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{mosimage}The latest economic report from Statistics Canada reinforces the need for swift and decisive action. Governments at all levels must implement policies that are prudent, just and comprehensive, but this is not their problem to solve alone. All of society has an important role to play.

Led by dramatic losses in the automotive and housing sectors, Canada’s gross domestic product shrank in the fourth quarter by an annual rate of 3.4 per cent. The national unemployment rate topped 7.2 per cent in January and will continue to rise, according to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Excellent education

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Too often you will pick up a newspaper and read about the trouble our kids have got themselves into. Today, you will pick up The Catholic Register and only find out the good.

And it’s not just the kids themselves. You can also read about the teachers, the administrators, the parents, all who contribute to the good that our Catholic schools are doing.

Life is for living

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{mosimage}Could Francine Lalonde be thinking that the third time is a charm? It certainly appears that way as the Bloc Quebecois MP announced recently that she intends to table in Parliament, once again, a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Canada.

Lalonde’s first two attempts failed and never really were a threat to pass. And it could be said this time around that her efforts are bound to meet the same fate. After all, she is introducing her legislation as a private members’ bill, and it is very rare, almost to the point of impossible, for such a bill to pass.

Free to speak

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{mosimage}It strikes us as very Orwellian, the scenes found on many of the university campuses across Canada these days.

These supposed bastions of free speech look more and more like they come right off of the pages of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Remember how in Orwell’s classic novel, which reflects on the ills of the Soviet era of Joseph Stalin, that all animals on the farm were to be equal, none above the other. Yet as time goes on, we find while all animals are equal, some really are more equal than others.

That's no solution

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{mosimage}If there is something that history can show us, it’s that barring the gate and looking inward to ease the economic pain of this recession is not a wise route to take. One need just check the history books and see how taking this path only worsened the Great Depression back in the 1930s, when the United States brought in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act to protect its economic interests. Global trade fell off by two-thirds, turning a recession into a full-blown depression, the worst economic crisis the world has ever experienced.

Yet that appears to be part of the solution the United States is banking on to get out of the current recession. The multi-billion-dollar stimulus plan proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate is heavy on its “Buy American” details, shutting the doors on other nations and some of their goods in an effort to stimulate the American economy. A controversial provision of the House’s version of the bill would bar virtually all foreign iron and steel from the stimulus plan’s infrastructure projects, while the Senate’s version, still to be voted on by The Register’s press time, would extend the U.S.-only requirement to all goods paid for by the plan (though it appears President Barack Obama is attempting to water down these provisions).

Not Much For The Poor

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{mosimage}When it comes to economics, Catholic social teaching is pragmatic, not ideological. While popes in the last 150 years have recognized that capitalism beats socialist economic systems in terms of human freedom and effectiveness, they have been under no illusion that, unless carefully managed, free market economics can inflict terrible pain and injustice.

That’s why successive encyclicals on political and social matters have emphasized the “preferential option for the poor” and insisted that governments have a duty to protect the most vulnerable from the vagaries of the market while working for the common good of all.

Advising Obama

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{mosimage}If U.S. President Barack Obama thought the hard slugging was through, overcoming centuries of oppression for  blacks in the United States to make history as its first African-American president, just wait for what the future will bring.

As Obama took his position as leader of the world’s only superpower Jan. 20, he assumed control of a nation mired in crisis, on so many fronts. The economy is in the tank, facing its worst financial crisis in eight decades. The United States is in deep in not one, but two major wars, with a third conflict in the Middle East never far beyond U.S. parametres. The rich-poor divide is widening, too many Americans do not have proper health care coverage, action is needed to combat climate change and, yes, despite his election, racial tension is always on the radar — just see the reaction to the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white transit police officer in Oakland at New Year’s for evidence.

Bountiful problems

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{mosimage}The Pandora’s box opened by the legalization of same-sex marriage continues to let loose assorted demons. The problem of what to do with the polygamists of Bountiful, B.C., is just the latest.

Bountiful is a knotty dilemma for legal authorities in British Columbia. Polygamy is illegal in Canada. But for years, Bountiful residents have been members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a tiny sect of the Mormon religion that adhered to the practice of polygamy long after mainstream Mormonism abandoned it in 1890. Among its leaders, Winston Blackmore of Bountiful is alleged to have had more than 20 wives and more than 100 children. James Oler, the bishop of this sect, has been alleged to have at least two wives.

The limits of arms

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{mosimage}We can only hope that Israel gains a modicum of respite from the erratic missiles that provoked its invasion of Gaza. At least it will have earned something from its massive display of military might against Hamas.

No one should still be carrying a candle for Hamas, an organization whose fundamental aim to destroy Israel undercuts its own claim to moral leadership among the Palestinians. Terrorism is terrorism, and it should be fought wherever it festers. Nor should anyone be under any delusion, however, that Israel’s continual recourse to military means to solve its neighbour problems offers any long-term solutions. It didn’t work against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006 and it won’t now. Even though the Palestinian-to-Israeli death ratio is 100-to-one, Gaza will continue to give birth to new sons and daughters who will live for nothing more than to die in the cause of the ongoing conflict.

Ignatieff's blind spots

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{mosimage}In his first few weeks as Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff has been surefooted. He has exuded confidence, determination and a sense of what needs to be done. Canadians have seen a strong alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper if the country is forced into another federal election sooner rather than later.

Still, we know very little about him, other than that he is the son of Russian aristocracy, a Harvard intellectual, author of both political treatises and novels and has been absent from the country for most of his adult life. He offers plenty of impressions but precious little about where he would like to lead the country.

Let us pray

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{mosimage}As we mark with joy the coming of the Saviour, let us spare a prayer for our world. What should we pray? A few suggestions:

Let us pray that, somehow, tribal conflict in the Congo can be resolved and that the United Nations gather enough international effort to help bring an end to the violence in that war torn nation.