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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iran confirms its status as a rogue state

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

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

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

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

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

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 Britain has also withdrawn its diplomats and ordered the Iranians to do the same at their London mission.

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Herman Cain’s campaign overshadowed by allegations of impropriety

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Kyoto Accord losing steam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Burlington PC riding update

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Time to put Canada’s house in order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Video: week in review

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Video – Obama pardons turkey for Thanksgiving

Video – Obama pardons turkey for Thanksgiving—very cute …

CBC ordered to hand over papers

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

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

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

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

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GOP debate: no leader emerges to challenge Mitt

Screenshot – CNN GOP Nov 22 debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Politico Playback …smile

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

As Warmington rightly says:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan at Queens Park March 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hudak ready to pull plug on McGuinty’s government?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberals will be in a bind:

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

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

 

 

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Liberals on Commons seat redistribution: What are they thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is Canada prepared to go to Israel’s defence should the latter be attacked?

Given heated anti-Israel rhetoric emanating from Iran’s leadership, it may be well to ask whether Canada might sign a mutual agreement that would oblige it to go to Israel’s defence should the latter be attacked? As a strong believer that Israel has a right to exist, I’d welcome such a pact.

“The steps that we’re taking today are in fact bringing our coun­tries closer together, and they are also allowing us to further build on a strong foundation of co-operation that will build tangible results, not just to our two militaries, but to Canada and Israel more broadly.”

– MP Peter MacKay
Defence Minister

A mutual-defence agreement, apparently, is not at all farfetched, for, as reported by the National Post, “Canada and Israel are about to complete a number of defence co-operation agreements that will significantly tighten military bonds between the two countries as tensions grow over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” And Defence Minister Peter MacKay refused on Wednesday to rule out such an agreement.

Under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has dropped all pretence of neutrality in Arab-Israeli dealings. And, as it’s become clear through positions taken at the United Nations and elsewhere, Canada is an Israeli ally. The Conservative government, in fact, has been criticized here and abroad for its unambiguous pro-Israel policy.

With war between Israel and Iran becoming a real possibility—the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency released a report last week detailing Iran’s alleged efforts to build a nuclear arsenal—Israel’s allies need to take tangible steps to confirm their support of the Middle East’s only Western-style democracy. It’s nice to see Canada front and centre in this regard, as Mr. MacKay seems set to cement the bi-lateral relationship with the mortar of international defence co-operation agreements.

Mr. MacKay and his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, said in Ottawa they expect to complete negotiations by the end of the year.

 

 

© 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.

NDP Pat Martin tells Twitter users “F--- you” and to “Eat my shorts.”

There’s a lot being written about Winnipeg MP Pat Martin’s use of foul language in a Twitter outburst over several Tweets (details here, here and here, if you missed the story). Wouldn’t you think a New Democrat front-bencher would understand that at least 25-30% of his Twitter followers would be offended by the use of such language.

It saddens me to see that normal discourse has deteriorated to the point that gratuitous use in a public forum of synonyms for fornication and human excrement is now acceptable, especially when used by a member of parliament.

I suppose we should pity the dolts among us who apparently lack the wits to express themselves without resorting to four-letter-words referring to sex or excrement.

Or perhaps the feelings of 25-30% of Canadians who find profanity distasteful is of little importance to Mr. Martin. But, wait: Isn’t that about the same level of support the NDP gets in a national election and boasts how popular they are?

 

© 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.

What “being a conservative” means to me

Most writers have biases of one sort or another, and I don’t pretend to be any different in that respect. My opinions reflect my core values and beliefs. Readers of this blog may therefore find it instructive to know more about my political philosophy, such as it is.

My journey, politically, to the point of publishing this blog has taken some five decades. I consider myself to be old fashioned: I believe in honour, basic decency, individual rights and civic ob­liga­tions and responsibilities, which, perhaps, is why I lean to the right politically. There was a time when I saw myself as modern and progressive: I voted Liberal federally and provincially—though, sometimes, Progressive Conservative provincially.

Soon after my thirtieth birthday, however, I realized progressivism offered a false prom­ise, and I joined the Progressive Conservative Party (such an unfortunate name) at both the provincial and national levels. I have voted conservative ever since. I have canvassed in sup­port of candidates at all three levels of government, have sat on my local riding’s board of directors and served on a regional committee of the provincial party.

When the federal PCs brought back the ineffectual Joe Clark to lead their fading party, I shifted my allegiance to the relatively new Reform Party and followed it through its attempts to remake itself into a political party Eastern Canadians would feel comfortable supporting.

I now consider myself a Blue Tory, aka, a Mike Harris Tory or a small “c” conservative.

As general principles, my moral compass, so to speak:

I believe in the supremacy of the rule of law—secular law.

I believe in equality of rights under the law for every Canadian man and woman, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Canadians.

I believe in equal opportunity for all Canadians, but am suspicious of affirmative action programs (based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin) since they too often lead to unfair levels of discrimination against other Canadians.

I believe in freedom for the individual in both the economic and social spheres and that human and civil rights and obligations attach to individuals rather than to groups.

I believe all religions should be tolerated, but need not necessarily be considered equal or even be respected.

I believe Canadian citizenship, though a birthright, is also a privilege that confers equal rights and demands obligations—such as the duty to vote—from all recipients. I also believe Canadians who are serving in federal penitentiaries should have their citizenship and right to vote suspended for the duration of their term of incarceration. And those who take up arms against Canada or a Canadian ally (on the battlefield or in an act of terrorism) should forfeit their citizenship, as should any Canadian convicted of treason.

I believe in lower taxes and smaller governments, with limited government re­gulation of every-day life, business and investing. I do believe, however, that while individuals should retain primary financial responsibility for personal needs—including housing, childcare, retirement income and health-care cover­age—there is a role for governments to provide funding in these areas.

I believe in a mixed economy based on economic liberalism with limited, prudent state intervention and regulation—i.e., a largely free-market economy based on a free price system, free trade and private property.

I am anti-supply man­age­ment (or other economic planning schemes) and government spon­sored or owned monopolies, as for example alcohol and gambling.

I believe the federal government should vacate areas of provincial constitutional responsibility and cease duplication of taxation and costs and other interference in provincial jurisdiction.

Canada should have a Canadian head of state, cutting formal ties with the British monarchy, and an elected senate.

I am pro-life. Though I’d not ban abortion, I’d place restrictions on those performed in the later months of pregnancy and de-fund abortion when it is used as just another form of birth control.

I believe certain crimes are so de-humanizing—extreme cases of premeditated murder, terrorism resulting in loss of life, violent rape and molestation or extreme cases of gross neglect of a child—they should forfeit the perpetrator his or her life. In repeated offences of pedophilia and rape, I’d reluctantly settle for surgical castration.

I believe gays and lesbians should be treated like anyone else and have the same individual rights under the law. I do, however, believe the traditional institution of marriage should be reserved for the union of one man and one woman. Same-gender unions should be provided for and offered similar but separate legal status.

I believe provinces should fund for every Canadian child a minimum of 13 years of schooling (including one year of kindergarten) plus a two-year employment-related post-secondary college or apprentice program. I also believe Canadians should have greater choice in primary and secondary education, and for this reason, I favour allowing “charter schools” as is done in Alberta, or something similar.

Unions should no longer be allowed to represent workers in the public sector, including teachers. Public sector workers, however, should have the right to form non-union-affiliated “employee associations” to represent them in matters of common interest, but should not have the right to withhold labour. And the government of the day should have the final say in all matters of public sector employment, including payroll and benefits.

Public sector departments should only be allowed to perform work not reasonably available from private sector sources, i.e., contracting-out should be the norm, not the exception. Defence and national security departments and police services should be the only exceptions.

Bilingualism (in official languages) should be encouraged, but not mandated unless all provinces accept equal treatment of English and French. Unilingual labeling of products should be accepted in any Canadian province that is not officially bilingual.

Free speech protection should be strengthened in our constitution and criminal code, and only a court of law should be allowed to adjudicate cases of abuse relating to hate speech. Hate speech should be defined legally to specifically exclude “hurt” speech.

I believe immigration should be encouraged, but only so far as it is a net benefit to Canada, both economically and socially. Immigration to meet Canada’s economic needs should be promoted over family unification. And immigration policies should stress obligations as much as rights.

I believe immigrants should assimilate and become Canadians, not remain in economic, religious or social silos. While multiculturalism in diet and generally accepted cultural practices should be tolerated, it should not be officially promoted. Reasonable accommodation of foreign cultural practices should be applied with caution so as not to adulterate Canadian norms, values and practices.

Canada should be able to protect itself militarily at home and abroad, and should have the wherewithal to project power internationally when our vital national interests or international treaty obligations require it. To do so, Canada should allocate an average 2.5% per annum of GDP in every ten-year cycle.

Veterans of Canada’s wars should be treated with respect and dignity and be given the benefit of doubt when dealing with government agencies—better ten veterans get more than they are entitled to than one veteran be denied her or his due.

Canada should maintain a policy stance that recognizes that the science on man-made global warming is not yet settled.

Russ Campbell

 

© 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, November 15, 2011

Tories don’t quite beat the in-and-out rap

The Conservative Party’s dispute with Elections Canada over what has been dubbed the “In and out scandal” has been settled with the Conservatives paying a $50,000 fine and admitting to technical breaches of election spending rules. And charges against Conservative Senators Irving Gerstein and Doug Finley, and party officers Mike Donison and Susan Kehoe of wilfully violating party spending limits have been dropped.

So much for, a “scandal” that at least one Liberal blogger promised would be:

…a story of massive proportion. If it should turn out that they did break the Canada Elections Act, it would be, by far, the largest political scandal in Canadian history. … if the allegations are proven, it could result in the deregistration of the Conservative Party of Canada and the liquidation of its assets.

Once again, we see Liberal hyperbole for what it is: partisan hokum with more fizzle than sizzle.

The Tory election spending scheme was discussed by a panel on Sunday’s Question Period on the CTV network. Neither of the co-hosts, Craig Oliver nor Kevin Newman had the good graces or journalistic objectivity to remind viewers that the issue was a technical breach of election law rather than a “scandal.” After all, the Conservative Party’s position was upheld in an earlier court decision suggesting that Elections Canada had overstepped its mandate, a ruling that was later overturned on appeal. So the issue was never as clear cut as many in the media or the opposition would have us believe.

In fact, it is quite well known that opposition parties have in the past successfully used similar interpretations of election law. And it’s disingenuous of their spokespersons to pretend otherwise, to say nothing of what is says about Question Period’s co-hosts, Craig Oliver and Kevin Newman. Near the end of their discussion of the “scandal”—after spending several minutes trashing the Conservative Party—Kevin Newman did mention that Robin Sears, senior partner with the PR, lobbying and public opinion research firm Navigator Ltd. and former NDP national campaign director, had said on CTV’s Power Play (link here to see Sears at about the 3:30 mark) that other parties had been doing this sort of thing all along.

In a March 2008 report, The Hill Times quoted Mr. Sears as follows:

I piss off all my Liberal and NDP friends when I say this but you know, I’m sorry guys this is a little bit like a piano player in a brothel saying, ‘I had no idea what was going on upstairs.’ As early as the late 1970s, early 1980s when I was involved, we would regularly move money from ridings that were close to their limit and had more money that [sic] they needed and were willing to be helpful in return for whatever kind of political kudos, to ridings where we thought we had prospects in and had less money, or money from the centre to poorer ridings, or money from richer ridings to the centre. All the parties have done that since the Elections Expenses Act was created and probably going back to Sir John A. Macdonald.

I do not think that Elections Canada has been even-handed in its handling of this case. Consider the media frenzy when they had the RCMP assist them in a raid of Tory party offices in April 2008, with TV cameras, reporters and opposition party members looking on. Apparently, Elections Canada decided to make an example and they have succeeded.

This stands in sharp contrast to the leeway Elections Canada has allowed to the 2006 Liberal leadership candidates (from the convention that elected Stéphane Dion) who had outstanding campaign loans for years after they received them. Their deadline was extended last year to the end of 2011, some five years and three new Liberal Party leaders since they incurred the loans for their campaigns.

The really bad news here is at the expense of the hapless Liberal Party whose spokespersons tried valiantly to make a big deal of this issue. Its Interim Leader Bob Rae finds himself in charge of what is still the reigning champion of Canadian political party corruption: remember the Sponsorship Scandal?

The in-and-out practice falls in a grey zone of elections law and can be confusing—obviously, it “confused” the court that originally found in favour of the Tories. I’m glad to see it resolved and the loophole closed.

 

 

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

When the going gets tough, Obama punts

The Obama administration’s postponement of its decision on whether or not to allow the extension of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline until after the 2012 presidential election provides opportunities for Canada to explore options that may, in the long run, be favourable to our country.

With presidential elections less than a year away, Canada-U.S. relations are pretty well on hold leaving little if any probability for Canada influencing the timing of a decision. Even following the election, there is no certainty a democratic administration will ever OK the pipeline project and face the wrath of its influential constituency among environmentalists.

Given the situation, Canada will do well to consider alternatives to TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline extensions that would have seen crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta piped to Cushing, Oklahoma and from there all the way to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. For a start, there is an option to take oil from Alberta to the Pacific coast and shipping it to Asia and especially China, which is hungry for oil and will probably welcome a way to lessen its dependency on oil from the Middle East.

A West Coast option, though, could face similar difficulties to that which sidelined Keystone in the U.S., since any new pipelines required in British Columbia are likely to be threatened by protests from environmentalists and legal challenges from first nations groups.

So perhaps we need to look also to domestic markets in Ontario and Quebec for a place to sell our western oil. There seems to be an market there for upwards of one million barrels a day that are imported currently from overseas—though I’m not sure if eastern refineries are currently capable of handling the unusually thick crude from the oil sands. I have read that it is technically feasible to convert one of two natural gas pipelines to eastern Canada to carry oil. Such a decision would reduce or eliminate those provinces’ reliance on foreign crude.

Getting oil to Ontario and Quebec, or to the West Coast, will likely require expanding existing pipelines and building new domestic infrastructure projects, resulting in huge investment and job opportunities that will benefit Canadians for decades. This could be an enormous boon to Canada, so maybe the Americans are really doing us a favour.

One of the most promising options Canada has is to ship oil by rail. According to the New York Times:

Last October, in a joint venture with the Canadian National Railway of Montreal, Altex Energy, an oil shipping company, began shipping relatively small amounts of tar sands [sic] crude along Canadian National’s tracks directly to the Gulf of Mexico.

Although it costs more to ship by rail than by pipeline, rail would avoid billions of dollars in infrastructure investment and any of the expensive and time-consuming regulatory reviews in the United States and here in Canada. Pipelines also require crude from the oil sands to be diluted with chemicals to thin it and allow it to flow more easily. Railcars do not.

Regardless of what a future president of the United States may decide, be rest assured that—as Ronald Liepert, the MLA for Calgary-West and former Alberta energy minister, said—“this commodity [Alberta crude] will go someplace.” If the U.S. decides not to take what some there like to call our “dirty oil,” Eastern Canada and China will take every drop of oil Alberta and Saskatchewan can produce.

 

 

 

© 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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