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Friday, September 30, 2011

Will Americans ever trust us again?

canusrelations The Americans are again musing about building a fence along parts of our mutual border as well as deploying various high-tech surveillance systems. Apparently, some officials in the American Customs and Border Protection Agency believe this will make America safer from terrorism. They’ll never ever forget Ahmed Ressam—who they arrested in 2000, trying to cross into Washington State from British Columbia on a mission to bomb Los Angeles International Airport—and there are Americans who still believe mistakenly some of the 9/11 plane hijackers entered the United States from Canada.

Americans have every right to do so, of course, they can build walls, fences, ditches, moats to their hearts’ content. But one can’t help wondering if this isn’t just another symptom of their apparent helplessness, making them feel that they have to do something. So they believe sealing themselves in—when a far more imminent threat seems to be coming from within the United States itself—will help keep them more secure.

Today, there’s a New York Times report that a U.S. drone attack killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim preacher, this morning in Yemen. al-Awlaki was a leading figure in Al Qaeda in Yemen, and was known to have immense influence within that terrorist group.

Other recent threats-from-within have been well publicized:

  • A 26-year-old American citizen Rezwan Ferdaus, a graduate of Northeastern University no less, has been charged with planning terrorist attacks against key buildings in Washington. He allegedly planned to attack the buildings with explosives on model airplanes, and to cut down evacuees with gunfire and grenades as they left the buildings.
  • U.S. citizen Mohamed Osman Mohamud tried Last Christmas to blow up a truck bomb while Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Courthouse Square was packed with thousands of people.
  • U.S. citizens, Major Nidal Malik Hasan and Private Naser Abdo, both of the United States Army, planned attacks on Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan killing 13 and wounding 30. Abdo, fortunately, was arrested before he could act.

Thank the Lord none of these maniacs were Canadians—we’d never have heard the end of it and wait times at the U.S.-Canadian border would have become unbearable. And, at least, one U.S. Congressman would have called for an all-out invasion of our country.

The Americans have enormous internal security problems and have nothing short of a real war in progress on their southern border—tens of thousands of casualties have already been suffered—yet some have time to plan a fence between themselves and Canada.

Go figure.

 

 

© 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.

We’re growing again

Houses of Parliament__DSC3336
Canada's Houses of Parliament at Ottawa as seen from the rear | Russ Campbell

Following reports in the mainstream media one can easily get the impression that Canada’s economy is in freefall or, at best, stagnating, and so it’s encouraging to read this morning that, in fact, our economic growth is on target—at least, it was as of this past July.

The Financial Post reports that Statistics Canada said today (Friday) that the Canadian economy grew in July, led by manufacturing and wholesale trade, suggesting a third-quarter bounce-back—after shrinking in the previous three-month period—might be in the offing. Gross domestic product grew 0.3 per cent during the month, following a 0.2 per cent increase in June.

Worrying times ahead, of course, but these reports remind us that we Canadians have much to feel good about.

Optimism is a tonic for the soul; we need more of it in these troubling times.

 

 

© 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.

Canada leads the world with highest reputation ranking

Ottawa-Parliament__DSC3342
 Ottawa 2009 | photo taken from the Canadian Museum of Civilization

In Jack Layton’s last letter to Canadians, he said, “We can restore our good name in the world.” Well, we can stamp Mission accomplished! on this one, and Mr. Layton’s soul can rest easy, for Canada has earned the highest reputation ranking in Reputation Institute’s annual study measuring the overall trust, esteem, admiration and good feelings respondents worldwide hold towards 50 countries around the world.

The study, released on Tuesday, also measures respondents’ perceptions across 16 different attributes, including a good quality of life, a safe place to live and a strong attention to their environment. And results showed that Canada scored well in all of these elements.

Results from 42,000 respondents worldwide ranked Canada first with Sweden next, followed by Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand, the reputation management firm said in its news release.

Apparently, Canadians don’t think as highly of themselves as others do, for Canada ranked only fourth on self-perception. And I’m not surprised at that considering the disparaging remarks about Canada we hear regularly from leftists in general and more specifically from the likes of NDP foreign affairs critic MP Paul Dewar, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and, to only a somewhat lesser extent, former and current Liberal leaders Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae respectively.

I remember Paul Dewar telling us Canada’s failed UN Security Council was “devastating for our country’s reputation.” Well, apparently, Mr. Dewar’s hyperbole has proven to be without foundation; the rest of the world doesn’t share his low opinion of Canada.

And readers may remember when Elizabeth May flew all the way to Copenhagen during the final round of the 2009 UN climate change negotiations so that she could denigrate Canada for all the world to hear. It would seem that Dippers and Greens and others who owe their first loyalties to special interests and international organizations have less influence on public opinion than they supposed.

I am pleased to see that the foreign policies of Stephen Harper’s Tory government—including the principled support of the State of Israel—are not wrecking our international image, despite claims that they are by Dewar, May, Ray, et al.

 

 

© 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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Tory flag-flying legislation is a good thing

Apparently, Liberal leader Bob Rae doesn’t much care for flags and other symbols of Canada, or, at least, he doesn’t seem to deem them important enough to be discussed in parliament. “Canadians are worried about the economy,” he’s quoted as saying outside the House of Commons, as if this precludes taking action on anything else.

Mr. Rae was referring to flag-flying legislation announced by Tory MP John Carmichael yesterday (Wednesday), which would punish anyone forcing a flag to be taken down with a fine or up to two years in prison.

The bill states:

“It is prohibited for any person to prevent the displaying of the National Flag of Canada, provided that, (a) the flag is displayed in a manner befitting this national symbol; (b) the display is not for an improper purpose or use; and (c) the flag is not subjected to desecration.”

And that’s a good thing!

It is past time for us to elevate our national symbols and kick our national pride up a notch.

I read that certain progressives complained about the flying of Canadian flags at a post-election victory celebration for Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford. Apparently, they did not consider the practice “inclusive.” Well tough on them.

This is a sound legislative initiate and we don’t have to suspend our emphasis on the economy for one second to deal with it and pass it into law.

Mr. Rae is clearly wrong on this one and out of step with the majority of ordinary Canadians, if not with Toronto leftist elites.

 

 

© 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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ontario’s Leaders’ Debate

McGuinty sep 27 2011 debate From video of Ontario election debate on September 27, 2011 | screengrab from YouTube

The televised Leaders’ Debate last evening—the only one of the campaign—gave us a spirited scrap over taxes, health care and electricity costs, as the leaders of the three main parties faced off in a spirited defence of their party platforms. Premier Dalton McGuinty and PC leader Tim Hudak tried to break out of the statistical deadlock in which they find their parties with election day, Oct. 6, just around the corner. While NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed determined to show she could play with the big boys.

Ms. Horwath probably won the debate with Mr. Hudak coming in a solid second. She came across as confident and well-prepared, and was to-the-point when she challenged the premier over his recent decision to relocate a planned power-plant from Oakville, where it is unpopular with voters. Her sharp jab, saying that what has changed Mr. McGuinty’s mind is that we’re in an election campaign, set the more experienced man back on his heels, at least, momentarily.

Tim Hudak succeeded in looking like he could be a premier, and that’s a victory of sorts. He spoke calmly and seemed the most comfortable of the three leaders. He not so deftly avoided, however, answering a question about specific spending cuts, choosing instead to offer generalities. And, sadly, when asked about the lack of big ideas in the campaign, he missed a golden opportunity to offer one. Instead, the PC leader attacked Mr. McGuinty’s green-energy strategy. Do these old-time diversionary tactics work any more—if they ever did?

One solid punch landed by Mr. Hudak could have been the best blow of the evening: after the premier boasted about his government’s record, Mr. Hudak countered with words to the effect that, during the Liberals’ eight-year term, Ontario’s economy has grown 10 per cent and government spending has increased 80 per cent. Wham!

I suppose that, from a Liberal perspective, there was no knock-out punch, just a sharp jab or two and, perhaps, one solid body blow. But the premier survived. And when you’re defending an uneven two-term majority record, survival is victory.

One question: what were those arm gyrations and hand twisting of Mr. McGuinty’s about? I found all that index-finger waving distracting. He seemed to be saying, watch my hands, don’t listen to my excuses.

Or could he have been trying to conjure up the carbon-tax genie? Hope not.

 

 

© 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, September 26, 2011

Voting for the party or voting for the individual?

The dilemma many have faced in past elections is whether to vote for a political party or to choose the best candidate at the local level. And, in the past, it seemed easier to make this sort of choice. Once upon a time, choosing the “best” candidate could yield tangible benefits at the local level. MPs and MPPs would support the party line, yet still remain independent thinkers and still be focused on their particular communities.

“Voters are, apparently, expected to make their choices based on the overall party platform and the party leader, period.”

This is no longer the case, though. At least, that’s how I see it.

Partisan politics so dominate today’s political scene that independent thinking on the part of candidates is almost—though not entirely—unheard of. Independent thinking is likely to earn an MP/MPP a reputation for being a loose cannon and can lead to banishment to the back benches of the legislature. Staying on message is the winning formula these days.

Take a look, for example, at the websites of Burlington PC candidate Jane McKenna, here, the that of Ted Chudleigh, the Halton PC candidate, here. As you will see, the websites are virtually identical, save for the names of the candidates and their ridings. Beyond that, these pages are all about PC party leader Tim Hudak. Even following the “News & Events” links on the home pages yields little or nothing specific to the candidates or the communities they represent.

Local representatives have become placeholders, or “pylons” as we called them to refer to certain Quebec NDP candidates in the May 2 federal election. Voters are, apparently, expected to make their choices based on the overall party platform and the party leader, period.

There isn’t even a feeble attempt to relate planks in the party platform to issues that relate specifically to the local riding.

Astonishingly, for example, Jane McKenna’s website has no mention that I can find of the two all-candidate meetings—so called debates—to be held in town this week. (One of the local events mentioned is the “Election Campaign Office Opening” on Aug. 26! The other is a past “Ribfest” event held around the same time.) I know one of the meetings, the Chamber of Commerce Event on Sep. 27, will not allow “walk ins”, but the Canadian Federation of University Woman event on the 29th is open to the public. (Not sure what candidates’ events are being held in Halton riding, but I bet there’s something planned.)

With virtually nothing “local” to go by on the websites, and with candidates sticking like gum to campaign talking points at their public appearances, how might one decide who’s the better candidate for the riding? So we’re stuck. We either cast our votes based on party ideology or based on which leader we like the most—lots of information available on what the leaders have to say, too much, in fact.

Given the current state of affairs, those local candidates who prevail on Oct. 6 will go to Queen’s Park and be faced with the choice of toeing the party line or disappearing from sight as a perennial back-bencher. They’ll, I’m sure, run effective constituent offices and we’ll see her/him round and about in the town from time to time, but few will every be offered the opportunity to advocate openly for her/his community unless, of course, that community’s interests align with the political party’s policies.

And that’s just too damn bad.

 

 

© 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.

Third party election ads are a scam

Should unions be allowed to run partisan ads during an election campaign? We have laws governing the amount of money each political party can receive in donations from a single source, and how much it can spend on a campaign. This effectively limits a party’s advertising campaign unless, of course, a friendly union or related third-party spends millions on TV ads that support its platform.

How democratic is that?

Why should any group other than political parties be allowed to run partisan ads? Individuals vote, not groups. Individuals are allowed to join political parties and campaign for their representatives. And on election day they can vote for the candidate of their choice. So, why do we need third-party groups interfering with this process?

The setting up of a group like the unions have done with “Working Families” is clearly a way of circumventing our election financing laws and is a worrying trend in Ontario politics. We have political parties to represent individuals—that’s their purpose. If a group of individuals don’t like a party’s record or platform, join one of the opposing parties or form a new one, which will have to be registered and play by the rules established to protect the process.

Union members are free to have their own political party—they used to have the NDP—and to participate fully in every aspect of an election. For them to also form “front” organizations so they can multiply the effect of their political spending is to thumb their collective noses at election financing laws.

Moreover, unions which have voting membership in the NDP should have every cent of their election spending charged to that party for purposes of the election financing laws.

A cruel joke to come out of this sham is the participation of private sector unions. The dupes are giving their hard-earned money for ads that support a party that has been shafting them along with the rest of us. Go figure.

Dalton McGuinty is benefitting from the loose alliance he’s formed with the teachers’ and other public service unions. His government keeps their members employed in cushy public sector jobs with fat benefit plans and regular pay increases at overly generous rates; they return the favour by running campaigns favouring his party during general elections.

Quite the fiddle, isn’t it.

 

 

© 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.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ontario election poll has PCs and Liberals in dead heat

With the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives deadlocked with less than two weeks to go in the Ontario election campaign, we could end up with a minority government on Oct. 6. Should that occur, we’ll almost certainly see Dalton McGuinty return as the premier.

In Ontario, regardless of how we vote, we are not likely to have another Tory minority. The Liberals and the NDP are so closely aligned—at the federal level, a full merger of the parties is being talked about—they’ll almost certainly form some sort of working relationship to defeat the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) as did David Peterson and Bob Rae in the bad old days.

The only silver lining here in Burlington to this lackluster Tory campaign is that, despite her low-key performance, the PCs’ Jane McKenna is leading the Liberals’ Karmel Sakran by 9.1 per cent (41.9% to 32.8%). NDP candidate Peggy Russell is at 16.5 per cent. At least, this is what Forum Research found when it surveyed more than 40,000 Ontario voters this week.

In the next-door ridings, the PCs lead in Halton with 40.8 per cent to the Liberals 37.1 per cent—too close to call—but the Tories trail in Oakville by 5.7 per cent.

The unusually large size of the poll means individual ridings can be tracked, though their results are only accurate within roughly five per cent.

Overall, Forum Research found that the PCs and the Liberals are in a statistical tie. So, four more years of Dalton McGuinty?

 

 

© 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, September 24, 2011

McGuinty’s Burlington’s election goodies

[A version of this essay was published earlier in my weekly column at Our Burlington online newspaper.]

It was remarkable that two issues topping our community’s list of needs were resolved only weeks before the coming Oct. 6 election. Cynics have questioned the timing, but I’m sure that had our needs come to the attention of Premier Dalton McGuinty earlier, he would have acted then.

Or would he?

Firstly, just over two months before the election, minister of transportation, Kathleen Wynne, came to town and confirmed the government had scrapped the Mid-Peninsula Highway (MPH)—at least, the portion of it that would have crossed rural Burlington’s section of the Niagara Escarpment.

Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, but ….

Residents have expressed concern over this proposed highway for over a decade, going back to the time of Mayor MacIsaac and when Norm Sterling served as transportation minister. In 2003, former MPP, Cam Jackson, rose in the legislature to say, “My community and I continue to hold the belief that the province hasn’t sufficiently examined the environmental impacts of building a new highway along the escarpment.”

It has taken eight years for Mr. McGuinty to decide we don’t “need to pave a mega highway through the [Niagara] escarpment,” as Kelly Baker, a spokesperson for Kathleen Wynne was quoted as saying in July. So what will happen to the Burlington leg of the MPH? Apparently, no one knows for sure—more study is planned. It’s a tough decision, you see, and when the going gets tough, politicians duck, especially if there’s an election in the offing. Governments have kicked the MPH can down the road for years, what’s another decade or two?

But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Secondly, just weeks before the coming election, Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) got the go-ahead for its expansion project, this after waiting decades to get the attention of Queen’s Park. The hospital was expanded in 1971 and again in the early 1990s, but this round of expansion is much needed and overdue.

The Liberals’ decision to fund our hospital’s expansion was crass politics.

The hospital unveiled its $312-million plan in 2009. City council pledged $60 million and another $60 million is to be raised by the hospital. So where have the Liberals been for the past two years? And where were they when a 20-month-long outbreak of C. difficile led to 62 deaths at JBMH in 2006–07. And what, or whose, interests could former Liberal health minister, George Smitherman, have been thinking about when he ignored calls for an independent investigation?

Remember, readers, after a single death occurred during the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995, a public inquiry was launched by Dalton McGuinty, within mere weeks of gaining power in 2003. But, when scores of JBMH patients died in the C. difficile outbreak, no public inquiry was held—nada.

The Liberals’ decision to fund our hospital’s expansion was crass politics. The Grits brought in nearby, out-of-riding MPPs—Hamilton Mountain Sophia Aggelonitis and Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale Ted McMeekin—to make the announcement on behalf of Health and Long-Term Care Minister Deb Matthews. That’s crass retail politics!

The Burlington Post’s Tim Kelley reports Liberal Party candidate Karmel Sakran “positively bristled at suggestions concerning the timing of the announcement, just eight weeks before the election, was meant to give him a dramatic boost in the race.”

Kelly wrote that Mr. Sakran said, “… people don’t understand but everything necessary to complete the deal for funding wasn’t ready until just prior to the announcement.” And Mr. Sakran said elsewhere, “I know the province requires a “state of readiness” before providing capital funding for a project of this nature.”

I may not know much about JBMH being—in Mr. Sakran’s words—in a “state of readiness,” but I do know the hospital has been in a state of need for, at least, the past decade. And I believe the Liberal government has been in a state of unwillingness to fund much of anything in Burlington since 2003.

Liberal governments of David Peterson and Dalton McGuinty have pretty much ignored Burlington’s needs, as did federal Liberal governments going back decades—including terms when Liberal MP Paddy Torsney represented us in Ottawa. Now, with a newbie running for the Tories, the Grits smell blood and believe they have a real good shot at winning Burlington on Oct. 6. Ridings are vulnerable when an incumbent retires, and that fact is not lost on the Liberal Party’s brain trust. So along come the sweeteners in the form of generous giveaways of taxpayer money. It has been ever so in Ontario politics and, sadly, the shoddy practice is likely to continue indefinitely.

This brings me to another example of the Grits’ election largesse. Here’s how Mr. Sakran, put it:

“I was delighted when our government increased its funding, August 31. The additional $320,000 added to base funding will strengthen Carpenter’s [Carpenter Hospice] nursing and personal support services and enhance its ability to deliver palliative care in Burlington.”

Coming a scant five weeks before the election certainly answers the question: What have you done for us lately? If Tories and Dippers held purse strings of their own, Burlington residents would be making out like bandits.

But here’s the downside: Before the 2003 election, Mr. McGuinty signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising he would “not raise taxes or implement new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters….” And, before the 2007 election, he again promised not to raise taxes.

You know how that worked out. First there was the health-care tax of up to $900 per worker in 2004, and in 2009 we got the HST applied to a range of services not previously subject to PST. And, of course, there were those sneaky “eco fees” and more, but I think you get the point.

Perhaps Dalton and Karmel are not such Burlington boosters after all.

 

 

© 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, September 23, 2011

Canada U.K. relations: tradition dies hard

In this crazy, changing dangerous world, it’s important for Canada to keep its friends close and it’s enemies at bay. The United Kingdom is certainly a friend—though, a sometimes arrogant and patronizing one—so it is encouraging to see Prime Minister David Cameron on such good terms with our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“The Canadians played a part of such distinction [in the Battle of the Somme] that thenceforward they were marked out as shock troops.... whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst."

David Cameron quoting
Lloyd George

As a former British Citizen, I’m pleased to see such a cordial relationship between the two leaders, and I felt great pride as I listened to Mr. Cameron praise Canada’s military and economic achievements in his speech to the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. The last British prime minister to speak before our parliament was Tony Blair, who did so a decade ago.

Since the Boer Wars in the late 1800s, Canadians have fought for the “Empire” in large numbers. At the outbreak of World War I, the Canadian government and Canadian volunteers alike joined Britain’s side. And Canada was again at her side during the darkest days of the Second World War, long before the United States entered that conflict. It is hardly likely that, without Canada, the the battle of the North Atlantic could have been won. And without a major source of weapons and food at a most critical time, for how long could Briton have survived?

Then, when Tony Blair pushed Canada to get involved in the 2003 Iraq invasion and former prime minister Jean Chrétien sensibly resisted, relations became strained, though the two nations fought side by side in the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan, and both have cooperated in providing air power to the NATO-led mission over Libya. Since 2001, moreover, cooperation between Canada and the United Kingdom—on many levels—could hardly be closer in the global war on terror.

Economically, Canadian governments have been more interested in free trade with the United States; however, Canada–UK trade has grown steadily. Briton is Canada’s most important commercial partner in Europe and, in global terms, ranks second only to the United States in trade and investment with Canada. Furthermore, Canada is the third largest investor in the United Kingdom, following the United States and France.

There could very well come a time when the English speaking democracies—or parts thereof—could find enough common need to weld a “special alliance of equals” based on similar culture, mutual defence and free trade.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States—possibly India, if she had a mind to join, what a formidable bloc this would be to take on China or any other threat to our mutual security or economic wellbeing.

 

 

© 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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A peek behind McGuinty’s curtain reveals not so hidden agenda

Hidden agendas can be problematic: the trick is keeping them hidden for the specified period—like the duration of a general election. And there’s nothing like the thrust and parry of an election to expose them at the most awkward times. Let’s take recent musings of Ontario Liberal candidate Dave Levac about the prospect of the Grits implementing a carbon tax.

“Yes there is a possibility that a carbon tax is on the table to evaluate, because it presently is.”

– Dave Levac,
Live Chat with Liberal Candidate

Mr. Levac’s one of, at least, two Liberal candidates who have indicated McGuinty’s caucus favours a “green tax” of some sort, call it “carbon tax” or “cap and trade” or whatever. Mr. Levac, though, is a Liberal Party insider. He is parliamentary assistant to the minister of energy and is a former chief government whip. That is to say, he should know what’s going on behind close doors at Queen’s Park.

As expected, Mr. Levac has since recanted his comment, claiming, “I misspoke. I confused a cap and trade program with a carbon tax.”

Call it what you may, Ontario taxpayers are in for more “sticker shock,” whether it be carbon taxes or higher energy prices, just like the voters of British Columbia discovered.

When has Dalton McGuinty passed up a chance to scoop more money out of the economy and ask ordinary Ontarians to make do with the little that’s left on the table?

Vote McGuinty at your economic peril.

 

 

© 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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tough on crime just in time

The opposition parties are giving our Ottawa Tories a hard time over their latest tough-on-crime legislation. Too expensive, they argue. Too much emphasis on jail-time. Not needed at a time when crime rates are falling. To which I ask, On what planet do they live?

These are the same progressives who are forever “street-safing” their kids and driving them everywhere, because it’s not safe to be on the streets. And those who take comfort from declining crime rates probably haven’t spent much time lately in Toronto’s Keele-Finch corridor after 9:00 p.m. Or been on the mean streets of the former villages of Parkdale or Rexdale. Or how about Mississauga’s Malton area?

And that’s just a few parts of Toronto and nearby regions. The picture repeats itself in other communities in that city and, indeed, in larger communities across the country, especially in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Don’t the soft-on-crime crowd know that in recent decades Toronto has been infiltrated by violent American street gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, and Mara Salvatrucha, which have become large and powerful over the years? Or don’t they care?

And, of course, there’s the “mob”. Ever tried a major construction project in Montreal? If you did, believe me, you’d get to meet the local mob’s representative pretty quickly. And those bullet-ridden bodies that show up regularly in that city aren’t television actors, you know.

Violent crime is a major problem in our country. And although the rate may have fallen in the recent past, it is still much higher that it was in the 1950s. Why should we accept a higher rate of violence now that we did back then? Apparently, opposition MPs believe we should. I don’t.

I applaud the Conservative government in its efforts to make our communities safer.

 

 

© 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.

One small victory in the Culture War

This past Monday, three Muslim women spoke at the Heliconian Hall in downtown Toronto at an event titled Islamism’s War Against Women – Canadian Women Speak Out. This was, to me, a skirmish in the broader “Culture War” launched against Western democracies by Mid-East-funded Islamist extremists. And a skirmish clearly won by the three brave women who dared speak out at the event: Raheel Raza, Natasha Fatah and Marina Nemat.

burkha 
Photo: Mail Online   

It is so encouraging to hear women speaking out about the barbarism of Islamism. Few in the labour or feminist movements have chosen to do so. And the few that do are often marginalized or shouted down for associating Islam with radicalism and fanaticism.

All too many Muslim women remain silent in the face of the most uncivilized traditions and horrific deeds committed, not by an extremist minority, but by the Muslim mainstream in the name of Sharia, a religion-based system rooted in the ignorance of the Dark Ages. But most are economically dependent on the men who oppress them, so we can hardly blame these victims.

It’s the silence of the Western-educated feminists that I find most egregious. They speak out on so many other issues of perceived injustice towards women, yet withhold their activism when it comes to the intolerable lifestyle imposed on many Muslim women. Why don’t these feminists take to the streets and fill editorial pages with protests against honour killings, domestic abuse, forced child marriage and the virtual enslavement of women, all of which are condoned—indeed, some times required—by Islam’s Sharia, a sixth-century philosophy we imported into our country.

I’m told that in Arabic, Sharia means “the clear, well-trodden path to water,” and, as put by the BBC, “just as water is vital to human life, so the clarity and uprightness of Sharia is the means of life for souls and minds.”

A lovely, though hardly factual, explanation of Sharia, resembling little of the “political artifice created as a means to leverage the Islamic faith into a tool for totalitarians and misogynists,” as described by Muslim author and public speaker Raheel Raza.

No Canadian should tolerate practices such as are found at Toronto’s Valley Park Middle School, where an in-house Muslim prayer program is conducted in the school’s cafeteria. Apparently the school board allows this under its “Religious Accommodation” policy. How distorted a religious accommodation is it to see boys and girls segregated—on school property—with menstruating girls stuck at the back of the room? It’s the girls “unclean” time of month, you see. Surely we are better than this.

Religious Accommodation of this nature is nothing more than political correctness, a corrosive force eating away at our democratic rights and freedoms.

To single out and force young women—some still girls—to be at the back of the room because they are menstruating is tantamount to child abuse. Canadians should not stand for this.

Broadcaster Natasha Fatah, one of the three speakers at the Monday event, said we are “blind to Islamism’s true face: In the name of ‘tolerance,’ we permit the sort of degradation of Muslim girls [and] women that would be completely unacceptable if perpetrated against whites.”

I’ll overlook the term “whites”—what does race have to do with this; aren’t many “whites” Muslim?—but I’ll accept Ms. Fatah’s broader point.

It is time for feminists, union leaders, politicians of all stripes, ministers of all denominations and ordinary Canadians, both women and men, to tell Islamists in Canada, “Our policy of ‘Religious Accommodation’ will only stretch so far and is near its breaking point. Enough is enough!”

 

 

© 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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is this how we should treat our heroes?

The Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk has been flying on government aircraft to attend private functions, including a military flight to join family members on a St. Maarten vacation. We know this thanks to CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife, and his scoop is causing quite a buzz in newspapers across the land.

CTV News, which is caught in a squeeze between the giant CBC News Network and the pesky new Sun News Network and is trying very hard to remain relevant, needs something of their own to bang on about. So, for this week, a trumped-up scandal over Gen. Natynczyk’s use of government jets willCC-144_Challenger_-_VIP_Transport have to do.

The Royal Canadian Air Force operates a small fleet of dedicated executive jets—similar to the one pictured—in two squadrons. This is the Challenger fleet all the fuss is about. Four jets, I think, of the fleet are configured as VIP transport and are used by Canada’s monarch, governor general, other members of the Royal Family, prime minister, other senior members of the government of Canada, and other dignitaries. The jets, I’ve heard, are outfitted to the standard of a nice mobile home, i.e., not luxuriously.

This seems reasonable to me. We are the second largest country in the world, and we are a wealthy, modern, industrialized nation with leaders who have responsibilities and obligations worldwide.

For accounting purposes, a cost per hour of a Challenger jet’s flying time is calculated at about $10,000. It’s important—and crucial to understanding this issue—to be aware that this hourly rate includes amortization of the purchase cost of the jets, use of their hangers and salaries, etc., of their crews, i.e., all costs that have/will be expended regardless of whether or not the jets leave the ground.

Now, if a journalist is looking for a high-impact story, and cares little about fairness, this is the cost per flying hour he’d use. And that’s the cost per hour Robert Fife used to report on Gen. Natynczyk’s January, 2010 flight to St. Maarten, which works out to about $93,000. The fact that about $67,800 (74%) of that cost would have to be borne by taxpayers even if the jet had stayed on the ground seems lost on Fife—or perhaps been ignored by him because it wouldn’t have made as good a story.

Another salient point is how the RCAF operates it’s VIP fleet and manages its aircrew. Sound practice dictates that pilots maintain their proficiency by flying a certain number of hours whether or no they have passengers on board. This is to maintain the certification of the aircraft and their pilots.

So, anyone on board during those flying hours are, in a real sense, flying for free. And, because Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has so dramatically cut the use of these government aircraft by politicians, the jets would often fly empty, if senior staff like Gen. Natynczyk did not use them.

Here’s a nicely stated recap of Gen. Natynczyk’s flights by Craig McInnis of The Vancouver Sun:

“Many of the flights were to attend sporting events as a representative of the military. Although he may have enjoyed those games, they were still legitimately working trips, even when he took along some of his family.

“The flight to the Caribbean for a family vacation came after he had been delayed by a repatriation ceremony in Kingston for the bodies of four soldiers and Canadian journalist Michelle Lang after they were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

“A worthy cause and as his employer, it would be verging on mean for taxpayers to refuse to cover Natynczyk's costs for rejoining his family after his original holiday plans were disrupted by his call to duty.”

According to CTV, since 2008, Gen. Natynczyk incurred more than $1-million in travel costs while flying on government aircraft for what it characterized as “personal business.” According to my calculations, the real out-of-pocket expense would have been more like $260,000 or $87,000 per year, which includes only incremental costs and excludes “anyhow” costs like depreciation.

Given the significant nature of his responsibilities and obligations, is $87,000 really too much for our top soldier to spend in a year on this sort of travel, especially when the plane he used would have flown without a passenger, at least, some of the time? Does the fact that Natynczyk runs the military not give him some latitude, or have we become a nation of envious cheapskates?

I gather from news reports that the prime minister will force the general to reimburse the government for some of his flights at commercial rates. This “looks” better, of course, but is it really fair? We pay out billions of dollars annually to tens of thousands of civil servants and employees at crown corporations across our land at rates far in excess of anything the private sector would consider appropriate. Where’s the CTV News scoop on this excessive burden on taxpayers?

Far too little is ever written about those excesses. But let a senior politician or general take a free ride on a government jet to make his or her job a bit easier, and its “Stop the Presses!” time at CTV News.

Legitimate questions to be asked of our political leaders are: Why is so much of the VIP fleet underused? Shouldn’t we sell some of the jets if there isn’t enough real work for them? Such questions would serve Canadians better than singling out of our top soldier and publicly embracing him so unnecessarily.

In this faux scandal, we have treated one of our genuine heroes and finest citizens shoddily. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Most of us don’t get the opportunity to travel in government jets, so why should our top soldier do so? Is that supposed to be our attitude? How very egalitarian of us—or just pettiness.

While Robert Fife should not be criticized for bringing the issue forward for debate, he should be taken to task by not providing a more through analysis of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s travelling costs, especially since they were pre-authorized or incurred to satisfy the obligations of his position as head of the military.

CTV knew the optics here and chose sensationalism over fair journalism.

 

 

© 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, September 16, 2011

Barack Obama’s Buy American policy back on Ottawa’s agenda

The latest economic stimulus plan to be attempted by U.S. President Barack Obama is apparently subject to “Buy American” provisions and, as expected, has prompted much complaining on this side of the border. Liberal MP Joyce Murray said this shows the Tories didn’t do a proper job negotiating long-term exemptions in the previous arrangement that eventually led to Canadian firms being eligible for previous American stimulus projects.

New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse said the Buy American provision likely will have a “chilling effect,” making Americans reluctant to deal with any company outside their own country, criticizing the Harper government for how it manages its relationship with its U.S. counterparts.

Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, however, was more reasoned in his response, saying there’s little the federal government could have done in advance of this latest U.S. stimulus plan, and that it reacted appropriately by quickly raising an issue over Buy American provisions.

I agree with Mr. Beatty who is quoted as saying it’s not indicative of a poor relationship between Canada and the U.S., but simply reflects that we are seldom top of mind when Americans are developing their domestic policies.

I think we all expect too much from our relationship with the Americans. Canadian provinces and municipalities routinely embed “buy Canadian” provisions in their procurement contracts, so why should we expect the Americans to do otherwise? If Dalton McGuinty can stipulate that some of his government’s contracts must go to Ontario/Canadian businesses, why would his Liberal colleagues in Ottawa complain when Barack Obama does the same in his country.

I’ve heard it said that the economies of our two nations are so integrated it makes good economic sense for U.S. contractors to be allowed to use some Canadian imports in their stimulus projects, and that “Buy America” policies can actually hurt them. This is most likely so, but how does that sell in areas of the United States that have high levels of unemployment? Obama’s program is intended, after all, to stimulate his economy, not ours.

Let us hope Conservative MP Ed Fast, the minister for international trade, will soon consult U.S. officials and try to get exemptions to Buy American rules for Canadian firms, as was done in the last round of U.S. stimulus spending.

 

 

© 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.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Liberals abandoned Burlington in its C. difficile crisis of 2006–2008, but they want our votes now

Over at the Our Burlington website, they’re running a feature in which they asked that the Burlington candidates in Ontario’s Oct. 6 general election write about “the other guy” as they put it. They plan a future feature when each candidate will write about their own party’s platform.

The Progressive Conservative Party (PC) declined to participate, but the Liberal Party candidate, Karmel Sakran, did and did a fine job summarizing his party’s platform and recent record, especially in health care and transportation.

Unfortunately, he took cheap shots at the PCs and took credit for funding that was, quite clearly, given as election “goodies,” that opposition parties, by definition, could not match. Moreover, he did so without regard to accuracy and fairness.

“… here’s my main message for Burlington: it’s hospitals—not highways,” writes Sakran. Say what! The Liberals won’t be building highways? Isn’t that what governments are supposed to do?

Sakran also drew parallels that were false. For example, he said:

“Rather than celebrate this decision [to fund redevelopment of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital] as a good for Burlington, the opposition PCs and NDP chose to attack the efforts made by their fellow citizens, calling the announcement’s timing pure politics.”

The opposition rightly criticized the “timing” of this decision. When he took incumbent PC MPP Joyce Savoline to task because she did just that, he wrote in in the Burlington Post:

“She knows that the two decades prior to the 2003 election of the McGuinty Liberal government saw Tory governments completely ignore Burlington’s demonstrated need for a redeveloped hospital.”

This is simply a cheap shot based on misinformation—it’s disingenuous at best.

He refers to the two-decade period from 1984 to 2003 when he writes, “Tory governments completely ignore Burlington’s demonstrated need for a redeveloped hospital.” In this statement, Sakran admits our hospital had a demonstrated need for redevelopment during David Peterson’s two terms as premier. Let’s take a closer look at that 20-year period:

  • 1985–1987 PCs are the official opposition; Liberals share power with the NDP.
  • 1987–1995 PCs are the third party; first Liberals and later the NDP govern during that time.
  • 1995–2003 PCs govern, during which time the federal Liberals slashed transfer payments to Ontario for health care funding by tens of billions of dollars. No wonder the PC government had to make revisions to the province’s health care budgets. We in Ontario were in fiscal-survival mode as Sakran’s federal Liberals balanced their book on our backs.

Sakran’s charge begs this question: During the decade plus before Mike Harris’s governments, when we saw the highest spending in Ontario’s history until that time, why didn’t the Liberals properly fund Burlington hospital’s “demonstrated need” to use Sakran’s words? So much for Sakran’s empty boast, “We build hospitals—not close them like the PCs.”

Moreover, where was Dalton McGuinty’s government in 2007 while Burlington’s hospital had an overall rate of C. difficile of 2 infections per 200 patients, twice the rate of other Canadian hospitals.

Furthermore, where was the McGuinty government while in 2006–2008 the bacteria was killing 30 patients and contributing to the deaths of 46 others.

As to this gem from Sakran:

“I was delighted when our [provincial Liberal] government increased its funding, August 31. The additional $320,000 added to base funding will strengthen Carpenter’s [Carpenter Hospice] nursing and personal support services and enhance its ability to deliver palliative care in Burlington.”

Come on! The August 31 promise was just over a month before the general election. The Liberal government is clearly trying to buy our votes with our own money. The PCs and the NDP cannot do that. Only the government can do such things, so they shouldn’t be boasting about it.

Then Sakran slips in a laundry list of Liberal campaign promises. I won’t bore you with them since, if their record holds true, we’ll never see much of them after the election. The McGuinty Liberals have a sorry record of not keeping their pre-election promises; why should this election be any different?

Burlington has not had a Liberal MPP since about 1943, yet somehow we managed to become the best damn community in Ontario. For all but about the most recent three months of that time, successive provincial Liberal governments have ignored us, presumably because we vote conservative. And during the C. difficile crisis of 2006–2008 the McGuinty government abandoned us, so why should anyone want a Liberal MPP now? They were not there for us then, why be there for them now?

Liberal hopeful Karmel Sakran is apparently a nice guy, who dines out on having served on the hospital board, but he doesn’t seem to have much else going for him as a future MPP.

 

 

© 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.

No McKenna lawn sign for me

981c95b8434d9c9fc19f54a52a41 Burlington’s PC candidate Jane McKenna | Photo: Graham Paine - Metroland West Media Group
There are some political campaigns that get off to a slow start then go steadily downhill from there. Let’s hope the Progressive Conservative’s Ontario campaign for the Burlington riding is not one of those. Given recent events, however, I fear such hope may be forlorn.

In the furore following Dalton McGuinty’s affirmative action proposal to move new immigrants to the front of the job-seeking lines, possibly at the expense of many of the 550,000 Ontarians who are unemployed, PC candidate Jane McKenna flubbed her lines when she told the Burlington Post, “When did we become for immigrants?”

Of course, Ms. McKenna has since issued a statement, in which she explains, “In an Inside Halton article a quote was attributed to me that does not accurately reflect my views or those of my Party.”

But if the quote does not reflect her views or that of her party, why did she utter the words? Was she misquoted? It doesn’t seem so. Ms. McKenna’s statement concluded with, “I hope this clarifies my position and regret any confusion this may have caused.”

Sadly, her statement clarifies nothing for she does not explain what she meant by her words, though, she did seem to be correcting herself when she explained:

“The PC Party of Ontario and I welcome new Canadians to Ontario. We believe however that Dalton McGuinty’s affirmative action program is wrong. We have 550,000 Ontarians who are unemployed and yet the Liberals want to pay $10,000 each to hire foreign workers.”

I whole heartedly agree with her sentiments, i.e., that affirmative actions are wrongheaded and patently unfair for they discriminate against those they exclude. This is especially so when those who are excluded are hardworking Canadians, many of whom have paid taxes for decades.

But I cannot for the life of me get over McKenna’s original statement in which she asks, “When did we become for immigrants?” Hasn’t Canada and the PC party always been for immigrants? Are we not, in fact, a nation of immigrants? So, why ask such a provocative question?

As I have said before, an indispensible benefit of a riding nomination contest is the need for candidates to go through a mini-campaign, during which riding association members can assess, among other things, each candidate’s ability to communicate effectively. And, with luck, the candidate’s core values and beliefs may also be revealed.

Jane McKenna was acclaimed as the Burlington PC candidate. So just how much about her communications skills and core values and beliefs have we missed? Time, I suppose, will tell. In all conscience, however, as an immigrant myself there is no way I will display this candidate’s campaign sign on my lawn. And, sadly, this is the first time in some forty years I’ve not had a sign to support my local representative.

There’s still half an election to go, and time to win disaffected voters, especially since we’re not exactly blessed with much of an alternative and are faced with the unpleasant prospect of four more years of McGuinty, his lies and his broken promises.

 

 

© 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, September 9, 2011

If our most pressing threat is not from Islamicism, then from what?

imgresThe recent statements by Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding his view that the most pressing threat to Canada’s security is Islamicism got me wondering whether the time has finally come for plain talk from our political leaders. I assume the prime minister was referring to radical Islam in general and to Islamic terrorism in particular, and to the Islamists who carry out horrific acts against Western democracies, like the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 and attacks in Spain, England and elsewhere since then.

I believe absolutely that Canadians face a clear threat from radical Islam. And, frankly, I care little that Muslim leaders object to PM Harper using the term Islamicism, claiming he was wrong to associate Islam with radicalism and fanaticism. Too many Muslims were for too long a time silent in the face of the most horrific deeds committed by an extremist minority who lived in their midst. And by too many Muslims were these acts condoned, excused and rationalized.

Overwhelmingly, terrorist acts in the 21st century have been committed by those who claimed to be practicing Muslims. We know that. Some of these mass murderers even left videos to tell us so. To pretend otherwise is to dishonour those innocents whose lives were brutally ended in the name of a religion-based belief system rooted in the darkness and ignorance of the middle ages.

Yes, there have been other terrorist acts that cannot be attributed to Islamists, but they are comparatively few in number.

When thinking about the treats that face Canadians, the only other clear threat that might be more pressing is that posed by illegal drugs and associated issues. And, personally, I might have given that first place. But PM Harper has a better view of these things than almost anybody in Canada—given his security advisors and his access to our intelligence agencies—so I’ll happily defer to him.

 

 

© 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.

Michele Bachmann needs big win in Iowa

The Minnesota Republican congresswoman who wants to become president of the United States, Michele Bachmann, seems to be fading in popularity and needs to get her faltering campaign back on track if she is to be a credible alternative to front-runner Texas Gov. Rick Perry and runner-up former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In what some observers view as a reaction to Bachmann’s fade in the polls, her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, and his deputy, David Polyansky, quit their jobs. Rollins is said to be moving into an advisory role in her campaign.

From where I sit, Bachmann’s performance on Wednesday in the NBC Republican candidates’ debate was disappointing and well below her showing in the Fox News debate, in which I thought she held her own and even stood out.

Bachmann was little more than an afterthought in the battle between front-runners Perry and Romney. For one 20-minute stretch, we didn’t hear a word from her.

Among all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, Perry has edged ahead with 27 per cent of the vote, followed by Romney with 22 per cent, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin at 14 percent, Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) with 8 percent and Bachmann at 6 percent.

Washington Post-ABC News poll

While Perry and Romney were able to boast about their records of achievement, which they earned as chief executives of major states—Texas and Massachusetts respectively—Bachmann could only repeat her claim to a Congressional career long on heart and try, but short on tangible accomplishment and victory. Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich out-shone Bachmann on Wednesday night.

Unfortunately, after her victory in the Ames Straw Poll, the first woman ever to win, Bachmann is beginning to sound a bit like a broken record and has slipped back into the second-tier in recent polls. In a national poll by The Washington Post and ABC News—and reinforced in another poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal—Bachmann’s support has been cut in in half in just a few weeks. Her support was less than half that of Sarah Palin who is not an official candidate.

As Bachmann struggles to remain relevant, one can’t help but feel she’s peaked too early and too quickly. A strong victory in Iowa this winter, though, would help keep her GOP nomination campaign afloat. While a loss will almost certainly end any chance of her becoming the first female president.

 

 

© 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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tim Hudak: he scores… oh, no! wrong end zone

li-hudak-cp-01201398
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak | Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press

The Dalton McGuinty government, if re-elected, would provide a tax credit to businesses of up to $10,000 for hiring new immigrants to their first jobs. The program, which is expected to cost $12-million to implement, has the earmarks of an “affirmative action program” with all the emotional and political baggage that entails.

As might be expected, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak was all over the ill-conceived election promise. As he put it on Tuesday at a campaign event:

“Basically Dalton McGuinty wants to pay companies $10,000 to hire foreign workers while we have half a million people in Ontario today who are looking for jobs.”

I agree almost entirely with Mr. Hudak. The whole idea that we give new residents priority over those who lived and worked in our province—some of whom are decades-long taxpayers—is distasteful, to put it mildly. And I believe most Ontarians will view this new election promise with suspicion and wonder why Dalton McGuinty believes they are less worthy, or needy, than newcomers.

Where I can’t agree with Tim Hudak is with his use of the term “foreign workers” in the above context. When my mother and I arrived in Canada those many decades ago as “landed immigrants,” did folks like Tim Hudak and his speechwriters/handlers consider my mom to be a foreign worker? She was a landed immigrant, i.e., a permanent resident and taxpayer, or a citizen in waiting, if you will. Good grief!

What can these people at PC Ontario headquarters be thinking? Perhaps they need Jason Kenney to sit them down and explain that there’s nothing foreign about being a new immigrant. The quarterback of the Grits fumbles right into their hands and they score, but in their own end zone.

 

 

© 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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jane McKenna: she wasn’t my choice, but she’ll do

The Ontario general election writ is about to be dropped, and I’ll be watching the local contest—Burlington—closely to see whether the Liberals or the NDP can break the decades-long grip the Progressive Conservatives (PC) have had on the local seat.

11f769fb4faa8e2dd27cd36c9b5b
Jane McKenna, photo courtesy of insideHalton.com

This is an important choice for PC party members in Burlington, for the odds favour our party beating the Dalton McGuinty Liberals in the Oct. 6 general election. And wouldn’t it be nice to replace retiring incumbent MPP Joyce Savoline with another PC, continuing the riding’s PC-blue tradition for another four years.

Regular readers will know that I was less than impressed with the PC nomination process that unfolded in Burlington. However, in Jane McKenna, we seem to have a local candidate with a chance of keeping the seat for the Tories. Oh, I’ve expressed reservations regarding Ms. McKenna’s lack of related experience and the fact she never had to undergo the scrutiny of a nomination contest—as the only candidate seeking the nomination, she was acclaimed. But when you’ve been given cream, you set about finding a way to make something nice, like ice cream.

One of the indispensible benefits of a nomination contest is the need for candidates to go through a mini-campaign, during which riding association members can assess each candidate’s organization skills, media savvy, personal background and related professional experience, not to mention their ability to communicate effectively. With luck, the candidates’ core values and beliefs may also be revealed, because, during the time they are seeking the nomination, they don’t have to toe the party line and keep “on message.”

But we have what we have, so I took advantage of an offer to meet Ms. McKenna, which she’d made a couple of weeks or so ago. In chatting to her, I sought answers to the sort of questions I would have expected to come up during the nomination process. And I got answers; she ducked none of my questions.

I won’t go into much detail here since the meeting was meant more for background than as an interview per se. I will, though, share some of my impressions.

Overall, Jane McKenna is a very presentable candidate: she’s local, intelligent, articulate and shows spunk. I pressed her at times, but she remained composed and stuck up for herself. And, when I expressed criticisms, I didn’t get the sort of defensiveness one too often gets from politicians. She basically acknowledged my criticisms when she felt they were accurate and otherwise gave me reasonable-sounding explanations.

I was most interested in hearing Ms. McKenna’s position on local issues like hospital funding, mid-peninsular highway, urban growth and mineral extraction on the Niagara Escarpment. Ms. McKenna seems to have a sound grasp of local issues, and she did not repeat party “talking points,” instead she gave real answers. These were not always the answers I wanted to hear, but they did seem genuine. I also tried to gain a sense of how deep were her commitments to those positions.

Basically, her positions seem to align with those I believe are most widely held in the riding. She’s obviously done her homework, is a quick learner and seems to understand the core concerns of her constituents. If she didn’t always have a grasp on these local issues—and I’m not saying she didn’t—she obviously has used her resources and intellect to get up to speed before the election officially kicks-off.

We here in Burlington don’t live on an island and must take into consideration the realities and pressures we face as a part of a broader community, at both the regional and the provincial levels. Ms. McKenna gets that.

In short, folks, Jane McKenna will do fine. At least, that’s the way I see it.

 

 

© 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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