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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Closing the door and moving on

We seem to be ending the decade on a mixed note. Politically, Stephen Harper’s Tories are deftly walking the minority government tightrope and have consistently outmaneuvered the Michael Ignatieff-led opposition. On the other hand, the economy is not rebounding quite as quickly a one might like, and this could prove problematic in 2010.

I’m looking forward to the new year with the Winter Olympics and a possible gold-medal performance from our world-champion junior team being among of the major highpoints. Too bad we can’t see at least one championship team closer to home, but that’s too much to hope for.

One big question is: will we have a federal general election in 2010? I’m inclined to believe that we will if the polls in March show strong support for the Tories. A poison pill in the March 2010 budget is probably all we’ll need. I doubt that even Michael Ignatieff could stomach the further embarrassment of supporting another government budget if it contained a really nasty twist.

I’ll be reprising my habit of making “losing weight” a top New Year resolution—wish me luck, I need to knock off 15 to 20 pounds. It’ll be easy: all I have to do is keep my mouth shut and walk two to three miles every day. We’ll see…

For me the past decade was one of transition from the corporate world to spending the bulk of my time photographing nature and blogging. With luck the upcoming decade will be more of the same, with hopefully a few less passings to mourn.

I’m never too fond of looking back in time, so I’ll content myself with closing the door on the decade-ending 2009 and moving on.

Happy New Year everyone!

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

I’ve had a wonderful year out here in cyberspace, blogging about politics and such. When I started Russ Campbell’s Blog it never occurred to me that it would receive tens of thousands of visitors and page views within a year or so, with several of you taking the time to leave comments.

It’s not much fun writing if no one reads your stuff, so a big “thank you” to all you readers, and I hope you’ll return next year.

This is the week for concentrating on family, so I’ll give the blogging a rest until January 2010.

 

To all good cheer and good health.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen Accord palatable and non-binding

The climate change summit at Copenhagen has wrapped up, and it seems there is a deal of sorts after all. It’s not a deal many will be satisfied with on either side of the climate change debate, but it’ll have to do for now. PM Stephen Harper called it a “comprehensive and realistic” agreement, while President Barack Obama said it was a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.”

So what’s the gist of the deal?

The so-called Copenhagen Accord offers money to help developing nations cope with global warming, and, importantly, requires nations who accept the aid to agree to open their “books” to international scrutiny. This will amount to about US $30 billion in the short term and could run as high as US $100 billion a year by 2020, to which Canada would be expected to contribute.

One very interesting clause in the accord has to do with forest protection. The accord “recognizes the importance of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals or greenhouse gas emission by forests,” and agrees to provide “positive incentives” to fund such action with financial resources from the developed world.

Forests do remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and that’s a good thing we are told.

Countries who sign on are to set their own greenhouse-gas emission reduction commitments, which would not be bound by law. The hope is to limit the worldwide temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

These commitments will be the subject of further negotiation, of course, and a final deal is hoped for at next year’s summit in Mexico.

Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff’s reaction to the deal? “We need an aggressive, made in Canada, climate-change plan now,” he said. Yup, that’s it.

But how can Canada ever have a “made in Canada” approach to climate change when we share the continent with two other large nations, one of whom is the second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world and is our country’s largest—by a country mile—trading partner? To claim we can is to show ignorance of reality or to simply be disingenuous.

Canada’s best hope for doing its part on climate change is to try and influence the position of the United States to our benefit and then coordinate our plans and policies with their eventual position. We have little chance of being the tail that wags the dog.

This is essentially what Canada did when it sought to control/reduce acid rain in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Negotiations with the United States were held and that led initially to joint scientific work and studies. From that, a Memorandum of Intent between Canada and the United States concerning Transboundary Air Pollution was signed in 1980. And finally in 1991, we joined with the U.S. in the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement—an agreement that included specific commitments by both countries.

That seems a realistic, rational approach and a model for us to follow.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

How does it feel to be told off by Robert Mugabe?

The positive I take from the climate change conference at Copenhagen is that it has exposed in all its naked ugliness the avarice of the third-world dictators who hide their despotism behind sham democracies.

How laughable it is to read about Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe chiding the West from the podium in Copenhagen for what he charged was a double standard under which it fell short on addressing global warming while taking developing countries to task over human rights. He’s concerned about our “double standard.” I’d be satisfied if this ruthless despot had a single standard that could bear scrutiny by any standard of civilized conduct.

To take a measure of this man, one need only to read the report by Stephen Lewis’s Aids Free World in which Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party is accused of engaging “in the systematic violent rape of women who supported the opposition in the widely discredited second-round presidential poll in 2008.”

And that is the sort of man who gets to the podium at Copenhagen. Mugabe said that because the developing world would be called upon to clean up the mess left by the industrialized West, it deserved ample climate-related funding. “We who bear the burden of healing the gasping earth must draw the most from the global purse for remedial action,” Mugabe declared pompously.

Why was Mugabe even allowed to speak at the conference? His deplorable record on human rights and general issues of governance should have disqualified him from preaching to civilized nations. Denmark and the 26 other European Union states have barred Mugabe from travel within their territory, but since this is a U.N. gathering he is allowed to be there.

I hope Elizabeth May is correct when she says the Copenhagen climate conference is a “dismal failure.” I fear success will not be measured by how much real action is promised to influence greenhouse gas emissions, but rather by the amount of Western taxpayers’ money that is shipped off to countries like Zimbabwe and their wretched leaders.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

They should at least smile when picking our pockets

Do you remember back in the day when the socialists and liberals only wanted our governments to finance every social experiment and left-wing cause in Canada? Oh how I long for a return to those simpler times. Nowadays, we are being coerced by the lib-left into sending billions of dollars to every international basket case in the world.

Last night on his TV show, Michael Coren told one of his World Affairs panelists words to the effect that the United Kingdom had exploited India in the past and implied that this accounted for India’s economic challenges and somehow justified its demand for billions from the West to finance their climate change coping strategies.

I do not understand why a conservative like Coren would give any credence to this nonsense. I’ve heard it before, of course. Apparently all the economic ills of the developing countries is a direct result of the evil Western nations. What bunk!

Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand were all colonies of the United Kingdom and were as exploited as India was, in the sense that their economies were subordinated to that of the U.K.’s. Interesting, though, that in the past several decades those countries have prospered, while, until recently, India has been an economic basket case.

I’ll grant that the countries of Africa are somewhat of a special case, especially those of sub-Sahara Africa. Incompatible tribes were grouped together inside arbitrary borders and that has caused no end of challenges for those countries. But, for goodness sake, Germany and Japan were bombed almost out of existence in the 1940s, yet they have risen to become the second and fourth largest economies in the world.

Most European colonies have had their independence for over half a century. For decades now, they have been the recipients of foreign aid. It’s time they matured as nations and looked to themselves for their future survival.

The latest attempted cash grab in the name of global warming is a canard and I’m not buying any of it.

Too simplistic a view? Perhaps, but I’m tired of my country being treated like a cash cow and made to feel guilty for not doing more. Canada never had colonies; we are not the bad guys.

At some point, sub-Sahara Africa and India will have to take responsibility for their own actions and mistakes. They should not expect to live off international handouts forever.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Does Sarah Palin now support public health care?

My wife, a breast cancer survivor, has been a past supporter of the Juravinski Cancer Centre at Hamilton, Ontario, but I doubt she’ll be a financial supporter after reading in the Hamilton Spectator newspaper that former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is coming to Hamilton on April 15, 2010 to raise money for the Centre and St. Peter’s Hospital.

Apparently, former vice-presidential candidate Palin will be paid around $200,000 for her speech—her going rate for an appearance. Organizers hope to sell 1,000 tickets at $200 a plate, but raise more from selling photos with her.

If this organization can afford that kind of money for the barely coherent Palin, they certainly don’t need any of our hard-earned cash. What would prompt someone to invite such a vocally anti-public-healthcare advocate to speak here? For that matter, why invite a foreigner, any foreigner?

Public opinion appears strongly against this folly. I’m not surprised.

Wouldn’t it have been cheaper had the organizers engaged her speech writer to make the appearance—she/he probably would be more welcome.

In fact, they could simply play the above video to their well-heeled audience to get across the gist of Palin’s view of Canadian health care.

Apparently, Palin is being hired by a group of volunteers who are trying to revive celebrity fundraising dinners that were popular in Hamilton in the 1990s. Celebrities such as actors Michael Douglas and Sophia Loren came, as did former presidents and other leaders, including George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton, Israeli president Shimon Peres and former British leader Margaret Thatcher. And I gather that Carmen’s Banquet Centre is putting up Palin’s appearance fee.

Those were, to a person, people of accomplishments and of distinction, and neither of these descriptions fit Palin in any way.

Just goes to show that sometimes smart people make dumb choices. I wouldn’t pay two cents to hear Palin speak on any topic.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

To prorogue or not to prorogue

Apparently, rumours abound on Parliament Hill that the Conservative government is thinking of proroguing Parliament until March 2010, after the Olympics. Should this happen, several Tory bills like the ending of the gun registry will die, but so too will the House committee discussion of the Afghan detainee file.

I think the prime minister should prorogue. This would give us a chance to enjoy the Olympics in peace while the eyes of the world are on us without the constant carping and sniping from the opposition parties. A period of rest and recalibration one might say.

Sure, we’ll lose some useful legislation—not the least of which is the killing of the gun registry. But with the Liberal-controlled Senate in open defiance of the will of the House of Commons—and, for that matter, the will of their leader, Michael Ignatieff—I question whether we’d ever get it passed anyway.

Better to prorogue and wait for PM Stephen Harper to fill the five Senate seats that become available on Jan. 2. Apparently, the makeup of Senate committees will change only after this parliamentary session ends. So the PM needs a new session to take control of the Upper House.

The most critical piece of legislation before the Senate is the bill that makes Employment Insurance more lucrative. However, the Senate will sit again on Tuesday, and the bill could pass before senators break for Christmas.

Given the obstruction and political nonsense we have had from the opposition since 2006, I am convinced that we need a majority government to move our country forward.

I’m for proroguing parliament when the Senate takes its Christmas break and return for a new session in March when the PM can table an election budget. We can then go to the polls once more and try to get a parliament that works.

Should we lose in an election then, we would, at least, control the Senate and can soften some of the most egregious legislation we can expect from a Bob Rae-Liberal/NDP controlled House of Commons.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Copenhagen: sometimes truth gets in the way of a good statistic

T he problem with statistics has always been that while figures don’t lie, liars can figure. A terrific example of this is in today’s Times on Line article about Al Gore, the former U.S. Vice-President, becoming entangled in what The Times calls “a new climate change ‘spin’ row”—though I prefer to use the term “lie”.

In a speech at the Copenhagen climate change summit, the self-styled climate change guru stated that the latest research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years.

He tried to support his assertion by claiming, “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

How inconvenient it must have been for Mr. Gore when Dr. Maslowski, who works at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in California, and who is the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon, had this to say:

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at. I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Mr. Gore’s foot must still be firmly lodged in his mouth for he left it to his office to explain his lie. This it did by admitting that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr. Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr. Gore. So much for Mr. Gore’s assertion that “These figures are fresh.”

Does his misstatement of the truth sound familiar? It should, coming as it does after the  recent controversy over the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. Some of those e-mails suggest that scientists have been manipulating data to support their contention that global warming is a result of human activities.

Apparently, it’s not only the scientists who are being disingenuous.

Laypersons like Al Gore and Elizabeth May, who like to parade themselves before us as climate change experts, are far too quick to gild the lily to buttress eroding support for Anthropogenic climate change.

And this is just the sort of blatant exaggeration that has moved me from being someone who until recently was agnostic about the science of man-made global warming to being a disbeliever.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Dirty tricks at Liberal-ville

Here’s something that would make average Canadians sick to their stomachs, unless, of course, they are Liberals. Reuters Canada reports that Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal party of Canada displayed on its official Web site “… a doctored photo of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot and killed in which Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's face was substituted for Oswald’s.”

And not satisfied with that, the LPC also had displayed “… another doctored photo of [Prime Minister] Harper with his fist in a cow’s posterior, which it had offered as one of the ‘best seven’ depicting where Harper would rather be than in Copenhagen.”

We are reminded that in the last federal election campaign, Prime Minister Harper had to apologize because the Tory Web site had a video of a puffin pooping as it flew over former Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion. What an outcry we heard from outraged Liberals back then.

Apparently, the images have been removed. According to Liberal Party spokesman, Mario Laguë (more on him later), “These pictures are submitted by the public, but any offensive image should not be put up. The Oswald picture clearly falls in that category and was taken down very quickly. It was wrong to have it up and we apologize for letting this one slip by.”

Letting this one “slip by?” Is that what happened? A picture depicting our country’s prime minister being assassinated slipped by whoever is responsible for content on the LPC’s official Web site? Really. Who is the gate keeper I wonder? Warren Kinsella? Peter Donolo? De facto leader, Bob Rae, perhaps? Or was it the figurehead, Michael Ignatieff?

My money is on Mario Laguë, who I believe is Ignatieff’s communications director—he’s a man with a past consistent with such questionable politics. Laguë served as former PM Paul Martin’s communication director and is well-remembered for trying to spin the sponsorship and advertising scandal(Adscam) as something better than the tawdry mess it was, to the point that the MSM dubbed him as “Martin’s spin doctor.”

Laguë was the senior public servant in charge of the then Liberal government’s communications strategies during most of the Adscam scandal, but he denied any knowledge that “people were actually stealing money.”

Here’s something previously published in 2004 by Andrew Coyne about this individual:

“… he was questioned by investigators from the auditor general’s office over poor record-keeping at the Privy Council Office from 1998-2003 where he was the assistant secretary to cabinet’s communications committee, headed by former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano. He also admitted having several meetings on the sponsorship program with Chuck Guite, the former public works official at the centre of the fiasco and one of several people blamed by Auditor General Sheila Fraser for bending the rules to select Quebec advertising firms in a covert fight against separatism. While Guite talked to him in ‘general terms about the need (for Ottawa) to be visible’ in Quebec, Laguë stressed he had no idea of any wrongdoing in the program. ... Hired as assistant deputy minister in charge of communications strategy in 1998 after working on the 1995 Quebec referendum, Lague denied the $250-million sponsorship program was ever raised at Gagliano’s cabinet committee or in other discussions he was involved in.”

Later on, the Grit government appointed Laguë as Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica—how the worthy are rewarded.

Yes, folks, they are back in charge at Liberal-ville.

You can read more about this at the Blue Like You blog.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Thank goodness we have leaders like Jim Prentice and Stephen Harper

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is in full swing at Copenhagen this week with the big shots moving in to take the  limelight from the lesser players. So far Canada has borne the brunt of the scorn reserved for those who have questions about Anthropogenic Global Warming or responsibilities and remedial actions regarding climate change in general.

The United States—thanks probably to President Barack Obama—has avoided much criticism despite never signing the Kyoto Protocol and despite the high per capita levels of resource consumption in that country. Curious isn’t it how Obama has reversed international opinion of the U.S. in less than a year—and with very little real action on the environment on his or his country’s part. They consume most of what we produce, but we take the heat for the resulting greenhouse effect.

Canada, we are told, is obstructing real progress at Copenhagen. Yes, we who produce only an estimated two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are—according to the Climate Action Network—“… doing the most to obstruct progress in the global climate talks.”

And we are treated to the spectacle of the Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, agreeing to collect so-called “Fossil of the Day” awards on behalf of Canada.

Yes, readers, the very same who man who surreptitiously backed the city employees’ unions when they went on strike last summer:

  • he grossly mislead Toronto tax-payers about the cost of workers sick-day benefits;
  • he allowed the unions to boot City Council out of city hall during the strike;
  • he pretended to represent city management, but he caved on every material demand from the unions;
  • Toronto has shown an unprecedented level of irresponsible financial management and general ineptness during his administration; and
  • Toronto has slipped from second- to third-rate under his administration.

By pretending to speak for Canada, David Miller shows what a puffed up ass he really is. He travels 5,000 miles to be a central figure in the ridiculing of Canada.

Today I read that delegations from Ontario and Quebec are trying to differentiate their position from the federal government’s, declaring they will not carry higher emission-reduction burdens for the sake of oil sands expansion in the Western provinces. Shameful!

Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen and Quebec Environment Minister Line Beauchamp seem quite prepared for Canada to carry higher emission-reduction burdens for China, India, Brazil and the rest of the so-called G77 developing nations, but not for their fellow Canadians in Western Canada. Shameful!

Little account seems to be taken of why Canada’s emissions level is as high as it is.

We have an energy-intensive economy and live in the northern hemisphere where we need heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. In 2006, Canada produced 19.3 quadrillion British Thermal Units (Btu) of total energy, the fifth-largest amount in the world. Since 1980, Canada’s total energy production has increased by 87 per cent, while its total energy consumption has increased by only 44 per cent. Almost all of Canada’s energy exports go to the United States, making it the largest source of U.S. energy imports. Canada is consistently among the top sources for U.S. oil imports, and it is the largest source of U.S. natural gas and electricity imports. (Source)

Moreover, we are home to only 0.5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 1.7 per cent of the world’s GDP. Canada is literally one of the world’s powerhouses. Is it any wonder then that we are the source of two per cent of worldwide emissions?

I’ll match Canada’s real record of social and international responsibility against any member of the so-called G77 (which represents 130 developing countries) who are salivating at the prospect that their leaders—many of them corrupt dictators—will be stuffing their pockets to overflowing with the hundreds of billions they are demanding from the developed countries.

China—with thousands of billions of dollars in reserves is the third largest economy and first or second polluter and contributor to greenhouse gasses—has aligned itself with the G77 and stands waiting for a handout. Shameful!

Curious that the very changes the G77 demand of us would cripple our economy, yet, at the same time, they demand we contribute billions to their welfare.

Here’s hoping MP for Calgary Centre-North, Canada’s Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice and Prime Minister Stephen Harper hang tough this week at Copenhagen and add their much needed voices of reason to the negotiations there.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, December 11, 2009

NDP swings with political winds and opposes HST legislation

The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) enabling legislation passed in the House of Commons with only the New Democrats voting against it. In the longer term this will be good news for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and bad news for NDP leader, Jack Layton.

The good news for Michael Ignatieff was that he finally showed some spine and whipped his caucus into a unanimous vote for the legislation, ensuring that the Grits show a consistent approach towards the unpopular tax—while in power, they encouraged provinces to harmonize their sales taxes with the GST—and Grits want to protect themselves for when/if they return to power.

The GST is too valuable a tax regime for the Liberals to trash it for a bit of short-term political gain. They’ll need it to fill government coffers if they return to power, and the more sensible Grits know that only too well. And anyway, the Grits already made a significant flip-flop over the GST and don’t want to repeat that mistake over the HST.

The NDP will never gain power as a federal party, of course, so they don’t have to worry about a flip-flop over the GST or HST at that time. It is bad news for them nevertheless for, in the long term, they’ll regret finding themselves on the wrong side of good tax policy for some immediate gain among the many voters who apparently despise the GST and everything related to it.

And, of course, the Dippers already flipped and flopped over the GST/HST. Remember when Stephen Harper’s government lowered the GST from seven per cent to six then five per cent? Remember how the Dippers howled that it was bad economics, bad tax policy?

Apparently, back then the NDP were in favour of the GST concept—so much so that they wanted the unconscionably-high rate of seven per cent maintained. But now they are against extending the concept to the provinces. Go figure.

It is quite amazing how Jack Layton is able to morph his party to take political advantage of any new angle that presents itself. Dippers will, without embarrassment, advocate for an issue that in some form they previously opposed, so long as they see some political advantage in doing so.

At some level, Canadians intuitively understand that Layton and the NDP can not be trusted to stand on principle unless it has to do with the Labour movement. That’s why 80+ per cent of Canadians have rejected that party in every federal election in which they have participated. Time and time again the Dippers ask Canadians to allow them to run the country and time and time again Canadians sensible reject them.

One can always tell which way the political winds are blowing at any point in time. Jack Layton is the weather vane of Canadian politics: he just swings with the wind.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Please, let’s not waste time and money on another useless public inquiry

What a curious country we live in. Members of our opposition parties, in their efforts to discredit our government, are trashing our country and its top generals at home and abroad.

What sort of self-hating creatures travel thousands of miles to Copenhagen to trash their own country and to curry favour with a bunch of self-serving fat cats, dictators from third-world countries and left-wing hangers on who believe Canada is destroying the world’s environment?

In Ottawa, the opposition has the bit between their teeth and are hell bent to destroy the Conservative government over the Afghan detainee file. If there is criticism to be levied, it’s that Canada remained in Afghanistan in any official way once the Taliban government had been unseated and replaced. The mission was over at that point. After that we’ve had “mission creep” and its meant billions of dollars wasted on that wretched medieval country and its backward, cruel people.

I can see nothing of value coming out of PM Stephen Harper calling a Canadian public inquiry over Afghanistan torturing Afghan prisoners. That’s their business.

As I have written before, wars are not for the faint of heart. They are brutal, frightening things to be avoided at almost any cost. But once declared, we owe it to those of our military who fight on the front lines to be resolute and to use any and all means to conduct the war expeditiously while protecting the lives of those who are on our side of the conflict.

War is like politics, it makes for strange bedfellows. We’re stuck with allies who themselves are stuck somewhere in the medieval past. That’s one of the many prices we have to pay for our involvement in Afghanistan, and I for one am prepare to hold my nose until 2011 when our commitment transpires.

In wartime, I’m willing to cut our military a lot of slack and not put too fine a point on international law. Neither will I make grand sweeping condemnations of what I consider inhumane, when what is most inhumane is our soldiers having to fight the war in Afghanistan in the first place.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is Bob Rae the de facto leader of the LPC?

Yesterday, I blogged about rumours of an insurrection against Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff. Denials from prominent Grits notwithstanding, I’m seeing too much smoke to believe there is no fire. Today, I’m asking myself: what are the chances that a coup d’état of sorts has already occurred?

Not all successful coups end with the beheading, imprisonment or banishment of the former leader. Some simply shuffle the leader into a figurehead role, and a de facto leader takes over the reins of power.

If such a scenario had actually occurred, would the public face of the Liberal Party of Canada be any different than we see now? Consider the following:

  • Peter Donolo, former communications director to Jean Chrétien is now chief of staff, and Donolo supported Rae in the leadership contest.
  • Eddie Goldenberg, Chrétien’s former principal secretary, is working for the party as a some sort of “senior counsel,” and he’s known to be close to John Rae, Bob’s brother.
  • On a day-to-day basis, Bob Rae is far more visible in Parliament, answering reporters’ questions and appearing on political TV shows. Rae remains vocally supportive of Ignatieff, but the latter does seem to be taking a supporting role when the reverse should be the case.
  • When he is seen, Michael Ignatieff appears miserable or distant and sometimes both.

Am I being serious or just mischievous? Well, perhaps I am being a bit mischievous, but not entirely so. Chances are there has been no transfer of power within the LPC, I grant that. That doesn’t mean there has not been a significant shift in the balance of influence in Rae’s favour, and sometimes that’s all that really matters.

Ignatieff may still have the trappings of office, but I believe Bob Rae now commands the hearts and minds of a growing and powerful segment of the LPC’s caucus and its backroom movers and shakers—even a majority perhaps and he may actually be calling the political shots.

Stay tuned, it’s early days in this comedy of errors that is the LPC.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Canadian human rights community: sanity prevails

The “professional” Canadian human rights community—you know, the ones who make money from so called hate speech—received another body blow last week when the Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s conviction of Rev. Stephen Boissoin for alleged “hate speech.” (See Ezra Levant’s blog for details at Rev. Stephen Boissoin's conviction overturned.)

Shamefully, it took seven long years for Rev. Boissoin to receive justice. In a letter he wrote to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate in 2002, Rev. Boissoin was critical of the “gay agenda” (details here). For this, he was sentenced by the Human Rights Panels of Alberta to a lifetime of never again making negative comments about gays. And he was legally compelled to write a letter of apology, and in so doing, to renounce his religious beliefs on the matter. He also was to pay damages to the complainant and one of his witnesses. Yes, apparently, it is profitable to make successful human rights complaints.

In another small victory of sorts for justice in Canada, earlier in the year the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s adjudicator, Athanasios Hadjis, refused to apply Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to a complaint brought by Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman against Marc Lemire, a webmaster of freedomsite.org, finding the anti-hate law targeting telephone and Internet messages unconstitutional.

Some of us had hoped Hadjis’s decision marked the beginning of the end of using Section 13 to make it illegal to write politically incorrect things on the Internet. We thought we’d be free to hurt each others feelings without fear of prosecution by the state. But apparently we were wrong for the Canadian Human Rights Commission is seeking a judicial review of Hadjis’s ruling and now we must wait for a federal court to decide.

I wonder how much longer it will take for Ontario’s premier, Dalton McGuinty, to come to his senses and offer much-deserved relief to Burlington, Ontario restaurateur, Ted Kindos of Gator Ted’s? Back in February, I wrote here about Mr. Kindos’s predicament.

According to a newsletter from Burlington’s Progressive Conservative MP Joyce Savoline, there has been very little progress made by the current Government to help Mr. Kindos. Says Ms. Savoline:

“After three years, and over $30,000, Ted Kindos is still facing a tribunal before the Human Rights Commission, and is still in a no-win situation. Should he follow the rules of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the Human Rights Commission will shut him down. If he were to listen to the Human Rights Commission, and allow the medicinal marijuana smoking to continue, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will close his doors.”

On February 17, in response to a question asked in the Legislature regarding progress with Ted Kindos’s case, the Minister of Government Services, Ted McMeekin, stated, “… this government is determined to make sure that we find a way to support Ted Kindos… .”

Indeed! It is now December 7 and where is the support from the Ontario government promised by Mr. McMeekin? But should we be surprised? This Ontario government has left a long trail of broken promises since early in its first term.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Message to Michael Ignatieff: Got to know when to fold ‘em

There’s that Gambler song by Kenny Rodgers that advises: “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, know when to run… .” Remember that? Isn’t that just the best advice ever for the Liberal Party of Canada vis-à-vis its leader, Michael Ignatieff?

I am betting there is more fact than fiction to the story doing the rounds in the mainstream media this weekend that a mutiny against Michael Ignatieff is afoot (see Or mutiny or stealth? at the Blue Like You blog for the juicy bits). No fan of Ignatieff, I’m heartened by the denials from Liberal MPs as reported by Don Martin in today’s National Post as follows:

“… mutineers went ballistic on blogs, Twitter and letters pages. ‘Fictional!’ a furious Bob Rae snapped. ‘Hurtful and wrong!’ tweeted Carolyn Bennett. ‘Totally unfounded!’ insisted Glen Pearson. ‘Ridiculous!’ said Ruby Dhalla.”

I’m heartened by these well orchestrated responses because all of us Tories know that a Grit’s first instinct is to lie. When do Liberals ever tell the truth when their fortunes begin to circle the drain? So, whatever a Grit says, assume the opposite.

“Fictional” says Bob Rae, therefore, I assume he is the leader of the mutineers.

“Hurtful and wrong!” tweeted Carolyn Bennett—oh no, is she about to cry again?.

“Totally unfounded!” insisted Glen Pearson. Assume therefore that there is a sound foundation for the rumour.

“Ridiculous!” said Ruby Dhalla. Now here I have a real problem. Ms. Dhalla may be feeding us a double lie with a hidden message—she is that duplicitous. A double lie is like a double agent in the spy world. Dhalla tells the truth knowing we’ll assume she’s telling a lie. So what’s the hidden message? Dhalla was Ignatieff’s Leadership Campaign’s national co-chair during the 2006 Liberal leadership campaign, and now she finds the man ridiculous. Anyway, that’s my interpretation.

Maybe Don Martin is correct when he points out that “… the notion of a coup d’état to take out Ignatieff even before his first anniversary in power is a mighty hard swallow,” because “every Liberal leader gets to lose an election before the knife penetrates their shoulder blades.”

However, just the threat of a coup could be the trigger to send Ignatieff back to Harvard. Why would he want to remain where he’s not appreciated? For the sake of party unity, he may step aside. Or perhaps he’ll call for a full leadership review and let the chips fall where they may.

Listen carefully. If we hear increased mutterings from Grit ranks about uniting the left under the LPC banner, we’ll know Bob Rae’s up to no good.

To paraphrase the Bard, Yond Rae has a lean and hungry look.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Size does matter: Canada the powerhouse

In the world of international politics—power politics—size really does matter. Influence is measured by one’s ability to project military and economic power miles from one’s shores. When considering nations, size is, of course, relative: land mass, population size, GDP, per capita GDP, military manpower, and so on.

There are several large countries in terms of land mass that have only a modest amount of international influence: Bangladesh, for example. Bangladesh is also a county whose population size is large, but influence on the world’s stage is negligible.

Now take China’s increasingly important position in the world. The once sleeping giant has an immense land mass and population, and also has the third highest GDP after the United States and Japan and ahead of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. China also has the largest active military in the world. It’s small wonder some are calling for a G-2 with China and the US.

Countries like Egypt and Syria have quite large military forces (450,000 and 296,000 respectively) yet wield little influence outside their region. Neither does Indonesia, which has the eleventh largest military force in the world.

And what about Russia, the once and would-like-to-be-again superpower? Russia is a military powerhouse with nuclear weapons to spare. Its 6,592,800 sq mi land mass makes it the largest country in the world. Yet Russia has slipped to the status of second-tier nation since the breakup of the former Soviet Union. And Russia’s eighth or ninth place ranking by nominal GDP and 50+ ranking by per capita GDP reinforces their second-tier status.

Germany, France and Britain are all quite closely ranked at or near the top of the second tier of nations, though with the combined influence of the European Union, they could easily rival the USA if they got their act together.

This brings me to Canada’s position in the world. We are a country that is easy to overlook. We are the second largest country by land mass, but we have a tiny military and we walk softly in the world. Though, it must be said, we have punched above our weight in Afghanistan over the past six or seven years. Our military is slightly smaller than Holland’s, a country of half our population size and about 58 per cent of our GDP.

Yet Canada is indeed a powerhouse. We hold down (2008) eleventh place in GDP behind countries with population sizes several times ours. Consider China the world’s newest near-superpower. Chain’s GDP is less just than three times ours, but it has a population that is 39 times ours.

By the way, China’s per capita GDP is about 15 per cent of ours. In fact, China’s per capita GDP is significantly less than Jamaica’s (according to the CIA World Factbook)—so much for China’s superpower aspirations.

All countries that rank ahead of Canada in GDP have substantially larger (20%+) populations.

Canada is the US’s largest foreign supplier of energy, including oil, natural gas, uranium and electric power. Our major banks are among the most stable in the world. Canada’s influence in the world is such that even though our population size ranks in the mid-thirties internationally, we are a member of the influential G-8 group of nations.

Canada leads the world in our range strategic resources with enormous stores of fresh water, agricultural land, educated population, potash, uranium, gold, silver, oil sands, natural gas and much much more.

Canada is strategically located to be among the nations to benefit most from the upward-trending temperatures of future decades. Think about a north with millions of acres of inhabitable land and natural resources, agriculture and livestock of cattle, sheep, buffalo and caribou, fresh water, navigable waterways, port cities on the Canadian North-west Passage. All that ready to accept a huge population influx from the nations hardest hit by the changing climate.

Think of a Canada with 125-150 million highly-educated population and a high-tech military of 250,000-350,000. We will be a top-five nation in all but population and perhaps military size. And we’ll probably will be there before the end of this century.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

And Elizabeth May prattles on…

Not at all contrite over her loss in last Tuesday’s Monk Debate on climate change, Green Party of Canada’s leader, Elizabeth May, has launched a long diatribe on the Green Party’s Web site blaming all but herself for her poor showing.

“I hate being part of a side-show circus and that’s what any ‘debate’ with Lomborg and Lawson has to be,” she writes. If she hates such “side-shows” why would she have agreed to participate? Then she continues:

“I will leave out the many ways in which I felt the debate was conducted in a biased fashion.  I was sad to have the rules changed in mid-stream such that I was asked a question by the moderator in a space when I had been told I could rebut what I had heard.  Sadly, this meant that the fundamentals of Lomborg’s intellectual dishonesty remained unchallenged.”

Ms. Green, it has to be said, was given as much opportunity as anyone else to make her case, but chose instead to make spurious links between climate change and AIDS in Africa. (See video of full debate here.) But after the debate she attacks her opponent when he doesn’t have the opportunity to respond. How typical of her style: blame others for her own inept performance.

Something else in Elizabeth May’s blog post caught my attention: her concern for Canada’s polar bear population. It’s so typical of how climate change advocates like to blame everything they can on global warming that I can’t resist commenting.

Some environmentalists and biologists are concerned that as polar ice melts, the polar bears will not be able to hunt their primary food, seals. They do not seem to believe the bears will be able to adapt to warmer climates by eating other things like land animals and berries, and by hibernating during the winter months like other members of the brown bear species.

Ms. May apparently agrees with this reasoning and uses the polar bear as an example of the “cost” of not mitigating climate change.

But we all live in a changing world. We all face the choice to adapt or die. That’s a harsh reality of life. If there is not enough ice for the polar bears to live in their traditional ways, they’ll have to adapt to the ways of their close relatives the grizzle bears. Polar bears can breed with brown (grizzle) bears to produce fertile grizzly–polar bear hybrids, indicating that they have only recently diverged and are genetically similar. Consequently, I have every reason to believe polar bears can and will re-adapt to a lifestyle similar to the grizzles’, provided that hunting—the greatest threat to their existence—is severely restricted.

Polar bears are known to eat a wide variety of other wild foods, including muskoxen, reindeer, birds, eggs, rodents, shellfish, crabs and other polar bears. They may also eat plants, including berries, roots and kelp. And, although none of these are currently a significant part of their diet, they will adapt, if and when necessary, to survive on a new mix in their diet.

Yes, their numbers may decrease as polar bears adapt, and perhaps their descendants will revert back to being brown bears. But if they are not hunted into extinction, they will survive even if the arctic region does become warmer in centuries to come.

For people like Elizabeth May, the plight of the polar bear is just another weapon to be used in their crusade to sell the evils of man-made global warming. They write books, produce documentaries, go on speaking tours, organize/operate single-issue political parties and engage in other very profitable enterprises in the name of being environmentalists.

Job One for them is to convince Western governments to spend trillions on climate change mitigation strategies. This is how they will earn their lucrative livings, and without such jobs they’d have to go out and find real work.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Far from being over, the climate change debate rages on

The geneticist turned environmentalist and broadcaster, Dr. David Suzuki, told us several months ago that:

“The debate is over about whether or not climate change is real. Irrefutable evidence from around the world—including extreme weather events, record temperatures, retreating glaciers, and rising sea levels—all point to the fact climate change is happening now and at rates much faster than previously thought.

“The overwhelming majority of scientists that study climate change agree that human activity is responsible for changing the climate.”

Yet it seems to me that the debate, far from being over, is heating up. And, as for human activity being responsible for changing the climate, the debate is alive and well, with support for spending trillions of dollars on global warming mitigation in a steep decline.

As reported in the National Post and The New York Times, a new Harris Poll yesterday found that only 51 per cent of Americans believe that the release of carbon dioxide and other gases will lead to global warming, while two years ago 71 per cent of respondents linked greenhouse gases directly to global warming.

The Harris results follow other polls in recent months from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the The Washington Post and ABC News, and The Wall Street Journal and NBC showing a similar decline in the percentage of people who believe climate change is real and is caused by emissions from fossil fuels.

If the debate is over, I guess nobody bothered to tell the American public whose hard-earned tax money is being counted on to help mitigate climate change.

And what about Dr. Suzuki’s claim that “The overwhelming majority of scientists that study climate change agree that human activity is responsible for changing the climate.”?

Well it seems that the scientist at the centre of the so-called Climategate scandal at the UK’s University of East Anglia, Phil Jones, is stepping aside as the director of the University’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) pending the outcome of an independent investigation into allegations that CRU scientists manipulated data about global warming. The CRU maintains one of the world’s most important datasets on how global temperatures have changed.

Also, Scotland Yard has announced a major police inquiry into the behaviour of the CRU, concerned that the team may have breached the laws of Britain in an attempt to get around freedom of information requests. The police inquiry is independent of that begun by the University of East Anglia.

Moreover, one man frequently mentioned in Climategate e-mails, Professor Michael Mann, is also under investigation. Penn State University, where Mann works, has decided that there is sufficient concern over scientific practices revealed in the e-mails and documents to require investigation. Mann is responsible for developing the famous “hockey stick” diagram of historical global temperatures used in Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

Are these the scientists and data to which Dr. Suzuki referred?

Elizabeth May couldn’t get the job done

The leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May, has demonstrated once again why Canadian voters have, over more than a quarter of a century, repeatedly rejected her hyperbole and intellectual dishonesty. In a Munk Debate held on Dec. 1 at Toronto, she and British journalist George Monbiot were defeated by Lord Nigel Lawson and Bjorn Lomberg, and May was by far the least effective of the four.

The debate resolution was “Be it resolved climate change is mankind's defining crisis, and demands a commensurate response.” May and Monbiot argued for the affirmative and lost to the two well-known skeptics.

Before the debate, the 1,100 people in the audience cast ballots, with 61 per cent supporting the resolution. At the end of the debate, support had fallen to 53%.

Instead of using rational argument, scientific evidence and some clear thinking Ms. May resorted to ad hominem argument and even tried to link climate change with AIDS in Africa.

Ms. May seems incapable of coherently making her case for Canadians to spend billions of dollars to reverse climate change—much of those billions to be in the form of transfers of hard-earned wealth to less fortunate nations. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that her party lacks credibility among most voters.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Will health care reform pass in 2009

Will the United States Congress pass health care reform by December 31, and how will failure to do so affect President Barack Obama’s administration given his pledge to pass reform by the end of 2009?

The following video looks at a variety of news sources and discusses what it might mean for President Obama, his administration
and Democrats in general if they can not get a bill passed by the end of 2009.

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Contents, except video, © 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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The disgrace that is the current Grand River (Caledonia) land dispute

This past week has provided yet another example of the fundamental ineptness of the McGuinty government and its I-govern-you-serve attitude towards the residents of Ontario, the very people it is supposed to be serving. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all citizens equal treatment under the law, but Premier Dalton McGuinty doesn’t seem to give a damn.

Those following the court case at Hamilton, Ontario—$7-million lawsuit filed by Caledonia residents, David Brown, Dana Chatwell and their son, Dax Chatwell—will no doubt have been sickened by the “flag incident” demonstrating the lack of equal treatment under the law that the non-native residents of the town of Caledonia have suffered since February 2006, when a band of Mohawk hooligans calling themselves “Warriors” took over the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision (private property) in that town as part of a land-claims dispute.

In an infuriatingly disgraceful display (video) of uneven and heavy-handed law enforcement, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) forcibly prevented the display of the Canadian flag by a non-native resident, but a few weeks later the OPP protected demonstrators (video) who flew native flags and the Canadian flag with the Maple Leaf cut out before being tossed in mud without consequence.

Here are a few examples from the National Post of lawlessness that the OPP have allowed without consequences:

“They [group of Mohawks] chased the OPP from the site [Douglas Creek Estates subdivision] in April 2006, burned a wooden trestle bridge to the ground, erected tire barricades across municipal streets and set the tires ablaze, pushed a minivan off an overpass and destroyed a power company transformer. They roughed up an elderly couple who inadvertently crossed their path, assaulted a television news camera crew they believed had taken footage of them being violent, and even stole a police vehicle and attempted to run down an OPP officer.”

This, by the way, did not happen somewhere faraway in the third world. It happened about an hour and a half ride from the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park.

The rule of law has been suspended in Caledonia and does not apply to the hooligans and squatters who claim to be protesters, and that’s okay with the OPP and with Dalton McGuinty.

Mr. McGuinty: how many more years of your disregard of the rule of law can we expect?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Do the Liberals really believe our generals are liars?

It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? The Liberals and the New Democrats bang on about our military turning over Afghan prisoners to Afghan authorities who, according to some sources, are then tortured. All the opposition parties seem concerned about is somehow proving that Canada is at fault and so to discredit the current government and, in so doing, destroy the credibility and reputation of our armed forces.

But do they offer ten cents worth of consideration for the victims of the alleged torture? No they do not. There are no demands that the Afghans stop the torture. There are no demands that NATO intervene and take control of captured Taliban. The opposition’s allegations are serious—tantamount to war crimes—so why don’t they call for the court martial of senior military officers?

Could it be that the Grits are less sure of their position after the generals testified before the parliamentary committee? Or perhaps Michael Ignatieff’s past support for torture under certain circumstances has muddied the waters and caused Liberal attack dogs to be muzzled?

Regardless of the reason, I find the more subdued approach by the Liberals as seen in Bob Rae’s appearance on Thursday’s Power Play on CTV News to be far more helpful to Canadians as they work their way through this file. Rae looked uncomfortable and restrained.

It is all about partisan advantage, of course. Outrage and witch-hunting are de rigeur. Don’t oppose government policy on principle, but slander and accuse (mainly with parliamentary privilege) the government at every opportunity. Waste time and money. Call for public inquiries. All these tactics are standard operating procedures.

And Canadians become more cynical and more and more stay home on election day.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Janine Krieber’s Facebook posting

I’ve been following the reaction to Janine Krieber’s—the wife of Stéphane Dion—recent Facebook post in which she castigates the Liberal Party of Canada and its leader Michael Ignatieff. Of course, the LPC’s spokespersons would have us believe this was the opinion of one person who is not particularly influential in the party. Some even hint at sour grapes from the wife of the former leader.

I don’t believe this for a second.

Ms. Krieber is not just some average member of the LPC—far from it. Nor is her Facebook posting an angry outburst in reaction to the ouster of Mr. Dion—too much time has passed.

I believe Ms. Krieber has thought long and hard about this and has echoed the opinions and frustrations of a significant number of Liberals who see their new leader test levels of party popularity that are even lower than in Stéphane Dion’s time.

The Toronto centric leader of the official opposition and his advisors can find no traction for their barrage of half-truths and disinformation that have characterized their strategy to date. Some left-leaning members of the LPC are frustrated, and those backing Bob Rae are apparently in open revolt against Mr. Ignatieff’s inept political leadership.

Michael Ignatieff has so much baggage from his prolific musings in print, it sometime hampers the LPC’s ability to create wedge issues that will separate them from the centre-hugging Conservatives, and, let’s face it, Michael Ignatieff has been a dismal failure as a political leader.  This combination has many questioning whether his party can survive as a national entity without some sort of unite-the-left merger with the New Democrats. And such an accommodation with the left-wing New Democrats will require someone like Bob Rae at the helm.

Political parties do implode—even ones which were very popular at some point. For evidence of that, consider the fate of the Union National in Quebec and the federal Progressive Conservatives. Could the LPC be next to face extinction?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

U.S. health care debate: great politics or tragic theatre?

The United States Senate voted on Saturday to open debate on its health care legislation, thus clearing one more hurdle for President Barack Obama’s most important domestic initiative. Full debate will begin after the U.S. Thanksgiving and is expected to continue throughout December.

Even if eventually passed, however, there is one more hurdle to come: reconciling this bill with the one passed by the House earlier this month by 220 to 215, with just one Republican voting in favor; then, of course, the president’s approval.

I’ll not get into the details of the bill or the differences between it and the House’s counterpart—those are ably covered elsewhere. I am, however, filled with anticipation over whether Americans will eventually join all other Western industrial nations in providing some form of universal—or nearly so—health care available regardless of ability to pay.

Under the current political system in the United States, can any major legislation make it through both houses of Congress in anything close to optimal form? Or will the inevitable compromises provide a “sum of all interest groups,” as Thomas Friedman would say, without providing the best health care for the most number of Americans at the least cost.

I am not optimistic. Already millions have been spent to kill the bill and millions more will be employed to try to gut or destroy it by Christmas.

Already senators will have honed every rhetorical weapon and parliamentary tactic for use in the thrust and parry to come. Attempts will be made to kill the proposed government-run insurance plan. For some, the target will be adding tougher language on medical malpractice lawsuits. And others will want to see a tightening of restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions. Pet issues will be championed to maximum effect to bolster future election chances.

And, of course, it’ll be time to make good on promises made in exchange for the millions of dollars donated as reelection funds by the powerful private health care lobby.

It is a wonder anything of real value ever gets done in that place.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Who do you trust

The current controversy over who knew what when about prisoner abuse in Afghanistan seems to be boiling down to who you trust most to tell us the truth.

“We always had concerns with those handovers, but no smoking gun ever caught my attention.”

- Rick Hillier

On the one hand we have Canadian diplomat and intelligence officer Richard Colvin and a journalist or two who were in Afghanistan telling us that senior Canadian officials knew that Afghans captured by Canadian troops have been tortured by Afghan authorities.

On the other hand we have our Minister of Defense, Peter MacKay, and our former top soldier, retired general Rick Hillier, denying allegations they or other senior government or military officials were aware prisoners transferred by Canadians to Afghan authorities were tortured.

So who are we to believe? The unvarnished truth is probably somewhere in between both these extremes.

I have no doubt that Canadian officials and military leaders knew something about Afghanistan’s rough justice. They certainly did back in the 2006 timeframe when this file heated up for some weeks. And they probably had concerns even after they had responded back then by putting certain safeguards in place. But certainly having concerns and having proof are two very different things.

I do not believe for a minute that our military are guilty of war crimes as is being suggested by many in the mainstream media and by members of the opposition. Oh, they try to condemn the government while excusing the military from responsibility. But how could that be when it is the military who capture the prisoners in the first place and “following orders” is not a defense against charges of war crimes?

War, even just ones, are terribly brutal affairs. We all know that, yet some of us think there is a way to fight a clean war with zero innocent victims. We send our young women and men to horrible places like Afghanistan where horrible things occur every day, even in pacified regions. We ask them to kill as many enemy as they can so the can win the war. But we insist they do so in a “humane” fashion. What crap!

If Afghans have been torturing their prisoners, including ones we captured for them, then so be it. It is their problem, not ours. We can try to set up reasonable safeguards, which we have done, but the rest is up the the Afghan government. We do not operate the prisons, nor should we. And who knew what when about suspected practices is immaterial.

Throwing around charges of war crimes is not helpful. It undermines our support for our troops. The war and its consequences is not their problem. They are doing their best under trying circumstances and we need to be more understanding of how incredibly difficult it is to wage war in that part of the world.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

HST as seen through Alice’s looking glass

The debate over the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario and British Columbia is getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. In fact, the entire Canadian debate on value added tax has a decided Alice In Wonderland sense to it.

The two-part HST value added tax with its federal and provincial components became a part of the Canadian tax regime in the 1990s after the federal portion (GST) had been implemented by the Brian Mulroney Tories as a replacement for the export-killing 13.5 per cent Federal Sales Tax. In a stunning 180 degree turnabout, however, Jean Chrétien’s Grits embraced the GST after successfully campaigning against it.

The Liberals, who had opposed the value add tax concept, once elected, encouraged New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia to merge their provincial sales taxes with the more efficient, business investment friendly GST. So the Liberals were the first political party to do a complete about face on value added tax; they were not, however, the last.

The Tories also seem to have an ambiguous view of the unpopular value added tax. While at the federal level Tories seem to embrace the concept—after all, they introduced it—at the provincial level they are attacking it hammer and tongs. Against all logic, Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are opposing Dalton McGuinty’s plan for harmonization in favour of retaining the expensive-to-administer, investment-killing Ontario Provincial Sales Tax.

Mr. Hudak’s party could campaign for a lower rate of tax to decrease the burden on Ontario consumers, but have chosen instead to oppose harmonization outright. A wrong headed decision, but a politically popular one, apparently.

The New Democrats have opposed value added taxes from the beginning—even reversing an early attempt at harmonization in Saskatchewan shortly after the GST was introduced in 1991—and seem to have won a recent by-election in BC by opposing harmonization there. However, that same party screamed bloody murder when Stephen Harper’s Tories lowered the federal portion from seven per cent to five percent.

Is it or is it not a good idea to use a value added tax as part of our tax regime in this country? From watching the antics of all three national political parties, one will assume the answer is, it depends. While parties are in power they like it, when in opposition they hate it. Except, of course, the Dippers—they like it when the Tories want to reduce it, but hate it if the provinces try to introduce it. Phew!

Is it any wonder that so many Canadians are fed up and can’t be bothered to turn up at the polls for elections?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, November 13, 2009

I’ll miss Lou Dobbs on CNN

I’ll miss Lou Dobs on CNN each evening, not because I share his opinion on most issues or even because I like his personality or style for, in fact, I neither share many of his opinions nor particularly like the man. I find Dobbs to be overbearing with an irritatingly inflated sense of his own self-importance.

“I truly believe that the major issues of our time include the growth of our middle class, the creation of more jobs, health care, immigration policy, the environment, climate change, and our military involvement, of course, in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

- Lou Dobbs

One thing I will miss though is his unrelenting attack on illegal immigration. Only with constant media pressure will the United States Congress act decisively to correct the current system in which laws are flaunted and legal residents and citizens carry an unfairly high proportion of the tax burden in that nation. Men like Lou Dobbs are invaluable assets in the struggle to get Congress to end the current sham of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” immigration policy and other such illegal immigration boondoggles.

And I’m afraid that until the United States substantially overhauls its illegal immigration policies, politicians in Canada will not fully overhaul ours.

Should a Democratic president with Barack Obama’s credibility towards minorities pass substantive, comprehensive immigration reform, the mainstream public on both sides of our border will accept the new measures on their face value instead of dismissing them as mean-spirited, right-wing and anti-immigrant.

And that would have the effect of smoothing the way in Canada for more effective legislation, which will almost certainly be unpopular in the immigrant community among left-wing individuals and groups who want an open-door, laissez-faire attitude towards immigration so that they can somehow profit from it.

Let’s hope Lou Dobbs pops up somewhere soon and continues his opposition to illegal immigration—we’ll all benefit in the end.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Warren Kinsella’s still in the Grit war room

The rumour yesterday that Warren Kinsella would be among the recent exodus from the Opposition Leader’s Office (OLO) have apparently been proved to be untrue. According to the Globe and Mail this morning, the former Jean Chrétien speechwriter will not be shown the door as head of the Michael Ignatieff Liberal war room.

Mr. Ignatieff has lost several of his senior staff: former chief of staff Ian Davey and former communications director Jill Fairbrother, two senior aides, Alexis Levine and Mark Sakamoto and most recently Dan Brock, principal secretary. But Kinsella apparently will remain on the job.

“I objected to what I perceived to be [Michael Ignatieff’s] breathtaking arrogance—calling Canada a ‘herbivorian boy scout’ one day, then jetting up here to run it the next.”

- Warren Kinsella
as reported by the
National Post

Exactly why Kinsella continues to serve Michael Ignatieff is unclear to me. Back in 2006 he hurled some pretty nasty criticism Mr. Ignatieff’s way. For those who might have missed it or forgotten, refresh your memory with this post by the Alberta Ardvark and this from the National Post.

Pretty strong stuff indeed—worthy of the most partisan Tory. How can someone say stuff like this one day and work for the man—in the war room of all places—the next. It must say something unflattering about the man’s character. Kinsella wasn’t just for some other leadership candidate, he was vehemently anti-Ignatieff.

Mr. Ignatieff seems to be taking Sun-Tzu’s advice: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

O Canada, MP Jason Kenney stands on guard for thee

The current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, is like a fresh breeze in Ottawa. The new 62-page guidebook, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, is but the latest in a series of welcome measures taken by Mr. Kenney to address weaknesses in the process of immigrating to Canada and becoming a citizen.

Newcomers aged 18 to 54 will use the new guidebook to prepare for their citizenship test. A great improvement over the minimal, virtually trivial, practice of the past. At last, we have begun to stress responsibilities of citizenship; not just benefits and rights. The booklet will also be made available to schools, which I believe is a terrific idea. I’ve downloaded a copy for myself.

When I became a citizen, the only requirement of me was to turn up, prove I’d been a landed immigrant for five years and take an oath of citizenship. My dog at that time, Spike, could just as easily have qualified, though he might have stumbled a bit on the oath—he never was a fan of the Queen.

I my world, I’d increase the minimum continuous residency requirement to five years (three years for a spouse of a Canadian citizen). Absences of three months or less from Canada per year would not break the continuous residency requirement; longer absences, however, would. Exemptions could be made for those serving Canada in its armed services or foreign service.

I’d also want some guard against the “citizenship of convenience” we saw recently during the last war in Lebanon. Enough of making a mockery of our citizenship and playing taxpaying Canadians for suckers.

And I’d make citizenship a requirement of long-term residency in Canada. Only citizens can vote in provincial and federal elections, so I believe all long-term residents should obtain citizenship so they can vote in every election. I’d give immigrants up to 10 years to obtain citizenship or they’d have to leave our country.

I’d make citizenship a requirement for most federal civil service jobs—and I’d classify employment at federal crown corporations on the same basis.

Finally, I’d revoke citizenship of any Canadian found guilty of a serious crime involving two or more years in a penitentiary. There would be, of course, some reasonable mechanism to allow former convicts to re-earn their citizenship.

Keep up the good work, Mr. Kenney.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Ignatieff can save the Liberal Party

Here’s my improbable forecast for the next 16 months: the Grits dump Michael Ignatieff, appoint/anoint Toronto MP Bob Rae as leader, merge with the NDP (at least the right-most elements of that hapless party) and force a general election.

Sound improbable? I agree. However, politics can be full of surprises, especially when one party, the New Democrats, has never won a federal election and has no real prospects of doing so in the foreseeable future. And the other party, the Liberal Party of Canada, is straining at the bit to regain the power it is used to wielding, but is frustrated by a leader that is about as effective as was last chief Grit, Stéphane Dion.

The Liberals can no longer be considered a “national” party. They are really a regional party (Eastern Canada) with a sprinkling of support elsewhere. Their historical base in Quebec is being decimated, first by the Bloc then increasingly by a resurgence of support in that province for the Stephen Harper conservatives—astonishingly the Grits are left with only 14 seats in La Belle Province. And, while in the past they could count on British Columbia (five seats) to give credibility to their claim of being represented coast to coast, the NDP and the Conservatives are increasingly shutting them out.

More than half their caucus is from Ontario—and recent polls show them slipping there—while elsewhere, the Grits are a second choice at best, and increasingly, they can only really hope for a third place finish. The Liberals have only about eight members west and north of Ontario—a record only slightly better that the Green Party which has none.

The very best Michael Ignatieff could do for his party is convince the backroom movers and shakers to replace him with Bob Rae, who has proven political leadership skills and is a virtual insider as far as NDP movers and shakers go.

Under Bob Rae and lieutenants like Ujjal Dosanjh, MP for Vancouver South, a significant portion of the NDP could likely be persuaded to split off and join a left-of-centre newly constituted Liberal party under the banner of, say, the Social Democrats of Canada.

In other words—Michael Ignatieff please take note—he also serves who quits politics and returns to teach at Harvard.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Ezra Levant takes on the Post’s Don Martin

Ezra Levant, in yesterday’s post on his blog, gave an example of the recent spate of Tory bashing ideas that almost certainly are dreamed up by Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal war room and disseminated to Grit-friendly journalists and broadcasters.

Mr. Levant points out the inaccuracies in Mr. Martin’s recent column about how the Olympic torch route is heavily biased towards Conservative ridings.

I’ve noticed a consistent bias against the Conservatives on the part of Mr. Martin in both his columns in the National Post and in his comments during frequent appearances on TV. He doesn’t seem to like PM Stephen Harper at all, and that comes through clearly whenever he speaks or writes on the subject. Not really fair, but that’s life in Canadian journalism. I just wish a bit of professionalism would keep these guys from replaying the Grit party line at every opportunity, or when they do, they’d get their facts right.

On CTV’s Power Play yesterday afternoon they prattled on about the cost of Tory-originated 10-percenters and how Tories and other MPs abused the process. Criticism was levied mostly at the Tories and not a single mention was heard of the most egregious 10-percenter in recent memory: that of Toronto MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett in which she makes several spurious claims without a single scrap of evidence to back up any of them while using the image of a distressed first-nation child to spread Bennett’s disgraceful bit of political spin.

Mr. Martin called the Levant’s post a “cheap shot,” but, as pointed out by Mr. Levant, Martin doesn’t explain “how it’s a cheap shot; either his facts were correct or they weren’t; either my [Levant’s] criticisms are correct or they aren’t.”

Watching Don Martin and the on-air staff of the five o’clock political news shows is like watching propaganda arms of the Liberal Party of Canada in action. The odd neutral, even mildly complimentary, comment about the Tories to pretend balance totally imbedded in an hour of relaying the most recent Grit war room nonsense and a whole lot of government-bashing. Even the rare compliments thrown the Tory’s way are usually tinged with irony or sarcasm.

But that’s Canadian journalism.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Remembrance Day

Today, I like most Canadians will pause in silence to remember those brave women and men who serve and have served in our armed services, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our country. I am ever in awe of those who have the courage to strap on battle gear and go forward to face an armed enemy knowing full well that they may be fighting their last battle and may never again see their families.

Today I give special thanks to the several hundred members of the Queen’s  Own Rifles of Canada who were killed in action, died of wounds or of other causes in foreign wars. The Regiment landed on Bernieres-sur-Mer at 08:12 hrs on the 6th of June 1944 as part of the leading wave of the D-Day (Normandy) invasion. Some of the first Allied boots on Juno Beach belonged to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Ordinary men doing extraordinary things.

They died so that we can live in freedom.

In 2010 the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada will be Canada’s oldest continuously-serving infantry regiment.

“In Pace Paratus - In Peace Prepared

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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[Image of badge property of the Department of National Defence, Government of Canada]

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