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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crank calls aren’t necessarily Conservative or necessarily illegal

The Liberals and New Democrats seem to be gathering together evidence of every crank call made during last year’s federal election and lumping them together under the heading of “robo-calls” and “voter suppression.” This may excite the bases of their parties and give them something on which to hang a fundraiser, but it’s neither a fair nor a democratic practice.

Here’s a list of the type of calls the opposition parties are including in their allegations (source)—I have appended my comments:

  • Calling people at mealtimes—this proves nothing, most unsolicited calls to my home come in at or near mealtimes.
  • Mimicking accents—it’s almost impossible for most people to tell a fake accent, especially on the telephone. Over decades in Canada, I’ve yet to meet someone who was able to guess my accent without hints. 
  • Treating people rudely—this is pretty subjective and could indicate insufficient training by either the Liberal or New Democrat campaigns.
  • Calling on the Sabbath—this insensitive behaviour is common when the Sabbath in question is not Sunday. Campaigns have the same challenge with scheduling events on Jewish and Muslim holy days. This may very well not be intentional
  • Calling late at night or early in the morning—too trivial for words. 
  • Pronouncing Guy Gallant in an anglicised manner—I have a cousin by this name, and his is an English name—it’s an easy enough mistake to make in a bi-lingual country.
  • Jamming a Cambridge fax machine with calls—kids will be kids, I suppose.
  • Calling Dr. Carolyn Bennett by the name of “Doctor Carolyn Bennett.” Wow, I don’t have an answer to this one.

Hardly the sort of evidence that would justify an allegation of, as the NDP’s Pat Martin suggested, “the largest electoral fraud in Canadian history.” Many of these calls could just as well have been made by poorly trained Liberal operatives—or, for that matter, New Democrats.

Liberals are not nearly as squeaky clean as they’d have us believe. Just days ago they were caught in a sleazy trick involving nasty Tweets about Conservative minister Vic Teows’s private life.

And, during the 2011 election, a man canvassing for Liberal party candidate and former Grit cabinet minister Joe Volpe was seen by a Green Party supporter removing Green Party campaign flyers from mailboxes and replacing them with Liberal materials. Note: according to Green candidate Paul Baker, “Mr. Volpe was nearby when the flyers were trashed.”

The NDP also are not strangers to dirty tricks: New Liberal MP Lise St-Denis has accused her former NDP colleagues of playing dirty political games in her riding. And NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton charged that Tom Mulcair’s campaign has been spreading false rumours that she is dropping out of the race so they can attract her Quebec delegates.

In one of the allegations of wrong-doing, the caller apparently conveniently self-identified as, “The Conservatives.” How very deceptive. This shows the opposition is tossing in even the most farfetched allegations in an attempt to bolster their case.

Furthermore, The Toronto Star reports that members of Responsive Marketing Group Inc.’s call centre staff in Thunder Bay seemed to have known on election day that they were directing people to the wrong voting stations, and that they admitted to sometimes changing scripts on their own, without the knowledge of their superiors or of the Conservative party.

According to that report, the call centre employees were told to identify themselves as representatives of the Conservative Party of Canada. Some of them, however, decided to say instead that they were calling from Elections Canada. How is this the fault of the Conservative party?

I’m troubled by some of what is alleged to have gone on in the Guelph, Ontario campaign. As to the rest, however, while these sort of activities may well be seen as unfair by many including this writer, I doubt any of the above will prove to be illegal and that any of it affected the final result of the election.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

Former Tory staffer: “I had no involvement in the fraudulent phone calls…”

The former Conservative party staffer, Michael Sona, who resigned last week from his position in the office of Conservative MP Eve Adams, said he did so only because the controversy prevented him from doing his job.

After a week of not talking to the press, Mr. Sona is reportedly denying any involvement in the automated phone calls—so-called robo-calls—that directed voters in Guelph, Ontario to the wrong polling station during last year’s federal election.

Mr. Sona was the director of communications to Tory candidate Marty Burke during the election campaign.

Guelph seems to have become the epicenter of the robo-call scandal. So far, while there have been reports of strange or bothersome calls, live and automated, from across the country, only in Guelph does there seem to have been activities that could prove to be criminal in nature. [Source

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

B.C. Liberals: politics makes strange bedfellows

The BC Blue blog links us to a story about how a convicted would-be murderer, Jaspal Singh Atwal, got a ticket to the BC Liberal’s budget speech. “Atwal and three others were convicted of attempted murder for their failed attempt to kill the Indian government cabinet minister …,” according to The Canadian Press.

This is another reminder of how unsavoury characters attach themselves to political parties of all stripes and sully reputations of all who associate with them.

It is also a cautionary tale for those who overreach in pandering to communities, which bring to Canada animosities developed in their original homelands.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Example of robo-call in Guelph, Ontario

The Toronto Star has published what is purported to be an actual robo-call recorded by a Guelph, Ontario resident. The message left on Guelph resident Dave Hudson’s voicemail on Election Day 2011. He was so alarmed, in fact, that he saved the message. the Star’s article is here.

 © 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Overenthusiastic third parties?

AConservative senator for PEI could be on to something when he suggested yesterday in a radio interview that “interested third parties”—not necessarily any of the political parties—could be the culprits in the election “robo-call” scandal.

Morning host Jordi Morgan interviewed Senator Duffy on Halifax radio station News 95.7 Monday morning. Mr. Duffy said:

People have to remember that it’s not just political parties that are operating during a federal election campaign. Under the law, we have all kinds of interested third parties that are operating in election campaigns, and I think that’s where we have to be careful. People are throwing stones but there have been third parties that have been attacking Conservatives as well as Liberals and New Democrats.”

I share the senator’s view that, in his words, “This isn’t the end of the world here. But it is something that needs to be investigated… .” I just wish opposition politicians like Liberal Bob Rae and NDP Pat Martin and interested third parties would tone down their rhetoric until there is some real (court-quality) proof to be debated.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

Warning: progressives trying to overturn Conservative election win

The Blazing Cat Fur blog has posted a video of a segment from Sun News’ show, The Source, hosted by Ezra Levant. What progressives are calling “Robocall Election Fraud” is little more than a well-financed, well organized attempt to smear the Conservative Party of Canada and its leader, Prime Minister Harper.

These accusations could very well be serious breaches of election law and, if proven, could lead to jail time and cause long-term damage to the Conservative brand. Canadians are fortunate, therefore, to have Sun News add some balance to the reportage on the subject.

Mr. Levant does a fine job of putting the largely invented political crisis in perspective. This is terrific stuff and well worthwhile watching if you haven’t already seen it.

(See video here.)

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Poll: majority support cuts to government departments

The majority of Canadians support federal government spending cuts of, at least, $4 billion annually, according to a new survey by Nanos Research. Nik Nanos says, “Six in ten Canadians (58.8%) agreed or somewhat agreed … while about one in four (23.5%) disagreed or somewhat disagreed, and nearly two in ten (17.7%) were unsure.” (Details available here.)

There is a large and influential group which opposes any cuts to government. This group is comprised of public sector workers, their unions, the politicians beholden to them and the media actors who support their politics and their income redistribution objectives.

Beyond that, however, I believe our bloated public sector is only sparsely supported across the land. Most Canadians understand that our current government has outgrown our capacity to properly fund it, despite the average Canadian already paying more than 42 per cent of their earnings in taxes.

Canadians, as a group, are smarter than politicians, as a group, and they know the time has come to get our fiscal house in order and balance our annual federal and provincial budgets so we can hasten the critical task of reducing our mounting public debt.

Canadian taxpayers are spending something like $63-billion in annual interest on public debt. That, readers, is about $173-million a day.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Monday, February 27, 2012

Liberal dirty tricks

The defender of democracy and decency, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, has reportedly “apologized for the Liberal staffer who was behind the Twitter account that posted private details of Minister Vic Toews’ life online.” Rae said:

“The employee involved has advised me that he took this initiative on his own, has apologised for his action, regrets the embarrassment he has caused and has offered his resignation. In the circumstances I have accepted it.”

It seems highly unlikely to me that such a sustained attack on a Conservative minister of the crown would have been carried out by a single individual. I wonder how many Liberals knew what he was doing and whether he was acting on instructions from above—perhaps even from within the leader’s office.

Favoured Liberal tactic: identify a staffer to be the scapegoat, say he acted alone and toss the poor fellow under the bus. Typical.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Slandered/libelled Tory election campaign contractors fight back

Thanks to Blogging Tories’ Stephen Taylor, we have learned that two firms contracted by the Conservative Party of Canada during the last federal election, RackNine Inc. and Campaign Research Inc., have served a Notice of Libel pursuant to s.5(1) of the Libel and Slander Act on the NDP’s Winnipeg Centre member of parliament, Pat Martin.

Copies of the legal documents are here and here.

Legislators can slander with impunity (parliamentary immunity) during parliamentary proceedings. Once outside the House, however, they are subject to the laws of the land like everyone else.

Pat Martin has been especially imprudent when discussing the so-called robo-call affair, and he is well-known for his “colourful”—sometimes vulgar—media quotes. He is listed on his web site as NDP Critic of the Canadian Wheat Board, and he seems to crave more media attention than he’s likely to get with such a junior post.

It’ll be fun to see how this bully weasels out of this one.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

 

Plant the anti-Conservative message early to give its roots time to grow

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Rae taking to media about alleged Tory robo-call tactics | Clip from CTVNews.ca video

The opposition parties are falling over them selves to make sure their anti-Conservative message is planted early so as to give its roots time to grow before an official investigation reveals what really happened during the last federal election.

Plant the message early enough and it won’t matter if the Conservatives are eventually exonerated, the harm will have been done by then. It’s a bit like the “big lie” tactic: tell it loud enough and often enough and most everyone will believe it regardless of subsequent evidence to the contrary.

Question Period in the House of Commons today will be all about the so-called robo-call voter-suppression scandal. Despite them not having any real proof there has been wrong-doing on the part of Conservative party leaders, the opposition will claim that party broke the law.

For the few readers who may have missed it, during the last federal election, Conservative party workers in Guelph allegedly pretended to be Elections Canada officials when trying to lure Liberal voters to a non-existent polling station. And similar “dirty tricks” have allegedly occurred using “robo-calls” in 30 or so ridings.

The extent to which these practices occurred, and how high up the Tory chain of command knowledge of the activity extended are open questions that Elections Canada and the RCMP are investigating.

These are not the smart-alecky tricks so often played during elections. These could very well be serious breaches of election law and, if proven, could lead to jail time and cause long-term damage to the Conservative brand.

It is highly unlikely, however, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper—leader of the Conservative Party—knew anything about what was going on, on the ground, in Guelph or elsewhere. Campaign workers and managers seldom share such nitty-gritty tactics with their leaders outside their ridings.

And far from encouraging or condoning such risky actions, I’m as certain as I can be that PM Harper is trying to get to the bottom of this.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this affair is the ease with which NDP and Liberal spokespersons attribute this criminal behaviour to senior Conservatives and even to the prime minister himself.

Let’s stop the barbs, the insults and the outright slandering of Tories. Let’s act rationally—dare I say fairly—and wait for the results of the official investigation by Elections Canada and the RCMP.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taxing food, health care and education is immoral

Oone of Canada’s leading economists, Jack Mintz, says he supports extending Canada’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) to cover food, health care and education. This is part of the recommendations of Prof. Michael Smart of the University of Toronto published by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

According to news reports, Prof. Smart claims that a “uniform tax” (one applied at the same rate to all goods and services) would see consumer decisions made based on the “true differences in economic costs” of each purchase, instead of the difference in tax rates.

So, does the professor forgo buying shoes because they are subject to tax, but buys eggs because they are not? I don’t get it. How many of us now buy food or receive health care because they are are not taxed?

Surely there is more to tax policy than the “efficiency” of the proposed tax. I believe there is something immoral about taxing essentials of life such as food and health care. And any jurisdiction that would implement such a tax would certainly be morally bankrupt.

Prof. Smart said that a uniform tax would bring in more revenue for governments and pay for social services. Perhaps we should also tax sex, sleep and exercise while we are at it—think of the billions that would bring in to be squandered on more social programs.

Furthermore, Canadians already pay too much tax: according to the Fraser Institute, in 2011, the average Canadian family earned $93,831 and paid $39,960 in taxes—about 42.6 per cent of annual income. Annual Tax Freedom for Day for 2011 fell on June 6, dammit!

Moreover, it doesn’t bother me one bit that the cost of not taxing food represents $8-billion per year (Prof. Smart’s estimate) in lost revenue for federal and provincial governments. Canada does not lack social services. In fact, we’re doing just fine in that area, and we have the hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually to prove it.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gingrich: They don’t deserve an apology

This clip shows us why so many conservative Americans really like Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. In this clip, he lashes out at President Barack Obama for apologizing after copies of the Muslim holy book were found burned in a rubbish pit on a U.S. air field earlier this week.

He also claims Afghanistan should apologise to U.S. after two of its soldiers are killed.

I have not heard anyone of his statue speak out in this way for far too long. All common sense and speaking form the heart.

Perhaps Mr. Gingrich is playing politics with this to some extent. I do believe, however, that he makes excellent points.

Except video © 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Insanity: being arrested and strip-searched because of a drawing of a gun

The obsession many Ontarians have over handguns seems to know no limits—it’s jumped the shark, so to speak. How bizarre is it that a resident of Kitchener, Ontario should be arrested, led away in handcuffs and later strip-searched because his 4-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun at school? Very.

The principal of Forest Hill Public School, Kitchener police and child welfare officials, however, all reportedly stand by their actions. According to The Record, “they said they had to investigate to determine whether there was a gun in [Jessie] Sansone’s house that children had access to.”

Toy gun Jessie Sansone’s daughter apparently used as a model for her drawing. | Peter Lee/Record staff

Toy gun Jessie Sansone’s daughter apparently used as a model for her drawing. | Peter Lee/Record staff

Mr. Sansone didn’t find out for hours what had actually sparked his arrest. He apparently went to the school Wednesday afternoon to pick up his three children. Once there, he was summoned to the principal’s office where he was confronted by three police officers, who said he was being charged with possession of a firearm. He was then escorted from the school, handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser.

Other police officers arrived at his home, where they took his wife, Stephanie Squires, to the police station while his three children were taken to Family and Children’s Services to be interviewed. “Nobody was given any explanation,” said his wife. “I didn’t know why he was being arrested.”

At the police station, Mr. Sansone reportedly talked to a lawyer who said only that he was being charged with possession of a firearm.

And why the arrest, handcuffs and strip-search? Well, several hours after being arrested, a detective apologized to Mr. Sansone and finally told him. The detective said Mr. Sansone’s four-year-old daughter had drawn a picture of a man holding a gun and, when a teacher asked her who the man was, the girl replied, “That’s my daddy’s. He uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters.”

Police reportedly interviewed other children at the school and say they provided astonishingly accurate descriptions of a semi-automatic weapon, a gun that the teacher had been told “was actively floating around the house,” said Waterloo Regional Police Insp. Kevin Thaler.

Yes, children are such reliable sources—never known to elaborate or say what they think you want them to hear.

That’s all it took. And guess what? The drawing school, police and child welfare officials relied on to trigger their heavy-handed reaction was of a toy gun.

Let’s hope Mr. Sansone finds himself a good lawyer and sues everyone connected to this sorry tale.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Thursday, February 23, 2012

EU’s oil sands vote kicked upstairs and down the road

Thursday’s vote on whether EU nations will classify Canada’s oilsands crude as more harmful to the environment than other fuels ended in a stalemate. Ballots, which were weighted by population, were cast by experts from the EU’s 27 member states.

The vote failed, however, to produce the required 255 votes needed to approve the classification and, consequently, the proposal will move up to the European Council, which will vote on it in late spring or early summer.

As one might expect, the Canadian government and oil industry have lobbied against this proposal and, of course, environmentalists have supported it.

David Plunkett, Canada’s ambassador to the EU, wrote to Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate action commissioner, in late 2011. “Canada will explore every avenue at its disposal to defend its interests, including at the World Trade Organization,” he wrote.

It’s an important issue and Canada faces an uphill battle, especially since Connie Hedegaard has staunchly defended the intent of the classification. Canadian officials, though, can take some comfort from today’s vote: of the 345 votes cast, 89 were “for”, 128 were “against”, and 128 were abstentions.

With neither side of the issue getting the required 255 to pass or fail, the proposition will be left for politicians to decide.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Another failure for social engineering?

The Germans seem to be giving up on solar energy, or, at least, be backing off from their generous government subsidies. According to Bjørn Lomborg, Financial Post, “even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s staff are now describing the policy as a massive money pit.”

The German government reportedly is vowing to cut its $130-billion in solar energy subsidies sooner than planned and to phase out support over the next five years. According to Lomborg:

despite the massive investment, solar power accounts for only about 0.3% of Germany’s total energy. This is one of the key reasons why Germans now pay the second-highest price for electricity in the developed world (exceeded only by Denmark, which aims to be the ‘world wind-energy champion’).”

Moreover, Lomborg explains, here, that  those who defend Germany’s solar subsidies also claim they create “green jobs.” But, he says, “each job created by green-energy policies costs an average of $175,000—considerably more than job creation elsewhere in the economy, such as infrastructure or health care.”

Once more we find evidence that Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty has saddled us with a losing energy strategy. Just as in Germany’s case, Ontario’s experiment with subsidizing inefficient green technology is doomed to failure. It’s little more than poorly conceived social engineering.

Escalating electricity rates in Ontario are a product of propaganda from climate change activism, not real market forces.

What Ontario residents pay for electricity has much more to do with the social policies of the McGuinty government than with energy markets. As such, electricity rates should be subsidized from the provinces general revenues so all residents can share in the costs of the social policies of this government.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Hate speech section of Canadian Human Rights Act nears repeal

The repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) seems inevitable now that MP Brian Storseth (Westlock–St. Paul) has successfully steered his private member’s Bill C-304 through its second reading.

The Bill will now move to the Justice Committee for review, after which, it will need to pass a third vote in the House of Commons and then the Senate before becoming law.

Bill C-304’s enactment would amend—according to the Bill’s summary—the CHRA by “deleting sections 13 and 54 to ensure there is no infringement on freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Section 54 specifies those penalties that can be levied when discrimination under Section 13 has been substantiated by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

I’ve watched as the tide of opinion has turned against Section 13 and related legislation. Several incidents have combined to make the issue a non-partisan one. Here are just three examples:

  • In 2008, the CHRC itself hired Professor Richard Moon to examine Section 13. Moon’s principal recommendation was that section 13 be repealed so that online hate speech becomes a purely criminal matter.
  • Former Liberal MP (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) Keith Martin proposed a private member’s bill to rescind section 13.1. Unfortunately, no political party took up his M-446 and it languished without a vote.
  • In 2009, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal member, Athanasios Hadjis, ruled that Section 13 violates our Charter-right to freedom of expression.

In recent years, several Conservative, Liberal and NDP politicians seemed generally to agree that something needs to be done about Section 13—at least, that’s the impression I gained from listening to talk shows.

Yet, in second reading, only one opposition MP voted in favour of Bill C-304—Liberal Scott Simms (Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor).

Human rights are one of the sacred cows in Canada, and so they should be. But when quasi-judicial bodies overreach in their zeal to enforce legislation to the point of actually doing harm to freedom of expression—perhaps the most fundamental human right of all—it is time for MPs of all political stripes to step in.

I remind readers that under Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, “intent” is not a requirement, and “truth” is not a defence. All that is required is that a human rights tribunal finds that one has expressed “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” and that the person be a member of certain specified groups.

Let’s hope Bill C-304 will finally pass into law, spelling the end of Section 13’s use by un-democratic, free-speech deniers who have overreached in their campaign to enforce political correctness and who abuse our individual rights to freedom of expression.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sarah Palin: will she accept a draft in a brokered convention?

The above video features former governor Sarah Palin being interview by Fox News’ Eric Bolling. Ms. Palin conducts herself well throughout the piece; however, Bolling could not have been friendlier or gentler—not a single tough question in almost 15 minutes.

I thought Bolling was especially gentle when it came to getting Ms. Palin to explain why she did not complete her term of office as Alaska’s governor. She basically dodged the question, offering a few words about her having remained in Alaska after resigning her post.

Bolling left the best for last, though. Near the end of the interview, he quizzed Ms. Palin on the possibility of a brokered convention at the 2012 Republican National Convention to be held in Tampa, Florida in August. Bolling asked whether, if Ms. Palin were asked, would she consider being drafted as a contender for the nomination.

She responded:

We could be looking at a brokered convention. … If months from now, if that’s the case, then all bets are off, as to who it will be, willing to offer themselves up in the name of service to their country. I, uh, I would do whatever I could to help.”

A brokered convention has to be a longshot at this point. Should Mitt Romney lose convincingly in Michigan (his home state), however, it becomes a real possibility, and would open up the race to GOP celebrities who have stayed out to this point, namely, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan and, apparently, Sarah Palin.

According to Real Clear Politics, Santorum now leads with 37 per cent compared to Romney with 33 per cent in the state.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Iran’s doctrine of “temporary marriage”

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The Imam Reza Shrine in Mash’had with its Golden Dome| fouman.com

The Iranian regime and its religious authorities—probably one and the same—have developed a particularly cynical doctrine around the Muslim concept of “temporary marriage.”

I’d heard of the practice, but had not known how egregious it had become until I read about Iran’s version in a column by David Frum that was published in Saturday’s National Post.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, so I suppose we should not be too surprised to see how fully it has embraced one of the world’s oldest professions.

This unfortunate fact becomes clear after one reads the translation of a July 18, 2010 flyer that recruits virgin women for a brothel located just next door to one of the holiest sites in Iran: the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashad.

The document calls, in part, on “all our sisters who are virgins, who are between the ages of 12 and 35 to cooperate with us.” It says that successful recruits, “will be required to spend at least 25 days of each month temporarily married to those brothers who are on pilgrimage. [emphasis mine] … The period of each temporary marriage can be anywhere between 5 hours to 10 days.”

There then follows a price list as may be found at a taxi stand, which includes this offer, “Our sisters who are virgins will receive a bonus of 100,000 Tomans ($100 US) for the removal of their hymen.”

And to prove the recruiters are not without a sense of social responsibility, the flyer says, “Attention: For sisters who are below 14 years of age, a written consent from their fathers or male guardian is required.” The flyer concludes with, “For further information, please refer to the Quds’eh Razavi website.”

Apparently, even the holiest places in Iran have been corrupted. And while it may be the morally corrupt Islamist regime who offers temporary marriages as a cover for prostitution with women as young as 12 years old, it is the everyday Muslim men who make it possible, for it is they who utilize these services.

And to think Canada accepts immigrants from places like Iran.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Friday, February 17, 2012

Out: global warming, climate change; in: “unsustainable capitalism”

When the call from progressives to transfer massive amounts of wealth from Western capitalist democracies to poorer nations—supposedly to help them combat the effects of global warming—fell increasingly on deaf ears, progressives abandoned their indirect assault on capitalism.

Now Al Gore is making a frontal attack on the capitalist system.

When the globe seemed not to be warming, the progressives changed their story and preached about the perils of climate change. Gore has tacked again and now has his sights set on what he calls “unsustainable” capitalism.

The former U.S. Vice President wants to overhaul capitalism, which he says has turned many of the world’s largest economies into hotbeds of irresponsible short-term investment. Gore is reported to have said:

“While we believe that capitalism is fundamentally superior to any other system for organising economic activity, it is also clear that some of the ways in which it is now practised do not incorporate sufficient regard for its impact on people, society and the planet.”

After making millions from his climate change/global warming activities, Al Gore seems to have found another scheme. He and David Blood are founders of Generation Investment Management.

Gore, chairman of the venture, defended capitalism as “fundamentally superior to any other system for organising economic activity,” but he criticised some of its practices. Gore said he wants to reform capitalism to make it more sensitive to social and environmental issues.

Sounds like another con game to me.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Don’t let them fool you, Ontario’s swimming in debt

The release of the Drummond Report is raising the profile of Ontario’s annual budgetary deficit and mounting public debt. Those who want to defend the province’s record-high annual deficits take pains to point out that Ontario is still in pretty good shape financially.

Ontario is not Greece, far from it, they reassure us. The debt is only about 35 per cent (2010-11) of GDP. That, they say, is pretty good because Ontario’s ratio is much better than most of the EU nations.

But, if fact, Ontario is virtually swimming in debt.

In November 2011, TD Economics set Ontario’s 2011 debt-to-GDP ratio at 37%, a ratio that, it said, “remains very high.” Ontario’s net debt for 2013-14 is projected to be $281.8-billion, and the debt-to-GDP ratio will rise to 40%.

Fortunately for Ontario taxpayers, interest rates have been at super low levels, but for how much longer will that continue? Three factors could see this already enormous figure rise dramatically.

Firstly, Moody’s Investors Service warned in December that it might lower Ontario’s rating if the province doesn’t take serious steps in the next budget to deal with its multibillion-dollar deficit. Does McGuinty adding a 30% post-secondary tuition rebate—nearly half a billion dollars annually—sound like the premier’s taking serious steps to deal with the deficit? If Moody downgrades Ontario like was done to the U.S.A., count on interest charges rising dramatically.

Secondly, the government’s own forecast has the debt increasing to over 40% of GDP by 2014-15. This alone will add over two billion dollars to debt charges—even before an inevitable credit downgrade.

Thirdly, future interest rates are like a ticking time-bomb. We all know they will go up; it’s just a matter of when. When rates inevitably rise, expect interest cost on new debt to skyrocket.

Ontario pays (2011-12) about $10-billion a year in debt charges at current low interests rates. Considering the above factors, this figure could well be $13-14-billion in three years—our debt will rise ever higher and about 10 cents of every tax dollar will go towards debt charges.

By then, we’ll be paying more for debt charges than the combined amount we will pay for our Justice and Postsecondary and training programs—and that’s a damn shame.

If I were up to my chest in quicksand, I’d take no solace in the fact my neighbours were up to their necks.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

TellVicEverything: political pushback or ad hominem attack?

The controversy over The Conservatives’ proposed online surveillance legislation, Bill C-30, which Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced to the House of Commons on Tuesday, took a nasty turn when details of Toews’ divorce were posted on Twitter.

Among the increased powers sought, the bill—Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act—would allow police, without benefit of a warrant, to access Internet subscribers’ private information.

The controversy, in the form of protests and petitions, that ensued drew sympathy from many across the political spectrum, including this writer. A clever campaign under the Twitter tag, #TellVicEverything, went viral almost immediately, drawing smiles and providing lighter moments to the campaign against Bill C-30.

But when I heard that someone (using the “Vikileaks30” Twitter account) was dumping details of Toews’ divorce file online, I realized the campaign was providing cover for someone or some group to launch an anonymous ad hominem attack on the minister, and there is never a valid excuse for such cowardly behaviour.

On Friday, the Ottawa Citizen reported it has traced the Vikileaks30 Twitter account to an IP address that originated within the House of Commons. According to the report:

Aside from being used to administer the Vikileaks30 Twitter feed, the address has been frequently used to update Wikipedia articles often giving them what appears to be a pro-NDP bias, actions that have attracted the attention of numerous Internet observers in recent months.

While I’m too much of a cynic to be surprised, I am disappointed that such shoddy behaviour would emanate from Canada’s chief, and treasured, symbol of our democracy.

I’d bet that the Ottawa Citizen has already unearthed the source of these especially dirty political tricks, though perhaps not with enough proof to name the source publicly. Want to bet it’s a dipper?

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Drummond Report: a repudiation of McGuinty’s policies

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Screen capture from Toronto Star video

Ontarians should have higher hydro bills, no all-day kindergarten, larger school classes, fewer hospitals, more expensive tuition and more user fees. That’s the central message Don Drummond delivered on Wednesday in his report on public-service reform.

Whether it’s health, education, social programs, labour relations or other government expenses, Drummond’s 362 recommendations in his 543-page report act as a repudiation of the policies and financial management during Premier Dalton McGuinty’s terms in office, and it has to be said, those of Ontario’s Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

Since 2003, McGuinty has doled out expensive education policies, tax credits and subsidies without regard to their affordability. Now he’s being asked to walk most of them back. Even in education, an area in which the premier has received some praise and considers himself the education premier, Drummond suggests he’s been on the wrong track and recommends a reversal of virtually all education initiatives undertaken in McGuinty’s era:

  • cancel all-day kindergarten;
  • reverse the shrinking of primary class sizes;
  • cut about 70% or 9,700 of the 13,800 new positions in the non-teaching category that have been added since 2002-03;
  • reshape the newly announced 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant.

I’ve never seen a government’s record so thoroughly repudiated in what amounts to a forensic audit. The situation now is far worse than the mess Bob Rae made of the province’s finances. As Kelly McParland writes at the National Post:

No longer can the Premier pull numbers out of the air and treat them as bona fide. Ontario’s unemployment is 8.1%, almost equal to Britain’s 8.4% and the U.S.’s 8.3%, and both those countries acknowledge they’re facing a crisis. This year the province will take in $3.2 billion in equalization, a handout it was once proud enough to spurn. That’s almost ten times what it  received just three years ago, but Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has recently been insisting it’s not nearly enough.

Perhaps the saddest part of all is despite thousands of professional government employees earning amongst the highest salaries and benefits in the province, three or so accountants or economists could not be found to do what Don Drummond’s commission has done.

What hope is there for Ontario’s fiscal health when its civil service seems to lack the financial management skills needed to perform this sort of financial review?

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

NDP MP asleep on the job?

T he following video shows New Democratic MP for Manicouagan (Québec) Jonathan Genest-Jourdain checking out his hair and apparently falling asleep during a House of Commons session. This young man became—along with Roméo Saganash—the first aboriginal MP elected in Quebec and is the official opposition’s Deputy Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

His riding and the aboriginal community must be very proud; too bad he can’t stay awake long enough to notice.

This is what $160,000 plus in salary and benefits buys these days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Drummond Report won’t fix Ontario’s fiscal mess

The McGuinty government has made such a hash of Ontario’s economy and its finances, I doubt it’ll ever find a way out. Ontario, instead, will continue along a road that leads to a Greece-like financial mess while looking to new taxes and to others to bail the province out.

I say this while knowing of the 362 recommendations offered up by former chief economist with TD Bank, Don Drummond, in his long-anticipated 543-page report released Wednesday.

The economist warns that the Ontario government needs to “swiftly and boldly” implement his recommendations if it wishes to eliminate a projected $30.2-billion deficit by 2017. Well, good luck with that; it’ll never happen under the Dalton McGuinty team. Not in a million years!

So recalcitrant are these Grits, that faced with financial disaster and a credit downgrade, they stubbornly implemented a $423-million program earlier this year whereby the majority of post-secondary students in Ontario will receive 30 per cent tuition rebates.

Can anyone, therefore, imagine they’ll do useful things like these recommendations contained in the report:

  • A zero wage budget for all public employees?
  • Cancel full-day kindergarten?
  • Phase out 70 per cent of 13,800 non-teaching staff by 2017-18?
  • Raise the retirement age for teachers. Currently, the average teacher retires at 59 after 26 years of service and collects a pension for 30 years?

I don’t. McGuinty will raise taxes, alcohol prices and other fees long before he does any of that. He may even cut back on the Ontario Drug Benefit program for seniors before touching privileged teachers and public sector workers wages and benefits.

Drummond warns that failing to follow his, or similar, austerity measures could cause Ontario’s debt to swell from $215-billion to more than $411 billion in five years.

But can you see McGuinty limiting annual spending increases on health care to 2.5 per cent or see education increases capped at one per cent?

It won’t happen, folks, McGuinty doesn’t do “harsh reality.”

Moreover, the public sector unions and teachers will never stand for this level of austerity. Look instead for more taxes, fees and more big government.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

More reason to dump Human Rights Tribunal

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario awarded, in a 2010 decision, $2,000 each to two black lawyers and a student for “violation of their inherent right to be free from discrimination and for injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect.” In 2008, the men had been asked by a librarian at the Peel Law Association to identify themselves. They claimed the request was discrimination.

Fortunately for the librarian, the Ontario Divisional Court has ruled this week that discrimination must be proven, not just assumed because the complainant is part of a minority. According to a report in the National Post:

The three-judge [Ontario Divisional Court] panel found that tribunal vice-chairman Eric Whist unfairly reversed the onus of proof from the complainant to the respondent, and ‘placed [the librarian] in the difficult position of trying to prove a negative, namely, that her conduct in the performance of her routine duties was not motivated by race and colour.’

And further, the court criticized the tribunal’s “misconceived” comparison of the librarian’s conduct to racial profiling by police.

Not surprisingly, the National Post reports that one of complainants is somewhat of an activist on racial discrimination. The paper wrote that:

In 1999, he reached a settlement with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency after he complained about being unfairly targeted for a search of his bags on a train from New York by a 22-year-old white male student customs officer.

He also pursued a claim of systemic bias in the Law School Admission Test, after he was not accepted to the University of Toronto based on his score, and he acted for a youth coalition that tried in 2007 to bring New Black Panther leader Malik Zulu Shabazz to Toronto to speak at a Queen’s Park rally, but failed when he was denied entry to Canada.

Apparently, the useful idiots at the tribunal played right into his hands and it took a proper court to set the record straight. In reversing the injustice, the Divisional Court ordered the complainants and the tribunal to pay legal costs of $20,000 to the librarian and to the Peel Law Association, which runs the library.

Is this not further evidence of the unsuitability of these quasi-judicial agencies to adjudicate matters as important as denial of human rights? Does the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario not understand basic judicial rights such as an accused not having to prove his innocence, but rather the state has to prove his guilt?

When citizens are hauled before this tribunal, there should be a presumption of innocence. Section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees this when it provides that: “Any person charged with an offence has the right ... to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”

For how much longer, I wonder, are Ontarians to be harassed by those who see discrimination around each corner. In our rush to stamp out discrimination, do we have to trample on the constitutional rights of others?

In Ontario and across Canada we are seeing mounting evidence of the tyranny of the minority.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Is Justin Trudeau a soft separatist?

The son of one of our staunchest federalist prime ministers, Justin Trudeau,  told a radio audience in Quebec that under certain circumstances he “would think of wanting to make Quebec a country.” He reportedly said this during an interview on Radio-Canada. So, is this Trudeau a separatist or a separatist sympathiser?

Here’s what the member of parliament for Papineau in Quebec told the French-language CBC interviewer:

“I always say that if, at a given time, I believed that Canada was really the Canada of Stephen Harper, and that we were going against abortion, that we were going against gay marriage, that we were moving backwards in 10,000 different ways, maybe I would think of wanting to make Quebec a country.”

According to today’s National Post, “Rattled by the response his remarks drew, on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau declared his love for Canada.”

This man is no longer a kid and cannot be excused for such a remark. How would he expect the remark would be interpreted? I’ve no doubt he knew exactly what he was saying and meant every word. Apparently, if he can’t convince enough Canadians to reject Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative policies, Trudeau will reject Canada.

Last year, while in the the House of Commons, he called Peter Kent a “piece of shit.” Before that, he criticized the Tories for labelling honour killings “barbaric.” On both occasions he seemed to have second thoughts and retracted and/or apologised for his unfortunate comments. It seems to me, though, Justin Trudeau’s political judgement fails him far too often.

Is this boy-man really ready for prime time?

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

What’s next, free sunscreen?

The Obama administration seems determined to turn the United States into a European-style welfare state. While doing so he also seems set on scoring points with women’s rights and secularist groups, all under the guise of health care reform. The fact he’s trampling on religious freedom and respect for rights of conscience seems a mere irritation to the president.

I’m referring, of course, to President Barack Obama’s contraception policy and his recent modification thereto in his attempt to mollify Roman Catholic bishops and others who disagree with a ruling last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandating that all employers provide free access to contraception for female workers.

Many Roman Catholics oppose the use of contraception and, understandably, object to the president’s policy because they see it as an attack on religious liberty on the basis that the federal government is forcing Roman Catholic-affiliated charities, hospitals and schools to violate traditional church doctrine.

As one listens as Obama’s spokespersons try to justify his birth control policy on the grounds of “preventive health,” one wonders: is pregnancy now considered to be a disease to be prevented?

The policy is clearly an attempt to pander to those women’s groups who believe that not only should women have the right to chose the timing of their pregnancies (which they inherently have now and have always had), but the rest of society should share the cost.

The new rule also panders to secularists who wish to strip religious groups of all prerogatives, even those guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Of all the medications that could be mandated by the federal government on the grounds of “preventive health,” contraception seems among the least logical or necessary. With skin cancers on the rise, sunscreen would have been a more logical and necessary choice and would have done more for the health of the nation.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Three years is too much for Smickle says judge

An Ontario Superior Court Judge, Anne Molloy, gave Leroy Smickle a one-year conditional sentence to be served under house arrest for photographing himself, with a computer camera, holding an illegal pistol. The mandatory sentence is three years, but the judge said that it is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

I’m all for mandatory sentences for serious crimes and for judges following the law not making it. The crime does, however, need to be serious and the mandatory sentence needs to fit the crime. Doesn’t it?

There’s more to every situation than meets the eye and Mr. Smickle could very well not be an innocent victim here; however, the mere handling of an illegal gun in a private residence should not automatically carry a three-year penalty.

Yes, Leroy Smickle was probably guilty of something, but three years’ worth? Sounds unduly harsh to me.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Toronto-Danforth federal by-election

The Toronto-Danforth federal riding will go to the polls on March 19, 2012 in a by-election to replace the late NDP leader Jack Layton. The electoral district in the east-end of downtown Toronto is home to large Greek, Chinese, Muslim and South Asian communities, and is one of several left-of-centre ridings in Toronto.

The riding, formerly known as Broadview-Greenwood, is an interesting one. Bob Rae held the riding for the NDP in the late 1970s to early 1980s when he was a member of the federal Dippers—and before leaving to become leader of the provincial NDP.

Rae was replaced by Lynn McDonald, a well-known opponent of smoking who defeated former Toronto Sun editor Peter Worthington (Independent) in a by-election and kept the seat for the NDP.

McDonald lost the seat to Liberal party insider Dennis Mills, grandson of the founder of the iconic Chair-man Mills company and an auto-parts executive.

In 1996, Mills briefly sat as an “Independent Liberal,” while protesting the Jean Chrétien government’s failure to abolish the Goods and Service Tax, a promise the Grits had made in the 1993 campaign.

Jack Layton won the seat in the 2004 election. He had become leader of the federal NDP in January 2003, but didn’t seek election to the House of Commons until the 2004 federal election.

Advertising executive Grant Gordon (Liberal) and human rights law professor Craig Scott (NDP) are the candidates with the best chance to go to Ottawa to represent the riding. Andrew Keyes, a communications consultant, is running for the Conservatives, but he has to be considered a longshot.

I’ll be interested to see whether Bob Rae can take advantage of the virtually leaderless NDP to snatch his old riding back for his Grits. This would be a nasty welcome for any permanent leader the Dippers select on March 24.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

 

 

Mulcair leads in new poll

Thomas Mulcair leads the NDP leadership race, according to a poll taken of NDP members and released by Ottawa MP Paul Dewar’s campaign team. Toronto MP Peggy Nash garnered the second most support followed by Dewar. Perhaps more interesting is that Brian Topp previously presumed to be a frontrunner placed fifth behind B.C. MP Nathan Cullen.

The poll was taken on Feb. 8 and 9 using interactive voice response phone calls to 56,522 NDP members across Canada of which 6,373 New Democrats responded. Respondents were asked for their first and second choices—preferential ballots will be offered to all NDP members on March 24.

Seems like it’s now a three-way race that does not include the NDP insider and Layton-pick, Brian Topp. Based on Sunday’s debate in Quebec City in which Paul Dewar struggled in his second language, however, I wonder how fit he is to lead a party so heavily dependent on support from Quebec.

Which, of course, would suggest a race between Mulcair and Nash with Cullen or Topp sneaking up the middle… maybe.

See more of the results here

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Hudak confirmed, Ciano elected

Two Ontario Progressive Conservative leaders won on the weekend at their party’s annual general meeting in Niagara Falls. PC Leader Tim Hudak received 78.7 per cent support in a vote of party delegates in Saturday’s leadership review, and Richard Ciano defeated former cabinet minister John Snobelen and Kevin Gaudet on Sunday with 54 per cent of the ballots.

Mr. Hudak did well enough in the last election to have earned a second chance to lead the party. The Tories increased their share of the popular vote by 3.8 per cent and added to their seat-count: 37 seats, up from the 25 they held at dissolution.

More importantly, Tim Hudak seems to understand why he lost the election, despite holding a double-digit lead in public-opinion polls going in. “The fact of the matter is that I, as your leader, did not give sufficient voice to a bold, conservative alternative,” he told the delegates.

Mr. Hudak acknowledged that his campaign concentrated too much on “secondary issues,” and could have been “more courteous” and “respectful” to the local campaigns. He also suggested his team should have been “much better attuned” to the changing conditions on the ground.

Much of what Mr. Hudak said was in tune with the message from the new party president Richard Ciano—the two leaders do seem to be singing from the same hymnbook. Time will tell, however, whether Mr. Hudak will walk the talk. Given Mr. Ciano overwhelming win, party delegates obviously believe he will.

Ontario’s Liberals and their media friends like to demonize the “right,” and will, of course, seize on the fact Mr. Hudak implied he made a mistake in not going far enough to the right.

Outside of Toronto, though, conservative values are highly respected and are likely held, at least in part, by a majority of voters.

Best wishes to Messrs. Hudak and Ciano! 

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

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