10/26/2007

God and Sin: Team Truth vs. Team Lie

About a month ago, I had the misfortune of encountering something commonly referred to as "hyper-Calvinism." It was my first experience. If you are unfamiliar with it, the definition of "hyper-Calvinism" given at Monergism is the belief that:
- God is the author of sin and of evil
- men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
- the number of the elect at any time may be known by men
- it is wrong to evangelize
- assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
- men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do
- God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others
- the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned
- God does not command everyone to repent
- the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.
- the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church
- the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.
- no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
- the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men
- saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination
- only Calvinists are Christians

(As an aside, as a result of the debate I had, I have a bunch of heavy duty reading to do. My Christmas list this year will have a lot of books on it. Anyway...)
The discussion in question began on a certain Facebook group. Someone asked whether or not it was possible to be a non-determinist and a Calvinist. The definition of determinism used for the discussion was rather boiled down. Essentially, we agreed that "a strict view of determinism means that there is no real concept of decision." My response to this was "...If there is no concept of a decision at all and everything is pre-determined, then God would have to be the author of sin. And we all know that's not true.
What was I thinking?
Well, I was thinking God is holy, just, true, righteous, loving and perfect.
The response I got? And I quote:
"I am a strict determinist, Ruth. I do believe there is a real concept of decision, simply not free decision. And I believe God to be the author of sin, in that he caused it. He is not sinful in creating sin. But he still is its author. He is the author of absolutely every thing that comes to pass."
My eyes nearly popped out of my head.
I responded, in true Ruth fashion "The notion that God is the author of sin is so wrong that it's barely worth debating. Do you have a Scripture to back that idea up? Because I cannot find one. While there are verses to suggest that God creates calamity or disaster (2 Samuel 12:11, Jeremiah 32:42) that is not the same as saying God is the author of sin. Sending an evil spirit (such as He did to Saul) isn't even the same thing.
--Ruth
PS: By the way, I am not interested in a philosophical reasoning on this one. Scripture only please."

Sure enough, the response I received said:
"There is no scripture that states that God is the author of sin."
So, why are you arguing it then? This speaks to my earlier point about knowing Scripture. The reply continued.
" Similarly, there is also no scripture that states that God is not the author of sin."
Wanna make a bet? In fact, I will bet you my husbands salary for ten years that I can prove from Scripture God is not the author of sin. (I advise not taking that bet, by the way).
Anyway, the poster went on to argue that God could create sin without sinning. Then came the whining.
"I resent the fact that you blindly claim that "the notion that God is the author of sin is so wrong that it's barely worth debating." Why? I understand that in the traditions of man, this has been a large claim, but why? What is your scripture?"
My response? Scripture, Scripture, Scripture.
James 1: 13-15 states
"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
Evil desires give birth to sin. This verse explicitly states that God is not the author of either our temptations nor our evil desires. By extension, He therefore is also not the author of our sins. In every single Scriptural reference to sin, it is described either as "ours" or that of a particular person or people (ie: the sin of the Israelites). This implies ownership. Furthermore, God is Holy and perfect. As I John 1: 5 clearly says "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."
All means all.
In any case, all things which are created must necessarily be IN God, as indicated in Colossians 1: "16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
If God had created sin, it would necessarily be a part of Himself. He is not the author of something but also separate from it. So, unless you are actually willing to argue that sin is a part of God (and you had better not), God cannot be the author or creator of sin...
Resent away. You are still wrong and I am not blind.
Sin is error and imperfection. It is moral evil and an absence of good. Sin was introduce to the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed. It was a disruption of perfection... "

A wise man would have chosen to stop. But then, who said this guy was wise? He went on to argue that our sinful desires come from God (did he not read the verses from James I just posted??), since God created all things He must have created sin and that all is well with the world. He even stated that "Everything created, every person, every event, every thought, every desire, every choice is created, controlled and planned by God for the purpose of His ultimate glory. Amen." That's right. This guy genuinely believes God is ultimately glorified by our sin.
I could not believe it.
He went on to argue that the verse from Colossians should actually be used to support the argument that God created sin, since all means all. Now, please note that the verse I supplied from Colossians states that all things must cohere within God. If sin finds its coherence in God, then God cannot be perfect, righteous, holy, just, or true. In any case, as I pointed out, Galatians 5:17 states that the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit. The two are in conflict. God is not some great yin-and-yang type being in the sky who supports both good and evil. There is what is of Him and what is not of Him. Sin falls into the "not" category. The debate continued for a bit, two other people joined in... on Team Lie I might add, and eventually I pointed that fact out.
"Sin is an absence of something, not a presence. It is evil, a moral vacuum. How many ways can I describe the hole that sin is? As I already said, "Sin is godlessness. So, how can God be the inventor of the lack of Himself? You can't have A and not A at the same time." It's like asking the question "Is there anything God can't do?" You are trying to change the definitions of who God is and what sin is in order to somehow tie them together. Can I be any clearer except to say that sin is where and what God is not?... Sin is that which is contrary to the will of God.
If God does anything, it is His will, and therefore not sin."

Now, before I move on to the debate that this statement sparked, I'd like to point out a pertinent question someone else asked. Someone (who was a part of Team Truth) asked whether or not those on Team Lie believed that God actively intervened to keep people in their sin, or whether He merely passed over them, not extracting them from their sinful state. The answer came that these people believed God actively intervened to keep sinners sinning.
This is not what the Bible teaches of course, but you knew that.
Back to the first debate.
Someone, who was way out of his depth, tried to enter the conversation. He commented that there was no place God could not be, since that defies the definition of omnipresence. On the face of it, this is true. However, the individual would later go on to argue that God cannot be absent from something. If that is so, why did Jesus call out "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?" The inevitable answer was that forsake doesn't actually mean forsake.
Sigh.
You can't have A and not A at the same time. Sin is a hole. The sin state is an absence of God's grace. It is a state separating us from God. It holds us captive and keeps us in bondage. The sin action is what happens in that state. The sin action is a transgression against God's Divine will, something we do against Him or someone else. It is to do evil in the sight of God. It is to do what God forbids.
A member of Team Lie then tried to argue that sin is not contrary to the will of God. If anything is contrary to God's will then it will never be. They also tried to argue that sinner's are not slaves to their sin nature and that sin preceded the fall. All of these are wrong. Sin is lawlessness, not God's will and without God we are slaves to sin, as per Romans 6. Sin did not precede the fall. The first sin was the fall, resulting in the state which was then propagated throughout mankind resulting in more sin actions.
Then came the insults. It was inevitable. Apparently, my life is sad, I must be the sort of person that pushes everyone away, clearly I have no friends and blah blah blah blah blah. What are my credentials that make me feel I am so qualified to interpret the Bible? What makes me think I am a scholar? Don't I know the Scriptures cannot actually be known? I am desperately in need of a hermenuetics course, don't I know that? I really should be more careful in my choice of words.
Blah.
Blah blah.
Blah blah blah.
Etc...
Booooooooooring.
Why does everyone reach for the nearest possible insult when they are losing an argument and can't support their position anymore? And why are insults from these sorts of people never original? And why do Christians do this? If their position is the Scriptural one, then they should be able to support it easily. Instead, the individual who was out of his depth and wanted my "credentials" argued that "if you don't know how to interpret the Bible then every one of those verses is moot. And please don't give me some hoopla about the bible speaks for itself or something. Yeah, it does, but you don't have the tools to see how it does that." Later he stated that you interpret scripture by what how you think scripture interprets scripture. 21st century Christians don't have a clue how to interpret scripture.
Scripture.
Moot.
No, I am not kidding.
That is a direct quote in response to the verses I posted about God and sin. I must have found over a hundred. Not one indicated God has anything to do with it. Similarly, there is nothing to even remotely suggest He created it. I also dug up Calvin's position on sin, as well as the position of the Westminster Confession. Not surprisingly, they agree with Team Truth.
God did not create sin.
Sin entered the world through the fall of Adam.
The original poster decided it was time to feign spirituality again and say "But I'm sure you're well aware that the main point isn't when he became the author of sin, but the fact that he is the author of sin. The point is that everything, including sin (in general, and each historical sin of our lives individually) was planned by, purposed by, caused by, desired by, and for the glory of the one and only Creator, the Lord God Almighty. Amen."
By this time I was shaking my fist at the computer screen. Blasphemy!! I think these bursts of spiritualese were what bothered me the most. Not only was this individual impugning the character of God, he was trying to make himself sound holy at the same time. He went on to argue that it pleases God to create sin. I actually left the conversation for a little while, because I began to feel that this person was being disruptive for the sake of it. He argued, and I quote, "I have no ability to not commit whatever sin I commit today, because God wants it to happen."
No, that's not a joke.
The debate spilled over into another thread. The same people tried to argue that man is not responsible for his own actions, since God plans and ordains everything. If sin is man's choice, God cannot be sovereign. They continued to argue that the origin of sin cannot be known. The debate has been going on for over 2,000 years.
At this point, I feel I need to point out that just because a debate has been going on for a long time in no way implies that the subject of the debate has not been solved. There are many, many people out there arguing about whether we can know if God exists, where evil comes from, how the universe came to be and so on. However, all of these things have answers. Just because someone ignores that answer doesn't mean it doesn't exist. People ignore right answers all the time; it's a fact of life. I pointed this out but was told by the individual who was put of his depth that I was making a false dilemma. This individual eventually presented me with a cut-and-paste list of ten things he hates about me. The last point was that I should "be ashamed of [myself] to cause a brother in Christ to be so fed up with [me] that he has to copy and paste just to avoid [me]."
The butterfly effect was also discussed. I learned that part of the reason some feel God must ordain sin is that any decision made by man would necessarily run the risk of derailing God's plan. This is a synergistic position, only applied in the reverse. Man's actions can never derail the plan of God. In fact, nothing that we do, be it sin or righteousness, affects God's Will. Job 35:6-8 speaks to this point. God's Will is so far above us. What can He possibly receive from us? How can we possibly affect Him?
The conversation finally turned when someone posted this sermon by John MacArthur. Wouldn't you know it? MacArthur agrees with Team Truth. He says, and I quote
""Let me put it to you simply: God is not responsible for evil. His creatures are. God is not responsible for evil. His creatures are. Everything -- listen to this carefully -- that God created was "very" what? "Good." Everything. This is affirmed throughout the scripture....
The source of evil, the source of sin, is outside God....
To disobey God was to initiate evil. Evil is not the presence of something. Evil is the absence of righteousness. You can't create evil, because evil doesn't exist as a created entity. It doesn't exist as a created reality. Evil is a negative. Evil is the absence of perfection. It's the absence of holiness. It's the absence of goodness. It's the absence of righteousness....
Evil is not a created thing. Evil is not a substance. Evil is not an entity. Evil is not a being. Evil is not a force. Evil is not some floating spirit. Evil is a lack of moral perfection. God created absolute perfection. Wherever a lack of that exists, sin exists. And that cannot exist in the nature of God or in anything that God makes. Evil comes into existence when God's creatures fall short of the standard of moral perfection..."

All of a sudden, the members if Team Truth came crawling out of the woodworks. Within a short amount of time there were people posting "No, God did not create sin."
Then came the worst post of all. The original poster stated "I PRAISE God for my sin and yours. You cannot understand my position until you are willing to understand this. I THANK Him for my sin." Conveniently, he later chose to edit this blasphemy. However, I quoted him and retained his statement so that no one would miss it. Yes, this person actually said he was thankful to God for His sin. He later tried to argue that he was repentant in his thanks.
In case you were wondering, I am not thankful for my sin. I hate it. I have glaring faults I wish I didn't have. This goes for most of the Christians I know. In fact, I have never met a single Christians who is happy that they sin. Most people eagerly desire change.
Anyway, he also stated, I missed it at the time, that "I am far younger than you, but have been blessed with great wisdom by God. It's one of the very few strong skills he's given me." Despite the copious amount of Scripture now provided by myself and others, he wanted an explanation why his interpretation was not a good one.
I ended up saying that it was because according to the Bible, he was wrong.
What more could I say?
He began to argue that To arrive at the best interpretation, we should explain why we interpret it the way we do. That is, you explain why you interpret it the way you do, and I explain why I interpret it the way I do. Apparently, the best explanation would win out. The problem with this is that if an explanation or philosophical position leads one to a position that is contrary to Scripture, then it cannot be right. One must start with Scripture first and then arrive at a conclusion. One cannot begin with a conclusion and twist Scripture to fit it.
More people began to argue that God did not create sin. Some explanations were simple; others quite verbose. Someone found a blog entry by Phil Johnson on the subject.
Suddenly, the argument stopped. Those arguing for the divine creation of sin disappeared. They gave up without warning. I don't know if their minds were changed. In the case of the original poster, I am certain the answer is no.
I was deeply saddened by my experience. At least some of the members of Team Lie were students. This leads me to believe that some of this teaching is happening at the seminary level. This does not bode well for the future generation of ministers.
If you ever come in contact with this belief, and the individual tells you they are a Calvinist, tell them they aren't. They aren't even a Christian. The entire line of argument is not only heresy, but blasphemy as well.
And, if you ever want that list of Scriptures, just ask. I have heaps on the subject. Incidentally, I was never provided with a verse supporting the notion that God creates sin.
Surprise, surprise.

10/25/2007

Scripture: The Defense Against Heresy

The word heresy needs to be reintroduced into the vernacular of the common Christian. There are some who will find that to be a shocking statement. Nevertheless, in recent weeks I have come to feel that it is true. There are a great many false doctrines out there masquerading as Biblical teaching. If Christians do not learn how to identify a heresy and label it as such with boldness, they put themselves at great spiritual peril.
There are those who teach Jesus is not the Son of God. He was just a good man. This is a heresy. If Jesus is not Divine, then we are lost. If Jesus is not Divine, then John 1 is a lie.
There are those who teach that God requires man. They teach the will of man can thwart the plan of God. They teach that without the cooperation of man, God's will cannot come to fruition. This is a heresy. If God depends on us, then He is not omnipotent. If God requires us, then Job 35: 6-8 is a lie.
A variation on this teaching is that God never forces anyone to do anything they don't want to. My assumption is that these people have not read Jonah.
Some teach that Christ did not die to atone for our sins. Such a death would be indicative of a vindictive, bloodthirsty God. Instead they teach that Christ's death merely shows us God's willingness to forgive. They teach that man has the ability within himself to follow the whole law, never sin and as a result is ultimately responsible for his own salvation. They also teach that we did not inherit Adam's sin. One wonders if they have ever read the book of Romans.
A variation on this teaching is that salvation can be lost one day but regained the next.
Others teach that salvation is merely intellectual assent to the fact that Christ died for salvation from sin. They teach that spiritual fruits are not a necessary aspect of the Christian walk. They also teach that repentance is unnecessary. Clearly, they have never read Mark 1:15. Incidentally, part of this teaching includes the notion that Jesus can be your Saviour, but not your Lord. One does not have to make Him Lord of their life, as though that is what actually happens.
There are those that teach God created and ordains evil. This is not only heresy, but blasphemy. To suggest that God has anything to do with evil is to impugn the character of God. All of Scripture speaks to the contrary. In fact, there is no Scripture that suggests God created evil or has anything to do with it. I came across this belief a few weeks ago, much to my dismay. I was saddened by the fact that anyone claiming to be a Christian could ever suggest such a thing. Sadness eventually gave way to anger and then sheer outrage.
There are those that teach Scripture cannot be understood by the common man. It can never really be known. One cannot know for sure that their interpretation is correct. Furthermore, they teach that Scripture does not stand alone. It can only be understood if one has the correct tool. This heresy is perhaps the most subtle of them all. It is the least obvious to detect and in someways the most dangerous. This particular heresy allows all the others to go unchallenged, thereby allowing them to spread. The words "that's what you believe" or "that's what you were taught" or "that verse doesn't really mean that" (when really it does) not only shut down useful conversation and debate, but they prohibit anyone from pointing out a heretical belief.
If no one can understand and interpret Scripture, then no one can be right. If no one can be right, then no one can be wrong either. Our sword is suddenly very blunt. How can we combat something unscriptural if we can't know what is Scriptural?
We can't.
In fact, we must be able to know and discern what Scripture says. If we cannot, then the Bible cannot be God's revelation to us. It cannot be His inspired Word. Paul wrote to Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) How could he say this if Timothy could not expect to know what the Scriptures mean? Of course he could expect to know!
The Bible is one of the few books in the world that interprets itself, perhaps the only book. If one does not immediately understand a particular concept, simply search for it elsewhere in Scripture. Want proof that God didn't create sin? Search for sin and God. There are probably hundred of verses that indicate God has no part of sin. Want to know if the Bible permits illicit lifestyles? Look it up. Can't find the exact word? Search for a related concept. I guarantee you'll find it. In fact, I am prepared to say that almost any behaviour can be argued for or against with Scripture.
How do we learn what Scripture says?
One first begins with prayer. Then, study, study, study.
You can know what the Bible says. You can understand the meaning of Scripture.
That's why it exists.
Anton Bosch Ministries has an excellent series on discernment, by the way. I found it through Herescope, another excellent site.

10/23/2007

Faith Based Schools in Sweden

In the fight against fundamentalist Islam, Sweden has made a near fatal misstep.
STOCKHOLM (AFP) — The Swedish government on Monday presented a series of proposals banning public and independent schools from introducing religious elements into their classes except during religion lessons. Religious elements "can take place ... but only outside of coursework. Teaching should not be influenced" by religious beliefs, Swedish Education Minister Jan Bjoerklund told reporters. He said religion could still be studied at school as a separate subject but other classes could in no way be influenced by religious convictions.

One has to ask what the point of faith based education is if one cannot teach their faith.
For example, the origin of human life would have to be explained from a scientific point of view and not a religious one, he said. The Swedish government also plans to allocate additional funds to carry out controls on schools, sometimes unannounced.

Unannounced?
So they can what? Check up on the school to ensure religion isn't being taught? Yikes! Did the draftees of this piece of legislation not see the slippery slope they put themselves on?
The measures presented Monday would be included in new education legislation which is to be presented to parliament for a vote. They would apply to public schools as well as independent schools, which also receive funding from the state. Private schools are exempt.

And therein lies the rub.
Recall my chief concern about Tory's proposed funding plan for faith based schools. Here it is in action. The government offers faith based schools money. However, in order to obtain this money, a few small conditions must be accepted. These conditions always appear harmless at first; what people forget is that a small amount of interference eventually leads to control. If a government gives you money, they always retain the right to tell you what to do with it. What happens when the governments wishes contradict the will of God?
One must always be exceedingly careful when accepting money from the government. Sometimes there are strings attached. Strings wind themselves into ropes and eventually become nooses.
Sweden has some 800 independent schools, both primary and secondary. According to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, about 10 percent of these schools have a religious profile. Bjoerklund said the initiative would help improve transparency about the financing of these schools. He cited the case of an independent Muslim school that had received financial aid from a fundamentalist Islamic organisation in Saudi Arabia.

This is the problem with our age of "tolerance." In the interests of "fairness" The Swedish government has proposed tight measures limiting all government funded religious education. However, only one religion (and not even all of it) is a problem.
This legislation still needs to be voted on. It is my sincere hope that it will not pass.

10/19/2007

Crime: A Matter of Confidence

Media take on crime legislation: Canada.com , CTV, Globe & Mail, PoliticsWatch

Bill C-2, also known as the Tackling Violent Crime Act, is a combination of five crime bills from last Parliament. Three of the five bills had already passed the Commons and were in the Senate. One had finished the Commons committee stage and the fifth was midway through it. As all five bills died on the order paper with the prorogation of Parliament, they have been bundled together into one massive piece of legislation. Since dealing with crime is one of the five key priorities of the Throne Speech, the Conservatives have made this piece of legislation a matter of confidence. It's defeat would mean an election.
It's fairly unlikely that this piece of legislation will be voted down. Most of it has already been agreed upon by the government and opposition parties. Indeed, four of the revived bills included all of the compromises already made with the opposition. There may only be some small amount of wrangling over the dangerous offenders portion.
In other words, right now there is much ado about nothing.
However, upon reflection, I would suggest that crime legislation should always be a matter of confidence. How a government chooses to deal with criminals is perhaps one of the most significant indications of its ability to govern. It is even more important than its ability to manage a budget. What should a government choose to punish? How harsh should punishments be? The key end of a government is to facilitate the peaceful life of its citizens. While there may many ways to achieve this end, there can be no doubt that criminals are an obstruction to that end and as such must be dealt with accordingly. How a government deals with criminals has a direct impact on the ability of its citizens to live in peace.
And, for the record, I am thrilled to hear that the age of sexual consent will be raised back to 16. It should never have been lowered in the first place.

10/17/2007

Dion: Worst Liberal Leader Ever

Bring on the tax cuts. If Dion's speech is any indication, we will not be heading to the polls anytime soon.
And what a disgraceful speech it was. First of all, the man can barely talk. If you want to run for office, then fluency in both official languages is a must. Secondly, if you are going to trash the throne speech, then you should be willing to stand on your convictions and vote it down.
Instead, the Liberals have decided to blame the Canadian population. Apparently, we don't want an election. As such, they will propose amendments to the throne speech. If the Conservatives do not accept the amendments, the plan is to abstain from voting. This way, the government will not be brought down over any of the more "controversial" issues (such as Kyoto or Afghanistan) and Parliament can continue as normal.
So, what was the point of Dion's speech?
If he isn't going to do anything, why even bother speaking?
If the plan is more Liberal inaction, people really don't want to hear about it. And did anyone in the Liberal caucus actually think this lack of plan would make them look brave or worthy of leading our country? All the posturing in the world is not going to impress the Canadian public if there is no substance behind it, especially in light of the fact that Dion's speech was full of accusations that the government was "playing politics."
The Liberals could be engineering their own demise. If they do not step up to the plate and stand for something, they could find themselves on the Opposition for some time to come.

10/16/2007

Throne Speech Transcript

Full text here

Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.
16 October 2007
Honourable Senators,
Members of the House of Commons,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to address the first words in this chamber to the members of the Canadian Forces, some of whom are present here today. Their commitment and courage in the name of justice, equality and freedom—whose benefits are not accorded to all peoples in the world—are worthy of our utmost respect.

The Speech from the Throne is an important moment in our country’s democratic life. Through the Speech from the Throne, the Government shares its vision with Canadians. And it is thus that we open the Second Session of the Thirty Ninth Parliament today.

Fifty years ago, on October 14, 1957, during her first visit to Canada as its Sovereign, and for the first time in Canadian history, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the First Session of the Twenty-Third Parliament.

This room is filled with history, and we mark history again this year as we celebrate a number of anniversaries. I think, in particular, of the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in the British Empire. I also think of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Citizenship Act on January 1, 1947. And I think of the 40th anniversary of the Order of Canada, whose one hundredth investiture ceremony we will soon be celebrating at Rideau Hall.

And although Canada is a young country, its history is marked by our unwavering willingness—which I was touched to see all across Canada—to be and to continue to be a generous society. A society that is concerned about the well being of others. A society that is protective of the spirit of this bountiful land, a deep respect learned from Aboriginal peoples. A society that is committed to finding solutions to today’s challenges. A society that is open to creation and quick to innovate. A society that is filled with young people who have an unprecedented openness to the world.


Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.

Canada is the greatest country in the world, a nation of enormous potential built through the imagination and dedication of ordinary Canadians. Canadians who have worked hard to build a better life for their families. Canadians who have joined with their neighbours to create a society founded on peace and prosperity.

Canada is their legacy to us.

Canadians expect their government to help them build on this legacy. They want a government that sets clear goals and delivers concrete results. A government that is accountable. A government that puts Canadians and their families first.

Our Government has worked hard to meet these expectations. Canadians now have more money in their pockets because taxes have been cut. Families now have real choice in child care through the Universal Child Care Benefit. Canadians now have a government committed to helping them get the medical care they need more quickly. A government that is tackling crime and making neighbourhoods safer.

The results are clear: the economy is strong, the government is clean and the country is united.

Now is the time to continue building a better Canada. In the next session, our Government will focus on five clear priorities: strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world; building a stronger federation; providing effective economic leadership; continuing to tackle crime; and improving our environment.


Strengthening Canada’s Sovereignty and Place in the World

Canada is built on a common heritage of values, which Canadians have fought and died to defend. It is a country that continues to attract newcomers seeking refuge and opportunity, who see Canada as a place where they can work hard, raise families and live in freedom. Our Government is resolved to uphold this heritage by protecting our sovereignty at home and living by our values abroad.

The Arctic is an essential part of Canada’s history. One of our Fathers of Confederation, D’Arcy McGee, spoke of Canada as a northern nation, bounded by the blue rim of the ocean. Canadians see in our North an expression of our deepest aspirations: our sense of exploration, the beauty and the bounty of our land, and our limitless potential.

But the North needs new attention. New opportunities are emerging across the Arctic, and new challenges from other shores. Our Government will bring forward an integrated northern strategy focused on strengthening Canada’s sovereignty, protecting our environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development, and improving and devolving governance, so that northerners have greater control over their destinies.

To take advantage of the North’s vast opportunities, northerners must be able to meet their basic needs. Our Government will work to continue to improve living conditions in the North for First Nations and Inuit through better housing.

Our Government will build a world-class arctic research station that will be on the cutting edge of arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development. This station will be built by Canadians, in Canada’s Arctic, and it will be there to serve the world.

As part of asserting sovereignty in the Arctic, our Government will complete comprehensive mapping of Canada’s Arctic seabed. Never before has this part of Canada’s ocean floor been fully mapped.

Defending our sovereignty in the North also demands that we maintain the capacity to act. New arctic patrol ships and expanded aerial surveillance will guard Canada’s Far North and the Northwest Passage. As well, the size and capabilities of the Arctic Rangers will be expanded to better patrol our vast Arctic territory.

Ensuring our capacity to defend Canada’s sovereignty is at the heart of the Government’s efforts to rebuild the Canadian Forces. Canada’s men and women in uniform risk their lives for their country, and deserve the equipment and training required for a first-class, modern military. Our Government will modernize Canada’s military to provide effective surveillance and protection for all of our country, cooperate in the defence of North America, and meet our responsibilities abroad to the United Nations and our allies. Further, recognizing the important role that the Reserves play in this modernization, our Government will work with the provinces and territories to bring forward a comprehensive plan to modernize reservist reinstatement policies.

At the same time as our Government rebuilds to meet our future needs, it will continue to improve support for our veterans who have contributed so much to defending Canada in the past.

Rebuilding our capabilities and standing up for our sovereignty have sent a clear message to the world: Canada is back as a credible player on the international stage. Our Government believes that focus and action, rather than rhetoric and posturing, are restoring our influence in global affairs. Guided by our shared values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law, our Government will continue Canada’s international leadership through concrete actions that bring results.

A commitment to action means that Canada must make common cause with those fighting for the values we uphold. Our Government will immediately call upon Parliament to confer honorary citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi. Her long struggle to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Burma has made her the embodiment of these ideals and an inspiration to all of us.

Nowhere is Canada making a difference more clearly than in Afghanistan. Canada has joined the United Nations-sanctioned mission in Afghanistan because it is noble and necessary. Canadians understand that development and security go hand in hand. Without security, there can be no humanitarian aid, no reconstruction and no democratic development. Progress will be slow, but our efforts are bearing fruit. There is no better measure of this progress than the four million Afghan boys and two million girls who can dream of a better future because they now go to school.

The Canadian Forces mission has been approved by Parliament until February 2009, and our Government has made clear to Canadians and our allies that any future military deployments must also be supported by a majority of parliamentarians. In the coming session, members will be asked to vote on the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. This decision should honour the dedication and sacrifice of Canada’s development workers, diplomats and men and women in uniform. It should ensure that progress in Afghanistan is not lost and that our international commitments and reputation are upheld.

Our Government does not believe that Canada should simply abandon the people of Afghanistan after February 2009. Canada should build on its accomplishments and shift to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police so that the Afghan government can defend its own sovereignty. This will not be completed by February 2009, but our Government believes this objective should be achievable by 2011, the end of the period covered by the Afghanistan Compact. Our Government has appointed an independent panel to advise Canadians on how best to proceed given these considerations.

In our own neighbourhood, the Americas, Canada is back playing an active role. The Canadian model of constitutional democracy and economic openness combined with social safety nets, equitable wealth creation and sharing across regions has much to offer those countries struggling to build a better future.

Canada’s efforts in Haiti are a compelling example of how we can work with our neighbours to ensure security and development. Canadians understand that our country has a responsibility to help countries struggling to make a better life for their people—particularly in promoting democratic governance in fragile states. In Haiti and elsewhere, our Government will bring greater focus and effectiveness to Canada’s international assistance to ensure that Canadians’ money is well spent.

The best hope for fostering development and our common security in the hemisphere and beyond is through bolstering international trade. Through renewed focus on trade and investment arrangements, Canada has already secured a deal with the European Free Trade Association, the first new agreement in more than half a decade. Our Government will keep advancing Canada’s trade interests in the Americas and around the world to open up new markets for Canada’s innovators.


Strengthening the Federation and our Democratic Institutions

Next year we mark important anniversaries spanning our country and its history. We will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. Canada was born in French, reflected in the presence of francophones throughout Canada, and in Parliament’s recognition that the Québécois form a nation within our united country. We will also celebrate the 250th anniversary of the establishment of Nova Scotia’s representative assembly, which marks the birth of Canadian parliamentary democracy, and the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Crown Colony of British Columbia.

John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier and the other Fathers of Confederation brought many peoples and regions together to create a federation that has served Canadians well for 140 years. Our Government is committed to strengthening that union: it has concentrated on its national role by reinvesting in neglected federal responsibilities, such as trade, defence, public safety and security. It has put fiscal relations with provinces and territories on a principled basis and increased the level of transfers to support quality health care and social services.

Our Government believes that the constitutional jurisdiction of each order of government should be respected. To this end, guided by our federalism of openness, our Government will introduce legislation to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This legislation will allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.

Our Government will also pursue the federal government’s rightful leadership in strengthening Canada’s economic union. Despite the globalization of markets, Canada still has a long way to go to establish free trade among our provinces. It is often harder to move goods and services across provincial boundaries than across our international borders. This hurts our competitive position but, more importantly, it is just not the way a country should work. Our Government will consider how to use the federal trade and commerce power to make our economic union work better for Canadians.

Canadians understand that the federation is only as strong as the democratic institutions that underpin it. Our Government believes that Canada is not well served by the Senate in its current form. To ensure that our institutions reflect our shared commitment to democracy, our Government will continue its agenda of democratic reform by reintroducing important pieces of legislation from the last session, including direct consultations with voters on the selection of Senators and limitations on their tenure. In addition, the integrity of our federal voting system will be further strengthened through measures to confirm the visual identification of voters.

Our Government supports Canada’s linguistic duality. It will renew its commitment to official languages in Canada by developing a strategy for the next phase of the Action Plan for Official Languages.

Our Government remains committed to improving the lives of Canada’s Aboriginal people. The Government will reintroduce legislation to guarantee to people living on reserve the same protections other Canadians enjoy under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Our Government will also present legislation on specific claims, which will finally bring fairness and timely resolution to the claims process.

Our Government recently concluded a final settlement on Indian Residential Schools and will launch a commission for truth and reconciliation. The Prime Minister, on behalf of our Government, will use this occasion to make a statement of apology to close this sad chapter in our history.


Providing Effective Economic Leadership for a Prosperous Future

This is a time of economic uncertainty and volatility in the wider world. While the economic fundamentals of our country are strong, Canada is not immune from this turbulence. Canadians understand these challenges and want a government that is a competent and effective manager of the economy.

With Advantage Canada, our Government has laid out a sensible economic plan to secure better-paying jobs and solid growth for Canadians. The Minister of Finance will soon provide a Fall Economic and Fiscal Update, which will outline the next steps in that plan to ensure that Canada has a modern infrastructure, an innovative and entrepreneurial business environment, and a tax system that rewards hard work—all based on a foundation of sound fiscal management.

As part of ensuring economic security for Canadians, our Government will bring forward a long-term plan of broad-based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families—including following through on its commitment to a further cut to the GST. To complement this, our Government will support Canadian researchers and innovators in developing new ideas and bringing them to the marketplace through Canada’s Science and Technology Strategy. Our Government will improve the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights in Canada, including copyright reform. Our Government will also take measures to improve the governance and management of the Employment Insurance Account.

The bedrock of our workforce is middle-class Canadians and their families. These families worry about the rising costs of higher education and the expense of caring for elderly parents. They worry about affordable housing and the number of homeless people on our streets. Our Government is committed to helping Canadian families meet their needs. The Working Income Tax Benefit will help Canadians get back into the workforce, and the registered disability savings plan will help families care for children with severe disabilities. Our Government will continue to invest in our families and our future, and will help those seeking to break free from the cycles of homelessness and poverty.

Our Government will announce an infrastructure program, the Building Canada Plan, to support our long-term growth. By investing in our transport and trade hubs, including the Windsor–Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways, our Government will help rebuild our fundamentals for continued growth.

The result will be safer roads and bridges, shorter commutes, more competitive business, improved cultural infrastructure and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

Our Government will stand up for Canada’s traditional industries. Key sectors including forestry, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism are facing challenges. Our Government has taken action to support workers as these industries adjust to global conditions and will continue to do so in the next session.

The agricultural sector will benefit from our Government’s promotion of biofuels and the new Growing Forward agricultural framework. Our Government will recognize the views of farmers, as expressed in the recent plebiscite on barley, by enacting marketing choice. Together with our Government’s strong support for Canada’s supply-managed system, these approaches will deliver stable, predictable and bankable support for farm families.

Our mining and resource sectors present extraordinary opportunities across Canada, and our Government will help move forward by providing a single window for major project approvals. With these increased opportunities for employment, our Government will continue to foster partnerships that help Aboriginal people get the skills and training to take advantage of these job prospects in the North and across Canada.


Tackling Crime and Strengthening the Security of Canadians

Canada was founded on the principles of peace, order and good government. This is the birthright of all Canadians; yet Canadians feel less safe today and rightly worry about the security of their neighbourhoods and the country. There is no greater responsibility for a government than to protect this right to safety and security.

In the last session, our Government introduced important and timely legislation to tackle violent crime. Unfortunately much of this legislation did not pass. That is not good enough to maintain the confidence of Canadians. Our Government will immediately reintroduce these measures with a single, comprehensive Tackling Violent Crime bill to protect Canadians and their communities from violent criminals and predators. This will include measures on the age of protection, impaired driving, dangerous offenders and stricter bail and mandatory prison sentences for those who commit gun crimes. Canadians expect prompt passage of this crucial legislation.

Our Government will go further with a Safer Communities strategy to deal with the critical intersection of drug, youth and property crime. Our Government will strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure that young offenders who commit serious crimes are held accountable to victims and their communities. Our Government will introduce tough new laws to tackle property crime, including the serious problem of auto theft. New measures to address elder abuse and to curb identity theft will also be introduced. Our Government will implement the National Anti-Drug Strategy giving law enforcement agencies powers to take on those who produce and push drugs on our streets.

In addition to tougher laws, our Government will provide targeted support to communities and victims. It will help families and local communities in steering vulnerable youth away from a life of drugs and crime, and the Anti-Drug Strategy will help to treat those suffering from drug addiction. It will again ask Parliament to repeal the wasteful long-gun registry. Our Government will also ensure effective law enforcement—starting with resources to recruit 2,500 more officers to police our streets.

The concern of Canadians in protecting our communities extends naturally to protecting our country against threats to our national security: those who would attack the peaceful pluralism of our society through acts of terrorism. Canada has experienced the tragedy of terrorism before. The report from the public inquiry into the Air India bombing will be an important contribution to safeguarding the lives of Canadians in the future.

Our Government will address Canadians directly on the challenge of protecting our free and open society with a statement on national security. The Government will introduce legislation to make sure that Canada has the tools it needs to stop those who would threaten our cities, communities and families, including measures to strengthen the Anti-Terrorism Act and to respond to the Supreme Court decision on security certificates.


Improving the Environment and Health of Canadians

Threats to our environment are a clear and present danger that now confronts governments around the world. This is nowhere more evident than in the growing challenge of climate change.

Our Government believes that action is needed now to ensure our quality of life, particularly for those most vulnerable to health threats from the environment—our children and seniors.

Climate change is a global issue and requires a global solution. Our Government believes strongly that an effective global approach to greenhouse gas emissions must have binding targets that apply to all major emitters, including Canada. Canada has already engaged the international community at APEC, the G8 and the United Nations and will continue to press for a new international agreement that cuts global emissions in half by 2050.

As we pursue a global consensus, Canada is acting even more aggressively at home. Our Government will implement our national strategy to reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 70 percent by 2050. There will be a 20 percent reduction by 2020. Our Government will bring forward the elements from Canada’s Clean Air Act, which had all-party consensus, for parliamentary consideration.

This strategy will institute binding national regulations on greenhouse gas emissions across all major industrial sectors—with requirements for emissions reductions starting this year. Our Government will also bring forward the first ever national air pollution regulations. In so doing, our Government will put Canada at the forefront of clean technologies to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Our Government will also establish a carbon emissions trading market that will give business the incentive to run cleaner, greener operations.

At the end of 2005, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions were 33 percent above the Kyoto commitment. It is now widely understood that, because of inaction on greenhouse gases over the last decade, Canada’s emissions cannot be brought to the level required under the Kyoto Protocol within the compliance period, which begins on January 1, 2008, just 77 days from now.

The world is moving on to address climate change and the environment, and Canada intends to help lead the effort at home and abroad.

Beyond regulating greenhouse gases and air pollution, our Government has also acted to protect sensitive areas, including a massive expansion of Nahanni National Park, and preserving the Great Bear Rainforest, Point Pleasant Park and Stanley Park. Through our new infrastructure plan, our Government will promote a cleaner environment by investing in public transport and water treatment, and by cleaning up contaminated sites. A new water strategy will be implemented to help clean up our major lakes and oceans and to improve access to safe drinking water for First Nations.

In the past, environmental legislation and regulation have had little impact because they have lacked an effective enforcement regime. In the coming session, our Government will bolster the protection of our water and land through tougher environmental enforcement that will make polluters accountable.

Environmental protection is not just about protecting nature. It is about the health of Canadians. Recent events have called into question the safety of basic products such as food for our families and toys for our children.

Our Government shares the concern of parents about the safety of consumer products and food. Canadians should expect the same standards of quality from imported goods as they do from products made at home. The Government will introduce measures on food and product safety to ensure that families have confidence in the quality and safety of what they buy.


Conclusion: The North Star

Canadians can be proud of their country and its achievements. Working together we have built a nation that is prosperous and safe; a land where merit trumps privilege; a place where people from around the world live in harmony; a federation that is united at home and respected abroad.

Like the North Star, Canada has been a guide to other nations; through difficult times, Canada has shone as an example of what a people joined in common purpose can achieve. Yet Canada’s greatest strength lies in its energy and determination to move forward and build a better future.

Our Government is committed to strong leadership to realize that future. A Canada proud of its leadership in the world and confident in its economic future. A Canada built on a strong federation and a robust democracy. A Canada that is safe for our families and healthy for our children.

Canadians, standing on a proud history, look onto a horizon as limitless as the promise of our country. It is up to us to build on the legacy we have inherited, to seize the opportunities of the future, and to bring about an even better Canada for our children.

May your deliberations be guided by Divine Providence, may your wisdom and patriotism enlarge the prosperity of the country and promote in every way the well-being of its people.

Throne Speech

The official opening of the second session of the 39th Parliament is on CPAC now. It is the 142nd Throne Speech. I will try to find the transcript later.

Elected Senator

According to this story at PoliticsWatch, Canada's second elected senator was sworn in today. Bert Brown, a Conservative, won two elections in 1998 and in 2004 to be the province of Alberta's Senate appointment. These elections were ignored by the Liberals, and Brown did not receive his seat until today.
I am in support of Senate reform, and am very happy with Harper's choice. Appointing elected members is an excellent first step. All Senators should be elected, and their terms should be limited. As it stands, Senators are generally paid too much to do too little. They are accountable to no one, and this must change.

Throne Speech Today

Governor General Michaelle Jean will deliver the Conservative Party's throne speech tonight. There can be up to six days of debate on the throne speech, during which time the government will face up to three confidence votes. Not surprisingly, speculation abounds as to whether or not we are headed to the polls.
The throne speech is expected to describe the Kyoto targets as irrelevant and unattainable. Tax cuts are also expected to be introduced, though it is unclear what type. While the Bloc and the NDP are sure to oppose the throne speech, it is uncertain whether the Liberals will support it and embarrass themselves, or oppose it and trigger an election they are not ready for. Typically, the Official Opposition is supposed to oppose the throne speech. However, the Liberals know they cannot afford or win another election. It would be against Liberal pragmatism to force themselves into such a bad situation; they would assuredly be the biggest losers in another election.
Dion is unelectable. Harper is nearing majority territory. As I see it, this is a win-win situation for Harper and the Conservatives. If the throne speech passes and the Conservatives are given a new mandate to govern, then that can only be a good thing for both them and the Canadian population. If the throne speech fails, then they really have no opposition and could find themselves with a majority government.
As an aside, if anything can be said of Harper, it is that he must be one of the most astute Prime Ministers this country has ever had. His Conservative government is a perfect example of how a minority government can be made to work. There just needs to be someone of strong temperament at the helm.

10/11/2007

A Crushing Defeat

I can't say that I am overly surprised the PC's lost the election. I am disappointed that the Liberals were handed another majority. The referendum didn't pass either. Of the 52% of the voting population that turned out, nearly 2/3 voted the idea of multi-member proportional representation down.
I didn't even vote for the MPP in my riding. It's not that I don't like Tim Hudak. I do. I think he's very competent. However, neither my husband or I could bring ourselves to vote for Tory. He just isn't our idea of what a Conservative should be. What is such a liberal doing in the PC party anyway?
His campaign was truly inept. While it's true that the media chose to focus on funding for religious education, McGuinty did so many things wrong as premier that Tory should have had an easy ride. Does everyone forget that Caledonia has still not properly been resolved? Is the collective attention span of our population that short? Instead, Tory couldn't even get elected in the riding he was running in.
My hope is that his days are numbered.
Hopefully next time the PC's will pick a truly Conservative leader.
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