Friday, May 25, 2012

Elizabeth May says she was repeat EI user


Iam not at all surprised to read that Green Party leader Elizabeth May says she was a repeat EI user. May seems to me to be just the sort of person who has an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

“When I needed it, I used it,” May says of the federal Employment Insurance program.

Apparently, she worked for her parents in the tourism industry from 1974 to 1983, and when the business shut down annually between Thanksgiving and the following Victoria Day weekend, May said she sometimes collected EI.

May did what many who work in seasonal industries have done for generations in Canada, and apparently, it is a fairly common practice in the Atlantic provinces.

But is this right? Should seasonal workers pay 1.83 per cent of earnings from the end of May to mid-October then collect 55 per cent of their average insurable weekly earnings for a period ranging from 14 to 45 weeks? And do this repeatedly, year after year?

I say no they should not.

It is a reasonable thing to have a national employment insurance program—backstopped by tax dollars—to protect Canadians when they lose their jobs; it is quite another to use that program to subsidize year-round employment for healthy, able bodied workers—even those who are not trying to find employment.

We may have done this sort of thing in the past for political reasons, but that does not make it the right thing to do. Most Canadians work very hard and pay a significant portion of their earnings in tax. Why should these tax dollars be paid out to those who chose to repeatedly work only part of a year and sit on their duffs for the rest?

Perhaps Elizabeth May sees some sort of justice in that, but I do not.

Picture credit: clip from the National Post
© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Three reasons why Mulcair not fit to be prime minister


Thomas Mulcair lacks the basic prerequisites for being a successful Canadian prime minister: he’s ambivalent about being a Canadian, he lacks a fundamental knowledge of economics and he’s devoid of personal political values and beliefs.

Let’s begin with the NDP leader’s ambivalence regarding his Canadian citizenship. Why does any Canadian need dual citizenship? Canada is the greatest country on earth by almost any measure, so what part of being Canadian needs augmenting with French citizenship.

It’s one thing to have been born in another country and thereby hold a foreign citizenship by birthright; it is quite another for Mulcair, born in Ottawa, to seek it out. On this issue, Mulcair’s former boss, Jack Layton, had this to say in 2006:

I would prefer that a leader of a party hold only Canadian citizenship, because one represents many Canadians, and for me that means that it’s better to remain the citizen of one country.”

I’m with Layton on this one.

Secondly, there seems little doubt Mulcair lacks a basic understanding of economics. His recent claim that Canada’s economy is suffering from “Dutch disease” is a case in point.

Mulcair’s assertion oversimplifies the issue for many other factors besides oil have contributed to the decline of manufacturing and the rise of the Canadian dollar, starting with the rise of China and other Eastern economies and the eroding U.S. dollar in recent years.

Furthermore, since it lowers the costs of imported machinery and other inputs, a higher dollar can even be seen as being good for Canadian manufacturers. Moreover, manufacturing has suffered much the same fate on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border, suggesting the NDP leader’s assessment of Ontario’s economic mess misses its mark.

Thirdly, let’s consider the man’s personal political values and beliefs, or rather, his lack of same.

Mulcair sat in the cabinet of Liberal premier Jean Charest who had formerly been the leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives. Mulcair chose to resign from Charest’s cabinet not because of he had changed his political values or beliefs, but rather because he was demoted. And before joining the socialist in Ottawa, he would have joined the Conservatives had they agreed to his demands for a Cabinet seat.

Mulcair denies he had demanded a cabinet seat, but acknowledges that he talked to the Conservatives (and the Liberals and the Greens) before joining Jack Layton’s party. In short, he sought the best deal he could get, not the best ideological fit.

Mulcair is an unprincipled political opportunist: he can go left; he can swing right. It all depends on which way will best suit his personal ambitions.

The thought that such a man might be a future prime minister of Canada is distressing in the extreme.


© 2012 Russell G. Campbell
Picture credit: Clip from the National Post

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bring back the death penalty

The trial involving the murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, not unexpectedly, has reopened the debate  over use of the death penalty in Canada.

In January, the Toronto Star published the results of an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll that showed a majority (61%) of Canadians believed capital punishment is warranted for murder. I’m one of them.

Also, a 2011 Abacus Data survey found that two-thirds of Canadians said they support the death penalty in certain circumstances. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he believes capital punishment is sometimes “appropriate.”

For me it is both a common sense issue and a question of basic justice. Why burden society with the cost of “warehousing” brutal killers like Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka, Robert Pickton and those who perpetrated the infamous Shafia Murders? And surely the nature of their crimes justifies the forfeiture of these monsters own lives.

Many discount the use of the death penalty because they do not believe it acts as a deterrent. Well, I’m not looking for a deterrent in cases of first degree murder, I’m looking for a punishment and a way of ridding society of these blots on the human race. If the death penalty can do that—and I’m convinced it can—then I’m all for it.

The one argument against capital punishment I find persuasive is the finality of the death penalty. Since we began using DNA in solving crimes, we’ve seen several murder convictions reversed, something that, obviously, could not have happened if those convicted in error had been hanged. I think, however, we could reserve capital punishment for the clear-cut cases with little or no chance of error.

Moreover, think of the victims of those horrible crimes. Have they no right to justice? And what punishment best suits the crime of murder if not the death penalty?

Capital punishment may not be a perfect way for society to respond to the crime of murder, but it is the most just way I know of.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What’s prompted the Grits’ campaign against F-35?


The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s 5th Generation fighter, is the best warplane available to Canada as a replacement for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornets.

I know this because the F-35 beat out rivals—Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet—as the fighter of choice of Canada (under a Liberal government), the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Holland and several other allies.

So convinced was Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government that the F-35 was the right fighter for us, it signed-up Canada as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) Program in 1997 and made us a Tier 3 partner in 2002, a decade before the current Tory government confirmed its commitment to the warplane.

Yet we see the Liberal leader Bob Rae agitating for an open competition to replace our CF-18s, even though his predecessor, Jean Chrétien, showed no sign of ever intending to take such a step once he had signed on to the F-35 program.

So why such an about turn? Well, some assume the Grits want to give Boeing’s F-18E/F Super Hornet yet another kick at the can. Though, as Mathew Fisher points out in the National Post, the “Super Hornet was never considered by the U.S. or the eight countries in the Joint Strike Fighter consortium [including Canada] because it was based on old technologies. It also lost out to the F-35 in a Japanese competition.”

Why the Grits favour Boeing is anybody’s guess. It certainly isn’t that company’s superior technology.

The Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet is based on technologies developed in the 1970s, though it must be said, with a considerable number of updates. They are very formidable weapon systems and are a good fit for Canada’s current needs. Both the Royal Australian Air Force and the U.S. Navy have placed small orders recently for Super Hornets to fill gaps caused by delays in the development of the F-35.

Neither of these purchases, however, can be seen as a move to use the Super Hornets as a replacement for those nations’ F-35 commitment. The Grits pretend this is the case, but it just is not so.

And why would they be? Would any responsible government do so when the F-35 or replacement would be expected to be in operation for 20 to 30 years from now? Can you imagine a Canadian government sending our pilots off to do battle in 2025 in a warplane based on technologies developed in 1975? Well, actually, I can, but it would be akin to a criminal act.

Boeing has already lost out twice to Lockheed Martin’s F-35, so what’s it offering now that it didn’t when Jean Chrétien’s Liberals rejected its bid in the form of its X-32 multi-purpose jet fighter in favour of Lockheed Martin’s X-35 demonstrator, which was developed into the F-35 Lightning II? Nothing so far as I can tell.

But the Grits stubbornly insist Boeing be given yet another opportunity to compete against the F-35. Why is anybody’s guess.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Monday, May 7, 2012

Black’s back and I welcome his return


The return of Conrad Black (pictured) to his native Canada has been met with much criticism, mainly by those on the political left. The fact that Black renounced his Canadian citizenship sticks in the craw of many of us, but for many others it’s the fact he is a rich—some say arrogant and rich—man who came a cropper with the law and for whom no punishment is too great.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair thought blocking Black’s entry to Canada was important enough to raise the issue in the House of Commons.

Perhaps those folks don’t actually hate Conrad Black, but only seem to. Most have never actually met the man, but dislike him intensely nevertheless and want the government to bar him from the country.

His turning his back on Canada for something as silly as a British peerage did bother me quite a bit at the time, but there was an extenuating circumstance: Jean Chrétien. The former prime minister, out of pure cussedness, had blocked Black’s request to accept the peerage.

Anyway, Black has now decided to return to Canada, and I believe we should welcome him home. After all, he has served his prison-time, his wife and children are Canadian, he owns property here—and presumably pays taxes on it—and, most importantly, he has contributed enough to Canadian society before becoming a Brit to earn him the privilege of living here.

Now, let’s hope the press/media will leave the man and his family alone to carry on their lives in peace. Camping out at his residence seems pretty tacky stuff to me—there must be better ways for journalists to earn a living.

(Photograph credit: Ottawa Citizen, National Post)

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell


Thursday, May 3, 2012

China’s military “awakening” is bad news for its neighbours

The former sleeping giant, People’s Republic of China, is laying down more markers in the South China Sea. This time it’s the Scarborough Shoal, which is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognised by international law.

China claims the entire South China Sea as its territory, even up to the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Pretty tough stuff, but for China, might is right and nations like the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, are helpless against the growing military might of China.

Over a dozen Chinese vessels are in the disputed waters, some taking giant clams and corals protected under Philippine law. The flotilla includes vessels from China’s growing navy.

China’s dispute with the Philippines over what amounts to sandbars is but one element in a broader set of complex and misunderstood disputes over who owns what in the strategic region.

And the stakes are high.

Besides fisheries, the South China Sea is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Moreover, the sea is a vital shipping route, with an enormous percentage of world trade travelling through and over it, making it of vital self-interest to powerful trading nations like the United States.

There have been no serious armed incidents since 1988, when China and Vietnam clashed near the Spratly Islands—a collection of more than 750 reefs, rocks and tiny islands—in an incident known as the Johnson South Reef Skirmish. Vietnamese troops were killed so this was not mere posturing on the part of China. There have also been other, less serious, incidents.

China is asserting itself militarily and has shown it will not shy away from shedding blood. China refuses to negotiate the myriad South China Sea disputes multilaterally and appears to prefer picking off its neighbours individually. First there was Vietnam. Now, as that relationship seems to have settled down, the giant begins the process of bullying the Philippines. Whose next?

Almost one year ago, Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned the Chinese defense minister of a possible arms race in the region if tensions worsened over disputes in the South China Sea.

Well, tensions have worsened.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Akin explains why “bank bailout” claim is pure propaganda

The recent conspiracy theory floated by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) “is all hooey” says Sun News host and columnist David Akin. The CCPA is a left-wing research organization, which was founded with financial support from trade unions, recently issued a report claiming our chartered banks got secret bailouts worth $114 billion during the 2008 recession.

Akin categorically refutes the false premise saying:

There was no bailout of our banks. The government did, in 2008, set aside $200 billion to help all Canadian businesses and households hit by the global credit crunch and banks were the tool the government used to help us all out.”

Akin adds that “Taxpayer money was never at risk of being lost and, in fact, taxpayers are making a tidy profit with the credit crunch assistance program.”

He also notes that the deal was hardly a secret since it was announced during the 2008 federal election campaign, and that “Parliament has since voted on these deals in at least two federal budgets.”

All this with our largest-circulation newspapers covering the details.

I heard about the program at the time and remember NDP pundits commenting on it. So much for secrecy.


This is not, by any definition of the word, a bailout. A bailout implies Canada’s banks, like banks in Europe, the U.S., or like GM and Chrysler, were about to go under without federal cash. Not true.

– David Akin

The trade union movement is following an agenda in Canada that could be considered dangerously anti-democratic. It is providing support to direct action groups like the Occupy movement and the striking students in Quebec, both of which are trying to execute an end-run around democratically elected governments and use civil disobedience tactics to gain political ends.

Now we see a trade union research organization generating a disingenuous and mischievous report, which amounts to political propaganda, apparently, intended to whip up the Occupy movement on May Day and give them something around which that intellectually bankrupt crowd can rally.

Thanks to David Akin for setting the record straight.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

Bob Rae to step down?

Rob Rae
Bob Rae in 2011 | Picture credit: The Globe and Mail / The Canadian Press

The National Post reported earlier this week that “Bob Rae is expected to step down as interim Liberal leader in late June to make a run for the party’s permanent leadership.” While Rae has not officially announced this, it is, apparently, a generally held belief within Liberal party circles.

Having shown his skills on the floor of parliament for the better part of a year, Rae will be a credible candidate for the job of permanent leader, notwithstanding the fact his party rebuffed his attempt to become leader in 2006 in favour Stéphane Dion and again in 2008 after Dion resigned.

True, in 2008 Rae stepped aside to give Michael Ignatieff a clear shot at the top job, but it could, at least in part, be seen as a rejection of Rae. He was clearly vying for the party’s leadership when the inner circle chose Ignatieff.

When Bob Rae took the job as interim leader last year, he did agree not to pursue the permanent leadership, but the party executive is expected to release him from that pledge very soon.

Some in the party, however, will be put off by what they will see as Rae going back on his word. It is unlikely, though, that those folks would have supported him anyway: core Rae supporters want his as leader, political warts and all; core dissenters want no part of the ex-New Democrat as leader regardless of how skilled he might be.

I’m not a fan of Rae’s, but then I don’t have a vote. He just could be, though, the best bet to head up the third-place party for the next five years or so.

If Rae could pilot the Grits through a strong showing in the next general election, the talent pool for leader could become a lot deeper as prospects would see some chance of becoming prime minister.

Until then, the Grits will have to settle for a group of potential candidates who have shown no exceptional ability, at least, so far as I can see.

The three who have shown the most interest in the job are, Rae himself, Marc Garneau and David McGuinty. Other potential candidates include Dominic Leblanc and Justin Trudeau. I’ve also seen mentioned Mark Holland, Martha Hall Findlay, Gerard Kennedy and Martin Cauchon, but except, possibly, for Cauchon, I don’t see any of these as front runners.

In fact, I don’t see any of these individuals beating Rae in an open race.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell