Letters to the editor – March 3, 2017

Responding to Hoback’s Motion M-103 column

In his February 17, 2017 column about Motion M-103, Randy Hoback explains that he will support (which he did) a similar Conservative motion, rather than M-103, because of the use of the word “Islamophobia.”

This concern about the word “Islamophobia” seems to be very recent given that, on October 26, 2016, the House of Commons unanimously supported a motion stating “That the House join the more than 69 742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons petition e-411 in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”

The entire debate surrounding M-103 is a crass political action by the Conservatives – it has served to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment, rally certain groups around perceived limits on freedom of expression that would flow from M-103 and create further divisions.

The goal of M-103, as I understand it from interviews with Iqra Khalid, the Liberal MP who moved M-103,was to start a discussion about anti-Muslim radicalization. This is clearly an issue, as the recent attack in a Quebec mosque and the March 1st threats against Muslim students at Concordia University demonstrated.

M-103 is also inclusive of all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, stating “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it.”

The now-defeated Conservative motion, introduced the day after M-103, is essentially identical, except that it avoids mention of Islamophobia. Why the sudden fear of mentioning Islamophobia?

Contrary to what some Conservatives are saying, the motion does not threaten freedom of expression. It does not denounce all criticism of Islam, only Islamophobia, which is defined as unfounded fear and hatred of Muslims. The motion cannot restrict freedom of expression. It is not law, just a non-binding motion. Further, the motion itself clearly states that the requested study of these issues must respect the Charter.

Mr. Hoback appears to have voted in favour of the unanimously passed October NDP motion condemning Islamophobia, as he was in the House of Commons that day with recorded votes on other matters. That October motion, which the Conservatives supported, only addressed Islamophobia.

So why do Mr. Hoback and his Conservative colleagues now have a deep aversion to the word “Islamophobia”, rendering them unable to support a broader, more inclusive motion than the NDP motion that they supported in October? In those short months, what changed besides the perception that political points could be scored at the expense of a vulnerable group? The constituents of Prince Albert deserve more honesty from their Member of Parliament.

Estelle Hjertaas, Prince Albert


The pulp mill

The year 2017 not only marks the 150th birthday of Canada as a year of celebration, it also marks the 10th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Party taking over the reigns of government in this province. This latter anniversary can be seen as one to celebrate or one to bemoan, depending on how their ten year reign has affected you personally. For many people who made a living in the forest industry, it is definitely not something to celebrate.

In 2007, one of the first orders of business that Brad Wall undertook was to cancel the agreement with Domtar that would have seen the Prince Albert Pulp Mill running again in 2008, along with rejuvenated saw mill activity. The agreement with Domtar was the result of 14 months of negotiations and planning. However, it only took the new naive Sask Party members (including Darryl ‘a vote for me is a vote to reopen the pulp mill’ Hickie ), a matter of days to tear up the agreement.

Their boastful reason was that no tax dollars would be used to aid in the mill startup, and that they could come up with a better plan. Very little thought went into that purely vindictive, political move. Under the proposed agreement, any invested tax dollars would have been repaid within three years (based on projected production costs and prevailing pulp prices at the time). After that, dividends from a minority equity stake would have flowed into the provincial treasury for years to come. Ten years later we are still waiting for Brad’s better plan to restart the forest industry!

It is highly hypocritical of our Premier to say that no tax dollars should go into kick starting the forest industry, while at the same time providing millions of your tax dollars to build a new football stadium in Regina, and millions more for the Regina bypass fiasco. In an era when oil, potash, and uranium prices have slumped, and the provincial finances have a billion dollar short fall, revenue from high pulp prices and spinoff forestry activity could have been flowing into the treasury. Brad Wall removed one of the pillars of the provincial economy in 2007, and now in 2017 is preparing to burn more of the furniture to heat the house with his plans to sell more government assets!

A year to celebrate, indeed!

Brad Bardal, Prince Albert