Monday, March 31, 2014

Hudak is sticking to his guns but is mud sticking to Wynne?

Tim Hudak is sticking to his charge that Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne was running the show at Queen’s Park during the period when Dalton McGuinty’s then chief of staff, David Livingston, had 24 computer hard drives in the premier’s office wiped clean.

According to media reports, a search warrant request—which came from the OPP investigating deleted e-mails related to the $1.1-billion scandal over power plants cancelled during the last general election—specifies that David Livingston arranged for the boyfriend of a deputy chief of staff to have access to computers in the premier’s office.

Although the incident reportedly occurred during the transition to Wynne’s government and before she was sworn in as premier, Wynne had already become leader of the Liberal party. And, according to media reports, Tim Hudak claims the search warrant request shows the boyfriend of the senior staffer had administrator access to the hard drives after Wynne become Ontario premier-designate.

Moreover, Hudak says Wynne was acting like she was premier, holding meetings and directing government officials, during that period. And he says he is “absolutely not” retracting his accusations in the face of the premier’s open letter in which she calls his allegations “false, misleading and defamatory.”

I find it curious that Kathleen Wynne gets away with so little criticism from Liberal sources for not being in the know about what went on in the premier’s office while she was their party’s leader, when they expected PM Stephen Harper to know every last detail of what went on in his PMO during the Michael Wright-Mike Duffy affair.

In the Westminster parliamentary system of government, we have a convention known as “Individual ministerial responsibility” whereby cabinet ministers bear ultimate personal responsibility for actions of their ministry. Nowadays, though, this convention is observed only in the most egregious cases. Most of the time, a minister just takes responsibility, sometimes apologizes, promises to take steps to ensure it’ll never happen again and then carries on as if the incident had never occurred, i.e., no resignation.

On the one hand, I do not believe that government ministers should be expected to resign because a staffer or public servant has acted badly or has been shown to be grossly incompetent—it doesn’t happen in business or other institutions, or at least it seldom does.

On the other hand, ministers should not be allowed to avoid any responsibility by simply claiming they didn’t know what was going on. This is especially so when staffers’ behaviour rises to the level of criminal activity. Someone has to accept responsibility. And in this case it’s either Dalton McGuinty or Kathleen Wynne.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, “The [search] warrant says police believe information on the drives will yield evidence Livingston committed breach of trust in obtaining the access.” The breach of trust allegation is supported by this excerpt from the same article: “Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian undertook her own probe and wrote a scathing report on ‘routine deletion of emails’ contrary to the Archives and Recordkeeping Act.”

This is serious business, though, none of the allegations have been proven in a court of law. So surely the public is owed something more than the premier’s claim that she was not “personally” aware or involved in the alleged actions. After all, for her to be responsible, she had only to have been the leader—and if not her, then Dalton McGuinty.

Instead of threatening the opposition with lawsuits, why isn’t she calling out her predecessor? As I said earlier, someone has to be held accountable for what the Information and Privacy Commissioner has said was a contravention of the Archives and Recordkeeping Act. Or, is the Act in question of little or no consequence, to be ignored without fear of penalty or other negative consequence?

Moreover, if the act in question is of little or no consequence, then it is incumbent on (in a moral sense, at least) the premier to tell us so. Now, I realize Premier Wynne is the darling of the Toronto elites and intelligentsia, but surely not even she should be allowed to duck accountability for wrongdoing in the premier’s office without naming explicitly who she believes is accountable. If not her, who?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Has Pauline Marois squandered her golden opportunity?

The leader of Quebec’s Parti Québécois seems to be watching her attempt to build a “big tent” independence party fade away—at least, to one who accepts the results of recent public opinion polls.

Pauline Marois, apparently, assumed her coalition party would sweep to a majority victory and ride that wave of support straight through a referendum and on to Quebec’s independence. Polls suggest, however, that belief is less likely now to materialize for the coalition seems to be coming apart at its fault lines.

Broadly seen as a party of the Left, Marois’s Parti Québécois made a bid for votes from the Right by using the proposed Charter of Quebec Values to pander to the province’s anxieties over its identity.

That left their economic flank exposed to attack from Philippe Couillard’s Liberals, however. So they recruited Pierre Karl Péladeau, in what Andrew Coyne calls “a bid to bolster the party’s credibility with economic conservatives (conservative, relative to the Quebec political spectrum, which is to say slightly less interventionist than the other interventionists).”

Péladeau’s recruitment, though, was not without cost to the coalition. The influential left-wing of the PQ were not universally welcoming of this media baron and arch-capitalist. As former Liberal leader Bob Rae wrote recently, “For a Quebec public servant or trade unionist to vote for Mr. Péladeau is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”

Notwithstanding Péladeau’s well publicized anti-union actions and views, the man was widely considered a trump card to be played in favour of Quebec sovereignty. But perhaps Marois played that card too hastily.

Pierre Karl Péladeau’s fist-pumping as he declared he’d joined the PQ to create a country for his children, and Marois’s public musing about independence—Quebec using the Canadian dollar and retaining open borders, while Quebecers continued to hold Canadian passports—conjured up images  of a referendum. Sovereignty hard-liners became excited for many understood her message to be: a vote for the PQ was a vote for a referendum.

PQ talk of sovereignty, though, was just what the Liberal leader, Philippe Couillard needed to ignite his own campaign. This, in turn, forced Marois to retreat to her original party plank, the Charter of Quebec Values. Vagueness became her smokescreen as she drew back from a commitment to hold a referendum for she could not rule it out conclusively.

During a recent news conference, Marois said, “We will not push Quebecers to take this decision. We will take the time. And when it is time, we will propose something if we are ready and Quebecers are ready.” And she has made similar evasive statements at other times, knowing full well that a categorical denial that a referendum would be held following a majority victory would likely spark a revolt among PQ hard-liners.

That grinding sound you hear, folks, is the rock and the hard place closing in on Pauline Marois. Don’t you just love it?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Diversity & inclusivity a Canadian dichotomy and do they even matter?

The idea that cultural/racial diversity— multiculturalism, if you will—is desirable seems to have lost traction in Quebec, though, it seems to flourish in the rest of Canada—at least, at the official level.

Having said that, I’m reminded of my two years in Quebec in the 1960s, when I was taken aback by the level and frequency of intolerance I encountered. Anti-Semitism was openly expressed to the point it made me squirm at times and outraged me at other times—far exceeding anything I encountered during my years in Toronto. So, perhaps, multiculturalism never did have much traction in Quebec in the first place.

As far as I can tell, social systems in Montreal, Toronto and my town, Burlington, Ontario seem to work well enough. There is no clear indication that a uniform/conforming society is at any disadvantage, nor is there some benchmark—governance perhaps—that tells us a diverse/inclusive society is superior. At least none that I have found.

Quebec’s Charter of Values (Bill 60) offers to affirm “the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests [within the public sector ].” Effectively, the Charter would ban public sector workers from wearing such religious garb as hijabs, turbans or ostentatious crucifixes.

Furthermore, as reported earlier this week by Global News:

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois said that as long as the equality of the sexes is respected, there’s nothing to stop private companies from implementing policies that mirror Quebec’s controversial proposal to enforce public-sector secularism.”

The Charter would apply to government-run institutions, however, some organizations under contract to the province would also have to abide by its provisions.

This is the antithesis of diversity, at least, as far as religious diversity goes. And, since religion and culture—often race too—are hard to separate, it seems certain to discourage cultural/racial diversity over time.

Compounding the issue is this warning in a recent edition of The Montreal Gazette:

Get ready for tougher language laws if the Parti Québécois wins a majority in the next provincial election, the minister responsible for Quebec’s French Language Charter said Monday.”

“A PQ majority government would make it a priority to bring back Bill 14 and to stamp out examples of creeping bilingualism like sales staff who greet customers with “Bonjour-Hi,” she [Diane De Courcy] said … .”

So, an entire province speaking only French, wearing culturally neutral garb and—by all outward signs—belonging to a single religion that we’ll call “secularism,” and governed by a legislature populated by much the same mix—or lack of mix.

How boring is that? On the other hand, what real harm will be done to Quebec society and its social systems?

In contrast to the direction in which our neighbouring province is heading, we have multiculturalism-on-steroids in Toronto existing side-by-side with the nation’s most rapacious cultural melting pot in which first-generation immigrants from around the world are placed to emerge later as second- or third-generation Canadians—speaking with our unique twang, eating maple syrup, drinking Tim Horton’s double-doubles, being overly polite, loving hockey.

But so what? Is life in Toronto more fulfilling than in Montreal or Quebec City; do social systems work better in Toronto? My answer is, no, it seems not to matter so much.

Here in Burlington we’re somewhere on the Montreal-Toronto continuum. We have in recent years become more diverse than ever. Now, about one in five (22%) of our residents were born outside Canada and one in ten belong to a visible minority. Go to a grocery here and you’re going to hear several different accents.

I have noticed that, next to gender, skin-colour seems more and more to be the differentiator when we talk about diversity and inclusiveness. We hear criticisms all the time of TV discussion panels with “all white men” as though that, per se, suggests a lack of diversity, a lack of inclusiveness.

Although most in Burlington have similar skin-colour, we are not necessarily less diverse than those who live elsewhere. As an example, “White” residents from the Caribbean (like me) have little in common, culturally, with neighbours from Poland or Holland, but we are right at home with dark-skinned immigrants from the islands—that is to say, we are already a product of a cultural/racial melting pot.

So we in Burlington are even more diverse than it may seem at first sight and perhaps that helps explain why MoneySense magazine chose Burlington as 2014’s Best Places for New Immigrants. And maybe there’s a lesson here.

Maybe each community needs to choose what works best for it and not worry so much about what others down the road are doing. Maybe we need to make sure we have the best people, the best minds, running the show and not get too exercised over how inclusive or diverse we are.

You’ll notice I’ve avoided the issue of gender diversity. It’s too important to handle here so I’ll address it another day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jim Flaherty out Joe Oliver in

[Update at 11:30 AM: New appointments—Oliver and Rickford—are now official. According to CBC: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at Rideau Hall for the swearing-in, for which no press release was issued.”]

The best federal finance minister since the Liberals’ Paul Martin has resigned. Jim Flaherty, who has served as finance minister since he was elected to the federal riding of Whitby-Oshawa in 2006, resigned his cabinet post on Tuesday.

Flaherty’s term as Canada’s chief financial officer has not been an unambiguous success, however. In Oct. 2006, Flaherty imposed a tax on distributions from income trusts, wiping out more than $20-billion in stock-market value overnight—much of which was owned by ordinary middle-class Canadians.

The move might have been good tax policy, but it came only months following his Conservative Party’s 2006 election campaign promise to avoid ending favourable tax treatment of income trusts, thereby encouraging thousands of ordinary Canadians to invest retirement and other saving funds in such stocks. The callous turnabout ruined the retirement plans of thousands who could ill afford the loss.

Nothing has shaken my faith in the Conservative Party of Canada more than that bait-and-switch election tactic. It is dishonourable that a political party—during and election campaign—would specifically tell its supporters that it’s safe to own a popular investment vehicle, and less than a year later tax away the financial benefits provided by the vehicle. This was a shameful episode and really was unforgivable for the real damage it did to financially vulnerable seniors.

Notwithstanding his broken promise on income trusts, Mr. Flaherty piloted Canada through what PM Harper characterized as our “most challenging economic times since the Great Depression and gaining the country a solid global reputation for economic management.” Here’s a quote from Bloomberg

World leaders have noticed Canada’s economic record in recent years. President Barack Obama once said the U.S. should take note of Canada’s banking system, and Britain’s Treasury chief said Britain looked to emulate the Ottawa way on cutting deficits.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, apparently, intends to   announce Flaherty’s replacement on Wednesday. News reports citing unnamed sources say it’ll be Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver. He’ll be a good choice for he’s likely to provide continuity and stability—just what the financial community would look for.

Oliver, aged 73, does have some Bay Street cred for he is a former investment banker at Merrill Lynch, he once served as executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission and is a former president and chief executive officer of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada.

He has earned an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Civil Law at McGill University. He is also, reportedly, fluently bilingual.

Lucky Joe, he’s set to inherit a balanced budget. Here’s hoping he’ll keep it that way and, perhaps, pay down part of the national debt.

My money had been on Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird or Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism. But the timing might not have been right for either man since they are both pretty busy with critical files these days.

According to CBC News, “Kenora, Ont. MP Greg Rickford is replacing Oliver in the natural resources portfolio. Rickford was minister of state for science and technology, and in the past was parliamentary secretary to the minister of aboriginal affairs.”

We’ll await the PM’s official announcement later today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is hyper-partisan Olivia Chow set to stoke up the engine of Toronto’s gravy train?

The former New Democrat MP Olivia Chow’s campaign is all about spin and appears to be designed to draw out a web of fictional virtues it hopes will cloak—or at least muddy—the real Olivia Chow’s track record.

Her guys seem to be going to great lengths to depict her as a fiscal conservative with middle-class, progressive social values. I suspect, however, the truth is almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

I had expected to see some digging behind the public persona by the “Hard News and Straight Talk” boys over at Sun News Network, and to be fair their website does reprint an earlier piece by Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun, Reinventing history, Olivia Chow-style.

Earlier, though, Sun News had treated us to as absurd a bit of television programming as we are likely to see outside of CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes: Warren Kinsella, who is running the “war room” for Olivia Chow’s mayoralty campaign, interviewing Ms. Chow on air. Can you imagine a more outlandish TV moment than watching a political candidate being interviewed by one of her own spin doctors, and this on a TV channel which touts itself as being all about “Hard News and Straight Talk?” Bizarre!

Then there is Ms. Chow’s, “I learned how to work hard and make every penny count, to save money for rainy days and invest wisely … .”  and her, “I balanced budgets with Mayor Mel Lastman.” bits with which she attempts to give herself some fiscal responsibility cred.

Yes, Ms. Chow was on Mel Lastman’s budget committee when she was a member of Toronto Council, but the balanced budgets she so cheerfully takes credit for would have been balanced with or without her—provincial law requires Toronto to balance its budgets regardless of the personal preference of councillors.

As a close observer at the time, I saw her always as a supporter of a big-spender agenda—a propensity for which seemed to follow her to Ottawa.

While serving as an MP in Ottawa, Ms. Chow and her late husband were labeled by the Toronto Star in 2010 as “The million-dollar power couple” because together they “charged Canadian taxpayers about $1.16-million in MP expenses last year [apparently 2009-2010] for running their offices, living in Ottawa and paying for associated travel costs.” Her expenses alone amounted to $530,304.73 for the year and was over and above the $157,731 salary she was paid as an MP.

Mind you, Ms. Chow has shown a tendency to “milk” the system before when she reportedly lived with her husband from 1985 to 1990 in a federally funded non-profit housing three-bedroom co-op apartment, paying $800-a-month for a market-value unit in the complex, while Jack and she were making respectively $61,000 and $47,000 a year (one-third tax free), pretty good money in the ‘80s.

While the couple’s occupancy of a market-value unit did not, apparently, affect the availability of low-income units in their co-op, every unit in federally funded co-ops is, to some extent at least, subsidized by taxpayer money. And they apparently recognized this when, in early 1990, they started paying $325 more per month so that their rent was closer to that charged in the private sector. Public pressure finally forced them out in mid-1990.

Watching her introduction to mayoral politics, I get the impression Ms. Chow’s handlers and spin doctors would like us to believe she’s keen on children, families and family values. The Toronto Star reports that, at the launch of her official campaign, she said Rob Ford has been “failing at his job, and he is no role model for my [Chow’s] granddaughters. We deserve better.” By this I infer she’s telling us she’d be a better role model than Rob Ford.

Rob Ford? He’s not a positive role model by any measure, and anyone else in the mayoral race would be an improvement. It’s a clever move of hers, though, to set the bar so low, as she’s not much of a role model herself.

According to a recent story, “Olivia Chow says she smoked pot ‘a little bit’ when she was younger, including in her early days as a Toronto school-board trustee in the mid to late 1980s.” This is what I mean, in part, when I say she’s is out of touch with voters in the suburbs.

Maybe politicians who break the law are acceptable in downtown Toronto—they are much more sophisticated and enlightened there—but many in the suburbs will be less impressed with a school-board trustee who smokes pot.

I also remember when in 2000, while she served as a member of Toronto’s City Council with a seat on the Police Services Board, Ms. Chow attended a violent clash between  John Clarke’s Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)—a riot really—at Queen’s Park and told the police to back off.

She was later forced to resign from the Police Services Board for overstepping her authority. According to a Toronto Star report, the then Toronto councillor chanted repeatedly, “Revolution breeds confrontation,” whatever that means. Yes, she’s as radical a socialist as they come, or so it seems to me.

What sort of example has Olivia Chow really set for law-abiding citizens? What sort  of role model has she been for impressionable children? She seems to me to be little more than a zealous leftist like so many in her political party.

Moreover, Ms. Chow is anything but fiscally responsible. If elected, this NDP hyper-partisan is more likely to stoke up the engine of David Miller’s old gravy train and run it full steam ahead.

Hang on Toronto and GTA taxpayers!

Monday, March 17, 2014

How will Olivia Chow’s socialist record and hyper-partisanship help Torontonians?

I just don't get Olivia Chow’s appeal to Toronto’s voters. An opinion poll done by Forum Research in late February showed Ms. Chow—who had not yet officially entered the race—tied at 31 per cent with Mayor Rob Ford and 4 points ahead of John Tory.

The Toronto Star reports even more encouraging news for the former New Democrat MP. It reports that, in a poll conducted the day of her official campaign launch event, Ms. Chow had the support of 36 per cent of respondents, while incumbent Rob Ford had 28 per cent and John Tory was third with 22 per cent.

Those three frontrunners hold wide enough leads over Karen Stintz at 5 per cent and David Soknacki at 2 per cent that we may as well count them out right from the start.

Both Ms. Chow and Mayor Ford seem to have core support in the 30-35 per cent range, but Ford’s support seems to have little up-side—he has exceeded 31 per cent support only once since admitting to smoking crack cocaine. Olivia Chow, on the other hand, has led in most polls over the past several months with support hovering in the mid-30s.

Ms. Chow’s support seems centred in the downtown neighbourhoods of Toronto that traditionally vote for the NDP. I doubt she’ll show nearly as well, though, in the suburbs where many middle-class voters will be much harder to convince to vote for her as mayor, seeing her, as they do, as a potential return to the city’s free-spending days under fellow Dipper and former mayor David Miller.

Personally, I believe Olivia Chow is out of touch with voters in the suburbs. I see her as cast in the same mould as Barbara Hall, except Chow’s, proven to be more hyper-partisan, who will see her election as a victory for public service labour unions and an opportunity for more social engineering and giveaways.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A vote for the Parti Québécois is a vote to break up Canada

The sovereignty movement in Quebec has two political wings, the provincial Parti Québécois and the federal Bloc Québécois. As I see it, a vote for either is a vote for Quebec sovereignty and a vote to break up Canada.

I know many will disagree, pointing out that Quebecers who have voted for sovereigntist parties are not necessarily sovereigntists, but just voters who want what they believe is the best governance for their province—and get the best deal from Ottawa—while remaining in the federation.

Well, sovereigntists or not, such voters further the aims of the sovereignist/separatist movement.

Federally, their votes have added to the coffers of the Bloc Québécois for years (through the old federal vote subsidy program) and has given that separatist party a national platform from which to broadcast its anti-Canada propaganda.

Provincially, voter support emboldens the sovereigntists, providing “fuel” to power their movement, and will almost certainly lead to another referendum with its attendant turmoil and uncertainty.

A vote for a party that has as its raison d'être the breakup of Canada is equivalent to thumbing ones nose at the rest of Canadians—an outward show of disrespect that’s not lost on those living outside the province of Quebec.

Additionally, the rhetoric we’re hearing from Quebec in the early stages of its general election leaves little doubt PQ Leader Pauline Marois intends to call another sovereignty referendum should her party win a majority.

Marois’s musings on the issue and media baron Pierre Karl Péladeau emergence as a separatist PQ candidate while declaring his eagerness to achieve Quebec independence reinforces my view. Sovereignty seeps from every pore of that woman’s body.

Quebec voters, however, cannot continue to feed Marois’s fantasy and not expect to suffer unpleasant consequences. Sooner or later Canadians will call them on their folly.

In the wake of a PQ majority win, there may very well be strong pressure from the federal and other provincial governments—along with separatist hardliners—to hold an early referendum to end what would probably be a period of fear and uncertainty. How would Canadians feel about a new PQ government bargaining over equalization and other transfer payments with a referendum hanging over their heads?

In other words, a vote for Marois’s party will lead directly to a referendum and following which perhaps Quebecers will be seeing the rest of us form the outside looking in, for Quebecers should not expect Canadians to converge on the province to tell Quebecers how much they want them to stay in Canada.

This time around, I think the prevailing sentiment outside Quebec will be: Decide now then let’s get on with it—whatever “it” is—or shut up for the next generation, at least. Enough is enough!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chow declares her candidacy; let the games begin

The Canadian Press is reporting that Olivia Chow resigned her seat in Parliament earlier today and is expected to formally launch her bid on Thursday to become the next mayor of Toronto.

Well-know as the New Democrat MP for Trinity-Spadina, a riding in downtown Toronto, Chow will launch her new campaign tomorrow in Toronto’s St. James Town, the neighbourhood of her youth.

Chow was once a Toronto councillor, having been elected to Toronto’s Council in 1991. She was re-elected five times before leaving to win her federal seat in 2006. The former MP’s decision ends months of speculation.

No doubt Olivia Chow will be a front-runner in what has become a somewhat crowded field, which includes the incumbent, though controversial, Mayor Rob Ford and radio talk-show host and former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, John Tory. City councillor Karen Stintz is also running, along with long-shots Adam Vaughan, Denzil Minnan-Wong and David Soknacki.

I’ve read that Chow’s campaign will be headed by John Laschinger, and her war room is expected to be led by Toronto Sun columnist and author Warren Kinsella.

Laschinger—described by the Globe and Mail as “Toronto's most sought-after campaign manager”—is a veteran strategist who led campaigns for Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris, and was the man behind David Miller’s campaigns, or so I have read.

Warren Kinsella is, of course, the well-known Liberal pundit and blogger conservatives so love to “hate.” But didn’t he support Chow’s rival John Tory in 2010 when speculation was rife that Tory would run? In a article in Aug. 2010, Kinsella is quoted as saying that John Tory is “the best mayor we never had.” Kinsella sure doesn’t have much good to say about Tory this time around.

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Consider that Tom Allison—described by the Globe and Mail as “the organizational mastermind behind Kathleen Wynne’s stunning leadership victory last year”—left the Ontario premier’s office to head up John Tory’s campaign.

These professional strategists and pundits are like hired guns, I guess, and go where they can make the largest contribution in any given campaign—regardless of party affiliation or Left/Right leanings of their candidates.

I’ve no real problem with that, except that I do find it odd when an especially rabid partisan works on another tribe’s campaign. Doesn’t it make you wonder how sincere campaigns are?

I understand Liberals working for New Democrats—they are pretty closely aligned anyway. But a Liberal developing strategy and policy for a conservative; a conservative doing likewise for a New Democrat? How does that work?

An interesting choice Toronto’s voters will be presented with in October. They get to select a mayor from: a right-wing incumbent who self-describes as smoking crack cocaine “in a drunken stupor;” a socialist who offers name recognition and not much more; or a charming fellow who couldn’t win a safe PC seat in the Ontario legislature.

I’m sure those big-shot Toronto city slickers know what they’re doing. I guess they’re just too sophisticated for us small town fellows to fathom.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, don’t “send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee”

It seems to me that any country that was part of the former Soviet Union and has a recognizable Russian population needs be worried for the Russians are coming.

It isn’t any wonder that angst is spreading across the Baltics as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania worry about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current adventure in Crimea.

Russian brinkmanship is, of course, nothing new. The brief Georgian war in 2008 set a precedent—and a lesson from which most Western democracies seemed to have learned little in the intervening years. Not so with the Baltics, however, for they have experienced Russian aggression.

Like Ukraine, the Baltics have a large Russian minority. About a quarter of the population in Latvia and Estonia consider themselves Russian, though, in Lithuania, only about 6 per cent do. So, given the size of the Russian diaspora in these small republics, their fates could very well be similar to Ukraine’s.

According to

On the day that Paris fell, June 15, 1940, Joseph Stalin presented an ultimatum to Lithuania to admit an unlimited number of troops and to form a government acceptable to the U.S.S.R. Lithuania was occupied that day. … In the next two days, similar ultimatums were presented to Latvia and Estonia, both of which experienced similar fates.”

Germany attacked the USSR in 1941 and later took control of the region. After the Allies defeated Germany, however, the Soviets regained control and resumed the integration of the Baltics into the Soviet Empire.

There they remained firmly under Moscow’s thumb until 50 years later when Perestroika and Glasnost reforms and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 presented the opportunity for them to assert their independence. All three Baltic States then joined the EU and NATO in 2004—their way of sealing their otherwise tenuous independence.

So now the stage is set for what could be the first “real” test of Article Five of NATO’s charter? This being the key section of the treaty, which commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one state to be an armed attack against all states.

Article Five has only been invoked once before: by the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Since the U.S. forms the backbone of NATA, no one should be surprised that member states answered the Americans’ 2001 call to arms.

What happens, though, if Article Five is invoked by one or more small remote Baltic states over which Russia can claim historical links and populations in need of Russia’s protection? That’s the acid test.

NATO’s Article Four—consultation over military matters—has, apparently, already been invoke by Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in response to the current Crimean crisis. As a consequence, the U.S. is sending 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland and has also agreed to send four F-15 jets to Lithuania. This is, of course, an encouraging sign, though, it may yet prove to be an empty gesture.

At least in the case of Lithuania, fear of Russian aggression seems justified by recent events. Russia’s President Putin has reportedly accused Lithuania of training the “extremists” who ousted Ukrainian President Yanukovych. According to one report, Russian state television aired footage of a Lithuanian farm where it said the rebels stayed.

Is this Russia’s way of continuing to build its “case”—its rationalizations that foreshadow armed incursions into sovereign territory of breakaway elements of its former empire? It seems clear to me that it is.

Given the mettle of too many of the Western Democracies—or rather, the lack of it—as it applies to confronting Russia’s military aggression and the EU’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, I fear for the continued territorial integrity of the Baltic States.

I wouldn’t, in fact, bet that the rest of NATO will go to war—an all-out war—to protect any other state that was formerly in the Russian sphere of influence, i.e., the old Eastern Bloc. I don’t believe enough members of NATO have the stomach for it. I’m not at all sure that even Canada, as a NATO member, has the political will to go to the wall for Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania.

I believe NATO would still rally behind the original core members plus Germany and perhaps Greece and Turkey. But as to the rest? Well, let’s hope we never have to find that out.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why does our government tax every glass of milk we drink?

The Conference Board of Canada has issued a report titled Reforming Dairy Supply Management: The Case for Growth, which pretty much condemns Canada’s system of supply management of  dairy products. Authors, Michael Grant, Richard Barichello, Mark Liew, and Vijay Gill, say their report “makes the case for growth and suggests an equitable way to wind down supply management of dairy products.”

Unfortunately, even this latest learned challenge to our antiquated system governing the dairy segment of our agricultural economy is likely to fall on deaf government ears—wilfully deaf ears, I might add.

Back in 2011, I quoted from the Conservative government’s throne speech, as follows:

In all international forums and bilateral negotiations, our Government will continue to stand up for Canadian farmers and industries by defending supply management.” [Emphasis mine]


Since that time, the prime minister has given no indication of having changed his mind. To the contrary, indications from Ottawa are that Canadians will be expected to continue financing our wrong-headed model of agricultural quotas and tariffs, which was implemented in Canada in the early 1970s and that continue to cost average and low-income Canadian consumers so dearly.

According to the Conference Board:

“The OECD [The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] calculates that ‘market price supports’ cost Canadian dairy consumers [families] an average of $2.6-billion per year in the decade to 2011: roughly $200,000 per dairy farm per annum and around $276 per family every year.

Furthermore, as I said in a Feb. 2013 essay, the OECD “found that Canadian milk prices have been two to three times higher than world prices since 1986. And the OECD estimates support to Canadian dairy producers … [are] equal to more than 60% of the value of total dairy production that year [2003].”

Because Canadians must pay more for dairy products than they would on the open market, they are being “taxed” and the low-tax Conservative government seems to believe that’s OK.

Moreover, it seems to be OK that Canadian families with average household net worth (in 2011) of $363,202 are subsidizing dairy farmers with a net worth of more than $2 million on average.

So why don’t we reform our market‑distorting system, don’t we Conservatives still pride ourselves on supporting free markets? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I have a theory.

It goes like this: Canada is expanding its trade and economic presence in Asia—the rapidly-growing Asia-Pacific market is seen as critical to Canada’s growth and economic prosperity. For example, Canada is reportedly about to sign a free trade deal with South Korea.

To that end, Canada is involved with a sweeping free trade agreement with a dozen Pacific Rim countries—Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), covering about 40 per cent of global economic output and about one-third of world trade.

A TPP entry price is, apparently, Canada’s supply management regime. Member states like Australia and New Zealand—our long-time allies—absolutely insist on it, even moving to exclude Canada from the agreement.

As Ian Lee, professor, Sprott School of Management at Carleton University put it in a Toronto Star article in 2012:

Supply management benefits fewer than 14,000 Canadian farmers, mostly in rural Ontario and Quebec, and is preventing Canada’s 34 million citizens from participating in the most important trading agreement in modern history with the most dynamic and populated part of the globe—Asia-Pacific.”

Isn’t supply management a dandy bargaining chip to hold back, while all the time planning to give it up “reluctantly” in exchange for something of significant value, whatever that may be.

Give it up prematurely and we’ll get nothing in return—timing is everything. Maybe Stephen Harper is the smartest politician in Canada.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Vile is as vile does

In its March 5 edition, The Pictou Advocate published an editorial cartoon comparing the Harper government to Nazi Germany. This vile abuse of free expression in the name of “satire” should not be tolerated in any fair-minded society.

The Pictou, N.S. newspaper featured a distasteful cartoon depicting a Nazi swastika flag flying over Parliament Hill as a criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Economic Action Plan.

I have no argument over The Advocate’s right to publish such trash, but I do wonder at the tone-deaf and insensitive nature of their editorial policy. Consider for a moment the tens of thousands of Canadians who died at the hands of Nazi armies and bombs; consider the millions of civilian Jews who died at the hands of that loathsome regime. Now try to find one tiny grain of truthful comparison between the Nazis and any Canadian government.

Now read the explanation The Advocate has offered:

If our editorial cartoon in the March 5 edition of The Advocate has offended anyone, we sincerely apologize. It was certainly not our intention to offend our readers.

“The cartoon was simply meant as a satire, or exaggeration, on Harper’s Economic Action Plan and its implications for some segments of the community.

“We regret that the cartoon was not received in the spirit with which it was intended.

“The views of the editorial cartoon are those of the contributor, and not necessarily the views of The Advocate, as are all other views by contributors to The Advocate.

“From our editorial cartoonist is the following explanation:

“‘I certainly didn’t mean to offend anybody. The use of the swastika was simply aligning the Harper government’s policies with the Nazis. The fact is, Harper has violated virtually every element of his platform which is taking away the freedoms and rights of all Canadians, especially the disabled and elderly. All Canadians, but especially the Atlantic Provinces, should be absolutely irate over the latest budget and announcements which are continuing to oppress the poorer provinces. That is why I used the swastika. There are no religious connotations, there is no anti-Semitism, there are no ethnic attacks, there is no racism... Just the suggestion that Canadian politics is heading toward fascism’.”

I don’t know if the above was meant as a response to federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s reported demand for an apology. I, as a Canadian, don’t want an apology from these people. I’d settle for them shutting up and crawling back under the rock from which they came.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How did conservatives lose control of environment file?

The former leader of Canada’s Reform Party, Preston Manning, reminded me of how Conservatives “continue to be seen as defensive and weak on the environment,” as he put it in a recent speech in Ottawa.

Mr. Manning said, “… the problem is environmental conservation got characterized as a shield issue, not a sword issue, and that mitigates doing anything substantial.”

And there you have it in a nutshell, as they say. Where Conservatives once brandished their environmental record like swords of righteousness, we now hide behind shields of timidity and defensiveness.

Simply said, conservatives have lost control of this important file. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was named the “greenest” prime minister in Canadian history. And, though modern environmentalist have tried their best subsequently to denigrate his contribution—can’t have a “green” conservative, after all, that’s an oxymoron—Mulroney earned his bona fides honestly with the 1991 acid rain accord, which he championed and finally convinced a reluctant American president to sign.

Furthermore, as Mr. Manning pointed out on a TV appearance, we as a group want to “conserve”, it’s part of our name. Conservation of traditional norms and values is in our political blood. What could be more natural to a conservative than wanting to conserve our environment.

The battle against pollution—the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change (see Wikipedia)—has been as equally joined by conservatives as by progressives unless, of course, you’re taken in by the hyperbole of the Left.

Resistance to the Kyoto Protocol seemed the first real break of the Right from what had become the new environmentalists.

Greenhouse gasses, primarily CO2, had become the real enemy, and conservatives were not willing to see our carbon-fuelled economy hobbled by unproven carbon-tax and Cap and Trade schemes.

The hypocrisy of giving a pass to the world’s most egregious polluters like China (26.43%), U.S. (17.33%) and India (6.41%) who represent over 50 per cent of all 2010 emissions was obvious for all to see. This, probably, is what prompted Jean Chrétien to sign on to the agreement in 1997, ratify it in parliament in 2002, and all the while doing little or nothing to actually implement the Accord.

In fact, as is well known, our federal Liberal government’s inaction led to increases in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions of around 24.1 per cent. Thankfully, a Conservative government put an end to this sham by withdrawing from the Kyoto Accord in 2011.

The conservative movement, for the most part, had its suspicions raised about the validity of the Climate Change (a.k.a. Global Warming) movement that had largely taken over debates on the environment, when CO2 continued to enter the atmosphere at record levels since 1998, yet global warming did not continue over that period.

This seemed to reinforce earlier suspicions that the whole thing was an elaborate rouse to shift massive amounts of money from the developed to the undeveloped world, as evidenced by so-called climate finance schemes like the one where developed countries are expected to provide climate finance of $100-billion a year by 2020.

Things, however, have a way of going full circle. And I believe there is growing awareness on the part of conservatives that we have gone too offside on this file and need to retake, at least, some of the high ground lost over the Climate Change debate.

Even some Conservative politicians realize it is good business to do so. I notice Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., included in a recent letter a reminder to the U.S. government that Alberta was “the first jurisdiction in North America to require large emitters to reduce their GHG emissions intensity.”

The ambassador also referred to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comments  in late-2013, saying, “our government is certainly prepared to work with the United States on a regulatory regime that will bring our emissions down.”

This is an excellent start. Along with a continued common sense approach to minimizing land, air and water pollution—not just greenhouse gas emissions—in the oil sands region and elsewhere across our nation, it could very well restore our credibility on the environment file.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quebec goes to the polls Apr. 7, can referendum be far behind?

Premier Pauline Marois declared this morning that Quebec voters will go the polls in a general election. The date is reportedly April 7 following a 33-day campaign.

Marois’s Parti Quebecois holds 54 seats in the legislature, nine short of a majority government, and is currently leading in polls, followed by Philippe Couillard’s Liberals and Francois Legault’s Coalition for Quebec’s Future.

Marois, according to media reports, has made it clear that her government’s proposed “charter of values” (Bill 60) will be key to her campaign. And, the way I see it, this may very well be the one issue to push the PQ over the finish line with a majority government.

Many outside Quebec seem in agreement that the charter of values as set forth by the PQ is divisive and just plain wrong. I believe, however, that among those that matter—i.e., Quebecers and especially French-speaking voters—a majority backs the secular charter.

The very real prospect of a PQ majority victory brings once again to mind the issue of Quebec independence, which many in the Rest of Canada seem to have assumed was a dead issue. It has now become, I fear, more of a question of “when” rather than “if” a referendum will be held to determine Quebec independence.

So, I ask myself, how do you feel now about a Canada without Quebec? And I answer without reservation that I believe Canada will be a better place if the country stays together.

Having said that, though, I believe there are fewer Canadians outside Quebec who agree with me than there were during the referendums in 1980 and 1995. Moreover, many of those who agree with me in principle are fed up with what they regard as Quebec’s carping at Canada and denigrating anything Canadian that is not overtly of Quebec.

Many, including myself, resent Quebec’s huge share of the annual federal equalization program ($7.833-billion in 2013-2014 fiscal year) and the fact it “receives $16.3-billion more from the federal government than it contributes to Ottawa”—this latter statistic according to federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Denis Lebel, himself a Quebecer.

Many of us also feel a certain fatigue brought on by the never-ending threat of another referendum rising and ebbing decade after decade. After a while, one can’t help but think, Go already! Yes, the unthinkable—Canada without Quebec—may just be inevitable, and so let’s do it now so we can start the healing process.

Has any province whined and complained and blackmailed the federal government as much a Quebec has? Has any province been as ungrateful for the contribution the Rest of Canada makes towards its financial wellbeing? Does any province try as hard as Quebec does to deny any sort of Canadian identity?

No, no and, again, no!

So, I say, what’s keeping you? Go if you must, but do it quickly and leave the rest of us in peace.

But lets be clear: should Quebec decide to go, there will be one heck of a backlash against that province, even if its accompanied by a huge collective sigh of relief to have finally gotten the independence issue over and done with.

And lets be clear: Canadians will not be supportive of extending citizenship to the residents of an independent Quebec, i.e., no Canadian passports. Nor will Canadians support the signing of special-status trade deals obliging us to, among other things, purchase their supply-managed products at above world prices.

And let’s be clear: Canadians will not be supportive of any further ties with Quebec other that arms-length trade deals, nor will Quebec have a say in Canada’s monitory policy should they decide to use the Canadian dollar, i.e., no joint commissions and the like.

It is high time that Quebec made a clear statement to the Rest of Canada regarding their continued role in our federation: are they in or out; all in or all out?

New Brunswick: the latest “have” province?

New Brunswick is, apparently, poised to become a “have” province for the purpose of calculating federal equalization payments.

According to a Mar. 4 news release from Calgary Centre MP Joan Crockatt, “Atlantic Canada’s proven oil and gas reserves has the real possibility of transforming New Brunswick from a have not province to a powerhouse like Saskatchewan…”.

Ms. Crockatt was referring to testimony by Colleen Mitchell, President of Atlantica Centre for Energy before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. The Calgary Centre MP said:

“What we heard today is vital for New Brunswick, and for all Canadians to understand. Saskatchewan has come a long way from the days when it was a ‘have not’ province and all the kids graduated and moved away. Now the youth are staying home and getting great jobs, due in very large part to policies that opened up their oil and gas industries. Today we heard that New Brunswick could be the same kind of success story.”

This must also be great news to Ontario's Kathleen Wynne, whose province became a “have not” in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and has to share Ottawa’s annual hand-outs with a shrinking number of provinces—Newfoundland Labrador is now a “have” province.

My theory is, the fewer hands out, the larger share each hand will receive. But, of course, that’s a gross simplification. Though we do have to forgive Western Canadians for wondering how much longer small provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan can be expected to provide handouts to high-population provinces like Ontario and Quebec.

In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Quebec and Ontario will receive equalization payments of $7.833-billion and $3.169-billion respectively, while the small-population provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia receive nothing.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On growing old

The media response I’ve heard following the Oscars have been especially unkind to Goldie Hawn and Kim Novak—both of whom seem to have taken all too obvious steps to hide the aging process.

For the most part—and especially on Twitter—I find the reaction unkind, to wit:

The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman tweeted: ‘#AcademyAward for worst plastic surgery: tie between Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn.’

And that was one of the least unkind comments I read.

It must be said that I dislike these extreme examples of anti-aging plastic surgery. And I find Hollywood’s fixation with youth-above-all distasteful. (And let’s face it, Hollywood’s fixation is merely a reflection of the youth-fixation of our broader society.)

The two things—plastic surgery and fixation with youth—are, of course, inextricably linked and lead to the heartrending sight to which we were treated on Sunday night: two older, formerly beautiful, woman trying to look young.

What’s wrong with getting old, being old or looking old? Aging is as natural a process as exists. I am privileged to know several women—my wife included—who have a natural look in old age without plastic surgery.

Surely women need not maintain their youthful looks until their deathbed. Many women, in fact, grow more beautiful as they age. And extreme age should be worn as a badge of honour.

The above notwithstanding, when a woman does seek such obvious plastic surgery, it’s her own business and she should not be a subject of mockery. Why deride her? In what way has she harmed any of us that we wish to retaliate with such derision?

Many of us have a basic need to tear down others, perhaps to make ourselves seem superior, or so it seems. To me,  this comes across as mean-spiritedness.

Women have mirrors, they all know how they look, so I say, leave them alone.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shrill threats and indignant stamping of diplomatic feet won’t stop Russia

By all reports, the Russians are consolidating and reinforcing their military gains in the Crimea peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine. At this point, it’s not clear what Russia/Putin’s end-game is.

Will Russia annex the Crimea peninsula outright? Or will Putin set up a semiautonomous Crimea republic on its border, taking control of the Crimea’s military and foreign affairs?

Probably the latter, because then the West will feel it can claim a limited victory for their side. You know, Putin did not annex the Ukraine because of our threats, they could say. The end result will be much the same, but never underestimate a politician’s ability to claim victory immediately after a defeat—it’s all about “spin.”

Ukraine does have a major card to play, the nuclear card.

After all, if Israel can use it’s nuclear capability to help guarantee its continued existence—being surrounded, as it is, by enemies who seem to want it wiped off the face of the earth—so too can the Ukraine which claims it could have nuclear weapons in three to six months.

Empty claim by Ukraine? Perhaps, but it may give the Russians some reason to pause and leave the Ukraine to lick its wounds after it cleaves off some pro-Russian areas of eastern Ukraine and, of course, Crimea.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine had the world’s third largest number of nuclear weapons. Over the period 1994-1996, however, it sent its nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantling.

In return, Ukraine received the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, a treaty signed by the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, pledging to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances now lies in shreds, of course. Russia’s recent actions clearly breach its obligations to Ukraine under the treaty which provides assurances to:

  1. Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
  2. Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
  3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.

Lesson one: Put not your faith in Western Democracies for they will surely leave you stranded in your greatest hour of need. Lesson two: Never trust Russia.

Ukraine is now left alone to face the might of one of the worlds most powerful war-making machines. Meanwhile, their Western “allies” stand on the sidelines issuing shrill threats and indignantly stamping their diplomatic feet.

Let’s face it, under the reluctant leadership of President Barak Obama—he of the lead-from-behind philosophy—the West is virtually powerless to stop Russia from doing anything it pleases. Georgia and Syria is proof enough of that.

What message does this send to the likes of China, I wonder, which has territorial aspirations of its own in the South China Sea and seems all too interested in the Artic? Do all the bullies of the world now see this as a golden opportunity to extend their borders?

And what of Russia’s renewed interest in Cuba? Does it not give you shivers to think of Obama and Putin toe-to-toe over a new missile crisis in Cuba? I’d bet on a different result this time.

Moreover, what of the smaller and mid-size democracies with concerns over territorial designs of the major military powers? Who protects them now? Should they seek nuclear weapons to guarantee their own territorial integrity?

What a mess! Appeasement, we know, can lead to all sorts of dire consequences—we’ve seen this real-life movie before, it’s called WWII.

I really don’t expect the West to provide military assistance to Ukraine. But wouldn’t it be nice to see tangible action being taken instead of these, virtually, empty threats such as we hear from Canada, the UK and the US.

Why not take quick action on isolating Russia economically and financially, then offering them a “carrot” to gain cooperation instead of a “stick” that is more like an wet noodle?

Immediately oust Russia from the G8, implement biting trade sanctions against them and freeze their foreign assets. That would be a good start. I mean actually do these things not merely threaten to do them.

The West could then loosen the noose if Russia actually reverses their actions rather than merely making promises to do so.

I know, I know. I’m being naïve. Appeasement is more our style—at least, until it’s too late and we’ve lost something of value—like world peace.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Musings on partisanship

I find it odd when readers leave comments accusing me of being partisan regarding conservative governments like Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s, and for being critical of progressive leaders like Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair.

Of course I’m partisan—I’m undeniable conservative and have never pretended otherwise. I openly hold myself out as being a conservative (see the Being Conservative page on this blog). Good grief, I even blog for a group called, “Blogging Tories.”

Criticising me for being partisan is like criticising a frog for being green. Far more to the point, is whether my criticism of the Left is reasonably informed, and, dear I say it, reasonably fair. In other words, criticize my words by providing contradictory facts or counterargument, but accept my conservatism as a given.

I try always to be open to the opinion of others—that’s how I learn, and it helps me grow as a person. Through listening to others, I believe my writing has become more nuanced, if not actually neutral, for neutral it’s never likely to be.

I believe some of my readers sometimes confuse my being a small “c” conservative with my being an automatic supporter of the Conservative party or Ontario PC party. They confuse the conservative movement with the Conservative party, by assuming they are the same thing, while clearly they are not.

I, for example, probably have more in common, when it comes to political philosophy, with a Liberal voter from, say, Paris, Ontario than does Kathleen Wynne. And Kathleen Wynne has more in common with downtown-Toronto New Democrats than she has with many Paris—or other small town—Liberals.

Not too long ago, there was not really much light between many Progressive Conservatives and many Liberals. That was part of the reason good political minds like Robert Nixon couldn’t win elections in the province—voters stuck with the status quo rather than take a chance on the Liberals who voters saw as being not much of a change from the PCs.

It is different now, of course, with Ontario trade unions sharing their support between the Grits and the NDP, and the Grits shifting ever further left to curry favour from those rich unions. There has also been a concentration of Liberal support in large urban centres where many progressive voters shift support back and forth between them and the NDP—this has reinforced a Liberal shift to the Left.

Add to this, the years of McGuinty government from which even Kathleen Wynne and her team seem determined to distance themselves. Many dyed-in-the-wool Liberal insiders are reluctant any longer to praise that government. And do most Liberals really believe Dwight Duncan was an astute manager of Ontario’s economy? And what about Charles Sousa, is he an improvement?

So why would someone like me have much in the way of positive commentary about Kathleen Wynne or her government? Of course I’m going to be critical of the Ontario government. So too are an increasing number of Liberals, I might add.

On the federal scene, I was a supporter of the Liberal party under Lester Pearson and for part of the Pierre Trudeau years. However, a string of record deficits, double-digit inflation with families losing their homes because they could no longer afford usurious mortgage rates and broken campaign promises forced me to switch support to the PCs.

As I saw it, I never left the Liberal party, it left me. My political views remained much the same, but the Liberal party changed to something I could no longer support.

Later, we were treated to some sound fiscal management on the part of then finance minister, Paul Martin. I counted myself a fan, until Martin became prime minister and I saw him as a petty little man and a crass opportunist. I never came close to voting Liberal in that era, but I might have been so persuaded under a leader as fiscally conservative as Martin seemed to be—perhaps pretended to be.

Since then, I haven’t seen much from the federal Liberals that deserved my support. And I’m not alone with that assessment. I’m pretty sure the federal Liberals have lost seats in each election since Jean Chrétien resigned, suggesting that most Canadians shared my opinion.

Justin Trudeau did show some early promise, however. His eulogy given at the funeral for his father in 2000 showed a young man with loads of political potential. But, as far as I can see, that potential remains largely untapped.

Here’s a Feb. 2013 quote from one of the “stars” of his shadow cabinet, Marc Garneau:

Federal Liberal Leadership frontrunner Justin Trudeau has a responsibility to tell Canadians where he stands and where he intends to lead now, not after the leadership race is over.”

It’s a year later and I’m still waiting.

Is it any wonder then that I, as a small “c” conservative, feel more confortable with the conservative parties of Canada and of Ontario and so often criticize Liberals? Give me an old-style, fiscal-conservative, Pearson-liberal party of the true political centre, however, and I might be persuaded otherwise, as would many other small “c” cons.