Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Academia misfires again

Political correctness finally shuts down U of T rifle range

The only athletic trophies I earned in my adult life were courtesy of the Hart House rifle range, which I discovered as a frosh at U of T many years ago. I won’t tell you how many years, but suffice to say that some shooters liked to relax between targets by smoking – indoors – a few yards back from the three firing positions.

After several threats to do so, U of T has finally managed to shut down the facility. University assistant vice-president Rob Steiner gave the official spin:

“It was generally felt that the presence of a gun range on campus 80 years ago might have been consistent with our academic values ... in the last 10 years those values started to deviate.

“This is really a values issue. This is not a safety issue as strictly defined. If there had been a safety concern it would have been shut down right away.”

He said the decision can not be appealed.

The university said that Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs, which have produced a number of international competitors, including at least one Olympian, will have to shut its doors on Sept. 30.
--National Post, today

In my day, the range attracted a varied cast of characters, many of whom were alumni, post-graduates and never-graduates. The ones I met included a palaeontologist, a guy who was fluent in Russian, a guy who worked for Canada Post and his criminology-student girlfriend, a guy training to be a minister (Presbyterian, I think), and a hilarious Chinese guy with a massive handgun collection that included 18 stainless steel revolvers.

But the fun was not confined to the U of T range. Somehow, I managed to get onto the University of Toronto rifle team. We participated in a couple of tournaments at Fort York. We got to go to a tournament in Quebec, where I distinguished myself by shooting into the target of the guy next to me (it was a longer range than I was used to), yet still managed to win a ladies’ medal. Deciding I hadn’t caused enough trouble, I got into an altercation with an official over the placement of a red “L” by my name on the scoreboard (indicating my status as a lady contestant) because I thought there would be no gender distinctions in shooting. When I joined the campus Tories in my second year, my interest in shooting faded, though I did hold onto my Firearms Acquisition Certificate for 10 years.

Naturally, the closing is being lamented by those associated with the club:

But those who shoot at the clubs say it’s absurd to shutter a safe and popular facility just to be politically correct.

“Ordinarily when a licence gets revoked there is a reason, but in this case there was no reason,” said Kris Coward, a doctoral candidate in mathematics, and a member of the clubs for the past four years.

“It was politically incorrect to have a club on campus.”

He said security at the range is very tight, and club members are required to take a safety course before they can fire a round.

“We still have liquid nitrogen on campus, are they going to get rid of that?”

Avianna Chao recently won a gold medal at the Pan American Games and is vying for a spot on the 2008 Olympic team.

She has competed at the clubs and said closing the facility will hurt the students.

“It’s a good facility, it’s affordable. It’s in a very controlled environment. We were actually looking to set up a junior program at U of T. We thought it would be a great place for developing future athletes.”
--National Post, today

Ironically, Hart House holds a well-attended Remembrance Day service every year, just above ground of the range where many of the fallen were trained in riflery.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More bad economic news from Dalton McGuinty

Ontario posts second-lowest increase in weekly wages

Today, Statistics Canada reports via The Daily on the average weekly earnings of payroll employees. In absolute weekly earnings, Ontario is second only to Alberta ($798.45 and $818.87, respectively). But in terms of growth over the last year (May 2006 to May 2007), Ontario is second last.

The year-to-year increase in average weekly earnings for all of Canada was 2.9%. The only province that did worse than Ontario’s 2.4% increase was British Columbia, at 2.1%.

Yes, even the Atlantic provinces beat Ontario, with increases ranging from 2.8% (Nova Scotia) to 5.1% (Prince Edward Island). This adds an ironic twist to the gaffe of Thornhill Liberal MPP Mario Racco, who last year embarrassed McGuinty just prior to a premiers’ meeting with this outburst:

“Tell me something, what’s the economic status of the Maritimes? Are they ‘have’ provinces or ‘have-not’ provinces? How is their economy doing? Why is it that Ontario has been doing much better than them?”
--Toronto Star, July 19, 2006

Coincidentally, today’s Daily also includes a report on canola processing, entitled “Crushing Statistics.” Indeed. Here are few more, from a column last week by the Toronto Star’s Ian Urquhart:

Rising along with interest rates and the Canadian dollar are concerns at Queen's Park about the impact on the Ontario economy.

Once the "fat cat" of Confederation – and still considered that in the rest of Canada – Ontario is now looking more scrawny than plump.

In an historic first, the province's unemployment rate has been higher than the national average for six straight months this year and now stands at 6.5 per cent, compared to 6.1 per cent nationally.

Alberta, the real fat cat, is faring best with an unemployment rate of just 3.8 per cent.

Even Quebec is gaining ground, with an unemployment rate now just four-tenths of a percentage point higher than Ontario's. (The spread between the two provinces last year was four times wider.)

And in another historical first, Montreal now has a lower unemployment rate than Toronto (6.5 per cent compared to 6.9 per cent).
--Toronto Star, July 20, 2007

The McGuinty Fiberals ran their last election, and their administration, on health care and education, perhaps assuming that Ontario’s strong economy could be taken for granted. This is a classic Liberal mistake, also made by the last Liberal premier, David Peterson.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nobody’s Baker

Maybe this is why Premier Pinocchio’s female MPPs are quitting . . .

Well, I don’t break my rule against mentioning WK lightly, but seeing as I recently wrote about the exodus of MPPs from McGuinty’s caucus (especially women), the tie-in is obvious. Many on the blogroll have already opined on this; I encourage you to check out their posts, as well as that of WK nemesis Mark Bourrie. (Full disclosure: I help out the Ontario PCs from time to time.)

I just caught Sheila “Nobody’s Baby” Copps giving a spirited defence of her pal Kinsella on Hamilton’s CH Live @ 5:30 (he was legally registered to vote in her Hamilton riding for her ill-fated 2004 nomination showdown with Tony Valeri). The show is replayed at 11:30 p.m., for those who are interested.

For another hairline-raising story of war room tactics gone wrong, check out today’s Wall Street Journal editorial, about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s communications aide Darren Dopp’s intricate set-up of State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Host is Right

Conservative* actor/writer Drew Carey to be new “Price is Right” host

I guess this is why Carey was booked to be on Letterman tonight. Carey is also a former Marine who has performed for American forces in Iraq.

I wasn’t a fan of his recent TV outing, the improv show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” but I love “The Drew Carey Show,” which ran from 1995 to 2004. Sadly, the syndicated reruns do not seem to be airing in the Toronto area at the moment.

*Carey has also described himself as a libertarian, which he explains is a conservative who still gets high, or words to that effect (I am going from memory).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

John Lovitz on his quasi-smackdown with Andy Dick

Includes backstory of when they worked together on "NewsRadio"
If you follow the entertainment media, you may have seen some stories about a supposed fight between comedians John Lovitz and Andy Dick. Lovitz gave his version of events on the Dennis Miller radio show yesterday (scroll down to the “Audio Highlight: John Lovitz vs. Andy Dick”).

A few months ago, Dick made a notorious appearance on my favourite late night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, during which he had to be physically removed from the set for continually touching Ivanka Trump.

By the way, I recommend Miller’s daily radio show, which went on the air in March. He gets excellent guests, including Mark Steyn, who seems to be on every other week or so (and, coincidentally, is on today). An audio file of the day’s show is available online as of 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. Previous shows are also archived.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Another female MPP abandons Premier Pinocchio

From the Toronto Star:

Yet another Liberal MPP is calling it quits from Premier Dalton McGuinty's team.

Judy Marsales (Hamilton West) will announce at a riding association meeting on July 25 that she is not seeking re-election, the Star has learned.

"She wanted to come here to make a difference and she feels she has, but now she's going to be cheerleading for Hamilton from the sidelines," a source close to the first-term MPP said yesterday.

Marsales, 55, who runs Hamilton's largest independent real estate business with 45 salespeople and a third office opening in September, is said to be tired of the daily commute to Toronto and tedious night sittings at the Legislature.

Marsales was first elected in 2003.

See below for yesterday’s posts on the exodus of Fiberal members.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

If McGuinty is sailing to re-election, why are so many of his crew abandoning ship?

Chambers the latest to dive off Premier Pinocchio’s poop deck

Fiberal retention rate compares poorly to that of Harris (and even Eves)

There are some who believe that the 50-plus broken promises of the McGuinty Fiberals have now faded into the mists of time, and that another majority is his for the taking come October 10th.

Well, that’s one theory. It is a theory, however, that does not seem to have penetrated the plaster of the government caucus room, judging by the steady stream of Liberal MPPs who, for one reason or another, have chosen not to run on the Promise Breaker ticket come Labour Day.

The latest overboard is first-time MPP and children’s minister Mary Anne Chambers, who will not seek re-election in Scarborough Guildwood, where the Progressive Conservative candidate is former Toronto Police staff superintendent Gary Grant. (Full disclosure: I help out the Ontario PCs from time to time.)

Chambers has offered illness as the reason for her retirement. “I don’t really want to go into the details. I’m not dying or anything like that,” she told the Toronto Star. “I really have to slow down and pay attention to my health. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.”

Since the McGuinty government’s election four years ago, there has been a steady exodus from the Liberal caucus, whether by outright resignation, or retirement as of the general election. The exodus is not only heavier than during the comparable period of the Harris government, but even heavier than occurred among PC MPPs during the PC government’s second term.

Economic development minister Joe Cordiano quit. Markham MPP Tony Wong, frustrated at having been left out of cabinet, quit to run for Markham council.

Gerard Kennedy left to run for the federal Liberal leadership and will run federally in the next general election. Mississauga MPP Tim Peterson quit to sit as an independent and will run as a PC in October. Ernie Parsons and Richard Patten are also retiring.

Then there are the ladies: democratic renewal minister Marie Bountrogianni, Hamilton MPP Jennifer Mossop, and the aforementioned Chambers. Bountrogianni and Mossop have both said they want to spend more time with their kids.

The Fiberals have also lost three seats to the NDP in by-elections: Hamilton East, Parkdale-High Park and York South-Weston, though the Hamilton East by-election was precipitated by the untimely death of Dominic Agostino in the fall of 2003. (Over their eight years in office, the PCs lost only two PC seats in by-elections.)

How does McGuinty’s retention rate compare with those of the previous PC leaders? Well, during Mike Harris’s first term (1995-1999), there were no PC resignations (though there were five by-elections that resulted from Liberal and NDP resignations).

The only PC incumbents who didn’t run again in the general election of 1999 were, if I’m not mistaken, Toronto cabinet minister Al Leach and Brantford MPP Ron Johnson. We did lose some MPPs through nomination races between incumbents (the Legislature was being reduced from 130 seats to 103 in the next general election, in accordance with a – gasp – election promise) and of course some incumbents were defeated in the 1999 general election. Though we did pick up about half a dozen new MPPs.

In 2000, Hamilton-area MPP Toni Skarica quit over the amalgamation of Hamilton (which amalgamation the Fiberals have not reversed) and his seat was lost to the Liberals. Ernie Eves announced his retirement in early 2001 but the PCs retained his seat in a by-election. Al Palladini died suddenly in 2001 and the by-election to replace him gave the seat to the Liberals (Greg Sorbara). Mike Harris retired in 2002 and his seat was (barely) retained by the PCs in a by-election. David Tilson resigned to make way for new leader Ernie Eves, who won Tilson’s seat in a by-election.

Approaching the 2003 general election, Oakville MPP Gary Carr decided not to run again, because he had a hockey coaching gig in the UK (which ultimately didn’t pan out). But by this time he hardly counted as a PC MPP because (1) he was Speaker and (2) he had publicly attacked the government.

Cabinet minister Chris Hodgson announced he was not running again, but his seat was retained by the PCs in the general election. Former cabinet minister John Snobelen, who had been spending a great deal of time away from the Legislature, announced he would not run again in early 2003. His seat was lost in the general election. Energy minister Chris Stockwell announced he would not run again, after criticism of his travel expenses. Etobicoke MPP John Hastings decided not to run again (both Stockwell’s and Hastings’s seats went to the Liberals). All four were MPPs who had served at least two terms.

So, to sum up, during the first PC mandate, no PC MPPs quit. Heading into the 1999 election, two PC MPPs declined to run again. During the second PC mandate, two PC MPPs quit (Harris and Skarica); Eves quit but returned, and Tilson only quit to make way for Eves to come back. Going into the 2003 election, four PC MPPs (not including Carr) declined to stand for re-election.

During McGuinty's first term, four of his MPPs quit (Cordiano, Wong, Kennedy and Peterson). Going into the 2007 election, five Liberal incumbents would rather not stand for McGuinty again. So far. Perhaps the prospect of being the turkey at the McGuinty family Thanksgiving table is an unappetizing one.

McGuinty losing women, Tory gaining

Bonus fact: PCs have run women in all but two by-elections since 2003, Fiberals have done the reverse

Women who’ve quit Premier Pinocchio’s caucus since 2003:

Marie Bountrogianni
Jennifer Mossop
Mary Anne Chambers

Women who’ve joined John Tory’s caucus since 2003:

Christine Elliott
Lisa MacLeod
Joyce Savoline

The PCs also ran women candidates in every by-election except Tory’s own and in Parkdale-High Park. The Liberals have the reverse record: running a man in all but two by-elections. Just FYI.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On quoting poetry, the Globe blows

Did headline writers make common mistake in referencing "In Flanders Fields?"

The Globe and Mail's headline writers have titled Jeffrey Simpson's column today, "In Afghan fields the poppies grow between the crosses, row on row," obviously intending to reference the opening lines of "In Flanders Fields."

But they are lines in which the word "grow" is often incorrectly substituted for "blow." Here is the correct text, courtesy of the Royal Canadian Legion website:


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Of course it could be argued that "grow" fits better with Simpson's topic, the continued poppy trade in Afghanistan, but unfortunately the headline perpetuates an all-too-common error in quoting what is probably the best-known poem in Canadian history.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Too late to make McGuinty appealing

(And by the way, Oak Ridges is two words, dumb dumbs)

I see that the McGuinty Fiberals have launched a website aimed at making Premier Pinocchio more likeable, www.Dalton.ca.

Their first mistake, of course, is drawing any attention whatsoever to the persona of the increasingly Christopher Walkenesque McGuinty. As a friend of mine has often observed, you rarely see McGuinty in the media. No doubt this has been by design.

But, as the Fiberals have by now realized, there’s no hiding your leader during an election. No doubt compounding their stress is the problem that Ontario PC leader John Tory apparently has very high name recognition and positives. As Robert Fisher is wont to say: more bad news for Dalton McGuinty.

So, what to do? Hello, makeover!! But what can you do with 6’4” of shoulder-challenged Wonder Bread? Well, check out the website and judge for yourself. But here’s my take.

There are videos under the tab “Dalton Unplugged.” Wow, unplugged. Now there’s an up-to-the-minute concept. Now, when did that (American, natch) MTV Unplugged thing start? Oh yeah: 1989.

Under "Black and White" McGuinty tries to spin his way around his broken promises, such as the 6,600 homes he promised to stop on the Oak Ridges Moraine and didn't. Except the Fiberals spell it “Oakridges.” (“Yeah, that place where we said we were going to stop the developers, what’s it called?” “Ask Sorbara, dude – he knows all the developers.”)

Another video takes an oblique shot at John Tory and Howard Hampton, by way of the contrived question “Do you [McGuinty], John [Tory] and Howard [Hampton] ever grab a beer together after question period?” McGuinty says no, implying that Tory and Hampton fail the cliched leader-beer test. He neglects to mention, however, that he does not drink, so the question is dishonest to begin with. Personally, I think McGuinty would be afraid to be in a bar with Hampton. Howie looks like he might accidentally break McGuinty’s arm after a night of drinking.

Under “Dalton + Terri Unplugged” McGuinty and his wife relate how they first met. It was supposedly near the “Y” gym they were obliged to use when they were high school students. Unfortunately, this is at odds with a previous tale they have related of their first meeting, which had something to do with one of them borrowing a quarter from the other in the lunchroom. (I am trying to run down the article.)

What can you say about a man who can’t even keep the story about how he met his wife straight? It reminds me of the John Edwards/John Kerry anecdote from Bob Shrum’s book that’s been making the rounds, wherein Edwards tells Kerry about how he climbed on top of his son’s dead body at the funeral home, stressing that he had never told anyone this before. Only he had. To Kerry. Two years before.

Anyhow, moving on. The site includes a PDF of something the Fiberals call “The Record,” a listing of their purported achievements. Unfortunately, they choose to lead with their chin. The first page bears a large graph showing that they have fallen short of their class size target by 35%, despite massive increases in education spending.

And get a load of this whopper on page 8: “We prevented Sharia Law from threatening the rights of Ontario women. We passed legislation to make sure one law applies to all Ontarians.” Actually, it was the McGuinty government that came thisclose to subjecting Ontario’s Muslim women to Sharia justice in the first place. His government commissioned former NDP attorney general Marion Boyd to write a report on allowing Muslims to resolve disputes through their religious tribunals under the authority of the Arbitrations Act, as other faiths were already allowed to do. It was thanks primarily to vocal opposition from the public and some Muslims that prevented the change, not any leadership on the Fiberals’ part. (And how did those other religions get their religious tribunals recognized in the first place? Thanks to Peterson-era A-G Ian Scott, who recommended it, and the NDP government, who made it law.)

Here’s another claim from page 8 that doesn’t pass the laugh test:

Our $51 million guns and gangs strategy includes a new provincial operations centre that brings new police, crowns and enforcement resources under one roof to fight gang violence.

Unfortunately, there was no evidence of this “strategy” or “operations centre” in the recent Project Kryptic gang/drug busts in Toronto. This week the crown attorney was ordered to pay $2,000 to each of 9 accused who waited more than two weeks for their bail hearings. Some roof.

And look here on page 10: “We are the only party that remains committed to phasing out all of Ontario's dirty coal plants.” Now it takes some kind of chutzpah to put that in. McGuinty famously promised prior to and during the 2003 election to close all of Ontario’s coal-fired plants by, er, 2007. Then they promised they would close them all by 2009. Now they’re pinky-swearing they will close them by 2014. As Bill Clinton might say, “it all depends what you mean by the word ‘committed.’”

Anyhow, despite the Clintonesque brazenness of the site's untruths, they will probably have little effect. People's impressions of McGuinty are pretty well formed, which is why we have seen so little of him until now.