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Monday, December 7, 2015

Radical Islam: Pernicious ideologies like noxious weeds must be rooted out—not just cut back or contained

President Barack Obama offered little in the way of new ideas to fight Islamic terrorism when he made his near-historic television address to the American people last night. It was not so much a speech of platitudes—though it was that to some extent—but it just seemed underwhelming and seemed to be received as such even from some of his admirers. 

What would I have liked the president to say, you may ask.

Well, for a start, I would have liked him to refer to attackers like the ones in Paris and San Bernardino as, at least, being inspired by Islamists, radical Islam, Islamic terrorism, terrorism in the name of Islam, or some similar term or phrase and not simply as “terrorists.”

I think most rational people understand that terrorism in all its forms is a horrible scourge on civilized societies. But surely we need to be more specific in our terminology if we want to eradicate this particularly virulent form of terrorism, which seems to be the sort most often used against Western democracies in recent years.

But most importantly, I would also have liked President Obama to have been more forthright in identifying the source of the poisonous ideology that masquerades as religious teaching and which seems to be at the root of much of the inspiration for these attacks. That source—the very root of it, that is—is not as the president implies, ISIS, aka ISIL and Daesh. They are merely the most recent exporters and inspirers of the crimes committed in the name of the ideology.

Daesh did not invent or even significantly advance the ideology in any way. Its roots go back into eighteenth-century Saudi Arabia. There it germinated and took root and grew into a branch of Sunni Islam. Wahhabism is an especially orthodox and puritanical movement, which has flourished in places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar as an extremist pseudo-Sunni movement, often referred to as Salafi. In more recent times, Wahhabism has spread to Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, including the multicultural Western democracies.

Pernicious ideologies are like noxious weeds, they must be rooted out—not just cut back or contained—or they will spring back, and grow even more virulent than before.

Do not be fooled into believing that only a tiny percentage of those professing to be Muslims practice some sort of Wahhabi-like fundamentalist Islam, which qualifies as Salafi. Tens of millions of Muslims are Islamic fundamentalist and the number seems to be increasing. They can be found in Arab states like the aforementioned Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and, increasingly, in Syria. They are also the tenacious Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are also in Russia, in North Africa and in Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad.

Fortunately, only a few of these turn to terrorism to impose their religious views on the rest of us. But, until the ideology is discredited and made to be unacceptable in any form in the civilized world, if not entirely eradicated, we in the West will have to face an enemy like none who have threatened us before.

But let me be very clear: the threat is not from the overwhelming majority of the million or so Canadian Muslims who are our neighbours, friends and members of our families, for they are as peace-loving and fair-minded as any other Canadians. These “real” Muslims abhor the attacks by Islamist terrorists as much as I do, or as much as most readers do.

They are most often twice the victims of such terrorist acts: after being victimized directly—i.e., being killed—their fellow Muslims are further victimized by the backlash from an increasing number of non-Muslim Canadians. And there is no point telling them to go home, for Canada is their home and they are as stuck with their victimizers as the rest of us are.

We know who the enemy are and the real source of their twisted ideology. And so does President Obama—or so he should. So what I really wanted to hear from him is when he will lead the world against this threat in a fundamental way so as to stop it at the source.

A great start would be to sanction Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Daesh. Freeze their Western investments and bank accounts; stop buying their oil and selling them military hardware; restrict travel of their citizens to Western destinations; suspend landing rights for their airplanes; and list them officially as terrorist organizations along with any mosque, school or other organization that accepts financing from them. Then go in and clean out Daesh from Iraq and Syria. That would be a start.

They’d be some short-term pain no doubt. But we’d be better off and we’d have a safer world in the longer-term.

If only we had leaders with the will to do any of this, eh?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nannygate: An important principle, which is far more important than the cost to taxpayers of two nannies

Many, mainly Liberal party supporters, claim the “nannygate” controversy is a lot of fuss about nothing. But is that a fair assessment? Didn’t this prime minister go on record several times as saying specifically he did not need financial help with the care of his children?

Didn’t he also specifically tell Canadians that Stephen Harper, as the then prime minister, also did not require government assistance? So what has changed? If, as he said the Harper family did not need government assistance when they occupied the official residence, why then does the Trudeau family?

Let’s be clear: this has nothing to do with the appropriateness of the incumbent prime minister employing a nanny at taxpayer’s expense. That is quite acceptable. We should not stoop to such stinginess for it is unbecoming of us as a nation. Other taxpayer-funded household help is also acceptable, or should be in my opinion.

But Prime Minister Trudeau sought to gain a political advantage by claiming he and the then prime minister did not need taxpayer-funded childcare and, therefore, should not not be receiving it now. He even boasted that he planned to contribute to charity any amount he did receive from a proposed government program. There is an important principle at stake here, which is far more important than the cost to taxpayers of two nannies.

PM Trudeau’s reversal of position on his family’s need for taxpayer-funded childcare sets a horrible example of the cynical nature of political promises and assertions. It suggests his is a party of entitlement in which cheap bravado masquerades as thoughtful political rhetoric.

It is time to do the right thing, Prime Minister.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

We natives of “The True North strong and free” should open our hearts and doors to more Syrian refugees

My heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been forced to flee their country with little more than their lives and the clothes on their backs, and sometimes not even that. Accordingly, I support our government’s Syrian refugee resettlement plan a hundred per cent.

Weeks after the Oct. 19 election, Prime Minister Trudeau insisted he’d bring in 25,000 refugees by Dec. 31 even though experts told us such a plan was not advisable. Now that there is no need for adolescent one-upmanship, however, and while there is an abundance of political capital available to the new Liberal government, cynical politicians like Immigration Minister John McCallum can claim the Grits always intended to “get it done right” and ignore the fact his party had made a promise almost everyone knew they could not keep if, in fact, they intended to do it right.

The disingenuousness of the Liberals notwithstanding, helping 25,000 refugees is the right thing to do. At least, that the way I see it. In fact, I’d like to see Canada admit ten times that number of Syrian refugees, spread over an appropriate timeframe, say 18 to 24 months, and with the appropriate amount screening to weed out potential decease carriers and security risks.

According to Government of Canada’s Facts and figures 2014 – Immigration overview: Permanent residents, in 2014, Canada allowed 260,404 immigrants into the country and had similar numbers enter for over a decade before that. If necessary, why not cut that number by half for two years and replace those potential immigrants with Syrian refugees? They, after all, are in desperate need of a new home. Sweden, a country with less than a third of our population is expected to take in 190,000 refugees this year. We are a country of immigrants and need to step up and do more.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, Syria hosted approximately 1,852,300 refugees and asylum seekers—this in a country with a population of under 20 million. Most had come from Iraq (1,300,000), but others came from Palestine (543,400) and Somalia (5,200). Now it is time for us to help the Syrians.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Russia: the enemy of our enemy is not our friend

While I am quite sure the average Russian is as honest, straightforward and fun-loving as the average Canadian, I’m as sure that Russia, as a nation, is not a friend of Canada. Nor do I believe Russia is a friend of any of the Western democracies, or any other democracy, if it comes to that.

Russia seems far more likely to find “friends” among those nations who are distinguished by one-man or one-party rule and a less than stellar human rights record, i.e., China, Iran, Cuba, Syria, etc.

It would be a grave mistake, therefore, for nations such as the United States and France to seek a formal alliance with Russia against their common foe, Daesh, the Islamic State terrorist group.

Russian leaders will shake your right hand while picking your pocket with their left. Duplicity is a treasured trait of those who run that country. To them, a Square Deal is for dupes and weaklings and nothing they’d ever enter into willingly.

Russia’s dealings vis-à-vis the Ukraine should be all we need to warn us that nation cannot be trusted to respect the territorial integrity of other countries. Russia’s official complicity in their athlete doping scandal should tell us enough about the depths to which that nation has sunk when it comes to trustworthiness, and the heights to which state corruptness has risen there.

Russia is involved in the conflict in Syria to help the despot Bashar Hafez al-Assad stay in power, thus guaranteeing it will continue to maintain a naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea. To keep al-Assad in power Russia has carried out attacks against the various forces who threaten the Syrian president’s regime, including those considered by the West to be moderate Syrian rebel groups.

Yes, Daesh may also be their enemy—Russia has problems of its own with radical Islamists—and be targeted by Russian warplanes, but other anti-Assad groups like the Free Syrian Army and Turkmen, who live in northern Syria, have had to face the brunt of the Russian air raids. On Friday, ostensibly in response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane, Russia launched major air attacks across northern Syria against non-Daesh rebel groups backed by Turkey.

Russia has chosen to be the major military adversary of the Western democracies, if not their outright enemy. This was a choice made by its leaders, not one forced on them by the U.S. or by NATO or by any other nation or group.

In September, the U.K.’s RAF jets were scrambled for the seventh time in 2015 to intercept Russian long-range nuclear bombers near the U.K. border. This sort of thing is a regular occurrence near Canada’s borders. In Europe also, Moscow frequently sends military flights over or near the borders of the Baltic States, forcing NATO members to step up air support in the region. More than just an inconvenience, these flights are a danger to civilian planes because the Russians regularly refuse to identify themselves.

Russia is not a nation with which any democracy should want to align itself, regardless of the temporariness of the association or the justness of the common cause. Seek to have cordial, peaceful relations with them, yes, but maintain a discrete distance at all times, at least, until there is a regime change and a discarding of its bully-boy attitude.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Evidence-based decision-making if necessary, but not necessarily evidence-based decision-making

For some years now, we have heard that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s edition of the Liberal Party of Canada favours evidence-based decision-making. Early evidence, however, warns us he intends to apply this principle selectively, if at all.

Take for example the election promise that the LPC would bring in 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees by December 31, 2015. Bravado? One-upmanship? Cynical electioneering? Only the Grits know for sure. What we do know was the promise could not have been based on evidence. At least, not on expert evidence.

The vote was hardly counted and most of the mainstream media were still giddy with joy  over the LPC’s victory when experts began to council caution. The December 31 date would not give enough time to do things right, they warned. Don’t worry, we were told. The Grits would keep their promise.

When Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and others asked for a more prudent timeframe, Justin Trudeau’s apologists—and especially Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne—virtually called them racists and bigots.

The new Liberal plan is for only 15,000 refugees to be government-sponsored, with the other 10,000 sponsored privately. Furthermore, only 10,000 refugees will come in before the end of December, and the remainder will be in Canada by the end of February. This still leaves 10,000 government-sponsored refugees to be accounted for. These, according to government sources will be brought to Canada before the end of 2016.

All told, the new plan is a far cry from the Liberals’ election promise. Perhaps PM Trudeau believed he needed to deceive voters so he could leave the other leaders—whose promises were far more realistic—“in the dust,” to use his words.

Other examples can be found of the Grits—despite proclaiming their fondness for evidence-based decision-making—showing they prefer evidence that supports their preconceived policies and official positions on issues.

A recent Andrew Coyne article in the National Post reminds us of the Liberal government’s proposed deficits that are to fight the recession we are supposed to be in, when we are really not in a recession at all. Or how about taxing the “rich” more so as to fight “growing inequality,” when the share of income going to the top one per cent has actually been falling for a decade. Then there’s the whole LPC-created myth about Canada’s stagnating middle-class incomes when, if fact, Canadian middle-class incomes have been rising steadily for two decades. PM Trudeau and his people must be watching too much U.S.-based television.

The general tone in Ottawa might very well have changed for the better, but substance? Well, not so much so.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

If Freeland cannot carry debate with Maher,how will she do in international trade negotiations?

There is a video doing the rounds on the Internet this week showing the MP for University–Rosedale, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s new Minister for International Trade, floundering as she tries to match wits with comedian and political satirist Bill Maher on his Real Time TV show that aired last Friday.

Ms. Freeland appeared on a panel with Maine senator Angus King and the publisher of The Federalist Ben Domenech. She challenged host Maher after he quoted a poll that suggested 56 per cent of Americans don’t feel that Syrian refugees share their values and commented that it is nonsense to suggest that all religions are alike and share values. Mr. Maher specifically mentioned the values implied by Sharia law and the practices of forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour killings that some Muslims seem to condone.

To this Ms. Freeland countered that it’s important to stand up for diversity, and it’s important to recognize ISIL doesn’t represent Muslims. “Our diversity is our strength,” she said.

Coming right after Mr. Maher’s references to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour killings, doesn’t Ms. Freeland’s comment about diversity seem to imply that these practices are acceptable under the heading of “diversity?”

Furthermore, up until then, Mr. Maher had not implied ISIL did represent Muslims. But, apparently, Ms. Freeland believed multiculturalism and diversity had to be defended, even if it was not being attacked.

Mr. Maher then went on to say that there is a small percentage of Muslims who support ISIL and practices like honour killings and forced marriages.

To which Ms. Freeland responded, “I think now it is incredibly dangerous and very wrong to persecute Muslims and say there is something wrong with being a Muslim.”

Mr. Maher, of course, had said nothing of the kind, he was simply quoting from a poll. In the exchange that followed, Freeland went as far as to accuse Mr. Maher of “demonizing Muslims,” a charge he quickly denied. He did, however, say Muslim ideas need to be changed. As he put it, “Killing women for being raped, I would say is a bad idea. I do. Hang me for it.”

Ms. Freeland does as so many others who identify as progressives. She quickly dismisses and attempts to shut down debate of any criticism of protected issues, causes or groups. If one questions any aspect of Canada’s unrestricted-abortion-on-demand policy, one is said to be making war on women. Should someone suggest that some ideas and practices of some Muslims are not appropriate, they are immediately branded as “racists” or that they are condemning or demonizing Muslims.

I have read the Wikipedia entry for Chrystia Freeland. Apparently, she is a very accomplished individual. According to that source, “She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian history and literature from Harvard University and a Master of Studies degree in Slavonic Studies from St Antony’s at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1993.” No intellectual lightweight has those sorts of academic credentials.

Why then could our minister of international trade not, at least, hold her own with Bill Maher? Perhaps the National Post’s Barbara Kay has the answer when she suggests, “Freeland was obliged to channel her boss Justin Trudeau’s beliefs and policies, no matter what her personal views are.”

Or perhaps Ms. Freeland is simply being what she considers to be politically correct. You know the same nonsense that saw former prime minister Stephen Harper sneered at and ridiculed by many leftists when he referred to “old stock Canadians” in the September 17 Globe and Mail TV leaders’ debate.

As I see it, Mr. Harper was simply using the term to distinguish between newly arrived Canadians, like this writer, and those whose parents or ancestors arrived at an earlier time and have had longer to establish their Canadian roots. But to too many leftists, everything seems to be some evil code for something else.

I get the distinct feeling that Canadians, old stock and new, who believe in frank, straightforward talk are in for a rough time in Justin Trudeau’s Canada. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gender discrimination OK with the Grits?

Ifind it curious how selective our new Liberal government in Ottawa is when it comes to discrimination. It is “simply unacceptable to discriminate against refugees who practise certain religions,” said the current federal minister of immigration, etc., John McCallum as reported by CBC News in December 2014. What a difference a year makes. Earlier this week, that same minister released a refugee resettlement plan that seems to discriminate based on gender.

Is gender-based discrimination somehow more acceptable than religious discrimination? Or is it simply that Liberal values are so flexible that they can accommodate whatever policy decision Liberals believe is expedient. I favour the latter explanation.

Last December, we learned the Conservative government was seeking to give priority in its Syrian refugee resettlement plan to refugees from Syria’s religious minorities. The Conservatives were, apparently, responding to reports of Yazidis, Assyrian Christians and other religious minorities being marked for extermination and women and children sold into sex slavery by Daesh (ISIL).

In other words, PM Harper and his government seemed to be responding to reports that, for this segment of those at-risk in Syria, it is not just a question of compassion, but rather it is a simple matter of life or death, for Daesh seems intent on destroying these groups—in effect, committing genocide. And while Daesh might be murdering individual Muslims, it is not trying to destroy the Islamic faith.

But that was unacceptable to Mr. McCallum and his party.

This element of the recently announced immigration plan is receiving some push-back from the opposition, and especially from NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair is reported to have said in Ottawa on Monday:

We do not believe it is appropriate to make a vast generalization about a category of refugees and exclude them ahead of any processing because of who they are.

“That’s simply wrong.”

Time will tell, of course, just how the resettlement plan rolls out. Those cagey Grits are well known for leaking tidbits of draft policy to see how they are received in the media, and then trueing up the final version of their policy to suit public taste.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Government-funded political ads: Grits want in on the gravy train

Ioften hear people wonder about the kind of prime minister Justin Trudeau would make, and what a Liberal government led by him would look like. And, while I’m not much help on the Trudeau-as-PM part, I think I’m safe in pointing out that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are as good an example as any of what a federal Liberal government would look like.

The Ontario and federal Liberal parties may be organizationally independent and have separate memberships, they are nevertheless pretty much the same when it comes to their core membership and internal movers and shakers. One needs only think back to the bonhomie and speech-making that we saw at both Mr. Trudeau’s and Ms. Wynne’s leadership conventions. For the most part, it was impossible to tell who were actual delegates and who were just observers.

The Grits attending those events all seemed to consider themselves “inside the tent.” Time and again, leaders of the federal Grits heaped praise on former premier Dalton McGuinty and his replacement, Kathleen Wynne.

Keeping this in mind, it is instructional to observe the Liberals in Ottawa railing against the Tory practice of using taxpayer money to fund partisan advertising such as Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre using taxpayer dollars to produce videos of himself promoting the universal child care benefit.

Senior Liberal MP Marc Garneau reportedly complained the videos show that the government has attained new heights of arrogance by  assuming Canadians are “too stupid” or “don’t care.”

Strong language indeed. And he’s probably right, or mostly so.

So what, I wonder, does Garneau and his Liberal colleagues make of what their political sisters are doing on this same file at the Ontario Legislature?

According to Ontario's auditor-general Bonnie Lysyk, Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals want to strip away most of the province’s rules on partisan ads. Something the auditor says would undermine her office. Two weeks ago, Ms. Lysyk accused the Grits of trying to “gut” the provincial act governing advertising, and she issued a special report Tuesday.

Ms. Lysyk says changes proposed by the Grits open her office of Auditor-General to “mockery” as an independent officer of the legislature. So upset is she that Ms. Lysyk wants to be relieved of her duty to review government ads before they run.

Deputy premier Deb Matthews got her two cents worth on record. According to The Canadian Press report I saw:

Deputy premier Deb Matthews says the Liberals wanted to clarify the definition of partisanship in government ads, which she says will make the rules clearer.”

I winced when I read that one.

So I wouldn’t expect Ottawa’s government advertising practices to change much under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, if what is going on at Queen’s Park is any indication of how the Grits operate when they have the hammer.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Teachers demand Premier Kathleen Wynne stands and delivers

Three Ontario school boards are asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to decide on the legality of high school teachers’ strikes. The Durham, Peel and Rainbow/Sudbury boards believe the strikes are not allowed under the current legislation because “central” rather than local issues are in dispute.

The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, also known as Bill 122, sets out a two-tiered bargaining system for Ontario’s education sector, whereby the most costly items like class size and salary are bargained over “centrally” between the provincial government, the association of school boards and the provincial unions. So-called “local” issues such as performance appraisals and grievance procedures are negotiated between individual school boards and union districts.

The new legislation was passed by the Ontario Legislature on April 8, 2014 so is quite new to both teachers’ unions and school boards.

Durham teachers went on strike April 20 followed by those in Rainbow/Sudbury two weeks ago and then those in Peel just last week. I’ve also seen reports that six more boards will be targeted in the coming weeks by the public high school teachers’ union. Moreover, other unions are reportedly growing frustrated at the bargaining table and could follow suit.

Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government and its immediate predecessors under former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty are generally seen as “education friendly” and have been about as generous to teachers as any government I’ve seen in Ontario going back to the 1960s. Despite this, we seem headed for a summer and fall of labour chaos in our education sector.

Teachers’ unions are insatiable. And the more the government gives in to their demands, the more demanding they become. The many concessions made by the McGuinty and Wynne governments in the past have been taken as weakness and emboldened union leaders.

Furthermore, teachers’ unions gave millions of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours last year to help elect a Liberal government. Now they are looking for a return on that investment and they are more likely than not to get one.

There is little doubt in my mind that the teachers will dump their support for the Grits unless Premier Wynne and her education minister, Liz Sandals, cave in and meet substantially all of the unions’ demands. If the government does stand firm, we can expect to see the rapacious unions turn away from the Grits en masse and throw their considerable financial and human-resource support to Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats in the 2018 election.

The government is, of course, in a bind. They have squandered billions on eHealth, ORNGE and the power plants and managed the 2008 financial crisis and following recession poorly. Not surprisingly, therefore, they now find themselves with a stubborn structural budget deficit and rating agencies threatening to downgrade the considerable provincial debt. And any downgrade in the province’s debt will almost certainly be costly and will itself add to the deficit.

In the 2012–13 school year, we saw teacher walkouts and work-to-rule campaigns that some describe as “labour chaos.” Not withstanding those trying days, I suspect that, if Premier Wynne and Ms. Sandals stand firm, we haven’t seen anything like what we can expect in the upcoming months.

By so eagerly accepting the largesse of the unions in the past couple of general elections and several by-elections, Ontario Liberals have sown the wind and must now reap the whirlwind of teachers’ buyer-remorse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Too much Gotcha!, too much spin, not enough substance to our political debates

There are times when I wonder if I got the Class Clown instead of Member of Parliament when I voted in the last general election. Seeing some of the antics of the members of the House during Tuesday’s Question Period is one of those times.

Yes, the Liberal leader Justin Trudeau did put his foot in his mouth and, I suppose, deserved to be mocked by the Conservatives. But, really, why can’t we ever seem to deal with substantive issues in a straight forward unambiguous manner? Why do we always seem to be playing “gotcha!” with each word or phrase uttered by our politicians.

Benefiting every single family isn’t what is fair,” is what Trudeau said, in part. He continued to say, “What is fair is giving help to those who need it the most,” giving context to his opening line and providing the “real” meaning of his words.

Readers are probably wondering why I as a Conservative would seem to be defending Justin Trudeau of all people. I deliberately chose this example to make my point about “Gotcha politics” so I would not be so easily dismissed as giving just another partisan rant.

Mr. Trudeau obviously chose a clumsy way to make his point on Tuesday, and his opening line was sure to bring, at the very least, a smile to the face of even the most rabid Grit and some sort of pithy retort from the government side of the House. Was it, however, too much to also expect a response that rebutted the substance of what he said?

Canadians want to know what their political leaders plan to do on their behalf and their leaders’ views on issues are important for them to know—at least, that’s what I believe. It is difficult, however, for us to get this information if it comes to us in out-of-context, chopped up sound bites or through the filter of media or political party spin machines.

The point Mr. Trudeau was trying to make, I think, is that it’s more important to target help to those who need it most rather than give help universally. And isn’t this a reasonable point and one worthy of debate? What we get, though, are headlines stressing his unfortunate use of words, “Benefiting Every Single Family Isn’t What Is Fair,” and no debate on the substance of his remarks.

Now some will say, that’s Mr. Trudeau’s fault—after all, he chose the words he used. But who loses here is more important to me: it is ordinary Canadians who lose. We get to smile at the Liberal leader’s expense, but we are no further ahead in knowing why he disagrees with the principle of universality in this case or why Prime Minister Stephen Harper supports that important principle.

Only a minor opportunity lost, I suppose. But it does seem unfortunate for our democracy that grown-ups in public office do not seem to be able to carry on a substantive debate without every word and phrase being parsed and scrutinized to see if it can be used in a less flattering, more misleading way or worse, be completely taken out of context.

Hyper-partisanship and animus seem to motivate too much of what passes as politics in our country, and there is fault on all sides, including the news media which seem to have an insatiable appetite for controversial sound bites and misstatements, even when unintentional.

This is not healthy for our democracy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Elizabeth May uses profanity in bizarre press gallery dinner speech and covers up with inane excuses

Speaking at the annual press gallery dinner on Saturday night, the Green Party leader Elizabeth May gave what was described in the Hamilton Spectator as “a rambling, profanity-laced speech.” And after what witnesses described as a “bizarre and awkward” performance, an unsteady Ms.May, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, had to be led from the podium by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, before Ms. May could embarrass herself further.

Speeches by senior politicians at this annual shindig are intended to be non-partisan, light-hearted and somewhat self-deprecating with usually a joke or two at the expense of media members. Ms. May, however, reportedly went on at length in speech not at all in the spirit of the event and capped it off by using her cell phone to play the theme song from the old TV show, Welcome back Kotter. Then, just as Raitt tried to usher her off the stage, Ms. May yelled into the microphone that Omar Khadr has “more class than the whole fucking cabinet.”

Since then Elizabeth May has used virtually every lame excuse in the book to justify her behaviour to the media.

“My funny speech wasn’t funny … I apologize that I made an attempt to be funny and edgy. …and it didn't work,” are a couple of quotes I got from Toronto media. She also claimed: she was just getting over the flu; she had put in a 21-hour workday on Friday. She mentioned she’d been taking the cold medicine Nyquil but then said, “I’m not one of those people who wants to use the ‘I was on cough medicine’ excuse.” Yet she is, apparently, one of those people.

But my favourite excuse is this one. Ms. May acknowledged she drank wine before taking the stage, but insisted she wasn’t drunk: “I didn’t have a lot of wine, but it may have hit me harder than I thought it would.” Hmm …

All this is so typical of Elizabeth May who, as many of you readers know only too well, has a penchant for hyperbolic comments, which she later disavows or for which she makes excuses.

Speaking at a town hall in Nanaimo, B.C. on April 13, 2014, the Green Party leader called the PMO “a $10-million-a-year partisan operation filled with ruthless, cutthroat psychopaths.” May claimed later she made the comments “in jest,” according to a Metro article.

In the early days of Stephen Harper’s government, Ms. May made a nasty reference to history judging the prime minister “more culpable than Neville Chamberlain.” She later tried to justify her words by claiming she was quoting someone else.

Then there was the 2007 interview on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin during which Elizabeth May called Canadians “stupid.” Later she blamed her tendency to talk too fast and a faulty microphone for her words.

And when Ms. May responded on her blog to accusations that she had called Canadians stupid, she wrote: “I reviewed all this on TVO with Steve Paikan [sic] more recently and he confirmed that no one in the room thought I had said Canadians are stupid.” But TVO’s director of corporate communications quickly rebutted that and wrote a letter to the Green Party setting the record straight by saying “that at no point … did Steve Paikin express such a personal opinion,” and asking that May’s “blog posting be corrected.” So, apparently, truth is not Ms. May’s long suit.

Aside from what seems an inability to control her tongue, Elizabeth May is a hypocrite. She has spoken out often about breaches of decorum in the House of Commons, even small ones, yet she calls PMO staff “ruthless, cutthroat psychopaths,” and uses the “F” word to insult the entire cabinet. Even if she cannot respect the individual members of cabinet, she should, at least, be able to respect the offices they hold. She is after all an MP and party leader.

Moreover, Elizabeth May is a coward because, having made several intemperate remarks over the years, she resorts to obfuscation, claiming her comments were in jest or misunderstood, or implies they were caused by over-work, cold medicine or perhaps a bit too much wine. Someone worthy of the office of party leader would simply take ownership for her gaffes and apologize without the mealy mouthed excuses.

Ms. May’s political judgement appears often to be clouded by animus towards Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government. An animosity which seems to transcend mere political partisanship to a more visceral level that, to this observer at least, looks a lot like malice and spite.

I get the impression that, as a single-issue zealot, Ms. May will malign anyone who has a marked disagreement with the aims of her international Green movement. Her “truth” is the only one with any relevance. And anyone who does not wholeheartedly embrace her belief system becomes a target for her derision.

Inexplicably, though, Ms. May seems to have become a darling of the Toronto media establishment and gets far more attention paid to her views and causes than she deserves.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ontario PCs choose MP Patrick Brown as leader

Well, the votes have been counted and members have made a clear choice for leader of the Ontario PCs. Barrie MP Patrick Brown is that party’s new leader and by a significant margin over Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott who was deputy leader under Tim Hudak.

The result reminds me of two old adages: Voters are always right; and Voters get the government/party/leader (take your choice) they deserve. These are no less true in this case.

Ordinarily, as a supporter of Christine Elliott the loser, I’d sulk  for a day or two and then accept the majority decision. And, by the next election, I’d be right in there cheering the party on. In this case, though, it seems different.

I’ve been a member of the Ontario PCs more or less continuously since about 1972 and have voted for them in every general election, and in the odd by-election, since then. But I must admit that the selection to lead the party of an obscure federal back-bencher with little or nothing in the way of accomplishments is just too much for me to swallow.

I’m a conservative and will only ever vote for a party which promises fiscal conservatism, so I can’t say I’ll never vote for a Brown-led Ontario PC party. I will not, however, remain a party member. Not that I’ll be missed; the party has signed up tens of thousands of new members, who seem to want to go in a different direction than I’d prefer.

I remember when Mike Harris, who I supported, first became leader. At that time, I felt he needed to “grow” into the job before facing his first general election as leader. And he did. His professional development in a relatively short time was nothing short of amazing, and justified my confidence in him.

So perhaps Brown, who I believe is in well over his head, will also seek and follow advice and grow into his new job. Unfortunately, though, I believe that is unlikely.

And that’s a shame for Ontario needs better fiscal management than it’s getting or is likely to get over the next three years from the scandal-prone Liberals.

Friday, May 8, 2015

At the PMO partisanship trumps security

The two videos produced by the Prime Minister’s Office and published on its 24/Seven Internet website earlier this week, apparently,  had not been reviewed by the Department of National Defence prior to the posting, which is contrary to an earlier claim by the Prime minister’s Office.

I refer, of course, to promotional videos of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tour of Iraq and Kuwait that showed the faces of members of Canada’s armed forces, some of whom are believed to be operators in Canada’s elite special forces.

Activities and  identification of personnel of the special forces are considered classified, and are not usually commented on by officials of the Government or the Department of National Defence. And some believe the PMO’s carelessness has left the special forces personnel shown in the videos vulnerable to attack by extremists.

According to The Globe and Mail:

Initially, the PMO had assured reporters the military vetted the videos before they were published online. Senior government officials told the media that the Forces had raised no objections to what had been uploaded, statements that left the impression the military was in part responsible for the fact the videos made it online.

“Sources say in fact it was only after journalists drew attention to the videos Tuesday that the Canadian military had an opportunity to scrutinize the footage and to conclude, as it did later that day, that the material represented a risk to soldiers.”

If the newspaper report is accurate, then we have a serious breach, not just of security, but of trust in the PMO, one of the most important institutions in our land.

For months now, we’ve been hearing from the Tories how seriously they take the terrorist threat and how they are the party most able to keep Canadians safe. Moreover, members of the media who accompanied the PM on his trip to Middle East were prohibited from publishing or broadcasting images that show the faces of members of our armed services out of concern for the safety of the military personnel and their families.

But still it reportedly took some eight hours for the PMO to apologize and admit the posting of the offending videos were a security breach. And, even then, their statement came across more like a mealy-mouthed excuse than an honest, heartfelt apology. Moreover, PMO did not correct the false impression that the DND had given the go-ahead prior to the original posting on the Internet.

It is not clear if any disciplinary action has been taken against PMO personnel. That office would only say they were “…undertaking a thorough review of the protocols,” and refused to discuss the matter further.

The Conservatives in Ottawa have made one political gaffe after another—a pretty steady stream since 2006 in fact. And in most cases one can point to the PMO as the source, or the root cause. And, yes, the media does blow everything out of proportion, but we should not use that as a reason to excuse poor judgement or to condone political tone deafness or downright ineptitude on the part of the PMO.

For years, we’ve heard concerns that the Tory government is too influenced by the “boys in short pants,” you know, the too-clever-by-far youngsters who work in the PMO. There is about the PMO a culture of extreme partisanship and arrogance that seems to say: We always know what’s best for everyone, and we are above the rules. So you (everyone else) must do as we say, not as we do. Unfortunately, with a fall general election looming, it may already be too late to change the culture in the PMO.

The way I see it, the Conservative Party of Canada could take a lesson from the reversal in fortunes experienced by the Alberta PCs. That party seemed to operate on the basis that its base had nowhere else to go so it could go about its business while paying little or no heed to those voters. Those Tories soon found that conservatives can and will go elsewhere if pushed too far.

Some, though probably not many, will “park” their votes with the Greens while others will vote for the Liberals. And many of us will stay home and not vote at all.

While it’s never too late to get one’s act together, time is running out.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Albertans had little choice but to turf out the PCs

The political news from Alberta this week has not been good tidings for those of us who favour conservatism. We can’t be too surprised, however, given the recent signals voters have been sending to their tired old Progressive Conservative government.

In the 2012 general election in Alberta, voters signalled, via public opinion polls, that they wanted change in how the province was governed. But the incumbent PCs mistook their last minute reprieve at the polls as a voters’ endorsement rather than what it was: fear of the Wildrose Party’s inexperience and of the social conservatives on that party’s extreme right.

In the end, their record-setting unbroken 44-year run in government was likely as much a major factor in their loss in the May 5 provincial election as were the PCs tribulations under the leadership of Alison Redford or the political ineptness shown by her disappointing replacement, Jim Prentice.

In short, voters were fed up with the PCs, who didn’t seem able to justify being given even one more day in office. Moreover, so fed up were they with the ruling PCs, they voted them down to third party status behind the majority NDP and the official opposition Wildrose Party.

Having said that, one cannot ignore the disastrous Redford–Prentice double whammy effect.

PCs had elected Alison Redford as their leader to revitalize the government and the party. She was supposed to be the “change” voters had signalled was needed if the Tories wanted to remain in power. Instead, what the PCs—and unfortunately the people of Alberta—got were two years of mismanagement and turmoil. Redford, it seems, had serious entitlement issues.

So PC supporters looked elsewhere for a new fixer. And to fill that role they selected former Conservative MP and cabinet minister Jim Prentice who, on paper, seemed a pretty good choice. By then, though, much of the PC’s base had given up or owed their political allegiance elsewhere: Prentice was elected leader with a shockingly low 23,000 votes.

Prentice’s short period as leader and premier was marred by small gaffes and political tone-deafness such as his “look in the mirror” comment to Alberta residents and his “math is difficult” comment to the NDP’s female leader during a campaign debate.

And, of course, a weak budget with too many unpopular tax increases was not helpful at all. Prentice then capped off his tenure as premier by disregarding the PCs’ own fixed election date and dropping a writ one year earlier than scheduled.

At the beginning, the Tories pretended the election was about their  so-called transformational budget, but, as their prospects dimmed they switched to fear-mongering over what an NDP government might do to Alberta’s already faltering economy.

And the Tories did have a point: the Dippers are going to do a royalty review and plan to increase corporate taxes. There is also some concern over suggestions NDP leader Rachel Notley may pour money into poorly conceived policies concerning “adding value” to Alberta’s natural resources. 

Voters were not impressed, however, for the fear-mongering was coming from a PC party that itself had tabled a very questionable budget only a month or so before.

So, with the socialists now controlling one of the most powerful engines of our national economy, how concerned should we be?

Well, were I a business person in the Alberta energy sector, I’d be very concerned. Even here in Ontario I’d be moderately worried since this province depends somewhat on manufacturing support it provides to energy-based activity in Alberta. With the U.S. economy humming along and our lower dollar helping exports, however, we may not feel much economic pain here, at least, not because of a socialist Alberta. We can expect plenty enough economic pain from our own suffocatingly paternalistic Liberal government.

Alberta will, in all likelihood, find the inexperience of the NDP MLAs and, especially, their cabinet ministers a very real handicap. Ontarians know something about that after the Ontario NDP won a majority government in 1990.

Ontario did, of course, survive and recover—though it did take a Common Sense Revolution to get it back on track. Four years should be enough for the conservatives in Alberta to unite politically and ready themselves for a return to power, should the dippers falter as I expect they will.

It was time for a change in Alberta—voters were demanding it. The Right couldn’t provide that change so the Left filled the vacuum. Over the next four years we’ll find out how high the Butcher’s Bill will go.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I voted Elliott in Sunday’s PC leadership election

Ivoted on Sunday in the Ontario PC leadership election so, at least in my case, the die is cast so to speak. Some of the 76,587 eligible members will not vote until the second voting day on Thursday, May 7, and then we’ll hear the results on Saturday, May 9.

I voted for the veteran PC MPP for Whitby–Oshawa, Christine Elliott, who I believe ran a competent and well-balanced campaign.

I really do believe Ms. Elliott’s promise “to grow the Big Blue Tent,” and see in her a leader with the ability “to clean up the mess left by the Liberals because we will win seats in all regions of the province, including the GTA and Toronto,” as her web site puts it.

With Christine Elliott as leader, I see hope for real change in the Ontario PC party’s fortunes. Her politics differ from that of the former leader, Tim Hudak’s. And that’s a good thing since Hudak’s politics were soundly rejected by Ontarians in two general elections. 

Classic progressive conservatism used to be at the heart of our party’s core beliefs—that is back in the days when the party governed the province for an uninterrupted run from 1943 to 1985. Ms. Elliott, it seems to me, is the candidate most likely to return the party to its roots, which seems to be summed up by her catchphrase, “fiscal responsibility and social compassion.”

In contrast, I don’t see how Patrick Brown improves the Ontario PCs’ prospects beyond those we had under Tim Hudak. Neither do I find anything about him inspiring, nor do I see enough difference between the tone of his politics and that of the past two PC election platforms to give rise to my hope of another Ontario PC government in my lifetime.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: What Mr. Brown’s supporters see in someone who has accomplished as little in Ottawa as he has is beyond me. Mr. Brown has not even committed to running provincially if he loses his leadership bid. Instead he says he’ll run if asked.

Why in heaven’s name does he need to be asked? Hell, the man is running for the leadership of the party! Who asked him to do that? Apparently, this career politician sees his future as either an Ontario PC party leader, or he’s prepared to return to relative obscurity as an Ottawa Tory backbencher.

In recent elections, the Ontario PCs have run on a right-wing platform, not even giving lip-service to policies that would be consistent with the “progressive” element of its name. And this I believe has been a mistake. As I have written before:

Many famous conservative statesmen have been proud to have their names associated with progressive–conservatism, including Benjamin Disraeli, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, David Cameron, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower and the federal PC prime ministers who have represented Canada’s conservative movement prior to Stephen Harper.

Few, if any, of these statesmen would accept the label of “Liberal Light,” one Mr. Brown likes to pin on Ms. Elliott. Yet Mr. Brown could not fill the leadership or statesman shoes of a single member of the aforementioned group.

Contrary to what Mr. Brown would, apparently, have us believe, being a progressive conservative is not the same as being a Liberal, although a successful political party in Ontario does need to attract votes from both centre-left and centre-right, where most Liberals reside on the political spectrum. As I recall, former premier Bill Davis had little if any problem differentiating his party from the Ontario Liberals and beat them every time he went he went up against them.

In recent times, Ontario’s PC party has become so closely identified with right-wing (rather than centre-right) politics that its members are often referred to in the media simply as “Conservatives” as if the federal party and the provincial party were indistinguishable.

To be sure, the parties share policies, membership, volunteers, etc., and the federal party—the direct successor of the right-wing populist Reform Party of Canada—under Stephen Harper has borrowed much from former premier Bill Davis’s progressive conservative style of governing. I would say that, despite its right-wing reputation in the media, the federal Conservatives govern more like a traditional Canadian-style PC government than did former PC premier Mike Harris or, I suspect, Tim Hudak would have done.

In Christine Elliott, I see a chance to return to a common sense approach with core conservative values informing our fiscal policy and a progressive approach to programs such as health care, education, public transit, mental health and ecology.

That’s my dream.

My nightmare is that a Patrick Brown victory on May 9 will be followed by eight more years of political irrelevance for the Ontario PC party.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

State-entitlement: a little less of the same, please

From listening to remarks by the likes of Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau one could get the impression that the NDP and, to a lesser extent, the Liberals believe all income we earn—one hundred per cent of it—whether from individuals or corporations, belongs outright to the various levels of government in Canada.

It is then left to those governments to decide how much of that income they will allow us keep for our own discretionary use. This rationing process—sometimes referred as income redistribution—is achieved to a large extent through our income tax system.

This is what I call state-entitlement. Which is to say that the state is entitled to all income from all sources, not unlike communism whereby all property is owned in common—in effect by the ruling political party—and citizens work and are paid according to the government’s view of their needs. The main difference between state-entitlement and communism is the former’s willingness to tolerate an economic mix of private enterprise with government interference, ostensibly to achieve loosely defined social aims.

In the case of Mr. Mulcair’s New Democrats, the primary social aim seems to be to maximize the total number of public sector trade union jobs with top-tier wage and benefit packages.

In the case of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals, the social aim seems less focussed and seems to have more to do with winning and keeping political power, which converts inevitably to the enrichment of “friends” and financial supporters of that party. (Should you require some convincing evidence of this do some research on Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals.) So, with the Grits, opinion polls inform their public policy far more than does principle or political theory.

Recently we have seen examples of how the opposition parties try to protect and advance the goals of state-entitlement.

Whenever a tax reduction is announced by the Conservatives, the NDP and the Liberals turn to their economic advisors for calculations of how much of the benefit is received by which sectors of the economy. The prevailing view seems to be that we all give up something so that some subset of our population can benefit. That is to say, when the state’s entitlement is reduced marginally, we all lose and accordingly have the right to ensure the beneficiaries of the tax cut are worthy of the state’s largess.

You see it matters not an iota that beneficiaries are being allowed to keep more of the money they earned from their own labour. Under state-entitlement, after all, individuals and corporations have no automatic right to the product of their labour. It all belongs to the state.

Let’s use a few examples to illustrate my point.

First, lets look at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposed income splitting tax break for Canadian families with children under 18, which would allow spouses in different tax brackets to split incomes for tax purposes.

According to a Parliamentary Budget Office’s study in March of this year, that plan will benefit about 15 per cent of Canadian families (about two million households, according to the National Post), some of whom are higher-income families. It matters not a scintilla to Dippers and Grits alike that those families who benefit from income splitting do so only because they have been unfairly penalized by our current tax system.

The beneficiaries are those households whose income tax bill has traditionally been higher than other households with the same total income, because one spouse earns substantially more than the other.

Household income, it is worth noting, is widely accepted as the fairest measure of a family’s ability to pay, which is why governments have used it for years when calculating certain of their tax credits.

So why have households whose spouses’ incomes are more or less equal been traditionally been paying less income tax, when one would think simple fairness would demand equal household incomes would be taxed equally?

As far as I can tell, its only because Canada’s income tax is based on individual income—unlike the U.S.’s system which does allow spouses to file joint income tax returns. This leads to fundamentally unfair tax treatment of some couples and income splitting is designed to help correct this injustice.

Nonetheless, the Dippers and the Grits cast this tax “realignment” as a tax-break for Canada’s richest families and mock the Tories for advocating it. You see, allowing 15 per cent of Canadian families to keep more of their hard-earned income is anathema to proponents of state-entitlement like Messrs. Mulcair and Trudeau.

My second example is the higher annual limit on contributions to Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) announced in Tuesday’s federal budget. Here’s a quote from this morning’s National Post:

Finance department statistics show that of 11-million TFSA holders in 2013, 80 per cent had incomes below $80,000, and 50% were below $42,000. Of those who made the maximum contribution, 60 per cent had incomes below $60,000. To be sure, richer Canadians are more likely to contribute to their TFSA than poorer Canadians, but it’s simply incorrect to suggest it is just a tax break for the rich.”

In the case of the proposed TFSA contribution limit increase, we are dealing with Canadians’ after-tax income. In other words, the government has already taken its share in the form of income tax, and contributions to a TFSA comes out of what Canadians have left to invest or spend at their discretion. Should a Canadian decide or need to spend his share, the government will tax it again in the form of GST. Should he decide to save it, the government will tax it again in the form of income tax on interest or any other gain he realizes on his investment.

In other words, taxes on investment income is a form of double taxation, another fundamentally unfair tax practice whereby a Canadian is taxed when he earns income and again when his after-tax savings receive interest, etc.

Many governments have recognized that gains on invested capital should be, at least, taxed at a reduced rate. In Canada, however, investment income has traditionally been treated pretty much like any other income and has been similarly taxed. Now the government seeks to redress this fundamental flaw by allowing some investment income to be shielded from tax until the money is used for some other purpose. Yet, again, the opposition leaders say they’d reverse the Tories’ plan.

Finally, lets consider Mr. Mulcair’s $15-a-day-child-care pledge.

This would, obviously, only benefit families and individuals with young children. And consider this quote from a piece Jeffrey Simpson wrote for The Globe and Mail last October:

Quebec’s [NDP’s plan is based on Quebec’s] heavily subsidized daycare program has been a special boon to the province’s middle class, especially the upper middle class, who use their knowledge of the system and contacts to get their kids into the right spots.”

Simpson added, “all sorts of parents who don’t need the [child care] subsidy benefit from it.”

What? The NDP plan benefits the rich? Shocking!

But remember the Dippers’ axiom: the primary social aim is to maximize the total number of public sector trade union jobs with top-tier wage and benefit packages. And remember that the NDP will press for most child-care employees to be unionized. That’s all it takes to make this a “good” tax break.

As to Mr. Trudeau’s proposed tax policy changes? Well he’s still studying the opinion polls. He’ll let us in on his plans once he learns which way the wind’s blowing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Canada’s participation in TPP jeopardized by communist-style supply management

Canadian governments of all stripes have traditionally supported the communist-style regime used to regulate prices and production of Canada’s dairy, egg and poultry industries and to protect them from foreign competition.

Since mid-2012, however, U.S. trade officials have made it clear that the system has to go if Canada wants to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new free trade zone of twelve countries representing 40 per cent of the world’s economy.

The TPP, which would also include the United States, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, has the potential to be one of Canada’s most lucrative trade deals. Here’s an excerpt from the federal government’s website:

The rapidly-growing Asia-Pacific market is critical to Canada’s growth and economic prosperity. 

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of the most ambitious trade and investment initiatives being negotiated in the Asia-Pacific region. TPP members want an ambitious, 21st-century agreement that will enhance trade and investment among the partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and create jobs.”

It is no secret that Canada’s dairy and poultry farms are artificially supported by an archaic, costly, anti-consumer supply management system. Moreover, these farms—only about six per cent of Canadian farmers—have been singled out from among all of Canada’s food producing farms and other operations to be a regulated cartel that is supported by price fixing practices and by imposing extremely high tariffs to support high prices.

I’ll not go into detail about this egregious system, but I strongly suggest you read former Liberal MP, Martha Hall Findlay’s excellent three-part series on the subject at Maclean’s website if you haven’t already done so. And here’s a link to her research paper published by the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary.

Hall Findlay’s research shows there are little more than 12,000 dairy producers in Canada, fewer than 3,000 poultry farmers and fewer than 1,000 egg farmers. Furthermore, they represent less than one-half of one per cent of Canada’s economy.

Because of supply management, there is a massive transfer of wealth from low and middle income Canadian families to these few farmers whose average net worth ranges from $2.5-million for dairy farms to almost $4-million for poultry/egg farms.

Moreover, Hall Findlay tells us that:

There are only 13 ridings in Canada with more than 300 dairy farms. And to put things into relative electoral perspective, these are ridings which have an average of 80,000 registered voters each. Eight of these are in Quebec, three of which (based on both the 2008 and 2011 elections) are held comfortably by Conservatives. Three are held by the NDP, two by the Bloc Quebecois, but in four of these, the Conservatives did not even come second, so the situation is
not likely to change one way or the other. The other five of this group of 13 are in Ontario, strongly held by Conservatives, each by over 10,000 votes in 2011.”

So there would be limited political fallout should the Tories decide to scrap this artificial system, or so one would think. But the Tories continue to argue in favour of retaining it—against all logic, even if it impedes trade negotiations that might be of benefit to other industries and even though it must stick in the craw of many free-market conservatives in the House.

The Tory stand confounds me and offends my sense of fairness. There must, I tell myself, be some clever strategy behind such a stubborn refusal to give low- and middle-income families a break by phasing out supply management. And perhaps there is.

Consider that in trade negotiations one must give something up to get something in return. By refusing so resolutely to keep our dairy and poultry business more or less closed to foreign competition, we have created an area for countries like the U.S., Australia and New Zealand to target. So are the Tories really holding out on supply management only to have it as a prize they will “reluctantly” give up when forced to do so in return for trade concessions not otherwise available to Canada?

I hope so. Other explanations aren’t very flattering to our Conservative champions of free-enterprise.