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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taking a break for a few days

I won’t be blogging for the next few days. My next post will probably be next Monday or Tuesday.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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They voted for him, they got him, now they’d love to dump him

With any luck the untenable situation in Toronto will prove to be an eye opener for the voters in that unfortunate city. Toronto is in crisis yet, quite incredibly, its mayor allows himself  to be barred from holding meetings at city hall, acknowledging that he can no longer guarantee public access to the seat of his government.

Garbage accumulates in the parks, Canada Day celebrations are cancelled, participation in a once-in-a-generation federal infrastructure/stimulus funding program is bungled and the city is in the midst of a crippling strike by municipal workers, but still two-term Mayor David Miller does nothing.

A new poll last week suggests Mayor Miller’s support among Toronto voters has “plummeted”—from 69% four years ago to 43% today—to the point where a majority disapprove of his performance, and he would lose in a race against possible challenger John Tory. Almost daily the mayor’s ineptness and inaction is demonstrating how unsuitable he is for the job with which Toronto voters twice entrusted him.

Shame on the mayor for his mishandling of issues such as the island airport bridge, St. Clair streetcar right-of-way project, expanded bike lanes, the future of the Gardiner Expressway, and the botched request for federal stimulus money.

And shame on the voters that put him there.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Warren Kinsella plays fast and loose with the truth

The Liberal Party war roomer, Warren Kinsella, tells us on his blog on Sunday, how “The newly-minted Ontario Conservative leader wants to get rid of the Human Rights Tribunal.” Then he goes on to imply that the move is bad because:

“…if you are black, and someone has denied you a job because of that. It is if you are a Jew, and a will prevents you from buying a piece of land because of your faith. It is if you are gay, and someone has refused to provide you with a motel room for the night. It is if you are sexually harassed at work. It is if your union won't accommodate you because you are in a wheelchair. It is if a golf course won't let you play, because of your religion.”

Now here’s where he plays around with the truth.

Here’s a direct quotation from the Hudak campaign’s May 12 announcement on the subject:

“Tim proposes that the [Ontario Human Rights] Tribunal be scrapped in favour of a court-based system operating under the rules of evidence. Complaints would go to specially trained judges, similar to the existing Domestic Violence and Family Law Courts.” [Emphasis is mine.]

In Mr. Kinsella’s June 28, 2009 post, he neglects to point out that Mr. Hudak promises to replace the Human Rights Tribunal with “a court-based system operating under the rules of evidence.” To have mentioned this, of course, would have made his paragraph (quoted above) at best, nonsensical, or at worst, untrue.

Tim Hudak’s announcement made it plain that Ontario residents will not only not lose human rights protection, but will gain by having those rights protected by a court of law. As a lawyer, how can Mr. Kinsella see this as a bad thing?

Just more dirty tricks and half-truths from the “modern-day Machiavelli” as Mr. Kinsella is referred to on his blog.

I guess when you don’t have a pound of steak to sell, you package it with pork and pass it off as steak—and Liberals know a lot about pork.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tim Hudak and OHR reform

The champion of Canadian human rights commission/tribunal reform, Ezra Levant, reviews the past Ontario PC Party’s leadership campaign in terms of proposals made to maintain, reform or eliminate the human rights establishment in Ontario. This is an important conversation to be having for what happens in Ontario will almost certainly have a major impact federally and in other provinces.

I’m not 100 per cent sure just where new PC Party Leader Tim Hudak stands on the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT). I’m pleased that one of his promises during the leadership campaign was to scrap the OHRT and instead move to a court-based system. But his May 12 announcement also mentioned:

“Complaints would go to specially trained judges, similar to the existing Domestic Violence and Family Law Courts.”

Frankly, I would have been happier if the announcement had not added this reference to “specially trained judges.”

Why do our judges have to be specially trained? Are human rights so complicated or subtle that experienced judges have to be specially trained to adjudicate infringements? If our current judges have to be trained up to understand human rights legislation, what are the implications for the average citizen who is expected to understand the law well enough to comply with it? After all, ignorance of the law is not a defence.

We should be simplifying the law rather than training the judges. Surely human rights should be obvious and basic, not in any way complicated or subtle. Our intent should be to protect fundamental freedoms, not to enrich lawyers and the human rights establishment with its cadre of activists.

The language in Mr. Hudak’s May 12 announcement sounds a bit too much like the gobbly goop we have been hearing from the currently entrenched human rights establishment—you know, the likes of Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and her Ottawa counterpart, Jenifer Lynch.

Human rights, as they exist in Canada, are pretty well spelled out in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And so I fail to understand why an average judge is not already competent to interpret the Charter well enough to adjudicate complaints? And, if an average judge is not up to the task, doesn’t this call into question the competency of our judiciary—the very judges currently trying all sorts of complicated, subtle cases of great importance.

I hope that with Mr Hudak’s proposals we will not be swapping one form of judicial tyranny for another.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A conservative leader for a progressive conservative party

So, our newly minted party leader is the 41-year-old MPP for Niagara-West Glanbrook, Tim Hudak. He was considered the front runner from the start of the campaign, taking a quick lead over two-time leadership hopeful MPP Frank Klees, MPP Randy Hillier and MPP Christine Elliott. By voting day, most saw him as a favourite to win on June 27.

And Hudak did not disappoint.

After round one votes were counted, Hudak emerged in first place, closely followed by Klees and Elliott. He widened his lead in round two and won convincingly in round three, garnering more Elliott second-choice votes than many expected: on the third ballot, he needed 5,125 votes to win and got a comfortable 5,606.

Tim Hudak was born at Fort Erie, Ontario on November 1, 1967. In 1990, he earned a bachelor of arts (economics) from University of Western Ontario and a master of arts (economics) from University of Washington in 1993.

Before entering politics, Hudak worked in tourism and economic development. He has been a member of provincial parliament since 1995, serving as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, 1999-2001; Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation, 2001-02; and Minister of Consumer and Business Services, 2002-03.

Hudak is married to Deb Hutton—a former chief of staff to Mike Harris—and they have a 20-month-old daughter, Miller.

PC Party of Ontario members voted on Thursday or Sunday, using a preferential ballot where they were asked to rank their top three candidates in order. Of the 43,981 PC party members eligible to vote in this election, a very disappointing 25,424 cast ballots.

The member turn-out on the two voting days signals a clear number two priority for our new leader—his first priority being party unity. The less than 60 per cent level of voter participation does not augur well for the 2011 general election. Party leaders talk often about grassroots, which is well and good so long as you have them. Currently, our roots may be deep, but there certainly aren’t many of them.

Riding associations must be energized to become hyper-active between now and the 2011 general election, for if we wait until the writ is dropped, we will have already ensured Dalton McGuinty his third majority [shudder].

Tim Hudak is reported to have said: “I’m somebody who doesn't believe that we need to choose between being conservatives and winning general elections.” That would not be a bad choice as one of the guiding principles in developing our 2011 election platform.

Hudak ran a very effective campaign, especially with the use of technology. He beat three terrific conservatives and deserved every vote he got. I wish him well.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tim Hudak wins PC Ontario leadership race

Well, it’s official, MP Tim Hudak has won the leadership of the Ontario PC Party.

Congratulations Tim!

Hudak widens his lead in PC Ontario’s leadership race

The second ballot results are in at the PC Ontario leadership convention, and Tim Hudak remains in first place with 4,128.5 votes to Frank Klees’s 3,299.8. Christine Elliott is in third place with a respectable though disappointing 2,903.6 votes, not enough to keep her on the third ballot. Obviously, Hudak picked up just over 600 of Randy Hillier’s 1,014 first ballot votes to strengthen his lead going into the third ballot.

This means Elliott will be dropped for the next round, and it’s anybody’s guess how her vote will split. Most would put Elliott and Hudak at opposite ends of the political spectrum—at least the PC Party’s spectrum of left- vs right-wing—and Klees would be somewhere in the middle of that. So I’d guess Klees will benefit more form Elliott’s third place finish.

Klees, however, will need to pick up more than 60 per cent of Elliott’s support to win. This may be a lot to expect, but I won’t start congratulating Hudak just yet.

It has certainly been a close race so far and I’m expecting this to continue with Hudak winning by a narrow margin.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Hudak is Burlington’s first choice for PC Party leader

According to my source, 41 per cent of the Burlington Ontario PC Riding Association’s members voted for MP Tim Hudak as their first choice. Christine Elliott came second with 34 per cent of the first choice votes followed by Frank Klees and Randy Hillier with 20 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

It’s interesting that this is just about the breakdown I had predicted in discussions with my wife, and is about what I had expected to see on the first round for Ontario overall. Frank Klees, however, surprised many with his strong second place finish.

Hillier’s four per cent won’t be of much help to Elliott or to Klees so Hudak will go into the third round with a strong lead. And he’ll need it for, in Burlington, it’ll be a toss-up for the final round.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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PC Ontario leadership race: Hudak leads after first round

First round results of the PC Party of Ontario’s leadership vote are now in. Tim Hudak heads into the second round with 3,512 votes, followed by Frank Klees with 3,094 and Christine Elliott with 2,729. Sadly, Randy Hillier with 1,014 votes will now be removed from the ballot and his votes redistributed based on his supporters’ second choice.

I fully expected Christine Elliott would be in second place at this point, but I congratulate Frank Klees on such a strong showing in the first round. This will surely go to three rounds since none of the three remaining candidates can win the second round with even 100 per cent of Hillier’s vote. The second ballot will decide who will make it to the third and final round.

I believe Hudak will benefit most from Hiller being dropped. Look for him to pick up about 700 former Hillier votes, moving him to the final ballot in a strong position to carry the day. Christine Elliott will benefit least from Hiller’s votes—about 100 votes or less. That leaves about 200 votes to go to Frank Klees.

The real question now looks to be how Elliot supporters’ second choice will break down, as she will almost certainly be dropped after the second round. When that happens, I fear for Tim Hudak’s chances, for it seems to me Elliott supporters will go more heavily to Klees.

For now I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Hudak will prevail.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Toronto’s image: slip, slip, sliding away

When did the City of Toronto lose its edge? When did the world-class wannabe cease being a model for North American urban planners and become just another so-so urban sprawl looking to cities like Chicago for inspiration? The slide, I believe, started more than a  decade ago, but it seems to have accelerated in the past half dozen years.

In fact, Toronto has lost much of its lustre since it elected David Miller as its mayor. Just as Premier Dalton McGuinty has greased the skids under the Ontario economy to the point that the province has become a “have not,” David Miller has bungled his time as mayor to the point that Toronto has become a “have not” city always whining and begging for handouts.

Miller’s term in office has been marked by gun violence with innocent people being shot in the streets, a public transportation system that has become a money pit into which taxpayer dollars disappear faster than the province can shovel them over, and a public school system that enriches teachers, but which is in desperate need for facility repair and proper security in its halls and playgrounds.

Political correctness has replaced common sense and forthright debate. Corruption and mismanagement at city hall has become common place; accountability is but a dim memory there.

Toronto cares more about its employees’ welfare than ever it does about its hard working, long suffering residents. Rather than maintain some sanity in its pay scales, Toronto closes school pools and extorts land transfer taxes and regular annual increases in real estate and business taxes. Entry level workers such as those who cut the grass are paid almost twice the Ontario minimum wage. Receptionists are paid at private sector management wage levels.

Who can point to one single thing that David Miller has done for the real betterment of the city and its residents since he took office in 2003? Other mayors left their marks, Miller will leave only scars.

Employees who are on strike, ludicrously, are allowed to dictate who can and who can not enter city property to drop off their garbage. Garbage piles up on the streets and the city’s managers and its mayor sit on their fat butts and suck their thumbs. Where are the replacement workers? Where are the private firms who are available to replace the fat-cat city employees who withhold their services in the midst of the country’s worst recession in decades?

Pickets have effectively seized control of the city. In Nathan Philllips Square, the city banned the weekly farmers’ market, but let the strikers hold a rally there. Meanwhile the mayor has abandoned his responsibilities at city hall and fled to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to hold city council meetings instead of in the council chamber.

“Toronto the Good” has become “Gun Town” and “Toronto the Dingy,” with weedy, litter-strewn sidewalks and streets with some of the worst pot holes of any major centre in North America.

And it’s getting worse each day.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Hoedown from Rodeo

Here’s a very clever video. It’s a stop motion animation in which various characters, inspired by Cowboy and Western films, come to life from the musical score. It was made by a student, Eleanor Stewart, for her final year degree in Visual Communication at the Glasgow School of Art.

Check out this out—clicking the “full screen” button is highly recommended:

Hoedown from Rodeo from Eleanor Stewart on Vimeo.

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We should back off and let our experts handle the Iran file

Lots of chatter on the Internet regarding support for the Iranian people and their struggle for freedom and democracy. And I’ve seen PM Stephen Harper and our Foreign Affairs ministry criticized for inaction over the past few days. Personally, I believe we in the general public should back off and let our experts handle the Iran file.

I admire the courage of the Iranians who took to the streets in mass protests of what they believe was a “stolen” presidential election that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receive more than 60 per cent of the vote. And I think presidential rival, Mir Hussein Moussavi—a former prime minister with a reputation for honesty and competence—would most probably be an improvement over Ahmadinejad.

However, my general understanding of Iran and the international implications of what is transpiring there is much more limited than that of our prime minister and our diplomats in Foreign Affairs. And, frankly, I do not believe the vast majority of current critics on the Internet are any better informed than I am.

To begin with, I doubt many of the protesters/insurgents want anything like what a typical Canadian would term “freedom and democracy.” If they did, they would be calling for the removal of Iran’s Assembly of Experts and/or their Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are the primary impediments to both those desirable ends.

So far anyway, I have not heard calls for the resignation, abdication or overthrow of either the Assembly of Experts or the Supreme Leader. And since the Supreme Leader—an unelected office—is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic, and is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations, has sole power to declare war or peace, he pretty well calls the shots and has the final say in all matters.

So long as the Assembly of Experts and the Supreme Leader retain power, Iran will never really be a free and democratic country—regardless of who the president is—at least, not in a western sense.

In 1979, following the ouster of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Ayatollah Khomeini declared an Islamic republic after a landslide victory in a national referendum. Iran has had a quasi theocracy since that time.

A huge proportion of Iranians still support their Islamic Republic, especially in the rural areas. Many of those people really only want a change in the office of president, largely an administrative post, making this an internal Iranian matter that is really none of our business. If we interfere, we may win some thanks from the urban middle class, but we will almost certainly earn even more hatred and resentment from a much broader segment of the Iranian population.

These folks did not ask for our interference when they, by overwhelming majority, set up their Islamic Republic, and, for the most part, are not seeking it now.

With notable exceptions, Iranians are not friends of the West. They are much the same as those who stood by and applauded when, in 1979,  a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American embassy in Tehran with the support of the Iranian government. At that time, there were no mass demonstrations in the streets of Tehran in support of the 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days.

Typically, Iranians see us as an adversary, not a source of their salvation.

As for criticism of our prime minister and Foreign Affairs: I find it ludicrous that a bunch of amateurs are trying to give advice to career foreign service officers.

On this issue, I’ll defer to the experts and wish the rec-room quarterbacks would lay off. The pressure on our diplomats involved in this file must already be severe enough without the hue and cry from well-meaning but largely uninformed, amateur critics.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Whatever happened to the Big Blue Machine?

During the last leadership debate on TVO’s The Agenda, a graphic credited to The Canadian Press showed that PC Ontario membership in 2002 was 100,000, then fell to 61,000 in 2004 and now stands at 40,000 members eligible to vote in the upcoming leadership vote.

I find these numbers incredibly depressing, especially when one considers the thousands of new memberships signed up by the four candidates. According to another graphic shown during the debate and not disputed by the candidates, the following are the numbers of new members signed up by each candidate:

Tim Hudak: 14,000
Christine Elliott: 11,500
Frank Klees: 10,312
Randy Hillier: 3,200

Source: Toronto Star, May 6, 2009)

The above adds up to just over 39,000, which suggests that most of the 40,000 members eligible to vote this week, are new members.

Thank God for a leadership campaign every few years. Without them, would we even have a party?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, June 19, 2009

No summer election as Chief Grit caves on EI

The House of Commons has approved the Conservative government’s supplementary spending estimates in a bill that had threatened to topple PM Stephen Harper’s minority government. As expected, Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats voted against the bill, which passed comfortably, 214-82.

Earlier this week intrepid Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff demanded that the Conservative government present him with a plan to reform Employment Insurance, but started backing away almost immediately. A few days later, the chief Grit agreed to a working group that would study the problem over the summer and recommend ways to boost employment insurance benefits.

The PM and Mr. Ignatieff have each allowed the other to save face so that a summer election could be avoided—a sensible solution to the sort of stand-off we can expect from a minority government. Neither leader’s election prospects were particularly bright and either could have worsened the position of his respective party.

This is the sort of reasonable behaviour we should expect more of from the leaders of the two main parties. I am pleased that they have shown they can work together in a minority situation without getting involved with the increasingly irrelevant leader of the New Democrats, Jack Layton, and the recalcitrant separatist, Gilles Duceppe.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Is Ontario’s eHealth another Liberal fiasco like the gun registry?

The more I learn about the eHealth Ontario mess, the more I am reminded of the fiasco that the Liberal gun-registry program became during the Jean Chrétien government’s time in office. Same political party; same loosey goosey attitude towards taxpayers’ money.

Take note that in 1995 when the Liberals won Senate approval for Bill C-68, the gun control legislation, the government promised the registry would cost about $119 million, but that the revenue generated by registration fees would mean taxpayers would only be on the hook for only $2 million.

By 2002, Canada’s auditor general Sheila Fraser was blasting the federal Liberal government for exceeding its estimated budget, saying that by the time all gun owners and their guns were registered, the program would have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. That’s 500 times more than the original $2-million estimate, folks.

Debacle and fiasco seems to be the bread and butter of Liberal governments at all levels, and Ontario’s latest eHealth debacle is further proof of this truism.

Let’s see:

  • A staggering $647 million spent on the Smart Systems for Health Agency (SSHA) with zero result.
  • eHealth Ontario, the agency that replaced the disbanded SSHA, spent $5-million in untendered contracts in only four months, from its inception in late September, 2008, to January, 2009.
  • CBC News reported that personal connections between top eHealth officials and executives at two companies awarded more than $3.3 million in untendered contracts.
  • Shocking news that some consultants at eHealth were making $2,700 to $3,000 a day and that one billed for a $1.65 tea at Tim Hortons and Choco Bites for $3.99.
  • eHealth Ontario paid a consultant who submitted an invoice for eight hours of work in which she said she consulted herself, then followed up with questions for herself.
  • The Liberal government, not eHealth Ontario’s board, decided the terms of former CEO Sarah Kramer’s $380,000 annual contract and her $114,000 bonus.
  • Health Minister David Caplan defended Kramer’s $114,000 bonus, saying it was something Kramer was entitled to at her previous job at Cancer Care Ontario. Not true! Kramer’s last bonus at Cancer Care Ontario turned out to be a more reasonable $38,000.
  • An inept minister of the crown that refuses to step down over mismanagement of monumental proportions.
  • A premier who refuses to fire a cabinet minister who has proven himself to be incompetent.

All too familiar, isn’t it?

It was freedom-of-information requests submitted earlier this year by the Progressive Conservative opposition under John Tory that we have to thank for the details about this insult to the taxpayers’ of Ontario.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tim Hudak impresses in TVO’s leadership debate

Today is put up or shut up day for me. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been undecided on whether to give my support to Tim Hudak or to Christine Elliott. After watching the  leadership debate last night on TVO’s The Agenda, however, I have made my decision.

To start with, I was not at all impressed with Frank Klees as a potential leader of our party. Oh, he has poise and more experience than the rest, I know this. However, I find it hard to get a grasp on where he stands on substantive issues. Perhaps I’ve missed something that others see in the man. I have the same general impression of him that I had the last time he ran for leader of the party.

Going into the debate, Christine Elliott was in a virtual dead heat as my first choice, but she lost my vote last night. I thought her performance was lackluster. And her flat-tax proposal and terrific 2011 election plan, which have loads of appeal, was not enough to win me over when combined with her position regarding human rights tribunals and her so-called progressive “compassionate” approach to politics. For goodness sake, am I to infer that the past Progressive Conservative governments that I supported were not compassionate?

Ms. Elliott seems to have bought into the stereotype that the left-Libs, New Democrats and many in the media have made of Mike Harris and his ministers. Apparently, she has forgotten the mess Ontario’s economy was in when Mr. Harris unveiled his Common Sense Revolution platform. Back then in 1994, our province had an $11 billion deficit—fifteen years ago, that was a staggering number—and we were mired in a Canada-wide recession. Mr. Harris was a populist representing the interests of ordinary Ontarians—he was no compassionless demon.

I want to know where Christine Elliott truly stands on the substantive issues, not what stand she thinks will win the 2011 general election. Ms. Elliott is a valuable asset to our party, but will be my second choice on the ballot.

Randy Hillier won some fans last night, but I’m not sure how many first-choice votes that will translate into. Mr. Hillier represents an essential ingredient in any conservative party. His platform resonates well and provides a sort of moral compass for those of our members who sometime tend to drift too much to the left.

My choice is now obvious to you readers, but let me explain that, when the debate started, I was quite prepared to be convinced to vote for Ms. Elliott. That never happened.

Tim Hudak is now my first choice and will get my support on Sunday. In my view he won the debate, though not with a knock-out punch. He more closely represents an ideal candidate than any of the others do. He is a Pure Laine conservative while offering a platform that should have wide appeal in the next general election. I really like that he seems proud of his political roots and association with the Mike Harris government, while supporting progressive ideas that will be good for Ontario families.

Mike Harris was just the sort of premier this province needed in 1995. He was strong medicine, but a perfect fit with the situation and the times. Though a very different sort of person than Mr. Harris, Mr. Hudak will make a fine premier in 2011.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

CHRC’s Jennifer Lynch targets the mainstream media

Canadian human rights commissions and tribunals are under fire from many quarters these days. Anyone who wonders whether this is just or fair need only read Ezra Levant’s bestseller, Shakedown: How Our Government Is Undermining Democracy In The Name Of Human Rights.

Now—after rejecting recommendations made in a report by Prof. Richard Moon who her own organization commissioned for $50,000, and instead submitting a self-serving report of her own to parliament—Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), apparently, has decided to go on the offense. And the results are not pretty.

The thrust of her rebuttal seems to be to ignore valid points raised in dozens of articles in the mainstream media and zero in on the most derisive phrases used by her critics.

Ms. Lynch gave a speech on Monday at the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) 2009 Annual Conference. Here are excerpts:

The debate moved to one of discrediting Commissions’ processes, professionalism and staff. Much of what was written was inaccurate, unfair, and at times scary:

Articles described human rights commissions and their employees in this way:

  • ‘Gestapo’
  • ‘human rights racket’
  • ‘welcome to the whaky world of Canadian human rights.’
  • ‘...(i)t sounds like a fetish club for servants of the Crown’
  • ‘a secretive and decadent institution’

In addition to this mounting discredit for our institution:

  • blogs worked to destroy our investigators and litigators’ reputations and credibility with untrue accusations;
  • groundless complaints were lodged with the law societies; and
  • a Commission employee’s life was threatened.

Some human rights experts tried to respond and correct this misinformation. One human rights expert who wrote a letter to a major daily paper faced an accusation in a response letter by a journalist the next day asking, ‘is (name of person) a drunken pedophile?’

We should not be surprised at her tactics, of course, because, in the view of the CHRC, comments that hurt ones feelings are tantamount to criminal offences. You can read her sophomoric screed here, however, I should warn you it is filled with vindictive sounding charges against the mainstream media, and almost devoid of any “context” or actual proof that the statements and personal attacks were false.

There is one element of Ms. Lynch’s recent report to parliament that I find especially bothering: it suggests that truth as a defence in cases of so-called “hate speech” be removed from the Criminal Code. Should she and her agency get their way, Canadians would lose the section that protects anyone who is telling the truth, or believes what he or she was saying to be true. Here is the section as it currently stands:

Section 319(3) of the the Criminal Code identifies acceptable defences as follows: No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)

(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;

(b) if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject;

(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or

(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

This is a vitally important section of the Criminal Code. So long as we Canadians insist on identifying certain types of so-called “hate speech” as criminal offences, we need this defence. Telling the truth should not be a crime, regardless of its offensiveness.

As to Ms. Lynch’s assertions that “blogs worked to destroy our [CHRC] investigators and litigators’ reputations and credibility with untrue accusations…”, I submit that those in charge of these commissions—like Jennifer Lynch in Ottawa and Barbara Hall in Ontario—are the ones who are destroying their own credibility.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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More election high jinks from federal Liberals

The federal Liberal party never seems to learn its lesson when it comes with playing fast and loose with election financing. After being knee deep in Canada’s worst election financing scandal—sponsorship scandal—under former prime minister Jean Chrétien, the Liberal party again finds itself under investigation by Elections Canada.

The sponsorship scandal involved, in part, illegal activities within the Liberal administration of a “sponsorship program” in the province of Quebec, including misdirection of public funds to ad firms in return for little or no work or donations to the Liberal Party. It rose to national prominence in 2004 after Sheila Fraser, the federal auditor general, revealed the scandal and the Paul Martin Liberals were pretty well forced to establish the Gomery Commission to conduct a public inquiry and file a report on the matter.

Now we have the Ottawa’s Elections Canada probing roughly $800, 000 in expenses filed by Liberal candidates during last fall’s election campaign. The Elections watchdog organization is scrutinizing Liberal Party documents to determine whether those expenses were actually thinly veiled donations to party headquarters, The Canadian Press reported yesterday.

This, of course, happened on former leader Stéphane Dion’s watch, but senior Grits like Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae were sure to know all about it since they too, as candidates, presumably had to make the $2,500 purchase.

According to a report in today’s National Post newspaper:

“… every [Liberal Party] candidate was required to purchase … [a mandatory riding services package] which included buttons, posters, brochures, photos and templates for Web sites, lawn signs, and letterhead … for $2,500 each.”

The question is whether, in fact, these riding services packages were worth the $2,500 price tag.

So what’s new, folks? I don’t want to jump to a conclusion of wrongdoing, but this is just the sort of stunt we have come to expect from the Grits.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Federal parties back in statistical tie

The two main federal parties are back in a statistical dead heat according to Reuters. A weekly Ekos survey for the CBC television network has the Grits are holding on to a 1.3 per cent lead over the Conservatives: Liberals are at 33.7 per cent, down from 35.0 per cent last week. The Conservatives climbed to 32.4 percent from 30.3 per cent.

The poll was done before PM Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff agreed on Wednesday to avert a summer election, and perhaps explains why the chief grit was not exhibiting quite the same level of bravado we’ve been seeing in recent weeks. Nothing like a drop in the polls to cool the ardour for the campaign trail.

These results come after the Liberals had opened up significant leads in Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces in which the next general election will be decided. The current data, however, show neither side could now be sure of winning a federal election, never mind forming a majority.

The fine print: The Ekos survey of 3,422 adults was conducted using a hybrid Internet-telephone research panel between June 10 and June 16 and is considered accurate to within 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

You can read more here.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Last PCPO leadership debate tonight

With the PC Party’s last leadership debate coming up tonight on TV Ontario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, I’ll be able to make up my mind about my first choice on the upcoming ballot. I plan to vote on June 21 and so I have pretty well run out of time to make a decision.

Once the campaign got fully underway, I soon saw it as a two-person race between front-runner Tim Hudak and Christine Elliott, and as time went by, Ms. Elliott became my first choice. More recently, however, I began to give Tim Hudak a second look. Now those two candidates are about in a dead heat with Hudak perhaps emerging with a very slight lead—their respective positions on human rights tribunals has moved Tim Hudak back into contention. I see this as a fundamental issue that is a sort of deal breaker for me.

Whoever wins the leadership will have her/his hands full. It’s hard to believe how far our party has fallen: 16 points behind the Grits in the polls, and with a riding network in desperate need of strengthening and perhaps, in some cases, rebuilding.

John Tory was supposed to be a super competent manager and organizer, but you’d never know it given the membership numbers and the sorry state of the party infrastructure when he resigned. I’d see rebuilding the ridings and making them active members of their respective communities as “Job One” for the new leader.

Also, Mr. Hudak is the only candidate that took the time to call me personally. Not that I expect this sort of thing, but it was a nice gesture and I appreciated the time he spent with me on the telephone.

I’ll listen to the debate with as open a mind as I can muster and make my decision overnight.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can democracy exist without debate of important ideas?

I watched Power Play yesterday on CTV News channel and was taken aback to hear that Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions (CHRC) refused the opportunity to be on the show to discuss her report to parliament that I wrote about earlier here .

According to the show’s host Tom Clark, Ms Lynch refused to be on the show because CHRC critic Ezra Levant would also be there. Apparently, a case of either Levant had to go, or she would not be there. Instead she sent a staffer, Philippe Dufresne, whose appearance on the show also had strings: he could not be there if had had to talk to Mr. Levant.

In the topsy-turvy world of modern Canadian politics, this sort of thing seems acceptable. A senior bureaucrat issues a report to parliament that she claims is intended to stimulate debate—both in parliament and in public—and then refuses to debate it on national television. Go figure. To its credit, CTV did not give in to this silly nonsense and had Mr. Levant on after Mr. Dufresne.

I’m also bothered by the fact that Mr. Dufresne was as poorly informed as he appeared to be about the modus operandi of the CHRC. Ezra has more about this at his blog. The Blue Like You blog also covers this strange turn of events.

This episode provides further reinforcement for the view that there is a real threat to freedom of expression in Canada and it is coming from within our government through its agencies. I hope PM Stephen Harper understands the importance of free expression to most of his supporters.

Not being entirely immune from the chill of all this, I’ll be monitoring comments to this post very carefully.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Human rights commissions? Fire them all

Every year across Canada we spend tens of millions of dollars on “human rights,” to the point that we have established a parallel legal system to ensure our rights—which already are enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and enforceable in our courts—are additionally protected by career bureaucrats and quasi-judicial tribunals. Does this make sense?

Despite the enormous expenditure, a growing number of Canadians believe they have fewer rights of expression and less freedom of speech than before the establishment of special commissions and tribunals and the enactment of the legislation under which they operate.

More recently, the commissions have been mandated to protect us from the Internet, which apparently is a dangerous breeding ground for hatred and discrimination. Their mandate here is Sec. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), which prohibits the repeated electronic transmission of messages on:

… any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

In short, Sec. 13 covers the right not to have our feelings hurt. Mind you, not all Canadians are protected, only those who “… are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” So, for example, as a straight, un-handicapped, white male of Christian background, I apparently receive no protection here. So I guess you are all free to expose me to hatred or contempt. My feelings don’t seem to matter [sob].

In answer to complaints that the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) had overreached itself in its pursuit of alleged hate speech on the Internet (i.e., Sec. 13 violations), Prof. Richard Moon, an expert on freedom of expression, was hired by the CHRC to review the situation. He sensibly recommended that the Sec. 13 be repealed, and that the prosecution of extreme speech be left to the Criminal Code.

After spending $52,000 for Prof. Moon’s report,

Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the CHRC has spent several thousands more on polls and recently released her own report. She defends Sec. 13 against those she believes are “manipulating information and activities around rights cases and freedom of expression” to destroy the human rights commissions and tribunals themselves.

I’m not sure about “manipulating information and activities,” that’s her own self-serving interpretation. On wanting to destroy the human rights commissions and tribunals, however, she is right on the mark. Many Canadians do want them shut down entirely, not just out of the business of regulating free speech. And I am one of them.

For anyone who wonders why I want to go that far, I point them to Ezra Levant’s excellent book, Shakedown, in which he details abuses of the human-rights bodies. Here’s how Mr. Levant sums up the most recent report from the CHRC:

We’ve got a Canadian Human Rights Commission that thinks censorship is some sort of ‘human right’. It is so operationally corrupt that it thinks issuing a report card about its own behaviour is legitimate conduct for a government agency. It so despises the public—and holds their intelligence in such contempt—that it thinks the country will forget that Prof. Moon has already recommended that their censorship powers be repealed. It is so naturally Orwellian that it thinks it can invent counterfeit human rights, like the ‘right to be respected’, merely by coining those forgeries, and dressing them up as ‘modern’ ‘rights’ ‘matrixes’, and other such legal junk.

The establishment of the human rights commissions and tribunals was perhaps well intentioned. At this point, however, the entire group is so discredited they have become a travesty and ought to be disbanded.

Some of the enormous savings that will be realized can be used to ease the additional financial burden on the courts that could result as they adjudicate real cases of human rights abuses.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Will Ignatieff pull the plug on the Tories?

I guess Michael Ignatieff expects us to be waiting with baited breath for his decision on whether to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government thereby triggering a summer election. Given recent polls that have the Grits leading the Tories by a few points, the prospect of an election has some Grits salivating—they can’t wait to get their hands on all that unallocated stimulus money.

Time will tell, of course, but I think the chief Grit is bluffing so he can seem to hold more clout than he actually does. For one thing, Ignatieff needs the two other opposition parties to vote with him against the Conservatives, and I don’t really think they see the recent polls as being favourable to their election prospects. There is also the issue of several Bloc MPs needing time served in the House to secure lucrative pensions.

If an election were called, it would be the fourth in just over five years. Does anyone really want that? And what chance is there that Michael Ignatieff will win a majority in the House? I’d say Ignatieff has a fair to good chance of winning a minority, but his current prospects of a majority are poor to none.

With only a minority of seats in the house, a Grit government would be at the mercy of the Dippers—not an arrangement the small “c” conservative Ignatieff would relish or long tolerate. Imagine the Dippers holding the balance of power in the midst of an economic recession [shudder].

So how does five elections in six or seven years sound? A real, if unattractive, prospect if Ignatieff miscalculates and pulls the plug too soon on the Tories.

Then we have the stimulus package and its deployment. Any summer election will add months to the already glacially slow process of getting the funds out the door. Ignatieff and his team have been hammering Stephen Harper daily over the pace of deployment, so how would he justify slowing—even temporarily halting—the process?

But here’s the question of the day: how does our erstwhile American professor Ignatieff, in his most parsimonious style, explain why he will not force an election?

Ignatieff says he will make his decision as soon as today. The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have already indicated that they will vote against the economic update in the House of Commons. So that leaves Ignatieff in a box of his own construction with little wiggle room.

Stay tuned. …

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Flaherty lost a vote for Christine Elliott today

Today my wife received a letter from federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining why my wife should vote for his wife in the upcoming election for leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. This proved to be bad news for Ms. Elliott.

Until she received the letter, my wife was leaning in Ms. Elliott’s direction, with only one real sticking point: the fact that she is Mr. Flaherty’s spouse. This has made my wife uncomfortable from the start of the PCPO leadership race.

You see, my wife doesn’t like the finance minister one bit—she distrusts him going back to his days in provincial politics when he was a cabinet minister in the government of Mike Harris. She voted against him when he tried for the PCPO’s leadership choosing Ernie Eves instead.

Both my wife and I developed a strong dislike for the man during the 2002 PCPO leadership race and we felt that his leadership in 2004 confirmed our dislike and distrust. And, though not a surprise, Mr. Flaherty’s appointment as  Minister of Finance in Stephen Harper’s newly elected Conservative cabinet in 2006 was a major disappointment. The unkindest cut of all, of course, was him going back on his word regarding the taxable status of Canadian Income Trusts.

That move eliminated what little trust we had left in the man. Aside from him going back on his word, his new tax strategy was deeply flawed.

Flaherty argued back then that income trusts would cost the government hundreds of millions in lost revenue and shift the burden onto ordinary people. Not so. According to the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors, foreign takeovers of Canadian Income trusts have had the opposite effect and caused a decrease in Federal Government tax revenues.

Diane Francis, editor-at-large for the National Post, correctly pointed out that that the minister of finance’s decision was based on flawed analyses that treated RRSPs and pensions as tax-exempt, when, in fact, as we all know they are merely tax deferral mechanisms—tax will eventually be paid by the Canadian income trust unit holders. His government lured hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians into income trusts by promising before the 2006 federal election not to raise taxes on income trusts, then did an about turn.

Further reason to distrust Flaherty came during the months since the fall economic update. First we were going to have surpluses, despite the very obvious worldwide economic downturn. Then we were going to have modest deficits so we could stimulate the economy. Now we have huge deficits and are waiting for his next faulty projection.

My wife is not alone in her belief the Mr. Flaherty has been a terrible finance minister, millions of ordinary Canadians agree with her, especially seniors. Bankers and some businessmen seem to trust the man, but ordinary Canadians do not.

I believe we should separate Christine Elliott from her spouse when considering her for leader. Many PCPO members will not be able to do that. Mr. Flaherty, many believe, will have undue and inappropriate influence over Ms. Elliott, which would be a bad thing.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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McGuinty’s mea culpa

Even as he made a clear indictment of his Health Minister David Caplan, Premier Dalton McGuinty defended eHealth board chairman Dr. Alan Hudson, notwithstanding accusations that eHealth awarded nearly $5 million in untendered contracts. The Canadian Press, in the Toronto Star, quotes McGuinty as saying:

“We should have had more oversight in place. We should have had a greater understanding of what was happening on the ground and providing ongoing advice, even though this was an arm’s length agency.”

President and CEO of eHealth Sarah Kramer lost her job on Sunday over the eHealth scandal, which saw consultants being paid up to $2,700 a day for minor purchases like tea and snacks. One consulting firm on an untendered contract charged eHealth for reading newspaper articles, reviewing voice mail messages and talking shop during a subway ride.

Board chairman of eHealth Dr. Alan Hudson signed off on a $114,000 bonus to Kramer as a termination settlement after only a few months on the job—this on top of her $380,000 a year salary.

Health Minister David Caplan (pictured) has defended the bonus, claiming it was what Kramer would have received at her previous job at Cancer Care Ontario. (I wonder what sort of a mess she left there.) Apparently, he has changed his mind after learning Kramer would have received only about $40,000 had she been allowed to stay at eHealth.

After all this, incredibly, Premier McGuinty has insisted rules were not broken in awarding the untendered contracts and Minister Caplan gets to keep his job.

Perhaps inadequate rules were not broken, but this episode does give us some insight into the level of incompetence of those holding senior posts in government and its agencies. It also shows us how these people move around from one cushy high-paying government job to another. The share size of the waste of taxpayers’ money is mind boggling.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had this to say:

“Whether it’s an arm’s-length agency or not, we still should expect some significant oversight for the health dollars that are being spent. Ultimately, that responsibility, that obligation, lies with the minister of health.”

As an arm’s-length government agency, eHealth replaced another provincial agency which had been shut down after spending some $650 million and failing to produce anything of value—it was supposed to create electronic health records for the province.

This agency employs over 150 people earning more than $100,000 (see here for salary disclosure). Surely we should expect better stewardship of tax payers’ money. And why has only the president been fired? Several other highly paid people with titles implying internal control and fiduciary responsibility are listed on their high-priced roster. Do they get absolved of their responsibility and get to keep their jobs? This is just wrong—on any level.

But what the heck, it is only tax payers’ money. And, apparently, there’s plenty of that to toss around. McGuinty never met a tax he didn’t like.

Ontario is being run by grossly incompetent nincompoops. David Caplan, as the cabinet minister responsible for this boondoggle, should be dismissed from cabinet immediately.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Canada cannot get the job done

The Globe and Mail reports that our prime minister, Stephen Harper, says Canada is getting out of medical isotope production. The government plans to spin off Crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s (AECL) nuclear reactor business as part of a restructuring that will mean private-sector management for the company’s research facility in Chalk River, Ontario.

The Chalk River reactor makes about a third of the world supply of medical isotopes. A Dutch reactor produces another third and South Africa supplies about 13 per cent. Lesser amounts come from reactors in France and Belgium. There are also reports that an Australian reactor will start making isotopes sooner than expected.

Within Canada, among the alternatives to Chalk River are:

  1. Upgrade McMaster University’s 50-year-old nuclear reactor, the only one outside of Chalk River capable of producing the isotopes.
  2. Working with the TRIUMF laboratory and the University of British Columbia to produce alternative isotopes.

According to the Globe and Mail, Government officials say the plan is to extend Chalk River's mandate until 2016, by which time other countries and research facilities along with new technologies, and/or private industry are expected to help meet the global demand.

It is disappointing that, at a time when the world has come to depend on us for one third of its supply of a product as important to human health as medical isotopes, we are letting it down and now have to admit failure. Others will be left to make up the worldwide shortage caused by Canadian governments’ ineptitude and their misplaced priorities. And to think that we consider ourselves worthy of a seat at Group of Eight conferences.

This dismal situation—an international embarrassment—did not develop overnight. It has been there for several governments in succession to see. But how many votes would fixing it have won? Not many perhaps, but I’ll guarantee that not fixing it will cost some politicians their jobs come election day.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who in hell is running the show?

What the heck is going on? Ontario’s economy under the Liberal Dalton McGuinty government is slipping and sliding past have-not status to don’t-have-a-hope status.  Former Liberal federal natural resources minister Ralph Goodale and his Liberal predecessors so neglected the Chalk River reactor it is now near-death. And instead of being in Ottawa while parliament is in session, Bob Rae, the foreign affairs critic for the Liberal Party, is off trying unsuccessfully to involve himself in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.

Over a year ago, an analysis from leading Bay Street economist Dale Orr said Ontarians’ standard of living had plummeted—from a peak of 15 per cent above the Canadian average in the mid-1980s to just more than 5 per cent. Accompanying the analysis was a warning of further erosion by 2010. And folks, that was before our current recession even got started.

Ontario was once the Canada’s economic engine; now it’s in virtual free-fall. While former have-not provinces such as Saskatchewan report surpluses for the past fiscal year, Ontario bleeds red ink—a cumulative two-year deficit of $18-billion plus and rising. The Liberals are asleep at the switch.

Ottawa Tories are saying that Ralph Goodale knew about the Chalk River reactor’s problems in 2003, and are alleging that the minister knew that two replacement projects were in deep trouble. Totally disgraceful, but we knew the Liberals could not be counted on. For goodness sake, Grit governments lurched from scandal to boondoggle and back again—that’s why the Canadian people tossed out the rascals.

It’s more than a bit rich to hear Michael Ignatieff and his gang braying about Tory ineptitude—his lot didn’t do any better when they were running the place.

But so what? That is all in the past, and now we need PM Stephen Harper and his team to fix the problem. Problems at Chalk River occurred under a previous Tory cabinet minister, and we were told then the place was in a mess; a senior administrator was fired. This is the third shutdown in 18 months, and some have said the damage is so extensive it might never come back online.

The reactor does important work. It produces more than a third of the world’s supply of medical isotopes. The radioactive particles are used in scans to detect cancer and heart ailments. The isotopes produced by the reactor help about 20 million people in 80 countries around the world every year. This is important stuff.

Why didn’t Stephen Harper insist that his ministers put contingency plans in place to ensure uninterrupted supply? He’s had years to do this. Instead, hospitals across Canada and the United States are now struggling to find alternative supplies for patients as scans are cancelled and less efficient diagnostic tools are used. Our international reputation is threatened.

Sound management could have averted this fiasco.

And, as to Bob Rae: what in the world is he doing jetting off while Parliament is in session to far away lands in which Canada does not have a strategic interest. He should be in the House of Commons representing his constituents. He can go on sexy trips when the House takes its summer break. Who pays for these needless trips anyway?

Since we seem to be importing everything from China these days, perhaps we should import politicians who can keep Ontario and Canada up and running. I bet we could get them for a fraction of what we are paying our guys.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Rae banned in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has made it plain it wants no part of senior Liberal MP Bob Rae, barring him from entering that country when he arrived at the capital, Colombo, on a flight from Delhi. He, apparently, had successfully applied to the Sri Lankan High Commission for a visa and had discussed his visit with the Sri Lankan Commissioner.

When Rae arrived at immigration in Colombo, he was told that he was being refused entry “on the grounds of national intelligence.” And, after spending over twelve hours at the airport trying to find a reason for the decision, he was told that he will be put on a plane to London.

I can’t say I blame the Sri Lanka officials for taking their position. After all, MP Bob Rae is one of the most senior members of the Liberal Party, prominent members of which have shown support in real and personal form for the large Tamil community in Canada. There are numerous examples of direct support shown to groups the Grits knew were Tamil Tiger supporters. Here are a few examples:

  • In March, Gurbax Singh Malhi, MP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, told demonstrators waving Tamil Tigers flags that, “I’d like to let you know I’m helping you guys. I’m behind you because you are fighting for a right cause.” The protesters then chanted: “Freedom fighters, Tamil Tigers.”
  • In 2007, Beaches-East York Liberal Member of Parliament Maria Minna (a former Liberal cabinet minister) and John McKay, Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guildwood were among mourners in Markham who grieved for the death of S.P. Thamilselvan, political head and chief negotiator of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Prominent Ontario Liberals were also in attendance.
  • In 2000, then-finance minister Paul Martin, and then-minister of international development Maria Minna appeared at a Toronto-area event hosted by a Tamil group that the U.S. State Department has identified as a front for the Tamil Tigers.

While it is unlikely that all members of the Tamil community in Canada backs the Tamil Tigers, that community has sent millions of dollars back to Sri Lanka to support that group in their 25-year civil war. In March, Tamils held a “martyrs’ prayer event” in a Toronto-area banquet hall in honour of two Tamil Tigers killed during a suicide attack in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. At the event, some wore clothing bearing the Tamil Tigers insignia. RCMP and a Toronto police officer showed up with video cameras and filmed as the Tamil Tigers flag was raised and several hundred people laid flowers at a makeshift shrine to the dead guerrillas.

Connect the dots: Rae is a prominent Liberal Party official, Liberal Party MP’s have shown support for the Tamils who, in turn, directly support the Tamil Tiger terrorists. Canadian resident Tamils have financed thousands of deaths in Sri Lanka. Why would the Sri Lanka government want to have anything at all to do with Bob Rae?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Green Leader Elizabeth May butts in

The Green Party leader Elizabeth May reminds me of the unpopular guest at a party who chimes in every time someone starts a new topic of conversation and is always ready to pile on whenever another more popular guest is the brunt of a joke.

Ms. May, who has lost several elections in a row is the entirely irrelevant leader of an irrelevant political party. She is desperate to be noticed…by anyone. For more than a quarter of a century, her party has been running candidates in federal and provincial general elections and must be close to holding the Canadian record for futility.

Now the leader of this cant-shoot-right Green Party is calling for the resignation of a minister of the crown because the minister used the word “sexy” when referring to our recent nuclear reactor situation.

“Ms. Raitt must retender her resignation immediately.  The insensitive nature of the conversations on those tapes was truly appalling.”

Apparently, the “Green Leader,” as she’s referred to in the statement on the party’s Web site, is easily appalled. I gather the Green Party likes to be called the “Greens.” Perhaps Ms. May should heed Kermit the Frog’s caution, “it’s not easy being green,” and find herself a new day job.

Minister Lisa Raitt won election in her first try, beating out a popular incumbent Liberal, Garth Turner. By contrast, Ms. May lost all three of her attempts to enter the House of Commons, in 1980, 2006 and 2008. Ms. Raitt is worth two Elizabeth Mays, yet Ms. May has the effrontery to scold the minister in a public statement.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Is it Christine or is it Tim?

Is it Christine or is it Tim? One will win, one will stall; whose the one for all? The fate of Ontario, at least for the next decade or two, lies in the balance. Hardly a week goes by that we are not reminded about the sorry lot we now have governing our province. But I just don’t seem to be able to make up my mind.

I have been leaning towards Christine Elliott, but her stand on the human rights tribunal leaves me cold. I recognize her concern regarding handing the Grits another election issue John Tory-style; however, I believe human rights are more important, in the long run, than the economy or health care, as vitally important as those issues are. Change HR legislation is desperately needed, but I’m not sure she has the will to make any.

Tim Hudak is a good candidate and would likely make a fine conservative premier, but will the people of Ontario give him that chance? I wonder.

Well, we still have time to make up our minds, I may as well use it.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Should managers be judged by those they promote to high office?

The latest reason for opposition parties’ mock outrage makes me wonder about the values of young professionals working for the federal government. Tape recorders may not be  nearly as expensive as they once were, however, I would not have thought they were so cheap one would leave one laying around and neglect to pick it up for several months.

Soon after a trip to Victoria, Ms. Jasmine MacDonnell—former aide to Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt—misplaced a voice recorder in the press gallery in Ottawa and asked The Chronicle Herald to hold it for her until she could collect it. According to reports, five months later she had not picked it up.

This incident puts substance to the recent dismissal of Ms. MacDonnell from her $120,000 a year job as communications director for the federal Natural Resources Minister. Her habit of misplacing sensitive items and failing to retrieve them says volumes about her suitability for such major responsibilities.

Perhaps it says even more about the political and personal judgment of the senior government official who promoted her into the job. The last time I looked, $120,000 a year was considered quite a substantial salary. In most businesses, you’d be in senior middle-management to earn such a sum. Makes me wonder about other senior staffers on the Lisa Raitt team.

As to the contents of the tape recording—much ado about nothing. Think about senior Grit John McCallum:

Back in April, McCallum was asked what make of car he drove. He stammered and replied: “I drive a North American-made car.” When asked to be more specific, he said: “I drive a General Motors car.” Pressed again, he claimed it was “a Chevrolet.” Which, as we now know were all lies.

About an hour after lying to the media, McCallum phoned The Windsor Star to retract his earlier comments: “I said the wrong thing without thinking. The fact of the matter is that I do not own a North American-made car.” This was in a voice-mail message. He followed up with an e-mail that read: “To confirm message I left on your voicemail, to clarify, I do not own a North American made vehicle.”

McCallum remains a darling of the mainstream media.

Minister Lisa Raitt’s new controversy pales when compared to McCallum’s outright lie, but if I were PM, I’d certainly have her on my watch list. I do hope her political career has not been a case of too much too soon. That would be a pity—I had great expectations for her when she knocked off Garth Turner.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Michael Coren show at its entertaining best

Michael Coren Show had a good show last night with three strong guests: Wendy Sullivan, Sid Ryan and Ezra Levant. Wendy Sullivan, who blogs as Girl on the Right, more than held her own with the overbearing Michael Coren and the left-right combination of union leader Sid Ryan and journalist and freedom of expression activist, Ezra Levant.

Mind you, the Wendy Sullivan we see on television is a somewhat gentler version of the no-quarter-given Girl on the Right blogger we see on the Web. Her blog is an entertaining read, but it’s strong stuff. Still, she was quick-witted and showed she had a firm grasp of the topics discussed.

Sid Ryan was at his best and surprised me by providing a capable foil to Ezra Levant whose usual brilliance was a bit dulled by some irritating nit-picking and straw-splitting as he used high school debating club tactics to try to keep Sid Ryan off-balance.

Sid’s got a good sense of humour and can be enjoyable when the topic is politically neutral. Where there is any left-right political angle to be found, however, he can be quite a pain. All in all he is an asset to the show—not at all like other regular guests, Andrea Calver and Marilyn Churley who are seldom well informed and are quite humourless.

On a past appearance on the show, Levant tore Andrea Calver to shreds, a feat he could not duplicate with Ryan, at least, not last night.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ignatieff isn’t cutting it

Kelly McParland has an interesting take on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s recent performance in the house of Commons. He points out that a bright guy like Michael Ignatieff should be able to improve the level of performance in the House. McParland writes:

Unfortunately, instead of raising the bar on what Canadians can expect from their elected representatives, he’s gone native. Mr. Ignatieff is acting like a politician. Not a new-style, respectable politician. Just a politician. Like the rest of them.

I thought Mr. Ignatieff’s sneering performance yesterday when responding to questions on the recent Lisa Raitt dust-up was especially distasteful.

In his article at the National Post’s Full Comment Web site, Kelly McParland also takes issue with the chief Grit’s purloined policy on Employment Insurance (EI). He points out that Stephen Gordon, a professor of economics at l’Université Laval in Quebec City, writes of “the sheer pointlessness of reducing hours for EI eligibility,” and that Jack Mintz—Palmer Professor of Public Policy, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary—mocks the Liberal position by writing that it might work “in Barney the Dinosaur’s world.”

With the government caught unprepared by an economic collapse, the deficit rising $16 billion overnight, jobless rates soaring, the biggest industry in populous Ontario surviving on life support, the best the Liberals can do is run neck-and-neck with a government led by a less than loveable leader.

– Kelly McParland

Here’s professor Mintz’s opening paragraph:

We know political silly season arrives when some of the worst ideas start getting serious attention. The latest is the Liberal proposal to reduce the qualification working period for Employment Insurance recipients to 360 hours before claiming 50 weeks of EI benefits (a recent extension by the Conservatives in the January 2009 budget).

He concludes with:

EI does need an overhaul but it should be carefully thought through. We should especially avoid mistakes made in earlier years that led to excessive access to the system.

Mind you, if the Liberals have the wrong angle on EI reform, they can hardly be blamed. After all, as Mr. McFarland tells us, “the Liberals lifted it outright from the New Democrats and tried to claim it as their own.” And when have the NDP ever been a source of sound economic policy?

Michael Ignatieff, other than for an increase in support among fickle Quebec voters, has not made much of an impression with Canadians. Ekos has the Grits and Tories are in a virtual tie at 33.5 per cent and 32.3 per cent respectively, and Stephen Harper leads Michael Ignatieff 30 per cent to 26 per cent as “best prime minister.”

I know that desperate party leaders will resort to desperate tactics, but stealing policies from the New Democrats?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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CTV and opposition deliberately misconstrue ministerial responsibility

In as bold a display of mock outrage as has been seen in some time, CTV on-air staff and a raft of their fellow Liberal supporters—singing to the tune of their leader, Michael Ignatieff—bluster on about the injustice of Maxime Bernier having to resign last year while Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt gets a pass.

Surely they are being disingenuous for the difference in the two cases is clear enough. Former cabinet minister Bernier was personally responsible for a breach in security; Lisa Raitt as a minister is responsible for the actions of her staff, but not personally responsible.

The constitutional convention of “ministerial responsibility,” a Westminster tradition, is that a cabinet minister bears the ultimate responsibility for the actions of their ministry or department. In Canada, successive Liberal governments have left this convention in tatters. As currently practiced in Canada, ministerial responsibility requires that:

  • While ministers are responsible for answering to parliament for the errors or misdeeds of their staff, they do not thereby accept personal blame for them.
  • It has become accepted that it is unreasonable to hold a minister personally responsible in the form of resignation for the errors of administrative staff.
  • Ministers will often resign in the cases of serious personal misconduct or in cases where they have directed public servants to do something that turns out to be a serious mistake.

CTV staffers have manufactured elements of this story and then have reported on them as if they were neutral and uninvolved. Robert Fife (pictured above), CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, should know better.

The real story here is the security breach for which the government is responsible and for which a staff member has paid with her resignation. The manufactured story is the questionable ethics of CTV staff opening, copying and publishing material marked secret that came into their possession by accident. The howls for the minister’s resignation are just fodder for those voracious animals: the main stream media and crass partisan politics.

Notwithstanding CTV staff’s assertions to the contrary, Canadians do not have the “right to know” what is in secret government documents. To invoke the “public’s right to know” as justification for publishing secret information is a canard not worthy of a news service of the stature of CTV. Are standards of integrity less for media organizations than they are for the rest of us?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The war is lost but the battle continues

The Michael Coren Show on CTS network last night featured a second debate on Sri Lanka. Well, perhaps not so much of a “debate” as two sides stating their position with absolutely no concession that the other had any validity whatsoever. There really was no sense of “engaging in argument.” Each side rejected the other’s points 100 per cent with nary a hint of concession.

Listening to Coren’s four guests—two for the Tamils and two for the Sinhalese majority—one quickly concluded that the Tamil secessionist movement may have been defeated militarily on the ground in Sri Lanka, but the struggle for an independent homeland for ethnic Tamils is far from over. They exhibited little respect for each other. Oh, they were civil enough, but, for example, only once did a guest refer to one of his opponents by name. Throughout the show Coren’s guests used “him” and “her” when referring to their opponents.

A number of other troubling elements emerges during the hour. To start with, these were supposed to be four Canadians discussing a foreign nation. To be sure they had strong links to the country, but they have resided in Canada for some time, or so I understood. Yet the discussion lacked a Canadian context and there was no emotional distance between the guests and their subject. These four may as well have been arguing with each other on Sri Lankan television.

This distresses me, for frankly, while I do not want to see people in other countries treated poorly, I don’t want their problems imported to our shores. Tamils who choose to live in Canada have got to learn to accept that we are not responsible for what is happening in Sri Lanka. Surely we have enough problems of our own. We do not need to take up their cause.

Yes, Canada must be engaged in areas of the world in which we have national interests or where there are issues of national security. But we have neither the manpower or financial resources to address every injustice perceived by every immigrant group.

Back to the Michael Coren Show. When I think of debates, I think of winners and losers. Based on the two Sri Lanka episodes Coren has hosted, I’d judge the Sinhalese supporters to be more credible. The Tamil supporters seem to distort history and exaggerate their claims, especially when they make claims of genocide. Simply put, they are not persuasive.

As I have written here before, there is no evidence of the Sri Lanka government practicing genocide against the Tamils. Consider that in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, over the course of approximately 100 days, more than 500,000 people were killed, with estimates suggesting a death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000—perhaps as high as high as 20% of the total Rwanda population.

The recent civil war in Sri Lanka claimed more than 100,000 lives. This from an estimated Tamil population of over 3.5 million. This was a tragic, disastrous civil war with atrocities on both sides, but decidedly not genocide.

If Michael Coren dedicates a third hour to Sri Lanka, I hope he provides guests who have more emotional distance from the subject so we hear a more objective discussion of all sides of the issues and especially of Canada’s interests, if any, there.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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