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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ignatieff’s latest flip-flop

The federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff continues to baffle Canadians with his say-one-thing-vote-another style of leadership. Time and again—dozens of times—the chief Grit has condemned Tory government policy and budgets prior to the vote in the House of Commons, then allowed them to pass with nary a whimper from his caucus.

This mealy-mouthed approach has been been a defining characteristic of Ignatieff’s term in office and has been continued and reinforced by his recent flip-flop over the Bloc’s Employment Insurance (EI) bill.

Last fall, Michael Ignatieff ranted and raved—even threatened and election—over some of the very EI reforms proposed in a Bloc-sponsored bill that went to a vote Wednesday in the House. Hours before a vote in the House, however, he reversed his stand and, apparently, no longer supports the range of enhancements to EI benefits. They are too expensive and are no longer required, he argues.

The legislation introduced by Bloc MP Yves Lessard would reduce the qualifying period for EI from the current minimum of 420 hours down to 360 hours. It would also increase the weekly earnings from 55 per cent to 60 per cent of past earnings and increase the length of time that benefits could be collected. This largesse would have effectively implemented a 45-day work-year for many on EI.

Michael Ignatieff’s turnabout suggested the Liberals would defeat the legislation, which he had described as being “dead on arrival” and a “complete waste of time.” But when the vote in the House was called on Wednesday, Ignatieff and some of his Liberal caucus members simply didn't show up.

Fortunately, the Bloc’s EI bill was defeated by a vote of 147-124, with New Democrats, Bloc members and several dozen Liberals supporting it.

So once again, as Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe so rightly pointed out, it was typical of the Liberals to try to play both sides of the fence.

Judging from polls going back months, most Canadians are not buying Ignatieff’s duplicity. He continues to be Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (not so) secret weapon.

____________________

The Iceman blog also has some interesting things to say on this topic.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tories open up an eight-point lead in voter support

Thanks, apparently, to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff inability to connect with ordinary Canadians, the federal Liberal Party is once more mired in the mid-twenties of support among Canadians voters polled by Angus Reid.

Recent controversies over the long-gun registry, the mandatory long-form census and the like whipped up by opposition parties and their cheering sections in the mainstream media seem only to help the Grits gain temporary traction before they slide back to a support level enjoyed during their romance with the ineffective Stéphane Dion.

Here’s the national breakdown:

  • Conservatives: 34%
  • Liberals: 26%
  • NDP: 18%
  • Green Party: 11%
  • Bloc Québécois: 10%

Demonizing Tories just doesn’t seem to resonate with enough Canadians to help the Liberals—only the Greens seem to be going anywhere these days.

In the West, voters in Alberta (52%) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (50%) continue to support the Conservatives. In British Columbia, the Tories have the lead with 39 per cent, followed by the NDP with 24 per cent and the Grits with 18 per cent.

In seat-rich Ontario, the Conservatives lead the Liberals by three-points (36% to 33%), while the Bloc continues to be the favourite in Quebec (38%)—the other parties are all left behind (Lib. 22%, NDP 17%, Con. 17%).

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.


Coalition if necessary

Today’s National Post carries a column by John Ivison in which he advises Michael Ignatieff to rule out a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition so as to forestall efforts by the Tories to continue raising that spectre at every turn, now and during any upcoming election.

“Failure to rule out a coalition is going to see the Liberal leader on the defensive from now until election day, as reporters justifiably try to find out whether the opposition parties are negotiating in back rooms over beer and sandwiches, once again attempting to give the Tories the boot.”

– John Ivison

There is little doubt that Canadians abhor the prospect of a government formed with formal participation of the separatist Bloc Québécois and with NDP participation in the Cabinet. This was amply demonstrated when the opposition parties threatened to do just that in 2008 and, as Ivison points out, “one Ipsos Reid poll had the Tories at 46%, twice the level of Liberal support.”

Opposition members try to blunt this Tory tactic of warning against such a coalition by reminding us of a 2004 letter Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed along with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton and sent to then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. The letter asked Ms. Clarkson not to let PM Paul Martin dissolve parliament and force an election without first consulting the trio, presumable to explore the possibility of Harper forming a government with the support of the other two party leaders.

Of course, such a comparison is absurd. The Stéphane Dion-led Liberals had offered the NDP places at their Cabinet table and had a formal non-defeat agreement with the Bloc. The opposition would then use this formal coalition to defeat a newly elected minority Conservative government.

Pretty strong stuff compared with the 2004 Harper-Layton-Duceppe agreement to consult and cooperate in providing a Conservative Party (no opposition members in Cabinet) alternative to a Liberal minority government.

Lib-NDP cooperation is a long-standing tradition going back, at least, to the Trudeau years, and a possibility of more of the same, while disquieting to this Canadian, is hardly the bogeyman many seem to fear. With leftists like Bob Rae, Ujjal Dosanjh and Gerard Kennedy assured of seats in a Liberal Cabinet, I doubt we’d notice much change in Liberal policy if Jack Layton and a few of his crew were also given a place at the same table.

The real bogeyman is the likelihood that Gilles Duceppe and his Bloc members would be given a formal role in any future “cooperation” between parties to form the Government of Canada. The way I see it, having a gang of separatists formally involved in the decision making of the Government Canada is a non-starter.

A coalition that does not depend on Bloc support for its existence would be a credible, if distasteful, alternative to the Tories and would be broadly tolerated by Canadians. I do, however, believe tacit (at least) approval by Ignatieff and Layton of such an arrangement, prior to an election, would be a prerequisite to acceptance by a broad cross section of Canadians. To spring a surprise coalition with Cabinet participation and non-defeat arrangements would not go over well with most of us.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here’s a round of boos for Don Martin’s performance on CTV’s Power Play

The recent departure of Tom Clark from the CTV News show, Power Play, has demonstrated publicly what a bush league operation this cable news network really is. With the opening show of the fall session only days away, CTV announced Clark would no longer be doing the show—and no permanent replacement had been selected.

“Always strive for balance and freedom from bias”

– Reuters
Handbook of Journalism

Jane Taber and now Don Martin are proving that they have too few skills when it comes to hosting an interview show. Taber, at least, has some experience and can get by…barely. Don Martin, on the other hand, takes TV interviewing to new lows. In short, this man does a pathetic impersonation of a broadcast professional.

In a September 24 interview of Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose he showed a total lack of respect for his guest or her office as he snickered and made faces while she answered his questions. Don Martin has his supporters as a columnist at the National Post, and I read his stuff most days, but, frankly, he’s not up to much as a TV host. Sarcasm is a poor substitute for insightful or probing questions, and I’d have thought Martin would learned this by now, after all, he’s no rookie.

If CTV’s setting the bar this low for its early evening political issues show, Sun News TV is going to have a field day in the ratings race, if the CRTC ever gives it a fighting chance.

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toronto’s progressives save the long-gun register and the rest of us be damned

The long-gun registry was inspired by the murder of 14 students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique by Marc Lapine using a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle. And it was born with the passage of Bill C-68 (the Firearms Act) in 1995. Among other things, Bill C-68 required all shotguns and rifles be registered.

Since its inception, the long-gun register has been mired in controversy, distortions and scandal. The gun registry is reasonable described as a boondoggle and one of the most embarrassing spending scandals in federal Liberal Party history.

In 1995, taxpayers were promised they’d have to pay only $2-million of the budget—gun registration fees would cover the rest. But in 2002 an federal government audit showed estimates from the Department of Justice were that more than $1-billion would be spent by 2005. These costs have now risen to almost $2-billion.

In 2006, Tony Bernardo, an anti-long-gun-registry spokesman wondered at the inappropriateness “for the Federal [Liberal] Government to hire a private lobbyist with taxpayers’ dollars to lobby itself?” This after it was divulged that a consultant was awarded a $380,000 five-month contract by the Justice Department in March 2003 to lobby the Solicitor General, Treasury Board and Privy Council for funds for the ailing firearms registry.

With this checkered background, one would think Canadians would be happy to see the end of the long-gun registry. Apparently not. Many police chiefs and the RCMP, for example, believe the registry keeps us safer, but offer little but their own say-so to support their public statements.

A frequently used statistic to support keeping long-guns in the registry is the 14,012 average daily queries the RCMP claim were made in 2010. This oft-quoted  statistic is grossly misleading as only 530 of those are specific to firearms registration (i.e., licence number, serial number and certificate number). The remaining 96.3 per cent (13,482) are automatically generated every time an address is checked or a license plate is verified. And even the specific registry queries can be misleading as they are not limited to use by police officers, but also include “hits” when legal sales of firearms are made: every time a firearm is legally purchased, three queries are generated on the registry (CFRO)—one for the buyer, one for the seller, and one for the firearm.

The sad fact is there’s no reliable information to suggest how many times per day police officers intentionally access the firearms registry, notwithstanding the fact proponents of the registry cite these RCMP statistics repeatedly in media reports and legal hearings.

But politics has won out as it always does in Ottawa.

Registration of long-guns in the overall Canadian Firearms Registry only applies to sporting rifles and shotguns, and all firearms classified as restricted or prohibited would remain registered. Moreover, a Possession and Acquisition Licence and the prerequisite training are mandatory when one seeks to purchase or possess any firearm. As well, hunter education programs are a requirement of all hunters in Canada. Even had the House passed the recent private members’ bill to scrap the long-gun portion of the registry, these restrictions and controls would still have applied.

Spin, half-truths and muddled reasoning have been hallmarks of this debate. Take these two examples:

  • One Liberal MP, who had always voted in favour of scrapping the long-gun registry, apparently voted to preserve it on Wednesday because his father had killed himself with a gun.

Just how the registry prevents suicides is beyond me.

  • According to Liberal chief Michael Ignatieff, emergency room doctors and nurses support the gun registry. So what! I’m a retired accountant, and I do not. What special insight could doctors and nurses possible have on this issue?

It’s been the law in Canada since 1934 to register handguns. Yet handgun crimes are rampant on the streets of Toronto, and handguns are now the firearm of choice for most murderers. If registration had the power to prevent crime and improve our safety, this simply would not be the case.

Why then did the Liberals whip their members to support maintaining long-gun registration? I don’t know, but suspect it has something to do with the fact the Liberal Party is a Toronto-centric, left of centre party. And many in Toronto see no value at all to gun ownership. Most Liberals in Toronto would back any law that would outright ban civilian possession of any and all guns, short and long, in Canada. They’d do it and the rest of us be damned.

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When good news is bad news

Today I read what was styled as a good-news story, but actually turned out to be a bad story or, at least, a so-so one for Canada’s and especially Ontario’s future generations who seek a university education. The story: QMI Agency reports that nine Canadian universities are on a list of the top 200 in the world.

Our top university, University of Toronto, heads the Canadian contingent in 17th position on the annual list released by U.K.-based Times Higher Education (THE). First place went to Harvard University, one of the 72 U.S. institutions in the top 200.

The next Canadian schools in line were University of British Columbia and McGill University at 30th and 35th respectively.

McMaster in Hamilton was the only other of our Ontario Universities to make the list—it ranked 93rd—while the University of Alberta came in at 127th followed closely by University of Victoria at 130th. Rounding out Canada’s contribution to the world of higher education was University of Montreal at 138th, Dalhousie University at 193rd and Simon Fraser University in B.C. at 199th.

Rather a mediocre showing wouldn’t you say?

Canada is a G8 nation with aspirations to be a member of the United Nations’ 15-seat Security Council. This is a big deal in my estimation and it’s our responsibility to be worthy of our membership in these important and weighty world bodies. These are the sorts of things that make many Canadians and others believe we hit above our weight internationally. Only a superb, top-notch education system can keep us solidly in the ranks of first-rate nations.

When more than one-third of our population lives in a province that can only claim two Universities in the top 200, we begin to see some of the source of our problem. Only with governments who value excellence—indeed treasure it—will we see a truly outstanding system of higher education in our province and country. And, unfortunately, we’ve had a succession of mediocre governments ruling Ontario, culminating in arguably the most lackluster of the past quarter century. Yes, that’s your bunch, Mr. McGuinty.

The Harris governments did much to put Ontario back on it fiscal feet in the late 1990s, but in those days higher education was not at the very top as a priority—nor has it been so since. It’s all too easy to count on the brain-drain to entice PhDs from other countries to immigrate to Canada and to send our best scholars to elite universities in the United States and abroad.

Perhaps its our egalitarian nature that undervalues excellence. What a pity, eh?

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Tories maintain lead in EKOS voter intention poll

At 32.4 per cent, the federal Conservatives continue to hold their long-standing lead over the Michael Ignatieff Liberals, which garnered 28.9 per cent support, according to a recent EKOS voter intention poll1. The New Democrats are a poor third in voter support with 16.6 per cent, while the Greens were at 8.9 per cent.

  • Direction of the country:
    • 50.6% right direction
    • 38.1% wrong direction
    • 11.4% DK/NR

The Tories have a slim lead in Atlantic Canada and a wide margin in Alberta and Saskatchewan/Manitoba, with the Liberals holding slim leads in Ontario and Quebec.

NDP support surpasses that of the Liberals in British Columbia and Saskatchewan/Manitoba, which cannot be good news for the hapless visitor, Michael Ignatieff, who spent the summer like a tourist getting to know Canada and trying to drum up voter support outside the traditional Liberal strongholds of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

The good news for the Grits is they are no longer testing historical lows in voter popularity.

The good news for Tories is, despite a summer of hostility from the mainstream media, they’ve managed to hold onto a significantly important lead over the Grits, and a majority of voters questioned said the country is going in the right direction.

Doesn’t look like any party is going to cobble together a majority government anytime soon, except perhaps through a formal coalition.

1The field dates: September 8 – September 14, 2010. A random sample of 1,770 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

[Source]

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don’t look to progressives for consistency of principles

The CBC is having a hissy fit over the possibility that the NRA—the American pro-gun lobby group—might have some involvement with the fight here in Canada to ditch the ill conceived Long Gun Registry. Apparently, US-based organizations are not permitted to have any influence over what we do in Canada.

So hypocritical are the progressives that they’ll tolerate, even welcome, outside-the-country interference when it supports a left-wing cause, but denounce it roundly when it offers support to a cause broadly supported by those on the political right.

Take for example Quebecor’s cable news venture, Sun News TV. A left-wing American lobby group called Avaaz.org, which operates out of New York City and is funded by U.S. billionaire George Soros, recently launched a petition against Sun News TV getting approval from the CRTC to operate an all news channel here in Canada.

Lefty author Margaret Atwood has, apparently, signed Avaaz.org’s petition and has spoken out loudly in favour of its objective. But that’s okay with the CBC—welcome one, welcome all international busybodies.

Another example is when CUPE, Ontario’s largest university workers’ union proposed in 2009 a ban on Israeli academics teaching in Ontario’s universities, and its previous attempts to boycott goods and services from the Jewish state. That was just fine, laudable, in fact. Our Canadian progressives have such moral superiority it’s their duty to tell others how to live their lives—here and abroad.

Oh well, I doubt anyone expects consistency from progressives—they’ll turn whichever way the left winds blow.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Kory Teneycke out; Charles Adler in

The announcement today that Kory Teneycke has resigned from his VP job at Quebecor Media Inc. came as a surprise to me. The stated reason is he’s become too much of a lightening rod for left-wing criticism of Quebecor’s Sun News TV venture. I won’t comment further, however, until I learn more about the reason behind his departure—assuming there’s more to learn.

“My objective is to create a national conversation every night on TV that will stimulate Canadians to have their own conversations with each other about the issues that matter to them.”

– Charles Adler.

Also today we read that broadcaster Charles Adler has signed to “anchor a prime time TV show when SUN TV NEWS launches in 2011.” Adler has 37 years of TV, radio, and print journlism behind him and is the current host of a national radio show.

Adler uses commentary, panel discussions and interviews with key newsmakers to provide insights into the stories of the day—just the ticket for the new Sun News TV channel. According to the news release, Adler will continue to host the Charles Adler Show on radio during the day and will host his SUN TV NEWS show in the evening.

This is one prime time entry I await with earnest anticipation. My prediction is it’ll be the best of breed on Canadian television and far surpass the thin cruel served up by either CTV’s Power Play or the CBC’s Power & Politics.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tom Clark’s leaving CTV

Tom Clark got miffed after he was passed over as anchor of CTV’s flagship night time news program in favour of Lisa LaFlamme who will succeed Lloyd Robertson when he retires. According to a source at CTV, Clark “was pretty bitter. You can tell he wasn’t a happy camper.” Now Clark has decided to leave CTV altogether.

Most non-progressives will not shed a tear for Clark’s leaving—his political bias spoilt the Power Play with Tom Clark show for most of us and left the field open to competitor Evan Solomon over at the CBC’s Power and Politics. Solomon is noticeably better at hosting a political current affairs show. There was a time when I quite admired Clark’s work in the field, but after watching him report from Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, I changed my opinion of his work.

Word is that CTV’s Question Period co-host Jane Taber—guest host of Power Play on Tuesday—will be part of a rotating cast of hosts until a permanent replacement is found. Let’s hope this rotating cast will be better at the job than Clark’s replacements were during his Haiti assignment.

Remember when Mike Duffy had that time slot? It is a shame how far CTV has slipped since then.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Long form census be gone already

My religion, my ethnicity, my income and household expenses and what’s inside my house, along with most of the other 53 questions asked in 2006’s 40-page compulsory census form is nobody’s business but my own and the nosy-parker census takers should just butt out of my private affairs.

I am supposed to have a guaranteed freedom of religion. This guarantee should cover my right not to disclose the nature of my choice. Why should this right be abrogated by the census takers? What’s the point? Many may want to know who my God is, but nobody needs to know the nature of my religious beliefs.

My government can operate just fine without knowing most of what’s in the so-called long form census as it relates to me, but big-government advocates can’t. Busy-body social engineers and advocacy groups (read pressure groups) should do their own surveys of those who give a damn about their causes and leave the rest of us alone.

Private polling is routinely done in Canada with sufficient statistical accuracy for leading businesses, newspapers and television networks to use them on a regular basis. There are cost-effective ways of getting answers to the 53 questions on the long form without invading my privacy or threatening me with fines and prison terms.

As I’ve written before, I notice that the moaning and hand-wringing over this issue seems mostly to be coming from organizations, public and private, which use our personal information for their own (useful or otherwise) ends. I hear and read little from individuals bemoaning the loss of an opportunity to hand over quite intrusive private information about themselves.

Most every Western democracy is seeking alternatives to their traditional census methodology. So why shouldn’t Canada do the same? And let me say that I’m not at all comforted by the “guarantee” that my personal data will be kept confidential. Our over-paid, inept civil service is the last organization I want to trust with anything. They’re forced upon me, but I don’t have to trust them.

The ethnicity of my ancestors? Who cares? Nobody should. I’m Canadian, that’s all that is really important.

I look to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government to help protect my privacy.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

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