Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The proposed Charter of Quebec Values: Pauline Marois is deflecting important economic issues while promoting separatism.

Mme. Marois: Are you ready for my Charter of Quebec Values?

The Charter of Quebec Values: Why separatists resort to high handed legislation to install their values on Quebeckers.

by Tom Thorne

Pauline Marois is at it again. The separatist premier of Quebec is about to launch new legislation in the National Assembly to secularize Quebec society. Just what she has in mind is yet to be fully determined but if you are a Muslim or a Sikh your head scarf or turban is likely on Ms. Marois’ chopping block. 

Ms. Marois is going to tell you how to dress and conduct yourself in public. Any symbol that may show that you are from a background where your clothes indicate your religious affiliation will now be banned apparently. 

In her zeal to install Quebec Values (another phrase for separatism equally as vague as Sovereignty Association) Ms. Marois is effectively thumbing her nose at Canadian Multiculturalism and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ms. Marois has a nerve. She will discover that Canadians, and that includes Francophone Quebeckers, cherish their Canadian rights and freedoms. Mme. Marois can expect flack from the public and other political parties both provincial and federal concerning this piece of xenophobic nonsense. 

We know that over time the influence of the Catholic Church is diminished in Quebec where the moral direction of this institution is a misty remanent of a history almost forgotten. Parish churches throughout Quebec now stand as monuments of a low attendance institution stained by scandal. There is no anchor on this front against secularism.

Mme. Marois knows that this is the time to become a real secular state without any religious or moral restraint.  Not only is the secular state on the front burner of this separatist government but also in tandem prickly issues like euthanasia are on simmer in Quebec.

Anything to do with religion is now under attack as Mme. Marois designs what is different in Quebec from the rest of Canada. Her government, even in minority and with many economic ills to rectify, needs other issues to get the economy off their backs.  And it will all be done with a smile and assurances that there is nothing to worry about.

There is a lot to worry about. The Charter of Quebec Values defines what?  It will define differences between the Quebecois fact by pitting this main culture against immigrant groups who hold their cultures and religions seriously. In short it will make conflict stressing differences. It will be our way or the highway. Vive la difference will take on a new ominous meaning.

Canadians are smarter than this Parti Quebecois xenophobia. This proposed law, if it bans freedom of religion or expression will be challenged by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and by the Constitution of Canada.  No Canadian province can enact this kind of legislation without expecting a challenge. Mme. Marois is spoiling for a fight with a good portion of her Quebec citizens and the rest of Canada. Otherwise why is she doing this?

She is trying to get the separatist agenda on the front boiler. Her own leadership of the Parti Quebecois relies on it. If she can appeal to the hardcore separatist elements in her party she will have their help in the next provincial election. That election could happen anytime and she needs a track record of going for the separation of Quebec from Canada to stay in power.

In addition, with a Federal election in 2015, Mme. Marois will have created, she hopes, enough contemptuous energy in her province to destroy the New Democrats hold on the seats in Quebec. She will force Harper’s Conservatives to confront Quebec aspirations ensuring they get fewer than the six seats they now hold in the Federal Parliament.

Mme. Marois will have created a storm. She will try to snare new federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in her xenophobic political web thus denying a federal Liberal rebirth in Quebec. The only thing restraining Mme. Marois is her minority government. Imagine the trouble she would generate with a majority.

This is all so transparent. The Charter of Quebec Values?  Will this Charter respect multicultural groups, people with different religions and beliefs, Quebec born Anglophones, Quebecois who value their Canadian-Quebec identity? Will Quebec be compelled by public outcry against the Charter of Quebec Values to finally endorse Canada by signing the Constitution of Canada? 

By finally signing The Constitution, Quebec opts for a united Canada. Even without signing they are subject as Canadians to its provisions. It is better that they are aboard formally because as it stands now separatists think (wrongly) that a separate Quebec is still possible by referendum.

Pierre Trudeau some years ago, after the Constitution was repatriated from the British Parliament, was asked when Quebec would sign the document. His response was that Canada would have “to grow up a lot before that could happen”. This is the kind of comment that enrages separatists because it is the truth. 

This separatist Charter of Quebec Values is not creating an environment where Canada can grow up. On the contrary it is designed to create problems, spin propaganda and save Pauline Marois from dealing with Quebec’s real issues which are largely economic.

What is needed is political intestinal fortitude at the federal level endorsed by all Federal Parliament parties that Quebec Separatism is not in the cards. Then the Charter of Quebec Values would be a political non-starter. This proposed Quebec Legislation is clearly unconstitutional. Its strength will be that weak indecisive politicians at the federal level and in Quebec will allow it to create havoc by not being clear about its attack on Canadian values enshrined in the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

© Copyright 2013, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

Monday, 19 August 2013

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be setting us up for real Senate Reform or are we really seeing poor management from the Prime Minister's Office?

Harper: Vision of Canada or seeking Divine intervention

Prime Minister Stephen Harper picked Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin for Senate appointments. All of them have generated scandal and stress for his government. Then his Chief of Staff Nigel Wright demonstrated poor judgement bailing out Senator Duffy with $90,000 of his own money.  In addition, Prime Minister Harper has gone through seven Directors of Communication. Does Stephen Harper need a personnel management course?

by Tom Thorne

The Senate Scandal just won’t die. It has real traction mainly because it points to  Prime Minister Stephen Harper all the time and if not him, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The rarified air of the PMO seems to trip up consistently over the past year and the problems arise from appointments made by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff Nigel Wright resigns over providing Mike Duffy with $90,000 to bail him out of his Senate expense fiscal foible. That act showed a complete lack of judgement on the part of the chief of staff. More seriously, since the Prime Minister claims he knew nothing about this $90,000 personal gift it demonstrates that he is out of touch with what happens at the operational levels of his own office. 

The Prime Minister tries to distance himself from all this controversy. But the fact remains that he chose his chief of staff.  He chose the people for senate appointments. He is the person who has gone through his seventh press officer, and he is accountable for the selection of who gets Senate of Canada appointments. His appointments are all currently in hot water. 

With so many foibles it may be time for the Prime Minister to take a course in personnel management. Obviously his judgement for selecting people is lacking. No matter how hard he or his handlers try to distance the Prime Minister from all of this controversy the fact his he is ultimately accountable for the actions of his staff and appointees.

It would be refreshing if the Prime Minister actually admitted that his judgement in choosing these senators and staffers is at fault. That might actually get him some sympathy votes in the General Election in 2015. 

Then there is his promise to alter, change and improve the Senate of Canada. In eight years in power he has not moved one centimeter on this file. In fact he has made the Senate into a laughing stock. Senators who actually try to do something feel truncated and frustrated. More evidence of poor management by Stephen Harper.

Then there is the grumbling in the backbench of the House of Commons. Many Conservative members feel that their views and opinions don’t matter even when voiced in Caucus. Conservative members are frustrated. They are subject to the most tight party discipline in the history of the Canadian Parliament. The executive branch of parliament has become much more dictatorial. It is frankly an old fashioned top down management style that in the Age of Information it is a simply passé way to manage people. Stephen Harper doesn’t seem to realize that.

The Stephen Harper management style is to never be wrong even when things go bad. He is not a collaborative person or at least he doesn’t give that impression. He may be a charming guy in private if you get to know him but his public persona is one of remoteness and control.

When he tries to keep himself dry as the current senate rainstorm continues it demonstrates that when there is trouble he distances himself from the fray. His management style is unfortunately top down and controlling. He does not portray that he is open to discussion.

Why is this? I think it is because of his right wing view of the world. If you hold that everyone is looking for ways to waste public funds you create a centralized bureaucracy where all decisions end up at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to protect the public purse from profligate waste. This act destroys flexibility and certainly truncates any sense that Ministers of the Crown have to exercise their own take on problems and legislation.

The Harper style stifles initiative because decision making is largely focused in the rarified air of the PMO a place where people are worn out by 24/7 work schedules that grind people down to the point that they make dumb errors in judgement. Hence Nigel Wright, normally a smart guy with lots of private sector savvy simply dropped the Mike Duffy ball. Spin has become more important than substance and Prime Minister Harper is now wrapped up in what I call Spin Doctor Blowback.

Spin Doctor Blowback is a condition in time when your public and media relations are no longer credible. You are seen by the public and the media as obscurers of fact and the truth. Your every action is suspect. Recipients of your press releases know that the usual spin has now slipped into managing information and worst yet, permanent damage control. You have no integrity left to work with.

The PMO is in this state. Their credibility is shot. How can they hope to generate a good news story about the Senate of Canada or its ultimate reform? By kicking their miscreant senators out of Caucus they are saying they cannot control these people and what is going to happen to them. They are trying to distance the Prime Minister from the fallout. If integrity still reigned in the PMO the Prime Minister would carry the can for his errors in judgement. He is ultimately accountable not only to his Conservative Party but to the people.

This week the Prime Minister is on his annual Northern Canada tour. The mess in Ottawa continues while he is away trying to generate good news stories. The Auditor General has now decided to explore the fiscal practices of the Senate of Canada for all its members. Senators Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau and also Liberal Senator Mac Harb are launching legal actions. Some of these miscreant senators may now be of interest to the RCMP.  

Is it too cheeky to suggest that we may be experiencing Part 1 of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promises to reform the Senate? Perhaps out of crisis and auditing this pork barrel institution will provide Harper with a way to implement his unarticulated promised reforms. Now that could be a way to counter Spin Doctor Blowback for the next Federal Election in 2015.

© 2013 Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Auchindrain Township Museum. Will it become a victim of the economic turndown or be seen as an opportunity for Scottish family history tourism?

Auchindrain Township Museum offers a living insight to Scottish Highland life.

Auchindrain Museum: A financial crisis may mean closure of this important Highland Scottish resource.

by Tom Thorne

I must admit a strong bias concerning the fiscal fate of Auchindrain Museum. I descend from Mary Munro the daughter of Martin Munro and Janet McVicar. In 1779 they lived in this township farm with several other families. In 1789 she married John Munro from Drimfern another similar township in the Glenaray. Their first child Duncan Munro (1790-1882) is my fourth great grandfather.

Perhaps you say, so what? 

Well if you are a Scot and your family originates in Argyllshire then you may very well value this important historical resource if you knew more about it. However, if you are simply of Scottish origins then this open air museum is an important place to preserve the way of life of Highlanders from the earliest times through to the 20th Century.

I finally visited Auchindrain in April 2013. It was a moving experience for me to tread between the houses and barns on this site and finally enter the house of Martin Munro where my ancestors lived in the 18th Century recorded as they were in a Census done by the Duke of Argyll in 1779.

No amount of family history research done on line or through books could replace the experience of walking from room to small room in the house of Martin Munro and Janet McVicar. 

Admittedly, not everyone will connect this deeply with this museum. Many will see it preserving the way of life of Highlanders in a very general way. They will appreciate, even without a strong family connection like mine, seeing a way of life that has disappeared as the multiple family townships that Auchindrain preserves and celebrates fell into ruin as more larger general farms expanded sheep, and beef farming and in that process replaced the old ways.

These days most people are engaged in the present state of Scottish life. The past is submerged as the old ways as Scotland figures out whether it wants its independence. Europe, Scotland and the rest of Great Britain are reeling from economic problems with no quick fix in sight. So when it comes time for the past, budgets are cut back or even eliminated.

Museums and other cultural institutions take a fiscal hit first. They are defenseless easy targets unless they are defended by public outcry and action. Auchindrain is one of many Scottish institutions where funding is now reduced or perhaps even drying up completely. Faced with stretching every Pound, even a Scottish nationalist party in power believes it must get out the red pencil for culture and heritage funding. Local governments are equally strapped for funds.

So what is to be done to save important institutions like Auchindrain? First the politicians have to see that without its culture in place and its Highland heritage properly supported any notions of a Scottish state with any ambition to be independent and unique from other parts of Britain, is a fleeting prospect. On the other hand many Scottish politicians of all stripes know this as they pass budgets that force government funding departments to make difficult decisions.

Auchindrain is a major part of the core of how Scotland developed. In the worst excesses of the Jacobite period culminating in the horrific Battle of Culloden in 1746 and its subsequent pillage of the countryside, the townships survived in some form preserving Scotland when all things Highland were forbidden. Tartans could not be worn, bagpipes could not be played. The clan system was dismantled and clan chiefs such as Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat were beheaded at the Tower of London in 1747. The Scottish culture was stressed by external forces that they had difficulty to control in some ways just like today. 

Without some kind of structure in place rural Scotland would have died out completely. And even this social structure was stressed further by later clearances of the people from the land creating Scotland’s biggest export, its people. The townships like Auchindrain enabled people to survive not only as farmers but in trades such as shoemakers, carpenters, stone masons and fishermen. 

My Argyll ancestors did all of these new jobs while living in townships like Auchindrain and further down Loch Fyne at Minard. People torn from the land tried new ways of making a living.  These multiple family townships were like small villages and the fabric that held the countryside together with strong family units often closely related through marriage.

Auchindrain managed to survive as an active farm until the 1960’s. As a result its buildings are in good shape and can be used to set up a model of how Highlanders lived in these places from the 17th Century to our recent times. Scots need to know their history in a living, breathing museum that presents Highland rural life.  Auchindrain provides that service to schools, citizens and many of the Scots diaspora that come to seek their roots as tourists.

Cutbacks and constant funding crises are short sighted. It’s time to breakout and bring more tourism dollars to Scotland.

Most of Europe is still reeling from the economic downturn. Jobs are scarce. Government revenues are down, years of profligate deficit financing are still being dealt with, and each Pound or Euro of revenue brought in by governments has to be assigned carefully to aid the recovery.

Cutbacks in funding for places like Auchindrain are not the way to aid the recovery. In fact, cutbacks of this kind are counter productive to the recovery gaining hold and continuing. What is needed is a rethink of cultural institutions and how they fit into education, and how they link to money earners like tourism and family history research.

One of the best ways to begin the promotion of the Highlands as an attractive visitor destination is to completely examine the business of family and cultural history and how it is presented on the internet. Auchindrain should have this connection to existing family history resources at Scotland’s People. 

Right now we have many good websites each promoting their own activity. However, few of these websites recognize the power of cross promotion offered by the World Wide Web.

If we examine Auchindrain’s website we see an organization set on providing information only. It needs to be motivational, educational and transactional.  A simple change could be that it sells its own tickets on line and for a fee electronic books and materials about the people who lived at Auchindrain. Properly cross promoted with its sister site  Auchindrain’s People, the combined site could become a major Scottish resource about the townships, how they were organized and how visitors connect to family history.

Now cross promote this improved resource to Scotland’s People and you have a major online resource that enables users to search find and connect to the Highlands. Each search purchased on Scotland’s People could provide promotions at the bottom of the page for places such as Auchindrain. The traffic on this important site needs to be used to promote the history of the Scottish people to its users. 

Another cross promotion should be to Scotlands DNA website and other resources of this kind that are connected to the Auchindrain experience. There needs to be a new multi-organizational website created designed to build vital cross promotional activities for Scottish genealogical, historical and cultural institutions. Not only does it promote the individual activities such as Auchindrain but it also shows how to build a tour of the Highlands by walking, bus, car rental, train or ferry.

In Argyll and Bute, the Archive at Lochgilphead needs to be more focused into family history tourism with a presence at Auchindrain through cross promotions online and physically on site. The visitor centre at Auchindrain should maintain its books and materials but expand with packaged materials from the Argyll and Bute Archives done simply with iBooks software. Both of these organizations live hand to mouth for funding they simply need to help each other. There also has to be a strong on line cross promotion to the Scottish National Library.

Inveraray Castle needs to cross promote Auchindrain with a major permanent exhibit of the 1779 Duke of Argyll Census cross linked to Auchindrain and the other townships. This exhibit would enhance the Castle and Auchindrain. My recent visit to the Castle found it a very old fashioned museum with static displays. It should be a focus to promote Argyll history and family history study. This book The Census of the Inhabitants of the Duke of Argyll's Lands in 1779, by Eric Cregeen, was published by the Scottish Records Society, 1963 and needs to be re-published on CD, online as an iBook and in print. It is a major resource to Argyll township life in the late 18th Century.

Governments need to provide funding either from taxes or from Lottery funds. The activities suggested in this brief article need a proper business plan done. BBC Scotland needs to plan for a major 12 part series covering Scotland’s People activity, sites like Auchindrain, DNA family history work and many more related topics. 

This series could be a co-production with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation  (CBC), TVOntario, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), New Zealand and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States.  

The Scottish diaspora made a huge impact on these countries and a television series would heighten awareness of Scottish family history resources and most importantly, build tourism of the best kind where the tourists link strongly to Scotland because they belong.

Here are some websites you can explore about Auchindrain Township and Scottish family history.

Auchindrain Township Museum Website:
Auchindrain’s People:
Scotland’s People:

© 2013 Tom Thorne, All rights waved. Please use this article to help the Auchindrain Township Museum.