Friday, March 31, 2006

New economic research institute coming to Manitoba

This may be good news for those of us frustrated with so-called “research” produced by the likes of YWCA Canada, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Caledon Institute and so on: The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce (MCC) are establishing an independent, non-profit research institute to look into economic development-related issues. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported yesterday (subscription required):

For a number of years, the MCC has been calling on the provincial government to conduct in-depth studies into why Manitoba often compares so poorly to other provinces on things like employment, labour force growth and average weekly wages.

But the chambers’ pleas have fallen on deaf ears, so now they’re taking matters into their own hands and moving forward with plans to create a new independent, non- profit research institute that can look into economic development-related issues.

“We got to the point where we simply said, ‘ Let’s go ahead and do it,’” Dan Overall, the MCC’s director of policy and communications, said in an interview yesterday. “ We’re hopeful what this will do is help raise public discussion about some of these issues and provide data and analysis.”

Thursday, March 30, 2006

25th Anniversary of Reagan Assassination Attempt

I had forgotten that exactly 25 years ago today, John Hinckley attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

The anniversary did not rate a mention in any of the Globe, Post, Toronto Star, or Toronto Sun. National Review Online has a remembrance of the day’s events, as told to Deroy Murdock by Rudy Giulani. On the morning of the shooting, Giulani had attended a White House breakfast with Reagan, as Reagan’s yet-to-be-confirmed Associate Attorney General. The assassination attempt occurred that afternoon. Giulani recalls what he learned from the experience:

“For me personally,” he says, “it was one of those terrible emergencies that I was involved in. And I think it kind of taught me how to handle it. Not just me personally, but watching the other people: the attorney general, how he organized it, the head of the FBI, Bill Webster. And the attorney general, who had been in office at that point two months, handled it brilliantly. He organized all of us. He had us all doing our jobs. We each had our function.”

Does Giuliani call himself a Reaganite?

“Oh, absolutely!” he exclaims. “He had strong beliefs. He knew what those beliefs were. He stuck to them whether they were popular or unpopular. And he did it in a way in which he was civil and nice to everyone. It was a beautiful combination of tremendous commitment to what he believed in, but not anger.”

“Ronald Reagan was a role model for me,” says the man they call “America’s Mayor.” “I consider him a hero.”

NRO Online also has an excellent remembrance of Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, by Peter Schweizer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

They just can’t help themselves: Cherniak starts Liblog slush fund

I briefly checked out some of the Liberal blogs today and noticed that Jason Cherniak is trying to start a non-profit corporation for Liberal bloggers:

Today I will obtain the final signature on the application to incorporate the list of Liberal Bloggers as an Ontario non-profit company. We have now approached the moment of no return, where I will begin paying the government to make this all official.

For those who do not know yet, this new organization has been created for two reasons. The first is to protect me from liability for what others might post on sites that the Liberal Blogs list will link to. The second is to create an organization that can receive donations and then spend excess money to help the Liberal Party. The main idea is to become a third party advertiser during elections. The other and less certain idea is to create a Liberal Blogger Scholarship. If we go ahead with the second option. We will have to create some sort of board of notable bloggers and possibly other Liberals to judge a contest. That, however, is just a thought at the moment. The main goal is to raise money to pay for startup and hosting.

Wow. I wonder how they’ll decide how the third-party advertising money gets spent. I’d love to hear that conference call. Thirty-seven bloggers arguing over how to spend $187.63 (“Mom! Don’t turn the dryer on! I’m on a conference call!”) Or, as someone once described the Jerry Springer show: two women fighting over a man with one tooth.

But then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Liberals will donate thousands of dollars to Cherniak’s endeavour – out their own pockets. Cherniak used the phrase "paying the government" so I guess anything's possible. Only time will tell. I posted this comment on Cherniak’s blog:

You just can't help yourselves, can you?

Riddle me this: what's a Liberal without a slush fund? A New Democrat!

Finally, Cherniak’s comment about “the moment of no return” reminds me of this quote from Macbeth:

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.
--Macbeth, 3. 4.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

YWCA (soon to be an Oliver Stone movie)

Kudos to Joanne at Joanne's Journey, who has been hot on the trail of the YWCA data-fudgers, a la Jim Garrison.

Hitting a dead-end with the report's authors, Joanne had the moxie to call a CTV reporter and politely ask how she came to conclusion that the YWCA's flimsy child care "study" proves that "most" Canadians prefer government-run day care over a $100-a-month direct payment to parents. Interesting reading indeed.

The reporter's conduct cannot really be condemned, as she did what many reporters must do when pressed to report on a lengthy report they don't have time to read: she relied on the honesty of the report's authors.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Goldstein dissects YWCA daycare paper

I have still not gotten 'round to a detailed read of last week's so-called "study" released by YWCA Canada. But fortunately, Toronto Sun senior columnist Lorrie Goldstein has. Goldstein found that the report was gerrymandered from beginning to end:

This left-wing women's group which is virulently opposed to the Conservatives' child-care plan claimed its study showed, as The Canadian Press and others dutifully reported, that "Canadian families, irrespective of where they live or the size of their communities, want their child-care needs met by a nationally funded public system and not a federal cash payout."

Gee. Sounds like they conducted an independent national poll asking unbiased questions which found overwhelming support for a publicly-funded national daycare program, eh?

Uh ... no.
In fact, I've read their report, called "Building a Community Architecture For Early Childhood Learning and Care" and YWCA Canada did nothing of the sort.

What it did do was organize task forces of 20 to 30 people each, most of them already highly supportive of a state-funded daycare program, in four communities -- Halifax, Vancouver, Martensville, Sask. and Cambridge, Ont. These people then talked to other people sympathetic to a national daycare program and guess what? This report based on those reports advocates a national daycare program, which just happens to be the YWCA's long-held position as well. Amazing!

Read the whole column here.

Goldstein also notes that the paper was funded by the federal government through Social Development Canada back when the Liberals were in power.

I would add that the report's so-called "expert panel" included longtime government daycare shills Martha Friendly and Kerry McCuaig. Another member is Charles Pascal, executive director of the Atkinson Foundation, an outfit funded out of Toronto Star profits, that is no stranger to bogus public policy research (scroll down to the "Speaking Out" report).

The YWCA report is here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

CP24 response re ethics complaint

Yesterday, I received the following letter from CP24 Vice President and General Manager Stephen Hurlbut in response to my complaint about CP24 anchor David Onley. I am quite stunned by the rationalizations Hurlbut offers for one of his journalists taking a government appointment. I will be preparing a response and invite suggestions.

March 16, 2006

Dear Mrs. Tintor,

As the Vice President of News for Citytv and Vice President and General Manager of CP24 I will address your concerns.

Mr. Onley is indeed the Chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and the 3 to 4 non-paid days required for him to attend to his duties do not, in our view, constitute any breach of any code or constitute a breach of professional ethics. In fact, we are honoured and fully supportive that David has been asked to work on this very important initiative. CHUM Television and Citytv specifically has been a champion of all minority rights since we first went to air in Toronto and our support of David’s advisory role is consistent with our fundamentals. We believe it is important to recognize that the position is part-time and voluntary and while there is a small per diem of $225.00, Mr. Onley has asked that we direct this stipend to our corporate charity the CHUM Charitable Foundation.

Perhaps if we explain some of the background you may see Mr. Onley’s situation in a different light. The government has clearly explained to all members of the Advisory Council that they are not members of the government nor the Civil Service but rather they are volunteers positioned as experts in an advisory role only. When David and I were discussing the possibility of his accepting the position we were fully aware that the Ontario Disabilities Act was passed with unanimous support from all parties and had there been any issue of partisanship we would not be involved. While indeed the Advisory Council will present a report to the Cabinet Minister, it is representing the requests and enjoys the support of all members of the Legislature.

David Onley offers a very unique and valuable perspective. As I am sure you are aware, David has a disability; he had polio as a child. In his professional role as news anchor and reporter David, to the best of our knowledge, is the only full-time disabled newscaster in Canada. We believe that his level of visibility in his role as anchor/reporter has in itself been a positive statement. We believe that his simple TV presence and his level of consistent professionalism has made a difference and if his television work can draw greater attention to the work of the advisory board we support it totally.

Mrs. Tintor, we are vigilant in ensuring that our ethical lines remain in tact (sic) and that our role as journalists is not tainted by lending our resident expert David Onley to a non-partisan initiative. The work of the Advisory Board is important and our corporate responsibility is to help.

I do thank you for your letter and sincerely appreciate the concerns you raise and I invite you to call me directly should you wish to discuss this further.


Stephen Hurlbut
Vice President, News Programming – Citytv
Vice President & General Manager – CP24

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sorbara: Yes, I was the Gary Ewing of the family

After Greg Sorbara’s resignation in October, I blogged that his claim of non-involvement with the family real estate business was somewhat at odds with his self-description as a “successful businessman” when running in a 2001 by-election to return to the Ontario Legislature (see “Greg Sorbara: ‘successful businessman’ or Gary Ewing?).

On March 13, the Globe published this (subscription required), in a story about Sorbara’s attempt to have a court remove his name from RCMP warrants executed on his family’s business premises last fall:

Even though he received a salary of $40,000 a year from Sorbara Group, he said his older brothers, Edward and Joseph, made it clear "that I ought not to contemplate becoming involved in the management and direction of 'their' business," Mr. Sorbara says in the court document.

By the time he became president of the Ontario Liberal Party in 1999, he had sold off the baseball and carpet investments and began devoting most of his time to politics.

One so rarely gets a straight answer to the question, “were you lying then, or are you lying now?” I guess this settles it; he was lying then – when he was asking his neighbours for their vote in 2001.

New battle front opens up on Sorbara: pension fund sues over his Royal Group role

On the eve of Dwight "Spanky" Duncan's first budget as Ontario finance minister, Greg Sorbara’s road back to that job has just had another sinkhole appear, namely a $1-billion class action lawsuit against him and other Royal Group figures, stemming from his 10-year tenure as an independent director of the Woodbridge-based firm. The National Post reports:

Former Ontario finance minister Gregory Sorbara and company founder Vic De Zen are among eight former and current officials with Royal Group Technologies Ltd. named in a $1-billion class-action lawsuit filed in an Ontario court.

The Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan claims that Royal Group and the eight company officials were "oppressive" and "unfairly prejudicial" to shareholders because they failed to disclose a series of related-party transactions that ultimately triggered an ongoing criminal investigation.

"Mr. De Zen always viewed Royal Group as 'his' company, despite the massive amount of capital invested in the company by the plaintiff and many others," the claim alleges.

Mr. Sorbara and two other defendants, Ralph Brehn and Ronald Slaght, sat on the audit committee of Royal Group's board and should have exercised "heightened vigilance" in monitoring the company's actions, especially in light of Mr. De Zen's voting control. Mr. De Zen converted his multiple-voting shares to subordinate voting shares last June.

At least five U.S.-based law firms have filed new class actions in the U.S. federal court, seeking relief on behalf of U.S.-based shareholders only. Yesterday's filing marks the first shareholders' class action filed against Royal Group in a Canadian court.

The pension plan, based in Campbellville, Ont., bought shares of Royal Group between Feb. 26, 1998, and Oct. 18, 2004. It claims $700-million in actual damages plus $300-million in punitive damages because, among other things, the company and the executives named allegedly overstated financial results and failed to disclose investigations into related party transactions.

Also named as defendants are Gary Brown, a former director and chief financial officer; Dominic D'Amico, a founder and "significant shareholder" of the company; Douglas Dunsmuir, a former chief executive and director; and Ron Goegan, a former chief financial officer.

The Canadian Commercial Workers’ plan is not the only pension fund that may have been burned on their Royal Group holdings. As I blogged on October 17th (see “Sorbara’s Plea: Incompetent but Innocent”), other owners of Royal Group shares included the working stiffs who contribute to the Canada Pension Plan and Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (N.B. Royal Group's symbol is "RYG". CPP holdings are under "Mutual Fund Ownership" and Teachers’ holdings are under “Institutional Ownership” on the MSN site).

When the Ontario Securities Commission notified Royal Group of its investigation in December, 2003, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Pension Plan held about 750,000 shares, but no longer owns any shares.

Royal Group recently announced that it won't meet the March 29 deadline for reporting audited 2005 financial results, and may have to restate reports for previous periods.

The last we heard from Sorbara, he was denying that he leaked news of a TTC subway expansion to a local politician. Days before, he was trying to have his name removed from RCMP warrants executed at his family's business offices last fall in connection with the Royal Group matter. It's not clear how far this new suit will go, but having to defend this lawsuit at the same time he is trying to clear his name with the RCMP will likely add additional mental and financial burdens.

A few weeks ago I ran into a longtime Woodbridge resident of of Mr. Sorbara's generation. He was firmly of the view that Sorbara will not run again.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Failure to kvetch: StatsCan says parents mostly okay with adult kids at home

With the Sarah Jessica Parker-Matthew McConaughey rom-com Failure to Launch at number two in the box office, Statistics Canada has made a timely release of a 2001 study about parents living with at least one adult child at home. (People magazine says McConaughey is the Sexiest Man Alive, but, like most of their picks, he does nothing for me).

Some excerpts from StatsCan’s summary of the study:

The majority of parents living with at least one adult child at home expressed no sign of frustration about their living arrangements, according to a new study published today in Canadian Social Trends. But that does not mean there was perfect harmony in all these households.

Most parents agree that having children has made them happier people, and co-residence does not modify that opinion. On the contrary, parents living with at least one of their adult children were more likely to be very satisfied with the time they spent with their children.

However, the study did find that having children at home increased the frequency with which the parents report having arguments with their spouse over subjects such as money, chores and responsibilities, and the children.

Cultural factors were also associated with co-residence of parents and their adult children. Parents born in Asia and South or Central America were more likely to co-reside with their adult children than those born in Canada. This was especially the case for parents who had immigrated to Canada recently. For example, the probability that an Asian-born parent who came to Canada between 1980 and 2001 lived with at least one adult child was 82%.

Finally, parents who themselves had left home at a younger age were less likely to live with their adult children. Parents who left their own parents' house in their teens or early 20s may have provided an example for their own children or, alternatively, could have encouraged their children to leave home earlier.

This message brought to you by Promise Breaker McGuinty

Sunday night seems to be the night for premieres of new McGuinty government TV commercials. Two nights ago was the first time I had the pleasure of viewing their latest, a spot touting the benefits of English language training for immigrants. You don’t say. . .

Monday, March 20, 2006

“Dinner is now being served in the dining car …”

Is still one of my favourite sight gags from the Simpsons. It’s in the episode where Apu Nahasapeemapetilon gets fired from the Kwiki-Mart. Homer then accompanies Apu on a pilgrimage to the Kwiki-Mart HQ in India in an attempt to get his job back. (The episode also features the classic song “Who needs a Kwiki-Mart” and James Woods filling in at the store as research for a film role.)

Anyhow, I was reminded of that gag when I saw this photo at (hat tip: . In the Simpsons episode, the passengers hanging onto the side of the train start suffling forward – presumably toward the dining car – when the dinner announcement is made.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Go figure: government day care workers on strike

Did you know that day care workers are on strike in Montreal? No? Neither did I, until I read about it last week in William Watson’s column, buried on the last page of the Post’s business section. To be fair, they are only on strike for an hour a day, as Watson writes:

They don't show up for the first hour of the day. This is not to inconvenience parents, they insist, but to put pressure on the provincial government to pick up the pace on implementing a pay-equity settlement brought down last year by the tribunal that handles such things.

Of course, the only way to pressure the government is to inconvenience parents so they'll complain enough to government that it relents and uses (by and large) non-parents' money to pay for daycare. If the non-inconvenience of arriving one hour late doesn't work, they plan to start arriving two hours late -- until things become so non-inconvenient that the government caves. (In fairness, workers in the Laurentian region north of Montreal voted not to join in the pressure tactics. Good for them!)

It's a classic People's Republic of Quebec unholy trinity: public management of an important service, unions run amok, and pay equity. The union's view is that mainly female daycare workers who earn $19.55 an hour should actually be making $21.78 an hour. Why is that? Because men doing entirely different things are paid $21.78 an hour. It's a question of fairness, you see.

"But it's entirely different work," you say. How naive of you! It may not be exactly the same work. Actually, it may not be remotely similar work. But it is work ... of ... equal ... value.

You might think that the media in English Canada would throw some light on this, given: (1) it is less than two months after an election partially fought on the child care issue, (2) the Harper government has named their $100/month child care promise as one of their top five priorities, and (3) the other three parties in Parliament are holding fast to their dreams of a Quebec-style system for all.

My Google search suggests that this story has not broken outside of the Quebec media. Now why wouldn’t journalists want parents in Ontario to know what government day care looks like when it’s delivered by unionized workers? I simply can’t imagine . . .

Compare this radio silence to the wide coverage received today by a YWCA "study" that claims all families want a government day care system. The survey was based on chats with around 100 people, apparently drawn from the YWCA's own client groups, in four communities. A look at the study's "expert panel" reveals the usual big-government day care suspects, er, advocates: Martha Friendly and Kerry McCuaig. (I will read the full report and may be blogging further on it.)

A nice companion piece to this apparent non-story of the day care strike is last week's item about how two day care workers in Laval (that's also in Quebec) left an sleeping infant alone in a day care centre having locked up and gone home at 6:00 p.m. Amazingly, they were fired.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

McGuinty dons Promise Breaker mantle again

Journalists have started shining a harsh light on the McGuinty regime for their new crop of government-paid television advertising. Christina Blizzard is the first out of the gate, with a column in Wednesday’s Toronto Sun.

The award for the most money spent on government advertising during the recent Oscars broadcast? The envelope, please. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen: A round of applause for the Government of Ontario.

Yes, you lucky taxpayers. You and your hard-pressed tax dollars, were front and centre during the Academy Awards on March 5.

Remember their ads? You know, the cute one with the darling little baby selling the virtue of immunization and the government's new vaccines? And the one that tells us to quit smoking? Then there's the tourism ad that sells the virtue of visiting Ontario -- to Ontarians.

There were five 30-second spots in all. Two for tourism, two for health and one smoking cessation ad was for the Ministry of Health Promotion. The cost to air them on Oscar night was $44,000 per spot -- for a grand total of $220,000.

As Blizzard notes, among the most highly touted of the Liberals’ 200-plus election promises was this pledge: “We will implement the McGuinty bill to ban self-promotional government advertising and authorize the provincial auditor to review and approve all government advertising in advance.” This promise grew out of the Liberals’ moral (cough) indignation at the Harris government using government-paid TV ads to tout, among other things, their education reforms and health care spending.

According to the Liberals, the auditor approved the McGuinty government ads, leading to the reasonable conclusion that the Harris ads would also have passed muster, as they were no more “partisan” than the Liberals’: they, too, promoted government initiatives, not members of the government or the PC party.

I remember an occasion during the Harris years, when one of Harris’s top strategists mentioned that some of the PC MPPs expressed discomfort with the government-paid ads. His response to the MPPs was “We can stop them, but it would be like cutting off your oxygen.” Looks like the McGuintyites have come to the same conclusion. But I would argue that their hypocrisy, after having explicitly run against the concept of government advertising, sets them apart from the conservatives.

The tally of McGuinty broken promises is now somewhere north of 50.

As I have noted elsewhere (see "Reflections on the Revolution"), many of the Common Sense Revolution’s themes and policies have survived the conservatives’ defeat, but the next big test will be the October 2007 general election. Then we will find out if it is important for a government to fulfill the platform it ran on, or whether other issues will rate higher in voters’ minds.

Among the journalists most critical of the Harris ads was The Toronto Star’s Queen’s Park columnist Ian Urquhart. He is off this week, but look for him to weigh in on this issue soon.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Broadcast Council response to complaint re McGuinty appointee

Yesterday I received the following e-mail from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, in response to my complaint about news channel CP24. The complaint is detailed in my February 20th post, "Conflict of Interest Complaint re McGuinty Appointee." My e-mail in response to the CBSC is also below.

Dear Mrs. (sic) Tintor,

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) has received your correspondence concerning news anchor David Onley which is broadcast on CityPULSE 24.

Please note that the CBSC is unable to deal with the December 6th interview (since broadcasters are only required to hold copies of the logger tapes for a period of 28 days following the broadcast).?However, we will be dealing with the February 7th broadcast.

Therefore, by copy of this email, we are asking CityPULSE 24 to respond to the concerns you have raised and to hold a copy of the logger tape of the broadcast which concerned you. This is always the first step taken by the CBSC in pursuing a complaint. You should know that broadcasters who are members of the CBSC take their responsibility to respond to audience concerns very seriously. The dialogue between broadcasters and members of their audience is a cornerstone of the CBSC's complaints resolution process. Concerns are often resolved satisfactorily through this dialogue phase. We hope that the response you will receive from CityPULSE 24 within the next 21 days will resolve the issues you have raised to your satisfaction. If, however, after you have received and carefully considered the broadcaster's response you remain concerned, you may request a Ruling by a CBSC Panel by filing the form available on our website at You should do so within 14 days of receiving the broadcaster's response. More information on the CBSC complaints process is available on our website in the FAQ section (

The CBSC is a national voluntary self-regulatory organization created by Canada's private broadcasters to deal with complaints made by viewers or listeners about programs which they have seen or heard broadcast on a member station.?The CBSC administers four industry codes, namely a code of ethics, a code concerning television violence, a code concerning sex-role stereotyping and a code of journalistic ethics, which set out the guidelines for television and radio programming.


Nicole Lafrance
CBSC Correspondence Officer


From : joan tintor
Sent : March 8, 2006 8:01:28 PM
To :
Subject : RE: Your complaint concerning conflict of interest (CBSC File C05/06-1200)

Thank you for your response to my complaint.

I would like to reiterate that the substance of my complaint is not any particular broadcast or interview in which Mr. Onley participated or may participate in in the future, but the continuing conflict that arises from his being a political appointee of the Ontario government at the same time that he is an anchor who reports news and interviews public figures.

Thank you for dealing with my complaint and I look forward to CP24's response.

Joan Tintor

Saturday, March 04, 2006

1st Lt. Garrison on the state of democracy in Iraq

Note: 1st Lieutenant Micah J. Garrison has been serving in Iraq for ten months. He and his unit hope to be home by the end of May.

I've had quite a few people ask my feelings about the state of the Iraqi government, are things really close to a civil war following the mosque bombing from a couple of weeks ago, questions like that. I've decided to try to put things into perspective a little, but of course, these are some of my own opinions and ideas on the state of politics in Iraq.

Things really don't seem that different on our end, on patrol working with the Iraqi people, following the mosque bombing and continued violence. Violence has been a part of the Iraqi way of life for many years, and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an end in sight any time soon. There will always be bad Iraqis, just like there will always be bad Americans. Unfortunately the bad people here use elevated forms of violence in the forms of suicide bombers, car bombers, drive by shootings, and other types of violence that we aren't accustomed to as Americans. Many of the insurgents we’ve captured weren’t shooting at us or putting in IEDs because they don’t like Americans, but because it’s the easiest way for them to make money, as they get paid large sums of money to carry out attacks. A lot of non-Iraqi insurgents have also been captured who are here for no other reason other than to promote and cause violence because they don’t want to see democracy succeed.

The level of violence and death these people have had to endure is difficult to comprehend. Every Iraqi has had someone they cared about killed due to violent conflict during the last 25 years. Look at the numbers. During the Iran/Iraq War of 1980-1988, an estimated 450,000 - 950,000 Iraqi military deaths. This number doesn't include the countless civilian deaths. During the Gulf War of 1990-1991 an estimated 25,000 - 100,000 military casualties were suffered. And we don't even have clear numbers for the latest invasion. These people have been in a constant state of war and turmoil for most of the last 25 years. It has sadly become part of their culture.

Many of the older Iraqis we have encountered don't really seem to grasp the opportunity they now have as free Iraqis. I remember talking to one tribal chief and he kept saying, “What can I do” or “I can do nothing” when I kept asking for information on insurgents and why he wasn't leading his people to support and embrace democracy. Here I was trying to explain to a guy 2 or 3 times older than me what he should be doing as a leader and what freedom truly meant and how his people looked to him for guidance because people want to be led. I was extremely frustrated about this encounter until I reflected later that he didn't know what freedom was. He hadn't grown up in a free society, nor did he understand that democracy is what the people make it.

On the other hand, most of the younger Iraqis (late teens to 30s) seem to truly grasp the idea of democracy and understand some of what lies before them. They seem more willing to work with us and take the initiative to make their country better. I think this is due not only to the "exuberance of youth" but also to the fact that they haven't been oppressed for as long as the older Iraqis have been and haven't seen or experienced as much violent government action. If they can keep things together long enough for the younger generations to grow up in a free society I think they have a good chance of making it work. When we go on patrol the kids love to see us and wave and smile but in some cases the adults don't really care for us. Why? Because the adults have seen and experienced the war first hand for most of their lives and don't really know what to expect from democracy.

Of course, there people back home that say things like: what about the corruption in the Iraqi government, Army, or police, or, why is it taking them so long to form a government, or, if Saddam was so bad then why do some Iraqis wish he was still in power. I think many questions like this would be easily answered if people would try to be empathetic with the experiences of the Iraqi people and also look at things from a historical perspective. First, there is corruption in some shape or form in just about every type of government in the world. Unfortunately things here are just under a microscope. As the saying goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Iraqi government is just going through the same growing pains every other newly formed government has gone through. After the fall of communism in the former USSR corruption was rampant, but over the years a more stable government has slowly evolved.

I also think that most people don't seem to understand that you can't just snap your fingers, form a new government, and have everything work like you want. Take the timeline for the formation of our own government for example. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776. The Articles of Confederation were proposed on November 15, 1777, but weren't ratified until March 1, 1781. The Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784, but the final draft of the Constitution wasn't sent to Congress until September 17, 1787, wasn't ratified until June 21, 1788, and didn't take effect until March 4, 1789. It took 13 years for the fledgling American colonies to draft a document uniting them under one federal government. I admit that the American situation and the Iraqi situation are quite different, but I hope my example makes sense. For a nation to try and develop and implement a form of government it has never experienced before while at the same time trying to govern and fight an insurgency is an extremely difficult and trying process. To be honest with you I'm somewhat surprised they've done as good a job as they have.

I'll use one more example to respond to some of those people who want to know why some Iraqis wish Saddam was still power. I think that is easily explained by human nature. Humans tend to want to do whatever is comfortable or to leave things as the status quo. That is why it is so difficult to change the status quo, especially when it comes to government. People may not always like the results of what they currently have, but there isn't that scary "unknown" or "what if" factor if they were to pursue political change. Humans are also inherently lazy when it comes to self-rule and are more willing to accept inconveniences if it means they don't have to face unknown fears or put their own hard work into changing things. I think history also proves this point. Any time a group of people undergoes significant change as a society there will always be those who wish things could go back to the way they were. Why? Because they knew what to expect. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt some wanted to go back. During the Revolutionary War there were many colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown and sided with the British. Following the reunification of Germany I remember reading articles about how some Germans (both East and West) wished they were still separated. Following the fall of Communism in the former USSR there were many people who longed for the return of Communism because of the rampant corruption in the newly formed Russian Government.

I'm also somewhat frustrated because it seems that many news agencies, politicians, and other foreign governments either expect or hope the democracy project in Iraq will fail and I'm not really sure why. Having grown up in America and having been blessed with the freedoms we have, I wish people of other nations could have the freedoms and quality of life that we enjoy.

I hope these examples answer the questions that some of you have asked. Again, what I've discussed here is strictly my own opinions. I wish I had more time to cite more examples and give better explanations of what I see happening here, but spare time is limited for me. I also realize that some of my arguments are somewhat elementary in scope, but it’s the best I could to with the time I have.

We should only have about 8 weeks left here, but we still don't know an exact date. I look forward to seeing all of you when I return home. Thanks again for your continued support. Micah.

1LT Micah J. Garrison
HHC TF 2-130 Infantry
Recon Platoon
APO AE 09381

Thursday, March 02, 2006

TO Star holds out football for Kennedy to kick – again

Even before Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy entered the Legislature after a May 1996 by-election, The Toronto Star was already boosting the food bank director and political neophyte as a potential replacement for Lyn McLeod. The story reporting his by-election win in Bob Rae’s former riding of York South noted that the victory was “expected to launch his campaign to become provincial party leader.” (An interesting footnote is that the NDP candidate was then-Toronto councillor and future mayor David Miller. The PC candidate was City of York councillor Rob Davis.)

Barely a month after his election, a glowing profile of Kennedy, entitled “The Rookie” appeared on page 1 of the Star’s Life section. Three weeks later, Kennedy was a declared candidate. Despite his scanty experience, Kennedy garnered the support of heavy hitters such as long-time MPP Gerry Phillips and Peterson-era finance minister Bob Nixon.

Kennedy enjoyed a paper lead after the delegate selection meetings, having elected the most delegates committed to vote for him on first ballot. A week before the November 30 vote, the Star endorsed Kennedy in an editorial: “Kennedy also possesses – unlike the outgoing leader, the sincere but plodding Lyn McLeod – the vision and the charisma so essential to winning an election. He has a proven ability to attract and inspire people of differing backgrounds to a public cause.”

But three days before the vote, a story appeared on page 11 of the Star, titled “Liberal camps gang up in bid to stop Kennedy: Question loyalty of frontrunner in leadership race.” Queen’s Park bureau chief William Walker reported that “top candidates for leader of Ontario's Liberal party appear to be ganging up on frontrunner Gerard Kennedy in a last-ditch attempt to block a victory by the 36-year-old rookie MPP.”

Then on the day of the vote, a bombshell: a front-page Star story entitled “Frontrunner Kennedy target of surprise attack: Letter from executive of own riding urges Liberal delegates not to back him.” The story reported that Kennedy was the target of a scathing attack from members of his own York South Liberal riding association executive. The executive had distributed more than 1,000 letters to delegates on the convention floor the previous night, urging them not to vote for Kennedy.

Despite last-ballot support from Dwight Duncan – who enjoyed the support of a gaggle of MPPs – Kennedy was edged out by Dalton McGuinty, who enjoyed the support of Tony Ruprecht (and had placed fourth on the first ballot). Due to incompetence on the part of vote organizers, the final ballot was not announced until approximately 4:00 a.m.

Now the Star is boosting a Kennedy candidacy again, this time for federal Liberal leader. On Wednesday, in a story entitled “Liberals eye education minister,” Queen’s Park columnist Ian Urquhart reported that:

Kennedy acknowledged today that he’s spoken privately with supporters about entering the federal Liberal leadership race but said he isn’t making any plans to do so — yet. “People have approached me; I’ve been respectful,” Kennedy said before a cabinet meeting at the Ontario legislature.

Again, Kennedy is being touted by a cabal of heavy hitters, reportedly Senator Terry Mercer, a former national director of the federal Liberals, community activist June Callwood, and writer-philosopher Mary Jo Leddy.

Will Kennedy come running for the Star football again? Or has he learned through bitter experience not to get high on the ink of his Star clippings? Only time will tell.