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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

G8/G20: Through it all Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerge as winners

The G20 leaders have left Toronto and now for the aftermath: recriminations and the blame game being played by all sides, diehard progressives demonstrating, demanding their absolute rights be inviolate, police accused of overly aggressive actions, police accused of not doing enough to protect public property, Premier Dalton McGuinty still hiding out—has anyone seen or heard from Michael Ignatieff?

Through it all, though, Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerge as winners.

Maternal health in poor countries gets a multi-billion dollar boost, from Canada’s contribution of an additional $1.1 billion to the effort over the next five years, bringing the Canada’s total commitment to $2.85 billion. Outside donors are providing another $2.3 billion to the G8 initiative. Not good enough for the progressives, though. Is it ever?

The much talked about “bank tax,” which is considered unfair to Canadian banks, has been avoided. And the excessive deficits and public debt run up by so many of the participants will be curbed and reduced—or, at least, promises have been secured to do so.

PM Harper signed an agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that allows for uranium exports to India and technological exchanges that could be worth billions to Canada’s nuclear industry.

Canada and the world are probably better off today than they were before the Summit. Canada’s international reputation is at a high-water mark for, at least, the past two decades.

But, wow, at a cost of well over $1 billion.

Could it/should it have been done for less? Sure it should. But the money was spent in Canada and will cycle through the economy and most cannot be considered wasted.

As to police action/inaction? I’ll have more to say on this later, but it seems clear to me we’ve lost our capacity to deal decisively and effectively with violent incidents in Ontario. It also seems evident that respect for law and order—including respect for our police forces—is regrettably lacking in too many residents of Toronto.

Many lessons to be learned here, but, of course, most will be ignored in our rush to blame and criticize. Rather than assess what we individually could have done better on the weekend, we’ll clog up the media and the courts with petty, at times, spurious claims and charges against the prime minister, the federal government, the City of Toronto and the several police forces on duty during the Summit.

Oh, well…

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, June 28, 2010

All rights, but no responsibilities

These days we hear a lot about our rights and freedoms, but very little is ever said about our obligations and responsibilities. Why, I wonder, is that? We all hear New Democrat MPs and their supporters go on about our rights to do all sorts of things and to get all manner of benefits from our governments. But when was the last time anyone heard an NDP leader or elected official remind us of our obligations and responsibilities as citizens and residents that come with all those rights?

“My city feels like a crime scene and the criminals are all melting into the night, fleeing the scene. No, I’m not talking about the kids in black who smashed windows and burned cop cars on Saturday.

“I’m talking about the heads of state who, on Sunday night, smashed social safety nets and burned good jobs in the middle of a recession.”

Naomi Klein
June 28, 2010
Rabble.ca

Democracy will fail when rights and freedoms are not exercised responsibly. We saw some of that breakdown on the weekend when so-called peaceful demonstrations in Toronto were hijacked by black-clad anarchists.

The labour unions that demonstrated on Saturday afternoon apparently had marshals on duty to keep order during their march, but when things turned ugly, the union supporters seemed either to take off or they joined in the “fun”.

Except for the police and a feeble attempt by Mayor David Miller to blame the violence on out-of-towners, there was little to be heard from political or community leaders that could be considered a call for peace and order on the part of onlookers and other participants. Oh, we had condemnations, but they were addressed at the anarchists—little or no responsibility was, apparently, extended to those who took pictures and cheered on the hoodlums.

And Premier Dalton McGuinty was conspicuous by his silence. I think there was a written statement from him read out on TV, but he was no where to be seen. The capital of Ontario was under attack and our fearless leader was nowhere to be seen. How typical. How gutless.

We did hear, however, repeated assurances of  our right to peaceful protest and to demonstrate. But no one asked people to get off the streets or to clear the areas where the violence was getting out of hand.

I saw one man restrain a youth who was smashing at a store window, but he was himself accosted by others who forced him to release the lad. Hundreds stood by taking pictures without making any serious attempt to get off the streets so police could get on with their jobs.

The onlookers and protesters had a right to be there, but, apparently, no obligations or responsibilities to go along with that right. And our democracy is poorer for that.

On Saturday, Torontonians stood and cheered as cars were being burned on their streets. Today, we hear it was all about police brutality and indiscriminate arrests.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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G20 protests: is this really the kind of society we want?

I watched quite a bit of the television news coverage of the G20 “demonstrations” in Toronto on the weekend and wondered what sort of society we are creating here in Ontario—and perhaps more widely across Canada. When does the so-called “right to demonstrate” in the streets trump law and order and the right of law-abiding residents to go about their business without being impeded or threatened by a howling mob?

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, a trade union-led march made its way through Toronto’s downtown near the area in which the G20 leaders met for their conference.

When the union march passed the corner of Spadina and Queen the trouble started: a significant number of protesters (hundreds) showed their true colours—black, as in Black Bloc. The rest of the day and long into the evening was filled with violence as the authorities lost control of the centre of the city, and mobs of window-breaking, police car-burning, rock and bottle-throwing, street-blocking protestors ruled the streets, aided and abetted by throngs of otherwise peaceful protesters and camera-wielding onlookers.

The labour unions may have intended to demonstrate peacefully, but they must have known their march would provide cover for the anarchists and empower them to launch their attacks on the city.

According to the National Post newspaper reports:

“… the marchers ranged from old-line union members to NGO types (Greenpeace, supporters of the ‘Robin Hood’ bank tax) to people with signs expressing a very long list of largely unrelated and sometimes even competing agendas: ‘Invest in Girls to End Global Poverty.’ ‘Stop Raping the Planet.’ ‘Animal Liberation = Human Liberation.’ ‘Free Marc Emery.’ ‘1 in 7 Women in Niger Die in Childbirth.’ ‘No One is Illegal.’ ‘No To Capitalism, Long Live Socialism.’ ‘Expose Bilderberg.’ ‘Iran Imprisons Queers.’ ‘Communist Party of Iraq.’ ‘Socialism is the Solution’.”

Was it really worth the lawlessness to get these messages out I wonder?

I believe it was irresponsible for the Canadian trade union movement to demonstrate on that particular day. After all, Canada is arguably the fairest, freest country in the world in which to organize labour. Yet, even knowing they were almost certainly going to be infiltrated by trouble-making anarchists, trade union leaders went ahead and exercised their right to peacefully demonstrate.

The weekend offered an ideal opportunity for us to tell the world what a wonderful place Canada is—how democratic and fair we are. We could have sent a positive message, instead we chose to whine and complain about everything under the sun.

And while the violent crowd broke windows, burnt cars and hurled missiles at the police, ordinary Torontonians and out-of-towners stood by and cheered. They took pictures, milled around chatting and cheering (for the protesters) and at times getting in the way of the police trying to restore order.

Who would have thought that what passes for civilized conduct in Toronto is just a thin veneer to be cast off at the first chance to join a police-taunting mob.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Conrad Black gets new trial

CBC TV and the National Post are reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down former Canadian media baron Conrad Black’s fraud conviction. His case has now been sent back to a lower court.

In my view, even if found guilty, time already served should be sufficient for this man who might have behaved improperly, but never deserved the severe level of punishment meted out by the American justice system.

I’m no fan of the man who set aside his Canadian citizenship to accept an archaic form of privilege from the British government; his punishment, however, did not fit the crime, if indeed he committed a crime.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dual citizenship, multiculturalism policy backfiring?

Last night, CBC’s news anchor Peter Mansbridge revealed on The National that, in an interview earlier this week, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director Richard Fadden revealed that Canada’s spy agency is aware of municipal and provincial politicians in Canada who are being swayed by their connection to foreign governments.

“There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.”

– Richard Fadden
CSIS Director

Cabinet ministers in two provinces and several members of British Columbia’s municipal governments are among the suspects, according to the report.

Mr. Fadden said his agency is in discussions with the Privy Council Office regarding how best to inform those provinces of the problem.

He added, “We’ll do the same with the public servants. I’m making this comment because I think it’s a real danger that people be totally oblivious to this kind of issue.”

Apparently, at least five countries are secretly recruiting political prospects in Canadian universities. Some countries of the Middle East are involved.

Mr. Fadden explained, “You invite somebody back to the homeland. You pay their trips and all of a sudden you discover that when an event is occurring that is of particular interest to country ‘X’, you call up and you ask the person to take a particular view.”

Any surprise here? Thousands—probably tens of thousands—of Canadians hold dual citizenship. And many Canadians, including those who govern us, are not troubled by the practice.

Citizens are supposed to be 100 per cent loyal to their countries. How can one be 100 per cent loyal to two separate countries, I wonder? I suppose it is okay in cases in which both countries move in lock-step on all issues involving national interests. I can, however, think of only two countries where that is mostly the case: United States and United Kingdom. These are Canada’s closest allies, yet, apparently, even those countries’ spy agencies are active on our soil.

Moreover, I can think of few things as contradictory as dual citizenship. Some of the people holding such status will inevitable side with their non-Canadian homeland if they see it in a confrontation with Canada. Listen to the rhetoric from those who demonstrate in our streets over things happening in foreign lands.

Some even return to live full-time in their homeland once they have secured Canadian citizenship. For those, Canadian citizenship is held only as a sort of insurance policy to be cashed-in should an emergency arise. We saw that in the case of several thousand Lebanese-Canadians during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. In all but legal status, many of them were Lebanese and not at all Canadian. Canada was a convenience to be quickly discarded once peace returned to their region.

Now we have a wake-up call from our top security man, do we answer it or just roll over and go back to sleep?

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peaceful demonstrations? I think not

I am not sure when our society decided that civil disobedience is an inherent democratic right. This, though, seems to be a commonly held belief of progressives. Frequently, I hear it voiced by those who demand, for example, an end to poverty or support for some overseas civil war or in support of some labour strike or other demand.

In the purest sense of the term, civil disobedience in the form of nonviolent resistance is an effective and honourable way in which to express disagreement with governments. Progressives, and especially labour groups, have, however, morphed the term to mean protests of almost any form, even ones in which violence and other anti-social behaviour are used as tactics. We saw this in Toronto during the Garbage Strike there and in the Tamil marches over the civil war in Sri Lanka.

In the run-up to the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto, violence is being offered as a legitimate form of protest.

We have one of the most prominent labour leaders in the country making what Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack called “idiotic, irresponsible and inflammatory” statements. Why would Sid Ryan, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, tell the Canadian Press that he hoped the Integrated Security Unit, in charge of securing the G8 and G20 summits, wouldn’t plant cops disguised as protesters to incite violence? Is this not just a transparent ploy to intimidate police to back off and not to fully enforce the law?

“These concerns are far from ‘groundless,’ as suggested by Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack,” Ryan said in a statement. “The fact is there have been numerous documented cases of police infiltration of demonstrations at protests around the world, including Canada.”

Of course police infiltrate demonstrations at protests around the world, including Canada. Why wouldn’t they?

Quebec provincial police admitted they placed three undercover officers among protesters at the North American leaders summit in Montebello, Quebec in August 2007, and maybe in rare cases undercover police have gone too far to prove their bona fides to groups they have infiltrated. But “numerous documented cases?” Where, when?

I know of no incident that can justify Ryan’s irresponsible claim that he’s “very concerned that there could be political pressure from the federal Conservative government to use police to provoke a situation that will lead to arrests, purely to justify the enormous security costs of the G20 Summit.”

Ryan is clearly setting us up. When violence occurs, it will have been provoked by the police. That’s his message. Ryan is rabble-rousing, plainly and simply.

And talking about rabble, these people call themselves “activists.” Most of them are professional protesters and anarchists. Some travel many miles to participate in what they like to call “direct action.” They would rather march than run for office to make peaceful change. Violence for a minority is and end in itself, but the majority encourage these smaller numbers by their passive acceptance of them in their midst.

Peace demonstration is fine, violence and vandalism is mindless and illegal.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Will aboriginals ever get over the cult of victimhood?

In their latest affront to the people of Ontario, natives have demanded they be exempted from paying HST at the point-of-sale like the rest of us. Their demands were backed up with threats of blockades during this week’s G8 and G20 summits, according to interviews with officials at the negotiating table. And, of course, the tax break has prompted native leaders in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada to demand similar exemptions.

Time and again, we hear from aboriginals that they cannot be taxed because they are separate nations, and our federal and provincial governments seem to agree with them. Perhaps they are separate nations, but does that make them autonomous? Apparently not, since every time we turn around we hear more demands from native leaders for more money from Ottawa.

Yes, there were injustices committed in the past. Natives were abused, treaties dishonoured , Aboriginal lands stolen, Aboriginal cultures suppressed and Aboriginal peoples disempowered.

But they can’t have it both ways. They can’t demand to be treated as autonomous nations, refusing to abide by Canadian law and pay Canadian taxes, yet demand  more and more money from Ottawa.

Native bands are political and cultural groups with values and customs distinct from those of other Canadians. This is pretty much what nations are when they inhabit areas with defined borders. Quebec, for example, is a nation.

To define Aboriginal peoples as nations, however, is not to say that they are nation-states. To be so requires them to be independent of Canada and that they certainly are not.

Government of Canada spending[1] on programs directed towards Aboriginal people was $9.1 billion in 2005-06 up from $7.4 billion in 2000-01, an average annual increase of 4.3 per cent.

  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provided about $6.1 billion—80 per cent for basic, province-type services for First Nations on reserve (e.g. education, social services, income assistance), where the Government has primary responsibility.
  • Fifteen other federal departments and agencies, the largest of which is Health Canada, also provided about $3.0 billion for a wide variety of programs for First Nations on reserve, Inuit, Métis and off-reserve Aboriginal people.

[1]Source

When you add the tax exemptions natives enjoy to the direct expenditures by the Government of Canada, we get a staggering figure dwarfing government support to any other identifiable group in Canada. Remember that natives also enjoy all the other benefits non-natives enjoy.

So much for native independence.

It’s high time our governments, especially the Dalton McGuinty government, insisted that Aboriginals be subject to the same laws as the rest of us. Natives in Caledonia are not victims, but victimizers. When natives of the Whitefish River First Nation in Ontario planned to blockade the highway leading to Manitoulin Island over the May long weekend, they were not victims, they are victimizers.

Sooner or later, Canadians will get off their guilt trip and say enough is enough. If you add up all the money the Government of Canada has already paid out to natives in annual payments, tax-exemptions, land claims and the compound interest on all that money, I’m pretty sure we have compensated Aboriginals fairly for what Europeans took in the past few hundred years—it’s only money, but it’s a lot of money.

How much more are we expected to pay for the sins of the past?

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Jack Layton takes aim on a fall election

One day we read that Jack Layton is boasting about the New Democrats being the party that knows how to make parliament work. His, he has claimed, is a party that can work with other parties to give Canadians legislation their need. Then his NDP party will suddenly hit a stretch where their cooperation ceases and they refuse to compromise on legislation, even that which the other three parties with diverse interests have agreed upon.

Last week, the New Democrats pulled out of an agreement on parliamentary access to Afghan detainee documents. As reported by Canada.com website:

“The NDP pulled out shortly before all-party negotiations ended with an agreement reached by the Conservative government, opposition Liberals and Bloc Quebecois on details of a process to grant MPs—aided by a panel of jurists—a chance to read thousands of documents and passages from detainee-related documents that now are censored from the public on the grounds of national security.”

House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, the man the NDP so highly praised for his judgment the other day, has ruled that he is satisfied the deal, but it’s not good enough for the socialists. Imagine that.

Today I read that Layton’s Dippers are preparing for a fall election. Apparently, Layton does not plan to even consider a Conservative agenda for the fall sitting. So much for wanting to make parliament work.

Layton seems to be pinning his party’s hopes of knocking off the Liberals on an Angus Reid poll from March, 2010 that showed that he had a 32 per cent approval rating compared to 29 per cent for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and 16 per cent for the hapless Michael Ignatieff.

Back in the days of Ed Broadbent’s leadership of the NDP, several polls showed that Broadbent was the most popular party leader. Some pundits felt that the NDP could overtake John Turner’s Liberals as the official opposition to the Progressive Conservatives.

Never happened, of course: Broadbent could not translate his lead in the polls into a victory in a general election. The best the Dippers could do was win 43 seats in the 1988 federal election, then fade back into irrelevance.

I’d be surprised if the NDP returns as many members to the House in a fall election as the have now.

I’d not bet against a fall election being held, however. And it might be a case of Layton regretting what he wished for.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Can a guest put a TV host in a conflict of interest?

Is it my imagination, or do members of the media give fellow members a greater degree of privacy than they do when reporting on politicians and others in the media spotlight? Why is this? Is their right to privacy more precious than that of non-media players?

As I understand the tradition, private lives of politicians are protected unless events normally considered private somehow overlap or interfere with their public lives. I suppose that’s a reasonable convention, and I assume the same rules apply to journalists, news readers and political commentators.

Think, though, of the invasion of privacy Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, endures relating to his love life. When’s the last time you read about specifics of the love lives of popular, nationally-known, political commentators?

What happens, then, when a politician and a political commentator become romantically involved? Is there not some sort of conflict of interest when that politician appears time and again on a show hosted by the same political commentator, and neither declare their involvement in an, otherwise private, relationship?

I believe their is an obligation, at least, on the part of the political commentator to declare a conflict of interest. Listen to professionals like Steve Paikin of TVO’s Agenda, who scrupulously declares his or his wife’s interest in topics discussed on his show.

I believe it is shameful for one to sit as a television host with, for example, a girl-friend who is an elected politician and verbally flog her political adversaries without divulging to the audience that the host and she are romantically involved. This is especially egregious when the television show is specifically about politics.

So, why am I worked up about this? Well, in part, because rumours persist that Tom Clark, host of CTV’s Power Play has a personal relationship with Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay, a frequent quest on his show. If true, does this not put Clark in a conflict of interest as a political commentator on a national network?

I don’t know whether or not to believe what may very well be idle speculation or unfounded gossip, but I do think that when professional relationships become personal, as some inevitably will, all appearance of objectivity and fairness go out the window.

Just wondering…

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Best of the last session of the House

The last session of the House has been roundly criticized by in the media, so I’ll not pile on, but concentrate on some of the stuff I liked. First off, I liked that we didn’t end up with an election, yet advanced our legislative agenda in some significant ways. I also liked that we got through a session without following a single word of advice from Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Fancy that.

Primum non nocere, (first, do no harm) is a fundamental principle of medical ethics.

Remember, readers, that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, just what comes easily to mind. And, in this post, I’ll stick to persons rather than events.

Primum non nocere, (first, do no harm) is a fundamental principle of medical ethics. This could as appropriately be used as a guiding principle for politicians of all parties and political stripes. And it is with this in mind that I look back at those who participated in the past session of the House of Commons.

Best Conservative performers: Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, Stockwell Day and Jason Kenny.

Stephen Harper has deftly maneuvered through a worldwide financial crisis, a severe recession and a prickly minority parliament. It will be a pity if a couple of slip-ups on the domestic front detract too much from this stellar record. Canada’s international reputation is at one of the highest levels it’s been in decades, and the PM should be given a lot of the credit for that.

Jim Flaherty, not one of my favourite politicians, deserves enormous credit for his fiscal management since being in the finance portfolio. His performance nationally and internationally in the past year has been near flawless. Don’t listen to the opposition, Flaherty’s reputation abroad is sound and that is good news for Canadians.

Solid as a rock, as they say, is a fitting metaphor for Stockwell Day. After making a hash of his term as leader of the Canadian Alliance, Day has settled in as one of the most reliable Harper lieutenants. I cannot think of any significant missteps since the right united as the CPC, and he certainly has had some high-profile, difficult portfolios.

Jason Kenny has been the best immigration minister Canada has had in decades. His  citizenship guide was timely and popular without the corrosive political correctness found in similar documents of the past. His political will and skill saw worrying trends like the flood of refugee claimants from free-trade partner, Mexico, and democratic European Union countries stemmed. He’s also done effective work to try and rid our immigration/refugee system of fraudulent “consultants.” And, notably, he designed and passed much needed legislation to reform our broken refugee system.

The list of opposition members is short. Not because there are not many fine, hardworking members who oppose the government, but because the opposition chose not to deal with substantive issues, but to stick with tactics to slowly erode confidence in the Harper government. Time will tell how effective these tactics have been.

There are three Liberal MPs, though, who stood out at the head of the pack: Dominic LeBlanc, Ujjal Dosanjh and Bob Rae.

Dominic LeBlanc is a calm reasoned man and even the hyper-partisan atmosphere on Parliament Hill has not dulled his polish and sense of humour. Liberals might have missed a bet when they passed him over for the ineffectual Michael Ignatieff.

I’m no fan of reformed socialist, Ujjal Dosanjh, but this man had done himself credit and done Canada a favour in courageously speaking out against extremism and imported elements of foreign culture that are anathema to the Canadian belief system.

Bob Rae, another reformed socialist, was my hero on the day he spoke out against NDP Deputy Leader and House Leader Libby Davies after she spouted a lot of nonsense, which seemed to support those who would deny the State of Israel its right to exist.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sun TV News: Will there be fair debate?

The family was over this morning and Denisé prepared a sumptuous brunch for me, my two sons who are also dads, the parents of our two daughters-in-law and our five grandchildren. Wow, what a treat! After everyone left, I spent the mid-afternoon leafing through the Sunday Toronto Sun.

One article that caught my eye, was Lorrie Goldstein’s column, Fox News? No. Fair debate? Yes: Goldstein. The sub-title sort of says it all: Sun TV News should espouse conservative values, not cheerlead for ‘Big C’ Conservatism. I agree with Goldstein when he writes that Canadians don’t want a “Fox News North.” But I do think a significant number of Canadians want something more stimulating and entertaining than the offerings from CBC News and CTV News. This could be a version of Fox News with a Canadian slant. But we’ll see.

I, like Goldstein, hope it won’t be a partisan cheerleader for “Big C” Conservatism. That would be a shame, and, frankly, I don’t see such a venture succeeding financially. I do like the fact, though, that small “c” and big “C” conservatives will have a major stake in the venture so we can have people like arch-Liberal Warren Kinsella on panels without having the host join him to gang up on a single conservative panelist.

Too often on shows like CTV News’ Power Play, the host joins with the progressive panelists to hammer away at the—usually single—conservative voice on the show. It was pathetic to see Liberal Party insiders come on Power Play with props to help make their point, and then to see Tom Clark virtually turn the show over to them. I don’t like such blatant bias, but I also do not want to see the mirror reverse of that sort of thing.

News on a “wheel” during the day with commentary and panel discussion in the evening. That’ll do fine for me. Think of a Michael Coren-like show and a Steve Paikin-like show on week-nights, without the over-emphasis of political correctness we see on TVO these days. I don’t want to be unfair or unkind to the people who bring these shows to us, I do appreciate their efforts and am a frequent watcher of those shows. But, come on, those shows are truly informative, stimulating and entertaining only about 25 per cent of the time—and that’s being, I think, generous.

CTS which airs the Michael Coren Show does a very clumsy job of managing appearances from out-of-town panelists—TVO, at least, does a more professional job of this. This is only a simply example, but surely technical excellence of some of the current offerings is in need for improvement.

I’ll close with another quote from Lorrie Goldstein’s column: “I do hope it’s a ‘conservative’ broadcaster and that its presence forces competitors to start treating the honestly held views of many Canadians with far more respect and honesty than they do today.”

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Michael Coren says it better than I could

Michael Coren pretty well sums up, in his column in the Toronto Sun, the quick negative reaction of many in the Canadian media to the prospect of a new all-news cable network in the general mold of Fox News. He points out, “Quebecor announces a new network and the usual hacks drown in cynicism and outrage.” And that pretty well sets the tone of his column.

“If it wasn’t for hockey and Coronation Street, the [CBC] corporation would largely collapse. It’s simply an illusion that Canadian television delivers what people want. It’s more that smug elitists assume they deliver what Canadians need. And what they need, it seems, is dull, intellectually bland and consistently left-of-centre.”

– Michael Coren
Toronto Sun

Coren doesn’t quite debunk the notion often seen and heard in the media that there won’t be a market for such a network in Canada. But he offers a reasonable counter-argument when he writes:

“Frankly I think there will be [a market], but we simply don’t know until it’s tried. What we do know is that there isn’t much of a market for what’s out there right now. Take a look at the audience figures for shows on CBC, CTV and Global and you’ll realize just how few people watch Canadian news and current affairs.”

I must say that I was taken aback by the vehemence of the reaction by some CBC and ex-CBC types like Don Newman, retired CBC host of the old political program, Politics. Newman has been really worked up at the prospect of the traditional progressive-leaning media getting some competition from the centre-right.

I agree with Coren when he writes, “People deserve choice and variety and it appears they’re going to get it. Hey lefty journalists, if you don’t like it, don’t watch.”

Long live freedom of speech.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Ignatieff concedes merger talks are underway; Layton still quibbles

After trying for weeks to let on as if there have not been serious talks of a merger between his Liberals and the New Democrats, Michael Ignatieff has, apparently, decided to come clean and play it straight with Canadians. And it’s time he did. Jack Layton, to his discredit, continues to be evasive and disingenuous.

A report in the National Post states, “Mr. Ignatieff also told a news conference Thursday he wouldn’t ask the former Liberal prime minister to stop talking about the idea [of a NDP-Liberal merger].”

The National Post quotes the chief Grit as saying at a news conference, “Mr. Chrétien won three majority governments—you don’t go around telling anybody of that distinction to cease and desist.”

Fair enough. Now perhaps he should write an apology to his former war room guy, Warren Kinsella, who found it necessary to swear in an affidavit that rumours about merger talks were genuine. Ignatieff had insisted that no “authorized” talks were taking place. It is obvious now that it was just more of Ignatieff’s hair-splitting in an attempt to mislead Canadians.

The New Democratic Party of Canada came into existence in 1961, three years after the Canadian Labour congress forged an alliance with the pretty-far-to-the-left Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) to form a new political party. The roots of the CCF go back to the 1930s.

The party peaked in popularity and political influence after the 1988 federal election when it won a record 43 seats. But 1988 also marked the start of the decline of the party. The Liberals had only won 40 seats in the previous 1984 election, just 10 more than the New Democrats. At dissolution the parties were only six seats apart (38-32), but the Liberals gave them a pasting in 1988 from which  the NDP never really recovered. They slumped to only nine seats in the 1993 election and lost party status in the House.

Since their low point in 1993, the NDP’s fortunes have improved somewhat, but never to the point that it could seriously believe it could win power—at least, not on their own. NDP provincial premiers Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh joined the Liberals when they entered federal politics, rather than the federal branch of the NDP.

From the 1930s to the second decade of the 21st century the NDP has been denied power by the Canadian electorate. They came close when the soft-headed Stéphane Dion signed a formal coalition agreement with them giving a promise of seats at the cabinet table, but that soon fizzled leaving the prospect of another 70 years of futility ahead.

Of course the NDP needs to join forces with the Liberals, and the formidable left-wing of the Liberals combined with their, also formidable, power-at-any-cost pragmatists are open to offers.

The least Canadians deserve is to be leveled with.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Does RCMP give value for our money?

I wonder: have our public institutions lost the ability to do an excellent job on, well, anything? Whether it’s eHealth Ontario or Atomic Energy of Canada, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation or the Quebec government and Quebec police forces vis-à-vis Quebec’s corrupt construction industry, we seem to have massive failures at every turn.

And now we see, once again, that our national security agencies are not up to the job. Commissioner John Major has detailed a litany of high-level failures in the Air India disaster, both before Sikh terrorists bombed Flight 182 and in the tragedy’s aftermath—lax airport security, poor information sharing (sound familiar?), evidence mishandling, government interference and the list goes on.

How many times will the RCMP continue to fail us and be allowed to continue to exist in its present form? And as a reward for past failures, our federal government, apparently, plans to allow this outfit to unionize.

Back in the 1970s the McDonald Commission recommend that the RCMP’s intelligences duties be split off because of crimes and other abuses. This week we have the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182 telling us we need to put them back together under unified leadership to resolve disputes among CSIS and the RCMP. The Commission also has suggested that the RCMP is not properly structured to deal with terrorism prosecutions, and questions whether it’s time to reassess the practice of the RCMP providing contractual services to the provinces.

What Canadians need to be told is what, if anything, the RCMP does really well anymore. If you read the content of this “Independent Report concerning Workplace Issues at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police” you’ll know that list will likely be short.

We know that an RCMP officer with three years experience is paid a base of about $75,000 a year plus generous allowances and can retire in his or her mid-fifties with a terrific pension—25 years of service gets 50 per cent of recent salary, after 35 years it’s 70 per cent—which is far better than most private sector pensions. Any work beyond a regular 40-hour week is paid at 1.5x the regular rate, and on days off, 2x the regular rate.

As you might expect for any public employee these days, health, dental and other benefits are exceptional when compared to the private sector. The force offers exceptional parental leave—up to 93 per cent of salary for 52 weeks for new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents. And its drug plan covers prescription costs at 100 per cent, its eyewear plan is generous and its paid leave programs are “second to none” according to RCMP Superintendent Mike Gaudet.

I’m beginning to wonder if we are receiving value for our money?

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Michael Coren can’t lessen the shame by splitting hairs

So many times when I watch the Michael Coren Show on CTS Television, Coren finds it necessary to correct a guest and remind her or him that, (a) Roman Catholic clergy sexually abuse children at or below the rate others do; and (b) most of the sex-abuse by Roman Catholic clergy is committed by homosexuals rather than by pedophiles.

“While sexual abuse is obviously grotesque, the number of occurrences in the Catholic Church is neither higher nor lower than any other denomination or religion and the same as those in education, sports and any other institution that involves a power dynamic between adults and youth. …

“What these same people seldom discuss, because it runs directly contrary to their politics, is the genuine nature of abuser and abused. Forty years of statistics show that 85% of the latter have been teenage boys. Their tormentors were homosexual men.”

– Michael Coren
Toronto Sun
June 17, 2010

Making these distinctions seems vitally important to Coren. He makes them frequently on his TV show, and he has also taken pains to make this distinction in, at least, one of his columns.

On last night’s show, for example, he insulted regular panelist Marianne Meed Ward, interrupting a valid point she was making to make sure he interjected his hair-splitting claims.

I can see why this apologist for the RCs might want to “set the record straight” regarding the proclivity of RC clergy to sexually abuse children and youth: after all, it is his choice of faith that is being maligned.

Cannot he see though that the real evil here is the fact that young people—children and youth—are being sexually abused? Should anyone really give a rat’s ass about whether the abusers are more or less likely to be RCs or whether or not they are victims of hebephilia or pedophilia? How much does it really matter whether the abused children were ten or 15? In either case they are victims of one of society’s most egregious crimes.

Time and again over several decades, children and youth of different ages have been sexually abused by adult Roman Catholic clergy and members of RC religious orders. And, time and again, those abuses have gone un-reported to civil authorities and been covered up by senior RC clergy. The list of publicly known crimes is long and shameful.

These are shameful criminal acts and unconscionable conspiracies that deny justice for the victims. No amount of hair-splitting will make these acts less heinous.

Roman Catholics have to find a way of dealing with this crisis without trying to make these terrible deeds seem less abhorrent. Only a few week ago, a senior cardinal said the Roman Catholic faithful will not be swayed by “petty gossip” about child sex-abuse allegations.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Germany’s top Catholic bishop, apologized in March for mistakes he made in failing to report to authorities a case of suspected abuse by a priest in the Freiburg diocese nearly 20 years ago. A mistake, mind you, not a criminal conspiracy, not an appalling lapse in judgment.

I can’t even imagine the pain these utterances must have caused the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims of sex abuse when they read these insensitive remarks.

I sense that Michael Coren is writing a book on this subject, but I hope I’m wrong. As are many thousands of other RCs around the world, he does seem genuinely to be trying to come to grips with this difficult and complicated crisis within his church. And for that I cannot criticize him. But, while Coren is an interesting, intelligent commentator on most political and social subjects, on religion—and especially as it concerns Roman Catholics—he’s far too much of an apologist for his faith to do any real good for the victims of these crimes.

And it is the victims and only they for whom I have sympathy. Any attempt to “explain” these crimes can only do more harm than good to the victims.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Don Newman froths, Kory Teneycke pitches

Don Newman, retired CBC host of political program, Politics, was surprisingly and unattractively aggressive on a segment of Evan Solomon’s Power & Politics show with Kory Teneycke, vice president of Development of Quebecor Media. Newman and Solomon ganged up on Teneycke, demanding he assure them that Quebecor’s new all-news TV venture will be fair and balanced—just like the CBC.

What glasses, I wonder, does one have to wear to see the “balance” at the CBC?

Solomon managed to remain calm and asked reasonable questions, but Newman was nearly frothing at the mouth as he attacked any notion that a new cable news channel could have merit.

Quebecor Media’s proposed channel has not even received a license from the CRTC yet progressives like Don Newman are already going ape over it. Fox News in the United States is winning the ratings war in that country by providing a conservative perspective to political commentary (along with being darn good at it) and the Don Newmans of Canada are terrified a Canadian outfit might duplicate that success on this side of the border.

Recently, Newman wrote on the CBC News site, “In the U.S., Fox News has been hugely polarizing. It specializes in drive-by attacks and misrepresentations, and is positively Orwellian at times, claiming to be ‘fair and balanced’ while implying that its competitors aren’t.”

He also wrote, “Do they [Conservatives] really need a right-wing news channel urging them to be more rabid and stirring up the party’s hard-core base… .”

Do you get any sense that Newman is a fair and balanced commentator? Yet there he was talking over host Solomon and fellow panelist Teneycke to attack the mere threat of some healthy competition for the CBC News channel.

But I shouldn’t be too hard on the man. It must be terrifying for the old Liberal apologist to see an impending end to the strangle hold progressives have on Canadian cable news. No more softball questions for Liberal politicians, no more blowing-up-out-of-all-proportion stories contrived by the Liberal Party war room—remember “wafer gate?” No more Liberal, NDP, Bloc and show host ganging up on a single Conservative panelist. Ah, if only.

I hope the new channel comes about, and I hope it will be successful in filing the gaping void in Canada media. Then I won’t need to keep watching foreign (U.S.) channels for in-depth analysis of important news events.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BDS campaign: real concern for Palestinians or old-fashioned bigotry?

There was a time several years ago when the State of Israel was the darling of the left. In resent times, all that has changed. Now Israel is demonized regularly by left-wing journalists, organized labour groups and leaders of other so-called progressive organizations.

As often happens in our polarized world, it is not enough, apparently, to criticize policies of those with whom one disagrees. That’s sissy stuff. Now, one is expected to make over-the-top claims and denouncements as we try to stigmatize our enemies—I chose the term “enemies” on purpose. We no longer have “adversaries” with whom we can occasionally agree; now we have “enemies” with whom we must have no truck or trade. And, of course, civility is strictly for pantywaists and the uncommitted.

The move to discredit and demonize Israel’s every action is a disturbing one because it so often distorts or ignores the facts on the ground. Disturbing also is the rhetoric, which often borders on anti-Semitism. Too many times, one cannot distinguish whether one is dealing with a real concern for the welfare of the Palestinians or with abhorrent, old-fashioned bigotry. 

All of which leads me to recent comments by public figures who should know better: U.S. journalist Helen Thomas and NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies.

The veteran White House Press Corps reporter, Helen Thomas, recently retired after she made the controversial remark that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas said that Jews should “go home” to Poland and Germany. This she said to a rabbi with a video camera at a White House event to mark Jewish heritage month. Thomas, of course, has a Lebanese background and has probably held such views all along—now the public finally knows of her, apparent, disdain for the Jews in Israel.

New Democratic Party Deputy Leader and House Leader Libby Davies made her views on Israel’s right to exist crystal-clear when she said earlier this month that occupation of Palestinian lands started in 1948, which, of course, is the year the State of Israel was formed. She also made halting statements in support of the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

There was a lot of bafflegab surrounding her statements on the subject of the BDS campaign, but she did say “I’m very excited that its grown so much…,” and “I support what is going on… .” She also said there has to be “some kind of settlement” whether “negotiated” or “imposed” on Israel.  [See Davies on the David Katz video here and decide for yourselves.]

“Imposed” on Israel? By whom I wonder?

It is clear to me that Libby Davies understood very well what she was saying and the implication of her words. Surly a deputy leader and the house leader of the NDP has enough general knowledge not to misunderstand the simple question that was put to her. If she did not know this subject well enough to make an accurate comment, then NDP leader Jack Layton has an incompetent deputy and house leader.

Davies equivocates in the apology on her website:

“My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error; I apologize for this and regret any confusion it has caused.”

But, frankly, I don’t believe she made an “inadvertent error” as she claims. She’s not the sharpest knife in the NDP drawer, obviously, but it’s unlikely she’s that poorly informed.

On second thought, maybe she that fatuous.

Back in June 2008, Libby Davies delivered, in Canada’s House of Commons, a Parliamentary Petition signed by a mere 500 or so Canadians demanding a new 9/11 investigation. The petition read by Libby Davies said, in part, that “the 9/11 Commission Report is a fraudulent document…,” and “that elements within the U.S. government were complicit in the murder of thousands of people… .”

Need I say more? Well, perhaps I should.

Clever people, including this writer, sometimes say pretty dumb things. But when dull or obtuse people reach high office, their words too often are mindlessly accepted as clever. And that’s dangerous for any democracy.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Liberal politicians off the hook

Does any police organization in the universe move more slowly than does our RCMP? The Adscam corruption scandal came to light in 2004 and Justice Gomery released his final report on the scandal on February 1, 2006. Four years later we read that the RCMP has made its first allegations of bribery in the scandal. A Montreal court document states that an advertising firm offered bribes to civil servant Chuck Guité, including free cosmetic surgery for his wife.

According to a piece in the Globe and Mail:

The RCMP has referred the results of its investigation into advertising firm Groupe Everest to the office of the Crown prosecutor in Montreal. So far, the RCMP and the Quebec provincial police have arrested the presidents of other major advertising firms involved in the sponsorship scandal:

  • Jean Lafleur, president of Lafleur Communication Marketing, was sentenced to 48 months after pleading guilty to a $1.5-million fraud.
  • Groupaction Marketing Inc. president Jean Brault received 30 months after pleading guilty to fraud in relation to contracts worth $1.6-million.
  • Gilles-André Gosselin, president of Gosselin Strategic Communications, got 24 months plus a day in relation to $655,000 in fraud.
  • Paul Coffin, president of Communication Coffin, received an 18-month sentence in relation to fraud of $1.5-million.

Our federal police confirmed on Tuesday that it has finished its investigation and turned the file over to Crown prosecutors in Montreal.

All this and the politicians have come out pretty well, wouldn’t you say? Civil servants and ad agencies, bad; politicians, good. Of course, the Liberal Party in Quebec is left with its reputation in tatters, but it doesn’t seem like any politicians will see a day in jail. Pity.

Funny old world, eh?

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Good news spreads fast

The so-called Fox News North is, in fact, Quebecor’s proposed coast to coast TV channel Sun TV News, which plans, apparently, a January 1, 2011 launch. On June 1, Quebecor applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for a Category 1 Specialty TV licence for their new venture called Sun TV News, which will replace the over-the-air Sun TV station in Toronto.

The application is currently under review.

It’s a TV news channel that wants to “challenge the existing English Canadian TV news establishment,” according to Quebecor Media president and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau.

We’ll see.

 

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Just how deep does CBC’s Don Newman’s anti-conservatism go?

The prospect of Canadian news watchers getting another choice in the form of Quebecor’s proposed all-news network is getting left-wing pundits’ knickers in a knot—folks like former CBC broadcaster Don Newman seem to believe Canadians should be protected against what Newman refers to as Kory Teneycke’s “new right-wing ‘news’ channel.” [See Newman’s view here]

I notice that when Newman refers to the Liberal-New Democrat merger talks, he calls them “a merger of the centre-left [emphasis mine].” But always he refers to Quebecor’s news network and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives as “right-wing.” In other words, he seldom acknowledges the overlap at the political centre between the Conservative and the Liberal parties. I notice too that Newman places quotation marks around the word “news” when he used it in his reference to what he called the new right-wing “news” channel. I gather from that he only considers left-wing channels capable of being real news channels.

In Newman’s view:

“In the U.S., Fox News has been hugely polarizing. It specializes in drive-by attacks and misrepresentations, and is positively Orwellian at times, claiming to be ‘fair and balanced’ while implying that its competitors aren’t.

“The reality is that it mainly spews out propaganda that is dangerously misleading and often factually wrong.

“The parts that aren't wrong are, in some ways, just as dangerous, since they tend to make people comfortable in their prejudices.”

Not a single example is offered by Newman to support the veracity of his screed, however. Is this fair journalism by any reasonable standard? Or is Newman guilty of just plain yellow journalism, that is, biased opinion masquerading as objective fact.

Apparently, the mere fact Kory Teneycke is a conservative seems to have prompted Newman’s comment, “Obviously we [he and Teneycke] didn’t click.” I say this because Newman writes further on, “I have found him [Teneycke] professional and affable.” For what other reason was the fact “we didn’t click” so “obvious” to Newman?

But this sort of thing is typical of the culture at the CBC. To CBCers like Newman, left-wing “progressive” views are accepted as right-minded and reality, while conservative views are, of course, “propaganda,” “dangerously misleading” and “often factually wrong.”

Newman asks,

“Do they [Conservatives] really need a right-wing news channel urging them to be more rabid and stirring up the party’s hard-core base….”

Can you believe this man? Conservatives will be urged to be “more” rabid? How “rabid” are we normally?

This is a perfect example of why conservatives believe the CBC is biased against them.

Don Newman was with the CBC’s parliamentary bureau for nearly 20 years and was Senior Parliamentary Editor and the host of the Newsworld television show Politics. Did he suddenly acquire such vehement anti-conservatism after he retired in June 2009? I doubt it. He has probably held those extreme views for years. And anyone who sees ordinary conservatives as “rabid” could not possibly hide his bias—which, apparently, borders on bigotry—from his on-air interviews and commentaries.

To answer Newman’s rhetorical question, “Do they really need a right-wing news channel…?” I say possibly not, but Canadians really do need a news channel staffed by real professionals who do not allow their personal biases and bigotry to cloud their ability to deliver a fair and balanced view of the world. At this point, they don’t have one.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Honour crimes far too common in Canada

The potent mix of a high immigration rate and a policy of encouraging immigrants to maintain their cultures and practices after moving to Canada is having a detrimental effect on our society. A case in point is the increased incidence of domestic violence related to so-called “honour killings” and the harsh punishment associated with the practice, which I gather we now call “crimes of honour” when they do not result in death.

Honour crimes, which are most prevalent in countries with large Muslim populations, target women who are perceived to have shamed their families. Honour killings can result from a woman talking to a man, having a boyfriend, wearing makeup or revealing clothing, or even seeking a divorce—this according to Diana Nammi, founder of the London-based International Campaign Against Honour Killings. Appallingly, a women can shame her family by getting herself raped.

According to the National Post, which quoted the the United Nations, as many as 5,000 women and girls die—most at the hands of family members—in “honour killings” around the world each year.

Last year, here in Canada, three members of a Montreal family who emigrated from Afghanistan were arrested on murder charges after being accused of killing three daughters and a first wife in what police described as an honour crime. One expert said it was the 13th case of its kind in Canada since 2002.

Today, media reports tell of the attempted murder of an immigrant from Afghanistan now living in Montreal, Bahar Ebrahimi, by her mother in what the Crown is reportedly treating as an honour crime.

Surprisingly, we seem not to get too worked up about these things.

Immigration is virtually, though not quite, a win-win proposition for Canada. We get the population growth we need to prosper—Canada accepts more immigrants per capita than any other major country—and immigrants get to share in the success our country has become.

I’m all for immigration; I’m an immigrant myself. But surely we have a duty to ourselves to make sure we preserve the culture and practices that have made our society one of the most envied around the world. But how can we do this when we encourage immigration from countries whose cultures are the antithesis of ours, and, at the same time, encourage—through official multiculturalism—such immigrants to maintain as much of their culture as they want?

As said before on this blog, I have never been in favour of the government-encouraged multiculturalism we got from Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I do not agree that any nation should aspire to be an extension of someone else’s cultural identity. I believe we should achieve cultural enrichment and diversity without diluting our own identity. Newcomers to our country need not belong to any specific religion, or be of any particular colour, race, national or ethnic origin or gender. They should, however, be like-minded. In other words, they need to share our core values.

If this means not accepting immigrants from cultures where our core values are not respected or practiced, then so be it. Coming to Canada should be a privilege, not a human right to be conferred on every human being on earth.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Post merger political scene

So let’s assume the merger of the federal Liberals and the New Democrats actually takes place. What then? I believe it will result in the restructuring of both the political left and right in Canada. A restructuring that will more clearly define the political spectrum.

Across North America, we have had a polarization of politics. No longer is it acceptable for elected officials from different parties to agree with one another. Movements like the Tea Party movement in the United States have yanked the Republicans so far to the right that traditional middle-of-the-road conservatives like David Frum have been left virtually without a political home.

At the same time, Democrats have pushed themselves off the centre line and backed into a sort of neo-socialism where big government and higher taxes are acceptable, though nationalization remains taboo—except when rescuing self-destructive too-big-to-fail corporations.

In Canada, we too have experienced political polarization, although membership in/support of our political parties do not fully reflect this.

When the Right united under the Conservative Party of Canada, many Red Tories, small “c” conservatives still, fled the horror they felt at the prospect of Stephen Harper becoming the next prime minister and joined the Liberals and, to a much lesser extent, the Green Party. But small “c” conservative Grits remained in the Liberal fold. Movement at the political centre and left was pretty well restricted to shuffles between the Liberals, New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois, with drips and drabs going to the Greens.

After the Liberals and New Democrats merge, however, small “c” conservative Grits will most likely cleave off from the Liberals and join the Conservatives, even if they have to hold their noses in the process. In time, the far left of the new “Liberal Democrats” will fracture and the Greens will dissolve. Then, together these fragments will form a much-reduced-in-support socialist-labour-environment party with elements from the Marxists.

Occupying the right, we will have the CPC, while on the left we’ll have the new Liberal Democrats and separately a socialist-labour-green party that will garner about 10-15 per cent of the national vote. Whether the Bloc will survive is anybody’s guess—I hope they don’t.

Should the United Kingdom move to some form of proportional representation, I believe Canada will eventually follow suit. At which point, some conservatives will the split from the CPC to form a Reform-like party. Majority governments will be rare and the right and left will take turns cooperating in various ways to form governments.

That’s the way I see it.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Are Liberal-NDP merger talks so “ridiculous”?

Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton have taken great pains to assure us there is no substance to rumours of a merger or coalition between the federal Liberals and the New Democrats. I notice, however, that they do not actually deny there have been talks, but that no authorized talks have taken place.

Warren Kinsella may be many things I do not like, but I do not believe he’d lie in a sworn affidavit saying Alfred Apps, the federal party’s president, spoke to him about high-level discussions with NDP officials about the creation of a new party. John Mraz, a former director of communications for the Liberals, has sworn a similar affidavit saying that, in a discussion with Apps, the party president told him about merger talks between the two parties.

Enough political pundits and journalists, who have reliable contacts inside the Liberal party, have reported that talks have taken place to make the reports credible.

I watched Jack Layton stick-handle around the question on television on the weekend. According to Jack, party old-timers get together and muse about all sorts of things, possible including future cooperation between the parties. Apparently, former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien and Ed Broadbent, a former federal NDP leader are good buddies and muse together on a pretty regular basis, but it’s just old-timers’ musings and nothing at all to take seriously.

Of course, this is bafflegab. We hear enough of it to recognize it immediately.

Think back to November 2008 when the media was filled with reports of real discussions between, guess who? Ed Broadbent and Jean Chrétien, of course. These were the parties who got together to muse about a coalition between their two parties. And guess what? The two political parties actually did sign a formal coalition agreement.

When smoke is billowing out the windows of a house, there usually is a fire inside.

It is not in the nature of most politicians to tell the truth. Scorpions sting, politicians lie. Their first inclination always is to lie—we have countless examples of that. In this case, they aren’t actually telling lies, just evading the truth by splitting hairs about what’s really going on. Obfuscation is their coin.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, June 11, 2010

EKOS: Conservative lead shrinks

So after a few weeks of pulling ahead of the Liberals and their ineffective leader, Michael Ignatieff, the Conservative Party of Canada’s lead in the opinion polls has now shrunk to a point where it cannot be at all sure of even a minority victory in an election. The latest EKOS poll has the CPC at 31.4 per cent, the LPC at 26.8 per cent and the Dippers at 16.6 per cent.

And perhaps as worrying is the only 48.1 per cent of respondents who believe the country is going in the right direction, and the only 38.4 per cent who believe the Conservative government is going in the right direction.

The abundance of negative political chatter—some deserved, some not—in the media is, apparently, taking its toll in a slow-bleed sort of way. In the background, of course, we have excellent economic news that should be giving the Stephen Harper government a real boost in the polls, but, in reality, is not having the desired effect.

Canada’s image in the world as a safe banking community, and the international plaudits we’ve received for weathering the recent recession and emerging from it with one of the strongest economies among G20 nations seems totally offset by the chaos on Parliament Hill we hear about each day.

This morning I read in the Financial Post that BNP Paribas, the French bank, says the loonie is becoming a reserve currency for some of the world’s central banks. Which means, of course, that it’s being held by some international central banks and other major foreign institutions in their foreign-exchange reserves, because Canada and its dollar are increasingly being seen as safe and solid bets.

High praise indeed, and we should all be very proud of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, which deserves a lot of credit for this trend.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are Kory Teneycke and David Aiken teaming up on “Fox News of the North?”

Yesterday, we read the news that the Quebec-based billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau is planning to launch a 24-hour cable channel modeled on the right-of-centre U.S. network, Fox News. For months, apparently, Mr. Péladeau’s Quebecor Inc.—Sun Media’s parent organization—has been putting together plans for a channel that will target viewers with the same conservative leanings as those that have made Fox News the political force it has become in the United States.

Kory Teneycke, who served as director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008 and 2009, has been appointed vice-president of business development at Quebecor Media Inc. and is expected to lead the new project. An application for a licence was submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last week and, reportedly, a formal announcement on the venture is “imminent.”

This cannot come too soon for me. The state of unprofessional journalism at the CBC and CTV cable news networks is dismal. These uncompromisingly left-wing organizations have lost their ability to deliver news, especially political news, in a straightforward and balanced manner. CTV’s Power Play with host Tom Clark no longer even tries to be balanced, preferring his daily hour-long anti-conservative gabfests.

CBC is, at least, trying to be more balanced these days—perhaps because it has been roundly criticized for its anti-Tory bias. Evan Solomon on Power & Politics was all over the Grits last evening with the Warren Kinsella/Liberal-NDP merger story, while Tom Clark virtually ignored it.

Today, the Globe and Mail is reporting that David Akin has just resigned as National Affairs Correspondent with Canwest and is poised to join Sun Media as the Ottawa bureau chief and be a television host. The expectation is that Mr. Akin will be a part of Kory Teneycke’s new cable news network. If this is so, then it is terrific news for those who want to hear about our politics from a centre-right perspective.

According to the Globe and Mail’s Ottawa Notebook, “Mr. Akin—reached by the Globe through Twitter and email—wouldn’t confirm exactly what his new role would be, saying instead that Quebecor, the owner of Sun Media, would [be] saying something ‘shortly’.”

The last time CBC had an acceptable political news and interview program was on June 19, 2009 when Don Newman made his final “Politics” broadcast. And the last informative and entertaining political broadcast on CTV came about six months later, when Mike Duffy Live went off the year.

If the Globe and Mail is correct, and we’re about to get a “Fox News of the North” cable news channel, that’s good news all round, I’d say.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Immigration legislation Bill C-11: Ignatieff shuffles…then reshuffles

Does anyone in Canada really believe that our refugee system is working at anywhere close to optimum levels? Does anyone believe it is working at all? The answers are “no” and a resounding “no.” So why has the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, decided to—as described by the Liberal-supporting Globe and Mail—oppose “… the Conservative government’s proposed fix for the country’s horribly broken refugee-determination system?”

This writer has no definitive answer to the last question, but has read the news reports and can speculate. Apparently, while the NDP and Bloc Québécois have been opposed to the new legislation, Bill C-11, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the Liberal critic Maurizio Bevilacqua have been trying, successfully, to find a common ground. Then suddenly, caving under pressure from the Liberal party’s Quebec and socialist wings, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff drops his party’s support for the bill altogether—ostensibly, because many Liberals were opposed to the idea of a safe-country list.

According to a report on the Globe and Mail website, Liberal MP and immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua spent 14 months in discussions with the government while the legislation was being drafted—a senior member of Mr. Ignatieff’s staff even attended many of those discussions.

Most pundits agree that this could never have happened without the approval and, at least, nodding consent from both Mr. Ignatieff and his chief of staff, Peter Donolo.

Then comes the all too familiar Ignatieff-shuffle: the influential MP representing the Montreal-North riding of Bourassa, Denis Coderre, MP for Parkdale-High Park Gerard Kennedy and some others in caucus apparently balked at an agreement with the Conservatives, so Mr. Ignatieff beat a hasty retreat.

But wait, folks, as is Michael Ignatieff’s custom, a firm stand on any substantive issue is always temporary and lasts only as long as media headlines are aligned with his general position. As is often the case, Mr. Ignatieff has lined his party up against prevailing opinion across our great land, and quite frankly is spitting into the wind on this one.

Consequently, we get the familiar Ignatieff-reshuffle: now that Mr. Ignatieff’s handlers see that Minister Kenney appears to be about to put more water in his wine and cut a deal with the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois, they will—IMHO—give him the go ahead to allow his committee members studying the legislation to let it move ahead.

This writer predicts the legislation will get the green light.

 

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Liberal-NDP merger talks: serious discussions or serious lies?

The fissure between Liberal Party of Canada’s war room veteran and frequent defender of federal Liberal policies on CTV and CBC, Warren Kinsella, and the LPC seems to have widened into a chasm. In mid-May, we wrote about Mr. Kinsella’s departure from the federal Liberal party’s war room:

“We had some discussion of this ridiculous discussion of fusion of the two parties. No one has any authorization to even discuss this matter. It’s ridiculous. I am a Liberal. I am proud to be a Liberal. The people around me are Liberals.”

– Michael Ignatieff
June 9, 2010

“… Kinsella is out and will not lead the LPC’s war room in the next election. Apparently, he quit as head of the war room, at least in part, because he ‘was unhappy about the way in which some people [at the Opposition Leader’s Office] were dealt with’.”

Now, this break-up has gone public.

On the one hand, we have Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff denying categorically that there have been discussions by senior Liberals and New Democrats to merge their political parties—NDP leader Jack Layton has made a similar denial.

On the other hand, we have Mr. Kinsella swearing out an affidavit on Wednesday, claiming that Liberal Party president Alfred Apps told him on May 11 that “there is a lot of interest in merger with the NDP. There have been many discussions at a high level.”

Apparently, Mr. Apps has since accused Mr. Kinsella of “dramatically” twisting his words and that he was only passing on what he had heard from an “NDP friend.”

But, in apparent support of Mr. Kinsella’s version, later on Wednesday, Liberal Party member John Mraz also swore an affidavit claiming there had been discussions between the parties. He swears that Mr. Apps told him on June 3 that he’d been involved in discussions about co-operation between the Liberals and the New Democrats and that talks included Mr. Chrétien, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

We also have reports on the CBC website that seem to support Mr. Kinsella’s version of the Liberal-NDP merger talks.

“The comments [by Prime Minister Stephen Harper] come after many Liberal insiders confirmed to CBC News that discussions between the two parties are not just focused on forming a coalition after an election or co-operation before one, but on the creation of a new party amid rumblings of dissatisfaction over Ignatieff’s leadership and the party’s dismal position in recent opinion polls.”

Liberal party leader-in-waiting Bob Rae has reportedly said there was “no substance” to the rumours, and advised the media to “take a deep breath and get a grip.” This extraordinarily sage advice, flies in the face of Mr. Kinsella’s assertion to CBC News that, “serious people are involved in discussions at a serious level.”

The vise is closing, and the proverbial testicles clamped between its jaws are those of fumbling-bumbling Michael Ignatieff. It seems clear to this writer that the chief Grit is now in a fight for political survival.

If Mr. Ignatieff is being truthful that “no one has any authorization to even discuss this matter,” then the Liberal-NDP merger discussions are being held without his approval, or perhaps, even knowledge. And how can that be good for his prospects of remaining the LPC’s leader?

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Evan Soloman gets nods from Blogging Tories

Fellow bloggers are being very kind to CBC’s host of Power and Politics, Evan Soloman, these days. For example, Alberta Ardvark is offering him “kudos” and Joanne at Blue Like You wrote that he “really shone tonight as a moderator when he had NDP Pat Martin squaring off against Opus Dei’s Father Fred Dolan.” Many comments on those blogs have been no less kind to Mr. Soloman.

I’d say that since the CBC was recently criticized over comments by their p0litical opinion pollster, I’ve noticed what I take to be an effort by some of the network’s on-air folks to temper their overt leaning to the political left—at least, during news shows.

I stopped watching  Power and Politics regularly because I didn’t believe I was getting a balanced view of Canadian or international politics. I continue to watch similar shows like Question Period and Power Play, however. They too seem to be biased and seem to be harder on Conservatives than Liberals in interviews, but, somehow, bias there seems not to be so unrelenting.

It is clear, however, that Evan Soloman is gaining—at least, in some quarters—a reputation for fairness, and I’ll applaud that trend and begin, once again, to watch his show.

I do believe, though, that the practice of the news networks in Canada of pitting left against right in most panel discussions is a major impediment to helping Canadians understand their politics and the activities of their political institutions. Controversy sells, it seems, better than reasoned analysis. And this is even more egregious than bias in reportage.

For me, listening to a Conservative and a Liberal go head to head with party talking points and “staying on message” regardless of the situation is neither informative nor entertaining. And there is far too much of that on our political shows.

As for more balance on the CBC, I’m all for that.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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Capital punishment, no; late-term abortions, yes

Life is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions and no where more so than the ban on capital punishment and the condoning of unrestricted abortion on demand. Those who condemn the practice of capital punishment on moral or ethical grounds are often the same ones who insist that women must have the right to demand an abortion at any time from conception to birth.

Here in Canada the state protects the lives of even its most notorious residents, including rapists, serial killers and unrepentant child molesters. The worst legal fate to befall the Clifford Olsons, Paul Bernardos and the countless child molesters is a lifetime behind bars—no death penalty for them. In fact, even foreigners can seek refuge in Canada from the mere threat of a death sentence in their own country.

According to a January 2010 poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion, 62 per cent of respondents in Canada support relying on the death penalty for homicide convictions, and 10 per cent were not sure. Yet, the death penalty is banned in Canada.

Many who do not favour the death penalty, of course, are more concerned about wrongful conviction, that morality or ethics—and given the recent wrongful convictions we have heard about, who can blame them. (Since abolition, at least, six Canadian prisoners convicted of first-degree murder have been released on grounds of innocence.)

But many with strongly held views base their opposition on a belief that the death penalty violates the right to life, making it the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

“Anecdotally, as an ethicist, I have been consulted in a professional capacity on two late-term abortions, both of which were carried out. One involved a 34-week gestation pregnancy, where the mother was an unmarried graduate student from a foreign country; the other a 32-week gestation pregnancy, where the married parents did not want to have a ‘defective child’—the baby had a cleft palate (a relatively minor physical deformity that can be largely corrected with surgery).”

– Margaret Somerville,
Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law,
McGill University

Yet, Canada, because it extends no legal protection to them, condemns tens of thousands of unborn babies to death each year, even those in late stages of pregnancy, known as post-viability abortions1.

How can the life of a child in the later stages of pregnancy be less valuable than Clifford Olson’s or Paul Bernardo’s?

Many who support abortion on demand would have us believe there are almost no cases of late-term abortions in Canada. Earlier this month, Margaret Wente wrote in the Globe and Mail: “Virtually no late-term abortions—the rarest and most contentious kind—are performed here, even though they’re legal.” Recent comments on this blog have also echoed this, apparently, wide-held myth.

Margaret Somerville, the Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University has addressed this myth in an article in The Montreal Gazette. She writes:

“The facts on late-term abortions are intentionally made difficult to obtain. Some time ago, I contacted a staff member at Statistics Canada to ask about the numbers of late-term abortions. She told me they were instructed for political reasons not to collect statistics on the gestational age at which abortion occurs. She explained, however, that hospitals must report the number of abortions and about 45 per cent had continued to report gestational age. From these unsolicited reports, it’s known that at least 400 post-viability abortions take place in Canada each year and the actual number is most probably more than twice that.”

In May, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted an all-party motion in favour of unrestricted access to free abortion, with no limitations mentioned. And, according to Ms. Somerville, there was a media report that “the Quebec government sent a specialist obstetrician to the United States for training in late-term abortion.”

The notable ethicist also writes that “there is a special clinic for post-22-weeks gestation abortion in downtown Montreal and that there is one designated hospital for abortion of 20- to 22-week gestation pregnancies.”

The unavailability of statistical data obscures the the reality of late-term abortions in Canada and allows the pro-choice lobby to duck the moral or ethical debate of the sort Canadians seem more than willing to have on capital punishment.

On the one hand, the pro-choice lobby argues that because late-term abortions are rare, we do not need any law on abortion. On the other hand, even though capital punishment was extremely rare (1,481 people were sentenced to death, with 710 executed) in Canada, it should be abolished.

So, we are outraged that over several decades 710 residents of Canada were executed by the state for serious crimes, but have no moral or ethical dilemma over 400, at least, late-term abortions each and every year.

 

1The Canadian Medical Association sets viability (some chance of the child living outside the womb) at 20 weeks gestation.

 

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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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