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November 05, 2007

Waiting for the media

The story of the Conservative party removing Mark Warner as a candidate in Toronto has been going on for almost a week now. But I'm still waiting for a reporter at some newspaper in this country to find out why it happened. They seem more interested in keeping themselves in the dark, the better to reinforce their preferred perceptions of the Conservatives. Here's the Globe last Friday:

Mark Warner, an international-trade lawyer who was elected by the riding association in Toronto Centre, says the party took issue with his participation in a local forum on income and equality. He was eventually given the green light to participate, he said, but on the condition that he remain silent throughout.

Mr. Warner said he believes he should be able to discuss issues that are pertinent to an urban downtown riding. And he doesn't believe he should have been disqualified as a candidate for saying so.

"The riding association made a choice to elect me as a candidate; the riding association was happy for me to continue as a candidate," Mr. Warner said. "If the national party wants to officiate the judgments of a local riding association, I think there are some questions there that democrats will want to discuss."

Possibly the ousted candidate is not the best qualified to explain why he was fired. And I wouldn't expect the party to fill in all the ugly details, because they don't want to be seen kicking someone when he's down (unless they're a Liberal). But sometimes reporting involves more than just phone calls to the key people; it involves turning over a few rocks and asking around. That's too much to ask of today's press, though. They're having too much fun in a fevered fantasyland of their own creation. Today's Star:
If the anti-Rae votes are split in Toronto Centre between the two parties, Rae's chances of winning are increased. But now, with Warner removed, some of that Conservative vote could drift to the NDP candidate, El-Farouk Khaki, a local immigration lawyer.

Warner himself, however, doesn't believe the Conservatives want to help the NDP. In fact, Warner told the Star he believes the Conservatives actually would be happy to see Rae in the House of Commons.

"They deny it when they talk to me," Warner said about his suspicions. However, he remains convinced Rae plays into the central Conservative attack strategy against Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.

"I think the whole campaign is Harper strong, Dion weak," Warner said. Rae in the Commons as a strong performer would make Dion look weaker, Warner argues.

Got that? Getting rid of Warner was all part of a deep, Karl Rovish plot to... make Stéphane Dion look slightly weaker than he already does! I'm starting to see why the Conservatives wanted to get rid of this guy. But I'm sure he'd be a better candidate if he took his medications...

I've been a part of a Conservative riding association for many years. Choosing the candidates is done at the riding level, but the party can veto the choice. This is good because riding associations -- especially in areas with few Tories -- can get hijacked easily by a well-organized special interest. Candidates are also scrutinized carefully for criminal records or past memberships in objectionable groups. The Conservatives are probably more thorough than other parties in their investigations, but at least they don't veto a candidate for being the wrong gender.

I'm guessing problems with Warner have been going on for some time. I have no idea what they are, but I would guess that he was making promises that he had no authority to make. Or maybe he was the source of the Conservative 'ethnic strategy' leak of last month. Who knows? Too bad I can't find out in the news.

UPDATE: I've been complaining over at the National Post blog about the press' lack of curiosity in this story.

UPDATE II: I have been advised that Mark Warner is a trade and competition lawyer, not an immigration lawyer. I stand corrected.

November 04, 2007

When is the government going to fix everyone's problems?

I mean, jeez! The Conservatives have been in power for two years now! Well, almost. The Liberal master of windy rhetoric, Ken Dryden, spoke in Parliament Friday:

Mr. Speaker, when I travel across the country, I hear the same thing, from those with disabilities, from those who cannot read, from students, from aboriginals. I ask them what the government is doing and they say nothing or next to nothing: from seniors, from parents needing to work who have children needing to learn, nothing; from the poor, nothing; from people who live the experience, not just formulate life from their own minds, anything big, tough, anything that has to be taken on together, nothing.

When will the government take this special opportunity and really do something?

(Lifted from the Phantom Observer, because I'm not crazy enough to read through those transcripts myself. Follow the link to read about Dryden's Stéphane Dion moment...)

In Dryden's worldview, everyone is just sitting around waiting for some massive new social program that will rescue them from their problems. People are passive, and helpless without government assistance. What a depressing perspective.

November 02, 2007

Prepare for more child care hysteria

I don't want to alarm anyone or start a panic, but letters from -- gulp! -- A CORPORATION have been sent to the owners of some private day-care centres:

Form letters, written by Texas businessmen fronting the Canadian expansion, have been arriving in the mailboxes of dozens of private daycare operators asking if they want to be evaluated with a view to selling.

It's all part of a rapid global expansion by Groves' ABC Learning Centres, which last year added about 1,000 U.S. centres to its empire.

"We represent a large financial/child care group purchasing child care centres across Ontario," the letter reads. "Are you ready to see what your business is worth in today's market? The process is simple and all information is confidential ... If the centre meets our criteria we will make you an offer."

Dozens of letters! Imagine!

Oh, what the heck, let's panic:

These developments threaten a sea change from the child care environment we now know in Canada. Multi-national child care uses economies of scale and corporate integration of services to open the floodgates to commercial care across Canada. (link)

...

"Basing the care and education of our children on the corporate model where the greatest return for shareholders, increasing profit margins and global expansion is the rule of the corporation will hurt children and families," said Bird. "We have a clear message today. Canada's children are not for sale."

"It's a Wal-Martization of daycare in Canada," said Liberal critic Ruby Dhalla. (link)

...

Salma Malik, from Dalhousie Parents Day Care, was alarmed to hear about the poor quality and the high costs of child care for parents in Australia. "Parent fees have risen by 123 per cent in Australia over the past fifteen years. I can't imagine how full-fee families could afford these kinds of increases and think the province should ensure that parents are not left to the mercy of corporate giants jacking up parent fees to increase their profit margins," asserted Malik. (link)

...

“Foreign ownership of Canadian child care will kill the dream of a pan-Canadian child care system,” says Jody Dallaire, chairperson of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada. “Our children and families deserve quality, accessible, community-based child care not some gigantic off-shore warehouse operation.” (link)

A quick pass through most of the Union sites that are responsible for these dire quotes would leave you with the impression that once ABC has a tiny foothold here, their tentacles will quickly stretch across the country, strangling all competition and leaving no other possible options for parents looking for childcare. Big box daycares will stand next to freeway interchanges, where parents will use an efficient drive-through system to deposit their bar-coded, jump-suit wearing children onto conveyor belts leading to their pens. The media will no doubt report these fearful predictions with little skepticism and will completely overlook the self-interest the unions have in making them. They are greatly invested in creating a vast government run bureaucracy with no place for private operators. Why else -- after years of complaining about the lack of childcare spaces -- did they petition Dalton McGuinty today to (among other things):
- Immediately introduce a moratorium on any further licensing of child care programs;
I complained about Eddy Groves and ABC a couple of years ago:
Eddy Groves is not an 'entrepreneur' in the sense that he developed a useful product or service, he just saw that the government was prepared to firehose money in a certain direction and he positioned himself to get a good soaking. He's a corporate welfare beneficiary.
Still true, but I'd rather his company here, continually having to meet government standards and the expectations and needs of the parents, rather than a monolithic, inefficient, union-run 'early-learning' system.

UPDATE: Now that I think about it, perhaps ABC has some inside information that McGuinty is planning to turn on a childcare firehose in Ontario. Watching the corporations and the unions fighting over the money should be a good show.

Cross-posted (a first!) at the Broom. Darcey is planning a big box domination of the Canadian blogosphere. Resistance is useless!

October 31, 2007

This is gonna be a fun story to watch...

The story of ex-Liberal Blair Wilson gets more interesting:

Former campaign manager Wood said the Elections Canada probe needs to find out how much spending was covered by cash and not included in the financial report filed by the Wilson campaign.

Wood said the Wilson campaign appeared to spend more money than she had budgeted for when she was manager during the campaign's early days.

She said she kept a tight rein on spending, but that was jettisoned once Wilson replaced her with Guillio Vilas, an outsider who few people in the riding association knew.

Wilson and Vilas became "joined at the hip," Wood said,and cash payments were often used to pay for services or supplies.

She recalled that Vilas appeared at her Sechelt home to pay her for wood she had purchased for campaign signs.

"He had this wad of hundred-dollar bills," Wood said.

"And he rolled off four one-hundred-dollar bills and left them on my dining room table."

October 29, 2007

Hey Stéphane, I was just kidding!

When I mentioned a couple of days ago that opposing the GST might be a good policy for the Liberals, I didn't expect you to take me seriously:

For a political leader who has said he doesn't want an election, Stéphane Dion, the head of the Liberal Party, sounds like he's itching for a campaign battle when talking about Conservative plans to cut another point off the GST.

The Liberal Leader was in London, Ont., on Monday and delivered a rather harsh analysis about why cutting the GST by another point — as pledged in this month's Speech from the Throne — was a bad idea.

I mean, I agree with you Stéph: lowering corporate and income taxes are a better way to build the economy. But there's three reasons why opposing this cut is a bad strategy:
  • You have no credibility as a tax fighter. No one believes that you will follow through. I sure don't.
  • Opposing a very visible and annoying tax and offering corporate tax cuts instead isn't likely to win much support amongst people who aren't economists.
  • Praising corporate tax cuts! The biggest threat to your base right now is the NDP, and they are gonna use this to maximum effect.
But I don't want to discourage you Stéphane. If you want to try to re-invent yourself as the candidate for sensible economic policy, go for it! But you have a lot of work to do...

Modern Diplomacy

In the Star today, former diplomat Harry Sterling has some advice for Stephen Harper on the delicate art of international relations:

Leaders of governments who confuse their own personal viewpoints with those of their countries' national interests can cause unwelcome and even dangerous consequences for their fellow countrymen.
In particular, Sterling feels Harper's stubborn insistence on meeting whomever he wants is very provocative and insensitive to our Chinese friends:
Harper will meet the Dalai Lama openly with the media in attendance. The forthcoming encounter has already been criticized by the Chinese authorities as interference in China's internal affairs.

Beijing's unhappiness with Harper's meeting the Dalai Lama is thus not unexpected. Nor is China's growing displeasure with the pro-Taiwan stance of many prominent members of Harper's Conservative party.

Although Members of Parliament have as much right as anyone else to be favourably disposed towards the Dalai Lama – or Taiwan for that matter – totally ignoring the possible negative trade fallout is another matter, especially since China is now Canada's fourth-largest export market.

As much as some would praise Harper for standing up for his principles in such cases, others see such actions as potentially undermining important national interests, a concern that even the Canadian business community has voiced in the past.

Certainly this is very good advice. Maintaining good relations with our trading partners should be the primary goal of our foreign policy. So what if the Chinese openly support the brutal regimes in Sudan, Myanmar, North Korea, and Zimbabwe? And so what if they're pretty brutal themselves? Requiring our Prime Minister to consult with an oppressive foreign government on what he can say or who he can meet with is a small price to pay to avoid any risk to the supply of merchandise for our dollar stores.

And Sterling has more advice:

The fact Harper has remained remarkably silent about the violation of international law and human rights covenants by the Bush administration – President George W. Bush countenancing practices considered torture – has only reinforced the view of those who regard his support for human rights and religious freedoms as highly selective. As well, Harper seems indifferent to the imprisonment at the notorious U.S. prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, of Canadian teenager Omar Khadr, incarcerated since July 2002 when he was captured at the age of 15 in Afghanistan.
Wait... huh?

October 27, 2007

More insight from Jeffrey Simpson

Jeffrey Simpson has once again focused his keen mind on the Canadian political scene and revealed another completely obvious fact:

The GST cut is the triumph of base politics over sensible economics.

When the Harperites sat down to craft their last campaign document, they observed that the Liberals had in fact cut personal income taxes, but the public had not seen or appreciated those cuts. In fact, polls demonstrated that Canadians didn't even know their taxes had been reduced.

So the Harperites decided to give Canadians a tax cut they could see, feel and therefore appreciate at voting time; namely a reduction in the GST, whose creation by the Mulroney government had been attended with much political controversy.

Gosh. Politically motivated policy. Those Conservatives -- sorry, Harperites -- sure are devious.

In his zeal to roast those Harperites, Simpson makes a nice little logical error:

Lower consumption taxes stimulate more - wait for it - consumption, some of which leaks out of the economy in the form of purchasing imports and taking trips abroad.
A lower GST encourages leaving the country to shop?

Simpson argues that if there's a choice, it's better to focus on income and corporate taxes rather than the sales tax -- which may be true, but so what? Any tax cut is better than more taxes. Let's look at what he would have us do:

A sensible government - or sensible opposition parties - would not only scrap the forthcoming reduction but reinstitute the previously cut point, and then add another. The result would be about $15-billion additional dollars for the federal government.

Then, the government should follow the lead of Canada's best finance minister, Carole Taylor of British Columbia, who intends to levy a carbon tax to slow down the increase of greenhouse gas emissions and then reverse them.

I've heard there is a group known in some circles as the Dionistas who are woefully lacking in policy ideas. Perhaps they will be interested in Mr Simpson's wisdom.

October 26, 2007

On the other hand...

I've praised Flaherty's laissez-faire attitude towards the dollar discrepancy issue because it's the right approach. Change happens when people demand better; it's not up to the government.

And things are starting to change. The Collected Works bookstore in Ottawa is allowing their customers to pay the US price on items with both prices marked (hat tip: Kateland). I've never been there, but I'll have to take a look the next time I'm in the area. Dell.ca is now showing prices in line with their American parent. Companies that have been slow to adapt (like Chapters) have been deluged with complaints. Meetings are being held, buyers are being harangued, and slowly, slowly, more progress will happen.

But the government shouldn't be smug about this. Government is the main reason people in Canada pay more than Americans, and why we will continue to pay more, even after the currency fluctuations have been accounted for.

The Conservatives still stand by the policy of 'supply management' for many agricultural products -- controlling supply by allowing only so many 'rights' to produce, while preventing any imports -- which has the effect of driving prices up considerably. The ironic thing is that the supposed 'reason' for this scheme is to maintain a vibrant agricultural sector. But what it does is decrease new investment and innovation, block new entrants to the business, and lower yields and consumer consumption.

Government standards on many products effectively prevent imports or allow them only through licensed middlemen. A couple of days ago I read the story of a man who found all the appliances for his new house in the US at half the price of what they were selling for here. He thought he had a great deal: his warranties would still be honoured and after paying the duty he would still be far ahead. But then he was informed that because these new appliances were not CSA approved, he would not qualify for house insurance -- even though they were exactly the same make as what he could buy in Canada! I was never a fan on the EU merging their currencies, but I did think it was smart that they merged their various standards on all products, painful as it no doubt was. These standards often operate as de facto trade barriers, while offering governments indignant deniability. "Lower our standards? Would you risk the lives of your children to save a few dollars?"

The government also prevents competition in alcoholic products. Living near the border with Ontario, I have the luxury of choosing from two expensive and unresponsive monopolies (neither of which will carry Laphroaig) but other Canadians aren't that lucky. And in many other markets, such as mobile phones and banking, the government restricts the foreign competitors that would force the incumbants to lower prices.

But probably the biggest reason Canadians pay more is just the border. It takes a long time to cross, a long time to cross back, and long waiting periods before you can bring back anything that would make the trip worthwhile. If Flaherty really wants to see Canadian retailers get competitive, work to make the border crossings more streamlined, and eliminate all those restrictions on foreign purchases. Canadian businesses could adapt or die.

There's about as much chance of that happening as Elizabeth May becoming Prime Minister. In fact, I'll bet that the next 'mini-budget' to come out will offer compensation to those poor Canadian businesses that are losing money to customers going to the States. And you can expect border hassles to actually increase. That's how this country works; the consumer is the least important part of the economy.

October 22, 2007

Canada's retailers are helpless

I'm sure everybody has noticed that the prices Canadians pay for most goods are still significantly higher than what Americans pay. People are getting annoyed, and are starting to complain to the retailers. The federal Finance Minister is encouraging them, apparently because he holds some laughable belief in the power of markets and something called the supply/demand curve. But the retailers aren't buying this nonsense. They've come out to set the record straight.

They can't do anything. It's not their fault:

Diane Brisebois, president of the Retail Council of Canada, which represents 40,000 stores, said Monday her group called for the meeting to explain how prices are set.

"Although we appreciate that the minister wants to get involved, his so-called crusade is misdirected," Brisebois said, noting Flaherty should put pressure on the manufacturers to lower prices in Canada.

Brisebois said manufacturers are continuing to mark up prices in Canada by 20 to 50 per cent, and therefore retailers have little savings to pass on to the customer.

"The minister needs to put pressure on that community as he has done to retail," she said.

"He's not talked about the publishing industry; he's talked about booksellers. Well booksellers don't set the price. The publishing industry, the magazine industry, the car manufacturing industry — those are not retailers. Retailers are given a certain price, they have a markup and they sell the merchandise.

Isn't it crazy that a government minister could think that a group of only 40,000 retailers would have the leverage with their suppliers to get the same prices as the suppliers' other customers? Obviously, only the government could do that. This is Canada, after all.

October 20, 2007

A man of action

I should probably lay off of Stéphane Dion, but for some reason I can't stop watching. I can't help it; it's similar to the schadenfreude that urges people to keep up with what Britney is doing. Today, the Toronto Star printed what Dion claims would be in the throne speech, were Canadians not under the thumb of a bunch of theocratic, neocon, Bush-worshiping goons. I was falling asleep reading his sweet nothings -- just try to find one concrete proposal in the whole piece -- when my eyes ran across something that made me fall out of my chair:

Mentioning these obligations, however, is no substitute for delivering a plan that will actually help us meet them. It never is. That is what was so wrong about the Conservative throne speech: all talk, no action. That just isn't my style. I want to mobilize Canadians to tackle the challenges I just outlined.
Before you start leading us all off to the promised land, Stéphane, maybe you should see if you can get your party to follow you first.

October 19, 2007

Your Canadian Health Care System at work

Usually acute cases are dealt with well in the Canadian system. It's only the chronic cases that can be pushed onto waiting lists that are the problem. But acute care is starting to suffer too:

- Thursday Oct. 11, 11 p.m. -- Dany Bureau starts to feel pains in his stomach. He goes to sleep thinking he just has a stomach ache.

- Friday Oct. 12, 3 p.m. -- Since the pain has not gone away, Mr. Bureau and his mother go to the Wakefield hospital to have him checked out.

- At Wakefield's Gatineau Memorial hospital, a doctor determines that there is a problem with Mr. Bureau's appendix. Calls are made to hospitals in Hull, Gatineau, Maniwaki, Buckingham and Ottawa to find a surgeon. A surgeon cannot be found.

- 8:25 p.m. -- Robert Bureau, Dany's father, receives a call informing him that a surgeon is available at the Montreal General Hospital.

- 8:30 p.m. -- Mr. Bureau leaves his home in Aylmer for Montreal.

- 8:37 p.m. -- The ambulance leaves Wakefield hospital with Mr. Bureau.

- 10:45 p.m. -- Robert Bureau arrives at the Montreal General Hospital.

- Saturday, Oct. 13, 12:15 a.m. -- The ambulance with Dany Bureau arrives at the Montreal General Hospital after missing the Décarie exit and then mistakenly unloading him at the Montreal Children's Hospital. The surgeon who had been awaiting Dany Bureau's arrival has since become occupied with another trauma case.

- 9:50 p.m. -- Dany Bureau is taken in for surgery

- Oct. 14, 12:10 a.m. -- The surgeon who operated on Dany Bureau tells his father that his appendix had burst and that he had developed peritonitis. As a result, he is hospitalized for several days so his recovery can be monitored.

But I heard that the government has a 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care, and they're already three tenths of the way there! So I have no worries.

UPDATE: ER times are way up too. But we only have to wait another seven years...

Canada's laziest columnist

Earlier in my blog career, friends of mine would occasionally drop by this page to have a look. Some of them were shocked. Where was the balance? How could I just take one side of an issue without clearly explaining the other? Why did I appear so certain of things that were still in dispute? I would respond that no one wants to read mushy prose that says nothing that isn't already known, doesn't have a point to make, and doesn't make a stand.

But what do I know? Evidently there must be some kind of market for that kind of journalistic tofu, because the Globe and Mail pays Jeffrey Simpson a hefty salary to produce it, day after day, and week after week. Do people read it? Why? Does he ever say anything that isn't totally obvious even to the most casual observer?

Take a look at his column today. Come on, just look at it. No really! Just this once try and read it! I'm trying to make a point.

It's about the maneuverings and strategies of the different parties in Parliament this week. It's a topic that interests me, and no one could say it's not full of drama. It's the stuff political junkies live for, and Simpson is supposed to be the Globe's top political columnist. Let's take a look at some of his keen insights:

Liberal weakness, real and imagined, has emboldened the other three parties in Parliament.

[...]

If an election really loomed, chances are the Bloc would be tacking and trimming, unless, of course, the party really does want an early vote on the theory that it will certainly do worse later than now.

[...]

In recent polls, the NDP remains in its accustomed position: around 15 per cent, give or take a few points. The NDP believes it has momentum; polls suggest otherwise.

[...]

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's white flag - the Liberals will not vote against the Throne Speech - removes whatever threat the Harperites might have felt of parliamentary defeat.

[...]

Mr. Harper, however, has decreed that many legislative initiatives flowing from the Throne Speech must be matters of confidence. This new doctrine expands, or rather distends, conventional practice to suit his purposes - namely, to put relentless pressure on the Liberals.

Gosh! He gets right to the heart of the matter, doesn't he? If you actually steeled yourself to follow the link to the full column, you will have noted that the quotes above are not opening sentences pulled from a more penetrating paragraph; they are the paragraphs! The whole column is like that. One banal and very obvious point after another, until his word count is met. How can I get a job at the Globe and Mail?

October 17, 2007

Okay, Stéphane. What do you suggest we do in Darfur?

So. Dion has backed down. But he wanted to sound tough in his submission, so he complained about the throne speech and said the only reason he's not going to vote it down is because Canadians don't want an election. Sure. Whatever. I agree that they don't -- I know I don't -- and I'm glad that everybody has put down the guns for the time being. Fine.

But I've got to comment on one line from Dion's speech:

The mission in Afghanistan is an important one, but we cannot remain silent on our other responsibilities. We cannot turn our back on Africa ... and what does the government intend to do in Darfur?
Almost two years as Canada's 'New Government' and Stephen Harper's Conservatives have yet to solve the Darfur crisis. Can you imagine?

Many people know Darfur as a place where the government of Sudan is indirectly sponsoring a mass slaughter of the black population by Arab militias. China is deeply invested in the country however, so no international pressure has been exerted on Sudan to stop the killing. No sanctions, no flight restrictions -- hell, they haven't even been kicked out of the UN Commission on Human Rights. It's the primary example of the cowardice and ineffectiveness of the international community.

But to Stéphane Dion, Darfur is a distraction to pull out in front of the uninformed voters who want Canada out of Afghanistan but can't articulate their reason. It's like he's saying, 'We like to help people in trouble, but Afghanistan is not the only problem in the world. What about Darfur?', while knowing perfectly well that Canada is in no position to do anything. 'Cynical' just doesn't cover this kind of attitude.

Time for the Liberals to get real

I managed to squeeze in a total of five minutes to watch some of the CBC's coverage of the Throne speech last night. Dion was unable to show up to give his impressions, but Iggy came out and said the Liberals had a 'tough decision' to make, especially on Kyoto, where the Conservatives 'have done nothing for almost two years'.

Hey, Michael: remember when you said, 'We didn't get it done!'? The Liberals had thirteen years and did nothing! Do you want the Tories to remind the voters of this in an election?

Don Martin says Harper has forced the Liberals into voting against the speech.

That means the inconvenient truth behind his throne speech predicament is that Dion must either vote to save the planet or save his political ass. Half-measures, desperate hair-splitting and voting shenanigans by the Liberals only justify public cynicism about his party as a band of quivering opportunists interested in keeping their MP paycheques.

Lest we forget, Kyoto still enjoys sacred-cow status in public opinion, and it was the Liberals whose MP successfully sponsored a bill last spring forcing the government to draft a plan to meet the Kyoto targets.

To accept the speech from the throne as an approved government agenda is to agree that one of the Liberal party's few policy successes is an unattainable farce. It would deliver a hard, if not fatal, hit on the credibility of a leader whose claim to political integrity and personal honesty are his greatest, if not only, strengths.

I disagree. I think Harper has generously provided Dion enough cover to back the government. On Afghanistan, Harper has moved the issue to the back-burner and let a prominent Liberal in to advise the government. Sure, Harper says he wants to stay longer, but he's deferring the decision for now and calling for Parliamentary debate. That gets Dion off that hook, and --if Manley advises to extend the mission -- gives him an excuse to change his mind in the future.

On Kyoto, the government is just stating the obvious: Kyoto is dead and Canada will never be able to meet our promises. Too bad. Let's move on. If Dion wants to throw the country into an election on that issue, he's going to get burned. First, it will be easy to show Canadians that it can't be met. And second, it will be easy to remind Canadians of which party is most responsible for that fact. Unless Dion wants to advocate that Canada should spend billions and billions of dollars to buy 'carbon credits' from corrupt states like China and Russia, we, like nearly every other Western nation that signed on to the thing, will not meet our Kyoto obligations. We won't be contributing to very slightly delaying any global warming that may be going to occur. Dang.

An election on these issues is suicide, especially considering the organizational mess the Liberals are in. Nothing else in the speech should get anyone too worker up either, so they've got nothing 'scary' to wave around for the voters. They should be mature and vote for the speech.

But will they? A recent interstellar survey of Planet Liberal has revealed no evidence of intelligent life. We'll see soon...

October 15, 2007

Mercy for the Mangler?

During the past few weeks, the Canadian public have had the spectacle of watching the leaders of the two major parties engaged in a fierce wrestling match using press conferences, speeches, and a number of strategic leaks. And at the end of it, Steve "The Blue Iceman" Harper had Steve "Doctor Mangler" Dion pinned supine, with his cold blue knee resting on the good Doctor's neck.

He made it look so easy too. Mangler came out early and postured for the audience. He flexed his muscles and tried valiantly to get the crowd on his side. But he was still bearing the wounds from some brutal defeats he'd suffered recently, and everyone knew there was no fight left in him. The Blue Iceman -- as is his style -- just marched calmly and slowly towards the Doc until he had him backed into the ropes. When Mangler saw he had no escape, his response to this was to throw himself on his back, praise the wisdom of corporate tax cuts, and beg for mercy:

He [Dion] gave the Prime Minister praise for displaying a more conciliatory political tone last Friday, when Mr. Harper announced former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley would chair a panel on the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. If that tone is on display again Tuesday night in the Throne Speech, Mr. Dion suggested, Liberals will let it pass.
How humiliating! But the worst may yet to come. The audience may feel they haven't got their money's worth yet, so the Iceman may decide to toss Doctor Mangler around the ring for a little while before accepting his surrender.

So. Thumbs up or thumbs down? Will Harper accept Dion's groveling? Or will he lay on some more humiliation? Tune in tomorrow to find out...

October 10, 2007

The Lesson Not Learned

One simple lesson. But they never do learn, do they?

When Andrew Coyne is not writing about MMP, he's Canada's best columnist. In today's piece he smacks around those politicians that think their targeted industrial strategies, supply management programs, and regional development initiatives do any good at all. Actually, 'those politicians' are pretty much 'all politicians'. It's pretty hard to find one that doesn't believe that taking money from some and giving it to others (accompanied by a photo-op, of course) is not a good idea. Read the whole thing, but I especially enjoyed this paragraph:

All of economics is devoted to the proposition that there is no such thing as a free lunch. All of politics is devoted to the opposite conviction. All economics teaches that you can’t get something for nothing. All politics supposes that you can -- or that you can at least persuade other people that you can. Economics is about scarcity, universal and inescapable. Politics is about limitless plenty.

Too much John Tory

I paid scant attention to this Ontario election. I read some headlines, I heard a few sound-bites on the radio, and saw a couple of ads. In fact, I probably paid as much attention to it as the average Ontario voter. So I think I'm qualified to make a brief comment on why John Tory's Tories have crashed and burned. There's probably been a bit of analysis on the subject already, but tomorrow is when everyone will pull out their theories and wave them around. I'll be busy tomorrow, so I'll do mine today.

Too much John Tory. The more I saw of him, the more I heard from him, the more tired I was of him. He exhausted me.

I met him this year at the big Conservative boot camp in Toronto, and heard him give a pretty good speech. He seemed like he couldn't lose the next Ontario election.

But during the election he became too visible and accessible. He talked too much. And when he talked, he worked too hard to say whatever it was he thought people wanted him to say. All that talking started to irritate people. When he was on the radio, the answer to the simplest question would be turned into an endless run-on sentence, stuffed to overflowing with pompous political phrases and jargon that were used to connect the multitude of tiresome talking points he wanted to hammer you with. I can imagine that if the interviewers weren't able to interrupt him, he would eventually get back to where he started from -- sort of like a comet's orbit. And then he would continue.

Most of what he was saying was blather. After listening to him speaking one time on the school-funding issue, he managed to convince me that his position was right. But surrounding his reasonable argument were clouds of fuzzy nothingisms that camouflaged his little nugget of sense. I actually had a more negative opinion of him after listening to him make a point I agreed with.

McGuinty, on the other hand, kept a low profile. He knows -- or at least his campaign knows -- that he is just the same kind of mush-spilling, say-anything politician that Tory turned out to be. So they put him in a box and only let him out for special occasions.

This is the future of politics, I believe. The leader will be an empty slate that the voters can colour in with their own individual hopes. Candidates are always the most popular before anything is known about them. People really want to believe in someone, and before a politician opens his mouth it's easier to have that faith in him. Campaigns are now trying to prolong this period. Of course, this makes me wonder why the US presidential candidates are subjecting themselves to these endless televised debates. Maybe it's because they know that no one will be stupid enough to watch them. And that when the real debates come around, they will seem much less important and not deserving of the voters' careful scrutiny.

October 08, 2007

Nothing like an open mind

I didn't agree with obstructing Liberal defense critic Denis Coderre from visiting Afghanistan (if he even was obstructed, which is not clear), but he certainly can't claim to be doing any fact-finding. He's got his fingers stuck deep in his ears:

Liberal Defence critic Denis Coderre arrived in Afghanistan on Monday to hear from Canadian troops on Canada's role in the conflict.

But Mr. Coderre said that no matter what he hears in the coming days, it won't change his party's position calling for an end to Canada's combat mission when the current mandate expires in February 2009.

“No, in the sense that, about the combat mission we are pretty clear about the notion of rotation,” Mr. Coderre told reporters after his arrival at Kandahar Airfield.

“We feel that rotation is in order and that we should put an end to the combat mission.”

I doubt Maxime Bernier learned much he didn't know already on his trip, but at least he brought some Joe Louis artery cloggers for the troops. That's class.

October 05, 2007

Why we're in Afghanistan

It's good to have a reminder every now and then. Afghanistan's Education Minister Mohammed Atmar was in Toronto yesterday:

"You protect our people and advance the basic rights of our people," he said. "Our government is so proud to convey to you that you are our greatest ally -- an ally that we depend upon, an ally to be appreciated, an ally that we will long be grateful to."

Atmar's words of praise came on the same day Canada pledged $60 million over four years to education in Afghanistan.

Atmar paid particular tribute to "the brave Canadian men and women in uniform who are literally protecting my kids as they go to school."

What Canada has done in Afghanistan is "something that will be written in golden script in our history books," he said.

The head of UNICEF Canada was also there and clearly agreed:
"Canadians need to know this and not give up on Afghanistan," said Nigel Fisher, president of UNICEF Canada.

"If you look at a map of Afghanistan, it is important to see that the area of Taliban activity is only one third of the country. Most Canadians don't know that in two thirds of the country, there is considerable progress and the Taliban is not a problem."

"Our presence in Afghanistan has to be long-term," Fisher added, "because development is a long-term issue. And when you look at the chaos that Afghanistan came out of in 2002 - 25 years of predatory leadership, of foreign invasion and civil war - you don't turn that around in a couple of years."

But what do these neocons know? Maybe we should listen to Jack Layton, because he has a plan that sounds absolutely foolproof:
I do know that it’s the wrong mission for Canada. It’s not, in our view – and I believe in many Canadians’ view – the way to ultimately achieve peace. Human rights and democracy in Afghanistan? What you see there right now is about as far from peace, human rights, and democracy as you can find. We should be withdrawing [from southern Afghanistan], and trying to use our diplomatic abilities and influences to try to engineer a process of comprehensive peace in that whole region.
I've searched and searched the NDP's website looking for the magic words that our diplomats could yell from the sidelines to bring the country peace, human rights, and democracy after our forces have left, but haven't been able to find them.

October 04, 2007

The election is coming

I don't want it, but there'll be one soon. A couple of days ago I was pretty sure the danger had passed. But what Harper said in his press conference last night seemed to be designed to force Dion to commit his disorganized cavalry to assault Harper's well-trained infantry square. Below is the unassailable logic of this reasoning, which I wrote as a comment over at Dust My Broom, before remembering I had my own blog to feed. Forgive the mixed metaphors:

Harper has pushed Dion to the edge almost without trying, and Dion can’t take another step back or he tumbles over the cliff. Harper’s new decision to keep the troops in combat roles past February 2009 is a direct challenge to Dion’s laughable ultimatum — so what’s a Sociology professor to do?

If he fights, he’s gonna get demolished. The Tories are ready, and the Liberal support the current polls show is very soft. Really soft, I think. They have no money, no volunteers, and the hard-core Libs that are hanging around waiting for the tide to turn (so they can reap the rewards that the Liberal party traditionally bestows) are divided and gripped by paranoia.

But if he decides to keep enough of his guys home on the day of the vote, and let the throne speech pass with a ’symbolic’ opposition, he’s going to be there with less than half his caucus. He’s gonna look pretty stupid. And since Harper has made it clear that future votes will also be confidence votes, Dion will have to do it again, and again, and again…

I think he’ll fight. Better to go down with one sword thrust than die of a thousand cuts.

October 02, 2007

Ontario's Health Care System

My exciting new priority didn't get much attention yesterday as my children were home from school sick, and I experienced an unnatural and almost forgotten urge to feed my blog. And now, here I am again: blogging. But at least this does have a little something to do with my new priority. More information later.

This video is almost cruelly manipulative, but it makes an important point about the strange priorities of our political class. It's called 'Two Women'. I won't say any more about it; but watch it -- especially if you will be voting in the upcoming Ontario election. And tell your friends.

I want to make it clear that I have nothing against Susan, the second of the two women. From her point of view, she needed something, lobbied to get it, and was successful. But the politicians -- if they are going to manage all our health care needs -- have to be effective in making in choices in how to use the limited resources available to meet those needs. And this short film makes it clear that they are not effective.

The resources will always be limited for health care. There will always be some form of rationing. But can it ever be done in a fair way?

October 01, 2007

Oooh! How sinister!

Crack investigative journalist Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen has blown the lid off a story that will rock Canada's political world. Apparently -- and make sure you're sitting down before reading this -- back in May a partisan Conservative blogger won a contract to do communications work for a federal Conservative MP. And to this day she has managed to help herself to an astonishing $350 from the hard-working taxpayers of this country! Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's clear that all Conservative bloggers must be getting these types of sleazy contracts for writing their evil propaganda, because -- well, why else would they do it?

Personally, I'm outraged. To this day, no one has offered me any money!

Other facts from this eye-opening story:

  • Tintor's blog is "strongly opinionated"!
  • She "is also the past president of the federal Conservative association in Davenport"!
  • Her blog "is listed on the web page of the "Blogging Tories," a collection of conservative Internet commentators"!
  • "Some Liberal strategists grumble that the Tories use sympathetic bloggers to provide political spin"!
  • Tom Flanagan (Canada's Karl Rove) "cites in particular two members of the Blogging Tories, Steve Jank [sic] and Stephen Taylor, who write highly partisan blogs on federal politics"!
Do I have to draw you a map?

Seriously now, does anyone doubt there's an overlap between grassroots activists (like bloggers and riding association members) and the staff of various MPs? Is McGregor saying that if you are interested in politics and write about politics, you are ineligible to work in it? There's always the possibility that the government may reward a hard-working 'volunteer' with a high-paying, perk-laden, seat-warming job -- like, say, a spot in the Senate -- and I hope our press watches for these kinds of abuses of power. But you need to provide a little more evidence of a connection than the vague insinuations McGregor provides.

Ironically, most political blogs would be embarrassed by the lameness and pathetic research of this 'news story'. I certainly hope MP Peter Van Loan does nothing to Ms Tintor's contract on the basis of this nonsense.

A beautiful and busy Fall

Last year I was lamenting what a miserable autumn we were having (among other things). But this year has been wonderful, with many, many warm sunny days. Things will be getting brisk soon, I know, but if we can just keep the sun for a while longer...

Here the kids pose with Kafka, AKA The Devil Dog, AKA Buttercup. (I was hoping that last name would make him more pleasant to be around. No such luck.) He's a Chesapeake Bay retriever who we have now inherited permanently from my mother-in-law. He's stubborn, noisy, disobedient, and requires a great deal of care and stimulation. So now I have three children to attend to. This is not helping me work on my new priority.

Plus he seems to have scared our lovely cat Squeak from our house. Four days and counting...

September 27, 2007

Not now, Stephane, I'm trying to focus!

With Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos in school only part time this year, it's hard enough trying to scrape a few hours together to work on my exciting new priority. But if the so-called 'leader' of the Liberals follows through on his big talk and triggers an election this fall, it'll be very hard to get anything off the ground. I'll have a bit more responsibility in the next campaign, and plan to keep very busy running the Grits out of Quebec. But I'd really like a little more time to focus right now.

For the life of me, I can't understand what Dion is thinking. After the pasting his party took in Quebec a little while ago, I thought he'd want to step back from the brink to put together a real platform and do some fund-raising. But no, he's putting up his fists again, with one black eye and a couple of broken teeth, and trotting out the same warmed over mush that knocked him on his ass before. 'Hidden agenda!' 'Kyoto!' 'Abandon Afghanistan!' 'A new plan to fight poverty!'

The only explanation I can see is that Dion is getting some very bad advice from others in the party who see that only an election will purge this mistake from their midst -- and that the sooner it happens, the sooner they can begin rebuilding and refinancing. They want him gone, and they're cheering him forward into a battle he cannot win.

Which is probably true enough, but why should the taxpayers of Canada have to pay for the Liberals' mistake?

Oh, that's right! I remember now...

Tradition.

September 18, 2007

"You may say that I'm a dreamer..."

Stéphane Dion is losing touch with reality:

"It's clear that many people did not vote for us tonight, but they listened to us and they respect us," said Dion, speaking to election workers and surrounded by prominent members of the Liberal caucus. "Respect comes first. The support will follow."
I really hope the Liberals don't dump Dion too soon. He's even more entertaining than Paul Martin.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne is back to blogging after a long, long absence, and suggests that the biggest losers in these by-elections are the Bloc. Sounds reasonable.

September 13, 2007

Not everyone in Quebec wants to abandon Afghanistan

Last weekend, local businessman Andre Dupont took out a full page ad in Le Droit, the largest French language paper in the Gatineau-Hull-Ottawa region.

An English translation:

Be proud of our Canadian military

Nobody is in favour of War

No one is in favour of war for the sake of war.

But when our country mobilizes to defend people’s freedom, democracy and peace, we have the duty to support our soldiers, to acknowledge their courage and to honour them.

We should be proud of these men and women who put their lives on the line every day in the name of defending our institutions and our freedom.

Our prayers go out to our soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and there is a special place in our heart for those who fall on the battlefield and give their lives carrying out their mission. To their families, their wives and their husbands and their children we offer our most profound sympathies.

Would that their sacrifice serve as an example to all of us, and their example inspire the next generation.

Andre Dupont

You really have to respect someone willing to spend his own money and risk losing customers to state something he believes in and feels needs more support.

Feel free to use the image and translation on your own blog to help spread Andre's message.

Now, back to work...

August 28, 2007

There's no place like home

The plan was to leave Fredericton and just go as far as Quebec City on the first day, but the lure of getting home encouraged me to continue and we made it home in just one day. It took exactly thirteen hours -- including three hour long stops -- to make it. I drove the whole way, and was probably passed only a half dozen times by other cars. We were also blessed by the fastest passage through Montreal ever.

We couldn't have made it had Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos not remained in their mild-mannered secret identities for most of the ride. They were terrific. I was surprised.

It was nice not to worry about the blog for a couple of weeks, but now I'm itching to get back at it. I'll slap some photos up soon, and then will get back to my role as Canada's most beloved blogger. But give me a day to unpack, mow the lawn, shop, go through the mail, and find the one cat that is still missing.

August 20, 2007

The Globe can get stuffed

What a bunch of whiny elitists these guys are! Apparently the erecting of amateur inukshuks in the wilderness is offending the delicate sensibilities of our betters. God forbid a Canadian cultural tradition arises without government sponsorship. Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos refuse to obey the Globe's holy commandment.

They (with some technical assistance from Papa) built these on Grand Manan Island last week. Now we are in Moncton, enduring the special hell that is Holiday Inn with small children. More later.

July 23, 2007

Some backstory to the Chilean brawl

When I read the complaints of the Chilean U-20 soccer team on what happened Thursday night, I had a tiny, but hard-to-shake sense that something was not quite right about it. What could it be?

Chilean players said they were going to greet a throng of supporters and sign autographs near their bus when they were "attacked" by police officers for no apparent reason.

Midfielder Mauricio Isla said several of his teammates suffered head, back and knee injuries after being Tasered and hit with batons; at least one player sought hospital attention. Defender Arturo Vidal said his teammates had to smash the windows of their bus because pepper spray had wafted inside and they could not breathe.

Something seemed to be wrong with this account as well, but I just couldn't put my finger on it:
"They hit me with an electrical current and I fainted," player Isaias Perralta told Chilean media. "When I regained consciousness, I saw 10 police officers were hitting me and throwing acid in my face."
Through official channels, the Police are claiming they acted 'appropriately' but are not giving any more details. Luckily we still have informal channels. The Mayor of Mitchieville managed to get the other side of the story from one of the cops that was there:
Meanwhile, the Chilean *Fans* were egging on the Chilean players to find the ref(s) and beat the hell out of them. Most of the Chilean players were now on the bus, but about 4-5 of them decided to show off in front of their fans (that were barricaded about 100 metres from the cops and the players). The Chileans, being typical macho Spanish rejects, decide to taunt the FEMALE security guards by spitting on them and calling them nice words such as cuntas and various other pleasantries.

One thing led to another and the tough Chilean players took it up a level and pushed one of the female security guards--not a cop, a security guard. The Toronto cops that were there, serving and protecting, did just that. They grabbed the player that pushed the guard and subdued him. The rest of the players jumped in, and the players on the bus that were watching the whole thing--and egging on the other players, like the heroes that they are--jumped off the bus and went for the FEW cops and security guards which were assembled.

Reinforcements were called in and the Toronto cops wiped the pavement with the Chilean cowards.

Hmm. Now that seems a little more plausible...

July 05, 2007

The Taliban's local allies

I really don't feel like writing a long diatribe against Jack Layton's and Stephane Dion's eagerness to use the deaths of our soldiers for their political ends. So I'll make it a short one instead.

Dividing us and sowing doubt is what the Taliban are trying to do, and it's clear the opposition are willing to do their part to help in this task. They really don't seem to understand that every time they open their mouths and demand Canada leave Afghanistan to those butchers, they encourage them and put our troops in more danger. It is impossible to completely prevent the types of cowardly attacks the Taliban have been successful with, but it is not impossible to convince them that it will not affect our resolve and that they are fighting in a losing cause. Dion and Layton instead offer them hope.

Jonathan Kay has some more.

July 02, 2007

Confronting the nostalgists for totalitarianism

So what sight greeted us as our family arrived in Wakefield, Quebec for the Canada day parade? This:

The Soviet flag was flying from the mast of a barge docked at the main intersection. It was the first thing visible as anyone entered town. I was aghast.

I'm normally a somewhat reserved person. I intensely dislike confrontation. But I knew I would be angry with myself if I didn't go to have words with the historically illiterate morons that raised this banner. I told my wife to wait, pushed the front of my hat down, and strode over to the dock.

There were three men in the boat. I asked when they were planning to take that flag. They said they weren't. I asked them why they were flying the flag of a regime that had killed millions of people. They replied lamely that the Soviets were our allies in World War Two. Though it was less visible, they also were flying a Cuban flag, suggesting that the USSR's aid in defeating Nazi Germany was not what they were celebrating. I started getting angry. I reminded them of the mass starvations in the Ukraine and the gulags, and asked how anyone could proudly display a symbol of an empire that engaged in that kind of inhuman repression. They shrugged and said I was the first person to complain.

And I most certainly was. I looked around and saw the bemused looks on the faces of the passersby. I was playing the role of the crazed right-winger, while they were the cool, beret-wearing hipsters. I replied that even though I was the only person willing to speak up, I was still right, and that they should be ashamed of themselves. And then I left.

What is amazing is that the three men on that barge own a local business, Kaffé 1870. They seem to have no problem with the fact that if they lived under the regimes they are so nostalgic for, they would have been shut down long ago.

But perhaps there is some hope for them. I noticed that within a half hour they had taken down the Soviet flag and replaced it with a vertical red banner. I'd like to think I made them feel a little bit of shame, even if just for a moment.

June 23, 2007

Your chance to help the government!

Today I saw this sign in the vacant field opposite the new Canadian War Museum in Ottawa:

Governments today don't make their decisions based on anything as old-fashioned as need, they do things the proper way. They get as much money as they can and then divide it up amongst various departments and other interested parties to decide where it should go. It's a delicate balancing act that aims to keep whining to a minimum but isn't really concerned with doing anything useful. Usually spending the money isn't a difficult task for the recipients, but sometimes it comes so fast that it's hard to know what to do with it. It's this difficult position the National Capital Commission finds itself in. They have a pot of money to spend on a new 'national cultural institution', but they can't figure out what it should be!

To help them out, I suggest the employing the decision-making tool closest to perfect democracy: an internet poll. Answer the question below and help our government spend this money wisely!

The Canadian Government has announced its intentions to build a new 'national cultural institution' on the LeBreton Flats in Ottawa. What should it be?
Canadian Peace Museum
Museum of Multiculturalism
Canadian Curling Hall of Fame
History of Women Discovery Centre
National Shrine to Pierre Elliot Trudeau
Canadian Hunting and Fishing Museum
Temple to Gaia
Canadian Centre for Aboriginal History
Other (use comments)

current results

June 04, 2007

Go Senators! Achieve victory!

While walking in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, I observed an odd ritual being performed by young men dressed in red sweaters. One party would spot another party and shout, "WOO HOO!" The other party would also shout back, "WOO HOO!" and then would approach. Then the two groups engaged in patterns of hand-slapping, accompanied by gutteral noises to indicate their ferocity. Then -- after a last, shared, "WOO HOO!" -- they would separate and continue on their separate ways. I found it quite perplexing.

Using my blogger's instincts, I sensed there was a story to this behavior. After researching, I discovered that a local ice hockey team was engaged in a tournament to win a trophy of some sort. The macho posturing was performed by fans of the team in order to... well, I'm still not really sure why.

Apparently, victory in this tournament is deeply desired by many people in my community. With that in mind, we here at Autonomous Source say:

Go Sens. Go!

UPDATE: Dang. Well, they're not dead yet...

May 13, 2007

Tol 'ja!

Over two years ago I wrote this on the subject of Ken Dryden's great child care boondoggle:

Any time the government spills out great streams of cash, much of it seems to trickle through fingers and leak through the floorboards. This is the probable destination of much of the first C$5 billion. Very little of it will be paid to people to watch over children.
This week, the Ottawa Citizen reports:
More than $2 billion in federal child-care funding has flowed into a virtual accountability void in the last three years.

Officials in Ottawa have few clues as to how well the cash was spent by most provinces since 2004. Provincial reports are months or even years overdue - when they're provided at all.

Two billion dollars. Two thousand million dollars. All so the government(s) could say they were 'doing something' about childcare. Too bad no one knows what they did.

Yet still the money flows!

The Conservatives, in their March budget, pledged another $250 million in child-care money this year to be doled out to the provinces on a per capita basis - again with no strings attached, critics say.

May 11, 2007

The whine that was heard across the land

Isn't it sad when a pathetic jackass like this guy gets wall-to-wall coverage by our credulous media? The guy has nothing to say and is just a saboteur, not a 'whistleblower'. He deserves what he gets. But every news organization in the country has video of his pompous statement leading the news.

The big question I have is how some bureaucrat hired this clown in the first place. Now that's a scandal!

'The road to Heaven-on-Earth passes through Hell and never re-emerges'

Front Page magazine has a great interview with Canadian poet David Solway, who dramatically shifted his worldview after 9/11. In it, Solway warns of the threat of militant Islam and berates the modern left for their tacit support of this ideology. Because of his command of language, he is able to do this very well. Here he describes the Canadian political scene:

Ignoring the supple manoeuvring of the enemy within and the gathering storm of the enemy without, we concentrate instead on tiny tempests in the nanny-state teapot, cozily swaddled within the cocoon of our facile self-preoccupations. The majority of those who constitute our political elite would steer the country toward a flaccid accommodation with a grimly Hobbesian world, seconded by our dial-a-cause literary organizations with no grip on the way things are. A new government may, hopefully, alter this trend, but the malaise is deep-seated. A telling illustration of this penchant for denial, this flight from reality, was the repealing of anti-terror legislation in the recent parliament at the hands of the pacifist opposition parties, an act for which we are likely to pay a heavy price in the future.

Canada is not only an incoherent country but a country gone soft, more than half its citizenry believing that world peace is achievable through parliamentary posturing, expressions of highfalutin sentiment, unquestioning support for the corrupt and ineffectual U.N., the admission in principle of the equality of all cultural perspectives (with two exceptions: our own and Judaism’s), the enunciation of good intentions and impetuous calls for immediate ceasefire. It is a country that has enfeebled its military to the point at which, as historian Jack Granatstein has indicated in Whose War Is It?, it would be unable to respond effectively to a national catastrophe. It is a country which believes that soldiers are meant to keep the peace even if there is no peace to keep, but that they are certainly not meant to risk their lives on the battlefield. The job of the army is to build schools, hospitals and bridges, but not to prevent the enemy from blowing them up the moment they are in place. Canadians tend to be deeply concerned that the terrorist detainees in Afghanistan—those who plant roadside bombs, kill wantonly, mutilate and behead—may not be receiving proper treatment from the Afghan authorities to whom they have been turned over. That these are members of the same Taliban organization which sheltered al-Qaeda and enthusiastically endorsed and abetted its project to murder and maim as many innocent civilians as possible, including those who piously wish to defend the terrorists’ rights and wellbeing, seems of little or no importance.

RTWT, there's plenty more where that came from.

See also: Nick Cohen.

(Hat tip: Dust My Broom)

May 08, 2007

That was quick

Boisclair is stepping down from the leadership of the PQ, setting up Duceppe's move to the majors from separatism's Ottawa farm team.

I never understood why the PQ picked this guy in the first place. It seemed that they were just interested in attributes of him, not the whole package. They congratulated themselves on the fact that they were cool enough to choose a young, gay man known to have had a drug habit. They didn't notice he was a poor leader and forgot that rural Quebec is as (socially) conservative as Alberta.

Next!

May 04, 2007

It Was Racial Oversensitivity, Not Racism

I was shocked by Ujjal Dosanjh's comments on the new revelations in the Air India inquiry:

"There was at that time a basic perception (that) here are some brown guys with turbans fighting each other, maybe hurting each other," Dosanjh said Thursday.

"The rest of the society really didn't know the culture, didn't know the language, didn't really know the issues, didn't in fact care very much. And that permeated throughout the (police) forces . . . I'm not blaming them but that was the environment at that time."

Dosanjh, a former B.C. premier and federal cabinet minister, has direct personal experience with how the authorities dealt with violence in the Indo-Canadian community.

Just months before the Air India bombing, Dosanjh was brutally and repeatedly bashed on the head with an iron rod in the parking lot outside his law office. The beating came after he had spoken out against Sikh extremism.

"I felt at that time, being an activist right in the middle of things, that law enforcement officials right across the country and the politicians didn't really give a damn about me or anybody else in that part of the community because, you know, it was a small community, didn't matter."

And this:
"Maybe it's harsh coming from me at this day and age but I genuinely believe if you had 329 white Anglo-Saxons killed in an Air India disaster, you would have had an inquiry in no time."
Coming as this does after evidence is heard of a possible warning of the attack (and is in fact what triggered his comments), Dosanjh is essentially saying that the RCMP 'didn't really give a damn' about some 'brown guys' and just let it happen. And then they didn't care afterwards. Leaving aside what a vile attitude this is -- and it is extremely vile -- it just doesn't make any sense.

First, an inquiry could not have been called until the criminal cases were finished -- and this didn't happen until recently. It would not be any different had those aboard been as white as a blank piece of paper.

Second, by bringing up the importance of the inquiry and implying there was opposition to it, he reminds voters of the Liberals' recent objections to the extension of anti-terror bill. That bill was claimed to have been important in making the inquiry work. The only roadblocks put in the way of the inquiry have been from the Liberals themselves. Never mind that they were in power during the majority of the years following the disaster and could have done more if it was warranted.

And third, by reaching out his finger and indiscriminently pointing at the police and calling them racist, he invokes the real reason the warnings were ignored. Not racism, but fear of the professional knee-jerk racism grievance mongers -- people just like Ujjal Dosanjh.

Does anyone think that if the RCMP had all the information on a plot -- where the bombs were, and who set them -- they would just ignore it? No, of course not. They'e not monsters, and beyond that they certainly wouldn't mind being heroes. But in reality, the information they had was probably vague and imprecise. The crown wasn't able to convict anyone for the crime after the event, how could they have been better informed before it?

Let's do a thought experiment. Imagine the RCMP conducted a sweep of more radical elements of the Sikh community based on some compelling, but non-conclusive intelligence that a bomb plot was underway. People were arrested and questioned, homes and maybe even a Sikh temple were searched. How long would it be before an ambitious Sikh politician was standing in front of a row of microphones claiming 'racism'. Imagine the pressure that would be brought on the investigators to produce some evidence for their actions quickly.

Now imagine that nothing was found. How many careers would be destroyed?

I'm not saying that ignoring the threats was the right thing to do. Hopefully more information will come out to prevent anything like this from happening again. But unfortunately, institutions like the RCMP promote those best at covering their ass -- and only second best at doing their job. Evolution has required this survival skill from them, because the water they swim in is infested by bloodthirsty sharks like Ujjal Dosanjh.

April 30, 2007

The Joy of Tax

A couple of years ago, we had our taxes done by an accountant. Much less stress, sure, but when I saw the bill -- over $800! -- my attitude changed. I figured I could do it myself, and even if I made a couple of errors, it would still be cheaper. Besides, I know plenty about accounting. How hard can it be?

Last year, it wasn't hard. It was a pain, and I was working up to the deadline to complete it, but it was done and I think I did a fair job. But this year, Intuit's Quick Tax has conspired to make my tax filing duty more hellish than it usually is.

I followed their 'Quick Step' process, by which the program asks you the info, you enter it, and it leads you through the whole thing. And if that sounds too good to be true, it is. It was shoddy and clumsy and had me pulling at my hair in frustration. There were many small problems, but let me just give one example.

We bought a new car last year. That means that for one part of the year we could claim a deductable business expense from the use of one vehicle, and for the rest on the other vehicle. There is a form to list the expenses and usage of 'Auto A' and 'Auto B' to allow claim of their respective deductions. Easy! But not so with the capital cost allowance -- how the depreciation of the cars is claimed. For that, the values of the cars are pooled and only the percentage usage of 'Auto A' is applied to the expense. This made no sense to me, so I searched how to enter this correctly. After two hours of fruitless frustration, I just decide to fudge something that is mostly honest, but poorly descibes how the cars were used. Whatever. Good enough. Later, after I finish the entire return, the program sees it way to giving me a 'warning' that the CCA calculator for two cars is somewhat problematic, and that I should just, you know, fudge something. Thanks, guys.

But I was yet to discover the worst. And in fact I didn't find the worst until after I filed my return, because -- even though I had no basis to -- I still had some trust for Quick Tax. My wife's return I went over with a fine-toothed comb, but I figured it could do a no-brainer return like mine without a problem. Nope.

Behold! Quick Tax turns $33K in gross income to $64K in net income!

This was because of a bogus negative deduction -- the result of a bizarre 'overflow' appearing on one of the Quebec schedules. Subtracting a negative is the same as adding a positive, and so now Revenue Canada thinks I earned twice as much as I actually did. It's shocking that such widely used software, based on many versions from previous years would not be able to detect an 'out of range' variable or have basic type checking for calculated values. But after having a test spin of Vista this month, shoddy software doesn't surprise me anymore (but that's another story).

I planned to go through my return this morning after the kids went to school, and I would have found this bug, but Murphy's Law intervened and made both the kids very sick. Max waited until his Mama was gone for a whole two minutes before he threw up all over the floor, his clothes, the bathroom, and the stairs. I just decided to file them because I obviously wasn't going to get any free time, and I didn't want this hanging over me. But now I have something else hanging over me. Revenue Canada (yes! I got through!) advises me that I can't do anything until my notice of assessment arrives. Oh the joy.

March 29, 2007

Make up your mind, buddy!

Stephane Dion on the budget:

Mr. Dion said the budget does nothing for students, Aboriginals, single parents and middle class Canadians and increases the gap between the rich and the poor. The provinces are unhappy with it, and he also said it spends far too much.

“The Conservatives said they would hold the line on spending. Instead, Jim Flaherty is now the biggest-spending finance minister in Canadian history,” said Mr. Dion.

So Flaherty isn't throwing enough cash around -- and he's throwing too much. Logical. This is the type of sophisticated political rhetoric that wins elections.

With support of both the fiscal conservatives and the insatiable special interests, Dion can't lose.

March 20, 2007

Budget burnout

On the subject of budgets:

I hate, hate, hate Budget Days and Budgets, and conversations about Budget Day and conversations about Budgets, from the depths of my soul. I find the details of tax law deeply depressing and complicated, not least deeply depressing because [it's] so damn complicated. Plus everyone on regular TV drones on about it all for hour after hour, while saying (because knowing) extremely little, like cricket commentators when it is raining only not funny or interesting.
The 'cricket' comment should give you a clue that the writer is not talking about Flaherty's latest cash distribution plan, but a similar document that is going to be released in the UK. But it still applies.

I'm pretty disappointed that the Conservatives have taken a page from Paul Martin and used our own money to buy us gifts and wrap them up in neat little packages, but I'm not surprised. Minority governments have backbones like overcooked spaghetti and must accomodate any special interest group just to remain standing. But it could be worse. Stephane Dion is upset because Flaherty only used one firehose to spray us with cash, not two:

Child care? Nothing, and we have requested a lot for that," said Dion.

Aboriginals? Nothing or almost nothing. This is a shame. And the fight against poverty is not there. The competitiveness of the country, the capacity to invest in research and skills? Nothing. The environment? Only compensation for the cuts they did last year.

It'll only be after the Conservatives get a majority that there'll be any real change in this kind of wasteful spending. Maybe. Hopefully. Well, there's a small chance...

Didn't I say I wasn't going to write about politics any more? I wonder what happened with that...

March 18, 2007

Draw!

Will Dion dare pulling the country into an election? I don't think so. This weekend Harper gave Canada a look at the heightened state of readiness of the Conservative party to fight an election. As an act of political intimidation, it was very effective.

I was at the 'Political Training Conference' this weekend in Toronto, and had a great time. There were workshops and lectures on all sorts of topics, and opportunities for campaign volunteers from around the country to rub shoulders with and ask questions of the top ministers of the government. The most interesting part for me was to have the opportunity to chat with other volunteers and hear the problems they were having and some of the interesting solutions they came up with. I was only mildly disappointed that the 'hospitality suites' set up by various ministers all had cash bars. I'm sure they don't do things that way in the Liberal party.

I'd write some more, but my ride is here. Gotta go...

February 17, 2007

I thought my handwriting was bad

We all know it's forbidden to make fun of a politician's looks, but what about his handwriting? Will Canadians be willing to vote this man in as Prime Minister if this is how he signs his name?

What does it say about him as a person? Anyone know a graphologist?

January 29, 2007

'Do you think it's easy to set priorities?'

The Conservatives have fired the first shots in the election that won't be held this spring. Most people that watch the TV news have probably seen this, but internet only folks like myself had to wait for some kind soul to upload it to Youtube.

My opinion? It's pretty effective. Dion is working overtime to build an image of himself that he can bring to an election. It's a lot harder to do when your opponents are lobbing well-aimed shots at the foundation. And these are Dion's own words being used against him, so the ad is pretty difficult to refute. With luck, the spluttering Dion shown here will be the view of him that 'sticks', leaving the Liberals no choice but to pull him out of the leadership and start looking for a replacement.

UPDATE: All three of these ads can be found on the Conservative website. I'm not as keen on the Back to Power ad, but the environmental one is effective at pointing out that the Liberals did nothing on greenhouse gas emissions in their thirteen years in power. Which I'm happy about, actually.

Hmm, there it is, a reason for me to vote for the Liberals...

January 17, 2007

For Lease: Supervillain Lair

How does this sound as a supervillain (or even a superhero) lair? Massive man-made caverns located behind the rushing water of Niagara Falls? It would be the perfect place to build an army of giant robots. It's almost too good to be true.

And they exist! A hydro-electric powerstation once used these caverns to expel water from two turbines. It would have been very expensive to fill them in, so it was never done. And no one could ever get to them anyway.

Or could they? Thrill to the story of how three ninja mountaineers, JonDoe, Stoop and Dsankt, made their way past Ontario Hydro's lame security and made their way to the base of the Falls -- from behind.

Note that the writers, editors, and financial backers of Autonomous Source do not in any way endorse this dangerous and illegal activity. But we do think it's pretty cool.

January 09, 2007

The Financial Post's War on Environmentalism

Personally, I'm a skeptic when it comes to fight against global warming. I have my reasons, which I have yet to detail on this blog -- because I'm generally very wary of the subject. Everyone I know seems to be a passionate believer in it, and the party I belong to has embraced it and is taking advice from the most vocal crusaders for it. It's the great motherhood issue of our time, and I feel that I would ruffle too many feathers if I said my piece.

The Financial Post Comment page (part of the National Post) does not have a similar fear. Almost every day for the past few weeks, there has been a story kicking holes in the theory or examining the true costs of Kyoto. Obviously, the editors are in the pockets of Big Oil. Still, as a member of the small cohort of heretics still left, I appreciate seeing arguments being made about the issue when many people would just like to declare global warming -- and its solution -- to be beyond debate.

Today's piece, Climate action would be suicidal, pulls no punches and is a fun read:

Even if one were one to agree that the scientific case for potentially catastrophic man-made climate change was closed, which it is not, there would still be three unavoidable facts about the pretensions of climate policy. Each of these facts is assiduously avoided by fans of draconian action. The first is that Canada could not meet its obligations under the Kyoto Accord without decimating the economy. The second is that if it were to achieve this suicidal goal, the impact on global climate would be zero. Finally, even if all the signatories to Kyoto were to meet their targets (which they won't), the impact on global temperatures would be minimal. Kyoto was just one draconian step towards a much more draconian future.
Read the whole thing.

January 05, 2007

Don't do it Steve!

With his new cabinet shuffle and his new rhetoric, Stephen Harper seems to be getting ready to remake himself and his party as environmentalists.

"We've clearly determined we need to do more on the environment," Mr. Harper said.

"I think the public's been clear to us; they want that to be a priority. I think it should be a priority," the Prime Minister added, "so that is going to occupy ... a lot of our time."

Terence Corcoran is alarmed by the anti-prosperity 'rankings' that are used by the PM to justify this new focus:
In a newspaper interview just before Christmas, Mr. Harper said Canada's environmental record is "the worst in the developed world ... in just about every measure." In an interview with CTV, he said Canada's environmental performance "is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We've got big problems." Now defunct Environment Minister Rona Brockovich [har!] made the same claims earlier in the year.

There is only one study model by only one group in the world that ranks Canada as the worst environmental performer among developed nations, and that's the work of David Suzuki and a collection of academic activists associated with Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. The latest in the line landed last month from the Suzuki Foundation, a report that begins: "Canada has among the worst environmental record of any developed country, ranking 28th out of 30 OECD countries."

Authority for this claim, absurd on its face -- ranking Canada behind the likes of Greece, Poland, Turkey and Mexico--is a 2005 report, The Maple Leaf in the OECD, produced by the Suzuki Foundation and environmental academics from Simon Fraser. That report in turn draws on Canada Vs. The OECD: An Environmental Comparison, a 2001 work by David R. Boyd, eco-research chair of environmental law at the University of Victoria.

The 2001 Boyd report, the founding catalogue of misleading indicators, warped assumptions and outrageous conclusions should send the Harper Tories running for cover. Instead, the government has adopted the report's methodology as legitimate foundation for political policy.

The first and obvious clue that the Boyd report is trouble is the appearance of Mexico as No. 2 in the ranking. Is Mexico a model for green policy? Will Canada send new Environment Minister John Baird to Mexico on a fact finding mission to unearth the secrets of Mexico's environmental success?

Mexico ranks high on the Suzuki-Boyd rankings for one main reason: low growth and dismal standard of living. Take transportation: Canada ranks 26th for distance travelled by road vehicles per capita, while Mexico ranks 1st. Canada ranks 25th in the high number of vehicles per capita, while Mexico is 2nd with few vehicles. Why? Nobody in Mexico can afford cars or road travel.

The transportation area captures the overriding moral theme of the New Conservative standard for environmental success. Economic progress, symbolized by the ability of people to own motor cars and travel about, live well, produce energy, keep warm and keep cool, leads to environmental failure that must be corrected. Economic stagnation and reversal produces success. Mexico is good, Canada is bad.

I'm fully in agreement with Terry on this. Suzuki and his supporters are against wealth, and against economic growth. They see people living comfortably in large houses and enjoying greater mobility and purchasing power as dangerous. They want us to live 'sustainably', which they would like to enforce by passing laws to restrict our economic freedoms. This despite the fact that as people grow wealthier and no longer have to worry about the basics of survival, they're more likely to be concerned about improving their surroundings. A town that is living at a subsistance level is unlikely to worry too much that their sewage is being improperly disposed of.

But luckily, Harper's new green push is most likely a cynical ploy to soften the Tories vulnerability on this issue rather than a true conversion to the cause.

John Ivison:

The theme of all this activity can be summed up in two words -- spring election. Mr. Harper is bolstering his defences against predictable Liberal assaults --an Environment Minister from Alberta in the pocket of the oil industry; a social conservative Justice Minister; a Human Resources Minister who has failed to create any new child-care spaces, and so on.

In theory, it is all perfectly logical. In practice, we will probably see the environment fall down the agenda as quickly as it rose when the world is gripped by an irrational panic over an asteroid impact.

Andrew Coyne:
But the Tories will have correctly calculated that much of the public's concern for the environment is essentially fraudulent. While there are true believers on both sides, the broad mass of the public wants Something Done about global warming, but wants Someone Else to pay for it.

All that is required to satisfy these voters is to put on a reasonably convincing show of action, to flatter their consciences without disturbing their pocketbooks. As with gifts and remedial math tests, it's the thought that counts.

Whew!

December 26, 2006

Jack takes the prize!

I should have announced this much earlier, but better late than never, I suppose:

Jack Layton is 2006's winner of the Most Annoying Canadian!

(Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap!)

(Picture shamelessly ripped off from Le Cornichon.)

With 37% of the vote, Jack dominated this competition from the beginning, handily beating other annoying Canadians such as David Suzuki, Belinda Stronach, and Colleen Jones. I suspect the timing of the vote may have had some impact on the results, as Jack had been making noises against the Canadian mission in Afghanistan during the beginning of October. If the 2006 MAC voting was being held today, perhaps Gilles Ducheppe or Stephane Dion would have taken the prize. But no matter, Jack is richly deserving of the award, and the people have spoken.

December 02, 2006

Bye-bye, Bob

For some reason I found myself watching the Liberal convention today. Listening to Peter Mansbridge droning on while watching Stephane Dion scratch his nose or Gerard Kennedy stare at nothing with that grin on his face is must-see TV. I'll be buying the DVD when it comes out too.

The third ballot had Dion sprint into first place, leaving Rae in the dust -- and I couldn't be happier. Rae was the Power Corp's candidate and had all the worst elements of the Liberals rally around him (Brison, Volpe, Dryden, Fry). It's good for Canada that he was knocked out. It's probably also good for the Conservatives, because Rae (strangely enough) was the most electable candidate. I don't think Dion has the presence to win a national election.

This is probably the best result for the Liberals too, if they're willing to look at the long term picture. They need to break with their sleazy past and Dion is the best person to do that. They need a little longer out of power.

I'm writing this as if Iggy has already lost, but there's still the fourth ballot to go. But I don't think Ignatieff has any hope. Congrats to Dion, and Kudos to Kennedy for giving Dion his support. I'm not likely to support any policies these two are likely to run on, but I'm glad they gave such an effective boot to the old-school Liberal machine.

November 30, 2006

I think it'll be, umm... Dion!

Those wacky Liberals are gathering in Montreal this week to pick the new leader. I haven't been following the race as closely as most political watchers, but hey: I scan the headlines every day and have a blog! That makes me extremely qualified to throw my two cents in.

In my opinion, the choices are pretty meagre. Michael Ignatieff is the only one who has the makings of someone who could last at the job for more than a couple of years, but his image has crashed and burned in the past couple of months. Even though he's got the most delegates going in, he's lost the big Mo and doesn't have a chance. All of the others, except Rae perhaps, will be unable to win the next general election and will have the distinction of being the first party-chosen Liberal leader that never became Prime Minister.

So with Iggy out of it, there's only three candidates that have any hope of taking the prize: Stéphane Dion, Bob Rae, and Gerard Kennedy. Kennedy can be dropped from those three immediately. His weak French and lack of support in Québec (except from Justin Trudeau -- an albatross) disqualify him. He won't be the second pick of too many delegates' because of this liability. So it's down to Rae and Dion.

Rae has been riding the Mo for some time now and I think it's about to shake him off. He's still got some baggage from his bad old days of running Ontario into the ground, plus there's the fact he's a new Liberal. Charming delegates onto the second ballot will be a lot harder with that background.

That leaves Dion. He's got a reputation for being squeaky clean and nice -- not great attributes for a party leader, but people are not always thinking with their heads at a convention. And he's from Quebec, which is always an obsession with the Liberals. So what if he can't speak English? Neither could Chretien. My prediction is that he'll come out ahead in a squeaker over Rae.

Paving the way for a Conservative majority.

October 31, 2006

An aggressive 'peace' protester

Mike at the London Fog has a run-in with a comically paranoid protester at one of the sparsely attended protests against Canadian Troops in Afghanistan this weekend. He was bullied and intimidated just because he wore a poppy on his jacket. Now it turns out the thug in question is the vice-president of an NDP riding association. Charming.

No big deal? Imagine if it were a Conservative riding association executive similarly harrassing a counter-protester (which Mike was not acting as) at a 'Support the Troops' rally. The headlines in the Toronto Star couldn't be larger.

October 14, 2006

MAC 2006 Update

First an apology. Due to a clerical error here in Autonomous Source headquarters, the ability to vote once per day had been disabled for much of this week. If you have been trying to vote since Wednesday only to be told that you have already voted, you will now be able to vote again. We apologize for the error, and assure you the person responsible has been properly chastised and is feeling very guilty.

But there have not been to many people trying to vote as the race has turned into a rout, with Jack Layton firmly in the lead. He currently has the support of 39% of respondents, a huge lead over second place Belinda Stronach and third place David Suzuki, who each have only 8%. It's hard to imagine anyone catching Jack at this point, so the race is pretty much over.

Which is why I've decided to change the rules a bit. The current vote will continue until November 15, at which time the top five will compete to win the ultimate championship. If current trends hold up, those five will be Jack, Belinda, Dr. Suzuki, George Stroumboulopoulos and Ben Mulroney. But that's only if current trends continue -- the race is much closer for second, third, fourth, and fifth places. And in the final poll -- which will end December 31 -- who knows what will happen?

Is this change of rules a transparent attempt to make the competition more competitive, thus generating more interest and hits? Yes. Yes, it is.

October 06, 2006

Free speech doesn't include a free megaphone

Over at the Progressive Bloggers site, there is great sadness that funding has been drastically scaled back for Status Of Women Canada (SWC). They are especially dismayed that no longer will the government fund advocacy or lobbying activities by SWC. 'Skdadl' at POGGE sums up the indignation in a post entitled the CPC sniggers at liberty and democracy:

Just before I launch into my usual rant about democracy and the anti-democratic tendencies of our New Government of Canada, I will make one historical observation that may complicate things a bit. Certain especially elevated notables of our federal civil service, most famously the grey men/persons of the Finance Department and RevCan (or whatever the hell we call it these days), have been committed neo-lib slashers of social programs for generations. Their encroachments on our social consensus are what pamused is referring to when she mentions the difficulties that Canadian charitable organizations already have in obeying "the rules." Whoever the first movers were of the recent CPC government assault on funding for women's programs, aboriginals, museums, the Court Challenges program, and so on, their socially conservative ideology would have dovetailed very neatly with the ideological pathologies of the most powerful (often Liberal) members of the mandarinate in Ottawa, who have had many earlier successes in denying creative housing programs in Canada, eg, or in making sure that you never get a disability pension or even a disability tax deduction unless you are at death's door. Charming people. They probably feel bad about the museums, though.

Back to democracy. We all remember John Baird's rationale for cutting the Court Challenges program, the rationale that presumably also pretends to justify any refusal of federal funding to groups that "advocate" on behalf of women still facing legal structural disadvantage:

I just don't think it made sense for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government's own laws in court.
Now, there is a man who has not grasped the difference between a particular elected representative government and the state -- ie, the people, all the people, all the time, their protective symbol in Canada being the Crown, but never doubt: the Crown are us, all of us -- and the responsibility that the one owes the other.

A democratic government always owes all the people free access to study, to criticize, to organize against, and to resist laws or institutional structures that can be shown to discriminate against citizens in ways that violate our constitution. It is a frightening state, certainly not a democracy, that would suddenly declare that no better law is possible than the ones it has conceived of. [bold in original]

Well. Excuse me if I just don't understand where the assault on democracy is here. How are people prevented from studying, criticizing, or organizing against laws? Who in government is saying that there are no laws better than the ones it has conceived of? Is she saying that no dissent is possible unless the government first cuts the dissenters a check? That doesn't say much about the dedication to the cause.

Politics is about organizing, fundraising, and spreading a message. If you want to change something, you have to work. You have to be dedicated. You have to make sacrifices. 'Skdadl' thinks it's all about money:

No one advocates through our courts or to our elected representatives without money. A tiny but powerful minority in our society have always had that money privately, but it has been our civil consensus until now that we will support other groups fighting for liberties that our laws do not yet protect effectively. It seems to me little short of an attempt at a coup that the current CPC government would declare an end to all advocacy and lobbying except by those who are rich.
Which is a bogus argument. The opponents of gay marriage have gotten their message out very effectively without being 'rich' or getting government handouts. I don't agree with them, but at least they're not taking my tax dollars to do their lobbying.

Politics is also about listening. If you want to get people to donate their money or time to your cause, you have to listen to them. And sometimes they're not going to agree with you. Being so long on the government teat, I think this is something that SWC has forgotten how to do.

UPDATE: Befogged Londoner Lisa has a few more choice words.

Oh, for a real opposition

Annoying Canadian candidate Rona Ambrose has been working with her department to develop a new 'green plan' to address the absolutely catastrophic environmental destruction Canada is experiencing. It's going to be announced in the next couple of weeks, but that's not soon enough for the Liberals:

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose was accused of blatant political posturing — rather than real action — on an urgent international crisis after she refused to tell MPs how or when the Conservatives will follow through on their promises to tackle global warming and clean up the environment.

[...]

Angered by the lack of information, opposition MPs said the Tories are undermining the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and stalling on their pledge to replace it with an improved environmental program.

"I'm not sure why you came today. You don't have a plan, no targets, no timeline," said Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez.

Would the opposition make similar claims if the government refused to give details of a budget before it was released? These days, maybe. But Rodriguez obviously has the high ground: he does have a plan:
He noted that Ambrose had opposed his private member's bill that passed second reading in the Commons on Wednesday. It would require Canada to take steps to "meet its obligations" under the Kyoto Protocol.

"Yesterday evening you voted against Kyoto while the Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) was in Toronto watching a hockey game. I guess that was more important to him than voting on the environment," added Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier).

And what a plan it is! Canada must 'take steps' to 'meet its obligations'. That sounds like a reasonable policy. Next week maybe he can end poverty and cure cancer.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't be so sarcastic. But these guys are not taking this issue seriously. This is a complex issue involving billions of dollars and potential changes to our way of life. That the Liberals can claim the Conservative are 'posturing' on the environment before they've even announced their plan is astounding, considering that the Liberals spent thirteen years in power doing nothing but posturing.

But there are no signs of the opposition parties getting serious anytime soon:

Afterwards, opposition MPs and environmental activists said the Conservatives appeared to be dragging out action on the environment to avoid political repercussions, a strategy they said the Harper government has copied from U.S. President George W. Bush.
[Roll eyes]

October 05, 2006

Media onslaught continues

I'll be on John Gormley's show on News Talk 650 in Saskatchewan today. I'll be on at just past noon Eastern time, 10:00 Mountain. If I keep doing these shows, maybe one day I'll be good at them.

UPDATE: Yeah, that went really well, I think. And this one was fun too. It's fun to think of some guy driving a pickup across the prairies listening to me.

UPDATE II: I also did an interview with my local weekly paper. Now I'm going to be outed as a blogger and Conservative to my neighbors. I'm a little nervous about that, actually...

October 03, 2006

So much for my future in radio

I can't say my first interview went very well. I missed part of some of Roy Green's questions and detected a strange quaver in my voice. But just as I was starting to warm up they pulled the plug on me for my insufferable lameness. Oh well. But I was surprised by how I was trashed by him and Charles Adler after I was on. I missed part of it, but I heard a comment comparing the list to something a 'seven-year-old' would create. They disputed many of the nominees and accused me of being an attention-seeking nobody. Whoa! That hurts!

Hey, this is just a small blog for me to goof around on. I spend very little time on it or even thinking about it. I've got no aspirations and generally avoid the various tools available for promoting blogs. The nominations for the list were mostly picked my readers, if there's a problem with them, blame them. It's fun that I have a momentary moment of (very minor) fame, but a little frightening too.

This is the internet. Content is ephemeral. Getting offended by a name on the list, or by an omission, is silly. Radio is ephemeral too. I shouldn't let this bug me.

UPDATE: I did much better on AM640. The vodka shots helped, I think.

October 02, 2006

Blast off!

The voting for the Most Annoying Canadian got off to a huge start today, thanks to an early couple of links from Darcey at Dust My Broom and The Shotgun. Daimnation! and Small Dead Animals soon followed, and the traffic through this normally quiet site became immense. I don't think the carpets in the foyer can ever be repaired.

But it doesn't end there. Tomorrow I'll be appearing on Craig Bromell's show on Toronto radio station AM640. No doubt they're shocked that Charles Adler has been accused of being annoying and will try to intimidate me to get me to remove his name. If you want to listen to me try to avoid being tongue-tied in front of an audience of thousands, tune in tomorrow just after the 11:00 news.

UPDATE: I'm also going to be on Roy Green's show on CHML AM900 in Hamilton just past 10:00 this morning. Oh, what am I gonna wear?

October 01, 2006

Most Annoying Canadian 2006

As promised, the end of September closed the nomination period for the 2006 Most Annoying Canadian competition. Now the voting can begin. Autonomous Source headquarters has worked very hard to choose the twenty-four candidates listed below. They, and the also-rans, were carefully categorized according to a complex process that gave them each ratings on various 'annoying' metrics. Then I picked the ones I liked.

Ben MulroneyDon CherryDavid SuzukiGeorge Stroumboulopoulos
Alexa McDonoughJason KenneyJack LaytonStephen Lewis
Maude BarlowKate McMillanSacha TrudeauBob Rae
Ken DrydenCharles AdlerPhil FontaineBuzz Hargrove
Margaret AtwoodDalton McGuintyHedy FryTed Simonett
Colleen JonesRona AmbroseJoe VolpeBelinda Stronach

Vote for your choice on the sidebar (on the home page). You will be able to vote once per day, and voting will end on December 31st of this year. Please do not make your choices lightly, as the winner will move on to the Worlds, where we have a chance to stage an upset victory over the Americans. We know Canadians are annoying, now is the chance to assert our international dominance.

September 22, 2006

Canadian first: Crowd wearing red cheers Conservative Prime Minister!

There was a big turnout on Parliament Hill today to show support for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan and around the world. I have no skill at estimating crowd sizes, but I'd say it was 'lots and lots'. The CBC instead claims 'thousands' were there, but I'll stand by my assessment.

Continue reading "Canadian first: Crowd wearing red cheers Conservative Prime Minister!" »

September 21, 2006

Red Friday on Parliament Hill

There's a rally planned for tomorrow to show support for our Armed Forces. It's from noon to 1:00 and attendees are encouraged to wear red. With all the waffling going on in Canada over our very important presence in Afghanistan, I think something like this is a very necessary statement to make.

Somehow I think the press will overlook even a high turnout event, but maybe I'll be wrong. Either way, you'll be able to find some photos of it on this fine neglected blog.

September 15, 2006

The deluge begins

I'm really quite disgusted by the National Post today. Even beyond the lurid front page, inside the front section there are four pages given over to extensive coverage of Kimveer Gill, including no less than nine photos of him. There are long quotes from his website, the lyrics to his favourite songs, and more than you should ever want to know about this pathetic loser. I haven't looked at the other papers, But I'm sure there's more of the same there. If I was a distrubed suicidal selfish jerk starved for attention and respect, I'd be quite impressed at the attention being paid to Gill and might even want to emulate him.


September 13, 2006

Today's news

Two, or perhaps three, psychos have gone on a shooting spree in downtown Montreal. From what I've heard, it seems to be a Columbine-inspired attack; there were reports of black trenchcoats being worn by the would-be killers.

Prepare for a media orgy on "why, why, oh why?" Every tiny little detail of these scumbags' lives will be raked over for 'clues', and their faces will be staring at you from the newstand for weeks. And personally, I think that's "why" it happened.

When people as vile as the Columbine creeps become idols for 'disaffected' youth, and a famous film director makes a sympathetic movie about them, of course there will be imitators. Stupid, shallow, pathetic bastards. There's a wrong-headed belief by many that to do something dramatic and destructive like this requires great motivation. But it doesn't. It just requires extreme selfishness and a complete lack of empathy.

Luckily, so far it seems they didn't manage to kill anyone, though there are six in intensive care. And the two poor, misunderstood assholes are dead, with a possible third still at large. A poor showing that will thankfully keep them from ever being too famous.

UPDATE: Segac's is live-blogging the news as it comes out.

UPDATE II: Turns out there was only one shooter and there has been one fatality. Tim Blair reports that this loser's web page announced he didn't like "capatalists". I really don't need to hear any more about him (but I will).

Wow. This is just... monstrous...

A few years ago I used to be pretty frightened at the thought of my children being politically indoctrinated by the public school system. I even briefly considered home schooling to keep them away from those well-meaning brainwashers. But eventually I accepted that it was something they would have to go through, but they would at least have their parents to give them alternate viewpoints and hopefully keep their feet partially on the ground. And it probably wouldn't be as bad as I thought anyways.

But then there's this: Stephen Lewis Secondary School.

The student body, which will rise to 1,500 when Grades 11 and 12 are added in subsequent years, has been divided into four "villages" named after four Canadian activists: June Callwood, David Suzuki, children's rights crusader Craig Kielburger and Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons.

The idea, Ms. Wood said, is to instill a passion for social justice and humanitarianism in the students as they form a new school community.

"This is what we're teaching the kids, that we can never give up and that we are agents of change," Ms. Wood said in an interview just before Mr. Lewis arrived.

Perhaps before churning out 'agents of change', Ms Wood should first concentrate on educating her students in how the world actually works. Doesn't seem too likely though...

The army that can't fight

NATO has been having some problems scraping together some more troops to battle a pocket of Taliban in the south of Afghanistan. Canada, Holland, Britain and the United States have been willing to pull their weight, but others just find fighting, you know... dangerous. Norway doesn't even want its soldiers to go anywhere near Kandahar, even if they won't be asked to fight:

NATO wants to shift more force to fight the Taliban in the area and sketched out a draft order that would move Norway's Quick Reaction Force from the north to Kandahar in the troubled south. There it would relieve an allied watch force which in turn would join the fight against the Taliban.

Defense Department spokesman Kjetil Eide in Oslo said that NATO had sent an 'inquiry' and not an 'order'. Norway's vice-admiral Jan Reksten decided to exercise the right of members to veto ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) orders.

"This was an assignment not in keeping with the what the Norwegian soldiers were sent to Afghanistan to do," brigadier Gunnar Gustavsen, chief of staff at the Joint Defense operative headquarters, told Aftenposten.

According to Aftenposten's sources, the NATO plan would not have meant using Norwegian soldiers in combat operations.

Norway has made it clear that its forces in Afghanistan are not sufficiently trained to take part in combat and not properly equipped to do so either.

I guess this is the kind of military Jack Layton wants Canada to have...

September 06, 2006

Most Annoying Canadian Update

My thanks to the people who made nominations for this year's Most Annoying Canadian competition, and to the other bloggers that helped me spread the word. From those nominations (and a bit more thinking on my part) I've added a few more candidates into the race:

But I'm still sure there are some hard-working and very annoying Canadians that are missing. It would be an affront to them to be overlooked in this very prestigious contest. I'm especially interested in those that the Canadian 'left' find annoying (and why). As well, if any of those proposed are not annoying, I'd be glad to hear of it. Avril Lavigne, for example, I threw on the list knowing next to nothing about her. Annoying or not? I need to know.

Nominations will continue to be taken until the end of September. By then, I hope to have finished reading my book on PHP and MySQL and have a super-secure method of tabulating votes in place.

August 30, 2006

Speaking of the kooks...

Darcey points to a great Steyn article highlighting some of the Canadian contributors to the crowded kook market:

Who is A. K. Dewdney? He's an adjunct professor of biology at the University of Western Ontario, and he has pieced together the truth about what happened on 9/11. You may be familiar with the official version: "To account for the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush White House has produced a scenario involving Arab hijackers flying large aircraft into American landmarks," writes the eminent Ontario academic. "We, like millions of other 9/11 skeptics, have found this explanation to be inconsistent with the facts of the matter."

Instead, he argues, a mid-air plane switch took place on three of the jets. "The passengers of one of the flights died in an aerial explosion over Shanksville, Pa.," he writes, "and the remaining passengers (and aircraft) were disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean." Most of us swallowed "the Bush-Cheney scenario" because we were unaware that, when two planes are less than half a kilometre apart, they appear as a single blip on the radar screen. Thus, the covert switch. Instead of crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the flights were diverted by FBI agents on board to Harrisburg, Pa., where the passengers from all three planes were herded onto UA Flight 175 and flown on to Cleveland Hopkins and their deaths. By then, unmanned Predator drones had been substituted for the passenger jets and directed into their high-profile targets. The original planes and their passengers were finished off over the Atlantic.

Really, it's all very simple...

Cartoon from Filibuster Cartoons by way of ¡No Pasarán!

August 29, 2006

Liquid Neale Replacement

National Newswatch is a new 'rightish' Canadian news aggregator to replace the retired and revered NealeNews. Does it fit the bill? Let's see.

Sparse, 'Drudge-style' black and white presentation? Check.

Hotlinked images vulnerable to being 'Goatse'd'? Check.

Decent selection of Canadian News? Check.

Celebrity and reality-TV news? Check.

Link to my page? Nope. Blog links are coming soon.

Looks good so far. The layout is atrocious (Bourquish, actually), but give them some time. To the editors, I wish you good luck and hope you have more stamina than that deadbeat Brian Neale had... [Yes, yes, I'm only joking...]

UPDATE: Okay, that's much better...

August 28, 2006

Nominations needed for Most Annoying Canadian: 2006

Canada ranks third in the world at creating annoying personalities, falling behind only the United States and France. Our country's smugness and self-righteousness are world-renowned, and our isolated and state-sponsored media produces an abundance of vacuous, self-regarding talking heads. Annoying people incubated in Canada have gone on to annoy millions of others around the world. We should be proud of our leadership in this area, but I feel our country is instead at best apathetic, and at worst, ashamed.

Almost two years ago, I launched an online contest to determine who the Most Annoying Canadian was so we could celebrate this aspect of our national makeup. The fact that it got me my best traffic ever, and even had me noticed (in a small way) by the mainstream media has nothing to do with me launching the contest again. The real reason is that being annoying in Canada is incredibly competitive, so new personalities are constantly pushing the old to the sidelines in the battle for leadership. Ben Mulroney and George Stroumboulopoulos were not even nominated last time, but this time around I think they may be major competitors. Also, there was some controversy with the results last time, as a huge last-minute surge pushed Antonia Zerbisias over the top. This time I've got the Carter Center to help validate the voting procedure, so I'm pretty sure it'll be fair.


The first stage of the competition will to nominate the candidates. The cutoff is the end of September. The photos above are a few contenders I've chosen to get people thinking, but I'm sure there are many annoying Canadians I haven't considered. Drop your suggestion in the comments, or just second the nomination if your favourite is already there. Thanks for your interest, and may the Most Annoying Canadian win.

August 23, 2006

So long, Brian

Brian Neale of Nealenews has decided to hang up his hat, call it a day, and 'spend more time with his family'. He's retiring from the business of linking to the news. Or so he says, anyway, he faked his site's death once already, two years ago, so he may still be back.

For a long time, when visiting his site I could be reasonably assured that there would be a story -- and usually a Canadian story -- that would interest me. I could also be assured that there would be at least one story about reality TV shows. It was a quirky site that had an important place in the Canadian blogosphere and I'm going to miss it. Now I'll have to check in on the CBC and the Toronto Star myself. What a drag.

Today's morning smile...

...Is provided by Andrew Coyne:

With the environment on everyone's agenda and Canada groping for a strategy to deal with global warming, the government of Ontario has stepped up with an imaginative, far-seeing response to the challenge that confronts us all. While others are content merely to debate the issue, the McGuinty government has bet hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds on a revolutionary new form of mass transit that maybe, just maybe, holds the key to a greener future. Perhaps you've heard of it. It's called the Camaro.

Based on a leading-edge, eco-friendly technology known as the internal combustion engine, the Camaro concept car may seem like something out of science fiction, but in fact starts production in just three years. Using the advanced industrial wizardry of rear-wheel drive -- whatever will they think of next? -- the Camaro's whisper-quiet 400 horsepower engine can carry its two passengers as many as three kilometres on a litre of gas. Take that, climate change!

But this sort of technological breakthrough doesn't just happen on its own. It's the fruit of the kind of dynamic, creative partnership between business and government that naysayers typically decry as "corporate welfare." Left to the short-term obsessions of the marketplace, Detroit would probably just turn out a string of gas-guzzling muscle cars, high-octane Viagra for aging baby-boomers recalling their carefree youth. Whereas with government money they can pretend it's about jobs.

Unfortunately, Coyne's piece is behind the National Post's subscriber wall, so to RTWT you'll have to buy the paper. But I'll summarize so you can save your buck: corporate subsidies are stupid.

August 06, 2006

The CBC celebrates individual initiative...

...But gives credit to the communists.

Back when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba was unable to feed itself, and the country depended on food aid (among other things) from its communist allies. Facing starvation when this aid was withdrawn, Cubans started growing their own food on small patches of land. And the government didn't stop them.

This, according to the CBC, is a 'green revolution'. They sent David Suzuki down there to make a two-part documentary celebrating how a repressive state removed enough repression from their agricultural system to allow people to scratch out a subsistance lifestyle using pre-industrial farming methods. And isn't it worth celebrating?

Without fertilizer and pesticides, Cubans turned to organic methods. Without fuel and machinery parts, Cubans turned to oxen. Without fuel to transport food, Cubans started to grow food in the cities where it is consumed. Urban gardens were established in vacant lots, school playgrounds, patios and back yards. As a result Cuba created the largest program in sustainable agriculture ever undertaken. By 1999 Cuba's agricultural production had recovered and in some cases reached historic levels.
Imagine! A fertile tropical island growing enough food to feed itself! Will the wonders of Fidel's revolution never cease?

According to Terence Corcoran (I could never sit through watching the show myself), Suzuki rhapsodizes about these charming, earthy people digging potatoes out of the ground with their fingers, and complains about Canada's modernity:

The big equipment breakthrough is the return of oxen to pull ploughs. There's no money for tractors or fuel. One scene lovingly records a man struggling to wedge his plow into the ground as two oxen push forward, a beautiful setting reminiscent of Canadian farming, circa 1870. Suzuki provides commentary: "Oxen don't compact the soil, like heavy machines. As a result, soil fertility is improved. Oxen can go into the fields when it's too wet for tractors."

...

Each small garden farm produces multiple crops -- vegetables, fruits, coffee, forage. That avoids the Canadian "practice of monoculture where large tracts of land are planted with a single species that creates the most severe pest problems."

Suzuki says the old Soviet industrial farm system imposed on Cuba by Castro is "the same system used today by northern countries like Canada."
...

The use of earthworm composting, based on labour-intensive movement of earth and animal and garden waste, is said to be "extremely efficient." Pests are controlled using bacteria, ladybugs and natural chemical such as extracts of garlic. "Nothing is wasted," Suzuki claims.

But there are problems looming on the horizon for Cuba. Eventually the 20th century might intrude on this idyllic medieval form of living, and following that might be the 21st. Cubans may eventually be allowed to have some kind of control over their lives:
Fidel Castro has survived many perils and at 78, he is rumoured to suffer from a number of afflictions. As his health declines the world wonders: what will become of Cuba's Green Revolution after he is gone? Even now Castro presides over a political system, which although socialist, has an economy where bartering and quasi-entrepreneurial practice seemingly influence many trades and professions, including the "green" sector. There is also ever-increasing pressure from Canada and European nations for the U.S. to come to terms with Cuba's political dissent.

Will Cuba's "Green Revolution" become a blueprint for sustainable agriculture, medicine, and biotechnology, or will it be swept aside by the economic weight of foreign investors? Or will the public clamour for consumer goods from a weary people, fed up with lack of choice, overwhelm contemporary Cuba? Will Cuba's enormous experiment in sustainable development be maintained if the U.S. embargo is lifted and Cuba is exposed to the brutal arena of world trade?

Let's hope not.

August 04, 2006

Following in Paul Martin's footsteps

The National Post has been running a series of columns by the Liberal leadership contenders. Today was Ken Dryden's turn. You'd think that these kind of soapbox proclamations would be available to non-subscribers, but Dryden's isn't. But for him that's probably a good thing, because it's hard to imagine a more pandering and pointless piece of drivel.

Fully two thirds of the column is about how seriously he regards the history and lessons of the Holocaust, and how he understands the Jews' determination to defend themselves. I mean, he just goes on and on and on! Here's a small sample:

As a kid, I attended the United Church of Canada. I grew up in a time when Jews were identified by non-Jews as Jews before they were identified as friends or co-workers -- the word "Jew" always said with a swallowed quietness. It is often still the case. It is part of my job as an MP to represent the Jewish community. The question is how to do that best. Despite the work of very strong advocates over a long time, many of the same issues remain. Maybe there is a different way to approach them. Maybe an important role might be to try to explain Israel and the Jewish community to others, and others to the Jewish community.

With the events in the Middle East, this is another moment to try.

As kids, we learned about the murder of 6 million Jews. We saw images of the concentration camps. We heard of the persecution of Jews in other times, but that didn't register with us so clearly. The Jewish Museum in Berlin tells the story of the Jewish people from the beginning. Nineteenth century Europe was perhaps the best of all times for the Jews, when their contribution in so may fields -- science, the arts, politics -- was so great it seemed more important than their Jewishness. And as museum-goers, knowing what we knew, we could feel the perfect, awful trap. Then the slide; and then what was thought impossible, even unthinkable, happened.

Never again.

I knew how important the Holocaust was to Jews, but I think I really didn't know. It's not just the number of Jews that were murdered, nor that the Jewish people were almost wiped from the face of Europe. But it was what such an overwhelmingly defining moment had to mean, finally and forever. Never again -- not just that this couldn't, couldn't, ever be allowed to happen again. But that bad times would always follow better times, and you could never imagine, never pretend, otherwise. This was survival, now, at every moment, forever.

After the serious stroking of the Jewish community I was waiting for the inevitable 'But...' -- and frankly would respect him more for it -- but it never arrived. Instead, Dryden starts tugging on his chin and indulging in aimless musing:
In today's context, to most around the world Israel doesn't seem like the underdog. The Palestinians do. For the Jewish community, this is hard to take. Don't you understand? The Jews are the underdog of history and will always be. To the non-Jew, the battle in south Lebanon had to do with kidnappings, periodic rocket attacks by Hezbollah and Israel's right to defend itself. To Israel, it had to do with the actions of a surrogate of Iran and Syria and was a matter of Israel's survival as a nation. "Proportionality" is in the eye of what one beholds.

This is a difficult time. It may prove a very dangerous time. It may prove the beginning of a turning point. Once again, we may be learning that military might is less mighty than we thought. It may be that there is no security in any piece of land held by anybody anywhere on earth. It may be that different understandings and approaches will be needed to survive the future. The important voice is the voice that's missing. That is why Canada can matter.

Never again.

To survive in this world, to survive in the future, for "never again" it may mean that "some time again" you have to trust.

But how can the Jewish people trust? But they must trust. But how can they?

Which is how he concludes. So... maybe I'm missing something, but is there anything of substance in there? What's he advocating? What's he saying? Maybe Dryden doesn't understand this, but he's running for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada and a chance to be Prime Minister. The last thing this country needs is another leader unwilling to lead and only able to emote.

August 03, 2006

What 'cease-fire' means in Hezbollese

Hezbollah's patron Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his call for an immediate peace in Lebanon today -- and he also gave his reasons for wanting it:

In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah. "Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site.
In other words, Israel is ruining all their prep work and has to stop if the great dream of another holocaust is ever to take place.

He didn't mention whether he appreciates the help of such useful idiots as Jack and Alexa in the NDP, but I'm sure he does.

(via Dust My Broom)

Putting a sock in them

It seems the Lebanese-Canadian Coordinating Council didn't want to follow the opposition party's plan. As everyone knows, on the issue of Israel's invasion, hyphenated Canadians from the Middle East are supposed to be singing from the same songsheet as the Liberals, Bloc and NDP. But Elias Bejjani, who was invited to speak to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs committee, turned out to have another perspective. So they prevented him from speaking. Here's the LCCC's statement:

The LCCC, an umbrella organization for six non-profit Lebanese Canadian groups, strongly condemns the undemocratic political tactics that the Opposition Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties executed yesterday during a hearing session for the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. The session was initiated by the Opposition parties to challenge the Conservative government’s Middle East policy and the evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon. Several groups and individuals applied to be witnesses and were accepted by the Clerk of the Committee. These witnesses traveled to Ottawa from across the country, but were unjustly prevented from delivering their statements. Among them was Mr. Elias Bejjani, LCCC Chairman and the Canadian Lebanese Human Right Federation (CLHRF) Spokesman, (a member in the LCCC coalition). It is astounding that although the hearing pertained to Lebanon, Opposition MPs deemed it appropriate to silence Lebanese witnesses.
To read the heresy that all three of Canada's opposition parties refused to allow to be entered into the Parliamentary record, follow this link. Hopefully, due to this sleazy bit of procedural trickery, Bejjani's words will get even more mileage.

(via the National Post)

UPDATE: The Canadian Coalition for Democracies was also told to go away by Alexa McDonough and friends. And you can see why if you read their prepared statement that they didn't get a chance to deliver. It pulls no punches:

In today’s terms, Prime Minister Harper recognizes that sacrificing Israel to the demands of a fascist enemy will not bring peace. Just as Hitler peddled his self-inflicted and self-serving grievances to gullible Western leaders and peace activists while pursuing his well-publicized charter, so too will Hamas and Hezbollah. And they will be further emboldened by the apparent weakness of today’s gullible Westerners.

In contrast to Prime Minister Harper’s moral clarity, we now hear former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence, Bill Graham, tell the Guardian newspaper on July 18, "Mr. Harper is proud of the fact he wasn't nuanced … Nuance has kept us in a position where we could help.”

Nuance? Does Mr. Graham actually believe that nuance will curb the homicidal ambitions of an organization that has amassed over 10,000 missiles and sent 1,500 of those missiles packed with flesh-shredding ball bearings into Israel, and done so from positions within densely populated Lebanese cities and towns? Does he believe that nuance is an effective weapon against an organization that is the heavily financed and armed proxy of Iran, whose president has called for the nuclear annihilation of Israel? It would be laughable were it not for the slaughter of innocents and the threat to Canada that flows from Mr. Graham’s deadly naiveté.

Mr. Graham actually believes that Israel should negotiate with an organization that his own government has designated as a terrorist entity. He is telling Israel that she must deal with Hezbollah, whose opening demand is the release of hundreds of prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands, starting with Samir Kuntar, a Palestinian whose gang kidnapped 4-year-old Israeli Anat Hanan and his father, and took them to Gaza where they smashed in the head of the child in front of his father before shooting the man to death. For this atrocity, Kuntar is a Hezbollah hero.

It is Prime Minister Harper, not Bill Graham, who is the honest broker, for honesty demands that we not be impartial between the fireman and the arsonist, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.

July 29, 2006

Choice adjectives

NDP MP Alexa McDonough: "slightly obscene and morally bankrupt..."

Steve McKinnon, the national director of the Liberal Party: "depraved..."

Liberal leadership hopeful Gerard Kennedy: "crass" and "offensive."

Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation: "shameful and appalling."

Who? The Tories. Why? They sent an email to Conservative party members requesting donations, and referred to Stephen Harper's lack of dithering in the Middle East in a positive manner.

Kennedy further said, "The implication it makes is that this is just another political issue to make hay out of." Obviously it's not, as can be seen by the Liberal's and NDP's decision not to use the conflict to score cheap political shots.

July 27, 2006

Work cut out for them

A comment on a story at the Globe and Mail:

P W from Canada writes: It's going to be tough for Israel to eliminate all of Hezbollah, since a good number have already been evacuated to Canada.....

Who's to blame?

Some online polls in the Middle East suggest Arabs are not quite as united behind Hezbollah as coventional wisdom would suggest and the media portray them.

Online surveys by two Middle East news sites offer different answers [to the question of 'Who's to blame?'].

Israel, said a slight plurality of 93,000 plus readers who responded to a poll done by Aljazeera.net, Web site of the Arab TV channel based in Dubai. Thirty percent said Israel was "mainly to blame," while 24 percent cited Hezbollah and 22 percent cited Syria and Iran. Twelve percent said the United States was mainly to blame.

Hezbollah, said a slight plurality of more than 6,500 readers responding to an online survey by Beirut's Naharnet News. Forty-two percent agreed the Shiite militia was to blame for the conflict, while 37 percent faulted Israel. Eleven percent named Iran and 10 percent cited Syria.

Though the Washington Post might like to spin these results as 'different answers', to me they are pretty much the same: about 40% blame Israel (and the US), and about 50% blame Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Compared to Quebec, where 57% percent say Israel is unjustified in it's actions (different question, I know), that's pretty good. True, online polls skew towards the more educated and weathly, and can be manipulated; but I think they at least show that there is no broad consensus against Israel. Most Arab countries will be content to sit back and let the Israelis do their thing.

July 26, 2006

Thanks, Dalton

Now the Quebec government is the target of illegal native protesters looking for a bigger slice of government swag:

Hundreds of off-reserve Natives pitched tents on a barricaded Hull street, where their controversial leader vowed they'd stay "as long as it takes" for the federal government to recognize and fund their newly formed organization.

In the shadow of a federal office tower, they raised three tall teepees, roasted a pig and listened to traditional drummers in what organizers called a reunion -- not a demonstration -- yesterday.

But Grand Chief Guillaume Carle, of the Confederation of Aboriginal People of Canada, used militant words.

"They have to give us the first step or all hell is going to break loose," Carle said. "People are not going away. They're coming. We're not looking for a fight. We're looking to tell the government we can't live like this anymore."

I'm not sure what specific demands they have other than money. The Globe says they 'want the same benefits that are afforded refugees and immigrants in Canada', whatever those are. The Ottawa Sun has them 'seeking $3.5 million over five years for its Quebec arm to organize'. (In other words, to set the protest leaders up with posh offices and respectability so they can direct future media stunts more effectively.) It just seems to be a simple shakedown.

Dalton McGuinty's craven response to the situation in Caledonia has brought this latest crowd out. And if this situation isn't handled properly, expect similar protests over the rest of Canada.

July 20, 2006

A letter from Jack!

In yesterday's mail I received an envelope from Jack! Layton containing a cheap brochure full of typical NDP bumf. Yadda yadda, missile defense, yadda yadda, environmental responsibilities, cancer-causing pesticides, yadda yadda, big oil, child care responsibilities, and protecting public healthcare. Aside from the usual is the message that the Tories have been backed by the Bloc in all their nefarious doings. The title is 'BLOC BACKS CONSERVATIVE AGENDA'. The flyer is in French first, so I gather that it's aimed at trying to pull left-wing Quebecers away from the Bloc and into the embrace of a real progressive, social-justice, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too party. Whatever. Good luck to them.

But what bothers me is that it was sent using Layton's House of Commons stationary as a letter from an MP. The letter is addressed to me and my wife and the NDP paid no postage on it. Presumably it was sent all over Quebec as well, all on the government's dime.

I'm no expert in the campaign financing laws, but I've been involved in a few projects that involve both the Conservative party and the Conservative government and am keenly aware of the importance of keeping the two separate. MP's business can be paid for by the MP's budget. Party business is paid for by the party. It seems to me that an obviously partisan pitch like this flyer is not the business of the government and should be paid for by the NDP. Am I wrong? I'd like to hear from anyone that knows more about this.

July 11, 2006

Another rock uncovered

Yesterday, Industry Canada released the results of an audit on a sampling of companies that received 'loans' from the Technology Partnerships Canada program. This was a program that handed money out to tech companies promising products so dubious they couldn't find any other source of funding, and were conveniently located in strategic ridings around the country. The program had such a bad stench that it was the Liberals that decided to close it down last September -- unless the needy technology company involved aerospace or defence. In which case the gravy train was still rolling.

The audit only looked at whether the companies broke the terms of their contracts with TPC with regards to paid lobbying. It was found that almost a third of the sample had used lobbyists to get their hands on the cash, paying between $100,000 and $900,000. The audits didn't look at whether the projects funded made any sense, or what work was done. They also didn't look at the chances that Canadian taxpayers would ever see any of these 'loans' paid back. So far it doesn't look good, out of the roughly $2.15 billion paid out since 1996, only $156 million has been paid back. Hopefully more rocks will be uncovered in the near future and more information will be revealed on how the Liberals spent our money.

Many of the companies that cashed in were legitimate, but we can also assume that some small companies whose major assets were slick PowerPoint presentations and the phone numbers of good lobbyists were able to loot millions from the taxpayers. This should be big news, but it isn't. We all knew this kind of stuff was going on and we collectively shrugged our shoulders. That's why this story is relegated to the business section of today's paper and will soon be forgotten.

April 30, 2006

'Bout time someone said it...

I've mentioned Raskolnikov's work over at Dust my Broom before, but in covering the cranking up of the leftist protest machine in the wake of the latest Mohawk prostests, he really outdoes himself. True, it's an easy target, but this is pure poetry:

The answers to Mohawk problems will not emerge magically from the ether as a result of scattered sign-waving across Canada, nor will they crawl, whole and ready-to-serve, from the gestures of nostalgic academics and Green Party rejects displaying solidarity during the afternoon rush by handing out leaflets from the median. (or, for that matter, blocking traffic on one of the busiest bridges in Canada over in BC)

These are vacant gestures, protest for the sake of protest, that baffling fetish of the rad left that I still cannot understand and still seems to carry an irresistable allure despite the overwhelming evidence of its failure and its overt descent into meaningless pantomime, as empty and banal as an exhausted Catholic still drudging to the altar every Sunday to perform spiritual calasthenics he no longer cares enough to ponder if he still believes in.

You can almost watch the ritual unfold: Inspiration hits; The obligatory IndyMedia klaxon wail goes up; the Xeroxed posters of Jim Prentice eating Mohawk toddlers, Bush bathing in Arab blood, or Cheney giving the Hitler salute while behind him Photoshopped Iranian seniors raise their hands to block out a mushroom cloud, hit the lightposts across town; the fidgity anticipation of a midday campus protest or Legislative rally climaxes and somewhere in Osborne Village a Peace Studies major leaves his body and the wandering ghost of Bakunin finds an ephemeral home, just long enough to put the Rage Against the Machine CD on repeat anyway; the protest organizer sips lemon tea and studies Girabaldi for inspiration as he mentally imagines preaching to a choir so slavishly devoted to his words all they can do is nod their heads in brainless agreement, a crowd of spineless sunflowers moving towards a central heat as if guided by wirelike a caveman who paints a victorious chase on the cave wall in anticipation of the hunt, he understands the metaphysics underlying our most base requirements; and at the site itself, one can sup the multifacted broth of outraged special interests on display, innocent of any incongruity feminists at a rally for farmers rights, anarchists demanding more government funding for schools, Marxists at an Aboriginal Self-Government protest handing out Mao t-shirts and photocopied Chomsky articles between prayers and sweetgrass ceremonies.

Like good postmodernists, linear thought or logical relevancy is cast aside; protest qua protest supercedes any specifics or categories. Its a free-for-all, or rather a free-to-gall, open to anyone with surplus outrage, excess cardboard and a box of magic markers. In Progville, everything is interpenetrating anyway: feminists can wax farm, Marxists share the drum, and anarchists can join our mini-government committee. "We are all relations" as an Aboriginal aphorism has never seen a better manifestation.

And sadly, Indians either agree with it, or ignore it. Like the Womyn Centre and Mohawk Gepettos pushing Doreen Silversmith out to sea on her ice floe, these anarchists and sundry protestors are simply exploiting Indians as a means to protest. They could care less what the topic at hand is, as long as they can gather and wave signs, fight over who gets to use the awesome bullhorn, and use animal-like threat gestures to scare the brainwashed masses into thinking theyre going to start hurling molotovs into Starbucks at any minute.

Its classic Greek theatre, catharsis via mass gathering, choreographed tragedy, and, to add a modern touch, the slick paroxysms of a Doc Marten-shaman.

Apologies for the long quote, but this is good stuff and I didn't want to interrupt the flow. But there's more, please read the whole thing.

February 21, 2006

The government must act now!

For the past three days, I had a constant headache, a loss of energy, poor motor functions, gastro-intestinal difficulties, and a general feeling of unease. It was so dreadful that I assumed I had a brain tumor and only had a few months to live. But this morning I found the real cause: decaffeinated coffee.

A few days ago I was required to buy a different brand of coffee because the store I was in didn't have my usual. I checked the can carefully before I bought it, noted the grind, the roast, and the type of bean; but somehow I missed the extremely small lettering at the bottom that held that dreaded word: decaffeinated. It was only by chance that I noticed it this morning.

I accept that in a free society we must be tolerant towards all tastes and allow vile muck like decaffeinated coffee to be on store shelves -- even though (in my opinion) people whose tastes run that way should be confined to state institutions, never to mix with good, decent people. But there's no way the product should be so poorly labeled. I was operating a motorized vehicle under its influence. I was taking care of children under its influence. I was operating a motorized vehicle full of children under its influence! It's a wonder that no one was killed. Sadly however, there is no doubt others have not been as lucky.

I call on the new Conservative government to impose mandatory labelling guidelines for decaffeinated coffee and strict controls on its distribution. The labels should be large, covering half the packaging's area, and unambiguous as to the nature of the horrible product. As well, I suggest decaffeinated coffee be subjected to a special tax, the proceeds of which will be used for a government educational initiative to warn the young of its dangers.

Some will think this rather severe, but if it can save just one person from the suffering and danger I experienced in the past few days, it will be worth it.

February 14, 2006

And now Harper rolls over

From Politics Watch:

"I regret the publication of this material in several media outlets," Harper said in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon. "While we understand this issue is divisive, our government wishes that people be respectful of the beliefs of others.

"I commend the Canadian Muslim community for voicing its opinion peacefully, respectfully and democratically."

Can anyone imagine the Prime Minister making a similar statement regarding a similar 'insult' towards Christianity or Judaism? Of course not. Christians or Jews don't burn down buildings when they don't get their own way.

Listen to this guy: I commend the Canadian Muslim community for voicing its opinion peacefully, respectfully and democratically. Since when does the leader of our nation have to 'commend' a group for obeying the laws? Why does he sound like a hostage negotiator dealing with an unstable lunatic? How can he give up our free speech and right not to be intimidated so easily?

I was worried that the Conservatives were turning into the Liberals -- how did it happen so fast?

Canada Blinks

I haven't written anything on the Cartoon Jihad yet, but this drove me into a fury this morning:

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor warned the latest edition of the Calgary-based Western Standard, which features cartoons that have sparked riots and protests worldwide, will put Canadian troops in Afghanistan at greater risk.

"It doesn't help. Radicals in Syria and Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, they get people roused up because their religion's being offended," Mr. O'Connor said in an interview. "We don't need any more risk in the area than we have."

I'm disgusted with how most of the media and government leadership in the Western world has rolled over to threats and violence from a fanatical fringe. Freedom of speech is probably the most fundamental plank on which our civilization is built, and it's being given away so cheaply. But for a Defence Minister to accuse a publication of risking our soldiers lives for failing to follow our enemy's demands? I'm dumbfounded!

O'Connor says the cartoons are offensive, well, judge for yourself. Reading most of the news coverage, you might think they would be shocking, but really I think they're quite tame. What is shocking are the 'additional cartoons' that various Imams have used to keep the fires of outrage well stoked. It's pretty clear the cartoon controversy has been manufactured by those that thrive on violence and chaos. For O'Connor to buy their point of view is what is truly offensive.

I'd post a few of the cartoons here, but for me they're getting a little old. Here's a new one, roughly equal in level of blasphemy, by the Dissident Frogman:

And to satisfy a certain award-winning Canadian journalist that says posting one of these cartoons indicates hatred of Muslims, I'm including another graphic that is blasphemous to another of the great monotheistic religions. It's quite shocking however, so I'm hiding it beneath the fold. Read on at your own risk...

Continue reading "Canada Blinks" »

February 08, 2006

Oh, poor baby!

David Emerson is whining:

Emerson said his children -- a son, 14, and daughter, 12 -- were bearing the brunt of attacks over his defection to the Conservative Party this week.

"My kids are being treated with hostility in school because of what's being said. My kids are crying because of what's being said at school," Emerson told The Province from Ottawa.

Hey David, did you ever think that the hostility is because of what you did, rather than what's being said? And somehow I think publicly declaring that your 14-year-old son was 'crying' over this isn't going to help his popularity in school. If you were really so concerned with their feelings, you wouldn't be embarrassing them to use as a cheap political prop.

Emerson's problems don't end with his children's tears. The donors to his (Liberal) campaign want their money back:

His outburst came after the riding association that helped elect Emerson in Vancouver-Kingsway last month told him it wants him to repay $96,755.

"This amount came from donations to the Liberal Party and were intended to elect a Liberal," Ivan Curman, president of the riding association, said in a letter to Emerson.

"You would not have received those funds from the Liberal riding association if you ran as a Conservative," said Curman.

Curman said about 300 volunteers rallied to work on the Emerson campaign, giving up time with family, friends and their businesses.

"They believed in the ideals of the Liberal Party and wanted you to represent Vancouver-Kingsway as our Liberal MP," Curman wrote. "Your actions have made their gifts of time meaningless."

Having worked on a few campaigns, I have to sympathize with these people. They have a genuine feeling of betrayal, and they have the right to shame the man that betrayed them -- and maybe even get their money back. Emerson's response of self-righteous indignation to this indicates to me his deficiencies in character. Harper picked a real winner in this guy.

(via Nealenews)

UPDATE: Colby Cosh is also not impressed with Emerson:

In an earlier age it would have gone without saying that the best way to protect the reputation of one's family is to not do disgraceful things. All children are hostages to their parents' public conduct: if you get caught sexually molesting St. Bernards, it's sort of inevitable that they're going to call your kids "Beethoven" in the schoolyard and make little barrels of brandy out of construction paper. But the new Saddamist doctrine, espoused here by Emerson, is that one's own offspring make terribly convenient human shields. Lay off the criticism or the shorties get it!

February 07, 2006

My two cents on the new cabinet

I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the David Emerson defection. It would be nice if the new government could have begun without this kind of backroom bargaining going on. But the extra Conservative MP does allow them to form a majority when coupled with the NDP, so it vastly increases the likelyhood of passing legislation. Now Harper just has to convince one party to vote with them on any issue, and they'll be able to pass it. A fair trade, I guess.

I'm a little more rattled with how Harper handed Public Works to Michael Fortier, who doesn't even have a seat. Public Works has long been a cesspool of sleaze, and handing the keys to the whole operation over to a businessman -- a Montreal businessman, no less -- who came in through the backdoor is a little unseemly. Will he be able to answer questions in Question Period from his new seat in the Senate? (And isn't it amazing that the Wire Brush left a Senate seat vacant? I guess that was the one he was saving for Buzz...)

I'm glad the cabinet size was reduced. The more people you have with time and power, the more money that gets thrown at kooky vanity projects. But because of the smaller size, there's some people that would have made good cabinet ministers but didn't get the chance -- people like Diane Ablonczy and Steven Fletcher. Which of course makes Emerson and Fortier's arrival stink just a little more.

But after all, the purpose of cabinet is to implement policy. That's how Harper's choices should be judged. I have a suspicion that politics played a greater role than competence in how this cabinet was chosen, but for now I'll give Harper the benefit of the doubt. Now let's see what they can do.

January 26, 2006

It's still moving! Hit it again!

I'm starting to get over my disappointment that the Liberals were let off so easily by the doltish voters around Toronto. This is a party that truly deserves a spell in the political wilderness. But no, they made a fairly decent showing and will be well positioned to bribe their way back into power a year and a half from now.

But there's one thing the Tories could do to deliver a good whack to the Liberals that would hopefully make it more difficult for them to get up again: they could remove the $1.75/vote rebate the political parties get from public funds.

The Liberals are deep in debt, and need this money to get back on their feet. Without a leader, they'll find it difficult to raise funds, and without funds it'll be hard for them to hold a leadership race. I have no doubt they'll be able to eventually pull themselves back together, but this will make it harder. Good.

The Liberals have siphoned enough public money to their party already. It's obscene that taxpayers should have to finance them again. It's obscene they have to finance any political party. If a party has such low support that it can't get donations from individuals, it shouldn't be running. I'm betting the Bloc and NDP would be willing to join the Conservatives on this, since they both have a core of supporters that donate and will both benefit from a weaker Liberal party. Go for it guys, kick 'em when they'e down.

January 24, 2006

Aftermath

Last night my cold, which I thought I had made peace with, decided to teach me a lesson. DO NOT stay out late and drink. DO NOT! NO! NO! NO! You must respect me! And so I was up late last night coughing my lungs out, filling tissues with green goop, and getting very little sleep.

So, while I would love to spend this child-free day speculating on things and reading all the fascinating analyses that litter the blogs, I'm just going to stay in bed and try to catch up on my sleep. But I'm going to say just one, possibly unfair, thing before I turn in.

No, wait. No, I shouldn't. I was going to say that the reason the polls predicted higher numbers for the Tories than what they got was that some people were lying to the pollsters. I was going to say that these people knew the Liberals were rotten and had to go, but were frightened and had decided to vote for them anyway. But they were ashamed of their cowardice, and kept this secret to themselves. That's what I was going to say, but it's not really fair. It's probably just my lack of sleep that makes me think of things like that.

January 23, 2006

Live-blogging the night

11:40 Okay. I gotta go home. The cold I've been fighting for the past couple of days is saying I need to get to bed. Or maybe it's the overdose of Tobin CTV is showing.

Hey! Clement won in a squeaker. He'll make a cute MP.

11:34 Tobin again. He's just glowing with ambition. He's ecstatic. I'm getting ill looking at him.

11:30 Okay. It's all over except the interviews. I'm probably heading home.

11:09 Landslide Annie. Buried! Woohoo!

10:59 Belinda won! Woohoo!

10:57 People are standing around the front door talking on cellphones. All the cameras are pointing at the door. This means something...

10:53 It looks like Casey is going to play the bagpipes to introduce Cannon. This should be interesting.

10:43 Brian Tobin just glows with phoniness. Just looking at him is oppressive.

10:36 Ghod. What if the Wire Brush and Jack! make some twisted deal to cling to power. So far Libs + NDP > Cons. Bad.

10:33 No, I'm not wearing one of those blue T-shirts.

10:28 CTV just announced Pontiac for Cannon. And we're elected or leading in ten ridings in Quebec! Woohoo!

10:26 It's really filling up here now. Still no bloody news, except that a contact in Calgary of all places says we've won in the Pontiac. I'd really like to see some numbers, though...

10:18 All the websites are unable to give us info. The TV stations are not giving us what we want. Elections Canada is down. And Elections Canada prevented any of our scrutineers from being in the returning office. We do not know anything about our riding.

I need random access information, not this news dribble at the bottom of the page.

10:09 CBC.ca is down. CTV.ca is down. But you still have Autonomous Source. Too bad I don't know anything.

10:02 CTV is projecting a Conservative minority. That's nice. The numbers are looking better -- 9 seats leading in Quebec!

We still haven't got any results for our riding. Our information strategy has obviously failed. No one will be seeing my cool spreadsheet because we have no data.

Elections Canada site. Dead. CQ is easier to reach.

9:42 Elections Canada boasted they were going to have the results on their website. Too bad it's unable to hndle the load.

9:31 Doesn't look good so far. I may need another drink soon.

9:27 I'm gonna have to sign off for a bit. Things are about to get crazy.

9:18 I have been handed a button and told to prepare to be act excited behind Ravi as he goes on in a few minutes. CTV, coming up. My wife is in the red.

9:11 Rusty nail number two. CQ is a pig to load. Guys, please just stop trying to load the page so I can load it, okay?

It's starting to fill up around here. I no longer give a damn if people are reading over my shoulder.

Ghod, Rex Murphy looks like a freak. Really.

I've abandoned my wife at the bar. Better go rescue her.

8:53 CQ's numbers aren't that good so far. I think it's time for another drink.

8:13 My wife has joined me. $5.75 for a generous rusty nail, not bad.

This is fascinating, isn't it?

7:57 Ravi, the reporter for CTV, just came by for a chat. I filled him in on some of the local info of the riding, but he seemed like he had done his homework already.

I think I'll start with a rusty nail.

7:50 Captain's Quarters is planning to live-blog the election and bust the blackouts. But he still doesn't have any info! C'mon, the Atlantic polls are closed -- what's the holdup? Plus his site seems inordinately slow -- can't he do something about that?

7:45 What should I drink tonight? Rusty nails? White Russians? Beer? I'll have to decide soon...

7:38 It's difficult to blog with people standing over your shoulder. I feel very uncomfortable. I keep expecting someone to start asking me inconvenient questions.

CTV is has us on as I write. The tall guy with the horizontal stripes is not me, I have vertical stripes. And I'm not tall. And I've modestly decided not to wander into the picture. Okay, It's done. Next up: Pierre Pettigrew's HQ. I'm not sure it'll be quite as cheery a place tonoght.

7:00 Things are quiet. I'm sitting in front of a computer with nothing to do. Might as well blog. I'll slap up anything interesting as the night progresses, time permitting.

Colby Cosh captures the shaky state I'm in right now as I await the information flood.

Inside the media circus

Hey! I've got a wireless connection here at the site of the Lawrence Cannon victory party! This place is going to be a focal point for the media coverage tonight judging from the amount of cameras and electronic gear being set up. I hope to be able to report on some of the happenings here -- and maybe even be able to post a few pictures -- but I have a feeling I'll be pretty busy. If you're watching the coverage, look for the guy with the Don Jonson stubble, tight tan pants, and the stylish dark striped shirt. That'll be me.

UPDATE: BTW, we're up at Camp Fortune. Anyone in the area of the Gatineau hills is welcome to come up and enjoy the show.

Voting day

I don't have too much time to write and probably won't be able to post all day. I'm running out the door to be a scrutineer, and after that I'll be at the Lawrence Cannon victory party 'til late at night. It's too bad; I was hoping to defy the government's unenforceable information throttling diktat. Next time maybe.

I'm hoping Canada gets some good news today. The Liberals have clung to power using methods that are reprehensible. They've lied, bribed, and run a campaign based on fear, hatred and division. These guys have to go, even if it's just for the chance of someone else looking through the files and finding out what's really been going on for the past dozen years. Mark Steyn called this election an act of politcal hygiene for Canada, and it is. Canada should realize its time to take off that pair of underwear and throw it in the wash -- even if it is its favourite pair.

January 21, 2006

Revised Election Predictions

Now that the last of the polls are out, Andrew Coyne has put out a call for election predictions. I made my first one in mid-December, and I still think it's pretty close to what's going to happen, but I'm going to alter it slightly based on the way things are going.

First, the Conservatives are doing better than I thought they would. I had given 130 seats to them, now I think it'll be 140. Too bad it's not a majority, but it'll be enough to take the Liberals' greasy hands off the levers of power. The Liberals are doing much worse than I expected, they go from 103 to 82, benefiting the NDP, who get bumped from 21 to 31. The Bloc go from 54 to 55.

So. My final prediction:

Conservatives: 140
Liberals: 82
NDP: 31
Bloc: 55
I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised on Monday, but am not counting on it. I don't think there's really any Liberal supporters left, just anti-Conservatives. Perhaps the absence of something to vote for will keep a large portion of these people away. Gotta have something to hope for.

Coyne also asked three questions. My answers:

  1. The Conservatives win more seats in Ontario.
  2. The Liberals win more seats in Qué.
  3. The Liberals (and Martin) win in LaSalle-Emard. *sigh*

UPDATE: For some reason, I had the number of seats wrong. There's 308, not 315. I knew that but I was thinking of the number needed for a majority. I've altered them by lowering the Blocs totals. The others are solid.

This could be big

Kate at Small Dead Animals has the text of a complaint to Elections Canada by the Conservative Candidate in Edmonton Centre. It alleges many, many irregularities in the voters list for that riding:

  • Almost 100 apparently nonexistent addresses in Edmonton's downtown core - in some cases, the addresses listed fictional residences in between two genuine buildings.
  • Hundreds of people registered to vote out of their law offices, medical offices, accounting offices, and Government of Canada offices - in some cases these may be genuine errors, but in other cases, entire families are registered to vote out of high rise office space.
  • Dozens of people registered to vote out of office towers, but who did not list a suite number, causing the address to read similarly to ordinary residences - in many cases, these people are also registered to vote in other ridings using their home addresses, and in other cases, voters living in other ridings are only registered in Edmonton Centre.
  • Dozens of people registered to vote out of small mail box locations and from self-storage yards - there is no legitimate way for a person to appear on the list of Electors from a self-storage yard.
  • Eighteen people registered to vote out of a truck stop.
  • People registered to vote out of karaoke bars, lingerie stores, dance lounges, galleries, etc...
Edmonton Centre is of course the riding of Landslide Annie, who earned her nickname by squeaking into office with multiple consecutive slim majorities of votes. Are the allegations true? How long has it been going on? Is it the result of fraud, or is it just some sort of screw up? I'm hoping some enterprising reporters will start investigating.

January 20, 2006

Ten Candidates to root for

Sporting events are pretty dull unless you have someone to cheer for. Similarly election campaigns -- having a bias makes it interesting. Watching the results roll in as a disinterested observer would be boring. But even choosing a favourite party is pretty dull. The overall results are usually called pretty early, and then all that's left to follow is the precise totals of seats.

But there is the drama of the individual candidates' races. Real people with personalities and histories, battling it out to be 'first past the post'. In order to inject some excitement into Monday evenings coverage, I suggest picking a few races to watch, doing a bit of research, and picking who you want to win. If you're too lazy to do that, you can use my list. From East to West:

Mary DeWolfe - Kings-Hants - Conservative

I have no idea who Bob Mullan, but I'm sure he's a good person. I do know who Scott Brison is, and he is not a good person. He's DeWolfe's Liberal opponent, known for being a turncoat from his former party, telling a former campaign worker to "kiss my ass", and for being the point man in Paul Martin's campaign of misdirection and obfuscation to bury the Gomery report. He's claimed Kings-Hants as his 'turf', and has boasted that he will be the MP there for "a long, long time." He's probably the slimiest MP in Parliament.

Chances: Three more days is all that's left in that "long, long time." Brison looks like he's going down. But it could be close.

May Chiu - LaSalle-Émard - Bloc Québécois

I don't know much about May Chiu either, but she is nine months pregnant and her due date is on election day. She's running against Paul Martin in his safe Montreal seat. While it might be fun to have Martin in Parliament as the head of a much reduced Liberal party, there's no doubt he'd be pushed out of the leadership pretty quickly, and he would resign his seat. Plus, he deserves the humiliation. Besides, Chui's victory speech would be fun to watch.

Chances: Not great. Martin still looks pretty safe. But (warning: cliché coming) 'the only poll that counts is on election day'.

Lawrence Cannon - Pontiac - Conservative

Obviously I'll be watching this race pretty closely. Especially since I'll be flying the poll results spreadsheet at Cannon's election night headquarters. I've put in a fair amount of effort for this campaign and will be ecstatic (crushed) if we win (lose).

Chances: Very good. A local poll was released recently that shows Cannon just a point behind the Bloc, with the Liberals far behind. Voters who want to block the Bloc now have a clear choice.

John Baird - Ottawa West-Nepean - Conservative

This riding is interesting because of a independent candidate that aims to be the spoiler for the Conservatives. This seat would probably be a safe Conservative win. It was a very close Liberal victory last time, but this time has former Ontario cabinet minister John Baird running for the Tories. But Baird is on record as a supporter of gay marriage (as are many other Conservatives), which has inspired John Pacheco to run as an independent 'pro-family' candidate. For an independent, he's been pretty active and has been well funded. He can't win, but he hopes to drain enough support from Baird to teach him a lesson.

Chances: I think Baird will still win. In fact, Pacheco could even wind up helping him. Pacheco's shown himself to be a bit of a loon in his media appearences, and by targeting Baird he makes him look good.

Belinda Stronach - Newmarket-Aurora - Liberal

What? How could I want Belinda to win? Well, let me explain. She's rich and well connected. If she loses, she can go back to her world of privilege and never look back. But if she's elected as part of a dwindled cohort of Liberals, she'll have to stick around Ottawa (hopefully for four years) and collect her measly MP's salary. She won't be able to resign without taking a lot of heat. And as a bonus, she might get ambitious again and join in with Ignatieff, McKenna, Tobin and Manley as they squabble over the corpse of the Liberal party.

Chances: Not good. Oh Belinda, we hardly knew ye.

Peter Kent - St. Paul's - Conservative

It would be a major victory if the Tories could get one seat in Toronto. Peter Kent offers the best chance for that.

Chances: Slim. What is it with the people in Toronto?

John Capobianco - Etobicoke Lakeshore - Conservative

No clue who he is, but he's not Michael Ignatieff, and that's good enough for me. Ignatieff is probably a good guy, and our Parliament would be enriched by his erudite presence, but I have this cruel streak and I need to feed it. Ignatieff has been carefully chosen and groomed for this new role, was introduced to all the right people, and had all the doors opened for him. For me, it's a pleasure to watch all that preparation come to naught.

Brad Farquhar - Wascana - Conservative

Another riding where I'm not looking for someone to win, but hoping to see someone lose. Ralph Goodale, our sloppy Finance Minister, is Farquhar's opponent. Goodale's gyrations over the income trust issue have cost a lot of people a lot of money, and he has failed to even acknowledge that something went wrong.

Chances: Goodale's in Saskatchewan, deep behind enemy lines. Farquhar should win it easily.

Svend Robinson - Vancouver Centre - NDP

First Belinda, now Svend? I have obviously lost my mind. But no, there's a good reason for wanting to see Svend back in Parliament: he's just so gosh-darned entertaining.

Svend can be counted on to catch full-blown HDS (Harper Derangement Syndrome) in the event of a Conservative win. He'll rant and rave, posture and bluster, and indulge in his passion for ridiculous stunts. It'll be a great show. He'll discredit Harper's foes and regularly embarrass Layton. The US has Teddy Kennedy, Britain has George Galloway, and Canada must have Svend.

Chances: Poor. Hedy Fry looks like she's going to win it. She's nuts too, but not as much fun.

Troy DeSouza - Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca - Conservative

This is the riding of another Conservative defector, Keith Martin. Though not as odious as Scott Brison, Martin has been an effective defender of the Prime Minister's twisted priorities. It'll be nice to see him lose.

Chances: Very good. The riding has a history of voting Reform/Alliance, and with the Liberals swirling down the drain it's a fair bet they'll go Conservative.

UPDATE: Oops! Commenter Andrew Carson pointed out I had the name wrong for the candidate in Kings-Hants. I've corrected it.

January 18, 2006

Contradictions

Now Paul Martin's wearing a Buzz Hargrove union jacket while he complains about Jack Layton's "political expediency" while he campaigns for Liberal candidate Gary Carr, a former Mike Harris Scary Ontario Conservative.
-- Paul Wells
Commenters savour the irony -- the president of the CAW campaigns for the heiress to union-free Magna, while the woman who left the Conservatives because they were "in bed with the Bloc" campaigns with a man who says he'd vote for them.
-- Andrew Coyne

In a way, I'm gonna miss those Liberals...

Voter's guide: the kooks, crackpots, and true believers

For the last two months we've heard plenty from the major parties, but very little from the fringes. And for good reason: these people are nuts. But if you're going to consider yourself an informed voter, you owe it to yourself to give them a fair hearing.

Well, not really. It's actually a complete waste of time. I spent the past day going through their respective websites in order to find this out. But at least I got a post out of it.

Canadian Action Party

Website slickness: Small business professional

In their own words: "All political parties promise "jobs, jobs, jobs" without being able to deliver on the promise. What makes CAP different from all other parties is that we would use the Bank of Canada to finance full employment."

Nationalism and anti-globalism mixed with anti-government paranoia. Want the government to liberate the Bank of Canada to miraculously solve all our problems. Have a LaRouchie smell about them.

The Action Party was created by Paul Hellyer, who made headlines earlier this year warning that George Bush was plotting intergalactic war. He resigned after a failed attempt to merge with the NDP, and the party has been going downhill since then. But you never know, this election they could surprise you.

Western Block Party

Website slickness: One hour's work with Front Page

In their own words: "The primary objective of the Western Block Party is to create Western Canada as a free and independent nation."

The above is pretty much the only full sentence on the site. C'mon guys, you have to work a little harder than this!

Christian Heritage Party

Website slickness: High school club

In their own words: "The Christian Heritage Party believes as did our fathers of confederation in the supremacy of God, and the need for civil law to take its cue from Moral law.

It is time for upright citizens to take back control of our beloved country, Canada."

Hey! Who are these guys? Aren't all the so-cons in the Conservative party already? The scariest thing about these guys is that if you translate their French name back to English, you get the Chrétien Heritage Party.

Freedom Party

Website slickness: Special interest group, not updated in months

In their own words: "Perhaps it should not be too surprising that we are meeting with such progress and success. People are looking for change. In particular, they are looking for some fresh faces on the political scene, and some ideas that aren't simply re-heated left-overs from the Trudeau and Mulroney years. Fading quickly is the feeling that government should be involved in every aspect of our lives. Growing is the understanding that, for many things, government is not equipped to make the right decisions for us."

Neo-Libertarians. Their policies are aimed at limiting the power of the federal government -- how crazy is that! Their website doesn't have any reference to the election on now, and they have no candidates running. But they say they will run candidates in the 2008 (??) federal general election.

Marijuana Party

Website slickness: Small business professional

In their own words: "TV ad for the Marijuana Party - 2006 Elections. Right now this is not in a good format, and may take a long time to load and play. We will try to fix that later."

You know these guys. Like, legalize it dude. One day over a year ago, they brainstormed for an hour on party policy and came up with a bunch of points. Then they went out for pizza and fries. One day they're going to put them all together into something coherent.

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Website slickness: Geocities home page

In their own words: "In the sphere of international relations, the renewal of Canada requires a foreign policy which bases itself on:
Support for all peoples fighting for their rights;
Relations of equality and mutual benefit amongst sovereign nations based on peaceful coexistence;
Non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations."

Hey! Don't two of those completely contradict each other?

These guys are just what you'd expect: lots of revolutionary jargon and nonsense. Luckily they're not putting too much effort into this election. The last news item on their site: save Tookie.

Libertarian Party of Canada

Website slickness: Special interest group, infrequently updated

In their own words: "The Libertarian Party of Canada isn't just another party; it's a whole new concept in the relationship between people and government. Believe it or not, government actually causes more problems than it solves by forcing regulations on some groups, but not on others, and this leads to injustice for some at the benefit of others. We want the smallest and most effective government possible because that's exactly what Canadians deserve."

Seems very similar to the Freedom party, except that they actually have some candidates. Again this stuff about limiting government -- don't they understand what politics is about?


Progressive Canadian Party of Canada

Website slickness: Government department -- very slick, but last update December 9th.

In their own words: "Health care, its delivery and administration, has consistently been an election hot-button issue since its inception. We have one of the best systems in the world. It discriminates against no citizen. The Canada Health Act is part of what distinguishes us as Canadians.

Over the past several years the system has become increasingly unmanageable with spiraling costs and government clawbacks initiated by Paul Martin as Finance Minister and of necessity passed down by the provinces to local communities.

The PC Party has always and continues to believe in a completely publicly funded system of health care for Canadians.

We believe that a combination of government funding restoration to 1993-94 levels, guaranteeing federal funding levels so provinces and territories can plan and budget, and more prudent cost management in the field, would assist in stabilizing the system and restoring the confidence of Canadians that reliable health care will be available to them when needed."

You still awake?

You want squishy, bland Canadianisms? To create their policies, they took the last dozen Liberal 'red books' and pureéd them and watered them down until they had this thin, weak gruel. No one could really vote for this stuff. They seem only to exist to confuse voters that might want to vote Conservative and used to know them as the 'PCs'.

Communist Party of Canada

Website slickness: Small business professional, last updated in November

In their own words: "Capitalist globalization led by US imperialism with the full support of the imperialist ruling class of Canada is threatening the remaining threads of Canadian sovereignty and independence. Multilateral investment and trade pacts are undermining the democratic right of the Canadian people to establish policies and determine our own course of development.

Capitalism in Canada and the world today is a crisis-ridden and decaying system. But, it is pregnant with its opposite socialism."

These guys are even more strident than the Marxist-Leninists, and more thorough too. Their platform just goes on and on and on and on. As you might expect, they list the solutions for every problem in the world, real or imagined.

Animal Alliance Party of Canada

Website slickness: Three hours' work with Front Page

In their own words: "The political reality is that the Canadian government's environmental and animal protection policies will never improve until environmentalists reward politicians who protect the environment and animals and punish those who don't. We can only do that in elections. We can only do that as a registered political party."

If the Greens are just too grey for you, try the AA. They're the only ones willing to stand up for Canada's under-represented animal citizens.

First Peoples National Party of Canada

Website slickness: Typical blog

In their own words: "The First Peoples National Party wants food to be safe and nutritious. People should know what they are eating. FPNP wants all genetically engineered food crops banned and all imported products containing Genetically Modified Organisms to be clearly labeled."

Also know as the 'Have our cake and eat it too' party, they advocate the increase of all social programs, and the removal of any kind of personal responsibility over their lives. The government can and must provide all. Their policy platform is almost as complete as the Communists, but rather than sounding like a list of demands, it's more of a long list of whiney complaints.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me many times that I forgot the Sex Party. For completeness, here they are:

The Sex Party

Website slickness: Small business professional

In their own words: "The news media has specialists covering every major aspect of human existence, including food, health, education, travel, the environment, business, the media itself, fashion, cars, and wine. Yet not a single journalist in a mainstream media organization focuses on sexuality. The subject deserves at least the same attention as fashion, cars and wine.

The Sex Party would create a Sex-Positive Press Council that would expose the overt and subtle censorship practiced by BC media.

The provincial Victoria Day holiday in May commemorates a monarch legendary for her negative attitudes towards female sexuality. The Sex Party would change Victoria Day to Eros Day to celebrate and encourage sex-positive expression."

The Sex Party doesn't have a logo that I could find, so I was forced to invent my own. I'm sure they would find it very heteronormative, but I'm on a time budget here.

These guys have a sex hangup. They have no policies on education other than drastically revamped sex ed programs, no interest in health care other than suggesting that nursing homes must provide 'sexual care nurses' for residents. It's just sex, sex, sex. I know, I know -- what should I expect? They're a one issue party.

But I must say, for a party that prides themselves on being 'open-minded' I caught a whiff of authoritarianism in their policies. I get the feeling that with them in power, we would not just be allowed to have sex on the street corner, but would be required to. Luckily they have no candidates in this election so have no chance of forcing us into becoming a nation of swingers.

January 16, 2006

In the crowd

So yesterday I found myself at the Harper Rally in Buckingham, Quebec, surrounded by a few hundred Conservatives chanting, "Harper! Harper!" (though at first I thought it was "Badger! Badger!" -- yes, really!) I was a little uncomfortable there. Though I want the Conservatives to win and am working to that end, I'm not enthusiastic enough about their policies to abandon myself to the crowd and yell myself hoarse. But it was fun to see the workings of a national campaign up close and not through the narrow eye of the media.

The stage from which Harper would be speaking had been moved forward from the wall to make the room about 1/3 smaller. It's very important to make it look like there's a big crowd for the cameras. They needn't have bothered though; the place was packed and a bit more room would have been useful. In front of the stage and about halfway to the back was the media stage where the cameramen set up to capture their short clip for the evening news.

Who are these young people in the blue shirts? Where do they come from? Is there a bus full of them that go to all of these events, or do they find new ones at each stop? They made the rounds handing out stickers and signs for people to wave around. No sign for me, thanks.

I spotted various national media types wandering about. Mike Duffy was talking with CFRA's Michael Harris against the wall. On the other side was Terry Milewski chatting with a cameraman. And Rick Mercer wormed his way through the crowd talking to a camera.

Lawrence Cannon, whose campaign I'm working on, opened up the show with quite a rousing speech. I've been exposed to a lot of political rhetoric in the past few weeks and have come to the conclusion that speaking in public is much harder than it looks. But Cannon really has the stuff. I'm genuinely impressed by him.

And then Harper arrived. He made his way to the stage through a path that was taped off before he arrived. I took a few pictures, but mostly just got the back of people's heads. I tried to get a handshake from him, but he snubbed me for the more telegenic old folks on the other side of the path. On the spot, I decided to vote NDP.

He gave a pretty good speech. My wife says his voice sounds just like Stuart McLean from CBC's Vinyl Café, and she's right. He aimed a few zingers at Martin, commented on the car bomb in Afghanistan, and listed off the five main goals of a Conservative government. It all sounded pretty good, but he wasn't getting my vote.

And then he was finished. The cameramen had already started packing up while he was still speaking, and now were moving towards the door. The blue kids were leading the chanting again, and Harper tried to make his escape. As he approached me, he offered his hand to me, probably recognizing how badly he had treated me, and hoping to make amends. I'm not one to bear a grudge, so I shook it and decided to maybe give him one last chance. It's a big hand and kind of soft, but he gives a pretty firm handshake for someone that's giving handshakes all day. And after having won back my vote, he left.

As the crowd evaporated, I was introduced to Mike Duffy and Michael Harris by one of the other workers on the Cannon campaign. I got to hear Duffy tell the complete anecdote about how he put John Duffy in his place. He said John actually stood over him, pushed down on his shoulders and put his face within inches of Mike's and commanded Mike to not bring up the 'Soldiers in our streets' ad. If you ask me, John Duffy got off easy in the on-air drubbing Mike gave him.

As I left the building, I saw the three Conservative buses start to pull away for their next gig. They all had Alberta licence plates.

Be careful how you vote

A friend sent this to me by email. I'm sure it's bouncing from cube to cube all over Canada today...

While vacationing on a ranch, Paul Martin gets thrown from his horse, lands on a rattlesnake, gets bitten and dies because the emergency room at the nearest hospital is too understaffed to treat him in time. So his soul arrives in Heaven and he is met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

"Welcome to Heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a Liberal around these parts, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in; I'm a believer." says Martin.

"I'd like to just let you in, but I have orders from the Man Himself. He says you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you'll live for eternity."

"But, I've already made up my mind, I want to be in Heaven," replied Martin.

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules." And with that, St. Peter escorts him to an elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course; the sun is shining in a cloudless sky, the temperature a perfect 72 degrees. In the distance is a beautiful clubhouse. Standing in front of it is his Dad, and thousands of other Liberals who had helped him out over the years -- Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand, Pelletier, St Laurent etc. The whole of the "Left" was there, everyone laughing, happy, and casually but expensively dressed. They run to greet him, hug him, and reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at the expense of 'suckers and peasants.' They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. The Devil himself comes up to Martin with a frosty drink, "Have a Margarita and relax, Paul!"

"Uh, I can't drink anymore, I took a pledge," says Martin, dejectedly.

"This is Hell, son. You can drink and eat all you want and not worry, and it just gets better from there!"

Martin takes the drink and finds himself liking the Devil, who he thinks is a really very friendly guy who tells funny jokes like himself, and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like they pulled on the GST and Free Trade promises. They are having such a great time that, before he realizes it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Martin steps on the elevator and heads upward.

When the elevator door reopens, he is in Heaven again and St. Peter is waiting for him. Now it's time to visit Heaven," the old man says, opening the gate. So for 24 hours Martin is made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, talk about things other than money, and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or frat boy joke among them; no fancy country clubs and, while the food tastes great, it's not caviar or lobster. And these people are all poor, he doesn't see anybody he knows, and he isn't even treated like someone special!

"Whoa," he says uncomfortably to himself. "Pierre Trudeau never prepared me for this!"

The day done, St. Peter returns and says, "Well, you've spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for eternity." With the 'Jeopardy' theme playing softly in the background, Martin reflects for a minute, then answers: "Well, I would never have thought I'd say this -- I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all -- but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends."

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell. The doors of the elevator open and he is in the middle of a barren scorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial waste, kind of like Sudbury. He is horrified to see all of his friends, dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain, faces and hands black with grime. The Devil comes over to Martin and puts an arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers a shocked Martin, "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse and we ate lobster and caviar, drank booze. We lazed around and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable!"

The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly, and purrs, "Yesterday we were
campaigning; today you voted for us!"

January 14, 2006

Vote for me and I'll bring peace to the Middle East!

The Wire Brush's latest 'initiative' (pulled from his ass that was curiously omitted from the Red Book) is this whopper:

The Liberal Leader announced four proposals for increasing Canada's presence on the international scene, including establishing a Canada Centre for Peace and Democracy in the Middle East that would assist Palestinians in building a state founded on democracy and the rule of law.
I'm not sure what I find most amusing about this one. Is it that Martin is nave enough to think this might be useful? Is it that he thinks Canadians are that nave? Or maybe it's the raw desperation to create the impression that the Liberal party still has ideas that this thing is dripping with? Personally, I think it's how the whole bizarre package comes together.

Sun rises in West! Globe endorses Harper!

Mostly. Sort of. It's a kind of wimpy endorsement. I snorted in derision a couple of times at their faint praise of the Liberals, and rolled my eyes at their 'concerns' about the Tories. But still. The Globe and Mail. Advocating change. In Canada. In Toronto. I am not making this up.

I expected their editorial writer to undergo some painful and amazing contortions in order to come to the conclusion that the Liberals were the 'safe' choice, but that isn't what happened.

Now if the Toronto Star follows suit, we've definitely entered the Twilight Zone...

January 13, 2006

Only a month ago...

The idea of Conservatives winning any seats in Quebec was absurd. But a new poll at the Globe and Mail suggests the Tories are on their way to win eight seats here. Eight!

And I know, I know -- I shouldn't count on anything. But things are looking good...

UPDATE: And a new poll (warning: pdf) has come out showing 28% Conservative support in Quebec. This could be the big breakthrough!

Dear Canada, I'm sorry...

That's all it would have taken for the Wire Brush to put the stoopid 'Troops in our cities' ad behind him. The Liberals don't think that way, of course. When caught doing something wrong, they bluff and bluster and misdirect. Paul's really pushing the envelope this time, though. He's decided to flat-out lie:

He said the Tory Leader's plan to increase military presence in Canadian cities so soldiers can be on hand to help in emergencies would create a logistical nightmare.

He quoted chief of defence staff, Gen. Rick Hillier, as saying: "I want to have a Canada Command. I want to be able to really have top-flight soldiers in top-flight positions with top-flight equipment."

Martin added: "You can't do that if it's spread out all across the country."

I mean, how dumb does he think Canadians are?

There's many reasons why the Liberals are sinking, but this contempt for Canadians' intelligence has got to be a part of it. Saying Harper is planning to outlaw abortion because he hasn't agreed to get rid of the notwithstanding clause, or suggesting the Conservatives want to introduce child labour because of their support for property rights -- it's insulting.

And even if the public were as dumb as the Liberals think they are, the Liberals still have to deliver their message through the media. And the media have stopped buying this nonsense. They used to be the Liberals' best ally, but they've turned against them now and refuse to pull them to safety. 'Bout time, really.

January 12, 2006

Found on the Canadian blogosphere...

  • Colby Cosh describes what could be Martin's 'Kim Campbell moment'. Well, one of them, anyways...
  • Quote of the day: "Paulie is backpedaling so often and so hard traffic cones should be placed behind him to warn passersby of the danger of being trampled." -- Mike M at Andrew Coyne's joint.
  • Michael at the Bad Red Apple describes the evil villian theory of Canadian political analysis.
  • I know I shouldn't be gloating prematurely about the Wire Brush's misfortunes, but I just can't help it. It's too much fun!
  • Kateland_62 at the Last Amazon demands Stephen Harper get rid of Derek Zeisman, charged with smuggling.
  • And gets results!
  • gnotalex at the Blog Quebecois gets the exclusive on one of the attack ads the Liberals will be running next week.
  • Raskolnikov at Dust My Broom uncovers a pathetic bit of Liberal pandering and condescension.
  • In local news, a reporter from Edmonton gives some glowing coverage for our the Conservative candidate for the Pontiac. An Albertan supporting the Tories! This thing is unstopable...

January 11, 2006

Pile on the Liberals

Looks like Layton's not going to be joining the Liberals' suicide attack on Harper. He's doing the smart thing and sticking the knife in Martin's back while he's otherwise occupied:

Martin warned Wednesday that Harpers refusal to support the Liberal initiative to revoke the notwithstanding clause was based on Tory intentions to reopen controversial morality issues such as a womans right to choose an abortion and same-sex marriages.

NDP Leader Jack Layton dismissed Martin's statements as scare tactics.

Martin "has nothing left to say to Canadians other than to tell them that unless they vote Liberal, the sun will not rise, spring will not come, and volcanoes will destroy the earth," Layton said while campaigning in Hamilton, Ont.

Good one Jack!

I really think Martin is done. Martin will go down in Canadian history as another Joe Clark. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy. Almost, but not quite.

They went neg...

So the Liberals trotted out the negative ads that everyone knew were coming. And are they ever negative; one was so over the top that even the Liberals have tried to back away from it (not very successfully).

Will they work? A few days ago I was a little concerned before that the Tories were -- allow me to use a tired phrase -- 'peaking early'. The Liberals still had some credibility and two weeks was a long time. But these desperate ads and the desperate performance of the PM in the debates will be enough to sink them for good. If they had used these ads before, when they still had the aura of inevitablity, they would have had more effect. But now they will be given little consideration from the voters, and will actually hurt them, I think. I'm getting pretty confident about the Tories scoring a majority.

Bob Tarantino has many more thoughts on the Liberals latest blunder.

January 10, 2006

Funny stuff

As I cruised through the post-debate debate by the columnists and the bloggers, I noted the commentary that made me laugh in order to create my own 'post-debate roundup'. Unfortunately, I didn't find much. Everything was pretty much just earnest and thoughtful. C'mon Canada, lighten up, it's just an election! I'll add to this post if anything else manages to raise a smile.

When Mr. Martin delivered his proposal to eliminate the notwithstanding clause I literally fell off the treadmill I had been jogging on while watching the debate and just about broke something in my hip. You can be expecting a letter from my attorney in the morning, Mr. Martin, for your profoundly negligent conduct. Think of all the injuries caused to innocent Canadians across this country as they fell off their couches, choked on their beers, swerved wildly off the road or suffered cardiac arrest following ten or fifteen minutes of helpless laughter following your proposal. How dare you, Sir...

-- Meerschaum at Andrew Coyne's place

Martin waves his hands in circles when he talks. If you turn the sound off, you can imagine him singing 'The Wheels On The Bus.'

-- Warren Kinsella

Jack tells a heart warming story: "I met with a 28 year old farmer and he showed me his balance sheet. I didn't understand it because I'm NDP..."

-- Calgary Grit

If he cared about family values, would Layton be talking about group sex on prime time television?

-- A Chick named Marzi

Duceppe reminds me of a squirrel. Dont ask why. He just does.

-- Kateland_62 at The Last Amazon

If you tied Paul Martin's hands behind his back, who else thinks he would be mute?

-- Sagacs

January 09, 2006

Monday night fights

I watched most of the debate tonight. It was very well done and quite edifying; much better than the last ones. Steve Paikin ran a tight ship and managed to keep everyone on their toes. And I have to say that all the leaders did very well considering how fast-moving it all was. With all the jumping around, I expected a few more confused pauses before speaking, but everyone had the appearance of being focused and sharp (even if what they actually said was vague and squishy). I'm not going to go into a long analysis of what happened, but here's a few notes I took about each leader.

Layton was looking very good, have to admit. He was talking nonsense of course, but he looked good to those that like that kind of nonsense. But every now and then he switched into a phoney and pandering memorized speech. (And he actually had the nerve to call Harper and Martin 'well-rehearsed'.) His goal was to say the Tories and the Liberals are the same and that he stands alone against -- cue scary music -- "corporate tax cuts", and he met that goal.

Duceppe was underwhelming. I was expecting a little more. Sure he has little to gain here, but he was quite weak. His twisted defences of separatist ideas defied all rules of logic. Even I could have done a better job. But he scored a nice blow against Martin by trying to coax him into calling Quebec a "nation". It was the perfect 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' conundrum. Martin wiggled out by talking into his hand so that the talking heads are still trying to figure out if he actually did or didn't say it.

Martin went after Harper like a rapid pitbull. You could practically see the spittle flying. He pushed all the old buttons and found a few new ones (that still felt tired). He also tried to talk in vague terms about 'values' and repeatedly stated the goal of the Prime Minister was to set 'great national objectives'. If I was a reporter the first question I'd ask him would be, "Like what?" Martin also tried to score tomorrow's headlines by suddenly declaring that he would abolish the Notwithstanding Clause and daring Harper to do the same. I can't see anyone seeing this as anything other than more political posturing.

And Harper did well. He kept his cool and scored many good points. That's not saying much, of course, because he had such a fat, slow-moving target. One thing I liked was how he defended corporate tax cuts, calling them "tax breaks for large employers to help them be more competitive." But, on the other hand, he also defended government managed agricultural price fixing 'supply management'. Groan. But he didn't mess up. He deftly dodged a few obvious traps, and managed to do all he had to do tonight: look Prime Ministerial. Advantage: Steve.

How will it all be spun? I dunno. But I don't think it will be good for Martin. He seemed frantic and desperate, and I don't think any of his mud-slinging stuck. This was his best chance for pulling victory from the jaws of defeat and instead he lost a few fingers. I, for one, welcome our new Conservative overlords...

Okay, this is funny

From the vaults of time: Paul Martin lavishes praise on Alfonso Gagliano. With a trowel.

(via the resurrected Andrew Coyne)

January 04, 2006

Income Trust Scandal: what's the crime?

Terence Corcoran is someone who can be reliably depended on to defend headline-generating white collar criminals. But even so, I was surprised to see him come to the defence of the Liberals in his column today in the Financial Post. I mean, these are the Liberals; Corcoran has never had kind words for any of them.

But he makes some very good points, and he's got me thinking about what deeper strategy the Liberals might be playing. His most important point is that it is very hard to see what laws the Finance department might have broken:

The income trust trading that has snared Prime Minister Paul Martin and Finance Minister Ralph Goodale has been widely portrayed as an insider trading offence. That would imply that the RCMP is investigating under Section 382 of the Criminal Code. But a close reading of Section 382 makes it pretty clear that the trust trading cannot be insider trading, nor can it involve tipping. Insider trading requires insider trading by someone who is an insider of a corporation based on insider information. If tipping is involved, the tipper would have to be an insider, not a government employee in finance or the PMO. The leak of government policy into the market, or to anyone, cannot be inside corporate information.

If not insider trading, then what? Lawyers who follow such matters, including the estimable Phil Anisman, figure the only other basis for a criminal investigation would be Section 122 of the Code: breach of trust. An officer in government could get five years in jail, says Section 122, for the crime.

The trouble with Section 122 is that it doesn't define breach of trust, nor is it defined anywhere in the hundreds of pages that make up the Criminal Code. As Eddie Greenspan put it: "This is the danger when you don't define something." An annotation in a law book on the Criminal Code (see below) seems to make it clear that the purpose of the section is to nab people who abuse their government job for fraud and personal gain. You cannot just brand somebody a criminal for failing to do his job properly, such as maintaining secrecy while the markets are open.

The RCMP, in its new police state mode, won't define the criminal offence it is investigating. The force's news release, suspiciously, repeats the words of the NDP allegations of a possible "breach of security or illegal transfer of information." But these are not legal words, just jazzy phrases fabricated by NDP activists. Why would the RCMP repeat nonsense?

Yeah, why? Allow me to get a little paranoid...

I speculated a month ago that the RCMP investigation into the handling of the Income Trusts was providing cover for the Liberals to avoid answering any questions on the matter. "We cannot comment on an ongoing RCMP investigation, yadda, yadda, yadda..." The RCMP have shown a willingness to help the Liberals before, so this wasn't too unlikely. But the traction the story started to take with the press had made me doubt that. It would have been far better for the Liberals to just stonewall like the usually do when caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and just deny, deny, deny until the story dies from lack of oxygen.

But perhaps another game is being played here. Misdirection is a trick stage magicians use to distract their audience from something they don't want them to see. By focusing the media's attention on a criminal investigation, they pull attention away from the real dirt of this affair: clear evidence of crude croney capitalism. And when the RCMP announces a few days before the election that there were no crimes broken, all of that is forgotten -- as if it was never there.

The Liberals did this with the Gomery commission. The sleaze was there for all to see, but the Liberals managed to convince people that a judge was investigating and was going to get to the bottom of it. And when Gomery announced that Paul Martin was not involved, the Liberals reacted as if they had been cleared of all charges. They transformed a political scandal into a legal one (at least in the eyes of many of the public) and were found 'not guilty'. It was a clumsy bit of misdirection -- many people caught a glimpse of the elephant's hind end as they walked it off the stage -- but it was pretty brilliant, all things considered.

If they are to be prevented from doing it again, the Tories have to focus on the real issues of this story and not count on seeing anyone behind bars. The Liberals handed out advance notice of a policy change to some of their rich friends, who used the information to make millions of dollars off those traveling in less privileged circles. This is a political scandal, and should be treated as such.

UPDATE: Part of my prediction is coming true at least: Ask the RCMP, PM tells reporters.

January 03, 2006

The Globe and Mail comes to the Pontiac

The Globe's Hugh Winsor dropped into the Pontiac to write a shockingly positive and detailed appraisal of the Conservative candidate here:

FORT COULONGE, QUE. -- Ben's Motel, a mundane watering hole with a neon-lit bar, Formica tables and a couple of slot machines facing the main street of this now-faded historic town, may seem an odd place to search for a potential wellspring of Conservative Party renewal in Quebec.

What is remarkable are the dozen or so people sitting around a group of tables pushed together in the bar, a mixture of anglophones and francophones, a sprinkling of municipal politicians and a recently retired activist from the pulp and paper union. They are all former long-time federal Liberals; until recently, one was still a member of the Pontiac Liberal Riding Association executive.

They are all there to endorse Lawrence Cannon, the Conservative candidate for this riding that stretches more than 200 kilometres along the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and up into rocks-and-logs hinterland. He is potentially the Conservatives' ace up their sleeve in Quebec.

What happens here on Jan. 23 could have implications far beyond this riding, which has previously been taken for granted as a federalist, mostly Liberal, duchy because of its proximity to Ottawa and Ontario. The riding could launch a credible Conservative presence in Quebec where there is only a lacuna now. If Stephen Harper wins a minority government and Mr. Cannon wins his seat, he will be a major player in Quebec and in the country.

Read the whole thing. Can you find even one negative point made?

Is the national media warming to the sexy charisma of Stephen Harper and his big blue machine? I dunno, but it seems the Liberals are having a hard time getting the resonance they need from the usual suspects. Whenever they trot out another item to try to frighten the voters with (Today's: Stephen Harper is MIKE HARRIS!!!), they're met with yawns. This election is starting to look pretty good...

December 21, 2005

Harper gains sente in Quebec

In go, a game I'm not very good at, having sente means you have the advantage of momentum. Your opponent must answer your last move or risk danger to his position. It robs your opponent of the ability to build and forces him to defend what he has.

In a short series of moves, Stephen Harper has moved into this interesting strategic position in Quebec, a province most observers had written off for him. First, he released a policy platform that was generally well received in Quebec. Then he noted that the Liberals have been clearly been antagonizing the separatist sentiment in order to present themselves as the saviors of Canada. And finally he capitalized neatly on a truly bone-headed strategic error by Paul Martin.

Martin had said in the debates that he would debate Gilles Duceppe on every street corner in every Quebec town. But when he was challenged to a 1-on-1 debate with the Bloc leader on TV, he refused. Harper slipped in neatly and said he will debate Duceppe, since Martin obviously hasn't got the stones to do it.

Martin looks as if he has been taking his support in Quebec for granted, and so must respond to the Tory's incursion into the province. But responding to it also gives it life, and it's hard to tell what that might develop into. Duceppe must also respond. And while at first it looks like debating Harper and giving him room to expand might split the anti-separatist vote and give the Bloc more territory, it will also split the anti-Liberal vote, which is really where the Bloc's strength is concentrated. It's going to be fun to see how this will play out.

It's highly unlikely that the Conservatives will make a huge incursion into Quebec, but this might be enough to give them a couple of pockets of life. And that would be a huge victory.

UPDATE: Duceppe has backed down, admitting he's terrified of facing Harper's talking points.

Election predictions

During the last election, Colby Cosh collected various predictions of the outcome into a neat little table. I was way off, but I console myself by noting that the only two to score worse than me were Mark Steyn and Cosh himself.

This year, Cosh has his prediction out early, and it looks like he's learned his lesson. He's predicting minimal change, with the Liberals once again in charge of a minority government. It must be terrible to lose faith in your fellow citizens.

I haven't quite reached that point yet. I see Liberal support as weak and fading, while resistance to the Tories is crumbling due to their well-run campaign of middle-of-the-road, inoffensive pronouncements. I think Stephen Harper will be our next Prime Minister. Here's my numbers, ripped from the newspapers of the future:

Conservatives: 130
Liberals: 103
Bloc: 54
NDP: 21
It would take a long time to explain the methods I have used to come to this conclusion, but be assured they are well-grounded in the very latest in statistical analysis and probability theory. Really. You can take these numbers to the bank.

December 20, 2005

Quote of the day

On the topic of U.S. ambassador David Wilkins' complaints about anti-American rhetoric:

"Let me be very clear, as the Canadian Prime Minister I am not going to be dictated to by anyone, unless they are a Premier, or they live in a city, or they are a lobbyist, or happen to sing for a popular Irish rock band, or are otherwise able to sway public opinion."

(not) Prime Minister Paul Martin

More funny stuff to be found on the Derision 2006 website. Plenty of poke-funnery for everyone, no matter your politcal leanings.

December 11, 2005

Income trusts kerfuffle heats up again

When it was announced that the RCMP was 'starting an investigation' over the allegations of insider trading in the income trust fiasco, I was concerned that the Liberals had successfully swept the issue under the rug. From then on, they had a pat answer to tell reporters who might have raised the issue. "We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Next question?"

But luckily some reporters have decided to help out the RCMP and do some investigating of their own:

In the hours before the official announcement, there was heavier-than-usual trading in income trusts and dividend-paying stocks. That has fuelled speculation that some investors profited from an early warning.

"The day they made the announcement they phoned us and said something is going to be said," Gleberzon, told CTV News Wednesday night.

Gleberzon said the call came from a senior policy advisor in the finance minister's office, someone his group had been dealing with all along.

However, on Thursday morning, Gleberzon and CARP issued a news release denying any advance knowledge of Goodale's announcement.

"At no time was CARP given an indication by the Minister's office of when the announcement would be made or what it would say," the release said.

CTV's Kathy Tomlinson talked to Gleberzon after the release was issued. He confirmed what he had said in the previous interview, but now maintained he had misspoken.

At first, Gleberzon said no one from the finance minister's office had contacted him about the interview.

When told that the finance ministry's communications director, John Embury, had already admitted to calling Gleberzon Wednesday night, he explained:

"I did speak to him . I shouldn't have said that I didn't, but I did," Gleberzon told Tomlinson.

"They phoned me and they asked -- they found out about the interview. He asked me what was going on, I told him, but it's when we were talking about the timing issue that I realized how important it was."

Gleberzon said Embury told him: "We don't want to coach you, we don't want to tell you what to say, we just want to know what to prepare for."

Embury was aware of the story earlier in the day, and sent an email to CTV Wednesday night, before the newscast aired, saying of Gleberzon: "He denies saying what he is supposed to have said to your reporter."

In a phone call later, Embury told CTV's Robert Fife that Gleberzon was old and confused.

The Liberals and their allies are attempting to shut down and erase this behind-the-scenes look at how they work. Yesterday I heard a CBC Radio news report quoting 'market experts' as saying the pre-announcement flurry of activity was 'normal speculation', and today nothing can be found on their or the Globe's website. It's big news I would think, but hey, what do I know? But maybe the cat's out of the bag, and we'll start to hear more about what these guys have been up to. I can hope.

December 10, 2005

Paul Martin is a major contributor to global warming

He's so full of hot air:

If there is a single reason why the fortnight has passed with so little solid result, it is because of the obsession among Kyoto signatories with trying to forge another global pact and with berating those who wont join.

They might do better to work out what to do about Kyoto itself, given how many countries are way off course. Spains emissions in 2003 were up by nearly 42 per cent on 1990 levels; Portugals by 37 per cent; and Greeces and Irelands by 26 per cent.

Canada, whose Prime Minister, Paul Martin, made a rare attack on the US for failing to share "the global conscience", has increased its emissions by more than 24 per cent in that period. Emissions in the US were up by only 13 per cent in that time.

December 02, 2005

Harper might as well give up

Brilliant political strategist Kim Campbell has turned her razor-sharp mind to the task of predicting who will win the upcoming election. She has determined that the Conservatives can't do it because -- and here's the kind of insight we don't often see in Canada -- they're scary.

One day she might use her flawless political instincts to run for office. She'd be unstoppable, I think.

(via Nealenews)

December 01, 2005

199 reason not to vote Liberal

Len Kutchma has compiled a list of 199 Liberal scandals over the past few years. Here's just a random sample:

131. Federal government has lost track of $587 million a year in EI overpayments and underpayments at the Department of Human Resources. (Ottawa Citizen, October 12, 2004). However, the government defends itself by stating that in fact it has only lost track of $25 million a year and collects the other overpayments. (Ottawa Citizen, October 13, 2004)
132. $133,000 grant to a Toronto film company that used classified ads to search for the "perfect" penis. (National Post, October 14, 2004).
133. Man convicted of fraud against government hired to teach ethics course to public servants (National Post, October 20, 2004).
134. Public Works selling confiscated grow-op equipment to drug traffickers. (National Post, October 21, 2004).
135. Pressure by Liberal MPs and ministers on ACOA to make funding decisions based on politics (New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, October 25, 2004).
136. Paul Martin's Director of Communications Scott Reid insulting Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador (Toronto Star, October 28, 2004)
137. The Martin government spent $127,223 on a poll last February testing ways to diffuse negative reaction to the bombshell auditor-general's report -- which included the finding the Liberals ignored their own rules prohibiting the use of tax dollars on partisan polls (Vancouver Sun, November 8, 2004).
138. Judy Sgro's campaign volunteer (a stripper) getting ministerial permit

Only 199? I think Len has to try a little harder...

UPDATE: Credit should be given to the Libscam wiki by Johnny Pockets for these items. Thanks to The Last Amazon for the tip.

UPDATE II: Johnny Pockets -- no doubt fearing reprisals after the election -- has pointed his finger shakily to the Blue Blogging Soapbox as the source of the list. "It was HIM! Not ME! Not ME-he-he-he-heeeee...."

The Sheila Copps of the Conservatives

Last year I rolled my eyes at Jason Kenney's faux outrage over the hurt he suffered as a Roman Catholic over some stupid statement by Joe Volpe. Yesterday he was trying to play this game again and had the whole thing blow up in his face:

Conservative MP Kenney stepped up to the podium and informed reporters about a disturbing thing the Conservatives discovered in a blog kept by Scott Feschuk, a Martin speechwriter who is blogging while following the PM around the campaign trail.

Feschuk is a humorist who once edited the National Post's very funny Post-Mortem page.

According to Kenney, Feschuk "exposed his true feelings for Canada's cultural diversity by referring to Omni Television subscribers as 'socially awkward people who believe in UFOs'" in his blog.

Omni Television is a multicultural television channel based in Toronto.

"Omni subscribers represent the tremendous diversity of Canada's ethnic communities and they would be rightfully concerned and insulted by these kinds of pejorative remarks coming from the prime minister's own speech writer," Kenney said.

"What's he saying? That ethnic minorities who are the television viewers of Omni are paranoid, abnormal, are ungrounded in reality? What's he saying?"

Reporters rushed back to their offices to check out whether the Liberals had lifted Feschuk's controversial and rather bizarre comments about multicultural communities.

When they arrived at their desks they were shocked to see Feschuk was already addressing Kenney's criticisms.

"It wasn't a joke, Jason," Feschuk blogged. "I was being serious. Of course, I was referring to subscribers to Omni, the magazine for science buffs and those who believe they've visited Alpha Centuri, not viewers of Omni television.

"In the spirit of interstellar goodwill, I make this offer: if Jason apologizes, I'll send him a free subscription to Omni and a tin foil hat."

What a dolt. If Kenney or his equally doltish hangers-on had maybe stopped and thought for a second whether the scrap of text that got them so excited made any sense when interpreted the way they had, they might not have made fools of themselves in front of a crowd of reporters.

Seriously, Kenney belongs in the NDP.

November 30, 2005

Another chance for Canada

I suppose I should write something about the upcoming election. I'm hopeful that people will finally find the courage and common sense to toss the Liberals out of office after twelve years, but not too hopeful. It seemed just as clear to me last time around that -- for the benefit of the country-- they had to go; but once again they were returned to power. They have used that time to continue to dilute and make irrelevant our country's institutions, and concentrate all decision-making power in the Prime Minister's Office. But Canadian's don't care, and so far it seems likely that Stephen Harper won't have to have new stationary made up in January.

And if Paul Martin wins again, I'm really worried about the future of this country. His strategy of provoking the separatists in Quebec and reinforcing stereotypes of Albertans works well in Ontario, but may unleash a backlash he won't be able to control.

But I'm going to be doing my little bit to try to change that outcome. Once again, I'll be working on the Conservative campaign in the Pontiac, this time with the Conservative's one great hope for Quebec, Lawrence Cannon. I'll be managing his website, putting up signs and doing whatever else I can to help. Quebec is still a lonely place for the Tories, but in this riding I think we have the best chance for a breakthrough.

I don't consider myself a 'party man' by any means. There's many things about the Conservatives I don't like. It's not that I find them 'scary'. It's that they're not scary enough.

The Liberals have maintained their hold on power by carefully cultivating a vast collection of special interests and client groups. These barnacles have multiplied and mutated over the past thirty years so that now they completely cover the ship of state and almost immobilize it. Many people think this baroque accumulation is the government. It will be near impossible to ever scrape them all off, but I wouldn't mind a party that at least recognizes the problem and proposes to try to stop the ship from capsizing. But no, the Conservatives have been very delicate about all this. The farmers will continue to get their handouts, the artists will continue to get their handouts, Bombardier will continue to get their handouts, etc, etc...

But whatever. The Tories will be better than what we have now, and might keep the country from flying apart. I'm going to be working to make it happen.

The first month of the campaign is just the warm-up. The real show starts in January.

November 25, 2005

Incompetence and corruption at Finance

In September, the Finance department announced that because income trusts were costing the government $300,000,000 a year in lost tax revenue (that was desperately needed to fund more vote-buying schemes), the government was investigating changing the rules as to how these investment vehicles worked. This caused a lot of churn in the markets as investors drove down the prices. On Wednesday this week, the government declared their intention to leave the trusts alone, and instead reduce the taxes on stock dividends to try and level the investment playing field.

This doesn't sound very bad, and lower taxes are always a good thing, but the way it was done (which I'm going to get into) indicates that the Finance department has no idea what it's doing.

It began Wednesday at 5:20 pm, when John McKay, the parliamentary secretary of Ralph Goodale, went on live television and casually announced a major tax policy as easily as he might have announced new funding for macramé training for immigrants in a too-close-too-call riding -- and didn't even have his facts straight:

Jaws dropped among Department of Finance officials on Wednesday night as they watched John McKay discuss details on national TV of how Ottawa would resolve the income trust tax debate.

The parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Finance told of plans to cut the tax rates on corporate dividends. Then, he disclosed details of a 5% tax to be applied to trusts held inside pension plan, starting in 2007.

Department officials wondered aloud why Mr. McKay was talking about a market-sensitive issue on television. Worse yet, he got the details wrong. About an hour later, Ralph Goodale, the Finance Minister, announced there was no trust tax in the offing.

So. A major financial policy was announced at a last-minute press conference with no documentation. It's possible that the income trust policy wasn't even fully worked out yet; Goodale just had to say something, so he made a hasty decision and went to the press.

If that was the worst of it, it would only indicate incompetence. The news came after the markets were closed, so no harm was done, right? But there's evidence that something shady has been going on this week. In the three days before the announcement that cleared the income trusts from the cloud they were operating under, their prices went up 3.61%! And of course they went up a lot more after Goodale stammered through his statement. Some people made a killing.

It's obvious that some people were in the know as to what was about to happen. In Barry Critchley's column in today's National Post, he talks to an investment banker that didn't get a chance to be 'consulted' by the Finance department before it made its decision:

"I was talking to some prominent lawyers and bankers and they were up there in Ottawa earlier this week and they were basically told this was going to happen," added the banker, who over the years has won his share of the deals that are up for grabs. "It's all over the street. All the people are talking about who had a heads up and who didn't."

The events left the banker wondering whether Ottawa was interested in consultation or more interested in passing on inside information.

In this banker's mind, "It pays to consult. The government has leaked this out to their friends and cronies in the business community and [in so doing] panicked the little investors who sold.

"It's brutal. It's third world. It's unbelievable," he said.

And this banker wasn't just referring to the events of last Wednesday. Indeed, the process got off to a good start in early September, when Ottawa announced it was planning a consultation process on income trusts. A week or so later, the process reached amateur-hour proportions when the government announced it would not be giving any more advance tax rulings on trust conversions. More importantly, what did that decision mean for the process, which was kicked off with a 50-page report that indicated that everything was being analyzed?

Since then, it has been full-scale panic as Ottawa dealt with all sorts of anger from all sorts of people -- market participants, industry executives, retail investors and pension funds.

And the final straw: "The government then tells a bunch of Bay Street insiders what it is going to do so they can profit. And then it does it. It's insane," added the banker.

Small Canadian investors have possibly lost billions of dollars over this make-it-up-as-you-go-along policy making, and friends of the Liberals have been the beneficiaries. In the US, there would be insider trading investigations to determine who knew what, and when. But here in Canada, expect it all to be swept under the rug.

November 03, 2005

Anti-Canadian Propaganda

As the spouse of a health-care professional, I get to hear many stories of bureaucratic ineptitude, massive waste, shortages and perverse incentives. I hear them not only from my wife, but from many of our friends who are also doctors. It's all part of the complicated mess that is Canada's defining institution. It's not a total disaster as some might claim, but the credit for that should go to the people who endeavor to do the work, despite the restrictions the government enforces. But things are bad, there's no question about it.

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings has discovered a film on the perils of the Canadian health care system being promoted on the web. It's called Dead Meat. It's 25 minutes long and is available for viewing online. While a little hokey at times, it effectively blows a few good-sized holes in the largest contributor to Canada's overall smugness. Everyone should see it. Publius' post is well worth reading as well, including the comments.

October 06, 2005

To the elderly residents of Ottawa

This is what a maple tree looks like in the Autumn. Look as long as you want:

Okay? Good. Hopefully now you'll be able to resist the urge to drive your Buicks down my highway at half the speed limit to see one again...

September 13, 2005

Kim Campbell's historical revisionism

Peter C. Newman's sleazy recordings of private conversations he had with Brian Mulroney are very revealing. Unlike the conventional wisdom of much of the Canadian press -- which thinks his foul language and personal attacks will completely destroy any reputation he has -- I read his pronouncements as a reasonable perspective on the corrupt nature of Canadian politics. He's got some nasty things to say about almost everyone, and many of them really needed to be said.

Kim Campbell gets the full treatment:

Mulroney, in Newman's book The Secret Mulroney Tapes, said Campbell was a "goddamned vain" and selfish woman who spoke "awful" French and blew the 1993 election.

Mulroney criticized Campbell for wasting time socializing with her then-boyfriend during the 1993 campaign in which the Progressive Conservative Party won just two seats.

Campbell has responded with her own version of the election and attempts to pin the blame on Mulroney:
"In 1993, Brian Mulroney was the most unpopular prime minister in the history of Canadian polling and the Progressive Conservative Party was at historically low levels of support," she wrote in an email.

"The question that begs asking is why he then gave me, as his successor, only 21/2 months to turn the party fortunes around before an election had to be called.

"Brian Mulroney did not 'groom' or 'mentor' possible successors. As he puts it, 'I've been manoeuvring this thing for two years, to be succeeded by Campbell.'

"Yet, by his own admission, he did not know me then and he does not know me now.

"He suggests that we could have won by running on his record, but he lacked the courage to stay and fight an election when all the reasonable deadlines for stepping down had passed."

[snip speculations on Mulroney's character...]

I'm sorry Kim, but that's not right. When the 1993 election began, the Tories had a lead in the polls and a lot of momentum coming out of your leadership convention. Mulroney had built up quite a lot of antipathy from the Canadian public, and it was a certainty that he couldn't win another election, but with him out of the picture the black clouds were gone and another majority seemed possible. You were indulged in by the press, who had been temporarily cured of their loathing of the Conservatives by the joy in having a female Prime Minister. Everything was going your way.

Until you started campaigning. You ran the worst -- the worst! -- campaign I've ever seen. You dithered, stumbled, and collapsed. It was painful to watch. The defining moment of the campaign was when you backed down on the plan to purchase the much-needed replacements for the faulty Sea King helicopters. Publicly. Sponaneously. Just because you were being questioned about it a little too aggressively by the press!

My memory of the incident is a little hazy, but it's clear yours is even worse. I remember you facing the press and negotiating with them on how many helicopters would be acceptable. Wait, sorry. It wasn't negotiating, it was pleading. It was the sorriest political spectacle this country has ever seen. It was lucky you even managed two seats.

I've voted for the Conservatives since I was first able to vote. But that election I sat out. If it helps you sleep at night, blame Mulroney. But you're not fooling anyone.

August 31, 2005

Robbing Peter to elect Paul

I received a blogspam email from retired pro basketball player Mike Riordan today, alerting me to a comment made by our reformed-separatist Transport Minister, Jean Lapierre. I normally don't do anything with these types of things, but I'm so thrilled to still be considered a part of the cranky Canadian conservative club after my long absence that I'm going to post it. (It's a pretty revealing quote too.) It's in French from the Canadian Press and translates as:

"I dont think anyone can transform Quebecs economy without government help,�" stated Jean Lapierre. "I think the government will have to be extremely active.�"

Alberta's prosperity could even be called upon, suggested the minister.

"The federal government has the duty to be a real partner, especially since as a government we benefit from the West's wealth,�" he stressed. "So we have to redistribute the wealth. After all, the good fortune of the West could become a disaster for the East. That is why we need a pact that will allow us to even things out.�"

Riordan ends his email with some questions:
1) Is Jean Lapierre nuts, or brilliant? He wasn't able to break up Canada in the Bloc; has he returned as a Liberal with the successful formula?

2) Why hasn't the mainstream media, aside from this passing mention on a French website, thought to mention this?

3) Why hasn't Paul Martin taken down one of his ministers for promising Quebec the proceeds of NEP-II? Or is this the official line, at least when the victims aren't there to hear it?

4) Where's Stephen Harper on this? Why hasn't he spoken out, where does he stand these days?

5) When I bleed $1.15/l to fill up my car, does this now count as a transfer payment?

Good questions all, but I'm going to ignore them. What I'm wondering is how we as Canadians can tolerate someone so obviously economically illiterate being in cabinet? I don't think anyone can transform Quebecs economy without government help? The good fortune of the West could become a disaster for the East? I mean, what the hell? Alberta's booming economy not only increases the flow of cash the feds suck from the province, but also helps drive the economies of the other provinces. Money made in Alberta is spent on manufactured goods made outside the province. Businesses that are not tied geographically to Alberta that see their labour and infrastructure costs increase, will be encouraged to move elsewhere in the country and move jobs there. High oil prices -- while they may seem to hurt individuals filling up the family SUV -- are a net benefit to Canada because our country is a net exporter of oil.

But of course this isn't about economics, fairness, or 'duty'. It's about keeping the Liberal party in power in perpetuity. That's all. Each of these acts of fiddling with the levers of economic power in this country is to maintain their position as the sole distributor of all that is good on this Earth. And of course they can't do all this giving without some taking, so some parts of the country become involuntary 'donors to the Liberal cause', but they somehow manage to cover enough of the population to stay in the driver's seat.

This cynical strategy has kept the Liberals in charge of Parliament for a long, long time. And with the help of the spineless media in this country, they'll likely keep it going a lot longer. Until the West secedes -- which is the inevitable result of this tactic. I give this country just five more years -- unless Canadians can screw up the courage to throw these bums out.

August 17, 2005

Have we heard this before?

Our GG designate, attempting to defuse the kerfuffle about her seperatist leanings:

I want to tell you unequivocally that both he and I are proud to be Canadians and that we have the greatest respect for the institutions of our country. we are fully committed to Canada. I would not have accepted this position otherwise.

We are equally proud of the attachment to Quebec that we have always shown beyond any partisan considerations. Let me be clear: we have never belonged to a political party or the separatist movement.

"Let me be clear", or more frequently, "Let me be perfectly clear" is the code phrase Paul Martin uses when he makes a blatent lie that no one aware of the facts would believe for a second. It's as if he feels the audacity of declaring a falsehood so forcefully will prevent anyone challenging him -- that would be the same as directly calling him a liar. And, unfortunately, it usually works.

The Liberal machine obviously hopes this magic phrase will work again, because her statement is an obvious lie. There's no way,

Let me be clear: we have never belonged to a political party or the separatist movement.
jibes with the same Michalle Jean seen in a film of her husband's:
"Independence isn't given away, it's taken," she said to a group of high-profile Quebec nationalists, including former leader of the Front de libration du Qubec Pierre Vallires, former PQ cabinet minister Grald Godin, and Yves Prfontaine, a founder of the Rassemblement pour l'independance nationale, a separatist group that was the forerunner to both the FLQ and the Parti Qubcois.
or the published sentiments of her husband:
So, a sovereign Quebec? An independent Quebec? Yes, and I applaud with both hands and I promise to be at all St. Jean [Baptiste] parades.
The story is that Paul Martin's people did a half-assed job of checking out Michalle Jean's background before picking her. That sounds right; I'm pretty sure he wouldn't knowingly put a seperatist sympathizer into the post. But he's got no problems with liars.

August 09, 2005

Canadians are earnest

Opinion Journal's Best of the Web by James Taranto is one of my favourite daily reads. He manages to effortlessly move between an authoritative command of what he's talking about to a breezy, conversational tone. One of his running jokes is to get an obvious fact wrong, or purposefully misunderstand something, and wait for the emails to pour in. A good example of this is when he mused that just as Bill Clinton was called the 'first black President' perhaps George W. will become known as the 'first Catholic President' for his efforts on some issue I can no longer remember. Of course he received hundreds of responses informing him that JFK was, in fact, Catholic. Well, duh. Taranto (who has written a book of presidential biographies) sheepishly admitted his mistake, but wondered why no one corrected him on referring to Clinton as black...

He cast another lure in the pond last week, this time hoping to catch a nice, juicy Canadian. He was writing about the non-migration of Americans to Canada following Bush's re-election and commenting on an proffered explanation that perhaps Canada is too cold in the winter:

The winter temperatures? How about the summer temps? According to the Globe and Mail, the expected high today in Toronto is a bone-chilling 28 degrees. This almost sounds appealing when you're in sweltering New York City (current temperature: 97), but then if we wanted subfreezing temperatures in the middle of August, we'd move to the Southern Hemisphere.

Of course, it turns out it isn't really that cold in Toronto. Weather.com gives today's high as 82, not 28. The trick is that Canada is on the metric system, in which temperatures are read backwards. What a clever way those Canucks have found of keeping undesirable immigrants out.

Granted, it's almost too easy catching smug and sensitive Canadians, but even with this very obvious lure, he manages to land a whopper. Canadian Chuck Morris responds and patiently explains how the metric system works to the poor insular Americans that read the Wall Street Journal's web page...
Ouch! I'm afraid you made a rather basic factual error in your explanation of why the expected high temperature in Toronto for that day was indicated as 28 on the Globe and Mail Web site, while Weather.com indicated the high would be 82. The explanation given was that "Canada is on the metric system, in which temperatures are read backwards," and while that may seem to be true, we learned otherwise in elementary school.

As is the case with most countries which have adopted the metric system, Canada uses the Celsius scale for temperatures, rather than the Fahrenheit scale used in the U.S. To convert a temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius, you subtract 32 from it and multiply the result by 5/9. A temperature of 82 Fahrenheit thus translates to 27.7 Celsius, or 28 after rounding, and the fact that this is 82 backwards is purely coincidental.

Canadians pride themselves on their sophisticated senses of humour. Obviously there are a few exceptions.

August 02, 2005

I got claim-jumped!

I thought I had squatter's rights to the term 'Most Annoying Canadian', but Aaron at Grandinite has compiled his own list of the '40 Most Annoying Canadians'. It just goes to show that intellectual property rights mean nothing on the internet.

He did give me my props, however, and it's a pretty good list, so I'll forgive him. His choice of #1 Most Annoying Canadian is the Helpful Canadian Tire Guy, who would surely have won my competion last year if it wasn't for a hacker with a grudge against Antonia Zerbisias. A good pick.

But... there are vital names missing from the list that tell me it's not definitive. Names like: George Stroumboulopoulos, Mary Walsh, Peter Mansbridge, Alanis Morissette, Belinda Stronach, Avril Lavigne, Bob Rae, Heather Mallick, Rick Salutin, Inky Mark, Buzz Hargrove, and -- what's that guys name again? -- oh yeah, Paul Martin. Those are just off the top of my head; I'm sure there are plenty more. And some of the names he does have are a little dated. Names like Sheila Copps, Corey Hart and Svend Robinson. And why's Alan Thicke there? Isn't he dead?

I don't think this Most Annoying Canadian thing is settled. The people have to have their say. I'll be running the competition again this year, and will be hosting the poll myself, to prevent the ballot box stuffing that happened last time. Who's going to take it? My money's on Carolyn Parrish, but you never can tell. Canadian Tire might decide to bring back 'Scrooge' for their Christmas commercials...

July 26, 2005

Canadian Security Alert System

Essay at Stupid Angry Canajun has leaked the new Canadian Security Alert system. Security Czar Anne McLellan (sorry, Anne McYellin) was to have announced this next week, but now the secret is out. When implemented, the four level scale will tell Canadians the proper, government sanctioned response to the risk of terrorist attack.

June 30, 2005

It could be worse - a lot worse

Griping about this country is an enjoyable pastime for me, and I can easily see myself still enjoying the pleasure of it well into my old age. But on the eve of Dominion Day -- or Canada Day, as the disciples of Sheila Copps would have it -- it's important to realize we still have things pretty good here. Our one-party government is corrupt and incompetent, but things aren't as bad as, say, Norway. Chris Petrie writes to Mark Steyn to complain:

The royalties on North Sea oil are truly staggering, making the Norwegian government (note: not the people) shamelessly rich. There is now so much money in the Oil Fund (officially, to be used for everyones pensions) that they dont know what to do with it all. God forbid they use some of it to reduce the taxes around here oh no, instead the government has decided to increase the VAT from 24% to 25%!!

So come on over and do a piece on Norway. Basically the richest (real) government in the world where the citizens none the less:
1. pay an extra 25% tax on everything they buy and all the services they require,
2. pay a fee to the government to own a TV,
3. pay a fee to the government to own a car,
4. pay 50% income tax, (what good is 5 weeks of paid holiday a year when you have no disposable income to do anything?),
5. pay tolls on the highways for the worst roads in Northern Europe
6. send their kids to schools ranked the second worst education system in Europe, just above Greece,
7. pay upwards of 100% tax on new cars because they are considered luxury items,
8. pay USD 1.70 per liter for gas at the pump (thats USD 6.45 per US gallon for your American readers), despite the fact that Norway is the third largest exporter of oil in the world after Saudi and Russia,
9. pay USD 10.00 for a pint of beer at the pub,
10. pay USD 5.00 for a box of Kelloggs Corn Flakes,
11. pay a tax for traveling abroad (on work or on holiday) because it is considered a benefit to not live on your own house for a period of time,
12. pay a tax on air-miles earned while flying (work or holiday),
13. pay an enormous estate when you die (despite the fact that whatever assets you have managed to acquire while alive were paid for in after-tax dollars),

And my favourite:
14. pay a VAT tax (25%) on the tax we pay for municipal services (garbage collection, etc)

Just remember this the next time some progressive idealist waxes lyrical about the tremendously advanced social democracies of Scandinavia...

June 27, 2005

Comrades! Cease your counter-revolutionary activities!

The Canadian Medical Association has decided (subscriber only link) to examine the issues involved in allowing more private health care in Canada:

As a key part of its annual meeting in mid-August, the doctors have organized a session titled ''Charting the Future -- Public: Private Interface in Health Care.'' Physicians from across the country will debate resolutions -- some of which are likely to propose various types of health care privatization.

In an interview, Dr. Schumacher stressed the CMA strongly supports the publicly funded system, but said it also has a responsibility to examine all options -- including privatization -- to strengthen the entire health system for patients.

He said the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that allows patients to purchase private insurance so they can get speedier private medical care has increased the need for such a debate.

''Doctors have a role in this debate. They maybe even have a leadership role because we're probably going to be out first in an organized fashion to talk about it."

"But it has to be a societal debate. It's just not us. We're going to have to engage the public,'' Dr. Schumacher said.

The CMA president said he is hoping for a more ''mature'' debate than the one that has dominated political discourse in the past decade, when any time anyone mentioned privatization, it was immediately equated with the U.S. health system.

''The public system is not being blown up,'' Dr. Schumacher said. ''We're not going to American health care. You're still going to have 95% of the services of the country delivered by our universal insurance. It's that other 5% -- just like in Europe. That's likely where it's going.''

Dr. Schumacher urged politicians to ''set aside dogma'' and stop treating private health care like some ''bogeyman to be trotted out during an election campaign.''

"The important thing is we need to talk about the terms without the inflammatory, incendiary words. We need to sort out the language. Because every time the politicians speak about this, it's Darth Vader.

"As soon as you say private, they add words to that. It becomes 'private-for-profit, from-the-United States,' etc., etc."

But Health Commissar Ujjal Dosanjh rejected the CMA's calls for a mature and dogma-free debate, and responded by summoning one of the Party's pet bogeymen:
But Mr. Dosanjh said it would lead to the destruction of medicare, and he urged doctors to exercise caution in reviewing such options.

''I don't see a great rush to set up private health care, because we have a very recent experience," he said of the Canadian public. "Forty-five years is not a long time in the life of a nation. There are people who still remember the dark days of private health care, where people had to sell their farms and sell their homes to care for their loved ones.''

Is anybody else somewhat worried that our government is advising its citizens against talking about the greatest crisis facing our country today? That they continually lie about the complimentary mix of public and private care that manages to exist in every other developed country of the world? The health system as it stands in this country is getting worse, and another five-year-plan by the Party isn't going to fix it. We have to start looking at alternatives or the system will eventually collapse.

June 22, 2005

Critiquing St. Bob

Live 8 will be coming to Canada on the Dominion Day weekend with the goal of raising awareness of the suffering in Africa. To do this, Bob Geldof has enlisted Bryan Adams, Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, the Tragically Hip, the Barenaked Ladies and many other tired beneficiaries of the CRTC to perform at a concert outside Toronto. And if all these acts fail to get the crowd to understand suffering, Cline Dion will also make a live via-satellite appearance.

Bob's not after money from the concert-goers this time, instead his goal is a shake-down of the governments of developed nations. He wants them to increase their foreign aid budgets and relieve debts, and is using the Live 8 shows, followed by a planned march (which will no doubt turn into a riot) at the G8 summit in Edinburgh as media stunts to attract attention to his ideas. While I have no doubts that Geldof is sincere in his desire to help Africa, I can't help thinking that this isn't the right way to do it. His confrontational rhetoric is aimed at shaming the affluent and he suggests that money is all that's needed to end poverty.

The real problem with Africa is that it's as conducive to economic activity as the planet Venus is to life. Anything of value that is not protected by a life-support system of private security is quickly destroyed by corrosive corruption and lawlessness. A correspondent from the Economist describes life in the Congo:

That's the Congo. Private cellphone networks work and private airlines work because the landlines do not and the bush has eaten the roads. Public servants serve mostly to make life difficult for the public, in the hope of squeezing some cash out of them. Congo is a police state, but without the benefits. The police have unchecked powers, but provide little security. Your correspondent needed three separate permits to visit the railway station in Kinshasa, where he was stopped and questioned six times in 45 minutes. Yet he found that all the seats, windows and light fixtures has been stolen from the trains.
Via Samizdata, I found a good series of articles by Richard D. North that neatly demolish St. Bob and his followers using reason and facts. They're short, and give a good background on the enormous challenge Africa faces. They're a good vaccine against the media barrage we're all going to be exposed to in the coming few weeks. It must be noted that the author is somewhat biased in his opinions, but he's not afraid to spell them out very clearly:
I have several prejudices against the Make Poverty History and the Live Aid and Live 8 campaigns. They revolve around vulgarity, grandstanding and sentimentality. I do not believe in the strength of feeling of many of the protesters. More particularly, I dont believe that they are thinking usefully about the suffering in Africa. Theirs is an unattractive mix of misplaced guilt, pseudo-dissidence, political grandstanding, wilful ignorance, misplaced blame, and radical chic.

These campaigns are also infantilist: they believe or affect to believe that the grown-ups are to blame for everything and can fix anything; that youth owns virtue, and that impetuosity is its own virtue. Of course, I dislike the vulgarity of the lefts view of the world: the dislike of elites, whether good or bad; the assumption of the cold-heartedness of firms, governments and leaders.

Even many of the best Africans are to blame too. They are brilliant at blaming their problems on colonialism. Doing so cultivates a resentment culture and politics which are a perfect recipe for failure. Those Africans who renounce post colonial blues will be those who lead their countries out of darkness.

June 21, 2005

More advice for the Conservatives

Stop walking into traps! As I mentioned before, the Liberals promotion of gay marriage was solely chosen to throw the Conservative caucus into turmoil and draw out extreme statements from backbenchers. They couldn't give a damn about this issue, which should be a provincial responsibility anyway. But it's a slow-acting poison that works only on conservatives, with damage that increases with exposure, so the Liberals found it useful to uncork. And now we're going to get plenty of exposure:

After putting C-38 on the back burner only two weeks ago, Paul Martin's government once again labelled it a bill of national importance and vowed to tackle it in the coming days.

Government House Leader Tony Valeri will move today to postpone summer vacation slated to begin for MPs Thursday and keep them working until midnight every weekday until they exhaust debate and vote on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Valeri said the extension will ensure MPs approve the $4.6-billion amendment to the budget and take a final vote on the Civil Marriage Act, which legalizes same-sex marriage.

Which means -- what? -- months of coverage of heated rhetoric coming out of the Commons? How's that going to look? The average Ontario voter sees this issue -- unfairly, in my opinion -- as the litmus test as to whether the so-cons rule the Conservative party. And if it's seen that they do, vote-rich Ontario will hold their nose and vote for the Liberals. Again. To me it looks like the Tories have nowhere to go but down.

But they have a chance. They have to neutralize this issue. The only way I can see it is if they announce that the party has no position on gay marriage, and that Conservative MPs will have a free vote when the time comes. They can debate the issue, but must try to refrain from demonizing those on the other side. Sure, most will probably vote against it, but a significant number will vote for it. And if that minority gets a bit of coverage, maybe the timid and twitchy Ontario voters will be mollified.

Okay, I'm a dreamer. The Conservatives are Daffy Duck to the Liberals' Bugs Bunny. They haven't got a chance.

June 20, 2005

Good advice from Warren

One of the shocks I had to get used to after returning home from Argentina was the erosion of support the Tories experienced. I leave the country for two weeks and look what happens! All is not lost, however, they still have time to slap themselves in the face, dunk their head in some ice water, and get ready for the next round. Warren Kinsella, of all people, has some good advice on what Stephen Harper and the Conservatives should be doing:

- One, you don't have to be an expert in public opinion to know that voters strongly suspect Conservatives don't like Canada, or Canadians, or anything that makes modern Canada so great -- i.e., the Charter of Rights, public health care, diversity, an independent foreign policy. Here's one Liberal's free advice: Start talking, and looking, like you like the place. Then the voters will let you run it. Canada is the greatest country in the world. Start saying so.

- Two, whenever a political party dips in the polls, the media will call up anonymous nervous nellies to get a quote about the need for an immediate leadership convention. The media do that all the time -- and, all the time, it is generally only the Conservative party's nervous nellies who rise to the bait. My advice: Stop the nervous nellyism. Focus on the long game. You Tories brought the most successful political machine in Western democracy to within one vote -- a single vote! -- of a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons. You forced the Martin Liberals into all sorts of tawdry, backroom deal-making to avoid an election. And, now -- a few short weeks later -- you are all inexplicably committing ritual political suicide in public. My advice: Fire the nellies, strap on a set of gonads and fight like your lives depended on it. And quit the kvetching in public.

- Three, Conservatives should stop talking about scandal so much. The media can always be counted upon to go on and on about scandals, real and perceived. They love that stuff. But voters don't believe that a Conservative politician is more ethical than a Liberal politician. Voters think all of us involved in politics are morally deficient, even when we're not. So, instead, Tories should talk up ideas -- the things Conservatives are for, and not just the things they are against (e.g., gay marriage). In particular, Stephen Harper should promote the fact that his caucus -- which is younger, and more ethnically diverse than the governing party's -- has come up with a platform that is moderate, centrist and packed with great ideas about how to make a great country even greater.

To this, I'd add a couple of other points. First, stop acting like losers. Offering to support the Liberals on their Santa Claus budget in exchange for putting the same-sex marriage issue on the back-burner is what a party that has no self-confidence would do. So what if some polls say you're being too obstructionist in Parliament -- that's your job. Leadership and confidence in your decisions is important too.

Second, don't be afraid to touch the third rail. Canadians know somethings got to be done with health care in this country and know a Conservative government would have to act. By not saying how you will act, Canadians are apprehensive about what you might do. It's a tough issue, but avoiding it makes things worse. But the recent Supreme Court decision might give you an opening -- by allowing you to claim to be for 'choice' in health care.

Okay, now I know you can take this guy. Get in there and take him down. We're all counting on you.

May 31, 2005

You think it can't happen here

Okay, one last Canadian item before I begin my sabbatical. Mike at the London Fog has unearthed some comics showing the plans the Liberals have for the country. An amusing diversion or a chilling look at our future society? The answer is for you to decide.

I'm betting on amusing diversion.

May 27, 2005

The gay marriage wedge

A couple of months ago I was polled on the subject of gay marriage. Unlike most of the polls I answer, this one was very short. Three questions: Do you support it? Which federal party would you vote for today? And does the gay marriage issue change how you will vote?

I'm a more socially-liberal conservative, so I responded that I support it (though mostly I think it's a non-issue), will vote Conservative, and am not swayed in my intentions by that issue. It was an interesting poll and got me thinking.

Why are the Liberals raising the whole gay marriage thing anyway? Marriage laws and licences are a provincial responsibility, so you would think that if the time has come in our culture to recognize gay marriage, the provinces could make the necessary changes to the laws. Some provinces would lead the way eagerly, and some would have to be prodded by the courts. But eventually it would happen and the federal government wouldn't have to do anything. So why are the Liberals doing this? Especially when polls say a slight majority of the population is against it?

The answer comes in the third question of the poll I answered. Does the gay marriage issue change how you will vote? For most of the people that are opposed to it, I'd guess GM is a non-issue. There's a certain inertia in the population that resists change (especially in timid and fearful Canada), and the poll picks this up. But they don't really care about the issue. For the rest, those that are noisily opposed to GM, they're probably planning to vote Conservative anyway. So the GM issue doesn't lose the Liberals any votes.

But now let's look at the supporters of GM. I think their commitment to the issue is greater than the majority of those that oppose it. They're not ready to go out and march for it, but they think it's a important issue that represents their values. Many of them are as disgusted with Liberal corruption and arrogance as anyone. They can see that the Liberals have been in power too long and really should be thrown out. But as they look around the political landscape for an alternative, what do they see? They see a Conservative party increasingly associated with opponents of GM. Some of them may be able to overlook this and vote Conservative anyways, but many will hold their noses and vote Liberal. This is why GM is a winning issue for the Liberals.

I'm convinced that the popularity doldrums the Conservatives are in is a result of this issue. And they have no effective way to fight it. They can't take the Liberal position and alienate many of their members and supporters, and they can't vigorously oppose it for fear of looking 'scary'. ('Scarier', actually.)

And that's why you can count on the Liberals making GM a big issue in the next election...

May 26, 2005

A hint of consciousness?

Andrew Coyne has collected a number of opinion pieces from across Canada that express a slight hint of outrage over the appalling policy of patronage bribery that the Martin Liberals depend on. Maybe, just maybe, this story will be a sleeper that will slowly gather the requisite outrage from the public.

May 25, 2005

Poundmaker protest

One of the great embarrassments in Canada has been the dismal conditions in many native communities. As I see it, the problem has not been the federal government's fault, but a result of massive corruption in native governments. But anytime an outsider points out this obvious fact -- or worse yet, suggests doing something about it -- they're met full-force with charges of racism.

The only way Native communities are going to get out of this cycle of despair is by overthrowing the mini-Mugabes who rule them, and setting up the conditions to prevent them from returning. Not an easy task, and there hasn't been a lot of precident.

But right now some members of the Poundmaker First Nation in Saskatchewan are challenging their corrupt leaders. The story has had minimal media coverage (this CBC story from May 6 is all I've found), but the Manitoba-based group blog Dust My Broom has been all over it and is working to get the message out. The story starts here, and continues here and here. The latest press release from the protestors is here. (Best to just go to the main site and start reading.) Ian Scott of Ianism is accepting donations for a grocery delivery to the protestors scheduled for tomorrow.

Politics is never just about voting. It's also about working to support ideas you believe in any way you can. These guys deserve a lot of credit.

Not being intimidated

I was worried that the National Post's lawyers had reacted to the libel suit by PMO Chief of Staff Tim Murphy by going into full duck-and-cover mode. The Post had nothing on the Grewal story in yesterday's paper, and Coyne still has not made available the column that started it all. The paper usually manages to do good work, but Chairman David Asper tightly orbits planet Liberal and could have shut down this story.

But in today's Post, Coyne follows up his uppercut on Murphy with a roundhouse (subscriber only) that should have him staggering:

'He started it' is not a defence

It has now been one week since Gurmant Grewal, MP, first made his sensational allegations that senior members of the Liberal government had offered him a public office -- a bribe, in effect -- in exchange for his abstention in last Thursday's budget vote. The same offer was allegedly extended to his wife, also an MP. As evidence, Mr. Grewal produced an eight-minute tape he had secretly recorded of a conversation between himself and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, a snippet of what he now says are four hours of tape-recorded conversations, not only with Mr. Murphy but with Ujjal Dosanjh, the Health Minister.

The Liberals have had a week, then, to come up with an innocent explanation for all this. They have not done so. Instead, they have attempted to change the subject. Mr. Grewal approached us, they insist. In some versions, he is described as having asked for a public office; in others, it is maintained that he wanted the government to call off an RCMP investigation into his affairs, launched just days before at the behest of Joe Volpe, the Immigration Minister. And when they rejected his advances, Liberal ministers chime in unison, he "wouldn't take no for an answer."

This is utterly irrelevant, even assuming it was true. If Mr. Grewal had corrupt objectives in mind, it seems odd that he would tape himself in the act, still odder that he would tell the world of the tapes' existence. A more plausible explanation, if indeed it was he who first approached them, was that he set out to lay a trap for them. Fine: It was within Mr. Murphy's and Mr. Dosanjh's power not to fall into that trap.

There's lots more. Pick up the Post today and read the whole thing. But I will quote Coyne's conclusion, which is something I've been saying for a while:
Finally, the media has a responsibility. There are allegations that a crime was committed here, allegations serious enough to warrant an investigation. And not just any crime, but one that strikes at the heart of our democracy. Do we just shrug and leave it at that -- because the Liberals won the vote? Or do we pursue this?
In other words, "Can you give me a hand here, guys?"

UPDATE: Coyne has the latest column up on his site. What also must be read is the intro to the column where he cruelly mocks Jeffrey Simpson's lame hand-waving over the affair.

May 22, 2005

Cancelled

Because Canadians really don't want an election right now...

Dissent being stifled...

Andrew Coyne is being sued by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Tim Murphy for libel. There's no other details on exactly what Coyne wrote that was so libelous, but I'm guessing it's his column in the National Post that mused on the legal nature of what Murphy may have done. Coyne has not put the column up on his site as he usually does, and his site has shut down comments and has had no new content added for a couple of days. Something's happened; it may be the thuggish hand of the Liberal Party, or it may be a bad case of stomach flu.

Debbye Stratigacos of Being American in T.O. and I feel that the Prime Minister's office should not be able to shut down the questioning of their ethics with legal threats and have decided to post the column. Because of copyright issues, we'll both post just half of it. If Andrew Coyne requests we take it down, we will, but for now, here's the first part of the offending column.

A majority lost, then found

OTTAWA - And then we all went off to Hy's. The last vote had been bought and paid for, the government had staved off defeat by the margin of heiress, and all of Ottawa, it seemed, was young and in love.

But me, I couldn't get this song out of my head, the soundtrack to the day's events. Do you know it? It goes like this:

"I don't think it's good if anybody lies, or if anybody is asked the question, 'Well is there a deal?' and you say, 'No.' Well you want that to be the truth."
Well, you'd have to listen to it. It's Paul Martin's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, in a rare bootleg edition of what I gather is his signature tune. In this case, his duet partner is Gurmant Grewal, Member of Parliament -- a position of some honour in this country, I am told -- and Tim is explaining to him how Gurmant could abstain from voting against the government, and the government might sometime later make Gurmant a Senator or some such, but there wouldn't be anything sordid or dirty or, you know, illegal about it, as there would be if there were "an explicit trade" of one for the other. That's what Tim says elsewhere on the tape: It's a "bad idea" to have "any kind of commitment that involves an explicit trade." Rather, you want to arrange things in such a way that if somebody asks "is there a deal?" you could say no, and it would literally be true. Because "you want that to be the truth."

Because "I don't think it's good if anybody lies."

A reminder: This is the chief of staff to the Prime Minister of Canada talking.

So: you want to be able to truthfully say there's no deal. That would seem simple enough, if in fact there is no deal. So why would you need to spend eight minutes discussing how to say it? Why would you even need to discuss whether anybody should lie?

"That can be done on the basis, those members can do it on the basis, 'Well look, my riding doesn't want an election, doesn't want one now.'"
That tape will forever serve as the background music, the theme song if you will, for yesterday's vote. A government that had lost its majority spent nine days pretending it had a majority in order that it might obtain a majority. It used powers of state to which it was no longer entitled for the sole end of establishing its claim to the powers of state. And it used those powers in the most tawdry possible ways.

There is no other way to interpret that tape. It is incriminating by virtue of its very ambiguity: it is deliberate ambiguity, calculated ambiguity, in the discussion of matters that should brook no ambiguity.

"If someone abstains in that environment who has exercised a decision based on principle, [it] still gives him the freedom to have some negotiating room on both sides. Then the freedom to have discussions is increased."
Continued at Being American in T.O.

May 21, 2005

'Has the whole world gone CRAZY?'

The Toronto Star paints the picture:

Partying Liberals were treated Thursday night to the incredible sight of Belinda Stronach, Canada's new human resources minister, and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, dancing atop a speaker at an Ottawa bar.

The tune? "Material Girl," by Madonna.

The lyrics to that song include these memorable, and some would say fitting, words:

"Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they're OK,
If they don't give me proper credit, I just walk away.
They can beg and they can plead,
But they can't see the light. That's right,
'Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right."

Tim Murphy, of course, is the man whose voice is heard clearly on a tape (transcript - audio) offering a bribe to a Conservative MP. Dancing on the speaker with his prize trophy, he doesn't appear too concerned about this proof of his guilt in a serious crime being available on the internet. And why should he be? No one cares.

This story is not screaming-headlines front-page news. It's page eight news, noted only after prefacing the story with Liberal denials and alibis. Soon it will disappear and be forgotten. It's the precise opposite to the way the media should be covering this. They should be questioning what the PM knew and when he knew it, not making excuses for him and speculating about what the Tories are hiding. It may be that the Conservatives cynically created this scandal to embarrass the government (though if you listen to the tape, you'll find this hard to believe), but the possibility of the Prime Minister using his powers of office to corrupt members of the opposition deserves a full and noisy investigation. Especially in light of another high-profile defection that happened just days ago! What has the media in this country become? Has the whole world gone crazy? (No, just Canada.)

At least Andrew Coyne is still following this story. He's got a good link round-up here.

May 20, 2005

Belinda Stronach? Yes, Belinda Stronach!

As of yesterday, Google has ranked my blog very high in searches for 'Belinda Stronach'. Many people in the last few days have been looking for information on Belinda Stronach and are being led to my page. I'm also getting lots of hits from people looking for 'Belinda Stronach whore', 'Belinda Stronach pictures', and 'Belinda Stronach dipstick'. I have never tried to 'game the system' to get higher page ranking for anything, certainly not Belinda Stronach, so it's interesting that this is happening.

I don't really have any interesting information or pictures of Belinda Stronach that couldn't be found somewhere else on the web. I have no special interest at all in Belinda Stronach. It's very unfair of me to be taking all these Belinda Stronach hits away from people that are working hard on a Belinda Stronach webpage. Like the creators of this page, for instance. Go here if you want more information on Belinda Stronach.

UPDATE: I thought that would work. I've dropped from 8th to 50th...

Impact

I get the feeling from the Canadian blogs on my blogroll that many have been too stunned by events last night to write much about it. Or perhaps they've just taken my advice and have been overcome with apathy. But a few managed to scratch out some thoughts:

  • Colby Cosh asks a few questions about Chuck Cadman and his motivations and doesn't come to any nice conclusions.
  • Bob Tarantino also looks at Chuck and is a little more charitable. But after seeing the picture of him hugging Carolyn Parrish in the paper today, I have to side with Cosh. Tarantino explains Cadman's motives, but that still doesn't make what he did right.
  • Jaeger crawls out of his cave to drop a few quotes. Barry Goldwater is on his way to being rehabilitated.
  • Andrew Coyne doesn't have anything on his blog, but his last post has almost 700 comments, many of which I suspect have something to do with last night's vote. He does have a great column in the Post today which has a succinct summary of the noxious nature of what Paul Martin did:
    A government that had lost its majority spent nine days pretending it had a majority in order that it might obtain a majority. It used powers of state to which it was no longer entitled for the sole end of establishing its claim to the powers of state. And it used these powers in the most tawdry possible ways.
  • Keith at Minority of One is mad. Mad, mad, mad, mad, mad. But then, he usually is, so this really isn't news.
  • The Last Amazon is hopeful that the Liberals will eventually run out of money and their hold on power will weaken. Well, whatever gets you through the day...
  • Mike at the London Fog offers poetry. Somehow, I don't think the Liberals can be defeated with poetry.
  • Debbye points out that that this country is sailing into unknown territory now. That's a positive way to look at things -- make it into an exciting adventure!
  • Kate at Small Dead Animals has a small link round-up and a big pile of comments. Some of the comments contain... cuss-words.
I'm just going to spend the day with the kids and not think about this mess for now. Actually, I'm just going to spend half the day with the kids, then try to slip out to see that silly movie everbody's talking about.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention honourary Canadian blogger Captain Ed, who has a long analysis on where he thinks Harper went wrong. I think Harper handled things pretty well, but Ed makes a couple of very good points:

He made the decision to drop his challenge to the earlier motions which should have qualified as no-confidence votes for no return whatsoever, a decision which legitimized yesterday's vote.
This was Harper's biggest screw-up. I think the Conservatives panicked when public opinion bought the Liberal's spin on the lost confidence votes rather than theirs. But they should never have accepted the Liberals position, explicitly or implicitly, and continued pointing out the illegitimacy of Martin's government.

His other major criticism is a point in Harper's favour, for me anyway:

Harper may have been undone by his own basic honesty. During this entire episode, Harper made clear what he wanted to do and was aboveboard in his efforts to topple the Liberals. Harper clearly underestimated Martin and overestimated the man's ethics. Harper appeared unprepared for the garage sale that Martin kicked off, buying the NDP with a budget package and Stronach with a second-tier ministerial position. Anyone who paid attention to the Gomery Inquiry should have known better, but even I was pretty amazed at how baldly Martin and his cohorts sold out Canada just to squeeze past the no-confidence vote.
What am I doing? I said I didn't want to write about this stuff! Okay, enough...

May 19, 2005

Nothing to see here, move along

I'd think a bribe by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff to a Tory MP in exchange for him betraying his party on the eve of an extremely important vote would be big news. Especially when the offer was caught on tape. But then, I'm not the editor of one of Canada's big news services. The Globe and Mail's 'Breaking News' page has nothing on the story in any of the headlines, but has a couple of paragraphs tucked in to the general story on the upcoming vote. The tone suggests the offer is just a sideshow and isn't important.

The Star, to their credit, has a partial transcript of the tape, and the CBC has a story, but neither suggest what a colossal breakdown of ethics this shows about the Martin Liberals. In a couple of days (especially with all the big news those days will bring) there will be no memory of what happened. The press in this country are pathetic.

My friend the Latin American correspondent wrote me an email which I will take the liberty to quote:

The media is responsible for a LARGE part of this...shallow reporting, reporters taking Senate seats, reporters hanging out at meech lake, failure to investigate...it's perhaps the laziest and worst media in the Americas....and I've seen them all...Even in places like Venezuela, reporters have the guts to stand up and challenge.

UPDATE: The London Fog has the list of questions asked of Grewel during the scrum he had with reporters. I get the idea that the reporters are not so concerned with finding out about the offer as they are in destroying his credibility. It's madness.

May 18, 2005

Good news

The Liberals are still fishing for Tory rats to board their sinking ship (apologies to Gnotalex for borrowing that metaphor):

Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal says the Liberals offered him a diplomatic post or a Senate seat for his wife in return for scratching his crucial budget vote.

The MP from Surrey, B.C., whose wife Nina is also a Tory MP, alleges he made an audio recording of the offer from Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff.

"I was approached early this week by Ujjal Dosanjh and asked to abstain or vote with the government on the budget vote," said Grewal, a three-term MP.

"In exchange, I was given an understanding that I would be rewarded in some fashion."

Grewal said the options included a diplomatic appointment for him or a Senate seat in the future for Nina Grewal, who was first elected to Parliament just last June.

If they're still casting for turncoats, they may not have enough votes to pull it off tomorrow. When you think about it, given all the power the PM has to bestow goodies for favours, the fact that he was only able to pull in one out of ninety-nine looks like a pretty good endorsement of Stephen Harper's leadership.

The vote tomorrow is going to be a nailbiter.

UPDATE: The tape has been released and it's pretty damning. Andrew Coyne is all over it. This is a criminal offence, of course. How's it going to play out?

Another sexist Tory MP

Medicine Hat MP Monte Solberb has a blog and couldn't resist taking a shot at Belinda. I think he manages to strike the perfect mix of bemusement, condescension, and breezy sarcasm:

Belinda Stronach of no fixed address

Come on everyone, lay off. Belinda is who she is. I'm sure this time she's really found her niche. Wouldn't surprise me if she stuck with it for several months. Maybe even a year. Next, who knows, maybe she'll be a marine biologist, or a circus performer. That's what free spirits do.

No there is none of that getting stuck in a rut for that girl. When things aren't going her way, she gets going. She's gone before you can say, "The Liberals are corrupt", which is what she used to say all the time. But it's a woman's perogative to change her mind, and I support her right to do that. But it's also her perogative to use her mind, which I would also support.

(via The Gods of the Copybook Headings)

Now I've heard everything

Stephen Harper owes Belinda Stronach an apology, according to Liberal MPs:

Speaking with reporters in Ottawa, members of the Liberal women's caucus accused Mr. Harper and others of unacceptable and disrespectful comments following Ms. Stronach's departure from the party and said both she and the women of Canada are owed an apology.

I think it's important that we try to raise the level of discourse and debate and they shouldn't be reduced to the kinds of throw away comments that people are clearly using last night and this morning, Liberal MP Judy Sgro said.

So I would call on Mr. Harper to apologize to Ms. Stronach and to women of Canada and ask his colleagues to very much do the same so that we can try and restore some level of respect and discussion here in Ottawa.

So this woman attended strategy meetings for the (hopefully) upcoming election when she knew she was going to defect, owes the party hundreds of thousands of dollars, and accused the leader of being a narrow-minded incompetent -- and she deserves an apology? Oh right, she's a woman. She's immune from criticism.

And by the way, what are these hurtful comments? The Globe digs up everything it can find:

She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she's done here today. She is, at the end of the day, going to paint herself as something of a joke, Ontario MPP Robert Runciman said of the move.

Tony Abbott, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature, described Ms. Stronach as a political harlot and called the situation as one of a little rich girl who is basically whoring herself out to the Liberals.

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, told reporters in Montreal: I've never really noticed complexity to be Belinda's strong point.

Headlines around the country also described Ms. Stronach's announcement as a blonde bombshell.

At Wednesday's news conference, women members of the Liberal caucus described those kinds of comments as overtly sexist and noted that, when former Conservative Scott Brisson crossed the floor, he wasn't subject to the same level of personal attack.

I don't think you'll disagree with me that being called a dipstick and being called a whore is the same thing, Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte said, when asked by a reporter if friendly comments about Ms. Stronach's shoes were also sexist.

So two members from provincial legislatures, a mild comment from the leader -- and newspaper headlines? For this Stephen Harper should apologize? And what's this about calling someone a 'dipstick' being the same as calling them a 'whore'? Is there any doubt the Liberals were disappointed in the material the Conservatives gave them and had to make up their own?

These episodes of phony and preplanned outrages from the Liberals are getting really tiresome. But I expect this kind of stuff from them, it's the way they do things. But is it too much to ask that 'Canada's National Newspaper' provide a little more skepticism in their stories? This one read like it was a Liberal press release.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne has a few quotes on Belinda from some women columnists. Presumably they're not sexist.

A break from the smirking

One of the things that disappoints me about politics in Canada is how the population has been indoctrinated into viewing those who exhibit passion with suspicion or condescension. Canadians are too cool to care, and routinely tell pollsters they think all politicians are the same. The media for the most part plays up to this, reporting on the crude maneuvering of this government as if it was the latest news on Brad and Jennifer.

It's nice to read some reporters getting angry about this and who understand what it all means. Andrew Coyne has a good column in the Post today (not yet available) and David Warren's is right on the money:

Am I making this personal? Yes, and it ought to be made personal, by everyone who has been betrayed -- every Canadian not directly in the pay of the Liberal Party. We have been taken for a ride, we have been cheated of the constitutional order that was our birthright. And we have been cheated by people who have used the stations with which we entrusted them to advance their own personal interests at the expense of ours.

If Mr. Harper did not seem angry, I would have no hope for him. He is in fact angry, because he is a decent man; and because he is looking directly into the sleaze at the heart of our government. There is such a thing as righteous indignation, and now is the time for it to be expressed.

I'm still in shock right now, but I've got over my initial pessimism. I'm not abandoning the country or voting for seperatism. These guys have to be fought, and I'll continue to fight them in my own limited way. In fact, I'll step it up a bit and start challenging my neighbors and friends who react to what's happening with nothing but a shrug. They've got to wake up or this country is lost.

UPDATE: Coyne's column is here.

May 17, 2005

Democracy on life support?

Predictably, the Canadian blogosphere has been a-buzz with reaction to Belinda's defection. Most of it has been shock, disgust, dismay, and insults (Publius has a good round-up), but Colby Cosh has a powerful post about how this country might just be strolling into a huge constitutional crisis:

The whole point of the tradition that the confidence of the House will be tested at once, upon the government's defeat in a supply-related division, is to prevent exactly the sort of shenanigan just perpetrated. Martin has used the delay he imposed unilaterally to purchase the services of a disaffected Conservative leadership candidate--one, it bears noting, elected by her constituents as a Conservative. (She'll be in charge of "democratic renewal", says Martin--never let it be said the man lacks a taste for irony.) "I am not sure," Bliss concluded, "that Canada has ever had such a serious parliamentary crisis." There can be no doubt about it now. If the Liberals win Thursday's confidence vote by virtue of Stronach's presence on the government benches, we will continue to have a government openly acknowledged to be illegal by most if not all of the major constitutional authorities in the country.
Well, the ones not bought off by the Liberals, anyway.

Paul Martin seems to be intent on destroying this country as we know it. The corruption of his party and his banana-republic tactics have infuriated Quebec and the West, yet still he sits in the driver's seat. If the Liberals somehow manage to create a majority government , there'll be another Quebec referendum, followed shortly by one in Alberta.

I could even see myself voting 'oui'...

Shameless

I wondered why the Liberals were so desperate to hold on a few more days before allowing a confidence vote. If they were going to lose anyways, why allow themselves to look like they were clinging to power so pathetically? And now we know: they were working to find the price that would bring Belinda Stronach over to the dark side.

There's nothing, nothing these guys won't do to hold on to power. They'll send unarmed soldiers to a war zone, let a bunch of socialists ruin the economy, and create a brand new cabinet post to satisfy the vanity of an ambitious heiress. Nothing is beneath them. And they don't care who knows it.

I wonder if I can persuade my wife to move to Australia...

UPDATE: I understand now that Martin didn't create a new cabinet post for Belinda, but booted out (future senator or ambassador to France) Lucienne Robillard to make room for her.

May 16, 2005

Cranky farmers invade Parliament!

The 'Take back the Hill!' rally collided with a much larger farm protest, leaving the farmers firmly in control. But there was plenty of common ground between the groups, so I don't think anyone minded.

I took the tots out for some air on Parliament Hill today and got a few photos.

More photos below the fold...

Continue reading "Cranky farmers invade Parliament!" »

Rally today?

I've read a couple of blogs mentioning a rally planned for 1:00 on Parliament Hill today. The purpose is to 'Take back the Hill!' and attendees are requested to wear blue.

I'm a little dubious about it. While I support the idea, I don't feel that there's enough outrage out there to draw much of a crowd for something like this, and it hasn't even been well publicised. Better to have no rally than one that's a flop.

Still, nothing will happen if everyone thinks like that. Even though 1:00 is nap-time for Max and Talia, I'll try to make it out today and take some pictures. I guess we're eating lunch at McDonald's...

UPDATE: Not much outrage at all. *sigh*

May 14, 2005

Unarmed in Africa

Paul Martin's naked desperation is again on display. Despite having assured us that this military excusion to Sudan has been in the works for more than 6 months, it has now been revealed just what a shallow show it really is:

The Sudanese ambassador says her country will not allow Canadian troops into Darfur despite an assistance package from the minority Liberal government that includes up to 100 military advisers to help the African Union maintain peace in that war-ravaged region of western Sudan.

Ambassador Faiza Hassan Taha said Prime Minister Paul Martin rushed to make the announcement Thursday before anyone from the Canadian government asked the Sudanese whether they agreed.

Rather than meaningful consultation, she said in an interview, Canada presented Sudan with a fait accompli.

Mr. Martin telephoned Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir about 24 hours in advance to "advise" him of the announcement, PMO spokeswoman Melanie Gruer said.

When asked whether this was a "consultation," Ms. Gruer declined to use that word to characterize the conversation, repeating instead that "the Sudanese were advised." She said she did not know where precisely the troops would be deployed.

But wait, it's even worse. The National Post has a front page story on the plan (not available online) that says the soldiers sent will be unarmed:
Despite the comments from the Sudanese government, some of the troops awaiting deployment, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post yesterday they will travel to the Sudan unarmed and not even allowed sidearms for personal protection.

Canadian Forces officials would neither confirm nor deny whether or not the troops would be armed. "That is in the world of force protection measures and operational security and we won't discuss it," Major Mike Audette said.

However, Marie Okabe, a spokeswoman for the United Nations in New York, said the Canadians attached to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) will not be carrying weapons.

This whole thing is so sordid and pathetic that I barely know where to start. In order to win the support of an independent MP to prop up his failing government, Martin cooked up a 'package' to try to win the guy's loyalty. But he didn't even talk to the country that would be accepting the troops beforehand -- perhaps bizarrely thinking that the ruthless regime that's sponsoring the genocide would welcome foreign soldiers looking over their shoulders. And he didn't check out what kind of role the Canadian troops would be able to play before committing, so now he's sending unarmed soldiers to a war zone.

Kilgour seems unlikely to support Martin now. To do so would be to endorse this kind of shallow posturing and I don't think Kilgour is that kind of man.

The contempt Martin has shown for all involved is breathtaking. He expected Kilgour to be easily swayed by an empty gesture. He saw our armed forces only as resources to be drawn upon to save his political skin. He's putting their lives in danger for a mission that was a failure before it even began.

Words cannot express my disgust for this man. He's a disgrace to this country and he has to go. Now.

UPDATE: I find it very, very odd that I can find no source online that confirms that the Canadian Darfur mission will be unarmed. All I have is what I read in the paper this morning. The National Post's summary of today's news does not have the print story I quoted listed, and there's nothing about it in the corrections.

May 12, 2005

A chance for Martin...

...To act like a gentleman. The news is that Conservative MP Darrel Stinson, who has cancer, will miss next week's budget vote due to surgery. This gives Paul Martin a much better chance to squeak through his Santa Claus budget next week. Earlier, when Stephen Harper suggested Martin was delaying the vote because he was hoping some of the Conservatives would be too sick to attend, Martin played the indignation card:

"Mr. Harper's comments are simply beyond the pale and one would expect a higher standard from someone who is the leader of the Opposition," he said.

"It's very clear that these remarks just go too far."

Well, we'll see. Martin has a chance to prove his good intentions. He could have one of his MPs voluntarily miss the vote. It would allow him to show that he's not a complete sleazeball. But will he?

I doubt it. Unless he calculates he's going to lose the vote anyway. It'll be interesting if the possibility of this kind of gesture is raised in the media.

UPDATE: Too slow, Paul! Kate at Small Dead Animals reports Jack Layton has made the offer first, and Stephen Harper has accepted it. So all Martin's desperate delaying play got him was another opportunity to demonstrate his complete lack of honour. Has there ever been as great a Canadian political train wreck as this one?

UPDATE II: Harper hasn't said he'll accept the offer, just that he "wouldn't reject it out of hand."

May 11, 2005

Canada's Orange Revolution is postponed

I was in downtown Ottawa today, and decided to take a stroll across Parliament hill. As I approached, I saw a small crowd with signs and flags listening to a speech. Was this a spontaneous response to the Liberals defying the will of Parliament? Could such a thing happen in Canada?

No. It was a group of milk producers taking advantage of the Prime Minister's desperation to lobby for dairy product import restrictions.

Right on, guys! Fight the Power!

Dueling experts

The Parliamentary fight over the meaning of yesterday's motion has now morphed into a publicity battle. Who can make the best case based on Constitutional Law? The Liberals have released their stable of experts to be available for interviews and for writing op-ed pieces in Liberal-friendly newspapers. One of them is Errol P. Mendes, who is described as a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa. In the Toronto Star he makes his pitch:

Does the Canadian public need an eminent parliamentary expert such as C.E.S. Franks of Queens University to tell us that these motions cannot be regarded as votes of confidence?

Common sense would tell us that the motions that are being proposed are procedural motions that may, if passed by the respective committees, ultimately be considered as votes of confidence.

We know that in everyday life, we tell others that they cannot do indirectly what they can't do directly.

Indeed, with the Liberals supported by the New Democratic Party in the committees, it is also doubtful that these procedural motions would even pass at the committee stage, let alone in the full House.

This makes it even more problematic that these motions should be regarded as proper votes of confidence.

Experience from the mother of parliaments at Westminster should tell us that votes of confidence are grave matters that should not rest on procedural tricks.

In that Parliament, some past British governments have not even regarded taxation bills as votes of confidence.

Votes of confidence should be reserved for passing judgment on money bills of the government and proper votes of confidence submitted to the House of Commons, not to committees of the House, by opposition parties.

These foundations of responsible government in our parliamentary system rely on opposition parties acting responsibly.

It is also troublesome that the opposition parties will soon get the chance to make a proper confidence motion on the budget implementation legislation that has been tabled and will be the subject of debate this week.

Can anyone find an argument in there? I read it as a lot of hand-waving mumbo-jumbo. He talks about precedence, but doesn't give examples, he mentions other 'experts' but doesn't give their arguments, and heaven knows what he means when he says: "in everyday life, we tell others that they cannot do indirectly what they can't do directly." Basically, if I understand it correctly, he's saying that the opposition is being 'irresponsible' by not letting the Liberals continue to uncoil their nefarious schemes according to their own schedule. They'll get their chance when the Liberals let them. (And hey. Can't a professor of constitutional and international law write decent paragraphs?)

I was sent a link with the opinion of an expert on the other side. Andrew Heard is an associate professor in the Political Science Department of Simon Fraser University. He says:

At first glance the motion appears to be simply a procedural matter, sending a matter back to the finance committee with an instruction to amend its report. However, it should not matter what procedural context a vote of confidence occurs in.

What makes a vote one of confidence is the content of the motion. In order to qualify as a confidence vote, a motion has to contain wording that either states the lack of confidence explicitly, calls upon the government to resign, accuses the government of gross impropriety or incompetence, or questions the authority of the government to remain in office. However the the motion is worded, the essence of a confidence motion is to embody the House's judgment that the government is unfit in some way to govern. That specific wording can take many forms, and examples of this variety are found in Canadian provincial and federal precedents.

The fundamental basis of a confidence vote is that the elected members of the legislature express their collective view of the government. If that view conveys a loss of confidence or states that the government should resign, then the government must either resign or call an election.

The wording of the motion passed on May 10, 2005 indicates that it should be considered a clear vote of confidence. What is important in this motion is that the House had to collectively is express its view on whether the government should resign. One could not vote for the motion without agreeing that the government should resign, which is the essence of a non-confidence vote. While the wording of the motion is convoluted, the essential content is a clear expression of non-confidence.

The current motion is also strikingly similar, in procedural terms, to that proposed by H.H Stevens on June 26, 1926. That motion also recommended that a committee report be amended and precipitated the whole King-Byng crisis, when the Governor General refused a dissolution to King on the grounds that he should not avoid a confidence motion then before the House but not voted on; this was the Stevens' motion. For information on those events, see: House of Commons Debates, 1926, Vol.V, June 22 to June 25.

In light of the past precedents, and especially the relevance of the 1926 motions on the Customs Affair, the current motion appears to be clearly a vote of confidence which would normally require the government to resign or call an election after losing the vote. It is a fundamental blow to the government's authority for a majority of the House to agree on a motion that it should resign.

You can judge for yourself which side makes a better case.

Mendes' arguments were the best I could find supporting the Liberals in this morning's news. But they're so pathetic, I feel a little guilty using them to compare the Liberal and Conservative points of view. If anyone can find a better statement of the Liberal position, let me know so I can put it up here.

May 10, 2005

La-laaa-la-la-laaa! Can't hear you!

Well, he's done it. Paul Martin has now sunk lower than anyone could possibly have imagined, and turned this country into a banana republic. By ignoring the non-confidence motion passed in the House today, he spits on hundreds of years of Parliamentary tradition. How will the foreign press view this, I wonder? I'm hoping our press will rip him apart, but I'm not too confident about it. I'm expecting the detached, fair-minded response: "Critics blasted the government, but supporters say..."

Why are the Liberals doing this? If they can't win a vote like this, then they can't win any votes -- which is the point to non-confidence motions. If you can't win a vote, you can't pass legislation. And if you can't pass legislation, you can't run the country -- at least so you would think. Over the years the Liberals have retooled the workings of government so that more and more can be done without Parliamentary consent. All manner of slush funds sit stuffed with cash to be directed towards whatever project that will give them some political leverage. Who knows how long they can continue to operate this way?

UPDATE: I love this little detail tucked into the National Post story on the vote:

Conservative Opposition Leader Stephen Harper immediately demanded that Prime Minister Paul Martin call a formal vote of confidence.

"I would challenge the prime minister, if he believes he has the constitutional authority, to rise in his place and to call for a vote of confidence," Harper said.

The House broke down into shouting when Liberal House leader Tony Valeri said parliamentary precedent makes it clear the vote was not a motion of confidence.

The Speaker ruled Harper's demand out of order and the House returned to normal business, debating heritage lighthouses.

Heritage lighthouses. This is what the Liberals are wasting the House's time with rather than putting the unholy thing they call a budget to a vote. It's, it's... surreal...

May 09, 2005

Travel arrangements are being made

At the last minute, the Tories have managed to schedule a non-confidence motion for tomorrow. Again, the Liberals have denied that it's enough to force a resignation of the government, though others say differently. Assuming it passes, the outrage or apathy of the public will determine who's right.

This must be the first time in a long time that the result of a vote in the Canadian Parliament is not known in advance. Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

Sri Lankan circus

I wrote about Garth Pritchard's behind the scenes look at Paul Martin's expensive photo-op in Sri Lanka last January. He described in great detail the cynical maneuvering involved in arranging the right optics to portray Martin as a great humanitarian.

But seeing it firsthand is something else. Dust My Broom has alerted me to a video by Pritchard, just released, showing what he described. Watching some orphaned kid being pulled out of the crowd and used as a prop is something to behold.

I expect no more than this from Martin. He's a phoney of the first order. But the Canadian Press that were in attendence played along obediently and only presented Martin as his minders intended.

May 07, 2005

How low can he go?

Somehow, Paul Martin is always able to surprise you. Just when you think he's reached about as low as he can go, he manages to drop even further. This time it's his sudden decision to send Canadian troops to the Sudan:

Prime Minister Paul Martin has pledged a greater Canadian commitment to Darfur and was expected to make an announcement within days.

He said Wednesday the conflict "is one of the most important tests as to how the West is prepared to come to the aid of Africa."

Martin met earlier this week with David Kilgour, a former Liberal MP who now sits as an independent.

Kilgour is a strong proponent of sending Canadian troops to Darfur. Kilgour and the prime minister denied the meeting was an attempt to prop up the Liberals' shaky minority government.

Which means it is an attempt to prop up the Liberals' shaky minority government. So he's going to send Canadian troops to the other side of the world -- to buy a political favour and help his pathetic government hold on to power a little longer. It's absolutely unbelievable. I thought how he cynically handled the military with regards to the tsunami aid was bad, but this is obscene.

Now, I've advocated taking an interventionist approach to Sudan before. But what are our guys going to do when they get there? Were they invited by the Sudanese government? Has the UN asked for their deployment? Are we going to invade? Right now the Jangaweed militias -- supported by the Sudanese government -- are waging a brutal war of attrition against the Fur with the ultimate aim of genocide. This is a serious situation that doesn't have any solutions that don't involve serious firepower. Do we have any coherent plan to change this? Or Is Martin just going to set up a camp in the desert somewhere to look like he's 'doing something'?

The desperation of this man, it's... just breathtaking!

The Liberals' lock on power

Two articles in the National Post today (both subscriber only, unfortunately) sum up how the Liberals plan to maintain their grip on this country in perpetuity. In the first, Andrew Coyne describes how 'clientism' works, and why it's so effective:

There are many ways in which the Grits have set about barricading themselves in power over the years -- we are about to see this taken to its almost literal extreme, with the party declaring it will refuse to recognize a non-confidence motion as a motion of non-confidence -- but what is common to all is a strategy known as clientism: the cultivation of a vast array of dependent client groups, who in exchange for regular infusions of federal cash can be counted on to tout the party's cause at critical moments. Like, say, an election.

True enough, they have delivered. Not only Ontario has "hailed" the generosity and wisdom of the far-sighted Prime Minister and his dedicated Social Development Minister, Ken Dryden, in recent days. The governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been no less anxious that you should know about the many wonders they will be able to perform with their own shares of the same funding, each one separately announced and each given the same lavish attention by the media -- each with the warning that all this could be lost if, well, you know.

City governments, for their part, have lately been added to the Liberals' client list, thanks to the Liberals' promise of $5-billion in cash -- to be delivered, irrelevantly, in the form of a share of the federal gas tax. Again, dire warnings are issued of what would happen to this funding should an election intervene, though again, the Conservatives have promised much the same. But the beauty of this system is that the Liberals don't even have to be the ones to say it -- they can let their surrogates do the talking, including such unimpeachable non-partisans as the mayor of Vancouver, Larry Campbell, or the mayor of Toronto, David Miller.

And in the second, Terence Corcoran actually reads the legislation that will alter the budget according to Jack layton's demands and finds it creates an enormous and perpetual slush fund that the government can spread at will without the consent of Parliament:
Never before has a Canadian government given itself such freewheeling fiscal elbow room. Certainly Don Drummond, former finance official and now chief economist at TD Financial, has never seen anything like it -- a $4.5-billion slush fund that government can dip into at will. "For years government has wanted an instrument that would allow it to allocate spending without having to say what it's for. This act will do it."

Readers can check out this blank-cheque spending legislation below. Here's how it works. Sometime in August, 2007, the federal government will check the final numbers from fiscal year 2005-6. If there's more than a $2-billion surplus, that extra money above $2-billion can be spent. For example, if the surplus is $5-billion, the first $2-billion will be used to pay down debt, but the remaining $3-billion must be spent on the grab bag of unspecified areas. Same thing the following year.

As Don Drummond put it yesterday, this is the first time Ottawa has been able to "define the money before it defines the program." The Layton list, sprawling over a dozen broad issues -- environment, housing, transit, training programs, foreign aid, energy, education, aboriginal, tuition fees -- is an open field. Not only are there no programs, Ottawa doesn't even have a jurisdictional outlet for tuition fees, for example. (Oddly missing from the list is a $100-million union pension fund bailout, mentioned in earlier news leaks.)

Just to be doubly safe that the government's ability to spend freely without parliamentary approval will be protected in future, Mr. Goodale threw in a clause giving the Cabinet power to "specify the particular purposes for which payments referred to in subsection (1) may be made and the amounts of those payments for the relevant fiscal year."

In a brief news release, Mr. Goodale called all this "new investments" that build on the "fiscally responsible manner" Ottawa is spending money. Here's how it works: Ottawa spends what it gets, when and how it wants, without parliamentary approval.

So. The Liberals have almost unlimited funds to direct at any nutty project that will help them consolidate their power.

If the Conservatives want to become the next governent, they'll have to fight this system. And the way to fight it is not by trying to match it, but by informing the country of how wrong it is and vowing to end it. This can be an issue in the next election if the Tories will push it. Somehow I doubt it will happen. Already they're saying they'll match all the Liberals' promises. It's a losing strategy.

UPDATE: Coyne's complete column is here.

May 06, 2005

The pro-democracy movement in Canada

We're going to need one. After successfully navigating through all the procedural roadblocks the Liberals have thrown up, the Conservatives have finally managed to schedule a confidence vote on May 18th. But almost immediately, the Liberals said they will ignore the results:

A Conservative effort to hold a confidence vote by May 18 was approved by the House of Commons on Thursday - but it took the Liberals just minutes to brush it aside. Constitutional experts say precedents in Canadian parliamentary history offer little direction as Prime Minister Paul Martin's government lurches toward a crisis.

House Leader Tony Valeri insisted the motion is simply a procedural matter that has no binding effect on the government.

"There is no non-confidence motion," Valeri said. Moments earlier, the Commons Speaker endorsed the Conservative motion, which calls on the government to resign.

"This is merely an instruction to a committee," said Valeri.

Our Parliamentary system is built largely on traditions rather than rules. The Liberals have been taking advantage of this over the past few years so that no longer do Ministers have to answer a direct question during question period or resign when caught lying to the House. I've been frustrated for years at the slow destruction of accountability in the federal government and the concentration of power in the PMO. But this -- THIS! -- it's just too much! If this Conservative motion passes and the government ignores it, Canada will no longer be a democracy. I just hope Canadians can be roused from their complacency to tell the Liberals that this won't be tolerated.

May 05, 2005

Outrage fatigue II

More whining by the Conservatives about non-existent racism.

"Frankly, if I was going to recruit somebody, I'd go a little higher up the gene pool," Alcock said Wednesday.

When reporters asked him for his response Wednesday, Mark dismissed Alcock's comment as a schoolyard taunt.

But the MP for Dauphin-Swan River had a change of heart overnight. He held a news conference Thursday morning, backed by more than a dozen other Conservatives, to call Alcock a racist.

"It demonstrates racial intolerance," Mark said of the "gene pool" comment. "It's about genetics. That's what the Second World War was about."

Oh, come on! Grow up guys! Do Canadians really want to elect such a bunch of sissies?

Lessons for the Conservatives

Max Boot in the LA Times:

How can you tell if a political party is brain-dead? Easy. It spends an entire campaign denouncing the incumbent as a smarmy, good-for-nothing liar, rather than outlining its own agenda. The Republicans tried it against Bill Clinton in 1996, the Democrats tried it against George W. Bush in 2004, and now in Britain the Conservatives are trying it, with equal lack of success, against Tony Blair.

Such a tactic is beguiling because, to True Believers, the other side's triumphs are never on the up and up; they must be the result of hoodwinking the hapless electorate. The problem with this approach was pointed out to me by a political strategist last week: "Voters think all politicians are liars. So telling them that someone is a particularly effective liar doesn't work."

All I've heard on policy from the Canadian Conservatives is reassurances that they're just as cuddly and squishy as the Liberals on all the top-polling hot issues. They're running as if their campaign slogan will be: 'We're not scary, honest!'

It's time to get scary. It's time for the Conservatives to start talking about what's wrong with Liberal divide-and-conquer methods and say what they would do differently. It's time to get over the fear of not winning over the comfortable client communities the Liberals have been servicing. Face it, they're not going to vote for you anyway.

The Liberals are corrupt -- this message has penetrated the populace's conciousness. There's no need for them to keep banging on the point. They should treat it as self-evident and concentrate their message on what they'll do differently. And some people will be scared. That's a good thing!

What's a war museum for?

I was worried about the new Canadian War museum before, but I'm quite a bit more worried about it now:

PROMINENTLY displayed in the new Canadian War Museum, which opens to the public next week, is a 10-foot painting of a Canadian soldier choking a young and bloodied Somali prisoner with a baton.

Done by Toronto artist Gertrude Kearns, it is copied from a photograph taken by Trooper Kyle Brown of Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee of the Canadian Airborne Regiment torturing Shidane Arone to death.

This has caused a lot of anguished head-shaking -- and rightfully so because this sort of display has no place in the story of our military history. This was the action of a small group of criminals and had nothing to do with the disposition of the Canadian Forces. Publius, Kate, the Last Amazon (and many others, no doubt) have already commented on this, and I have nothing to add.

Most people will hopefully be able to keep the context of this incident in perspective and will not let this shameful event tarnish their view of Canada's military. Unfortunately, I detect another theme that is running through the new museum's exhibits that is even more destructive.

Canada's new war museum will present a bleaker, more brutal and complex picture of war.

"We shy away from heroism because that tends to be associated with glamorizing war," says museum historian Peter MacLeod.

War is a miserable experience, he says. "This is why we respect our veterans, because they have gone through these hideous experiences themselves. To make it something dashing and heroic, like a war movie, insults their real achievements."

There's many more similar comments in that article. I get the feeling that the 'respect' this historian has for the veterans is similar to the 'support' American anti-war groups have for the troops in Iraq. It's a condescending attitude towards the honourable motivations of soldiers and their belief in what they do. Instead of people who have done or are doing something dangerous and horrifying yet noble, they're looked on as victims. Pawns in the games of greater men.

I'm hoping I'm wrong. A war museum is a place to honour and remember those who sacrificed to defend us. Every nation or civilization that has retained a core identity understands this. Showing soldiers as heros says that what they did was right and encourages others to see that their country is worth fighting and even dying for. Treating soldiers with pity (and especially contempt) is commiting cultural suicide.

I hope to visit the museum next week and see what they've done. I'm not optimistic.

May 04, 2005

Outrage fatigue

The talk of the Canadian blogosphere today is Immigration Minister Joe Volpe accusing the Conservatives of being just the same as the Ku Klux Klan:

The Opposition party is made up of racists, Volpe said yesterday, calling members recognizable "notwithstanding that they don't have their cowl and their cape."

"The Klan looks like it's still very much alive," the minister added. Volpe made the comments in response to a magazine graphic in which Liberals are depicted as The Liberanos, a mocking reference to the television Mafia show The Sopranos.

A pair of Conservative MPs -- Lee Richardson and Werner Schmidt -- were photographed this week pointing to the graphic from the Western Standard magazine.

The graphic depicts Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Alfonso Gagliano and sponsorship adman Jean Brault, arms-crossed and lined up in a stereotypical mobster group shot.

The shot is labelled 'The Liberanos -- Canadian Politics Redefined' in bold, red letters.

Volpe blasted the two Tory MPs for using the graphic as a political prop.

"I think these are a couple of fine, upstanding members of the new Conservative Klan," Volpe said, holding up the picture outside the Commons.

What a dope. It's a totally outrageous statement and he really should resign as a Minister of the Crown for such crass stupidity. He represents the government of Canada, and he shouldn't be making such hateful comments about his fellow Parliamentarians. But what I find most interesting in this story is the heroic leaps in logic Volpe took to be in a position to make these comments. Volpe was outraged, so he says, because he is of Italian heritage and somehow he interprets this poster as a racial slur. But how? It makes no sense. A few years ago, some Italian-Americans (and Italian-Canadians presumably) were offended by The Sopranos as yet another representation of their community being home to organized crime. I hope they've gotten over it by now, but the grievance community has long memories. Today The Sopranos are a part of our collective popular culture; their name is shorthand for the well-connected and corrupt modern mob. So all this poster is doing is comparing the Liberal party to gangsters -- perfectly acceptable (and apt) political satire.

Volpe knows all this of course. His 'anger' and 'outrage' are just a platform from which to make these absolutely unacceptable comments. It's mystifying to me that anyone could take such nonsense seriously, but the Liberals seem to do this kind of thing frequently (remember the crosses burning 'as we speak'?) so they must believe this kind of attitude benefits them. Keep calling your opponents racists over the flimsiest of pretences and for some it will stick. This kind of tactic will continue until the default press reaction to the 'victim card' is skepticism rather than sympathy. I'd love to have heard a reporter say to Volpe after his outburst, "What? You mean you're this offended that two Conservatives smiled at a poster comparing members of your party to characters on a TV gangster show? And just because you are of Italian heritage? How stupid do you think we are?" I won't hold my breath though...

Not that the Conservatives are immune from this kind of shameless posturing.

Conservative MP Jason Kenney said that as a Roman Catholic, he found Volpe's remarks offensive because the major targets of the Ku Klux Klan in Canada had been Roman Catholics.
Oh cry me a river, Jason. Being called a racist should be enough for anyone to be offended, but you're offended because Volpe brought back the painful memories of -- what? -- the vicious Klan attacks you survived in your youth? Gimme a break.

April 27, 2005

A medical opinion on the PM's brain

I read in the paper earlier today that the Wire Brush has been put on the South Beach Diet by his wife. Sheesh! I thought, more reasons to feel contempt for Martin. First, he's fallen for a stupid fad diet, and second, he's under the thumb of his wife. (I'm continually amazed at how my opinion of him still manages to drop, day after day. How low can he go?)

But this diet may be affecting more than just the already low opinions of him from chauvinistic junk-science critics. He may be impairing his ability to think:

"Cutting carbohydrates means he's also cutting his cognitive functions," said Beth Mansfield, a registered dietician and fitness specialist with Peak Performance of Ottawa.

"That can't help a man like the prime minister think straight."

This would explain a lot...

(via Nealenews)

What election campaign?

Spending announcements announced today:

Too expensive to hold an election?

$ 250,000,000 is a pittance compared to the money the Wire Brush is throwing around these days:

$ 1,101,097,492.00 has been announced since April 21, 2005 by various Government departments.
That's just as of April 25th. Yesterday of course he upped that by another $4,600,000,000. (!!!) Can you imagine how many bales of cash he can push out the window of his helicopter if an election is allowed to wait until next Spring? An election now is money very well spent...

April 26, 2005

Spineless, weak, desperate, pathetic

Words to describe our Prime Minister. Caving to grinning Jack Layton is possibly the most craven and stupid act by the leader of our country since Confederation. Craven, because it betrays an absolutely limitless fear of losing power. He's so afraid of meeting the electorate that he's willing to publicly prostrate himself to this opportunistic hack. Stupid because Chuck Cadman has already announced he won't back the government, so even with the NDP Martin can't prevent a non-confidence motion.

Andrew Coyne is shaking his head -- and his readers are joining him.

Wait for the authority figure

A new poll says Canadians want to wait until Judge Gomery releases his report before deciding whether the Liberals should be turfed out of office. Are they prudent, serious individuals who want to hear the whole truth before they cast their vote? Or are they indecisive ditherers who want someone to make their decision for them? Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

The evidence is stacked to the roof showing the guilt of the Liberal party. Sure, none of it has been 'proven' in a court of law, but the real important question this scandal raises is who the government of the country should be, not who's going to jail. If one tenth of the allegations are true, this party should not have their slippery paws on the levers of power.

If news of the sponsorship scandal came out through investigative reporting, I have no doubt that Canadians would be clamouring for an election to flush the House of Commons clean; but because there's an important personage in an impressive robe assigned to the case, nobody wants to act. Canadians show a truly frightening deference to authority sometimes. This is our country, and it's up to us to keep the politicians honest. It's not a job for the police, or the judges, or the media. It's our job, and if we contract it out we've no one but ourselves to blame for the poor results.

April 22, 2005

A candidate for Pontiac

Conservatives in Quebec? Sure! I mentioned a week ago that our riding association has been courting a high profile candidate to run locally. And now he's agreed -- Lawrence Cannon, a former cabinet minister in the Bourassa government, has announced his intention to seek the Conservative nomination in Pontiac.

He's getting a bit of national press. And the Liberals have already started to build their defence for ten-month-veteran David Smith:

Deputy Government House leader Mauril Belanger dismissed Cannon's candidacy outright, predicting sitting Liberal David Smith would be re-elected.

"Liberals are offering municipalities five cents a litre on gasoline and have a very strong cities agenda -- what have the Tories got?'' Belanger asked in an interview.

Some Liberals privately derided Cannon as a parachute candidate who lives in Hull, Que., which is near, but not in, Pontiac riding.

Well. Some news for you guys: David Smith also lives in Hull and lived there before the last election. And somehow I think a promise from Paul Martin to toss some cash to their municipal governments (if he wins the election) isn't going to cut it.

We should see the big guns showing up locally this time. It's going to be fun...

April 21, 2005

'I'm sorry!'

The Wire Brush says he's sorry and it won't happen again. And any money they can be proved to have taken will be given back.

"And only the Judge can determine who's responsible." No, it's not you, the voters. Get that idea out of your head.

"I have too much respect for this place." Laughter all around.

So. Humility. Apologies. Promises. Stalling. And then a weak attempt to appear chummy. And he still looked scared as he delivered it. I really think their goose is cooked.

UPDATE: Most of the opposition responses were pretty good. Except for Layton, 'The government should be giving you more stuff.' Do people really buy this stuff?

I got the feeling that the way we're going to save Federalism is by sacrificing the Liberals. Sounds good to me.

Whole lotta head-shakin' goin' on

I'm in a 'who cares' mode with the blog right now, but that doesn't mean I don't care about what's going on right now in the news. Just when it seems that the Wire Brush and his band of scrubbing bubbles can't appear any worse in my eyes, somehow they do. In the past couple of weeks they've tried to crudely tie the hands of the opposition parties, floated some bogus accounting documents as 'proof' the party has done nothing wrong, introduced the most cynical and desperate vote-buying policy I've ever seen, refused to answer direct questions, and repeatedly (and ineptly) engaged in magician's tool of misdirection. All while evidence mounts as to just how deep and broad the corruption was is.

I don't have many good things to say about the Liberals, but I'm really amazed at how spectacularly this party has imploded. I was sure they were better organized and had better discipline than this. But now the writing is on the wall, and no one can see Martin managing to cling to power for another two months. He's a lame duck. And now the news is just going to get worse for him. There's going to be a lot of rats abandoning the sinking ship, and they're going to be looking to help the incoming party and get in their good graces. The Paul Martin show tonight, in which he will say, "Let me be very clear, we are going to get to the bottom of this...", is going to be must-see TV.

April 16, 2005

Canada's family secret

The sad plight of natives in Canada today gets a fair amount of attention, but never will you hear that the problem is cultural rather than economic. It's a problem that can't be fixed by more money or more government programs, it can only be fixed from within the community. Aboriginals in Canada need leaders who will face the destructive nature of this culture and attempt to change it. Not much chance of that happening in the near future, unfortunately.

Raskolnikov at Dust My Broom has posted a well-written essay about growing up native in Winnipeg. The characters described are comically tragic, and they have similarities to public figures you might have heard of...

April 15, 2005

Local election news

I worked on the campaign for the Conservative candidate for Pontiac during the last election. Considering the Conservatives made little headway in Quebec, I think we did pretty well -- 22.2% of the vote. With election fever now gripping Ottawa, our team has started meeting again so we can win it this time.

Unlikely? The latest poll shows Conservative support to be higher than that of the Liberals in Quebec. That's a big change. This is a federalist riding; the Bloc will get their 30%, but they won't take it. A swing as large as the polls are showing to the Conservatives from the Liberals will give us the win -- if we have a good candidate.

And I think we do. He hasn't agreed yet, but if the man we've been talking with runs here, he'll roll over Paul Martin's local franchise with little difficulty. The election is going to be a little more fun for me this time...

The Police State comes to Canada

I wish I was astonished by this story, but I'm not. The police in Calgary have raided a private home to take a computer in order to shut down a web site. This web site was not distributing child pornography, bomb-making instructions or hate literature -- it was a site critical of the Calgary police force and its chief, Jack Beaton. I haven't been able to find material from the site or even determine its name, so I can't claim they haven't been knowingly fabricating their stories, but their mission statement sounds relatively benign:

We are the police, the communications officers, the administration staff and other police service members and employees that either have been the victims of tyranny, politics, harassment, bullying, racism, constructive termination, etc., or we know someone who has.
Here's how Craig Burrows, a city alderman on the police commision, justifies the action:
I think any time you go after the morale of a service or the morale of a city that takes pride in its service, the chief has a right to act.

I'm afraid we live in a culture today where you can say anything you want about people, as negative as it is, and you don't think you can be held accountable. I think our chief is just basically ensuring that, moving forward, if you're going to say something that's going to affect the reputation of the service and officers, you have to have evidence to support that claim.

Craig, if you want to live in a culture without all this 'negative' freedom of speech, move to Iran. This kind of action would fit right in there. But in a Western democracy, criticism of public institutions is permitted. Hey! There are even some people who think it's a good thing!

This website collected stories. Everyone knows that stories are not always true. Newspapers print stories that may be false all the time -- simply by quoting others' claims. But by moving in so forcefully to shut down a dissident voice, all I can conclude is that those stories about the Calgary force are frighteningly accurate.

(via Nealenews)

UPDATE: Again via Nealenews, I was able to take a look at a cached copy of the offending site. (A more recent cache is here, but it has less content.) The site is was called Code 200 and seems pretty tame to me. People with gripes about the force created a web page to draw attention to their complaints. It hadn't even attracted much traffic; there were only about 7000 hits when the plug was pulled. But I'm sure their stories will now get much more coverage -- thanks to the Gestapo tactics of the Calgary Police Chief...

UPDATE II: I notice Nealenews has taken the link to the cached site down. From the CBC article:

A sweeping gag order issued at the same time prevents anyone from talking about the case or reading documents related to it, which have been sealed.
I'm not breaking the law again, am I? What's going on in this country?

UPDATE III: Captain's Quarters has much more info and commentary on this story. The real name of the website is Standfirm and more background can be found here.

April 14, 2005

Heads on the block

Stephen Taylor has crunched some numbers to list 10 Liberals that will most likely lose their seats when an election is called.

(ears perk up) Perjury?

Parliament yesterday:

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, if this were not so serious, I would say the Prime Minister is in danger of making himself a national joke.

It is very simple. The Prime Minister testified he had no real relationship of any significance with Claude Boulay. One last time, has he ever sat down and had lunch with Claude Boulay, yes or no?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, health care may be a joke to the Leader of the Opposition but it is no joke--

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Speaker: Order, please. The Leader of the Opposition has asked a question. The Prime Minister is attempting to answer and he is entitled to respond to the question that was asked. We will have some order. We are wasting a great deal of time. Some members will be frightfully disappointed at the end that they missed their questions and the answers.

The right hon. Prime Minister has the floor to answer the question.

Right Hon. Paul Martin: Mr. Speaker, only that leader thinks health care is a joke. Those members will not be able to shout down the millions of Canadians who want to defend the health care system. They have now called the principles of the Canada Health Act, the federal role, into account. They now say they want to privatize the health care system, and the Leader of the Opposition does not have the guts to stand up--

This is just a small slice of the Wire Brush's pathetic attempts to avoid answering a simple question. Andrew Coyne has the scoop on what Martin is hiding -- which may involve his perjury at the Gomery Inquiry. This could get fun...

April 13, 2005

Auditscam

Scott Brison, Sunday on illegal campaign contributions to the Liberal party:

Both Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers came back with audits that said all contributions made were properly handled and receipted.
Scott Brison, Tuesday in the House of Commons:
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party acted quickly to engage two auditors, in fact, Deloitte & Touche and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Both audits found that all contributions were receipted, handled and accounted for properly. These reports are in fact posted on the Liberal Party website and have been for some time. They have also been given to the Gomery commission, as of last December.

If there were any profiteers that operated below the radar screen of the officials in the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party, the government and all Canadians want those profiteers to be punished.

From the PricewaterhouseCoopers "audit" (page 3):
We have performed the procedures agreed with you as set out in Appendix A with respect to amounts received from and paid to the Named Parties (as defined herein) by FLAC during the period January 1, 1996 to December 31, 2003 (the Period Under Review).

Because the procedures set out in Appendix A do not constitute an audit of amounts received from and paid to the Named Parties by FLAC during the period January 1, 1996 to December 31, 2003, we express no opinion on these amounts.

Our report is to be used solely for your information and is not to be used for any other purpose.

Well, that's inconvenient, since the purpose of these reviews was to give the Liberals something to flap around in the air during question period to give them an air of respectability. As to actually finding something wrong, there was no chance of that. The accountants used Liberal data to reach their conclusions -- which were the precisely the conclusions the Liberals wanted them to make.

Giving a stack of papers to an accountant and asking him to check the figures is not an audit. Sheila Fraser performed audits, and found the Liberals were up to their necks in sleaze. These reviews the Liberals are touting are nothing but cheap publicity stunts.

UPDATE: Specialization is for insects! Or for bloggers. There's a new site that's dedicated solely to spanking Scott Brison: Turncoat.ca. (via Ravishing Light)

Sounds good to me

In today's Globe:

Key measures of the government's February budget, including billions for child care, cities and the environment will immediately "vanish" if the Conservatives pull the plug on the minority Parliament, the Prime Minister's Office warns.

With speculation growing that the minority Parliament is on borrowed time, PMO spokesman Scott Reid noted that a quick election would mean the loss of all measures in the February budget because Parliament has not yet passed legislation to bring them into force.

The budget includes $700-million for the provinces to spend on child care as part of a $5-billion, five-year plan. It also gave the provinces 1.5 cents per litre of gas-tax money for public transit and large municipal projects, and $5-billion over five years for meeting Canada's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Also in danger are payments of $2-billion for Newfoundland and an $830-million for Nova Scotia related to offshore resources.

The key lesson from the Gomery Inquiry is that the Liberals cannot be trusted to spend our money. If their strategy to convince Canadians that they should be kept in power is to remind them of how much money they're planning to burn through, I think it's going to backfire. Bring on the election before they do more damage!

April 12, 2005

The Post performs a hagiectomy

Romeo Dallaire has done a good job of using the story of his disasterous command in Rwanda during the genocide to create a heroic aura. It was made easier by a Canadian media that often confuses victims with heroes, but Delaire's book, "Shake Hands with the Devil" went a long way to building his reputation. I've always been suspicious, but I've never seen anything published in this country that questioned his version of events. But today's National Post has a detailed piece (subscription required) that attempts to remove his halo:

Shake Hands shows Bagosora manipulating the Canadian's eagerness to read good faith into the actions of men he today calls "genocidaires." In one surreal scene, Dallaire chauffeurs the busy mass-murderer from one genocide-planning meeting to another. In another, the war raging, Dallaire tells the crisis committee he still believes in the "peace process," then promises the UN won't intervene militarily. The Canadian peacekeeper not only shook hands with the devil, he gave him the thumbs-up plus a lift between levels of Hell.

It was the Tutsi exile army in Uganda, not the UN or any multilateral body, that ultimately rescued Rwanda -- but not before up to 800,000 innocents were hacked to death.

Dallaire's accounts of massacres and vile mutilations are deeply disturbing. But his naivete is shocking in its own way. As Kagame's forces swept into the country and the Hutu intensified their nihilistic slaughter, Dallaire tried to broker a ceasefire -- and today remains puzzled the Tutsi commander wasn't interested. He also handed hundreds of Hutu prisoners to the enraged Tutsi army. And he colluded with aid agencies to prevent the rescue of local orphans through foreign adoption. Better they die, it seems, than survive through politically incorrect means.

It appears Dallaire even helped trigger his personal nightmare: the mission's collapse. On the genocide's second night, he sent a lightly armed squad of Belgian blue-helmets into the chaos, even though radio stations were blaming the Belgians for the president's assassination. These men -- 10, as it turned out -- were seized and disarmed by Hutu army extremists.

Dallaire soon learned of their capture, driving right past the building where they were held while heading for one of his meetings. As Dallaire dallied with Bagosora, the 10 were massacred and mutilated (it's uncertain in which order). Dallaire made no serious attempt to help his men, several of whom reportedly remained alive for hours. The Belgians later insisted they could have mounted a commando-style rescue.

(To this day, Dallaire is reviled in Belgium, which launched an inquiry into the episode. Dallaire refused to testify, a fact oddly omitted in his book.)

Dallaire and his apologists have portrayed his faltering command as the victim of circumstance and external forces, but it was he who handed the extremists the opportunity they had sought, he who threw away his only military asset. The genocidaires saw an officer who wouldn't protect his men; surely such a man wouldn't defend mere Tutsi "cockroaches." Any hopes of bluffing his way to peace were gone.

There were heroes in the Rwandan massacres. Men like Carl Wilkens and Paul Rusesabagina risked their lives to save others, and there are probably many other heroes whose stories never will be known. But Romeo Dallaire -- whose mission was to do what these other men did -- failed to make a difference. He doesn't deserve his halo.

April 10, 2005

Survivor: Canada

Brian Mulroney is now known to have taken $300,000 dollars in cash from German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. This is the same Karlheinz Schreiber with whom Mulroney was alleged to have conspired over the Airbus kickback. Andrew Coyne explains the story in more detail and is asks why this story has been largely ignored by Canada's media:

So it is newsworthy, to say the least, that Mr. Mulroney is now known to have accepted substantial sums of money, after he was prime minister, from the same man from whom he was alleged to have accepted bribes while prime minister. Yet what has been the reaction?

Paul Wells wrote it up in Macleans. The Globe and Mail published an editorial. Michael Bliss raised an eyebrow in the Post. Apparently there was some discussion of it in the Literary Review of Canada. And thats about it. A strange, disquieting silence has fallen over the whole story. Aside from the Globe, none of the major papers that I am aware of even published a review -- this, for a book that for several weeks was among the top 10 bestsellers in Canada.

I've wondered the same thing with regards to the Gomery Inquiry. Lots of dirt has been revealed since it began, but until now little attention has been paid to it outside of Quebec. It was MAJOR news when Shiela Fraser overturned the first rock, but still the Liberals were re-elected and until last week the population has given an indifferent shrug to new revelations. I used to think that because of the very complex structure of the corruption; people were losing track of the chain of events and they tuned out as if it was a soap they had missed too many episodes of. But I think Coyne's thesis is better:
The coincidental timing of the Gomery inquirys hearings into the goings-on in government under Mr. Mulroneys successor, Jean Chretien, highlights how low our expectations have sunk. Our last two elected prime ministers, men who governed us for most of the last twenty years, have both left office under an ethical cloud. And hardly anyone thinks this worth mentioning.
We've heard it before. We expect it. And we think we're powerless to do anything to stop it.

And this leads me back to the question I asked last week. Why are the latest twists in the Gomery investigation such big news? Didn't we already know everything Brault spilled the beans about? My new theory: Canadians recognize that this was something big. A chess move with an exclaimation mark. A reversal in which party holds the advantage. Pleasure is taken in the dismay of the losers and the joy of the winners.

Canadians may be too cynical now to believe that we can have honest effective government, but at least we can still get excited about politics as we would a good reality TV show.

April 08, 2005

Don't rush that election call...

... Because it's too much fun watching the Liberals squirm. But it'll be a while before they can top the clanger Martin spokesman Scott Reid dropped today:

Paul Martin is the wire brush that will scrub clean this stain on Canadian politics!
I doubt anyone present when he said that was able to keep a straight face...

The publication ban was a good thing

I'm convinced that the publication ban has brought the testimony of Jean Brault to the attention of more people than it would have had it just leaked out slowly onto the pages of the newspapers. There has been plenty of damning testimony before in the Gomery Inquiry, but it hasn't really penetrated the thick skin of indifference Canadians have built up about the sleaze in the Liberal party. But by bottling it up for a week and then releasing it all at once (and this is top-shelf sleaze too -- the high quality kind) it's resulted in a bombshell that's woken the electorate up. Most media sources have gone all-out on this story, and people are paying attention.

The Liberals have formed square and are trying to beat off the attacks. Anne McClellan was screeching in Parliament yesterday -- her voice makes Sharon Carstairs sound sultry -- that the testimony was "allegations, not facts!" In a radio interview, Irwin Cotler was answering every question with a short indignant loop about the dangers of "collective indictment" which would continue until the interviewer broke in. Paul Martin is probably very relieved to be at the Pope's funeral; he can avoid being seen on TV red-faced and sweaty and making these pathetic defences. But his time will come.

Are the Liberals doomed? Can they weasel their way out of this? No, I really don't think so -- but then, I'm an optimist about human nature.

There are rumblings about an election coming soon. The Conservatives don't want to trigger it yet because there's still lots of preparations to be done. But their finger is hovering over the button, just waiting for the right moment...

April 07, 2005

Breaking Gomery news

Judge Gomery has 'partially' lifted the publication ban, allowing the CBC (and others, I imagine) to report what Captain's Quarter's reported a few days ago. Now the fun starts.

Not heroes, but still right

The post reprints a snarky post from the blog Tart Cider today that digs up a few quotes from Canadian bloggers breaking the publication ban in order to mock them as a whole. Now, there is a rich tradition in blogging (one I'm sure I've indulged in) of taking the words of a minority, or even of an individual, as the sentiments of the broader target of the writer's wrath, so I can't fault him for his tactics.

But from what I've seen, most of the blogs are linking to and discussing the story because it interests them and they don't feel the government should be holding them back. No one sees themselves as the Canadian heirs to Woodward & Bernstein. Canadian bloggers are doing what they've always done -- just with a larger audience.

The hand flapping and vague threats by the attorney general's office the other day assured me that nothing will happen to bloggers that break the ban. If the desire was to stop the leak, holding a press conference to say what they could do probably wasn't the best way to go about it. So there's no heroics involved in linking to Captain's Quarters.

He also claims that we're doing this just for hits, noting that some lamos have actually posted graphs of their traffic! True, that's pretty pathetic; but after toiling in obscurity for such a long time, it's natural for people to want to blow their own horn. I think most bloggers would still be linking to the story and covering just as they are now even if it was just for the benefit of their few 'regulars'.

I'm not sure why the Post chose this particular commentary to print. There's plenty of good 'meta-commentary' of how this publication ban has affected the Canadian blogosphere. But the entire tone of this piece was a sneering, 'Ghod, those bloggers are just soooo lame', with which the editors of the Post seem to agree. I see this attitude often when the mainstream press mentions blogs, but other groups of enthusiastic amateurs are never covered in a similar light. You will never see mockery of customized car buffs, or amateur musicians, artists, film makers, and actors. But amateur political writers? Beneath contempt.

April 06, 2005

It's going to cost you fifty grand...

The sponsorship program was conceived as a means to promote the Canadian 'brand' in Quebec. For some reason, Quebecers were deemed insufficiently attached to the Trudeaupian vision of Canada as defined by the Liberal party. But it wasn't such a problem that it couldn't be fixed by a couple of hundred million dollars, so away they went. This the version of the story Paul Martin's Liberals are promoting. All those kickbacks to the Liberal party were just the work of a few bad apples.

Maybe they're right. It appears that giving bribes for governemnt contracts is just how business is done in Quebec. Groupaction is now accused of greasing some wheels in the Parti Quebecois at the same time as they were kicking money back to the federal Liberals. A former employee of Groupaction explains:

Renaud said that in one transaction, a total of about $90,000 was given to the PQ as part of Groupaction's getting a $4.5-million advertising contract for the Quebec liquor board, called the SAQ.

Groupaction apparently won the contract in a competition when a bagman for the Parti Quebecois had a meeting with the firm's top executives.

One of those executives told Sun Media: "The bagman came by and said: 'Well, you won the bid, and all that's needed now is a signature, and the documents are on the minister's desk to be signed, and it's going to cost you fifty grand.' "

Renaud recalled about $45,000 a year in donations were to be paid to the PQ for two years.

The money was funnelled through individual Groupaction employees to circumvent Quebec law, which prohibits corporate political contributions.

Renaud said Groupaction president Brault was personally involved in the tollgating deal. "I was there when he (Brault) was negotiating with the people of the PQ," he said.

Maurice Duplessis' Union Nationale was destroyed by revelations of the party's deeply-rooted corruption. Maybe the same thing will happen to the Federal Liberals and the PQ.

(via Debbye and Nealenews.)

April 05, 2005

So that's Martin's plan...

Andrew Coyne comments on the absurdity of the Gomery publication ban:

But to get to where we are now? It's just absurd. You cannot publish the proscribed testimony on the Web? Okay, maybe that's fair, if other media are under the same order. But to threaten people with prosecution just for linking to a site that does? Or linking to a site that links to that site? Or -- I cannot believe I am writing this -- even for uttering their names? What's the punishment for this blasphemy, I wonder: stoning?

Suppose, instead of a website, the ban were broken by an American newspaper: the New York Times, say. Would the police seize all copies of this samizdat publication? Would they prosecute corner newsstands for carrying it? Would we be forbidden from telling Canadians which newspaper had broken the ban? Or what if it were an American television station? Jam the signal? Black out every mention of it in the TV guide?

But wait, it gets weirder. We are told that lawyers for Jean Brault and Chuck Guit, who face criminal charges, are pushing for their case to be held back until September. We'll know Wednesday whether their motion is granted. Rationally, if it is, then the ban would lose whatever tenuous justification it once had: by the time the case was heard, the good citizens of Quebec would have had time to clear their heads. But suppose their motion is denied, or Judge Gomery decides to maintain the ban on publishing Brault's testimony, the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who by now are at least partly aware of its contents notwithstanding. And suppose the government falls.

We would then be treated to a sight I venture to say has never before been witnessed anywhere in the world: an entire election devoted to an issue that no one is allowed to say anything about! [emphasis added]

He'd do it too. And instead of Liberal sleaze, the election would be about gay marriage and the fear of the brownshirts in the 'Alliance-Conservatives'.

Typically Canadian response

Canadian officials are thinking about maybe looking into and investigating the possibility of initiating moving forward with the preparation of a strategy that may involve sending letters to people breaking the publication ban.

Canada's attorney general is probing possible breaches of a publication ban set up to protect explosive testimony at the AdScam inquiry. Justice spokesman Patrick Charette said federal lawyers are looking into the Internet sites reproducing excerpts of Montreal ad exec Jean Brault's testimony and providing a link to a U.S. blog featuring more extensive coverage of the hearing.

"We have to decide what the best course of action is," Charette said, adding federal lawyers could charge Canadian bloggers and website owners with contempt of court or suggest AdScam Justice John Gomery issue warning letters.

"It's a discussion that will take place between Justice lawyers and the Gomery commission," Charette said.

Do Canadians ever do anything anymore? What's all this huffing and puffing about what you might do? Act!

I swear, if our country was invaded, the first thing our government would do (and it would take a while) would be to form a public inquiry to determine how it happened and to draft a report discussing options on what to do to prevent it from happening in the future.

A thirsty population

My traffic is pretty negligable compared to what's happening at Captain's Quarters. The National Post notes:

But the details have leaked out, and American Web sites have had thousands of hits, including many from Canadians.
Canadians? Canadians are driving this traffic? No kidding.

April 04, 2005

Gomery-mania!

Above is a graph of my traffic for the last month. I was happily averaging about 100 hits a day until I linked to that story at Captain's Quarters. And I'm getting only a tiny fraction of the hits some other Canadian blogs are getting. Canadians want to find out what's going on, and instead of just waiting patiently for Peter Mansbridge to tell them, they're going out to find out for themselves. It's all good.

The publication ban has some people worried about what the authorities could do to naughty blogs such as mine that continue to link to that disrespectful foreigner. It's manifesting itself in different ways. Some, like Andrew at Bound by Gravity -- who had done such a great job of gathering the Canadian content together -- have backed down and removed their links. Then there's Angry in the Great White North, who's consciously daring the government to come after him. (Of course, he's not using his real name, and the government would have to bully Google to get it.) I'm going to walk between these two extremes and continue to link to the forbidden coverage until someone tells me otherwise. And I'll even comment obliquely on what it might mean. It's foolish to ignore this source of information on the corruption of our government and pretend it doesn't exist.

Now if someone does tell me to pull my links and be a nice quiet Canadian, well... there's no telling what I might do. I've been known to be stubborn and have a real problem with authority...

More forbidden fruit

Captain Ed has his second installment of news from behind the Gomery publication ban up at Captain's Quarters. It's spicy stuff; he concludes with this:

If Braults testimony holds up, the reputations of Chrtien, Gagliano, and their teams will be shredded. But it looks like the reputations of Paul Martins Ministers, MPs, and organizers are going to be pretty tattered by the end of this as well.
I'd like Martin to pulled down into the muck, but getting Chrtien in there will be nice too. This is going to trash the reputation of the Liberals so much that even the daffy voters of Ontario will not be able to ignore it. I'm really looking forward to the next election.

I have to commend Captain Ed for distributing this news. I'm also impressed at how well he covers the background to the story. It's ot easy getting a handle on another countries politics, and I didn't spot any inaccuracies in what I've read so far.

I think this new cloak and dagger aspect to the story erases the plodding nature of the inquiry so far. Because of it, it's caught the sleepy Canadian public's eye and more attention will be paid to the blatent corruption of the Liberal party. I hope so anyway.

UPDATE: The Captain's site is getting deluged with curious Canadians. His comments and trackbacks seem to be failing, but the info is still there -- though it takes a while to load.

Come and get me, coppers!

Captain's Quarters links to a story from the London Free Press that suggests bloggers that linked to the blog post that broke the Gomery publication ban may be in for a 'world of pain':

[Inquiry official Francois] Perreault warned that even if Brault's testimony has been outed by a U.S. website, it doesn't mean it's now public information.

"Anyone who takes that information and diffuses it is liable to be charged with contempt of court," Perreault said.

"Anybody who reproduces it is at risk."

And...
Sun Media lawyer Alan Shanoff said publishing the name of the blog or the Canadian news site that promoted it or providing the blog's Internet address could lead to a contempt charge.
Now, don't think for a minute that I'm posing as a brave defender of freedom of speech by continuing to link to this information. I completely doubt that the RCMP would try to round up such a huge number of Canadian bloggers that have done the same. (Though it is interesting to note that the three Canadian blogger/journalists I follow -- Paul Wells, Andrew Coyne, and Colby Cosh -- have all avoided directly linking to the source of the offending information.)

They may be looking for a site to make an example of though. Nealenews, which is to Drudge as Windsor is to Detroit, directly linked to the forbidden knowledge for most of yesterday -- though today he's taken down the link. It may not be enough; the call for blood has gone out.

The ban could be lifted in a few days anyways, and all this fuss will blow over. The lawyers for Brault and Coffin are looking to move their trials back until September, so Gomery's definitely not going to keep the lid on this testimony until then. After all, it's supposed to be a public inquiry. All the ban will have done then is to wet everyone's appetite.

April 03, 2005

Why is this news?

The revelation of protected testimony from the Gomery Inquiry by Captain Ed is heating up the normally sedate Canadian blogosphere like nothing before. Andrew at Bound by Gravity has been tracking how the news has spread, and it's been impressive.

But is what Brault said really news? Did anyone really think the Liberals hadn't been using these bogus dropping-money-from-a-helicopter programs to line their own pockets? This is how the Liberal machine works! Everything they do isn't as sleazy as this particular scheme, but it all follows a similar formula. Government money and power is used as an election tool. Grants to cultural communities, well-funded projects handed to the unions to run, 'regional development', immigration policies, corporate welfare -- all these are done with the consultation of pollsters as to how they will affect their electoral prospects.

The Gomery Inquiry has been getting little attention outside of Quebec. Most people's reactions when hearing of the latest evidence of sleaze has been to shrug. (That's how I've treated it anyway.)

So I don't think all the attention paid to this latest news is because of what was said. Rather, I think that the act of drawing a black curtain around the proceedings has gotten people curious as to what was being hidden. Now people want to know -- and they're paying more attention. It could be that the publication ban will amplify rather than muffle Brault's testimony. And all for the better too.

Breaking the Gomery publication ban

This is the information age. The government can no more prevent news from spreading than it can control the weather. An American blog, Captain's Quarters, has plenty of juicy info on Jean Brault's blacked-out testimony from the Gomery Inquiry. I'd quote some of it here, but I'm actually worried about the RCMP paying me a visit if I do. Sad, but true.

This news may get aired in Parliament on Monday, but now, thanks to the blogosphere, you can read it today.

April 02, 2005

Dodge: More government = increased productivity

The governor of the Bank of Canada says the way to increased productivity for our country is through government daycare:

David Dodge, governor of the Bank of Canada, said Wednesday Canada needs to build an "infrastructure for early childhood development," appearing to give his approval to the Liberal Party's national day-care plan.

Dodge's comments were part of a speech Wednesday in which he once again drilled home the need for Canada to improve lagging productivity growth even though it may mean job losses in certain sectors.

"The first step to improving skills is to build an excellent infrastructure for early childhood development, feeding into a school system that effectively teaches basic skills," Dodge said in a speech at Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto.

Governments love metrics, and 'productivity' is a big one right now. Canada's lagging the US, so naturally they want to reverse this. But Dodge and the Liberals are completely out to lunch on how to do it. If they think the way to produce more per capita is by creating a new generation of super-kids from a high-tech network of government funded kids' kennels and upgraded schools, they're crazy.

It's very simple why Canada and Europe are lagging the US in productivity growth. It's because we keep increasing the benefits for not working while reducing the benefits for working (through increased taxes). Not too complex, eh David?

March 30, 2005

Zambonis? Seal casserole? No! Basketball! Superman!

A letter writer to the National Post gets indignant about the exquisite shredding of the Canadian identity done in a recent Weekly Standard:

In regards to the belief that some Canadians are dull, I hasten to point out that the game tiddly-winks was invented in the United States, while basketball, a fast-paced sport loved by millions of Americans, was invented by a Canadian. [...]

Blair Watson, Vancouver

Which makes Canadians interesting, um, how?

If Blair had bothered to read the article he was whining about, he would have noted that much of it made fun of the exaggerated self-regard Canadians are afflicted with -- especially concerning their southern neighbors -- and kept his mouth shut. It's pretty pathetic when you make your critic's point in your own defense. But maybe he wouldn't. That delicate Canadian sensitivity is pretty hard to keep in check.

Suck.com (long ago deceased) ran a piece tweaking Canada's nose back in the late nineties. The original piece was nothing special, but they ran a feature (still available!) on Canadians' indignant responses to it that was just devastating. Funniest was the claim that we 'discovered' basketball.

Mark Steyn has recently opined that Canada is doomed. If so, our tombstone will say:

Government roadkill

In an earlier post, I was lamenting that there was no organized opposition to the wacky daycare folly that Ken Dryden plans to inflict on the country. The unions and government backed special interest groups are pushing hard, and no one is pushing back. One commenter, Lisa, agreed:

I operate a licenced home daycare. I currently earn aproximately $13,000/year profit . I have my early childhood education certification and meet all licencing requirements. But the unions and the feds wish to keep us out of child care program because I am considered for profit. A salary of $13,000 year is not big money, this is what I live on. I don't have the big expensive child care centre and I don't have the lobbying power of the large daycare centres. What I do have is parents who are happy to bring their children to a loving home, with quality programming, healthy meals, and individualized attention that the centres don't have with a low adult to child ratio of 1 to 5, compared to 1 to 10 in a centre. The are thousands of people like myself across the country, without the voice that governments will listen to. I wrote letters months ago to my provincial and federal ministers. What can people like myself do to be heard?
You'd think that with the massive budget the feds will be devoting to this project, there'd be money enough for everyone that works in the industry. So far, the plan for this mother of all boondoggles is not set, but early indications are that it will arrive in the state-run, not-for-profit mold that the 'experts' who are drafting it are itching for. They don't want to just write checks; they want a big bureaucracy to drive, loaded with all the options. Private suppliers will probably not be shut down, but they'll face a new competitor that will undercut their prices and steal their customers -- which will result in them being forced out of business, just as if they were shut down.

We shouldn't feel too bad for Lisa though. With her early childhood education certification she should be able to get a job at Workers' Creche #347, which will be opening up soon in her town. That is, if the union lets her join.

March 29, 2005

Quick! Call an authority figure!

Mark Steyn has an amusing column on Canadians' increasing reliance on government to solve our problems. (Registration required, or you can go here to borrow a login.)

In nanny-state Canada, the dominant culture tells us dont act, dont think, dont make adult judgments. Leave it to the government, theyll show up any minute, theyll pass a new law. Not every story has a hero, but every story needs human impulses, and in the Canadian press most of our human interest stories are, in human terms, less and less interesting. If the benign theory of state power is that it obliges us to subordinate our selfish interest to the greater good of society as a whole, the reality on the ground seems to be precisely the opposite: a state in which the citizens response to everything is the government oughta do somethin about it is one in which hes less and less inclined to do anything other than look out for Number One.
What we constantly hear from the media and government is that you, as an individual, are powerless. If confronted by racism, bullying, or unfair pricing, the solution is to abdicate responsibility to an authority figure.

I get the feeling that senior government ministers and bureaucrats (and the media leaders, who are the government's muse) feel their fellow citizens are dull-eyed simpletons who spend their days in tedious, meaningless work and do it only to shuffle through Wal-Mart looking for something shiny or fattening to buy. We cannot be expected to look after ourselves and probably should be subject to a licensing process before we're allowed to live in the real world. But as far-sighted and gifted altruists, they genuinely feel they can help these people with yet more targeted programs and new laws that cover any possible difficult situation. What they don't see is that all this hand-holding and infantilization of our population just makes their insulting funhouse-mirror view of the nation become more likely to occur...

March 27, 2005

Business as usual

My friend the Latin American correspondent, who has become accustomed to the transparent honesty of the Argentine government, was shocked by the cynical choices made by Paul Martin for the Senate:

I just saw the list of new Senate appointments -- what an outrage! Didn't Martin promise not to stack it with his crony-dinosaur buddies? Eggleton! You must be kidding me, wasn't he a crook last time he made headlines? Wow. As usual, they slap one token "legit" in there, but I do think Mr. Dallaire could be a far greater influence outside the Senate that inside the machine. Reminds me of when Chretien loaded the senate with 7 buddies and a 78-year old nun... How long will people put up with this nonsense? I'm going outside to get some fresh air, this ruined my morning.
Here in Canada, of course, we feel no outrage. We're used to this kind of treatment by our government, and we expect it. A disgraced former cabinet minister that knows where the bodies are buried getting a tasty life-long free ride? No problem. A left-wing francophone-rights supporter chosen to represent Alberta? Whatever. Backroom hacks getting their promised pay-off? Shrug.

Look at the Gomery inquiry. It's unearthing a deep and complex operation to loot the public treasury and funnel the money (minus a service charge) back to the Liberal party. But is there any public outrage? Not really. A few opinion writers get a little frothy every now and then, but it's not being talked about on the 'Canadian Street'. Why?

Because we know. We've always known. It's not news and it's not shocking. The Liberals are a Machiavalian organization that uses their power primarily to hold onto power. We expect it and, for the most part, support it. After all, the only alternative is the Conservatives, and it's rumored that some of them have religious beliefs and -- even worse -- believe that government is not the solution to all problems. It's probably not true, but who wants to take the chance?

Crashing the party

Well, the rally for Lebanon on Parliament Hill yesterday was a little smaller than I thought it would be.

It was all in Arabic and was almost exclusively attended by members of Ottawa's Lebanese community. I didn't feel unwelcome, but I did feel like I was trying to attach myself to something I wasn't a part of. I've always thought there was little more pathetic than a comfy, well-fed 'progressive' getting all starry-eyed and romantic about some foreign struggle, and here I was doing just the same.

I'm excited about the popular movements for democracy that are starting to flower around the world. But I'll just have to accept that they're pretty unlikely to find fertile ground here.

March 25, 2005

Free Lebanon rally in Ottawa tomorrow

Victor Davis Hanson describes the noose tightening around Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and how he plans to escape it:

Syria's worst nightmare is not an American invasion, but an Arab League that is dominated by nascent democracies.

Thugocracies and kleptocracies, however, die hard. So will that of Assad. His henchmen probably assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in fear that the Westernized entrepreneur dreamed of an open Arab Singapore or Monaco on the border.

Now they are planning to unleash enough 1970s-style violence to terrify the Lebanese into preferring Syrian order to their own messy freedom.

This just might work if pressure from outside is allowed to wane. There's momentum towards a free Lebanon, but Syria still has a strong position. I doubt the US will act militarily against them, and, needless-to -say, whatever the UN says will be ignored. After some success by the pro-freedom forces, Syria's position is hardening and the pro-Syrian government that was forced to resign has been reinstated. Possibly the promises to end the occupation will be stalled until the world loses interest. The pressure has to be maintained for change.

There's a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa tomorrow at 1:00 (top right of page) to demand full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and to urge the Canadian government to speak up on this issue. The last one had quite a healthy turnout, and this one should be bigger. I'll be there, and will post a few shots tomorrow.

March 18, 2005

They noticed us!

The Weekly Standard has a cover story on Canada in this week's issue. Americans writing about Canada! The story is sure to create a wave of commentary across our country's editoral pages. The story isn't very kind though, so expect an angry wave of commentary. Then again, maybe the story will be studiously ignored; it cuts a little close to the bone:

If we have bothered forming opinions at all about Canadians, they've tended toward easy-pickings: that they are a docile, Zamboni-driving people who subsist on seal casserole and Molson. Their hobbies include wearing flannel, obsessing over American hegemony, exporting deadly Mad Cow disease and even deadlier Gordon Lightfoot and Nickelback albums. You can tell a lot about a nation's mediocrity index by learning that they invented synchronized swimming. Even more, by the fact that they're proud of it.
There's things in the story that I can find fault with -- the idea that Canadian's don't exhibit road rage, for example. The reason the writer didn't find any is that for his research on Canada he visited BC, home of the world's most somnambulant divers. But most of the rest is spot on:
This unscientific research quickly confirmed that Canadians are bizarrely obsessed with us, binge-eating out of our cultural trough, then pretending it tastes bad. Plainly the two things Canada needs most are a mirror and a good psychiatrist.
All Canadians should read this article for its powerful smugness-penetrating qualities.

March 05, 2005

It's crime story, not a drugs story

The Meatriarchy has a round-up of bloggish reactions to the murder of four Mounties in Alberta. But he missed Colby Cosh, who I think has the most relevant observation to the nature of the psycho who did it and the backwards way this story is being spun:

Roszko was running a chop-shop for stolen cars, but this has been completely forgotten in less than 24 hours; our Minister of Public Safety certainly isn't making a spectacle of herself yapping about how "dangerous" property crimes are and how the judiciary should be cracking down. (Maybe someone should ask the former Justice Minister just who picks these goddamn lenient judges?)

In fact, Roszko seems to have committed a nearly endless list of actual violent crimes against the person; a Globe report yesterday that he was convicted of sexual assault in 2000 seems to have been misplaced in the wash. Maybe if we had a seven-year minimum for sex crimes, Roszko wouldn't have been at home on Wednesday.

He also quotes Stephen Harper, who seems to have too much sense to belong to our Parliament:
"Yesterday's deaths are, of course, a painful reminder that law enforcement is a dangerous business, that these people put their lives on the line every single day so that Canadians can live in a high degree of security and safety," Mr. Harper told a press conference in Ottawa on Friday...

The truth is, he said, there is no real way to protect people from every possible situation if a dangerous or disturbed individual lashes out. "We can't just run out on the basis of a single tragedy and make up a bunch of laws."

I was certain as soon as I heard that the killer was running a grow-op that people would use this tragedy to press for the legalization of marijuana (which I have no serious objections to.) But if marijuana was legal, this guy would have a crystal meth lab. He was a violent criminal -- a different legal environment for one of his chosen trades wouldn't have changed that.

Canada's Ted Kennedy

Lloyd Axworthy, who surely ranks as one of the dopiest former Liberal cabinet ministers, has written a hilarious 'open letter' to Condoleeza Rice in the Winnipeg Free Press. In it, he obnoxiously berates the Americans for their supposed crudeness and boasts of Canada's much more responsive form of government. It's so over the top, I could believe it's a parody -- but no, it's the real thing:

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such as missile defence can be made openly.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

Bob Tarantino takes him apart.

March 03, 2005

That was quick

I was wondering how long it would take for Paul Martin's latest childish and clumsy snub of the US to blow up in his face. Well, it turns out to be not very long, actually. First there was the temporary injunction to prevent the reopening of the border to Canadian beef (which was probably not due to the Missile Defence blowoff, but it will make it more difficult to reverse.) And now the US Senate has voted to overturn the Bush administration's plan to allow our beef back in. The White House has hinted Bush would veto the bill if it passes the House of Representatives, but I wouldn't count on it. Bush has been quite reluctant to use the veto during his years as president, and our government hasn't really given him much motivation to change that policy.

I really don't know what Martin was thinking. As Andrew Coyne says:

We werent asked to do anything, the system doesnt depend on us doing anything, and weve already done whatever it was the Americans needed us to do. They werent asking us to participate, they were offering to let us: for with participation comes consultation, and a role in our own defence. Yet having rejected the offer of consultation, in the name of our sovereignty, we now demand to be consulted, on grounds of sovereignty. And the result of these affirmations of our independence is to make us utterly dependent on another country for our defence.
It seems Martin was more afraid of the wrath of the 'Young Liberals' than he was of President Bush. But I think he picked the wrong side to tick off. Bush has ways of making those who use anti-Americanism to score cheap points at home squirm. Here's what happened to Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Europe last week:
Ever since his election, Zapatero has spent much of his time shadowing Bush and attempting to shake his hand. On Wednesday, he was waiting in the shadows, and made his move when Bush was talking to Tony Blair. Bush, who I suspect didn't really know who Zapatero was said "hola amigo" and continued talking to Blair. Meanwhile, Zapatero walked off smiling away like a child with a new pair of shoes. The exchange was so brief Spanish newspapers had a nightmare trying to find a photograph of the "great meeting." To make matters worse a Spanish government spokesperson said that Bush and Zapatero had a "cordial exchange." (They forget to mention it lasted about two seconds.)

February 16, 2005

Government has no place in the playrooms of our nation

Most of available information on the Liberal's proposed daycare plan is positive. This is to be expected. It's written by the government, the unions, and various special interest groups funded by the government and unions. For example, there's Child Care Canada, which "receives funding from Social Development Partnerships, Social Development Canada, for which we are most appreciative." I'll bet. And Build Child Care, a lobby group funded by CUPE.

But there's no real focus for opposition to the great shambling monster Ken Dryden is trying to construct. The Tories have their own plan -- which is more sensible, though probably unnecessary as well -- but are too caught up with the distraction of same-sex marriage to give it much attention. I haven't found any other organized opposition to public day care on the web.

But there should be. And to start it off, the case has to be built against it. The proponents of it have had plenty of government money to produce reports and studies that confirm their position. I have nothing but my laptop, Google, and a bit of common sense. But nevertheless, here are my reasons to oppose government run child care in Canada:

Expense. Well, obviously. This is the big reason. To build the system as envisioned by the unions ('public and not-for-profit') would be horrendously expensive. Even a less ideologically-driven and more practical approach (direct subsidies) would be tremendously costly. The C$5 billion Ken Dryden is playing around with right now is just seed money to get things started. Operating expenses when the whole thing is up and running would be -- according to my calculations -- lots and lots and lots...

Fraud. Any time the government spills out great streams of cash, much of it seems to trickle through fingers and leak through the floorboards. This is the probable destination of much of the first C$5 billion. Very little of it will be paid to people to watch over children. But when the system is up and running there'll be fraud to contend with too. Whenever you have a payment structure where a third party is paying the bills for an exchange of services, the first two parties will often collude to take as much as they can from the payer. The insurance industry is cursed by it. Even the Canadian health system has this problem, and attempts to deal with it by randomly asking patients if they received the services that were performed in their name. But the government is powerless if both provider and receiver are working together.

Unfair competition. There are many people involved in the child care industry in Canada today. Many of them run their own mom-and-pop daycares and manage to make a living. If the government comes in with their 'non-profit' centers or complex requirements for subsidies, some of them are going to get run out of business.

The bad message to parents. One of the conceits that is seen time and again when reading the pro-child care system literature, is the idea that kids today are not being raised properly -- and that they have all the right solutions. Here's Ken Dryden:

[W]e know how important the early years are to our learning life. We want and need our kids to do better. And we know how.
Well, sorry Ken. I don't want you looking after my kids and filling their heads with mush. It scares me more than you can imagine, and I hope it scares a lot of other parents too. It may seem hard to believe, but all the reams of reports and studies and procedure manuals you will produce will never contain the secrets to raising children. It can never be done better by the government.

Union handcuffs. CUPE and their supporters say they want non-profit, public daycares. They also want unionized daycares. Once dependency on the system is established, the threat to withdraw their services would give them enormous power over the government.

Inability. The gun registry. The crumbling health system. The joke that is our immigration system. The disaster that is aboriginal affairs. HRDC. The looming Kyoto mess. The sponsorship scandal. These guys are terrible managers. Can anyone believe that if this child care plan goes through, it won't be another extremely expensive, absolutely ineffective boondoggle? If you were a bank manager and were asked to loan these guys money, given the track record they had, would you do it? I can understand that within government there must be a sense that if they can just find a nice place untouched by the previous SNAFUs, they can do it right this time. They're fooling themselves -- but they're not fooling Canadians. (Well, not all of them.)

There's a few other reasons, but I'll write about them another time. If anyone can think of others, or has some interesting information I don't know about, add them in the comments. I want to try to start drawing a strong argument together.

February 12, 2005

Another Liberal train wreck

I've been popping around the web looking for information on the great child care debacle that will soon crash down on our nation. Right now, an army of bureaucrats, consultants, lobbyists, and well-connected Liberal contractors are creating proposals on how they can use Canadian taxpayers' money to tell them how to raise their kids. The more I read, the more frightened I get. There's lots of scary stuff, but listening to the guy leading the charge, Ken Dryden ,is enough. Here's him talking about how the first massive disbursement is just an appetizer:

You start out with a commitment of $5 billion over five years for a national early learning and child care system based on quad principles: quality, universality, accessibility, developmental. Then you're faced with the challenge of how you can translate that into a system. Five billion dollars over five yearsthat's a lot of money, but it's a modest amount in terms of a system. A system costs a lot more than that.
There's a certain kind of organizational mind that loves 'systems'. Here's Ken again:
To me, our commitment on child care wasn't, in essence, to spend $5 billion over five years. It was to help build a system. And to use the $5 billion over five years to help do just that. This would be a special challenge. A system is big and important. It lasts for decades and decades and longer. And as you know better than anyone, we are, this moment, a long way from that system. And $5 billion over five years, a lot of money, is modest in the context of system-building.
I've written about this attitude before -- a 'system' or a 'process' allows control without confrontation. The rules get written down and approved, and by the time the people who must live and work by them become aware of them, it's too late to change anything. Ken Dryden isn't hiding this fact either:
We also need to make what we are doing as irreversible as possible. There will hard moments, moments when it will be much easier to go back than to go ahead. We need to make going back as painful as possible. With each step we all take in these next five years, it will be harder to go back. More spaces, higher quality, higher expectations and ambitions, a bigger and growing public appetite, building the pressure on each level of government, to reinforce the commitment implicit in building a system. We need to paint ourselves into a corner because it's a corner we want to be in and need to be in.
The small-government conservative in me is curled in a ball and shaking with fear.

February 05, 2005

Toddler politics

I accidently came in contact with the Toronto Star today and read a hilarious story on a child care company in Australia. It's funny for the obvious reasons (Corporations! For profit! Children! Aaauugh!), but is funny in another way as well -- but I'll get to that in a bit.

First the by-the-number corporate terror story. They profile Eddy Groves, a 38 year-old Canadian who made big money in Australia building ABC Learning Centres, which manages almost a thousand daycare centres Down Under. The writer of the story, Laurie Monsebraaten, interviews him and lets him tell his side of the story. She allows that he has pleased parents who "who flock to his meticulously maintained centres full of dedicated, well-trained staff." But get this: He drives a Ferrari! His private fortune is reportedly worth $175 million! Something is obviously wrong here.

Time to cue the usual suspects -- the union leaders and academics:

Australian academics who study child care are troubled by the large profits being made on kids.

"I don't think anybody would have imagined that in Australia such massive fortunes would be made in child care," said University of Sydney business professor Deborah Brennan, who has written a political history of Australian child care. "I would really urge Canada to be very, very careful about opening up your system to such profit-making."

And get this, the corporate centres are concerned about costs:
A financial analysis of the child-care industry by Australian business research giant IBISWorld noted that stiff competition was causing child-care centres to keep prices down by reducing operating costs.

"There are concerns that large for-profit operators will be more likely to cut costs to an absolute minimum by, among other things, operating at minimum staff-child ratios," the 2003 report said.

Meanwhile, the corporate child-care sector is a strong political lobby that has opposed increased staff wages, stiffer regulations and higher child-staff ratios.

In an investigation of corporate child care last fall, Melbourne's Sunday Age newspaper reported that several independent centres bought by corporate chains saw their food budgets slashed and cleaning staff let go. Child-care workers had to assume cleaning jobs during the hours they were supposed to be looking after the children.

But as far as I could tell, the children were not kept in large pens and identified only with numbers. And it seems that both the customers (the parents) and the workers were not forced into dealing with the company. Child care can always be better and it can always be worse. The real source of outrage for the critics quoted in the article is the methods used to provide the service. Silly, but nevertheless the tone of the article is -- don't let this happen here!

And I totally agree. But not for these paranoid socialist reasons. The other funny thing about the article is that the author is completely oblivious on how to avoid corporate child-care. Don't set up a national child care program!

Eddy Groves got rich because the Australian government setup a national child care strategy. They now spend over $1.7 billion dollars a year subsidizing day care. There's a reason there are no large corporate daycare centres in Canada -- it doesn't pay! The required fee per child/day to be profitable is too high to create sufficient demand. People find other ways of handling their child care needs. But with the government paying part of the freight, demand goes up and *poof* -- profitability! A look at the most basic supply-demand graph explains this.

But this solution to avoiding their worst nightmare is unacceptable. To the author and similarly minded people, if socialized daycare created through subsidies has unintended consequences, the solution is simple -- more socialism. If you thought the federal government's incompetence setting up a firearms registry database was infuriating, just wait until they attempt to set up a system of national 'non-profit' child care centres.

UPDATE: The Smug Canadian has caught me indulging in a bit of baseless speculation. I realized when I was writing it that I was wandering into areas I knew little about, but since my two responsibilities were stirring, I raced to conclude the post without doing the proper research. There no doubt are some corporate child care centres in Canada, but I don't think there is the same 'big-box' domination of the business as in Australia. I don't think the demand is there for the prices you'd have to pay.

The point I was trying to make was that Eddy Groves is not an 'entrepreneur' in the sense that he developed a useful product or service, he just saw that the government was prepared to firehose money in a certain direction and he positioned himself to get a good soaking. He's a corporate welfare beneficiary. Ken Dryden is talking about blowing $5 billion in start-up costs for this boondoggle, and no matter how many restrictions they make on how this money is spent, some well connected people are going to get very rich. But these people aren't 'capitalists', they're parasites.

February 04, 2005

Yeah! Kick our asses!

We deserve it! Debbye comes back from a blogging absence and rips into Canada the way Americans are usually too polite to do. Of course, most of them don't live in Toronto, choking on the stench of all that intolerable smugness. Sounds like someone needs to vent:

The only leg standing (as it were) is moral superiority. Above all, Canadians are compassionate. If you don't believe me, just ask them. They will expound at length as to how much more compassionate and caring and enlightened they are than Americans. (They've even got some Americans believing it.) Why, they're close to achieving a plane of compassionate existence that's almost European! Unfortunately, they spend so much time and money proclaiming it that they never get around to actually doing much that is compassionate, caring or enlightened but a cynicism has set in that allows that it's the appearance that matters, not the deeds.
Nice rant Debbye. Next time tell us what you really think.

Stuff & Things XV

  • This blog has been on life support for the past month or so, threatening to die of terminal lameness. I apologize. But today I can announce that doctors are hopeful the corner has been turned and we're on the way to recovery. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • I should have mentioned this before, but The Phantom Observer has photos from the Ottawa bloggers' get-together last week. Present were the local internet luminaries behind Shenanigans, Musings of a Canadian Slacker, Minority of One, and Italics Mine. When they make the inevitable Heritage Minute spot on this gathering, I hope they get my shirt right.
  • Victor Davis Hanson. Mocking the clever people. Do you need to know more?
  • The Smug Canadian comments on what the New York Times thinks about us poor blogging parents.
  • We once again have satellite TV in our household. When I cancelled our Expressvu service a few months ago they threatened to charge $75 to reconnect me (after first trying to bribe me with a free package upgrade). But now they've offered free service for two months to get me back, and I've accepted. It pays to be a flighty customer. The programming still sucks however, but at least I'll be able to watch the Super Bowl...
  • Hey! I just got the 2003 annual report for Nortel. Today! Must have got lost in the mail.
  • The kidnapping of an action figure by the 'insurgents' was a great piece of news. The best way to break the power of Iraq's terrorists is to have them become the targets of mockery.
  • Matt at Jerry Aldini has uncovered evidence of a dramatic flip-flop in the beliefs of one of Canada's wackiest leftists.
  • The Europeans may have been able to build a big plane (which hasn't flown yet), but they're having difficulties with the small ones. The engineers working on the Eurofighter Typhoon are finding it challenging to keep in the air.
  • There must be a huge industry of people in Nigeria working to bilk money out of gullible Westerners. I get two or three poorly worded, all-caps pleas each day. I don't understand it, I only sent money twice...

Pierre set forth to... well, what exactly?

Our stylishly coiffed Canadian Foriegn Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew is off to the Middle East to... uh, to... hmmm. Well, best let him explain:

Canada is a country that has a great deal of credibility in the region. We are one of very few countries that has succeeded in the last 50 years in having good relations with both sides of this difficult conflict. It's the reason I've decided to go to the Middle East.
Nope. Still don't understand. Is he trying to suggest that because our country has been sitting on the sidelines, unable to take any position whatsoever, that people in the Mid-East will listen to him? What is he going to say? That peace is good? I'm sure that contribution will be appreciated. He's going to Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank to spread this wisdom.

Pettigrew is an indistiguishable member of those squishy internationalist sophicates that think this kind of photo-op diplomacy does any good at all. They travel to some tyranical state to talk about 'peace' and 'human rights' and give a press conference. The rulers who indulge them smile patiently during the speech and hold the handshake long enough for all the flashes to finish, but then take them into the backrooms to get down to the real business: "What are you going to give me? What treats do you have to offer me to dole out to my supporters to keep them loyal?" Paul Martin's recent trip to Libya also fits this pattern perfectly.

In his quieter moments, Pettigrew must have some faint awareness of his impotence and the farcical nature of his upcoming tour. You won't find him admitting it though. In fact, he's actually making claims that the plaintive bleating that this country has specialized in for the past ten years contributed to making that savage, George Bush, listen to sweet reason:

Pettigrew also said he was pleased to see U.S. President George W. Bush make a strong commitment to Middle East peace efforts in Wednesday's State of the Union address.

"He clearly indicated that the United States would engage fully in working towards the resolution of this very difficult situation. ... This follows (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair, and certainly Canada's as well, insistence that the Middle East be put back on the agenda," he said.

It'd be pathetic if it wasn't so funny.

January 25, 2005

Martin has a brief brush with reality

This weekend the Washington Post treated us to an interesting insight into the meeting between Paul Martin and George Bush last month. An 'top Canadian official' relates this exchange between the two on the subject of missile defence:

"(Bush) leaned across the table and said: `I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, Why are we paying to defend Canada?' '' the official was quoted as saying.
And then, after Martin and his handlers went on about the polls, the NDP, and the dangers of negative editorials from the Toronto Star, Bush replied bluntly:
...Bush "waved his hands and said, 'I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defense of Canada it wouldn't be accepted?' "
The Washington Post story (and the story on the story in the National Post) both played up how undiplomatic Bush was to have actually questioned Martin on his position. Bush was 'a bully', according to them. But I think it's great that maybe every year or so, when one of these summits comes around, our Prime Minister gets to talk to someone that lives in the real world.

Bush was rough on Martin over his stand on missile defence. Well too bad, he deserves it. The government's position is a disgrace -- because it doesn't have one. Martin has had more than a year to come up with a policy and attempt to sell it to the Canadian people. But instead he's hedged and dithered and made contradictory statements. The best he's been able to come up with is a slogan: "We are against the weaponization of space." Slogans, posturings, and mission statements are all this government is capable of producing. He's called inquiries into anything that might require a leader's direction, held Oprah-like, 'I-feel-your-pain' ceremonies, and passed on the responsibilities of his office to bureaucrats. The only thing he's managed to take a strong stand on is this gay-marriage issue. That's probably because it's absolutely inconsequential.

Leadership means leading. Paul Martin is not a leader. He makes John Kerry look like Churchill.

January 19, 2005

Martin gets his photo op

I've been looking for a story on Paul Martin's visit to Sri Lanka that takes the more cynical view. His personal, visible involvement in every aspect of Canada's aid to the tsunami victims is the most transparent posturing I've seen in a politician in a long time. But no, the Canadian press dutifully behaved just as Martin wanted them to, published the photos he wanted them to, and wrote the soft, squishy stories he wanted them to. There really is no mystery why so many Canadian journalists wind up with cushy government jobs later in their careers.

But today's Ottawa Sun has a story by documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, who works with the Canadian Military, that tells what really happened to get Paul his pictures. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but let me quote the relevant sections:

His people from Ottawa, including the RCMP, were pushing people out of the way, grabbing at cameras, and trampling over graves on the beach in order to photograph the PM.

An RCMP guy tried to interfere with my camera, but one of our soldiers intervened.

A couple of women from the PM's office were running around yelling at people.

It got out of hand. It was crazy.

The whole visit was a photo opportunity -- with cameras set-up for the PM in designated spots: Martin on the each looking into the sea, Martin amid the wreckage, Martin with a homeless kid, Martin taking a token drink of water produced by the DART water purifier.

He met with the Canadian commander, Lt. Col. Mike Voith and a small medical team, but didn't visit the camp of the 200 Canadian military people here for tsunami victims.

Martin's handlers wanted no one but their people taking photos. The padre was even shoved out of the way.

And then he was gone -- helicoptered out. Maybe 90 minutes in the area. Embarrassing. I'm in Sri Lanka with the DART men and women and, as Canadian soldiers always do, they're working miracles -- but the PM didn't have time to visit them.

Pritchard goes on to relate how the DART team has found plenty of useful work to keep them busy, despite being late for the immediate critical disaster relief.

It's frightening to think of, but the most important consideration on any government action is how it will play to the press, and to those special interests that influence the press. Not how much it will cost, whether it will work, what other consequences the action will have -- just what it will look like. What the spin will be. What it will say about what the government values are. It's how we've allowed an ineffective and massively inefficient gun registry to be established, and it's why we're unable to look at market-based solutions to our crumbling health-care system. And we've gotten so used to it in this country that seeing our Prime Minister cynically inserting himself into a devastating tragedy is somehow not seen as being crass.

UPDATE: Spin Killer finds Pritchard's complete article on the web.

January 14, 2005

Now we know what it takes...

...To get a Liberal Minister to resign. You have to offer asylum to an immigrant in order to get free pizza for your campaign -- then try to get the guy deported to bury the evidence!!!

Singh, who is facing deportation next Thursday pending a last-minute hearing, says in his affidavit that he approached Sgro last year to assist him with immigration problems he and his family were having.

"I told her my whole situation and she assured me that if I helped out in her election campaign she would get me immigration in Canada," says the father of three in his affidavit.

Singh, who came to Canada from India in 1988, helped Sgro as she asked, including pizza deliveries to her campaign office, he says in his affidavit.

"I own a pizza store in Brampton and Judy said that she wanted me to deliver pizza, garlic bread etc., to her campaign office in North York. I did this. She also said that she needed 15-16 people to help work in her campaign. I organized this for her as well."

It's been years and years since a cabinet member stepped down. I can't remember any of Chrtien's ministers doing the honourable thing when caught in a scandal. Instead the very effective delay, distract, and deny strategy was used, allowing Chrtien to make the laughable claim that he ran an honest government come election time. Sgro had been closely following this now perfected strategy up until now, but it only works up to a point -- and she has just soared past it.

True, Sgro's accuser could be lying. But personally, I'm more inclined to believe him than her:

"I have been here for 16 years and have no criminal record. My whole family is here and my wife's grave is here. I have worked hard in Canada. What am I going to do if I am sent back to India? I have no one there. My family, my business and all of my property is here in Canada."
There's a lot of angles to this story that will be investigated. There's corruption, betrayal, and ruthlessness -- I'm really eager to see where this will go! I'm almost disappointed that Sgro is stepping down. Seeing her try to twist, gyrate, and wiggle her way out of this would have been hilarious political theatre. But since (theoretically) government is not there just for our entertainment, it's perhaps all for the best. Maybe we'll get a replacement that will attempt to do the important job in the department of Immigration, and not just look to use the authority to get personal favours.

And if this story is true, I really hope Sgro gets charged for this. This is an incredible abuse of power. Shaking down potential immigrants for goodies is reprehensible. It's bribery, and it's extortion. She should be locked up.

UPDATE: There's more info about Singh here. Who to believe? Well, there's a handy rule of thumb I use to help judge trustworthiness in this type of situation: believe the person who isn't the Liberal cabinet minister...

January 11, 2005

More on the Liberal grieve-fest

Colby Cosh writes a column on the Liberals' public grief-posturing that is so cynical it could never be published. But he's right:

In truth, I can only feel proud that so many of my fellow Canadians stayed home. Until now our prime ministers had foregone acting as popes of the Church of Sacred Emotion. But on Saturday the dignitaries in attendance delivered a familiar Clintonian sermon on the theme of empathy as the greatest of all virtues. (How fortunate that it's also the very cheapest!) The Governor-General, always ready with a quote, told the empty seats that "the key to life" is to "try to feel in your heart's core the reality of others." The obvious corollary--and clearly McRae will go along with this--is that how you conduct yourself matters not at all. But if she could really "feel... the reality" of a hundred and fifty thousand dead in her "heart's core", she certainly wouldn't be up to standing at a podium, channelling Margaret Laurence like some fatuous cocktail-party guest.

Paul Martin dug even deeper. "South Asia's pain is our own," he said. Let me rephrase: he said it to the families of a bunch of people who had been drowned or smashed to death by a giant tidal wave. I mean, fancy that! Most of you may have thought you were encountering, at worst, a negligible sort of gloom at watching the casualty figures mount up. But according to Mr. Martin, you were actually suffering. Of course, he cannot mean it; it would be monstrous for him to claim a genuine share of South Asia's pain, for himself or for Canada, in complete earnest. The statement was intended only to reassure the listener of Paul Martin's cosmic-scale sensitivity and good intentions.

It is hard for me to see why those of us who have actual grieving to do must do it in public. The only interests it serves are those of the people who aren't really grieving at all, but who wish to give the appearance of grieving--who wish to rudely annex the shared aura of the suffering for their own purposes. What might those purposes be in the case of those denizens of Ottawa who did show up? Since I feel able to confess not having had my life seriously interrupted by the tsunami, it falls to me to meet rudeness with rudeness, and point out that South Asians are amongst the Liberals' favourite client groups, and that they carry political weight in this country well out of proportion to their numbers.

UPDATE: Cosh wrote this piece based on a really dumb Earl McRae column in the Ottawa Sun. Today the Sun readers let him have it:

Kathy Kashuba. "Maybe it says people don't want to listen to PM Dithers natter on. Or listen to extravagant GG yatter on. PM Dithers can go to hell."

Grayme in Sudbury. "The seats were empty because a national day of mourning is an empty political gesture. Did you see Paul Martin's January 3rd visit to a Markham school to posture and prostrate himself? A more pathetic and misguided performance I have never seen."

Bruce Mills, Dundas, Ont. "The Canadian public seems to have grasped the difference between genuine compassion and a grandstanding, self-aggrandizing photo op. Canadians are fed up with the Liberals telling them what to do."

Stephen Morford. "Canadians have shown their caring and generosity ... they apparently don't feel the need to publicly wallow in fake pity at a political photo op session."

And there's many more. It makes me feel warm inside...

January 10, 2005

Keeping up appearances

I haven't written anything yet about the tsunami in Asia. Probably the reason is that is that I'm pretty poor at adopting the correct tone to appear suitably mournful about what happened. I care, of course, and my wife and I have donated money, but I'm emotionally unaffected by the carnage; mainly because I'm innoculated to the horror by the smaller but longer lasting tragedies that go on all over the world all the time. Publicly rending my garments would do nothing to help anyone, and would be hypocritical for me.

Apparently, many Canadians feel the same way. The grand public mourning event, organized by Heritage Canada for Ottawa, had only 400 people show up, when 15,000 were expected. It was stuffed full of profound sentiments and meaningful symbolism and culminated in a one minute, cross-country moment of silence -- which I'm pretty sure was not widely noted.

It's events like this that prove to me that the government's response to the disaster has been nothing but an exercise in media relations. This, and vignettes like Pierre Pettigrew's posturing in Thailand (captured by Jaeger at Trudeaupia):

He flies to an island in Thailand for a photo op with Canadian forensic workers helping out identifying bodies and regurgitates the usual platitudes.

Reporter asks: What other aid is being delivered by Canada in Thailand?

Pettigrew: I don't know.

Glad you flew to the other side of the world for the photo op, Pierre.

Soon Paul Martin will be at the disaster sites. He's probably in front of a mirror right now working on a look that perfectly mixes, shock, sadness, and grim resolve for the inevitable photo on the front of the Globe and Mail.

The response of the government to the crisis in Asia has demonstrated the Liberals' distain for anything except their poll numbers. It's now known that Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team was delayed for two days while polticians debated the types of issues they're most concerned with: optics and money. And when the team finally got there, much of the critical work -- clean water, medical care -- had already been taken care of (story from Jan. 6):

Sunil Dissanayake, chairman of the district branch of the Sri Lankan Red Cross, said the people of Ampara are beginning to get back on their feet, despite 12,000 deaths in the region and hundreds of thousands left homeless by the tsunami.

"It takes years to bring it back to normal, but there's no emergency here now," Mr. Dissanayake said. "Certainly, it's good to get international support ... we have already gotten a lot of support from international organizations."

He smiled politely when told the Canadian team would be arriving sometime next week and bringing with them a field hospital, water purification plant and a platoon of military engineers.

"Certainly, if we had gotten this support immediately after the incident, of course, it would have been more useful. A lot of agencies are now working in the area giving a lot of similar support."

The Finnish Red Cross set up two mobile aid stations yesterday, each capable of treating up to 2,000 patients a day, while the German Red Cross has brought a water purification plant.

"The Canadians perhaps can help us a lot in cleaning the area, and making the environment to resettle people," Mr. Dissanayake said. "Or cleaning wells."

But there's one role in disaster relief that the Liberals have the experience to do well: handing out other people's money. Liberal Cabinet Ministers been highly visible in local communities of people from the affected countries talking up how much cash they're dishing out. I'd be a little more impressed if it all didn't remind me of another dropping-money-from-a-helicopter election campaign. But for most Canadians it seems to be what they want: 79% approve of the Liberals' all surface, no substance approach to disaster relief. We get the government we deserve.

Perhaps I sound a little cynical in this post. But I'm not as cynical as the government that came up with 'synchronized grieving' to replace real action and leadership.

UPDATE: Here's another story of how the DART was just too late to be of any use in Sri Lanka:

DART's main mission was to bring clean water to Ampara, and set up a field hospital. However, CTV's Lisa LaFlamme, reporting from Ampara, said there is still a lot of aid getting in, mainly from the Indian army.

"That is probably one of the biggest shocks to us just having arrived here, that there is no obvious need. (It is) oversupplied and there is plenty of clean water," LaFlamme told CTV's Canada AM.

She said some aid workers are already packing up to leave the region because it's actually oversupplied. "There are so many aid workers here that they are actually trying to rush to the next spot."

I feel sorry for the DART workers that had to sit on their hands while the Liberals checked out the angles. Now all they have to do is set up for Paul's big photo op. (via Nealenews)

January 08, 2005

What do we have regulatory bodies for?

The ongoing ban of Canadian beef in the United States has been a major political issue in Canada for some time, with our government claiming they're working diligently to solve the problem. You might expect that that would include using the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to enforce the 1997 ban on using rendering ruminants in cattle feed. It's using these ruminants that causes mad cow disease, and though I personally don't think it's a big worry -- you're much more likely to get killed by E. coli from eating beef than getting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- many other nations (particularly the Japanese) are terrified of it. And those that aren't terrified of it find it a useful excuse to set up trade restrictions.

So you might think the CFIA has been on the case, but you'd be wrong. This Wednesday, Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.), and Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), wrote an open letter to Bush's Agriculture Secretary nominee, Michael Johanns, with some interesting news:

In that letter, Conrad and Waxman said they have learned that in the past 15 months, 17 Canadian companies have been blocked from importing products into the United States because the Food and Drug Administration found muscle tissue, animal hair, blood and bones in livestock feed. The prohibited items, considered to be protein products that might carry mad cow disease to other bovines, have been banned in Canada since August 1997.

Eight of the 17 companies remain on import alert status, according to FDA, with three of them failing to prevent contamination of cattle feed. They include Agricore United; Cereales D.L. Ltd.; Dawn Food Products; Landmark Feeds Inc.; Louis Dreyfus Canada Ltd.; Masterfeeds; Ritchie Smith Feeds Inc.; and Unifeed.

There's been a lot of noise in the past few days about a new case of mad cow disease that's been found near Edmonton, but I think the news that Canadian feed companies have been ignoring the rules that were intended to prevent mad cow disease is the bigger story. So where is the CFIA? Well they turned up Thursday and basically said that the Congressmen were right, and they've known for some time:
WINNIPEG (Dow Jones)--Federal tests have discovered that four brands of Canadian cattle feed likely included cattle or other ruminant parts in violation of a ban on animal remains designed to protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease, Canada's National Post newspaper reported Friday.

Sergio Tolusso of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in the article that the feed and feed ingredients were sold as being free of animal matter, but microscopic examinations detected animal material in 66 of 110 samples tested between January and March 2004.

Subsequent inspections of feed mills led officials to conclude "there were some cases where it was more likely than others that it could be ruminant protein," said Tolusso, the agency's feed program coordinator.

"We are looking at four cases where we thought it (feed) could be material of ruminant origin," he said.

The story doesn't answer the obvious question: whether there has been any action to shut down these cattle feed companies that are breaking the rules. Instead, the representative of the Canadian government made excuses for the violators:
Tolusso insisted there was little risk that the ruminant remains in the four tainted feeds were infected with BSE because the incidence of the disease in Canadian cattle is low.

Even if the feed did include BSE-infected material, he added, the cattle that might have eaten it "are not all 100% susceptible to disease for 100% of their lives.

"The chances of the disease being transmitted through the system with all these buffers in place are really small," he said, noting the government last year placed limits on the sale of beef brains, intestines, spinal cords, eyes and nervous tissues. Those so-called specified risk materials are the most susceptible to BSE infection.

I'm not so sure the Japanese or lawmakers in the US eager to maintain the beef ban will be quite as understanding as Mr. Tolusso. While he's probably right in his assessment of risk, the issue of mad cow is not governed by reason. Canadian companies broke the rules, and the CFIA knew about it and kept quiet about it until their infractions were discovered in the United States. This is serious.

And even now, when the news is public and the CFIA should be in crisis-mode, the attitude seems to be little more than a shrug:

Tolusso in the article said the four mills pinpointed by the study "responded with voluntary measures to improve the situation" after being visited by inspectors. No feed was recalled because the protein material was not positively identified as bovine.
This is going to kill the chance of getting Canadian beef accepted again into the United States. No matter what kind of 'good relationship' Paul Martin manages to build with George Bush, it won't be enough to counter the ammunition we've handed the protectionists in the US Congress.

January 01, 2005

And the winner is...

I've been in an extremely unbloggy mood for the past few days, and it may continue for a little while longer. I've been keeping off the net and trying to get some things organized around the house. I've also got a bit of the post-Christmas blahs. But it's January 1st, and the Most Annoying Canadian competition is over; I must interrupt my break to make this announcement:

The winner is:

Antonia Zerbisias!

(clapclapclapclapclapclap...)

Unfortunately, this win is somewhat tainted. I'm pretty sure it's the result of someone stuffing the ballot box somehow. I've been monitoring the counts, and votes for her came in large batches all at once. My referer page didn't indicate any bulletin boards where some campaigning was going on, so I can only assume all those votes came from one person. Who? I dunno. Believing a columnist for the Toronto Star (which no one is forced to read) to be the most annoying person in this country is pretty odd. Maybe it's her husband.

I'll have to give Jimmy Carter a call next time to make sure this thing doesn't happen again.

Anyway, I did say anything goes in this competition, so the result still stands. But I don't think I will be able to convince anyone that Antonia Zerbisias is really the Most Annoying Canadian, so I'm a little disappointed. And I'm not sending her a trophy.

Better luck next year, Sheila. Keep those self-congratulating columns in the Post coming and I'm sure you've got a great chance at taking the big prize.

December 27, 2004

Most Annoying Canadian update V

Less than a week until the Most Annoying Canadian competition is over. The race has become a dead heat between the Helpful Canadian Tire Guy and Carolyn Parrish. With a race this close, you might think that there's been a lot of voting going on by different actions trying to push their candidate over the finish line, but you'd be wrong. The number of votes is considerably down since the last heat. Oh well, I've sort of lost interest in this whole thing, so I can understand why others have too. The vote will conclude midnight on December 31. I have nothing better to do so I'll be there to wave the checkered flag. Remember: Vote or Fly! (Cry? Sigh? Wait a second, I'll remember...)

December 15, 2004

Get around, get around, he gets around...

I think it's time we had a chat with little Paul. Seems he's been truant quite a bit recently, missing over half the days he should be at his lessons. The Truant Officer says he's been seen in Burkina Faso, Sudan, Brazil, Chile, Haiti, Russia, France, and Hungary. He's also been hanging out with an unscrupulous gang of thieves that go by the name of the UN. I'm really worried about him. I tried talking to him about it, about how he should be working on more important things, but he just won't listen. He says he's going to Libya this weekend and India, Japan, China and Hong Kong next month. Isn't there anything we can do? I think he's got a problem...

December 03, 2004

Most Annoying Canadian Update IV

The second round of voting in the Most Annoying Canadian competition has been completed. The results are as follows:

Who is your choice for Most Annoying Canadian?

Votes
Brian Mulroney 4%17
Louise Beaudoin 1%5
Jean Chrtien 11%46
Buzz Hargrove 6%24
Naomi Klein 11%44
Jacques Parizeau 2%7
Antonia Zerbisias 18%73
Jaggi Singh 4%18
John Ralston Saul 15%60
That Helpful Canadian Tire Guy 28%115
232 votes total

Congratulations to Jean Chrtien, Naomi Klein, Antonia Zerbisias, John Ralston Saul, and the Helpful Canadian Tire Guy -- you're moving into the finals! Joining them will be the four winners from the first round, plus Carolyn Parrish, whose recent burst of annoying behavior on the national scene has earned her the privilege of skipping the qualifying rounds. The final will run until the end of this month, so that the Most Annoying Canadian can be crowned in the new year. I'm thinking of having a trophy made and having it sent to the winner.

The voting rules haven't changed. Each computer you own gets one vote each day. Jamming the ballot box is encouraged, as is any kind of devious internet campaign you can think of. There can be only one winner, so unlike the first rounds when it was only necessary to get your choice into the top five, this round is serious. Let's see who the Most Annoying Canadian is!

December 01, 2004

Most Embarrassing Canadian chosen!

No, not the Most Annoying Canadian -- the Most Embarrassing Canadian. The Most Annoying Canadian is a serious competition that is not rushing to a conclusion. I feel it's important to give people time to stack the voting to get the right candidate to win. But the Most Embarrassing Canadian competition is more interested in efficiency and so has announced the winner now.

And so... The Most Embarrassing Canadian is...

Tommy Douglas!
No, wait. That's not right. I'm not sure how I've got this mixed up. But go here if you want to see who the winner is...

November 24, 2004

They can have my Joe Louis when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers

My initial response to the wacky plan to eliminate trans-fats from the Canadian diet was contemptuous head-shaking. Now as it looks like this thing is beginning to take on some momentum, I'm getting a bit more concerned. It just goes to show that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Humans are programmed for fear. We're hard-wired to spend much of our time worrying about potential threats and trying to neutralize them. But in the side-impact-airbag world we live in real threats are very distant, so we've found new things to worry about. One of the most fertile territory for these new fears is in our food supply. I've gone on about the silliness of those who obsess about organic food before, but at least they don't try to enforce their standards on others.

Will the removal of trans-fats make Canadians a much more healthy people? I doubt it. The basis of arguments against them are based on studies that show a correlation between a high intake of them and cardio-vascular disease. People who eat a lot of junk food probably have a lot of other bad habits to compensate for the loss of this one poison. You can't legislate health.

November 19, 2004

Thank you Carolyn Parrish...

...for making a mockery of my Most Annoying Canadian competition. How can I possibly claim to have a fair contest for this award without having her as a contestant? Oh well, no more radio interviews for me.

It's my own fault. Nature abhors a vacuum after all and without Svend and Sheila, there was an absence of the vital anti-American media-whore voice that our Parliament requires. I should have seen that she would step up and fill that role. I feel so embarrassed.

November 17, 2004

Most Embarrassing Canadian

There's another contest looking at Canadians we love to hate. The Most Embarrassing Canadian contest is being held by Ted Knudtson. So far, it seems that Celine Dion is in first place, followed by Uncle Jean and Adrian Clarkson. But it's very close, and you might be able to affect the outcome. Voting instructions are available at his site.

November 13, 2004

More Annoying Canadians

The first round of voting for the Most Annoying Canadian is over. The results are as follows:

Who is your choice for Most Annoying Canadian?

Votes
Sheila Copps 24%55
Don Cherry 10%23
Rick Mercer 3%8
Svend Robinson 8%19
Paul Martin 3%7
Jack Layton 12%27
David Suzuki 9%20
Stephen Lewis 2%5
Warren Kinsella 22%51
Celine Dion 7%17
232 votes total

Congratulations to the five finalists who move on to the final Most Annoying Canadian round in December: Sheila Copps, Warren Kinsella, Jack Layton, Don Cherry, and David Suzuki. Svend Robinson, who would normally be a favourite in this type of competition, failed to make the cut. His career as Canada's premier nitwit in the spotlight has evidently collapsed. Jack Layton is the new annoying face of the NDP, staging an incredible late surge from back of the pack to finish in third place. Sheila Copps won -- as expected -- despite a internet campaign for Warren Kinsella; but she's still got to win against the finalists from the second round of the competition to be declared the Most Annoying Canadian!

The second round has begun, as you can see from the new poll on the right. It was difficult to whittle down the contestants to just ten, but I have. I think they reflect the diversity of this vast and annoying land. We've got two ex-Prime Ministers, one to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, a couple of annoying seperatists who would hate to be considered 'Canadians', a rock-throwing jackass and his intellectual facilitator, and representatives from the rabidly anti-American press, the cultural elite, and the reactionary labour movement. And don't think the Canadian Tire guy is just a joke contestant. In my research for this poll I found a tremendous antipathy to him. A friend of mine suggested a competitor should hire him away from Canadian Tire and then run ads humiliating him or even having him killed off to win customers. He might be the 'dark horse' in this race.

So, this poll ends December 3rd. Then the five best from round two will face off against the winners from round one. You can vote once per day, and internet campaigns for particular contestants are encouraged. May the best annoying Canadian win!

November 06, 2004

Most Annoying Canadian Update II

I probably shouldn't have given so much time for the votes, but since it's a bad idea to change the rules for an election already under way, the original schedule still holds. The first current round will end midnight, Friday, November 12. The next round with ten other annoying Canadians will begin immediately and end Friday, December 3. Then the final -- comprised of the five finalists from the first two heats -- will go until midnight on New Year's eve.

In the first round, the standings are as follows (from most to least annoying):

  1. Sheila Copps
  2. Warren Kinsella
  3. David Suzuki
  4. Don Cherry
  5. Celine Dion
  6. Svend Robinson
  7. Jack Layton
  8. Rick Mercer & Paul Martin (tie)
  9. Stephen Lewis
Names for the next round have not been finalized. But some names will be there. Starting gates for John Ralston Saul, Alanis Morissette, Jean Chrtien, Tom Green, and Naomi Klein have been confirmed. Add your choices for the other five slots in the comments. There's so many to choose from...

October 24, 2004

Most Annoying Canadian update

Warren Kinsella still holds a slight edge over Sheila Copps in the poll. But she's been making up ground fast, and unless the enemies of Lord Voldemort start bringing in more voters, she'll take the lead. (Let's face it -- she's the favourite.) I'm surprised Svend and Jack Layton are so far down in the running. Svend usually does well in these types of things, and Layton makes people want to hit him with a shovel. I guess it's the stiff competition.

As I noted before, I missed a few names that definitely need to be in the race. So I've decided to make the current round the first qualifying round, which will be followed by another qualifying round, and the best five from each will meet for a final round. To be fair, there needs to be a schedule, so here it is: The first (current) round will end Friday, November 12. The next round will begin immediately and end Friday, December 3. Then the final will go until midnight on New Year's eve. Unless I forget or lose interest, which is probably the most likely result.

The names for the next round have not been decided yet. John Ralston Saul is definitely in. Chretien should also get one of the starting gates (though personally I'm not annoyed by him anymore). But who else? Tom Green? Jacques Parizeau? Mel Lastman? Avril Lavigne? Phil Fontaine? Buzz Hargrove? Lise Beaudoin? Dalton McGuinty? Rex Murphy? Please help me narrow down the choices in the comments section. There's an embarrassment of riches! (Or is it wretches?)

And please vote! I don't want to hear that the winner is not really the Most Annoying Canadian because of the lack of a strong mandate. You can vote once per day for each computer you own. Make it a part of your daily routine!

October 23, 2004

A perfect fit

Some stories are made for certain blogs. The story of the renegade Karter roaring around Quebec City at night -- with the elements of the usage of the roads and civil disobediance -- is made for Jay Jardine's blog The Freeway to Serfdom. I expect Jay to keep on top of this story and to lead the protests for Kart Vader's release when he finally gets caught.

UPDATE: There must have been some major media story about Vader because I'm getting all kinds of hits off it. If you're here looking for more, go check Jay's blog -- he's got pictures.

Revelations from Sheila

Andrew Coyne has some excerpts from Sheila Copps' new book in his column in the National Post today (subscriber only). It's fascinating to find out what went on all those cabinet meetings back in the nineties...

By 1995, I was already experiencing the kind of resentment around the Cabinet table that a strong woman always encounters from men who feel threatened. But even I was not prepared for the blast of testosterone that greeted me as I entered the room.

"Oh hello, Sheila," Paul said. "We're just working up a plan to abolish old age pensions, the CBC and medicare. Also unemployment insurance, higher education and the Canadian Armed Forces. It's all to do with appeasing the demands of international capital, in deference to the increasing powerlessness of national governments to effect change in an age of globalization. Are you in?"

At first I thought he was joking. I hesitated: They were asking me to betray every principle for which I, as a Liberal, stood. "Goddammit, Sheila," he spat. "I said are you in or not?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out," I replied, in a way that said everything.

October 22, 2004

Who's the Most Annoying Canadian?

Apparently, the CBC is having some sort of contest to find a Canadian that is worthy of the devotion of the nation. I'd have a hard time finding someone to fit that category. I guess I must be one of those self-loathing Canadians. But the Most Annoying Canadian? So many choices! Pick the Canadian that makes you screw up your face in disgust from the list on the right. Vote early and vote often -- internet polls are not as much about preferences as they are dedication and persistence.

Because there have been so many annoying Canadians, I'm limiting the entries to only those still living. Perhaps you're annoyed most by Maude Barlow, or Justin Trudeau. The poll limits me to ten names, so I may have missed someone particularly annoying. Write his or her name in the comments and I'll see what I can do.

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot Naomi Klein...

UPDATE II: And John Ralston Saul too. Oh I knew I should have thought about this a bit more. But there are so many choices...

UPDATE III: Other names have been missed: Jean, Peter Mansbridge, Bernie Landry, Gwynne Dyer, that helpful guy in the Canadian Tire ads... I'll have a second round in a week or two and then a final. This'll be fun.

Also I should note that there is an attempt to rock the vote. So far it's been quite successful...

October 04, 2004

American-style health care comes to Canada...

...but not in a good way.

George Smitherman, Ontario's crackpot health minister -- who recently said he would deputize citizens and organize a posse to run a private medical diagnostic company out of the province -- has now decided that doctors prescribe too many drugs and he wants them to cut down. And he'll offer the doctors cash-money for each pill they withhold from their patients. Laughably, he states that he's doing this for the patients own good, not because he's trying to cut costs:

"The real issue is that everybody in the province of Ontario knows that we have a problem with over-medicating seniors," he said, citing "plentiful" studies that show an over-reliance on drugs such as antibiotics.

"This is motivated by one clear and pressing reality, which is that there are too many people in the province of Ontario who are over-medicated."

Traditionally, Canadian governments have limited health care expenditures by restricting availablity. Back in the 80's, the class sizes for medical schools were reduced to control the spiraling costs of healthcare. The thinking was: fewer doctors, less billing, lower costs. And it worked -- too bad about all those waiting lists.

But now we're starting to experience what is supposedly one of the great shortcomings of the American HMO system: bureaucrats deciding what kind of treatment you can receive. As health care costs in this country become impossible to afford, be prepared for government workers to start using databases to track which doctors are costing too much money. Maybe they'e already doing this. And once they start compiling all this data, they're going to use it. They're going to overrule doctor's decisions -- and another argument that the Canadian heath care system is better will be put to rest.

October 03, 2004

You call that a barbeque?

This is a barbeque:

My Chilean buddy has built himself a parrilla in his yard and invited everyone he knew (all of whom had a few kids) for a fine feast today.

Continue reading "You call that a barbeque?" »

October 01, 2004

Cosh gets the axe

The National Post is apparently getting rid of Colby Cosh from its editorial page. A couple months ago one of his weekly columns was dropped to make room for Sheila Copps' drivel, and now they're taking away the other one too. Does that mean two Copps columns a week now?! I'm so excited! Or maybe some other unemployed Liberal hack will get the spot -- maybe Lloyd Axworthy! I'd love to hear his wise take on what's happening in the world. Or -- I know who it's gonna be! Svend Robinson!

Too bad about Cosh. He always came across as a bit too erudite, but he had some interesting ideas. Is he worth cancelling my subscription over? I'll think about it.

September 20, 2004

Water on their brains

The Council of Canadians -- acting on their bizarre water obsession -- wants to prevent any new water withdrawals from the Great Lakes. There's been a new agreement signed between the eight US states and two provinces that border the lakes to allow new small scale diversions. This is obviously just the first step in an environmental apocalypse:

"In the business of water, once you say maybe, you say yes," Pentland said in an interview from Ottawa.

The Council of Canadians, which will present at Toronto hearings hosted by the Council of the Great Lakes Governors, also wants to make its "vehement" opposition to the proposal known.

"The eight U.S. states are forming an agreement where they're going to sell Great Lakes water," said Sara Ehrhardt, water campaigner for the group.

"It's going to open the door for the sale of water on a large scale."

Oh no! Not selling a natural resource for money! How un-Canadian!
The fear is that the combined effects of climate change, consumption and new diversions could eventually drain the lakes.

"It's not alarmist," Pentland says.

No, no, of course not.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Saint Lawrence Seaway corporation has raised the allowable draft of ships due to an greatly elevated water level, and homeowners along Lake Ontario are worried about flooding. The trend is clear. We've got to stop conserving water and start selling it as fast as we can. Otherwise in a few years Toronto could suffer the same fate as Atlantis.

September 10, 2004

Home today

Well, our adventure to the North ends today. I hoped I would have some more interesting things to say about the place, but I spent more of my time chasing around a couple of toddlers than paying attention to where I was. Maybe next time.

September 07, 2004

Out on the land

That's what they call it up here: 'the land'. I got a chance the other day to go for a hike out on one tiny part of the huge empty expanse of arctic tundra that allows Canada to claim itself 'the second largest country in the world'. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and even more beautiful because someone else was worrying about Max and Talia's lunch.

Most of my pictures turned out to be pretty dull, however. You're probably familiar with the effect: you travel through some mountains or a forest, or go see a famous waterfall, and take lots of photos. And when you look at them later, all you have are a bunch of pictures of rocks or trees or rushing water. Thats what I found when I looked at these photos: lots and lots of shots of grey rocks. The photos just don't capture what I saw. Oh well.

Here's some of them anyway. To speed up loading of this page, I'm putting them in the extended entry...

Continue reading "Out on the land" »

August 31, 2004

Impressions of Iqaluit

In the days before smoking became the ultimate social faux pas, hotels would have large ashtrays filled with sand by the doors and elevators. Walking the roads of Iqaluit, I've come to believe that all that unneeded sand has now wound up here. Everywhere you go, the ground is covered by sand filled with cigarette butts.

The first thing you'll notice in Iqaluit is how filthy and run-down it is. Garbage rolls through the streets and the houses are in poor repair. The city has a dingy grey feel, despite some brightly coloured, newer buildings that have been built.

(continue for photos)

Continue reading "Impressions of Iqaluit" »

August 27, 2004

Marvel Team-up: Polarman and the Autonomous Source!

The condemned townhouse we're staying in is reserved for the transient medical personal who come up to Iqaluit. They're the people needed to keep services available up here, because maintaining permanent staff is pretty much impossible. When they leave, they usually leave what's left of their non-perishable groceries, but when we arrived in our new home we found little we could use to make a meal. There was a half-used bag of dried lentils though, which we figured we left on our last visit to Iqaluit a year ago. I guess not too many people eat lentils...

So we needed some groceries. We loaded up the kids in the stroller and headed to the supermarket. Along the way we approached a playground, where it looked like a man was trying to fix a swing. As we walked past, he called out to us and asked for some help. I came over and saw that the man was wearing a mask and some sort of costume. I paid this no mind because I feel that a person's poor fashion sense is not something they have a choice in. They were born that way, and treating them differently for the way they are is just not right. The swing was knotted, he said, but he had managed to drive a 2X4 into the knot. All he needed was someone to help pull down on the other side to loosen the knot.

But that didn't work. Knots in chains grip pretty hard, and just pulling them open doesn't work. But I had another idea. I shook the chain from the bottom as he pushed down with the lumber. And voila! It started to loosen! Now we had a bigger opening in the knot, and if I could slide the swing through, the knot would be finished. I did it!

As I was doing this, I noticed some faint music coming from somewhere. It was the man's bag, there was some classical music coming out of it. It was muffled and distorted as if the tape was very old. I recognised the tune, but what was it? And then it hit me -- The Superman soundtrack. Hmm.

Mission accomplished. As if to emphasize the importance of our victory, one of the kids that had been standing around watching jumped on the swing we had liberated. There were other swings free, but this one was special, I guess. I said farewell to my partner in the battle and my family and I continued our walk to the store.

As we walked, my wife told me that that was Polarman, Iqaluit's superhero. When he's not actively fighting crime, he cleans the playgrounds, shovels the walks of the elderly, acts as a guide for visitors, and just generally helps everyone he meets that needs help. He's been doing this for years and actually maintains a secret identity. (It's been noted that a certain local millionaire playboy has never been seen at the same time and place with Polarman.)

Can this kind of do-gooding really make a difference in this messed up world? Isn't he just trying to shovel back the tide? I don't think so. I think his attitude could catch on. Just this morning as I walked my wife to work, we saw a large rock someone had rolled onto a road. The cars were swerving to avoid it and we asked ourselves, WWPD? We rolled the rock off to the side.

August 24, 2004

Making a bad situation worse

Ottawa has had a 'homeless protest' in front of city hall for two months now (sympathetic CBC coverage here). No one in the municipal government or the police has had courage to shut it down, so of course it's grown and taken on a carnival atmosphere. So what is the Mayor's solution to deal with this? Well, how about we invite some of the 'protesters' in, explain things to them and ask them to see reason, and maybe toss in a couple of small bribes? A fat lot of good that did...

Appeasement never works. It just feeds the appetite of the recipients and gives them more power and confidence. It's a very simple fact; but for so many like Ottawa's dopey Mayor Chiarelli, it's impossible to understand. These guys are extortionists, plain and simple. It's a shakedown -- and even though they've made no clear demands, they all feel they're going to get a nice payoff at the end. The law is on the city's side and they should have moved in and evicted them a long time ago. But now these campers have made a large investment in this project, and they're not going to go without a big score or a violent confrontation.

August 18, 2004

The CBC is such a tease

Last night, after an exhausting day with two demanding little people, Mama and I did what we rarely do: slump in front of the TV. We watched the Olympics. After a half an hour of commercials, interviews, 'profiles', and travelogues (oh, and about five minutes of sports), we were about to turn it off. But then we saw a message on the side of the screen: 'Next: Team Gymnastics'. We like watching gymnastics, so we held in there. Another hour went by. We saw volleyball, swimming, rowing, and plenty of cringe-inducing ads. But no gymnastics. They lied to us! How will I ever be able to trust the CBC again?

August 16, 2004

No outrage here

When I read the other day about Paul Martin personally intervening to allow Muslim women special treatment when being photographed as they entered this country, I was outraged. I assumed he supported allowing them to not have to remove their veil (and that's what the poorly written piece in the Post on Saturday implied). However, in looking deeper, I found that he was only talking about the headgear, not the veil. Here's what he said in his letter to CAIR Canada:

Please be assured that your concerns regarding Permanent Resident (PR) Card photographs have been given careful and appropriate considerations...CIC policy is that allowances be made for practitioners of religious faiths that prohibit the removal of head coverings. CIC does not require the head covering to be completely removed, but for security purposes, all facial features must be visible for the photographs.
I don't consider this caving to a shrill minority, but just a bit of common sense. I've seen an angry letter to the editor today and an outraged post on LGF about it. No doubt there is more gnashing of teeth that I haven't seen yet. Much as I dislike having to defend PM Paul, this time I have to. There's no source of outrage here.

August 14, 2004

Maude Barlow writing for the CBC?

I've never understood Canadian suspicions about trading water with the United States. We trade oil, gas, electrical power, wood, and a huge variety of manufactured and agricultural goods, and actually get upset when the Americans try to impose restrictions to this trade. But mention trading water, a renewable resource we have in tremendous abundance, and we suddenly want to keep it all for ourselves.

The CBC has a new series this fall based on our unique cultural psychosis. It's called H2O and supposedly 'combines ripped-from-the-headlines verisimilitude with the burning issues of the day to create a cautionary tale of Canadas future.' Sounds more like it takes our water obsession and mixes it with some good old-fashioned anti-American paranoia:

On the eve of testy discussions with the U.S. Secretary of State about the integration of internal borders and the possibility of continental union, Prime Minister Matthew McLaughlin is killed in an accident. An investigation is immediately launched into his death, triggering a series of events and uncovering a shocking plot to sell one of Canadas most valuable resources water.

Returning to Canada from abroad to attend his fathers funeral, Tom McLaughlin attracts the attention of the ruling party when his eulogy to his father galvanizes public sentiment. Tom accepts the invitation to run for political office and enters the party leadership race. He is victorious, and goes on to become prime minister when the public embraces his populist maverick approach. However, the investigation into his fathers death reveals that it was no accident, raising the possibility that he was assassinated. The trail of evidence leads to a dark conspiracy that could lead Canada into oblivion.

The good thing is that because it's on CBC, no one will see it. The bad thing is that it'll still have to be paid for.

August 10, 2004

Some cracks in the monolith?

It probably would have poured for the CHOI Liberté rally on the Hill today, but I brought my coat and an umbrella, so the skies cleared and we actually got a bit of sun. I left early though, so unfortunately the rain came back. By 4:30 there was a thunderstorm raging complete with hail, at least up at my place. Sorry about that guys.

The crowd was large, well-behaved, and young. My french is quite poor, despite living over a third of my life in Québec, so I felt a bit out of place. The speakers had a strong connection with the crowd, but unfortunately I didn't get a lot out of it. I contented myself to move around the crowd and take pictures. Still, even with the language barrier, I felt this event was a hammerblow to the cultural monolith that dominates the thinking in this country. Not a shattering blow by any means, but a couple of small chips came loose, some dust was shaken free, and maybe even a fine crack appeared. But it'll take quite a bit more work to knock the whole thing down.

I am not Cuban

On the way home though, the monolith struck back. CFRA, usually a sensible talk radio station was parroting the establishment's opinion that the government should have the right to spank those that don't toe the line. And from what I heard, most of the listeners agreed. The host made the bogus point that if the government doesn't shut down this station, others will get more and more 'outrageous' in a race to the lowest depths of depravity. The unspoken reasoning behind this sentiment is that the public are morons and must be protected from themselves. It's surprising how many people believe that.

UPDATE: Jaeger at Trudeaupia has a long thoughtful post about the protest that's very much worth your time.

UPDATE II: More on the monolith striking back. Here's how the CBC prevents anyone from sympathizing with the plight of CHOI:

Fillion is known for his attacks on a variety of Quebec's public figures, as well as ethnic students and the mentally ill.

August 06, 2004

Someone shut that woman up!

One good thing about the recent election was that Sheila is longer in Parliament and I won't have to be exposed to her stoopid opinions and forced to live under her stoopid policies. But some joker at the National Post, knowing I was a subscriber, arranged to have the latest half-baked, batty thoughts that flitted through her vacant head typed up and delivered to my door once a week. And I'm forced to look, in the same way that you'd take a glance at a gruesome car wreck on the side of the road. Her prose is equally sickening.

This week she gushes on and on about how wonderful big spender André Ouellet really is and how unfair it is that he's being targeted by an auditors report. This from the woman who broke records with her own uncontrolled personal spending. It's a good look into how the top tier of the elite political class justify to themselves the extravagant lifestyle they enjoy. They're 'serving' the country, you see. Sure.

August 04, 2004

Fight the Power!

Jaeger at Trudeaupia has alerted me to a protest scheduled for 2:00 on Tuesday, August 10th on Parliament Hill to support CHOI in Québec. The closing of this radio station is a perfect example of the petty, paternalistic, "we know what's best for you" attitude of the self-imagined intellectual 'elites' in this country. They have to be fought. I'll be there.

July 15, 2004

Jihad TV set for Canada

The CRTC has been busy in the last couple of days. I just heard on the radio that the CRTC has approved Al-Jazeera for Canadian consumption. This after withdrawing the broadcasting licence of a radio station that joked about the size of woman's breasts and their relation to her intelligence. They've been talking about it for a little while, but I guess Al-Jazeera's promise to be nice, made yesterday, might have been just what was needed to push some vacillating bureaucrat to say, "okay". (Am I just being cynical when I wonder whether this new 'code of ethics' of Al-Jazeera's was whipped up just to satisfy Canada?)

Our country -- which is right next to the United States, is its largest trading partner, and is supposedly its friend -- now is in the surreal situation of preventing its citizens from seeing America's top rated News channel (Fox), while providing a podium for the propagandists who want to destroy it.

July 01, 2004

Happy Dominion Day

How can I explain why I don't like Canada day without sounding like a mean-spirited grump? I don't think I can. I guess I'm a mean-spirited grump. But I'll try.

I was just watching CBC kids this morning ("Hi CBC kids! What a great day, isn't it CBC kids? We're your annoying peppy hosts that you'll have to suffer through between programs, because commercials are bad but most of the programs we show don't fill their time slot. So how about another really crappy song? Okay, CBC kids?") and they had a special Canada Day song and video. It was as if you took the worst of Can-con schmaltz and distilled it to a lethal concentration. Soaring, painfully earnest lyrics, sung by a precisely-constructed, multi-cultural choir, mixed with shots of people in canoes, standing next to totem poles, and assorted other 'Canadiana'. About a minute of it was all I could take, but it just kept going. I was forced to change channels while we waited for Zooboomafoo to start to preserve my sanity.

Canada day for me is like that video. It tries too hard. It's insecure. It's embarrassing. All that government-sponsered flag-waving is flat-out Orwellian. It gives me the creeps.

Canada is a great country and I don't think there's anywhere I'd rather live. My wife and I frequently reflect on how lucky we are to be here. But we use today to have a barbecue, have some drinks with friends, relax. But taking part in the great nationalist religious service sponsored by the feds in every town -- it just gives me the willys.

But having said that, here's my kids waving our government-issue flags. Aren't they cute?

Update: Mark Steyn has a good little rant up on this subject.

June 29, 2004

Let's change the subject

Curiously, I'm still angry and upset about yesterday's results. I just hate to think about it. I haven't opened the newspapers and I'm keeping a safe distance from the TV. To prevent me from writing a long screed where I shake my little blog fist at the dopey and deluded voters of Ontario, I went digging for cool stuff on the web. These links should cheer anyone up.

  • How can you keep in shape without going to the gym? With House Gymnastics, of course. Soon to be an Olympic Sport.
  • Check out this digital Tower of Babel. They'll get there someday.
  • Here's a script that displays the last 30 photos posted to Live Journal. It's quite intriguing and occasionally pornographic. Just keep reloading
  • Are grocery lists boring? Yes. But archiving other's lists is not.
  • Have you ever seen one of those PC cases with the window cut in the side and neon lights inside? Amateurs..
  • And are you dope? Or wack? Find out.
Okay. I feel a bit better.