Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Judicial Appointment Blows a Hole in Sorbara’s Legal Team

I noticed in a National Post item today that one of the lawyers who was supposed to help former Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara restore his good name has been appointed to the bench.

On November 2, Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler announced that Frank Marrocco has been appointed to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. As the Globe and Mail reported on November 9, “the rules of engagement on the bench, Mr. Marrocco learned that night [when Cotler informed him of the appointment], require lawyers to jettison cases immediately to minimize potential conflicts.”

So although Marrocco is not sworn in until December 14, Sorbara has been without his services for a month. The Post reports that Glen Hainey of Gowlings has taken over Sorbara’s file. According to Hainey’s bio at Gowlings’ website, he has had some interesting files, including representing the Government of Ontario at the Walkerton Inquiry, and acting as counsel to a “Canadian tobacco manufacturer in connection with class action proceedings brought on behalf of current and former smokers in the Province of Ontario.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Election Starts Off with a Bang in Davenport

Today saw the 49th shooting death in Toronto this year. Ho hum, you might say, except that this one occurred about 200 yards from my house, and at almost exactly the same spot from which Holly Jones was snatched in 2003.

This is what Toronto gets for electing a mayor who did not run on crime, but on a bridge and his hair – not necessarily in that order. Next year will be David Miller’s much-touted “Year of Culture” presumably culminating in his glorious re-election in November. Leaving aside the slightly fascistic notion of governments deciding what culture is, what exactly will this bread-and-circuses-inspired extravaganza do for the quality of life for any Torontonians save Miller’s artsy friends?

I’m sick of the socialists, I’m sick of the crime, I’m sick of people leaving garbage and dog shit on my lawn, and I’m sick of the TTC. With any luck I’ll be moving to the 905 next year and leave it all behind.

Organized Crime Expert Okays Harper’s Usage

Liberals are brimming with more indignation than usual over Stephen Harper’s statement in the House of Commons last Thursday that they broke “every conceivable law in the province of Quebec with the help of organized crime.” The Liberals insist that they are entitled to an apology from Harper. (Why don’t they save us all a lot of time and just tell us what they’re not entitled to?) Personally, I think the Conservatives were relieved of any obligation to defer to Liberal sensibilities since Joe Volpe described two Conservative MPs as devotees of the Ku Klux Klan this spring –and refused to apologize.

Anyhow, celebrated organized crime author James Dubro has helpfully weighed in on the issue of Harper’s use of the term “organized crime” with this letter in Monday’s Globe and Mail:

Organized crime is not just the Mafia and bikers (The Harper Slur – editorial, Nov. 26). The gang that orchestrated and ran the sponsorship scandal were sophisticated, highly organized criminals. As the co-author of the definition of “organized crime” in all editions of The Canadian Encyclopedia, I would suggest that being referred to as members of an organized crime entity is an appropriate, even restrained description for some of the members of the Liberal Party and the Quebec ad agencies that systematically scammed so much money from the public purse.

24: A Race Against Time and Democracy

What can one do but laugh out loud at Team Martin’s latest contribution to the Democratic Deficit, i.e. the 24-hour nomination period in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

On Friday night the local riding executive was informed that sitting MP Jean Augustine would not be running again, and that the party would be receiving applications from prospective candidates until 5:00 p.m. Saturday – the next day.

Two prospective candidates who had the misfortune of not being born Michael Ignatieff gamely attempted to put in their applications, but found the building housing Liberal party headquarters locked, and the headquarters office itself locked. They managed to deposit their forms but, sadly, one was disqualified for lack of membership, and the other because he had not resigned his position on the riding executive. Ergo, Ignatieff will be acclaimed as the Liberal candidate Wednesday night.

Over the weekend, local riding members protested the denial of their democratic rights. Some of Ignatieff’s prior writings were criticized as being derogatory to Ukrainians and potentially unhelpful among the riding’s expat Ukrainian and European voters. In an appearance on CTV Newsnet on Monday, Ignatieff seemed calm and well-scripted, unfazed by the fact that his nomination “race” resembles a Soviet election, in which there was but one candidate on the ballot and any comrade failing to show up for the “vote” was guaranteed a visit from the KGB encouraging him to do so. No wonder the Ukrainians are choking on their perogies.

What with the links to the Soviet Union, Ukrainian nationalism, the Iraq war and the use of torture in the war on terror, Ignatieff’s entry into politics might make a great plotline for the next season of 24 – or at least an Air Farce sketch.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm Number 3! I'm Number 3!

Just got a call from Virginia at the Western Standard informing me that I placed third in the opinion category of their column contest, winning "honourable mention" for this column. The contest results should be announced on their website shortly.

Take back our public services
by Joan Tintor

In Toronto, police cruisers sit parked outside a downtown police station, the police union having decided to stop patrolling. In British Columbia, teachers continue their illegal strike into its second week, idling 600,000 students and precipitating countless child care crises.

Organized labour has some clever slogans about all the good it has done for society, such as “Unions: the people who brought you the weekend.” But what have they done for us lately?

Think of the state of our roads, the quality of our education and health care, the cleanliness of our streets. The overall tax burden has grown, but this has hardly been matched by an increase in the quality of government services. Yet the wages and benefits of public sector workers continue to rise. Of course they do: by their very nature, public sector unions tend to drive up the costs and size of government. Union dues – themselves a cost driver – go to employ officials whose full-time work consists of filing grievances, lobbying the government for more workers, coordinating with other unions and supporting sympathetic candidates.

Much of the impetus for contracting out the delivery of public services stems from roadblocks faced by politicians attempting to meet the demands of taxpayers or deliver on good-faith election promises. Since public servants began to unionize, the people have gradually lost control of their public services.

Some have argued for outlawing strikes by teachers and other public sector workers, but this would be mere tinkering. The only way for the public to take back control of the services it owns is by decertifying public sector unions and restoring a direct employment relationship between government workers and democratically elected governments. Here’s why it makes sense:

Once the public has decided that a particular service is to be provided by the government, then that service is, by definition, essential. Many try to make a distinction between services that relate to safety and other government services. But public schools, transit and most other public services are legally or effectively monopolies, in that most citizens have no practical alternative when those services are not available.

Public sector collective agreements take away the public’s democratic right to decide what public services are to be delivered and what terms of employment are to be offered, provided those terms accord with employment standards laws and the common law. The wages, benefits and working conditions of public sector workers should be open to the democratic process as are all other aspects of government. They should not be decided in backrooms in negotiations from which the public is barred and on which the public’s elected representatives are forbidden to comment.

It is not the role of government to engage in unfair labour competition with the private sector. Some people think it is noble for the government to “set an example” for the private sector through higher wages and benefits. Such people don’t understand economics. The increasing taxes that those business will have to pay to support the government’s “example” mean that they will be hard-pressed to pay the employees they already have, let alone pay them more.

Thousands of private firms have policies and procedures for dealing fairly with employees; so would a union-free public sector. If the public through their elected government provides wages, benefits and working conditions that can’t compare with private employers’, then it will find itself with fewer and less capable employees.

Let’s put the “public” back into the public sector, by putting citizens and their elected representatives back in charge of our public services.

Joan Tintor lives in Toronto. She has worked as a legal assistant, free-lance writer, and political staffer for the Ontario PC government and caucus. She blogs at

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

AdScam Whistleblower to take on Pinocchio’s Brother in Ottawa South

From behind the smokescreen of hype about Marc Garneau running for the Liberals in Quebec, Stephen Harper has pulled a star candidate of his own out of a hat, announcing that retired civil servant Allan Cutler will stand for the Conservative nomination in the riding of Ottawa South. The seat is currently held by David McGuinty, brother of promise-breaking Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The release is not up on the Conservative party website yet, so here it is:

Sponsorship Scandal Whistleblower Allan Cutler Seeks CPC Nomination in Ottawa South

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper, Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, today announced that Allan Cutler will seek the Conservative Party of Canada’s nomination for the upcoming election in the riding of Ottawa South.

Mr. Cutler is well-known to Canadians as the career public servant who blew the whistle on the corruption at the heart of the sponsorship scandal in 1995 and lost his job as a result.

“Allan was singled out for praise by Judge Gomery in his report,” said Harper, “and some citizens have said he deserves the Order of Canada.”

“When Canadians go to the polls, the question they will face is simple: after twelve years of waste, mismanagement, and corruption, which party can provide the change in the system that is needed to clean up government in Ottawa?”

“I am honoured to announce that Mr. Cutler has decided to seek the nomination to become the next Conservative candidate in the riding of Ottawa South.”

The Conservative party is expected to set the date for a nomination meeting in Ottawa South shortly.


For information: Carolyn Stewart Olsen (613) 297-9479

Monday, November 21, 2005

Is that an AK-47 under your burqua, or are you just happy to Sunni?

Interesting report on National Review Online today about U.S. and Iraqi forces’ counter-insurgency sweep in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, which includes this tidbit:

In more than one instance — and to the delight of American and Iraqi troops — insurgents have been caught attempting to flee the battlefield dressed as women: Considered a particularly disgraceful act among Iraqis.

“They’ve proven to be cowards,” says Kerr [Capt. Patrick Kerr, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division in Ramadi]. “We found a number of them skulking among a flock of sheep trying to escape in Ubaydi, and there have been several instances of insurgents dressing up as women trying to escape.”

In one instance, Iraqi soldiers discovered three foreign fighters dressed as women trying to enter an Iraqi displacement camp. “The Iraqi soldiers wound up killing them after the insurgents revealed their identity and tried to engage the Iraqi soldiers with AK-47s hidden under their dresses,” says Kerr.

U.S. forces claim that they are killing many upper-tier insurgency leaders (I read this recently but can’t recall the link). This plus the fact that one of the suicide bombers in the Jordan hotel bombings was one of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s top guys (husband of the woman whose bomb vest failed to detonate) gives me hope that (a) the insurgency is being “decapitated” by the elimination of its leadership and (b) Zarqawi is having a hard time attracting new recruits, otherwise why would he sacrifice one of his top men in a suicide operation?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Desperate Martin Plays Religion Card from Bottom of Deck

Had to laugh when I saw Bourque highlight a CTV web report that had Martin issuing a warning from Asia to the opposition leaders:

“When you are talking about the holiday season, there are also other religions that have different New Year’s at different dates and their holidays at a different date and I think we have to be respectful of that -- the orthodox churches, for example,” he said.

This from a leader who, upon changing his mind on same-sex marriage, pleaded a distinction between his own religious beliefs and his conduct as a politician.

This from a party whose attack dog Warren Kinsella mocked the religion of Stockwell Day during the 2000 election.

Most significantly, this from the leader of a party that called the 1997 election on Sunday, April 27: Orthodox Easter Sunday! (The election was June 2.)

Finally, where was the Liberals’ concern for Christmas – Orthodox or otherwise – when they brought down the Clark government on December 13, 1979?

Orthodox Christians are not accustomed to receiving any special regard for Julian calendar holidays from their government, schools or workplaces. Now the first time that we get some, it comes from a desperate Liberal clinging to power. Shove it back up your chimney, Paulie. Don’t soil my religion by using it as a prop now that you’ve lost Jack Layton.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Maybe teacher unions should focus on bullying of children

In a case of bad timing and bad taste, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) and Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) chose to go ahead today with a news release “calling on government and school boards to work with them to confront workplace bullying” based on the results of phase 2 of their Bullying in the Workplace Study.

The release came out in the late morning on the same day that the Globe and Mail is carrying a front-page Christie Blatchford piece about 18 months of sexual harassment and assault allegedly suffered by a 16-year-old girl at a Catholic high school in northwest Toronto (online subscription required). To be fair, it appears that the harassment was not reported to teachers, and Blatchford notes that it came to light when a teacher intervened on overhearing the girl being harassed in a hallway.

OECTA and OSSTF note in the release that they are using their survey to advocate not only on behalf of bullied teachers, but bullied workers everywhere. In September they released a survey on teacher bullying by students. Nowhere in their two-part study do they talk about bullying of students by students.

On a related note, in Saturday’s National Post there was a story about how Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy is looking into the fact that some school boards are allowing teacher unions to administer his $500-per-education-worker payoffs, er, “Teacher Development Accounts.” This $80-million kitty was offered to unions as an inducement to agree to four-year collective agreements to ensure that the McGuintyites would have no labour problems in schools until after the 2007 election. The Post reports that “there is little uniformity between boards on how the non-taxable benefits are distributed -- or even the amount.”

So Kennedy offered the unions a bribe, and now he’s shocked that they’re treating the money as a slush fund? Kennedy’s surprise belongs to the same category as Captain Renault’s shock that gambling was taking place at Rick’s in Casablanca. And the Liberals’ special relationship with teacher unions will ensure that nothing will come of Kennedy’s investigation.

Iraq Reality Checks

For a reality check on the “Bush lied, people died” cant, check out Norman Podhoretz’s “Who Is Lying About Iraq?” in December’s Commentary.

For a reality check on “the Iraqis don’t want Americans there,” check out the “Thank You” commercial at The Other Iraq.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

“Toxic Nation” or Junk Science?

One of the top items on CTV last night was an Environmental Defence report to be released today purporting to show that Canada is a “toxic nation” because “Canadians are walking around with a cocktail of harmful toxic chemicals in their bodies” (CTV News website). The story also appeared in The Globe and Mail.

But the “report” is based on blood and urine samples taken from a grand total of 11 people, including: Dr. Kapil Khatter, head of Canadian Physicians for the Environment; Merrell-Ann Phare, Legal Counsel and Executive Director of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources; and David Masty, Chief of the Whapmagoostui First Nation

Wasn’t there a song that went, “a doctor, lawyer and an Indian chief couldn’t love you as much as I do?” Now we know why: it’s hard to get in the mood when PCBs and heavy metals are weighing down certain vital capillaries.

But seriously, the point here is that established media outlets should know better than to give such prominent play to a report that, besides coming from an environmental advocacy group, has little if any scientific value because it surveyed only 11 people. Such reports should get no more than a digest item in the print media. As for TV and radio newscasts that already have a hard time squeezing a lot of news into very little time, this report shouldn’t have even made the line-up.

Props to Andre Picard of the Globe for at least getting a comment from Health Canada:

Health Canada spokesperson Paul Glover said: “It’s only 11 people. It’s not statistically significant . . . but it is an indication and we will take a look at it.” . . . Mr. Glover said “obviously Canadians will be somewhat concerned. They didn’t choose to put chemicals in their bodies. So how did they get there? But for Health Canada the question is: What is the level of risk?”

With the rise of more and craftier advocacy groups, think tanks and PR strategies (and, if you believe it, the “death” of advertising), the media’s task of determining what is real and relevant is becoming harder at the same time that it is becoming more important. But surely they can do better than getting played by an advocacy group pushing a study of only 11 people?

What’s worse is that the media is not above playing these sketchy survey games themselves. In 1997, the Atkinson Foundation (i.e. The Toronto Star) funded “Speaking Out,” a study by the pink tank Caledon Institute. According to the paper setting out the study’s description, research strategy and methodology (available at -- search publications for “speaking out”):

The Speaking Out Project was established in January 1997 to document the effects that policy changes are having on ordinary people in Ontario, especially those with low incomes. The project is a longitudinal study of 40 Ontario households, which will be interviewed intensively at six-month intervals until the year 2000. To supplement and interpret the households’ experiences, Speaking Out also analyzes a wide range of other sources of information. We will report our findings after each round of interviews.

The institute defended limiting the study to only 40 households (page 4):

We considered a number of different factors when deciding on our sample size. Too many households would have made proper tracking difficult and too costly; too few would have meant insufficient coverage of various characteristics. We decided that a sample of 40 households allowed adequate coverage of demographic and other characteristics, was manageable and accommodated the expected withdrawal of some households from the project.

Later on in the document, they reveal this little nugget (page 5):

While the smaller sample size means that we cannot automatically generalize our specific findings from these 40 households to all others in Ontario with similar demographic profiles, a range of complementary surveys and other types of studies and databases are available for our use. When the issues we explore overlap with other studies, that data will be investigated to see if generalization is possible. Thus, our analysis and reports will reflect a multimethod research approach.

By my reading, this means “our basic research is useless because our sample is too small, but we’re going to pad it out with other research we find if it confirms what our original useless research shows.”

No matter. In October 2000, The Toronto Star’s Caroline Mallan reported that the Speaking Out project had found that, despite Ontario’s economic boom, nearly half the households in the study group were worse off than they were in 1995, and another quarter of them were about the same. (I’m guessing that over a quarter of them were therefore doing better, but the Star’s story does not provide the remaining figures.)

The Star reported that the institute “melded its findings with Statistics Canada data to come up with a picture of low income people struggling to pay the bills” but since the referenced report is apparently not on the institute’s website, it’s not clear what data was “melded” or how. Could they have used StatsCan demographic data to generalize their findings, i.e. exactly what they said they couldn’t do on page 5 of their methodology?

Turning back to the toxic pretenders, I don’t know whether I have heavy metals or PCBs in my body, but I can say without benefit of a blood sample that the authors of Toxic Nation are overflowing with one unpleasant substance. I look forward to see whether “Toxic Nation” makes it into the Financial Post’s annual Junk Science Week next year. It certainly merits consideration.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Phony Health Care Debate Gets Phonier

When I blogged on the Supreme Court’s Chaoulli decision in June (see June 2005 Archive), I wrote:

As for the honest, realistic debate that many hope will be spurred by this ruling, I’m not holding my breath. The Supreme Court is unlikely to wipe away the health care delusions of Canadians, when a decade of declining services and increasing waiting lists have done nothing but reinforce those delusions.

As if on cue, here’s Jack Layton to inject a fresh shot of poison and distortion into the health care debate, by demanding – as the price of continuing to prop up the Martin government – that the federal government ban “double dipping” by doctors.

The term “double dipping” has until now generally been limited in its use to politicians who are drawing two government paycheques, such as a politician receiving an MPP pension plus an MP’s salary after having been elected to the federal Parliament. But The Toronto Star provided this definition in a November 3rd story, “Liberals draft health deal for Layton”:

Double dipping refers to a practice in which some doctors offer patients the same services in the insured public system or more quickly in private clinics for higher fees. Some medicare advocates have been urging Ottawa to guarantee that the public health system be kept completely separate from privately delivered services.

Although the practice of double dipping is not widespread, both Layton and Dosanjh have expressed concern about it and Layton, in his talks with the Liberals, has been demanding a ban on it in the Canada Health Act. Such a provision would head off any future attempts by the provinces to allow it.

Not widespread? I’ve never even heard of it until now. Frankly it sounds like another Lib-left bogeyman not unlike “extra-billing” in Ontario in the 1980s. Banning so-called extra-billing was one of the concessions Bob Rae extracted from David Peterson to catapult Peterson from opposition leader to the Premier’s Office in the minority Parliament that was the result of the 1985 election.

A doctors’ strike ensued, during which The Star ran a now-infamous editorial cartoon depicting doctors as pigs at the trough. The Peterson government eventually prevailed in banning extra-billing, however, and the province’s relations with doctors have been poisoned ever since.

The fact is, in many industrialized countries that have public health care, one of the things that makes it work is allowing doctors to work in both government facilities and private ones. But Layton will have none of this, nor will Sid Ryan, Tommy Douglas’ daughter, the health care unions, and the others who are too heavily invested in the Cuban model of health care to see reality.

One reality is that while the federal government can pass whatever laws it wants, it has little financial leverage over provincial governments to impose those laws. Since it gave up tax points to the provinces in the 1980s, all it can do is withhold cash transfers, which in many provinces account for less than 20% of their health budgets. Wealthy provinces can simply tell the feds to take a hike, as they could well afford whatever clawbacks the federal government imposes under the new law.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Money Still Rolling Despite Shaky Polling

Conservatives who have been through the sponsorship spin cycle before know better than to get too high on the Ipsos-Reid poll showing the party roughly tied with the Liberals both nationally and in (cue harp music) Vote Rich Ontario. Sponsorship revelations have been made before; polls have climbed before; and polls have come down before.

One set of numbers that should give comfort, however, is the third-quarter financial returns of the federal political parties, as posted by Elections Canada today. They show that the Conservative Party continues to out-fundraise the Liberals by more than 2-1.

Third Quarter (July-September 2005) Contributions

Conservative Party: $3,247,131 from 32,714 contributors
Liberal Party: $1,062,332 from 6,943 contributors

2005 Contributions to Date (January-September)

Conservative Party: $10,807,275 from 107,457 contributors
Liberal Party: $4,194,591 from 20,873 contributors

If the sponsorship scandal has effectively scared the Liberals off of attempting to supplement their campaign budgets with misappropriated taxpayer dollars, then in the next election they will be limited to spending only what they raise and what they can convince the banks to lend them.

If I may offer one spin line, however, it is this: Liberals and others have tried to put the money stolen from the sponsorship program in the context of the government’s overall budget, in which it is very small. The proper context, however, is the amount of money parties raise on an ongoing basis and spend during an election. In that context, $1.14 million, $5.4 million, $40 million, or whatever the Liberals stole, is huge – as the results of the 1997 and 2000 elections proved.

Correction and Apology

On November 3 I posted an item about former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers. It is former Ottawa Senators coach Jacques Martin who married Maureen McTeer’s sister, not Jacques Demers.

My apologies to everyone involved.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

High Turnout Good for Conservatives, Says Organization Guru

While the corruption in the Liberal party is an important narrative, it is crucial for conservatives to, in one of Brian Mulroney’s favourite maxims, “keep your eye on the ball.”

Richard Ciano is one of the conservative party’s Ontario vice presidents and a friend. He notes in his latest newsletter that:

Many Conservatives have been conditioned to believe that high voter turnout favours the Liberals. But by every objective measure that turns out to be false. With only a few exceptions over the last sixty years, conservative parties in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain have seen greatest electoral success when voter turnout is high.

His argument is illustrated by graphs such as these (click to view full size).

Ciano is also doing some great behind-the-scenes work in passing on his expertise and that of others, helping conservatives across Ontario organize and prepare for the next election through the Conservative Campaign Academy.