What is Stephen Harper reading?

I’ve been away and I’m back to an inbox overflowing with goodies. The following, by Yann Martel, caught my eye and will be a website to watch over the next while.

What is Stephen Harper reading?

By Yann Martel
April 14, 2007

For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written. I will faithfully report on every new book, every inscription, every letter, and any response I might get from the Prime Minister, on this website.



The story behind the website: http://whatisstephenharperreading.ca/the_story_behind_this_website.html

SK Budget ’07: Update to A Missed Opportunity

The Sask Arts Alliance has provided the following regarding monies to the arts in today’s budget. It’s almost as though the NDP want to lose the next election…


SAA Logo

March 22, 2007

2007 – 2008 Provincial Budget

Hon. Andrew Thomson tabled the 2007 – 2008 Provincial Budget: Making Life Better in the legislature today. In a pre-budget briefing, Culture, Youth and Recreation Minister Glenn Hagel spoke about his Department within the context of the Government key priorities: Keeping the Strong Economy Growing, Making Saskatchewan an Even Better Place for Young People, Increasing Access to Health Care for Saskatchewan Families and Seniors, and Building Highways and Infrastructure to Secure Growth.

On the positive side, government is introducing supplementary eye care benefits and enhanced drug coverage for lower income workers (which we presume includes independent contractors). A Saskatchewan First procurement policy was adopted and Sask. Property Management Corporation will allocate 0.5% of capital costs to public art in public buildings. Minister Hagel again committed to bring the Status of the Artist Amendment Act to the spring legislature. The Building Communities Program for new construction, sustainable development and rehabilitation of community-created recreational and cultural infrastructure should also offer opportunities for arts organizations.

Overall though, the budget fell far short of expectations, particularly considering that Saskatchewan is experiencing great prosperity. Given recent government initiatives such as the Music Industry Review and Status of the Artist legislation, it appeared that Government recognized the value of the sector, and understood the demands it faced in terms of both increased costs and increased expectations to meet Government priorities. However, although there are increases in some areas, none are substantial enough to address the long-term pressures facing the arts sector let alone to provide for sustainable development. The Saskatchewan Arts Board allocation is far short of its needs (about 10% of their new money will be earmarked to address this year’s collective agreement and pay equity for their own staff). The Cultural Industries Development Council is still suffering from cuts to its funding that occurred in 2004, and Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation funding is so limited it is losing ground in its efforts to save our heritage.

Although disheartened with today’s budget results, its is a step, albeit a very small one, forward and Saskatchewan Arts Alliance remains committed to work on your behalf for sustainability of the sector.

Following are excerpts from the Culture, Youth and Recreation Estimates. 

Arts Related Estimates With Comparison to 2006-07 Estimates (in thousands of dollars)

Links to all budget documents can be found at http://www.gov.sk.ca/budget0708.

Rabid Anti-Feminist Men

Another from the Inbox, this time it’s a call for solidarity in a lawsuit against a magazine that carried a feminist’s article which criticized an anti-feminist men’s group.

From: Barbara Legault <barbaralegault@yahoo.ca>
Date: February 4, 2007 7:39:44 PM EST (CA)
To: —@—–
Subject: Call for solidarity: Lawsuit against leftist magazine and feminist activist

Dear friends, feminists and pro-feminists organizers and allies,

You will find below and attached a public declaration and call for solidarity concerning a lawsuit filled against A Babord! magazine and myself for an article that I wrote on antifeminism. I also attached the original article translated into English. Please spread the word.

If you would like a copy of the declaration and article in French, please don’t hesitate to contact me at barbaralegault@yahoo.ca .

In solidarity,

Barbara Legault
Please distribute widely!

Public Declaration and Call for Solidarity

Barbara Legault and À Babord! magazine are being sued for libel by
Andy Srougi, coordinator of Fathers4Justice – Québec

Montréal, January 28, 2007 – Activist Barbara Legault and À bâbord ! magazine are being sued for libel by Andy Srougi, a member of the group Fathers4Justice. “Mr. Srougi […] attracted public attention last year when he climbed the Jacques-Cartier bridge.” (La Presse, December 7, 2006). Mr. Srougi is accusing Barbara Legault of having “uttered hateful comments” about him in her article “Des hommes contre le féminisme” (men against feminism), published in the October/November 2006 issue of À bâbord ! magazine (see the attached article).

In his motion, Mr. Srougi claims that Ms. Legault wrote “libellous, false and hateful comments […] that damaged [his] reputation and caused him emotional distress that has led to painful physical consequences, prevented him from sleeping, and caused headaches and enormous stress.” The libel suit can be consulted in French on the Internet site www.papataime.com, coordinated by Mr. Srougi.

Mr. Srougi, who calls himself a “men’s rights activist,” is demanding $20,000 for mental suffering as a result of libel and $4,000 in exemplary damages. In fact, in the article in question, Ms. Legault pointed out that masculinists are increasingly turning to the courts to challenge feminist organizations and activists.

This is not the first time Mr. Srougi has used the courts against feminists and their allies, as well as against various government agencies and politicians. La Presse reported on November 9, 2006 that “exasperated by Fathers4Justice’s ‘abusive’ tactics, the Barreau du Québec went to Superior Court to have the organization and its main spokesperson, Andy Srougi, declared vexatious litigants. The Webster’s Dictionary defines vexatious in a legal context as “legal actions instituted without sufficient grounds and serving only to cause annoyance to the defendant.”

Mr. Srougi recently told La Presse, “The board of directors of F4J has decided to launch lawsuits against any organization or individual who attempts to libel F4J. […] We now have a paid lawyer on board. Other persons cited in À bâbord ! are going to sue the publication. Expect many, many more lawsuits in 2007, especially against radical feminist groups.” (André Noël, La Presse, December 7, 2006).
Legal Defence: A Call for Solidarity

Barbara Legault and all those working for À bâbord !, an independent, bimonthly magazine that receives no subsidies and is produced entirely by volunteers, are calling for solidarity from groups and individuals concerned about this lawsuit.

We believe that Andy Srougi’s actions go far beyond the scope of the present lawsuit, since he has also filed complaints against other feminist and pro-feminist groups and individuals with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, among others. We do not believe that À bâbord ! and its writer are the true targets of the libel allegations; the real target is the feminist analyses contained in the article, ideas that are supported and promoted by the women’s movement and its allies in Québec.

This legal action is, above all, political, because the lawsuit targets freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Masculinism is the focus of a lot of attention, debate and serious concern within the women’s movement. The publication of the article “Des hommes contre le féminisme” is simply one contribution to an ongoing debate. If Mr. Srougi is successful in his lawsuit against Barbara Legault and À bâbord !, there could be serious repercussions for the capacity of feminists and independent publications to publish analyses and opinion and to contribute to a legitimate and crucial public debate on masculinism. Moreover, a victory by Mr. Srougi would seriously threaten the very existence of À bâbord ! magazine.
Creation of a Legal Defence Fund

We are calling on your solidarity to create a legal defence fund that will enable us to defend ourselves against Andy Srougi’s legal offensive. Lawyers Pierre-Louis Fortin-Legris and François Cyr of the firm Ouellet, Nadon & associés, will try to keep the fees and costs associated with the defence as low as possible, however a minimum of $4,000 will be incurred by the suit.

All contributions are welcome, from small donations to more substantial sums from union and community organizations. Please make your cheques payable to “A Bâbord!”, indicate “legal defence” on your donation and send it to:

À bâbord !
To the attention of: Claude Rioux / Legal Defence
P.O. Box 67, Station C
Montréal, Québec H2L 4S7

If Andy Srougi loses this case and is required to pay the legal fees, any donations received will be returned to the groups and individuals concerned. We also appreciate any other form of support and solidarity—do not hesitate to write to us. The first court hearing of the legal proceedings will take place on February 15, 2007 in Montreal. We will keep you informed of any developments in this case. We are grateful for your contributions and support.

In solidarity and in struggle,

Barbara Legault and the À bâbord Collective!

– 30 –

Information: Claude Rioux, crioux@ababord.org / 514-523-6928
Barbara Legault, barbaralegault@yahoo.ca
Document 1 Men Against Feminism

Document 2 Public Declaration and Call for Solidarity

Environment: Reputation = Performance

George Monbiot’s new book, Heat, had me revved up before it had hit the shelves of Canadian bookstores. And now, well, now that it has arrived in my house (thanks to the holly daze and a wonderful nephew, J, in Toronto), I have to rave about it again.

Today is the second time I’ve cracked the cover with the intention of reading.  The first was on Boxing Day when I thought I’d sneak a chapter before we headed out the door for more family and leftovers. After the first three paragraphs of the Foreword to the Canadian Edition, I’d decided to put it down because I knew I’d never get out the door if I kept at it. Today, I sat down with the intention to read only the Foreword and the Introduction, but before I could get to the Introduction I had to blog this:

Thanks to the efforts of Mr Harper and your [Canada’s] environment minister, Rona Ambrose, Canada’s global reputation is now beginning to catch up with its performance. When they say that Canada cannot reach its Kyoto targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, they mean that they do not intend to try. Their surrender within the first few months in office is an astonishing instance of political cowardice. Having presented himself to the Canadian people as a man who can make tough choices, Harper declared himself an irresolute wimp as soon as he was faced with a choice between upsetting a few industrial lobbyists or helping to save the planet. (p. x)

Like Bush, the Conservatives have also cut or suspended their funding for energy efficiency programmes and other means of preventing climate change. Environment Canada is beginning to look like the Environmental Protection Agency in the US: an official body whose staff are treated by the government as enevies of the state. (p. xi)

I expect I’ll have more to highlight here as I move through Monbiot’s work.

A revealing meme

I’ve been tagged by Amy for a meme called the People Collecting Meme.

It’s an odd name, but here goes.


‘Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it.’

Here’s an explanation:

The above is a rather spooky practice, “people collecting”, in which you are charged to provide five little-known facts about yourself on your blog, so that writers can have some research material.

All right then, in the name of research, here are five little-known things about me:

  1. I love making pickles, jams, etc. Zucchini relish is one of my specialties, coming second only to Great Aunt Julia’s Dill Pickles.
  2. I am a spelling bitch. The City of Regina’s website has a spelling mistake on the word “separate,” using “seperate” instead. It’s taken all my willpower to not email the web manager to chide them on their poor spelling. I have taken a screenshot as a memento, though.
  3. I once voted Conservative. I was young and stupid, what can I say?
  4. I was sexually assaulted at the age of 19. After that, I became politicized and I never again voted Conservative.
  5. I took each of my kids with me to a provincial Cabinet lobby session while they were babes. And I nursed them during the session. In the 1990’s in SK, that was a big deal.

Now I feel naked!

So I’m going to get outta here and tag Debra at April Reign, Rhett at Rockstar Poet, and Kimmie at The Wine and the Are.

Writers Decry Cuts

From The Writers Union of Canada:

October 6, 2006


“The fresh round of cuts to Canada’s cultural programs by Harper Conservatives will be a serious impediment to all Canadians who enjoy visiting museums and reading books,” says The Writers’ Union of Canada chair Ron Brown.

At a recent meeting of its National Council, the Writers’ Union of Canada unanimously agreed to demand a meeting with Minister of Canadian Heritage Bev Oda to discuss the cutting of funds to a variety of cultural programs including regional museums, adult literacy and programs that promote Canadian culture abroad.

“It has become clear that this government is no great admirer of Canada’s culture,” said Brown. “Canada’s regional museums, like our writers, help tell the story of Canada to other Canadians. These institutions are strapped for funds at the best of times. This is a slap in the face of local heritage,” he said.

Adult literacy programs have also been slashed. “At the same time as the Ontario government recently launched its Spirit 2006 program to promote literacy, the federal Conservatives are placing a serious hurdle in the way of adults who want to enjoy the rewards of reading books, many of which Canadian writers create,” Brown added.

Regarding the cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ “public diplomacy” program Brown added, ” It is odd that at a time when the U. S. government, which Mr. Harper so admires, has tripled its cultural diplomacy budget, our government is working to reduce ours. What better way to tell Canada’s many cultural stories abroad than through programs like these?” said Brown. ” When all these cuts are factored together, it’s as if the Harper Conservatives were ashamed of their own culture.”

The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing professional authors of books. Founded in 1973, the Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well being of all writers. For more information, please visit http://www.writersunion.ca.


– 30 –

For additional information
Ron Brown, Chair -The Writers’ Union of Canada
Deborah Windsor, Executive Director -The Writers’ Union of Canada