Flashbacks: May

Don’t trust the government, don’t trust the vanities of ego, and definitely do not trust the suspiciously nice weather St. John’s has seen in May 2012. Trust only in your heart. And my opinions.

Whether you believe it’s the ‘Maple Spring’ that heralds a revolution or you just wish those arts students would go back to class, Quebec was boiling over with civil disobedience this month as student protests against proposed tuition hikes dragged on. After negotiations petered out—and militant students blocked others from attending classes at the University of Quebec in Montreal—the provincial government decided to hit back against the student movement by suspending several basic human rights (like, say, punishing anyone suspected of even ‘tacitly’ supporting the protests) and giving the police vastly expanded powers to arrest whoever they wanted. Because, hey, what better way to discredit people protesting injustice than to pass some of the most draconian legislation in Canadian history?

It was a good month for you on Parliament Hill if you enjoy the exciting world of macroeconomic theory! NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair came out swinging against the oil sands this month, blaming Canada’s hyper-powered oil industry for tanking Ontario’s manufacturing centre and instantly alienating the entire Western half of the country. Whether this is in fact the man’s first major gaffe since becoming Opposition Leader or a shrewd, calculated gamble to consolidate support in vote-rich Ontario and Quebec depends on who you ask, but considering that the soundbite Mulcair started with was the decidedly un-sexy ‘Canada has Dutch disease,’ I’m not exactly waiting for another shoe to drop.

Speaking of shoes dropping, the federal government unveiled its proposed changes to the EI system this month, which mainly consists in encouraging jobseekers to relocate for work (and accepting docks in pay, if necessary), and putting the squeeze on those who make frequent claims. While all this sounds great in theory, it raises serious questions about what these changes might mean in places with heavy reliance on seasonal industries—like, you know, Newfoundland and Labrador. Fortunately, instead of having a boring and complicated debate about labour economics and rural development, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose glibly described the legislation as “like eHarmony, but for jobs.” Tied into all this is an emphasis on getting jobs filled by locals, which again sounds great until you realize that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also believes “there is no such thing as a bad job,” and then suddenly (at least according to some Open Line callers) we’re dealing with middle-aged fish processors commuting 45 minutes every morning to work at McDonald’s. Did I mention that this significant overhaul of one of the country’s most fundamental social security programs is hidden somewhere inside in a 450-page omnibus bill? Say what you will about this government, but I have to give it props for being two steps ahead on cynicism.

Provincially, the surreal drama surrounding Search and Rescue continued to mount this month. Premier Kathy Dunderdale has steadfastly refused to call an inquiry into the death of Burton Winters last January, even despite assurances from Labrador MP Peter Penashue (for whatever that’s worth) that Ottawa would co-operate with any investigation into what went on. This comes not long after the the release of months of correspondence between the province and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, as well as the Premier turning down a meeting with Winters’ family after it was revealed a retired search and rescue officer would be in attendance. According to the Premier, they aren’t satisfied with what the federal government has told them about their response to the crisis, so there is no point in calling a fact-finding inquiry (although she’s totally okay with the federal government calling one). I’m not sure why the Premier thinks an inquiry is pointless in a situation where all the fundamental facts are in dispute between all relevant parties, but then again, at least we’re getting a break from hearing about Muskrat Falls.

Last but not least, it was a big month south of the border this May after North Carolina won a victory for homophobia when residents voted to ratify a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Despite this setback for the gay rights movement, President Barack Obama unequivocally endorsed gay marriage shortly afterwards, proving that he’s not afraid to take a strong progressive stand on controversial issues (especially when he needs to rally his base in an election year). Not to be outdone, Republican Senator Rand Paul—son of libertarian dreamboat Congressman Ron Paul—joked shortly after Obama’s declaration that he didn’t think the president’s stance on gay marriage “could not get any gayer,” confirming once and for all that if you name someone after Ayn Rand they will grow up to be a total asshole.

That’s it for this month, folks. I’d write something about the Ice Caps and their playoff performance, but I don’t want Danny Williams to have any more public meltdowns about it.