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Friday, July 31, 2009

Our U.S. right-wing friends are slandering our country

The wounded right-wing of U.S. politics is striking out again at Canada, just as they always seem to do when the going gets tough. Remember the false charges that the 9/11 suicide terrorists came from Canada?

This time it’s over their battle to keep healthcare the private goldmine of insurance companies and private institutions. And, of course, to protect the millions of dollars that now flow from private health care lobby groups to U.S. politicians and their agents.

Theirs is not a fight over principle, folks. Theirs is a mean-spirited defence of vested interests in the name of private enterprise. And some proponents of the status quo in the United States will stop at nothing in this battle. Take this recent example.

Yesterday Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), while on MSNBC with Carlos Watson, grotesquely distorted CBO figures. He claimed (and he’s distorted figures before):

“We don’t need this administration and House Democrats, even with the changes that have been negotiated in their deal, are intent on doing, and that is launching a massive, new, government-run insurance plan that will [mean] literally nearly a trillion dollars in higher taxes at the outset...”

MSNBC’s Carlos Watson reacted quickly, saying:

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa ... unless you’re looking at different data than I’m looking at, I don’t remember there being a trillion dollars in new taxes.”

Pence then backtracked with, “Yeah, I'm rounding up,” placing the price tag at $800 billion. But, even that was a phony number.

In fact, the CBO's preliminary estimate of the House bill stated its entire cost would be just over $1 trillion over 10 years. $540 billion of that—not the $800 billion or $1 trillion claimed by Pence—would be paid for with new taxes affecting about 1.2 per cent of U.S. households. Savings in Medicare and other health systems are expected to take care of the rest of the bill.

In similar fashion, the opponents of U.S. health care reform are maligning and distorting our publicly-funded health care system. It’s a smear campaign, of course, because they cannot argue their position on its merits. Every other industrial nation on earth has publicly funded universal health care. The U.S. stands alone as the last bastion of a warped, 19th Century view of private enterprise.

Think about it: people in Canada live longer and infant mortality is lower than in the United States. Add to that the fact our system is less costly. This is not how they characterize our system though, is it?

Canadian governments spend around 7 per cent of GDP on health care, about the same as in the United States. In Canada, however, everyone is covered while in the U.S. 7 per cent of GDP covers only about a third of their population.

Furthermore, Canada spends just 2.4 per cent of our total costs on administration compared to the 7 per cent the U.S. government spends. In fact, some studies place private sector health care administration costs at a whopping 14 to 22 per cent in the U.S.

When I arrived in Ontario in the 1950s, families were responsible for their own medical bills. Those with the money got the care they needed, but those without suffered and went without care—some even died from lack of proper care. Some families, like mine, spent their entire life savings on a single illness of one family member.

Our system may be flawed, but it works well. In medical emergencies, such as the one I faced in 2001, patients are treated without a credit check. From the time I arrived at the emergency department, to the time I was in a bed in the intensive care ward and hooked up to monitors and intravenous medication, less that 10 minutes had elapsed.

I would not swap our system for the Americans’ money-first or no care even for life-threatening conditions system. Nor do I envy Americans their exorbitant insurance costs, private-sector bureaucrat control and poor outcomes in life expectancy and infant mortality.

I just wish they’d leave us out of their squabbling and stop their shameful slandering of our social program when they have nothing that measures up to ours.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Public shut out of Toronto city council debate of terms to end strike

Toronto’s city council decided this afternoon to bar the public and media from their meeting after a city manager refused to answer questions in public about what sort of tax increases, if any, might be expected if council ratifies the deal.

This is so typical of the David Miller administration of the city: tax payers and media barred from hearing the debate of the terms and consequences of the mayor’s capitulation to the 30,000 striking city employees.

And, how about this?

Earlier today we heard that the deal with the unions includes amnesty for those who committed vandalism and other unlawful acts while on the picket lines. Mark Ferguson, the union president of CUPE Local 416, cried triumphantly when addressing his members:

“The City wanted to terminate and prosecute those few who got a little excited on the picket lines. We made sure of amnesty for everybody involved.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!”

Vegas perhaps, but this is Ontario, Canada.

When did David Miller become our chief law-enforcement officer? By what authority can he offer amnesty for any law-breaker? I understood that the police determined whether charges were to be levied, not the mayor. This is interference in police matters by an elected official and is wrong from any point of view.

Acts of vandalism and damage to property is a crime against society, and are serious offences that should be dwelt with by our police forces. And, now that Mayor Miller has obviously instructed the Toronto police service to overlook such offences committed on the picket line, Premier Dalton McGuinty should make sure that the OPP looks into the matter to determine if undue influence was brought to bear by elected officials.

Here’s what I believe happened.

Mayor David Miller wanted his union buddies to get the very best deal they could, but had not the balls to do it out in the open. So the mayor made public an offer that he knew the unions would not accept, figuring that a strike would be short-lived as residents called for him to end the work stoppage. Miller could then rush in to save the day with the much-enriched offer he wanted the unions to have in the first place.

But the mayor miscalculated. The residents of Toronto took his public statements and promises at face value and hunkered down to wait out the strikers. Miller never guessed that would happen. And as he saw the public mood turning against the union workers, he had to step in and save their skins.

Now he has to sell this tainted deal to 22 of his fellow council members. But not, of course, with the media and public listening in. This deal would never stand public scrutiny and Miller knows it. Better to force it through in private and “spin” it to the public later as a fait accompli.

The whole deal stinks as much as the streets of that unfortunate city.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

eHealth spending scandal deepens

The Dalton McGuinty government, after weeks of details about spending and expense abuses at eHealth trickling out to the media, yesterday released seven black binders with thousands of pages of documents following requests from the provincial Progressive Conservative party. Health Minister David Caplan said that the government wanted to be as transparent as possible. Opposition members, however, justifiably accused him of trying to bury the eHealth scandal under mountains of paper.

Today we have a reports that eHealth Ontario awarded $11 million more in untendered contracts than was previously revealed. The current estimated value of untendered contracts awarded by the agency is $16 million—about triple the $5 million we learned about this spring. Many of these contracts reportedly went to Liberal-friendly organizations.

We have also read that eHealth board member Khalil Barsoum travelled all the way from Florida to attend eHealth Ontario board meetings. An eHealth board expense claim form stamped March 31, 2009, shows Barsoum billed $1,374 for airfare, $117.02 for car rental and parking in Toronto, and $133.77 for car rental for the drive home in Florida.

This story, while it does not particularly surprise me, sickens me and further erodes my confidence in our provincial government’s integrity and its ability to properly manage the public business of the province. This is a greedy, cold-hearted clique of professional politicians and “consultants” with voracious appetites for tax money. The members of this Liberal clique are in there to enrich themselves and don’t give a damn for their duty to act honourably.

The provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter’s investigation into eHealth practices is expected September/October. Who though, I wonder, is looking into the practices of the endless number of other Ontario government agencies that probably have practices similar to –or, God forbid, worse than—those at eHealth?

[Reference Source]

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Jim Balsillie: your money ain’t good enough

The commissioner of the NHL and that league’s board of governors have spoken: Jim Balsillie’s money isn’t good enough for them. One wonders, frankly, whether any Canadian’s money is good enough, if that Canadian intends to operate his/her team in Canada.

On Wednesday, the NHL’s board of governors unanimously rejected Mr. Balsillie’s ownership bid for the Phoenix Coyotes after meeting with bidders in Chicago. Instead, the board approved the competing bid of Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, whose bid is for less money, but would keep the team in Phoenix… or so they say. This is a con job: I bet this team will not be playing in Phoenix five years from now.

Mr. Balsillie was blocked previously from buying the Pittsburgh team and moving it to Hamilton, Ontario. In that case, he withdrew his purchase offer after the NHL imposed a long list of last-minute conditions, including a seven-year non-relocation clause—an obvious ploy to avoid outright rejection of his bid.

I can draw this conclusion: since Canadian-based NHL teams have been relocated from Canada to the United States, and since several U.S.-based teams have been relocated within the United States, relocation is acceptable so long as it is not to Canada.

Current owners of Canadian-based NHL teams must feel very proud of themselves.

As to the commissioner, Gary Bettman, this is about what we have come to expected. His anti-Canada bias has surfaced before and, undoubtedly will again.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How long before we tap into this new source of immigration

Nigeria sports a new form of Taliban—apparently not related to the Afghan extremist group. Earlier this week, they launched violent attacks across northern Nigeria, threatening to overthrow the government and impose strict Islamic law (… more here).

The group, apparently, is quite a mystery—no one seems to know how big a threat they pose, how large their membership is, or what their next move will be. We do know, however, some of their core beliefs, because of an interview their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, gave the BBC.

They believe that the “… present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam.” They question that rain is an evaporation caused by the sun or that the world is a sphere and, of course, they reject the theory of evolution. And they hope to impose an extreme interpretation of Islamic law on Nigeria.

If something runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, they reject it. Don’t mind that we have had some 1,500 years of human discovery and experience since the birth of Mohammed, that’s irrelevant.

Don’t these people seem just right for Canadian immigration? Here they could preach any damn nonsense they want, and we would be obliged to respect it alongside of our scientific theories and beliefs. Wonder what they think are about gravity?

Given some of our reasonable accommodation they would fit right in. Can’t wait for them to start arriving.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Spain bomb targets police

Basmah Fahim reports that the Basque separatist group ETA is suspected of being behind a bombing in the Spanish city of Burgos.

Wafergate won’t go away

The “Wafergate” story just won’t die. First we had the original non-story pre-empting news of Canada’s role at the G8, then yesterday we had the source of the story, the Telegraph-Journal, stating: “There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published,” and “The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused.”

One would have thought that would be the end of a story that should never have been a story in the first place. Instead we have the conspiracy theorists who believe—or mischievously try to convince Canadians—that the federal government applied pressure to an Irving-owned newspaper to facilitate its new shipbuilding proposals.

If I believed in conspiracies, I’d be looking for the Grit who conspired with the publisher and editor to plant the story in the first place. Steve Janke’s piece in Full Comment is more plausible.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sotomayor wins Committee approval

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, has won approval in a near-party line vote of the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee.

PM receives apology for communion story

The Telegraph-Journal, has issued an apology for a July 8 story that claimed, among other things, that PM Stephen Harper pocketed a communion wafer during former governor general Romeo LeBlanc’s state funeral. The newspaper published its apology on Tuesday, July 28. Here is an excerpt:

“There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now. Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them.

“The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused. We also apologize to reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras and to our readers for our failure to meet our own standards of responsible journalism and accuracy in reporting.”

Now that the newspaper, which was the source of the story, has formally apologized, one wonders whether others who repeated the lies and spread them across the nation, including Canada’s main television networks will have the decency and journalistic integrity to also apologize. I doubt they will.

It is interesting to note, however, that—according to the National Post—the names of the newspaper’s editor, Shawna Richer, and the publisher, Jamie Irving, do not appear on the masthead of Tuesday's edition[1].

Look for the mainstream media to jump on the apology story without accepting any culpability of their own.

Related: Stephen Taylor, Blue Like You

1 Update: see also Chris Selley: The crumbs of wafergate

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Toronto caves in to unions—taxpayers lose

The City of Toronto seems to have come to an agreement with its unionized employees, subject to ratification on both sides. According to Blue Like You blog and reported on CFRB radio, details of the tentative deal have been leaked and, frankly, it doesn’t look good for the abused taxpayers of that city.

Apparently, the unions have won, or nearly so, on all points, most significantly: large pay increases without productivity guarantees and banked sick days for current employees—new hires will not get that option. This virtually guarantees a hike in municipal tax bills.

Yes, the real losers are the Toronto taxpayers who will not see a cent in tax relief to compensate for the basic services they have been denied for more than a month. In addition, their city will likely shell out millions in overtime payments to union workers to clean up the garbage and catch up on the backlog of work that the city management chose not to have done by replacement workers or private contractors.

As for that poor excuse of a mayor, David Miller, never was his ineptness and double talk more apparent as it has been in reaction to this tentative settlement. “Everybody has lost,” moans the Mayor, who also insisted the preliminary contract fits “within the mandate of the employee and labour relations committee.” What a lot of Bull.

How could the unions lose? They had their leaders at the bargaining table working for them, and on the other side they had David Miller doing everything he could to make sure the strike worked in their favour—no replacement workers, no outside contractors hired to do the work the unions refused to perform and total control by pickets over access to city property and dump sites.

A union-first mayor leading negotiations with greedy, power-hungry unions is a big joke on Toronto taxpayers. What a stinking mess.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

With so many good people in the world, why import so much garbage?

There has been a lot written and said in the media this past few days about the murders of four Muslim women found in a canal at Kingston, Ontario. I won’t dwell on the fact that these apparently were “honour killings” (a misnomer, if I ever heard one), because that aspect has been ably covered elsewhere—see Joanne’s post at Blue Like You, Tarek Fatah’s excellent commentary, and the National Post for examples.

One angle that seems to have been overshadowed by the shocking nature of this alleged crime is that Mohammed Shafii was living in a polygamous marriage right here in Canada at the Montreal suburb of St. Léonard. Apparently, his first wife was Rona Amir Mohammad, one of the victims, and his other wife is Tooba Mohammad Yahya, a co-accused.

Mr. Shafia apparently married Ms. Mohammad in about 1979 and later married Ms. Yahya in 1988. Both marriages took place in Afghanistan, where it is legal for a man to have more than one wife.

I gather there was no divorce before the second marriage occurred, and police have confirmed the woman found dead with the three sisters was Mr. Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad. Ms. Mohammad’s family members told CBC Radio’s As It Happens on Friday how she was caught in a loveless, abusive marriage with Mr. Shafia, but unable to convince her husband to allow a divorce. (In Afghan tradition, only husbands are allowed to divorce their wives.)

Originally from Afghanistan, the Shafia family moved to Montreal from Dubai about three years ago, begging the question: How in the world can one immigrate to Canada with two wives in tow? What sort of background screening occurs? Does any screening occur, or are we too politically correct to even question those who wish to come and live with us?

Polygamy is a crime in this country. This is Canada; we don’t use shariah law here. And we certainly don’t need some back-door way of circumventing our laws. The majority of us like our traditions and want our government to protect them. If we synchronize our rules and values with those of the backward medieval-like nations of the world, how long will it be before Canada is much the same as the very nations our immigrants are fleeing? I’d say a generation or two at best.

I believe one of the many dirty little secrets of our immigration process is that we turn a blind eye to polygamous relationships of those entering Canada from Muslim countries and countries like India which have a large Muslim community. And the so called law-abiding Canadian Muslim community certainly turns a blind eye to the illegal practice within our country.

Traditional Canadian values and culture are under siege, and political correctness, moral relativism and muddle-minded liberalism are stifling resistance to the sorts of traditions and practices that are little more than remnants of a primitive past.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Cycroft.com launches news aggregator

Today my news aggregator came out of the closet and is now accessible by the public. For sometime now I’ve been relying on several news sources for ideas of things to blog about here and decided that some of my readers might find it useful to have several reputable news sources in one place.

The new web site is called The Cycroft Gleaner.  It’s all about news and opinion with an emphasis on North American politics. It will not replace this blog, which will continue I hope for some years to come. The big difference is that news without comment will be published at The Cycroft Gleaner, leaving Russ Campbell’s Blog to concentrate on op-ed articles and essays.

I hope you readers will take a few minutes to visit The Cycroft Gleaner and let me know what you think about it.

Comments will be closed on that site for the time being, but you can leave comments here or by e-mail to russ [at] cycroft [dot] com.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Minister Caplan shelves review of eHealth

The Dalton McGuinty Liberal government has quietly dropped an independent review of eHealth Ontario, notwithstanding that government’s promise that PriceWaterhouseCoopers would look into procurement practices at the scandal-plagued provincial agency and report back this summer.

Last Friday, according to The Canadian Press, Health Minister David Caplan wrote a letter to eHealth’s chair agreeing to a request from the agency to drop the PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ review, because it would duplicate the work of Ontario’s Auditor General Jim McCarter—the Auditor General’s report is due in September.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, however, was quick to point out that the Liberals announced the outside review knowing that the auditor general was doing his own investigation. “… I think this shows that it was a sham process to try to protect the minister’s job in the first place,” Hudak said.

eHealth Ontario is the provincial agency, which is tasked with creating an electronic health record system. The agency came under fire earlier this summer over nearly $5 million doled out in untendered contracts during the first months after its creation in September 2008.

Back then, CBC News reported:

“an intricate web of connections between eHealth and at least two of the consulting firms—Accenture Inc. and Courtyard Group—that were granted more than $3.3 million in contracts never subjected to competitive bids as the agency was first set up.”

CBC News also noted that it was told:

“that some senior officials in the Health Ministry opposed the appointment of Sarah Kramer as eHealth CEO on the grounds that she wasn’t qualified to run the $2-billion agency.”

Readers may remember that both CEO Sarah Kramer and Chair of the Board of Directors Dr. Alan Hudson resigned from eHealth because of the scandal, but the opposition parties still want McGuinty to fire Health Minister David Caplan for his incompetent handling of the affair.

Here are a few of the scandalous revelations supporting opposition calls for Caplan’s removal:

  • Kramer was paid a salary of $380,000 and received a $114,000 bonus only five months after her start date.
  • The $114,000 bonus the chairman of the board approved for Kramer was double the permitted rate. eHealth’s regulations permit bonuses ranging from zero to 15 per cent of salary—Kramer’s bonus represented about 30 per cent of her salary.
  • Kramer spent $51,500 on office furniture.
  • two of eHealth’s senior VPs were consultants who commuted to Toronto on a regular basis from their homes in Alberta, at a cost of $1.5 million a year for flights, salary, accommodation and per diems.
  • Another consultant, who charged $300 an hour, billed the agency for reading a New York Times article, reviewing Kramer’s holiday voicemail greeting and a debriefing that took place during a chat on the Toronto subway system.

  • The agency hired Kramer’s executive assistant for $213 per hour, or about $1,700 a day.

Ordinarily I’d applaud Premier McGuinty and his inept health minister, David Caplan, for saving taxpayers the estimated $300,000 an independent review by PriceWaterhouseCoopers would have cost, but I trust neither of these men. The shenanigans at eHealth occurred right under the nose of the minister of health and so far Dalton McGuinty has let him off the hook.

They already knew that the auditor general was doing his own investigation when they announced the outside review, so why make the promise? And why drop the independent review now?

Something about this smells—perhaps it’s the fishy business going on at Queen’s Park.

Cuba: workers’ lost paradise

Cuba, that workers’ paradise where trade unions—at least free ones—are illegal. Isn’t it ironic that communist dictators appropriated May Day for their own? Hardly a month passes without my hearing of someone just going to or returning from a holiday in Cuba.

This image from National Geographic of Havana’s classic cars and the city’s seawall—built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—shows relics of a bygone age.

“Wonderful weather,” “very safe,” “good value,” “great cigars,” “too bad the Americans are ruining the place with their trade embargo” are some of the reports I hear.

All very true I’m sure, but what visitors often fail to report is the repression, economic decay and failing health care system, which is in evidence, providing one cares to look.

Of course, this is all the fault of shortages caused by the U.S. trade embargo… or is it? Canada and the European Union still trade with Cuba. Certainly they could supply the food, medicines and machinery Cuba needs. So why should there be shortages? Which are the essential commodities over which the United States holds a monopoly? I can’t think of many. Some Computer technology, perhaps? Coca-Cola? Hardly, Cubans get theirs from Mexico. Or perhaps it is Camel cigarettes?

The cause of the collapse of the Cuban economy can be traced right back to the Castros and their glorious Revolución. Fear, intimidation, lack of political choice, political persecution (10 to 20 years in jail for political crimes), suppression of free speech and expropriation of private property have prompted a staggering number of managers and professionals to flee the island. Add this to Fidel Castro’s inept Central Economic and Social Plans and you have the major cause of Cuba’s difficulties. The first such plan in 1962 was ruinous—as Castro himself would later admit—and food rationing began the same year. Take, for example, the rice crop: Cuba produces less rice than they it did before the revolution, and its rice fields are half as productive as those in neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Retailing in Cuba has all but disappeared—at least for the ordinary Cuban. On a walk through a middle-to-upper-class neighborhood in Havana, Bruce Ramsey of The Seattle Times reported:

“… a most meager selection of packaged food, grain, bread, meat, produce and fish, all in separate shops. The only fruits were papayas and pineapples. The grain place was dispensing cheap Vietnamese rice, labeled, ‘Not more than 20 percent broken grains.’ A pescaderia had pieces of fish turning gray.”

Cuba has two currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP)—the currency used by Cubans in Cuba—and Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which is the “tourist dollar”—a U.S. Dollar replacement. The value of the CUC is pegged to the U.S. Dollar. This is the money foreigners use.

Many everyday items must be purchased at “dollar stores” and cost about the same as they do in North America. For example, a can of Mexican Coca-Cola costs $2.50, a gallon of gasoline costs more than $5.00. Most Cubans, however, earn only about $15 a month and those over 65 years of age receive a government pension of $4 to $8 month along with food coupons. It is hard to understand how ordinary Cubans can survive on so little.

Contradicting such a dismal view seems the mission of many Canadian visitors who like to remind us that most Cubans own their homes, education is free and food, utilities, medical care and medicine are subsidized.

In fact, Cubans do not “own” their homes, the Communist government owns all property. They do, however, have exclusive use, though the government can seize their property at any time.

Education is free—for those who are accepted. The line-ups for entrance to the Universidad de La Habana are long, with most applicants turned away. Membership in the Communist Party also affects a student’s chances of being admitted to any of Cuba’s universities, and students need a letter from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) vouching for their “political and moral background.”

Although food is subsidized, the monthly subsidy is not enough for a full month and Cubans must purchase other food like meat, fruit and vegetables at the local “agro.” Also, household items we Canadians take for granted like cooking oil, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, clothes or shoes are not subsidized, but must be purchased at the dollar stores at North American prices.

Medical care in Cuba is subsidized, but there is a chronic shortage of drugs throughout the system. If they actually had to use it, no Canadian would stand for the drug-free medical care Cubans routinely receive and accept and Canadian visitors so highly praise.

Dental care, while inexpensive, can be painful as there is no freezing unless you have the tooth pulled. And freezing costs about the same as in North America causing most Cubans to choose extraction over expensive dental procedures.

So great is the disparity between wages and the “real” cost of living in Cuba that most residents resort to theft or the black market. Without the black market, Cubans could not survive. For example, most Cubans can’t afford gasoline at five dollars a gallon, so they buy it for $1.80 to $2.00 from people who drive government vehicles and steal gasoline, little by little, every day. Everybody knows what’s going on and everyone, even the government, looks the other way.

You can buy anything if you look in the right place. “Getting by” and “making do” are a way of life for millions of ordinary Cubans earning an average of $15 a month. For them, solving the problems of everyday life is a matter of survival.

Yes, the realities of Cuba are quite different from those conveyed by many Canadians who visit the island.

I don’t like communist dictatorships, so maybe I have a jaundiced view—just don’t get ill when you’re on holiday in Cuba.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why do we even need unions?

While thousands of Canadians have lost their jobs and many more wonder how long theirs will last, powerful labour unions withhold their labour in an effort to coerce management to add to their already rich wage and benefit contracts. Has our society outgrown its need for unions?

Earlier this year, residents of the City of Ottawa had to endure a 51-day strike by transit workers of OC Transpo, the transit company owned and operated by the City of Ottawa. The main issue of disagreement between the city and the union was the city’s proposed new scheduling system.

Having dragged General Motors and Chrysler to the very brink of extinction, the Canadian Autoworkers were forced kicking and screaming to give back millions in the form of contract concessions. Yet even now that same union balks at Ford’s request that the union match recent labour deals with General Motors and Chrysler so that Ford can remain competitive.

In Windsor, workers responsible for road work, gardening and garbage and recycling pickup walked off the job April 15, while workers in daycare, social services, bylaw enforcement and clerical work went on strike several days later. A key sticking point in negotiations has been the city’s bid to remove post-retirement benefits for new hires. They are still on strike.

In Toronto, Canada’s chief financial centre and largest city, 24,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are trying to use their enormous clout and considerable financial resources to force the city to concede to its demands regarding, among other things, job security, seniority and a bitterly contested proposal by the city to change its employees’ sick plan that would mean scrapping their ability to bank days and cash them out at retirement.

CUPE members are among the highest paid workers in Canada, relative to the sort of jobs they do. These people already have a wage and benefit package most private sector workers could never even dream of, yet, here they are five weeks into a city-wide strike.

Up in Sudbury, unionized workers voted overwhelmingly mid-month to reject Vale Inco’s contract offer, balking at issues like bonuses and pensions. This at a time when most of Vale Inco’s operations have been halted because of weak nickel demand. CVRD, Vale Inco’s Brazilian parent company, chief executive Roger Agnelli recently told media in Brazil that Sudbury is the company’s highest-cost operation and is not sustainable.

This morning I read that Via Rail Canada is on the verge of having its operations disrupted and, in some cases, entirely shut down by a strike by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union—strike deadline is in two days.

A pattern emerges: the workers involved above are already among the very best paid in Canada, relative to their types of jobs, and enjoy benefit packages that exceed the highest expectations of most Canadian workers. Yet they want more. And next year they’ll want more again, and more again the year after that.

And, one way or another the average Canadian will be the poorer through higher taxes and government fees and higher product prices. In the past fifty years or so, we’ve seen unions virtually bankrupt corporations, cripple essential services—remember the post office strikes—interfere with private companies’ ability to go on about their businesses, block access to government property and otherwise carry on as though they were above the law.

And you and I must take it all in our stride and shell out to pay whatever the unions’ greedy actions cost.

With the body of labour and job-safety laws we already have in place in Ontario, one might justifiably question the need at all for labour unions. With some adjustment to our codes, I think we could get by without them. The days when labour unions served some useful purpose to society as a whole have long passed. Now they are just greedy, often corrupt, self-serving bullies.

At a minimum, we need to curtail the power of our public service unions and eliminate their right to strike. If a public employee, including a police and fire department employee, walks off the job or refuses to perform normal duties, fire them and hire someone who really needs the work.

We need a Canadian with the mindset and courage of Ronald Regan to run our province. Someone who will legislate some sanity and balance in to our union-management system. Someone who’ll fire workers who withdraw their services and hold the public hostage while they extort ever greater demands.

And we need someone with the courage to demand and legislate that city mayors and other elected officials cross the damned picket lines, enact/enforce legislation that prevents picketers from barring or in any way impeding or slowing access to public and private property, hire replacement workers, contract out garbage collection, ambulance services and transportation (with no-strike provisions) and otherwise get on with doing the jobs they were elected to perform.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Terrorist supporters in our midst

Today I read in the National Post that, according to a secret intelligence report obtained by that newspaper, Canada was one of the top sources of funding for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, providing up to $12-million a year for several years. The report says:

“Canada’s Tamil community has been among the LTTE’s [Tamil Tigers] largest sources of funds, having contributed up to $10-to $12-million annually in past years.”

Readers may remember that back in May of this year, demonstrators waving flags bearing the Tamil Tigers’ emblem blocked city streets and part of a major highway in downtown Toronto to draw attention to what they claimed were human rights abuses by the Sri Lanka Army.

Later, a Buddhist temple and Sri Lankan restaurant were set on fire. These places were known to be frequented by members of the Sinhalese community, former members of Sri Lanka’s ruling majority.

The World Tamil Movement is reported to be one of the main fronts for the Tamil Tigers, also known as LTTE, and is said to have often used “coercive” tactics to collect money from Toronto’s large Canadian Tamil diaspora. Funds collected were apparently used to bankroll the rebels who were fighting for independence for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority. Last year, the government banned the World Tamil Movement under the Anti-Terrorism Act, and federal lawyers are now in court trying to seize its properties and bank accounts.

This massive amount of bankrolling of Sri Lanka’s civil war from Canada may not be a surprise to many who have followed media reports over the past several years and who felt ashamed of the tangible support provided by Liberal politicians to suspected terrorist supporters in our country. There are numerous examples of direct support shown to groups the Grits knew were Tamil Tiger supporters.

Early in June, Toronto Liberal MP Bob Rae was banned from entering Sri Lanka. I’ll repeat what I wrote then:

Connect the dots: [Bob] Rae is a prominent Liberal Party official, Liberal Party MPs 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?

How really dense would one need to be not to understand how widespread support in Canada is for the Tamil Tigers? This is deeply troubling to me because 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—all countries that share similar legal systems and core values to ours.

Let there be no doubt: 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.

If the Canadian Tamil diaspora contributed $10-to $12-million annually to the Tigers—a very considerable sum—then it stands to reason that a significant proportion of that community are supporters of terrorists and don’t deserve the privilege of living among us. It is only a matter of time before a group like this brings their shooting and bombing to our cities. As a matter of fact, they probably already have.

In May, a fire was set at the entrance to a Buddhist temple in the Scarborough area of east Toronto, and another fire gutted the Lanka Gardens restaurant in the Brampton area. Coincidences? I think not. Incidents also have been reported in Australia and Great Britain.

After the fire at Brampton, Sri Lankan Consul General Bandula Jayasekara blamed the Tamils. At that time, Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai responded:

“The diplomat is challenging Canadian authority and must be expelled from the country. … Have you ever heard a diplomat getting involved in a host nation’s affairs, but this man has done many times.”

Thousands of Canadians of Tamil origin have been calling, almost non-stop, for Canadian diplomats to intervene in Sri Lanka affairs. Should we follow David Poopalapillai advise and expel them?

Tori Stafford’s remains confirmed

The police in Woodstock, Ontario have confirmed that the human remains found in a field just east of Mount Forest are in fact those of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. This closes the first phase of this tragedy and shifts emphasis to the legal proceedings that must inevitable follow.

Regardless of the results of the trials of the accused, I’ll never be satisfied that justice was done.

It angers me that our society allows its children to be horribly murdered and does not mandate the ultimate punishment for such a crime.

I don’t want to hear about rehabilitation or even revenge. I say: take the life of a child and you forfeit your own—its that simple.

I don’t want to hear about sanctity of human life and lack of deterrent effect on future murderers. In the context of Tori’s death, this is pure nonsense.

I just want victim-first justice.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Do Republicans really want Ignatieff for PM?

There is a relatively new Web site, Republicans for Ignatieff, that purports to be supported by American Republicans who want to see Michael Ignatieff become PM of Canada. It’s a bit of silliness, of course, but it has drawn comments from David AikenKady O’Malley, Warren Kinsella and, apparently, many more. How curious it is that what should be a transparent bit of political flimflam should draw any interest at all from serious political pundits.

I think this speaks volumes about the power and influence of the Internet. Someone can anonymously publish a Web site in the United States and quickly provoke interest and blog posts from some of the most astute political watchers in Canada—even if that interest is but passing. Thinking about it though, perhaps it says more about the lack of news to feed the voracious 24/7 news gathering and distribution networks in place in this country—there just does not seem to be enough real news product to go around.

That’s why, I suppose, the CBC has expended so much effort trying to generate a controversy over PM Stephen Harper having received communion in a Roman Catholic church or being a couple of minutes later than other world leaders for a photo op.

But back to Republicans for Ignatieff. Whoever’s behind the Web site does seem to have something. Given Michael Ignatieff’s own words, one must conclude he is, in fact, among the most pro-American political leaders in the past 50 years or so—perhaps ever—and he certainly is more pro-American than Stephen Harper. Which leader of the opposition has Canada ever had who was on a first name basis with more senior members of the U.S. administration? None that I can think of.

A joke though the Web site may be, there must be many across the political spectrum in the United States who would see Michael Ignatieff as an American “asset” if he were to become PM. He is after all a known quantity who, at least in the recent past, has considered himself one of them.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

One premier’s winner is another tax-payer’s boondoggle

Those who believe in the folly of Dalton McGuinty’s latest flawed economic policy—the tax money give-away to those who purchase GM-made electric cars—should surf on over to Blue Like You blog and read the Dalton still cherry picking post there. Joanne has summarized reactions from industry leaders who are not thrilled at the premier’s lopsided approach to helping Ontario’s rapidly eroding industrial base.

Stephen Beatty, the managing director of Toyota Canada Inc., has good reason to question how long Mr. McGuinty plans to prop up General Motors. I too question this blatant favouring of GM and its over-compensated unions at the expense of ordinary Canadians who wonder how they’ll make next month’s mortgage payments, never mind buying a $40,000 electric automobile.

GM Canada—the latest subsidiary of Ontario’s and Canada’s governments—understandably welcomes Premier Dalton McGuinty’s announcement to provide incentives for consumers who purchase their electric vehicles in Ontario. Says Neil Macdonald, vice president, corporate and environmental affairs for General Motors of Canada:

“With this bold initiative, the Premier is taking a significant step in positioning Ontario as a leading jurisdiction in the adoption of clean electric vehicles like the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle.”

But GM’s marketing hype goes over the top with this from Neil Macdonald:

“These game changing electric vehicles offer consumers the opportunity to virtually eliminate their vehicle-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The effective GHG emissions of these vehicles will be less than 1/15th of the emissions of a comparably sized conventional vehicle, even when including the GHG emissions related to producing the electricity to charge these vehicles.”

This is a questionable claim. How can he know how much “GHG emissions related to producing the electricity to charge these vehicles” will be produced when no one else seems to know how future electricity will be generated in Ontario? With the McGuinty government’s track record for voracity, I’d not be surprised if they didn’t suddenly decide on more coal or other fossil-fuel power plants to meet new electricity needs.

I have a really bad feeling about this whole thing. I smell a tax increase in the air—sniff, sniff, yes, lots of tax increases.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Visa requirements causing diplomatic tiff

The recent visa policy change by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney has created quite a stir in the mainstream media and in government circles abroad. Predictably, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae has charged the Conservative government with “mishandling” of the visa issue and claims doing so would hurt Canada’s trade ambitions with the European Union and its economic partnership in NAFTA with Mexico.

Perhaps one should not be surprised at the limits to Mr. Rae’s memory. He should be reminded that his own party under Jean Chrétien briefly ended visa requirements for Czech visitors in 1996, but hastily re-imposed the requirements after the immigration system became bogged down with asylum seekers. This is much the same as what happened after PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative government again lifted the visa requirement for the Czech republic in 2007 and asylum requests jumped from less than half a dozen in 2006 to almost 3,000. Just how short are politicians’ memories?

Visas, of course, are a very common method used by nations to control who enters their territory as visitors. In the case of the 27-member European Union, the Czech Republic is only one of several countries whose citizens require visas to visit Canada—others are Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Dozens of other friendly countries around the world are also on the list of those needing visas to visit Canada. The list includes such notables as Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Macedonia.

According to Mr. Rae:

“This latest diplomatic misstep can only harm Canada-EU free-trade negotiations and the upcoming security and prosperity summit with our NAFTA partners. It’s just another example of how the Conservatives are ruining our trade relationships, costing Canadian jobs, and further eroding our international reputation.”

Interesting. So Canada should just throw its doors open to anyone who is experiencing discrimination in their home countries so as to avoid harming free-trade negotiations? Minister Kenney is too smart to fall for that nonsense.

Canada apparently accepts refugee claims from every country on earth, including the United States, the United Kingdom and all members of the European Union. Is this not ridiculous? With such a policy, asylum quickly becomes a back-door to immigration.

In the politically-correct estimation of many, no country on earth can equal Canada for its lack of persecution of its citizens. Poppycock!

Most countries, including our own, practice discrimination in some form. Most Western democracies, however, do not practice persecution. Persecution, on the one hand, is a crime against humanity and when severe enough should lead to a successful refugee claim in most Western democracies. Discrimination, on the other hand, is an objectionable practice, but should not be grounds for a refugee claim, except in the most severe cases where persecution is also involved.

Discrimination should be dwelt with through normal immigration, if victims want to live elsewhere. In other words, apply and get in line. Queue-jumping penalizes true refugees, and the Lord knows the world has enough of them.

As to the European Union’s reaction to Canada’s decision. The EU has decided to welcome new members with very uneven practices towards certain ethnic groups—Roma in this case—and yet expects other countries to treat all members of their union equally.

The Roma are one of Europe’s most discriminated against minorities and there has been an alarming rise in attacks on Roma citizens in Central and Eastern Europe. This is something the EU should be addressing directly instead of exporting their “problem” to Canada. Why, for example, should any asylum requests have to be made to a third country, and not another of the 26 EU members.

Instead of addressing this grave injustice that is a moral blight in most of Central and Eastern Europe, the Czech government reacted by pompously recalling its ambassador to Canada, imposing visa requirements on Canadian diplomats and business travelers and calling for other EU member states to also bring in visa requirements for Canadians.

I hope this makes them feel better. It is a whole lot easier than rooting out the bigotry of many of their residents who treat all Roma like second-class citizens and human scum.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dalton’s folly?

The Dalton McGuinty government plans to offer $4,000 to $10,000 in incentives to those who purchase electric cars, starting next year. The financial incentives are part of the Ontario government’s plan to be in the vanguard of the next generation of the auto industry.

The idea of vehicles powered by non-carbon based energy might be a good one if the alternative energy was not itself generated by carbon-based fuels.

Just where will Ontario’s electricity come from to fuel these electric cars? Ontario’s future electricity supply is not at all assured and will probably be based, at least in part, on carbon-burning sources such as coal and natural gas. Electricity is clean when used as a fuel, but “dirty” when generated by non-renewable energy sources.

This is only the start. Look for millions of Ontario tax dollars to be spent on infrastructure—like charging stations—to support these $40,000 (minimum) autos that only the well-to-do can afford. And by the way, these are short-trip vehicles, with some early models expected to go 64 kilometres on a charge. Say good-by to trips to the family cottage or expect to stop and charge up every 45 minutes or so.

Why not offer a $10,000 incentive to residents to trade in 10-year-old vehicles which pollute the environment? That would be a better investment and would stimulate the purchase of all types and costs of cars as replacements for the old polluters, giving a boost to the economy and a chance for ordinary residents on low or medium incomes to participate in the government give-away.

I’d feel much better about this decision if we had a more credible person calling the shots at Queen’s Park. I wouldn’t trust Premier McGuinty or any of his ministers with a dime of my tax money after seeing them lie, stumble and bumble through the better part of a term and a half in office.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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CFRB’s John Moore gives another of his rants on climate change

The Lib-Left world of CFRB’s late afternoon talk radio host, John Moore contains no worst examples of human stupidity than those who dare question his “truth” about climate change. In Moore’s world, skeptics are called “deniers”—it is easier to label one’s opponents than it is to disprove their assertions.

I read the National Post regularly and look forward to its op-ed pages each morning. Generally there is a right-wing slant to the opinions expressed there, and I appreciate that the Post does try to balance things with pieces from the “left.” But Moore’s piece—Climate skeptic arguments don't hold ice—seems just one more pointless screed that proponents of the theory of Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) have been feeding us for the past couple of decades.

Moore begins with a bit of nonsense about how deniers use anecdotal evidence to question AGW. Then he uses his own anecdotal evidence— crushing heat wave in India and this year’s drought on the prairie—to support his own argument for AGW.

Follow this logic if you can. First Moore offers that:

“The deniers are great at cherry-picking oddball weather but they have a harder time explaining why Manitoba has suffered the worst flooding in a century twice in the last decade. Or why the Netherlands has been forced to come up with a whole new civic architecture because two centuries of sea-level control no longer works.”

Then he engages in some cherry-picking of his own with:

“Earlier this year, I learned that the guys who build and maintain outdoor hockey rinks in southern Ontario were complaining that the number of days they could produce a useable surface had dwindled to so few that it was hardly worth putting up the boards and getting out the hose. Civic administrations had begun to consider purchasing permanent plastic rinks produced in the United States at a cost of about $180,000 each.”

A scientist John Moore is not, but he does not mind dismissing other’s views because he considers them to be unqualified. Take the case of Senior Operations Research Analyst at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Alan Carlin. Carlin is an economist and physicist who submitted a 98-page paper questioning assumptions on climate change and pointing out that climatologists have been ignoring other more important sources of warming.

Moore writes:

“The skeptics have been in a particularly gleeful froth in recent weeks over reports of the suppressed EPA report. This would be juicy stuff ... if it were true.”

But the story is true. Carlin did write the report and it was suppressed—that’s a fact. Other scientists at the EPA and elsewhere might disagree with or dismiss what Carlin had to say, but the existence of the report and the fact its release was held up is not in question.

But Carlin, you see, is an economist so his views on AGW should be dismissed. And Al Gore and John Moore are what kind of scientists? And what are the academic credentials of AGW guru, David Suzuki? Why, Dr. Suzuki is a geneticist. Biology is his area of expertise.

In Moore’s wacky cherry-picking world: Carlin is a physicist so must not be believed, but Suzuki is a biologist and Gore is a failed politician so they should be believed—go figure.

John More is an entertainment reporter, film reviewer and radio “drive home” show host—hardly the background one looks to when seeking advice on scientific matters.

According to Moore:

“The deniers are obsessed with temperature because they can’t explain all the other anomalies. All right, let’s talk temperature. A popular skeptic assertion is that warming has stopped; they insist that 1998 was the warmest year, which is true because 1998 was an especially aberrant year.”

I see. It’s only us “deniers” who are “obsessed with temperature,” not the other guys. And, of course, since 1998 does not fit nicely into Moore’s theory, it is “an especially aberrant year.”

Wow! Can this guy cherry-pick.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ezra Levant calls out Jennifer Lynch

Journalist, popular blogger and and super pain in the backside of the Canada’s human rights establishment, Ezra Levant, has called Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission Jennifer Lynch a liar—in fact, he called her a “damned liar” in his blog.

When I read that Ms. Lynch denied that CHRC staff hacked into a private citizen’s Internet account and that commission investigators post hateful messages on the Internet, I wondered how long it would take for her to be challenged. Had she not been challenged, I would have had to reevaluate my opposition to her agency.

Well, the challenge came on Saturday—and it’s a doozy! I have not been on the Internet much for the past few days and missed Mr. Levant’s blog post until this afternoon.

These individuals cannot both be telling the truth—one is obviously not. I don’t know either of them personally, but favour Mr. Levant’s version.

I hope Ms. Lynch will either show documented proof of her version or step aside for her government responsibilities. No one whose veracity has been so directly challenged, and who does not give a successful defence of her good character, is fit to hold such high government office.

PM Stephen Harper or the responsible minister of the crown should step in and either wholeheartedly support Ms. Lynch or relieve her of her responsibility before all dignity and credibility in her office is irrevocably lost.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Hats off to Jason Kenney for requiring visas for Czechs and Mexicans

The minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has announced that beginning today Mexican nationals will require a visa to travel to Canada. This move is in response to the fact that refugee claims from Mexico have almost tripled since 2005, making it the number one source country for claims.

Yes, Mexico, the very place Canadians flock to in the tens of thousands. If life is so repressive there, how come so many foreigners visit that country each year?

During 2008, more than 9,400 claims filed in Canada came from Mexican nationals, representing 25 per cent of all claims received, and, of those claims reviewed and finalized in 2008, only 11 per cent were accepted as being genuine.

According to Minister Kenney, each claim cost us about $29,000 including costs at all three levels of government.

This welcome move by the Conservative government comes at the same time that Canada reinstated a visa requirement on visitors from the Czech Republic after hundreds of Roma from that country sought asylum here. The visa requirement for the Czech Republic was only lifted in 2007 and, since then, refugee claims increased several fold. Our government suspects many cases were not genuine as they were withdrawn or abandoned before a final decision was made.

“In addition to creating significant delays and spiraling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution.

“The visa process will allow us to assess who is coming to Canada as a legitimate visitor and who might be trying to use the refugee system to jump the immigration queue.”

– Hon. Jason Kenney

On TV this afternoon, Minister Kenney said that on some recent flights from Prague the majority of passengers on plane were asylum seekers.

Of course, European Union diplomats and officials have been quick to signal that Canadians could face visa restrictions from member countries in retaliation.

The Mexican embassy in Canada was also quick to react, saying in a statement that the government of Mexico “regrets the decision,” and “Mexico will continue to promote actions toward modifying the Canadian measure as soon as possible.”

Isn’t this a joke? Both the EU and Mexico, by asking Canada to reverse its policy, are sort of agreeing that refugee claimants from their countries have a genuine reason to fear returning to their homelands. Curious that.

Here’s hoping PM Stephen Harper will resist the pressure. Minister Kenney is the first immigration minister in decades to take a Canada-first stance towards those making a mockery of our immigration and refugee policies.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Moral tales to live by, perhaps, but certainly not literal truths

Growing up, I was taught that one should always have tolerance for all religions and religious beliefs, and I accepted that as a reasonable thing to do. What I have far more difficulty with, however, is the notion that one must always respect the religious beliefs of others. In other words, I tolerate religious beliefs of all, but do not always respect them.

For example, I do not respect a belief that children should be denied blood transfusions, or that women should be denied their proper place as equals of men in every aspect of religious practice—including the Christian priesthood or Muslim forms of everyday dress—or that ancient texts like the Bible and the Koran (Qur’an) should be the end-all in ethical behaviour or secular human relationships.

Not surprisingly, therefore, I am quite appalled at the controversy that PM Stephen Harper finds himself in over a simple religious ceremony for which he may or may not have paid the fullest of respect.

“DID HARPER POCKET WAFER?” screams a headline on today’s front page of the National Post. Good grief, does it really matter?

I, as someone who is inclined towards scientific reasoning, cannot take seriously a religious belief expressed by Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, who is quoted in the Post as saying:

“It’s not a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, but is in fact [emphasis mine] the body and blood of Christ. The Communion wafer starts as a host and becomes the body of Christ.”

I’m sorry, but I cannot—despite trying to do so while being brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition—take such beliefs literally. I have taken Communion in an Anglican Church, but to me it was only symbolic never the actual body and blood of anyone. Such a notion I find quite barbaric and unworthy of any civilized institution.

If there is a God in the Christian sense, She or He must be shaking His or Her head in utter disbelief that after hundreds of years of enlightenment, many of us still believe in a mythology no more convincing than that which was the basis of the beliefs of ancient Egyptians, Greeks or Romans. Moral tales to live by, perhaps, but certainly not literal truths.

“It’s worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, is quoted as telling the Telegraph-Journal.

To which I say: poppycock!

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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When OS worlds collide, will Google fulfill Netscape’s dream?

There was a time several years ago when technologists foretold the day when the then dominant Web browser, Netscape Navigator, would become a full-fledged computer operating system (OS) going head to head with Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system.

That day never came, of course. In fact, Netscape Navigator has all but disappeared. Yet the idea that a Web browser could become the foundation of an OS is very much alive and is set to become a reality in about 12 months—assuming Web search giant and chief Microsoft rival, Google, has its way.

On July 7, the Silicon Valley-based Internet software giant, Google Inc., announced Google Chrome OS, an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks—small laptop-like computers retailing for less than $500. Google Chrome OS will eventually run on desktop computers, offering a realistic and low-cost alternative to Microsoft Windows.

The new OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. The Google Chrome OS project is separate from Google’s other operating system Android, which was designed to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks.

Few technologies in history have had the impact on as broad a cross-section of populations around the world as has the Internet and its most ubiquitous feature, the World Wide Web (the Web), invented in the early 1990s by Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, an English computer scientist and MIT professor.

By the formative years of the Web, 1991 through 1995, Microsoft had emerged as the leader in computer software technology, having vanquished all serious competitors who challenged its supremacy. All competitors, that is, except Netscape which by 1994 dominated the Web with its Netscape Navigator Web browser. Microsoft had failed to recognize the significance of the Web and its emerging technologies and had largely neglected to participate in the rise of the Internet.

Scrambling to recover from its strategic blunder, in 1995 Microsoft used a licensed version of Mosaic Web browser as the basis of Internet Explorer 1.0, which Microsoft released as part of its Windows 95 Plus! Pack. In that move, Microsoft engaged Netscape in a battle for Internet supremacy—a battle to Netscape’s death as it turned out.

During its struggle with Netscape, Microsoft wielded an almost invincible weapon in that it gave away for free a product that competed with the products that made up the great bulk of Netscape’s income: Navigator and its derivatives.

Google Inc. may now be set to turn the tables on Microsoft with Google Chrome OS, which is an open source product and will be free, while Microsoft’s Windows is a proprietary (closed) technology costing hundreds of dollars for its most robust versions.

Some analysts point out that the Google Chrome OS is just another Linux  distribution, and, in the past decade, Linux has failed to gain much traction in the consumer marketplace. Perhaps, but what seems to be different this time is that this Linux distribution has gained the backing of a big outfit, Google Inc., with deep pockets and office floors filled with brilliant computer scientists and engineers, not to mention a level of credibility with consumers that rivals Microsoft’s own.

With the release of Windows 7 set for October 22, Microsoft is sure to be scrambling to adjust its pricing strategies. Currently, a full version of Windows Vista Home Basic retails for US $199.95 and the Ultimate edition costs US $319.95. This profit-rich price structure will not prevail for long if the Google Chrome OS turns out to be a serious product—good news for consumers.

Microsoft already announced that, for a limited time, consumers in the United States, Canada and some other countries will be able to buy an “upgrade” copy of Windows 7 Home Premium for $49 or Windows 7 Professional for $99. The sale began on June 26, and will end on July 11 according to Microsoft. The Ultimate Edition is priced at $219 for the upgrade.

Already we are hearing about a multi-license “family pack” for Windows 7 at US $149.99. At $149.99, the Family Pack would save a buyer US $210 over three separate Home Premium upgrades. Such Windows pricing was unheard of in the pre-Google Chrome OS days when I purchased my retail copy of Windows Vista. Look for more consumer-friendly pricing offers from Microsoft in the next 24 months.

Is Microsoft destined to learn the old adage: live by the sword, die by the sort, i.e., live by the predatory pricing strategy, die by the predatory pricing strategy? I hope so.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mr. Simpson: if not Canada, then where?

I spent a few days last week in Ottawa, and while I was there I read a rather boorish opinion piece in the Globe and Mail by Jeffrey  Simpson, that newspaper’s national affairs columnist. Mr Simpson took exception to the fact that, apparently, almost 90 per cent of Canadians believe they live in “the best country in the world.”

Remember that last Wednesday was Canada Day and I was in the capital to celebrate our country’s birthday—I was in no mood for Canada-bashing.

I happen to be one of those who does believe Canada is the best country in the world. If it is not, then I wish Mr. Simpson would tell us which country is. He cautions:

“There are many admirable aspects of Canada, and we exult in them around Canada Day. But the dangers of thinking of your country as the cat’s meow are hubris and, worse still, a stubborn inability to look problems in the eye or to learn from others.”

Apparently, in Mr. Simpson’s world, loving one’s country and believing it is the “cat’s meow” prevents one from looking problems in the eye or learning from others. Who knew these were mutually exclusive?

He also writes:

“If there is one assertion around which almost all Canadians would rally, it is that the ‘world needs more Canada.’ The assumption supporting this assertion is that we Canadians are so worthy, morally upright and generally well-intentioned that the world would be a better place if it were more like, well, us. Which, in turn, leads Canadians to their deadliest sin: an unsinkable moral superiority.”

Yes, relatively speaking, we Canadians are so worthy, morally upright and generally well-intentioned that the world would be a better place if it were more like us. And I write this without the slightest fear it will lead me to the “deadliest sin: an unsinkable moral superiority.” We have an entire year to contemplate and improve upon our faults—the week of Canada Day is one time I don’t feel I have to dwell on our weaknesses much less remind others of them.

Mr. Simpson then parades before us a laundry list of short-comings:

  • worst record for emitting greenhouse-gas emissions
  • flogging asbestos around the world
  • clubbing baby seals and giving ourselves a black eye in Europe
  • the tar sands
  • blocking agricultural reform to preserve the protectionist supply management system during the Doha round of the world trade negotiations
  • commitment of our troops to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan
  • a country excessively dependent not on brain power but on natural resources.

In conclusion, Mr. Simpson graciously acknowledges, “There are admirable aspects of being Canadian, and these have all been justly celebrated on Canada Day.”

How sweet of him to give his permission for us to celebrate. But, like the party pooper he is, he just can’t resist one final warning:

“…self-satisfaction can lead to a refusal to acknowledge weaknesses, to allow patriotism to curb critical thought, to refuse to face hard choices, and to cover a slow, albeit comfortable, slide toward international marginality and domestic mediocrity.”

What a load of poppycock. Perhaps Mr. Simpson allows “patriotism to curb critical thought,” but I very much doubt many of the rest of us do. As to the remainder of that paragraph: baloney!

Some of what Mr. Simpson had to say is accurate—though we did outlaw the clubbing of “baby” seals over 20 years ago. He is especially correct when he writes “there are admirable aspects of being Canadian…” But, of course, he never bothers to spell out any of our virtues, only our faults.

What convinced me that Jeffrey Simpson anti-Canada rant was ill-conceived was his lack of evidence that any other country in the world was better than Canada. Sure, we have faults, but they are fewer and less egregious than those of other countries. In comparison to most other countries in this imperfect world, Canada is an utopia.

Canada Day and the days of that week remind us of how lucky we are and give us the opportunity and reason to celebrate publicly the greatness of our land. How ungracious it is to choose that particular week to spell out the few things that make our country imperfect.

Mr. Simpson: if not Canada, then where?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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So much money, so little time to spend it

One really has to wonder at what the heck is going on in Ottawa these days. The Conservative government of PM Houses of Parliament__DSC3336Stephen Harper set up a fund to promote tourism and “make nice” with the arts community after seeing the unpleasant electoral consequences to which cuts to assorted arts programs on the eve of last federal election can lead.

However, after handing out $400,000 to Toronto’s gay community for its annual festival, Canada’s Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, Diane Ablonczy, has had her hand slapped and she’s lost responsibility for administering the tourism funding program from which the money came.

Whether or not one agrees with the gay lifestyle, Toronto’s gay pride week does consistently draw many thousands of tourists to that city each year. So what’s the big deal about the feds helping to fund it? Senior members of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party, one of its predecessors, have attended gay events for the past several years. The CPC also chose to let same-sex marriage go unchallenged when it took office—in effect, condoning the practice. So I ask again: what’s the big deal?

If this article at Macleans.ca can be believed, there does not seem to be any shortage of money to fund these so called “festivals.” Ministers of the crown don’t seem to be able to shovel the money out the door fast enough.

In the past couple of weeks alone, James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour, Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, Denis Lebel, Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Michel Rivard, Senator and Greg Kerr, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs have all announced payouts amounting to millions of federal dollars to support tourist events.

Like it or not, we live in a culturally diverse society which includes practices I find offensive, some of which our federal tax money subsidizes. So why single out this lone event against which to take a stand? I don’t get it. Who are we trying to please?

If anything, this year’s gay pride week was one of the tamest with less of the vulgarity and excess we have seen in the past. So this is not a family friendly event, so what? Many of the tourist events funded by Ottawa are not the sort of stuff to which one normally takes children.

I’m confused: one minute our party’s leaders are falling over themselves to appeal to every group they can find who might someday vote for them, and the next minute they are disciplining and publicly embarrassing a Minister of State for giving money to a gay group.

Liberals are not the only hypocrites about in our land.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Ignatieff sells himself like a midway freak show

Apparently, the Liberal Party’s leader Michael Ignatieff chose to sell opportunities for potential supporters to see him in person at $40 a head much like was done at carnival midways, where sideshows charged for the opportunity to view freaks of nature.

He could have used his Stampede breakfast as a way of getting to know the ordinary people of Calgary and giving them the opportunity of seeing him in the flesh. In other words, a way of making new friends—and the Lord knows Liberals need all the friends that can make in Alberta. Instead, Mr. Ignatieff chose to ignore the free-flapjacks tradition and used the annual event as a fund raiser.

You can read a reaction from an Alberta, here.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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