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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is this democracy or merely idiocy?

Not a moment too soon: patience seems to be wearing thin with the Occupy movements across Canada, and city officials in several communities are moving to reclaim public property. In some cases, demonstrators have been given deadlines to leave.

Apparently, patience has already run out in U.S. cities like Oakland, where Occupiers have had tear gas and beanbag rounds fired at them, and in Atlanta, where police arrested about 50 people after protesters were warned to leave a downtown park.

“People have a right to pro­test, but this is no longer a pro­test. This is a camp­ground.”

– Charles Gauthier
Vancouver

In Calgary and Halifax, protesters have been asked to relocate, and the mayor of London, Ontario said that it’s time for the protesters to leave a city park. Not surprisingly too, the Occupy protests have become an issue in the Vancouver mayoral campaign.

In Toronto and Vancouver, city spokespersons have made it clear that, while they respect the right of citizens to hold public protests, they will not for much longer tolerate unlawful encampments in public spaces.

Edmonton businessman Ralph Young of Melcor Developments Ltd. gives an example of the public nuisance the Occupy movement typically causes when he noted that there’s a smell that lingers because the only sanitation facilities are a few portable toilets. And, apparently, Young has heard complaints from his corporate tenants about protesters “doing bodily functions outside in the open,” as well as the sudden appearance of syringes and needles nearby.

Who among us would like to have that on or near our property?

I believe we need a better balance between citizens’ right to peaceful protest in parks and other public spaces and the general public’s right to enjoy those spaces. And surely it’s the duty of police services to remove protesters from private property that has been occupied without explicit permission of the owners. I agree with Charles Gauthier, Executive Director, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Assn., who said recently, “People have a right to pro­test, but this is no longer a pro­test. This is a camp­ground.”

In Montreal, about 200 demonstrators have set up camp in a park in front of the Montreal Stock Exchange tower. A spokesman for the city said there are no plans to remove these people.

In downtown Toronto, rag-tag group of people are illegally living in St. James park in tents and makeshift shelters. The protesters have been there for two weeks and are occupying the park without a permit, which makes them squatters.

On the west coast, heavy rains turned Occupy Vancouver’s shanty-town of tents on the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery into a muddy quagmire this week.

So what about those who live and work in those areas, Have they no rights? Why aren’t the policy enforcing laws by which the rest of us abide? Is this democracy or merely idiocy?

 

 

© 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.

Let’s scrap the useless long-gun registry and move on

The long-gun registry is back in the news. The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has launched a plan to finally put the federal long-gun registry out of business, plugging the hole down which more than $2-billion of taxpayers’ money have already drained.

The Tories have long argued that registration of rifles and shotguns is a useless burden on firearms owners and are now, with their majority in both the House and the Senate, in a position to scrap the database.

So once again the debate on the merits of the Tory initiative heats up: politicians posture and rant during Question Period and cable news channels top-up their schedules with interviews with much the same characters as we heard during the debate on Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner’s Bill C-391 in 2009, which would have repealed the long-gun registry back then, had it not been voted down by the opposition.

I hear two primary arguments for retaining this costly program: (a) it’s a valuable tool for police services; and (b) it reduces crimes committed with long-guns.

Firstly, just because police say they want to have a certain tool doesn’t mean they should be given it. Many police services would like to have the option of searching homes without a warrant in times when a neighbourhood child goes missing. We may sympathize with police reasoning, but that does not justify suspending our basic right to privacy and protection against un-lawful search. Our laws should not be crafted primarily to make police work easier, otherwise, there would be an across-the-board ban on all guns, and be damned with individual rights. As to statistics police chiefs use in support of their contention the registry is a valuable police tool, here’s a passage from a piece I wrote last September:
A frequently used statistic to support keeping long-guns in the registry is the 14,012 average daily queries the RCMP claim were made in 2010. This oft-quoted statistic is grossly misleading as only 530 of those are specific to firearms registration (i.e., licence number, serial number and certificate number). The remaining 96.3 per cent (13,482) are automatically generated every time an address is checked or a [motor vehicle] license plate is verified.
Secondly, crimes committed with long-guns have indeed been declining. Some rightly point to the fact that from the mid-1990s—when the firearms registry became law—to 2010, there was a reduction in long gun crimes. But, as pointed out by the National Post’s Lorne Gunter in Wednesday’s newspaper, “there was already less [gun crime] in 1998 than there had been in 1988, and less in 1988 than there had been in 1978.” In other words, violent crime per capita in Canada peaked in 1975 and the rate has been on the decline since then.

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

The long-gun registry applies only to sporting rifles and shotguns; all firearms classified as “restricted” or “prohibited” would remain registered, even after the House passes, as expected, its new bill.

Moreover, it is instructive to note there are alternatives in the form of other databases that keep track of firearm threats. Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, gives the following examples:
  • The National Information Centre holds criminal records;
  • Police have access to data on firearms licences; and
  • Provincial databases such as PRIME (Police Records Information Management Environment) in British Columbia, collect information from previous incidents, including where police noted firearms at people’s homes.
The long-gun registry was inspired by the murder of 14 students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique by Marc Lapine using a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle. The current law would not have prevented that tragic incident.

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

Spin, half-truths and muddled reasoning have been hallmarks of this debate. Let’s scrap the useless long-gun registry and move on.
--
A version of this entry was also published at
Postmedia’s Canada.Com The Real Agenda blog.



 

© 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, October 26, 2011

Is there’s a rat in the House?

 
MPP Klees |
PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANK-KLEES.ON.CA

Frank Klees, a veteran Pro­gressive Conservative MPP, broke ranks with his party saying he’ll run for speaker of the Ontario Legislature. Should Mr. Klees be victorious, the ruling Liberals with 53 seats would be tied with the Tories and New Democrats who hold a combined 53 seats, excluding that of the speaker who does not vote except in ties.

This is a major blow to PC Leader Tim Hudak, who, along with NDP leader Andrea Howath, have reportedly said that no one from their party would run for speaker so as not to prevent them from defeating the McGuinty government, should such an opportunity present itself. Mr. Klees’s decision to run for speaker puts the opposition’s strategy in jeopardy because the speaker traditionally votes with the government and Premier Dalton McGuinty could keep power until the 2015 election.

So does this imply that Frank Klees is a turncoat?

I always thought he was a party-first kind of a guy, but perhaps the lure of the prestigious post as “Presiding Officer of the House” with a comfortable $152,914-a-year pay cheque, a suite of offices and a private apartment at Queen’s Park was too much for him to pass up.

Mr. Klees denied Tuesday there was an agreement among his fellow MPPs to stay out of the race—“I wasn’t privy to that caucus,” he said—but he seems to stand alone on that one. According to a report in today’s National Post newspaper, Mr. Hudak said on Tuesday:

We’re surprised and disappointed that Frank has decided that this is a better approach for him in the assembly. Frank’s made a decision. And Frank is Frank. We did our best as a team to encourage Frank to take on a couple of key critic portfolios, but Frank felt that his energies were best directed elsewhere.

It also seems disingenuous of Mr. Klees to deny that his victory would hand the Liberals a de facto majority. Scott Stinson quotes Mr. Klees in his Full Comment blog as telling reporters on Tuesday:

While convention is that [the Speaker] would cast the vote with the government, that’s not a rule—the speaker always has the prerogative to cast a vote based on what he or she believes is the right thing to do, and I’ll conduct myself accordingly.

Who is he trying to kid? I’d give his remark more credence if he’d provided a single example of a speaker in a parliament following the Westminster tradition ever voting against a government in a confidence vote. In other words, When has a speaker ever cast a vote that led directly to the defeat of a government? I don’t believe one ever has.

Being more candid, Mr. Klees also said that after 16 years at Queen’s Park, he is simply looking to stay interested. Perhaps he would have better served his constituents of Newmarket-Aurora had he owned up to his boredom earlier and retired from Queen’s Park before the October election.

Given the present circumstances at Queen’s Park, I believe Mr. Klees has done the equivalent of “crossing the floor,” that is, he’s a “rat” and Tim Hudak should turf him from the Tory caucus.

 

 

© 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, October 25, 2011

Rick Perry says he’ll “Cut, Balance and Grow”

Republican candidate for the 2012 U.S. presidential nomination, Gov. Rick Perry today promises to “unleash job creation, address the current economic crisis, while at the same time generating a stable source of revenue to address our record deficit and put our fiscal house in order.”

The governor of Texas made the pledge while rolling out a broad economic plan, which he’s dubbed, “Cut, Balance and Grow.” It’s built around the option for Americans to pay a flat 20 per cent income tax rate, and is considered to be a critical element of his strategy to regain front-runner status for his struggling campaign, and to answer the threat of Herman Cain’s proposed “9-9-9 plan.”

Mr. Perry’s proposed flat tax would preserve key tax exemptions for families earning less than $500,000 a year and would increase the standard deduction to $12,500 for individuals, while also eliminating tax paid on the country’s largest estates upon the death of the properties’ owners.

The governor would eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits and allow young workers to invest part of their payroll taxes into private accounts. He also called for corporate tax reform, including a one-time reduced tax rate of 5.25 percent for businesses that bring home their profits that are “parked” overseas.

Gov. Perry said:

The flat tax will unleash growth but growth's not enough. We must put a stop to this entitlement culture that risks the financial solvency of this country for future generations. I mean the red flags are alarming.

[…]

The U.S. Chamber [of Commerce] estimates this one-time tax reduction would bring more than $1 trillion in capital back to the U.S. create up to 2.9 million jobs, and increase economic output by $360 billion.

As expected, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has already launched its counterattack, saying Gov. Perry’s tax plan seems guided by the principle of shifting the tax burden from large corporations “onto the backs of the middle class.” No surprise there.

Flat-tax seems to be the flavour of the month among Republicans. We’ll have to wait to see how this latest effort stands up to the barrage of criticism it’s sure to receive in the coming days.

 

 

© 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.

Timing not right for public to vote on U.K.’s membership in the EU

UK-House eu ref voteU.K. House votes on EU referendum | Video screenshot from www.guardian.co.uk

The vote in Britain’s House of Commons I wrote about yesterday, was held on Monday night, with about half the Conservative backbenchers defying a three-line whip and voting in favour for a motion to hold a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union. The motion lost by 483 votes to 111—all Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour MPs had been instructed to oppose it—but represented the largest rebellion over the EU by Tory MPs against a prime minister.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron tried to downplay the divisions in his caucus that saw 81 backbench members of his party in open rebellion (15 others abstained) and  exposed strains in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government.

Education Secretary Michael Gove declared support for getting “powers back, so we take more decisions here about employment, about growth, about jobs,” in a statement to the BBC on Tuesday, but insisted that the time was not right for a referendum.

Prime Minister Cameron told the Commons he shared the rebels’ “yearning for fundamental reform,” and promised “the time for reform was coming.” He said the timing was wrong for a referendum, but insisted he remained “firmly committed” to “bringing back more powers” from Brussels.

The Tories confirmed later that two parliamentary private secretaries, Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway, had lost their posts following their decisions to vote with the rebels.

In the coalition agreement under which the present government was formed, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems—a pro-European party—agreed to “ensure that the British government is a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners.” A new public opinion poll, however, shows strong support for an EU referendum. This, along with the rebellion in the Commons by normally loyal backbenchers, should act as a cautionary note to the prime minister telling him that he must take a tough stance in future EU treaty negotiations, or face further rifts within his caucus.

 

 

© 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, October 24, 2011

Has Britain soured on the EU?

cameron 

There will be a vote in the U.K. parliament on Monday on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union. The vote will decide if the U.K. will hold a nationwide referendum on whether it should leave the EU, renegotiate its treaty with Brussels, or remain a member on current terms.

In 2007, Prime Minister David Cameron—while he was leader of the opposition—chastised then prime minister Gordon Brown for refusing “to give the British people a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty.” Now that he holds the reins of power, however, Cameron is singing a different tune. And, although British MPs have agreed to hold a vote on a referendum, Cameron, who has expressed his desire to take back some powers from Brussels, is now publicly opposed to a referendum and will order his MPs to vote against it.

Dear friends, put not your trust in politicians.

And, while all Conservative MPs, and Lib Dem and Labour MPs have been instructed to vote against the motion for a referendum, the BBC reports 61 Tory MPs have signed it and may defy their party’s whip.

Cameron does have a point, as he argues:

Our [the U.K.’s] national interest is for us to be in the EU, helping to determine the rules governing the single market—our biggest export market which consumes more than 50% of our exports and which drives so much of investment in the UK.

This is not an abstract, theoretical argument, it matters for millions of jobs and millions of families and businesses in our country.

The coalition government is applying what is known in Britain as “a three-line whip”—the strongest order a party can give—on Conservative MPs, meaning that MPs who vote against the government will be expected to resign from government jobs.

A poll published today in theguardian shows that a clear majority of 70% wants a referendum and 49% would vote for Britain to leave the EU, as against just 40% who prefer to stay in.

Earlier this month, Nile Gardiner, a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst and political commentator, wrote in The Telegraph:

Great Britain has witnessed the steady erosion of its sovereignty and freedom, with the deathly hand of Brussels stifling Britain’s ability to trade freely and act independently on the world stage. A proud nation that won two World Wars, defeated the scourge of Nazi Germany, and helped force the Soviet Empire to its knees now has its counter-terrorism policies dictated by a faceless ‘human rights’ court in Strasbourg, and lacks the freedom to even negotiate a trade agreement with its closest allies such as the United States and Australia.

Gardiner’s words resonate well with this former U.K. citizen. I’d be very tempted to vote against continuing full membership in the EU. A free-trade agreement, yes, but no to 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.

Bad climate science: IPCC exposed as unreliable reporters

There seems to be an increasing number of media people, especially among conservative writers, who question the role human activity plays in climate change, and, more specifically, anthropogenic global warming. For many like me the idea that the science is now “settled” couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“Before they were sucked into the giant vortex of global warm­ing, environmentalists did useful things. They pro­test­ed against massive Third World dams that would ruin both natural and human ha­bitats. They warned about in­vas­ive species and diseases that could tear through our forests and wreck our water systems. They fought for national parks and greenbelts and protected areas. … They believed in conservation… rather than false claims to scientific certainty about the future, unenforceable treaties and radical utopian social reform.”

Terrance Corcoran and Peter Foster of the Financial Post, Lawrence Solomon of the National Post, Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein are among those who write critically of the inconsistencies and flaws in the science of climate change.

To this group I am adding Canadian investigative journalist and photographer Donna Laframboise whose new book, The Delinquent Teenager Who was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert has singlehandedly destroyed the credibility of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—or, if it hasn’t, it should.

Donna Laframboise’s book is published by Ivy Avenue Press (ISBN: 978-1-894984-05-8) and is available as a Kindle e-book for $4.99 at Amazon.com or as a downloadable digital PDF edition, complete with embedded Webpage-like hyperlinks to supporting articles and research. I purchased the PDF edition. The book will also be available soon at Amazon.com as a $20 paperback.

Ms. Laframboise’s excellent exposé is reviewed here, with the first of a two-part excerpt here, and there is another review here. So, given the aforementioned reviews, I’ll limit myself to a few points from the book and not duplicate the excellent efforts of others.

Firstly, let me say for the record that it does seem to me that Canada’s climate has become warmer since I arrived here over 50 years ago. Why else is Prime Minister Stephen Harper so excited about the new promise of the Canadian Arctic? I believe, though, the phenomenon is unlikely to have been caused by human activity and that we’re being bulldozed, if not bamboozled, into wasting trillions of dollars to slow, stop or even reverse the warming trend.

This does not mean I’m not an environmentalist—quite the contrary, I’m a paid-up member of a naturalist and conservation group—notwithstanding the fact such organizations can be like the ones the Financial Post’s Peter Foster calls “professional environmental alarmists and eco-activists.” In that group I’d include the global Green parties, the World Wildlife Fund, David Suzuki and his foundation’s campaign to demonize companies producing oil and gas in Canada, and followers of former U.S. vice president Al Gore, who has managed to turn climate-change into a get-rich-quick scheme.

My hope for the environment can be nicely summed up by Lorrie Goldstein’s suggestion in the Toronto Sun that:

“We need a made-in-Canada policy focusing on clean air, safe drinking water, cleaning up toxic waste dumps, safely disposing radioactive waste, tougher vehicle emission standards, boosting research into practical ‘green’ energy sources such as natural gas, putting scrubbers on coal-fired electricity plants and creating more national parks.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a creature of the United Nations. It is recognized as the world’s leading climate change body. Its mandate is to survey the relevant scientific literature, decide what it means, and write reports—reports that Ms. Laframboise refers to as the “Climate Bible.”

The IPCC’s Climate Bible is referred to and cited by governments and NGOs worldwide. More than any other literature, the Climate Bible is the reason carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes are being introduced. And governments in jurisdictions like Ontario, Canada have launched expensive searches for alternative sources of energy—so-called green technology. Because of what they have read in Climate Bible, governments seem prepared to see heating bills rise at rates doubling and tripling the rate of inflation. Furthermore, it is in large measure due to the IPCC’s reported evidence that our government is providing costly financial subsidies to everyone whose green energy can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In such high regard is the IPCC held, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to it for its “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change…”.

Yes, the IPCC is a very big deal. As Ms. Laframboise’s tell us:

“The IPCC has lounged, for more than two decades, in a large comfy chair atop a pedestal. When the IPCC is mentioned in broadcasts, newspapers, and books it is portrayed as a paragon of scientific truth and authority.”

But, thanks to Ms. Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager, we now know that, far from objectively weighing and selecting the best available science-based evidence, the IPCC—in reviewer Peter Foster’s words—“cherry-picks egregiously to support its main objective,” i.e., to serve its government masters.

“The real moral of this story is that scientists are merely human. They can be as short-sighted and as political and as dishonorable as the rest of us.”

– Donna Laframboise,
The Delinquent Teenager

And contrary to its claims, the IPCC’s lead authors are not always the world’s leading scientists. All too frequently, in fact, they are more recent graduates and/or eco-activists from environmental NGOs. Many of whom are described as owing their selection to their gender and country of origin, i.e., diversity, than to their expertise.

Moreover, The Delinquent Teenager shows this famous boast attributed to Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, to be baseless: “IPCC studies only peer-review science. Let someone publish the data in a decent credible publication. I am sure IPCC would then accept it, otherwise we can just throw it into the dustbin.

Ms. Laframboise tells us that she oversaw a Citizen Audit of the 2007 IPCC’s report (Climate Bible) and that auditors examined the 18,531 references cited in the report. Of these, an astonishing 5,587 (30%) were determined not to have been peer-reviewed.

I remember that day I first discovered Santa Claus did not exist. I was a heart- broken little boy. My family had fibbed to me, leaving me with a mild sense of betrayal and loss. They’d white-lied for my own sake, it must be said, and keeping me in the dark about my beloved St. Nick’s real identity, or his lack of one, did me no long-term harm, at least as far as I can tell.

Has Ms. Laframboise discovered that, like Santa, man-made global warming is a myth and that governments, Green parties, environmental NGOs and a certain ex-politician have deliberately lied to us? If so, it is not—as in the case of the Santa Claus deception—for our own sakes, but because the truth does not fit their own self-interests. And, for their transgressions, the developed countries of the world will be billions of dollars and millions of jobs poorer. Whether global warming is a myth or not, Ms. Laframboise has called into question the merits of further government reliance on the IPCC for anything.

I’ll close with this quotation from The Delinquent Teenager:

“For years we’ve been told the IPCC is a reputable and professional organization—a grownup in a pinstripe suit. In reality, it’s a rule-breaking, not-to-be-trusted, delinquent teenager.

“Surely climate activists and climate skeptics can agree on this one thing: the future of the planet is too important to be left in hands such as these. Governments should suspend funding immediately. The IPCC must be disbanded.”

And to this I add, amen.

 

 

© 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, October 22, 2011

Will Obama’s declaration that America’s war in Iraq will end in 2011 help his re-election prospects?

During his run for president of the United States, Barack Obama pledged “to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.” Friday, the president confirmed his promise with an announcement that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. This fulfills one of the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SFA) with Iraq.

Over 4,400 American military lives have been lost since the Iraq war started in 2003, and the war has already cost the Americans over $806-billion.

According to the Huffington Post, there were reports the administration was looking for ways to renegotiate the SFA with the Iraqi government so as to prolong U.S. presence in that country. Such reports were troubling to many who had supported the Democrats in 2008—at least in part—because of Obama’s pledge to end the war.

Apparently, Americans and the Iraqis wanted to keep up to about 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, despite their public protestations to the contrary. Negotiations were prompted by: (a) the Iraqis’ hope for more help in providing internal stability; and (b) the Americans’ fear of further encroachment by Iran. But the Iraq government faced opposition to the idea from Shia groups and Iraqi nationalists, and discussions over the precise number of and legal immunity for troops that would stay behind were stumbling blocks in the negotiations.

Of the 41,000 troops the Americans now have stationed in Iraq, only 4,000 to 5,000 security contractors will remain in the country after Dec. 31. This would end an occupation that, at its height in 2006, saw some 170,000 U.S. soldiers in that country.

The cost in American lives and treasure has been high, with over 4,400 American military lives having been lost since the war started in March, 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush launched the U.S.’s “Shock And Awe” invasion of Iraq. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have also been killed.  And, according to a study by Amy Belasco, Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, released last March, the war had already cost the Americans $806-billion.

Many pundits are convinced President Obama would not have been elected president had it not been for the Iraq War. His victory in the presidential primary elections was owed in no small part to support from his party’s antiwar wing—Hillary Clinton had become tainted by her vote for the invasion and he campaigned to bring the troops home. Now the debate will be over whether the president’s announcement will help him in next year’s election.

The Iraq promise kept and recent foreign policy victories—bin Laden’s and Gaddafi’s deaths—will no doubt play a role in the 2012 election; however, with the American economy in such poor shape and without much hope it will improve over the next 12 months, voters are likely to remember Bill Clinton’s now famous phrase, “It’s the economy stupid,” which seemed to resonate so well with them during his successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H. W. Bush.

I agree with Glen Bolger—a Republican pollster whose firm is working for former governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign—who said, “The election is much more about Americans losing their jobs than about Gaddafi losing his head.” And I’d say much the same about the president’s latest Iraq announcement.

 

 

© 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, October 21, 2011

Bring on the flat tax!

herman-cain-rick-perry Republican presidential candidates, businessman Herman Cain and
Gov. Rick Perry | Photo: Justin Sullivan/GettyImages

[This entry was published previously on Postmedia Network’s The Real Agenda blog.]

The 9-9-9 tax plan being proposed by Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is beginning  to take heavy fire from other presidential hopefuls and analysts alike. Some  claim Mr. Cain’s plan would shift the tax burden in the United States, raising  taxes on the poor while cutting taxes for the rich—hardly the narrative Mr. Cain wants to hear.

The 9-9-9 tax plan has resonated with Republicans and has helped  propel the former Godfathers pizza CEO onto the top rung of leading contenders  for the Republican nomination. His quick rise in polls, though, has meant Mr.  Cain’s plan is receiving more scrutiny.

Mr. Cain would replace the current federal tax code in its  entirety with a flat 9% personal income tax, a 9% corporate income tax, and a  9% tax on sales of new products. He would also eliminate the payroll taxes for  Medicare and Social Security, along with estate and capital gains taxes. And,  in a second phase, Mr. Cain would eliminate all federal income taxes  for individuals and for corporations and replace them with a national sales  tax—Herman Cain, however, hasn’t yet offered an estimate of the sales tax  rate that would be necessary to raise sufficient money to fund the federal  government.

I spent years as an accountant with responsibility for a  corporation’s taxes and remember well the bookcase full of material I referred  to daily. Like that of the United States, the Canadian tax structure is  bewildering in its complexity. And, while Mr. Cain’s campaign hasn’t  offered nearly enough specifics for anyone to do a thorough analysis of  his 9-9-9 plan, I welcome the fact that the idea of a simple flat tax is  now on the table for open debate.

I am encouraged also by Gov. Rick Perry of Texas saying recently  that he too will propose a flat tax as part of a tax overhaul  program.

According to The New York Times, “He [Perry] has in the  past suggested support for some form of a flat tax, but has backed off from  endorsing one. Mr. Perry recently recruited as an adviser Steve Forbes, who  ran for president in 1996 on a pledge of implementing a single flat tax on  income, without any deductions.”

On Wednesday past, Gov. Perry gave us the broad  outlines of his tax plan that he said will feature spending cuts, entitlement  reform and a flat tax. And he promised then to provide specifics in six days. 

Should a flat tax be successful in the United States, we could  expect to see one here in Canada within a decade. Imagine: no need for a  tax accountant or expensive tax software, no complicated forms, few itemized  list of deductions, credits or other “loopholes”. And no estate tax, no  capital gains tax and no dividends tax.

I can hardly wait.

 

 

Except photograph, © Russell G. Campbell, 2011.

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, October 20, 2011

How will Paul Martin remember Gaddafi?

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin (L) shakes hands with Libyan Leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi (R) in his tent in a military compound in Tripoli, Libya.
Dec. 19, 2004
Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail

The death of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi seems to have been greeted with cheers—or at least satisfaction—by our political lead­ers, including interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.

The Liberal party’s website had this to say, “Ridding Libya of Moammar Qaddafi and his tyrannical regime is but the first step on a long road to transparency, accountability and democracy for the Libyan population.

This is in quite some contrast to how Paul Martin praised the late dictator and anti-Semite, calling him a ‘‘philosophical man with a sense of history.’’ In the above photograph, the former prime minister glad-hands Moammar Gadhafi in his tent on a military compound in Tripoli on Dec. 19, 2004. And, apparently, a friendship formed between the two men, as evidenced by this quote from Gaddafi, the Jew-hater and defender-protector-instigator of international terrorism:

‘‘On a personal level, we [Martin and Gaddafi] have gained a quite personal friendship. We are friends not just because he is the Prime Minister of Canada but we shall always be friends, even if he is not the Prime Minister.’’

Martin never publicly disclaimed that such friendship existed, at least, not that I can find.

So a former Liberal leader said Gaddafi was a ‘‘philosophical man with a sense of history’’ and the current leader says he was leader of a “tyrannical regime.” I wonder which of these views more accurately reflects the nature of the relationship Grits believe Canada should have had with Muammar Gaddafi?

Just asking.

 

 

Excluding image, © 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, October 19, 2011

Isn’t Canada’s Occupy Movement just a sham and a shameless display of hypocrisy?

[This entry was also published by Postmedia Network Canada.com’s The Real Agenda blog under the title, Occupy Wall Street in Canada: The smell of hypocrisy.]




I’ve been following the Occupy movement for the past month and am no clos­er to an under­standing of what is really behind the spread to Canadian shores of this global expression of outrage at bankers in particular and corporate greed and social inequality in general.

In just four weeks, the movement has spread from a relatively small demon­stration—1,000 people or so—on New York’s Wall Street to tens of thousands spread over 900 cities around the world. While there are some common threads tying these groups together, they appear to be, at best, only loosely affiliated, with the exact tar­gets of the demonstrations differing depending on the city and the country in which the protests are held. Each movement seems to have its own local flavour.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has said the global financial crisis was the trigger. “What you are seeing all around the world, starting from Wall Street, people are showing their frustrations,” he said. But how real/justified are the frustrations of the protestors, which seem to be grow­ing into wave of global anger at perceived social and economic injustice?

In the United States, Europe and South American countries like Chile, I believe the movement will have a measurable impact.

In the United States, where they are just over a year away from presidential and Congressional elections, politicians will ignore such a wide-spread movement at their re-election peril—though some will find it hard to get behind protestors who are showing a nasty tendency toward anti-Israel, anti-Jewish sentiment. Clever pol­iticians will mine the speeches and slogans to find the “calls to action” they can use in their up­com­ing campaigns, just as Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest ad­opt­ed the protesters’ “the 99%” terminology when he said, “The president will con­tinue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares about the need for Washington to do more to support our economic recovery and to ensure that the interest of the 99% of Americans is well-represented.” And, if the Democrats retain the White House and win back the House of Representatives, expect more re­gu­la­tion of banks and corporations in general.

In Europe the situation is more dire. There, as in Israel and Chile, the Occupy Movement seems to owe more of its inspiration to the Arab Spring. Spain’s “indig­nados”, for example, begun camping out in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square in May, and at least 200,000 people turned out on the streets for last Saturday’s round of protests. The Spanish flavour of the movement is targeting the November general election when it could help defeat the socialist party of the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

While the Israelis targeted housing, the high cost of living and need for “social justice”, in Greece, there was a backlash against austerity measures being imposed. What Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of Greece’s civil-servants’ union called, “heartless economic policies.” In Greece, we have seen the most focused public anger, with strikes, work stoppages and sit-ins as well as a two-day general walk-out. And, I fear, the worst is yet to come. The country is flat broke and other European countries with more frugal and industrious populations are the ones bailing them out—yet Greek civil-servants riot in their streets.

As far as Canada is concerned, the movement, so far, has been underwhelming. The backing of major unions is, though, cause for concern. It is curious indeed that a movement that claims to represent 99% of Canada’s population should be so strongly supported by powerful and wealthy public sector unions, which represent workers who are a privileged segment of our population that has actually grown in size and, in some cases, pay-cheque since the global financial crisis triggered the recent recession with which the whole world grapples.

Rather than being part of the 99%, the several hundred-thousand Canadian public sector employees and their union representatives make up their own privileged “per cent.” They are recession proof, lay-off proof and have fat pay-cheques and generous sick-leave, vacation and pension plans. These folks are no more part of the 99% than are our politicians, the top echelons of the banks and other large corp­ora­tions. Do they join these protest groups because they hope we won’t notice how well-off they are compared to their fellow Canadians? They sure have nothing in common with the needy, the jobless and the victims of social injustice.

As far as I’m concerned, there are many people in many countries who can be char­ac­ter­ized as victims of the social order; but not so much in Canada. And, for the most part, the Occupy Movement here is a sham and a shameless display of hypocrisy.

 

© 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, October 17, 2011

The Dragon had a tooth or two pulled by CBC ombudsman

The CBC’s ombudsman, Kirk LaPointe, says Kevin O’Leary’s remarks during an interview with author Chris Hedges violated the public broadcaster’s journalistic standards. The ruling followed complaints filed after O’Leary called the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist “a left-wing nutbar” during CBC News Network’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange on Oct. 6.

Ombudsman LaPointe says e-mailed complaints and comments—many of them demanding an apology and some demanding O’Leary be fired—began arriving the evening the program aired and continued for several days, while video (see below) of the exchange was posted online.

You’d think O’Leary could get through a short interview without resorting to personal insults, wouldn’t you? His attitude here and as an outspoken judge on CBC’s Dragons’ Den reminds me a lot of Don Cherry’s rants on CBC’s hockey broadcasts.

Fellows like these, once they become popular, seem to see themselves as gurus who have the last word on their areas of expertise. Both have been a success in their areas and seem to believe it gives them special license to always be right. At least, in the case of O’Leary, he is most often right except, perhaps, sometimes when he’s showing off.

 

 

Except video, © 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, October 15, 2011

Time for party politics in municipal elections?

The following is a re-print of my weekly column at Our Burlington online newspaper.

Having just wrapped up the provincial general election, it occurred to me that Ontario voters seem more inclined now than at any time in the past to vote for a particular party (or its leader) than for an individual candidate. And, if I’m right, then why not bring party politics to Burlington’s municipal elections?

I contend that name-recognition carries far more weight in garnering votes in municipal elections than does informed choice. Very few people I know can claim to be making fully informed choices when they vote for candidates in municipal elections, especially for city councillors and members of school boards. Many know something about the mayor and, maybe, their ward’s city councillor if he/she is an incumbent. But, for most, that’s about it. Some evidence supports the notion that one’s name being at the top of a list on a ballot can be a decided advantage. And few will dispute an incumbent’s advantage over a newcomer in municipal politics.

Some are concerned over “party discip­line” with the inflexibility of not voting for good ideas put forward by the “oppo­sition”. But, with­out the concept of a con­fidence vote, how much of a prob­lem would that be? Af­ter all, munic­ipal govern­ments don’t fall on a crit­ical vote—there is no such thing as defeating a govern­ment on a single vote at the munic­ipal lev­el as there is at provincial and fed­eral parlia­ments and leg­is­la­tures.

There are those who believe believe party politics restrict the number of candidates than can run with a realistic chance of winning and say that explains independents doing poorly in federal and provincial elections. That may be so at provincial and federal levels; in small local elections, however, I believe independents have a fairer chance of gaining recognition and winning, especially if election spending were controlled.

Municipal party politics exist, for example, in cities like Toronto—however unofficial that existence may be. They have for decades. Some argue that, while candidates may hold political affiliations, they are not influenced by their parties. Hmm, I wonder, don’t you?

Municipal party politics need not mirror counterparts at the federal and provincial levels. Montreal and Vancouver provide examples of cities whose municipal parties are not aligned with any senior government party. Each of the local parties presents their candidates for mayor and other city positions. The city of Vancouver is governed by the 10-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board and a seven-member Park Board—a scale not much different from Burlington’s. Party politics work in Montreal and Vancouver, and probably would work as well in Burlington.

What then are the advantages of party politics? Here are a few:

  • Name recognition is a mindless reason to cast a ballot and would be supplanted with votes for a party with a thought-through platform of pertinent new ideas. Newcomers would have a fairer chance of being elected: incumbents currently have too much of an advantage—they have the highest name recognition—and are too seldom defeated by a newcomer even after coasting through their entire previous term.
  • Municipal party politics already exist unofficially. Would it not be better to make party affiliation open and transparent? Then we would know who stands for what when we vote for them.
  • Since political parties see it as being in their best interests to recruit candidates who reflect the diverse nature of our community—a greater degree of diverse representation would then follow. Members of minorities have better chances of being elected with party organizations supporting them.
  • Lack of financial support is a common problem for many otherwise qualified would-be candidates. Parties have greater potential for fundraising than do relatively unknown individuals.
  • At the end of each term, residents and media would have a better sense of the performance of each party’s team. And, with party platforms as guides, voters would have clear alternatives from which to choose their next representative.

I believe we already have party politics of a sort playing out at Burlington City Hall—voters just aren’t clear who belongs to which group. In Oakville, we saw party politics writ large as most Town councillors lined up solidly behind Councillor Max Khan during his successful bid for the Liberal riding nomination for last May’s federal election. During this past provincial election, Burlington city councillors Marianne Meed Ward and Rick Craven stood by Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran’s side during his press conference outside City Hall as he discussed the effect of provincial downloading on property taxes.

Don’t expect me to believe party affiliations don’t already play a role in municipal politics. And I believe we’d all benefit if our elected politicians were open and transparent about 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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Latest test of Canada’s hate-speech laws

supremecourtSupreme Court of Canada, Ottawa | Kevin Morris

The Supreme Court reserved judgment on Wednesday regarding the case of a Saskatchewan man, William Whatcott, accused of anti-gay hate speech—the top court will issue a written ruling in the future. The Supreme Court appeal, brought by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, is focused on photocopies that Mr. Whatcott distributed in Regina and Saskatoon 10 years ago.

In 2002 Mr. Whatcott had been found by a tribunal to be in violation of Section 14 of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, which prohibits speech that “exposes or tends to expose to hatred, ridicules, belittles, or otherwise affronts the dignity [of an identifiable group].” In his defence, Mr. Whatcott made the distinction between homosexual conduct and gay identity, and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal agreed and overturned his tribunal conviction.

Is it not appalling that a provincial legislature can pass a law making it an offence to ridicule, belittle, or affront the dignity of an identifiable group? Has the Saskatchewan legislature become so captured by the intolerance of political correctness it has lost its collective common sense? Let’s hope our top court has not suffered similarly and will strike down this vague piece of silly legislation.

In 1990, the Supreme Court judged the federal human rights law against hate speech to be a reasonable limit on the Charter right to free expression. As far as I can tell, the standard used was a definition of hate as “unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification.” Take note that almost all the terms used in this definition are synonyms of libel and slander, which are already covered by our criminal code.

Additionally, the legal definition of hatred has been refined in human rights law (by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal) with an eleven-point checklist of “hallmarks of hate.” As far as I’m concerned, the only point worth protecting groups from is number 11, “Calls to take violent action against the targeted group.” Libel and slander laws should take care of the rest or send the case to a proper court with charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants to us all freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media. Section 1 then restricts the granted freedoms by making them subject “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

I contend that suppression of expressions of contempt, ridicule, belittlement, or affronts to dignity cannot fairly be considered reasonable limits that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Freedom of expression is far too fundamental a right to be so easily restricted. Without freedom of expression, other rights are virtually meaningless.

Political correctness is stifling our democracy. In our over-reaching attempts to protect certain groups, we are abandoning too many others to the clutches of capricious tribunals and vote-hungry legislators.

Let us hope the Supreme Court will return some sense of sanity to our so-called hate-speech laws—and won’t keep us waiting too long for its decision.

 

 

© 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, October 12, 2011

Harper fulfills election pledge to end federal per-vote subsidy

On iPOLITICS insight this morning, I saw an opinion piece by professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, Errol Mendes, Harper aims to financially suffocate opposition parties. I would have thought a university professor would have had a more balanced view of the change in how federal parties receive public funding.

The professor uses supercharged terms and phrases like “stealth democracy” and “one of the most damaging attacks on Canadian democracy” to describe our Prime Minister’s follow-through on his election promise to phase out the federal per-vote subsidy over about three years. Or, as Prof. Mendes puts it, “… he [PM Harper] has used his majority muscle to initiate the slow elimination of the public subsidy of political parties”

In a display of twisted logic, we’re told:

“It must not be forgotten that the merged Reform and Conservative Parties built up their huge election war chest through high numbers of individual contributions over a much longer period than just two years.”

So what? Were the other parties asleep during that time? How has the Conservative party gained an unfair advantage over its opposition because it had members who believed enough in its message to contribute to it financially?

Here are some salient points not made by the professor.

To start with, the Conservatives made it very clear in the last election campaign that they would end the per-vote subsidy by phasing it out. So how could any reasonable person see this as “stealth democracy.” Far from being done with “stealth,” it is being done with a clear mandate for the people of Canada who endorsed the proposed initiative and the Tories last May.

From late 2008 all opposition parties have know—or should have known—the Tories would end the per-vote subsidy. They said they would do it in a fiscal update tabled in the Commons in November 2008. So, by the time the phasing out ends in 2014, all federal parties will have had between five and six years to get their financial houses in order.

Parties have had equal opportunity to obtain members and to solicit funds from them. The New Democrats, for example, have the entire Canadian trade union movement supporting them. Unionized public sector and auto-industry workers, for example, have significant levels of disposable income and can easily afford to make additional tax-deductible donations to that party—only pennies a day from each one would more than cover the NDP’s shortfall caused by the loss of the per-vote subsidy.

As to the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois, their massive loss of voters in the last election had by far the most damaging effect on their future finances. Even had the vote-subsidy remained in place, the Bloc Québécois would have seen their funding take an enormous hit, what with the loss of number of votes used in the calculation of the subsidy and the loss of official party status in the House of Commons, significantly reducing their money for research and staff.

Moreover, the Liberals have been the governing party for more years than any of the others and had as much opportunity as the Tories—some will claim they, as the government in power, had far more—to build up their war chest through individual contributions. That they chose not to do so is no one’s fault but their own. And their supporters should not be whining about that failure now, and pretending they have somehow been victims of unfair Tory practices.

The Green Party ran a full set of candidates in several recent elections, and in the last election it managed to garner less than four per cent of the national vote and elect only a single member. Since their founding in the early 1980s, they have set Canadian records for futility at the polls. And during the Green Party’s almost 30 years of existence, the Reform Party was founded from scratch; gained status as the official opposition; out-grew the entrenched Progressive Conservatives before later absorbing them; and formed the government of Canada after each of the last three general elections.

Given their show of ineptness, how does it help Canadian democracy to have a Green Party? Why should its repeated failure be rewarded by taxpayers? If Greens want to indulge themselves in such futility, let their own members pay their way. One might conclude it is access to the public subsidy that has made the Greens so fat and complacent that they have become the party that can’t.

Finally, federal parties have only to collect $2.00 a year from each of their voters—about $0.55 a day—to make up the loss of the subsidy. Should political parties that cannot attract a critical mass of paying members and supporters be kept on financial life-support by the general public? I say, no, they should be allowed to wither on the political vine.

 

 

© 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, October 8, 2011

McKenna wins her spurs

The following is a re-print of my weekly column at Our Burlington online newspaper.

The philosopher-lawyer Joseph de Maistres famously said, “Every country has the government it deserves.” And so, I might add, does every Canadian province. Maistre’s words were on my mind when I went to bed early this [Friday] morning while contemplating Jane McKenna’s and Ted Chudleigh’s victories for the Progressive Conservatives here in Burlington, which helped the opposition parties keep the Liberals from a three-peat majority.

I’m in Jane McKenna’s Burlington riding and that was the race I keyed on throughout the weeks leading up to Oct.6. McKenna won handily taking the riding with about 40% of the ballots cast. Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran got a respectable 36% and NDP Peggy Russell received almost 19% of the votes.

Given Burlington’s voting history over the past several decades, the election was McKenna’s to lose, and the Liberals certainly seemed to believe they had a candidate with the stuff to spoil the Tory record. Unfortunately for the Grits, their candidate ran a lackluster campaign. I still shudder as I recall the image of Karmel Sakran slavishly reading verbatim—head-down and droning on in a monotone—from his briefing notes as he answered questions at the recent Chambers of Commerce all-candidate session. If Sakran expressed an original thought the entire morning, I missed it. Peggy Russell, though, ran an excellent campaign, keying in on local issues and emphasizing her political experience. But Burling is not a riding to give an NDP candidate much of a look.

From where I stood, Jane McKenna spent a good deal of her time knocking on doors trying to meet as many voters as she could, even at the expense of attending group meetings where the media would see more of her. Her strategy worked: she didn’t play to the media, she played to the voters—and she won.

Progressives have asked this question in various forms: How has voting Tory helped Burlington? PCs like me respond with: How has a Liberal government at Queen’s Park helped Burlington—before the recent election goodies were tossed our way?

Progressives may also want to ask the residents of nearby Caledonia just how much Burlingtonians should depend on Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal party. And how about this quote from the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2008:

“At too many hospitals, infection control is given about as much attention as ‘a lump of sod on the front lawn,’ complains a frustrated infection control specialist.

“Dr. Michael Gardam has investigated Clostridium difficile outbreaks that led to deaths at 4 Ontario hospitals, including the recent highly publicized case of 62 patient deaths at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington, Ontario.”

That was on the Liberals’ watch, and during the term their candidate served on the hospital’s board.

If the current seat-count holds and the Liberals are denied a majority, they’ll have to put a bit of water in their wine and that will have to do for now. Burlington won last night, for the election campaign forced the Liberals to finally give our hospital much needed funding for its expansion—something no other Liberal government has ever done, and they’ve been in power for about 13 of the past 26 years and all of the last eight. It also forced the Liberals to abandon their plan to pave over a significant portion of our escarpment.

And I am pleased that, in Jane McKenna, we will have an energetic, quick-learner representing us at Queen’s Park—someone who has shrugged off a past failure at the polls and shown she can win when it really counts. She’ll be there to hold Grit toes to the fire.

I offer my thanks to all candidates for running, and wish Jane all the best as she embarks on her term in the legislature.

 

 

© 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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