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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Post Mondays — beginning of the end?

The Canadian Press is reporting that “The National Post newspaper is going without its Monday print editions for nine weeks this summer in a move that will lower its newsprint costs.” Although the company will still run a digital edition, it won't publish a print edition during the summer, starting June 29 and continue for nine consecutive Mondays.

I am happy to see that the paper plans to continue publishing fresh news content on its digital edition and its regular Web site. I do wonder, though, if this is really the beginning of the end of this excellent newspaper. It will be a great pity if it is—there are precious few forums for right-of-centre views in Canada as it is.

Did Garth Turner believe he was somewhere over the rainbow?

That day in 2006 when former Tory MP Garth Turner was elected to parliament, was he, I wonder, instantly transported to the magical land of Oz? Or perhaps he fell down a rabbit-hole into Alice’s wonderland?

The problem is, blogging doesn't work well with party politics. Caucuses don’t want their debates, disagreements and strategies broadcast to the opposition. [Garth] Turner understands this but ignores it. In his view, the problem’s not his, but his tormentors’.

- National Post

I prefer to believe the former, though strong arguments can be made in support of the latter scenario. Both would explain why Mr. Turner found it bewildering that he was booted out of the conservative caucus.

There is a third possibility: Xurbia, a figment Garth’s imagination that he describes as being “anywhere, and nowhere.”

In his fantasy world, a backbench MP can freely criticize his leader and other fellow caucus members in a public blog. Garth’s is a world in which a multi-term MP and former cabinet minister can be so naive that he blogs away about whatever enters his mind, including questioning the principles of his boss and wanting to point out when the party said one thing before forming a government, and was doing something different after it gained power. Even more appalling to him is the idea that, in his world, a political party would want to play tricks on opponents, or to manipulate the press.

Apparently, the fantasy elements of his life have found their way into his new book, Sheeple: Caucus Confidential in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa.

Stuart Woods reports at Quill & Quire that Garth’s book “was set to go on sale last Friday, but an allegation of defamation made by The Canadian Press forced publisher Key Porter Books to delay the release.”

In a passage in his new book, Garth reportedly:

…questions the accuracy of a Canadian Press report from 2006, in which the Tory caucus was said to have given Prime Minister Stephen Harper a standing ovation for remarks made at a behind-closed-doors meeting. According to Turner, the standing ovation never happened, and he goes on to write that a CP bureau chief told him that ‘information of this kind is never verified [by CP], never confirmed, because of the inherent difficulty in doing so’.

 

Oops! Publisher, Key Porter Books, has since agreed to a clarification that they will paste it on the inside cover of all copies of the book. In the clarification, Turner reportedly accepts that “all Canadian Press stories that use anonymous sources are double-sourced and cleared for publication.” And, apparently, other meā culpā can be found in the “clarification.”

Does that line that runs between fact and fiction become blurred elsewhere in the book, I wonder?

Poor Garth Turner. Could it be that he was looking in a mirror when he suggested—as Kelly McParland of the National Post tells us—that “Albertans were a bunch of ‘hostile, me-first, greedy, macho, selfish’ losers, just like Quebec separatists?” Was Garth, perhaps, painting a self-portrait with those cruel words?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time to rein in human rights commissions

A recent article by Andrew Coyne reminded me of a quote by the English writer, G. K. Chesterton: “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives.  The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent those mistakes from being corrected.”

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
- Edmund Burke

Chesterton was known for his pithy comments on the world, government, politics, and all sorts of other things. And the above quotation capsulates the paradox of modern political labeling: as hard as we try to use labels like conservative and liberal or progressive to differentiate political factions, we cannot avoid the fact that, too often, they deliver much the same results.

Let’s take the case of human rights commissions and tribunals across Canada. They have operated here for over three decades, yet none of the several jurisdictions under which they do so have bothered to ensure they act always in the best interest of individual Canadians. This despite the fact that, except perhaps in Alberta, parties of different political stripes have been in office during those years.

This parallel judicial system—where few of the usual rules of procedure, evidence and due process apply—has been allowed to flourish. These bastions of political correctness taken to insane levels have championed group rights at the expense of individual rights. This to the point where the right of members of certain groups “not to be offended” trumps freedom of speech in most, if not all, jurisdictions in Canada.

Look over this Web page which presents cases and decisions where the Canadian Human Rights Commission has played a role or has established jurisprudence in the area of human rights. Note the repetition of the name “Warman,” This is Richard Warman who, according to Wikipedia, “is an Ottawa-based lawyer active in human rights law. Warman worked for the Canadian Human Rights Commission from July 2002 to March 2004.”

Warman’s record vis-à-vis human rights cases has been thoroughly documented elsewhere by journalist Ezra Levant so I won’t go into it further. My point here is to highlight how peculiar it is that a single individual’s name should appear so frequently. But, then, so much about these agencies is peculiar. One individual being so prominent in these cases seems not to be cause for official concern. This makes me very uneasy, to say the least.

Here is just one example of how arrogant human rights commissions have been allowed to  become. Even when Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall admitted her commission was not allowed by law to investigate a complaint because it had no jurisdiction over the content of a magazine article that was at the foundation of the complaint, she insisted on rendering her unofficial verdict. Without even hearing the complaint, this public adjudicator claimed it was her commission’s duty to speak out. And, of course, she spoke out against Maclean’s magazine which was defending its right to freedom of expression. Yes, the same freedom that the commissions have so frequently targeted.

For too long, these human rights commissions have acted as if they have a mandate to identify and correct social practices they consider unacceptable. In Ontario, the Human Rights Commission has called for the creation of a national press council to monitor the content of newspapers, magazines and Web sites. Such a step, according to the National Post:

“…making all writers, bloggers and broadcasters hostage to a national press council is merely the first step toward letting the Barbara Halls of the world decide what you get to hear, see and read.”

To add further to the fundamental unfairness of these commissions, one finds that a person—any individual or company—can be made to appear before a tribunal to defend against a complaint. And, although complainants are often provided with assistance, defendants are on their own and are expected to finance their time-consuming, often expensive legal defence. Ezra Levant is reported to have incurred $100,000 in legal expenses, even though the complaint against him to the Alberta Human Rights Commission was eventually withdrawn.

Sadly, whether our government is headed by Stephen Harper, Paul Martin, Jean Chrétien or Brian Mulroney, some things never change; some mistakes never get corrected.

Now there are two

The list of candidates in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership race just got even shorter at my house. Starting with the original list of Tim Hudak, Christine Elliot, Randy  Hillier and Frank Klees, we have shortened the list by two names, Frank Klees and Randy Hillier, as we try to decide who to vote for in June. 

Last Wednesday we decided we could not vote for Frank Klees despite how much we appreciate his long service to our party. Today we made another difficult decision and dropped Randy Hillier from further consideration.

Mr. Hillier is, by all accounts, a fine fellow and valuable member of the PC Ontario caucus. He is a conservative through and through. Let’s face it, all four candidates are. We do find, however, that he lacks the kind of intellectual depth and breadth we are looking for—the “gravitas” one expects to find in the leader of the 25th largest economy in the world.

It is hard to explain, but certain individuals have that extra something that marks them as material for high office, and unfortunately I do not see that in Mr. Hillier. He has good individual policies, but they are two much rooted in the past and do not inspire me or rally me to a cause, except that they are, in broad terms, conservative. I just cannot see this man leading us out of the political wilderness, because I really don’t think the voters of Ontario will give him the chance to govern them as premier.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does use of torture keep us safer?

President Barak Obama recently declared that the more extreme techniques used in interrogations of captured terrorists “did not make us safer.” Is this true, I wonder? My guess is that such interrogation techniques do make a society safer. Aggressive interrogation as a forcible means of persuasion will almost always lead to information that will not ordinarily be available to those responsible for our safety.

…interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates.

- Washington Post

The Washington Post gives several examples of US authorities obtaining potential life-saving information through the use of such techniques. But is public safety the only criterion needed to justify torture or so-called enhanced interrogation techniques? For me the answer is that it depends on the specific techniques used.

Here are several examples of techniques that have become increasingly controversial:

  • Prolonged isolation
  • Prolonged sleep deprivation
  • Sensory deprivation
  • Extremely painful “stress positions”
  • Sensory bombardment—prolonged loud noise or bright lights
  • Forced nakedness
  • Sexual humiliation
  • Cultural humiliation, such as desecration of holy scriptures
  • Being subjected to extreme cold that induces hypothermia
  • Exploitation of phobias
  • Simulated drowning (waterboarding).

These are acts in which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on prisoners as a forcible means of persuasion, and so constitute torture under most definitions accepted internationally. Such techniques have apparently been used by the American CIA and were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare US special forces personnel to resist interrogation by enemies that torture and abuse prisoners. And I would be very surprised if similar techniques are not used in training our Canadian special forces.

From what I can tell, none of the prisoners suffered permanent damage as a resulted of the use of the techniques employed by the CIA. Electric shock and cigarette burning were not used. Fingers were not crushed, nor were eyes blinded. The pain and suffering inflicted were temporary.

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 who fight on our 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.

I do not believe in the concept of humane war. If there are to be rules, let all sides involved agree on what they are and be punished if they break the rules. But let’s not make grand sweeping condemnations of what we consider inhumane, when what is most inhumane is having to fight the war in the first place.

We are told that the information we get from torture is not reliable—hogwash! Some of the information will not be reliable—as is the case with most tips given freely to police agencies. The answer is to train our agencies to carefully and critically vet the information before acting on it. This is done all the time with information obtained through traditional channels.

Once our government uses the word “war” to describe any conflict in which my country is involved, I want techniques such as those listed above to be authorized for use against our enemy. No breaking of bones, no blinding or amputations, no use of branding irons or of electric shock—that would be barbaric. But enhanced  interrogation techniques, yes.

What sort of conservative leader will Ontario get?

The thing keeping me awake at night these days is the danger that we will replace Dalton McGuinty with a leader who offers tired, yawn-inducing orthodox conservative policies that appeal only to the core small-c members of our party, thereby cutting us off from the mainstream of Ontario voters.

Or, conversely, that we will get a leader who believes that to be successful we conservatives must move the party to the so-called “middle” to broaden its base and improve its chances on election day. Not unlike Stephen Harper, who has compromised to gain and now maintain power—unfortunately without really expanding our party’s base. For despite the abundance of progressive fiscal policies—and lack of addressing conservative social ones—our federal party remains stuck in the mid-30 per cent minority-government-level in opinion polls. Ah, yes, the middle—that mushy anything-goes political zone which is the safe harbour so sought after by timid conservatives who lack real commitment to conservatism or by those who pragmatically abandon their policies in pursuit of power.

Dare we hope for a political leader who can—and here I paraphrase Andrew Coyne—start from traditional conservative principles, yet apply these to different questions, speak in a different language and address different audiences than has traditionally been the case. Essentially, a leader who will broaden our party’s base by deepening it, not by abandoning traditional conservative policies.

I know that politics is a full-contact sport—decades of Trudeau, Chrétien, Martin, Peterson, Rae and McGuinty have taught us that only too well. But can we not avoid the excesses of partisan party politics whereby, for example, we oppose harmonization of the PST-GST just because it is a Liberal Party initiative? Are we not better off opposing the principle of excessive taxes—on the basis that it is un-conservative—and reduce taxes at all levels?

Let us try to change how politics is done in Ontario. Let us identify new political solutions to today’s problems; not old solutions to yesterday’s. Given the very real and serious social and economic challenges and opportunities facing our province, do we really want to distract ourselves with, for example, re-opening the spring bear hunt—thereby reversing a ten-year-old ban introduced by our own party—or by repealing the Liberal ban on Pit Bull dogs?

To the leadership hopefuls I ask: What are your core beliefs? Never mind for a moment what your proposed policies are. Tell us first what you hold most dear. Then tell us how this will be reflected in how you plan to govern our province.

Moreover, I want our leadership contenders to let us in on their vision for Ontario, for surely they each have one. And is it too much to expect them to tell us now, in concrete terms, what Ontario will look like in, say, ten years under her or his stewardship?

Then I would ask each for their sector-by-sector strategies to get us there, and the benchmark measurements we could employ that would measure whether we were on the right track.

But I suspect we’ll get timid, tepid politics as usual. Perhaps I ask too much. Perhaps all I can expect is the current mixed bag of disjointed tactics to achieve poorly-integrated and mostly unidentified goals in support of largely un-communicated visions.

God help Ontario, for He knows Dalton McGuinty won’t.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swift action needed in Pakistan to protect its nuclear arsenal

If foreign intervention was necessary to force regime change in Afghanistan, why not foreign intervention in Pakistan? After all, rooting out Taliban and terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan is critical to success in the Afghan war. And while I doubt regime change is the answer in Pakistan, perhaps foreign air support with special forces on the ground will be needed to help Pakistan defeat the insurgency in its western region that borders Afghanistan.

It is doubtful Pakistan could allow large numbers of foreign military personnel on its soil—no government that did would survive. However, commando units operating in the areas in which the Taliban and al-Qaida are concentrated could be used to track the enemy and guide air strikes.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has called Pakistan the most dangerous place on earth. No overstatement this, for according to the United Nations nuclear agency, Pakistan has 30 to 40 nuclear warheads. And the increasing success of Taliban and al-Qaida militants pose a very real threat to the safety of this nuclear arsenal.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, accused Pakistan this week of “abdicating to the Taliban,” which “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”

Pakistan’s President Zardari recently made a deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, allowing them to establish a fundamentalist enclave there in exchange for laying down their arms. The Taliban have not disarmed, however, and during the past week its fighters poured out of Swat into the neighbouring district of Buner. There they have taken control of government buildings and dug in at strategic positions. This brings the Taliban militants to within 100 kilometres of the capital, Islamabad. A chilling development indeed.

It is not likely that, even with a much stepped up military effort, Pakistan can defeat the insurgency on its own. This is especially so since its own spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, is said to have elements that are sympathetic to the Taliban.

And what of the other nuclear power in the region, India? India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the disputed Kashmir region. And last year’s attack by Pakistan-based terrorists on Mumbai resulted in thousands more Pakistani troops being sent to their border with India to guard against a counterattack.

If Pakistan is to concentrate on their border with Afghanistan as opposed to their border with India, then the West must convince India to set aside its animus towards Pakistan, at least, until the danger to world peace represented by the Taliban and by al-Qaida terrorists has been dealt with.

Since India depends on the West for much of its increasing prosperity, one would think enough diplomatic pressure could be brought to bear to get it to back off and allow Pakistani troops to be concentrated in Pakistan’s tribal belt on the Afghanistan border. There, with Western air support, Pakistan might be able to root out the Taliban and others who are threatening its national security.

In the longer term though, something has to be done to counteract the spreading religious fanaticism in Pakistan, and to replace the role played by the hundreds of fundamentalist religious schools, madrassas, that indoctrinate young jihadists. This will take an major international effort and bags of money to fund the development necessary to win the hearts and minds of the young people so that they are persuaded not to join the insurgency and international terrorist organizations.

John McCain: 9/11 terrorists came from Canada

In a startling example of misinformation, former Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, told a US Fox News network on Friday that 9/11 terrorists came from Canada. His ridiculous and incorrect assertion is similar to the one made by US Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano.

Earlier in the week Napolitano also suggested that the 9/11 terrorists entered the United States from Canada, but said in a later statement, “I know that the September 11th hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States.”

McCain is reported to have told Fox News on Friday: “Well, some of the 9/11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know.”

The Canadian mission in Washington immediately issued a rebuttal, saying that none of the 9/11 terrorists entered the United States from Canada.

It is astonishing that a former presidential candidate should be so shockingly ill-informed. McCain is supposed to be an expert on US national security or so we were led to believe in last year’s campaign. Nobody in his position could be that badly informed.

The tired old fool is probably senile and has become confused. Or perhaps he is just being mischievous. Either way, Canadians should be relieved that he lost the election.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is PC Ontario backing the right horses

The folks over at PC Ontario Grassroots Voice have an on-line poll going on “What are your views on the Harmonized Sales Tax?” As of 2:20 p.m. on April 24, 62 votes have been cast. The “implement at 10%” option has a clear lead at 45.2%. The “No way” vote is at only 21%. Taking all the “implement options” in total, the vote is 63% in favour of harmonization and an additional 11.3% voted “In favour, just not now.”

There are not enough votes to declare a winner, I know, but consensus of opinion among business people and economists nationwide is that harmonization is a fairer, more cost-effective and more administratively efficient method of taxing consumption in Ontario. Why then are our PC Ontario representatives so adamant that harmonization not go forward?

Surely it must have occurred to proponents of scrapping harmonization that the “tax grab” label can be answered by lowering the rate of the Ontario portion of the proposed tax? Is this just another oppose-for-the-sake-of-opposing partisan policies that distress so many of us living in Canada?

The last time we got on, and stubbornly stuck with, the wrong side of a political issue, our leader lost his seat and we ended up with a paltry 26 seats. We should take note that history has a habit of repeating itself.

I for one am not impressed by the rhetoric I’ve heard so far in this PC Ontario leadership campaign. I hope sincerely that a higher level of creativity and political vision will emerge in the next couple of weeks. So far, we have mostly same-old-same-old rhetoric and “I like the person so I’ll support anything her/he says” attitude by the party faithful.

Leadership hopeful Christine Elliott in action

Christine takes Premier Dalton McGuinty to task on Wednesday, April 23, asking the two lead questions in Question Period.

Banning the Bulk Export of Water

Today I heard from my local MP, Mike Wallace, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is working to bring forward legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins. I welcome this long-overdue initiative and hope the opposition parties will cooperate.

Our fresh water will, in time, prove to be Canada’s greatest natural resource—I have no doubt of this. Without our protection this vital resource will be drained away so that our neighbours to the south can have nice green lawns and golf courses in their deserts. I exaggerate, of course, but I’m sure you get my point.

This is another reason to be thankful we had the good sense to vote Conservative.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hudak’s Economic Club Speech, “Rebuilding a Prosperous Ontario,” gets passing grade

Today, Ontario PC Party Leadership Candidate Tim Hudak gave a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in which he suggested several initiatives the Ontario government of Dalton McGuinty could implement to help middle-class families and improve Ontario’s economic future.

I did not attend the event in Toronto, but have read the speech—it’s available at his Website.

Mr. Hudak did an excellent job of summing-up Ontario’s strengths, opportunities and, especially, its challenges, pointing out that:

Our current premier has turned to the public sector to create new jobs. In fact, since he was elected, there are over 210,000 more government jobs in Ontario.

He [Premier Dalton McGuinty] thinks we can spend our way out of this recession by creating even more government jobs and through public works projects sponsored by the government.

Here are some of the other challenges he outlined:

Many of the challenges we face are global in scope, and not of our making. But it’s also true that this recession has hit Ontario significantly harder than other provinces—and that even when the global economy was strong, we were beginning to fall behind.

We’re losing more jobs per capita than other provinces. Our unemployment rate is now more than a full point higher than the average of the other provinces.

Our deficit is higher. Our debt is larger.

And Ontario is now a have-not province. We are receiving equalization payments from the federal government for the very first time in our history!

 

Then Mr Hudak offered what he dubbed were “… some concrete, tangible and affordable policy ideas that the McGuinty government could be implementing today—right now—to help Ontario families and our economy.”

  • A one-year payroll tax holiday on new hires;
  • Suspending the Land Transfer Tax for one year on all new and resale home purchases;
  • Stopping the planned PST/GST harmonization that he said will add a new 8 per cent tax burden on dozens of everyday items;
  • Immediately renegotiate more sustainable collective agreements with all public sector unions; and
  • A wage freeze across the Ontario Public Service for senior government administrators, non-unionized employees and MPPs for the duration of the recession.

Mr. Hudak also told the audience that short-term actions to kick-start the economy must be followed by a long-term plan focused on job creation and keeping government spending within our means.

I had mixed feelings as I read through the speech. On the one hand, I agreed with a lot of what he said are the problems we face. On the other hand, I found his solutions somewhat underwhelming and in one case, downright counter productive.

Mr. Hudak seems determined to roll back the plan to harmonize the PST with the federal GST. This is just plain bad tax policy. Lower the tax rate from the current 8 per cent, but combine the two taxes. The PST is a drag on business investment and a job killer; for heaven’s sake, get rid of it once and for all.

The only significant payroll taxes levied by Ontario are the Employer Health Tax and Workers’ compensation, so I assume the Employer Health Tax is Mr. Hudak’s target. A “one-year payroll tax holiday on new hires” may sound nice, but is relatively trivial, especially when stacked up against the 8 per cent tax on business capital that the PST represents—and Mr. Hudak wants to keep the PST in place. He is plainly wrong here.

Eliminate or significantly reduce the ill conceived Employer Health Tax across the board or leave it be—a “one-year payroll tax holiday on new hires” is almost a waste of effort, especially after taking into account the administrative costs to employers to implement it, and the government’s cost of policing it.

Good luck on renegotiating union contracts. When has this ever been successful on an across-the-board basis? I don’t think it ever has, nor will it be. The damage is already done. We must reduce the head counts represented by these contracts—the pay rates and benefits will stand. That’s one of the costs we have to pay for our party’s ineptness in the last couple of elections when our politicians couldn’t convince enough voters to let them govern.

Pay freezes are always useful during hard times, so I’d support any effort to implement them in Ontario.

All in all, the speech and the man making it deserve maybe a C, or C+ to be generous. Mr. Hudak will have to get a lot more creative if he hopes to get my vote for leader. And I don’t see this sort of effort carrying the day with non-Tories during the 2011 election—assuming he becomes leader.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Keep the baby; toss out the bath water

This post is an open plea to the eventual winner of the PC Ontario leadership race to not reverse the effort to merge the provincial sales tax with the value added GST. That, in my opinion, would be like throwing out the baby with the bath water. We should not be opposing the new taxation system, but rather we should be trying to have it modified to provide a much more reasonable burden on Ontario families.

Improving the investment climate, increasing the competitiveness of the business development environment, and reducing tax compliance costs for business with little or no effect on consumer prices overall sounds like an excellent economic deal, even if it’s not all that sexy.

 

GST harmonization: Not sexy, but smart — Fraser Institute

If we are to have a consumption tax at all, then the GST-styled system is a more efficient and less anti-business investment method of levying the tax. (For benefits, see this article available from the Fraser Institute.)

Just as groceries, prescription drugs, medical devices, rent and condo fees are currently exempt and will remain so after harmonization, house purchases (up to $400,00) could also be exempt and the rate could be reduced to a combined, say, 10 per cent from the proposed 13 per cent to eliminate the tax-gouging element of the current proposal.

In other words, don’t stop harmonization: that’s the “baby” and is a good idea. Do lower the rate of tax from the proposed 8% Ontario portion to something closer to 5%—the current rate is the dirty bath water that should be thrown out.

And then there were three

The list of candidates in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership race just got shorter at my house. Starting with the original list of Tim Hudak, Christine Elliot, Randy Hillier and Frank Klees, we have shortened the list by one name, Frank Klees, as we try to decide who to vote for in June. 

Mr. Klees, who represents Newmarket-Aurora and was third in his 2004 leadership bid, has contributed enormously to the PC Party, and I very much appreciate that service. This former cabinet minister has contributed at the party level and in the legislature—he is currently the Critic for Education and Citizenship & Immigration as well as a member of the Justice Committee.

I remain one of those who hold Mr. Klees to account for the faith-based-schools funding policy that proved so detrimental to the conservative cause in the 2007. I continue to view him as one of the party’s main proponents of that policy.

So egregious a mistake in political judgment was that policy, I could never support a candidate who gave such ardently support to it.

Yes, I know that others supported the controversial policy, at least publicly, after all, it was a plank in the campaign platform. But I see Mr. Klees’s support as being at the core of the policy’s acceptance within the party.

That’s the way I see it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tories can stay home, they have done it before

From time to time I hear or read the sentiment expressed that goes something like: the Conservative Party of Canada does not have to cater to small “c” conservatives; after all, where else can they go?

Yes, I fear the Tory back-room boys are mindful of this as they craft government policy and decide on priorities.

It seems a reasonable question, but as John Tory and his provincial Progressive Conservatives painfully discovered, alienated conservatives who cannot bring themselves to vote Liberal or NDP simply stay at home on election day or vote Green, which amounts to about the same thing.

The lesson for Conservatives to learn from the faith-based school funding fiasco during the last provincial election in Ontario is as follows:

While conservatives might be patient and suffer silently through long periods of incremental change, they are not easily duped. And to alienate the party’s conservative base with too much pandering to and currying favour with Quebec and the rest of liberal Canada is to lose votes even if the votes are not lost directly to the Grits and NDP.

Where the sun shines daily on the mountain top

Jamaican leaders and their military/police did a very creditable job in securing the release of the hijacked CanJet Airlines plane and the hostages held onboard. These sorts of operations are, by their nature, fraught with danger to all concerned. And to have carried out one in so professional a manner is a credit to those responsible for its planning and execution.

I thought also that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bruce Golding, his Jamaican counterpart, hit just the right tone in their addresses to a joint sitting of both houses of Jamaica’s parliament yesterday.

Today, The Canadian Press reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a new program that will help Jamaicans to cut crime. He said that Canada was making a four-year investment in the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation program, which will help Jamaica in its efforts to protect the safety of its citizens, including steps to modernize criminal legislation and to provide better witness protection programs.

This is good news for Jamaica and Canada, for despite the current economic recession, Canada continues to outpace most of Jamaica’s other sources of tourism. Arrivals from Canada at the end of February were 23 per cent higher than in 2008. Preliminary figures show March even higher, confirming Canada as second only to the United States as the most important tourism market for Jamaica.

A safer Jamaica should mean our countrymen will enjoy a safer vacation on that island, and I’m all for that.

The curtain is about to fall; Tigers vow never to surrender

The Sri Lankan government appears poised to ring down the curtain on the final act in Asia’s longest-running war. Their military’s deadline for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) to surrender passed without any word from the separatists who are seen by many as being terrorist or, at least, being guilty of terrorist acts.

The LTTE have vowed that they will not surrender despite being outgunned by a military that seems intent on wiping them out. Seevaratnam Puleedevan, secretary-general of the LTTE peace secretariat is quoted by Reuters as saying:

“LTTE will never surrender and we will fight and we have the confidence that we will win with the help of the Tamil people.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned the situation was “nothing short of catastrophic” and urged both sides to prevent further casualties among civilians, saying hundreds had been killed in the past 48 hours.

Many Tamils have made their home in Canada and one cannot help but feel for the loss of family and friends they have suffered. And I do suppose that this does, on some level, excuse some of the excesses of which the Tamil Tigers have been accused.

Sadly, however, this is the way of the world. For eons now humans have fought over power, land and ideas, and I doubt this practice will end any time soon. To the victor goes the spoils—that is how the system works.

For the Tamils who have chosen Canada as their new home, although it is too much for us to expect they will ever forget the terrible events that have occurred in their former homeland, we can expect that they mourn their dead and move on with their lives. This is not now nor has it ever been Canada’s war, and we do not deserve these mass demonstrations in our streets.

The Tamil Tigers are currently considered to be a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, the United States and 27 countries of the European Union.

These countries all share similar legal systems and core values to ours, therefore, I am prepared to believe that the Tamil Tigers are, indeed, terrorists who have committed atrocities against civilians and have carried out assassinations of Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. They are also guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers. These are the people who invented the “suicide belt” and are known to use suicide bombing as a tactic against civilians.

There is much to blame on both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict, and Stephen Harper and his government are well advised to stay clear of it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

When not in power, Liberals show disdain for parliament

The so-called “natural governing party” of Canada, those duplicitous Liberals, have little interest in and respect for the House of Commons, except, of course, when  they are the ones calling the shots. Long has this been obvious, but seldom are we able to see such clear proof of their casual disregard for our parliament.

Notwithstanding Michael Ignatieff ’s vow that his party would no longer avoid votes in Parliament, Grits missed three times as many votes in the House so far this year as have Tory members.

Their record is nothing short of shameful: Liberal MPs did not participate in about 12 per cent of the recorded votes on bills and motions in the House of Commons during the current parliamentary session that began in January. In comparison, Tory MPs skipped 4 per cent.

The Grits have posted the worst record for voting in the House of the four parties represented there. They voted fewer times on average than Bloc Québécois MPs, whose members have nothing but disdain for anything Canadian. As a small measure of consolation, when Grits did vote, at least, they voted the right way, supporting the governing Tories 79 per cent of the time. By contrast, Bloc MPs supported the government on only 14 per cent of votes.

When Stéphane Dion was their leader, the Liberals repeatedly opposed government legislation when talking to the press, but failed to attend the House in numbers sufficient to defeat the very bills or motions they claimed to oppose. Their MPs managed to participate, on average, in only 64 per cent of recorded votes. Asked last fall whether he would continue the strategy, Mr. Ignatieff said that his party was “tired of sitting down.”

Apparently, like so much of what Mr. Ignatieff says these days, his words did not convey his intentions—the record speaks for itself.

[Source: Ottawa Citizen]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Australia, Sweden and Holland distance themselves from rogues’ gallery of human rights abusers

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, has confirmed that his nation will stay away from the United Nations conference on racism—the so-called Durban II conference—saying that he was not convinced the forum would not be a “platform for anti-Semitic  sentiment.”

The conference is scheduled to convene Monday, April 20, in Geneva.

Sweden will not send any ministerial officials to the conference, according to Swedish Integration Minister Nyamko Subini, who said:

“This has been a difficult and problematic negotiation that has certainly become more constructive and positive in the last week, but we have decided that Sweden will not be participating at the ministerial level.”

The Dutch Foreign Minister, Maxime Verhagen, said he was boycotting the anti-racism conference because some nations were using it as a platform to attack the West. The minister said in a statement Sunday that some countries were planning to use the summit to put religion above human rights and rein in freedom of speech.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are to be commended for declaring early on that Canada would not be party to such a shameless travesty.

So far, the United States, Italy and Israel have also declined to attend what is shaping up to be a cruel farce. Incredibly, the UN committee managing the conference is chaired by Libya, with vice-chairmen from Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Russia, Indonesia and Turkey: a rogues’ gallery of human rights abusers.

The 2001 version of this conference, held at Durban, South Africa, was a poorly disguised excuse to provide a forum for anti-Israel sloganeering. That meeting saw the Israeli and American missions storm out after statements comparing Zionism to racism were made.

Waking up Canadian

On April 17, 2009, you or someone you know, may wake up Canadian. To find out more, go to: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/rules-citizenship.asp

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reality check, please, folks

The Canadian public—through its elected representatives in Ottawa—seem to have drawn a line in the sand regarding the North American auto industry. There is a limit to their largess in the form of bailout money. To get more, both GM and Chrysler  must show they have a viable business model going forward.

This all seems reasonable to me, but then I’m instinctively against corporate welfare—it breeds inefficiencies when what we need are lean, highly competitive industries that are capable of holding their own on the world stage. On the other hand, I do concede the unusual economic situation in which we suddenly find ourselves, and I have not minded too much the first “bailout” package given to GM and Chrysler even though I fear that we’ll never again see a penny of that money.

The ball is now in the union’s court. Canadians, who earn only a fraction of what the auto workers have been paid for decades, are seeing their hard earned tax dollars going to prop up failing businesses and to keep overpaid workers on the assembly line. The party is over—the juice has been all squeezed from the auto industry lemon.

“Tony Faria, co-director of the automotive research centre at the University of Windsor, estimates the average all-in labour cost for Japanese-run assembly plants in Canada is $47 an hour—compared with $76.14 an hour that Chrysler says it pays in terms of wages, benefits and retiree costs.”

[Source]

The message to the union is clear: accept similar pay to the already highly paid Toyota workers or take your chances in bankruptcy court. Toyota workers earn an estimated $47 and hour or about $94,000 a year—about five times more than the minimum wage.

I have no sympathy for those who perform relatively unskilled work and expect to be paid on a scale many university- and college-trained workers such a Registered Nurses, childcare workers, accountants, lawyers and engineers—and even school teachers—would jump at. Chrysler workers are paid at a level beyond what can be afforded by their or virtually any other manufacturing industry.

Time for a reality check, folks.

Sometimes a lie reveals more than the truth

Steve Janke over at Angry in the Great White North alerts us to a fib told by former Liberal cabinet minister, John McCallum. Apparently, the self-righteous ex-banker, who currently serves as Liberal Finance Critic, told reporters that he[McCallumJohn[8].jpg] drives a  North American car, a statement he later recanted in a telephone call to a newspaper and confirmed in an e-mail.

Last autumn, the Canadian public was subjected to a litany of half-truths, prevarication and downright lies from those who tried desperately to convince us that the Liberal-NDP coalition, backed by the Bloc, was anything but a cynical left-wing political conspiracy to grab power from the legally elected Conservative government. So false were their claims that they could not even convince their new leader, Michael Ignatieff, of their veracity.

During that period, the mendacity of  former Liberal cabinet ministers like Scott Brison, Ralph Goodale and John McCallum was enough to induce nausea. And none were worse than the old master spin-doctor, John McCallum. I don’t believe a word this man says when it comes to politics. Like so many senior Grits before him, McCallum can spin a silk purse out of cat gut.

It is remarkably telling that, on so trivial an issue, McCallum’s first instinct was to lie. Not at all surprising, but remarkable.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Taking citizenship seriously

The 1950s was a terrific time to be a Canadian. When I arrived in 1955, mega projects such as the Trans-Canada Highway, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line were in progress or were about to be so. These were then the modern-day equivalents of the canals, roads and railways constructed in the mid-1800s when Canada first began to find an identity to call its own.

The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada (1957-1963)

Gar Lunney / Library and Archives Canada / C-006779

The post-Second World War years of the 1950s were a period when our country’s sense of itself was being more clearly defined, and the governments of Louis St. Laurent were investing massively in public education and treated immigration as an economic opportunity, not as a cultural threat.

Canadians were discovering and asserting their distinctness from Britain and the United States. Canada had played a leading role in the creation of NATO, had made a significant contribution to the Korean War and was about to make breakthroughs in diplomacy that still stand as high-points in our history.

There was such a thing as a “Canadian way” and the international community recognized and respected it.

In the latter part of the decade, John Diefenbaker championed individual rights, enshrining them in law in 1960 as the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Being Canadian really meant something back then, and I was more than happy to give up dual citizenship elsewhere in exchange for single citizenship as a Canadian.

Sadly, the Trudeau Era seems to have changed much of that. Individual rights have been shouldered aside in favour of the group rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Multiculturalism is now in vogue as a defining aspect of being Canadian—to the point that our distinct identity has become mushy and blurred. Many of our immigrants have become citizens for convenience only and continue to carry passports of their original homelands. Upon receiving Canadian citizenship, many return to live permanently in their homelands, paying taxes and raising their families there and all the while enjoying a free ride when it comes paying Canadian taxes and otherwise sustaining the benefits of their Canadian citizenship.

Recently, however, I’m sensing change. There seems to be more discussion about the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. Articles and books like Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto by Rudyard Griffiths have sparked debates about what it means to be Canadian.

Even our laws have begun to change. On April 17, an important change to our citizenship laws comes into effect: any person born abroad to Canadian parents will be a Canadian only if their father or mother was born in Canada, or if one or more of their parents became a citizen by immigrating to this country. Those citizens who have chosen to have no real connection to Canada will no longer be permitted to pass on Canadian citizenship to their descendants.

More changes may be in the offing, for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently declared that the federal government will modify Canada’s citizenship program to include greater emphasis on Canadian “values.”

Apparently these recent developments are part of an attempt to overhaul of our citizenship laws so that a sharper set of distinctions can be drawn between Canadians who demonstrate an active commitment to their country and those who do not. I welcome this.

These trends leave me with a sense of cautious optimism and I credit Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government for this.

icon-digital-leaf-small-red

Amazing Susan Boyle wows UK viewers

At forty-seven years old and previously unknown, Susan Boyle wowed the judges with her amazing performance during auditions for the United Kingdom’s Britain's Got Talent, singing I dreamed a dream from Les Miserables. Here’s a quotation from Canada.com/entertainment:

“The audience rose within seconds to applaud her incredible voice as the celebrity judges sat open-mouthed, and remained standing to the end, delivering a standing ovation that had even the most hardened reality TV snob tearing up.”

Quite extraordinary. Here’s a video clip, don’t miss it.

The Globe and Mail

Michael Coren: Little girl dressed as a soldier

Michael Coren was at his pugnacious, patronizing worst last night in his monologue and later in the discussion with his panel of guests. In a follow up to an earlier tirade on his CFRB radio show with Tarek Fatah, Coren described 21-year-old Canadian trooper Karine Blais, who was killed in Afghanistan on April 13, as a “little girl dressed as a soldier.”

Yes, this young adult woman who made the courageous choice to join the Canadian military, serve her country and die in the execution of her duties was that glibly dismissed by this parsimonious boor.

Mind you, Coren may not actually feel that way—you never know with this man. This would not be the first time he has made controversial remarks or taken contra positions and later withdrawn them.

Seems to me that a few years ago he advocated a tactical nuclear strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in one of his Toronto Sun newspaper columns. About a year later he wrote in the same newspaper:

“I did not, of course, call for all-out nuclear war, but I did support what would be a massively destructive campaign against the Tehran regime’s military ambitions. Thirteen months later I feel obliged to say that I wish I had never written such an article. I was wrong.”

Coren apparently converted to Roman Catholicism in his early twenties then to converted to Evangelical Christianity and back again to Roman Catholicism—at least, that is what is written on Wikipedia and seems to square with other comments I’ve heard over the years.

Then, of course, we have his position on capital punishment: first he was for it, now, apparently, he’s against it.

In 2004, Coren did a mental 180 degree turn when at first he disparaged Mel Gibson’s The Passion, and months later praised it.

I have heard Coren “defend” Roman Catholic priests who diddle young boys as being homosexuals rather than being pedophiles—some of the boys were 14. Somehow, that seemed to make quite a difference to Coren, and the fact they are perverts with very sick minds seemed to escape him.

Coren is hardly a man of conviction, so I suppose we shouldn’t take him too seriously.

He certainly seems to thrive on  controversy—perhaps it sells columns and attracts viewers and listeners to his show. But even he should have some respect for those who lose their lives in the service of their country. Karine Blais’s sacrifice should not be the subject of the banal banter that passed as debate among the intellectually challenged former Ontario NDP cabinet minister Marilyn Churley and the marginally more coherent journalist David Menzies. Broadcaster Rick Bell was also on the show and held similar views about women in combat, but managed to express them intelligently.

I am a frequent viewer of the Michael Coren Show on CTS television. It is one of the few forums in which conservative views are expressed and debated. On Tuesday of this week, for example, “Conservatism” was discussed by a panel made up of Tom Flanagan, Randy Hillier, Ginna Brannan and Bob Plamondon—the best show Coren has had since he had Ezra Levant on to discuss his book, Shakedown.

But to get these these gems, we have to endure the likes of Andrea Calver whose grasp on the issues is as loose as a twelve inch collar on a Chihuahua, and Harry Capito whose grasp on reality is tenuous at best.

A debate over whether women should serve in combat is as valid as any, but one should not use Karine Blais’s sacrifice in so puerile a manner. And a person like Coren, who professes to believe that women with young children should not have careers at all, is not one to be taken seriously on such a weighty issue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax-and-spend Grits are at it again

The tax-and-spend Grits are at it again with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff suggesting the federal government could have to raise taxes to rein in the country's debt. Mr. Ignatieff tempered his suggestion somewhat by conceding that federal taxes will not be hiked at the expense of hurting the economic recovery. 

In response to a question at a meeting of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Ignatieff said “an honest politician” cannot exclude a tax hike as an option to dealing with a deficit. Then in typical gobble-gook fashion that is so popular with the Grits, Mr. Ignatieff's press secretary later said the Liberals have “no plan and no desire to raise taxes” during a recession.

They just do not get it: taxes are a drain on the economy and a killer of jobs and economic growth, not to mention a cruel abuse of power.

Long before the issue of raising taxes arises, there needs to be a serious cut back in government expenditures—raising taxes is absolutely the last resort for any government, but no one is ever going to convince the Grits of that.

When the economy does recover—and it will—government expenditures will also recover and much of the deficit will disappear. If the deficit remains stubbornly high, then the federal government will need to reduce its expenditures to match its revenues. Or better yet, cut taxes to further stimulate consumer spending and business investment, which in turn will lead to higher revenues.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Foreign Nationalists with Canadian passports of convenience

A Canadian blogger for whom I have a lot of time, Raphael Alexander, has a thought-provoking post on his Unambiguously Ambidextrous blog that I believe will resonate with millions of Canadians across our land who chose to come and live here. Here is an excerpt:

“What bothers me about this binationalism so prevalent among ethnic groups in Canada is that it’s based mainly upon the modern multicultural policies that not only do not require immigrants to integrate and associate themselves under one national identity, but it fosters a cultural link back to the emigrate nation that divides Canada into dozens of splinter groups. These ethnic groups create a disruptive force not only in the cohesiveness of Canadian society, but in the political process that should be focused on Canadians, and not hyphenated Canadians who still identity with their birth nation, or their parents birth nation. It isn’t that I’m saying that immigrants should not be concerned about their homeland, but the kind of aggressive tactics employed by the Tamils in Ottawa seem to me to be more intrusive than inclusive.”

I have a similar view, which I expressed in a post last month entitled, Multiculturalism. As I wrote then, I am an immigrant with triple-citizenship, who chose Canada and who believes all Canadians and landed immigrants should focus their loyalty on Canada first and foremost and only secondarily on their country of birth. At times, however, and especially in the major population centres of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, one could easily conclude that mine is a minority view—stomach-turning times such as when Canada’s national soccer team plays a foreign team and the Canadian team, the home team, is booed.

Immigrants should be encouraged to maintain their  traditional cultures only so long as doing so does not interfere with them being able to integrate themselves into our society.

They should be officially discouraged from forming distinct cultural groups that do not interact with the mainstream. This takes us back to a concept that prevailed up to about the 1970s when integration, not separation, was our model. Living side-by-side, not in silo-like ghettos apart from the mainstream, should be our goal.

And Canadians should not be in the streets of our capital demonstrating in support of a foreign terrorist organization that has been outlawed in Canada—as is evident by the picture on this page of a Tamil Tiger flag being flown during a recent demonstration at Parliament Hill. This is clearly wrong and is an affront to Canadians of all backgrounds.

Unfortunately, there a far too many foreign nationalists living in our country who carry Canadian passports only for the convenience and protection they provide.

Video—Deciphering Iran

Executive Washington Editor Jerry Seib discusses the effect of Iran’s espionage accusations against an American journalist on Iranian-American relations.

Kudos to Crocodile Morsels

Kudos to Paul MacDonald at Crocodile Morsels for an excellent post on the issue of the “modern conservative movement … becoming nothing but a refuge for luddites and the religious,” and taking Kate McMillan at Small Dead Animals to task for a link to Fjordman.

Here’s a excerpt from his post, If I'm Alone In This, Then So Be It:

“It was becoming apparent that I was not a modern conservative, because the modern conservative movement is becoming nothing but a refuge for luddites and the religious. There is no place for an atheist who is a big fan of science. There is no place for rational discourse. There can't be when the best conservative blog of last year tacitly approves Fjordman's stance.”

Mr. MacDonald asks, “So, where does an atheist who dislikes big government and high taxes go?” If he ever finds an answer, I hope he’ll post it for I too am looking for just such a place.

And no, Paul, you are not alone.

Another brave soul to pray for on November 11

Trooper Karine Blais was killed in Afghanistan on April 13, 2009. Trooper Blais, who was 21 years of age, is the 117th—and second female—Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict in 2002. Four other Canadian soldiers were injured in the incident, which occurred in Shah Wali Kowt, a district about 40 kilometres northwest of Kandahar City.

It is so sad to hear that another of our soldiers has given her life on a foreign battle field far, far away. She has joined the tens of thousands of gallant Canadians who have died in foreign wars—another brave soul for us to pray for on November 11.

Heavy hangs the responsibility on all of us who ask our armed forces to project abroad the collective will of our nation. I pray her sacrifice will not be in vain.

In a perfect world, our young men and women would not be asked to lay down their lives for the people of a country which only recently has proposed a law which, if ever allowed to pass, will further cement into their medieval culture the already widely accepted belief that women are but chattels to be used and abused as one might a kitchen stool.

May the soul of Karine Blais rest in peace.

Monday, April 13, 2009

PM’s batting 600

According to results of a poll conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National by Ipsos Reid, six in ten Canadians gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government at least a “C” grade. And six in ten think the Tories have the Canadian economy “on the right track.”

Fifty-nine per cent gave the government good marks—nine per cent an “A” or better and 50 per cent a “B” or “C” for “somewhat good.” Thirty-one per cent awarded a “D” for “somewhat bad” and 11 per cent gave an “F” for failure.

In Quebec, of course, the results were quite different. There, only 40 per cent gave a good grade, and 16 per cent awarded an “F” for failure.

Taken on a national basis, there’s something to brag about here, everything considered.

The online survey of 2,035 adults conducted Mar. 30 through Apr. 6 is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Fate has not been kind to Tories who govern like Grits

[UPDATE: An edited version of this post was published in the National Post’s Web and newspaper editions on April 14, 2009 under the title, Keep the right united. You can read that version here.]

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)—the political party of my choice since it succeeded the Alliance/Reform party in 2003—has begun to show fault lines with, apparently, some murmurings about a new fiscally and socially conservative party. And, although it is true that the current version of the CPC shows few signs of being either fiscally or socially conservative, it would be a shame to see the right fracture once again.

Throughout the 1990s and into the early part of this century, a divided “right” handed the Grits majority after majority governments, leading to some of the most corrupt, irresponsible and inept regimes in  our history—with only a single, though significant, accomplishment to atone for a myriad of misdeeds culminating in the odious sponsorship scandal: they did balance the federal budget after decades of ruinous deficits.

I don’t relish a return to the years in the political wilderness, where all we had to keep us warm was our earnest belief that we knew best. As much as I believe in free markets, traditional social values and strong national defence—none of which seem to be part of the CPC’s current agenda—I can’t help feeling that a break with the party is not the answer.

According to most left-wing Canadians, especially those of the NDP, the Harper government is the most right-wing government in Canadian history. Yet for many of us conservatives, the government isn’t delivering anything like we had hoped.

As pointed out elsewhere, in November of 2005, the month the last Liberal government under Paul Martin was defeated, the fiscal year-to-date government expenses were $122.9 billion. Only three years later, federal government expenses have skyrocketed to an alarming $153.7 billion—a jump of 25 per cent. This, folks, is not fiscal conservatism.

Failure to rein in human rights commissions and curtail their assaults on free speech across our country, or to provide the most minimal of protections to unborn children or to provide any defence of the traditional form of marriage are clear signs that our CPC is not socially conservative.

As pointed out in an earlier post, Canada ranks 20th in defence expenditures among the 26 members of the NATO alliance, when military outlays are calculated as a percentage of our country’s gross domestic product. We are a nation of over 33 million people and our military is stretched to its limit to keep a paltry 2,800 fighters in the field in Afghanistan—about 5 per cent of allied forces there. Spending on our military has dropped from almost six per cent of the GDP in 1956 to 1.1 per cent in 2005. By contrast, Australia spends more than twice that at 2.4 per cent (2006). We are ranked 132 in the world in this regard. With current manpower and resources, our armed forces have not one chance in hell of ever protecting our arctic claims—should they come under attack. So much for strong national defence.

Notwithstanding the above—and as painful as it is to see our conservative principles ignored by most of the CPC’s caucus—I believe it is best to remain within the CPC tent and hope that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his advisers come to their political senses sooner than later.

The last Conservative prime minister to operate with a large fiscal deficit, no clear socially conservative agenda and a weak defense policy was Brian Mulroney. After the Canadian electorate had made their final assessment of his government in 1993, the combined number of conservative MPs in the House of Commons was reduced to a pathetic 54 (PC and Reform parties)—sadly, they could not even muster enough support from the people of Canada to claim official opposition party status. We can only pray that a similar legacy does not await Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Ship captain rescued from pirates

Good news about the rescue of Richard Phillips, the captain of the U.S. cargo ship, Maersk Alabama, ending a five-day standoff between United States naval forces and a small band of pirates in a covered lifeboat off the Horn of Africa. Acting with President Obama’s authorization and in the belief that  Captain Richard Phillips was in imminent danger of being killed, U.S. Navy Seal snipers rescued the American unharmed after killing three Somali pirates on Sunday.

If more of the pirates met similar fates, I believe the issue of pirates in the Indian Ocean would pretty well go away. Paying ransom is never a solution, it only encourages others to enter the increasingly profitable pirate trade. Many believe that it is time we returned to the practice of arming merchant vessels, a practice which was commonplace for centuries. The tradition was abandoned several years ago. And despite repeated problems with pirates in the Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia and now in the waters of the Arabian Sea, ship owners have resisted arming their crews, worrying that they might be killed rather than being held for ransom if they failed while trying to defend themselves.

There are difficulties to overcome, of course, as most ports restrict vessels from having weapons on board, and changing those regulations in each country could prove difficult. The United States Coast Guard has been especially wary, fearing that the weapons could be used for terrorist attacks. And, because a commercial vessel might stop in several countries during a voyage, it would be hard for it to carry weapons if any port along the route forbade that.

Because of their volatile cargo, protecting tankers from pirates is especially difficult, and they have become a favorite target of pirates.

Perhaps the presence of a rapid-response international taskforce making frequent naval patrols is the answer. With modern technology like radar, military helicopters and unmanned drones, the piracy trade could be made to be unprofitable.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

May is about to enlighten us on power, politics and the crisis in Canadian democracy

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, has written a book in which she laments the crisis she insists exists in Canadian democracy. Ms. May suggests that the first past the post system of electing representatives to our House of Commons—a tradition, she acknowledges, that goes back some 1,100 years—caused the House to end up “…not reflecting the will of the people as expressed through their votes.”

Of course Ms. May is, again, dead wrong. If not the will of the people, then just what does the House reflect. My will, and that of my family, is certainly expressed in the composition of the House—that’s democracy. The House is made up of members voted for directly by the people of Canada, not selected from some list of party hacks—does that then leave our democracy in crisis.

Of course not. The real crisis Ms. May laments is the lack of any political success of her party after more than a quarter of a century. So long have they wandered the political wilderness, they are well past their best-before date.

Ms. May’s book seems like a thinly disguised political hatchet-attack on the Conservative Party of Canada and its leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Ms. May claims:

“Canadians are not particularly aware that the essence of our democracy is at risk. The essential elements of a functional democracy are a free and independent media, a well-informed and engaged electorate, and high levels of participation on voting day.”

Hyperbole and mumbo jumbo and wrong on all counts. What she really means is that the current system is not working for her and her party—it seems to work well enough for most other Canadians to the point that it is the envy of a substantial portion of the world.

What the Green Party needs is a real leader and a set of policies that resonate with a substantial proportion of the Canadian voters, and the quicker they set about doing that the better off they will be.

Ignorant preaching to the gullible

Those who follow Islam rely so heavily on the Qur’an (Koran) for their “truths” that it is surprising to me that in the Muslim world many who preach those “truths” cannot read. All their lives they have depended on others for their knowledge and interpretation of the contents of their holy book.

No where is this more so than in Afghanistan, where so many of the Mullahs apparently have never read the very book they rely on for guidance on virtually every aspect of their lives and the lives of their followers. There is a country where Islamic, Sharia, deals with most aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues. And yet these laws are often handed on orally from one generation to another without actual reference to, or personal confirmation from, the Koran itself. For many in Afghanistan, even if they can read, they cannot read Arabic, the language of the Koran.

Egregious misinterpretations of the Koran have been allowed to flourish among the illiterate and ignorant of that poor country, often putting lives at risk.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can give the people of Afghanistan is education, not democracy—especially so for their women. With education, more of the common people will be able to discover for themselves that many of their sacred traditions are not covered at all in the Koran, but are the invention of men who wished to control their lives or, in the case of the women, to enslave them.

The curse of oil: a tender trap

Much has been made of the fact that Iraq is oil-rich—the second largest proven reserves in the world some claim. This is supposed to virtually ensure Iraq’s transition to a free democratic society. Oil will attract bags of international investment to finance the rebuilding of the country’s ruined infrastructure, we were told.

Well, so far not so true—at least, not in the short term. But what of the longer term? Paradoxically, history seems to suggest that not only does an abundance of natural resources not lead to long-term development and wealth, but it may actually inhibit real progress. Consider, for instance, Spain versus England and Holland in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.

Tons of gold, silver and precious gems poured into Spain from her American colonies—instant, easy wealth on which to build her empire. Whereas England and Holland, without access to such huge reservoirs of natural wealth, built their empires through manufacturing and trade. And, by the end of the eighteenth century, Spain was a spent force, while England and Holland remained powerful, vibrant states.

There are other more contemporary examples. Kuwait versus Singapore and Hong Kong. Who’d you bet on for long-term sustained prosperity and development? Kuwait with its huge non-renewable oil reserves, or Singapore and Hong Kong with their sophisticated economies built on trade and commerce. Moreover, name a single country in the Middle East that has invested the proceeds from its oil wealth to build the institutions and social structures that will be necessary to sustain its standard of living once the oil is gone?

Some will point to examples such as the United States, Canada and Australia, all of which have abundant natural resources. Didn’t they develop sustained prosperity despite their wealth of natural resources? Of course they did, but here’s the difference: the Americans built their country and its vital infrastructure with trade, commerce and agriculture and only later did it exploit its minerals and other natural resources. Canada and Australia benefited enormously from being extensions of the British Empire—and inherited a solid foundation on which to build.

My fear is that Iraq will fall into the same tender trap as sixteenth-century Spain did and, too late, discover that oil really was a curse.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Liberal political hit-man back in fold

Those of you who follow the escapades of the Liberal’s champion of dirty tricks, Warren Kinsella, should read Martin Patriquin’s piece over at Macleans.ca. According to Patriquin, Kinsella, who he refers to as the “Prince of Darkness,” is back in the Liberal fold.

As a former special aide to Jean Chrétien and chief of staff to former Public Works Minister David Dingwall, Kinsella has been associated with the Liberal Party off and on since about 1987, and, apparently, has ongoing lawsuits against Paul Martin, Public Works Minister Christian Paradis, several journalists and author and conservative commentator, Ezra Levant.

It seems that Kinsella is slated to head up Michael Ignatieff’s “war room” in the next election campaign.

Personally, I doubt that will ever happen. The man draws controversy like dung draws flies and that can’t be good during an election. A lot can happen in the next few months, especially with someone like Kinsella, and I doubt Mr. Ignatieff will put up with any of his nonsense.

You can read Patriquin’s piece here.

Ex-justice minister ‘offered contracts’

The Vancouver Sun reports that former Liberal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon offered Vancouver lawyer, Michael Galambos, federal prosecution contracts in exchange for support of ex-prime minister Paul Martin at a fundraising dinner.

According to that newspaper, this shocking allegation was made by Mr. Galambos while under oath and are contained in documents filed with the Supreme Court of Canada.

Perhaps more disturbing is the report that the 46-year-old former MP for the Montreal riding of Outremont said last fall he was considering a return to politics and even running for the Liberal leadership. Back then, CTV News reported that Mr. Couchon was “…testing the waters for a Liberal leadership bid.” and that the “… 46-year-old is touting himself as a potential agent of generational change.”

Mr. Cauchon ceased to be minister of justice in December 2003 and did not run for re-election after supporting John Manley in the 2003 leadership convention—then prime minister Paul Martin did not name him to cabinet.

Just the sort of character the Liberals would look to for leadership material, eh?

I can’t wait to see how Michael Ignatieff and his band of sanctimonious Liberal hypocrites wiggle out of this one. A justice minister for Pete’s sake.

[Source]

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Margolis sheds light on the clash of civilizations

I am currently reading and excellent book by award-winning, syndicated columnist Eric Margolis. The book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination? is entertaining and absorbing—and the fact that I’m also learning a lot from it is a bonus.

Here are a couple of quotes from the dustcover:

American Raj: Liberation or Domination takes the reader behind the conventional headlines and into the thinking and world view of anti-Western Eric S. MargolisIslamic radicals throughout the Muslim world, and identifies the historical, political and religious factors that have played such a huge role in generating Islamic hostility towards the West.

“Employing the model of Britain’s imperialist hegemony in Asia, which culminated in the eighteenth-century Raj, Margolis explores in fascinating detail whether the West—and in particular the United States—risks a repetition of the Raj experience or whether we face an entirely new—and entirely unfamiliar—world order.”

This pretty well sums up the book and says it better than I ever could.

I enjoy reading Mr. Margolis’s columns and essays on his Web site and believe he is one of the most insightful commentators of our times. Apparently, others agree as he appears as a foreign affairs expert on CTV and CBC here in Canada, and I’ve seen him on CNN in the United States. I also see him on The Agenda with Steve Paikin television show from time to time.

Those of us who follow world events seem to be left with more questions than answers these days, so it’s wonderful to pick up a book that helps to explain some of the background to these troubling times. Mr. Margolis has provided just such a book.

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