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Daniel Stern

Gravy train 2011

Mayor Ford has released his preliminary budget for 2012, and it is an optimistic time for Toronto conservatives. It is the first time the city’s budget has been lower than the year before, at $52 million less than 2011’s $9.4 billion. To accomplish this, the budget will see the removal of 2,300 City of Toronto employment positions, a 2.5% property tax increase, a TTC fare hike and will draw $83 million from reserve funds. There will also be a $225 million in service cuts. The question remains: do these cuts represent the “Gravy Train” mayoral candidate Rob Ford promised he would stop, or are these the services that same candidate promised would remain untouched?The answer is a mixed bag. There are some notable service cuts in the budget. This includes reductions on 56 bus and streetcar routes, the closure and reduction of hours at pools and recreation facilities, extending allowable wait times for EMS and shutting homeless shelters.Some of these cuts are sensible – the pools being closed are those least used, and closing expensive arenas at off-peak hours makes a fair bit of sense. However, as any TTC rider can tell you, reductions on routes like 7 on Bathurst or the 32/34 on Eglinton will be felt painfully. It’s hard to estimate the difference in service for EMS and the shelters (the city has committed to retain 97% of the beds) at this time – but that’s not the point. Candidate Ford made a promise that Mayor Ford has been unable to keep. This may weigh against him in his reelection bid a few years down the line.The gravy this budget identifies is less of a train and more of a mid-sized sedan, which sounds less impressive, but isn’t a bad start. The previously mentioned pools and arenas are… Read More

Religious Freedom and the Arab Spring in Egypt

Since the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouaziz in Sidi Bouzid, the Middle East has been caught up in what has been called the “Arab Spring.” Although named with optimism, the democratic hopes of the so-called “Spring” have been quickly quashed by the growing strength of Islamist groups. Nowhere is this clearer than in Egypt, where the native Coptic Christian population, hoping the “Spring” would bring relief from persecution, has instead found an Islamist Winter.Here in Canada, activists like Rev. Majed El Shafie of One Free World International have been working to ensure that Egypt’s revolution isn’t whitewashed. Testifying before the Canadian government’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights on November 22nd, he made two very clear points: first, that freedom of religion is an essential right in aspiring democratic society; and second, that the Muslim Brotherhood is, was and always will be a fundamentalist Islamist group.In his testimony, Rev. El Shafie related that during Egypt’s revolution, Coptic Christians stood shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim countrymen, presupposing the end result would be a democratic state with respect for religious freedom. For their efforts, Egypt’s Christians have been rewarded with prejudicial hatred and systemic discrimination.The Egyptian army has been responsible for keeping the peace since the fall of Mubarak. In this political vacuum, one might expect hateful acts, however regrettable, to occur – and they have. On October 16th, 17-year-old Ayman Nabil Labib was beaten to death by his teacher and fellow students for the crime of wearing a cross. Many more have been accosted in the streets, harassed, beaten and injured.While individual acts of hatred are tragic, the fundamental issue is far more concerning because of the grave implications: the interim government has been actively participating in the persecution of Egypt’s minorities.On October 9th, the military killed at least two dozen and… Read More

Time for Canada to get into the espionage business

Although it is not always the best idea to take cues from children’s toys, G.I. Joe has some sage words of advice for the debate on Canada conducting foreign espionage: “knowing is half the battle.”In recent years, Canada has taken on an increasingly large role in international affairs. The performance of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan has been nothing short of spectacular. Canadians ought to take great pride in Lt. General Charles Bouchard’s leadership of the NATO military mission in Libya. Canada’s successes may be a mixed blessing – the more frequent the success, the more dependent the world will become on Canada’s leadership in international conflicts.Canada’s abilities on the global stage need to reflect the nature of the threats which are likely to arise if it is to match this level of responsibility. Threats to national security and international peace are coming in forms that traditional armies are increasingly ill-equipped to face.The so-called Arab Spring took many in the West by surprise, and a cogent response is still in the making. The rise of non-state actors in international affairs and the unconventional means they have at their disposal also demonstrates the need for a twenty-first century update to how Canada deals with global threats.While warfare is an inherently reactive process, espionage is a proactive approach to understanding and dealing with a hostile world. Leading means more than reacting – it means getting ahead of the issues of the day. Whether it is preventing the next international terrorist attack or understanding the internal politicking of other nations, information is the most powerful tool at any nation’s disposal.Why can Canada not depend on allies’ already established agencies? Two of the most renowned espionage agencies in the world, the CIA and the Mossad, have long histories of operational effectiveness and work for… Read More

SAIA’s Conduct at Carleton University was Embarrassing and Anti-Democratic

“When all else fails, try loud noises.”While that isn’t the official motto of the anti-Israel crowd, it could be, and last Thursday night’s display of chaos at CUSA is an excellent example thereof.CUSA, for the unaware, is the Carleton University Students’ Association, which last Thursday heard a motion calling on CUSA to request that the university pension fund divest from four companies (making up .35% of the fund) because of their tertiary ties with Israel.Confused? You should be.This motion was part of the global “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” campaign — or as it is affectionately referred to in some circles, the “Blacklist, Demonize and Slander” campaign — which has been around since 2001 or 2005, depending on who you ask. The campaign uses the language of human rights as a way to portray Israel as uniquely and inherently evil, with the BDS tactics as the call to action surrounding the campaign. Uninterested in peace, the movement calls for Israel to commit national suicide or face the wrath of the aforementioned tactics.Returning to Thursday night’s events, rather than give in to the boycotters’ demands, or simply ignore the issue, CUSA made a remarkable decision to adopt a separate motion, endorsing a policy of Socially Responsible Investment, while rejecting the demonization of Israel. The maturity of this decision is commendable. It has been fashionable amongst the left to take a one-sided view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, so kudos to the students of CUSA who recognized that despite their personal views, the bulk of students would be ill served by a one-sided, biased and inflammatory resolution.If CUSA’s actions were commendable, the reaction of the Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) were anything but. Even before the vote, SAIA members were yelling, screaming, and chanting, as though the louder they were, the more right they… Read More