Category Archives: Cheri DiNovo

Ontario Liberals insinuate ONDP hates babies, or when will Ontarians tire of cynical, disingenuous, and negative politics???

As a constituent of what must be one of Ontario’s most progressive ridings, Parkdale-High Park, I was dismayed and disappointed by the first piece of Liberal campaign literature that showed up in my mailbox. In a riding where the Conservative candidate, by all accounts very worthy, is an extreme long shot to get elected, I get that the Liberals will be attacking the NDP. It will be interesting to see if the Liberals will once again engage in personal smears on NDP incumbent, Cheri DiNovo- one of the strongest and most outspoken MPP’s at Queens Park. It devastatingly backfired before, I don’t think they’ll do it again.

Still, for some inexplicable reason the Liberals have decided to attack the NDP on its environmental policy. Personally, I think it’s a big mistake. The NDP is now rolling out very solid environmental platform. The NDP has long been recognized as the strongest advocate of  the environment of the three major parties. And the NDP has in its caucus one of the strongest minds and advocates for the environment, former Greenpeace Canada Director, Peter Tabuns.

Regardless, in my mailbox arrives a dead tree -I mean a glossy multi-ink cardboard card- with a picture of a beautiful baby playing on a lawn on one side and on the other side “Fact: Doctors agree, harmful pesticides pose serious health risks”.   First, I like the redundancy in that sentence. It’s foolproof even. Really, do you need doctors to confirm that harmful pesticides poses a health risk. Doesn’t anything that is harmful pose a health risk. Anyway, I think if you’re going to kill trees to send out messages to the electorate, you should communicate truthfully, logically and responsibly. This campaign piece is none of that.

Underneath this “fact”, we are told that PCs and the NDP both voted against the provincial pesticide ban introduced by the Liberals. Apparently because the “PCs [Progressive Conservatives] side with pesticide lobby”  and because the “NDP sides with PC’s [Personal Computers???]”.  The inference, of course, we are asked to make is that the only reason that someone would vote against the proposed legislation would be that one hates babies, one hates lawns, and one especially hates babies playing on lawns. Moreover, we should be reminded that the ONDP is the second coming of Mike Harris and “the proof” is that both the PC’s and the ONDP voted against the pesticide ban. Ontario Liberals, you have got to be kidding!

First, this is so reminiscent of  Harper’s attacks during the recent federal election; one attack that particularly irked me was the federal Conservatives insinuation that because Ignatieff  had rejected the budget, Ignatieff must be against seniors and students.  I guess the Ontario Liberals figure that if it worked for Harper, it might work for McGuinty. Applied in this case, the “logic” runs if the ONDP voted against the provincial pesticide ban, it must be because its against babies.

As is patently obvious, this attack is founded on puerile and faulty logic. Just because pesticides may be harmful  and pose serious health risks doesn’t mean any proposed legislation around a pesticide ban must be supported. Moreover, just because the ONDP voted against the pesticide ban, doesn’t mean they did so for the same reasons as the PCs.

Anyway, should anyone want to confirm that Andrea Horwath is not Mike Harris, or that the ONDP does not in fact hate babies, nor hopes to foreclose our future by destroying our environment, go to Stop the Smears. Also, for anyone really interested in the actual debate around the provincial  pesticide ban proposed by the Liberals, read the actual debates here.

It’s sad that Dalton McGuinty prefers to wage a negative campaign, forcing parties like the ONDP to expend great effort just to counteract these smears. It’s sad that this distracts from real debate and discussion on very serious and critical issues. It’s sad that McGuinty would rather have people vote against his opponents than vote for his vision and record.

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In Defence of DiNovo, or why I’ve been looking for a new Socialist home (Updated)

Having followed the cannibalistic feeding frenzy by a small segment of fundamentalist Leftists on one of the its strongest advocates in public life has been nothing short of incredulous. On the whole, this could be just another day on the Left and could be dismissed as a rather benign episode of “pajama people”* and /or rabblerousers responding with unhinged disproportion at a perceived betrayal of their pure, fundamentalist politics. Such derangement, however, has been possible only on the back of a totally disingenuous interpretation of DiNovo’s actions and words, and has led to an unusual escalation culminating allegedly in threats of violence directed at DiNovo herself.

So what has DiNovo done that is so awful? To begin with, in babblean fundamentalist circles her first mistake was to treat a fellow MPP as a fellow parliamentarian and to show him anything other than contempt and disdain. DiNovo may have even used parliamentary and conciliatory language in dealing with Shurman. Shame indeed! In the rarefied world of pure antagonism of these fundamentalists, there is no nuance, there is no reverence, respect for alterity, and there is no forgiveness (a hospitable openness gifted in advance). In fact, in such a pure world, the enemy of one’s enemy becomes one’s friend, the friend of one’s enemy becomes one’s enemy, and ends justify means, regardless of how insidious those means.

Nonetheless, in order to entirely conflate DiNovo’s remarks and position on the IAW resolution with that of Peter Shurman’s requires nothing less than malicious and wilful misreading (something I used to call “pullin’ a Cherniak”, but now for nuance sake in Leftists circles I call it “pullin’ a Unionist”), as well as a flagrant decontextualization of the two speakers.

To begin, DiNovo clearly speaks from a radically different place than Shurman. She speaks as a woman, a feminist, a theologian, queer rights activist, and social justice activist (her track record of standing up for oppressed groups -Muslims, Tibetans, Ukrainians who suffered Holodomor etc… is unmistakable)** Next, although in her remarks, DiNovo, I believe rightly, agrees with Shurman on the need to call into question the term “apartheid”, she does so out of a desire for peace rather than a desire to absolve the State of Israel. And yes, peace means justice, and justice for everyone. Taking her cue from many Muslims themselves she spoke with, many of whom are not vested in the term apartheid, DiNovo pushes the need to talk about ending the occupation, to talk about the wall and for a two state solution. She in essence reiterates NDP federal policy, which even the National Post saw as her digression from Shurman’s resolution and the conservative position. And the National Post’s ability to deal with nuance is about as impaired as fundamentalist Leftists.

Then, there’s the issue of whether speaking in agreement to one part of a motion constitutes agreement with the entire resolution, and whether in fact the ONDP did give its voiced support for the resolution in the legislature.

All to say, Leftist derangement that led to its pillorying of DiNovo hinges on the preposterous establishment of equivalences between Shurman and DiNovo. Since the rabid Left exhibits the nuance of a two year old (I think here of the psychoanalytic term “ambivalence” that characterizes among other things excessive narcissism and I think “fundamentalism”) this led to deranged claptrap, assaults on her character, and, in my view, ultimately erodes the legitimacy of IAW.

When DiNovo’s egregious actions weren’t being met with derangement, they were met with a soft, “kind” patronizing admonishment that was in my view even more insulting. I’m thinking here of a letter circulated, by “academics”, I believe, in which they gave DiNovo an out by patting her on the head and saying “dear dear, you just don’t know all the facts, and just how bad it is over there. It’s not your fault you didn’t know how wrong you are.”

Give me a f*cking break. Given DiNovo’s education, her multi-faith background and her links to the Muslim community, not to mention to the Leftist/activist community, my sense is that she’s not in need of any lessons about the suffering and human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially not when those lessons issue from overprivileged, overeducated white boys whose acquaintance with deprivation is running out of Chardonnay at the Conference reception. I only resort here to hyperbole, because predictably also heard around rabble were comments like DiNovo deserves to experience first hand the deprivation in Gaza and so what if she’s receiving death threats, her actions in the legislature help perpetuate bloodshed in Gaza.

And then, there were attempts to extract a retraction and an apology from DiNovo and demand that she throw herself at the mercy of good willed progressives. This coming from babble, the epicentre of derangement, and from “Unionist” no less!! Yes, the same “Unionist” who initiates a discussion to extort an apology from DiNovo, and subsequently in that thread writes “And by the way, Sineed, while it’s not my place to ask her to apologize (as I mentioned from the outset), I have every right to condemn the shameful words she pronounced in public.” Hello! If it’s not your place to ask her to apologize, why start of discussion topic on it? This also the same Unionist who in that same topic grudgingly acquiesces that sending DiNovo death threats might be a wee bit over the top, but not nearly as egregious as her not having called the police. I wonder if her being out of the country has something to do with it.

Now onto the other big issue: the assault on free speech. This incidentally was the tac taken by reasonable Leftists with legitimate disagreement, but also by Leftists and NDP’ers who wanted to attack DiNovo (i.e. appease the dozen rabid Leftists and the three intimidating Islamists who complained vociferously), but had the decency not to use “the friend of my enemy must be my enemy” argument outlined above. You see, since DiNovo did not actually deviate from NDP policy on the Middle East, she could not be condemned for that (I’ve never heard Jack Layton refer to “Israeli apartheid”, have you?) Nonetheless, it is claimed that in her denunciation of the term apartheid, she attacked free speech. My short reply is no! She exercised her right to free speech and denounced speech designed to foreclose free speech. She correctly, in my opinion, condemned needlessly inflammatory and incendiary language in order to keep speech open not to close it down.

I suspect critics who see this as an assault on academic freedom and/ or free speech see this as egregious owing to the fact that this was uttered from a place of power and privilege and “suasion”. I agree that the position from which discourse issues is highly relevant. I suspect too that these critics would not view a similar condemnation of the term apartheid issued, for instance in an email or on the radio, as other than an expression of disagreement. While I’m sympathetic to the need to be vigilantly protective of our right to speak freely and openly, and I am sympathetic to the slippery slope argument, I don’t believe the DiNovo’s condemnation was wrong, nor do I fear that it could lead to labelling the term “Israeli apartheid” as hate speech.

While the resolution passed in the Ontario legislature does emanate not from an ordinary place, but a place of power, we do need to be careful. However, the resolution has at best “moral” suasion, and has no legal and authoritative power. These resolutions are brought forward all the time (e.g. I don’t recall an outcry when parliament guided public opinion and resolved to commemorate Holodomor), so the issue obviously isn’t one of parliamentarians exercising moral suasion. It was a toothless motion and given the current levels of respect for our political leaders and representatives, I’m thinking this resolution has little moral suasion. To call this censorship and McCarthyism is virtually to water down these terms to meaning disagreement. And if you censor disagreement, how will you know when the “real” censorship arrives.

That IAW would proceed as planned was never in doubt. There was never a call to silence or shut down IAW, rather a calling into question the deployment of a term, which even if descriptively accurate, is itself designed to preempt fair and open dialogue, is needlessly incendiary, and ultimately not at all useful if the objective is peace and justice for all. I recall speaking with a woman who is with Students for a Free Tibet who was perplexed at the thought of achieving peace by first slapping your enemy in the face. Tibetans, she argued, wish to speak with the Chinese, not insult them. By the way, here already lies an early warning to Palestinians that IAW is not really about them. IAW is not about peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis, it is about a larger revolutionary project of resisting American power and dominance.

Nonetheless, I do agree that we must be careful each step of the way. I have no doubt that political groups will attempt to use this resolution to promote their political agendas.

With respect to this particular case, my problem with the deployment of the term “apartheid” in IAW is only as it pertains to the attempt to pass off IAW as an unbiased, free and open dialogue going on across university campuses. For in my view, and I have attended IAW events in the past, it is precisely on university campuses that this kind of monologic debate needs not to be shut down but at least and always challenged and called into question. “Israeli apartheid”, assuming apartheid is even an appropriate descriptor, does little other than to circumscribe the discussion within very narrow and highly volatile limits, to preempt disagreement, and to promote hostility, all of which in my view are anathema to university discourse.

As a rallying cry, as propaganda, as rhetoric for a social movement I have no objection to the deployment of the term Israeli apartheid. At least not in terms of its usefulness. It serves for the extreme Left a way to sharply demarcate its enemies and its allies. It serves to cleanly demarcate oppressors from victims. It serves to moralize the troops and fill them with information, as well as, far too often with hatred. While I believe in speaking truth to power, I believe the truth must be spoken out of love and forgiveness, not from a place of hate. And if the goal of this social movement is to broaden its base, I believe it needs to begin from a place of ethics, love, and justice, not antagonism and hatred.

This leads to a real objection I have with the term apartheid. There is a reason why the Left has prioritized the Palestinian struggle against its Israeli oppressors above many other geopolitical conflicts and injustices, and that’s because the Left sees this as a crucial battle in the war against neoliberal capitalist expansion and American hegemony. Fair enough, a noble war indeed! However, to the extent that capitalism is reducible to pure desire, as desire always for more, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality etc., I find it highly ironic then, that the Left would vest so much in a term which is so laden with ethnic/racial identification, when in fact it’s not all about the Palestinian people per se, its about the fact that they stand locked and opposed to Israel. I’m not saying that IAW is anti-semitic, I’m saying it is anti-Israel to the extent that Israel is strategically critical to US empire building.

At the same time, this also goes along way to understanding why the event can’t be called Palestinian Liberation Week or any such combination of terms which might glorify and empower Palestinians. I hope I’m wrong, and excuse me for being harsh, the way I see it, what is critical for the Left is not who the Palestinians are in themselves but their relational status to the State of Israel.

While I certainly agree that victims shouldn’t have to be perfect in order to earn our solidarity, I also don’t think victims should be exalted to a place of almost divine abjecthood, of sublime object cause of our ideology, and the Left has a strong track record of doing so, starting with that most glorious and morally untouchable object: the Proletariat. But here I get stuck, I don’t really know where to go next. Is it possible to simultaneously be in solidarity with and to call into question, a victim? I get economic forces of oppression, I get the need to resist blaming the victim, and I understand the need to adopt a culturally relative approach. But I’m still troubled by the often appalling treatment of women and the ghastly treatment of “queers”, not to mention our reluctance to speak up against those abuses because of a group’s victimhood. It seems the only way to justify not speaking up is either intimidation or by entirely blaming an oppressor and thereby denying agency. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

* a handful of overeducated, overprivileged mostly geeky white males who have nothing better to do than troll the web all day in their pajamas from their hovels in Parkdale, provided they’ve managed to move out of their parents’ basements.

** it would be interesting to compare the Palestinian struggle not only with South African liberation movement, but also with the Tibetan struggle to return home
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Update:

I did forget to mention that Warren Kinsella needs to be graced with a Cherniak Award for his hypocrisy over this. A Cherniak award is given to a Liberal who displays exceptional degree of
malicious misreading, of willful distortion, of wanton decontextualization, of utter disingenuousness, and/ or basic intellectual dishonesty. When Warren pounced all over DiNovo for “losing it”, I’m left to wonder why he found it so objectionable, understanding that for Kinsella flagrant hypocrisy doesn’t apply to people who have handed him his ass in an election.

Regardless what could have been so objectionable from Kinsella’s point of view?
1. That she was being labelled a Zionist (something Kinsella all too readily admits). 2. That she lashed out at someone insulting her online (Kinsella’s online behaviour has not exactly been exemplary; he not only retaliates, he’s been known to commission online “lynchings” and outings of people through his blog, he’s made numerous sexist and racist gaucherie in public)
I also would think that Kinsella might have shown a little more sensitivity for someone who’s been receiving violent threats, since I’m sure he’s not unfamiliar with that territory.

Needless to say, my comment was not approved, but other interesting comments were. And one, by the very same Cherniak for whom the award is named, who chimed in to pile on DiNovo only to be questioned why he would object to DiNovo’s “zionism”. After all, it doesn’t get more rabidly zionist than Cherniak. At the same time, it does seem that Kinsella has had a change of heart and that the State of Israel may not be beyond reproach after all, since he’s quite content to allow a comment arguing in favour of Israeli apartheid.

Jim Coyle writes an excellent piece on Cheri DiNovo

This goes out to the prudes and self-righteous hypocrite moralists, the petty partisan hacks (especially the Liberal ones, for whom DiNovo’s greatest offence clearly was running against them), and any other DiNovo haters (for whom it appears DiNovo’s greatest offence is not knowing her place as a woman in politics).  Most of the stuff with which people have attempted to smear her reputation would never have become an issue if she were a he, especially one of the hegemonic Liberal or Conservative neoliberal variety.

I haven’t always agreed with Jim Coyle, although without question I respect him as much as any MSM journalist writing today. I think today Coyle’s right on the money. Cheri DiNovo’s endured numerous vicious, disingenuous and irrelevant attacks on her reputation and her record with grace and strength. Her opponents routinely underestimate her mettle.  Today’s article on my MPP, Cheri DiNovo, is long overdue praise and a fair assessment of her high quality as an MPP. I would expect to see the following in statement in the DiNovo’s campaign literature:

But say this: working from the cozy confines of the 10-member NDP caucus, taking up the cause of any underdog who comes along, happy to wear her heart on her sleeve, as outraged by the ear-splitting here-and-now of construction piledrivers outside homes in her riding as she is by the more notorious of history’s horrors, DiNovo gives her constituents full value.

Ontario Election 2007: Parkdale High Park

There’s no question that Cheri DiNovo, the incumbent, has proven her mettle in the course of the last year.  She succeeded in the face of an outrageously nasty smear campaign waged by Sylvia Watson, endorsed by Dalton McGuinty, with a supporting cast made up of 11 cabinet ministers, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy. And the scurrilous and abusive material was courtesy mainly of Jason Cherniak (now running for Central Region President for the LPC (O) ) and Warren Kinsella (who loves to dish out crap, but doesn’t like it when it’s thrown back at him or his friends). Not only did DiNovo persevere (some of the literature that was distributed to my house was outright incendiary and malicious) but perhaps she was made a stronger politician because of it.

DiNovo has been an unquestionable force  at Queen’s Park, exceeding expectations of supporters and detractors alike. Christina Blizzard, of the Toronto Sun, in her appraisal of MPP’s performances awarded only two grades in the “A” range, and one was to Cheri DiNovo. John Tory, when asked on a recent radio program which one of the MPP’s in the legislature not part of  PC caucus he would like to pry away from the other parties, paused, and said “Cheri DiNovo”. For a summary of her year at Queen’s Park see here. Personally, I like that she also brought some much needed style to Queen’s Park. I like that she portrays a markedly different image of “the left” than often projected in our media (you know, Birkenstocks, cargo pants, home knit sweaters…).  Fashion, style, appreciation of fine and beautiful things should not limited to any one group of people (European socialists have long shown this). For me, what makes the bourgeoisie what they are is not simply the trappings of wealth, but its attitude and way of obtaining wealth. I recently read an inane commenter calling the NDP a bunch of white wine socialists (it may have been funny if he had said white whine socialists). To that I say bravo. And to single malt and cognac socialists, I say bravo. To socialists who spend $1000 dollars on a Barcelona chair, I say bravo. To those socialists who see beauty in a Barnett Newman painting, I say bravo. To those socialists who read bourgeois, untamable theorists like Derrida, Lacan, Zizek, Hegel I say bravo.

Oh, but I’ve digressed. In the rematch between Cheri DiNovo and Sylvia Watson one would think this a no contest. DiNovo is clearly the superior candidate. But there are other factors. Watson is not running an overt smear campaign this time (although her campaign team has been slinging mud and have been caught in some compromising tactics at democraticSpace).  “The Ghosts for Sylvia Watson” (Sept. 11) from the by-election past seem to be haunting this campaign as well. There are also the landlords for Watson (buildings with numerous tenants, many of them not Watson supporters, adorned only with Watson signs). All to say, that while Watson is obviously losing the sign war, she is holding her own in parts of Parkdale. 
This is significant because Watson’s tactic, as unbelievable as it is for a discerning voter, seems to be to try to peel off the poor vote, while hoping that hard core Liberals as well as involuntary Liberals (e.g. some of the immigrant voters who’ve voted Liberal ever since they arrived in Canada and have in fact been largely taken for granted by the Liberal party) will just come out and do their part. In the meantime, Watson, a wealthy lawyer living in a million dollar house, walks around with another faux advocate for the poor, Gerard Kennedy, hoping to strip away some of the Parkdale vote.  Sadly, this strategy may, in fact, gain her some votes. I say sadly because the Liberals are a party born of the rich for the rich (the original liberating impulse of the Liberals was towards liberating markets from regulation) whose support in the twentieth century of  a welfare state has less to do with actually caring about people than wanting to enable capitalism to prosper (unfettered capitalism is very ugly and very unworkable, think of Dickens’ London).  And to have any of the poor in Parkdale deceived into voting for Watson and the Liberals is, in my view, a real travesty.  There is no question that the poor, the working poor, the marginalized, the lost, the hungry of Parkdale would best be served by DiNovo, and the NDP, their true and tireless advocates. But, many people regrettably don’t vote in their own best interest.
Then, there’s the whole, strategic voting thing (of course, a by-product of having an unfit and undemocratic electoral system, which incidentally Watson supports).  Until it became clear that McGuinty is going to form a second majority government, I think Watson may have been helped by “progressives” and swing voters who would rather vote to try to ensure that John Tory didn’t form the government than vote for the truly “progressive” representative in their riding. This seems a non factor now.
Green Party supporters, although among the most principled voters, too are faced with a strategic choice between voting for their candidates (who still have no chance of gaining a seat) or at least having some of their concerns voiced in the legislature. The NDP, has now, and has for a long time, an abiding concern for the environment. It believes in fully funded education and health care. It is socially progressive. It is against nuclear energy. While the Green Party may have different means of achieving these things, it is committed to them, which is why many Greens, typically lefty Greens, I would think, vote NDP (in Europe the Greens & Social Democrats have formed coalitions). I suspect that the Liberal party would be the last party a Green would vote for, since the Liberal Party is the least ideological and principled of the political parties. The Liberals have been so successful because they play brokerage politics, swinging to the right or to the left as it suits them best, casting as big a net as possible.
In the final analysis, I think that if DiNovo’s campaign does a strong job of pulling her vote, then she should be awarded re-election on Wednesday, but as to whether DiNovo will win by a larger or smaller margin than last year I really can’t say. What I can risk is that DiNovo will likely not win by the same margin (8%).