More signs of trouble in Ontario

Canada, like the US and Mexico, continues to reflect troubles with democracy.  In the province of Ontario, each of the major parties – Liberal, Progressive Conservative, and New Democratic – appears to be encouraging parliamentary candidates to step back and stop talking, apparently with the idea of allowing leaders to keep party communications strictly ‘on message.’  Obviously, this severely limits the abilities of voters to explore broader ranges of parties’ positions on issues of importance to them.

However, it is important that Catholics follow up with individual candidates during the campaign process:  across all parties, some nominees, generally driven by a sense of civic duty, will ignore instructions and respond to requests to meet with voter groups.  Our own meetings, for example, which are purposefully non-confrontational, seem to be appreciated by voters and candidates alike.  And while, for the first time ever, none or our meetings in Ontario has had representation from all parties during the current campaign, we do have commitments, at different meetings, from candidates from all parties.

It is contrary to principles of federal or parliamentary democracies for party leaders to attempt to horde all attention to themselves, to set themselves up as sole points of party communication and contact.  Obviously, this puts them in the position of deciding what information is to be shared, with whom, and when, and it can be used to avoid answering uncomfortable questions – even when the questions are entirely proper.  In April, for example, we proposed a Q&A session for Ontarian party leaders, and were utterly ignored by all parties – despite the facts that our meetings are entirely non-confrontational and that most of the leaders met with leaders of other community groups shortly thereafter, in the same geographic area.

The problem is aggravated by new tactics of all parties to make both their platforms and direct contact information for candidates difficult to find.   It’s not always possible for candidates to accept all invitations.  But it is possible for them to acknowledge invitations and explain why they can or cannot accept, and it is not only possible, but is a positive duty for them to make their platforms easily available to voters.

As Catholics, we have a duty to participate in society, in order to ensure that all people are given opportunities they need to fulfill themselves and their duties before God.  Get involved.  Speak up.  Vote – and when you vote, stop to think for a moment about which individual candidates are willing to spend time speaking to you, and listening to you.

Are we electing politicians who want to gather and lead us, or to scatter us for their own advantage?

TRUTH, SOLIDARITY, AND LOVE:  In recent weeks elected leaders in the United States and Canada have been accused of lying to us, of turning away from electoral promises, of belittling others, and of seeking to divide us, to set us against one another and those in other countries.   It would seem that their purpose is to make things better for a few people, at the expense of many.

If Mephistopheles is the scatterer and the lover of lies, then whose candidates are we electing?  These individuals sometimes seem to bear no resemblance to the parties we sought to support.

It is important to remember that God gave the world to all of us, to all humanity.  But no human being has ever chosen the location or the circumstances of his or her birth; their parents or their homeland.  It is up to us to find ways to live with each other justly, to treat one another fairly – and with mercy, when appropriate.

Electing better leaders in a democracy is not difficult. It requires a bit of effort, but it is effort that each of us should be making anyway:  we should all be consulting and supporting responsible news sources, keeping an eye on candidates who are presented to us at elections, and on those we have elected to office.  This is neither difficult nor time consuming; with the internet it can be done in minutes each day.  Consider subscribing to one or two or three news sources, and using key words to set up searches, as well as watching items of general interest.   Use comment sections to speak up when appropriate, to point out the relationship between events and responsible social thought.

Perhaps the most helpful way to help, if you have time and are inclined toward one or another of the parties, is to become involved with the party in ways that will give you a voice in establishing platforms and selecting candidates – if we continue to simply accept the candidates and the platforms that are presented to us, without speaking up beforehand, we will have a much more difficult time effecting change.

Taxation & Stewardship: Ontario and New Brunswick 2017 Provincial Audit Reports

It is necessary that governments collect taxes, and apply them toward projects that are in the common interest.  Because tax money is being collected from people who may or may not agree with the uses to which they are to be put, however, it is incumbent upon governments to bear in mind at all times their responsibility to collect and spend tax money wisely, fairly, and efficiently.  After all, those who are required to pay the taxes might have been able to put the money to their own good uses.  And governments all levels must in every case be scrupulously correct in accounting for their use of other people’s money.

The Auditors General of New Brunswick and Ontario have recently released final annual reports of provincial finances and expenditures prior to next year’s provincial elections.  In both cases, encouraging work has been noted.  However, in both cases significant discrepancies have been noted as well.

Indeed, in each case some strong criticisms are made.  For example:

  • In Ontario, the Auditor General found that “there was one overarching theme this year that was common in varying degrees to almost all of the VFM audits: the need to improve planning that supports timely and informed decision-making and oversight—or even to just have a plan of action with ongoing monitoring of the results being achieved—to ensure efficient and cost-effective public services.” Morever, the Auditor, reported, the Province continued to report billions of dollars of assets as its own, and available for public use, when, for example, those assets belong to the Teachers’s Pension Plan.  Such practices in mis-reporting funds can significantly distort pictures of spending efficiency.
  • In New Brunswick, the Auditor reported “very troubling disregard for procurement practices,” specifically in the Department of Social Development, with deficiencies in contract management and lack of oversight. In at least one case, the Auditor reported, a “consultant was highly and inappropriately favored by the Department.”   As a more hopeful example, the report acknowledges that provincial greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2001 and have declined since, with efforts apparently on track to meet 2020 targets.  Still, the report concludes, “meeting the 2030 and 2050 targets will require significant [additional] action from provincial and Federal initiatives.”

Whether provinces are, overall, collecting and spending money fairly is an assessment that each voter should make before voting in next year’s elections.  The Reports are publicly available, and easy to read:

The New Brunswick Report is at:
http://www.agnb-vgnb.ca/content/agnb-vgnb/en/publications/reports.html#2017V2=Page5&2017v1=Page1

The Ontario Report is at:
http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arbyyear/ar2017.html

Stewardship of office – truth, wisdom & humilty

STEWARDSHIP OF OFFICE:  TRUTH, WISDOM & HUMILITY.  “…politicians keep pandering to people’s worst instincts, relying on the politics of fear…” in order to frighten us into voting in ways that are advantageous to them, or to their parties, and not to us, the people they claim to represent.  This assessment does not apply uniquely to the events covered by the article linked below.  It applies to a very large part of today’s political news.

Indeed, it may be the central theme, the central problem, of our time.  The only answer is to help one another hear and listen to the voice of the Shepherd.

In ways that are historically unique, we have been given, by those who went before us, the gift of self-governance by means of democracy.  And we have been warned many times that if we are not careful with democracy, we will lose it.  By allowing ourselves to be distracted by the popular culture of self-indulgence, for example, by wallowing in consumerism and self-centeredness, we open ourselves to manipulation by unscrupulous politicians.  And if we give them a chance, there are those who will take democracy away from us.

In the specific instance covered by the article, it is true, as the author points out, that leaders of the major political parties in Ontario have not strayed so far as their Quebec counterparts.  Overall, however, they are doing no better:  their incessant bickering, mutual threats and innuendo, and open struggles to gain and keep power in the province, regardless of truth, common interest, or any vision of a better future, are all too typical of modern politicians.

Regardless of our geographic locations or our party inclinations, we must become involved.  We must participate in all stages of the political process, and insist that our parties elect better leaders and identify better candidates.  We must insist that parties adopt and adhere to real platforms that define appropriate visions for society, and benefit all of the people they claim to represent, rather than themselves.

And we must learn to assess the truth of things that are said to us.  This involves education and staying informed.  We need to identify, consult, and support responsible news sources, so that when opportunities are offered we can make better choices.

There are good politicians, good people who would like to lead us appropriately, if given a chance.  Let’s try to find them, try to work with them.  Let’s get them into office, so that they can work together for the good of all.

For that, let’s pray together from the Gospel of John, that we might listen only to the proper voice, the voice of the Shepherd and his loved disciples:

LORD, you are the gate and the keeper.  You call us, your sheep, by name, and we hear you.  We know you by your voice, and we follow you where you lead.

There are others who call to us, but we do not recognize their voices because they are thieves and robbers, and they come to steal and slaughter and destroy.  You call us so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.

You are the good shepherd, who has lain down his life for us.  You know us, and we know you.  We know also that you have other sheep that belong to other folds, and that you must lead them as well.  We pray that they will hear your voice, so that there will be one flock, one shepherd.

We rejoice that the Father has given us to you, and that no one can take us out of the Father’s hand.  Call us, lead us, guide us, protect us.

We pray these things earnestly, through Mary our mutual Mother, for the victory of your Holy Cross through her Immaculate Heart.

Amen.  Ave Maria!

https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/10/20/how-ontario-politicians-avoided-quebecs-burka-backlash-cohn.html

What does it mean to be anti-abortion in modern Canada?

ABORTION: THE SANCTITY OF LIFE.  The inviolability of life, from conception to natural death, is a central teaching of the Catholic Church.  Yet in western democracies, and even within the Church, the topic of abortion has become deeply passionate, deeply divisive.  So fundamental, so emotional, is this issue that for decades it has enabled some politicians to unscrupulously manipulate Catholic voters in order to gain other political ends.

One side of the issue – often referred to as the ‘pro-choice’ side – is capably and passionately presented in the linked article by columnist and author Michael Coren.  A remarkable indicator of the depth of emotion aroused by the abortion debate, however, and an excellent example of the manner in which the issue is bent to political purposes unrelated to the sanctity of life, is the following point, penned every bit as passionately in support of the opposite side of the argument by the very same author, just six years previously – prior to an argument that prompted him to leave the Catholic Church.  In his 2011 book “Why Catholics are Right,” Mr. Coren wrote:

“Some basic science first.  At the moment of conception, a male sperm unites with a female ovum to fertilize it, and the single-celled organism formed is called a zygote, an intricate and sophisticated repository of biological information of both parents… At conception a child has a unique DNA and genomic character and is already unlike anyone who has ever been conceived or born before or anyone who will be conceived or born afterwards.  It is a distinct human life and like all human life in a civilized society should have a right to exist.”

The long-held position of the Church was most recently affirmed by Pope Francis, at paragraph 83 of his 2016 exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“the Joy of Love):

“Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed… So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the “property” of another human being.”

It was God himself who handed down to us, through Moses, the unqualified commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Behind heated debates about the rights of unwilling mothers, society, and many others, it would serve us well to consider that too often the life that is terminated is that of the only individual involved who is unable to speak for her- or himself.

Yet, we should also bear firmly in mind at all times the clear injunctions of our Holy Father, our Church, and our Lord Jesus Christ that judgment is not ours to dispense, but belongs to God; and that instead it is our place to dispense mercy.

Rather than attempting to browbeat or coerce others into sharing our beliefs, perhaps, in simple and humble acknowledgement that abortion is wrong, we should focus on seeking alternative ways of approaching the issue, of enabling unwilling mothers and unwanted children to find safety and encouragement, and to nurture them as they grow and to thrive – in loving alternative homes, for example.

And we ought to do our best to ensure that unscrupulous politicians, who seek to take advantage of others and their office for other purposes, are unable to manipulate us as voters, simply by paying lip service to a single issue that is of primary importance to us.

We need to shift the entire conversation.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/10/10/what-does-it-mean-to-be-anti-abortion-in-modern-canada-coren.html

We live in dangerous times for democracy.

TRUTH, WISDOM, AND RESPECT FOR ONE ANOTHER. We live in dangerous times for democracy. The assumption that elections in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere will continue to produce wise and effective leaders, who are willing to work with members of other parties when it makes sense; or that parties in such countries will offer platforms or candidates that are in the best interests of the people, is no longer a safe assumption

We have been warned throughout history – by Plato and Washington, for example – that democracy will not work if voters decline to understand and face the issues, of if we fail to participate in the process of selecting and supporting leaders.

Look at recent elections in the US and Canada: it is no longer true that political parties offer comprehensive, balanced plans for building what they believe to be fairer, wiser governments. Rather, their sole preoccupation is to acquire power, and then keep it, at whatever cost to truth or wisdom. Too often, their party conventions focus on discussions of ‘how we can beat the other guys’, rather than affirming those things which are wise and just, and working with other parties toward improvement of that which is not. When was the last time any party or politician acknowledged those parts of its vision that were consistent with those of the other side, or worked in quiet cooperation when it was in the interest of the people to do so? Instead, they criticize one another relentlessly, and turn elections into hideous popularity contests.

We citizens, we voters, can and must insist that those who seek office begin formulating and cooperatively implementing visions that are in the best interests of the people, rather than themselves.

We can do it. In a democracy, it can be simple.

https://www.catholicregister.org/item/26093-church-on-the-edge-of-freedom-fight

A reminder of the central importance of Christian love

The difference between Christianity and other religions can be expressed in terms of a two-dimensional love: while all religions, by definition, involve love between the individual and the creator, Christ ensured the distinctiveness of his followers by making the admonishment that they ‘love one another as I have loved you’ the central, defining instruction of their mission. Christ placed no limitations on the love that we are to show to one another.

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/conservative-catholics-should-try-listening-to-jesus-love-thy-neighbour/article36284383/

Elections are coming to Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario – it’s time to start getting ready

PARTICIPATION IN SOCIETY.  Provincial elections are set to take place next year in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Quebec.  If we want to improve the choices we’re offered in elections, we have to be more involved.  It’s no good grumbling about the candidates who were offered to us after the election, we have to start speaking up beforehand.  We live in a democracy: we can change things, if we want to.

Fortunately, there are many ways to contribute to a better result.  Some of them are quite simple.

THE FIRST STEP

The first and most important step in preparing for elections is to regularly consult (and support responsible news sources), and to reflect upon, share, and discuss the things we read.  This shouldn’t be difficult – we all look at the news, it generally only requires a few minutes a day.  And with resources available on the internet, it’s easier and easier to find news we care about.

Supporting responsible news sources is more important than many people might think:  it requires effort for news agencies to monitor, research, and report news stories, and particularly to do it responsibly.  Making up and publishing fake news is easy, and costs nothing.  We have to support those who are trying to do it right.

We also have to bear in mind that much of the revenue earned by news sources these days comes through internet advertising, which is based almost entirely on choices made by individuals – like us – browsing the internet. This means that we have to be careful what we look at on the internet. Every time we click on a story about celebrity scandal or unnecessary details of someone’s bad conduct, we encourage news sources to seek out an publish that sort of news – they get paid more for producing it.

Exercise some self-discipline, and restrict your online reading to things we really should care about.

It’s also important to reflect on what we read.  Take a moment, when you’ve finished with a story, to think about it from the perspective of the Gospel.  What sorts of issues are raised?  What would Jesus say about the story?

And bear in mind that, as easy as it is to collect our news through social media, social media posts are not always responsible sources of news.  Pick a reputable local or national newspaper, and perhaps a print or online news magazine, and subscribe to it.

THE NEXT STEP

The next step is to share relevant and responsible news stories, and your thoughts about them, with friends and other voters.  This can be done easily through social media.  It’s important, though, to share thoughtful comments about responsible news stories, and not destructive criticism based on questionable news.

Rather than criticizing and tearing things down and driving people apart, we Catholics should think about building things up and drawing people together.  The Good Shepherd wants us to gather people together in the ways He taught in the Gospel.

DEEPER INVOLVEMENT

A very significant way of helping to ensure that the parties offer high-quality candidates next year is to become involved in the their candidate selection processes.  Because this generally requires joining one of the parties, it is not always palatable to many people, particularly in these difficult days.  But for those who are comfortable with it, party membership and participation in the candidate selection process can be a real service to the public, by bringing Gospel voices directly into the debate.

The parties are starting their processes for selecting candidates.  Find out how they’re doing it, and what stage they’re at, and get involved.

Speak up conscientiously:  put your voice and hear to work!

PRAYER

For any Catholic, prayer is a crucial part of participation in society.  We must always pray for guidance, and for the welfare of others.  Let’s pray for the wisdom and the humility to participate constantly and appropriately in democracy:

“Lady of Wisdom, mother of our Lord and of us all, lend ups please a bit of your wisdom, so that we might properly understand our duties to one another, including our duty to inform ourselves about the world and to make choices that are good for everyone – choices that will be pleasing to you and to your Son.

Through your most Holy Son, who lives and reigns in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the victory of your own Immaculate Heart, we pray.

Amen

QUESTIONS?

If you’d like help in learning about how the social teachings of the Church relate to current events, watch our news posts.  We try to add a few words of explanation with each report.

Contact us if you’d like.  We’d love to hear from you.  There’s an easy-to-use box at the bottom of the page.

 

 

MINING IN NOVA SCOTIA: a case worth thinking about.

Halifax Chronicle Herald: Old Nova Scotia gold deposits are new again.
June 18, 2017 (http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/1478906-old-nova-scotia-gold-deposits-are-new-again)

The resurgence of gold mining raises questions concerning employment, development, sustainability, fairness, and of course the environment. They are not easy questions to answer. What is the best thing to do?

Global economic uncertainties have driven the price of gold up to about $1600 (Canadian). That price is high enough, as the linked article explains, to justify the increased costs of extraction associated with low-grade deposits, which means that mines closed long ago being re-opened – and that much more earth must be moved in order to remove usable amounts of ore. (more…)

French Cardinal fears the death of democracy

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, is concerned that democracy is in danger.  He sees that voices of justice and moderation are being squeezed out of democratic politics by increasingly radical voices of both liberal and conservative parties.  In part, the Cardinal blames misuse of the media – which is not always used to speak with the voices of shepherds.

If we don’t solve these problems, we will lose democracy.  And in a democracy there is no one to blame, and no one to solve these problems, but us, the voters.  We must educate ourselves, and we must vote wisely, for the good of all.  As a starting point, we must identify – and support – responsible sources of news, including our own Catholic newspapers, radio, and television networks.  And we must become personally involved in the electoral process.  We must speak up to our elected representatives, to let them know of our convictions. (more…)