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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Save our Olympic sports funding, call it arts and culture

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics has been a wild ride for fans across the globe and especially here in Canada. I cannot think of any previous multi-day event that has so completely captured the attention of Canadians. Nor can I think of any event that has united Canadians to the degree these games have, at least, not since the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series.

It seems rather odd that our governments spend billions of dollars on arts and culture in Canada, yet Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn, on behalf of the Conservative government, says the federal Tories will only continue to fund the Own the Podium program after the 2010 at the current level of $11-million per year, and will not take on responsibility for other funding which is sure to be lost after these games.

According to Statics Canada, in 2006-07, governments across this land spend some  $8.2-billion on culture, excluding transfers between different levels of government. Of this total, the federal government’s share was $3.7-billion.

The $3.7-billion in federal spending was dominated by the broadcasting sector ($1.8-billion) and heritage organizations, including museums, art galleries, public archives, nature parks and historic sites ($959-million).

Federal government spending on the arts (defined as performing arts, visual arts and crafts, and arts education) was $268-million.

Later today about 10 million viewers in Canada are expected to watch the Canada-US gold medal hockey game—according to CTV, Canada’s semifinal victory over Slovakia was watched by 9.7 million viewers.

According to the Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections presented last September by Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, Canada’s federal revenues for 2010-11 are projected to be  233.1-billion. Folks, that’s 233,100 million dollars. Can we not find 100th of one per cent ($23-million) of that to help ensure we get a boost to our national pride every four years?

The $23-million suggested above doesn’t have to come from new spending, it can come from amounts already allocated to spending on culture. That about 6 tenths of a per cent of the $3.7-billion spent by the federal government in 2006-7 on culture.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Jean Charest as Stephen Harper’s successor? I think not

What a silly joke it is to see Susan Riley of the Ottawa Citizen listing Quebec Premier Jean Charest as one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s potential successors. She sees00-QUEBEC_ the Liberal premier as being “associated with moderate conservatism,” whatever that means.

True, Mr. Charest was once the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, but he quit in 1998 to become leader of the Quebec Liberal Party. And, since 2006 he has often been like a thorn in the shoe of the Conservative government.

He may even have played a significant role in preventing the Conservatives from gaining a majority in the October 2008 federal election. His sharp rebuke of the Conservative government’s cuts in arts funding and its plan to stiffen youth prison sentences did much to kill the Conservatives’ chances of making major headway in Quebec—a key to being able to form a majority government.

Charest might once have been able to claim he was a right-wing federalist, but he has become very much a centre-left politician who looks a lot more like former Quebec premier, Robert Bourassa, and a lot less like Stephen Harper’s potential successor.

A return to federal politics by Mr. Charest seems unlikely, at least, not as leader of the Tories. The old Progressive Conservative Party is a thing of the past, as are many of those PCs who believed one could talk like a conservative but act like a liberal—John Tory was the most recent conservative leader to get that message loud and clear. And the Wildrose Alliance in Alberta seems to be sending a similar message to Premier Ed Stelmach.

Jean Charest does not act like a conservative, he doesn’t even talk like one, both of which are necessary characteristics if one has aspirations to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Conservatives edge ahead with lead in EKOS poll

The Feb. 25 EKOS poll has prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives (33.4%) with a three percentage point lead over the Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals (30.3%), putting the Tories firmly in minority-government territory (if an election were held) after a spell of several weeks being statistically tied with, and at times slightly behind, the Grits.

“The Liberals rode the dissatisfaction with the government over Afghan detainees, Copenhagen and prorogation back into contention after what was for them a disastrous early fall. However, they have not had been able to find the leadership or the message to build on that momentum.

– EKOS President,
Frank Graves

Some blamed the drop in the polls the Tories experienced on prorogation of parliament. Now they claim the positive feeling about the Olympics is the cause of the moderate lead the Conservatives have taken.

I’m not so sure about giving the Olympics much credit for the Conservative come-back, but I do believe the issues of Afghan detainees, Copenhagen and prorogation helped their downward slide, greased as it was by the pro-Liberal, anti-Conservative hammering the CPC took from the mainstream media, especially on CTV and CBC political news shows.

Here’s the rest of the vote-intention story as provided by EKOS:

  • 33.4% CPC
  • 30.3% LPC
  • 15.8% NDP
  • 10.4% Green
  • 8.2% BQ
  • 1.9% other

What this poll shows me is the reluctance Canadians continue to have in embracing Michael Ignatieff as an alternative to Stephen Harper. Native son or visitor? Teacher or doer? If he were not leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, would he even be living in this country? Those are the questions many Canadians face whenever Ignatieff and Liberals approach governing-party territory in the polls. And Mr. Ignatieff’s recent insistence that our aid to African countries be somehow tied to the promotion of abortion practices has raised even more warning signals.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maxime Bernier takes on climate-change “alarmism”

It is refreshing to see a politician from a mainstream Canadian party make public his concern, as reported by the Globe and Mail, “that if climate scientists can’t even agree on what will happen over the next decade, how could anyone trust their predictions about what will happen a century from now.”

“The debate over climate change, stifled for years by political correctness, has finally broken out in the media.”

– Maxime Bernier

In a French-language letter to La Presse, the Montreal newspaper, former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier has questioned the conventional wisdom on global warming, pointing to the lack of scientific consensus on the matter.

Mr. Bernier writes:

“The numerous recent revelations on errors by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have supplemented the alternative theories put forward for many years. …

“We can now see that it’s possible to be a ‘skeptic,’ or in any case to keep an open mind, on just about all the main aspects of warming theory.”

These public pronouncements will go some way in gathering support for the Conservative government’s practice of taking a wait-and-see approach even while most of the world demands we (in Mr. Bernier words) “spend billions of dollars and impose exaggeratedly severe regulations to solve a problem whose gravity we’re still far from discerning.”

In a separate interview with La Presse, Mr. Bernier insisted that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office saw his letter before it was sent.

But, as might be expected, Bloc Québécois MP Pierre Paquette said all signs point to a Harper government that is “ideological, conservative, and retrograde.” Mr. Paquette needs reminding that simple name-calling is a poor substitute for argument or reason-based criticism.

I agree with Mr. Bernier and applaud his courage to publicly buck the tide of public sentiment on the global warming issue. I believe there is good reason to maintain a healthy skepticism and open mind on the issue of global warming and the degree to which it may be influenced by our lifestyle.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The last conservative hope for Canada?

I was saddened to read in this morning’s National Post, John Ivison’s column about the fading away of Preston Manning’s Reform Party. Ivison reminds us that only ten MPs remain of the 52 elected in 1993. That was the fateful election that sounded the death knell of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which won a shocking two seats in that election.

Of the ten MPs that remain, one—Keith Martin—now sits as a Grit and others, apparently, plan to sit out the next general election. Thus we are witnessing the passing of an interesting time in Canadian politics.

I campaigned and voted for Burlington’s PC candidate in that and the 1997 election—as I always did in those days. He lost both times due to the divided right. I would later switch to the Reform Party after the rump of the PC party (fifth party in the House with 20 MPs) lost its leader and turned once again to Joe Clark, who led Tories to another humiliating defeat in 2000, managing to hang on to only 12 seats, a loss of eight seats and the bare minimum necessary for official party status in the House of Commons. Jean Charest, at least, had led the party to a modest recovery in the 1997 election. The PC party was no longer a national force as virtually all of its sitting members came from east of Quebec.

I never saw Joe Clark as a Leader of anything. He could toss the BS with the best, but lacked the stuff of which statesmen are made. At least, that’s the way I saw it. The day I heard he was running a second time for the party’s leadership and was considered likely to win, I resigned my membership. I never actually joined the Reformers, but voted for their local candidate until the formation of the CPC.

Reform was a bit of a dream really, with little chance of ever governing Canada. I did like its grass roots emphasis though and had hoped more of its conservatism would survive in any party that successfully united the right.

I was wrong, of course, but under Stephen Harper’s leadership we were, at least, able to unseat the entrenched Liberals. And that was a good thing.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gotta walk the walk

The Canadian sports authorities who coined the slogan “Own the Podium” are discovering that’s its easier for them to talk the talk than it is for our elite athletes to walk the walk, jump, ski, skate, or slide. The Americans have the right idea: why bother to own the podium when you can just rent it 20, 30 or perhaps 40 times as needed.

We are just past the halfway mark at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the unfortunate “Own the Podium” slogan has proven to be a massive flop. The United States has almost three times the number of medals our athletes have collected. And Korea has now edged ahead of us with outstanding performances by their speed skaters. Even tiny Norway with only a sixth of our population leads us in both gold and total medal tallies.

When a nation of less than 5-million from which draw its elite athletes is ahead of a nation of 33.5-million, it’s probably time to reassess our approach to international sports. Either this country cares about excelling in sport competitions against the best in the world or it does not. And if it does not, then it should quit applying to host events such as the Olympics. And they certainly should choose less grandiose slogans for their development programs than “Own the Podium.”

Leading up to the Vancouver Olympics, many Canadians, including this writer, assumed the slogan heralded a welcome change to Canada’s traditional attitude towards international competitions. That is, that we were striving for excellent, world-topping performances rather than just being there. And the Own the Podium slogan would have sounded great had our authorities been able to field a team that was capable of backing it up. Instead the slogan acts as just one more bruise to our national pride.

Notice that I’ve criticized the slogan, not the program it represents. Strong programs to develop elite athletes should be an integral part of every modern nation’s foreign policy. Success in one area of international endeavor inevitably leads to success elsewhere—success breeds success. And there are many worse ways to spend taxpayers’ money.

Don’t misunderstand my reason for feeling disappointed or my level of disappointment. I’m actually enjoying the Games very much, I always do. But just once I’d like to see our country go all out to achieve its goals. Leave the big-promises-with-underwhelming-support to Grits and go for the gold.

Here are some figures from an article in last November’s National Post:

“Not only does [former Olympic athlete, Roger] Jackson say that OTP [Own the Podium] requires an annual $22-million in replacement funding to bring the winter sports budget up to $33-million (summer sports get $34-million), he and [former Olympic athlete, Alex]Baumann are asking for another $60-million per year, to be divided among four regional summer and winter sports institutes which are to be established in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver now that Toronto has won the right to stage the 2015 Pan-American Games.”

And so far our federal government is balking at any increase to its relatively paltry contribution. This is disappointing, to say the least, when the three major English-speaking nations with cultures similar to ours out-spend us. Australia spends about double what we have spent recently, and their winter sports program is modest so most of that money goes to summer sports programs. The United Kingdom is spending some $300-million a year to prepare their team for the 2012 Summer Olympics. That’s more than Canada’s federal government spends on all sports initiatives.

And, apparently, the United States spends more than this. It’s difficult to calculate since their funding is less centralized with little or no funding directly from Washington.

Could Australia, the UK and the United States have it wrong? Perhaps funding international sports at the highest levels should not be a government priority. Let’s put our effort behind public funding of crappy television shows and movies— more votes to be got there, eh?

Canada is a rich country that takes great pride in hitting above its weight in international affairs, for goodness sake. We squandered $1-billion on a gun registry that we’ve since decided to scrap, surely we can afford a first rate international sports programs. We have the talent pool, let’s develop it.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Jack Layton wants more tax and spend

The country is swimming in debt and troubling jobless numbers, but the leader of the New Democrats, Jack Layton, wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to cancel planned corporate tax cuts and use the savings to spend more to alleviate poverty. How typically socialist.

layton081204 Former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal government introduced scheduled corporate tax cuts back in the 2005, and the Harper government adopted and extended the cuts in 2006. For fiscal year 2010/11, the corporate income tax rate is to drop from 18 per cent to 16.5 per cent and then to 15 per cent by 2012.

Jack Layton, however, would like the prime minister to cancel this long-planned tax reduction geared to make Canada more business-friendly and to stimulate job creation. And he suggests we not use that money to reduce the deficit and, by extension, the national debt, but spend it on aboriginals and seniors. Great idea. How could the PM have failed to see such an attractive opportunity? Perhaps he was too busy piloting the country through the troubled waters of the most serious economic and financial crisis of the past half-century.

“The banks and oil companies don’t need the help. They’re not contributing to more innovation in our economy … or employment in our economy,” Mr. Layton said. An economist Mr. Layton is not.

Mr. Layton said seniors could be helped out with “a modest investment.” No doubt they could, but how can helping seniors with taxpayer money be called “an investment”?

It’s so common for left-wing politicians to use positive-sounding pseudonyms to hide unattractive proposals. Thus we have “gays” instead of homosexuals, “climate change” replaces global warming when the planet ceases to heat up and “pro-choice” is used instead of pro-abortion. Now government spending is referred to as “investments.”

Additional financial support for seniors may be an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money, but it certainly is not an investment.

As for more spending (AKA investment) on aboriginals? Good grief, the Government of Canada already spends over $10-billion each year in Aboriginal priorities. And one way or another, our provincial governments spend millions more on aboriginals, not to mention the millions in taxes they don’t have to pay. And how much tax do they contribute? Those “investments” aren’t giving much of a return, are they? At least seniors pay taxes at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, including sales taxes and income taxes.

Someone needs to explain to Jack Layton that “investment” means the use money in the hope of making more money. And that our priorities should be jobs, jobs, jobs and reduce the deficit. His priorities are tax, tax, tax and spend, spend, spend.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Bill Carroll leaves Newstalk 1010 (CFRB)

Newstalk 1010 (CFRB) is making more changes to its daytime on-air lineup. Bill Carroll, Newstalks’ 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. weekdays host, leaves the station today—or sort of. Carroll is leaving to become host of The Bill Carroll Show on KFI radio at Los Angeles, beginning February 22nd. He’s been with CFRB/Newstalk 1010 for about 12 years.

Carroll will continue to be heard on Newstalk 1010’s afternoon show The Live Drive hosted by former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, John Tory. We’ll have to wait to see how that works out.

Back in October, Bill Carroll was moved out of the “morning man” spot—the top position for a radio host—in favour of John Moore, who was moved from the drive-home time slot. Carroll had held the morning slot since January 2007.

CFRB was the number one station in the Toronto market for decades, but it has declined in recent years. The station is now a far cry from its glory days with morning man Wally Crouter and popular shows like Calling All Britons with the late Ray Sonin. The latest ratings have CFRB down in 10th place, with their flagship morning show trailing far behind CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning with Andy Barrie, a former CFRB host and commentator.

It is a shame really to see just how far this once dominant station has slipped. CFRB is but a shadow of its former self. After several decades as a fixture on my radio pre-sets, I doubt I’ll be tuning in much in the future.

UPDATE: Newstalk 1010 announced today that Bill Carroll’s replacement is Jerry Agar, a Canadian who is a talk radio host in the United States. Agar has been a success in U.S. markets, including Kansas City, New York and more recently in Chicago. He’ll continue to do his weekend show on Chicago’s WGN Radio.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

How soon the Brits forget

Over the course of the Second World War, 1.1-million Canadians served in our armed forces. Of these, more than 45,000 lost their lives and another 54,000 were wounded—this out of a total population of just over 11-million. And why were we there? To support the United Kingdom, that’s why.

During the war, Canada was active in defending the shipping lanes in the North Atlantic and the Canadian Merchant Navy completed over 25,000 voyages across the Atlantic. And who benefited from this valiant effort? Almost exclusively the Brits, that’s who.

And yet, when one reads most of the military history written by Englishmen or watches their war movies or television documentaries one would think Canada was a minor cog in mighty Britain’s war machine. The truth is that without Canada, the most likely scenario is that the English would now be celebrating Oktoberfest as their national holiday and binging on German beer on weekends.

But the hubris of the English is unsurpassed, even though it lacks any recent national achievement as a basis for it.

That binge-drinking capital of football hooliganism’s muck raking press has had little that is good to say about one of our proudest moments in recent history, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Well before the Games even opened, Britain’s Guardian newspaper was busy slagging what it dubbed the “gloomy Games” under the headline: “Vancouver’s Olympics head for disaster.”

A headline in the UK’s Daily Mail said of the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed in a crash during a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre, that “Canada’s lust for glory is to blame for this senseless tragedy.” Yellow journalism at its nasty best.

Simon Barnes of the British Times, wrote recently: “Their highly unpleasant Own the Podium program … has alienated the world they are supposed to play host to.” Well, this is will probably come as a surprise to Mr. Barnes, but England is not the world. And we’ll see in 2012, won’t we, the sort of hosts the English are when they host the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Based on how English fans carry on at international football matches, I won’t be expecting too much in that department. Weren’t they banned from attending matches in Europe?

One article in the UK’s Telegraph states patronizingly that: “Canada has been trying so hard to please, it hurts.” If it hurts so much, don’t stay on our account. But don’t bother to call the next time someone starts dropping bombs on London.

The British press is not alone in criticizing our Games, of course, but it above the rest seems most rancid in its criticism.

When I visited Britain at the turn of this century and again in 2005, I faced several pathetic attempts at humour when several Englishmen asked about “the colonies” when referring to Canada. What a bitchy dross they are of a once-proud empire.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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When in Rome …

Go figure. In a country in which two-thirds of the residents consider English the primary language, and in front of an audience, most of whom understand English better than French, Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics opening ceremonies favoured English over French. Big deal, eh?

Yet some have to complain. It is in the nature of Canada’s English-French sensibilities that each side complains when the other does not hit the balance in the use of our two official languages just right.

I can see no reason that Vancouver should have complicated further what already had a major emphasis on our country’s multicultural character by introducing more, flow-disrupting, non-English in the ceremonies.

As far as I’m concerned, when held in Quebec ceremonies such as those on last Friday night are quite acceptable if they are predominantly in French—in fact, as might be expected, that is usually the case. When held in New Brunswick and, perhaps, parts of Manitoba 50-50 may be more appropriate. And in most of the rest of Canada, including Vancouver, I find it quite appropriate for English to dominate, especially when the audience is expected to be an international one.

If this offends Francophones and those with national unity sensibilities, tough on them: grow up and get over it.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Is anthropogenic global warming nothing short of a shoddy hoax?

As hell freezes over, here on earth we have more evidence emerging that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) may be nothing short of a shoddy hoax perpetrated by a coalition of scientists in search of funding, ex-politicians and wannabe celebrities in search of personal fame and fortune and left-wing globalists in search of a cause on which to hang a massive shift in wealth from richer to poorer nations.

I read at the United Kingdom’s The Daily Telegraph’s Web site that Professor Phil Jones, from the Climate Research Unit at University of East Anglia, has made several troubling admissions.

Readers may remember that Professor Jones stepped down in December as director of the University of East Anglia’s climate change unit after hacked e-mails appeared to show manipulation of the research data that was used to support claims that global warming is manmade. The public release of the e-mails set off a storm of controversy some in the news media dubbed as “climategate.”

Apparently, the professor has now admitted he may have lost track of some of the data used to produce the famous “hockey stick” graph, which uses climate readings from worldwide weather stations to show a sharp rise in global temperatures. Moreover, Professor Jones has conceded that there has been no “statistically significant” global warming since 1995. The trend, he said, is positive, but not significantly so.

So taken in have some Canadian leaders been by the distortions and outright lies by the proponents of AGW that we witnessed representatives of the Ontario and Quebec Liberal governments, David Miller, mayor of Toronto and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May traveling thousands of miles to Copenhagen to slag off Canada in front of international audiences.

The time is coming—sooner than they may think—when they may have to eat their words.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games opens in grand style but on a sad note

The death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21-year-old Georgian luger who crashed during a training run earlier in the day, introduced a somber note to the opening ceremonies at Vancouver, but the ceremonies went off with only a minor glitch when one of the hydraulic props supporting the indoor caldron malfunctioned.

So much talent on display, so much national pride, so many heroes on parade. Famous Canadians from so many walks of life participated, reminding us of how blessed we are as a nation. And we learned finally who was going to light the outdoor flame: it was Wayne Gretzky after all.

Opening ceremonies, for me, are all about hope. At the moment each athlete enters the stadium, expectations are high for not a single competitor has lost a single event. They are all there to win something: a place on the podium, national recognition, personal achievement, something. And it’s all out there ahead of them. There is no past, only future.

The cultural segment of the ceremony was a bit too long and a bit too low-key at times, but it was undeniably Canadian. China set the bar for opening ceremonies pretty high at their summer games in Beijing, but the folks in Vancouver showed no sign of being intimidated by that spectacular event. They interwove art, culture and history into as fine a Canadian fabric as our iconic Hudson’s Bay blanket. In my more than a half-century in Canada, I’ve never seen as many Canadian icons in one place at one time. It was simply glorious.

And how marvelous it was to watch the special-effects: as a giant bear towered overhead, Orcas spouted their way across the stadium floor; salmon swam up mountain fed streams; giant conifers soared skyward. Yes, well, we are Canadian.

Now we can get down to business.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games

This is a big day for me: the beginning of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and 17 days of international competition in sports I do not usually watch. For most of the next 17 days, I’ll probably be glued to my television set rooting for our athletes.

Until recent years, Canadian athletes seemed to have underperformed as a group at the Olympics, leaving many of their best performances to the various, less prestigious, World Championships. And who can forget that our athletes failed to win a gold medal at our last Winter Olympics, Calgary 1988, when Canadian athletes won two silver and three bronze medals.

In past decades, European athletes dominated the Winter Olympics—not even the United States did particularly well. Canada’s performance, though, has continually improved since 1988, with total medal counts increasing steadily in every subsequent games. From a 5-medal total in Calgary, we won seven in 1992 at Albertville, 13 in 1994 at Lillehammer, 15 in 1998 at Nagano, 17 in 2002 at Salt Lake City and a terrific 24 at Turin in 2006.

Our recent success owes much to the addition to the Winter Olympics of several new sports such as snowboarding, short track speed skating and freestyle skiing. The Europeans do still tend to dominate the traditional winter programs.

In the past several years, Canada has used the Vancouver Olympics as an opportunity to pump millions of dollars into many aspects of winter sports, and the funding is expected to pay off dramatically. Leading up to Vancouver, “Own the Podium” has been our battle cry. Own the Podium is a $117-million business plan that provides Canadian athletes in selected sports with elite coaching and enhanced training with paid travel. This program is the foundation of our most ambitious Olympic goal: First in the total medal count.

Canada was fourth at Salt Lake City in 2002 in both gold and total medals—the U.S., Germany and Norway were ahead of us. Canada slipped to fifth overall in gold medals at Turin in 2006, but our 24 total medals were good for third place overall—only Germany and the U.S. had more medals. USA Today forecasts that Canada will end on top at Vancouver with 34 medals—with Germany placing second with 32 and the U.S. third with 25.

We won’t start expecting too much at these games, for who knows how fate may intervene. Canada’s excellent performances at recent World Cup and World Championships, however, do give us reason to be hopeful.

Play on Canadian athletes, we’ll be rooting for you win, lose or draw.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Apparently having sex on one’s office couch is no longer remarkable, eh Giambrone?

It perhaps tells a lot about our time that the uproar caused by the Toronto Ward 18 councillor Adam Giambrone’s clumsy admission that he had an “inappropriate relationship with a young woman” has made very little of the fact he allegedly had sex on a couch in his City Hall office.

I’ve worked for or been closely involved in several Canadian and international corporations across several industrial sectors over the past 40 years or so, and can say with some authority that in any of those companies sex on one’s office couch would not have been tolerated. Notice that I didn’t say it never happened, for I assume such lapses in judgment likely are not limited to municipal officials. However, the public disclosure of such activity would certainly lead to the participants’ dismissal.

Giambrone is being both condemned and defended for what are being characterized as activities in his private life. Defenders say private-life activities have little or no bearing on officials’ public lives. But surely sex on a couch in one’s City Hall office crosses the boundary—assuming there is a boundary—between one’s private and public lives.

Evidently, Giambrone was unfaithful to his live-in girlfriend—though only they know the details and extent of his promise to her of sexual faithfulness. After all, they are not, as far as I can tell, in any form of marriage. So this could be excused/defended as strictly a private-life issue. However, his public statements and those of his office-couch partner bespeaks a level of deceitfulness not normally desired in any public official.

Then there is a question of competence and ability to perform under pressure—both highly valued traits in senior politicians and managers. His performance on television when he botched his attempt at abandoning his bid to become mayor of Toronto was pathetic in the extreme.

To begin with, he turned up at the podium and faced TV cameras with only one of the two sheets of his prepared statement. Then, unable to ad-lib the contents of the second page, he walked out without actually saying he was quitting the race. Finally, in a naked display cowardliness, he left it to a representative to finish reading the second page of his script.

It is inconceivable to me that such ineptness would not have been apparent in his years as a senior official in Toronto’s municipal government or as a former (2001-2006) president of the federal New Democratic Party. How low can the standards of performance in these organizations be?

Quite aside from his confessed infidelity, his performance since its public disclosure has been awkward and almost childlike. He has not the excuse of youth, inexperience or even lack of education, for he is a university grad and a 32-year-old professional politician.

And yet he could not ad-lib the words, “I’m withdrawing from the race to become mayor,” or something like that. Boggles the mind.

Truly a pathetic performance, which begs the questions: (a) why was he ever charged with chairing the TTC? (b) Is it any wonder that Torontonians are finding out that the TTC is mismanaged and dominated by undisciplined, overpaid unionized employees who are apparently out of control? and (c) When will Giambrone be announcing his resignation as Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Jane Taber’s jaundiced view of Tory’s political fortunes

New EKOS Research seat projections are characterized by Globe and Mail journalist/CTV host, Jane Taber, as poor news for the Conservative party of Canada. Similar views were much in evidence last evening on CTV’s daily political show, Power Play.

Ms. Taber’s entire analysis of the projection centres around the fact the Tories would likely win a reduced minority if a general election were held—114 seats versus the 145 they now have. Much is made of the fact that this is bad news for the governing party. According to last week’s EKOS projection, however, the Liberals would likely have won 122 seats compared to their currently-held 77. So the new projection is a notable turnaround in Tory fortunes.

It is such a shame to see Taber’s view jaundiced by her oft-expressed bias against the Stephen Harper Conservatives. Given the extensive coverage by Taber of the Liberal rise and Tory fall in polls taken since prorogation was announced by Prime Minister Harper, I’d have thought reasoned—never mind objective—analysis of this recent seat projection would zero in on the evidence that suggests the Tory post-prorogation fall in favour has been stemmed, and that anti-prorogation sentiment seems to have run its course.

That is the unmistakable message I get from this seat projection.

The government’s solid performance over the past year coupled with its competent response to the Haiti earthquake seems to have caught the notice of ordinary Canadians. And despite the hammering the Tories have taken in the mainstream media from the likes of Ms. Taber, potential voters are pulling back from the prospect of an Michael Ignatieff-led government.

And thank God for that.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Larceny on a grand scale

Back in mid-December, I wrote about a proper tongue-lashing Western industrial nations received from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, when he addressed the recent Copenhagen climate change conference. Back then I wrote: “He’s concerned about our [Western democracies] ‘double standard.’ I’d be satisfied if this ruthless despot had a single standard that could bear scrutiny by any standard of civilized conduct.”

At the best of times, Zimbabwe’s despot has little of value to add to international debate of any sort, let alone one concerning morality. Further evidence of the man’s cognitive challenges is the recent news that Mugabe’s government has passed a law that forces Zimbabwe’s white-owned companies to hand over majority control (51 per cent) to black businessmen.

This is nothing short of larceny on a national scale. It’s nothing new, of course, for those who have followed the man-made disaster that has befallen Zimbabwe, which was once referred to accurately as Africa’s “breadbasket”.

Since 1980, while in the iron grip of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s once-thriving economy and health system has collapsed. Here’s a quotation from Richard Sollom, MA, MPH, a Senior Researcher at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) as it appeared in the Harvard International Review:

“Zimbabwe has over 90% unemployment as well as the world’s highest inflation—an unfathomable ninety sextillion percent. All public-sector hospitals have been shuttered since November 2008. The nutritional and health status of Zimbabwe’s people has acutely worsened this past year due to epidemics of cholera, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. Zimbabwe now has one of the world’s lowest life expectancies at 36 years. High maternal mortality and severe malnutrition augment the daily death toll.

“Heedless of the concern world leaders have expressed for the people of Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime has derailed international efforts to assist: he has politicized humanitarian aid, detained journalists, tortured human rights activists, and even blocked Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and Graзa Machel from their humanitarian mission.”

To put it kindly, Robert Mugabe’s despotic regime has been an utter failure in every measurable respect. And yet his December speech at Copenhagen was well-attended and greeted with occasional applause even as he lashed out at those who would offer a helping hand. Apparently, the “green” movement does not give two hoots from whence they derive their support—strange bedfellows indeed. They applaud wretched leaders like Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe, yet heap scorn on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Notwithstanding the fact this tyrannical edict has come as no surprise—”whites” already are barred from several sectors, including agriculture, retail and transport, barbers, bakeries and beauty parlours—what does surprise is the continued presence in Zimbabwe of international giants such as Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Rio Tinto.

Despite my commitment to the pursuit of profit, I find it unconscionable that these firms and dozens of others like them would remain in Zimbabwe to enrich its repellent politicians and their backers.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Water vapour and global warming

The debate over man-made global warming seems very much alive notwithstanding pronouncements from prominent global warming watchers that the facts supporting Anthropogenic Climate Change are irrefutable; the debate is over. Climate Change, we are told, will cause massive change to our planet—all negative. And we are rapidly running out of time.

Climate scientists have based their predictions on ancient tree rings and core samples from ice sheets and marine sediment because the human race has only been keeping cohesive written records of climate statistics for less than a couple of hundred years. In addition to obtaining a record of historical and pre-historical temperatures from ice cores, scientists can use the cores to correlate the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere with changes in climate.

Many greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide and others—affect climate. But so too does water vapour. And the water vapour record and its long-term effect on climate change is still being debated.

Scientists seem to agree that if you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, warming will result. But how much warming and how quickly? Increasing water vapor is also know to lead to warmer temperatures, and warmer temperatures cause more water vapor to be absorbed into the air and so on in a spiraling cycle of warming and water absorption increase.

Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that an increase in atmospheric water vapor is responsible for at least a third of the average temperature increase since the early 1990s. The scientist who lead the research,Susan Soloman, says that, while this finding does not undermine man-made global warming theories, it does suggest human emissions are having a much smaller role in climate change than previously thought.

NASA researchers and climate scientists have reviewed the NOAA water vapor research. Researcher Andrew Dessler from Texas A&M University described the effect of water vapor on atmospheric temperature as “enormous.”

So where do we stand. Global warming does seem to be a long-term trend. And some warming may be caused by human activity. Is carbon dioxide the culprit? Partially, yes, but so too are other factors like water vapour. Do we need more information and study before spending hundreds of billions on mitigation and coping strategies? Yes, a lot more.

The debate is alive and well.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Video: Interesting perspectives on the Tea Party Movement

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Standing up for Canada

I wonder how long it will take for the Liberal Party of Canada or its leader, Michael Ignatieff, to stand up for Canada and respond to the slanderous allegations by Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Roy Chaderton Matos, that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are guilty of torture and assassinations.

I doubt we’ll hear any defence of Canada from Jack Layton or the New Democrats as Hugo Chavez and his government are darlings of the Canadian left. And socialists tend to owe their loyalties more to international movements than to their own nation. We saw this clearly demonstrated a few weeks ago at Copenhagen. Hugo Chavez is one of the more vocal leaders of international socialism so he’ll get no more that a tepid rebuke—if that—from the Dippers.

The Canadian left are so enthralled by leaders like the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez. Whatever these men say or do is excused. No matter how repressive their regimes are, we are told how much better off their people are than they were before.

Chavez and the Castros are socialists after all and must, by definition, rule over countries that but for the wicked Americans would be paradises. No great stampede from international socialists to immigrate to these enlightened nations though.

Pity.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tea Party Convention

The Tea Party movement in the United States is probably the most significant new North American conservative movement in decades, and although I question its long-term significance, it does seem to be off to a fast start.

In about a year of existence, the movement already has two notches on its belt to mark its relevance on the national stage: the highly successful September 12 demonstration in Washington and Scott Brown’s upset Senate win in Massachusetts. These, many believe, will be followed soon by another major coup: the defeating of President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan.

I, however, remain a skeptic. Sure, as a political movement, Tea Partiers have found a seam of discontent in American society and are mining it effectively. They seem to be for smaller government and by extension lower taxes, stronger state’s rights, individual liberty, national security and better management of state affairs, especially management of tax dollars. But what conservative is not? That’s the motherhood and apple pie of conservatism.

What I want to hear is how those fundamentals will translate into government policies. Scorning bipartisanship as “Koombaya politics” isn’t good enough for me. Protectionism also does not resonate—I’m a supporter of free trade. And, although I’m appalled by the more egregious elements of current immigration policies and practices, I’d like to hear less xenophobia in their denouncements and more practical solutions that demonstrate an understanding of how important immigration is and always has been to America.

I may not believe Barack Obama has all the answers, but neither do not I see him as the devil incarnate. In fact, I don’t even see him as a socialist. There is a world of distance between his moderately left-of-centre tendencies and those practiced in truly socialist countries such as we’ve seen in Europe or in the pre-Thatcher United Kingdom.

We’ll have to wait until a leader emerges who can more clearly and definitively articulate what America will look like if Tea Partiers get their way. Meanwhile, their increasing political influence will act to counterbalance the unhealthy tilt to the left.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Dirty tricks or simply Liberal and NDP politics as usual?

Not surprisingly, the New Democratic Party with help from their coalition friends, the Liberals, was apparently a major force—perhaps the force—behind the recent anti-prorogation rallies so prominently reported in the mainstream media. Browse through Rally Facts and one soon understands that the rallies were simply anti-Harper political rallies and prorogation per se had little to do with the motivation of the attendees.

Organizing political rallies is a common thing in Canada and none of us should be surprised when we hear that one or two of the mainstream parties were involved. That’s the sort of thing political parties do, especially the New Democrats.

And we should fully expect that many individuals who attend such rallies will be card-carrying members of a political party. No surprise there.

In an open and democratic society, however, one expects that those organizing political rallies will take ownership for the parts they play. When one knows who’s behind a rally, one is better able to assess motivations and biases. To encourage—perhaps direct— individual members, especially prominent ones, of political parties to organize the events as though they were officially non-partisan, is deceitful and corrodes democracy.

This brings to mind the loud protest in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Commons, which resulted in several arrests and the brief shutdown of question period last fall. Around 200 protesters chanted slogans to support Bill C-311, an NDP private member’s bill on climate change.

The demonstrators were reportedly the invited guests of one or more of the NDP’s caucus members. But before that fact was generally known, NDP caucus members denied any involvement in the demonstration itself. Perhaps the Dippers were adhering to the letter of the law, but certainly not its spirit.

And so democracy in Canada is denied another small victory and is threatened by death by a million cuts. Acts like these performed by Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal Party and Jack Layton’s New Democrats are anathema to Canadian democracy, and the CTV and CBC news services are their all too willing handmaidens.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tories make deals, Grits make scandals

The former Tory and now Liberal MP Scott Brison was on TV earlier today whining about how bad a deal the Conservatives have made with the United States to avoid their Buy American protectionism. The deal should have been made more quickly, he claims, and we gave up too much to secure it.

Pretty rich for a Grit—even this memory-challenged Tory-hater—to be criticizing any trade deal when the last time a Liberal government faced the United States in a trade dispute it wasn’t able to get a deal despite trying for over three years.

In 2002, the United States imposed duties of 27 per cent on Canadian softwood lumber. The Liberal government of the day fussed around with that file accomplishing little while our lumber industry suffered severely. An agreement in principle to end the dispute was reached in 2003, but it collapsed two days later. It took a newly elected Conservative government to finally end the dispute in the summer of 2006.

As to us giving up too much. Is it too much to expect that to avoid Buy American trade barriers, we have to commit to not using Buy Canadian procurement practices? That’s the whole point of free trade, isn’t it?

But I never thought the turncoat was particularly bright.

It’s a good thing for Canada that we have a Tory government ever so often so it can clean up the messes left by Liberal governments. By the time former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s three consecutive majorities had run out of steam,overburdened by scandals, inept budgetary control and ill-advised international agreements, it was left for Stephen Harper’s Tories to step in and clean up.

Remember Shawinigate? Questions still linger over Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s involvement in 1993 in two properties in his riding.  Chrétien sold his stake in the Auberge Grand-Mère resort just before becoming prime minister and sold his shares in the Grand-Mère Golf Course shortly after that. But he wasn’t paid for the golf course shares until 1999.

When exactly did Chrétien stop having an “interest” in the properties? Twice in 1996, he contacted François Beaudoin, president of the federal Business Development Bank of Canada, about a $2-million loan being sought by Yvon Duhaime, the new owner of the Auberge Grand-Mère, to expand the hotel. The prime minister made another call to the BDC in 1997 about a scaled-back version of the loan.

The federal ethics commissioner did rule that Chrétien had done nothing wrong, but for many of us his dealings on that file did not pass the sniff test.

Then there was the billion-dollar boondoggle when in 2000 an internal audit found that Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government had failed to track employment program grants worth $1-billion to make sure the money was spent properly and the promised jobs were created.

At one time, the RCMP had launched 12 separate investigations into Human Resources Development Minister Jane Stewart’s department files as a result of the audit. Three of those investigations related to grants awarded in the prime minister’s riding of Saint-Maurice. The scandal ruined Stewart’s political career and she decided not to run again in the 2004 federal election.

And who can forget the Federal Sponsorship Scandal, so-called Adscam? Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s scathing report used words like “scandalous” and “appalling” to describe how the Liberal government had run roughshod over the system as it “broke just about every rule in the book.”

We also saw the creation of a national gun registry go right off the rails in the mid-1990s under former prime minister Jean Chrétien. Estimates in 1995 of the cost of the gun registry were $119-million with registration fees to bring in $117-million, leaving the total cost to the taxpayers of $2-million. The Auditor General Report 2002 revealed that the Department of Justice was estimating the gun registry program would cost more than $1-billion by 2004-05, and collect about $140 million in fees. This estimate did not even include other financial impacts on the government.

And what about Canada’s involvement in the Kyoto Protocol. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien’s government made Canada an object of international disdain—and the stain on our international reputation remains to this day. The Grits signed the Kyoto Protocol committing us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels. But by March 2006 we found out that since ratifying Kyoto Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions had actually increased by 24 per cent, making Canada a poster-boy for ignoring internationally commitments.

And so it went, Liberal wrongdoing and mismanagement.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Donolo tells Ignatieff: tack left

The Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is trying mightily to find issues that will add extra traction in the polls to that already gained from PM Stephen Harper’s prorogation of parliament. The professor finally has caught up to the Conservatives in the polls and is desperate to stay there. But he knows that, in the past, his every effort to sell himself to Canadian voters has been a miserable failure.

Remember his “If you mess with me, I will mess with you until I’m done” tough guy image he tried to sell last spring? And the election bravado later in the year when Ignatieff puffed out his chest and threatened to force another election? Well, that didn’t work for him, did it? Neither did shifting his party to the right when he killed the left-wing coalition, defended the tar sands and supported the Conservatives’ law and order legislation.

In fact, until he brought in Peter Donolo to be his coach, nothing Ignatieff tried resonated with voters. Ignatieff clearly showed that he lacks keen political instincts and is not a decisive leader. In blogs, he is routinely referred to as “Iffy.”

Once installed with his hand-picked team, however, Peter Donolo began to turn things around. He’s dipping back into the Liberals’ past when their “Rainmaker,” Keith Davey, formulated a “tack left” strategy, and the Grits won one campaign after another under Pearson and Trudeau—pretty well the same strategy that saw Jean Chrétien’s left-wing populism propel him to three consecutive majorities.

Before Donolo, Ignatieff would, on occasion, talk the talk of his party’s left-wing, but he never walked it. Now he advocates boldly for universal child care, regardless of the state of the economy or the size of the deficit. And not satisfied that Liberals gave Canada the most extreme left-wing policy on abortion-as-birth-control one can imagine, he wants Stephen Harper to export it by imposing that laissez-faire attitude on the poor nations of the world.

Those, dear readers, are the true bona fides of a leftist.

There is also the Liberal Party’s reproachmont with the New Democrats. The parties now speak as with one mouth. And, of course, senior Grits like Ujjal Dosanjh and Bob Rae already have deep roots in the socialist movement. One gets the distinct impression that coalition is on the table once more—i.e., coalition is necessary.

There is even a noticeable shift in the tactics of Liberal Party shills who show up regularly on political TV shows like Power Play.

We are used to seeing anti-Conservative graphics brought on the show by a Liberal Party war room warrior, but now, in the best Paul Martin campaign tradition, Liberal pundits pose questions like, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” and insist on a yes or no answer, shouting down any explanation as to why the question is slanderous. It’s a nasty aged-old tactic, but one that still works—especially when Tom Clark, the TV show’s host, sits like a bump on a log and let’s the likes of Warren Kinsella use it at will.

Yes, Donolo tells Ignatieff to tack left, and Ignatieff does as he’s told. We’ll have to wait and see how Canadians react to all this.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

“Buy American” deal reached?

The National Post is reporting that Canadian authorities have reached a “resolution to the nearly year-long dispute on controversial Buy American provisions has been struck and could be formally announced later on Thursday.” However, the article on the Web site noted that: “A representative for International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan could not be immediately reached for comment.”

If the report turns out to be accurate, it is good news indeed for those Canadian companies who are positioned to participate in projects launched below the border under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—projects which are receiving nearly US$800-billion of stimulus funding. Currently, the Act prohibits foreign-produced iron, steel and other manufactured goods from being used in qualifying projects—the so-called “Buy American” provisions.

For months now, United States Congress has been reluctant to pass legislation exempting Canada from those Buy American provisions. Consequently, President Barack Obama is reportedly planning a maneuver that will allow him to use his executive power to enable sectors of the Canadian economy to be treated as American by claiming that cross-border supply chains are so integrated they cannot be separated.

I assume that, with this new deal, Canadian businesses will also be able to participate in projects launched under any new stimulus-based initiatives, avoiding similar protectionist measures.

Ironic, isn’t it, that the new arrangements with the United States will make trading with them more open than is inter-provincial trading. But parochial self-interest has ever been the hallmark of provincial politics—a sort of beggar-thy-neighbour approach.

Until American stimulus-based initiatives were at stake, Canadian provinces were quite content to remain outside NAFTA provisions that might have excluded them from having their own “buy domestic” procurement policies.

Now our provinces are avid free-traders.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ignatieff shills for the pro-abortion lobby

The man who wants to be our next prime minister, Michael Ignatieff, has apparently become a shill for the pro-abortion lobby. “We don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures. We don’t want to have women dying in misery,” Ignatieff is reported to have said on Tuesday following Parliament Hill meetings on international development.

By “botched procedures” does the professor mean cases when a child survives a late-term abortion—the “dreaded complication”—as in one case at Calgary Foothills hospital in 1999, when a baby from a 35-week-term pregnancy was born in a botched procedure and survived for 12 hours? In that case, although the baby’s mother reportedly asked for assistance be given to her child, no help was given. After a police investigation, no charges were laid.

Michael Ignatieff is also quoted by the Toronto Star as saying:

“We've had a pro-choice consensus in this area for a couple of generations and we want to hold it.”

To what “pro-choice consensus” could Ignatieff be referring? How could he have determined that there is a consensus in Canada? How can a consensus be reached if an open debate has never occurred?

But I suppose Ignatieff should be excused from not knowing we never did have that debate—he was living abroad. And anyway, he is a Liberal. Liberals don’t need real evidence on which to base conclusions—they manufacture it.

The courts decided that our past abortion laws should be struck down. And Canadians were never asked their opinions on the subject. Since then the debate has been closed. The cowardly, underhanded Liberal government of the time let the court decision decide the “consensus” rather than having open debates in parliament or, even better, a national referendum.

The Liberals simply struck the abortion-related statutes from our law, and never replaced them with anything that would even hint at protection for un-born infants. Now Ignatieff seems to want Prime Minister Stephen Harper to advocate the Liberals’ no-abortion-law position to the nations of Africa. Shameful!

God forbid that any nation should copy Canada, which has no abortion laws—to our everlasting dishonour as a compassionate nation, abortions here are legal up to and including the day of natural birth. And the fact that only a few cases occur is no solace to those butchered because they lack the protection of the law. Nor are we on any sounder moral ground because we export most of our late-term abortions to the United States.

For the record, I do not oppose abortion per se. I don’t even oppose tax money being used to fund certain medically necessary abortions. But I do oppose unregulated abortion on demand. I believe it is as morally wrong to terminate a late-term pregnancy as it is to take an infant’s live after birth. I oppose medically-unnecessary late-term abortions, and I oppose our tax money being used to fund abortions on demand as a substitute for birth control.

And, finally, I do oppose our exporting to other nations our laissez-faire attitude towards taking the lives of unborn children.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tax hike not necessary to balance budget

Whether intentional or not, parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page’s reports always seem to be more helpful to Michael Ignatieff and the opposition parties than to the Conservative government. Page warned us in November that Ottawa will be still be stuck with a deficit of $18.9 billion in 2014, even after the economy has fully recovered.

I’m not sure what Page’s agenda is. His November projections put him at odds—as more frequently than not he is—with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who keep reassuring Canadians that Ottawa will balance its books in a reasonable time through economic growth and spending restraint, and not through tax increases. The budget officer suggested that the damage caused by the past recession has cut into the potential of the economy to generate future revenues for Ottawa.

Page seems to relish being a thorn in the side of the Conservatives, casting doubts on government estimates for more than a year. But even if he did enjoy irritating the Tory government, it doesn’t mean his estimates are not correct. He has years of pertinent experience and seems bright enough to do the job.

So who do we believe?

Ever since budget officer Kevin Page’s November report, Tom Clark of CTV’s Power Play has banged on daily about how economists are virtually unanimous in the belief that the deficit will never be defeated without tax increases. According to Clark, it is only politicians who are refusing to face reality or refusing to tell their constituents the truth—i.e., they are going to raise taxes to help pay down the deficit.

But wait, could Tom Clark actually be wrong. Ops, I just bit my tongue!

Today I read in the National Post that after a pre-budget consultation meeting with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Ottawa, private-sector analysts said Ottawa might have to wait an extra year or two before the country returns to surplus, but a budget balance is doable without requiring tax hikes. Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, told reporters, “I would put a very low priority on tax increases. I think that should be almost a desperation move.”

Who to believe? I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to our government with its plan to balance their books with increased revenues generated by a recovered economy, elimination of temporary stimulus spending and program spending restraint.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Dr. Tim Ball and the truth about climate change

Last night Michael Coren had Dr. Tim Ball on his CTS TV show for the full hour giving his views on man-made climate change/global warming. Dr. Ball has the bona fides to talk about global warming. He has a B.A. from the University of Winnipeg, an M.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1970 in Geography, and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of London, England in 1983.

In his doctorial thesis, Dr. Ball analyzed historical weather records from Canada’s north. He taught geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1988 to 1996, and has since retired.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes Tim Ball:

Timothy Francis Ball is a Canadian environmental consultant and former professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg, where he specialized in the relation of climate to human settlement. Ball disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change. He heads the Natural Resources Stewardship Project and is on the Scientific Advisory Board of Friends of Science, organizations that reject the likelihood of human-caused global warming.

Dr. Ball’s opinions seem as credulous as any—and more so than some—I’ve heard on the subject. And since the sceptics’ view is not so often heard these days, I’ve decided to showcase his appearance on the Michael Coren Show with the following YouTube videos.

This is the Michael Coren Show at its best. Watch it.

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Child-care: another Liberal tax and spend program

The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff are proving themselves to be the same old Liberals we got rid of, thanks to the unite-the-right initiative. Tax and spend, that’s the only principle they consistently endorse. And Ignatieff is just another in a long line of Grit leaders who promise one thing and deliver another.

MP Gerard Kennedy, the Liberal infrastructure critic recently indicated his support for tax increases to reduce the deficit, and Ignatieff downplayed Kennedy’s political gaffe. But now the intrepid Liberal leader has promised that a national child-care program will be put in place by a future Liberal government. Here’s his promise:

“We will find the money, because it seems to me an excellent investment. I am not going to allow the deficit discussion to shut down discussion in this country about social justice.”

Right, a simple little fact like a $56-billion federal deficit isn’t going to slow Ignatieff down. Just as a $25-billion plus Ontario deficit didn’t stop Premier Dalton McGuinty from announcing an unnecessary $1.5-billion expansion to Ontario’s kindergarten program.

Professor Ignatieff is either a fool or a liar. If he doesn’t know that a $6-billion daycare initiative is not affordable for, at least, the next five years, or that’s its irresponsible to promise one, then he’s a fool. If he knows and still makes the promise, then he’s a liar. Take your pick.

Of course, past Liberal governments have repeatedly promised child-care programs going back into the 1990s, but, even when they moved into a surplus, they continued to renege on their promises. Yes, they told lies back then too. A $5-billion national child-care program was among the promises in the run-up to the 2006 election, in which the Liberals were defeated.

My guess is that the Grits will finally keep this promise, if they regain power. They’ll raise taxes some, reallocate current childcare tax benefits and prolong the deficit indefinitely.

Ignatieff is little more than a bad political joke. He scolds Prime Minister Stephen Harper for squandering the Liberal-generated federal surplus and for running up a $56-billion deficit, and then goes on to defend his new $6-billion program.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tories 3 Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand 0

Back in mid-January I wrote about the Conservative Party of Canada being harassed by The Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. At that time I pointed to two cases where Elections Canada had lost in court to the CPC. Well, according to John Ivison over at the National Post the score is now 3 to zip for the CPC versus Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada.

Conservatives won in their two so-called “in-and-out” cases. Now, according to Ivison, a judge has ruled that Elections Canada is obliged to accept a cheque for nearly $600,000 from the Tories covering money owed to taxpayers because it received too big a rebate from the 2004 and 2006 general elections. Apparently, accepting the CPC’s cheque could also require the Liberals to pay back an estimated $750,000.

Seems obvious that Marc Mayrand would have to spring to the defence of of his buddies in the Liberal Party, arguing that changing the way political parties count their election expenses would compromise the “level playing field” he is trying to create. So, incredible as it may seem, he took the Tories to court so he would not have to accept their cheque.

Mayrand obviously has a unique concept of what makes for a level playing field. How is it a level playing field 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.

Far from being level, this playing field seems tilted in favour of the Liberal Party of Canada. On one hand we have Elections Canada hounding the Conservatives in court, on the other hand, we have preferential terms being given for leadership campaign loan repayments—and no known consequences when even those special arrangements are ignored by several senior Liberals.

It seems to me that the Tories have an uphill run whenever they play on Mr. Mayrand’s playing field. Liberals get the goldmine; Tories get the shaft.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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N.L. Premier Danny Williams in the U.S. for heart surgery

Yesterday I read in the National Post that premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams, is scheduled for heart surgery later this week, but his office would not confirm whether the surgery will take place in Canada or in the United States. This morning I read at CTV News that the premier will travel to the United States to have his heart operation.

As a Canadian citizen, Mr. Williams has every right to travel anywhere he wishes to have an operation. But isn’t it a shame that the average Canadian isn’t also given the choice between using our state-funded health care system and using a private hospital or clinic?

We poor schmucks have to wait in line—sometimes months—because our governments have decided we are better off being denied the benefit of private health care. Public health care, we are told by the likes of Danny Williams—is the only way to go. Even to suggest that perhaps private health care might have a roll to play in Canada will result in being shouted down and made to feel un-Canadian.

Deputy premier Kathy Dunderdale is quoted as saying:

“Based on all the medical advice that he’s received, he is doing what’s best for him, and [doing] everything he can to ensure that he can have the best outcome from the surgery and that he can be back on his feet, back here doing his job as quickly as possible.”

Well, isn’t that nice. He’s doing what’s best for himself, i.e., foregoing Canadian health care in favour of private medical care in the United States.

The CEO of Eastern Health, Vickie Kaminski is quoted on the CTV News Web site as saying that it’s not uncommon for people to leave Newfoundland and Labrador to get cardiac surgery done.

I hope Danny Williams’s surgery goes well and wish him a quick recovery and return to work.

Perhaps when the premier is fully recovered he’ll consider tabling legislation which will allow private operators to offer a full range of heart treatment for profit in his province—perhaps then prominent citizens will not have to seek those services in a foreign country.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, February 1, 2010

Dalton McGuinty’s get tough posturing won’t cut it

The best laugh I’ve had in some days, is from an article in the Ottawa Citizen telling us that the Ontario government could be heading for a major confrontation with the province’s public service unions as the Liberals try to address a $25-billion deficit. Apparently, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan recently informed public-sector union leaders that all options will be on the table when the government puts together its next budget.

One might take this seriously if the article was about the former Tory government of Mike Harris in the 1990s, or even the current Stephen Harper government in Ottawa. But surely not the Dalton McGuinty gang at Queen’s Park.

McGuinty does not have the stomach for a major confrontation at any time let alone this close to his next general election. The Ontario Grits didn’t have the spunk to take on teachers’ unions when Gerard Kennedy was minister of education. Kennedy simply bought peace with the teachers by giving them rich contracts, which soaked up increases in education spending at an outrageous rate, at the expense of classroom spending that might actually have benefited students.

McGuinty didn’t have the backbone to facedown the uprising in Caledonia when members of nearby aboriginal communities unlawfully occupied land developed by an Ontario company. McGuinty simply bought the land with taxpayer money and gave it to the protesters. Well, McGuinty didn’t exactly give the land away, but the result is as if he had.

And what credibility does McGuinty have with the unions after recently announcing $1.5-billion for an unnecessary kindergarten expansion? Who can blame union members for questioning why they should face cuts when extravagant new programs are being implemented?

We’ll never see McGuinty and his blowhard Finance Minister Dwight Duncan take on the public-sector unions in any meaningful way. They’ll posture and bluster for voter consumption, but in the end they’ll make their backroom deals that we’ll all have to pay for. You can bet that, if the Tim Hudak Progressive Conservatives don’t beat the Liberals in the 2011 election, it will be tax increases that pay down the deficit, not spending restraints and cutbacks.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Hidden agenda: Liberals will raise your taxes?

Apparently, MP Gerard Kennedy, the Liberal infrastructure critic supports tax hikes. Yes, there’s been some back-peddling on the part of Michael Ignatieff and other senior Grits, but from his comments it seems pretty clear that Kennedy would back an increase in federal tax. No one should be surprised, of course, as there is a significant number of members in the Liberal Party who, like Gerard Kennedy, would be very much at home in the NDP.

Socialists always believe in raising taxes, because they have no confidence in the ability of a free-market economy to create growth in our tax base. And they have no stomach whatsoever for cuts in government spending. As it happens, those are the very things that will help us get back to balanced budgets in about five years, without raising taxes.

The Liberals make a big deal over the fact that Employment Insurance (EI) premium rates will rise in the next five years in order to eliminate the deficit in EI created by burgeoning unemployment rates. It is a tax on jobs they claim. Apparently, the government should allow the EI program to run up massive deficits without any adjustment in rates.

However, when the program was running large surpluses under the Jean Chrétien government, the Liberals did not use the surplus to reduce EI premiums, but moved the surplus into general revenues. No talk from them then about tax on jobs—of course not.

The Liberals have already demonized the very notion of a budgetary deficit to such an extent we can be very sure they’ll use the current deficit as an excuse to raise taxes the very first chance they get.

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