Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Georgian Bay, December 25

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Cold but Enthusiastic Rally for Canada

Photos from the Toronto rally

The crowd braves the below zero winds at Queen's Park

There were some great signs . . .

. . . and T-shirts

MPP Tim Hudak (right) was among the rally speakers. Also speaking were Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) Peter Kent, MP Rick Dykstra, Ontario PC leader John Tory, MPP Frank Klees, Toronto councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong and Toronto Catholic trustee Rob Davis.

Conservative candidates Stella Ambler (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) and Theresa Rodrigues (Davenport)

Some young democrats

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tales from the Crypt

The unelected undead plot (no pun intended) a coup

Mr. Chrétien was upset that legislation he introduced was being undone. And so the two men, who sat across the aisle of the House of Commons from one another for more than 30 years and battled each other in the chamber, talked it out.

“What do we do?” was one question they mulled over question, according to an inside source.

“If we decide to bring down the government is it by [forming a] coalition [government]” was another question they pondered.

Mr. Broadbent and Mr. Chrétien spoke several times on Thursday, but did not meet face to face. They were not tasked to negotiate a coalition but rather to with looking at the situation “from a higher level” to see where common ground might be found, according to a senior New Democrat.

The two men kept in touch with their camps, passing along their recommendations and advice.

As of late Friday, Mr. Chrétien had not spoken to Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Rather, the former prime minister, who was on his phone all day at his office, spoke to senior Dion staff [Joan: what staff?].
--"Ghosts of leaders past return for a political longshot," Globe and Mail, today

I caught some of the Hill scrums late yesterday afternoon. Liberals Scott Brison and John McCallum were at one mic talking over each other in front of a crush of reporters. How can a caucus that can't organize a two-man newser run a government? I hope we won't have to find out.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Some people can’t take a hint . . .

Last Sunday, I tagged along with [Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada leader Liz] White as she canvassed in St. Jamestown, the apartment towers that rise above neighbouring Cabbagetown. This is one her strongholds, she jokes, where she received many of the 100 signatures necessary to run. She shows up with a backpack full of flyers, and recounts how the day before, while canvassing, she found an injured baby squirrel. She picked it up--it bit her four times --and put it in her backpack and biked down to the Humane Society to drop it off. This was after she had unsuccessfully chased after another hurt squirrel.
--“Who Are You Calling Fringe?,” Mark Medley, Toronto Magazine, National Post, October 11

Well, you can't accuse White of not knowing what her priorities are.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did Wells decline to put his name forward for the Supreme nod?

Well, in the all the election fooferaw I missed this:

[Newfoundland justice minister Jerome] Kennedy says he put forward three names and all three did not want their names listed. He says upon further consultation, the names of Justice Leo Barry and Justice Malcolm Rowe were put forward.
--VOCM Radio, September 6

Over the weekend, [fisheries minister Loyola] Hearn attempted to quell anger in his home province by saying: “Why didn’t Newfoundland get the Supreme Court judge? Because at least two of the top people didn’t want it.”
--Globe and Mail, September 10

So it’s possible that Clyde Wells was among those approached by the province’s justice minster, and declined to allow his name to go forward.

Why? Maybe his age (he's over 70 -- Supreme Court justices must retire at 75). Perhaps he didn't feel he had the energy for the gig. Perhaps he thought the Harper government would never name him (for the reason I suggested in my earlier post). Perhaps he didn't want to submit to the questioning of MPs. We may never know.

Good news for all you Heather Mallick fans!

Teaching column-writing course at U of T

I notice that there has been some spirited commentary on the BT blog roll lately about the English stylings of ex-Toronto Sun, ex-Globe columnist Heather Mallick.

Well, try to stand erect and lissen up, fellow knuckle-draggers! Thanks to the magnanimity of her ladyship -- or the continuing decline of the media industry -- now we low foreheads have an opportunity to learn how to write just like her, and at a bargain price to boot:

The U of T offers a shiny new course this fall called How To Write A Column.

The outline: “Good column-writing is rare, and it isn’t easy.”

(Oh, baby.)

“Find your distinct voice and style, and write in a clear, persuasive way.”

(Damn straight.)

“You will be asked to write and polish one column per week.”


The prof is Heather Mallick, one of the finest writers I know, and I’m sure it’s worth every bit of $569 for the term.
--Mike Strobel, Toronto Sun, September 5

Sadly, I will not be participating, as I paid well in excess of that for my Ryerson journalism degree – and look where I ended up. But there's still hope for you young guys. So go forth and divide. Starting October 6th.

But seriously, those of you who think Mallick deserves to go to hell, take it from me: teaching retirees with $569 to blow will seem like hell for someone of her towering self-regard.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Now THIS is plagiarism!

I caught Susan Ormiston’s “Ormiston Online” on CBC's The National earlier. Congrats to Steve Janke for his mention, but I thought the last video – a lame re-subtitling of a clip from the film "Downfall" intended to make Stepher Harper look like Hitler – looked strangely familiar . . .

(See below. This wasn't picked up by the BT aggregator for some reason . . .)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Now THIS is plagiarism!

Liberal uses same clip from "Downfall" that was used in Hillary Clinton YouTube

I caught Susan Ormiston’s “Ormiston Online” on CBC's The National just now. Congrats to Steve Janke for his mention, but I thought the last video – a lame re-subtitling of a clip from the film "Downfall" intended to make Stepher Harper look like Hitler – looked strangely familiar . . . (Warning: language)

If there’s anything lamer than comparing Stephen Harper to Hitler, I guess it’s stealing somebody else’s lame YouTube. (If video link doesn't work, try here.)

P.S. Somebody even used this clip against Brett Favre, fer God's sake. I hope John Madden doesn't find out.

P.P.S. And Chelsea football club. And a bunch of other videos I can't be bothered to go through. Just search YouTube for "downfall."

Star publishes mockery of Finley's accent

Why not? Everybody does it

I've long thought that the only two ethnic groups you can ridicule with impunity are the Irish and the Scots.

Recently, Conan O'Brien observed on his show that the only ethnic group they make fun of that never complains to the network is the Irish.

The Scots in particular have taken a beating: the entire Shrek series plus a number of other Mike Myers characters such as Stuart Mackenzie (pictured), the Extra chewing gum commercials with an animated, apparently Scottish stick of gum, the Keith's beer commercials starring the fellow recently convicted for possessing child pornography.

As Bill Bennett might say, where is the outrage?

Anyhow, that bastion of political correctness, the Toronto Star, ran a profile of Conservative national campaign manager Doug Finley on the weekend, a profile that portrayed him as ruthless in dispatching undesirable candidates, including this bit of colour:

Finley finally “lost it,” according to [former Conservative candidate Mark] Warner, a scene Warner says he can't forget, complete with heavy Scottish brogue soundtrack.

“Wheeerrrrrrrrr have you ever run before? Wheeerrrrrrrrr?

Tell me, wheeerrrrrrrrr? Wheeerrrrrrrrr?”

Friday, September 05, 2008

No ermine for Clyde Wells

As I expected, the Atlantic seat on the Supreme Court being vacated by Michel Bastarache will not be filled by former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Clyde Wells (now Chief Justice of the Newfoundland Court of Appeal). Prime Minister Harper has nominated Nova Scotia judge Thomas Cromwell.

I am of course not privy to the government's deliberations on its nominee. But it would be politically tone deaf for Harper to go into an election in which Québec is a key battleground, by handing such an appointment to a figure who played a key role in killing the Meech Lake accord.

Given Wells’ age and the fact that there is but one “Atlantic” seat on the court, Wells is unlikely to ever be appointed.

I appreciate that many people – including many former Reformers – were deeply opposed to Meech Lake and believe that its defeat reflected the opposition of many Canadians (or at least their lack of understanding of the accord).

But Wells not only reneged on his promise to hold a vote in the Newfoundland legislature on the accord, he behaved in a regrettable manner, as shown in these excerpts from Brian Mulroney’s autobiography:

Quoting Wells: “I will honour the commitment to take the proposal [reached at the June 9-10 first ministers’ meeting] back to Newfoundland to place it before the cabinet and to ask for legislative approval in a free vote, or to put it to a referendum. I must say that a referendum now is almost out of the question.”
--page 781

After this conference [of Eastern premiers and governors], premiers Peterson, McKenna and Ghiz all called Lowell Murray and advised him that they did not believe Clyde Wells intended to hold a vote, They also told Murray that I should not go to Newfoundland, as it was a trap. And on June 20, Bill McNamara, an accomplished young lawyer who had become a strong Meech supporter, called his classmate and friend Deborah Coyne to suggest that, given the unanimous agreement, they bury they hatchet and join forces in supporting the initiative prior to the vote. “There is not going to be a vote,” Wells’s constitutional advisor told McNamara firmly.
--page 786

Just prior to leaving his [Wells’s] home to head for the airport (I had thanked Eleanor warmly and signed her guestbook “With gratitude for a delightful evening,” I recall), I said directly, “Clyde, this vote tomorrow is of great significance to Canada. On a scale of 1 to 10, can you indicate to me now how the vote will go?” He replied, that it will pass? A 5!”
--Mulroney’s Personal Journal, July 26, 1990, page 788

In a most illuminating exchange, Bill Cameron of The Journal in a CBC TV interview three times says to Wells, “But, Mr. Premier, you had the prime minister down to speak to your legislature and then you invited him to your home for dinner. Did you, Mr. Wells, at any time tell the prime minister of Canada during these hours you were together that you intended to cancel a historic vote the very next day?

And three times Premier Wells replies, “Honestly, Bill, I just don’t remember.”

--Mulroney’s Personal Journal, July 26, 1990, page 792

And that is exactly what Wells did. He walked into the Newfoundland Assembly and adjourned the House, thereby depriving the elected members of their right to vote on a major constitutional change that he himself and signed and sworn he would put to a vote.
--page 792

With that Meech Lake was killed off; it didn’t fail. I had three times succeeded in securing unanimous agreement. Yet Meech was suffocated in a cruel act of political infanticide by the premier of Newfoundland. With that accomplished, Wells flew off to the Liberal leadership convention in Calgary, where he was greeted by Jean Chrétien with the memorable words, “Merci, Clyde, pour ton beau travail,” (Thank you, Clyde, for your good work.)
--page 792

Dr. Roy has also posted on this.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Buzz Buzzes Off

Celebrating a career spent defending inefficiency

The media noted that today was Buzz Hargrove’s last Labour Day parade as head of the Canadian Auto Workers. So, on Hargrove’s retirement, let’s look back at the incident that inspired him, as he related in his 1998 biography:

The sweeper’s name was Gino. He was a short, stout, bald-headed Italian guy [good colour, Buzz!] whose job was to keep a certain floor area clean of dust and debris. Gino could sweep his area in four hours out of an eight-hour shift. The rest of the time he would read pocketbooks. Well, given that he could get through his day’s work so quickly, management started pushing for him to sweep a larger area. But when they came with their stopwatches and clipboards, Gino would sweep exactly his area of responsibility and make it take eight hours.

Management knew he was capable of sweeping a larger area and was challenging their authority. They suspended him for a day. If he continued to ignore their order to sweep a larger floor area, they would continue to suspend him. In no time Ken Gerard was facing off with a big, tough-looking plant superintendent by the name of Ed Charette. These two had earlier had it out in a bar over another plant issue and Ken had beaten the stuffing out of Ed. [now there’s the CAW thuggery I remember from the 1996 OPSEU strike!]. So management now backed off. Under supervision, Gino swept his floor area for the next three nights in exactly eight hours. Ken stayed around and made sure Gino was not hassled by management. In a few days, Gino was again sweeping his area in his usual four hours [and presumably reading for the remainder of his shift]. Management was nowhere to be seen.

For a young buck like me who had never had anyone in any job come to his assistance, I was fascinated that the union could play that kind of role. I thought of that supervisor in the pipeline camp in Alberta. If there had been a union steward standing up for me at that creek in minus 30 weather, I would have been able to say “no way” and still keep my job.

I know people will jump on the Gino story to show how much boondoggle unions support, how lazy workers keep employer costs high. But that is not the point here [not until the company goes under, anyway]. What we are talking about is power. If you do not fight, you lose. The company holds the power [no, the consumer does]. The amount of power a union has depends solely on the extent to which we can build solidarity with our members. Gino’s fight was not over the size of the floor he would sweep. It was over who had the power to demand what a worker had to do.
--Labour of Love, Buzz Hargrove with Wayne Skene, pp. 54-55

A good student of Marxism would recognize Hargrove’s analysis as a lesson in indirectly “seizing the means of production.” But socialism failed to spread worldwide and CAW plants were hard-pressed to compete against automakers whose managers did not have to put up with such bull. Thanks to Buzz, there is a lot less floor-sweeping or other union work in the auto sector worldwide.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

That must have been some trip!

Junketeering Toronto councillor can’t remember where he slept or who he met on May trip to Quebec City (with audio link)

Yesterday the Toronto Sun reported that 17 Toronto city councillors and staffers participated in a $41,854 trip to Quebec City in May, for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' (FCM) 71st annual conference:

Turns out, during an era where there was fear of not making budget, the city fathers miraculously found $41,854 to cover expenses for 17 people to go to beautiful old Quebec. C'est bon.

"It's unacceptable," says Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who made the discovery though a Freedom of Information request. "It's just a waste of money."

According to Gaudet, with Miller were councillors -- mostly his pals -- Pam McConnell, Paula Fletcher, Joe Pantalone, Howard Moscoe, Suzan Hall, Shelley Carroll, Joe Mihevc, Michael Thompson, Adam Giambrone, Norm Kelly, Adam Vaughan and Janet Davis, who were accompanied by staffers Kevin Sack, Don Wanagas, Philip Abrahams and Barbara Sullivan.
--“Joke’s on us as mayor, 16 pals go on junket,” Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun, August 27

Today, the junket was the topic of tightwad councillor Rob Ford’s regular weekly appearance on John Oakley’s AM640 morning show in Toronto. One of the junketeers, councillor Norm Kelly (pictured, on a different occasion), got the bright idea to call in to defend himself and his fellow troughers.

The interview quickly degenerated into a gentle but embarrassing interrogation, during which Kelly offered as a reason for the trip, participation in Quebec’s 400th anniversary celebrations.

Kelly could not answer what hotel he stayed at, or the details of the “terrific” conversations he had with people about the “challenges facing urban Canada.” Oh, he did remember one, about geothermal heating, with some guy from Northern Ontario whose name he could not remember, but he did have his business card and was planning to visit this fall (I’ll bet!).

When pressed for details on what city budget the expenses were paid out of, Kelly suggested archly that Oakley make a freedom of information request.

Kelly was so inept, he made Rob Ford – considered by some a doppelganger for late comedian Chris Farley in both appearance and demeanour – look like Johnnie Cochran.

Enjoy the audio replay here, click on “Rob Ford with Norm Kelly.” It’s really quite unbelievable.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Toronto two years from now?

Panhandling rampant in US cities with “a reputation for being liberal and tolerant”

Last week one of the big stories in Toronto was news that the Chinatown Business Improvement Area has hired a private security firm to patrol the Spadina Avenue district, to reduce theft and aggressive panhandling, starting with a three-week pilot project.

A new article by Steven Malanga in the City Journal, "The Professional Panhandling Plague," explains that New York’s vigilance in reducing panhandling and squeegee people has not been repeated in other American cities, with very unpleasant results:

But over the last several years, the urban resurgence has proved an irresistible draw to a new generation of spangers. And while New York City’s aggressive emphasis on quality-of-life policing under two successive mayors has kept them at bay, less vigilant cities have been overwhelmed. Indeed, panhandling is epidemic in many places—from cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Memphis, Orlando, and Albuquerque to smaller college towns like Berkeley. “People in New York would be shocked at what one encounters in other cities these days, where the panhandling can be very intimidating,” says Daniel Biederman, a cofounder of three business improvement districts in Manhattan, including the Grand Central Partnership, which grappled effectively with homelessness in the city’s historic train station in the early 1990s. “Panhandling has gotten especially bad in cities that have a reputation for being liberal and tolerant. They have tried to be open-minded, but now many of them see the problem as out of control.”

Like their counterparts back in the eighties, some spangers refuse to take no for an answer. Aggressive begging has grown so common in Memphis that a group of residents, members of an online forum called Handling-Panhandling, have begun photographing those who act in a threatening manner, seeking to help police catch those who violate the law. “One of the guys we photographed for the Handling-Panhandling group last summer was obviously a loose cannon,” forum host Paul Ryburn writes. “When employees of a Beale Street restaurant asked him to stop begging in front of their door, he threatened to stab them.”

Reports of similar incidents are on the increase in many cities. A pizzeria manager in Columbus, Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch earlier this year that panhandlers were entering the store asking for money, then following women back to their cars to scare them into giving it. “One of the bums threatened to stab me when I asked them to leave two women alone,” the restaurateur added. In Orlando, panhandlers have started entering downtown offices and asking receptionists for money, prompting businesses to lock the doors. San Francisco police have identified 39 beggars who have received five or more citations for aggressive panhandling, racking up a total of 447 citations. Tourist guidebooks and online sites are replete with warnings from travelers. A business visitor to Nashville, sharing his experiences on, writes: “Every day I was there I was not just approached but grabbed or touched by folks asking for money.” A traveler to San Francisco, describing his trip on, warns prospective tourists about the pervasiveness of persistent beggars: “If you come to San Francisco and are not hit up for change, you have spent too much time in your hotel room.”

The lengthy and very interesting article is here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Justin Trudeau profiled in US fashion glossy

“For all my history, I’m a political neophyte” but he couldn’t wait to run “until I’m 50 and have the gravitas and all that stuff.”

Story says Trudeau “purposely avoided a safe seat” for working-class Papineau

I think it’s safe to say that, even if he were to win three majorities, Stephen Harper is unlikely to ever receive a glowing profile in the oversize American fashion glossy W magazine, much less the September edition (the most important issue of the year for a fashion mag).

But, as the Canadian media have been telling us since Trudeau père died in 2000, Justin Trudeau is no mere mortal, no dull economist from a family of accountants. So in a way it’s no surprise that an American publication finally jumped on the bandwagon.

W's enthusiasm, was rewarded with some pretty good access. The profile titled “The Son also Rises” includes quotes not only from Trudeau, but also from his wife and mother. There's also a quote from pollster Michael Adams, who took a breather from telling us how different we are from Americans, to speak to a US magazine. Some excerpts:

While Canadians prefer understatement and scorn comparisons to their neighbor to the south, they are apt to compare the Trudeaus to the Kennedys—as close as it gets to Canadian royalty. Last year, when Justin won his party’s nomination to run for a seat in the House of Commons, 40 percent of Canadians polled said they’d like to see him as the next leader of the Liberal Party—even though he has yet to hold office. Now 36, he’s a rising political star and likely to become a member of Parliament when he runs in the next federal election, which is expected to take place in the coming months. Few doubt that he’ll make a bid at some point for the leadership of the Liberals—the party his father dominated for 16 years and, for now, the opposition.

To the party faithful in search of the lost Trudeau magic, Justin is the future, the one who can draw a younger generation into the political fold, much as Barack Obama has done. [Don’t speak too soon!] To his detractors he’s an inexperienced lightweight simply leveraging his father’s fame.

Handsome and boyish, his dark curls flopping into his blue eyes, he’s dressed in tidy jeans and a navy blazer. With his mother’s good looks and warmth and his father’s élan and idealism, he has an ease and buoyancy about him that makes it hard not to like him. “For all my history, I’m a political neophyte,” he says. “The actual mechanisms of politics are something that I’ve stayed away from all my life, deliberately.”

After studying English literature at McGill University, Trudeau became a schoolteacher and later earned a master’s degree in environmental geography [his official bio refers only to “graduate studies” – not a master’s]. A regular feature in local society pages, he chaired a national youth service program for four years and has also spoken out on winter-sports safety after his brother Michel, the youngest of the Trudeaus’ three sons, was killed while skiing in 1998 when an avalanche sent him into an icy lake in British Columbia. Increasingly, Justin felt that to effect change, he had to enter the fray, not “wait until I’m 50 and have the gravitas and all that stuff.”

Finally, there’s this:

In Canada candidates may choose where to run [clearly, the author Diane Solay has never met Doug Finlay], and [Trudeau] purposely avoided a safe seat in an affluent, mixed English-French area, selecting instead a working-class district of immigrants and Francophone professionals where his two rivals had long-standing ties. His against-the-odds win there and the fact that his former opponents are now cochairing his run for the House of Commons are all part of his personal campaign to “prove my chops in politics and work my way up from the grass roots,” he says. “I want to demonstrate that it’s all about what I bring, not the name and not the past.”

Hmm, I wonder where W got the idea that that’s how it played out As anyone who follows Canadian politics knows, Trudeau first set his sights on a nomination in the safe Liberal seat of Outremont, but Stéphane Dion had other ideas, thinking he could afford to run one of his professor pals there instead.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A movie with a big, juicy target

"An American Carol" opens October 3rd

The holiday in An American Carol is not Christmas and the antagonist is not Ebenezer Scrooge. Instead, the film follows the exploits of a slovenly, anti-American filmmaker named Michael Malone, who has joined with a left-wing activist group ( to ban the Fourth of July. Along the way, Malone is visited by the ghosts of three American heroes--George Washington, George S. Patton, and John F. Kennedy--who try to convince him he's got it all wrong. When terrorists from Afghanistan realize that they need to recruit more operatives to make up for the ever-diminishing supply of suicide bombers, they begin a search for just the right person to help produce a new propaganda video. "This will not be hard to find in Hollywood," says one. "They all hate America." When they settle on Malone, who is in need of work after his last film (Die You American Pigs) bombed at the box office, he unwittingly helps them with their plans to launch another attack on American soil.

The entire film is an extended rebuttal to the vacuous antiwar slogan that "War Is Not the Answer." Zucker's response, in effect: "It Depends on the Question."

Zucker had originally hoped to cast Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy) as Malone, but a timing conflict kept him from getting it done. After briefly considering Frank Caliendo, a fellow Wisconsinite, a colleague passed him a reel from Kevin Farley, the younger brother of the late Chris Farley, and Zucker, who recalled seeing Kevin Farley in an episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, was interested.
--"Hollywood Takes on the Left," Weekly Standard, August 11

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ti-Dolt's Conditional Apology

Read: "I'm sorry that partisan jerks deliberately misinterpreted my comments to make me look like a sexist, 'cause that's totally not who I am, but if you're not a partisan jerk who exploited my comments to serve your own agenda, and if you were really offended, then . . . I'm, uh, sorry."

Macleans' excellent Blog Central is reporting that Nova Scotia Liberal MP Robert Thibault is sort of apologizing for telling Marjory LeBreton to get back in the kitchen (or whatever he meant by his "figurative" reference to tea-making -- see update to post below).

“I would like to clarify my statement that appeared in the Hill Times this week. My comment was not meant to be gender-specific and I in no way intended it to be interpreted in that way. If anything I said can be interpreted as sexist, I unequivocally and wholeheartedly apologize and withdraw my comments. I have always been a strong supporter of women in politics and want to encourage not hinder their participation in the public sphere.”

Well, we've seen these kind of non-apologies before, and we'll probably see them again.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Thibault steeped in stupid

You know, I've always thought that Nova Scotia Liberal MP Robert Thibault had the voice of an educated thug. Turns out he has the attitudes of an uneducated one.

In a slam reminiscent of Eric Cartman’s faux-bravado towards imaginary women who should know their place, i.e. “bake me a pie!” or "knit me a sweater!" Thibault has tried to be John Crosbie to Senator Marjory LeBreton's Sheila Copps:

Three-term Liberal MP Robert Thibault has got into an angry and heated public war of words with Government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton, saying that she took his "ageist" comments out of context and that the Senator "should go back to making tea for Brian Mulroney and stay out of serious people's business."

"Yes [I stand by] the comments that I made, but not the comments that are attributed to me," Mr. Thibault (West Nova, N.S.) told The Hill Times, laughing at the apparent incongruity of his statement. But he went on to explain: "[I do not stand by] the intent [or spin] that idiots like Marjory LeBreton would put onto my comments. Marjory should go back to making tea for Brian Mulroney and stay out of serious people's business."
--The Hill Times, today

This comes on the heels of Thibault's ill-advised shouldn't-you-be-in-a-rocking-chair? putdown of his Conservative opponent in the next election.

You know what they say. When you’re in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. In doubling down on his ridicule of Greg Kerr, by demeaning a female senior (a key demographic in Atlantic Canada), Thibault seems determined to dig his political grave.

Update: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald was able to get ahold of Thibault for comment Monday:

Mr. Thibault said Monday that he does not plan to apologize.

"Tea, firstly, is figurative, not planning to be sexist in any way," he said. "Marjory LeBreton is a very partisan person who was appointed to the Senate by Brian Mulroney and has been seen as being Brian Mulroney’s proxy in cabinet."

Mr. Thibault said he thinks people will understand his comments weren’t sexist.

"I think people will understand that my comments about Marjory LeBreton are a reference to a very partisan Conservative who is looking for any opportunity whatsoever to get my goat," he said.

Really. Making tea is figurative? Does that mean it's a euphemism for some other act?

Anyhow, thanks to Thibault's intransigence, LeBreton has now been joined by women's groups not normally known for their Conservative sympathies, while female Liberal MPs are unavailable for comment:

"We do a lot of work to get women involved in the political process, and one of the things that keeps them out is disrespectful behaviour," said Brigitte Neumann, executive director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. "Whatever your party affiliation, you shouldn’t have to put up with sexist comments."

Francoise Gagnon, executive director of Equal Voice, a group that works to get women involved in politics, said the comments are sexist.

"We always hold the line that it’s very unfortunate that these kinds of comments are made," she said. "They don’t reflect the hard work of all the members from all the different parties who contribute."

Ms. LeBreton challenged female Liberal MPs to respond to Mr. Thibault’s remarks, but two women who play a prominent role in the Liberal women’s caucus — Maria Minna and Belinda Stronach — did not return calls on Monday.

Neither did communications officers for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.

Ms. LeBreton said Liberal women should speak out.

"If they sit there and say nothing, that says a lot about them, too," she said.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

McCain: The grandpa who undermines your parents

The King of Old Media, Barack Obama, must be puzzled over how old man John McCain is lately the King of YouTube:

Paris Hilton may think John McCain is just a “wrinkly white-haired guy,” but the Republican presidential candidate apparently has figured out the younger generation just fine. Over the past two weeks, his “celebrity” attacks have stomped Democratic presidential opponent Sen. Barack Obama in YouTube hits.

Mr. McCain has pumped out a series of brutal yet entertaining attack ads and Web videos mocking the press and Mr. Obama, and the combination of wit and insult has pushed his YouTube channel to the sixth most watched on the site this week. Mr. McCain has beat Mr. Obama's channel for seven straight days and 11 of the past 14 days, in a signal he intends to compete for the YouTube vote.
--“McCain takes lead on YouTube hits”, Washington Times, August 7

Now, just maybe, to some young people, McCain reminds them not of their hovering, boomer parents (like the Obamas with their over-scheduled daughters), but their grandparents.

McCain kind of reminds me of Cotton Hill, Hank Hill’s father on “King of the Hill.” Cotton slaps his much-younger second wife on the butt in public; he shouts at diner waitresses: “Hey missy! How ‘bout some sammidges?!” and talks about how he killed “fiddy Japs” in WWII, where he also lost his shins. He doesn't make Hank's son, Bobby Hill (whose life ambition is to be a prop comic, not a quarterback), feel like he is an ongoing disappointment.

Yes, he’s stubborn as a mule, and sometimes he’s an embarrassment. He addresses Peggy Hill to her face as “Hank’s wife.” But Cotton Hill is real. He doesn’t give a s*** what people think – the root of all genuine cool – and that makes him oddly compelling. Maybe that’s what McCain has tapped into.

McCain is the grandfather who lets you ride sans seatbelt and will lend you his car without your parents knowing. He shows you the war memorabilia that he isn’t officially supposed to have. He gives you cash on the sly (real cash, not $5 cheques on your birthday, like the writers on “Saturday Night Live” think). He lets you drink a beer at his house. He takes you hunting and teaches you how to shoot.

McCain wasn't the goody two-shoes who soared above his family's origins and has been running for president since the age of 25, like Obama. McCain was the screw-up of the McCain clan of naval officers, who finished at the bottom of his class at Annapolis. Come to think of it, he's kind of the black sheep of the Republican party, too.

And now, as if following some kind of TV script, along comes dad to kill the party:

Mr. Obama's campaign has studiously avoided talking about Mr. McCain's celebrity attacks, instead responding to the substance of the attacks included in most ads.

But Mr. Obama himself couldn't resist, telling voters last week that the Spears-Hilton references were demeaning to the election.

“Given the seriousness of the issues, you’d think we could have a serious debate,” he said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “But so far, all we’ve been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I mean, I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election is about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?

Yup, that sure sounds like a parent lecturing a teenager.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dion's leadership debt payoff still under review by Elections Canada

UPDATE: CP has replaced the story below, with this one, that states Dion's debt as as $560,000, not $800,000. It also includes a comment from Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre:

"The fact that Stephane Dion cannot commit to paying off his debts promptly shows that he is a weak leader who can't be trusted with the nation's finances," Poilievre told The Canadian Press.

He challenged Dion to "commit to Canadians that he will pay off all of his debts before the next election."

"If Mr. Dion goes into the next election with these debts hanging over his head, then Canadians will wonder about his fiscal competence."

Former Liberal leadership candidates to repay debts; Dion plan under review

OTTAWA — Elections Canada has accepted debt paydown agreements totalling nearly $1.4 million from eight Liberals who ran for the party leadership in 2006.

But Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand is still reviewing a paydown plan submitted by party leader Stephane Dion. Dion, whose debt from the campaign was recently reported at more than $800,000, had the largest outstanding obligations from the campaign.

Toronto MP Ken Dryden was next, with $300,000 in loans to repay, all to himself as the lender, by June 3.

Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff had a debt of $187,000.

Under federal election law, the candidates had 18 months to arrange paydown agreements acceptable to Elections Canada, or the debts would have been converted into campaign contributions.

It depends on what the definition of “public” is . . .

Elections Canada says decisions on Liberal leadership loans are now public – but you have to ask for them

Media Advisory

Status of Decisions on Liberal Leadership Contestants’ Claims and Loans

OTTAWA, Monday, July 28, 2008 — The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Marc Mayrand, has today made public the decisions made to date under the Canada Elections Act in regard to the authorization to make late payments on claims and loans of contestants for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2006.

All documents related to the Chief Electoral Officer’s decisions are public and are now available by contacting Elections Canada.

Elections Canada is an independent body set up by Parliament.

Elections Canada Media Relations
or at

The decisions do not seem to be posted on Elections Canada’s website. Perhaps they want to keep track of which media outlets are requesting them and may be doing stories.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Obama cartoonist is Canadian

Says best work comes from “crazy emotional morass”

Canadian media: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

As of 1:30 p.m., there were no hits on Google News Canada mentioning that cartoonist Barry Blitt – who drew the July 21st New Yorker cover currently burning up the blogosphere – is (or at least was) a Canadian, who went to New York in 1989.

Here are some excerpts of an interview with Blitt, from an online profile in March of this year:

“I got a scholarship from Leo Burnett ad agency while I was at Ontario College of Art, between my third and fourth year. I didn’t even know what it was for, I just entered it and I got it and I worked at Leo Burnett as a visualizer for my fourth year at college. I hated advertising; it was demeaning. I mean, they’d ask me to draw lettuce and then ask me to make the lettuce look crispier. That wasn’t for me.

“After school ended I went to England. There was so much great work coming out of London at the time, and I thought I would go there and get inspired by that and maybe I’d find my style or my niche there. But when I brought my portfolio around, I stupidly went to Leo Burnett there, too. And they offered me a job doing the same thing I had done in Canada and I took it because I didn’t know anyone in England. So I was drawing crispy lettuce and stuff like that, and I hated it. I worked there for about a year and then came back to Canada and somehow started bringing my work around and just did my bit.

“I had one style that was sort of black and white charcoal that was serious and then there was the crazy stuff in pen and ink. More and more the pen and ink seemed to be favored and I could put some humor in that, but at first it was all little spots and Canadian Business Magazine and stuff that. Some of it was just so bad. I didn’t even care. Sometimes I just don’t care. I’ll work on something and I just won’t want to be doing it, and I’ll have a bad attitude. I’m trouble: you have to stay away from me.

“I don’t think I necessarily choose my assignments well. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Some of these people, they don’t want you to say no. But it’s really important to choose the right things for yourself.

“Back then I had more time to do self-generated projects and stuff. I remember I was doing these crazy biographies of my heroes, just one page each, anyone from George Washington, to Gustav Mahler, to Stravinsky. I did a whole series of those and they were fun and I didn’t care. I think part of the not caring thing is I have to sort of fool myself into not caring about a drawing. I do my best work when I’m not thinking about it, when I’m not worried about it. So any New Yorker cover I do, it’s just a crazy emotional morass. I’ll draw it seven or eight times and I’ll start painting each one, and this one’s better than the other one, and then I’ll go back to the first one (the first one is always the best one). I still haven’t learned to let myself make mistakes and that’s where the best stuff comes in.

Blitt was named in a lawsuit by Conrad Black, over an illustration in Toronto Life magazine in 2004. The suit was later settled.

There is no mention of Blitt’s Canadian origins in the stories posted at The Star, the Globe, Maclean’s, the CBC, or CTV. To be fair, most are only posting the US-produced Associated Press copy. But they can add their own stuff to AP copy, and even I remembered Blitt’s name and that he is Canadian.

9:20 p.m. Update: Alison Smith just delivered CBC’s very Obama-friendly story on the National. No word on Blitt’s nationality.

11:27 p.m. Update: CTV National News ran their Obama-sympathetic story at the end of the broadcast. The lead-in and story mentioned the “Canadan-born artist” but did not name him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Of all the Maclean’s issues in all the world . . .

They have to publish one of my web comments in their Morgentaler edition

This was my comment on a recent Maclean’s Health Blog item by Alexandra Shimo, on how sitting down can make you fat:

So THAT’s why federal Liberal MPs are looking a little flabby lately. Not standing up to vote in the commons.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

My wisecrack (no pun intended) has been republished on page 4 of the July 21st issue of Maclean’s as “Reader Comment of the Week” -- the one with Order of Canada recipient Henry Morgentaler on the cover. Good for me, I guess.

The ironic thing about this is that I myself am sadly a few dress sizes past “flabby.” But I’m sure my former client, the Government House Leader, would appreciate that I was on message vis à vis the Liberals’ habit of sitting down for Canada.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bliss: Morgentaler’s OC file was reopened several times

Whatever you think of abortion, this is yet another episode of "The Judiciary Knows Best"

What do I always tell you, kids? The most important parts of the newspaper are (1) the corrections, and (2) letters to the editor. Here’s historian Michael Blissletter to the Post today on Morgentaler’s OC:

As a Member of the Order of Canada, I am deeply saddened by the way that our honours system is apparently being debased and cheapened by appointments such as the Henry Morgentaler one. Those of us who occasionally nominate worthy people for consideration for the Order have been told repeatedly that if they have been considered and rejected on an earlier occasion, the files are not normally reopened. I cannot understand why the Morgentaler file was apparently reopened on several occasions.

If the Order of Canada’s advisory committee, meeting behind closed doors, continues to make divisive, apparently political recommendations, it will undermine the integrity of the Order and further discourage those of us who tried to help make the system work. I am particularly distressed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is involved in a process the trustworthiness of which many of us now question.

Michael Bliss, Member of the Order of Canada, University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Toronto.

This confirms what Order of Canada scholar Christopher McCreery hints at in this op-ed in the Globe:

Dr. Morgentaler has been nominated to receive the Order of Canada numerous times over the past 25 years, before supporters organized a nomination campaign earlier this year. But members of previous Advisory Councils – the committee of 11 people, chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, advising governors-general on appointments – have steered clear of pushing his nomination forward because it was viewed as highly divisive and potentially damaging to the prestige associated with membership.
--"Does the Order of Canada stand for unity or recognition?," Christopher McCreery, Globe and Mail, July 2

Continuing with the fallout, a B.C. priest has returned his OC, and prominent Bay Street figure Thomas Caldwell (pictured) has reportedly removed his OC lapel pin:

A Catholic priest in British Columbia is returning his Order of Canada after Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named a member, calling the controversial abortion doctor’s induction into the Order “a terrible mistake.”

Father Lucien Larre, who was inducted into the nation’s highest order in 1983 for his work with troubled youth, said in a news release yesterday that he felt “compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada.”

The priest, based in Coquitlam, B. C., said he did not want to show disrespect to the Governor-General or to condemn Dr. Morgentaler, but added, “I believe in my heart that he is horribly wrong and the advisory committee made a terrible mistake.”
--”B.C. priest gives back his Order over Morgentaler,” National Post, July 3

As the media have reported, Larre was pardoned for prior convictions of assault and offering a noxious substance:

He said the assault charge stemmed from an incident in 1974, when he slapped a 19-year-old woman trying to have an affair with a 14-year-old boy under his care. The other change came from an incident when he and a nurse told three teenagers to consume various unidentified vitamins, sugar pills and placebos in an effort to teach them about drugs.
--"Priest critical of Morgentaler has controversial past,"

At my age, and with my middling skills, I have not been graced with the time or talent to have attained such a prestigious award. But if I had, and if the same folks who honoured me then chose to celebrate a man for snuffing out little lives, I like to think I would waste no time in telling them where to stick their snowflake. I was proud that my father removed his own hard-earned Order of Canada immediately upon hearing of Morgentaler’s accolade.
--”Every child a gift from God,” Theo Caldwell, National Post, July 3
Given that there are more than 5,000 OC members, we probably haven’t heard the last of these. McCreery makes the same prediction.

My own views on abortion are conflicted, and I’ve never blogged about them. My initial reaction was that Morgentaler’s OC is consistent with what the Order of Canada has become, and I was surprised he had not been recognized earlier.

Though Bliss’ comments above might fuel a paranoiac view that this was deliberately timed to occur during Stephen Harper’s tenure, it is more likely that Justice McLachlin cracked the whip due to Morgentaler's age and health:

The sources said Chief Justice McLachlin drove the nomination, which was opposed by the two government members on the nine-member committee, Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch and deputy heritage minister Judith LaRocque.

Dr. Morgentaler has been nominated for appointment to the order several times before, but was rejected.

But at 85, and having recently suffered a severe stroke, there are concerns about his health. The honours are not made posthumously.
--"Panel divided on crusader's nomination, vote suggests," Globe and Mail, July 3

Neverthless, I agree with the prime minister’s implication yesterday that this is a divisive decision. In that vein, McCreery poses this question:

Membership in the Order of Canada was never intended to be a source of controversy or discord. So we need to seriously consider the following question: At what point are we willing to sacrifice the unity of our national order so that recognition can be accorded to a single individual?

But McCreery's question is now moot. As on so many other occasions since Papa Trudeau granted us our court-proscribed rights in 1982, a judge has taken it upon herself to make our decision for us.

The Great Pumpkin has also posted on the OC.

So has Dr. Roy.

And Halls of Macadamia.

And Joanne (recommended).

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Anonymous and the Profane

Last night on the Globe’s thread on Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s OC, someone questioned why departing CAW president Buzz Hargrove was so effusive in his praise for Morgentaler (“I’m absolutely thrilled to be on the list at the same time as Dr. Morgentaler. I supported him. I supported his efforts. I think he's done more for half the population in this country … in terms of fighting for women's reproductive rights”).

Remembering Hargrove’s own unplanned parenthood, disclosed in his autobiography, I posted the following comment:

Here's a clue from Buzz's bio as to why he's such a Morgentaler fan:

“I did not have a girlfriend at the time and we began a relationship that got pretty serious. She ended up getting pregnant [yes, he really wrote that] and in December 1964 my first daughter, Karen was born.

“At the time, there was no way I was getting married. I was barely nineteen. I had no sense at all about what I wanted to do with my life.”
--Labour of Love, p. 53

This morning I received the following comment submitted to my own blog, with the expletives spelled out (which is why I couldn’t approve it):

Nice of you to bring up Buzz Hargrove's girlfriend’s abortion in a public discussion at the Globe on the Order of Candaa [sic] award to Morgentaler.

F****** c***. How about you come clean on the payola from the Harper government?

Well, “Anonymous,” if you do come back:

1. Read the excerpt again. She had the baby.

2. What’s your problem with quoting it? It was published in Hargrove’s autobiography (that means he wrote it himself).

3. Nice language.

4. My contract with the democratic reform ministry – which was for writing, not blogging – has run its course. But thanks for caring.

Friday, June 20, 2008

McGuinty lets Phillips dump his portfolio but keep his cabinet lolly

Cost for Gerry Phillips to chair cabinet meetings: $46,858 per year.

Less work for the same pay: priceless.

Well, if I were a Fiberal backbencher looking at three more years of having to pretend that George Smitherman is entertaining and Margarett Best is intelligent, while holding my breath in David Caplan’s fart cloud, I wouldn’t be too pleased about this:

Gerry Phillips will assume new responsibilities as Chair of Cabinet and remain in cabinet as a Minister Without Portfolio. This move was spurred by a request from Minister Phillips who wished to reduce his workload while continuing to contribute to the McGuinty government.
--McGuinty news release, today

The $46,858 minister's stipend (scroll to page 3 of the Estimates) is in addition to Phillips’ MPP salary of approximately $113,000.

But never mind Premier Pinocchio’s seething backbenches. Phillips’ sweetheart deal is, to say the least, an unfortunate message to send in an economy where people are routinely being asked to do more work for the same pay, or have to apply for jobs that pay considerably less after being laid off.

I’m wondering if Phillips gets to keep his car and driver, too, to make sure he gets to cabinet on time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It’s not just me

Even the Toronto Star says Dion’s English is getting worse

“It might be politically incorrect to say, but Dion's spoken English is bad – and may be getting worse. Because of it, he's turning off many English-speaking voters. While his command of the English language is excellent, his diction and cadence are so terrible that he is often harder to understand than Jean Chrétien. Dion should work with a speech language pathologist, some of whom make big dollars training recent immigrants to speak without an accent.”
--“A summer makeover for Stéphane,” Bob Hepburn, The Toronto Star, today

Over the past few months it seemed to me that Dion’s English in Question Period was actually deteriorating. And this was with material that he presumably had some time to reword and rehearse. I guess I wasn’t alone. Better spoken English is number one on Hepburn's ten-item makeover agenda for Dion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What has Premier Pinocchio got against Canadians?

Clintons’ fartcatcher addressed Fiberals in 2006, this year it’s Blair’s fahtcatcher

Pull of foreign gurus not new to McGuinty

The Ontario Liberal newsletter arrived today to remind me that the star attraction at the Ontario Liberal party’s AGM this weekend is Tony Blair’s communications guru Alastair Campbell.

If you are a member of the “Red Trillium Club” (minimum donation: $1,000), however, you will have an opportunity to attend an exclusive reception with Campbell and have Campbell’s book, The Blair Years, signed by Campbell himself. This is in addition to your personally signed photo of Dalton McGuinty. (No, really!)

This comes less than two years after the McGuintyites hosted Clinton stalwart James Carville at their meeting in October of 2006.

The blurb in the Liberal newsletter describes Alastair Campbell thus:

Alastair Campbell is best known as a journalist and former Director of Communications and Strategy for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He was a key figure behind Mr. Blair’s rise to power and was often described as “the real Deputy Prime Minister.” With the Labour election victory in 1997, he became the Prime Minister’s chief press secretary, setting up a formidable Whitehall communications machine.

Here’s a reminder of what that “formidable communications machine” was capable of:

On September 11th, just an hour after those planes slammed into the World Trade Center, Jo Moore, a senior adviser to Britain’s Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, turned away from the TV and composed an e-mail for departmental circulation:

It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury.
--Mark Steyn, National Post, October 11, 2001 (republished in The Face of the Tiger)

On 9/11, I happened to be working (briefly) for then Ontario health minister Tony Clement. Our executive assistant’s first thought was not along the lines above, but that he should ask the deputy minister to make some calls to ensure that our hospitals were ready to handle American victims, or patients diverted from northeastern US hospitals.

But back to McGuinty, who has long sought the advice of foreigners to a degree that conservatives would be crucified for. (Frankly we've been crucified for less, such as consulting Mike Murphy during the 1995 election.)

McGuinty travelled to the U.K. for education ideas prior to the 2003 election, and hired Michael Fullan as an education adviser. He then spent $25,000 to travel to Chicago for advice from Obama fixer David Axelrod.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Play Tax Tag – it’s fun!

If you haven’t checked out the Conservative Party’s “Will You be Tricked?” website about Stéphane Dion’s will-he-or-won’t-he carbon tax, I recommend you do so and click on the “Tax Tag” button.

This leads you to a page of various people and characters, and when you click on them the site tells you whether they will or will not pay Dion’s carbon tax.

The cast of characters includes: Liberal/Green candidate Elizabeth May, caucus stinkbomb Garth Turner, and even Liberal blogger Jason “Britney” Cherniak. Congratulations, Jason!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Clark unveils his inner Elvis on Parliament Hill

In an act of vanity on par with Barbara Walters’ lighting and Americans choosing the “thin Elvis” postage stamp, Joe Clark unveiled a portrait of himself – circa 1975 – on Parliament Hill Tuesday.

If only the Sex and the City movie (opening this Friday, in case you hadn’t heard) could have been rendered entirely in CGI by Patrick Douglass Cox, who has given us Joe: Portrait of a Young Fogey, now adorning the halls of Parliament like a still from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Retouched Me: imagine the Botox and light filters that might have been saved.

On the other hand, perhaps we should be grateful that Clark resisted the urge to ask that Cox depict him dressed as Evel Knievel jumping a Harley-Davidson over Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet, while Ann-Margret waits just beyond the landing ramp with arms outstretched.

In his remarks, Clark urged greater respect in public life:

“We are a country of immense diversity. We are going to have our clashes. We have to try to understand the origins, the point of views of others. We have to show them a sense of respect that’s based on the sense of worth that they bring,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.

But that was the thing about Joe, wasn’t it? He had respect for the views of everyone except the citizens of the province that elected him to Parliament in 1972, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1988 and 2000. When it came to the “others” of Alberta, Joe’s attitude seemed to alternate between disgust and embarrassment.

But you didn’t have to go as far as Alberta to find people whose opinions Clark had little time for. As Clark would be well aware, many members of his own caucus on his first go-round as leader found themselves sidelined and ignored. Luckily Brian Mulroney was always happy to take their calls and sympathize with their frustrations. Or maybe Clark remains blissfully oblivious to this still: given his conduct in recent years, that seems quite possible.

Clark’s paean to r-e-s-p-e-c-t came less than 24 hours after he took the opportunity of an appearance on "Mike Duffy Live" to take another kick at Stephen Harper’s goolies (coincidentally, another Albertan), a kick that was better aimed than most of Joe’s tactics or strategies as leader:

“I’ve not had a prime minister before whom I didn’t think I knew where he really was, what his real concerns were. I didn’t always agree with him, but that’s the situation I’m in ...,” the former prime minister said yesterday in an interview with CTV Newsnet’s Mike Duffy.

“Even the Afghanistan mission it seems to me is, in effect, a reflection of the interest of working with the U.S., which is a good thing but not alone,” he said. “And Canada’s reputation internationally, which is an immense asset to the country, depends upon using both sides of the Canadian coin ... I don’t think he [Mr. Harper] is inclined to that and I don’t think his government has given a leadership to an excellent public service to be able to do that.”

Sadly, Duffy did not interject to remind Clark that the Afghanistan mission is NATO-led, and was initiated and extended by two Liberal prime ministers, one of whom – Paul Martin – Clark endorsed as “the devil we know” in the 2004 election. Now why would Clark urge Canadians to re-elect a corrupt Liberal government, instead of a Conservative one led by a man who had succeeded where he had failed?

And, yes, I am going to say it, because I always have to: my vote for Joe in the 1998 PC leadership is the only vote I wish I could take back.

Mike McGuire has also posted on this.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Little to lose

Dion’s early days not unlike Chrétien’s last

At first blush, one would be hard-pressed to identify many similarities between Jean Chrétien and Stéphane Dion, other than they are both Québec federalists. Chrétien is a gregarious, instinctual, lifelong politician who prized winning elections and a clean desk, and was so relaxed that he went home for lunch every day while Parliament was sitting. Dion is a quiet professor who probably toted his own lunch in his backpack, and brought thoughtful letter-writing back to politics.

But as I see Dion rush headlong into his roll-the-dice carbon tax election, I can’t help but be reminded of the last days of Jean Chrétien’s tenure, characterized by his declaration to the effect of “I am not running again. I can do what I want.” (Not much of an endorsement for consulting voters before acting – i.e. democracy – but never mind.)

After Chrétien announced in the summer of 2002 that he would not run for a fourth term, he unleashed a whirlwind of hard-left initiatives, including the legalization of marijuana (or de-criminalization, if you prefer) and political finance reforms, including banning corporate and union donations to parties (later on, the Harper government extended the ban to ridings and candidates also).

It is debatable whether Chrétien did these things because (1) he really believed in them, or (2) he wanted to damage Paul Martin, whose leadership he was now powerless to prevent. Either way, he was indifferent to the effects these policies would have on the Liberal party. “Après moi le deluge,” as they say. As Elections Canada’s quarterly financial returns show, banning corporate donations continues to harm the Liberal party to this day.

In the case of Dion, despite reports that he is deaf to most advice, I suspect that he has at least figured out this much: the Liberal party is going to give him but one chance to win an election. After the next election, Stéphane Dion will either be Prime Minister, or an unemployed professor.

In the leadership, Dion was the first-ballot choice of just 18% of Liberal delegates. He has few supporters in caucus. He has little base in the party and has been unable to build one (which is near-impossible while you're leader, anyway). He has a limited personal fundraising capacity, evidenced by his stubborn leadership debt. The party’s overall fundraising has continued to suffer. Liberals fared worse than they should have in the by-elections that have occurred on Dion’s watch, partly because of Dion’s insistence on hand-picking two of the candidates.

There were rumblings about somehow getting rid of Dion last fall, after the disastrous Outremont by-election, but Liberals realized that there is simply no legal or practical way to force out a leader before he’s fought his first election. And so the Liberal caucus became quietly resigned to the notion that Dion would be allowed his one grab at the brass ring.

But surely Dion has deduced that many in the caucus have little enthusiasm for him, and are concerned mainly with keeping their own seats. And Michael Ignatieff’s and Bob Rae’s supporters have made little secret of their readiness and desire to see their guy run for leader again. Soon.

Should Dion be foolish enough to contest a leadership review after a losing election, the Ignatieff and Rae camps would likely make short work of him. (The more likely scenario is that a group of eminent Liberals would approach Dion and, in exchange for retiring his remaining leadership debt, secure his resignation.)

But instead of making Dion more cautious, these intramural heel-nippings seem to have made him less so. The stark reality of what awaits him post-election is actually a bizarre incentive for Dion to use his one chance to “do what he wants,” whether it’s carbon taxes, reviving a national day care scheme, or even raising the GST. If he wins, he may get to implement a platform he believes in. If he loses, any fallout for the Liberal party will be someone else’s problem.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Short memories at the Globe

Mark MacGuigan went straight from Minister of Justice to Federal Court judge after losing Liberal leadership in 1984

Perhaps no one at the Winnipeg Free Press or the Globe and Enquirer is old enough to remember the late Mark MacGuigan, who went straight from being Liberal Minister of Justice to a seat on the Federal Court of Canada, after losing the Liberal leadership in 1984.

Then again, maybe the Globe is aware of this history, but thinks that Mrs. Toews’ monthly household expenses, as disclosed in her divorce filings, are a more pressing matter of public interest. And of course, they had to include in their "news" story their oh-so-informed speculation about what Toews' Christian constituents must think about his marriage ending. 'Cause if anybody knows how Christians think, it's the Globe.

Well, for the benefit of you younger kids: according to MacGuigan’s parliamentary bio and this page at the website of the Federal Court of Canada, MacGuigan’s appointment to the court occurred on the same day as his resignation as MP and Minister of Justice: June 29, 1984.

MacGuigan had run and placed poorly in the Liberal leadership contest that elected John Turner earlier that year, winning just 135 votes.

I don’t recall any cries of conflict of interest at the time, though MacGuigan’s appointment was certainly part of the orgy of patronage appointments made by the exiting Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, appointments that dogged new leader John Turner in the election campaign that began on July 9 and ended on September 4.

MacGuigan served as a judge until his death in January, 1998. He was eulogized in the House of Commons the following month by Liberal minister Herb Gray, Reform MP Randy White (!), NDP MP Bill Blaikie and Bloc MP Louis Plamondon.

I acknowledge that a judicial appointment for Vic Toews -- should one occur -- would raise uncomfortable yet fair questions for Toews and the government but, you know, a little bit of context from major news organizations would be nice. For a change.

Update: Oh, speaking of context . . .

Here’s a lovely story from the Toronto Star’s reliable Richard Brennan, on Bob Rae’s question in the House yesterday about Maxime Bernier’s air fare to Laos for a Francophonie summit:

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has to travel first class to "stand tall" on the world stage, Conservative government House leader Peter Van Loan says.

Van Loan was defending Bernier, who has been dogged by criticism since taking on the portfolio last August, including over his relationship with a Quebec woman who had close ties to biker gang figures.

The latest has to do with his spending $22,573 on return airfare to Laos for a Francophonie conference, when one of his own staff made the same trip for $2,676.

"I wonder if that makes the government House leader blush, just for once," Liberal MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre) said to Van Loan.

Well, why should Van Loan or anyone else blush? Rae certainly wasn’t blushing in 1992 when he used an OPP helicopter to visit his family cottage. He explained to reporters that he was entitled to his entitlements:

Premier Bob Rae used a government helicopter to fly him to and from his family cottage during the Victoria Day weekend.

"I had not seen my children for about eight days," said Rae, who has three daughters. The Rae family cottage is on an island in Big Rideau Lake, near the town of Portland in eastern Ontario, about 350 kilometres (220 miles) east of Metro.

Rae said he had no apologies to make, since he is eligible to use the OPP helicopter as part of his security package as Premier.
--Toronto Star, May 26, 1992 (you can look at the excerpt for free in the Star archives).

I believe the seasoned Brennan was even a member of the Queen’s Park press gallery then. Funny how he didn’t remember this to put it in today’s story. It certainly would have put Rae’s feigned outrage into – what’s that word? – context.

Happy Victoria Day, everybody.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Charles Caccia: career ended by Martin, life ended by stroke

I’m guessing there will be some throat-clearing and dagger looks amongst former and current Liberal MPs when they attend the visitation and funeral of their former colleague, Liberal MP Charles Caccia, who died this weekend from the complications of a stroke.

Caccia was one of the lower-profile victims of the Paul Martin steamroller. In 2004 he was the longest-serving Member of Parliament, having been MP for Davenport since 1968. He lost the nomination, however, to then Toronto city councillor Mario Silva. This occurred thanks to Paul Martin’s opening of nominations after finally wresting the Liberal leadership from Jean Chrétien’s vise grip in 2003. Unlike Sheila Copps – who put up a spirited fight against Tony Valeri in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek – Caccia had no chance against the ambitious Silva, who had been signing up new members for months.

I happened to be president of the Davenport Conservative association when all this was going down. The head of our candidate selection committee thought we should, as a courtesy, approach the defenestrated Caccia and inquire whether he would be interested in running for the Conservatives. Caccia agreed to meet with us at his constituency office, and cordially informed us that he intended to run as an independent. In the end, he decided to retire quietly from Parliament.

Update: Nicol DuMoulin also has a post, on his experiences as Caccia's constituent.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

If you want more money, Ralph, you’ll have to ask the voters

Goodale thinks Stephen Harper drank his milkshake

Liberal hothead Ralph Goodale gamely attempts in the National Post today to frame the next election around the notion that the federal government is being rendered into a deficit-burdened weakling under Stephen Harper (actually, that sounds like the Liberal party under Stephane Dion, but never mind).

This is to distract from the frame that the Liberals have already hung around themselves: namely that they would have to raise taxes to pay for their yet-to-be-revealed social and environmental schemes, currently being wordsmithed by Bob Rae (aka “$40 Billion Deficit Man”).

Ralph writes of his glory days as Paul Martin’s finance minister, before it all came crashing down on him: “the government of Canada was working on its 10th consecutive balanced budget.” Translation: “After years of waiting for Jean Chrétien to retire, I was in my robe and slippers writing my second kick-ass budget, and then out of nowhere that f***er Jack Layton pulled the rug out from under me, and the RCMP wrapped me in it!!”

The inflamed gum at the root of Ralph’s latest tantrum is that the only way a Liberal government would have enough cash to launch massive, new social or environmental programs (like the day care program the Liberals promised for 13 years and never got off the ground, despite having blown $250 million, or the $250 million they spent on Kyoto, while our CO emissions increased by 30%) is by . . . raising taxes.

Ralph feels personally betrayed that the surplus he dreamed of spending himself has gone into things such as restoring the military after the Liberals’ dark decade, and Arctic sovereignty. What do these things have in common? They’re national responsibilities (more on that later). And here’s something you don’t hear too much about: federal transfers to the provinces are increasing under the Conservatives. Federal transfers to Ontario are budgeted to increase by $1.2 billion over the next two years (Ontario Budget Papers, p. 93). And that number is assuming Ontario stays a “have” province.

Admittedly, some of the surplus that Ralph believes is the rightful property of the Natural Spending Party, has also gone into the taxpayers’ pockets whence it came: horrible, horrible taxpayers who blow their cash on big screen TVs, World of Warcraft, and memberships in Liberal riding associations where Dion ends up appointing the candidate.

Unfortunately, Ralph’s claim that the GST cut “does nothing to improve tax fairness, disposable incomes, household savings, productivity or competitiveness,” is flat wrong.

In terms of fairness, it is widely accepted that consumption taxes have the greatest impact on low-income individuals, who spend most of their disposable income and likely do not qualify for income tax cuts. That’s certainly what I remember from back when the GST was introduced (to replace the Manufacturers’ Sales Tax), because that is what all the GST’s opponents were screaming at the time. And that’s why the Liberals under Jean Chrétien said they’d “axe the tax.” So by reducing a tax that hits hardest at the poor, the Conservatives have increased tax fairness.

And I think even Ralph can figure out that if you pay less tax, you have more disposable income. But then Ralph’s concern for people’s disposable income seems a little suspect, given his membership in a government that increased CPP deductions, and kept EI premiums higher than they needed to be. Yes, there was good reason to increase CPP premiums, and the Liberals obviously believed they outweighed the impact on people’s take-home pay.

As for savings, well, you’d be surprised how many people put aside their loonies and/or toonies and deposit them in the bank at the end of the month. Surely a 28% cut in the GST adds up to a few more loonies? One notable exception to this habit, of course, is Jean Chrétien. Chrétien kept giving his spare change to his legion of homeless pals. Why do you think he had to go home for lunch every day like a five-year-old? By the time he got to work, all he had left in his wallet were fifties and hundreds.

What Ralph’s beef boils down to is this: Liberals think that giving citizens more than a little taste of their own money is a really bad idea. Instead, the federal government should take that money, keep some for itself, hire consultants to research and write papers on day care or global warming (keeping some money for themselves), set up pilot projects (those need money, too), and give some money to the provinces that are going to play ball with the Liberals (there goes some more money). Then if the Liberals happen to lose power (“God d*** you Layton and Zaccardelli!”), they blame the Conservatives for destroying their brilliant, about-to-be-rolled-out program.

But seriously, Conservatives are not opposed to government. We are opposed to incompetent, unfocussed government that majors in inserting itself into the provincial sphere, while minoring in (1) letting national responsibilities slide, and (2) demonizing conservative governments in Alberta and Ontario.

Provincial governments already run the big social programs (health, education, welfare), they are closer to the people than the federal government, and they have the income tax, sales tax and business tax revenue to pay for social programs. Federal equalization helps poorer provinces offer similar social programs. In the Liberals’ eyes, Stephen Harper’s sin is that he respects federal/provincial jurisdiction. This is what Ralph calls an “ideological obsession to stop the federal government from being an instrument for good in the lives of ordinary Canadians.”

Canadians seem pretty happy with their GST cut, so I guess if the Liberals want another massive program that will be an “instrument for good,” then during the next campaign they will just have to tell Canadians (1) they will raise taxes if elected, and (2) what they want to use the money for. Good luck, Ralph.

Or, they could just try to do what Dalton McGuinty did: promise they aren’t going to raise taxes and then raise them anyway. Liberals seem to be able to get away with that.