Sunday, February 25, 2007

Freedom to be Heard: An Open Letter to the Speaker of the House

Mr Speaker:

Thank you for accepting the responsibility of maintaining order in the House of Commons. As in any house, it is understood that there are rules of decorum to ensure peace and order and to allow for positive interaction.

Every schoolchild in our great country has been taught certain rules of behaviour to ensure order in the classroom and to allow every other child an opportunity to speak and to be heard. The simplest of these rules, but the most difficult to practice, is the admonition not to interrupt when someone else is speaking. The practical corollary is that one must value the time and opinions of others and therefore must not occupy the floor indefinitely, giving both time and place for others to express themselves. These simple courtesies, like all ethical courtesies emanate from the Golden Rule regarding human interaction: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

It is unthinkable, in the great House of Commons, whose honourable members are chosen by the great people of this great land, that those members should behave toward one another in a manner less courteous, less polite and less honourable than that expected of every schoolchild.

In our country, for which men and women have died, we place a high value on freedom of speech…and rightly so. That freedom, that privilege, that courtesy---predates Canada’s founding, and is in evidence in every truly civilized nation in the world. Freedom of speech must be accompanied by freedom to be heard. If the opinions of some speakers in the House of Commons are drowned out by hisses and catcalls, we have dishonoured the house and denied representation to those people whose chosen member has been denied the freedom to be heard. Technology has taken us from sound exposition to the soundbite. The decay of public morality and ethics has turned soundbites into biting sounds. It used to be said “His bark is worse than his bite.” Today, we may say that the bark is the bite. Mr. Speaker, if only the loudest voices, only the angriest, only the rudest are allowed to be heard, Canada will become a nation governed by the loud, the angry and the rude. That must not be.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that while the House sits you exercise that necessary level of oversight to ensure that every member of the House may be heard. By exercising the special authority granted to you over the affairs of the House, to encourage full and free debate, full of thoughtful considerations and free of snide contempt for those we address as “honourable”, without partisan pandering, you may be remembered as the Speaker who raised the level of respect and honour among the honourable members both within and without the chambers of the House of Commons.

Thank you,
Rod Taylor

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Income Splitting and the Family-Friendly Tax Credit

Two building blocks of a successful economic policy to support Canadian families have long been championed by the Christian Heritage Party of Canada---income splitting and the family-friendly tax credit.

Income splitting would allow the most generous tax regime for a household whether both spouses are working or not. This would level the playing field so that a married couple with one spouse earning a high income and the other spouse nurturing children and keeping the household sane would pay the same tax as a home where both parents work at a lower salary and earn the same combined household income. Over time, this arrangement would benefit parents with children and would tend to support the choice of raising the next generation of Canadians---an outcome very important in light of Canada's "birth dearth". (If not for immigration, Canada's population would be in decline today. This demographic shift is becoming more obvious every day as our nursing homes are crowded and our schools are closing down for lack of students)

The CHP's family-friendly tax credit, granting a $1,000 per month tax credit to families where one parent is at home, nurturing and guiding their school-age children, provides similar practical support for the embattled Canadian family. In the upheavals we know as modern society, any move to re-establish the home as the place of security and training for our youth is a welcome effort.

Some have wondered about the economic costs of such policies. Our view is that any increased burden on the taxpayer will be more than offset by reduced unemployment as more parents are able to stay home where they really want to be, opening up existing jobs for those currently out of work. Others will start home businesses, injecting creativity and cash back into their communities. The social and economic benefits to Canada of having more stable families and more children enjoying a parent's close contact would be felt early and last well into the next few generations.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Modern Inconveniences

Last night we attended a showing of “An Inconvenient Truth”, the movie produced by former US Vice President, Al Gore. The movie is an incredibly powerful media production. The graphics are awesome, the story compelling and the interleaving of scientific data about CO2 levels and global warming with Mr. Gore’s own personal story is superbly executed. In rough summary, the movie posits that mankind has raised CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere far beyond any historical levels, that that condition has created an insulating blanket, trapping the sun’s rays and, if unchecked, will result in the melting of the polar ice caps, the raising of world sea levels by 20 feet, the flooding of all the world’s largest port cities, the destruction of wildlife species and other dire consequences too numerous to mention here.

Everyone should see the movie. Before seeing it though, it may be helpful to reflect on a few other “inconvenient truths” conveniently ignored.

-While the theory of “greenhouse gases” is widely believed and is generally credible, it is still a theory. Mr. Gore said there was basically “no” disagreement within the scientific community. This is false. Of course, this does not imply we should be complacent about pollution, CO2 emissions or the rampant over-consumption of non-renewable resources. If we care about the earth, our children and about living a life that’s pleasing to the Creator, we must diligently evaluate our lifestyles and our national policies regarding energy, pollution and recycling. As stewards of the earth, we have been entrusted by God to care for our environment. We are to respectfully share the goodness and richness of this fragile planet, not only with our neighbours but also with our grandchildren.

-Using ice-core samples and tiny trapped air bubbles, which Mr. Gore claims are 650,000years old, he says the atmospheric temperatures existing when the ice froze can be determined by the measurement of “isotopes”. I do not believe that scientists are able to determine with any accuracy either the age of those ice core samples or the average atmospheric temperatures of the year the ice was formed. I can tell you though, what the temperature was the day the water froze. It was zero degrees Celsius. I believe, of course, in a much younger planet than the one Mr. Gore describes. I believe about 4,000 years ago, our great-great-grandfather Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives were floating over the land masses which we now call continents in a large wooden boat we now call the ark. This was after the first rain, which turned out to be a real gully-washer.

-The Great Flood of Noah’s day, which destroyed all but eight of the world’s citizens and most of the animal life of that time, was a judgment of God the Creator. He wiped the slate because of the wickedness of man and the violence, greed and lust rampant in the earth. Because of Noah’s unique faithfulness, God spared him and commanded him to preserve a remnant of all the animal life we have today (as well as many which have since gone extinct). At that time ALL the earth’s species were endangered.

-Almighty God, the One who created the earth, and its atmosphere, the One who created the sun, the moon and the stars, the One who set the planets in motion and who is the source of all energy---He is able to save or destroy. He put the earth at a 23 ½ degree-tilt, thus creating the seasons. He created wind and water. He created oxygen and gave us lungs. He alone has the right and the authority to set standards for man’s moral behaviour. It is He who has said “Do not commit murder.” When He observes our social life today, He sees over 100,000 babies being killed each year in Canada alone and millions across the globe. He sees the greed and the lust and the violence we tolerate and encourage in this land, in our media and in our economy. If He once judged the earth for these things, why should He not do it again? My question is: Without discarding the science around greenhouse gases and global warming, perhaps our moral pollution is at least as great a cause of the climatic turmoil we are observing today.

-After the waters of the Great Flood dissipated, the earth’s surface dried and our ancestors emerged from the ark, bringing the entire animal kingdom with them, God made a covenant with Noah, his children (that includes us) and all living things. He promised to never again destroy the entire earth by flood. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow. God reinforces His promise with these words: “…neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Gen. 8)

-There is, however, a time coming in the future when “…the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Peter 3)

Do these promises of God give us an excuse to treat the earth carelessly or take for granted the great privilege of living in this place of stunning beauty, together with the awesome biodiversity of plant and animal life? Does it mean we can burn up all the oil and coal and natural gas, polluting as we go, without regard for future generations, or pollute the lakes and rivers?

No, God forbid. Paul tells us to “use the world and not abuse it.” John tells us in Revelation that “the Lord will destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev. 11) Speaking through the prophet Ezekiel (ch 34), the Lord rebukes the powerful elite of that day using this illustration, comparing them with cattle: “Does it seem a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?” Contained in that rebuke is the admonition to be respectful of creation, of the resources we’ve been given.

The fact that the creation is “groaning, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God”---that we have distressing conditions in our waters, our forests and our air---should motivate us to become better stewards, better nurturers of this planet. It does not belong to us. It belongs to Him!

Likewise our own bodies, our social structures, our families, our justice system, unborn babies. We can not simply treat the human side of creation as our own invention, ignoring the instructions of our Creator. We must live in respectful awe of all that He has put within us---our sense of justice, respect for human life, our desire and responsibility to protect and nurture. We did not create the sun and the planets, nor can we by strength or intellect sustain them. Our intelligence (which is also a gift from God) has allowed us to explore the universe. But it is His wisdom that will allow us to enjoy His presence in the new heavens and the new earth He has promised. His recurring theme is to seek to know Him and to call on Him, to walk with Him. “If my people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chron 7:14)