What's Fair? - Religion and Politics - Year-end Quiz

Hour One

What's fair?

Is it fair that the few have much and that the many have little?

Is it fair if a manager of money makes 500 times the salary of a special needs teacher or an oncology nurse?

In order to be fair to one group, does society or government have the right to be unfair to another?

These are questions that confront and bedevil us almost daily.  

With the unfolding economic horrors of the past few years, the matter of what is fair and what is not has been an ongoing theme. 

This morning in our first hour we will explore the quality of fairness with three people -- a lawyer-novelist, an economist and a philosopher.

Hour Two

We have another ethical question to ponder in our middle hour.

Do religion and personal faith have any place in government?

Can a Member of Parliament follow his or her conscience in deciding public policy or does loyalty to party come before fealty to religion?

Two former MPs have written about the place of religion in Canadian politics and the search for the proper place of faith in a secular society.

Faith and Politics in Hour Two.

Hour Three

And in our Final Hour, the greatest current-affairs quiz in the history of current-affairs quizzes, What in The World.
You will need a pencil and paper (yes, they still make pencils) plus the concentration of a nuclear physicist, but it makes for great New Year's Day fun.

Our contestants -- a big city mayor, a federal politician and an award-winning humorist -- in a battle of brains that will go down in radio history.

Elsewhere in the program: some immigration scare stories, a David Gutnick report on the best Cheezies in the world and a barrel of wonderful music to ease your way into 2012.

Hour One

What's fair?

Last Fall, there was a minor dust up in the City of Toronto. There was a concern that school fundraising drives were more successful in better-off neighborhoods and that that was unfair to schools and students in poorer neighborhoods.

The proposed solution was that all money raised in school fundraising drives be shared equally among all schools. Critics thought the end result of "fairness" being applied to school fundraising would be an end to effective fundraising.

And there the argument still stands.

For the past few years, people around the world have wrestled with a conundrum, one that goes to the heart of how we structure the world. The conundrum was at the core of the financial collapse of 2008, animated the thousands of people who took part in the Occupy movement of the latter part of 2011, is heard frequently at funerals and in school playgrounds, at baseball games, and just a plaintive cry at the end of a really hard day.

We have all said it in the past and likely will say it in the new year.

That's just so unfair.

So we here at the Sunday Edition thought we'd get the jump on the New Year by trying to figure out just what fairness is and how we go about achieving the same.

In aid of this Michael was joined: from Montreal by William Watson, an economist at McGill University, a columnist for the National Post, an author and a writer once honoured for his humour, though i must stress not in economics; from Washington by Rebecca Kukla, senior research scholar at the Kennedy School of Ethics and professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, as well as an author, essayist and blogger; and in Toronto, Morely Torgov, a lawyer and author and a two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, though on neither occassion was it for a legal argument.

Essay: I'm No George Clooney

If there really ARE plenty of fish in the sea, why is it so hard to snag one?

All the offerings of online dating should make the search for connection swimmingly easy ... whether you're after a friendly coffee, a meaningful rendezvous or a brand new life. But anyone who has tried to navigate these murky and treacherous waters, knows otherwise.

Ken Dafoe, for instance.

His essay was called: I'm No George Clooney.

Hour Two

Documentary: That's Cheezies with a Zed 

In the 1940's, W.T. Hawkins Limited was a North American salty snack food giant. The Chicago-based company shipped boxcars full of potato chips and popcorn across the continent.

Then one of the owners invented Cheezies.

It was going to be the next big thing. Then, just as their neon orange corn snack began taking off, the company made some disastrous business decisions. The empire went bust. The whole thing shut down.

But Cheezies did not go gentle into junk-food oblivion.

W. T. Hawkins gambled on a move north, built a new factory alongside the rail line between Toronto and Montreal. They fired up the deep fryers and started shipping Canadian cheezies - in red and white striped clear cellophane bags - to the east and and to the west.

They still do. Kent Hawkins - the founder's grandson - runs the plain little factory in Belleville, Ontario. In a cuthroat multi-billion-dollar snack food universe - where innovation, advertising and eye-level positioning are key - it keeps on keeping on.

Thanks, in part, to the cult-like love of Newfoundlanders and Prairie snackers who are ready to hunt for them on bottom shelves.

Here's David Gutnick's documentary, That's Cheezies with a Zed.

Religion and Politics

In October of this year, Dean Del Mastro, a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, went on Facebbok to denounce the decision of the Catholic Schoolboard of Peterborough to invite Justin Trudeau, a fellow Member of Parliament, to speak to a group of students. Calling the invitation "outrageous," Del Mastro wondered alound whether there were any tenets of the Catholic faith that Trudeau actually believed in or supported.

Mr. Trudeau responded by declaring, "For someone to start questioning my own faith and accusing me of being a bad Catholic, is something that I really take issue with. My own personal faith is an extremely important part of who I am and the values that I try to lead with."

As ugly as the exchange between the two MPs sounds it does lay bare a fundamental truth. If there is a more difficult pairing of ideas than religion and science it might well be religion and politics.

You just have to glance at the papers this week ... Mitt Romney's Mormonism vs New Gingrich's Catholicism, Jason Kenney's ruling that the niqab can't be worn in Citizenship Courts, the arguments over whether the Ontario Government's strategy on bullying should apply to Catholic Schools or the arguments taking place over assisted suicide are just some of the stories, some of the realities that depict the often perplexing intersection of politics and faith.

These are tricky lines to walk. People's faith is part of who they are and that's as true of politicians as it is of journalists. But politicians represent more than just a particular faith group and are often forced to make decisions that suit the community more than the church, temple or mosque.

And predictions to the contrary, religion and religious beliefs aren't fading away but seem to be intensifying in importance when it comes to making some very tough choices. And these tough choices include when religion in politics makes sense and when religion in politics is destructive to society and religion.

So why not ask some ex-politicians deeply rooted in their own faith, who have given the matter a fair amount of deep thought what they think?

Bill Blaikie is a former MP representing the riding of Winnipeg Transcona from 1979 until 2009, but before he made the leap into elected politics, he was ordained a United Church minister. Today he is the Director of the Knowles-Woodsworth Centre for Theology and Public Policy and the author of the just published The Blaikie Report: An insider's look at Faith and Politics. He was in our Winnipeg studio.

Denis Gruending has been a journalist, a director of information for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and for a short time an MP for the riding of Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar. At the moment he works for the Canadian Labour Congress and is the author of the just published Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life. He was in our Ottawa studio.

Hour Three

Year-end Quiz: What in the World

What in the world happened in 2011? If you're anything like me, it's hard enough to remember what I had for breakfast yesterday morning, so recalling the events of the past twelve months can be stupefying.

This morning, we're going to jog our collective memory about the year that was with "What in the World?", a year-end quiz.  It will cover significant and less-than-significant-but-striking things that happened in 2011. 

We have invited three people to play along with us, all newsmakers in their own right during the past year. 

In our studio in Calgary, Naheed Nenshi who marked his first anniversary as Mayor of Cowtown and held fast to his crown as King of the Twitter-verse.

In Halifax, Megan Leslie, an  MP for that city and the environment critic for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

And with me in Toronto, author Terry Fallis, who won Canada Reads in 2011 for his book The Best Laid Plans.

The rules of this game are mercifully short.

All of the questions relate to events of the past year, things that happened anywhere on the planet. Sometimes I'll play an audio clue, and on occasion you might have to do a bit of singing to score points.

Points will not be deducted for wrong answers. If our contestants didn't know the right answer, Michael could give them a point if they said something funny or clever.

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