Archive for February 2008
The spectre of an alleged financial offer to a dying MP hovered over Parliament Hill on Friday as some Liberals hinted they might topple the government over the prime minister’s purported role in the alleged affair.
Opposition parties hammered the Conservatives in the House of Commons for the second straight day over allegations then-Opposition leader Stephen Harper was implicated in an overture to Chuck Cadman two days before a historic May 2005 confidence vote.
Outside the Commons, Liberal MP Garth Turner suggested time is running out for the Tories to come up with a credible explanation for what exactly was offered to Mr. Cadman — on whose shoulders the fate of Paul Martin’s Liberal government rested — in exchange for his support. “The questions have not gone away, and each day more evidence has come forward that this is a serious issue. So, unless the government refutes that very quickly, or comes out with a statement of clarification, then I think we ought to be thinking about bringing these guys down,” he said.
A tape released Thursday suggests Mr. Harper not only knew two party officials made an “offer” to Cadman, but also gave it his blessing.
Not clear is what exactly the Conservative insiders offered Mr. Cadman. The Tories insist that Doug Finley and Harper mentor Tom Flanagan only offered to take Mr. Cadman — who had left the party and was sitting as an Independent MP — back into the party fold.
But Mr. Cadman’s widow, Dona — a Conservative candidate — told CTV News her husband was livid at an alleged offer of a $1-million life insurance policy, which she said she considered a bribe.
Tory MP James Moore was left to fend off questions by opposition MPs and reporters outside the Commons. He dodged questions about whether the offer was indeed for a life insurance policy or for the Conservative nomination in the B.C. riding of Surrey North.
Jonathan Kay at the National Post is skeptical of the story. Another relative confirming the story is probably right when he concludes that nothing will be proven, one way or another, at this late date.
Back in 2005, I was taken by a passage in John Lukacs‘s 1992 The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age.
In 1943, Louis-Ferdinand Céline wrote that the German army at the Volga was the last bulwark of Europe; after that the deluge, les Chinois à Brest. He meant not Brest-Litovsk on the Polish-Russian frontier but Brest at the westernmost tip of Brittany, of Europe. He lamented that the Germans lost the battle at Stalingrad and that their retreat westward then began (45-46).
As the various commenters noted, Céline was simply counting Russians as “Asians,” perhaps as part of a general prejudice against Slavs, perhaps because he was imaginging something like Huntington’s clash of civilizations. A pity, I suppose: I really liked the soc.history.what-if suggestion of Rich Rostrom that Céline’s words, literally understood, could best realized by a Yuan Shikai with “the character and abilities of Mustafa Kemal or maybe Lee Kuan Yew or both and the useful elements of Chiang Kai-shek” who not only founds an energetic new state but modernizes with a vengeance. (Literally “modernizes with a vengeance,” actually.)
But what’s going on now? Not only has Brest become the twin city of China’s Qingdao, but back in 2004 the French navy welcomed a Chinese flotilla around the destroyer Shenzhen led by the commander-in-chief of the East Sea Fleet. This all is part of a grimmer picture, as not only do up to a half-million people of Chinese background live in France, but many of these people are daring to become politically active. The French tourist industry is even starting to depend on the arrival of Chinese.
Céline would weep.
In the Mecca Restaurant, diners are enjoying Mohammad Miah’s food the traditional way, delicately digging fingertips into the aromatic biryani. The scene is a lot like Miah’s native Bangladesh, and after 25 years here, he couldn’t be happier.
“The community has grown up and we don’t have to go to the Little India to shop anymore,” laughs Miah from behind the counter. “We have everything here. This is like our Bangladeshi market back home.
“When I first got here, there was nothing Bangladeshi. Now, we’ve taken over the local businesses and we just keep growing.”
Ground-level storefronts like Miah’s – bustling grocery stores, movie rental shops, the Desh Pharmacy and businesses offering help with taxes – may be the public face of Little Bangladesh, a stretch of Danforth between Dawes Rd. and Victoria Park Ave., just south of Crescent Town.
It’s the part casual observers don’t see that makes this place really feel like home: The vertical village.
[. . .]
University of Toronto geography professor Sutama Ghosh has explored Little Bangladesh for an academic paper titled “The Production of Vertical Neighbourhoods.”
“The residents of these vertical spaces in general and Bangladeshis in particular have also transformed these residential spaces into economic spaces,” she notes.
“Among the numerous economic activities that are carried out informally, the following Bengali services are common: mosque and weekly Qur’an classes in Bengali, informal daycare facilities, at-home beauty parlours, academic tutors and Bengali language classes, informal catering services and parent-pooling for schoolchildren.”
The “forgotten cousin” of Greater Toronto’s booming South Asian community, Bangladeshis are a growing force that have transformed what was once a neighbourhood in decline. They number perhaps 50,000, a group dwarfed by other nationalities represented in Canada’s 1-million-member South Asian community.
The first wave of Bangladeshis arrived as refugees after the 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan, followed by a trickle of skilled immigrants in the 1990s. Those who have had a Western education are more likely to have arrived recently.
Besides Crescent Town, there are major pockets of Bangladeshis in Regent Park, the Eglinton Ave. and Markham Rd. area and a single apartment building in the Highway 401 and Don Mills Rd. area. Bangladeshis are the largest ethnic group in Crescent Town, accounting for more than 24 per cent of the population, up from 18 per cent in the 2001 census – and it is growing.
The community has changed a lot in the 20 years since brokerage consultant Ashraf Ali arrived.
“The earlier settlers were busy trying to survive in the new country. As the population started to grow, people started organizing themselves. When (Bangladeshi microcredit banker) Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it really instilled pride in the community to get united, to do more,” says Ali. “We’ve been mistaken (for) Indians. Some of our businesses would be termed as Indian stores. Now we have a critical mass and we want to be more visible,” he says. “We are like a banyan tree. We’ve planted our root and are continuing to grow.”
A quick Googling reveals that this neighbourhood hosts, among other things, restaurants and newspapers and student services and a community services organization, also serving as background in a video of a street celebrating the Bangladeshi defeat of India in a recent cricket tournament.
- Daniel Drezner points out that NAFTA is not responsible for the United States’ economic issues, and that the emergence of China, India, and the former Soviet bloc are much more at fault. At fault, that is, if the positive consequences of this competition are ignored.
- Far Outliers links to an Asia Times article suggesting that China might satellitize North Korea, with South Korea’s blessing.
- Language Hat hosts an interesting debate on gender in language, starting with a speculation that gender is disappearing from French.