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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tories win and NDP loose big in last night’s by-elections

The results of yesterday’s federal by-elections show Conservatives gained one seat and they held onto one they already had—for a net gain of one. The Grits lost one seat (a big one in 905 Ontario), and won one—for a net gain of zero. While the New Democrats lost one—the only one of the three parties to experience a net loss on the day.

“Today Vaughan families elected a man with real-life experience, with family values, with a lifetime of hard work and strong commitment to community.”

– Julian Fantino

Star Conservative candidate, former Toronto Police Chief and Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police Julian Fantino won a close victory in Vaughan, the city above Toronto. Although the loss in Vaughan really hurt the Grits who have held that seat for 22 years, they gained a replacement seat in Manitoba by wining the riding of Winnipeg North, which was formerly held by the NDP.

Not surprisingly, the Conservatives held onto their riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette in Manitoba.

They’ll be lots of political spin today with the Dippers spinning away what must have been a heart-breaking loss to the Liberals in Winnipeg North, a riding the NDP had held for 13 years. And, of course, Michael Ignatieff’s crew will be out there in media-land explaining how the Vaughan riding was a long-shot for them and how they’re not surprised they lost it. Don’t let the spin doctors fool you, readers, these losses were stunning body-blows to both progressive parties.

The fortunes of Jack Layton and his New Democrats are waning, and, given the performance of his front-bench MPs, that’s not at all surprising. In 2008, the Liberals ran a distant third in Winnipeg North with only nine per cent of the vote, while New Democrat Judy Wasylycia-Leis won easily with an impressive 62 per cent. The Dippers just got less relevant and, if they’re not careful, they will join Elizabeth May and her Green Party on the scrapheap of political history.

As to the Grits, the loss of Vaughan must be causing quite some nervousness among Liberal MPs in the surrounding area who won their seats by a narrow margin in 2008. Names like Ken Dryden, Joe Volpe, Ruby Dhalla, Paul Szabo, Andrew Kania, Rob Oliphant and Mark Holland come to mind. I bet they aren’t seeing any sort of silver lining with the ineffectual Michael Ignatieff leading their party.

Liberal contender for the Vaughan seat, Tony Genco, lost by only about three percentage points. But this was less about a strong Liberal showing and more about a backlash against Tory candidate Julian Fantino, who is held with suspicion by many conservative voters over his peekaboo-style campaign and conduct as OPP commissioner vis-à-vis the native occupation at Caledonia, Ontario.

Conservatives carried the day: with the Vaughan victory, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a giant step closer to his goal of penetrating the Liberal’s Toronto fortress. The Conservatives have gained all important momentum as they prepare for a national election, perhaps after the next budget in the late winter or early spring.

Congratulations to the three winning candidates.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Climate change gabfest in Cancun

Here we go again, readers, the pro-climate change crowd are attending their annual gabfest. This latest round of United Nations talks on climate change is being held at Cancun, Mexico. The scare tactics have already begun and, apparently, Oxfam is calling for a new “Green Fund” of at least $100-billion a year to be set up by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent for the UK-based Telegraph, tells us that in one of a series of papers published by the Royal Society:

“Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while allowing the poor nations to continue to grow, is to halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years.”

I kid you not. Professor Anderson really wants what he calls the “rich world” to “halt economic growth…” for the “next twenty years.” The professor suggests politicians consider a rationing scheme like the one used during the the 1930s and 40s. Remember what was happening then? The Second World War was happening and that’s why rationing was implemented. Does anyone see another World War on the horizon?

Thank goodness we have the level-headed Conservative, Stephen Harper, as our prime minister. God help us if the Michael Ignatieff Liberals were running things in Ottawa with loonie ideas like this being bandied about at international conferences. Just as they did with the Kyoto Protocol, Grits would be lined up to sign us up so we could bankrupt ourselves trying to forestall the naturally occurring warming cycle the earth seems to be going through.

We’ve had several cycles of ice ages followed by warm spells throughout the earth’s long history, and we’ll probably continue to have them regardless of what humans do. And, frankly, I don’t see this as any sort of excuse or rationale to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from one group of countries to another.

“I am not saying we have to go back to living in caves,” Professor Anderson assured us. How kind of you, professor. Thank God for small mercies.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Cracks showing in the EU?

A current member of the European Parliament for South East England and a founding member and leader of the United Kingdom’s Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Paul Farage takes a few strips out of the hide of the European Parliament in the video that follows.

“You are very, very dangerous people [EU parliament] indeed. Your obsession with creating this Euro-State means that you’re happy to destroy democracy. You appear to be happy for millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor. Untold millions must suffer so that your Euro-Dream can continue… We don’t want that flag, we don’t want the anthem, we don’t want this political class. We want the whole thing consigned to the dustbin of history.”

- Nigel Paul Farage

A member of the Conservative Party from his school days, Farage left that party in 1992 when John Major’s Tory government signed the Treaty on European Union. Following that, he helped found the UKIP.

A controversial figure, Farage was ranked 58th (out of 100) in the Daily Telegraph's Top 100 most influential right-wingers poll in 2010 and is known for his media savvy.

Last Thursday, the Daily Express became the first British national newspaper to call for Britain to leave the European Union, proving, perhaps, that the bailouts of Grease and Ireland and impending financial crises in Portugal and Spain are taking a toll on Britons’ patience with, as the Daily Express puts it, “a political project that has comprehensively failed.”

Patience may also be running out in Germany. The Telegraph reports: EU rescue costs start to threaten Germany itself. In its report, that website tells us “the escalating debt crisis on the eurozone periphery is starting to contaminate the creditworthiness of Germany and the core states of monetary union.”

In making its potentially trend-leading announcement, the Daily Express promised: “From this day forth our energies will be directed to furthering the cause of those who believe Britain is Better Off Out [of the EU].”

With several EU members faltering economically and the United Kingdom feeling far more self-confident and self-reliant than it did decades ago when it was trying desperately to recover from the Second World War, many in the UK believe their nation would fare better by following the examples set by Norway and Switzerland, which remain fully independent members of the European Free Trade Area, a group that is able to import from and export to the EU freely without being subjected to its federalist ambitions. Britain would then be better able to follow a more independent course and develop separate trading links with immerging powerhouses like China and India.

Farage delivers a tasty bit of tongue lashing, don’t miss it:

 

Except the video, contents © 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fantino by default

Quite some debate underway over former OPP boss Julian Fantino’s candidacy in Vaughan. Several Tory bloggers seem to be lining up on both sides of the debate, and I’m one of them who believes Mr. Fantino was, at least in part, responsible for the uneven enforcement of the criminal code as it related to actions at Caledonia during the current native occupation.

Some Tory bloggers apparently believe Mr. Fantino should be given a pass since he was only following the orders of Premier Dalton McGuinty—at least that’s what I take away from the debate. But that’s too simplistic a conclusion.

While there’s no doubt that, as premier, Dalton McGuinty must accept full responsibility for the shame that is the native occupation in Caledonia, Julian Fantino must also shoulder his own portion of criticism for being a major player in that shameful series of events, during which native and non-native Canadians were not treated equally under the law.

It seems to me that to prevent violence, or even the threat of it, OPP officers allowed natives to break the law while denying residents and outside Canadians the right to protest the lawlessness (ie., the sort of things outlined in Christie Blatchford’s recent book: Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy and How the Law Failed All of Us).

The debate over Mr. Fantino’s candidacy at Vaughan should not be a matter of deciding who is to blame for Caledonia, but rather whether Mr. Fantino’s part in that sorry affair tells us anything about the sort of MP and cabinet minister he’s likely to make. I believe it does, and it does not do him any credit at all.

The above notwithstanding, the voters of Vaughan have an even more important assessment to make: they have to decide whether his faults make him a lesser candidate than his opponents. My sense is that, despite his obvious shortcomings, Mr. Fantino is still the best candidate and should get the nod on Monday.

I do, however, shudder at the thought of Mr. Fantino being a future Public Safety minister.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

CRTC approves broadcasting licence for Sun TV News

The federal broadcast regulator, the CRTC, has awarded Quebecor’s Sun TV News a category two broadcasting licence to operate a national English-language 24-7 news-and-opinion channel. Unlike the category one licences enjoyed by competitors—CBC News Network and CTV News Channel—Sun TV News had to settle for a category two licence, which is granted to most “specialty” channels, such as Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, the NHL Network and Fox News Channel.

“We welcome a diversity of voices. We want to have as much news out there as possible, as many different voices.

“As a Category 2 licence, there’s absolutely no problem. If their [Quebecor’s] original application had been in this format, we would have sent it [the licence] to them by return mail, basically.”

– Konrad von Finckenstein
CRTC chairman

A category one licence would have guaranteed Sun TV News a place among the default channels for all cable subscribers, i.e., must-carry status. Unfortunately for Quebecor, the CRTC is not considering new category one applications until October 2011, the deadline for the switchover of Canadian TV from analog to digital. Quebecor then requested a “must-carry” exemption for its Category 2 licence bid, but announced in October it was dropping that request. As a result, cable and satellite providers have a choice as to whether or not they will carry the new network.

Since its initial announcement that it intended to launch an all news-opinion channel to replace its Toronto-based Sun TV station, Quebecor has announced it has hired several personalities, including Krista Erickson, Charles Adler, David Akin, Brian Lilley and Ezra Levant.

Sun TV News is widely expected to model itself after the right-leaning and opinion-heavy Fox News Channel, earning itself the nickname, “Fox News North.” Progressives became apoplectic over the prospect that such a right-leaning news service might become available in Canada, leading prominent members of their group, including Margaret Atwood, to sign their name to a petition to block the channel’s licence. So much for free speech.

According to Sun TV head Luc Lavoie, the new service is expected to go on air in March 2011, and will present “hard news” from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then switch to what he called a “straight talk” format of opinion and commentary.

Congratulations to Sun TV News and good luck.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When can we expect prudent fiscal management to begin in Ottawa?

They live in small communities across Canada with populations of a few hundred to a few thousand, and a few with populations of around 20,000. They are called by various names, including: Haida, Dene, Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwa, Mohawk and Micmac. They are the First Nations peoples of Canada.

There are over 600 First Nations’ governments or “bands” with a total population of 1,172,790 people. Residents of First Nation reserves are often among the poorest Canadians. According to the website of The Assembly of First Nations, the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada, First Nations people in Canada live in Third World conditions:

  • First Nations’ living conditions rank 63rd in the world on the Human Development Index created by the United Nations.
  • Canada’s drop from first to eighth as the best country in the world to live is primarily due to conditions on reserves.
  • 423,000 people live in 89,000 overcrowded, substandard and rapidly deteriorating housing units.
  • 5,486 of the 88,485 houses on-reserve are without sewage service.
  • Almost 25% of First Nations water infrastructures are at high risk of contamination.
  • Infant mortality rate is 1.5 times higher than the Canadian infant mortality rate.
  • About 70% of First Nations students on-reserve will never complete high school.
  • Unemployment rates for all Aboriginal groups continue to be at least double the rate of the non-Aboriginal population.
  • A study by Indian Affairs (the “Community Well-being Index”) assessed quality of life in 4,685 Canadian communities based on education, labour force activity, income and housing. There was only one First Nation community in the Top 100. There were 92 First Nations in the Bottom 100.

“The Assembly of First Nations …National Chief Shawn Atleo lashed out at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, calling its campaign to publicize native political incomes as “an insult that paints First Nations leadership as overpaid, unaccountable local bosses, uninterested in the challenges faced by First Nations citizens.”

– National Post

In other words, readers, aboriginal bands have some real challenges facing them, notwithstanding the $7-billion or so they receive directly or indirectly in transfers from the federal government’s Indian and Northern Affairs Canada department.

Contrast this sorry state of affairs with today’s report in the National Post that:

“Scores of First Nations chiefs and council members earn more than the Prime Minister of Canada… and one reserve politician in Atlantic Canada was found to have been paid a combined tax-free salary and honorarium totaling an astounding $978,468.

The figures obtained by the National Post through access to information requests reveal that 82 reserve politicians earned more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper’ 2008-09 after-tax income of $184,000. The Post also informs us that 222 reserve politicians were paid more in tax-free income in 2008-09 than their respective provincial premiers, who averaged an after-tax income of $109,893.
And, furthermore, more than 700 reserve politicians earned an income equivalent to over $100,000 off-reserve.

According to the Post, Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan was unavailable for comment. Why am I not surprised?

For how much longer will the government of Canada tolerate this general lack of accountability in First Nations communities? And when can we expect prudent fiscal management to begin in Ottawa?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Credit where due to David Suzuki

This writer is definitely not a fan of David Suzuki. To his credit, however, he has reportedly withdrawn his endorsement of a group sponsoring George Galloway’s upcoming speech in Vancouver. A founding member of StopWar.ca—which rented space in Vancouver and is sponsoring Galloway’s speech on Monday—claims she received Dr. Suzuki’s endorsement in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War.

Another group has organized a StopStopWar.ca campaign, however, and they contacted StopWar.ca sponsors. And according to a spokesperson for his foundation, after receiving an e-mail from StopStopWar.ca, Dr. Suzuki twice asked that his name be removed from the StopWar.ca website—the name was subsequently removed. The Suzuki foundation’s spokesperson Ian Hanington said Dr. Suzuki “wasn’t aware of the organization and doesn’t recall ever endorsing them.” He said, furthermore, the Suzuki group “does not get involved in Middle East politics.”

Why any anti-war group would resort to using someone as odious as George Galloway is beyond me. The public and media attention he attracts is the sort that is unlikely to do them credit.

Dr. Suzuki has done the right thing here and should be applauded.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Trouble in Tory land?

Bit of a tiff among our team in Ottawa, I hear. House leader John Baird insists the Conservative did right by not knuckling under to the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East country that kicked us out of its military airbase known to Canadians as Camp Mirage. Defence Minister Peter MacKay, apparently disagrees, saying that the failed negotiations have set back relations with the U.A.E.

Reportedly, MacKay had been wearing a red baseball cap with the words “Fly Emirates” on it when he was overhead outside the Centre Block on Parliament Hill complaining to two other Tories that the U.A.E. decision was a bad idea and that it would set back relations by a decade.

The Canadian military lost its privileges at Camp Mirage this fall because Canada wouldn’t grant the Gulf sheikdom its request for more aircraft landing rights in Canada, especially Toronto. Apparently, the U.A.E. was seeking more flights, and Emirates Airlines wanted to establish a North American hub in Toronto for its Airbus A380s.

Ministers Baird and MacKay disagreed on Canada’s hard line—Baird, though, seems to have convinced Prime Minister Stephen Harper to resist the Emirates’ request, which would see Canada’s long-haul aviation market being flooded, as the U.A.E.’s airlines apparently have done in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

The government’s decision will cost millions, especially since we have extended the Afghanistan mission beyond 2011—the military will have to use bases in Cyprus and Germany.

Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc said the government has bungled the file and relations with a critical ally are now strained. Critical ally? Hardly that. And what sort of an ally knee-caps our military effort over what is a commercial trade dispute? Better no ally than one who treats us with bully-boy tactics.

In October, The United Arab Emirates closed its airspace to a plane carrying top Canadian government and military officials, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, who were on their way from a visit to Afghanistan and were bound for Europe. A diplomatic slap in the face by this federation of tin-pot dictators.

Readers might remember that right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.A.E. was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers, and that two of the 9/11 hijackers who crashed United Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center were U.A.E. citizens.

The U.A.E. is claimed by some to be a constitutional monarchy. It should be noted, however, that all of the seven members of its federation are absolute monarchies. All of which likely explains the Emirates’ temper tantrum—they’re used to getting their own way and this is how they proverbially stamp their little feet.

But I digress.

Rumours persist that Peter MacKay might be getting frozen out at cabinet and might be seeking a soft landing in the private sector. He’s a smart lad, but after he reneged on his backroom deal/“gentleman’s agreement” with David Orchard at the 2003 PC convention, I could never fully trust him. First MacKay promises to review of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, something clearly not in the country’s best interests, then he goes back on his promise once he got the leadership of the party.

Oh, well, what family doesn’t have a dust-up from time to time, eh?

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do the Liberals lack esprit de corps?

When I worked elections, we would sometimes canvas in teams and afterwards stop at a family-style restaurant to share a bowl of wings and a couple of beers. The cost of food and drink were shared between us volunteers and was seldom paid for by the campaign or the party. On election night and afterwards, there would be parties to celebrate the victory and to thank volunteers, and those were mostly free to us, except perhaps the drinks.

Never, though, have I heard of the political party “offering up big prizes–tickets to Ottawa Senators games and even a $150 gift certificate to Hy’s Steakhouse–to round up volunteers to help them identify the Grit vote in upcoming by-elections,” as is described by The Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber. Nothing really wrong with it, of course, but it does make one wonder about the sort of supporters the Liberals attract.

We know that the Liberal Party of Canada struggles to attract individual donations. Is this further proof that their support is only skin deep and comes mainly from those interested in what LPC can do for them, rather than what they can do for LPC? (Thank you, John F. Kennedy.)

With up-coming federal by-elections, Jane Kennedy, an official in Michael Ignatieff’s office, made email promises to the offices of Liberal MPs and staffers that: “The volunteer who makes the most calls and identifies the most voters will win two 200-level tickets to watch the Ottawa Senators play Dallas.”

Furthermore, she wrote: “Highest number of calls made by next week’s super volunteer will get $150 gift certificate to Hy’s Steakhouse.”

And: “Finally, there will be a special surprise for our overall best caller!”

Taber quotes one senior Grit official as saying that the inducements are about “political organization … and engaging the Liberal team to lend a hand wherever they can.” Perhaps that’s true but I’m inclined more to agree with the so-called “long-time Liberal MP” who complained: “It speaks to the lack of morale and enthusiasm. It used to be that people eagerly volunteered. Now they have to be ordered or rewarded.”

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

George Galloway: dangerous supporter of terrorism or harmless windbag?

The video that follows this post shows the odious former British MP George Galloway trying to justify his support of Hamas the anti-Jew terrorist group. Last year, the Canadian government banned Galloway from entering Canada for his role in shipping five convoys of “humanitarian aid” to Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip.

Galloway refers to Hamas as being “the democratically elected government of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza.” Elected, yes. Democratically elected? I think not. To be democratically elected there must first be a democracy. And through what tortured logic could any part of the administration in Gaza or the West Bank be considered democratic?

The right to vote, by itself, does not a democracy make. Without rule of law and other democratic institutions there is no democracy. Caribbean pirates of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used to elect their captains, but they did not operate in democracies.

But Galloway has a long association with non-democracies. In 1994 he was shown on television telling Saddam Hussein: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” He’s also no friend of free speech as he supported Dutch politician Geert Wilders being banned from entering the United Kingdom because he didn’t agree with Wilders’s views.

Hamas was founded—as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood—in 1987 for, as they say, the purpose of Jihad, to liberate Palestine from Israeli oppression and to establish an Islamic state “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The Hamas charter states in part, “our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious” and calls for the obliteration or dissolution of Israel. Time and again the charter calls for killing Jews.

Note the anti-Semitic tone their words like, “struggle against the Jews.” [Emphasis mine] They could have said: against “Israel,” but deliberately chose otherwise.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many governments, including those of Israel, the European Union, the United States, Japan and Canada—in other words, most of the world’s democracies. I’ll take their evaluations over that of George Galloway any day of the week.

Galloway is a dangerous man because he puts a reasonable face on terrorists. He tries to make them seem like normal, democratically elected, folk.

 

 

Contents, except video © 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Will the Democrats never learn?

Despite suffering massive election losses this month, House Democrats in the United States appear to want to keep their leadership team intact, with Nancy Pelosi as the party’s Minority House Leader. This despite the Democrats having lost more than 60 House of Representatives’ seats to Republicans.

Today House Democrats voted 129-68 to defeat an effort by Ms. Pelosi’s critics to postpone the leadership election until next month.

There are, apparently, hard feelings among some Democrats who believe that Ms. Pelosi is the wrong person under whom to rebuild the party in time for the 2012 elections. Enough others, however, are poised to support their left-wing favourite in her fight to defeat Rep. Heath Shuler, a moderate.

It now seems Ms. Pelosi will win the top spot handily.

Some people never learn.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

It’s up to the Liberals whether there’s a vote on the Afghan training mission

Liberals make much of the fact the prime minister has, apparently, changed his mind over leaving troops in Afghanistan. They have a point, but surely one can appreciate that Canada must also pay heed to its allies in NATO or across our southern border.

Internal politics aside, Canada has foreign interests and obligations and cannot always make unilateral decisions, even when we may want to do so. My feeling is we’ve expended enough lives, casualties and treasure in Afghanistan and should pull out in 2011, lock, stock and barrel. I understand, however, we can’t always get what we want.

Why the Grits’ caucus should be so vociferous over PM Stephen Harper’s decision is puzzling though, considering they offered little or no dissent on the issue when their leaders Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae showed support earlier this year for a military training mission after the 2011 end to our combat role.

The Globe and Mail tells us today that Liberal MPs are “furious” at Michael Ignatieff’s decision to support the Harper government’s extension of the Afghan mission without any consultation or vote in the Commons. So vehement was the outcry at a closed-door party meeting, Toronto MP Bob Rae, had to stand up and support Ignatieff, reminding caucus members that the Liberal position was outlined this summer. Back then, the Grits supported troops staying in Afghanistan to help train the military and police.

At the time, of course, Liberals believed the Harper government would bring the troops home next July as scheduled. No one thought the PM would change his mind, so being for the training mission was okay. Had the PM not changed his mind, the Grits would be hammering him for that. Oy vey!

With Liberals, it doesn’t really matter what is in Canada’s best interests or what may be right for the world. So long as they can find a way to discredit Conservatives, their job is done.

Last Friday morning, Mr. Rae reportedly told The Globe and Mail he supported the government, saying there was no need for a debate or vote in the House of Commons. Later that day, Mr. Ignatieff supported Mr. Rae’s view.

If the Liberal caucus feels it must have a chance to vote on the training mission, there’s no need to wait for the prime minister to do anything. The Liberals could use a scheduled opposition day to force a vote on Thursday, one day before the start of a NATO leaders’ summit in Lisbon, Portugal November 18-20.

The ball is in the Liberal’s court, it’s their decision.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Problems with my comment system

They’ve been problems with this blog’s comment feature today. Sorry Ted, CS, et al.

Israel: the little state that could

The video that follows makes a very good case for a country like Canada to support and defend the State of Israel. This tiny democracy, surrounded by hostile states and beset by enemies without and within, has managed to transform what was basically an underdeveloped desert community into a powerhouse of innovation and a world-class cultural, scientific and industrial complex.

Israel, excluding territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 8,019 square miles in area, less than twice the size of the tiny island of Jamaica, and yet Israel’s accomplishments rival those of the world’s leading economies.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell, except video.
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A heart-wrenching story: stressed civil servants

A commenter to this blog, Wilson, pointed me to an Internet link to one of the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve read in some time: The Montreal Gazette reports that federal public servants are taking time off work at an accelerating rate and—according to Carleton University professor Linda Duxbury—it’s the sign of a public service that’s so stressed out and demoralized that employees are dropping like flies. Oh dear, the poor souls.

Here’s what Kevin Gaudet, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, reportedly said about that:

“They’ve got extremely generous pay, they’ve got the second-most lucrative pension plan in the country (next to MPs), they’ve got a giant amount of days off, they’ve got huge amounts of top-up (salary) for maternity leave, they’ve got a ton of personal days, and they’ve got, in effect, jobs for life. It doesn’t get much more coddled than that.”

I think Mr. Gaudet has got the rascals’ number.

With all the salary and benefits these public servants already get, PM Stephen Harper’s government recently gave the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the biggest federal public-sector union, wage increases of 5.3 per cent over three years. So much for austerity. And imagine that this deal was made at a time when many private-sector workers don’t even have a job, and many of those at work have not received a raise this year.

This is big government out of control and thumbing its nose at us suckers, the hapless taxpayers.

The already wide gap (in favour of public servants) between public-sector and private-sector pay and benefits is widening even further, and now we hear they’re stealing “time” to boot.

According to the Gazette, Canadian private-sector workers took an average of 8.9 days off in 2009, for what Statistics Canada defines as leave taken for illness or disability, and personal or family responsibilities. Within the public sector, however, the average is an astonishing 12.6 days per year. And, over the past decade, uncertified sick leave in the civil service—i.e., leave without a doctor’s note—surged by 74 per cent, from 4.1 days per employee to 7.1 days.

This seems like one hell of a price for labour peace in Ottawa, the fat-cat capital of Canada. If I didn’t know better, I think the NDP were running the place. Whatever happened to prudent management? It’s seems in pretty short supply in our capital.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Justice denied?

The federal government left almost half of a fund for victims of crime untouched last year, because it did not have enough staff to disburse the money, or so they claim. According to a National Post report, the Justice Department revealed it had planned to spend $8.8-million for the Victims of Crime Initiative in 2009-10, but only spent $4.9-million. The tough-on-crime Conservatives are apparently tough on the victims of crime.

What sort of justice is that?

Again from the National Post, I read with raised eyebrows that the B.C. government spent more than $102.8-million on investigating and prosecuting serial killer Robert Pickton. And that alarming figure does not include the federal share of the RCMP services—about $30-million. The Post also notes that taxpayers have to date paid $737,000 to keep Pickton in jail.

Hmm, we can routinely find $130-million to convict and house a serial killer, but we can’t find the resources to fully disburse the 2009-10 allotment set aside for support of victims of crime. Now, one might quibble that there are two levels of government involved here. But I say, who cares? Perhaps the federal government could have bummed the money off the B.C. government. Or, if Ottawa can’t do a simply administration function such as this, then pass it off to the provinces—along with the allotted money, of course.

In a federal civil service of 263,000 staff (2008 number), one would think Ottawa could have found someone to write a few cheques. But I suppose they’d first have had to hold an inquiry, then set up a special committee with appropriate legal and support staff, hired consultants to tell the committee what to do and held public hearings to hear from the more than 5000 registered lobbyists in Ottawa. Heck, there goes another $1-billion.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Are Islamists a clear and present danger?

In an essay I posted yesterday, I wondered whether fundamentalist Muslims—those who believe the Koran is the unalterable word of God—could ever live as law abiding residents in secular Canada. Today, I’m troubled by a National Post report that might signify that the answer is, no.

“Even if the use of violence is not outwardly expressed, the creation of isolated communities can spawn groups that are exclusivist and potentially open to messages in which violence is advocated. At a minimum, the existence of such [Islamist] mini-societies undermines resilience and the fostering of a cohesive Canadian nation.”

– Integrated Threat
Assessment Centre

Here, of course, we are not talking about all Muslims in Canada, for many in this country have come to terms with secular societies decades ago. These are what many might call heterodox Muslims to distinguish them from the orthodox (fundamentalist) Muslims who seem far more likely to become radicals.

Many Canadian Muslims are moderates who came to Canada from British Commonwealth countries in Africa, North African secular countries like Tunisia and elsewhere. They—including members of the Ismaili sect of Islam, some known as Khojas—are more heterodox than orthodox.

These moderate people have come here to participate in our democracy and share Canada’s vision and values, quite unlike the more hard-core followers/supporters/sympathizers of Islamist fundamentalist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, or the Sunni Islamic sect known as Wahhabi, which is financed from Saudi Arabia.

Fortunately for us, the Wahhabis are, apparently, not quite so influential in Canada as they are in the United States where they have an extremely influential political lobby. But even in Canada they reportedly receive a substantial amount of funding from abroad and are considered by many to be a potential threat to Western security.

The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist movement and the largest political opposition in many Arab states. They are reportedly the world’s oldest and largest Islamic political group.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir is an international Islamic political organization, which seeks to unify all Muslim countries into an Islamic state (a caliphate) ruled by Islamic law. The National Post reports that last year Hizb-ut-Tahrir invited Muslims to a conference in Mississauga, Ontario to discuss the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

While neither the Muslim Brotherhood or Hizb-ut-Tahrir advocates terrorist violence, they do promote an ideology at odds with Western values and norms.

Both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb-ut-Tahrir are featured in the National Posts’ report. The report was written by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre—a group made up of representatives from CSIS, the RCMP, Foreign Affairs, National Defence and other agencies—which monitors threats to Canada’s national security. This is the real McCoy. Apparently, a copy of the report was obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The report states in part:

“Some Islamists advocate isolationism and the establishment of a parallel society. Isolationism can lead to conditions where extreme messages can incubate and eventually become the catalyst for violence. At a minimum, isolationism undermines a multicultural and democratic society.”

Also noted in the report are the Mennonite and Doukhobor societies, which have also sought to isolate themselves from mainstream Canadian society and do not seem to present any threat at all to other Canadians. So why be concerned about Islamists establishing a parallel society?

I would remind readers that Mennonites and Doukhobors are not involved in thousands of violent terrorist acts around the world, but radical Islamists are. How many Mennonites have been arrested for plotting terrorist attacks against Canadians or our Allies?  And, as far as I know, Mennonite and Doukhobor communities are not seeking to destroy Western civilization.

This most recent article in the Post reinforces what many Canadians already believe: Canada is faced with a clear and present danger from radical Islamists.

Who stands on guard for us?

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Have the Conservatives promoted unelected political staff over cabinet ministers?

Is it just me, or were other Canadians insulted that an unelected political staffer was selected by Prime Minister Harper to announce the change in policy vis-à-vis our post-2011 military role in Afghanistan. Under what convention is PM Stephen Harper’s communications director, Dimitri Soudas, the proper person to break such important news.

Where was Defence Minister Peter MacKay or Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon or for that matter, the prime minister himself? Is this a message that these ministers count for nothing?

I for one don’t care what Dimitri Soudas has to say. I want to here news like this from a minister of the crown.

What the hell is going on in Ottawa?

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Christie Blatchford’s new book about lawlessness in Canada

Isn’t a primary purpose of democratic government to apply the law equally to all residents? Apparently not Premier McGuinty’s government. See below.

Preview Globe and Mail columnist, Christie Blatchford’s new book: Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, And How the Law Failed All of Us.

 

 

Islamist extremists or fundamentalists?

The media in Canada tends to describe those Islamists such as members and supporters of al-Qaeda as extremists. But are they? Or are most of them not just Muslims who believe in the literal word of the Koran, and believe in strict adherence to its theological doctrines? In other words, aren’t they fundamentalists. And if so, are Muslim fundamentalists and Muslim extremists more the less the same? Or does this even matter?

I believe it does matter since there are very many Muslims who are fundamentalists in that they believe the Koran is the word of God, and that it must be read as if God Himself had spoken the words contained in that book. Stated another way, many—probably most—Muslims believe the Koran contains the ultimate truth, making them fundamentalists and therefore extremists.

In articles and discussions about Islamist extremists, we are almost always reminded that extremists make up only a tiny percentage of Muslims in Canada. I suppose this is due to political correctness, or perhaps it is meant to mollify us so we don’t rush off to arrest the first Muslim we run across.

But seriously, if the Koran is the actual word of God, won’t most, perhaps all, real Muslims be fundamentalists?

Unlike Jews and Christians, Muslims cannot modernize the teachings and messages of their religion as the words of the Koran are frozen in the dark ages of the seventh century. How do mere mortals “modernize” the final revelation from God? Cannot be done.

So if thirteen hundred years ago hands were chopped off as punishment for theft, and women were stoned for adultery, so it must forever be. And the only thing standing in the way of such punishments is enlightened Western law and the adherence to such by our Muslim residents. A sort of Biblical “render unto Caesar” philosophy as taught by Jesus Christ.

But surely a very large portion of the fundamentalists among the Muslim community must chafe at not being allowed to practice the word of God. And certainly many must see our laws and culture morally bad in principle or practice—in other words—wicked. And if our laws are wicked, certainly they must be ignored or overturned.

And if Canadian laws are to be ignored or overturned so that Muslims can live their lives according to the word of God, how can fundamentalist Muslims be productive law-abiding Canadians?

Just wondering …

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Truth to power? Apparently, not for Christie Blatchford

I remember well when, in Canada, the adage, speaking truth to power, were words to live by—especially for those who considered themselves journalists. Now it seems many in our society have decided that truth is no longer something they want to hear, unless, of course, it is their truth.

A case in point is the quite incredible fact that in Section 13 of our human rights legislation, “truth and reasonable belief in the truth is no defence” against a hate-speech charge brought against an individual by the state.

In other cases, Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and Maclean’s Magazine found themselves in much publicized legal jeopardy over things they wrote and published, with little or no regard for their truthfulness.

And, most recently, thanks to Blazing Cat Fur we have a disgraceful demonstration of  power over truth at one of our most prestigious centres of higher education, the University of Waterloo (UW).

Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford turned up to at the UW yesterday to make a scheduled speech about the journalist’s new book Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us. The event, however, was rescheduled because three protesters locked themselves together at the centre of the stage where Blatchford was to speak while another individual acted as their “negotiator.” A fifth person, Tallula Marigold, acted as the group’s “media representative.”

“Our goal was to not let her [Christie Blatchford] speak, we accomplished that.”

Tallula Marigold

No truth to power there. Nor any free speech for Ms. Blatchford. Five individuals decide that a former Governor General’s Literary Award recipient should not be allowed to speak, and this internationally recognized university, University of Waterloo, caves in to a reprehensible act of censorship and bully tactics.

Tallula Marigold, who, apparently, was acting as the bullies’ media representative, reportedly had this to say:

“We don’t want people who are really, really racist teaching [the people we love]. And we don’t want that person to have a public forum because it makes it dangerous for others in the public forum. …

“Our goal was to not let her speak, we accomplished that.”

Some Canadian universities seem to have little or no hesitation in using their security staff to curtail activist activity when it is attempted by, say, an anti-abortion group or others who do not preach the universities’ sort of “truth.” However, UW allows a tiny group screaming “Nazi” and “racist,” to totally deny Christie Blatchford’s right to free speech.

The bullies’ stated goal was to not let Christie Blatchford speak,” and the University of Waterloo passively allowed them to accomplished that unjust goal.

Every time you readers look at the tax withholding on your pay or pension cheques, remember that some of that money goes to support Ontario universities, which seem to have forgotten that, in Canada, free speech is a fundamental right. One would think that in a university, free speech would be treasured beyond all other rights and freedoms. But, apparently, that is not the case in Ontario.

Moreover, bullying is never an acceptable tactic, yet the university, by not putting an immediate stop to it, encourages its future use to silence other speakers of the truth.

Is this the new Canada? Shameful!

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Only so much juice in our military lemon

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called having to make phone calls to the families of those who have been killed in Afghanistan the hardest part of his job. And it’s not hard to see why that might be. What’s more difficult to fathom is the slippery slope on which he now stands voluntarily as he considers an extension to our military role in that awful country.

Apparently, the Americans are pressing our government through diplomatic and military channels to assume a post-2011 role in Afghanistan, which might include the necessity for our soldiers to again be placed in harm’s way—a possibility that could very well increase our casualties in Afghanistan beyond the precious 152 lost lives and the hundreds who have already been wounded. The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, has even gone to the extraordinary length of—during a recent interview—putting public pressure on Canada to accept a mentoring role.

Public pressure from the Americans for us to extend our military role in Afghanistan beyond 2011 is not new: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did much the same in a TV interview during her visit to Canada earlier this year when she was asked about Canada’s decision to end its combat role in 2011.

All this from our fair-weather ally, the United States, which contributed to Canada’s international humiliation last month when we failed in a bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Neither American UN ambassador Susan Rice or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lifted a finger for us. Nor, apparently, did President Barack Obama make so much as a phone call on Canada’s behalf.

We know for sure that, for Americans, “national interest” will always trump the needs of their allies; so too should Canada’s.

Canadians might support the prime minister if he assigns virtually any training role that would be “inside the wire” in the relative safety of, say, Kabul, but anything “outside the wire” is a non starter. For one thing, the core combat group of our army is reportedly exhausted and in need of extended periods of rest from any form of combat whatsoever.

We have received far more from our tiny army than we ever should have expected. Few, if any, of the world’s military forces of similar size could have sustained highly effective combat operations halfway around the world for nearly a decade. If we asked more of them, they’d give it, but it would not be fair of us, at any level, to do so.

If we want to project power to any part of the world and engage in combat continuously for more than a decade at a time, then by all means build a military of the appropriate size.

Our entire air force, army and naval strength is about 67,000, plus 26,000 reservists. The current size of Land Force Command—our army—is, however, only 19,500 regular soldiers and 16,000 reserve soldiers, for a total of around 35,500 soldiers. And it is our army which carries most of the load in Afghanistan. The British, with only twice our population, has an army of 150,000 regulars and territorials and 134,000 reserves, for a total of more than 284,000, which is several times the size of ours.

If we want to act like the big boys, we’d better be prepared to pay for it.

Canada has done its part and 2011 is quite long enough for us to have been in Afghanistan. We’ve squeezed about as much juice from that lemon as is reasonable.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remember also those who will fight our future wars

Our Liberal government under Jean Chrétien decided some 13 years ago to select an airplane to replace our CF-18 fleet. Back in 1997, the Liberals believed the right way to go about this massive expenditure was to participate in a U.S.-led three-phase process known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, for which participation Canada anteed up $10-million.

During the initial “Concept Demonstration Phase” of the JSF, two bidders, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, were selected to develop competitive bids, and this process led to the selection in 2001 of Lockheed Martin as the JSF manufacturer. And, in 2002, the Chrétien Liberals reinforced their commitment to acquire the result of the JSF Program by anteing up another $150-million for the “System Development and Demonstration Phase” which involved developing and testing the aircraft systems and components to be used.

Remember the Sea King:

They were purchased in 1963 and are now called “flying coffins.” Canada’s Sea King helicopters are a dying fleet, literally falling out of the skies. Those still in operation experience stalling engines, generator failures and gearbox problems. Pilots have died flying them.

The Sea Kings were supposed to have been retired by 2000. But under the Liberals our military had to make do and keep them flying. They now require 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight, and they are unavailable for operations 40 per cent of the time.

The Sea Kings are the most prominent symbol of the Liberals’ lack of military commitment. But not the only one, for throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Canada’s ability to contribute to international missions, including peace keeping operations, were significantly hampered by aging equipment.

Thank you, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and the Liberal Party of Canada.

Is it even conceivable that the Liberals made this commitment without our military knowing what sort of fighter jet it needed?

In December 2006, under a Conservative government, Canada signed the “JSF Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development” Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The cost for Canada to participate in this phase is approximately U.S.$551 million over the course of the 2007-2051 timeframe.

The result of this long-term process has been a fifth generation fighter dubbed the F-35 Lightning II, which the current Stephen Harper government believes fulfills the promise of the JSF program launched by the Liberals in 1997. And in July 2010, our government ordered 65 of these jets to replace our fourth generation fleet of CF-18s. The CF-18s are expected to reach the end of their operational life in the 2017-2020 timeframe. Delivery of the new CF-35 aircraft is expected to start in 2016—i.e., just in time.

But the duplicitous Liberal opposition led by the ineffectual Michael Ignatieff now claim we really don’t know what plane we need and we should launch a new competitive bid. Some opposition members even question the need for any new plane or, at least, a fifth generation, stealth model. I’m not kidding, they do.

Canada started acquiring CF-18s in 1982, 28 years ago. The fleet was upgraded over the years—significantly in 1998 when Canada launched a 10-year, $1.2-billion upgrade program to extend their operational life to the year 2017. The modernization program was in addition to a major overhaul of the CF-18 fuselage bulkheads, which in 1998 were discovered to have cracks earlier than forecast.

By 2017, these will be very dated aircraft.

It has taken us 13 years to reach the point of being able to place an order for the airplanes. Projecting forward, starting a new process would take us to 2023 and several years beyond that to take delivery of combat-ready fighters. The CF-18s won’t last that long.

So are there any other fifth generation airplanes available to us for delivery in the next six or seven years? No. The Americans have the only combat-ready fifth generation fighter, the enormously expensive, state-of-the-art Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor, which they refuse to let us (or anyone else) have, even if we wanted it.

Boeing, BAE Systems and Saab Aerospace have been trying to market their aircraft to Canada. Over the last several months the firms have made presentations or provided information to our Defence Department. Boeing is offering Canada the F-18 Super Hornet, BAE is marketing the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab is highlighting the Gripen. All are advanced fighter jets and would likely exceed the capabilities of our current CF-18s, but nothing that will touch the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II, let alone the Americans’ coveted F-22 Raptor. If we buy one of these 4+ generation fighters, we’ll be short-changing our air force for decades to come, but the Liberals and New Democrats don’t mind doing that, it’s in their nature.

India, China and Russia have fifth generation fighters in development, but only Russia has one likely to be combat-ready in time to meet our needs. Does the opposition suggest we throw our lot in with one of them—perhaps the Russians—and tell our NORAD and NATO allies to go take a hike?

Seriously though, if Boeing, BAE Systems and Saab Aerospace had true competitors of the F-35 Lightning II, far fewer NATO and other allies would be lined up to buy the F-35s. But why would the Liberals care about that?

Many readers will remember how under-equipped our soldiers were when first they were deployed by the Chrétien Liberal government to fight a ferocious and determined enemy in Afghanistan. The Canadian contingent lacked large transport aircraft, heavy-lift helicopters, armored transport trucks, battle tanks, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), artillery guns, and mine-resistant armoured personnel carriers—all of which were essential to a successful mission.

Notwithstanding these glaring gaps in their equipment and armour, a Liberal government sent Canadian soldiers off to a foreign land to be killed and maimed—an unforgivably careless disregard for the lives and safety of our men and women.

If we allow the Liberals to do so, they’ll short-change our military again and again and again.

I hope on this Remembrance Day, our leaders in Ottawa will remember also those who will fight our future wars.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Mixed feelings as MP Keith Martin announces retirement as MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca

After seventeen years as a Reform, Canadian Alliance, independent and Liberal member of parliament, MP Keith Martin says he won’t seek re-election in the British Columbia riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca in the next federal election.

Ordinarily, this would be reason for rejoicing given Martin’s 2008 razor-thin (67 votes) victory over Conservative Troy DeSouza. His retirement leaves room for much optimism for a Tory victory in the next federal election in that riding. Dr. Keith Martin is, however, one of the good guys in Ottawa.

Dr. Martin seemed to me to be a conservative on economic issues, much as I am. He also was one of the few MPs to have spoken out publicly against Canada’s legislation that curbs free speech in favour of political correctness. In 2008, he introduced a private member’s motion (M-153) calling on the government to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That’s the section that prohibits electronic communication of anything deemed “…likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”

He later introduced a second private member’s motion (M-156), “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should hold public hearings as part of a review of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and its tribunal.

Unfortunately, MP Martin was also, at times, a hot-head and a bit of a loose cannon as evidenced by the 2002 controversy surrounding his attempt to seize and remove the ceremonial mace from the table of the Clerk of the House.

Back in 2002, he was a member of the Canadian Alliance. And his rash action was in response to the adoption of a Liberal amendment to withdraw his Private Members’ Bill C-344 and to have the subject-matter referred to the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs—in this case, marijuana. This was a callous maneuver on the part of the Grits to ensure MPs never had a chance to vote freely on the bill.

The bill Dr. Martin felt so passionate about would have decriminalized simple possession (30 g or less) of marijuana, and made a first offence punishable by a fine of $200 and fines for subsequent offences scaling up to $1,000. Dr. Martin, apparently, was outraged by the fact that in that session of parliament not one of the 248 private members’ bills proposed by MPs had been passed. And, such was the state of democracy under the Jean Chrétien Liberals, his bill was sidetracked by a “poison-pill amendment” (his words) and not voted on freely by all MPs. He said at the time, “It was an utter violation of our democratic rights as MPs.”

In an age of politicians who seek a career in Ottawa and deliver not much more that a few quotable words from time to time and half-truths and misinformation much of the rest of the time, Dr. Martin seemed a better sort. A sort who might have contributed much to Canadian life had he been more comfortable in the Conservative party and had participated in the present government. Though I do wonder, given his socially liberal views, if he’d ever have made it to cabinet.

No matter, now we get some fresh new blood in the House and that’s a good thing.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jim Prentice heads to the private sector

The prime minister has lost one of his most able members of cabinet, Environment Minister Jim Prentice, who announced yesterday that he’s leaving politics for a senior position with CIBC. As Industry Minister, Prentice earned the respect of political friends and foes alike. But the poor fellow has recently been saddled with the environmental portfolio in a government that doesn’t see environmental matters as priorities.

Jim Prentice performed so excellently over a series of responsibilities that a growing number of members within the Conservative Party were touting him as a future leader to replace Stephen Harper. This, of course, was before the prime minister effectively, if not literally, forced Prentice to hide his light under a bushel.

Prentice was, of course, chair of the operations committee, a position of real power in caucus as it decided on the government’s priorities of the day. PM Stephen Harper recently described Prentice as the chief operating officer of the government. That’s all very well and good for government insiders who know the arcane inside-Ottawa set-up.

To those outside Ottawa, however, Prentice had been shuffled aside and out of the public spotlight. And that was a real pity for our federal cabinet has few enough stars as it is.

Jim Prentice will be missed, and Canada will be worse for his leaving.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is incredibly poor taste now considered worthy of a police investigation?

One man dressed in a KKK robe led another man in blackface by a rope in a costume parade at the Campbellford, Ontario legion Halloween party on Saturday night. The incident, quite understandingly,  has outraged many who witnessed or heard about it. Perhaps even more unbelievable is that the costume/act won first prize.

Following the act, Ontario Provincial Police received a complaint and Police Const. Chris Dewsbury says they are investigating.

Poor taste? Of course, and in the most extreme meaning of that phrase. But as incredibly poor taste as it was, does such an act really justify a police investigation? Really readers, has it come to that? Is this the type of thin-skinned, whiny society we want? Is this the sort of thing the OPP should be involved in?

Over the years, very few police investigations have been triggered notwithstanding large numbers of complaints from the public when Toronto’s annual Gay Pride Parade regularly made a mockery of Ontario’s standards of decency by publicly flaunting naked bodies (including exposed penises) and making lewd gestures and actions.

No risk of harm to our moral fibre, you see. Those offended had only to look the other way or stay away altogether from the parade. But be grossly offensive to a visible minority in a semi-private hall, and an investigation is launched on the prompting of a single complaint.

Why not rely solely on public censure? Public denouncement can be very effective in small communities. But let’s not involve our busy police in such incidents.

Const. Dewsbury says the investigator has so far found no basis to lay criminal charges, adding it appears to be “simply a case of poor judgment.” Why am I not surprised?

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

U.S. mid-terms: angry independents lead swing to the right as angst over the economy drives the vote

American voters turned thumbs down on Democratic incumbents across the country, erasing Democratic gains of the last two elections. Heading into yesterday’s election, Republicans controlled 178 House seats, and needed to win 39 new seats to take the majority. According to The Associated Press, they had won 57 seats by early this morning, the largest gain by either party since 1948.

Although this is obviously a massive repudiation of the Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi’s government agenda, the Democrats do seem set to hold onto the Senate. And surprising to some, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived the anti-incumbent wave, albeit with a thin majority of seats to lead in the U.S. Senate.

Conservative opposition to the recent healthcare law, a rising anti-government Tea Party movement and independents’ disappointment with Obama’s failure to deliver on promises to change Washington, coupled with a general economic restiveness, all helped seal the fate of Democratic control of the House.

The Tea Party movement made its mark last night after only a couple of years in existence, setting up a trend of fewer moderate Democrats and an increase in the degree of conservatism among the Republicans. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next two years.

It would be a mistake, however, for Republican leaders to see this as an endorsement of their congressional performance over the past two years. The turbulence in U.S. politics, I believe, has more to with public dislike of incumbents and political parties in general than about Americans changing their minds about which party they prefer.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cracks showing in the foundations of our human rights industry

The StarPhoenix website reports that the Saskatchewan Party government will introduce legislation that will dissolve the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal in favour of having a court hear the complaints brought by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.

“Really, what’s happening in human rights cases is you’re defining what it means to be Canadian and I think the courts are better placed now to do this.”

– Judge David Arnot,
chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission

Apparently, the change comes at the suggestion of Judge David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, the body that receives human rights complaints and refers some to the above mentioned tribunal for a hearing. In its throne speech, the Saskatchewan Party government signaled its intent  to make such changes.

Arnot reportedly said in an interview that the commission believes the courts, which have permanent infrastructure and judges, are the right place for human rights to be adjudicated.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for these un-democratic, free-speech deniers which have overreached in their campaign to enforce political correctness and abuse our individual rights to freedom of expression.

Readers may remember that in the late summer of 2009, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s member, Athanasios Hadjis, ruled that Section 13 of the federal human rights hate speech law violates our Charter-right to freedom of expression.

I remind readers also that Richard Moon, a law professor hired in 2008 by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to provide an expert analysis of their online hate speech mandate, advised that Section 13 should be repealed so that online hate speech is a purely criminal matter.

Futhermore, I remind readers that under Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, intent is not a requirement, and truth is not a defence. All that is required is that a HR tribunal finds that one has expressed “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” and that the person be a member of certain groups. In other words, beware of hurting someone’s feelings.

Yes, folks, certain groups have been given rights which supersede a Canadian’s individual right to freedom of expression, which is arguably the most fundamental of all basic human rights.

Over to you, Rob Nicholson, M.P. (Niagara Falls), Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Can we finally count on you to do the right thing?

Seems to me I can remember a Conservative Party of Canada convention when you agreed with the majority attending that something needed to be done about section 13. So far nothing has.

Voters of Niagara Falls riding take note.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

An alternative to top-down, top-heavy centralized government?

Since the Trudeau years of the 1970s, I’ve heard friends and associates ask of our Quebec neighbours: what is it that you want from us? And, when will you ever have enough?

Quebec’s answers seem to be: we are different and distinct so we want autonomy and equality of power with Canada—a “Canada” comprising the rest of Canada excluding Quebec.

Irreconcilable differences? Perhaps not.

But, first, let’s get our comparisons straight. The rest of Canada is not a unitary government which has formed a federal union with Quebec. More accurately, it is nine other provinces with which Quebec is federated. It is from that federation of states from which some in Quebec seek separation.

Moreover, Quebec is not the only distinct society within our federation. Ontario with its almost unique degree of ethnic and cultural diversity is also a distinct society, quite different from, say, Nova Scotia or Alberta. Other provinces are also quite distinct in culture or lifestyle. For instance, compare the lifestyle of Charlottetown, PEI and that of downtown Toronto, Ontario.

For all Quebec’s acknowledged distinctness, it is as unreasonable to compare Quebec to all the rest of Canada as to compare California to all the rest of the United States. It is, though, quite reasonable to compare Quebec to Ontario, or to British Columbia, or to Alberta, etc. That is to say, Canada is a federation of semi-autonomous provinces and it is to each of these provinces that Quebec can properly be compared.

Not only is Quebec being short-changed regarding their autonomy within a united Canada, but so are the other nine provinces. Had the fathers of confederation wanted top-down, top-heavy centralized government—Ottawa style—they would have created it instead of the federation they chose for us. They did not and I, for one, am glad they didn’t.

So we have congruence: Quebecers want equality, autonomy and recognition of their distinctness, and so should the rest of us.

How would Canada look if we had 10 equal, autonomous provinces all playing their roles as envisioned by our constitution?

All provinces, along with Quebec, would have the final say—and exclusive authority and taxing powers over—property and civil rights, municipalities, administration of justice, natural resources and the environment, social programs, education and healthcare. All would decide the degree of multiculturalism they desire, their official language(s) the level of immigration they want, and each would engage to a greater or lesser degree in social experimentation.

Defence, foreign relations and trade, monitory policy including currency and banking, criminal code, postal service, census, navigation and shipping, fishing, banking, weights and measures, bankruptcy, copyrights and patents, First Nations, and citizenship would be the purview of the central government in Ottawa.

Could Quebec not be comfortable in such a federation of equal, but autonomous, partners? Could Quebecers not fulfill their dreams within such a political construct? I believe they could.

But how do we get to there from here? Simple.

We enforce the existing constitutional powers of the provinces and limit the spending powers of Ottawa to the areas over which it currently has constitutionally defined authority. Little or no devolution of central power would be required, just a recognition of and respect for provincial powers which already exist.

Put differently, get back to the basics of federalism as envisioned in 1867 and as enshrined in 1982 in our constitution, and put an end to the trend to unitary government. I see this as much more appropriate, efficient and fair than our top-down, top-heavy centralized government—Ottawa style.

 

© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

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