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Sunday, January 31, 2010

In search of elusive peace in Afghanistan

One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s best decisions was his plan to exit Afghanistan in 2011. Now I seewar several other nations, notably the Americans, seeking an exit strategy on about the same timeline. Few are the voices calling for victory in Afghanistan—whatever that might look like.

At a 60-nation conference in London, England last week, The United States’ and British governments agreed on a strategy to pay-off low-ranking Taliban fighters to lay down their arms. According to the plan, Western nations would provide funds to finance jobs, education, farmland and cash in return. The strategy would target Taliban fighters who joined the insurgency for economic rather than ideological reasons—and estimated 70 per cent of Taliban rank-and-file.

I hope our prime minister will think long and hard before joining such a scheme. We’ve done our part in Afghanistan—I’m for a clean withdrawal in 2011 with no ties that bind us to that miserable war and the Taliban terrorist who murdered dozens of our soldiers.

Ironic, isn’t it, that not too long ago Conservatives like myself were disparaging NDP leader Jack Layton for his position that we should negotiate with the Taliban enemy. We nicknamed him “Taliban Jack.” At that time, the Conservative caucus was sympathetic to our view. That was then. Now we have our Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon attending a London conference that’s seeking an agreement to do just that.

To be fair, Minister Cannon—who, by the way, is doing one heck of a good job in the foreign affairs portfolio—seems lukewarm to the proposal, telling reporters, “I think it’s probably too early ... to start looking at whether or not Canada is going to participate financially.”

Let’s hope Canada ops out.

We went to Afghanistan for the right reason: eliminate or, at least, reduce the ability of international terrorists to launch attacks against us or our allies. That has been largely achieved. International terrorists represented by al Qaeda have largely left Afghanistan for Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. We’ve already achieved the only real purpose for our combat troops to be in that country.

Canadian troops are to begin withdrawing in June of 2011 and vacate the country by the end of that year. As recently as December 8, General Walter Natynczyk, chief of defense staff, affirmed that the Canadian forces would uphold that timeline.

This is the plan, let’s stick to it and let’s not augment it with other financial commitments of any kind regarding Afghanistan.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Omar Khadr

The Supreme Court of Canada has given the Conservative government a dressing down over the repatriation of Omar Khadr when, in a 9-0 ruling, the court found that Canada and the United States are violating Mr. Khadr’s right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court, however, stopped short of upholding a lower court’s demand that the Stephen Harper government request that the United States release Khadr to Canadian custody.

Not a bad decision in a difficult case, I would say.

The court has avoided a dangerous precedent of interfering with the government’s (executive’s) prerogative of determining and executing Canada’s foreign relations. And that’s a good thing.

By finding unanimously that Canada has violated the man’s Charter rights, one wonders whether the government can ignore the courts and continue to leave Khadr’s fate in the hands of the Americans.

It is generally believed that, if Omar Khadr were to be returned to Canada, he would be released based on time served in the United States. If he remains in American custody, he’ll likely face life in prison.

I am torn on this one.

I detest anyone who would take up arms against Canada, which is effectively what Khadr did when he involved himself in a firefight with the Americans at a time when they fought as our allies in Afghanistan. This is treason in my book. And I don’t believe his age should excuse him from punishment.

I am, however, of the opinion that he has been shoddily treated by his American captors, not because he might have been harshly interrogated, but because he has spent about eight years in prison without anything resembling a fair trial. I don’t believe this is justice.

American serial killers and brutal child molesters receive a timely and fair trial—why shouldn’t Khadr? In his case, what sources of intelligence is there to protect? I see no excuse for such a delay.

Without question, our government needs special powers with which to fight modern terrorism, but to allow a Canadian citizen to languish in any prison for eight years without trial seems beyond the pale. There is a limited amount Canada can do without cooperation from the United States, I get that. But, in my view, Canada has done little but stand back and watch.

And that’s not good enough.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Interesting timing for Bob Runciman’s Senate appointment

Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his picks for the five vacant Senate seats. Nothing untoward in his picks though I did find one in particular quite interesting. That was his choice to represent Ontario, Bob Runciman of Brockville, Ontario the MPP who formerly represented the Ontario riding of Leeds-Grenville. Most conservatives will agree that Mr. Runciman is an excellent—some might say “overdue”—choice for our upper house.

What I find curious is the timing of Mr. Runciman’s appointment.

In the months following the 2007 provincial election when John Tory was forced to lead his Progressive Conservative caucus from outside the legislature, Prime Minister Stephen Harper could have made Mr. Runciman one of his December 2008 Senate picks, but chose not to do so.

That was significant because many of us expected to see Mr. Runciman go to the Senate then, which would have made his vacant seat available for John Tory. That would have been a solution to John Tory’s dilemma (finding a vacant seat), and former MPP Laurie Scott would not have had to announce her resignation from the legislature on January 9, 2009, allowing Tory to run in the resulting by-election in Halliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

Ontario was represented among PM Stephen Harper’s picks in 2008, so presumably Bob Runciman could have been chosen at that time, and many thought the “courtesy” was owed to John Tory and the Ontario PCs.

The PM’s decision left John Tory in a rather awkward position, and I often wondered if it was a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for the Ontario party’s former leader. Exactly what the prime minister’s motive to hurt John Tory could have been, I have no idea. But I found his decision curious nevertheless.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

How about our right to know?

This morning, the paper version of the National Post carried a photograph of what looks very much like a missile flying at a 45-degree angle, with an orange flame trailing behind it. And a resident of Harbour Mille, N.L., Darlene Stewart, said shy saw the missile-like object for 10 minutes. Two other similar flying objects were also seen.

A neighbour, Emmy Pardy, also saw the objects. She says an RCMP officer called her at home and confirmed her suspicion: what she saw were missiles that had been fired from St. Pierre and Miquelon, French islands about 25 kilometres off the coast.

That was then.

Later, RCMP spokesman Sergeant Andrew Buckle would not confirm the sighting was a missile. According to the National Post, he said:

“The investigation is ongoing and we will be working with our various partners. At this point it is not a criminal investigation so we will be doing very minor checks on it.”

And Captain Kendra Allison, a spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence, told the National Post:

“We don’t see any threat to Canada at this time based on the sightings. As far as we're concerned, things are as per normal.”

Finally, the Nation post reports that NORAD confirmed the United States had no planned missile activity of any sort in the area.

Does this lack of information from our authorities satisfy anyone? Don’t we have a right to know who is firing missiles over Canadian airspace? Why the secrecy?

I don’t buy the notion that Canadian police and military do not have a full explanation of what happened. If that were the case we’d need a new police and military. That the explanation is kept from the Canadian people is inexcusable.

If a foreign nation (in this case France) is testing missiles over or near Canadian territory, Canadian citizens have a right to know about it. Someone needs to speak up.

[Full on-line story here]

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple’s new iPad Tablet

I don’t usually cover tech gadgets on this blog, but Apple’s new iPad is too good to pass up. After months of speculation, Apple Inc. announced today in the United States an iPhone-like tablet computer called the iPad starting at USD $499 with availability in 60 days. This tablet looks like great news for Apple, but very bad news for the Amazon Kindle and similar book-reading devices. In fact, if Amazon does not respond very quickly with a new offering of their own, the Kindle will be dead.

The new iPad will feature a 9.7-inch screen and a full on-screen touch keyboard. It is a half inch thick and weighs a mere 1.5 pounds. The iPad screen is multi-touch, allowing content on it can be manipulated with swipes and taps of the fingers. The device will be a combination iPod, iPhone, e-book reader and Web computer.

It’s outfitted with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Internet connectivity, and is powered by a 1-gigahertz Apple A4 chip and has 16 to 64 gigabytes of flash storage. The most advanced model will cost $829 with 64 gigabytes of memory and connection to a 3G cell phone network.

It’ll be interesting to see how soon this dream device will be available in Canada and, of course, its pricing here.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Shouldn’t McGuinty prorogue?

Politics not only makes strange bedfellows it oftentimes has unintended consequences. Take, for example, the current controversy over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proroguing of parliament. 

On one hand we have the Liberals and their rivals, the New Democrats, in bed together as they condemn the PM and coordinate their proposals to change the rules of parliament to limit the use of prorogation.bio

On the other hand, the PM’s use of prorogation and the storm of protest the mainstream media and the Liberal-NDP opposition has whipped up over it has now hamstrung Premier Dalton McGuinty, whose Ontario Legislature’s agenda has pretty well run its course and is in serious need of prorogation, throne speech and new agenda.

As a consequence of McGuinty’s inaction, we Tories are also affected as Bill Murdoch, MPP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and Randy Hillier, MPP Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington can only return to the Legislature with a new session. Those two plucky lads are sorely missed.

Perhaps McGuinty fears he’ll weaken the argument of his federal Liberal cousins if he prorogues and thereby underscores the legitimacy of the tool used in the normal course by virtually all parliaments of the Westminster tradition. Or perhaps he fears he’ll be treated as roughly by the media for using a perfectly legitimate tool of democratic government as the Conservatives have.

Regardless, it is time for our premier to find some gumption and do what’s best, rather than do as his backroom boys dictate to stay on the politically correct side of the prorogation issue. He should prorogue to recalibrate, switch channels so to speak. He can then lay out his new agenda in the run-up to a general election in 2011.

One thing we can count on: if McGuinty does prorogue, I bet it’ll be the shortest in history.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Politics Liberal style

Don’t you just love the way chief Grit Michael Ignatieff has leaped unto the NDP bandwagon by offering his own proposal to curb the prime minister’s power to prorogue parliament? Not long ago, Ignatieff seemed okay with the PM having such power—he just wanted it used more responsibly. Now he wants the rules changed.

But that is so typical of Ignatieff, who is basically a political neophyte. The man’s political instinct is so weak he frequently takes an early stand on topical issues from which he later has to back off.

The backbone of the Liberal proposal is to require at least ten days written notice from the prime minister of his intention to prorogue, together with reasons for doing so, and to require the PM to bring the issue of prorogation before the House of Commons for a full debate. Prorogation would then require approval of a majority of the House.

In a practical sense—and I’m sure this is not lost on the wily Liberal brain trust of Peter Donolo and Bob Rae—the new rules would only have an effect in cases of Conservative minority governments.

In a majority government, the PM would win his vote every time. And any Liberal minority government will almost certainly be backed by the NDP to avoid the possibility of a return to power by the Conservatives. The New Democrats have always been able to blackmail the Grits more effectively than they have the Conservatives.

So PMs heading up Conservative minority governments are the only ones to lose the power to prorogue parliament.

Interesting how the minds of the Liberals work.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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The missing link

When it looked like we were not going to see an unbroken string of ever warmer winters, the man-made global warming crowd changed it tune. They changed the name of the so-called Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) phenomenon to “climate change.” That way they couldn’t be proved wrong, or so they thought.

It did not take long for the international media to pick up on the name change, and fueled by releases from the UN’s Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they began to link devastating hurricanes and floods to climate change. But just as the trend to warmer winters proved inconclusive, so too is the link to natural disasters.

First came “Climategate,” the IPCC e-mails that appeared to show scientists using tricks to “improve” the evidence for global warming. Then, last week, we had “Glaciergate,” when the IPCC admitted there were errors in their forecast about melting Himalayan glaciers that was included in a landmark 2007 report.

Within a week of the Glaciergate disclosure, we learn from the UK’s The Sunday Times that the IPCC was wrong to link global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. The Sunday Times found that “the scientific paper on which the IPCC based its claim had not been peer reviewed, nor published, at the time the climate body issued its report.”

According to the Times, when the IPCC paper was eventually published in 2008, it had a new caveat. It said: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and catastrophe losses.”

Seems pretty straightforward to me: we’ve been hoodwinked, again.

In response to the newspaper report, the IPCC released a statement on Monday in which it emphasized that it had come to several conclusions about the role of climate change in extreme weather events and disasters based on a “careful” assessment of past changes and projections of future trends, and that the newspaper “ran a misleading and baseless story attacking the way the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC handled an important question concerning recent trends in economic losses from climate-related disasters.”

Hmm… There’s too much smoke here, folks. I’m guessing there’s a fire.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Has prorogation run its course?

The most recent Ipsos-Reid poll conducted between Jan. 19 and 21 shows the Conservatives leading the Liberals 34 per cent to 31 per cent. Not a huge lead, of course, but a lead nevertheless. The last EKOS poll conducted on Jan. 13 to 19 showed the Conservatives with a slim lead over the Liberals of 31.5 per cent to 30.9 per cent.

The Ipsos-Reid results could indicate that prorogation as a political issue has run its course or, at the very least, has peaked. And I believe it is worth noting that throughout the period when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was being hammered hourly by a predominantly hostile mainstream media his party managed to maintain a lead in the polls albeit a small one at times.

Therein is a powerful message to Michael Ignatieff and his caucus: the Canadian public is not buying whatever they are selling. Of course, it does not help the Liberals that the public is getting the other side of the story from newspapers like the Toronto Sun and the National Post. Through these and other sources such as the Blogging Tories, Canadians have been reminded of the many dozens of times Liberal prime ministers and premiers have themselves used prorogation.

Recently, Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun reminded us that Liberal MP Bob Rae—while serving his single term as Ontario’s premier—prorogued the Ontario legislature in December of 1991, 1992 and 1994. Ms. Blizzard also points out:

“By 1994, his [Bob Rae’s NDP] government had run out of steam. They were running double-digit deficits and he’d doubled the debt. Some of his experimental policies proved laughable at best and disastrous at worst.

“Limping badly, he prorogued for the third time on Dec. 9, 1994. The House did not sit again until the legislature was dissolved April 28, 1995.

“Rae didn’t even bring in a budget that year.

“For four-and-a-half months, this province had no sitting Legislature.”

Does Michael Ignatieff really believe that Canadians cannot recognize feigned indignation? Sure, some Canadians are taken in, some even sincerely believe the PM is wrong.

Don’t count Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae among that latter group, however. In fact, don’t include either one in any group that lists sincerity as a prerequisite for membership.

Neither Michael Ignatieff nor Bob Rae is crying out to have the rules changed to ban or curtail the future use of prorogation. Apparently, in their view, prorogation is only a bad thing when Stephen Harper does it.

And one should also exclude Liberal MPs Ujjal Dosanjh, Ralph Goodale, John McCallum and the rest of the old-timers who served under former prime minister Jean Chrétien when he prorogued. Back then, we didn’t hear a whimper of protest from them.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Dirty tricks?

In the spirit of fairness, I thought I should mention that there is Internet chatter suggesting that the “Harper = Hitler” sign seen at one location was a hoax allegedly perpetuated by a known Conservative supporter. Whether the sign I referred to in an earlier blog post was also a hoax, I have no way of knowing for sure.

This is one reason these silly political dirty tricks are so damaging to all concerned, not only to the ones on whom the trick is played.

I suppose political dirty tricks will always be with us—they are probably as old as politics itself—but I for one see them as counter productive. They muddy the message and are prone to back-firing.

If a Tory-supporter did carry the inflammatory anti-Harper sign to the rally, then shame on her or him. I don’t condone this type of lying regardless of the liar’s motivation.

I don’t take prorogation nearly as seriously as many other Canadians apparently do, but I don’t disrespect any of them purely because they have opposing views to mine, and I would not try to falsify evidence to discredit either their views of their actions.

I’ll now climb down from my soapbox and get on with my day.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Female suicide bombers trained to attack West

In a chilling report, the U.K.’s Telegraph tells us U.S. officials have warned that al Qaeda has trained female suicide bombers to attack Western targets. And that terror experts within the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, a unit of MI5, now believe that an attack against the UK is “highly likely.”

It now seems that as far as anti-terrorist agencies are concerned, all eyes are on Yemen. An official in the United States told ABC News that at least two of the female suicide bombers are believed to be connected to al-Qaeda in Yemen, and may have a non-Arab appearance and be traveling on Western passports. They are so-called “clean skins,” which means people who are unknown to Western security agencies, people who do not look like al Qaeda terrorists, people who may not be Arabs and who may not be men.

The alert comes during a period in which at least six people on the no-fly list were denied boarding airplanes in a 48-hour period between this past Saturday and Monday, according to ABC News. The attempts were made in London, Nairobi, Saint Maarten, Minneapolis and Fort Lauderdale.

Yemen is under increasing international pressure to prove it’s making progress in its battle against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This affiliate of the al Qaeda terror network claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on Dec. 25. The group has also claimed credit for an assassination attempt in August against a member of the Saudi royal family. Local al Qaeda elements were also blamed for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in San’a in 2008.

Canadian authorities are believed to be investigating any Canadians who have traveled to Yemen recently.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Anti-prorogation rallies

Anti-prorogation rallies occurred across the country on Saturday with thousands attending, many with anti-Harper signs. I saw one shamefully depicting our prime minister as German mass-murdering dictator and notorious anti-Semite, Adolf Hitler. So, yes, there was genuine anti-prorogation sentiment on display, but mainly there was anti-Stephen Harper, anti-Conservative government sentiment.

According to CBC News, “More than 60 rallies were planned across Canada, with protests also slated for London, England, and several U.S. cities.” Why the heck do the Brits and the Americans care whether or not our PM suspends parliament using constitutional powers? Go figure.

Basically these are left-wing rallies: anti-war movement groups, unions, “you are fascists” sign bearers and so on. Scratch the average Liberal hard these days and you’ll find a socialist. That’s why ex-NDP politicians like Ujjal Dosanjh and Bob Rae are able to flourish in the Liberal Party of Canada. The politically naive Michael Ignatieff doesn’t stand a chance against these sharks.

So the unofficial coalition of Dippers and Grits set their organizations to the task of getting out bodies for the rallies.

It’s ironic to think that ultimate success of these protests is the ascension of the Grits-NDP to power replacing the Conservatives. Once there, the Grits would be heavily influenced by their de facto leader, Bob Rae. And this is ironic why?

Well, because Bob Rae—as premier of Ontario—prorogued parliament three times in his single term as premier. Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun reminds us that Rae prorogued the Ontario legislature in December of 1991, 1992 and 1994. On those occasions, the legislature did not sit again until April of the following years—a far longer suspension than Stephen Harper plans.

A lot of pot-calling-the-kettle-black going on. But that’s nothing new for the Grits. Rob Rae recently regaled an audience at the Liberal Party of Canada’s Victory Fund Bash with a song ridiculing Prime Minister Harper. The old hypocrite, Rae, proves yet once again that he has no shame, no moral compass and is capable to sinking to one new low after another.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Samsung deal: another Liberal boondoggle?

Those of us who live in Ontario are among the first victims of global warming—economic victims, that is. Yesterday, Premier Dalton McGuinty sold us out with his $7-billion sweetheart “green” deal with a foreign-based conglomerate led by South Korea’s Samsung Group that will see Ontarians pay the consortium a subsidy of $437-million through their electricity rates.

I agree with Tim Hudak who believes this deal has the potential to become, in his words, “a massive multibillion-dollar giveaway to a foreign-based conglomerate without even the most basic of public reviews.” Its very much a Liberal-style deal, in other words, its a sole-sourced back-room agreement as are so many agreements made by the Ontario government and its agencies.

The agreement calls for the Ontario Power Authority to set aside at least 500 megawatts of transmission capacity for Samsung, and the Liberal government agreed to pay Samsung more than other firms in the new feed-in-tariff program, which awards a premium to green-power generators. In exchange, Samsung is pledging to invest between $6- and $7-billion in Ontario.

According to the Toronto Star—hardly a Conservative-friendly newspaper—the deal was personally negotiated by former energy minister George Smitherman. However, “several of McGuinty’s own ministers vehemently opposed the deal at a rancorous cabinet meeting on Oct. 28 out of fear Ontario electricity ratepayers would end up subsidizing Samsung to the tune of ‘billions of dollars’.”

The Star reveals “that interim energy minister Gerry Phillips and at least two other senior cabinet members tried to scuttle it after Smitherman left provincial politics earlier this winter.” And that “it was only after McGuinty shuffled his cabinet on Monday—replacing Phillips with a more pliant Energy and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid—that the Samsung deal is moving forward.”

How likely is it that an agreement that is so divisive among government insiders will prove beneficial to taxpayers? Not very. So opposition leader Tim Hudak wants the agreement to undergo a full auditor general review to protect the public interest.

Don’t count on that happening, folks. This sounds like a done deal.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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“Severe” terror threat level in U.K.

Britain has declared a “severe” terror alert, the second highest level on its alert scale. This is one level below “critical,” that nation’s highest security alert level, which means an attack is imminent.

“…it [raising the terror alert level from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’] means that an attack has now moved to the level of being likely,” British Home Secretary Alan Johnson announcement on Friday. However, he stressed there is no intelligence suggesting an attack is “imminent.”

The Home Secretary would not specify the exact reason behind the decision to increase the alert level. But he did say, “It shouldn’t be thought to be linked to Detroit, or anywhere else for that matter. We never say what the intelligence is.”

Britain’s large pool of Muslim youth has made it a prime place from which to recruit volunteers for terror attacks within and outside its borders. Many believe that the UK’s inability to properly assimilate its Muslim population has left large numbers of youth alienated and open to the views of radical Islamists.

British homegrown radicals are said to sometimes exceed that of the groups who inspire them. And that nation’s prominent role in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have fueled the flames of Islamist extremism there. Sentiments such as—British terrorists in the army travel all the way across the globe to foreign countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to kill, murder, rape and pillage—are all too common in the Britain of today.

Let us hope that Britain of today is not a preview of Canada of tomorrow.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Vancouver police contradict their story of beaten man resisting arrest

The National Post is carrying a story about Yaowei Wu, a 44-year-old man whose face was left swollen and battered after he was arrested by Vancouver police in a case of mistaken identity.

Police were called to a Vancouver house at 2 a.m. by a woman who called 911 and reported that her husband had hit her and that she was concerned for her baby’s safety. But the police were unaware there were two suites in the dwelling and the complaint had come from Mr. Wu’s tenant, who lives in a separate suite.

The police, apparently, administered a severe unprovoked beating to the innocent Mr. Wu, who received bruises to his head, waist and knees and fractured bones around his left eye. I saw him on television last night and one of his eyes was swollen shut and other bruising was visible. The poor fellow was a mess.

The real story here is not that the police beat up someone—that happens frequently enough in Canada and is sometimes actually deserved—but the fact that the Vancouver police lied on Thursday when they claimed Mr. Wu had “resisted by striking out at the police and trying to slam the door, but the officers persisted in the belief that there may be a woman and child inside who could be in danger.” That was an outrageous lie, and yesterday police said in a statement that Mr. Wu did not resist the police officers.

What is it with our politicians, public officials and spokespersons for our public institutions? Whenever they have a public relations issue, their very first inclination seems to be: tell a lie. Its a knee-jerk reaction. When in doubt, lie. Lie first, apologize later, but only if necessary.

There is also a growing tendency for ordinary citizens to lie to police and other authorities without regard to consequences of which generally there are few.

There was a time when the majority considered their word to be their bond. Regrettably, this is another old-fashioned tradition that has gone by the wayside.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Liberal Party plans renewal…again

How many times since the reign of Jean Chrétien has the Liberal Party of Canada renewed itself? Not enough, apparently. Michael Ignatieff says his party must listen to Canadians as it embarks on a “path of renewal.”

“We talk too easily within this party about being the natural party of government. If I can achieve one thing as a leader of this party, it's to get that out of our vocabulary.”

– Michael Ignatieff

Ignatieff told his caucus:

“We have to have the courage to tell ourselves things we don’t want to listen to. We have to listen to people that the party has not listened to. We have to open the doors and open the windows.”

If the Liberals really do use the coming weeks to generate ideas they can present to Canadians, then prorogation will have served the nation well. And perhaps they can use some of the time to find some form of moral compass.

We may finally hear the details of those policy alternatives Ignatieff is always going on about.

But does anyone out there believe that the near leaderless Liberal Party of Canada has the capacity to renew itself? I don’t.

About a year ago that party had the chance to democratically elect a new leader to replace Stéphane Dion. This would have allowed wide open debate and discussion of new ideas. But what did they do? They allowed the party big wigs to huddle in a backroom somewhere and hammer out a deal to hand the leadership unopposed to Michael Ignatieff.

Now this unelected leader plans to lead a renewal? Who’s kidding who?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Ignatieff uses immigration policy to muscle in on Haiti publicity

The leader of the opposition Liberals, Michael Ignatieff, apparently could not resist the opportunity provided by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Haiti to make political points. About a week ago, Ignatieff, while referring to Haiti, said he wanted “to put the politics aside.” Yesterday, politics was back in action with the chief Grit calling for exceptional immigration measures for the Caribbean nation.

According to the Liberal.ca Web site, if Ignatieff had his way our government would:

  • Enlarge the concept of family for those directly and personally impacted by the earthquake to allow Canadians with relatives in Haiti to sponsor their their adult siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews for immigration;
  • Allow Temporary Resident (visitor) Visas on a case by case basis so relatives can be brought to Canada by family temporarily while their applications are processed;
  • Allow sponsorship to begin on the spot in Haiti, rather than forcing Canadians to first return home to Canada to start the paperwork; and,
  • Provide additional federal resources for a new settlement services agreement with the Government Quebec, as the home to 95% of Canada’s Haitian community.

Haiti is the hot issue of the past week, so to come across as relevant, the Leader of the Opposition has to throw these ill-conceived notions out to capitalize on the situation. For decades, Canada has led all nations in its generosity when it comes to accommodating refugees. But surely there is a limit.

For one thing, do we really want to promote de-population of Haiti? And if we open our doors so wide to immigration from that nation, what about other nations where day-to-day life is about as miserable as it can get? Darfur comes to mind, as does Burundi, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—do we extend similar immigration policies to them?

Rather than a policy to de-populate, I believe we should concentrate on providing on-the-ground food, medicine and shelter and on rebuilding the country. And, yes, that’s pretty much what our government is doing.

We are on the right track in Haiti, let’s not get sidetracked by spurious policy suggestions from the almost irrelevant Michael Ignatieff.

Relax Mr. Ignatieff, PM Stephen Harper has this one covered.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Video: Globalization is Good

A recent commenter sent me a link to this video. It’s a UK Channel Four documentary by the young Swedish writer Johan Norberg that explores the benefits of globalization. Taiwan, Vietnam, Kenya and Brussels are visited to explore the impact of globalization, and the consequences of its absence.

The documentary makes a strong case for the benefits of globalization, and by extension capitalism, and how both have enriched countries that formerly were very poor. It’s well worth watching.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Effective security in action: UK bans flights from Yemen

In an uncharacteristic show of common sense, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Gordon Brown announced today that  flights direct from Yemen to the UK are to be banned. My estimation of Mr. Brown just went up.

“This [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] is the Yemen-based organisation with close links to the al-Qaeda core in Pakistan. And we know that a number of terrorist cells are actively trying to attack Britain and other countries.”

– Gordon Brown

The PM also promised British MPs greater cooperation between international security agencies to share information on suspects. It is incredible to hear that, almost a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, greater co-operation is needed between international security agencies to share information on suspects.

For God’s sake. What does it take to get through to civil servants that to keep civilian populations safe they need to cooperate internationally and to share information on terror suspects? Isn’t this basic security 101? Apparently, not in Britain or the United States, which has also recently promised to be more sharing of information.

We—the Western English speaking democracies—are spending the big bucks, why aren’t we getting the big results? Are our state institutions so bloated and inefficient that they have to told ever few months that they need to cooperate with other internal and external organizations?

Perhaps this is all a sham. Could it be that civil servants are told by politicians behind the scenes not to cooperate? I doubt that, but damned if I can figure out why cooperation isn’t a given—maximum, unfettered cooperation that is.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Two more mini-climategates

Today I read two stories that reinforce my belief that we are being manipulated by vested interests into believing that we have rapid climate change leading to global warming that is the result of human lifestyle choices.

The first story was the revelation that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admitted that its Himalayan glacier melt forecast was a mistake. “Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world... the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high,” an IPCC report noted in 2007.

However, as reported by Matthew Schofield, Kansas City Star editorial board columnist, the IPCC report was “very wrong. In fact, four leading glacier scientists noted that it was simply impossible for the glaciers to melt that fast.”

“Poor Al Gore, global warming completely debunked by the very Internet you invented.”

– Jon Stewart

The second story informs us “Al Gore’s office issued a formal correction yesterday to a speech the former U.S. Vice-President had given earlier in the week that started the latest in a series of ‘climate spin’ rows.”

These two mini-climategates will not be the last I’m sure, for the global warming alarmists are under increased scrutiny and skepticism. Fewer of us are willing to swallow their faked graphs (e.g., the Hockey Stick Graph) and revisionist history (denial that there was a Medieval Warm Period) without question or debate.

Even staunch supporters of man-made climate change like CFRB / Newstalk 1010’s John Moore must be asking themselves some questions about the voracity of the data upon which he has been relying. Well, perhaps not John Moore, but certainly other proponents must.

In my first paragraph, I emphasized “vested interests.” To make my point, I’ll identify two influential proponents of climate change whose fortunes have been greatly enriched by the notion that man-made emissions are resulting in a warmer planet, and that warming, left unabated, will have catastrophic consequences.

Firstly, there is Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri who has served as the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2002. An interesting fellow is the doctor. And he’s knee deep in ventures that have enormous profits to gain if governments embark on massive projects to try to mitigate global warming. Read here for a detailed account of his involvement in such organizations.

Secondly, there is the former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore. Gore is well on his way to becoming the world’s first carbon billionaire after investing heavily in green energy companies. As U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, has claimed, Mr. Gore stands to benefit personally from the energy and climate policies he is urging Congress to adopt.

I am not a denier that climate is changing and the world might be getting warmer. But I’m skeptical of the notion that human activities are the most significant factor, and even more skeptical that we can arrest or even slow it down.

And it’ll take more than Al Gore and Dr. Pachauri to convince me otherwise.

By the way, Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Pachauri accepted on behalf of the IPCC. Not many degrees of separation there, eh?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Carry-ons allowed on U.S. flights

Starting today, Canadians can take one carry-on bag on flights to the United States. This lifts the ban on carry-ons that came into effect after the failed bomb attempt on December 25. Two carry-on bags are still permitted on domestic and overseas flights.

The Transport Canada announcement is welcome news to photographers who fear their gear will be stolen or roughly handled if left with baggage handlers.

Transport Canada also announced it will install full body scanners at airports and introduce a system for screening passengers based on suspicious behaviour. Announcing body scanners at this time comes as no surprise, but the business of “screening passengers based on suspicious behaviour” certainly does.

Does Transport Canada really mean that up until now they have not been screening passengers based on suspicious behaviour? Have we learned nothing from the Israelis who have had airport security concerns from long before the 9/11 terrorist air attack?

This whole business of airport/airline security baffles me. In North America we are spending billions of dollars to make air travelers feel more safe, but seem to have accomplished little in making air travel actually safe. When is the last time we heard of screening actually resulting in the arrest of a person in possession of explosives?

Bombing attempts have been foiled by incompetence of the would-be bombers, heroic passengers and blind luck.

“everything went according to clockwork”

– Janet Napolitano

Both the shoe-bomber and the recent underwear-bomber were able to get past security and board flights. In the case of the latter, the failed bomber’s father had warned authorities before hand that the man posed a danger yet he was still able to board an airplane.

No special screening needed there—just some competence on the part of Western security services.

Money does not ensure competence, professional leadership does. So long as we have to rely on the leadership of “political” choices like U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, we will continue to take undue risks every time we board a flight to the United States.

And, in Canada, we keep spending more and more, regardless of results. But it’s only taxpayer money, right?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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More Canadians die in Mexico: when will vacationers give that destination a pass?

A Canadian man and woman have been shot and wounded while bicycling outside their hotel in Ixtapa, a Mexican resort north of Acapulco. The shooting occurred on Tuesday when armed men tried to rob the couple, and when they resisted, and the gunmen opened fire. The 50-year-old man was shot in the abdomen, while a bullet grazed the 45-year-old woman’s ear. Both were hospitalized.

Accounts of violence directed at Canadians while in Mexico seem all too common these days. The incidents have occurred in several resort locations, not in areas particularly known for random violence. Here are four incidents covering six Canadians who have been killed or wounded while in Mexico:

  • An intruder shot a Vancouver man in the head after he opened the door of his room at a hotel in Cabo San Lucas in 2008. The murdered man’s girlfriend was also shot and injured.
  • A Woodbridge, Ontario man was killed outside an Acapulco nightclub in 2007.
  • A Grande Prairie, Alberta man died from injuries after he visited a nightclub in Cancun in 2007.
  • A couple from Woodbridge, Ontario were murdered in their hotel room in 2006 while staying near Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

How many more attacks will occur before Canadians choose destinations for their vacations that are safer than Mexico seems capable of providing? One’s life, I would have thought, is too valuable to risk for a bit of cheap sunshine.

I’ve been to Mexico a few times and thoroughly enjoyed myself, but enough is enough. When I want to live dangerously, I don’t have to fly five hours to Mexico, I can just drive down the highway to Toronto.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Republican tent expands a little

A lot of angst and rejoicing south of the border today as Democrats sulk and Republicans rejoice at the news that Republican State Senator Scott Brown was elected to replace the late Ted Kennedy. Much was riding on the outcome of this special election: Barack Obama’s personal popularity and ability to sway voters after a year in office, elimination of the Democrats bullet-proof senate majority and the fate of Obama’s health care reform package.

“I just focused on what I did, which is to talk about the issues—terror, taxes and the healthcare plan”

– Senator-elect
Scott Brown

Mr Brown will be Massachusetts’ first Republican senator since 1972. He calls himself a “Massachusetts Republican” who wouldn’t hesitate to cross party lines if he deemed it necessary.

He is also quoted as saying, “As a party, we need to have a larger tent. And we need to have some diversity of ideas.” And when asked about the debate over whether the GOP should adopt an ideological purity test, Brown responded, “I’m a fiscal conservative. I’ve never voted for a tax increase. Another Republican may not feel that way. I think it’s shortsighted to have a purity test.”

That must be music to the ears of moderate, more centre-right Republicans like David Frum who are trying to “modernize” and “renew” the post-Bush GOP and the broader conservative movement in the United States.

The GOP needs to be once again a “big-tent” party and realign itself to the needs and aspirations of a broader cross section of Americans. No longer can they limit their voter support to the pure laine of the conservative movement like National Committeeman, Jim Bopp, who introduced a resolution to limit Republican National Committee funding and endorsements to Republican candidates who first passed an ideological “purity test.”

Thankfully, the GOP is kicking off the new decade in grand style.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is there a happy ending for Haiti?

The Haitian earthquake has the potential to be the greatest loss of life directly and indirectly from a natural disaster in the Americas since European settlement here. That story will play out over the next several weeks. Given the rapid response of the international community, however, I don’t see tens of thousands dying indirectly from disease, riots and the like—though that possibility can not be ignored.

I do wonder though what the future has in store for the already impoverished Caribbean nation.

Haiti has benefited and suffered for a Twentieth Century diaspora that sees, at least, two million Haitians living elsewhere, mainly in Dominican Republic, United States, Canada France and the Bahamas. Included in this figure are many of the well-educated Haitians under the age of fifty. One benefit of the diaspora, if there are any at all, is the lessoning of social pressures on Haiti’s society caused by a large workforce and precious few jobs.

The disadvantage is the “brain drain” that has left Haiti with a 10-million population of largely illiterate people, lacking in the training and skills most needed by a modern functioning state.

Haiti’s pre-earthquake economy was a basket case as was most of its social services. More than one-third of Haiti’s budget depends on foreign donations. To a great extent, foreign NGOs have been propping up what is a broken state. These NGOs support libraries and universities, run schools and hospitals. Without the NGOs social services in Haiti would be virtually non-existent.

Haiti’s GDP in 2008 was somewhat less than $7-billion. The tiny neighbouring island of Jamaica had twice that GDP with a third of the population and 40 per cent of the landmass. According to the International Monetary Fund, Haiti’s 2008 per capita GDP was $1,317 USD compared to Jamaica’s $8,967 USD.

I have little doubt that Haiti can be restored to its pre-earthquake status by the international community. There certainly seems to be the will to do so. But what then? Would that be nearly good enough? I do not believe it would.

Someone suggested in the media that Haiti temporarily become a U.S. dependency. I do not see that as an alternative. U.S. involvement will almost certainly be required, but not total rule of the country.

The United States occupied the Haiti from 1915 to 1934. U.S. intentions had more to do with limiting German influence that with helping Haiti to stand on it’s own feet. During American occupation, they behaved like conquerors.

They built roads to serve their own purposes and introduced cash crops of their own choosing. And although the occupation greatly improved some of Haiti’s infrastructure, American racial intolerance provoked indignation and resentment from Haitians, who did not accept foreign rule peacefully. The period was marked with revolts during which thousands of Haitians perished, many at the hands of American marines.

Many do agree that Haiti was in better shape after the occupation than before, but the economic improvements made by the U.S were built on a weak financial foundation that was doomed to failure.

If Haiti has any hope, it will need a far more ultraistic benefactor than the United States seems capable of being.

The U.S. rebuilt Germany and Japan, Korea and Taiwan, not for the Germans or Japanese, not for the Koreans or Taiwanese. Those massively successful enterprises were for the sole benefit of the Americans who wanted powerful economies and armies strategically placed so as to contain the spread of communism.

Haitians need benefactors who will rebuild Haiti for the Haitians, and I can’t see that really happening. But let us say it did happen. Then what would we say to countries like Jamaica and Dominican Republic? There are desperately poor—better off than Haiti, but desperately poor nevertheless.

We can’t help everyone though, can we?

I fear that Haiti, like this article, will not end well.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Stockwell Day: Stephen Harper’s go-to man

Stockwell Day might not have distinguished himself during his tenure as leader of the Canadian Alliance, however, he has in the other roles he has had since being replaced by Stephen Harper. The Okanagan-Coquihalla MP has given a stellar performance in each of the two portfolios to which the PM has appointed him: Minister of Public Safety and Minister of Trade.

Today, the prime minister has reassigned Mr. Day from International Trade to Treasury Board. PM Harper had this to say about the new appointment:

“As we look ahead to the end of our time limit in the stimulus programs, and for the need of deficit reduction once the economy has recovered, it will be essential for government to constrain the growth of spending.

“The president of the Treasury Board plays a critical role in overseeing government expenditures. I’m assigning this task to one of the most senior members of the cabinet, a former provincial treasurer who has distinguished himself in every portfolio he has held and I refer, of course, to the honourable Stockwell Day.”

Praise indeed and much deserved.

Mr. Day be missed at Internal Trade, especially with the Canada-EU trade talks underway. Personally, I’m less a fan of his replacement, Peter Van Loan, MP for York-Simcoe in Ontario. PVL’s no light-weight though, and I appreciated his efforts in bringing about the merger of the federal PC and Alliance parties.

PVL served briefly as president of the PC Party of Canada, before resigning over disagreements with leader, Joe Clark. I can relate to that. I left the federal PCs in favour of the Reform party when Joe became leader the second time around.

Guess I shouldn’t be too hard on Peter Van Loan.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Round 2 of Canada-EU trade talks set for this week

The then Minister of Trade, Stockwell Day, said in a statement on Monday that Canadian and European Union representatives are to meet this week in Brussels for a second round of free-trade negotiations.

“Free trade has lifted the fortunes of nations around the world—including Canada, which has benefitted greatly under NAFTA and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement before it. There is no reason that a free trade agreement with Europe would not also be beneficial. We urge our government to do everything in its power to make it reality.”

— National Post

The EU, with a population of 500 million, is currently second only to the United States as our largest trade and investment partner. Canadian exports to the EU were nearly $32.9-billion in the first nine months of 2009, while imports of goods and services from the EU were close to $39.7-billion. And, according to a joint economic study, broadening Canada-EU trade agreements could boost trade between us by as much as $38-billion.

Canada and the EU share common values of the most fundamental nature, and have enjoyed close historical and cultural ties. This is evidenced by the increasing frequency with which we vote together in international organizations—sometimes over 90 per cent of the time during sessions of the UN General Assembly—a clear demonstration of like-mindedness.

Canada and the EU already work closely together on many global challenges such as membership in NATO, energy and security and stability throughout the world. This co-operation encompasses a broad spectrum from research into alternative energy sources to providing police training in Afghanistan.

In other words Canada and the EU are a good “fit.”

In some respects, the Canada-EU trade agreement envisions even deeper economic integration than we have with the United States and Mexico through NAFTA. The new deal would allow for Canadian and European workers to work in each other’s regions and allow for EU and Canadian companies to bid on government procurements on both sides of the Atlantic.

There will no doubt be some concessions for us to make as, presumably, we would have some sort of “associate” status whereby we would be joining the EU as a North American moon to their European sun.

This is the sort of “big issue” we only seem to tackle when a Tory government is in power in Ottawa. Liberals just never get around to grand gestures except on the social policy side of things. Think free-trade with the United States, GST as a replacement of the terrible old Federal Sales (Manufacturing) Tax, rebuilding our military—these have all been Tory initiatives.

As I have stated before: Canada as a conduit between the world’s two greatest free-trade unions provides a seductive image.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Alberta pushes back

I t was inevitable I suppose: last week I read that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is signaling a confrontation with the federal government over equalization. New Alberta finance minister, Ted Morton, said equalization has outlived its original purpose of helping all provinces provide roughly the same level of services to citizens.

Stelmach said to reporters in Calgary:

“Especially after the discussion at Copenhagen, where much of the criticism was placed on this province, and yet our contribution—this last economic downturn, the worst year since the 1930s—was well over $21 billion and that cannot continue and we have to have that discussion in Canada.”

Readers may remember that, in December, Ontario and Quebec sent delegations to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Conference, where they blamed oil sands development for Canada’s emissions problem, and announced they weren’t going to share the burden with Alberta.

Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen said:

“I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that with the tar sand oils that are being developed in Alberta and Saskatchewan that—of discussions that I’ve seen and been a part of—they want to continue to develop those.

“Obviously if they are developed there might have to be larger greenhouse gas emissions [reductions] elsewhere in the country in order to meet our overall targets. And we want fairness.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty and his environment minister want fairness. It’s inevitable therefore that Alberta’s Ed Stelmach would question haw fair it is that Quebec and Ontario receive annual federal welfare payments totaling billions of dollars, which are financed in large part by revenues generated by the dreaded “tar sands” as they refer to Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s oil sands.

Premiers Charest and McGuinty are masters of double-talk. Is there is no hypocrisy so foul in which they wouldn’t wallow? Basic fairness would suggest that Ontario and Quebec finance their own provincial programs without handouts financed by Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Or does fairness only flow one way?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tories 2 Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand 0

The Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has been ordered to allow the campaigns of two Tory candidates to claim $1.2-million in expenses for their share of pooled radio and television ads that ran during the 2006 election campaign, putting an end, we hope, to another bit of Liberal mischief-making.

This so-called “in-and-out” case is an important win for the Conservative Party of Canada and was a test case. The two campaigns involved were part of purchases made by 67 Conservative candidates and coordinated by the CPC’s national campaign. Elections Canada charged that the Conservatives had skirted the CPC’s $18.3-million spending limit by running the purchase of the ads through its candidates’ campaigns.

Had Justice Luc Martineau upheld Mayrand’s decision not to allow the expense claims, the Conservative national campaign would have been forced to include the ad purchase as part of their campaign cost, pushing them over the legal expense limit.

Elections Canada says it will review the decision before deciding whether to appeal. Of course it will. After all, legal costs will be covered with taxpayer money, and there are loads of that to cover Elections Canada’s vendetta against the Conservative Party of Canada.

Elections Canada does not seem to be nearly as tough minded when it comes to the issue of Liberal leadership candidates not repaying their 2006 campaign loans. As written about earlier, six top Liberals missed the deadline for repaying their leadership campaign loans. This after MPs Stéphane Dion, Gerard Kennedy, Martha Hall-Findlay, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Joe Volpe and Hedy Fry were all given 18-month extensions that expired this past New Year’s Eve. This disgraceful show of contempt for the Canadian electoral process has not yet been addressed by their buddies at Election Canada.

I can hardly wait to see how Elections Canada will help their Liberal friends weasel out of this one?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Past lessons learned and applied to Haiti relief

The past five years seem to have given Canada time to learn important lessons about responding to international disasters. Contrast the performance of Canada in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake with its response five years ago to the south-east Asia tsunami, and one can see a vast improvement.

According to a CBC News report in 2005, John Watson, president and chief executive of CARE Canada, one of our country’s biggest relief organizations, assessed Canada’s response to the tsunami disaster as “amateur”.

There is no question that national response has been, in both cases, generous and beyond reproach. However, the reaction of the current government seems to have been more decisive, organized and coordinated. We now seem to know more precisely when, how and where to deploy our extraordinary Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). During the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, there seemed to be much debate over when and how that team would be used—and how to get it to its destination.

Of course, one major development has occurred that has dramatically improved our ability to respond to humanitarian crises inside and outside of our borders: the rebuilding of our military capability. This is something significant that has happened since the Harper Conservatives took office in 2006. For example, we no longer have to rent heavy lift aircraft to move our assets from place to place—we now have that capacity “in house,” so to speak.

Canadians, it seems to me, take great satisfaction from the knowledge that in international crises Canada often hits above its weight. After seeing our country in action over the past several days, we have much of which to be proud.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

We need be careful we do not kill Haiti with love

One of the many ways chosen by our government to ease the pain of the Haitian people is the fast-tracking of immigration from that nation. The government intends to give priority to applications by Canadian citizens seeking to sponsor close family members from Haiti. And Haitians temporarily in Canada will be allowed to extend their stay.

It is hard to blame our government for any of this, of course, as I’m convinced its motives are pure. Surely no one would want to deny quick relief to those relatively few Haitians who will qualify for these temporary measures. Yet I can’t deny the unease I feel for the long-term recovery of that Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s problems go back decades before this most recent catastrophe. Some might say that Haiti has not had a stable, fully functioning society with anything close to social justice since the late 1400s when the Tainos ruled the island of Hispaniola that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic.

Spanish rule was pretty well a disaster for the indigenous Taino population. And, although it is true that during French colonization Haiti was one of the richest countries of the Americas, that society was built on a slave economy with all the brutal reality that suggests. From 1791 to independence in 1804, revolutionary battles took the lives of tens of thousands of Haitians. Historians have estimated the slave rebellion resulted in the death of 100,000 blacks and 24,000 of the 40,000 white colonists. And, in its attempt to retake the colony, France lost more than 50,000 soldiers.

In its 200-year post-independence history, Haiti has suffered 32 coups; the instability of government and society has little equal in the Americas. For the period 1915 to 1934, Haiti lost its independence and was “administered” by the United States.

In 1937, after the U.S. had withdrawn, between 10,000 and 20,000 Haitians living on the border with Dominican Republic were murdered by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. And its been downhill from there.

So what kind of Haiti will there be once the international community has restored some measure of stability there? Will Haiti be much the same as it was in pre-2010 times? It would be a great shame if that happened, but what’s the alternative? After decades of brain-drain to Canada, the United States and elsewhere, can Haiti now sustain itself. And, if it cannot sustain itself, how long will it be before it can?

Every well-educated and talented Haitian who immigrates to Canada is one less Haitian to participate in the rebuilding of that society. Teachers, technicians, trained medical workers, farmers, civil servants and entrepreneurs will all be vital to the reconstruction. And where will they be found?

We need be very careful we do not kill Haiti with our love.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

McGuinty’s way: Justice delayed, accountability avoided

Dalton McGuinty—not satisfied with frying the Ontario economy to the point we must now take federal handouts in the form of equalizing payments—has decided to make a mockery of our justice system. A criminal allegation against Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino was put over until February 3, a move designed to avoid acting on the accusations.

The Crown asked the court on Friday for more time. Apparently the Crown needs the extra time to review “new evidence” that relates to allegations that Mr. Fantino attempted to influence municipal officials. Influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials is an offence under the Criminal Code that carries a prison term up to five years.

Mr. McGuinty said:

“I don't think it is reasonable to read much into an adjournment—court proceedings are adjourned on a fairly regular basis.

“I continue to have confidence in the process.”

Perhaps the premier does “have confidence in the process,” but I do not. The Ontario Liberal government has shown time and again that it favours its supporters over the best interest of the province. We’ve seen it in the conduct of Crown corporations and their hiring of “consultants.” They have wasted our tax money to enrich their own.

Now we see the misplaced loyalty Mr. McGuinty seems to have towards the province’s top policeman. Special treatment for the same man who directs a police force that refuses to provide equal treatment under the law to Caledonia residents.

You remember Caledonia, that’s where a couple of residents had to take the province to court to get the simple justice they could not get from the OPP. It is also the place where protesters were prevented by Mr. Fantino’s OPP from flying the Canadian flag.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tories lose a good man

Greg Thompson, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, has resigned as minister of Veterans Affairs and will not run in the next federal election. His departure is timely as it will give his successor in Veterans Affairs plenty of time to get up to speed on the portfolio before a new session begins.

“I’m one of the few members of Parliament who never had to take back a statement, who never had to apologize, and who never insulted individuals or groups in this country. I’ve always played by the rules that I believe elected politicians should play by, and I have been always very respectful of the political process.”

- Greg Thompson, MP

The well-liked MP has represented his constituency since 1988, and is one of only two ministers to hold the same cabinet portfolio for the entire four years of the Stephen Harper Conservative government—Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is the other.

I believe Thompson was the only Progressive Conservative MP from Atlantic Canada to support PM Harper’s bid for leadership of the Conservative Party when it merged with the old Progressive Conservative Party.

Thompson’s resignation will, of course, lead to a cabinet shuffle of sorts and will give the PM an opportunity to “tweak” the composition of the federal cabinet. However, it doesn’t seem to offer any excuse to shuffle beleaguered Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, to some other post.

I am reminded that, but for Peter MacKay, the unite-the-right Conservative coalition may have taken much longer and Stephen Harper’s government probably would not be in office today. MacKay is not one of my favourites and, in my view, he didn’t handle the Afghan detainee file very deftly. Removing him from his current position, however, could lead to a split in the party. In such an eventuality, and with Greg Thompson’s resignation, I doubt the Conservatives would have a safe seat left in Atlantic Canada.

Greg Thompson will, I’m sure, be missed on both sides of the House.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti: pain and suffering that defies description

The Toronto Star’s Web site reported about an hour and a half ago that Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that, according to the latest consular information, four Canadians have died in Haiti, 13 Canadians injured and more than 550 Canadians have been located.

Moreover, a total of 1,415 Canadians are missing in the affected area. Should the worst occur and these 1,400 or anything close to that number turn out to have perished in the earthquake or its aftermath, this will have been the greatest loss of Canadian life in a single event in my memory.

The images of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, are heart-rending and take me back to the sort of devastation we last saw from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It also recalls for me images from my youth when I rode beside my grandfather as we drove through hurricane ravaged areas of Jamaica. I once saw the remains of a large two-story house that had toppled and rolled about 100 yards down a hillside—that’s an image indelible imprinted in my memory.

In terms of loss of human life, this Haitian earthquake could be the largest single natural catastrophe to have occurred in the Americas in the several centuries since Europeans settled here. To think that as many as 50,000 people are feared dead in the quake, with thousands more at risk from thirst, hunger and disease is too overwhelming to take in all at once. I can’t begin to comprehend the level of suffering of those trapped in the rubble.

Haiti has a blood-soaked past. Ancestors of mine were victims of some of its bloodiest revolutions and violent insurrections. Lawlessness and corruption are familiar to that impoverished country. Yet one must wonder how much miserable luck any one nation should have to endure. In all the Americas, is there a country less able to cope with such catastrophe? One could not blame the people of Haiti if they believe that God has abandoned them.

Ogden Nash said, “There is not a shred of evidence that life is serious.” Perhaps he was right and this is one big cosmic joke.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sarah Palin: compelling television

Sarah Palin chatting to Glen Beck

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Secretary General of NATO assures Canadians detainees not tortured

The Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told Canwest News Service yesterday that Canadians should not be concerned about the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces.

Sounds pretty clear to me. As most right-thinking Canadians have believed all along, our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan have not been committing war crime as charged by elected members of the Liberal Party of Canada—most recently by Grit MP John McCallum.

Do we believe John McCallum, who lied to the Windsor Star “without thinking” that he owned a Chevrolet, or the Secretary General of NATO? I choose the latter.

When asked if Canadians should be concerned about a risk of torture of detainees who are transferred to Afghan authorities, this is what the Secretary General is reported to have told Canwest:

“Obviously it is a very important topic. But I don’t think Canadians in general should be concerned about it because there are very clear rules regarding the handover of detainees.

“… I’m also aware of the fact that the Canadian government has agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the Afghan government, according to which there are established monitoring mechanisms. So I think all in all we have the right legal and practical framework for that.”

The Liberals will, of course, brush this aside and continue with their slander of our Canadian government and armed services.

Perhaps the Grits should spend some time thinking up a way to spin disclosures being made elsewhere. According to The Torch blog:

“Canadian diplomats stationed in Kabul warned the former Liberal government in 2003, 2004 and 2005 that torture was commonplace in Afghan prisons. In spite of these warnings, the Martin government signed an agreement with the Karzai government in December 2005 to hand over all Canadian-captured prisoners to Afghan authorities, Foreign Affairs documents obtained by La Presse reveal.”

I doubt a public inquiry into the detainees matter would serve the reputations of John McCallum and other senior Grits very well, so perhaps they should be careful what they wish for.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Hall Findlay’s phony complaint about Tory ad campaign dropped

When I think about the many phonies that make up the federal Liberal caucus, Martha Hall Findlay is one MP that quickly comes to mind. After being resoundingly rejected by more than 97 per cent of delegates at the 2006 Montreal Liberal leadership convention, Hall Findlay spurned Michael Ignatieff and moved her support to Stéphane Dion. Stéphane Dion later appointed her as the party’s platform outreach chair for the upcoming electoral platform. So I guess we can thank her for the Green Shift plank of the LPC’s platform.

Hall Findlay wastes no opportunity to tell us how wonderful the professor is. She was among the more than 70 per cent of delegates who rejected his leadership bid on the first ballot in 2006, but now she tells us we should support him for prime minister. Go figure.

She backed two losers in 2006—herself and Dion—and today I read that her judgment has apparently not improved.

According to the National Post, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson concluded in a “discontinuance report” that federal conflict-of-interest legislation did not apply in the context of a complaint made by Hall Findlay. The Liberal MP for Willowdale had complained to Ms. Dawson that a $60-million advertising campaign to tell Canadians about its economic action plan bore a too-similar design to advertising campaigns mounted over the past few years by the Conservative Party. Yes, that nonsense.

You’d think that would be the end of her mischievous complaint, but no such luck. In a typical show of her lack of respect for parliament and its institutions, Hall Finlay brushes aside Ms. Dawson’s report with this profound retort:

“This decision flies in the face of the very purpose of the Conflict of Interest Act.”

Quick translation: the commissioner doesn’t support my petty little political stunt, so I’ll claim victory and move on to my next gotya moment when I can waste more of government time with phony complaints and charges.

I can’t wait for Hall Findlay’s next stunt.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Religious crank, Pat Robertson, blames earthquake in Haiti on pact with devil

The Christian God, apparently, does move in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. Yesterday, I heard of one of these mysterious ways from former candidate for the Republican Party’s nominee in the 1988 presidential election, Pat Robertson.

Flipping through stations looking for news about the earthquake in Haiti, I heard a most ridiculous explanation as to why the earthquake struck the impoverished nation, and this from a U.S.-based Christian leader.

“They [people of Haiti] were under the heel of the French...and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.’

“True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it's a deal.’ They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”

What a loathsome creature Robertson is!

If you have the stomach for it, you can listen to the nut spew his garbage in the following video.

Robertson’s media and financial resources make him a recognized and influential voice for conservative Christianity in the United States. His message, regardless of how bizarre it may be, is heard and believed by millions throughout that country. If there is a hell, I hope there’s still room there for him.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prorogation: a Conservative sin, a Liberal virtue

It is inevitable that prorogation of parliament—especially since it comes about a year after an earlier one—will hurt the Conservatives’ standing in nationwide polls. Regardless of the motive prompting the act, the Liberals and NDP will condemn it, and there are far more Liberals and NDP supporters writing for the mainstream media than there are Conservatives.

Add the left of centre bias regularly seen on the two major TV networks, and we have a formidable propaganda machine castigating the prime minister for exercising his lawful prerogative.

Search as I have through the media bru ha ha stirred up by the Liberals, however, I have not seen or heard serious suggestions that the convention surrounding prorogation be changed in a meaningful way. Consequently, any future Liberal government will be able to continue to use the practice, as is, just as their predecessors have on dozens of occasions.

How serious then should anyone take the outrage we hear from the opposition? In my view, not very. The Liberals need to keep the spotlight on the Conservatives lest Canadians take too hard a look at what the Liberals actually offer as an alternative. That’s what the fuss is all about.

The sad fact is that the Liberal Party of Canada is lacking in one vital ingredient to make it a viable alternative to the Conservative government: a credible candidate for prime minister.

In December 2006 at Montreal, Liberal Party delegates were convinced by prominent leaders within that party to support their contention that Michael Ignatieff, as an outsider who until very recently had not even lived in Canada, did not have the moral authority to demand the trust and loyalty of his party. As a result 70 per cent of them chose someone else on the first ballot. And not a single one of the six other leadership contenders supported Ignatieff when they were eliminated from the ballot or dropped out of the race.

Five of the six losing contenders are now senior members of the Liberals in opposition. They each turned down every opportunity they had to support Ignatieff’s bid. But now they tell us what a wonderful prime minister he would be—how two-faced can one be?

Less than two years later, however, the Grits allowed themselves to be buffaloed into appointing the untested former professor without even a vote by delegates never mind a one-member-one-vote leadership race.

Now the Grits want to foist him on Canadians? God help us.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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