the U.S., however, fell by 15 per cent since 2008 alone, while ad revenues dropped by 42 per cent. In Europe, both these indicators fell by a quarter during the same period. Job cuts, outsourcing, and a pay wall push in the face of plunging advertising sales at Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper chain, Post-Media, also indicate more problems on the horizon.

    Theories abound as to what is squeezing print

    Read More »from Death of Newspapers: Newspapers vital to democratic culture
  • A vending machine sells Chicago Sun-Times newspapers on a street corner in the Loop on December 2, 2013 (Getty Images)

    Growing up in the 1940s-1950s, I was the newspaper consumer par excellence.

    But now, to my regret, I cannot make such a claim.

    For background, my home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania had both morning (ScrantonTribune) and afternoon (ScrantonTimes) daily newspapers. I read both avidly, and my long-suffering next-door uncle even permitted his nephew to read the afternoon paper before he did.

    Television wasn’t a dominant feature for me. For much of my early life, the family didn’t have television (which now deprives me of crossword puzzle answers for references to Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and even the Mouseketeers members). I never engaged with “the most trusted man in America” (Walter Cronkite) or wondered about Huntley and Brinkley interactions as they said “good night.” And I’ve always thought Sunday morning interview shows are a time-waster – the talking heads never say much, and anything of substantive import will be in the Monday newspaper, anyway.

    Indeed, I believed that TV news, even

    Read More »from Death of Newspapers: Time to accept the inevitable conclusion


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