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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ISIL spawn of the Arab Spring?

Some readers will remember, Brigette DePape, the Senate page who went rogue and protested the federal Speech from the Throne in June 2011.

She promptly issued a news release to explain her actions and told us that our country “needs a Canadian version of an Arab Spring,” which she described as “a flowering of popular movements that demonstrate that real power to change things lies not with Harper but in the hands of the people….”

I wonder how the clever lass and her New Democrat handlers now view the turmoil that is a legacy of the Arab Spring they claimed Canada needed?

The Syrian civil war death toll has risen to more than 191,000, according to a recent UN report. Violent rapes, kidnappings and executions have become everyday occurrences in the Middle East and North Africa. A Sunni-Salafist branch of Islam espoused by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda is being used in the region to realize the long-held dream of Islamist militants of a rebirth of the Caliphate.

This new Caliphate—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—is more than just a new Muslim country. It is intended to eventually encompass every Muslim on earth and to exclude all who refuse to become Muslims. ISIS offers conversion or death—often by decapitation—to its conquered populations.

ISIL/ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State (IS), already controls significant portions of Syria and Iraq where there are Sunni-majorities. Its leaders are extremely anti-Western and promote religious violence against those, who do not agree with their interpretations, as infidels and apostates.

And one needs only to read about ISIL’s persecution and massacres of the Yazidi people of Iraq to understand the fate of infidels and apostates caught within the boundaries of the barbaric Islamist State.

By any reasonable measurement, IS is a common garden variety terrorist-criminal organization masquerading as religious zealots. It gives everything Muslim a bad name as it uses a grotesque distortion of that religion to further its criminal ends.

Many Muslims are speaking out against IS—though this did seem to take an unseemly amount of time to develop. What disappoints me, however, is the lack of noisy street protests we have grown to expect when Muslims have felt offended by some Western or Israeli act. And where are those on our university campuses who condemn Israel’s actions and advocate boycotts of that country’s products? Where are their placards and high-minded speeches?

Does IS’s barbarity not rise to the level that offends NDP and student leftists enough to offer vocal support for persecuted Shia Muslims, indigenous Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and Armenian Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Shabaks and Mandeans?

On the one hand, a few cartoons appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005 and Muslim passions around the world and on Canadian university campuses were inflamed. Other drawings in 2007 had a similar effect. Such incidents have even led to riots and deaths.

On the other hand, rapes by the tens of dozens, murder by the hundreds and untold numbers of kidnappings and other atrocities and we are still awaiting the level of outrage a few drawings achieved.

Go figure.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Has Chow thrown Kinsella under the bus?

There is an expression—“throwing so-and-so under the bus,”—that was brought into sharp focus last week after Olivia Chow’s campaign operative, Warren Kinsella, seemed to suggest John Tory’s SmartTrack transit plan is racist.

Kinsella, apparently, questioned in a tweet (since deleted) whether Tory’s SmartTrack plan is “Segregationist.” Kinsella followed up the initial tweet with another that had a map with a picture of Tory superimposed on it. The map showed some Toronto neighbourhoods crossed out and a word bubble coming from Tory mouth saying: “You will note we were careful to exclude Jane/Finch and Rexdale from SmartTrack.” (These are neighbourhoods with large non-white populations.)

Not Warren Kinsella’s finest moment, but not exactly out of character for a political strategist with a well known take-no-prisoners campaign style who has self-described as being the “Prince of Darkness” of Canadian politics.

Some backhanded apologies followed with little that might suggest contriteness on Kinsella’s part, though, the Toronto Star reported that he made a more fulsome apology to Tory “directly and unreservedly.”

Dirty politics, admittedly, but pretty tame stuff really.

So does seasoned politician Olivia Chow own Kinsella’s words and, perhaps, brush off the tweets as backroom shenanigans that got out of control—boys will be boys, etc.? You know: show your team some basic loyalty?

No she does not. No acceptance of accountability at all. Yes, Chow admitted her campaign hired Kinsella’s company to do media monitoring, but stated that he doesn’t speak for her campaign and is just one of “thousands of volunteers.”

“My campaign did not make that statement. I’m glad that Mr. Kinsella apologized and retracted his statement and I certainly do not believe that Mr. Tory discriminates at all,” Chow reportedly said.

Yes, readers, Warren Kinsella—a nationally known political strategist and high-profile volunteer on her campaign—is, according to Olivia Chow, just one of her thousands of volunteers.

Having followed Toronto’s mayoral campaign for the past few months, I question that Kinsella sees himself as just one of thousands of volunteers. It seems to me far more probable that he is a senior member of Chow’s campaign “war room,” perhaps even it’s leader. So, this observer does not believe Chow has the luxury of  plausible deniability towards Kinsella’s words and actions as they apply to her campaign.

How fickle is Chow? One big slip by Kinsella and she kicks him under the bus. Trusted senior operative and war room insider one day, meaningless outsider the next. Oh brother!

Monday, July 14, 2014

I’m all for transparency when it comes to foreign lobbying

I see that Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Ont.) has recently introduced Bill C-618, the Foreign Lobbying Transparency Act, in the House of Commons. This is timely indeed, considering multi-million dollar efforts by U.S.-based organizations to virtually embargo bitumen in Alberta’s oil sands.

Too often in Canada, environmental assessments have been exercises in promoting a particular political agenda. Objections to development sometimes have had little to do with real threats to the environment and far more to do with scuttling projects that seek to develop carbon-based energy resources.

For me, it is one thing to tolerate and respect the anti-resource-development sentiments of other Canadians, but quite another when you know the sentiments are financed and promoted by foreigners.

For those to whom Climate Change has become a religion (in the sense that Climate Change is an interest to which they ascribe supreme importance), no carbon-based energy resource project in Canada should ever be allowed to see the light of day. And, as soon as one undergoes an environmental assessment, foreign money flows in to finance lobbyists who line up to harangue and harass and otherwise clog up the process with repetitive and sometimes spurious objections.

Objectors even go so far as to bring in aging rock stars and foreign dignitaries to make speeches on cue to denigrate and discredit development of Alberta’s oil sands.

A case in point is the recent visit to Alberta by retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who called the oil sands “filth” and said Alberta’s bitumen production is the consequence of “negligence and greed.” And, earlier in the year, musician Neil Young claimed the oil sands area near Fort McMurray is like the World War II-ending devastation of Hiroshima.

This level of radical environmental rhetoric has no place in our political processes, and especially when it comes from the mouths of non-residents who won’t have to live with the consequences of the actions (or inaction) they promote.

Canada has the moral and legal right to develop its natural resources, whether or not they are carbon-based. Canada has the moral and legal obligation to do so in an environmentally responsible manner. Neither are such rights limited by what foreigners have to say nor are the obligations extended by them. Resource development within Canadian borders  is purely a domestic matter and we should expect foreigners to butt out and mind their own business.

It is of great importance that all Canadians are able to see whose interests are being represented and how much money is being spent to influence government policy decisions. Requiring organizations to disclose whether they receive significant amounts of foreign funding to impact advocacy and lobbying messages seems eminently sensible.

I wish the MP from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke the best of luck with Bill C-618.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Let’s get rid of low-skilled temporary foreign workers program altogether

I’ve never been one to promote laissez-faire economics believing, as I do, in a mixed economy based on economic liberalism with limited, prudent state intervention and regulation—i.e., a largely free-market economy based on a free price system, free trade and private property.

I have to say, though, that I find our current government’s schizophrenic approach to our free-market economy maddening in its inconsistency.

Propping up a national broadcaster—the CBC, of course—to the tune of a $1-billion a year subsidy so it can compete against private companies that receive little or no government support is a case in point. Forcing consumers to pay outlandish prices for milk, cheese, poultry, eggs and related products—through supply management—is another egregious assault on our free-markets.

The most recent case to cause controversy is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which the federal government overhauled a week or so ago, concentrating on the low-skilled workers stream.

Time will tell how successful Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s revised program will be, but I’m one who believes the market—not the government—should decide whether a business needs to increase wages to attract workers.

Moreover, I am not heartened by a C.D. Howe Institute’s report published earlier this year. The non-partisan think-tank says the program actually increased unemployment rates in B.C. and Alberta, and claimed that a goal of the program is to keep wages from “rising precipitously” in response to a shortage of workers.

How often does this government act to prevent prices from “rising precipitously?” So why are they being so accommodating to businesses by keeping wages from rising?

Prices at the gas pumps rose at an alarming rate without governments acting to tamp them down. Furthermore, we pay substantially above world prices for dairy products and, in that case, with the collusion of the government.

But, heaven forbid, that we should stand back and watch businesses pay $20+ an hour to hamburger flippers at fast-food restaurants.

To his credit, Minister Kenney has announced that employers located in regions where the unemployment rate is above six per cent will be barred from hiring temporary foreign workers. Also, he has placed a 10 per cent cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers an employer can hire per work site.  That cap will be phased in, starting at 30 per cent, then 20 per cent on July 1, 2015, and 10 per cent a year later.

Justin Trudeau has condemned the phasing out of this anti-Canadian, low-wage program, describing it as “one of the most anti-Alberta federal policies we’ve seen in decades.” A policy more fitting of this description is, of course, his dad’s national energy program, a federal policy that sought to distribute Alberta’s oil wealth to poorer parts of the country, pretty much wiping out Liberal support throughout the province.

Now this lesser Trudeau seeks to curry favour with Fort McMurray employers who have to deal with low unemployment and a booming economy. Well, capitalism “cuts” both ways: employers get to set prices as high as the competition and consumers will bear and employees get to benefit from low unemployment. And this situation almost always plays out better when governments do not interfere.

If there is a genuine need for these workers, why not obtain them through permanent immigration channels? We allow in hundreds of thousands of permanent immigrants each year? Can we not change immigration strategies to accommodate regions with low unemployment and a booming economy? After all, in most of the situations I’ve read about, there seems to be more of a long-term aspect to the employment market than the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is intended to serve.

We fully expect that in 2016, after the phase-out period is complete, a Conservative government will decide to eliminate the low-skilled stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program altogether. I believe Canada is the only developed country that allows low-skilled temporary foreign workers, and it is not to our credit that we do. The government has no business subsidizing employers in this manner.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Peter MacKay’s comments: self-inflicted wounds, but over-the-top reaction by the media

The current justice minister, Peter MacKay, has been taking a public flogging for recent comments about female judges and for his Mother’s/Father’s Day messages. Although the criticism does seem to me to be over the top, MacKay has not done himself any favours by publicly expressing views that might have been more relevant in the 1950s.

It must be said that I am not a fan of Peter MacKay. My dislike, nay distrust, of the man goes back to the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention when he made the “Orchard deal” to gain support for his leadership bid, then ignored it to merge the PCs with the Canadian Alliance.

The two right-wing parties had to merge, but MacKay didn’t have to make the secret deal with David Orchard. It was a crass political move on MacKay’s part and it cast doubt on how honourable a man he is.

The kindest thing I can say about Peter MacKay’s comments about female judges is that he could have given a more thoughtful answer, when the question was raised, according to the Toronto Star, at a private meeting with members of the Ontario Bar Association. If he couldn’t think of one or hadn’t the wit to know one was needed, he is yesterday’s man and has no place at Canada’s cabinet table.

And then there are MacKay’s Mother's Day and Father’s Day emails, which were reported on by The Canadian Press. Taken individually, I don’t find much to complain about—they each seem inoffensive enough. Read side by side, though, there seems to be a clear message that smells of patriarchy. They certainly beg questions about the minister’s view of the roles each gender plays in modern society.

Here’s what his office sent out on Mother’s Day:

By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you’ve already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at the daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner.”

Now contrast that with his Father’s Day equivalent that opined that  men were “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.”

I’ll let readers decide how they interpret the messages, but I find the contrast mildly offensive and would, frankly, have expected better from a senior cabinet minister.

The above being said, I find the media attention shown to MacKay’s comments to be excessive. Just as punishments are meant to fit crimes, media “ink” should be justified by the seriousness of the subject matter. For days now, MacKay has been the subject of a full-court press from newspapers, political TV shows and Internet media sites.

I find the coverage excessive, but there again, I find myself also writing about it, so I guess I’m as bad as the rest.