Preston Manning's controversial Riddell Program

Preston Manning promotes Clayton H. Riddell Program at Carleton University

Carleton University in Ottawa has received a metaphorical black eye in its attempt to keep secret the details of an agreement that created its one-year Master’s degree in Political Management. The program was brokered by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and funded by Calgary oil magnate Clayton H. Riddell. After a year of stonewalling, Carleton was ordered by the information and privacy commissioner of Ontario to adhere to a request by Canadian Press to make the agreement public.

It turns out that the Riddell Foundation gets to appoint two of five people to the program’s steering committee. The university also appoints two members and Manning acts as the chair. That committee has what Canadian Press describes as “sweeping power” over the program’s budget, academic hiring, its executive director and curriculum. In publicity surrounding its launch in 2010, the program was described as “cross-partisan” in nature, but people with political connections to Manning are prominent on both the steering committee and the academic staff.

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U.S. Catholic bishops fight Obama’s Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act for health reform is constitutional but the country’s Catholic bishops remain staunchly opposed. When the president signed the ACA into law in 2010, the bishops claimed that it would force insurers to pay clients who received abortions and birth control services and advice. The president moved to assure the bishops that public money would not be used to provide for abortions, but that still left contraception. The president also made an exception there which, he says would exempt the employees of churches. The bishops say that doesn’t go far enough, and they want the exemption to apply to employees in all Catholic institutions, including hospitals and schools. In short, the bishops are prepared to scuttle health care reform for 300 million Americans because of its limited provision for contraception as an insured service.

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Medicare's 50th anniversary, it's biblical

Tommy Douglas, proposed medicare

We are approaching an important anniversary in Canada, which doesn’t appear to be getting the same amount of attention as are events to celebrate the War of 1812. It was on July 1, 1962 that publicly administered …

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Erin Wilson on U.S presidents and religious rhetoric

Scholar Erin K Wilson was intrigued to read a comment from an historian that Western societies see themselves as secular, even if they contain large minorities who are actively religious, while Muslim countries and others see the West as Christian. That observation gave rise to a number of questions that Wilson attempts to answer in her book, After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics, which places a special emphasis upon the connection between religion and politics in the United States. Her primary question is, What elements still exist within Western societies that could give the impression that the West is Christian? Secondly, What impact do these perceptions have on the relationship between Western and non-Western states and non-state actors within global politics?

Wilson argues that scholars have underestimated the impact that religion has had, and continues to have, upon politics and public life in Western societies. She understands “the West” to include Europe, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.

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Erin Wilson, After Secularism

When I have time, I enjoy browsing in the new books section at the Carleton University Library in Ottawa. Recently, I came upon After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics, written by Erin Wilson, a professor in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Wilson begins with a critique of the limitations of secularization theory, where, as she says, “religion was considered to be dying out and not relevant for understanding politics in developed secularized states such as those in the West.” Post-Enlightenment thinkers such as Marx, Durkheim and others thought that religion was a retrograde and irrational force that would wither away as societies evolved into a more enlightened phase of existence. This has been, by far, the dominant way in which Western academics have viewed their own societies.

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Remembering Andrew Suknaski, Wood Mountain Poems

Andrew Suknaski, citizen of Wood Mountain

I sat in the upper room of a rundown Ottawa pub on a rainy evening last week reminiscing with a dozen others about recently-deceased Saskatchewan poet Andrew Suknaski and reading short excerpts from his work.  Earlier …

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Elizabeth May, churches and climate change

In October 2011, the leaders of about 30 faith communities met in Ottawa to talk about the urgent need to take a stand on climate change as a moral issue. These deliberations were organized by the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches. The faith leaders crafted and released an interfaith call for action in advance of an international conference in Durban, South Africa. They held a news conference, lobbied politicians on Parliament Hill and created a petition that MPs could table in the House of Commons. Recently about 100 people, including Green party leader Elizabeth May and three other MPs, gathered in a meeting room near the Hill for a panel discussion about whether last October’s interfaith call is having an impact.

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Warrior Nation and the War of 1812

Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety

I have just read the first chapter of Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety, a new book by Kingston-based author Jamie Swift and Queen’s University historian Ian McKay. It is the story of how the Canadian government and military, assisted by complicit historians, think tanks and some media, are trying to shift public opinion to support a new militarism. “[They] are attempting to establish war as the pith and essence of all Canadian history,” Swift and McKay write. To do that, they have, in the words of the authors, to “conscript Canadian history” – that is, to glorify wars past and present.

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