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Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

Have a happy and prosperous New Year, everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

War in Iraq far from over

There was a time when Americans could boast of never having lost a war, but such a boast would ring hollow in the wake of a string of U.S. defeats broken only by a victory in the 1990/1991 Gulf War. Americans may not have won the War of 1812, but neither did they lose it. And while they may not, as often claimed, have won the First World War—they did tip the balance in favour of the Allies and played a pivotal role in the final two years of that conflict—they certainly were on the winning side.

Since the Second World War, however, America’s war record has been spotty. Did they win in Korea in the 1950s? Not really—that war ended pretty much in a stalemate. The Vietnam War ended in a miserable defeat for the Americans. The Afghan war, which began on October 7, 2001, is still not settled, and many claim it will end as the Iraq War has with the Americans “claiming” victory and pulling out their troops.

Which takes us to the recent withdrawal of U.S. military personal from Iraq and President Barack Obama’s pronouncement at Andrews Air Force Base that the war is over. Of course, President George W. Bush famously claimed victory in Iraq on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln way back in 2003—in the twenty-first century’s most unfortunate display of braggadocio by a world leader.

Might President Obama’s claim of victory be just as premature as was President Bush’s? I fear it might.

As journalist Michael Harris recently wrote, “By every rational measure, the war in Iraq was an abject failure.” I will add that it was also a miserable, avoidable, mistake in the first place. According to Harris, the butcher’s bill included:

Forty-five hundred dead soldiers on the American side, another 30,000 wounded. On the Iraqi side, somewhere between 650,000 and 1,000,000 civilian and combatant deaths, depending on whether you believe the prestigious British polling agency Opinion Research Business or the Lancet Report.

There is more to come. President Obama had barely declared victory when Iraq’s Shia-dominated government started going after its rivals, starting with Iraq’s Sunni Vice-President. And last Thursday, opening salvos in a civil war between the minority Sunni—former rulers—and the governing Shia majority were fired:  16 bomb blasts in Baghdad (72 people killed, 217 injured).

Iraq’s Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi has taken refuge in the semi-independent Iraqi region of Kurdistan. Iraq’s Kurds have rejected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s authority over them. They are mostly Sunni Muslims, like the Sunni Arabs whom Hashemi represents—while Maliki, like most Arabic-speakers in Iraq, is Shia.

In short, the “Iraq War” may be over, but war rages on in Iraq.

I close with these prophetic words from Michael Harris, “the true political legacy of the Iraq War will [now] unfold—a bloody battle for supremacy between the fighters of the Sunni Awakening and the Shia majority with its new taste for power and its longstanding ties to Iran.”

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How serious are Tory intentions in the high north?

The Royal Canadian Air Force has considered expanding operations and facilities at Resolute Bay, Nunavut to make it a main operating base for Arctic operations. According to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen and reported on in the National Post, “The construction of a 3,000 metre paved runway, hangars, fuel installations and other infrastructure has been proposed as part of an effort to support government and military operations in the North.”

The RCAF, apparently, is also considering a forward operating base on Ellesmere Island, which would require the expansion of current facilities at Eureka, Nunavut. In so doing, our Forces could rebuild the existing facilities at Station Alert on Ellesmere Island, which is currently used for the interception of communications.

I’m all for paving and lengthening the runway at Resolute Bay—it currently has a 1,981-metre gravel runway—to allow fighter aircraft to operate in the far north and search and rescue operations to be centered there. And expanded operations at Resolute Bay would also be a key element in any Arctic development we undertake as we reinforce our sovereignty over this strategically important region.

I hope this is not just another Arctic proposal with more to do with attracting votes than enforcing sovereignty in the North. This has been a speciality of Conservative governments for far too long. It is unacceptable that Canada, which owns so much of the Artic, has virtually no effective naval, military or aerospace presence in that region. In this respect, we lag behind other countries that claim strategic interests in the Artic.

I’ll not feel comfortable with the level of our Conservative government’s commitment to the Artic until I see high-sounding words turn into action. Our leaders talk a good game, but are they really players?

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

I’ll be doing less blogging over the Christmas and New Year season. I’ve had another wonderful year blogging about politics and such. When I started Russ Campbell’s Blog it never occurred to me that it would receive tens of thousands of visitors and page views, with several of you taking the time to leave comments.

It’s not much fun writing if no one reads your stuff, so a big “thank you” to all you readers, and I hope you’ll return next year. This is the season for concentrating on family, so I’ll be doing just that.

 

To all, good cheer and good health.

Have a Merry Christmas,
Happy Hanukkah and
a Happy and prosperous New Year!

Debating the unmentionable?

The Tory MP for Kitchener-Centre Stephen Woodworth said in a recent media release that Canadian laws governing human rights of the unborn need to be re-examined because they are out-dated. Now I read that his fellow Conservative, Essex MP Jeff Watson, supports Woodworth’s call for a debate on whether to give human rights to the unborn.

It’s about time this debate was held in parliament and each and every member stood up and stated his position on the subject.

To be clear: no government can give anyone a “human right.” Human rights are ours whether or not our government recognizes them. Furthermore, life begins at conception, period. This is a reality of biology and no man-made legislation or lack thereof is going to change that.

Our government, however, could (and should) redefine what Canada considers a “legal person” to include, at least, some of the unborn. Currently, one has to be independent of the mother’s body to be a legal person—i.e., a person has to have been “born” to be a legal person under the law. So we are not talking about biology, but legal distinctions.

In my view, an unborn baby who could survive outside the womb as, say, a premature baby can, should be considered a legal person and receive all the protections, rights and privileges the rest of us Canadians enjoy. This is probably around the end of the second trimester of a pregnancy, and terminating a child’s life after that point should be illegal.

I also believe in a woman’s right to choose. But like every other Canadian right, there should be reasonable restrictions.

A mother could still have the right to chose whether she wishes to terminate her pregnancy, but—assuming no medical reason to do otherwise—the state should assume responsibility for the child’s life, if viable, at that point. The state provides housing and other necessities of life to murderers, pedophiles and others guilty of the most horrible crimes, so why deny life to these vulnerable, parentless babies.

Just because a woman decides she does not want her pregnancy to go full-term, that does not mean her unborn child should not be given a chance to live out its life. For a woman to decide not to have her child is one thing, it’s quite another to “kill” that child.

For the record, I am not a religious person. It’s been decades since I believed in the Christian concept of God, belonged to a religious denomination or attended any church or other place of religious worship. I do believe, though, in human decency. And, to me, claiming a child is less than a human being just because it has not been “born” is barbaric and nonsense.

If a mother allows a child to be removed through Caesarean section before the 39th week it is considered “born.” But if a woman demands an abortion before the 39th week the child is legally not born and can be destroyed. We really should be ashamed of ourselves.

Bring on the debate.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Dust-up on Sun News Network: Lilley cuts off Kinsella’s mic

Avideo posted at the BC Blue blog shows the dyed-in-the-wool Liberal Warren Kinsella and Sun News’ Byline host Brian Lilley having a verbal dust-up until Lilley asks that Kinsella’s microphone be cut off. Yes, really. They cut off Kinsella’s microphone.

I am a regular watcher of Sun News, though I find programs like The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News better than anything Sun News offers. I thought, however, that Sun News prided itself with bringing both sides of an argument to the table. The Byline show’s Webpage boasts, in part:

The Byline showcases irreverent journalist Brian Lilley as a cultural warrior, a connected journalist who is on the side of Canadians who value their individual freedoms and responsibilities over intrusive government. … Tune in for insight, opinion and long-overdue discussion of topics that matter to average Canadians.

Apparently the “insight” and “opinion” referred to is subject to the host’s censorship. Well, I suppose all TV shows reserve the right to censor when a guest becomes extremely unmanageable or says things that could cause legal problems for the network. Lilley’s censorship seemed not to have been prompted by anything like that, however. In fact, it was Lilley who seemed to be losing his cool. I thought Kinsella handled himself with restraint.

This episode reminds me of an interview I saw when Krista Erickson, another of Sun News’ hosts, rudely bullied a guest. I’ve also heard Erickson berate the CBC—not such a bad thing of itself—but she happily pocketed her paycheques from the CBC for several years. Hypocrisy, it seems, is alive and well at Sun News.

As I see it, if one hosts a show with guests, one needs to be sure one can take as much as one gives. Bullying guests or turning off their microphones doesn’t seem to fit the image Sun News seems to be trying to project.

Warren Kinsella doesn’t need me to defend him, but I believe he held the high ground on this one.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Thursday, December 22, 2011

PM Netanyahu's Christmas Greetings 2011

How encouraging it is to see that there is one democracy in the Middle East which does not hate Christians. By contrast, According to FoxNews.com, in a textbook for ninth-graders in Saudi Arabia, the students are taught the annihilation of the Jewish people is imperative: “The hour (of judgment) will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. ... There is a Jew behind me come and kill him,” it reads. [Source]

Merry Christmas! and Happy Hanukkah! Israel.

Score 1 for provincial rights, 0 for federal overreaching

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled unanimously against the federal government’s attempt to create a national stock market regulator, because the legislation presented to it “overreaches” into provincial jurisdiction. Thursday’s decision should end Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s plan, which called for the dismantling the current system under which the 13 provinces and territories regulate securities under a “co-operative passport system.”

The government had argued financial markets are now so critical to our economy and so interwoven with the world’s economy that Canada needed a single voice to more effectively represent its interests. The government also maintained that a single regulator would be more effective in detecting and policing fraud.

To help his case, Flaherty used examples of fraudsters such as Earl Jones in Montreal and the perpetrators of the Bre-X gold mine swindle suggesting they might have been caught sooner had single-regulator policing rules been in place. Critics, however, have rightly pointed out that a single regulator did not prevent Bernie Madoff, Enron and other stock manipulation scandals in the United States.

The court, however, left Ottawa room to continue playing a role in securities trading regulation, such as in setting minimum standards, and in guarding against systemic risk whereby a failure of one player creates a “domino effect” setting off a chain reaction affecting the greater financial system.

Hat’s off to Canada’s top court for reinforcing that we live in a federation and that provincial jurisdictions are to be adhered to. We have a constitution which lays out the boundaries of federal and provincial jurisdiction. If such boundaries are no longer in our national and provincial interests, then change the constitution. Until then, respect the boundaries.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Ontario minister whines about Flaherty’s ‘imposed’ health care deal

The minister of finance for Ontario was one of the provincial representatives who whined most to the media after hearing details of a plan for how much federal health care money will be transferred to the provinces in the future. “It’s no present at all; it’s a lump of coal,” Dwight Duncan is reported to have said.

I’ve learned not to expect better from this blowhard of a politician. All bluster and truth shaping; not much substance. Duncan’s idea of getting the province’s finances back in balance is to make sure he picks a timeframe ending well outside his term in office. Under his and Dalton McGuinty’s leadership we’ll never see a balanced Ontario budget unless, of course, outside pressure forces their hand.

On TV, Duncan went on about how “tradition” called for the federal government to negotiate with provincial ministers over health care transfers. But how much negotiation went on when the Chrétien-Martin Liberals slashed health and education funding to balance the federal budgets in the 1990s?

In the past decade, Billions of dollars have been transferred to the provinces at rates of increase far exceeding either inflation or the growth in our economy—i.e., at unsustainable levels. Now federal finance minister Flaherty has said health transfers will continue to flow at the same six-per-cent increase rate they have been, but by 2018, the increase will be tied to the rate of nominal GDP, which is the measure of economic growth including inflation. Sounds both prudent and generous.

If Duncan wants more money, he could raise Ontario taxes to get it—he has nearly as much taxing authority as the federal government. That’s the adult way, but it’s easier to puff himself up and blame the feds.

Better still, the Ontario government could show the courage and gumption to insist the federal government backs off and stays out of provincial jurisdiction. Our constitution gives Ontario the right and obligation to provide for the health of its residents. Ontario’s political leaders know that this means funding as well as delivery. If we governed within the constitution, Ontario would not have to depend on Ottawa for these sorts of handouts.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beware the wakened giant

The passing of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, last Saturday reminds us of how dangerous a place the world is. One had hoped the end of the Cold War might have given a peace-dividend of a more lasting nature, but clearly, that is not the case.

Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamist terrorist attacks on the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom, musings of nuclear attack from leaders of North Korea and Iran, sabre rattling from Russia and China, and internal conflicts in the Middle East have made the opening decade of the twenty-first century no less than a bloody mess.

Kim Jong-il was not even in his grave when North Korea conducted a missile test, signalling that nation’s commitment to continue its late leader’s policy of threatening to wipe out Seoul, the prosperous South Korean capital, or the Japanese economy, not to mention millions of their people. With some 1.19-million men under arms, North Korea possesses one of the world’s largest standing armies with a massive arsenal of conventional weapons, supplemented by nuclear weapons, while its people are forced to endure a permanent famine.


China Military 2011

Perhaps even more worrying, though, is North Korea’s primary (only?) international sponsor, China. While most in the West focus on the very real threat posed by Islamist extremists, China has poured ever-increasing billions of dollars into its armed forces.

Here’s an excerpt from a story USA Today published last summer:

For two decades China has been adding large numbers of warships, submarines, fighter jets and—more significantly—developing offensive missiles capable of knocking out U.S. stealth aircraft and the biggest U.S. naval ships including aircraft carriers.

At the same time, China has announced that its territorial waters extend hundreds of miles beyond its shores, well into what its neighbors and the United States consider international waters. It has installed more than 1,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, a democratic island nation and U.S. ally. Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan all have complained to the United States about confrontations on the high seas with China.

Much of China’s new military and naval build-up is in offensive weapons like its first aircraft carrier—and there are unconfirmed reports of China also building two nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Such warships are not generally considered defensive.

Tensions run high in the South China Sea where China and others have unresolved differences.

Few remember that China briefly invaded Vietnam in 1979 with combined casualties of  over 60,000. Furthermore, China and India have had disputes over their borders, resulting in three military conflicts: the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Chola incident in 1967 and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish.

Moreover, the relationship between China and Japan is increasingly strained despite their deep economic ties and a doubling of their bilateral trade in the past five years. This has dangerous implications for the United States and the world at large. Eric Calder, writing for Foreign Affairs a few years back, had this to say:

Some liken current Sino-Japanese relations to the Anglo-German rivalry prior to World War I. As with the United Kingdom and Germany a century ago, the contest for regional leadership between China and Japan today is creating new security dilemmas, prompting concerns over Chinese ambitions in Japan and fears of renewed Japanese militarism in China. Both states are adopting confrontational stances, partly because of rising popular involvement in politics and resurgent nationalism exacerbated by revived memories of World War II; mutually beneficial economic dealings alone are not effectively soothing these tensions. Fluid perceptions of power and fear, Thucydides observed, are the classic causes of war. And they are increasingly present in Northeast Asia today.

Canada too could find itself at odds with China. As I wrote in August, China feels entitled to a share of the Arctic’s natural resources and wants to see as much as possible of the region remain international territory. And, if the U.K.’s The Telegraph is correct, Russia plans to “increase naval patrols in the Arctic Ocean to defend its interests against nations such as China seeking a share of the area’s mineral wealth.”

Should Canada be any less concerned than Russia apparently is?

Moreover, the Vancouver Sun reported earlier this year that a “massive” cyber attack was launched against the Canadian government by a foreign government, and that the infiltration of computer systems of two Canadian agencies were also likely perpetrated by a foreign government.

Which “foreign government” might that be? Why, China, of course.

Napoleon Bonaparte once famously said of China, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Methinks the giant has awakened.

Except video, © 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Monday, December 19, 2011

Imbeciles too can own TV stations

The video that follows is an example of the truly stunning ignorance of what passes as intelligent discourse in the Arab World. In it, an Egyptian presidential candidate, Tawfiq Okasha, describes Michael Coren as a Freemason and Coren’s Sun News TV show as “the leading channel in America” and says Coren’s show “is one of the most famous in America.” Coren, as most readers know, is a Roman Catholic and would unlikely be a Freemason. And clearly the man lacks even a basic level of knowledge about North American geography and international affairs.

As to Okasha’s imbecilic comments about Jews, I’m left without words to fully describe the extent of his idiocy.

Tawfiq Okasha has no excuse for such a display of ignorance and blatant anti-Semitism for he is and educated man and the owner of Al-Faraeen TV. Surely this is a further evidence a cultural war is being waged against us in the West when a prominent citizen of a significant country like Egypt openly displays such bigotry and misinformation.

Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Except video, © 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Politician of the year: Stephen Harper

PM Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper gets my vote as best politician of the year 2011, despite the success of the late Jack Layton and his New Democrats in Quebec. Stephen Harper has had a terrific record since he became leader of the united “right,” and proved that he can garner enough right-of-centre votes to form a majority with little or no support from Quebec.

Jack Layton seems to be the sentimental favourite of many for politician of the year, but I don’t see it. True, he improved his party’s fortunes in last May’s election, but his best efforts still left the New Democrats short of victory.

Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative Party is decades younger than the NDP, yet has grown from a modest prairie movement in the mid-eighties to the governing party of Canada and has replaced, some believe, the Liberals as Canada’s natural governing party.

Jack Layton’s political record pales by comparison to Stephen Harper’s.

The prime minister has led our country through some of the most trying economic times and nearly a decade of war. He is well into a program of rebuilding our armed forces—Canada now has the finest small army in the world—and under his leadership Canada has assumed a prominent position among mid-size nations. Canada’s relationship with the United States has been better under PM Harper than under any previous prime minister in over half a century—except, of course, for Brian Mulroney.

During 2011, Harper’s government has won an election and initiated a transformative agenda, especially in the areas of international trade, immigration reform, criminal justice and U.S.-Canada relations. Canada’s economic record and international profile far exceeds that of other countries of similar population size: Canada has the 35th largest population, but is ranked 9th in GDP by the CIA World Factbook (10th by the International Monitory Fund and the World Bank). Given the tumultuous and uncertain economic times of the past three years, Prime Minister Harper’s prudent management must be given much of the credit for keeping Canada hitting well above its weight.

Leading up to the May 2 election, here’s what the Globe and Mail—an openly Liberal newspaper—said when it endorsed the Conservative Party:

He [Harper] has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.

High praise indeed from what amounts to an “opposition” newspaper. By a wide margin, Stephen Harper is Canada’s best politician of 2011.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is poor NDP performance allowing the Bloc to recover?

The abysmal performance of the federal New Democrats seems to be giving the demoralized Bloc Québécois room for hope of making a recovery in Quebec. So Jack “The Bloc-slayer” Layton’s hard work in Quebec could soon be for naught after the lacklustre performance of his party under the interim leadership of Nycole Turmel.

As reported by The Canadian Press, a recent “Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates the NDP’s support in the province [Quebec] has plunged to 26 per cent—tied with the Bloc Quebecois and down 16 points since the NDP swept 59 of Quebec’s 75 seats in last May’s election.” The Bloc, Liberals, Conservatives and Greens all seem to have made gains since May.

Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg explained that support for the New Democrats has been in decline in Quebec since early October and that the downward trend has accelerated in the last few weeks, notwithstanding the fact a leadership race to choose Layton’s successor is underway. Gregg said that he can’t recall a party ever losing so much ground during a leadership contest.

Nycole Turmel may be the least effective leader of the official opposition in memory, but I expected the NDP leadership campaigns would offset her poor performance. Apparently not.

With this poll as a backdrop, its amusing to read Nycole Turmel’s prediction that her party will defeat the Conservatives in the 2015 election. Doesn’t she know this is the Christmas Season, not April Fool’s?

It is disappointing, though, to see the Bloc on the rebound.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More than poverty inflicts victims of Attawapiskat

The NDP member of parliament for Timmins-James Bay, Charlie Angus, has done Canadians a great service by bringing the plight of residents of Attawapiskat First Nation to their attention. Mr. Angus is the local MP for the Attawapiskat First Nation reserve and responded quickly by getting the word out about, and the spotlight on, Attawapiskat after that community declared a state of emergency earlier this fall.

For many (perhaps most) Canadians that was the first indication some of the 2,000 or so residents of that Northern Ontario community were living in such deplorable conditions. And we can all applaud the Canadian Red Cross for its prompt response to the crisis, and be grateful that our federal agencies too are getting directly involved.

I believe also that Prime Minister Harper himself is now on this file and will have a role to play in the long-term solutions that will presumably be found in the coming months.

There are, however, troubling aspects to this story that seem to have been ignored by Mr. Angus and the rest of the official opposition and, perhaps, even been somewhat distorted.

How, for instance, did Mr. Angus arrive at these figures he wrote about when he pointed out “that $50,000 per person [federal transfers] divided over six years, works out to about $8,300 per person per year”. The $50,000 seems to refer to the prime minister’s statement that we [federal government] have paid $50,000 to “every man, woman and child in the community.” Fair enough, but why divide the prime minister’s figure by 6 (years) to arrive at a misleading $8,300 per year for each individual?

Would it not have been more sensible to have used the community’s own figures contained in their audited annual financial statements? According to these, Attawapiskat First Nation had revenues for the year of $34.3-million and spent $31.1-million leaving a surplus as at March 31, 2011 (about nine months ago) of $3.1-million. Most of these revenues, I might add, came from the federal (50%) and provincial (13%) governments. There is not enough financial details in these statements for anyone to assess how well these revenues are being deployed on the reserve, but I believe it is safe to say that this is a lot of money for what amounts to a small town of about 2,000 residents.

These unfortunate people do need our help and will get it, but it is quite fair for Canadians to ask whether they are doing enough to help themselves—financially or otherwise, for far more troubling than the housing crisis, are the allegations by a former resident of Attawapiskat of substantial wrongdoings in the community, including child molestation, sexual abuse and incest as outlined to CTV.ca on Tuesday.

“The most frightening part is people know,” Jocelyn Iahtail told CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian. According to CTVNews.ca, “Iahtail alleged the abuse began when she was only four, and continued until she was 13. She says the abusers were people that she trusted, including relatives of some council members.”

And this shocker from Ms. Iahtail, “I would become so overcome with nausea and vomiting. Just the simple act of brushing my teeth, because of the oral sex that I was forced to perform.”

Social worker Sylvia Maracle, from the Ontario Federation of Friendship Centres, is reported by CTV.ca to have said, “Sexual violence and sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities affect 75 to 80 per cent of our girls and women,”

The CTVNews.ca article concludes with this:

Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that the abuse issue is one of the reasons why the entire system of reserves needs to be dismantled.

‘This is why First Nations are calling for transformative change—to smash the status quo,’ he responded.

According to [social worker Sylvia] Maracle, school officials have cautioned her about the issue, hinting that the abuse is so widespread that resources simply aren’t available to deal with all the cases.

These allegations are distressing in the extreme. Sounds to me like we have a far more serious set of social issues at Attawapiskat First Nation than a housing crisis.

I can hardly wait to hear how the NDP turns this into another political issue and blames the federal government for the apparently rampant sexual abuse and incest.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

In Canada we jail peaceful grandmothers and lionize “occupiers” who destroy public property

The current Supreme Court challenge undertaken by Linda Gibbons highlights how uneven and mean-spirited the Canadian justice system can be at times. Ms. Gibbons is a 63-year-old grandmother who has been arrested about 20 times and spent more than nine of the past 20 years in jail for protesting peacefully in front of abortion clinics. On Wednesday she appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in a bid to have her most recent conviction quashed.

Six years after Canada’s abortion law was struck down in 1988, authorities in Toronto sought a court-ordered “temporary” injunction ban against protesting directly outside an abortion clinic. There had been incidents of intimidation, including violence, near abortion clinics and the ban seemed reasonable as a temporary measure until things cooled down a bit. That was almost 18 years ago, however.

Since then the Alberta-born Torontonian and anti-abortion crusader has been arrested about 20 times and has spent some eight years behind bars for protesting too close to abortion clinics—though she has never been accused of threatening or abusive behaviour.

Time and time again we have sent this woman to jail yet we have allowed the “Occupy” Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver protests to violate city laws, damage public property and disrupt nearby businesses. The Occupiers we politely leave alone for weeks on end; Ms. Gibbons we arrest and lock up.

Doesn’t sound fair to me.

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iran confirms its status as a rogue state

The Iranians have again demonstrated they deserve the status of “rogue state.” They earned that status by sponsoring terrorist organizations, especially Hezbollah and Hamas, and by implementing a project to develop nuclear weapons so they could fulfil President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dream of wiping Israel off the map.

On Tuesday, Iranian protesters shouting “Death to England” stormed the British Embassy in a protest against the U.K.’s new economic sanctions against Iran’s nuclear energy program.

After defying Iranian security forces to illegally enter the British compound and a diplomatic residence in Tehran, an angry mob tore down the British flag, smashed windows and defaced walls. They also set a vehicle on fire and detained briefly six members the embassy’s staff.

Iran has a clear duty under international law to protect foreign diplomats and their offices on its soil. According to a New York Times report, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was “fanciful” to imagine that these attacks could have taken place without “some degree of regime consent” from the Iranian authorities.

I agree. There’s little doubt in my mind that this latest outrage was state-sponsored—Ahmadinejad is an odious little man.

Within hours of the incident, Britain closed its vandalized embassy, deepening Iran’s international isolation. Britain has also withdrawn its diplomats and ordered the Iranians to do the same at their London mission.

Iran still has friends of a sort, though. China, Russia and Syria—possibly some other Arab and former Soviet “–stan” republics—in the East and certain South/Central American nations such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, perhaps Brazil, seem still capable of finding common ground.

One can’t help noticing the poor human rights records of most, if not all, these nations—truly, birds of a feather flocking together.

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Herman Cain’s campaign overshadowed by allegations of impropriety

Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate and former businessman, CEO and radio show host, is facing yet another charge of impropriety, this time from an Atlanta businesswoman who claimed she had a 13-year affair with the former pizza company chief executive. The woman, Ginger White, said that she had been aware at the time Mr. Cain was married and that their relationship was “inappropriate.”

Ms. White said Mr. Cain ended sexual relations with her eight months ago, when he began his run for the Republican nomination.

According to reports, Ms. White produced mobile phone bills showing what she said was Cain’s number. She said he had called her dozens of times over a period of several months. According to her, she decided to go public with her allegations after receiving calls from journalists, and she was bothered by the way Mr. Cain had “demonised” other women who had accused him of sexual harassment.

This surely must end what has been, until lately, an entertaining political campaign. According to Robert Costa at the National Review, “Herman Cain told his senior staff that he is ‘reassessing’ whether to remain in the race. He will make his final decision ‘over the next several days’.”

Mr. Cain is reported to have denied the “charges unequivocally.” He said, he had known “this lady” for “a number of years.” And that he’d “been attempting to help her financially because she was out of work and destitute, desperate.”

I believe, sadly, this candidate’s time in the sun is at an end. Even in these everything-goes days, marriage fidelity is expected, demanded, of a man who aspires to be the president. 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Kyoto Accord losing steam

There is quite a bit of coverage of climate change in today’s National Post, all of which seem to echo the same theme: the Kyoto Accord has lost its appeal and will not likely be replaced with anything more effective when the current agreement expires at the end of 2012.

Canada—which has had an ambiguous relationship with the Kyoto protocol, first signing and ratifying it, then virtually ignoring its obligations—is rumoured to be planning to formally pull out of the international treaty before the end of this year. “Kyoto is the past,” Environment Minister Peter Kent is quoted as saying recently. Mr. Kent also described a previous Liberal government’s decision to agree to the protocol as “one of the biggest blunders they made.” The minister, however, declined to confirm the rumour that Canada will formally pull out by year’s end.

That Kyoto has not worked should not come as a surprise to anyone; it was flawed from the start. Countries that are sources of the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions either never signed the agreement (the United States) or were not required to make reductions (Brazil, China, India, Russia) under the protocol. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, voted to “accept” (but not ratify) its Kyoto reduction targets, then passed a law making those targets not legally binding. And several major economies have made it clear they’ll not sign a new agreement without the signatures of all major emitters, both from the developed and developing worlds.

Consequently, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa will not likely see much progress in its objective of replacing Kyoto.

To too many observers, Kyoto is seen to be less about climate change and more about massive (hundreds of billions of dollars) income redistribution from the developed world to everyone else. And for many, this is a non-starter.

Here’s a quote from Tasha Kheiriddin’s piece in the National Post:

Environmental policy analyst James Taylor noted recently in Forbes magazine that while global carbon emissions have soared 33% over the past decade (according to the U.S. Department of Energy), global temperatures flatlined over the same period—and rose merely 0.2 to 0.3 degrees Celsius during the past third of a century.

Is it any wonder I remain a man-made climate change sceptic?

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ontario PCs choosing new president: take a hard look at Richard Ciano

One of the highlights of my attendance at this past Saturday morning’s Burlington PC Riding Association’s annual general meeting was meeting one of the candidates to be the Ontario PC party’s next president, namely Richard Ciano. I had the good luck to sit beside Mr. Ciano during the brunch preceding the meeting and exchanged a few words.

It is said often that at crucial times in history, the “right” person seems to emerge. Well, Mr. Ciano’s emergence as a candidate to lead our party at a crucial time may well be one of those.

The brief speech Richard Ciano made at the AGM resonated with me—music to my ears, one might say. As I listened to him I mentally ticked-off each of my pet peeves over what I consider shortcomings/mistakes in the PC’s last general election campaign that had the unhappy consequence of Liberal Dalton McGuinty returning for his third term as premier of Ontario.

For the first time in years (probably since the early days of Mike Harris’s leadership) I heard a PC party insider “preach” the sort of things I’ve advocated as success factors for our party. Here’s a highly summarized list of the points highlighted by Mr. Ciano:

  • returning to open, fair and locally controlled candidate nominations;
  • restoring a grassroots policy development process to the party; and
  • re-establishing the principle of local control of local campaigns giving flexibility to local ridings to customize campaign literature, etc., based on local issues and circumstances.

It’s early days yet in the campaign for party president, but Mr. Ciano is saying all the right things, at least, as far as this writer is concerned.

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Burlington PC riding update

The Burlington (Ontario) PC riding association held its annual general meeting this past Saturday. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been critical of my local riding association from time to time, but I’m happy to report that I was  encouraged—heartened in fact—by what I saw and heard on
Saturday.

Bert Radford, the out-going association president, ran the meeting in a tight, efficient manner, and with the right touch of humour. And once we’d finished our brunch, Ruth Roberts expertly guided us through the nomination process and election of next year’s slate of executive and general board members.

There was a sense of energy and optimism in the room that I have not noticed at riding events since former MPP Cam Jackson retired from the Ontario legislature in 2006.

Recently elected MPP Jane McKenna—Critic of Children and Youth Services and Deputy Co-Chair of Ethnic Outreach—was present, of course, and made an excellent speech. Ms. McKenna and her “team,” in my view, are fully responsible for the improved atmosphere. I left the meeting thinking, We’re back!

The Burlington riding association was once the envy of many ridings in Ontario and retains the core elements to be so again. I have the sense that incoming president Mark Fedak and his new board members have the enthusiasm, smarts and talent to build the association membership and its profile in the community and, as importantly, to lead us through the next election.

Let’s hope the central Ontario PC party apparatus agrees and backs off so the new Burlington PC team can get on with their jobs. It’s one thing for the central PC office to offer much needed and appreciated training, advice and other support, it’s quite another for it to insist on managing everything centrally and substituting edicts for advice and support.

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Time to put Canada’s house in order

With the economic crisis in Europe going full bore, one might expect we’d have near unanimity around the idea that Canada and its provinces should get their houses in order and begin addressing public debt. Instead we continue to hear the call for more economic stimulus.

Granted, Canada’s debt at the national level is not close to that of the worst European nations in terms of percentage of GDP. It is, however, growing at a concerning rate and will consume a significant percentage of annual budgets once interest rates return to historical levels. And this could come sooner than many think as investors around the world are already beginning to drive up borrowing costs for indebted governments—Germany this week managed to attract bids for only 65% of the 10-year bonds it offered for sale.

If not now, then when should we get our spending under control, and by that I mean limiting spending increases to a level at or below the annual rate of inflation and trimming government programs and initiatives that are not a priority or do nothing for the economy. And we need to cut spending enough to generate a budget surplus that we can apply against the debt.

Time is of the essence. The next economic crisis could come at any time, requiring temporary deficit budgeting. By lowering our debt now, we will create room to make future deficits manageable and thereby avoid the mess they’ve created for themselves in Southern Europe.

The situation in Quebec seems most worrying of all, with Ontario not so far behind. Quebec has the highest debt burden in the country, a staggering 61.7% of its gross domestic product—according to an Oct. 7 estimate by debt rating agency DBRS Ltd. Ontario’s debt ratio is not as high, but at 37.2% it will quickly become unmanageable with annual double-digit billion-dollar deficits piling one on top of another.

Quebec is playing a dangerous game by ignoring the time-bomb that is its debt. Perhaps Premier Jean Charest expects the rest of Canada to rescue his province should they be unable to handle debt repayments at some future time. Charest could have pledged the $2-billion windfall his province will receive from Ottawa for their recently announced tax-harmonization deal directly as a debt reduction. He has, instead, used this “found” money to avoid having to make spending cuts.

The Quebec government may not be oblivious to its fiscal situation, but it seems reluctant to make tangible moves to address it. Take, for example, their $7-a-day daycare program. Does this not say all one needs to know about that province’s head-in-the-sand approach to economics?

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Video: week in review

Here’s a video of the U.S. week in review… politically speaking.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Video – Obama pardons turkey for Thanksgiving

Video – Obama pardons turkey for Thanksgiving—very cute …

CBC ordered to hand over papers

The CBC has once again been told by a court it is legally required to turn over papers to Suzanne Legault, Canada’s information commissioner. This time it is a unanimous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, which upheld an earlier Federal Court decision.

The national broadcaster has been refusing to hand over 16 requests for information, claiming it is allowed to protect its journalistic, creative and programming material. It also refused to allow Ms. Legault to review the material in order to assess its decision. Ms. Legault took the case to court in 2010 and won, but the CBC appealed to a higher court. It was that appeal the went against the CBC in yesterday’s decision.

So here we have a semi-public agency, the CBC, defying a law it insists other public agencies follow diligently, for which defiance it is sued by a public official, loses its case, appeals to a higher court and loses once more—all with public money. There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.

So long as the CBC has access to ever more of taxpayers’ money, they’ll never act in a financially prudent manner. It’s time to trim its wings.

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GOP debate: no leader emerges to challenge Mitt

Screenshot – CNN GOP Nov 22 debate

The Republican candidates’ debate hosted by CNN, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute Tuesday night was all about foreign policy and national security, and what each of the eight GOP nomination candidates would do differently should he/she win the White House. I thought CNN’s anchor Wolf Blitzer did a good job of keeping candidates on topic and of allowing all to have their say.

I noticed three flubs of a minor nature. The only one that seemed to get any notice was Herman Cain calling Wolf Blitzer, “Blitz” instead of “Wolf”. Two others, though, were interesting from a Canadian point of view.

First there was Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator, calling Africa a “country.” A minor slip perhaps, but it speaks volumes about how American politicians see the world. Also seemingly unnoticed was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s reference to the United States achieving “oil independence” if the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline had been allowed to proceed. Keystone XL is being built be a Canadian firm to transport Canadian-sourced oil. How can that contribute to the U.S.’s “oil independence?” But I quibble.

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and former ambassador to China, seemed in his element in this debate that focused heavily on foreign policy. His performance was the best of the night, followed closely by Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. By contrast, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain did not impress.

Newt Gingrich showed political courage by sensibly calling for a limited amnesty for long-time illegal immigrants. Amnesty, of course, is not at all popular with many in the Republican base. The former House Speaker said:

I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families which have been here a quarter century. And I am prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but finding a way to give them legality so as not to separate them from their families.

This was one of the few times I have seen glimpses of statesmanship in this crop of presidential hopefuls.

Jon Huntsman also showed us he has the making of a statesman, at least, when it comes to foreign affairs. He’s arguing for drastic cuts in U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, even though it may be contrary to the advice of military advisers. His assessment of the Afghan scene seems the most dogma-free and realistic. He called for “an honest conversation in this [U.S.] country about the sacrifices that have been made over nearly 10 years.” He explained:

We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and special forces response capability. And we need to prepare for a world, not just in South Asia, but, indeed, in every corner of the world in which counter-terrorism is going to be in front of us for as far as the eye can see into the 21st century.

Michele Bachmann was at her best with perhaps the sagest advice of the night when she warned about the instability of Pakistan’s nuclear sites:

They also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Pakistan is a nation, that it’s kind of like ‘too nuclear to fail.’

“Too nuclear to fail,” I like that line a lot. But slogans, regardless of how true they are, are not of themselves, statesmanship. This was probably Bachmann’s best debate in quite awhile, but I’m far from being sold on her ending up in the White House.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum did well enough, I guess, but I just can’t see him in the role of the leader of the free world—not sufficient gravitas.

I agree with Michele Bachmann, who said Rick Perry’s position on the more than $1-billion U.S. aid sent to Pakistan is “highly naïve.” She disagrees with the Texas governor who sees aid to Pakistan as a blank cheque without any return on the U.S.’s investment. Perry is far too parochial for my liking. His jingoism—he wants the U.S. to consider unilaterally applying a no-fly zone over Syria (an overt act of war), for example—may excite the very right of the Republican base, but lacks depth and nuance. I like to see a more sophisticated approach to foreign policy from a presidential candidate.

Businessman and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain missed a golden opportunity to show he had the necessary grasp on foreign affairs. He sounded like he was reading from seminar notes when he chose phrases like, “number one, secure the border for real” and “I would first make sure that they had a credible plan for success, clarity of mission and clarity of success.” His answers sounded pedantic rather than astute.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has his supporters and likely did not disappoint them. His appeal to a broader segment of the American public probably took a hit, though, when he called humanitarian aid to fight disease in Africa “worthless.” I know his comment was prompted by a belief widely shared that foreign aid money gets syphoned off by foreign despots before it reaches the people who need it. There are countless examples, however, of aid to prevent disease being effective—saving millions of lives. Certainly foreign aid should be more effective—there’s plenty of room for improvement there—but it’s hardly worthless.

So there you have the candidates not named “Mitt.”

As to Mitt Romney himself, I thought he had a mediocre performance. But this man has been running for president for five years and he has learned a great deal. None did a better job of turning questions about foreign policy into answers about domestic issues. And Romney shows best when his positions are matched against those of President Obama. For that reason alone, the former governor of Massachusetts held his own.

So, the GOP race continues to be between Mitt Romney and the best of the rest.

 

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.

Politico Playback …smile

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Will labour unions stand down and let Toronto’s agencies evict the occupiers?

Ibelieve it is a dangerous sign that all too often when there is civil disobedience and breaches of public safety, there are labour unions, principally public sector unions, at the core of the illegal activity. We saw it the 2010 G-20 Toronto summit and we see it again at the recent “Occupations”.

Workers belonging to public sector unions are among the most privileged in the land. Their paycheques, vacation allowance, sick-leave and pensions are the envy of the private sector, and yet they seem determined to cast themselves as victims, and more particularly, victims of the capitalist system. And I wonder how many of the union leaders are themselves—by virtue of their income—in that detested 1% we hear so much about.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, role they’ll play in the eviction of Occupiers from St. James Park at Toronto. Will the unions stand down and allow the city to take control of its public space, or will they join the—as Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington phrases it—“urban warriors mustering and recruiting to put up a massive battle to prevent this?”

As Warmington rightly says:

Toronto Police, the bylaw people, the fire department, as well as the mayor’s office, have been very respectful toward the occupiers. There has been patience shown, discretion, integrity and, if anything, too much leniency. No one can say there has been an over the top response because there hasn’t been. There has been no pepper spray, rubber bullets or unnecessary kettling or arrests.

Now that the court has ruled if police do go into and remove the tents and structures from the park, as well as anyone not complying with bylaws, they will not be deemed unreasonable if these tactics are used, should they become necessary.

Surely, at some point, the rule of law must prevail. Let’s hope our public sector unions see it that way and let the city agencies get on with their jobs.

 

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.

Ontario ranks 49th of 60 North American jurisdictions in economic freedom

Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan at Queens Park March 2011

So many of us have bought into the myth that governments create jobs in the private sector, even governments themselves have come to believe it. In the United States, President Barack Obama claims to have added back 2.6 million private sector jobs as of September 2011; in Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty boasts of his government’s job creation record, claiming nearly 300,000 jobs since the last recession.

If one means only public sector jobs, one can credit governments with job creation or job losses, otherwise our political masters should not take or be given either the credit or the blame.

Governments, however, can, and too often do, take actions that cost private sector jobs. Unfortunately for the poor souls residing in the province of Ontario, Premier McGuinty and Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan are past masters at poking their political noses into the province’s economic affairs. Under their leadership, the province has lost its way.

Ontario, once the economic engine of the land, now finds itself on the receiving end of hand-outs from the federal government in the form of equalization payments. Ontario, that is to say, has become a “have-not” province under the Liberal watch. And is it any wonder we have fallen from “have” to “have not” status within the federation?

Ontario ranked fifth among Canadian provinces—and a disappointing 49th when U.S. states are included—in economic freedom, according to a new report released today by the Fraser Institute. The report, Economic Freedom of North America, rates economic freedom on Size of Government, Taxation and Labour Market Freedom. On a ten-point scale, Ontario scored a measly 5.8.

The report shows an interesting contrast between Ontario and British Columbia:

Between 1993 and 2000, economic freedom in British Columbia was growing at a slower pace than that in Ontario at both the all-government and subnational levels. During this period, British Columbia’s economic growth was just 11%, compared to Ontario’s 23%. British Columbia suffered from relatively weak economic freedom growth while Ontario benefited from relatively strong growth. In the most recent ten-year period, 2000 to 2009, economic freedom in British Columbia has increased while Ontario, which had escaped from the bottom 10, has now slipped
back. As economic freedom grew in British Columbia, so did its economy, by 26%; in Ontario, economic freedom declined during this period and the economy grew at just 11%, the lowest rate of growth of all Canadian provinces. [Emphasis mine.]

In further contrast to Ontario’s weak showing, Alberta ranked highest among the 60 North American jurisdictions with a score of 7.9. The three other provinces that outscored Ontario are: Saskatchewan (32nd – 6.5), Newfoundland & Labrador (37th– 6.4) and British Columbia (43rd– 6.1).

Ontario’s mediocre record is significant because there is a direct correlation between economic freedom and prosperity of citizens. According to the report, the North American jurisdictions having the highest levels of economic freedom had an average per capita GDP of $54,435, which compares vary favourably to the average per capita GDP of $40,229 in the lowest-ranked jurisdictions.

Ontario is failing because of its government policies. Among provinces with high levels of economic freedom there is a commitment to low taxes, small government and flexible labour markets. These are the conditions that foster job creation and greater opportunities for economic growth. Ontario leads in none of these critical areas.

Moreover, Ontario is one of five provinces that have shown declines in economic freedom between 2000 and 2009. And more’s the pity for with the premier depending on Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats to keep his job over the next couple of years, economic freedom in Ontario is not likely to increase any time soon.

Staying the current course and maintaining low levels of economic freedom will see Ontario residents experience lower standards of living and reduced opportunities.

The really sad part is that the Grits probably do get it and understand only too well the mess they’ve made. But they lack the wits to make the necessary changes without losing their precious jobs and perks and those of their cronies.

 

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hudak ready to pull plug on McGuinty’s government?

Ontario’s Liberal minority Parliament is hardly settled in and already Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is threatening to pull the plug on them. Apparently, Dalton McGuinty “shot down” Mr. Hudak’s ideas for a public-sector wage freeze and a reformed apprenticeship system, and this triggered the threat and a fundraising letter to PC supporters calling for support.

From where I sit, this looks too much like an empty threat intended only to fire up the PC base and, perhaps, collect a few bucks for the party coffers. Unfortunately, it will take more than good ideas and brave words to defeat the Grits. On what topic and on what timing would there be a meeting of minds between the PCs and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats?

If there is such an issue, it’ll have to be a bigger one than the charging of HST on home heating bills. Any such vote is not likely to be one of confidence in the government, so win or lose the Grits will remain in power.

And, frankly, I don’t see the Grits putting anything in their next couple of annual budgets that will give the opposition something to rally round and vote the Liberals down.

Furthermore, can any of the three parties really afford another election in the next 24 months or so? Surely they need at least that much time to build up their war chests. Though the thought of listening to these guys huffing and puffing at one another for the next two years is a dismal one.

My advice would be to sheathe sabres and dispense with the empty threats. Take the fight to the committee rooms at Queen’s Park, there to influence Liberal legislation as best as can be done.

Liberals will be in a bind:

On one hand they have to rein in spending or see the budget deficit grow out of control. That’ll be hard to sell in the next election. On the other hand, spending restraint will be tough for public sector unions to swallow and that might dampen their support for the Grits in a future return to the polls.

The Queen’s Park Liberals are a spent force; in 18 months, they’ll be wanting to do almost anything to stay in office. At that point, they’ll likely turn first to the Dippers for help, and the resulting compromise legislation will sink them in the next election—probably Oct. 2015.

 

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are days numbered for Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act?

© House of Commons – MP Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice

In what must be much to the chagrin of leftists across our land, Rob Nicholson (left), the federal Minister of Justice, rose in the House of Commons this week to urge MPs to vote for the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act because it is an affront to free speech.

Section 13, of course, is the controversial provision than bans communication that is likely to expose identifiable groups to hatred or contempt. The section has been pretty widely condemned over the past few years, with several national media organizations—including the National Post, Maclean’s and the Toronto Star—calling for it to go. And recently, Alberta MP Brian Storseth has put forth a private members bill that, if passed, would see the offensive section scrapped, leaving the criminal code to deal with charges of hate speech in Canada.

According a report in today’s National Post Mr. Nicholson congratulated Mr. Storseth “for his commitment to the promotion and protection of free speech among all Canadians.” The Post adds that the minister said:

Our government believes that Section 13 is not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda. We believe the Criminal Code is the best vehicle to prosecute these crimes, therefore I urge all members to support [Mr. Storseth’s bill] and our government’s forthcoming amendments to strengthen the hate provisions of the Criminal Code.

Conservatives voted almost unanimously at a policy conference in 2008 in support of scrapping Section 13 so the minister’s support of Mr. Storseth’s bill is no surprise. And I’m fully expecting accusations from the opposition benches and elsewhere that the Conservative government seeks to protect hatemongers. Be that as it may, though, I support the move to scrap Section 13.

With government support for its repeal, Section 13 could finally be gone by early next year—better late than never, and Bravo! to the Conservative government.

 

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Liberals on Commons seat redistribution: What are they thinking?

One really has to wonder where Liberal heads are these days. I guess to retain some semblance of relevance on the political scene, the Grits’ brain trust feels it must take controversial positions on issues that will find their way into media reports and commentaries.

The latest case in point is a Liberal Party proposal made by Stéphane Dion, the Liberal critic for democratic reform. The former party leader suggests we save money by not increasing seats in the House of Commons as proposed in the Fair Representation Act. The Fair Representation Act is legislation before the House that would add 30 seats to the current 308 in response to Canada’s population increase in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and would also add three seats to Quebec, to maintain a ratio of its seats in the House equal to its proportion of the population.

Mr. Dion proposes redistribution of the current seats while keeping the seat count at 308—Ontario would gain four seats, B.C. would gain two and Alberta would gain three. And, to offset these increases, Quebec would lose three seats, Newfoundland and Labrador would lose one, Nova Scotia would lose one and Saskatchewan and Manitoba would each lose two.

I’m all for saving taxpayers’ hard-earned money, but let’s be realistic. Redistribution is already overdue and would be delayed indefinitely to make the legislative and constitutional changes necessary to implement the Liberal plan, especially if the changes were to stand the test of time.

Under our Constitution, no province can have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it has in the Senate, and current legislation provides that provinces cannot lose seats as a result of redistribution. Surely Mr. Dion and Interim Leader Bob Rae know this, as must Liberal MP Marc Garneau, the sole opposing voice on the parliamentary committee reviewing the proposed legislation.

An surely they must know the furore and delay any change in the status quo would cause. So why make the suggestion? I see this as a not so clever ploy to see their name in print and to get invitations to explain themselves on TV.

I say, let’s pay the $86 million (Liberals’ estimate of the cost over the course of the next election cycle) and add the 30 seats so Canadians across the nation can be more fairly represented in their parliament.

(A version of this article was also published at
Postmedia Network’s Canada.com.)

 

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.

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