By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 14, 2011 - 154 Comments
On the specific matter of the signed recommendation from CIDA and the hand-scrawled addition to that recommendation of the word “not,” the document in question is reprinted here. When the president of CIDA, Margaret Biggs, testified before a parliamentary committee in December, she said that the “not” was not on the document when she signed it.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 14, 2011 at 5:59 PM - 43 Comments
The Scene. The starry-eyed and shiny new mayor of Calgary—he who is presently hailed as a new kind of political ideal—uses a lovely phrase to describe what he is trying to do: Politics in full sentences. The sentiment contained therein—less a matter of grammar than tone and spirit—seems as much about what politics should be as what it presently is.
As it is, we speak mostly in slogans. The art of political messaging has been so finely tuned that debate is essentially an exchange of sentence fragments—aggrandizing nouns and accusatory adjectives. Sentences and paragraphs exist only to support memorable phrases. Indeed, in relaying the extent of most debates, we needn’t even bother reprinting full sentences. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 11, 2011 at 1:35 PM - 72 Comments
Last December, Liberal John McKay rose on a point of privilege to assert that International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda had misled the House on the matter of KAIROS. Yesterday, the Speaker told the House he could not formally rule on the matter under the present circumstance. That did not though restrain him from commenting.
As noted earlier, the Chair reviewed all the documents available. In doing so, to fully grasp the allegations being made, particular attention was paid to the committee testimony of the minister and senior CIDA officials and to the internal CIDA document obtained through an access to information request made available to me by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood. The full body of material gives rise to very troubling questions. Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes. In particular, the senior CIDA officials concerned must be deeply disturbed by the doctored document they have been made to appear to have signed.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 11:05 AM - 3 Comments
Here then an interesting test of the system’s ability to demand and require the whole truth. After Question Period on Monday, Liberal John McKay rose on a point of privilege to assert that International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda had misled the House on the matter of KAIROS.
One is left with a clear impression that the decision to not recommend was made after the minister’s signature had been appended to the document. The minister does not know who put in the interlineations and therefore cannot tell the House who made the decision, when the decision was made and why the decision, approved by the agency and possibly by the minister herself, was reversed.
It is a prima facie case of contempt to mislead members by blaming others for one’s decisions. It is misleading to say that one made a decision when no decision was made. It impairs a member’s core function of holding a government to account. It erodes the doctrine of ministerial accountability.
Jim Abbott, formerly Ms. Oda’s parliamentary secretary, stood after to take issue with Mr. McKay. Bob Rae and Paul Dewar added their thoughts yesterday. The government has asked the Speaker to allow Ms. Oda time to respond before ruling.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 2:57 PM - 1 Comment
After a week away, our weekly, and wholly arbitrary, ranking of the ten most worthy, or at least entertaining, MPs returns. A celebration of all that is great and ridiculous about the House of Commons. Last week’s rankings appear in parentheses. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 5:52 AM - 0 Comments
A couple of weeks ago I ordered a copy of Emily Murphy’s The Black Candle (1922), the notorious, influential book that first defined drugs as a social problem in Canada, introduced the public to their varieties and effects, and led directly to the addition of marijuana to the Restricted List in 1923. I placed the order after reading the Sept. 3 Seattle Times op-ed by John McKay, the former U.S. attorney who (in connivance with our federal ministry) had Marc Emery extradited and jailed. McKay, forced out of his job because of political controversies and tergiversations you’d need a scorecard to comprehend, is now a professor of law. His editorial was a tub of ordure hurled backwards at his own career: in it, he characterized U.S. marijuana law as a parade of blind idiocies that enriches criminals and gets cops killed unnecessarily.
Having left law enforcement, McKay had the chutzpah to add that prohibition survives partly because “no one in law enforcement is talking about it.” Apparently they like to wait until they have tenure. I’d say his belated gesture of courage deserves something like the reward given to the naval gunner in Victor Hugo’s Quatrevingt-treize who leaves a cannon unsecured below decks and heroically brings it under control. In the book, the commander pins the Cross of St. Louis on the man’s breast—and immediately orders him shot.
One thing that struck me about McKay’s article, though, is how he admits that “our 1930s-era marijuana prohibition was overkill from the beginning”. How much more so was Canada’s? Few states outlawed cannabis as early as Canada did; the pretext was provided by Judge Murphy. It was in a fit of consciousness of original sin that I ordered the book, having written about it years ago. The judge would understand, for we come from the same fanatical Presbyterian stock and dwell upon the same unforgiving spot on the map; and now, as it happens, I have joined the staff of Maclean’s, the organ primarily responsible for promoting moral panic on her behalf back in the day.
The guilt ought to lie heavy upon us, for Murphy’s reflections on “Marijuana—A New Menace” are, as McKay’s remark suggests, nonsense—lurid, racist, sexually pathological, self-contradicting old-lady balderdash that openly pre-empts the whole notion of evidentiary support. “There are plenty of folk,” writes Murphy, “who pretend to themselves that they yield to narcotic enchantment in a desire for research and not for sensual gratification…but, however kindly in judgment, one finds these statements hard to credit, and even if credited, only demonstrates these persons as rascals-manifest.” (Gotta love that hyphen.)
We thus ought to trust other authorities, Murphy suggests: one such is the Chief of Police of Los Angeles, California, who tells her that “Persons using this narcotic smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility. Addicts to this drug, while under its influence, are immune to pain, and could be severely injured without having any realization of their condition. While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most savage methods of cruelty…If this drug is indulged in to any great extent, it ends in the untimely death of its addict.” A medical informant adds that the drug is used to induce “hallucinations which are commonly sexual in character among Eastern races.” Murphy, having double-checked this information in the Encyclopedia Britannica, expresses skepticism but does attest that “It is…a peculiarity of hasheesh that its fantasia almost invariably takes Oriental form.”
In summary—says a magistrate who decided the fates of poor and miserable people in my city within the memory of persons still living—”there are three ways out from the regency of this addiction: 1st—Insanity. 2nd—Death. 3rd—Abandonment.” We must beware of judging Murphy by the standards of our own time, of course. She was almost totally unfamiliar with marijuana, so she formed a view of it using the cognitive tools available to her—a strong education, a wide correspondence, and a practical knowledge of the social effects of drugs in general.
But that view was substantially influenced, if not determined, by Murphy’s white-supremacist race-hygiene ideology. And she was not merely typical of her time in that regard: she was an unrelenting extremist, someone who could hardly write twenty consecutive words without expressing fear of Anglo-Celtic “degeneration” or remarking defensively upon “the superiority of the Northmen”. It may be timely to observe that new laws are normally midwived by terrors such as these, and that, in general, we have to live with those laws long after the terrors are dispersed and forgotten.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM - 43 Comments
Steve Paikin comes perhaps as close as anyone is going to get to having a rational televised discussion about the fact that people with religious beliefs might wish to participate in the democratic process.
By John Geddes - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 1:26 PM - 26 Comments
As all-party talks get rolling into how the House Afghanistan committee might see sensitive documents but also keep state secrets, MPs should look back at the experience of the 2000 Sub-Committee on Organized Crime of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
That sub-committee was created in the spring of 2000 and reported back to the House in the fall. It was chaired by former Liberal MP Paul Devillers, and only a couple of its former members still sit in Parliament—Liberal John McKay and, interestingly enough, Conservative Peter MacKay, now the defence minister. (The surname similarity is a bit confusing, so I’ll used first and last names throughout.)
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 7:06 PM - 34 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister did his best to recline, or at least slouch, in his place. Michael Ignatieff sat upright, leaning forward at the edge of his seat. The Prime Minister wore various shades of blue. Michael Ignatieff had chosen a grey suit and white shirt with a black-and-pink-striped tie.
Perhaps only one of these men was excited to be here.
The Liberal leader rose first with an attempt at humour. “Mr. Speaker, as we were saying before we were so rudely interrupted,” he began. A few Liberals chuckled—various Conservatives groaned.
“The Prime Minister shut down Parliament,” Mr. Ignatieff continued. “Canadians were rightly angered. Canadians want the House to reassert its just authority. They want democracy strengthened, not weakened. Will the Prime Minister support creating a special committee of the House to study prorogation, to limit it and to prevent its future abuse?”
The Prime Minister rose, buttoned his jacket and casually invoked the spectre of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition. His dutiful caucus rose to applaud his effort. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 4 Comments
BIOTECanada held a special reception for MPs at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier as part…
BIOTECanada held a special reception for MPs at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier as part of the sixth annual National Biotechnology Week. Below, Conservative MP Rick Dykstra.
Liberal MP John McKay.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 11:21 AM - 4 Comments
Magna chairman Frank Stronach rolled quietly into town to promote his new electric car…
Magna chairman Frank Stronach rolled quietly into town to promote his new electric car and to secure loans under the government’s automotive innovation fund. Storonach (centre) shows Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (left) and Environment Minister Jim Prentice the goods. They all took a spin in the quiet, electric cars.
Prentice checks under the hood.
Justin Trudeau takes a spin. When Trudeau’s aide Alex Lanthier saw the promo cars he quipped, “What? No red ones.” All the cars were blue.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 1, 2009 at 2:30 AM - 28 Comments
John McKay talks to Charlie Lewis about Liberal efforts to reach out and touch faith.
“There is a deep feeling in the faith communities … that they have been marginalized and they have not been able to participate in the debates in society as fully as they might. I would argue that we are a poorer society as a result,” he said. “Tommy Douglas was a Baptist minister, for goodness sake. And if it hadn’t been for the force and clarity of his moral vision we might still might be arguing whether we should have universal health care.”