The Blaikie report on faith and politics

Rev. Bill BlaikieThe Blaikie Report

Rev. Bill Blaikie stands tall in the annals of Canadian parliamentarians and it is not only his imposing physical presence that sets him apart. Few MPs have served with equal distinction or for as long in the House of Commons (1979-2008) as the United Church minister from Winnipeg Transcona. And no one among contemporary MPs has been as staunch an advocate for the social gospel – a belief that religious faith can inspire progressive politics. It frustrates Blaikie when many people believe that religious faith, when taken to the public square, is inherently right wing in its political connotations. Even some members of the NDP (whose predecessor, the CCF, was forged in part as a religious movement), believe that religion should not be political and that it is an inherently right wing force.

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Stephen Harper's majority, one year later

 

Stephen Harper's majority, one year later

On May 2, 2011 Canadians held a federal election that provided Stephen Harper and the Conservatives with a majority government. I wrote a piece for my blog at the time reviewing the election through a religious …

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Raymond De Souza and the National Prayer Breakfast

Fr. Raymond De Souza, National Prayer Breakfast

A note posted on the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada website says that Father Raymond De Souza will be the featured speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa on May 1. Hundreds of MPs, Senators, judges of the Supreme Court, Parliament Hill staff and invited members of the public attend the annual event. The EFC blurb describes Fr. De Souza as being “of the National Post.” I would have thought it more appropriate to describe him as a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kingston, which he is, but it is easy to understand the confusion.

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Jim Manly at Northern Gateway pipeline hearings

Jim Manly, Rabble photo

Public hearings are occurring for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the northern British Columbia port of Kitimat. There the crude would be loaded onto oil tankers plying the B.C. coastal waterway and sent to China.

There are billions of dollars at stake and the Prime Minister, it appears, will not tolerate anything but a swift and affirmative decision for the project. Various government ministers have, in effect, labelled those who raise concerns as “radical environmentalists” and enemies of the state who are financed from abroad. The government signalled in its recent budget that it will have the Canada Revenue Agency crack down on charitable organizations considered to be too political. It is no secret that they are taking aim at environmental groups.

David Suzuki has chosen to step down from the board of the foundation that he created so that he can continue speak his mind – and he hopes that the Suzuki Foundation will not become a target of the government. The government has also promised that it will shorten the time that it takes to hold an environmental hearing. This kind of activity by governments is common in most petro states. The amount of money at stake is astronomical and that usually trumps democratic process or environmental concern.

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Remembering Father Bob Ogle

Father Bob Ogle, NDP photo

I was thinking over the Easter weekend of Father Bob Ogle, my late friend and political mentor. It was in April 1998 that he died at age 69 after more than a decade of serious illness.  I wrote a brief piece about him for the Lives Lived section of the Globe and Mail and the article appeared in the newspaper on May 25, 1998. I am reproducing it here.

Lives Lived

Father Bob Ogle. Priest, missionary, author, Member of Parliament. Born on Dec. 24, 1928 in Rosetown, Sask. Died of cancer in Saskatoon, April 1, 1998, aged 69.

Father Bob, as he was commonly called, was a renaissance man, if one may so describe a Catholic priest. He was raised on a poor farm during the Great Depression in a devout Irish Catholic family. He studied for the priesthood in London, Ontario, then returned to Saskatoon where he became an energetic parish priest and seminary rector.

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Pulpit and Politics review by Prof Ron Dart

My recent book book Pulpit and Politics has been reviewed in the Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice, an on line publication.  The reviewer is Ron Dart,  a professor in the Department of Philosophy & Politics at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. You will see that he recommends the book and is pleased that it deals with religion as an authentic force in public life, rather than dismissing it out of hand as is commonly done in secular academic analysis. He criticizes me, though, for being soft on religious progressives while being hard on religious conservatives. Also, he disapproves of my describing the current reality in Canada as one of competing religious ideologies, one progressive and the other conservative. 

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Viterra kills Sask Wheat Pool legacy

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator (GrainElevators.ca)

Farmers fought long and hard to create the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in 1924, but 88 years later the company, now known as Viterra, is being sold to a Swiss-based multinational called Glencore for $6.1 billion. This is a sad story, a kind of morality tale about the gradual destruction of self-help, local initiative, community control and co-operation. With a few exceptions, there has been virtually no critical media analysis of this event that looks at it from the bottom up. So, as someone who grew up in a small prairie village where the Wheat Pool elevator and the local Pool committee were fixtures, let me offer some observations. I’ll begin with an anecdote.

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Catholics protest CCODP cuts by CIDA

Development and Peace

It’s taken awhile but Catholics and their leaders are beginning to protest against draconian cuts made by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. The organization, created in the 1960s by Canada’s Catholic bishops, has been a long-time partner in development in development with CIDA – but much less so now. As I reported on March 19, CIDA, which had provided Development and Peace with $44.6 million in the years 2006-11, has slashed that amount by two-thirds, to a total of $14.5 million over the next five years. The organization had been waiting anxiously for 18 months while CIDA Minister Bev Oda came to her conclusions. The bad news finally arrived in February 2012.

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