“Contempt of Parliament” a Crime?

With a new election on its way, the term “contempt of parliament” is being bandied about a great deal lately. We are told that a government being brought down for contempt of parliament is a historic event. As usual, however, the Canadian media, despite its alleged societal function, is quick to refer, but slow to inform; no one seems willing to tell us exactly what it means despite the fact that it is central to the upcoming election. Here, then, is a public service announcement from your friends at Canada Goes to the Moon.

Although definitions of the term are hard to find, Wikipedia provides a useful starting point:

In many jurisdictions governed by a parliament, Contempt of Parliament is the crime of obstructing the parliament in the carrying out of its functions, or of hindering any Member of Parliament in the performance of his or her duties. Actions which can constitute a contempt of Parliament vary, but typically include such things as:

deliberately misleading a House of Parliament or a parliamentary committee;
refusing to testify before, or to produce documents to, a House or committee; and
attempting to influence a Member of Parliament, for example, by bribery or threats.
In the case of our Conservative government, contempt of parliament was earned by refusing to provide information on details and cost estimates of several proposed bills, most notably those regarding the expansion of prisons. There have been five instances in Canada’s past in which individuals have been held in contempt of Parliament, but never has an entire cabinet been held in contempt, nor has a government collapsed on the ruling.

Note also that Wikipedia defines contempt of parliament as a crime. So far, the media has been regarding the affair mainly as an oppositional election maneuver, and barely a scandal, despite the fact that we are going to the polls. If our entire ruling party is in fact guilty of a crime, why is this not the scandal of the century? Wouldn’t “Conservative Party Found Guilty” make a better headline than the dry template “Election Fever to Surround Budget”?

Opposition leaders are missing the boat as well. Why not call for punitive measures before voting them out and going to the polls? Do they not see that the Tories would be at a disadvantage campaigning from prison, or at least branded as criminals? If the Left is desperate enough for a Conservative scandal to keep Karlheinz Schreiber in Canada, they ought to take full advantage of one both real and relevant. Perhaps they have more confidence in our government than they let on.

Jeff Mills’ One Man Spaceship Demonstrates Ongoing Relevance of Minimal Techno

Jeff Mills’ is widely considered to be one of the seminal pioneers of techno. His music has a majesty and futurism that is recognizable as his own, yet, paradoxically, has a sense of being impersonal, showing little trace of what we might consider typical human emotion. Rather, it has a strangeness which is perhaps more abstract than anything else. This other-worldliness gives Mills’ music a philosophical quality, more concerned with universals than about any personal issues he may or may not have. It is this very quality which gives his music a timeless feel.

His recent project, One Man Spaceship, is another example of how Mills is able to produce techno that sounds as contemporary in 2007 as it did in the eary 90s, unlike many other techno artists who seem to be stuck in the previous decade. Going to the club these days often often feels like a rehash of the 1990s, which, in my opinion, counteracts the whole futuristic vision of techno music.

On his website, Mills describes the concept of the One Man Spaceship in his trademark cryptic writing style:

The “One Man Spaceship” project pays tribute to people who exceed beyond what is expected of them or of the normal and predicatable way. One Man Spaceship observes the art of barrier-breaking and the deep solitude of transgressions into unknown and uncharted territories.

In this process, it is common to distance and lose those that are nearest and dearest to you. It is a special isolation that develops due to the extreme focus on a ideology and perspective. This sacrifice is sometimes necessary as the objective is larger than life itself.

The hauntingly alien melodies and innovative rhythms of the album make this one of Mills’ best efforts of a long list of great albums in a distinguished career as a DJ and musician, one truly worthy of the year 2006 when it was released. Brilliant energetic tracks mix with subtle ambient ones that displays Mills’ mastery of his art as well as a brave naivete that have come to be the hallmark of the Modern of the last 100 years as seen in Warhol, Dali, Ballard and Burroughs. It is an artwork that represents more a vision than an album, engaging in as much poetry as one would find in any painting of the last 10 years.

It is Mills’ innovations as a musician and DJ that have helped contribute to the notion of DJing as a legitimate art form which can be thought alongside of the experience of visual art. Interestingly, techno, like Pop art, has the ability to share that precious space that great artists have sought to occupy where the sophistication of the avant-garde fuses with mainstream accessibility. In interviews, Mills has long argued the point that DJs be considered in this regard.

It’s not easy being futuristic these days with our iPhones and technological wealth, but Mills has managed to achieve this once again, demonstrating how techno, still, can be as relevant as anything one would confront in a modern day art gallery. Matter of fact, chances are one would be more affected listening to Mills.

Canada: Proud Sponsor of Tim Hortons

When Stephen Harper snubbed Gaddafi by avoiding a UN meeting to preside over the return of Tim Hortons from American to Canadian hands, he shone a spotlight on two significant national problems: one resolved, and one exacerbated. Resolved was the foreign ownership of a company so strongly linked to Canadian identity. Exacerbated was the fact that the link existed in the first place.

As a nation, we are not big on nationalism. This is perhaps our greatest strength. Placing minimal emphasis on national identity makes for a more open minded and relaxed culture, far less malleable to the militaristic machinations that have propelled so many others into pointless conflict (it took American nationalism to bring us to Afghanistan). In the absence of a stringent and narrow-minded patriotism, we have opted instead for a vast cultural space to rival our geographical ones, in which we are free as individuals to decide for ourselves what it means to be Canadian. In such a land, it is peculiar that a place of pride reserved by most nations for their history, culture, and highest ideals, could be so easily claimed by a chain of donut shops with a passable cup of coffee.

Of course, Tim Hortons is not alone in this respect; NHL Hockey, Molson, the CBC, and to a lesser extent, Canadian Tire, have all planted flags in the vast tundra of Canadian identity. “Welcome to Canada”, “I Am Canadian”, “Canada Lives Here (!)”. Each trumpet their own audacious rallying cries in an attempt to convince us that they are the source and stewards of our pride and spirit as a nation. Why is it working? Surely, if any of us were to think on it, we would prefer not to look upon our nation as a commercial for a donut shop, but many of us seem to do just that. If you were to ask a patriotic American what it meant to be one, he or she might speak of independence or democracy; it is unlikely that McDonald’s, however American, would be invoked. A Canadian, on the other hand, might well be inclined to speak of hockey, beer, and Tim Horton’s (“Whoo!”).

We live in a land of unparalleled cultural liberty and freedom. Our identities are not infringed upon by our flag. If we, as a people, are to have a patriotic constant, then let it be that; for it is not our laws or our government, but our spirit as a people that makes it so. It is why we are unique among nations, and it is far more worthy of pride than an oddball cluster of corporations, and self-deprecating beaver jokes. It is the source of our cool, and we shouldn’t give it up for all the timbits in Oakville.

The Rest of Us

Not long ago, the Olympic committee produced a series of commercials entitled “The Best of Us”.  One such commercial displays giant sized Olympic athletes, each standing on their home continent, holding an enormous rope.  Bracing their mighty feet against buildings which mark the crowning achievements in architecture and engineering of their respective civilizations (the rest of us), they proceed to pull on their ropes, thus bringing the continents of the world together and restoring Pangaea. 

In Canada, we have been equally guilty of amateur athlete worship, treating our athletes as something more than human.  From ads that show snowboarders soaring into space to touch some celestial body, to the attempted religious fervour of the “I Believe” campaign, our athletes are increasingly portrayed as being more than human. At first glance, this appears an abrasive contrast to our nation’s “second place rocks” status, but perhaps that is what allows us to regard our athletic achievers as being greater than ourselves.   Our encouragement and financial support, rather than being received with humility and gratitude, are demanded as worship and tribute.  We are led to believe that by playing sports for the rest of their lives, these spry teens and young adults are contributing more to us than we are to them.  It is high time to replace the question: “Do You Believe?” with a much more profound and appropriate slogan:  “Thank You”. 

Believe What You Will…

If you listen carefully, you can hear it. There is a quiet buzz across this country, from coast to coast to coast, almost, but not quite muted by the trumpets of manufactured Canadian pride and Olympic spirit being blown right next to our ears. The opening ceremonies were just last night, but the real games began a long time ago.

According to media reports, “The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra refused an invitation to record music for the Vancouver 2010 opening ceremonies because Vanoc wanted other musicians to ‘mime’ the performance.” This is reminiscent of China’s decision to have a cute kid lip-sync a song sung by a more homely, but talented child. Maybe we should replace the orchestra with cute six year olds like they did.

Tom Mills of the ‘Sault Star’reports that people in are complaining of being “utterly sick of the Olympics already, or at least of the marathon ad campaign by CTV.” He describes one friend’s “desire to have Canadian actor Donald Sutherland… subjected to treatments that probably are banned under the Geneva Convention. You torture us, Donald, and we’ll torture you right back.” If his friend knew that Nikki Yanofsky was going to top off the campaign by singing “I believe,” he might not have considered her a legal combatant either.

Commercial manipulation by business and government, of course, is hardly unique to the Olympics. There is, however, lurking beneath the mass production of faux nationalism, a criminal aspect to the games in their modern form, one that dirties the hand of any country, government, or company that chooses to affiliate themselves. According to the Associated Press: “The IOC had been talking to Ottawa for two years hoping for help to enforce the Olympic body’s anti-doping policies. But most performance-enhancing substances aren’t illegal in Canada and the country’s privacy laws restrict what authorities can tell Olympic officials.” The report states that The IOC’s medical commissioner “said last month that negotiating an agreement was difficult because Canada does not have anti-doping legislation. That’s something the IOC will require from future host countries as a prerequisite for staging the games.”

Talk about home field advantage. Perhaps this will be the year that Canada brings home more gold than ever. With prices soaring, our timing couldn’t be better.

In ancient Greece, when the Olympics first came into being, any man was allowed to participate, without having to qualify, without government funding, and without having to appear in a McDonald’s commercial. They did not compete for their country’s glory, but for their own, and for the love of sport. They did not achieve the super-human feats of today’s athletes, because they were humans, competing against one another, instead of becoming vessels for a competition between pharmaceutical companies. Today’s Olympics are a bedlam of commercialized nationalism, drugs, and the relentless exploitation of the human spirit. I Believe every Canadian knows this deep down inside, and all of the ugly red mittens in the world won’t change that.


Episode 2
Good evening taxpayers, I’m the Mansbridge. Tonight, we take you live to a surprise press conference being held by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The conference is an unexpected move by the P.M., and many are speculating on what he might say. Some suspect this might be an unfair campaign tactic by Harper. We go now live to CBC correspondent Neil Macdonald who is on the scene.

Neil, what can you tell us about this conference? Is the Prime Minister starting off his campaign trail with a bang?

Peter are you there?
I’m always here, Neil. What can you tell us

about the conference?

Peter the air here tonight is one of secrecy and speculation. No one from the prime minister’s office is talking…
But we do know that several representatives from the Canada Space Agency are here; although the reason for their presence remains unclear.
Now Neil, is the – Peter I’m sorry

but the conference is about to start….

Alright Neil, I’ll see you when you get back and we can discuss your future. Take it away!

Uh, thanks Peter. Here’s the Prime Minister now…


Thank you all for coming. I know many of you are wondering why I have called you here this evening. Today is the dawn of a new day for Canada. Today, Canada enters the 21st century. Today, Canada embarks on a brave new endeavor…
…an enterprise more bold than the discovery of Atlantis. And when Canada has achieved this monumental feat, no one will challenge her, from Greenland to Columbia! It is my great honour to announce that Canada shall set foot on the Moon by the year 2012! (Gasp from the crowd) We will go to the Moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard. I will now open the floor to questions from the press.
Is this an election ploy?
No, going to the Moon is a non-partisan

issue that all Canadians can support, like sponsoring Olympic athletes.

Can you achieve this without

a majority government?

Well, if we don’t it will be

Michael Ignatieff’s fault,

maybe Jack Layton’s too.

We have always been a humble, apologetic nation of peace-keepers. Why go to the Moon?

It is time to show the world what

apologetic Peace-keepers are capable of. The world thinks we live in a cold, white, barren wasteland. They will think twice when they see us standing on the Moon!

“I want the international media to have a chance to ask questions…”
“Uh, well then, Canada to the Moon!”

Reaching Out to Our Intergalactic Brethren

Witness testimonies of 120 military personnel describing the infiltration of U.S. and British military sites by aliens in UFOs (Post Media September 28th, 2010) should be enough evidence to warrant the attention of our Parliament.


Episode 1
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we all know why we are
“It is time for the big fish to leave the small pond…”
“Canada is loved worldwide. We have the ingenuity, the technology, and the moral superiority to be at the forefront of the world stage.” “And yet We, Canada’s proud elite, have been content to coddle our children on our knees in our little corner of the world. Madness!”
“Our strengths are many. Vast natural resources. CBC’s quality programming. Tim Horton’s coffee. The most MALLEABLE PEOPLE ON EARTH!” “We should be RULING the world, not renting it from the Americans! We need a symbol. We must do something to set ourselves apart! Something to shake the EARTH!”
But what shall we do?
Drop the A-bomb on Japan?
Claim our independance from

the British? For real this time?

Invade Iraq?
Vietnam perhaps?
Invent the airplane?
Don’t be a fool. We already

invented the airplane — the

Avro Arrow for Christ’s sake!

“Come now, people. I speak here of the future, and you prattle on about the past? What must be done is something new…Something visionary. I’ll tell what We’ll do…”
The Moon?
Think about it! We rally

the people around us, place

our cosmonaut on the moon,

plant our flag, and say


Genius Peter, Pure Genius!
Strombonopolis, make us

some coffee, we have work to do!

Canada to the Moon!


Is Democracy a Swine Flu Risk Factor?

By now Canadians are well aware of the warning from our conservative government that an election could destabilize our fragile yet “recovering” economy. Now, in an unprecedented show of bipartisan cooperation from the far left, the Federal N.D.P. has given us yet another reason to fear the ballot box this fall: the dreaded swine flu. Federal N.D.P. health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) wrote the following letter to chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand:

Dear Sir,

H1N1 Preparedness & Canadian Federal Election I write to enquire, given the possibility of a federal election this fall, about the plans and preparations that Elections Canada is taking regarding H1N1. As you are no doubt aware, experts expect a strong resurgence in H1N1 infections in the coming months, with high incidences in some communities, including remote Aboriginal communities. An election poses significant potential public health risks. Large public events, canvassing and other typical campaign activities, not to mention polling booths and long line-ups to vote on election day, all result in a great deal of contact between members of the public. In the event of a fall election, what measures are Elections Canada planning to safeguard public health and to ensure Canadians who contract the virus are not disenfranchised? Yours sincerely,

Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North)
Health Critic
New Democratic Party of Canada

Clearly our defence against the H1N1 virus is incongruent with the defence of our civil liberties. Canvassing, voting, gathering in large groups — is this the time for such flag waving eccentricities? Would it not be more prudent to remain calmly in our homes until we have received our vaccines and are told it is safe to come out?

In February of 1775, as part of his notes for a proposition at the Pennsylvania Assembly, Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” But this is 2009, and we have an economic crisis and, we are told, a pandemic to deal with. How times have changed.


When two of the smartest people in the music industry collaborate, the results are bound to be interesting. This morning I received “Strange Overtones,” the new single from David Byrne and Brian Eno in my inbox. It’s from their forthcoming album “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.” Byrne and Eno are forgoing usual promotional routes in favour of a web experiment to see if the Internet and word of mouth will be enough to spread their album.

“Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” is their first collaboration since 1981’s “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts,” an album of sample-based music electronic that was groundbreaking and exciting and still sounds fresh and innovative in the 21st Century. Byrne and Eno have a lot to live up to. So how is “Strange Overtones?”

“Strange Overtones” does not disappoint. The song is excellent, wonderful, beautiful, invigorating. Eno’s music is lush and poppy, reminiscent of some of his Talking Heads work as well as his collaboration with John Cale, “Wrong Way Up,” but brought up to date. Funky, mid-tempo rhythms begin the song and anchor it throughout in a down-to-earth way, and occasionally there is a powerful, but simple guitar. Byrne’s singing voice is wistful, humane– a more self-assured version of the Byrne from “I Know Sometimes a Man Is Wrong.” He hasn’t sounded this good in years. And of course there are plenty of classic Eno-style layered vocals– dozens of Davids (and maybe even some Brians?) harmonizing with themselves. The earthy rhythms and almost transcendently detached vocals compliment each other perfectly.

“Strange Overtones” is an unrequited love story. The lover separated from his love by a wall, uses her sounds to complete himself. It seems sad, but there’s also some hope– a melting snowball provides a naive metaphor for the possibility of connection. And, even if our hero never achieves a direct connection with his beloved, ultimately maybe some sort of connection has been achieved– over distance, a romance of anonymity where the object of love never even realizes who her lover is. Or that she even has a lover. Maybe the love for her that he feels inside himself is enough.

Of course, maybe things aren’t that simple. Some of Byrne’s lyrics undercut the romantic angle of the song, among them the idea that “a heart is not enough” and the presence of some undefined “strange overtones in the music you are playing” that could imply the existence of the naive 21st Century romance-under-erasure, or perhaps signal a much more sinister side to our hero. Byrne’s lyrics, even when they seem naive and innocent, often repay deep reading.

All this of course makes “Strange Overtones” seem overly intellectual — which it isn’t. Sure, it’s a very intelligent song, but it’s also immediately accessible, inviting, and even kind of sweet. Byrne’s lyrics are magical and Eno’s music and production are excellent. And if the rest of the album is half as good as this song, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” will be the album of the year. If the rest of the songs are as good or even better, it will be the album of the decade.