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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Russia: the enemy of our enemy is not our friend

While I am quite sure the average Russian is as honest, straightforward and fun-loving as the average Canadian, I’m as sure that Russia, as a nation, is not a friend of Canada. Nor do I believe Russia is a friend of any of the Western democracies, or any other democracy, if it comes to that.

Russia seems far more likely to find “friends” among those nations who are distinguished by one-man or one-party rule and a less than stellar human rights record, i.e., China, Iran, Cuba, Syria, etc.

It would be a grave mistake, therefore, for nations such as the United States and France to seek a formal alliance with Russia against their common foe, Daesh, the Islamic State terrorist group.

Russian leaders will shake your right hand while picking your pocket with their left. Duplicity is a treasured trait of those who run that country. To them, a Square Deal is for dupes and weaklings and nothing they’d ever enter into willingly.

Russia’s dealings vis-à-vis the Ukraine should be all we need to warn us that nation cannot be trusted to respect the territorial integrity of other countries. Russia’s official complicity in their athlete doping scandal should tell us enough about the depths to which that nation has sunk when it comes to trustworthiness, and the heights to which state corruptness has risen there.

Russia is involved in the conflict in Syria to help the despot Bashar Hafez al-Assad stay in power, thus guaranteeing it will continue to maintain a naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea. To keep al-Assad in power Russia has carried out attacks against the various forces who threaten the Syrian president’s regime, including those considered by the West to be moderate Syrian rebel groups.

Yes, Daesh may also be their enemy—Russia has problems of its own with radical Islamists—and be targeted by Russian warplanes, but other anti-Assad groups like the Free Syrian Army and Turkmen, who live in northern Syria, have had to face the brunt of the Russian air raids. On Friday, ostensibly in response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane, Russia launched major air attacks across northern Syria against non-Daesh rebel groups backed by Turkey.

Russia has chosen to be the major military adversary of the Western democracies, if not their outright enemy. This was a choice made by its leaders, not one forced on them by the U.S. or by NATO or by any other nation or group.

In September, the U.K.’s RAF jets were scrambled for the seventh time in 2015 to intercept Russian long-range nuclear bombers near the U.K. border. This sort of thing is a regular occurrence near Canada’s borders. In Europe also, Moscow frequently sends military flights over or near the borders of the Baltic States, forcing NATO members to step up air support in the region. More than just an inconvenience, these flights are a danger to civilian planes because the Russians regularly refuse to identify themselves.

Russia is not a nation with which any democracy should want to align itself, regardless of the temporariness of the association or the justness of the common cause. Seek to have cordial, peaceful relations with them, yes, but maintain a discrete distance at all times, at least, until there is a regime change and a discarding of its bully-boy attitude.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Evidence-based decision-making if necessary, but not necessarily evidence-based decision-making

For some years now, we have heard that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s edition of the Liberal Party of Canada favours evidence-based decision-making. Early evidence, however, warns us he intends to apply this principle selectively, if at all.

Take for example the election promise that the LPC would bring in 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees by December 31, 2015. Bravado? One-upmanship? Cynical electioneering? Only the Grits know for sure. What we do know was the promise could not have been based on evidence. At least, not on expert evidence.

The vote was hardly counted and most of the mainstream media were still giddy with joy  over the LPC’s victory when experts began to council caution. The December 31 date would not give enough time to do things right, they warned. Don’t worry, we were told. The Grits would keep their promise.

When Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and others asked for a more prudent timeframe, Justin Trudeau’s apologists—and especially Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne—virtually called them racists and bigots.

The new Liberal plan is for only 15,000 refugees to be government-sponsored, with the other 10,000 sponsored privately. Furthermore, only 10,000 refugees will come in before the end of December, and the remainder will be in Canada by the end of February. This still leaves 10,000 government-sponsored refugees to be accounted for. These, according to government sources will be brought to Canada before the end of 2016.

All told, the new plan is a far cry from the Liberals’ election promise. Perhaps PM Trudeau believed he needed to deceive voters so he could leave the other leaders—whose promises were far more realistic—“in the dust,” to use his words.

Other examples can be found of the Grits—despite proclaiming their fondness for evidence-based decision-making—showing they prefer evidence that supports their preconceived policies and official positions on issues.

A recent Andrew Coyne article in the National Post reminds us of the Liberal government’s proposed deficits that are to fight the recession we are supposed to be in, when we are really not in a recession at all. Or how about taxing the “rich” more so as to fight “growing inequality,” when the share of income going to the top one per cent has actually been falling for a decade. Then there’s the whole LPC-created myth about Canada’s stagnating middle-class incomes when, if fact, Canadian middle-class incomes have been rising steadily for two decades. PM Trudeau and his people must be watching too much U.S.-based television.

The general tone in Ottawa might very well have changed for the better, but substance? Well, not so much so.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

If Freeland cannot carry debate with Maher,how will she do in international trade negotiations?

There is a video doing the rounds on the Internet this week showing the MP for University–Rosedale, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s new Minister for International Trade, floundering as she tries to match wits with comedian and political satirist Bill Maher on his Real Time TV show that aired last Friday.

Ms. Freeland appeared on a panel with Maine senator Angus King and the publisher of The Federalist Ben Domenech. She challenged host Maher after he quoted a poll that suggested 56 per cent of Americans don’t feel that Syrian refugees share their values and commented that it is nonsense to suggest that all religions are alike and share values. Mr. Maher specifically mentioned the values implied by Sharia law and the practices of forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour killings that some Muslims seem to condone.

To this Ms. Freeland countered that it’s important to stand up for diversity, and it’s important to recognize ISIL doesn’t represent Muslims. “Our diversity is our strength,” she said.

Coming right after Mr. Maher’s references to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour killings, doesn’t Ms. Freeland’s comment about diversity seem to imply that these practices are acceptable under the heading of “diversity?”

Furthermore, up until then, Mr. Maher had not implied ISIL did represent Muslims. But, apparently, Ms. Freeland believed multiculturalism and diversity had to be defended, even if it was not being attacked.

Mr. Maher then went on to say that there is a small percentage of Muslims who support ISIL and practices like honour killings and forced marriages.

To which Ms. Freeland responded, “I think now it is incredibly dangerous and very wrong to persecute Muslims and say there is something wrong with being a Muslim.”

Mr. Maher, of course, had said nothing of the kind, he was simply quoting from a poll. In the exchange that followed, Freeland went as far as to accuse Mr. Maher of “demonizing Muslims,” a charge he quickly denied. He did, however, say Muslim ideas need to be changed. As he put it, “Killing women for being raped, I would say is a bad idea. I do. Hang me for it.”

Ms. Freeland does as so many others who identify as progressives. She quickly dismisses and attempts to shut down debate of any criticism of protected issues, causes or groups. If one questions any aspect of Canada’s unrestricted-abortion-on-demand policy, one is said to be making war on women. Should someone suggest that some ideas and practices of some Muslims are not appropriate, they are immediately branded as “racists” or that they are condemning or demonizing Muslims.

I have read the Wikipedia entry for Chrystia Freeland. Apparently, she is a very accomplished individual. According to that source, “She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian history and literature from Harvard University and a Master of Studies degree in Slavonic Studies from St Antony’s at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1993.” No intellectual lightweight has those sorts of academic credentials.

Why then could our minister of international trade not, at least, hold her own with Bill Maher? Perhaps the National Post’s Barbara Kay has the answer when she suggests, “Freeland was obliged to channel her boss Justin Trudeau’s beliefs and policies, no matter what her personal views are.”

Or perhaps Ms. Freeland is simply being what she considers to be politically correct. You know the same nonsense that saw former prime minister Stephen Harper sneered at and ridiculed by many leftists when he referred to “old stock Canadians” in the September 17 Globe and Mail TV leaders’ debate.

As I see it, Mr. Harper was simply using the term to distinguish between newly arrived Canadians, like this writer, and those whose parents or ancestors arrived at an earlier time and have had longer to establish their Canadian roots. But to too many leftists, everything seems to be some evil code for something else.

I get the distinct feeling that Canadians, old stock and new, who believe in frank, straightforward talk are in for a rough time in Justin Trudeau’s Canada. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gender discrimination OK with the Grits?

Ifind it curious how selective our new Liberal government in Ottawa is when it comes to discrimination. It is “simply unacceptable to discriminate against refugees who practise certain religions,” said the current federal minister of immigration, etc., John McCallum as reported by CBC News in December 2014. What a difference a year makes. Earlier this week, that same minister released a refugee resettlement plan that seems to discriminate based on gender.

Is gender-based discrimination somehow more acceptable than religious discrimination? Or is it simply that Liberal values are so flexible that they can accommodate whatever policy decision Liberals believe is expedient. I favour the latter explanation.

Last December, we learned the Conservative government was seeking to give priority in its Syrian refugee resettlement plan to refugees from Syria’s religious minorities. The Conservatives were, apparently, responding to reports of Yazidis, Assyrian Christians and other religious minorities being marked for extermination and women and children sold into sex slavery by Daesh (ISIL).

In other words, PM Harper and his government seemed to be responding to reports that, for this segment of those at-risk in Syria, it is not just a question of compassion, but rather it is a simple matter of life or death, for Daesh seems intent on destroying these groups—in effect, committing genocide. And while Daesh might be murdering individual Muslims, it is not trying to destroy the Islamic faith.

But that was unacceptable to Mr. McCallum and his party.

This element of the recently announced immigration plan is receiving some push-back from the opposition, and especially from NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair is reported to have said in Ottawa on Monday:

We do not believe it is appropriate to make a vast generalization about a category of refugees and exclude them ahead of any processing because of who they are.

“That’s simply wrong.”

Time will tell, of course, just how the resettlement plan rolls out. Those cagey Grits are well known for leaking tidbits of draft policy to see how they are received in the media, and then trueing up the final version of their policy to suit public taste.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Government-funded political ads: Grits want in on the gravy train

Ioften hear people wonder about the kind of prime minister Justin Trudeau would make, and what a Liberal government led by him would look like. And, while I’m not much help on the Trudeau-as-PM part, I think I’m safe in pointing out that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are as good an example as any of what a federal Liberal government would look like.

The Ontario and federal Liberal parties may be organizationally independent and have separate memberships, they are nevertheless pretty much the same when it comes to their core membership and internal movers and shakers. One needs only think back to the bonhomie and speech-making that we saw at both Mr. Trudeau’s and Ms. Wynne’s leadership conventions. For the most part, it was impossible to tell who were actual delegates and who were just observers.

The Grits attending those events all seemed to consider themselves “inside the tent.” Time and again, leaders of the federal Grits heaped praise on former premier Dalton McGuinty and his replacement, Kathleen Wynne.

Keeping this in mind, it is instructional to observe the Liberals in Ottawa railing against the Tory practice of using taxpayer money to fund partisan advertising such as Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre using taxpayer dollars to produce videos of himself promoting the universal child care benefit.

Senior Liberal MP Marc Garneau reportedly complained the videos show that the government has attained new heights of arrogance by  assuming Canadians are “too stupid” or “don’t care.”

Strong language indeed. And he’s probably right, or mostly so.

So what, I wonder, does Garneau and his Liberal colleagues make of what their political sisters are doing on this same file at the Ontario Legislature?

According to Ontario's auditor-general Bonnie Lysyk, Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals want to strip away most of the province’s rules on partisan ads. Something the auditor says would undermine her office. Two weeks ago, Ms. Lysyk accused the Grits of trying to “gut” the provincial act governing advertising, and she issued a special report Tuesday.

Ms. Lysyk says changes proposed by the Grits open her office of Auditor-General to “mockery” as an independent officer of the legislature. So upset is she that Ms. Lysyk wants to be relieved of her duty to review government ads before they run.

Deputy premier Deb Matthews got her two cents worth on record. According to The Canadian Press report I saw:

Deputy premier Deb Matthews says the Liberals wanted to clarify the definition of partisanship in government ads, which she says will make the rules clearer.”

I winced when I read that one.

So I wouldn’t expect Ottawa’s government advertising practices to change much under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, if what is going on at Queen’s Park is any indication of how the Grits operate when they have the hammer.