Friday, March 31, 2006

Borderline Disorder

Being able to cross into the United States without a passport--indeed, just being able to cross into the United States--is a privilege, not a right. The same thing goes for crossing into Canada from the States.

That privilege will soon disappear, and already people are up in arms at having to get a passport:

Federal and provincial governments, along with Canadian business, have been furiously lobbying the United States to back down on legislation that would require all foreign visitors to produce a passport or secure document. It will also require U.S. citizens to carry those documents.

The biggest fear is that the number of Americans coming to Canada to shop, do business or attend conferences will drop drastically once the law comes into force. Only about 20 per cent of Americans have a passport.

"I cannot slow down the goods and services coming across, we depend on an enormous amount of product coming across our borders, so he ability to get it quickly is really key to our success," said Annette Verschuren, CEO of Home Depot Canada.

Officials say a "secure" document would have security features that fall somewhere between a drivers license and a passport. The requirement is scheduled to come into effect for sea and air travellers by the end of this year, and by the end of 2007 for land crossings.

Getting a passport or similar secure document renewed every five years is little different than getting one's driver's licence or health card renewed, and about the same amount of hassle too.

Yet people on both sides of the border won't want to take out another piece of paper, especially if they can't see the need of it for travelling across the Canada-U.S. border.

Americans might be more resentful towards being forced to carry identity documents if they don't really have to--"Your papers, please!" may fall sweetly upon a European or Canadian ear, but grates on Americans brought up to be mistrustful of overarching government interference.

They may be even more resentful that this proposal is being made, seemingly to punish legitimate business concerns and travellers, at the same time that far worse troubles with Mexican illegal immigrants, inspired by radicals calling for the secession of the American Southwest as an independent Hispanic state or union with Mexico , are barely being dealt with.

And Canadians who demand that Canada enforce its sovereignty by hectoring the United States, will be screaming bloody blue murder that they can't just zip down for a shopping trip or weekend getaway without their passports like they used to.

Requiring passports to cross the border is a necessary part of reinforcing border security, but for both countries, it is not the main border security problem they need to focus on.

America's inability to keep Mexico from using illegal immigration as a safety valve against internal revolution, and the subsequent rise of a Hispanic Palestine in the Southwest, will be far greater problems in the long run.

And Canada's inability to break from the belief that the rest of the world loves us as much as we love ourselves, and thus would never do harm to us, will have tragic consequences someday.

Source: CJAD 800

Let The Torture Begin

Michael Ignatieff has all but declared his candidacy for philosopher king of the Liberal Party.

Be prepared to suffer some of the most brutal and excruciating assaults on the public consciousness ever inflicted.

Michael Ignatieff may not yet have made his candidacy for the Liberal leadership official, but any potential supporters worried he may not have the moral or intellectual suppleness required for politics can rest easy.

In a broad-ranging policy speech at the University of Ottawa yesterday, Mr. Ignatieff proved he is an A-list candidate who should have no problem raising the $3-million or so in $5,000 increments necessary to run a successful campaign -- in contrast with many of his 20 or so potential rivals.

He presented himself as a compassionate but fiscally conservative Liberal, who would place an emphasis on development issues, the environment, productivity and national unity. On the unity file, almost alone among Liberals, he recognized a fiscal imbalance existed between "a federal government that runs surpluses, while several provinces struggle to fund their ever rising costs in education and health care." He proposed solving the problem by negotiating a new equalization deal with the provinces, rather than transferring tax points.

The media will continue beating us over the head until we break down and confess that Ignatieff is the second coming of Trudeau. For our own good, of course.

The Crime Of Bad Press

Stephen Harper has been doing an admirable job putting the parliamentary press corps in its place, to remind them that the government of the day, and not the hacks in the gallery, controls the precincts of Parliament and access to information.

And indeed, Canadian political reporters are the most irresponsible, arrogant and opinionated group of so-called expert professionals in the land. They could all stand to be knocked down a peg or two.

But even this might be taking matters a little too far:

A backbench Conservative MP, blasting the media for its testy relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has suggested reporters who write distorted articles be jailed.

In a brief column sent to several newspapers in his Okanagan-Shuswap riding, Colin Mayes said that might help the public “get accurate and true information.”

Mr. Mayes seemed to suggesting in his column that the media be covered by something like the Conservative government's proposed Federal Accountability Act, which would prosecute elected officials and senior public servants who break the public trust.

“Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens,” he writes.

The column was e-mailed Thursday to nine small Okanagan papers, as well as the Vernon Daily Courier, by Wayne McGrath, Mr. Mayes's executive assistant.

The Courier recently decided not to publish the MP's regular columns.

The mental image of windbags like Jane Taber, Thomas Walkom and Susan Riley doing prison time for being generally annoying in print is an amusing one.

But such practices are unworthy of a free society. Such laws could be turned against every one on this blogroll, for the most specious of reasons, by a Liberal government.

Let us not turn journalists into martyrs. The public humiliation of being schooled by the untrained amateurs of the blogosphere is a far more effective punishment than prison.

Source: Globe and Mail

Thursday, March 30, 2006

William Shatner Sings Rocketman

What more need I say? Dig the funky tux, man!

Adscam: A Fool For A Client

Watching a self-represented litigant or defendant bumble his way through court proceedings can provide low comedy or high tragedy, depending on the situation and intelligence of the person so involved.

One suspects that Chuck Guité will provide plenty of both if he tries to defend himself throughout his fraud trial:

Saying he can't afford to hire a lawyer, former federal bureaucrat Chuck Guité has told a judge he will represent himself when his sponsorship program fraud trial begins in May.

Chuck Guité, who was in charge of the notorious federal sponsorship program, faces five counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy. (CP file photo)
Guité, the federal bureaucrat responsible for the sponsorship program in the 1990s, was in a courtroom in Montreal on Wednesday to learn more about how the proceedings will go.

He told Justice Fraser Martin of the Quebec Superior Court that he spends a few hours each day preparing for the trial, and has gone through about half the evidence marshalled against him so far.

Martin said Guité's decision to represent himself puts the court in a bad position, but he said he'll do his best to keep things fair.

As well as recommending the defendant pick up copies of the Criminal Code of Canada and the Canada Evidence Act, the judge suggested some legal websites that Guité might want to check out before jury selection begins on May 4.

All those ill-gotten gains, all those friends in high places, and yet he can't afford a lawyer or get someone to pay for one. How far and fast he has fallen!

Source: CBC

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No Change By Hamas, No Change For Hamas

Peter MacKay's initial comments about keeping financial assistance flowing to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority had me wondering whether the professional diplos in Fort Pearson had had him whipped into line.

I am happy to state that this is not the case:

Canada is cutting assistance and diplomatic ties to the Palestinian Authority because the new Hamas government has not renounced violence.
However, Ottawa will still provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through the United Nations and other organizations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay announced the news Wednesday after the Palestinian Legislative Council approved the formation of a Hamas-led government.

“The stated platform of this government has not addressed the concerns raised by Canada and others concerning non-violence, the recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap for Peace,” MacKay said in a statement.

“As a result, Canada will have no contact with the members of the Hamas cabinet and is suspending assistance to the Palestinian Authority.”

Tnis is almost as hard a line as the new Kadima-led Israeli government is likely to take.

It's refreshing to have a government in Ottawa that recognizes that a terrorist group clad in the authority of government is still a terrorist group. And it should serve notice to terrorist organizations in Canada that the days of tolerance and wilful blindness towards their fundraising, publicity and organizational activites in Canada may also be ending.

This is what condemning terrorism is about. Not windy speeches at the United Nations.

Source: Toronto Star

Pte. Robert Costall

One Canadian soldier was killed and three others wounded in a fierce firefight with the Taliban overnight.

The soldier is identified as Pte. Robert Costall, of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

A native of Thunder Bay, Ont., Costall is believed to be 22 years old.

"Private Costall died defending his fellow soldiers and we will not forget his sacrifice," said Brigadier-General David Fraser at a short briefing here this morning, standing in front of the monument erected to honour other Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan.

Source: Toronto Star

Rushing For The Lobby

If you're an ambitious young Conservative parliamentary staffer looking fondly downhill at the greener pastures of lobbying, it's better to be working for Myron Thompson than Greg Thompson:

OTTAWA — Two Conservative staffers have already left jobs working for cabinet ministers to lobby the federal government, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledge to bar former ministerial staffers from lobbying for five years.

The two, Kevin Macintosh and David Salvatore, left their government jobs this month and started signing up private clients, but the Tories say they broke no rules because they worked as parliamentary aides, rather than ministerial aides, for cabinet members Rob Nicholson and Monte Solberg.

A number of staffers who served the Tories in opposition have become lobbyists.

Several of them were on Mr. Harper's staff.

Mr. Harper came to power promising to enact strict ethics rules, including a five-year cooling-off period before ministers, ministerial staffers and senior officials can start lobbying the government. Last November, he pledged that a new Accountability Act will be his government's first legislation.

"If there are Hill staffers who dream of making it rich trying to lobby a future Conservative government, if that's true of any of you, you had better make different plans, or leave," Mr. Harper said then.

Those restrictions apply only to minister's aides, however, and not to aides to backbench MPs, so those who worked for the Tories in opposition are not hampered by them.

And according to government spokesmen, the restrictions do not apply to the staff working in a minister's parliamentary office rather than at the department the minister leads.

Things start to look a lot different once your party is sitting on the other side of the House. It's easy enough to condemn the symbiotic, if not parasitical, nature of friendly lobbying firms and the government of the day, when you're not in an immediate position to take advantage of it.

While these former staffers have held to the letter of the Federal Accountability Act--an act that has not even been introduced in Parliament--they are violating its spirit.

The general public will not make or care about the fine distinctions between a staffer for a cabinet minister working in the parliamentary office and one working in a ministerial office. Professional lobbyists know otherwise, but all the electorate will see is staffers trying to get rich off their government connections, another broken election promise and business as usual.

Perhaps the five-year ban on former ministers, staffers and top official lobbying the government will prove to be too stringent, and more honoured in the breach than in the observance. It is foolish to think that these people won't find a way to trade on their expertise by lobbying under another name.

The distance between opposition and government benches is but two sword lengths, but such a short trip takes you farther than you think.

Source: Globe and Mail

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Great Seal Hunt: Conception Baywatch

Stephen Harper has a policy of not meeting with uninformed self-important Hollywood celebrities who think that box-office or Neilsen ratings success lends weight to their usually uninformed views on public policy.

But in this case, he can be forgiven for making an exception. She is, unlike all the other celebrity interlopers, at least a Canadian:

Electoral Reform At Random

The next time you get a letter in the mail telling you that you may already be a winner, it won't be from Publishers Clearinghouse, and it sure as hell won't be for any bloody $10 million:

A new citizens assembly will look at whether Ontario's first-past-the-post electoral system still serves the democratic needs of its citizens.

Democratic Renewal Minister Marie Bountrogianni announced yesterday that an assembly of 103 Ontario residents chosen from the Permanent Register of Electors will debate which electoral system would best suit the province.

"In order for Ontario to be strong, our democracy has to be strong," Bountrogianni said.

Any recommendation the assembly makes for change would be put to the general public in a referendum for possible implementation in 2011, she said.

Among the options that could be considered by the assembly would be proportional representation -- allocating seats in the Ontario legislature by the percentage of vote.

William F. Buckley once said that he'd rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than 2,000 Harvard faculty members.

Perhaps this is the same sort of thinking at work in drawing 103 people off the electoral rolls to debate and propose electoral reform.

Or perhaps it will be a completely cynical exercise--pick 103 random ignorami who can't tell STV from SCTV, and don't really care, to provide the supposed blessing of the people to whatever the experts controlling the assembly decide is best.

Some sort of electoral reform is desirable. But I'm not sure this is the best way to go about it.

Source: Toronto Sun

On The Waterfront

Like world peace and true love, the revitalization of the Toronto waterfront is always hoped for, often promised, and never realized.

Well, scratch last that one:

MP John Baird was one of the few Conservatives in the crowd at yesterday's construction kickoff for Toronto's newest waterfront community, but he got the loudest cheers.

"I want to send a very clear message on behalf of the federal government of our active engagement in this file and we look forward to a very successful partnership," said Baird, president of the federal Treasury Board.

His comments effectively put to rest concerns that the new Conservative government wasn't going to back Toronto's waterfront revitalization.

Five years ago, the city, Queen's Park and Ottawa jointly put up $1.5 billion and unveiled a grand vision to remake 46 kilometres of Toronto's lakefront into vibrant neighbourhoods full of homes, businesses, parks and transit, with improved public access to the lake.

After years of study and delay, that work got underway yesterday in the West Don Lands, a 32-hectare area straddling Front St. E., between Parliament St. and the Don River.

Land covered with derelict warehouses and polluted soil will be transformed into a neighbourhood of 5,800 homes, an elementary school, a recreation centre and parks — all within a five-minute walk of a new public transit line.

It is entirely possible to live a full and satisfying life in Toronto without noticing that it sits on the shoreline of Lake Ontario. That has been one of many tragedies of urban planning in Toronto over the past 50 years.

There are a few attractive spots along the lakeshore--Harbourfront, the Leslie Spit and Toronto Island come to mind--but otherwise, it's a patchwork of abandoned and active industrial and port sites, a bit of sand, a couple of underused trails, and condo projects.

If these people can make the waterfront as attractive as it should be, they'll have done a rare bit of decent urban planning in this city.

Source: Toronto Star

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bloomin' Orchard

Now that all the A-list candidates have bowed out of the leadership race, and some of the B-list names are keeping mum, it's time for the Z-list names to grab their 15 minutes of fame. Again:

Saskatchewan farmer and two-time Tory leadership hopeful David Orchard is thinking about leaping into the Liberal race.

"What I'm really doing right now is taking calls. I certainly had not been considering it, but calls kept coming so I kept answering them and listening to what people have to say,'' Orchard said in an interview.

"I'm not ruling anything in or anything out.''

Orchard ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, where he was regarded as an outsider -- but a powerful one.

His last kick at the Conservative can saw him come a strong second to Peter MacKay. His support on the final ballot in exchange for a guarantee of no merger with Stephen Harper's Alliance secured MacKay's victory.

When the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance, Orchard found a new political home with the Liberals. He took out a Liberal membership before the last election.

David Orchard's strong finish in the 2003 PC race underscored just how weak the had become, that it could end up within an inch of becoming the personal vehicle of a hitherto-obscure opportunistic crank. His candidacy did more than is generally realized in paving the way to the Conservative Party's creation.

He probably will not achieve similar success in the Liberal race. But his candidacy would have been laughed off the stage in previous years, instead of being taken seriously.

David Orchard's rise to prominence in a political party is usually a symptom of its terminal decline. When a party can't fight off a hijacker, it is going down.

Source: CTV

Angry Harry

Men who know just how badly the feminist revolution has ruined them will find a voice in Angry Harry.

Every man who's ever been hard done by because of a woman needs to bookmark his site and read him. Now.

Railroaded In Court

Sometimes the train beats you.

But no train can beat a runaway jury.

Quaere: Illegal Immigrant Deportation

While the Toronto Star continues to tug at readers' heartstrings with overwrought stories about the shattered dreams and lives of illegal immigrants from Portugal, one question remains unasked: why have the Portuguese illegals been singled out this time?

Could it be that they are white Europeans, and thus can be safely expelled without raising cries of racial bias and oppression from the usual progressive defenders of immigrants?

Could it also be that they are also extremely unlikely to respond with violent reprisal?

Just asking, since the media won't.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Here is an excerpt from a statement made by freed hostage James Loney today after arriving at Pearson Airport:

People have been asking what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home. All I really want to do is to love and be loved by the people that I love. The one specific thing might be to wash a sink full of dirty dishes. After this I’m going to disappear for a little while into a different kind of abyss, an abyss of love. I need some time to get reacquainted with my partner, Dan, my family, my community and freedom itself. I’m eager to tell the story of my captivity and rescue but I need a little time first. That’s a subtle hint to anyone out there who might happen to have a big camera or notebook.

The more these hostages talk, the more sympathy they generate for their captors. If Loney had been talking sentimental nonsense about abysses of love and his partner all this time, it's a wonder his captors didn't shoot him just for being a irritating fey naif.

Whatever happened to showing a little emotional restraint in the public eye, even in the face of disaster? I miss the old stiff upper lip attitude.

Source: Toronto Star

Drunk On Campus

Drunkenness and university go together these days like hand and glove.

And while we may reminisce fondly about the bacchanals of our youthful collegiate days--what little we remember of them--for too many students, the consequences thereof are not the painful regrets of a crushing hangover the next day, but of lives ruined.

Gates of Vienna has an excellent article explaining how the modern university's own codes of political correctness have helped to foster a poisonous alcoholic subculture on campus that goes far beyond a little excessive imbibing.

This isn't Animal House anymore.

Abdul Rahman: To Be Released, But Not Set Free

Look how quickly the mills of Islamic "justice" can stop grinding an "apostate" down and reverse when the West stands up to their operators instead of apologizing for imposing its values on them:

An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence, and he will be released soon, an official said.

The official told The Associated Press that the case had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation, but that in the meantime, Abdul Rahman would be released.

"The court dismissed today the case against Abdul Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case," the official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

"The decision about his release will be taken possibly tomorrow," he added.

The court, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, had been under intense international pressure to drop the case against Rahman, who faced a possible death sentence for his conversion.

Some Islamic clerics had called for him to be put to death, saying Rahman would face danger from his countrymen if he were released.

So for the time being, as long as the headlines are unfavourable towards Karzai's regime, Rahman will be safe. Sort of.

When Rahman becomes yesterday's news, the prosecutors will quietly resume their case--it hasn't been dropped, after all, merely sent back for further investigation--and Rahman will be given a much more low-key trial and execution.

But we have to start somewhere.

And if you think there has been a deafening silence from self-styled progressives on this issue, to some extent, you're right. They'll never say so publicly, but many of them are quietly cheering on Rahman's persecutors.

Underlying their hyperbole about the "Christian right" is their own hatred of the one religion they actively hate, as opposed to being merely indifferent towards, because it is the foundation of their own civilization that they have come to hate in their own self-loathing.

A good many of them hope our courts will one day do to the "Christian right" what Islamic courts do to many "apostates" now.

Hate crimes laws and human rights commissions just aren't doing the job for them.

Source: National Post

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Not With A Bang, But With A Whimper?

Every year, the Caribana parade brightens Toronto streets with a colourful parade of costumes, floats, and music, celebrating West Indian culture.

Every year, people drive up and down Yonge Street the Friday night before in an unofficial Caribana parade, stereos blaring.

Every year, someone gets shot in a gang-related incident during Caribana.

Every year, the Caribana organizing committee threatens to cancel the whole event unless the city fronts them more money.

Every year, the city coughs up at the last minute for fear of being labelled racist.

This year might be different, if the city really sticks to its guns (like the parade spectators).

Can you imagine the city ever pulling out its funding for the Gay Pride Parade? Didn't think so. In the calculus of political correctness, sexuality now trumps race.

Perhaps Caribana should reinvent itself as the Batty Man Festival. The city fathers would dump a truckload of cash on them right away.

The Return Of The Native

Liberals are gathering along Yonge Street with palm branches to hail the coming of their saviour as he makes his triumphal procession into the holy city of Toronto:

Michael Ignatieff will deliver what his strategists are calling a “vision speech” Thursday in Ottawa as a prelude to his formal announcement that he is running for the Liberal leadership.

The former Harvard professor and rookie Liberal MP is expected to outline his views on national unity, the economy and his controversial support of the war in Iraq in his speech on Canada and its role in the world to University of Ottawa political-science students.

The speech will be followed, either Friday or early the next week, by a formal announcement in his Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore that he wants to succeed Paul Martin as leader of the Liberal Party.


The Liberal familiar with his views said that Mr. Ignatieff's approach to national unity is more of a “civic concept.”

“The role of the federal government isn't really any longer about federal-provincial jurisdictional squabbles or who's got the money. [It's about whether] Canadian freedom from coast to coast has the same quality and character.”

Expect plenty of high-sounding rhetoric laden with pseudo-academic phrases and concepts to cover over a complete lack of original thinking and uncritical acceptance of the Liberal Party status quo .

Despite Ignatieff's occasionally hawkish foreign policy talk and expressions of fiscal responsibility, do not expect him to announce anything new.

He's not expected to actually have new ideas, just the appearance thereof.

Since Pierre Trudeau will not rise from the grave, Michael Ignatieff will have to do as the next great philosopher-king.

Ignatieff will be the third declared candidate for the Liberal leadership, and also the third from the Toronto area. And many others will join him--Gerard Kennedy, Bob Rae, Joe Volpe, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Carolyn Bennett, Belinda Stronach, Ken Dryden.

From worldwide Liberal revolution, to Liberalism in one country, to Liberalism in one city.

Let as many Toronto Liberals clutter up the starting gates as possible. Nothing will be more harmful to the party's long-term prospects than the perception that is a Toronto party.

Source: Globe and Mail

Friday, March 24, 2006

Travelling Comforts

Pop star demands the hotel concierge send up blow and hookers on room service and get hard-core porn on TV: ho-hum.

Dick Cheney asks for a little extra light, decaf coffee and Fox News: national scandal.

A non-story if ever there was one. The U.S. Vice-President's requests for a few nominal comforts are hardly out of line. There are business travellers who demand much more and whine about not getting it.

As perks of office go, these are pretty innocuous.

Imagine what Bill Clinton's advance requests were. Much the same as our hypothetical pop star's, I suppose.

Dollars To Donuts

The opening trading in Tim Horton's IPO on the TSX and New York reaped more rewards than any roll up the rim to win:

Trading in Tim Hortons shares got off to a brisk start Friday as lucky investors in the chain's initial public offering made windfall profits of up to $11 a share.

The first-ever share offering by the popular coffee and doughnut empire was priced at $27. But when trading opened on the TSX, the shares began trading north of $36 and went as high as $37.99 before sliding back to $35 by 10 a.m. EST.

The public gallery at the TSX was needed to accommodate the crowd at Tim's opening ceremony (CBC photo).
Shares also began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where similar gains were seen.

Underwriters allocated 60 per cent of the shares for Canadian investors, but large institutional investors snapped up the majority of those shares.

Tim Hortons will raise $780 million through its initial public offering. The company said it will use money to pay off debt owed to its parent company, Wendy's International Inc.

There hasn't been this much popular buzz about an IPO in Canada since, well, ever, even though many have been more profitable.

Few can relate to most IPOs, but everybody knows the value of a double-double.

Source: CBC

Quaere: Hostages

Now that the Christian Peacemaker hostages have been freed with the help of the RCMP and JTF2, will the anti-war crowd demand that Canada demonstrate its commitment to peace and international law by standing back the next time Canadians get taken hostage in Iraq?

Or should we seek the UN's permission to rescue them first?

Or should Canadians taken hostage be instructed to ask their liberators for their UN authorization first before going along with them?

Source: CBC

It's Garth Again!

Garth Turner is showing what he thinks of the recent PMO order to have all communications vetted beforehand to make sure everybody's staying on message:

Maverick Conservative MP Garth Turner is once again playing the thorn in his government's side, publicly calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to scrap part of the Tory election platform that he says is proving unpopular.

But, while he issued a press release yesterday announcing this, the Ontario MP refused to identify which election plank he thinks his government should drop.

Mr. Turner said he's delaying releasing his recommendations until March 29, after he has delivered a copy to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.


He said his recommendations are based on feedback from more than 10,000 Canadians via the Internet, interviews and town halls.

His news release billed the exercise as "what's believed to be the largest prebudget consultation in Canada's history." The MP said it was what he heard during this freelance effort that convinced him part of the Tory platform needed to be shelved.

"I don't think it's affordable, I don't think it's workable and I don't think it really jibes with our themes of doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people," he said of the plank he wants dropped.

How clever of Garth. He'll be keeping this story alive in the media by having everybody guessing what's inside the mystery box, all the while claiming that whatever it is, it's what the people want.

And who can verify Garth's claims independently? Who's to say that dropping this plank came not from the people but from Garth?

Is he going to play the same games about voting against the budget if this mystery plank isn't dropped that he did when he mused about defecting because he couldn't share the same caucus room as David Emerson?

Watch for Garth Turner to try and upstage his own government's budget. He still wishes he, the greatest investment expert in Canadian history, was finance minister.

Source: Globe and Mail

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Funds In Transit

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has richly rewarded the GTA for its steadfast support of the Liberal Party with a big bucket of cash for public transit, to wit:

--$670 million to extend the Spadina subway line from Downsview through York University and into Vaughan;

--$200 million to upgrade current subway lines and trains;

--$167 million to various 905 municipalities for dedicated bus lines and such;

--$130.4 million of gasoline tax funds for public transit;

--$1 million to study the future of the Scarborough RT line;

--And a shiny new Greater Toronto Transportation Authority so that suburban drivers can underwrite downtown subway riders (like me).

Think of all the construction jobs to be made on the one hand, and the feel-good satisfaction of appearing to to do something good for the environment on the other. A perfect Liberal feel-good vote-buying budget plank if ever there was one!

Extending the subway line out to Vaughan will still take the Spadina line out through a lot of relatively empty space; finishing the Sheppard line still won't happen a long time, if ever; and lines on streets that could actually carry the traffic, like Eglinton Avenue, will never be built.

And one wonders whether the stuff that regularly gets announced with great fanfare only to be forgotten will ever be remembered. Like the Pearson-to-Union Station rail link, or LRT replacing those heavy clunkers of streetcars.

Steve Munro has done some serious thinking about what the Toronto transit system needs. Unfortunately, most of it will be lost in the rush to build the Spadina subway extension to nowhere in particular.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance

Frederick's Of Riyadh

The Saudi government, ever solicitious of women's virtue, has decided to ban men from selling women's underwear and lingerie:

In ads published in several Saudi papers, the ministry of labour called on all women’s clothing shop owners to comply with the decree issued two years ago “in order to increase employment opportunities for Saudi women.”

“Penalties and fines will be levied against store owners and male clerks who violate the ban,” said a statement by the ministry adding that it will go into effect on June 19.

The decree also says that stores selling lingerie must conceal that section from the rest of the shop in compliance with the kingdom’s segregation of the sexes. A number of Saudi women had expressed disquiet at having to buy their underwear from men, Saudi papers reported.

I'm amazed that they let their women wear something other than those tents, even behind closed doors.

Or maybe that's the point. If you can't see anything other than her eyes underneath an abaya, you start to get a little too curious about everything else.

Source: Khaleej Times

Hostages Freed

A joint U.S.-Iraqi special forces operation has freed three hostages from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, including Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden.

Let that be a lesson to pacifists in war zones: only force overcomes force.

Source: CBC

UPDATE: Kathy Shaidle reports that the CPT can't express one word of thanks to the men who put their lives on the line to free them. As usual, she cuts right to the heart of the matter:

If these three had been true to their principles, they would have refused to accompany their "evil" military rescuers. So much for pacifism.

How true.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No To Bardot

So Brigitte Bardot is all upset that Stephen Harper will not even give her a phone call to discuss the seal hunt:

"I made a gruelling trip only to be turned away by the prime minister. I am very disappointed. He will not even talk to me by telephone," the animal rights activist said.

Bardot said she was detained for more than two hours by Canadian customs and immigration staff upon her arrival last night.

"At one point, I thought they would turn me away," she said in a telephone interview.

"I had to pay a sort of ransom and they gave me permission to stay only two days. I think I've stirred things up a bit, so they're trying to unsettle me."

Bardot last came here in 1977 and kicked off three decades of protests against the seal hunt by hugging a fluffy white doe-eyed pup on an ice floe for photographers.

The years have not been kind to Brigitte, but her inflated sense of self-importance have not diminished.

Good to see that Harper can't spare the time to listen to a washed-up actress whose credentials to discuss the issue consist solely of having the hottest French actress 50 years ago.

Celebrity does not equal credibility.

Source: The Australian

Building Concerns

The Toronto Star usually takes fits whenever Canadians get laid off, have their jobs offshored, or get exploited by their bosses.

So it's surprising to see that, in its concern for the fate of illegal construction workers from Portugal, it's willing to give the construction companies who hire them a platform to promote a practice that drives down wages and creates a workforce practically unprotected by law:

A prominent GTA developer has condemned the federal government for wanting to toss "honest, hard-working" illegal immigrants from Portugal and other countries out of Canada.

"There is definitely a shortage of workers in the construction industry right now, and it doesn't matter — from road building to plumber to bricklayers — there is a shortage," Silvio De Gasperis told the Toronto Star yesterday.

"This process should be stopped until they get a chance to review and assess the entire situation," said De Gasperis, one of the country's largest private developers. "Maybe if they did they would realize that the good families, the honest people, should be staying and working."

It has been estimated that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 illegal immigrants working in southern Ontario's construction and hospitality industries; some estimates put the number of undocumented workers across the country as high as 300,000.

The contractors' general line of argument goes like this: Canadians won't do the job, so when there's a building boom, we need to get workers where we can find them, and to hell with the law and paperwork.

However, an employer has a lot more control over an illegal worker, by virtue of his illegal status, than he would over a Canadian worker.

A Canadian worker who knows his rights under our labour laws is more likely to stand to a boss who might demand that he perform unreasonably unsafe work, or work excessive mandatory overtime, or not report his injuries to workmen's comp.

He doesn't have to worry about the threat of a phone call to immigration and having him and his family kicked out of the country.

Perhaps more Canadians would do the job, if strict enforcement of immigration laws dried up the source of illegals and wages ceased to be driven down as a result.

It's rich, however, when the self-proclaimed newspaper voice of the working man ends up defending the most exploitative of labour practices.

In And Out

Gerard Kennedy: in.

Martin Cauchon: out.

Further proof that the Liberal Party's magnetic pole has shifted from Quebec to Toronto.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ashley MacIsaac: Libloggers Speak!

What do our friends on the opposition blog benches have to say about Ashley MacIsaac's leadership bid musings?

Little Red Island is unimpressed:

This is absolutely not the kind of thing the Party needs. Candidates like MacIsaac detract from the race and make it look like amateur hour, when what we need is smart guys like Stephane Dion, John Godfrey, and Michael Ignatieff front and center. MacIsaac is just a distraction.

Revelation 22.22 is actually quite happy to see MacIsaac corner the crucial drug-addled sexual deviant vote:

Yes, he is a former crack-baser and he is into some very different sexual practices, but hey if you want to open the field you might as well consider it wide open now.

Ron Maheu fears that lowering the leadership entry fee to $50,000 might encourage too many of the wrong sort of people to run. People with agendas, ideas, ulterior motives and all sorts of other embarrassing things that might get in the way of a civilized coronation of the next prime minister by divine right:

For $50,000, almost anyone can now buy their 15-minutes of fame. If you're a business person looking for an ego boost, running for Leader of the Liberal Party is cheaper than buying a professional sports franchise. If you're a comedian looking for an unending supply of material for a dozen or more CBC specials, running for Leader of the Liberal Party is cheaper than hiring a team of joke writers (et tu Mercer).....I don't believe that our leadership race being perceived as a free-for-all helps our cause but, unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure that we didn't invite one with the low entry fee.

Well Ron, you all thought it was a big laugh to have a transvestite run for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance. Now the joke's on you. But I can still think of better things to do with $50,000 to make a name for myself than run for the Liberal leadership.

Stop Harper is also having fits at the possibility of an open race:

at first i thought it would be awesome to have lots of candidates with a variety of backgrounds and ideas. unfortunately an individual from cape breton has changed my mind. after watching what can only be described as a ‘shock and aw’ interview on ctv with this blundering fellow, i am convinced more then ever that we need to preserve the leadership for those with a tiny bit of political elitism.

herby I am asking that you raise the entry fee substantially so that this leadership doesn’t turn into a parade of losers.

The Liberals have not had recent experience with a genuinely contested leadership race since Trudeau won in 1968. Its last three leaders have arisen by stealth campaigns against the incumbent ending in coronation: Turner against Trudeau, Chretien against Turner, and Martin against Chretien.

They seem to fear having to choose from among a host of contenders, front-runners, also-rans, single-issue men, regional bosses, interest brokers and fringe nuts alike.

How much easier it was for them when the party elites tipped the scales so far in advance that everyone knew who was going to win, and the convention was just a mere formality.

You can't bridge the national democratic deficit if you can't cross the one within your own party.

The Liberals are going to have to learn that intra-party democracy is messy, but it works.


When James Travers starts to worry about the Liberal leadership race's inability to act as a catalyst for change in the party, then we realize just how rotten the timbers are holding up those 102 seats:

At the moment, Liberals are utterly lost. After careening through two years and two elections with Paul Martin, a party that once boasted it was the western world's most successful no longer dominates the political centre, is out of fresh ideas and has no obvious leadership light to follow out of darkness.

So what's the Liberal response? It's to declare that Stephen Harper is making such a horrendous start that they must be ready to fight an election now forecast for next spring.

What self-deluding nonsense. Harper's pratfall trifecta — luring David Emerson across the floor, making Michael Fortier a senator as well as the unaccountable minister for notoriously corrupt public works and arrogantly reversing his commitment to open government — is overshadowed by what the new prime minister is doing well.


As if that isn't enough, Liberals haven't noticed that the country is changing. Along with wealth and jobs, political influence is drifting west from the party's Ontario urban base, a dynamic made more powerful by the bracing Conservative revival in Quebec.

All of this is compounded by another reality: Liberals don't have much to say and don't know how to say it. First Jean Chrétien and then Martin held power by sliding to the political right and demonizing Conservatives. Now that Harper is edging toward the centre while shedding his horns and curly tail, Liberals must reframe the debate and, ultimately, the ballot question.

The Toronto media elites were briefly pleased as punch that the Grits had been able to build a firewall around Toronto. After all, no government could be truly legitimate in its eyes without Toronto representation.

Now they've done the math, studied the geography, and are alarmed to find not only that Toronto isn't enough to ensure a Liberal return to government, but that the Centre of the Universe might cease to be the centre of Canada as well.

Watch for more articles in this vein, begging for the Liberals to do something, anything, to get back those Quebec seats fast and show some signs of life out West.

Toronto is still a fair bit ahead of Calgary in economic and political influence. But the gap narrows every day, and the Toronto media elites are slowly adjusting to that fact.

Deported To Oporto

The Toronto Star is upset that the federal government would let such a trivial matter as immigration law get in the way of bringing thousands of Portuguese construction labourers into the country:

Illegal workers in Toronto's underground economy are being deported as the new Conservative government abandons a Liberal amnesty plan, immigration lawyers and consultants say.

Some families who have been in Canada five years or more are being given less than two weeks to pack up and leave.

Toronto's Portuguese community — with up to 15,000 undocumented members, working mainly in the booming construction industry — is especially concerned.

Early last year, then-Immigration Minister Joe Volpe said he would try to find a way to get legal status for undocumented workers.

"They are here already and have proven themselves to be integrated," Volpe said at the time.

Last May, he said he had signed off on a final draft and the plan was set to go to cabinet. But nothing was done during the following six months before the Liberals were defeated.

Obviously shoring up the Portuguese vote in Toronto granting amnesty to an honest group of hard-working migrants wasn't one of the clearly fundamental number one priorities for the previous regime.

And I'm amazed to the Star, of all publications, tacitly approving the practice of hiring illegal migrant workers to drive down wages and keep contractors off the hook for worker's comp claims and other benefits.

"I've seen a larger number of (removal) letters going out to people," Peter Ferreira, president of the Portuguese National Council and a former senior immigration officer, said in an interview. "I've been getting more calls from people who are concerned. They see the writing is on the wall."

Apart from personal hardship for people now firmly entrenched in Canada, the flurry of deportations could devastate the construction industry, Ferreira said. "This group — it's been proven and any union president or employer will say — don't get rid of these people because we need them.

"Imagine expelling thousands of construction workers when the construction industry is desperate for skilled labour ... Consider the contribution made by these people.

"It doesn't make sense. These people are contributing to Canada's well-being and economy."

To ease the shortage, Canada offers one-year temporary work permits for people with construction skills. The annual quota of 500 is never met, Ferreira said. "So we need these (undocumented) people even more."

Mind you, I'd rather have hard-working, culturally compatible Portuguese immigrants in Toronto than Jamaican gangsters and radical Islamic riffraff.

But legally.

In a time when our immigration system has been exposed as a weak link in the national security chain, we can't afford to turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants of any kind, no matter how safe they might be.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fiddling While Ottawa Burns

Ashley MacIsaac, the washed-up bad boy of Cape Breton fiddling, has decided to grace the Liberal leadership contest with his candidacy.

His slogan: "Canada needs a golden shower of prosperity!"

Kabul Express

If Nasrat Ali had meet his unfortunate demise six months ago, Joe Volpe and Bill Graham would have whipped out the chequebook and rolled out the red carpet for a pre-election photo-op.

Now his family is lucky to get a sheep, because Hallmark doesn't have a "Sorry we whacked your husband" card:

Thank you for the sheep. But can we come to Canada?
That was the response today from the family of Nasrat Ali, the Afghan father of six who was killed by a Canadian soldier on patrol here last week. Semen Gul, Ali’s widow, had said earlier that the family would be asking for $30,000 (US) in compensation from Canada for the loss of their main breadwinner, a man who allegedly had 15 dependants in close kin, including a daughter-in-law and toddler grandson.

But today, Ali’s oldest son, Nisar Ahmed, 22, told the Star through an intermediary that what his family would like most is temporary relocation to Canada, so that the younger children in the family can get a good education.

“We want to go to Canada,’’ said Ahmed. “There is nothing for us here now, especially the younger ones.’’

They would not seek to stay forever.

During the weekend, Canadian military commanders here authorized the purchase of one sheep – $100 (US) at the local market – for the family, as an initial token of regret for the tragedy that occurred when the motorized rickshaw in which Nasrat Ali was travelling was fired upon last Tuesday, allegedly for failing to obey commands that it not approach a parked convoy in Kandahar city.

Heartless as this sounds, what the commanders did is about as much as they should have done.

If the soldier violated the rules of engagement, the military justice system can deal with him.

Civilian deaths will happen in any combat zone, no matter how much effort is put into preventing them. The armed forces should not be put in the uncomfortable position of being sued or shaken down by foreign civilians every time something goes wrong in a war zone.

Leave the matter of compensation between governments, if at all.

There's no such thing as no-fault insurance in a war zone.

Source: Toronto Star


Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro's report on David Emerson's crossing the floor to stay in Cabinet has cleared all involved, but at least he finally demonstrated some grasp of competence in identifying the real reason for the upset at the appointment:

My conclusion from the preliminary inquiry is that neither Mr. Harper nor Mr. Emerson contravened any of the specific Sections of the Members’ Code. I am satisfied that no special inducement was offered by Mr. Harper to convince Mr. Emerson to join his Cabinet and his party. In addition, there is no reason, and certainly no evidence, to contradict Mr. Emerson’s own claim that accepting Mr. Harper’s offer seemed, at least to him, a way to better serve his city, province and country. I therefore find no reason to pursue these matters further.

That having been said, I believe that the discontent expressed by Canadians on this matter cannot be attributed merely to the machinations of partisan politics. Fairly or unfairly, this particular instance has given many citizens a sense that their vote – the cornerstone of our democratic system – was somehow devalued, if not betrayed. Relative to the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, this disquiet is reflected in the gap between the values underlying the principles of the Members’ Code and the detailed conflict of interest rules within the Code itself. While I can administer the rules, the gap can only be addressed through rigorous political debate and the development, through the political process, of the appropriate policies to address it.

In other words, it's not up to Shapiro to decide about the propriety of floor-crossing, only to decide if the Code of Conduct was broken during the process.

And it wasn't:

All three members who requested an inquiry in relation to Mr. Harper have alleged that Section 8 of the Members’ Code has been breached:

“8. When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member’s family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.”

For this Section to have any application in relation to Mr. Harper, one would have to conclude that in selecting the members of his Cabinet, the Prime Minister designate was actually performing a parliamentary duty or function. If this could be established, it would have to be determined whether on a balance of probabilities, Mr. Harper improperly furthered the private interests of another person in doing so. However, based on the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, it is clear that Mr. Harper, in his capacity as Prime Minister designate, was performing a constitutionally recognized executive function, and not an activity associated with his legislative duties or functions. I have therefore concluded that there is no contravention of this Section by Mr. Harper.

In the case of Mr. Emerson, the issue of whether he was performing parliamentary duties and functions must also be addressed. As well, one would have to consider whether it was Mr. Emerson’s intent to further his private interests in engaging in a discussion with the Prime Minister in relation to an appointment to Cabinet.

Each individual, on appointment to Cabinet, receives additional salary and benefits associated with the office (e.g. car, driver and ministerial staff). The increase in salary and benefits alone cannot be considered as an improper inducement. If it was, the appointment of any person to Cabinet could be considered suspect. However, what is important is the intent and the purpose associated with an offer to join Cabinet. Clearly, if the Prime Minister were to approach a member with an offer of a Cabinet position with the sole intent and specific purpose of acquiring that member’s vote directly linked to a parliamentary proceeding existing at that time, such conduct would be inappropriate and unacceptable. Conversely, if a member of the House were to approach the Prime Minister indicating that, in exchange for a Cabinet position, his or her vote could be acquired for the sole intent and specific purpose that is directly linked to a parliamentary proceeding existing at that time, that too, would be inappropriate and unacceptable.

In the present case, the activities of the 39th Parliament have not yet commenced. There were therefore no parliamentary proceedings at the time. Mr. Harper initiated and approached Mr. Emerson to join the new Cabinet. I am satisfied that the purpose and intent of the offer from Mr. Harper was not to acquire Mr. Emerson’s vote directly linked to an existing and specific parliamentary proceeding. Therefore, I have concluded that the conduct of Mr. Emerson did not contravene Section 8 of the Members’ Code.

Simply put: appointing a Cabinet is the Prime Minister's executive function, not legislative, and thus fell outside the ambit of the Code of Conduct. And the perks of office are not a sufficient inducement to sell one's vote, a vote which Emerson did not have to sell at the time.

But this sentence is the kicker:

Clearly, if the Prime Minister were to approach a member with an offer of a Cabinet position with the sole intent and specific purpose of acquiring that member’s vote directly linked to a parliamentary proceeding existing at that time, such conduct would be inappropriate and unacceptable.

Sounds like an oblique condemnation of the Belinda Stronach defection last spring. We underestimated Shapiro's willingness to gauge which way the wind's blowing, even for a Liberal partisan.

Source: Office of the Ethics Commissioner

Bloc Toronto Leadership Race Begins

And they're off!

John Godfrey joins Martha Hall Findlay in the race, with Belinda Stronach about to throw her elegrant chapeau in the ring presently.

And Carolyn Bennett.

And Maurizio Bevilacqua.

Ken Dryden won't be far behind.

Michael Ignatieff, of course.

And Bob Rae will be the 800-pound gorilla that squashes them all.

It would be easier at this point to name the GTA Liberals who aren't running or thinking of doing so.

Holding the leadership convention in Montreal is just for appearances. Having it at the Air Canada Centre where all the top contenders can get there from home on the TTC or GO bus would just be too blatantly obvious.

This is the new Liberal Party of Canada, folks, representing Canadians from Pickering to Oakville, and from Newmarket to Harbourfront.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Ontario taxpayers are shelling out $150,000 to study the mating habits of the northern flying squirrel, reports the Toronto Star :

It sounds nutty, but it's true: Premier Dalton McGuinty's personal ministry is spending $150,000 to study the sex lives of northern flying squirrels.

McGuinty, who is also Minister of Research and Innovation, a department he created last June, is the government's point person on scientific and technological funding.

The ministry website says the province is bankrolling an exhaustive examination of northern flying squirrels' habits at Laurentian University in Sudbury to the tune of $150,000 over five years.

"How do environmental influences, things like food availability, predators and climate changes affect wild animals and their ability to procreate? That's a question Dr. Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde at Laurentian University hopes to answer," the website says.

It's easy for us to sneer at what appears to be a frivolous waste of taxpayers money to see how and why flying squirrels f**k.

But the advance of scientific knowledge is a worthy endeavour at the public expense, however recondite the subject matter might be to the general public.

There are far more egregiously wasteful line items in the budget to complain about, but they don't have the same instant headline cachet as this.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Staying Away In Droves

Despite the CBC's valiant attempts to portray yesterday's anti-Iraq war protests as a massive public outcry of widespread opposition, even it had to admit that they were a bust, even among the rent-a-crowd that usually can be called up on a moment's notice to hit the streets:

More than 1,000 anti-war protesters marched through the streets of downtown Toronto Saturday, joining worldwide demonstrations marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Protesters waved placards as they marched from the U.S. consulate to the downtown core, condemning the war in Iraq and Canada's 2,200-strong presence in Afghanistan.

The Toronto protest was organized by the Coalition to Stop the War. Similar demonstrations were held in Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver, and in major cities around the world.

In London, organizers hoped to attract 100,000 people, but police estimated the crowd at about 15,000.

About 500 protesters in Australia chanted, "end the war now," while 2,000 marched in Japan and more than 1,000 paraded in Toronto.

Rent-a-crowd professional protesters and their weekend hobbyist friends are a dime a dozen in Toronto. You can call for a protest against the laws of thermodynamics in Toronto and get 10,000 people on Queen's Park the next day demanding their repeal.

If they could only scare up a thousand--and that being a generous estimate--despite throwing in every other issue imaginable to draw a crowd, then they've really dropped the ball here.

Or maybe even the rent-a-crowds are getting tired of the Iraq issue.

Or maybe they can't put together a half-decent crowd because the Hussein regime is no longer there to fund their protests through various front groups.

Whatever the reason, it's a sign that they can't plan a protest as well as they used to.

416 Uber Alles

There was a time in this fair land when Liberals owned Quebec, the Conservatives owned Toronto, and Liberals in rural Alberta were not an endangered species.

How times change!

The Toronto Star, the ever-faithful house organ of the Liberal Party, has now seen the consummation of its hopes with Toronto's control of the party, and it could hardly be happier:

Stephen LeDrew, bow-tied former president of the Liberal Party of Canada, is trying to exhale one of his famously monstrous laughs. It's just that there's a slight thinness to the gale this time, as if he's heard a variation of the quip a little too often of late.

That would be the one about how, these days, anyone vying to replace Paul Martin as Liberal leader has to be from Toronto and/or another party.

"There will be enough people running from the Liberal party," he vows. "I hope we have eight or nine or 10 people who are running, some of whom don't expect to win but are in there for the debate."

"We may have a great sea change," he adds, likening the sheer number of potential candidates to what the party enjoyed in 1968, a similarly big runoff that eventually gave us one Pierre Trudeau.

Except that, this Liberal party, the one whose national executive meets this weekend to plan its next leadership convention, is unlike any of its immediate predecessors. Virtually hounded out of Quebec in the last election — and perennially weak in western Canada — the Liberals have all but retreated to become the Liberal Party of Toronto.

Such is the state of Canada's natural governing party that more than a third of its seats in Parliament now come courtesy of Greater Toronto.

So perhaps it shouldn't surprise that no fewer than 10 of those considering a leadership bid are from the GTA — among them MPs Ken Dryden, Carolyn Bennett and Maurizio Bevilacqua. Little-known Martha Hall Findlay, a Markham lawyer, has already officially entered the race.

And the acknowledged front-runners? All from the GTA, but with additional twists: former Tory Belinda Stronach, former NDP premier Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, barely back in the country after an academic career in the United States.

If there is one phrase that we all want expunged from the Canadian political lexicon, it is "natural governing party." The very phrase should be offensive even to Liberals, because it suggests some sort of divine right to govern, its victories a confirmation of that divinity, its defeats a mere tactical withdrawal to rest and rearm for battle.

That the Toronto Star could use it without irony, even as the Liberal Party base increasingly narrows to Toronto, is a reflection of the arrogance that afflicts Toronto and the Liberal Party alike.

Only the Liberals have the moral right to govern, because only they have the support of Toronto.

Toronto has replaced Quebec as the necessary and sufficient reason to vote Liberal.

Canada now begins at the Rouge River and ends somewhere west of Highway 427.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

No Freedom 55

The perfect public health care system produces another perfect result for a woman who has spent two years trying to find a family doctor in Barrie.

Two years.

Without a doctor.

In Barrie!

And the older she gets, the less likely she'll find one:

A 59-year-old Ontario woman on disability for a heart-related problem is complaining of age discrimination after she was rejected by a local doctor advertising for new patients.

Edith Paulus had already endured two fruitless years of searching for a family physician in Barrie -- a city designated under Ontario's ministry of health as being under-serviced for family doctors -- when she found Dr. Derek Nesdoly's ad in a local community newspaper.

The general practitioner was seeking new patients. But when Paulus called Nesdoly's office in Midhurst, a community just west of Barrie, she was told the doctor wasn't accepting patients older than 55.


Nesdoly's position may be justified by a 2005 Statistics Canada Community Health Survey, which found that 95.2 per cent of people over 65 already have a family doctor, compared to 75.7 per cent for those between 20 to 34.

And the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons does not restrict a doctor's right to reject a person based on age.

But the Ontario Human Rights Commission says that's wrong.

"Age is a protected ground in the Ontario human rights code," Barbara Hall, chief commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, told CTV News. "What that means is you can't be refused services because of age."

Activists for seniors say not only is it wrong, it will cost the health care system a lot more if Canada's aging population is denied timely access to treatment.

"We talk about prevention, and healthy living," said Judy Cutler, communications director for Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus (CARP). "(But) how are you supposed to do that on your own if no one is there to work with you and help you?"

First it's cutting off anyone over a certain age from public health care.

Then it's another restriction, after another, bit by bit, all to meet the budget.

Edith Paulus and company are just the early warning signs of a nightmare to come.

I sense Dutch-style mass involuntary euthanasia in our future, as the price of protecting the public health care monopoly, because too many old folks will be eating up too much health care spending. Not to mention CPP and OAP.

That's the unspoken reason behind the recent calls to decriminalize assisted suicide. Not "death with dignity", but "death for expediency," with the progressives clamouring, with an all-too-Canadian cynicism, for these sacrifices on the altar of Canadian identity.

Source: CTV

The Thin Red-Black-White-Brown-Polka Dot Line Of Heroes

The Queen's Horsemen are looking for a little more colour in their uniforms than the red serge, according to the Toronto Star:

"We need to go into situations where we have to understand the language and cultures for our operations," said Corp. Luce Normandin, a diversity recruitment officer for the RCMP.

"We are a national police force. We have to be able to represent our changing communities and populations."

A key challenge, the force knows, is convincing the communities it is a real enforcer of law and order across the country and not just a symbol.

"Most people only recognize us as the officers riding horses in red uniforms," said Normandin. "They don't know that we're just like other police officers. We do patrols. We investigate drug cases and we do everything that others (forces) do."

Currently, just 6.4 per cent — about 1,000 officers — of the national force are from minority backgrounds. Some 7.6 per cent are aboriginal and 18 per cent are women. Of the 90 new cadets now in training in Regina, 26 per cent are visible minorities. In comparison, both the York and Toronto forces are comprised of about 13 per cent visible minorities.

While recruiting police from all backgrounds is a laudable aim, and helpful in gaining criminal intelligence, it should not come at the lost of lowering entrance standards.

I also remain somewhat sceptical of the claim that recruiting visible minorities itself makes members of those communities less hostile towards the police. Criminal elements and other aggrieved and disadvantaged people fear and loathe the uniform, regardless of the colour of its wearer.

The brutishness and insensitivity of policemen also cuts across racial lines; police work just naturally attracts that sort of person, regardless of race.

But at least this article gives me the opportunity to relate this tasteless anecdote, told to my father by a Saskatchewan Mountie (himself an Indian).

This Mountie was at a remote detachment in northern Saskatchewan where the locals were frequently drunk and violent and he had to regularly break up some ugly fights.

In view of the situation, he needed someone who could throw around a little force.

They sent him a four-foot-nine Indian woman. A good woman, to be sure, but not someone who could handle a fight.

Saith the Mountie: "That's what the RCMP stands for now; Runts, C--ts, and Minority People!"

Friday, March 17, 2006

Just Deserts

The hate-America crowd weeps at the U.S. war machine's failure to provide them a martyr for their cause:

A B.C. man who was arrested last week in the U.S. for deserting the Marines in 1968 was freed from a military jail Thursday evening.

Allen Abney, 56, has been granted an administrative discharge after being held in a military prison in Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, since his arrest last Thursday.

"The Marine Corps determined that it would be in the best interest of justice, the Marine Corps and Mr. Abney to separate him administratively," said Lt. Lawton King.

"He's been discharged from the Marine Corps so he's no longer a Marine."

King said privacy laws prevented him from disclosing whether Abney received less than an honourable discharge.

He was transported to San Diego airport before being flown to Washington State.

"The ticket was supplied to him by the Marine Corps," King said.

Abney escaped from being hit with a court martial, which means he will have no criminal record.

Did anyone seriously expect the Marines to court-martial Abney and sentence him to break rocks at Leavenworth?

But to hear the left talk, you'd think that history's most bloodthirsty fascist imperialist regime was chomping at the bit to publicly execute him for his cowardly desertion from duty, as an example to anyone thinking of cutting and running from Iraq.

Heck, the most they gave that guy who defected back from North Korea after 40 years was a month of house arrest on base housing--and he went off to the Communists! (Though 40 years in North Korea was punishment enough.)

Source: CTV

Radwanski Indicted

George Radwanski, the former federal privacy commissioner whose spendthrift ways were the very definition of the previous Liberal regime's culture of entitlement, may get to enjoy life at the taxpayers' expense again:

The RCMP have laid fraud and breach of trust charges against former federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski more than two years after announcing they would probe the orgy of inappropriate spending that led to his June 2003 resignation.

Mr. Radwanski met voluntarily with investigators in Toronto on Tuesday night to be formally arrested. He was released on a promise to appear in an Ottawa courtroom April 20.

The Mounties' 26-month investigation also netted Mr. Radwanski's former chief of staff, Arthur Lamarche. Like his ex-boss, Mr. Lamarche was charged with fraud and breach of trust, charges that carry maximum penalties of 10 and five years in prison, respectively.

The fraud charges against both men refer specifically to a $15,000 travel advance that Mr. Radwanski is accused of withdrawing without cause and Mr. Lamarche is accused of allegedly signing off on, according to court documents filed in Ottawa.

The breach of trust charges were filed in connection with four federal policies and acts whose rules the former privacy boss allegedly broke, the documents say, during a 2 1/2-year term that Auditor General Sheila Fraser said in a fall 2003 report was marred by more than $500,000 in spending on high-priced dinners and globetrotting to conferences where little work was done.

Unfortunately, I have little confidence that Radwanski will spend any time behind bars or make proper restitution, should he be convicted.

I see another house arrest conditional sentence and Paul Coffin-style lecture tour on financial responsibility in his future, complete with fancy dinners with his communications director for providing a leg over speechwriting tips.

(Yes, yes, jackass, a charge is not proof of guilt, etc., etc.)

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Taste Of Glory

While the Liberal Party mourns (or celebrates) the passing of a legend in his own mind, Haligonians mark the departure of a true legend whose contribution to society has already proven to be far more positive and enduring:

It’s something few Nova Scotians will confess to indulging in sober and, like it or not, it’s given the province a unique place on the international culinary map.

The donair, a mess of spiced beef, sweet sauce and vegetables on a pita that attracts legions of new fans and critics each year, passes a milestone of sorts Friday.

John Kamoulakos of Halifax, a founder of Mr. Donair Ltd., will hang up his rack for good to retire from the business.

"I’ve got to say I think other people made more money off the donair than we did, but I’m very proud of it," Mr. Kamoulakos said Wednesday, while sharing some memories of the donair’s origin.

Mr. Kamoulakos and his late brother Peter are responsible for the popularity of the spicy late-night snack throughout most of the Maritimes.

Although the concoction Peter put together in 1971, some years after the brothers arrived in Nova Scotia from Greece, did not enjoy the success of some other ventures, Mr. Kamoulakos said the donair brought success to many small independent operators and their families.

There is no donair but the Halifax donair. Big chunks of donair meat, onions, tomatoes and donair sauce in a pita wrapped in tinfoil.

A mere gyro cannot satisfy the craving for a real donair, no matter how much meat and tzatziki gets crammed into a pita.

Toronto may pride itself on having the most diverse culinary scene anywhere, but what would the loss of a dozen trendy fusion bistros and wine bars matter, if it gained a place that serves real donairs in return?

Were I on death row, I would want a real donair for my last meal--preferably the extra-large from Robert's Pizza in Shannon Park, of which more may be read about here.

Godspeed, Mr. Kamoulakos. Your legacy will span the generations.

Source: Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Martin Officially Gone

The nightmare (or dream) scenario of Paul Martin withdrawing his resignation as Liberal leader to force and fight a snap election on the most clearly and fundamentally number one priority of the day will remain the stuff of nightmares (or dreams):

Paul Martin will formally resign as Liberal leader this weekend, snuffing out any lingering possibility of him making a comeback in the next election.
The former prime minister sent party executives a letter of resignation today declaring that he will step aside after the party sets its leadership convention date this weekend.

The three-sentence letter puts to an end speculation that Martin could be thrust into another election fight if the minority Tory government suddenly collapses.

“I wish to confirm my intention to resign as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada upon the formal call of the convention,” Martin wrote.

“I look forward to continuing to serve and contribute to the party that I have always and will always regard as my second family.”

The letter formally sets in motion the process that will see Liberals choose a new leader at a convention that must be held within a year.

Martin may not have really believed that he could repeat Pierre Trudeau's 1980 return to glory, but no doubt some die-hard members of the Board, clutching at any straw to keep their careers in the Liberal Party afloat, were trying to convince him.

But you never step into the same campaign twice.

In 1980, Trudeau could make the case that only he could lead federalist forces to victory in the upcoming Quebec sovereignty referendum.

There is no similarly important cause whose triumph depends on Paul Martin's return to champion it.

And Joe Clark was far more feckless an opponent, an accidental leader made accidental prime minister, than Stephen Harper will ever be.

The Board must now find someone who can credibly mount a challenge against what appears to be the Power Corporation/Chretien restoration under Bob Rae.

Not for the good of the country, nor even of the party, but of themselves.

Source: Toronto Star

The Long Goodbye

Ralph Klein, in his last days in office, is turning into Jean Chretien. First the long-delayed resignation, and now his demands to kick his successors out of Cabinet while they go after his job:

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has shaken up what amounts to a two-year leadership race to replace him by ordering cabinet ministers seeking his job to resign their portfolios by June.

“This is to avoid any perception of any conflicts or personal advantages that one might have as the minister,” Mr. Klein said Wednesday.

“We have an agenda to get on with, and I think it will be easier for government to operate.”

I wonder if his slow-motion resignation will end up accelerated a few months as well by his anxious successor?

What advantage is there to forcing ministers to choose between staying in Cabinet and succeeding him? At present, Klein is in no danger of being undermined except by himself; he has already declared himself a lame duck. If anything, the pressure of Cabinet duties would likely put sitting ministers at a disadvantage, since they would still be bound by Cabinet solidarity to support Klein's decisions and couldn't dedicate themselves full-time to a leadership campaign.

When the time comes to quit, the time between the announcement and departure should not be too long. It keeps succession races from become too protracted, with all the problems that brings, and it eliminates the possibility of a leader changing his mind in the interim.

Go, but go quickly.

Source: Globe and Mail

Canadian Express: Don't Leave Home Without It

A Canadian passport may have saved this man's life.

But while I'm glad that it did, I'm not entirely happy with the people who endorsed it:

Mark Budzanowski could almost feel his captors' mood sag when they rifled through his pockets and found his passport. The word Canada on the cover was a blow to the dozens of masked men who surrounded him in the nondescript basement somewhere in the Gaza Strip. They thought they had kidnapped an American.

At first, the men in the masks didn't believe their eyes, and questioned the 57-year-old aid worker about Canada and about specific shops near Mr. Budzanowski's residence on Carlton Street in Toronto.

When they were finally convinced that Mr. Budzanowski was not an American in disguise, he said, they started treating him more politely, and handling him less roughly.

"When they were certain I was Canadian, they were very disappointed. Then, they told me, 'We love Canada.' That's wonderful to hear when you have guns pointed at you," an exhausted Mr. Budzanowski said yesterday in a telephone interview shortly after he was released after almost 30 hours as a hostage.

"It's wonderful to have a Canadian passport because it changes people's minds. One of the guards kept asking me to say hello to Canada, so it does stand for something."

His former captors had taken a liking to him toward the end of the hostage-taking and one — the one who kept asking him to say hello to Canada — even gave him a phone number to call if he ever needed the help of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Think about it.

There are Palestinian terrorists who have spent enough time in Toronto to really know the city, back to front. And who presumably still have fresh contacts here.

And their first reaction upon seeing a Canadian passport was boundless praise for our country.

I like praise for Canada as much as the next guy, but what do these terrorists associate Canada with? Moose, Mounties and maply syrup? Hardly.

Most likely, they were thinking about how easy it was for them to get into the country, despite their backgrounds and evil purposes, and how easy it also was for them and their associates to raise funds, plan attacks, and evade justice, all without ever coming to the attention of the authorities.

Islamic terrorists think they have an ally, or a patsy, in Canada.

That's not the sort of respect we want or need.

In a strange way, it would have been more reassuring had the terrorists' response to seeing this man's passport been more hostile.

(Incidentally, hostages from other countries--include America--were also released unharmed. But why let such petty details get in the way of a feel-good story?)

Source: Globe and Mail (with plenty of sickening reader comments)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ask Not What The World Can Do For Us

Andrew Coyne has come up with the best, and perhaps most hopeful analysis, of Stephen Harper's speech to our forces in Kandahar:

Though Mr. Harper’s brief address to the troops contained many good lines, memorable for their pith if not their eloquence, it was much more than a rah-rah speech. It was a national mission statement.

It wasn’t just his invocation of a warrior heritage (“cutting and running … is not the Canadian way”) that generations of nationalist mythmakers have tried to paint over. It was his explicit appeal to Canadian idealism. Or perhaps should I say his challenge to it: Mr. Harper wasn’t flattering Canadians, in the manner of so many previous political leaders, on our matchless national worth. He was daring us to prove it.

The Afghanistan mission, he told the troops, is “about more than just defending Canada’s interest.” It is also “about demonstrating an international leadership role for our country. Not carping from the sidelines, but taking a stand on the big issues that matter.”

Our elites seem to have taken their cue from the self-esteem movement: that endless praise, and avoidance of criticism or negative commentary, is necessary and sufficient to good performance and self-confidence.

But that hasn't worked for our schoolchildren, many of whom have developed inflated egos and senses of entitlement even as they fail to learn the minimum skills necessary to become productive adults. And it hasn't worked for Canada, where praise for our national moral virtue seemingly exempts us from actually practicing it.

Stephen Harper's speech could have been given by Lester Pearson, that great hero of Canadian foreign policy, peacekeeping and Liberalism. Yet modern liberals, small-l and big-L, have proven themselves to be unworthy of the very legacy they claim to promote.

Our claims to robust middle power status were reduced to a pathetic joke, when we had neither the strength or the will to back up our moralizing.

"Our Canada is a great place, but Canada is not an island." And yet our elites acted as if it were, blithely ignoring threats against Canada from Islamic terrorism because they couldn't believe that not everyone loved them, and their idea of Canada, as much as they loved themselves.

And yet we stood aloof from Iraq, and hectored the American-led coalition, claiming to be defending the sanctity of international law as cover for Jean Chretien's protection of Paul Desmarais' Iraqi oil concessions.

And yet we still think that if we shut out the world, the world will not affect us.

Stephen Harper doesn't believe in the myths that our elites do.

And that's what terrifies them, more than the prospect of Canadian soldiers being killed in Afghanistan.

One Year Ago Today

This is how it all began.

I can't believe I'm still at it, a year later.

Even I thought I'd be a completely unheralded flash in the pan disappearing as quickly as he appeared, unnoticed from start to finish.

But here I am, still blogging away, for years to come most likely.


Towering Ambitions

Toronto may be a city in such steep decline that even its self-centered elites may be noticing that it is no longer the Centre of the Universe (tm).

But at least it still has the world's tallest freestanding tower.

Not for much longer, however:

Six Japanese broadcast networks announced plans yesterday for a 600-metre-tall tower in Tokyo, set to be completed in 2011.

The newspaper Yomiuri reportedly boasted that it would be the world's tallest, but it has no lack of competition.

The United Arab Emirates' Burj Dubai tower, started in 2004 and expected to be finished by 2009, will soar to about 705 metres, its builders claim. Add in the communications mast on the roof and it could be closer to 800 metres.

To convincingly beat that, the CN Tower would have to sit the Eiffel Tower on its shoulders.

Right now our closest rival is the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, a relative shrimp at only 509 metres.

And then what will Toronto have to distinguish itself from the rest of the world, other than the world's highest freestanding sense of smugness?

Source: Toronto Star

Tiger Racket

According to the previous Liberal government, this was not a terrorist group, nor even a criminal organization, but a valuable source of reliable Liberal votes and fundraising:

Tamil families in Toronto are faced with extortion from Tamil Tigers of up to $10,000 apiece, and Tamil entrepreneurs up to $100,000 each, according to a new report released by Human Rights Watch.

The New-York-based group says that Tamil Tiger fundraisers are increasingly strong-arming the Toronto Tamil community -- the largest Diaspora group outside of war-torn Sri Lanka — as their island nation once again girds for civil war.

Canadian Tamils who don't give money to the separatist cause, according to Human Rights Watch, face the prospect of being beaten or having family members being abused abroad. “Canada is not actually a democracy because we can't open our mouths against the LTTE,” one Toronto Tamil told Human Rights Watch.

That may change under the Conservative government, which is not beholden to immigrant bloc votes in Toronto such as the Tamil vote:

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day may take the document more seriously. He is studying the issue as the new Conservative government prepares to follow the lead of the United States and Britain, in formally declaring the LTTE a terrorist group. “We are aware of this report. The minister has a copy and he will review it for sure,” said Mélisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Mr. Day.

Last year, while an Opposition MP , Mr. Day said that the LTTE has “perfected the art of suicide bombing, they have done more suicide attacks than al-Qaeda, they have assassinated world leaders ... [and] they recruit children into death squads.”

For too long, the Tamil Tigers have been able to get away with this extortion because of two divergent but not mutually exclusive reasons.

First, the federal Liberals were carrying out a kinder, gentler form of intimidation on the Tamil community, just as they have on other immigrant communities. Vote Liberal, donate to the Liberals, or risk not being able to bring your friends and family over.

Second, exaggerated multicultural sensitivities made the Tigers untouchable by law enforcement. Cries of racism and prejudice would have gone up if the police started going after the extortionists with any vigour, just as they do whenever the police start cracking down on Jamaican gangs and drug dealers.

This second part, of course, creates a Hobson's choice for law enforcement; do nothing and be branded racist for letting the criminals rule the roost in minority communities, do something and be branded racist for targeting them.

Perhaps not having any Toronto MPs, and thus no fear of losing seats in Toronto, is an advantage to the Conservative government in this case. They can order CSIS and the RCMP into action without worrying about voters that were never theirs to lose.

Source: Globe and Mail