Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Stadium, the Civic Election and Captive Campaigning

(Me in my 'Rider gear
at the Episcopal Church General Convention
in Indianapolis this summer.)

I'm a huge 'Rider fan and a long time season ticket holder.  I even agree with the idea that it makes more sense to replace the current Mosaic Stadium with a new facility rather than refurbish it.

However, I'm not a fan of the stadium project as it has come together.  I'm not a fan of how it has played out in the current municipal election.  And I'm not a fan of the recent "captive campaigning" by the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club.

I didn't appreciate being campaigned at on Saturday, when I was at Mosaic Stadium to watch the 'Riders play Montreal.  I also didn't care to get an email from Club Chairman Roger Brandvold this morning attempting to influence my vote.

I'm not questioning the Football Club's right to make these pitches.  But I don't have to appreciate them.

In any event, here's the email I sent back to Chairman Brandvold outlining my problems with the current proposal for a new stadium and with the politicians who have mucked up the project from the start.

While I don't question the organization's right to advocate for a new stadium, I really didn't buy 'Rider season tickets all these years in order to be pressured to support candidates whose records indicate they consistently place corporate interests ahead of citizens' interests.

The present Council, including your preferred mayoral candidate, have bobbled this issue from the start. They have failed to secure any federal funding (unlike Hamilton). They have failed to secure adequate provincial funding. They have utterly failed to secure meaningful private sector funding.

They have failed to highlight the proposed use of the current Taylor Field site, even though an emphasis on use for social housing might have opened the federal coffers. They have failed to ensure proper public consultation, rushing the approvals through in the dying days of a lame duck Council.

I'm a 'Rider fan and a long time season ticket holder. And unlike some critics of this plan, I actually am inclined to agree that a new stadium is the right way to go. But I cannot support this fly-by-night process, nor can I feel any confidence that a Council led by the same usual suspects could properly manage this project.

They've mismanaged city pensions, generating a huge deficit. They've failed to plan for major infrastructure renewal, putting our drinking water at risk. They've underfunded and undermined city services, from transit to waste management to snow clearing.

If the present Council leadership were on the 'Rider roster and played with a comparable level of skill and effectiveness, they'd be cut after a single game, not offered a four year contract.

I'll happily support a new stadium when I'm presented with a proper plan, part of a larger development and redevelopment strategy and with appropriate levels of federal, provincial and private sector funding. I'm not prepared to support a slate of incumbents who have failed in every aspect.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vic Toews' Assault on Religious Freedom

Earlier today, Canada's Public Safety Minister, the Honourable Vic Toews, announced that all non-Christian chaplains in federal penitentiaries would have their contracts cancelled and that all chaplaincy services would be provided by the remaining Christian chaplains.

The following is my email to Vic Toews, with copies to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, and my local Member of Parliament, Tom Lukiwski.

As a Christian and as a priest, I am writing to object in the strongest possible terms to your frankly bigoted decision to eliminate all non-Christian chaplains from Canada’s prisons. 
In announcing this decision, you properly state that it is not and should not be the government’s place to pick and choose among religions, yet it appears you are too addled to realize that this is precisely what you have done.   
What other religious tests do you intend to introduce in so arbitrary a fashion? Will you start banning Christian clergy from denominations which don’t hew to your personal views on abortion or capital punishment or human sexuality? Will United Church or Anglican chaplains be the next to be banned because they do not conform to your religious practices? 
If a state with a predominantly Muslim population had arbitrarily axed Christian chaplains, you and your colleagues would be shrieking blue murder. It appears you need to be reminded what Jesus had to say about hypocrites.
Father Malcolm French 
[contact information provided]
Ironically, Mr. Toews is a Mennonite whose family came to Canada to escape religious persecution.