Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bye-bye to buy Canadian

Apparently, a deal may be in the works to exempt Canada from the Buy American provision included in the U.S. stimulus package. Sounds like good news, but this sort of thing cuts both ways. The CBC News Internet site reports that:

“According to Canadian government sources, Ottawa expects that the White House will use its discretionary power to exempt Canada from the clause very soon. In return, Canada would simultaneously announce that its provincial and municipal doors are now wide open to U.S. companies.

“Sources say the announcement could be made when the two countries’ trade negotiators, Don Stephenson, assistant deputy minister, trade policy and negotiations, and Everett Eissenstat, office of the United States trade representative, hold their first formal meeting.”

This could prove to be a case of “be careful what you wish for, it could come true.” Canadian provincial governments such as Ontario and especially municipalities such as Toronto have often gone out of their way to source large procurements from domestic sources.

I’m reminded of the controversy a few years back when the TTC approved plans to give a $499-million untendered subway-car contract to Bombardier. Bombardier planned to build the cars at its Thunder Bay plant and many saw the domestic, in-province angle as the deal winner.

A German-based competitor of Bombardier, Siemens, although it had never been given the opportunity to bid on the proposal, had suggested it could build the cars for $535-million, including items that were not part of the Bombardier base price. While Siemens originally said it would manufacture the trains in China, officials later suggested they would open an Ontario plant. Why open a plant here? Of course, that would have “qualified” them to be a bidder.

Hypocrisy comes in all sizes and shapes—it has ever been thus, and thus it will ever be.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Long slow slide to nowhere

Canadians are watching what could be another long slow slide to nowhere by a federal Liberal Party leader. Should Michael Ignatieff continue with his inept leadership, he will certainly find himself the second Chief Grit in a row to never serve as a prime minister. Mr. Ignatieff may be brilliant in any number of ways, but he is proving to be a slow study in the ways of political leadership.

Not only has Mr. Ignatieff lost his Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, over his decision to overrule Coderre in the matter of who should carry the party banner in the Quebec federal riding of Outremont, but he finds himself facing a claim that critical decisions affecting Quebec are being made in Toronto by his inner circle.

This will go over like a lead balloon in Quebec, the very province Mr. Ignatieff had hoped would provide a leg up to the prime minister’s office. Without a very strong showing in that province, the Grits are unlikely to get a sniff at forming a government after the next election.

The Liberal brain trust will, of course, brush this off as the sort of little spat that happens from time to time in all parties. And they are right for the most part, however, there are indications that there is a serious rift in the power base of the Liberal Party. A rift that Mr. Ignatieff may not have the political skill to mend.

Mr. Ignatieff does not have the moral authority to demand the trust and loyalty of his party. He is, after all, an outsider who until very recently did not even live in Canada. During the 2006 leadership convention that voted in Stéphane Dion as party leader, 70 per cent of the Liberal delegates voted against Ignatieff on the first ballot. And not a single one of the six other contenders supported Ignatieff when they were eliminated from the ballot or dropped out of the race.

Less than two years later, the Grits allowed themselves to be buffaloed into appointing the untested former professor without even a vote by delegates never mind a one-member-one-vote leadership race. The other leadership contenders like Bob Rae were outmaneuvered by backroom deals, but their power bases remained intact and hungry for another run at the top job. Now there are other hopefuls like Denis Coderre and Martin Cauchon jockeying for position.

If I were Mr. Ignatieff, I would sleep facing the door with one eye open.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, September 25, 2009

David Miller bows out

Toronto mayor, David Miller, says he will not be running for a third term in next year’s municipal election. The mayor made the announcement this morning after an e-mail was sent out to supporters on Thursday saying he would discuss his political future. This comes as no surprise after a recent Ipsos Reid poll showed Miller had the approval of only 21 per cent of Torontonians.

This mayor has been only slightly short of a disaster for Toronto. Under him the city has made almost no progress, except perhaps for the updating of the TTC fleet. Budget management and cost control has been a joke under his administration. In addition, the man has been a whiner and has been caught in a big lie over the cost of sick days accumulated by city employees—Miller claimed the figure was $200 million, when he knew the real figure was $450 million.

A quick ride through Toronto shows a weedy, shabby city that has been in decline for some twenty years. The public parks are a disgrace. The city is the Canadian capital of political correctness and gun crime—a mere shadow of what it could have been if given effective leadership.

Miller said recently that he wanted Toronto to be a progressive 21st century city. The reality, however, is quite different—at least, at the city administration level. Thirty years ago, Toronto was on track to be a world class city, but administrations headed by the likes of Barbara Hall and David Miller have derailed those expectations.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission: Justice delayed/justice denied

Consider this: seven years ago, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald published an editorial condemning the use of suicide bombers, and suggesting the death of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy might have been used in a propaganda campaign urging children to martyrdom.

Readers flooded the newspapers with letters and nine Muslim and Palestinian organizations lodged human-rights complaints, claiming the editorial was likely to incite hatred or contempt toward Palestinian Arabs and Muslims.

Nothing unusual here—this is Canada 2009, after all. Such challenges to freedom of speech are virtually routine. Publish anything critical of an identifiable group and you’re sure to incur the ire of some hyper-sensitive organization.

Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission took seven years to deliver its decision to dismiss all complaints. Yes, seven years.

Two unusual aspects of this decision. First, the inordinate length of time between the alleged offence and the ruling by the commission’s director, Marie Riddle—seven years. Is this considered acceptable by the Alberta government?

Secondly, all nine offences were dismissed. Could it be that the unfavourable publicity gained by human rights commissions and tribunals across the nation has made the Alberta group gun-shy? That’s my guess.

Were it not for the furor caused by high profile cases such as those involving Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn/Maclean's magazine I doubt these complaints would have met such a just fate. I’m also reminded that this follows hard on the heels of Judge Athanasios Hadjis’s Marc Lemire decision.

This is just another example of the human rights community in full retreat to save their skins and cushy jobs.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Other shoe drops at Toronto’s CFRB 1010

Toronto’s radio station CFRB has announced changes to its line-up as well as a name change. Effective October 5, CFRB’s new name will be NEWSTALK 1010. Also on that date, the station’s line up will change pretty dramatically. Taking a quick look, Tarek Fatah seems to be the odd man out.

John Moore will move to the morning show, 5:30- 9:00 a.m. Sounds like a great move for John, though he’s no favourite of mine. Tarek Fatah will be one of a number of contributors to the show—in his case, international affairs. Looks like John has moved into the “star” slot—and he’ll put a left-lib slant to the morning show I’m sure. [sigh]

Bill Carroll will move to the 9:00-1:00 p.m. spot. I’ve been under the impression that the morning show was the “star” show of talk radio, so this might be a negative move for the outspoken Bill Carroll.

Jim Richards will move to the 1:00-4:00 p.m. time slot. I’d prefer to have the Motts in this spot—Richards leaves me cold, quite frankly.

John Tory will host the new “Live Drive” show from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. This puts John into one of the best paying and most listened to time periods, second only to the morning show, I would think. This is a welcome move—I like what I’ve heard on-air from John Tory, he seems to be a natural.

Politically we can expect a left-right-left-right beat to the day at NEWSTALK 1010 beginning with the lefty John Moore, then righty Bill Carroll, then followed by lefty Jim Richards and finishing with righty (sort of) John Tory.

Ryan Doyle remains in the 7:00-10 p.m. time period, but is outside my usual listening window.

This is a line-up I can listen to, but I’ll miss Paul and Carol Mott as do many others. A post I wrote about the Motts leaving CFRB back in August has been the most popular post by far that I’ve made in over a year.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Canada to boycott Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN

Today PM Stephen Harper announced that Canada will boycott Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN General Assembly, calling the man’s declarations “disgraceful” and “insulting.” The PM said in Oakville, ON:

“There is no way I am going to permit any official of the government of Canada to be present and give any legitimacy to remarks by a leader like that.”

Hats off to the prime minister for taking a firm, principled stand against Iran’s leader using the United Nations as a forum to spread his anti-Semitism. Canada and Iran have been involved in a diplomatic row since Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist from Montreal, died in Iranian custody in 2003 after being tortured.

Wouldn’t this gesture have meant more, though, had Stephen Harper, as our prime minister, been at the UN to lead our delegates walk-out? This won’t happen any time soon, however.

The official excuse for Stephen Harper’s absence is that he chose to attend G20 meetings in Pittsburgh this week rather than address the General Assembly, even though other national leaders will do both.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has frequently criticized the UN and has not addressed the General Assembly in three years. He has questioned that body’s commitment in Afghanistan and elsewhere, citing “challenges” in Haiti, Darfur and the Middle East. He once asked:

“Will the new Human Rights Council become a forum where human rights are genuinely put above political maneuvering? Or will it emulate the fate of its failed predecessor organization?”

And at a recent meeting of the party faithful he said:

"Instead of polling the United Nations General Assembly to determine Canada’s foreign policy, we have taken a strong and principled stand in favour of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world."

This is quite a departure from the position of former prime minister Jean Chretien, who often used decisions by UN to shape Canada’s foreign policy. I like the idea that we make our own decisions in our own national interest.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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More bad news for Liberal brain trust

The Financial Post today provides more proof that the Liberal brain trust led by Michael Ignatieff and his economics spin master John McCallum cannot be relied on to provide accurate assessments of the recession the world has endured for the past year or so. These silly old-fashioned politicians have been trying to convince Canadians that they are in the throes of the worst depression since the 1930s.

Because of their desperate need to blame the Tories for ruining the economy so they can offer themselves as saviours, Grit leaders ignore the mounting evidence that the recession has ended and was not as severe as was forecast by the doom and gloomers.

While Mr. Ignatieff makes speeches blaming PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for creating a “mess” of Canada’s finances and continuing his year-long campaign of trying to scare us into accepting his largely hidden agenda for leading us to unlimited prosperity, one of his main sources of support for economic doom and gloom, economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank, have revised upward their forecast for global economic growth, and suggest that, in Canada, there are signs of a “budding” recovery.

As reported in the Financial Post:

“For Canada, TD expects robust growth, on an annualized basis, in the final two quarters of this year, of 2.6% and 3% respectively, followed by 2.5% expansion in 2010. ‘The domestic side of the economy will strengthen at a steady pace,’ the [TD] bank’s economists said, adding that exports will also recover but be ‘constrained’ by a more robust Canadian dollar.

“Still, the improvement in world trade is expected to boost Canadian export growth in the third quarter by a startling 25%, the TD forecast said -- and mark the first time in two years that exports will have contributed to economic growth.”

If the TD bank is correct—and they have the recent reputation of being bearish on the economy—the growth would signify the strongest rate of recovery from a recession’s low point in three decades.

The Liberals’ hope of a reasonable rationale for forcing Canada into a $300-million federal election is draining away before their eyes. And by the time they get around to finding a new “cause,” I believe the average Canadian will have gotten the full measure of Mr. Ignatieff and will deny him the office of prime minister.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Ignatieff: marching to a different drummer or just out of step

Today’s National Post newspaper has published an exclusive advance copy of a Nanos Research poll to be released later this week, which gives further evidence that Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff is out of step with Canadians. This is not surprising considering that Mr. Ignatieff is probably more in-step with our southern neighbours and our British cousins among whom he spent three decades of his adult life.

According to the poll that was carried out from Sep. 3 to Sep. 11, when Canadians were asked which of the party leaders they would trust to manage the following issues, Stephen Harper was endorsed by more responders in each category than was Mr. Ignatieff. Here are the results:

  • Health care: Harper 28.9% versus Ignatieff 21.5%
  • Tax policy: Harper 40.1% against Ignatieff 24.2%
  • National unity: Harper 30.1% against Ignatieff 28.1%
  • Environment:  Harper 21.6% versus Ignatieff 16.8%
  • Economy: Harper 40.5% versus Ignatieff 26.8%

A clear preference for Prime Minister Harper in every category but National Unity, and even there he had a two-point lead. This is dramatically different from the picture Mr. Ignatieff drew in his speech to the Toronto Board of Trade this week when he characterized the state of the country’s finances as being a “mess.” Apparently, 70+ per cent of Canadians do not believe he could do better.

One has to wonder how long it will take for the chief Grit to get on the same page as we Canadians.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How the mighty has fallen

In the early 1960s I lived in Montreal, having been transferred there from Toronto by the oil company for which I worked. At that time, I saw the move as very positive as I would be living in Canada’s largest most sophisticated city—the commercial centre of Canada where most of the power and influence of our nation were located. Back then, Toronto was a rather staid, unsophisticated regional centre with national influence running a poor second to its Quebec counterpart.

It was, therefore, with a pang of sadness that, as I roamed the news pages today, my eye caught the last sentence of the last paragraph of a story in the Globe and Mail. I read, “Montreal, meanwhile, came in at 32 which was a slip of six positions.”

The story was about the ranking of financial centres and bemoaned the fact that Toronto wasn’t seen to have the horsepower that it once had. Apparently, the Global Financial Sectors Index—a survey of financial workers from around the world—showed Toronto had slipped a spot to 13th in this year’s rankings.

How really sad that after slipping a spot, Toronto should still be a country mile ahead of Montreal in the index. Not even a mention of Montreal until the very last sentence of the very last paragraph.

So far have Montreal’s fortunes as a financial centre fallen, that what little financial influence it now has is owed partly to our country political imperative of having a presence in Quebec. On its own merit, Montreal is a minor player on our national stage and world stage, with even upstart Vancouver edging it out by three positions.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Ignatieff and Miller: Half-truths and distortions are the norm with senior public leaders

There is something about being a politician that seems to exempt one from speaking the truth. So many politicians seem to earnestly believe that the normal rules of society do not apply to them. So much so that otherwise intelligent men can stand before an audience and make a mockery of the truth.

Half-truths and distortions are the norm with some of our most senior public leaders. A recent case in point is the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, and the speech he made to the Toronto Board of Trade yesterday.

Another example is the claim Toronto’s Mayor David Miller made time and again during Toronto’s recent public employees’ strike: that the sum Toronto owes its workers for sick days is $250 million, when the actual sum known to Miller at the time is $450 million.

Ignatieff’s speech was filled with bafflegab. He characterized the state of the country’s finances as being a “mess,” a direct contradiction of the fact Canada’s economy is one of the first to emerge from the recession and was one of the least damaged by the financial crisis.

Recent data suggest the economy has emerged from its recession this quarter. These are the same data that is helping to fuel rallies in the country’s stock market and currency. As reported by Bloomberg on Sep. 20, “Canadian wholesale sales, manufacturing sales and the index of leading indicators rose more than forecast last week, according to government reports, while home prices have risen to records this year.”

The Bank of Canada said earlier this month that the economy could grow faster than the central bank has forecast in the second half of the year, due to a pickup in domestic demand among consumers and businesses.

And, despite the $55+ billion deficit, Canada still has one of the lowest ratios of debt to GDP among developed countries.

Some mess, eh? For more examples of Ignatieff distortions, read Joanne’s recent post at Blue Like You.

As for David Miller’s repeated claim that the sum Toronto owes its workers for sick days is $250 million when the actual sum is $450 million, even though he apparently knew the real figure well before the strike?  In a pathetic effort to excuse the Mayor, his spokesman, Stuart Green, told the Toronto Star “the city didn’t want to focus on just one aspect of the [2008] audited financial statements. The decision was made not to release financial results on a piecemeal basis.”

As Kelly McParland rightly asks in today’s National Post, “How is $450-million piecemeal but $250-million isn’t?”

What can one say? Would bafflegab and gobbledegook sum this up?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Potential Conservative majority

The National Post’s John Ivison speculates that the creation of 22 new seats in the House of Commons after the 2011 census will make winning a majority much easier for the Conservatives. Apparently, the changes will benefit the Tories disproportionately, given they will increase representation from their power-base in the West and diminish the influence of the regions where they are weakest—Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The new seats are unlikely to be in play much before 2014, what with traditional consultations and bureaucratic red tape.

John’s a clever fellow so I wouldn’t bet against him. However, there are other possibilities that could repaint Canada’s political landscape. A lot can happen in five years or so.

To start with, consider the demise or nearly so of either the NDP or the Bloc—perhaps both.  If Michael Ignatieff does not show better leadership than he has so far, he’ll lose the next election and open the way for the left-wing of his party to take control—perhaps led by Bob Rae. This, in turn, could see the moderates of the NDP flock to the Liberal banner in a unite-the-left movement that could defeat the Tories at the polls.

Or, with a strongly left-leaning Liberal Party on the ballot in Quebec, perhaps the Grits could knock off the Bloc.

As for Alberta, I’d be a bit cautious about assuming the Tories will continue their dominance there indefinitely. How will the demographics of that province be affected as Canada’s population shifts from have-not Ontario to oil and gas rich Alberta? And will Ontarians take their left-leaning voting habits with them? Also, there is Saskatchewan and British Columbia to consider: both have growing populations and neither are Tory strongholds.

PM Stephen Harper’s best bet is to bring his party just to the political right of centre and keep it there while hoping the right won’t once again split off as seems to be happening with the Wild Rose-Alliance movement in Albert. And, what if the  Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta has federal aspirations?

In five years we could have a united left and a divided right contesting a federal election. God save us all.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paper tiger visits Waterloo

After calling the Dippers’ bluff and turning the tables on them so that they would have to support the Tories, Michael Ignatieff and his Liberal Party safely abandoned their support for the Conservatives in the House of Commons and voted against them in a vote of confidence. Now Mr. Ignatieff has taken his act on the road.

For those not tuned in to the chief Grit’s rhetoric, he believes Stephen Harper’s Tories are running the country into the ground. A minority view, of course, since most economists both inside and outside the country believe Canada’s doing quite well considering the circumstances.

He also is taking issue with Tory ads that question his three decades of living and working in Britain and the United States, reminding us that almost 20 per cent of Canadians were born elsewhere in the world. He said:

“I want a country where everyone sets their sights on going overseas at some point in their lives.”

Of course many Canadians were born outside the country, but then chose to live in Canada—we are, after all, a nation of immigrants. Mr. Ignatieff, on the other hand, was born in Canada and chose to live and work in Britain and the United States for most of his adult life. What sort of a country would we have if every native born Canadian lived and paid their taxes abroad for most of their adult life? A very peculiar one I would think.

As to his contention that “… two million Canadians are currently working in other countries.” So what? That statistic only is relevant for the Canadians who have been working in other countries for thirty years or so and then return to Canada to seek the office of prime minister.

Now it’s expected that I, as a Tory supporter, might question Michael Ignatieff’s qualifications to be our prime minister. But I’m not alone.

Back on December 2, 2006 in Montreal, 70 per cent of the Liberal delegates who voted for their new party leader voted against Ignatieff on the first ballot. And the day got worse for him:

  • Martha Hall Findlay was eliminated and she endorsed Stéphane Dion.
  • Scott Brison and Joe Volpe voluntarily dropped out of the race, and both endorsed Bob Rae.
  • Ken Dryden was eliminated, and he endorsed Bob Rae.
  • Gerard Kennedy dropped out of the race and endorsed Stéphane Dion.
  • Bob Rae was eliminated on the third ballot and then freed his delegates and did not indicate whom he supported on the final ballot.

Telling, is it not, that none of the opposing leadership contenders openly supported Ignatieff for leader back then. Except for Bob Rae, they all chose someone else to run their party, and even the pathetic Stéphane Dion was considered a better choice.

Fast forward to 2008. Ignatieff gains the leadership of the Liberal Party not by popular vote, not by majority vote of delegates at a convention, but by backroom maneuvering followed up by a non-voting leadership convention.

Most Liberals knew instinctively that someone who chooses to spend most of his adult live in other countries is not really fit to be our PM. That’s just common sense, eh?

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Aglukkaq not ready for prime time

The problem with trying to make the Federal Cabinet as representative as he can is that PM Stephen Harper is sometimes forced to appoint ministers who clearly are in over their heads. Take the current Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, who spent several minutes yesterday in an interview with Bill Carroll on the CFRB Toronto radio station responding to questions about the delivery of body bags to native communities as part of H1N1 flu preparations.

I don’t believe I have heard a less inept attempt by an MP to explain anything on radio or television. She said she was offended by what had happened, but also claimed not to know the full facts and had ordered an inquiry into the situation. She also said what happened is unacceptable, insensitive and offensive—all without having the full facts of the case, by her own admission. The rest of her statements were confusing and barely coherent, leaving radio host Bill Carroll almost at a loss for words.

Our northern communities deserve representation at the cabinet table and there is a political imperative to provide it whenever possible. There does, however, need to be better matching of the person to the post than seems to have been done with this cabinet appointment.

Sadly I find myself agreeing with Bill Carroll’s assessment, which went something like: if this is our health minister with a major flu epidemic on the way, we’re in big trouble. I think that’s a fair paraphrasing of his comment.

Ms. Aglukkaq needs to be less concerned with knee-jerk political correctness and more concerned with straightforward delivery of explanations of her ministry’s policies and practices.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hidden agendas?

For months, Michael Ignatieff has seemed most reluctant to tell us what his party would do if elected. Either he has no better ideas or perhaps he’s worried the Tories will copy his policies if he divulges them. We sometimes hear that it’s not the job of the Grits to help the Tories govern the country. In my view, this keep-the-public-in-the-dark policy is a flawed tactic that is sure to backfire.

Time and again polls show Mr. Ignatieff behind PM Stephen Harper in terms of leadership. The vacuum formed by a lack of knowledge on where he really stands on various policies and what he would do to correct what he claims are Tory inadequacies has given the Conservatives an opportunity to define Mr. Ignatieff in their own terms—and the Canadian public seems to be buying the Tory spin.

The Conservatives did a brilliant job of defining the previous chief Grit Stéphane Dion in unflattering terms, and it cost the Liberals an election and several seats in the House. The Grits apparently have not learned a thing from that. The longer Michael Ignatieff shies away from issuing detailed policy statements, especially on his plans to revive the economy, the more elusive will be his chance of ever realizing his dream of becoming the prime minister.

And, of course, there is always the prospect that the Liberals plan to take actions they know will be very unpopular with Canadians—raise income taxes and the GST to eliminate the deficit, for example. Or introduce the carbon taxes they promised during the last federal campaign. Perhaps they plan to eliminate the deficit by reducing transfers to the provinces for health care and other provincial services like they did when Paul Martin was finance minister—causing billions in provincial budget shortfalls to be made up by increased taxes at that level. Why not, they did it the last time they inherited a deficit.

There is also the possibility that the prospect of gaining power will be too tempting for Mr. Ignatieff to resist a formal coalition with the NDP, a long-held dream of senior Grit, Bob Re, and several others in the Liberal caucus—you know: unite the left and all that.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dippers flip-flop

After watching the NDP do another of their flip-flops while at the same time claiming consistency, one has to smile. Jack Layton and Dippers like  Andrea Calver on the Michael Coren Show like to say that the NDP has been consistent in doing what it was sent to Ottawa to do: work with other parties to make parliament work.

How convenient for the Dippers that they blithely ignore Mr. Layton’s mean-spirited rhetoric of last fall and through most of the early winter when he denounced everything the Tories did and said, and tried his best to demonize the prime minister.

Now, instead of the promise of a seat at the Stéphane Dion/Michael Ignatieff cabinet table, the head Dipper faces the prospect of an expensive election and the loss of a precious few seats to the Grits in a fall election if he continues to condemn Stephen Harper and his party at every turn. It may, however, already be too late for Mr. Layton to squeeze some face-saving concession out of the PM.

In today’s Globe and Mail we read:

“We’re not cutting any deals with anybody,” said the Prime Minister’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas. “[This] is not about deal-making and backroom negotiations.”

Not good news for the socialists. Mr. Layton is now left to sift through recent government announcements to find anything he might cling to as a reason to support the government and, in his words, “stop the march toward a fall election.”

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Video of Bryant-Sheppard Incident

The recent incident involving former attorney general Michael Bryant in his car and the late Darcy Allan Sheppard on his bicycle has become somewhat of a class conflict. Those of my friends who are well-heeled seem to instinctively defend Bryant’s actions as understandable under the circumstances. Others in more average circumstances seem to have more sympathy for the unfortunate Sheppard.

My take has always been that there was fault on both sides. Having taken the time to study video footage of the incident released on YouTube, however, I am more of the opinion that Bryant’s actions are inexcusable and likely criminal.

The following video was sent to me accompanied by this message:

“Please take a look at the links below to YouTube videos (surveillance camera footage) showing what happened exactly – at Bay & Bloor in Toronto - between cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard and motorist Michael Bryant. The clips appeared on City TV hours after the accident, yet the media continues to imply Sheppard chased the car down on foot in a rage after a minor collision.

“In the footage, Bryant loses patience after the light turns green - first uses the car to intimidate Sheppard. Then strikes him and pushes him ten feet. Bryant then puts it in Reverse then Drive and guns it past Sheppard. As the cyclist struggles to get up, he grabs the passing car mirror to try to keep the car at the scene.”

The video is of poor quality, but there is a larger version on YouTube if you prefer. Take a look and decide for yourselves.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Propped up by socialists and separatists

The Stephen Harper Conservatives could very well find themselves propped up by socialists and separatists whether the prime minister likes it or not. Apparently, federal NDP leader Jack Layton told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that an election is not inevitable and that there’s still time for the prime minister to do the right thing, which is to work with other parties (read NDP) on the issues that are facing Canadians in this recession. In other words, throw us a bone and we’ll play along.

Also, The Gazette speculates today that the Bloc may also prop up the Tories. Nothing like the prospects of a fall election to concentrate the mind of those whose pensions require them to spend more time in the House.

As Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe put it, “… I hope that Harper will realize that it’s not because you can’t do everything you want to do that you should do nothing.”

These two opposition parties have been given a free ride to suck and blow at the same time for the past couple of years as first Stéphane Dion then Michael Ignatieff shouldered the load of keeping the Tories in office during periods when none of the parties wanted to go to the polls. Now that Ignatieff seems to have found some backbone and is threatening to vote no confidence in the government, both the NDP and the Bloc will have to climb down from their high horses and make some hard decisions and possible pay a price at the polls when we inevitably have the next federal election.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Realpolitik vs basic human decency

The UK’s Daily Telegraph reports that an SAS team of up to 14 men have been training Libyan special forces in counter-terrorism techniques. The paper quotes an SAS source which suggests a possible link between this training program and the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

The British Ministry of Defence does not comment on the activities of their special forces, and neither confirmed nor denied the Telegraph’s report. And, as one might expect, a British Foreign Office spokesman said the suggestion of such a link was untrue. The Foreign Office, however, apparently admitted that there is ongoing defence co-operation between Britain and Libya.

Given that Tripoli supplied the IRA with explosives and weaponry during the Northern Ireland Troubles and is generally considered to be responsible for the downing of a civilian airliner over Scotland with the loss of 270 lives, can this report be accurate? If it is, I really have to question the judgment of the current rulers of Britain. Don’t morality and principles play any role in British foreign policy, or is it all Realpolitik?

I like to think of myself as a pragmatist, but I’d really would have to have held my nose to have made an agreement like the one the British apparently made with Libya. The memories of the carnage during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the terrible human toll when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie are too fresh for me to consider joint ventures with a country that played such sinister roles in those tragedies.

The SAS is arguably the most deadly fighting force on the planet. It makes me cringe to think they are making the Libyan military any more effective than they already are.

So much for the vaunted British fair play.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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A Coalition if Necessary

The Prime Minister seems to have hit a Grit nerve earlier this week when he suggested that if his Conservatives did not get a majority in the next election the Michael Ignatieff-led Grits could end up governing in a coalition with the socialists and separatists. Mr. Ignatieff was quick to respond with:

“Let me be very clear. The Liberal party would not agree to a coalition. In January, we did not support a coalition. And we do not support a coalition today or tomorrow.”

But Mr Ignatieff did support a coalition with the socialists propped up by the separatists last fall, both before and after becoming leader of the Liberal Party. His support may have been rather tepid and somewhat reluctantly given, but it was clearly there.

And of course Mr. Ignatieff will once again accept the support of the socialists and separatists if it guaranteed that he could form a government—it is disingenuous to say otherwise. The arrangement would not have to be a formal coalition, but the effect would be the same.

Given what we see in recent polls, neither Stephen Harper nor Michael Ignatieff are likely to win a majority in a fall election, so if the Grits force one and hope to govern, they’ll have to do so while being propped up by the Dippers and the separatists.

This isn’t a scare tactic, as Mr. Ignatieff would have us believe, it’s a dose of reality based on common sense.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Are you a cannibal if you eat yourself?

In a rather stunning decision, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is an unconstitutional violation of the Charter right to free expression because of its penalty provisions. The decision released this morning by Tribunal chair, Athanasios Hadjis, seems rather like eating one’s young or perhaps like eating oneself.

How many Canadians have been harassed by human rights commissions as they pursued those accused of speech likely to expose identifiable groups to hatred or contempt? Now the chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission finds the very law under which they operated to be unconstitutional. Funny old world, eh?

I used to call for PM Stephen Harper’s government to disband these out-of-control commissions and tribunals, but perhaps we should just wait until they self-destruct.

I wonder what arch supporters of Sec. 13, Jennifer Lynch and Warren Kinsella, will make of this bizarre development?

You can read more here at the National Post.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Former attorney general, Michael Bryant, involved in dearly incident with cyclist

The former attorney general, Michael Bryant, who recently stepped down as MPP for St. Paul’s to take an appointment with the City of Toronto, was involved in a deadly incident with a bicyclist on Bloor Street in downtown Toronto. The altercation on Monday night ended after the 33-year-old cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, sustained severe injuries—he died later at the hospital.

There were dozens of eyewitnesses and several surveillance cameras recorded the incident so the courts should be able to apportion fault without speculation on my part.

It would seem clear, however, that neither man is blameless. The cyclist, who had apparently been drinking, set in motion a series of events that were a consequence of his questionable behaviour. No one should have to pay with his life for thoughtless behavior, but it happens all the time. If you chase a car down and grab onto it while it’s moving, odds are you are going to get hurt, and you have only yourself to blame.

As for the driver, Mr. Bryant, what could have possessed him to continue to drive with someone hanging onto his car? Surely he should have stopped the car. This did not happen late at night on a lonely stretch of road when he might have feared for his and his wife’s safety; it occurred at around 9:45 p.m. in the vicinity of Bloor and Bay Streets within sight of dozens of pedestrians and construction workers laying pipe nearby. At best, this would seem to be poor judgment exercised by Mr. Bryant—fatally poor judgment—and he’ll  have to face the consequences in court.

Premier Dalton McGuinty will now have to decide on how best to handle the prosecution of Bryant who as recently as 2007 oversaw the province’s justice system. Bryant apparently has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, but was released without a bail hearing. He is to appear in court Oct. 19.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bad Couple of Days for Dalton McGuinty

Responding to the latest news of expense account violations by a government corporation, today Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced new fiscal directives for provincial bodies, saying to leaders of the province’s boards, agencies and commissions: “If you fail to abide by the rules, there will be consequences.”

The latest scandal involves the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.  Its president and CEO have been fired and the six-member board has resigned over improper expense claims by senior executives for things like expensive dinners, $7.70 pen refills and $1.12 cloth grocery bags.

So careless of internal controls and apparently financially inept are the province’s more than 600 arm’s-length bodies that they now will be subject to strict new measures and will no longer have final approval over their own expenses.

How pathetic is that? These organizations have dozens of highly paid finance staff yet are apparently unable to control themselves.

Isn’t this just another example why governments should not be involved in anything but the most basic services? When they become involved, corruption and pure incompetence seem to flourish. At least with private enterprise, taxpayers usually do not have to pay for their incompetence.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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