I try to avoid saying nice things about an NDPer as a matter of principle. I’ll make an exception in the case of Ms [Ruth Ellen] Brosseau. Having been handed a very lucky break she made the most of it. The story is a fascinating example of how many talented and intelligent people live in obscurity until a twist of fate pushes them onto another path. Brousseau was in her mid-twenties at the time of her election, working as a bar manager and struggling to survive as a single mother. There are many educated and accomplished people who spend the whole of their adults lives striving for political office, only to fail miserably upon attaining their goal. They have been bested by a woman who had none of their advantages. Luck plays a greater role in success than many people care to imagine.
Richard Anderson, “A Twist of Fate”, Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2016-02-22.
March 9, 2016
February 6, 2016
Colby Cosh on the wrenching psychological damage the collapse of oil prices is inflicting on Alberta:
Alberta is not in any real danger of becoming a “have-not” province under the equalization program. Its fiscal capacity did not dip below the required standard even under the intentional cudgelling of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program in the 1980s. As it happens, it has been a half-century since Alberta received any equalization at all: the last payment was a paltry $1.2 million, received in fiscal 1964-65.
You can’t mention Alberta and equalization in the same sentence without attracting a gnat-like cloud of failed accountants who are eager to remind you that equalization doesn’t technically “take” from particular provinces. The money comes out of the general revenue; Alberta as a province, the lecture goes, has not been “paying in” so that others can “take out.”
But since equalization was introduced in 1957, Ottawa has transferred, if my figures are right, about $374 billion to the provinces. Almost exactly half of that has gone to Quebec. Alberta got a grand total of $92 million in the early years, zero since and zero for the foreseeable future.
It is thought paranoid to dwell on this. When the flow of funds is acknowledged at all, Albertans are told to buck up, for it is merely the price of living in a decent, well-ordered Confederation. Like brethren, we lift one another out of economic turmoil!
Yet, mysteriously, the identities of the equalization recipients do not change much from decade to decade. Little if any lifting occurs. Quebec has not only never threatened to join the “haves”; it becomes more disadvantaged, relatively, as the haves give it more.
How much easier would it be for Alberta to bear this long-term proposition — which I dare not call a swindle — if it had, just once, been pulled out of the mire by its fellow provinces at a timely moment? Imagine there were a Trudeau who, instead of deliberately designing economic shocks for Alberta, actually displayed some enterprise in assisting it at a time of perceived crisis? It might not even have to cost all that much: follow up a lot of fine talk and concern with a few hundred million, and perhaps you buy yourself another half-century of calm. The moral high ground is fine real estate. A bargain, surely, at the price.
December 4, 2015
Michael Geist on the Quebec government’s latest attempt to limit the freedom of Quebec internet users:
If there is a first rule of the Internet in Canada, it is “thou shall not block.” Canadian Internet service providers face a wide range of policies that have implications for accessing content including net neutrality rules and the copyright notice-and-notice system. Yet in virtually all cases, blocking or removing content is simply not done (the lone exception is a limited, private sector led initiative to block child pornography images).
My weekly technology law column […] notes that unlike other countries which have dabbled in mandated takedowns or Internet filtering, Canada has largely defended an “open Internet”. Canadian law does not mandate that Internet providers take down content due to unproven allegations of copyright infringement or allow them to alter or change content. In fact, the Telecommunications Act stipulates that “a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.”
Despite the clear legal mandate to avoid blocking, earlier this month the Quebec government introduced unprecedented legislation that would require Internet providers to engage in content blocking. The new bill targets unlicensed online gambling websites as part of the government’s efforts to increase revenues from its own online gambling service, which has thus far failed to meet expectations.
November 18, 2015
At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson isn’t impressed with the PM, who he refers to as “our selfie Prime Minister”, and contrasts him with his father:
Canada is a bubble nation. We have so long been at peace, so long been rich and free, that much of the world beyond our borders is akin to another planet. The working assumption of the Canadian Left — Justin very much included — is that Islamist terrorism is the product of some grave misunderstanding. If only we were to constructively engage with those who oppose us peace would be at hand. All we need is a chance for dialogue and our graduate school acquired “conflict resolution skills” would restore humanity and decency. This is among the gravest misconceptions of our age.
Trudeau the Elder considered both the FLQ and the PQ threats to Canada’s survival. Yet his response to each was radically different. Terrorism was beyond the bounds of legitimate democratic discourse. Force must be met with force. He explained this with great care in his speech justifying the invocation of the War Measures Act. It shows a statesman — however deeply flawed in other areas of public policy — fighting to sustain a democratic government against violent usurpation. The speech is also a stark and sobering contrast to his son’s juvenile pronouncements.
Yet PET took a very different approach in dealing with democratic separatism. The PQ — however obnoxious and cynical — was a legitimate democratic force. When the Pequistes formed their first majority government in 1976 the response from Ottawa was to argue, cajole and bribe. The usual instruments of a democratic state. It would have been thought absurd and utterly unCanadian to have dispatched federal troops to arrest Rene Levesque and his cadre of petty ethnic nationalists.
Pierre Trudeau could only occasionally distinguish between bad and outright evil. He could crush the FLQ and then saunter off to Cuba to play sing-a-long with a mass murdering tyrant. Though at least at that point in history Fidel Castro was hardly a threat to world peace. Trudeau’s 1976 trip was a morally repugnant though not a dangerous act.
Islamist fanatics are very much a threat to the peace of France, Canada and the world. In his first test as an international leader Justin has shown a dangerous inability to differentiate between bad and evil. Since Canada is a smaller player in a big world that might not matter very much in the short-term. Yet sooner or later this evil will come to Canada and the man charged with our defence has shown himself to be pathetically inadequate to the challenge.
September 29, 2015
Megan McArdle on the popular notion that preschool programs are a panacea for all that ails the public school system:
Universal preschool has become the ginseng of American politics, a sort of broad-spectrum nostrum that will cure almost anything that ails you. Inequality, male-female pay gaps, crime, poverty — just apply some early childhood programs, and watch those maladies fade. Expect to hear this a lot from Hillary Clinton in the coming presidential race.
And what kind of a crotchety, sour, greedy old columnist could be opposed to such a wonderful idea? I’m so glad you asked.
In truth, I am not opposed to early childhood education programs. I am opposed to blind boosterism of such programs, the kind that confidently predicts marvelous results from thin empirical evidence, and briskly proceeds to demand huge sums be spent accordingly. There are three big problems with this:
1. The empirical evidence is shakier than many boosters suggest. The possible benefits of these programs can be divided into two baskets: cognitive benefits (improvement in academic skills and performance), and non-cognitive benefits (improvement in such things as social skills, hyperactivity, gratification delay, and so forth). The evidence of cognitive benefits is underwhelming; they appear, and then tend to fade out as the children leave the program and proceed through our nation’s school systems.
A lot of hope has therefore been poured into non-cognitive benefits. Some early programs seem to show long-term improvements in things like graduation rates, employment and criminal activity. However, many of these programs were very small, which raises the possibility that we’re dealing with small samples plus publication bias, rather than something that actually works. In general, in social science, you tend to see that the larger the sample and the better designed the study, the less remarkable the effects. And this is definitely what you see with early childhood programs. Perry, Abecedarian, the Chicago Child-Parent Center: these are inspiring projects. They’re not nearly large enough to base a national program on.
And indeed, that’s what a new study out of Quebec seems to suggest. In the 1990s, the province instituted an inexpensive universal child-care program. The program doesn’t seem to have produced much in the way of cognitive benefits, and its non-cognitive benefits were actually negative — that is, kids exposed to the program (those who lived in Quebec) were more likely to have various problems than control groups in other provinces.
Now, this is, as I always caution, Just One Study. It’s a pretty convincing study, of a pretty large group. But it’s still a single study, which means that we should not rush to say that universal child care is a bad idea, or even that cheap, badly designed universal child care is a bad idea.
What we should rush to say, however, is that the background assumption about such programs — that at worst they’re a waste of money for zero results — cannot be safely held. We have to assume some possibility that our early childhood program will actually be worse for the kids than the status quo is.
March 10, 2015
I am shocked, shocked to find corruption in Quebec politics. I’m also shocked that it’s cold in Winnipeg in February. Politics has never been a game for choir boys. However by international political standards Canadian politics is incredibly tame. M. Lortie may have walked around with hundreds of thousands of dollars in his briefcase, try getting past airport security with that today, but he didn’t make a habit of killing political opponents. In most countries Joe Clark wouldn’t have been deposed, he would have been assassinated.
Even by global standards of graft, bribery and influence peddling this is kid’s stuff. Anyone with a passing familiarity of politics in Latin America knows that M. Lortie is a rank amateur compared to the real professionals beyond our humble dominion. Nor is his temporary alignment with the PQ all that surprising. Allegiance in Quebec politics is that most fluid of things. There are very few real federalists and real sovereignists in La Belle Province. There’s a long running petty feud between cousins about how best to fleece the Canadian taxpayer. The rest is theatre.
These stories are important, they help teach Canadians that politics is rarely public service, but quite often self-service with a taxpayer’s expense account. Beneath the noble rhetoric there’s some guy with silly hair shuffling money around.
Richard Anderson, “The Man With The Briefcase”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-06-16.
January 12, 2015
Elizabeth Nolan Brown on an interesting video game in development:
First, choose your city: Toronto, Vancouver, or Montréal. Next, decide whether avatar Andrea (Andréa, if you chose Montreal) will work on the streets, in a massage parlor, or as an escort. Then try to get screwed literally without being figuratively fucked by the cops—an ultimately no-win situation when it comes to The Oldest Game. Developed by a team of Canadian academics, the project is meant to highlight how the country’s new prostitution law, C-36, makes life more difficult and dangerous for Canadian sex workers.
The law, which took effect in December 2014, “continues to criminalize various aspects of sex work, often removing safeguards and strategies that place sex workers in dangerous situation, placing at risk the very vulnerable people the bill ostensibly exists to protect,” note the game’s creators.
Through various encounters with clients, colleagues and law enforcement in three difference Canadian cities, players will experience how the legislation changes the way sex workers live and work, and play through the additional challenges sex workers will face when trying to remain safe.
Sandra Gabriele, a Concordia communications professor and one of the project’s co-leads, is interested in using games as a form of journalism.
Published on 10 Dec 2014
On December 6th 2014 (the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada), Bill C-36 officially came into force. Replacing Canada’s previous laws on sex work, which were struck down as unconstitutional on On December 20th, 2013, the new bill have drawn a great deal of criticism for placing sex workers at even greater risk than they faced under the old legislation. The Oldest Game, a newsgame about sex work developed at Concordia University in Montreal QC, demonstrates how Bill C-36 will impact the lives of sex workers in Canada. Developed by Lisa Lynch, Sandra Gabriele, Amanda Feder, Martin Desrosiers, Stephanie Goddard, Ben Spencer, Esther Splett and Natalie Zina Walschots. Follow is on Twitter at @The OldestGame and visit our website, http://www.theoldestgame.com !
December 21, 2014
If I asked you when was the first historical European Martial Arts tournament what would you say? 1997? 2003?
Not even close.
How about where? America? Great Britain? Germany? France?
No, none of the above.
What if I told you that the earliest known tournament took place in a region of the globe which we probably don’t hear enough about, but which surely deserves to be known across the HEMA community: Quebec.
Yes. The first ever tournament took place on the island of Montreal in… 1889. Who was heading this tournament? Perhaps Alfred Hutton on a trip in Canada? Or how about one of those French guys from the Olympics? No, it was another HEMA pioneer. One which is unfortunately unknown to us because he did not leave us any manual, but an interesting figure all the same: David Legault.
Legault came back to Montreal around 1882. There were very few qualified fencing instructors in town at that time, and the art was going through a revival. His friends then encouraged David to open up a fencing salle in the former Institut Canadien, a learned French Canadian society which regularly drew the wrath of the church. There he will teach not only swordsmanship but also boxing, savate, wrestling, great stick and gymnastics. He will try to introduce the model inside Quebec schools, with more or less success, but his regular classes will grow in popularity and Legault will decide to change the nature of his club which will become known as the Guard of the Archiepiscopal Palace. This group acted as an honorary guard to the Catholic archbishop of Montreal as well as a sort of militia to prepare men for military service. Several similar groups will be created across the province, all of them teaching fencing. Volunteering in the Canadian army and various official militia units which were mostly English speaking was not very popular with French Canadians, and many turned toward these groups instead.
November 22, 2014
November 14, 2014
In Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown reviews the findings of a recent survey on what kind of kinks are no longer considered weird or unusual (because so many people fantasize about ’em or are actively partaking of ’em):
Being sexually dominated. Having sex with multiple people at once. Watching someone undress without their knowledge. These are just a few of the totally normal sexual fantasies uncovered by recent research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The overarching takeaway from this survey of about 1,500 Canadian adults is that sexual kink is incredibly common.
While plenty of research has been conducted on sexual fetishes, less is known about the prevalence of particular sexual desires that don’t rise to the level of pathological (i.e., don’t harm others or interfere with normal life functioning and aren’t a requisite for getting off). “Our main objective was to specify norms in sexual fantasies,” said lead study author Christian Joyal. “We suspected there are a lot more common fantasies than atypical fantasies.”
Joyal’s team surveyed about 717 Québécois men and 799 women, with a mean age of 30. Participants ranked 55 different sexual fantasies, as well as wrote in their own. Each fantasy was then rated as statistically rare, unusual, common, or typical.
Of course, the statistics also show where men and women differ in some areas:
Notably, men were more likely than women to say they wanted their sexual fantasies to become sexual realities. “Approximately half of women with descriptions of submissive fantasies speciﬁed that they would not want the fantasy to materialize in real life,” the researchers note. “This result conﬁrms the important distinction between sexual fantasies and sexual wishes, which is usually stronger among women than among men.”
The researchers also found a number of write-in “favorite” sexual fantasies that were common among men had no equivalent in women’s fantasies. These included having sex with a trans woman (included in 4.2 percent of write-in fantasies), being on the receiving end of strap-on/non-homosexual anal sex (6.1 percent), and watching a partner have sex with another man (8.4 percent).
Next up, the researchers plan to map subgroups of sexual fantasies that often go together (for instance, those who reported submissive fantasies were also more likely to report domination fantasies, and both were associated with higher levels of overall sexual satisfaction). For now, they caution that “care should be taken before labeling (a sexual fantasy) as unusual, let alone deviant.”
It would be interesting to see the results of this study replicated in other areas — Quebec may or may not be representative of the rest of western society.
Update, 28 November: Maggie McNeill is not impressed by the study at all.
But there’s a bigger problem, which as it turns out I’ve written on before when the titillation du jour was the claim that fewer men were paying for sex:
… the General Social Survey … has one huge, massive flaw that was mentioned by my psychology professors way back in the Dark Ages of the 1980s, yet seems not to trouble those who rely upon it so heavily these days: it is conducted in person, face to face with the respondents. And that means that on sensitive topics carrying criminal penalties or heavy social stigma, the results are less than solid; negative opinions of its dependability on such matters range from “unreliable” to “useless”. The fact of the matter is that human beings want to look good to authority figures (like sociologists in white lab coats) even when they don’t know them from Adam, so they tend to deviate from strict veracity toward whatever answer they think the interviewer wants to hear…
“Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they induce pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction,” Christian Joyal, the lead author of the study, said…The researchers found that only two sexual fantasies were…rare: Sexual activities with a child or an animal…only nine sexual fantasies were considered unusual…[including] “golden showers,” cross-dressing, [and] sex with a prostitute…
Joyal’s claim that sadistic and rape fantasies are innately “pathological” is both insulting and totally wrong; we “know” no such thing. And did you think it was a coincidence that pedophilia and bestiality were the only two fantasies to fall into the “rare” category during a time when those are the two most vilified kinks in the catalog, kinks which will result in permanent consignment to pariah status if discovered? Guess again; as recently as the 1980s it was acceptable to at least talk about both of these, and neither is as rare as this “study” pretends. But Man is a social animal, and even if someone is absolutely certain of his anonymity (which in the post-Snowden era would be a much rarer thing than either of those fantasies), few are willing to risk the disapproval of a lab-coated authority figure even if he isn’t sitting directly in front of them. What this study shows is not how common these fantasies actually are, but rather how safe people feel admitting to them. And while that’s an interesting thing in itself, it isn’t what everyone from researchers to reporters to readers is pretending the study measured.
October 28, 2014
In City Magazine, Steven Malanga looks at Canada’s civil service pension problems, which may not be quite as bad as some US state problems, but are still going to be a source of conflict going forward:
Governments throughout the country are grappling with as much as $300 billion in unfunded government-worker retirement debt. In a country of just 38.5 million people, that’s a pension problem roughly equivalent to the one that California faces. And it’s widely shared.
Municipalities throughout Quebec, for instance, owe some $4 billion in retirement promises that have yet to be funded, prompting the province’s new Liberal government to demand this summer that workers pay more to bolster the system. A new report on the finances of Ontario’s government-owned utilities revealed their pensions to be unsustainable without deep subsidies from Canadian electricity customers. For every dollar that workers contribute toward their retirement, government-owned utilities now spend on average about four dollars, raised through electric bills—though the cost is even higher at some operations. The news is even bleaker at the federal level, where Canada faces more than $200 billion in total retirement debt for public workers, when the cost of future health-care promises made to public-sector workers is combined with pension commitments. One big problem is pension debt at Canada Post, whose budget is so strained that the federal government gave the mail service a four-year reprieve on making payments into its pension system, even though it’s already severely underfunded.
At the heart of Canada’s pension woes are some of the same forces that have helped rack up several trillion dollars in state and local pension liabilities in the United States. For years, Canadian governments have provided generous pensions at low costs to employees. Workers could earn full benefits while retiring in their mid-fifties, even as they lived longer. Politicians relied on optimistic assumptions about stock-market returns to justify those benefits. Governments were quick to grant additional benefits to politically powerful employee groups, but they underfunded pensions when budgets got tight.
September 9, 2014
Andrew Coyne points out some of the parallels between the 1995 referendum in Quebec and this month’s referendum in Scotland:
It has been an entertaining, if unnerving, couple of weeks, recalling the referendum of 1995 and speculating about what would have happened had the separatists won. Now, thanks to the Scots, we may be about to find out.
Next week’s referendum on Scottish independence is indeed looking eerily reminiscent of the 1995 near-disaster: the same early complacency in the No camp, the same unbridled panic as the Yes side surges in the polls; the same unappealing mix of threats (“one million jobs”) and accounting on the No side, the same fraudulent claims (“we’re subsidizing the English”) and utopian fantasies on the Yes; the same blurring of the lines on both sides, independence made to look like the status quo (“we’ll keep the pound”) even as the status quo is made to look like independence (“devo-max” is the British term for special status). Add a charismatic Yes leader and an unpopular, seemingly disengaged prime minister, and the picture is complete.
Learning nothing from our experience, the Brits made all the same strategic errors we did, first conferring an unwarranted legitimacy on the separatist project, then attempting to pacify it with powers and money, only to watch it grow more ravenous in response. They have ended up in the same game of heads-I-win, tails-you-lose: a No vote simply marks the launch of the next campaign, while a Yes, supposedly, is forever.
We should not underestimate how much of separatism’s decline in this country can be explained by sheer exhaustion, especially post-Clarity Act. A great many soft nationalists, for whom it retains a romantic appeal, were persuaded it was simply too arduous an undertaking, full of too much uncertainty and upheaval. But if that premise appeared to have been debunked — if the British pull off the same quick divorce that the Czechs and Slovaks did in the 1990s — we might yet see the issue resurface. You see, the Parti Quebecois would crow? It is just as we told you. And Britain, of all places, has proved it.
August 21, 2014
In the Montreal Gazette, Don Macpherson discusses a new book by Chantal Hébert to be published soon:
They don’t make sovereignist leaders like they used to. It’s hard to imagine any candidate for the Parti Québécois leadership matching the combination of Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.
That referendum wouldn’t have been held without Parizeau’s single-minded pursuit of sovereignty. And the sovereignists wouldn’t have come within fewer than 55,000 votes of winning if it hadn’t been for Bouchard’s ability to gain voters’ trust.
Yet, as a forthcoming book shows, Bouchard did not trust Parizeau — and with reason.
Not only did Parizeau, who was premier, unscrupulously use Bouchard to deceive voters about his intentions, he intended to shove Bouchard aside after a Yes vote so he could make a unilateral declaration of independence.
The book is The Morning After, written by widely respected Ottawa journalist Chantal Hébert. It’s to be published early next month.
It’s based on recent interviews by Hébert and commentator Jean Lapierre (my fellow CTV Montreal political panellist) with political leaders of the day about what they would have done after a Yes vote in 1995.
Update: Paul Wells says the book also discusses an improbable Saskatchewan separation move if Quebec had left Confederation.
A team of Saskatchewan officials worked quietly to develop contingency plans in the event of a Yes vote in the 1995 Quebec referendum — options that included Saskatchewan following Quebec out of Canada, a new book reveals.
Roy Romanow, the premier of Saskatchewan at the time, never told his full cabinet about the secret committee’s work, Romanow told Chantal Hébert, author of The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, to be published by Knopf Canada on Sept. 2. Maclean’s has obtained a copy of the book.
“Filed under the boring title of Constitutional Contingencies — a choice intended to discourage curiosity — [the Saskatchewan committee’s] work was funded off the books, outside the provincial Treasury Board process, the better to ensure its secrecy,” Hébert writes.
The committee considered a lot of possibilities for the chaotic period Romanow anticipated after a Yes vote — including Saskatchewan seceding from Canada; a Western union of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia; abandoning the Canadian dollar to use the U.S. greenback; and even annexation of Saskatchewan, and perhaps other provinces, to the United States. “In the eventuality of a Yes vote, clearly you need to examine all your options,” Romanow says in the book.
Apparently 1995 was even more of an existential moment than we knew at the time.
August 19, 2014
The full report is available to download from the TSB’s website.
This summary of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) Railway Investigation Report R13D0054 contains a description of the accident, along with an overview of the analysis and findings, the safety action taken to date, five key recommendations, and what more needs to be done to help ensure an accident like this does not happen again.
Shortly after the engineer left, the Nantes Fire Department responded to a 911 call reporting a fire on the train. After shutting off the locomotive’s fuel supply, the firefighters moved the electrical breakers inside the cab to the off position, in keeping with railway instructions. They then met with an MMA employee, a track foreman who had been dispatched to the scene but who did not have a locomotive operations background.
Once the fire was extinguished, the firefighters and the track foreman discussed the train’s condition with the rail traffic controller in Farnham, and departed soon afterward. With all the locomotives shut down, the air compressor no longer supplied air to the air brake system. As air leaked from the brake system, the main air reservoirs were slowly depleted, gradually reducing the effectiveness of the locomotive air brakes. Just before 1 a.m., the air pressure had dropped to a point at which the combination of locomotive air brakes and hand brakes could no longer hold the train, and it began to roll downhill toward Lac-Mégantic, just over seven miles away.
Almost all of the 63 derailed tank cars were damaged, and many had large breaches. About six million litres of petroleum crude oil was quickly released. The fire began almost immediately, and the ensuing blaze and explosions left 47 people dead. Another 2000 people were forced from their homes, and much of the downtown core was destroyed.
The pileup of tank cars, combined with the large volume of burning petroleum crude oil, made the firefighters’ job extremely difficult. Despite the challenges of a large emergency, the response was well coordinated, and the fire departments effectively protected the site and ensured public safety after the derailment.
Published on 19 Aug 2014
Animation – Sequence of events in the Lac-Mégantic derailment and fire
On 6 July 2013, a unit train carrying petroleum crude oil operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) derailed numerous cars in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and a fire and explosions ensued.
July 14, 2014
In the Winnipeg Free Press, Allan Levine reminds us that not only is Canada’s 150th birthday coming up in 2017, but that the meetings that led to Confederation were being held 150 years ago and much of the success was due to a “forgotten father of Confederation”:
BOLSTERED by generous federal funding, the 150th anniversary of Confederation will be celebrated on July 1, 2017 with the great hoopla the birth of this country deserves.
Yet the hard work, political compromises, backroom negotiations and constitutional debates that made Confederation — a more remarkable development than we appreciate today — possible occurred during a five-month period from June to October in 1864.
In short, Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now.
The two most notable events of 1864 were conferences in Charlottetown, in early September, followed by a more extensive one held in Quebec City for much of October. At the gathering in Charlottetown, delegates from the Province of Canada — divided into two regions, Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec) — led by John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, respectively, convinced politicians from the Maritimes a federation of all of British North America made sense. The fundamentals of this new constitutional entity were then hammered out in Quebec City, producing a comprehensive plan for a new country outlined in the 72 Resolutions, which became the basis for the British North America Act proclaimed on July 1, 1867.
Apart from Macdonald and Cartier, the other key political personality in Charlottetown and Quebec City involved in making Confederation a reality was George Brown, the publisher of the Toronto Globe. Born in Scotland, Brown had arrived in Toronto via New York City at the age of 24 in 1843 and a year later established the Globe. A large man, he was over six feet tall and powerfully built. Brown was hard and dogmatic, but also an energetic and passionate man with strong convictions about free speech, civil liberties and the separation of church and state.
Brown became a leader of the Reform movement in Canada West and rallied around him left-leaning Reformers in Toronto and western farmers he dubbed “Clear Grits” (this faction only wanted men of true grit). He was eventually elected to the Province of Canada assembly in 1851, the beginning of a journey that would culminate with his role as a leading Father of Confederation and a founder of the Liberal party.
Update, 15 July. Richard Anderson has more on George Brown, and neatly explains why of all the Fathers of Confederation, only Sir John A. sticks in anyone’s memory. Poor George founded the Liberal party, but wouldn’t recognize the party in its modern incarnation.
George Brown certainly founded the Liberal Party, The Globe and Canada as a viable nation state. The Liberal Party, however, would prefer if you not remember all that stuff. Like an unpleasant uncle whose Thanksgiving Day antics you have suppressed from conscious memory, Brown is an embarrassment to modern Grits. To understand that you only have to give glancing attention to the man himself.
Brown of the Globe was a classical liberal, or to put it another way he was real liberal, one who understood very well the root meaning of the word: Liberty. He denounced crony capitalism (see the Grand Trunk Railway), fought for the separation of church and state (see his attacks upon ultramonte Catholicism) and advocated for free trade. This fierce tempered, no-nonsense Scots-Presbyterian would have made mince-meat out of Pierre Trudeau and his dimwitted spawn. When the Liberal Party of Canada stopped believing in liberty they had no use for Canadian classical liberalism’s greatest exponent.
George Brown is more than forgotten, he is an orphan in our statist politics. We are much the poorer for it.