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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Savage is as savage does

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Mona Eltahawy was arrested after spray painting a New York City subway ad. In the process, another woman put herself between Eltahawy (pictured on left in clip from Toronto Star website) and the ad in an attempt to prevent Eltahawy from defacing the poster. All of which led to a heated confrontation and culminated in Eltahawy being led away in handcuffs by police.

Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian-born journalist and commentator based in New York City. She became an American citizen in 2011. As she was being arrested, she said, “This is non-violent protest, see this America? I’m an Egyptian-American and I refuse hate.”

So what was the fuss about? According to the Toronto Star:

The ads—reading, ‘In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.’—went up in 10 subway stations across Manhattan after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic centre near the World Trade Center site.”

Really, that’s all it took to rile this self-professed activist to the point of committing criminal mischief, a misdemeanour for which she now stands charged.

Firstly, it is shocking that a journalist of all people would believe defacing private property—as she was seen doing here—could be her right under U.S. First amendment. She said she was exercising her right to free speech and free expression.

Secondly, she referred to the ad as “hate and racism.” But is it?

Given the modern meaning of Jihad and how it is used in day-to-day speech across the U.S., does it really rise to hate speech when that word is equated to savagery? And, given that Jihad is most commonly used in connection to a religion, how it it racist?

Yet here is one example of her defence (click here to see Eltahawy’s Twitter feed):

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I believe Ms. Eltahawy is completely wrong on this score. Her actions were those of a common street vandal and she deserves to have been arrested and charged. She is, in effect, trying to justify her unrestrained anger and trying to make something noble of it.

In a recent column, Andrew Coyne of the National Post pointed out that taking offense is a choice …

Like any other choice, however, it is bounded by constraints. A civil society, it is often forgotten, imposes mutual obligations on its members: not to give offense needlessly, and not to take offense lightly. But I would go further: not merely to ask whether taking offense is reasonable in the circumstances, but whether it is reasonable at all.”

And he adds,

To be offended by something—not to disagree with it, or dismiss it, or object to it, but to be borne aloft on a wave of indignation—is simply a form of self-indulgence.”

I will argue that there is an excellent case to be made that many acts of modern Jihadists are indeed savage and can be labeled as such without fear that one can reasonably and justifiably be accused of hate or racism.

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

QMI Agency claims Justin Trudeau will run for Liberal leadership

 

A victorious Justin Trudeau | Picture credit: MontrealGazette.com, Chris Wattie, Reuters

The Quebec-based QMI Agency is reporting that Liberal sources have confirmed MP Justin Trudeau will contest the leadership of the federal Liberal party. Sources, apparently, told the Sun News-affiliated news agency that the official announcement will be made at a press conference in Montreal next Tuesday.

So, anybody surprised? I’m not. Once interim leader Bob Rae—a formidable foe—stepped aside and announced he’d not try for the permanent leadership of Canada’s third party, the writing was on the wall. Trudeau, of course, had to make sure he had his ducks lined up and campaign finances in order, and had to test the waters to tell how strong his support would be in Ontario and the West. But, in my view, he’s been emotionally committed to a leadership bid for some months.

So what are his chances? By all accounts, extremely good for the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. So good, in fact, he may just scare off enough serious candidates that his bid will be a virtual anointment.

As cnews writes:

Trudeau brings star power to the race and has pundits and media speculating it may be more of a coronation than a knock-down contest between candidates. A recent poll indicated 70% of Liberals would like to see the former teacher in the party’s top job.”

It could be that the only other contenders will be Liberals who want to higher their political profiles and try to secure a power base to ensure an attractive critic’s portfolio in the Grits’ shadow cabinet.

Serious contender MP Dominic Leblanc is expected, in the next week or so, to declare his decision on whether he’ll run. And, of course, constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne has already named herself as an official candidate. Interesting this, as Coyne’s child is reported to be Justin Trudeau’s sibling—that is, his father Pierre’s child.

Coyne is a formidable woman, but does she have the national profile to match her leadership aspirations? I doubt it.

Other potential candidates who may be waiting in the wings are MPs Marc Garneau, David McGuinty and 2006 leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay. But the one candidate who’d be certain to give Trudeau’s campaign fits is current Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, a genuine star and, to many here and abroad, a financial wizard. Too bad that his office reportedly is denying Mr. Carney has political ambitions.

I don’t have a good fix on Justin Trudeau. On the one hand, I see a rather callow 40-year-old opportunist with 150-thousand-plus Twitter following and an excellent speech at his father’s funeral, and not much more.

On the other hand, though, there is a good-looking fellow with an excellent political pedigree and enough spunk and pluck to win a seat in parliament and beat a bigger, more experienced man in a real life boxing match. I’ll not count him out, at least, not just yet.

Let the games begin!

 

Hudak impresses as he presents plan to reform labour laws

The leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, Tim Hudak, made an appearance last Wednesday on TVO’s The Agenda TV show hosted by Steve Paikin. Mr. Hudak was on the show to present his party’s plan for healthcare reform and to discuss the merits of the PC labour reform plan.

Adding moral support to Mr. Hudak’s positions was Federal/Ontario Director, The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Gregory Thomas. And taking an opposing view on virtually everything the PC leader had to say were two academics: Charlotte Yates, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, McMaster University and Anil Verma, Professor, Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

Mr. Hudak, I must say, made good use of the exposure on the province’s educational TV channel. He was calm, articulate and premier-like while he presented his points intelligently. All round, he performed excellently and was impressive.

And so too were his points and arguments. These I’ll not discuss much here as they are outlined and well explained on the PC party’s website here and here.

Gregory Thomas was an enthusiastic critic of some of the current government’s policies and approaches and showed real passion at times. He seemed to support the main thrust of both PC initiatives.

The two academics, though, saw little or no merit in anything offered in either initiative. Apparently, the status quo is just fine, especially as regards labour reform. They saw, as an example, little wrong or undemocratic about requiring a worker to become a member of a union and/or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Steve Paikin, the host of The Agenda, was his usual effective self, allowing each guest to have his or her say and gave ample opportunities for them to defend their positions. He’s a real pro at this.

I’ve been watching Mr. Paikin’s on air at TVO since the early 1990s—especially on TVO's Studio 2 and Diplomatic Immunity—and I appreciate his fairness and enjoy his work. I do believe, though, he’s more sceptical and more probing when he has conservatives on his show than he seems with progressives.

When, for example, Charlotte Yates criticized the PC’s “right-to-work” proposal and pointed out that, in the U.S., 11 of 15 states with such laws had the highest poverty rates, Ms. Yates offered no evidence—other than her own sense of the issue—to connect “right-to-work” legislation to the poverty rate. Yet, Mr. Paikin seemed quite satisfied to let this go unchallenged.

When, however, Mr. Hudak offered the fact that “right-to-work” states have higher Average Yearly Economic Growth (4.4%) than states with mandatory unionism (3.6%) in the 2002-2011 period, Mr. Paikin wanted Mr. Hudak to make the direct connection between “right-to-work” laws and the improved economic results. By the way, I thought Mr. Hudak handled this well and supported his claims.

Mr. Paikin did always seem to require more substantiation from the conservative side, while taking statements from the progressive, pro-labour side at face value.

Many Toronto-based journalists seem to live in an intellectual cocoon where progressive = good and conservative = bad—or, at least, suspect. They also seem to see themselves as intellectually and culturally superior to Americans and especially Americans living below the Mason-Dixon line.

I remember once seeing Mr. Paikin interviewing a politician from Texas. Quite an intelligent, seemingly cultured one at that. Mr. Paikin came of as the rube as he spoke patronizingly to the man and expressed surprise when the fellow alleged, in effect, that not all Texans were bronco-busting, Stetson-wearing rednecks.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the host seemed hesitant to take at face value evidence of “right-to-work” laws working to the advantage of society at large and the economic welfare of residents when such evidence came from the southern states in the U.S.

Moreover, I chuckled when Ms. Yates defended forced union membership by saying, in effect, because unions are required to be democratic institutions, forced membership is acceptable when those forced to join can participate and make their views known from within the union.

It seemed to elude the professor that many people consider it undemocratic to force a worker to join a union in the first place, and the fact—unproven fact—that unions themselves might be democratic was immaterial.

Anil Verma did not add anything substantive to the discussion other than to display his own pro-labour union bias. The man is a professor of industrial relations and human resource management. Does he not understand that the priority—though not sole purpose—of industrial relations and human resource management is management of human capital, not the care, comfort and preservation of labour unions? I was surprised to see such a lack of critical/analytical thinking in a Rotman School of Management professor.

Mr. Paikin’s personal bias showing from time to time and Professor Yates unyielding pro-labour bias notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed the exchanges. And this is the best I’ve seen from Mr. Hudak, giving room for optimism in Ontario’s next general election.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why not joint embassies with U.K.?

The federal New Democrats accused the Conservative government of selling out its foreign policy to the United Kingdom. According to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, “Under this agreement, Britain will be the de facto face of Canada in the world.”

Mr. Mulcair’s odd and grossly inaccurate statement was prompted by Ottawa’s announcement of an agreement to share embassy space and resources with the U.K.

As Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a joint statement with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, the move will see Canada and Britain share space and collaborate on consular services in a “handful of areas” where Canada or Britain does not already have its own mission.

In other words, this is a similar arrangement to the one Canada has had for decades with Australia whereby the two nations agreed in the mid-1980s to share consular services in several missions around the world.

So has Canada (or Australia for that matter) given up its “de facto face” in the world, as Mr. Mulcair would have Canadians believe?

Of course not. And neither have the two nations’ foreign policies always converged on major issues during that span of time. Australia, for instance, supported the United States in their 2003 invasion of Iraq with boots on the ground—Canada did not.

Mr. Mulcair’s statements amount to little more than the usual bafflegab we get from the NDP when they try to discredit Conservative initiatives.

Agreements of this sort are nothing new to Canada. This may be a more formal arrangement than some, but Canadians have been working out of the Australian mission in Cambodia and elsewhere in a whole slew of South Pacific countries for years. And, as Minister Baird noted, the British have a desk in Canada’s embassy in Haiti, while Canada uses office space in Britain’s mission in Burma.

Obfuscation and exaggeration are first cousins of the outright lie, and the New Democrats and their leader seem to have mastered both forms of mistruth and propaganda.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Streamlining postsecondary education?

The idea of Ontario moving—perhaps I should say returning—to three-year bachelor degrees is one who’s time has come, at least, in this writer’s view. In an essay published yesterday on his blog—an excellent website, I might add—Werner Patels gives a thoughtful summary of why this would be a useful move on the part of the Ontario government.

Only a few years back, many major universities offered degrees for three-year undergraduate programs. In Canada, however, and especially in Ontario, the three-year degree has been in decline since the 1960s. About a decade ago, for example, the University of Toronto abolished its three-year bachelor degrees. And, by last fall, just 44 programs at eight universities in Ontario offered three-year degrees.

The Ontario government seems set to reverse this trend and follow the lead of jurisdictions in the United States, Europe and Australia. A return to three-year degrees would move students more quickly to two-year masters and three-year PhD programs, or out into the workforce where they are badly needed.

And the cost to Ontario taxpayers would drop on a per-student basis—as has happened in Europe and in Australia, where student test-score performance is above the OECD average, at least, according to David Olive of the Toronto Star.

This seems like a sound idea to me. I’d like to see Tim Hudak get behind and support this important initiative.

Warren Kinsella is spot-on about Ottawa’s reaction to flag flap in Quebec

The Liberal war room warrior Conservatives love to hate, Warren Kinsella, made some cogent comments in his Toronto Sun column regarding the shameless bit of small-mindedness engaged in by the newly-anointed Parti Québécois Premier Pauline Marois.

Kinsella points out how few members of federal parliament voiced more than tepid disapproval of the Parti Québécois’ recent decision to remove the Maple Leaf flag from official signing-in ceremonies of Quebec’s cabinet.

He’s pretty hard on PM Steven Harper and his Conservatives, of course, he always is. I’m reading his new book, Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse(Random House Canada, $22.95, Oct 2, 2012), so I’m becoming accustomed to over-the-top criticism of all things conservative and Conservative, and soft peddling when it comes to criticizing anything Liberal. (More on this book in a future post.)

In this case Liberal leader Bob Rae emerges unscathed, except by extension. For, unless I missed it, Rae has not said much about the Parti Québécois-flag incident and is not quoted in Kinsella’s column.

But I quibble. The main thrust of Kinsella’s piece is spot-on. The Parti Québécois is dishonouring our Maple Leaf flag while acting like, in Kinsella’s words, “small-minded xenophobes.” And the response from Ottawa are offerings of toady words or the taking of a hands-off approach.

Shame on them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Tories should nix takeover of energy company Nexen by China’s CNOOC

The proposed takeover of Nexen Inc. by China’s CNOOC Ltd. should not be allowed to proceed. While the $15-billion offer by China’s National Offshore Oil Company to buy Calgary-based oil producer Nexen must seem overwhelmingly tempting to shareholders of Nexen, I do not believe it’s in Canada’s best long-term national interests.

Personally, I don’t trust the Chinese government. And their recent moves against Japan in a dispute over ownership of  the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea does nothing to dispel my mistrust. And before the accusations of xenophobia roll in, consider the following.

From an early age, I went to school with classmates who were of many cultural and racial backgrounds, with about 5% European (or nearly so), 5% Indian or Pakistani ancestry, 5% Arab (Syria/Lebanon), 20% Chinese ancestry, with the rest being of African ancestry (or nearly so).

I learned that friends came in all shapes, sizes and colours. Decades after leaving school, I still count, at least, one of my Chinese schoolmates as a friend. I was raised to be “colour blind,” and remain so to this day.

However, there is a gulf of difference between Chinese people and the Chinese government, which was not chosen by a majority of the people and which is not accountable to its people for its policies at home or abroad.

I have found Chinese people to be diligent, hardworking, honest people who excel at academics and are excellent merchants and professionals—just the sort of characteristics most Canadians—myself included—admire. I, however, hold no such admiration towards the government of China.

As one can readily see from this Reuters story, Japanese firms say China protests affect business plans, China will not hesitate to use its economic/commercial clout to assist it in furthering foreign—sometimes overtly aggressive—initiatives.

China’s economy, as we all know, is second in size only to that of the United States, the world’s largest. China and Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, have total two-way trade of around $345 billion. Yet some experts believe anti-Japan sentiment will prompt Japanese firms to rethink longer-term investments in China.

If one of their closest neighbours cannot trust them, who are we to differ. And Japan is not alone in their distrust of China. According to The Economist, “the summer has seen a succession of maritime disputes involving China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.” Consider that after years of supporting neighbouring Vietnam against the United States, the People’s Republic of China invaded its former ally in 1979 in what became known as the Sino–Vietnamese War (aka the Third Indochina War).

History reminds us that China traditionally has a very long memory. It has experienced, what it sees as, 150 years of humiliation from nearby nations like Japan and those further away such as the United Kingdom and its current rival, the United States.

The People’s Republic of China moves and acts strategically, and sets objectives that are decades into the future. Purchasing Nexen is but one move in many towards the main prize, Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s biggest player in our strategic oil reserves in the Alberta oil sands.

China is an imminent danger to world peace, and gaining a foothold in Canada’s strategic resource sector will assist that aggressive nation in their expansionist policies. Our government should not act the part of “useful idiot,” by approving the Nexen takeover.

 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Time to get real with MP pensions

The time has come for members of parliament to suck it up and change their excessively costly pension plan. So out of kilter (on the generous side) are MP pensions, it takes two pension accounts to keep their funds onside with what’s allowed by the federal tax code.

Here’s how generous parliamentarians are to themselves.

In 2010-11, parliamentarians—MPs and senators—contributed $4.5-million to their pension fund. To that, we taxpayers added an employer-share worth $26.7-million. And, since the pension fund is never actually invested anywhere, parliamentarians voted to assign 10 per cent “interest”, which compounded quarterly—yes, they don’t miss a trick—yields an effective rate of 10.38 per cent. This sweet deal added a further $83.4-million on top of taxpayers’ “employer” portion, giving a whopping total of $110.1-million for 2010-11.

All this at a time when banks offer interest rates in the very low single digits. But, apparently, even the 10.38 per cent is not enough to grow the two MP pensions funds large enough to cover future payouts as estimated by actuaries. And, consequently, the fund had to be topped up with an additional $600,000.

At the end of the day, therefore, for every dollar parliamentarians put into their retirement savings we taxpayers have to contribute a whopping $24.

Not bad if you can get it. Unfortunately, very, very few Canadians can take advantage of anything even close to this level of government generosity.

Only in Canada, eh?

 

Again, teachers are using students as pawns

Teachers in Ontario, for the umpteenth time, are using our kids as their pawns in a fight they have already lost. After years of pandering to the province’s greedy, spoilt teachers and other education workers and their unions, Dalton McGuinty’s government finally stiffened its backbone and passed Bill 115, legislation that freezes teachers’ wages for two years and cuts some of their benefits.

Not surprisingly, union leaders have asked teachers to withhold their volunteer duties and not be involved in extracurricular activities such as school sports. And so, as seems to happen in most teacher disputes, students become their pawns, their disposables, as teachers try to extract maximum amounts in wages, pensions, days-off and other benefits from whichever government holds office.

Teachers tell us they are only concerned on behalf of their students. What a crock! It’s all about themselves and to heck with their students’ welfare.

Teachers and their unions have been gaming the education system for years—under, of course, the guise of doing what’s best  for students. Let’s see, PA (professional activity) days, the expensive pay grid, paid sick-days and top-hat pension plans have nothing at all to do with students’ welfare, despite what teacher unions would have us believe.

Few things in our culture are as important to most of as our children’s education, and it’s too damn bad that teacher unions are allowed treat our education system as their private preserve and money teat.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another good reason for de-funding the CBC

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation receives over a billion dollars in governments funding each year. That’s a billion dollars of tax money collected from hard-working Canadians who could have used the money more fruitfully than handing it over to those slackers at the CBC.

And why is this upsetting? Sun News Network reports that—unlike private-sector workers who, according to Statistics Canada, took 8.9 days a year in paid absences—CBC workers were absent from work an average of 16.5 days for which they were paid. That’s costing us taxpayers a whopping $18-million dollars each year.

According to Sun News, they got their information from a report covering fiscal year 2010-2011 prepared for CBC’s board of directors, which the QMI Agency obtained through Access to Information. A pretty reliable source, wouldn’t you say?

Apparently, the report lists mental disorders as the leading cause of absenteeism, the second leading cause being “musculoskeletal problems.” If it weren’t costing us a bundle, I’d get a good laugh out of this.

During the decades I worked in industry, the average in any departments I administered seldom exceeded one half day a month, 6 days a year. And, again according to Statistics Canada, public sector workers took an average of 12.6 days off, and they are not known as being the hardest workers in the land.

Federal funding of the CBC has ranged from $1.1-billion in 2006 to $1.14-billion in 2010 and 2011. Beginning this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government will cut $27.8-million from this funding followed by a cut of $69.6-million in 2013-14 and $115-million 2014-15. I hope this downward trend will continue well beyond 2015.

Time, I believe, is running out on the CBC as a tax-funded business. Many would like to see the corporation privatized or, at least, have a severely reduced mandate.

How is it fair or efficient to have a tax-funded company going head-to-head with private broadcasters who have to pay tax, not receive it? Makes no sense to me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Anti-American protests in the Middle East

The recent anti-American violence in the Middle East makes me wonder at the low level of provocation it takes to motivate Arabs—at least, many hundreds of them—to go out into the streets and kill people.

We are often reminded that not all Muslims are violent or extremist, but you certainly don’t find many of their leaders doing much to quell the anti-Christian and anti-American protests, even when they result in serious property damage and death.

I agree that not all Arabs or Muslims in general are violent people nor are they religious extremists. A large number of them, though, do seem to have a high capacity for intolerance. All this recent round of violent protest needed for provocation was a poorly made movie that originated in the United States, a country with over 300-million people.

Is the tendency to burn, kill and destroy so near the surface of the Arab/Muslim temperament that all it takes is a movie from an obscure source to set off bloody protests around the world? And during these times, every American, apparently, is to blame and can be held accountable—and, of course, it’s open season on anyone that could be considered a Christian.

There seems to be no sense of proportion. Killing and burning is the response to verbal insults directed towards Muslims—the very sort of insults that are routinely directed against Jews and Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Let’s hope that those who make immigration policy for Canada take head of recent events and do what they can to minimize these tendencies from being imported into our country.

Friday, September 14, 2012

McGuinty Liberals having their legislature knuckles rapped

| Picture credit: Toronto Sun

The Ontario Liberals, led by Premier Dalton McGuinty had their knuckles rapped by Dave Levac, speaker of the Ontario Legislature, who found a prima facie case that the Liberal government were in contempt of parliament.

The issue leading to the Speaker’s ruling is the cancellation of natural gas fired power plants scheduled to be built in Mississauga and Oakville. The province had already spent millions of dollars on planning for the electrical production facilities, and residents were repeatedly told we just had to have them in those locations.

But, once the proposed plants threatened to cost the Liberal party votes in last October’s general election, the government made an about face and cancelled the plants’ or moved them to other locations.

The Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley testified in July that the choice to kill the plant in Mississauga was made by the Liberal campaign team and not his ministry—that is, it was purely a political decision.

Mr. Bentley has also produced documents establishing the price of killing the Mississauga power plant during the election campaign at $190-million. A staggering amount when one realizes taxpayers will have received nothing of value for the money. And we can expect a similar price tag for cancelling the Oakville plant.

The Liberals, however, have tried to hide the costs of cancelling the Oakville plant, and Mr. Bentley has declined to produce documents asked for by the legislature’s expenditures committee.

This led to the Progressive Conservatives asking Speaker Levac to investigate and rule whether the minister’s refusal constituted a breach of privilege for members of the legislature.

The Speaker has stopped short of finding Minister Bentley in contempt of parliament—for now. He has ordered the three Ontario party leaders to agree on a settlement by September 24. Failure to do so should result in a vote to find Minister Bentley in contempt. And, of course, since the opposition parties can outvote the minority government, the Liberals likely lose any such vote.

The Grits, obviously, are trying to hide the full cost of their political shenanigans. With the Speaker’s ruling, however, we probably will finally find out what this is going to cost us. These guys really are over the top.

As I asked a couple of days ago when writing about the federal Liberals, where is all the moral outrage from sanctimonious Liberals? You know, the sort of stuff we hear and read in the mainstream media and in Liberal blogs whenever there is a hint of wrongdoing by conservatives.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Omar Khadr will Return to Canada soon?

The Huffington Post has a story that claims “Convicted war criminal Omar Khadr will be back in Canada before winter…”. As readers may remember, Khadr, a Canadian citizen pleaded guilty in 2010 to, among several other charges, murdering a U.S. sergeant in Afghanistan and supporting terrorism.

To many—especially those on the Left—Khadr was a child soldier because he was a 15-year-old when he fought in Afghanistan, and, apparently, this is supposed to somehow lessen his responsibility for his crimes.

Liberal Senator and retired general  Roméo Dallaire told the Huffington Post in an email that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews “has turned the life of this Canadian [Khadr] into a political game. This is above politics. Canada has a legal, moral and ethical obligation to repatriate this former child soldier.”

This may be technically true, I suppose, and this young man does have the right to be treated like any other Canadian citizen. But I believe Omar Khadr had achieved the age of reason and knew exactly what he was doing in Afghanistan, and meant to do it, when he was captured by American Forces.

Furthermore, Khadr does not fit the mold of the typical child soldier—at least, not the way I see it. I have heard of no evidence that the teenager was forced into a military unit and made to fight under threat to his life and/or the lives of members of his family.

Based on the evidence I’ve read, its just not good enough to cast Khadr as anything less than a willing participant in the four-hour firefight during which he threw the grenade that killed Sergeant Christopher Speer. And bear in mind that this is not an alleged incident since Khadr, after becoming an adult, has acknowledged his guilt and his responsibility for Sergeant Speer’s death.

None of the above, however, changes the fact that Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen and has the legal rights to which citizens are entitled. I wish there was a law whereby one could forfeit citizenship for taking up arms against a Canadian ally in a conflict to which Canada is a party. But clearly there does not seem to be such a law.

Moreover, a diplomatic note has, apparently, confirmed that our government was “inclined to favourably consider” Khadr’s transfer back to Canada. This seems a rather binding agreement with our foremost ally and largest trading partner, and not one out of which our government might want to weasel. So what real grounds does the minister have to deny the transfer?

As I see it, we going to be stuck with this man like it or not.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Senior Liberals continue to flaunt election laws

The Canadian elections watchdog seems unwilling to enforce the law and is, apparently, ignoring an Ontario Superior Court ruling that said three former Liberal leadership candidates are in violation of the Canada Elections Act.

Liberal MP Hedy Fry and former liberal MPs Joe Volpe and Martha Hall-Findlay—all parties to the proceedings that have led to the court’s ruling—along with former Liberal cabinet minister Ken Dryden still collectively owe more than $600,000 for unpaid 2006 Liberal leadership debts.

Under the rules, candidates had 18 months after the leadership race to repay campaign debts. And when several of the contenders failed to meet that deadline, Elections Canada granted an extension, which also expired with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts still unpaid. Some of the contenders then went to court and were given another two-year extension.

We are now almost three-quarters the way through 2012, and folks at Elections Canada are still dragging their feet—apparently, to give the offenders every chance to comply with the law and avoid sanctions which could include fines and even jail time.

I don’t understand how this works. Are only the Conservatives bound by the Canada Elections Act? If the law says debts have to be repaid in 18 months, how come some Liberals are able to avoid repayment for upwards of five years?

According to cnews, “A spokesman for Elections Canada said an audit of the debts would be conducted before any decision is made to impose penalties that range from a $1,000 fine to three months in jail or both.”

Isn’t this just a case of more foot-dragging and delaying tactics on the part Elections Canada—and a clear sign of favouritism towards the Liberal Party of Canada?

Where is all the moral outrage from sanctimonious Liberals, you know, the sort of stuff we hear and read in the mainstream media and in Liberal blogs whenever there is a hint of wrongdoing by conservatives.

As if this is not appalling enough, with all this in her background, Martha Hall-Findlay is, apparently, considering another run at becoming the Liberal leader. Whatever happened to obeying the rules—too old-fashioned for Liberals, I guess.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An NDP MP’s serves-you-right moment?

The New Democrats’ political hit-man MP Pat Martin is seeking the public’s financial help to bail him out of legal bills that are, apparently, piling up after he was hit with a lawsuit for wrongly accusing an Alberta company, RackNine Inc. and its CEO Matt Meier, of electoral fraud.

In typical NDP fashion, Parliament’s mightiest blow-hard is asking others to pay for his imprudent words, as he tries “to raise $250,000 after the Winnipeg MP was sued for comments he made about the 2011 election robo-calls scandal.”

According to the Globe and Mail, Martin said his party has its own legal bills to cover so is not able to help out. “The party has its own case to defend,” Mr. Martin, apparently, told the Globe. “This is my [Martin’s]problem and I’m handling it as best I can.”

He isn’t really handling it, tough, is he? He’s got others raising money for him. In fairness, many weeks after making the offending statements, Martin did offer an apology on paper and in front of journalists—to no avail, apparently.

Frankly, I would not be surprised if the NDP, which is also named in the suit, isn’t ticked at him for landing them, unnecessarily, in an expensive lawsuit and is therefore refusing to help him out. Martin is definitely a fellow who needs to learn to be more prudent about what comes out of his mouth.

If members of the public are dumb enough to contribute their hard earned cash to get Martin off the financial hook on which he’s impaled himself, so be it. But he’s got only himself to blame, so I hope most will take a pass and make this loud-mouth—who sometimes acts like a bully while under the protection of the House of Commons—pay for his slander or libel, as the case may be.

Time for Hudak to go?


| Picture credit:
CBC

The leader of the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario, Tim Hudak, despite losing two by-elections last week, quickly dismissed suggestions that he should consider resigning. In fact, he’s quoted as saying he’s confident his party would win the next election.

Hudak blames what he called “a big, hard wall of hard-core union support and activism” for his party’s loss in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding—a riding the Progressive Conservatives had held for 22 years, and which became vacant when senior PC Elizabeth Witmer retired after accepting from Dalton McGuinty a plumb $188,000-a-year-job as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

I have no doubt the Tory campaign was opposed by “a big, hard wall of hard-core union support and activism,” as Hudak put it, but won’t this sort of opposition be faced across the board in the province’s next general election, tentatively scheduled to be held on October 1, 2015?

So how can the PCs’ intrepid leader be so confident that his party would win the next election? Perhaps it’s the same sort of false or pretend confidence that made him say how certain he was that he’d win the general election in 2011 or the by-elections last week.

Frankly, my confidence in the man was shaken by his party’s less than stellar performance during the 2011 campaign and again in the two recent by-elections. And I agree with Hudak’s own assessment when he told media representatives, “The buck stops with me, I’m always the leader.”

I take little or no consolation from the fact that the situation would have been worse had the Grits won Kitchener-Waterloo and secured a majority government. What I see is a Tory party that has 36 seats, which is one less than it had on last October’s election night and only 10 more than it won under their leader John Tory four years earlier, and 12 more than it won under Ernie Eaves four years before that.

Yes, a net of 12 seats won after almost a decade of bungling by Dalton McGuinty’s Grits.

If our PC leader cannot win a seat that’s been Tory for 22 years, what hope is there that he can win, at least, the 54 seats necessary to form a majority government?

But let’s be realistic: Tim Hudak is almost certainly going to be the leader in 2015. After all, he survived the automatic leadership review following last October’s general election with just under 80 per cent of support from party members.

Moreover, with no compelling alternative readily available to quickly replace Hudak, it would be political suicide for the party to hold a protracted leadership contest with the possibility of a snap election at any time—the Liberals are, after all, a minority government.

So, I for one do not believe the prospects are very bright for a PC government in Ontario much before another two elections. Put another way, I believe Hudak will lose the next general election and only be replaced as leader after that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Victory in Quebec for Parti Québécois

After nine years, voters have returned the Parti Québécois to power in Quebec, albeit, and for the first time ever, as a minority government.

The results shortly after midnight Tuesday had Pauline Marois’s (pictured in an earlier photograph) PQ as the projected winner with 54 seats (63 are required for a majority), 50 seats for the Liberals—whose leader, Jean Charest, lost his home riding of Sherbrooke—19 seats for the CAQ and 2 seats for the sovereigntist Quebec Solidaire.

Marois is the clear winner, of course, but Canadians across the land can take some comfort in the results that saw the PQ garner only about a third of all votes casts and win several seats short of a majority government. In fact, the combined total votes cast for all three sovereigntist parties on the ballot was under 40 per cent.

Perhaps, therefore, a “sovereigntist sword of Damocles”, as the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert calls it, won’t hang quite so ominously over Canada. Though, it should be said, even a minority separatist government can cause enough mischief to distract Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from the serious business of guiding the country through very uncertain economic times.

I don’t trust the PQ or its leader. If one sniffs the air about them, one gets a whiff of the acrid smell of racism. And that’s a scary thing.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Jean Charest on the way out?

One can never tell for sure, but it doesn’t look good for Jean Charest’s chances in tomorrow’s Quebec general election. In my last post (Aug. 22), I suggested the Parti Québécois might be fading in the stretch run; it is, however, Charest’s Liberals who have faded of late.

Quebec’s political stage seems set for a Pauline Marois-led PQ government, and that’s a shame. A poll, published on Sunday in the Journal de Montréal, puts Charest’s party in third place with 27 per cent popular support, while the PQ leads with 33 per cent and François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) hold second place with 28 per cent.

There is little in these results for the rest of Canada to cheer about, for it seems we are in for four years, at least, of a PQ government bleating about Quebec’s miserable circumstances as part of Canada, while trying its best to extort as much tax money as it can from the rest of us.

But we really cannot blame separatists for preaching separatism, can we? Scorpions sting, separatists separate. Such is the way of things.

Should one want to apportion blame for driving voters into the all too welcoming arms of the PQ, one need look no further than the Quebec Liberals and Jean Charest himself. Under the Liberals corruption seems to have flourished.

It seems so odd to me that Quebec voters are quick to oust politicians and whole governments over allegations of corruption, yet, as a society, Quebec seems to have a high tolerance for such things. Ever since I can remember, all sorts of shenanigans in the construction industry and among night club owners, for example, seem to have been generally accepted as inevitable by Quebec residents. When I lived in Montreal many years ago, corruption had found its way into the halls of political power and even into the police force.

During the current campaign, “a report that a police surveillance operation targeting a union official was halted after the man met with the Liberal Leader.” I suspect we’ll be hearing similar stories in the near future.

Frankly, I don’t see the PQ as being much of an improvement in the corruption department.

According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Ms. Pauline Marois’ husband Claude Blanchet was once the CEO of the QFL Solidarity Fund. And so was current Finance Minister Raymond Bachand. The QFL has maintained close ties with the PQ and several QFL-Construction union leaders are regular contributors to the Liberal party.

That same QFL Solidarity Fund is now embroiled in controversy after a news story appeared in the Montreal daily, Le Devoir, linking it to an alleged kick-back and bribery scheme.

Voters always get the government they deserve, don’t they?

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