By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 16, 2008 - 0 Comments
The government has plenty of promises, if few explanations, for the mess in Afghanistan
The Scene. Stéphane Dion—not to mention Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and party whip Karen Redman—were not to be seen when Question Period began this day, the last Monday of this Parliamentary season. And perhaps there was some method in keeping him away.
With just a week left to tarnish this government’s reputation—or, rather, a week left to do so on business hours—the Liberals seem intent on leaving no alleged wrong unreferenced. Indeed, today offered a veritable buffet of the unappetizing—from Julie Couillard’s ambitious seductions to the Chuck Cadman tape to the in-and-out affair, NAFTAgate and the legal aspirations of Vic Toews.
So exhaustive and unrelenting was the opposition that Peter Van Loan, that solid champion of the public trust, was heard crying out for something more substantive. And if Mr. Dion is to announce this week the defining policy of his leadership—a boldly wistful plan that asks voters to put aside the individual needs of now for the sake of meeting a greater common good at some point in the unknown future—it is perhaps best at the moment to put some distance between him and this tawdry business of democracy.
Not, of course, that there weren’t legitimate issues to discuss this day. On the contrary. Just in time for summer, there are entirely new and serious questions to be asked about the country’s mission in Afghanistan. Continue…
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
Short version:… Pack your bags, nameless PMO and Foreign Affairs officials, you’re coming to
Short version: Pack your bags, nameless PMO and Foreign Affairs officials, you’re coming to Ottawa. Motion to study the Lynch report passes easily, with barely a peep of protest from the government.
Alrighty then. I’m back from the cafeteria; refreshed, renewed and ready for some hot government-on-opposition action.
A quick recap for those who missed the last liveblog: Government Operations and Estimates is about to begin debate on a motion from Liberal MP Mark Holland to look into the Lynch report on the Whole NAFTA Leak Thing, which is a clever bit of procedural sleight of hand, since it will allow the committee to investigate the leak without straying outside the bounds of its mandate.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 23, 2008 at 8:14 PM - 0 Comments
So the Prime Minister’s chief of staff did speak with at least one reporter in that budget lock-up. And he did pass on information he thought to be true about an American presidential campaign’s discussions with Canadian officials concerning NAFTA. But because he lacked firsthand knowledge of the discussions themselves and incorrectly identified the campaign in question, he didn’t do anything wrong.
Is that about right? Continue…
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, May 23, 2008 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
Or rather, Chinese whispers. Remember that game? You whisper something in a friend’s ear….
Or rather, Chinese whispers. Remember that game? You whisper something in a friend’s ear. She whispers it to the person next to her, who whispers it to the next, and so on round the circle, until it comes back to you in some wonderfully mangled form.
There. I’ve saved you the bother of reading the Lynch report .
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 23, 2008 at 2:07 PM - 0 Comments
Reading it now. Here’s something.
“With respect to Mr. Brodie, the investigation has found no evidence, and no witness has come forward, to confirm or refute what Mr. Brodie claims was said between himself and the CTV News reporter from Ottawa at the Budget 2008 lock-up. However, based on the sequence of events, it appears probable that Mr. Brodie spoke to the reporter on the subject of NAFTA. Moreover, based on the knowledge the investigative team understands Mr. Brodie had at the time, it is possible that he shared information (which turned out to be incorrect) that Canadian officials in Washington had spoken to Senator Clinton’s campaign regarding NAFTA.”
Update I. Here’s what appears to be the most relevant part for Brodie and Michael Wilson. Continue…
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
No one knows whether Ian Brodie’s reportedly impending departure as the prime minister’s chief…
No one knows whether Ian Brodie’s reportedly impending departure as the prime minister’s chief of staff has anything to do with his alleged role in the NAFTA kerfuffle (the leaking by persons unknown of the private views of one or possibly both leading Democratic contenders on the issue). For what it’s worth, most informed observers are inclined to say not, but we won’t know for sure until the release of the report by Kevin Lynch, the clerk of the Privy Council. Possibly we won’t know even then.
That has not stopped Liberal trade critic Navdeep Bains from issuing a press release demanding that Brodie be fired before he can quit, or indeed before Lynch’s report has been released. (Though Bains demands the report be released “immediately,” he wants Brodie fired “today.”) Continue…
By selley - Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 5:48 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: Graham Thomson on Alberta’s oil revenues; Rosie DiManno on Robert Baltovich.
Please, just …
Please, just make her stop
Despite the pleas of Canadian columnists, Hillary Clinton refuses to hand Barack Obama the Democratic nomination. How rude.
The Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente believes a Hillary Clinton presidency, just like the Bill Clinton presidency, would feature “high-minded ideals, lowered execution, half truths, outright lies, take-no-prisoner politics, [and] a presidential spouse given to wallowing in anger and self-pity,” to say nothing of the “endless psychodrama.” Wente doesn’t think she’ll be able to endure it, and implores someone in the Democratic establishment to remove Clinton’s pit-bull jaws from Barack Obama’s calf before America’s last great hope bleeds to death.
By selley - Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 4:55 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: …Chantal Hébert on Elections Canada’s risk exposure; Dan Gardner on bisphenol A; Christie
In and out and on with the rest of your day
We were expecting wall-to-wall in-and-out on today’s op-ed pages. Mercifully, there was also petropolitics, Sino- and Indo-Canadian relations, and the demon bisphenol A.
Some portion of the Tories’ neck is definitely on the chopping block in the in-and-out affair, Chantal Hébert writes in the Toronto Star, but the Liberals’ “resilience” in the wake of the sponsorship scandal shows “that it takes more than a bit of acid to permanently corrode a major political brand.” In fact, she suggests, Elections Canada is the institution with the most to lose. If it turns out to have “overplayed its hand,” she argues Canadians may start to believe allegations of anti-Conservative “vindictiveness.” (This would be more likely if it weren’t for all the documented anti-Elections Canada vindictiveness on the Conservatives’ part, but we digress.) If the Tories manage to win a majority despite the allegations and the charges against them turn out to be groundless, Hébert predicts a rapid and significant curtailment of Elections Canada’s mandate.
Like a newly tapped oil well in a Looney Tunes feature presentation, L. Ian MacDonald gushes over Stephen Harper’s performance on the NAFTA file in New Orleans. We’re open to renegotiations, Harper essentially argued, but a Democratic president could count on Canada leveraging its position as “the United States’ number one supplier of energy” at the bargaining table. “I think quite frankly we would be in an even stronger position now than we were 20 years ago and we’ll be in a stronger position in the future,” said Harper. “He played Canada’s high card … and he played it extremely well,” MacDonald writes in the Montreal Gazette. We’d say he was just doing his job.
The government may protest that relations with China and India are perfectly hunky-dory, The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson writes, but “they’re not, because the government spends little sustained time thinking about Asia, and had a counterproductive approach to China and too many illusions about India.” This column is perhaps most notable for the peculiar number of unsourced, unexplained facts it presents: India “considers Canada to be a rather second-tier country,” for example. If this is the case, we are left to wonder, why are our opinions on nuclear proliferation and greenhouse gas emissions apparently so poisonous to bilateral relations?
Concluding that “it is better to be safe than sorry,” as Health Minister Tony Clement did recently on bisphenol A, is “a fine way to do politics,” says the Ottawa Citizen‘s Dan Gardner. But the “precautionary principle” is pretty much useless when it comes to “crafting public policy,” because it doesn’t involve examining the risks inherent in the alternatives. If you’re worried about vaccinations causing autism, for example, then just don’t vaccinate your kids—problem solved, so long as “you don’t know what diphtheria is.” So what happens when other plastic bottles replace the bisphenol A-tainted ones? “Do glass bottles pose a hazard? Do the replacement bottles cost more and, if so, what effects will that have?” Gardner doesn’t know, and he’s “not sure Tony Clement knows either.” (That’s very diplomatic. We’re positive he doesn’t.)
Ricardo and Julita Bain still believe Robert Baltovich killed their daughter, Elizabeth, and “the law will allow them that intransigence,” Rosie DiManno writes in the Star. “For anyone else to say so would be libellous.” But doubting a man’s innocence isn’t libellous, she notes, and plenty of people—detectives, jurors who convicted him in 1992 and, ahem, “journalists who covered the original trial”—are going to go ahead and do so.
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford agrees with the Star‘s Thomas Walkom that the truth about the so-called Toronto 18 terror suspects will only come out once the trial starts. But unlike Walkom, the evidence she’s seen (which she can’t disclose) leads her to believe that despite the staying of charges against several suspects, “the Crown will indeed have people to try and a case that endures.” Just as in The Wire, she suggests, it can be difficult to “get past the cartoonish aspect” of the accused—not knowing the Prime Minister’s name, for example, or not knowing where Parliament Hill was. But “being unsophisticated, or strikingly handsome, or a student who loves a basketball team … are no barrier[s] to criminal lethality.” (We must be consistent and deduct points for using fiction to prove a point, especially when recent non-fictional history offers the columnist so many mule-stupid terrorists as exemplars.)
As far as the Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson is concerned, the only “refreshingly new” message in the Alberta budget tabled yesterday is a firm promise from the Finance Minister to “get serious about saving money,” instead of “putting money away as an afterthought once the budgetary carcass has been picked clean by ravenous government departments.” The rest of it is a painfully conventional combination of profligate spending with warnings that it can’t last—except it always does, Thomson notes. “Alberta’s finance ministers should deliver their budget addresses wearing a sandwich board with a smiley face on one side and a death’s head on the other,” he writes.
The Star‘s Thomas Walkom laments the evil megacorporation CanGro’s decision to close two fruit-canning plants in southern Ontario, which comes hot on the heels of Cadbury-Schweppes’ decision to stop using “the Niagara peninsula’s distinctively zesty Concord grapes to make Welch’s grape juice.” This is all symptomatic of “an economic system that no longer focuses on content,” he writes, and he’s probably right. But we simply cannot bring ourselves to care where canned peaches come from.
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson handicaps the May 6 Democratic primary in Indiana—another close race, he declares, but one that’s very winnable for Barack Obama. And if he does win it, then “the superdelegates will surely then decide that the party has spoken” and spare the party any more self-destruction. Why do we feel like we’ve read this before?
The Montreal Gazette‘s Janet Bagnall deplores the sexist pronouncements of Silvio Berlusconi (“Right-wing women are definitely more beautiful than left-wing ones”) and Vladimir Putin (Russian women are “the most talented and beautiful” in the world, with only Italian ones for competition). These comments are easily dismissed as “the last gasp[s] of unreconstructed male chauvinism,” Bagnall writes, but in reality “they create mischief, and harm.” And their effect, she concludes, is “to keep women from power.”
By selley - Tuesday, April 22, 2008 at 6:20 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: Andrew Cohen on anti-intellectualism in American politics; …James Travers on the in-and-out; Greg
Must-reads: Andrew Cohen on anti-intellectualism in American politics; James Travers on the in-and-out; Greg Weston on immigration myths; Don Martin on Rob Anders on China; Margaret Wente on the “wannabe Mountie.”
All eyes on the Keystone State
Pennsylvania’s gun nuts, God nuts and cheesesteak aficionados choose their Democratic presidential candidate tonight.
“If money were all that mattered in politics,” John Ibbitson writes in The Globe and Mail, “Mr. Obama would have sewn up this race months ago.” We’re sure Ibbitson’s told us on multiple occasions that Obama does have it sewn up, but that’s part of the irony, he suggests. “In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, he has the money; [Hillary Clinton] has the machine.” Inner-city Philadelphia will almost certainly go for Obama, while rural Pennsylvania will almost certainly go for Clinton. The primary will really be decided in Philadelphia’s bedroom communities full of “Reagan Democrats,” Ibbitson predicts, whom Clinton is counting on. “And if they need a ride to the polls, [Pennsylvania Governor] Ed Rendell’s machine is happy to offer a lift.”
Andrew Cohen, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, bemoans the descent of the once high-toned Democratic race into old-fashioned class warfare. Obama “can’t bowl worth a damn and doesn’t seem to like Philly cheesesteaks,” he writes. “So, he’s an elitist. John McCain thinks so and he should know. He comes from military royalty … and is married to an heiress.” Clinton, a “graduate of Wellesley and Yale Law School who was named one of the 100 leading lawyers in America” and who’s worth $109 million (US), thinks so too. The irony of this obsession with anti-intellectualism, Cohen suggests, is that presidents of plutocratic stock tend to be “kinder to the poor than to the rich,” while “the soothing Ronald Reagan and the brush-clearing Mr. Bush cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans.”
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington, who’s been writing some terrific stuff lately, phones in a snoozy preview of tonight’s Pennsylvania primary. He does provide some comic relief, however, by mentioning “the influential Zolgy poll” that shows Obama narrowing Clinton’s lead. (It’s Zogby. Yeesh!)
In all their talk of “renegotiating” NAFTA, the Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson says Obama and Clinton conveniently forget to mention that all signatories would have to agree to new provisions—and that they would bring their own grievances to the table. This is yet more evidence that both Democratic candidates are simply blowing smoke, Simpson writes, but that doesn’t mean we should sleep easy. “The more a candidate promises something, no matter how foolish, the more that groups that agree with the promise will try to hold the candidate to it if elected.”
Meanwhile, back in our pro-intellectual capital…
Tom Lukiwski got run through the wringer for weeks over his drunken homophobic rant, the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin notes, while Rob Anders’ latest outburst—comparing China circa 2008 to Nazi Germany circa 1936—merits only a “dismissive shrug.” Lukiwski, like the rest of us, can only marvel at the buffoon’s longevity. And he is clever, no doubt, in holding onto his riding despite “pariah” status both in caucus and among his wealthy constituents. But the Conservatives’ stated reasons to resist legal attempts to oust Anders—that riding nominations are a “private matter”—just don’t wash with us. Clearly the MP for Calgary West has pictures of someone important doing something awful. We implore Don Martin to determine who and what.
Damage control in the wake of the RCMP raid on Tory headquarters will be particularly difficult, the Toronto Star‘s James Travers suggests, because “more Canadians now think they understand Conservatives”—just like they understood the Liberals in 2006. Even if Canada’s lunchbox types are “consumed … with daily life,” Travers argues, “they notice Harper hasn’t explained what was or wasn’t offered to Chuck Cadman,” they know firing nuclear watchdog Linda Keen was pure self-protection, and they know the promised era of openness and accountability in Ottawa has definitely not materialized. And they know, furthermore, Elections Canada’s warrant isn’t just some kind of partisan witch hunt.
Sun Media’s Greg Weston busts a series of myths about Canadian immigration, including at least one that the Tories could probably put to excellent use: “Myth: Professionals and other skilled workers get into Canada faster than any other category of immigrants. Fact: A fully trained foreign doctor will wait an average 68 months to enter Canada, roughly three times longer than a grandmother reuniting with family.”
The National Post‘s Jonathan Kay is intrigued by the trial of Naveed Afzal Hak, who shot six women at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006, killing one, and is now pleading insanity—a stark contrast to most accused terrorists, he suggests, who “vigorously shun the insanity label as an insult.” But Kay suggests insanity is actually the most logical justification for incarcerating “sworn jihadis.” “By their own admission, [they] believe that mysterious forces beyond human control require God’s servants to engage in indiscriminate slaughter,” he writes. “How is this different from the violent schizoid who gets locked away in an asylum for the rest of his life … for exactly the same reason, minus Allah?”
The Globe‘s Margaret Wente takes a closer look at Ali Tahmourpour, the wannabe Mountie who claims he was racially harassed at RCMP boot camp, and whose claim was recently upheld by a Human Rights Commission adjudicator. In the nine years since his ordeal, Wente notes, Tahmourpour “hasn’t held a job” despite qualifying as a real estate agent and a translator. Indeed, it seems he “has spent most of his adulthood in litigation,” which he claims explains the amount of white space on his C.V. “Mercifully, the adjudicator didn’t swallow that one,” Wente quips. “That’s why she awarded him only half a million dollars.”
On the occasion of Earth Day, the Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran unpacks his grievances against retailers whose marketing reduces consumers “to being scolded and humiliated as undisciplined squanderers of money and resources.” It’s one thing for the self-righteous likes of Aritzia, Lululemon or Lush to badger their customers with anti-plastic bag campaigns and other eco-guilt trips, he argues, but The Bay is in no position to be pointing its grizzled finger at him. “To be told by a department store to ‘Walk to work’ is like being told by Swiss Chalet Chicken to ‘Eat beef,’” he writes, pointing to the HBC’s many locations in suburban mallscapes.
The Post‘s John Ivison files a quite affecting account of his life as a fan of Queen of the South, the woebegone Scottish soccer club now “emerging from the Wilderness Years (1919-2008)” to take on Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final next month.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 10:05 PM - 0 CommentsSpent last Saturday traipsing around north Toronto in a snowstorm with the Martha Hall Findlay campaign. That resulted in both a week’s worth of fever and chills and this story. Judge for yourself whether the latter was worth the suffering.The apartment canvassing was mildly instructional. Granted, the sample size was very small and taken from a Liberal-friendly riding, but consider that only a couple voters made a point of complaining about Stephane Dion. Another explicitly lamented the leadership of Stephen Harper. And not a single mention was made of the Liberal voting record in the House.So good news Ottawa insiders: no one’s paying attention. They’re far more concerned with the increase in cigarette butts found on their neighbourhood sidewalks. Adjust your policy and political projections as you see fit.
-Didn’t get a chance last weekend to mention Thomas Mulcair’s little freakout. Arrived in the House that day just in time to see the NDP’s next leader yelling and pointing at the Conservative side. As unhinged a moment as Parliament has seen this session. When Mulcair returned to his seat, it was Pat Martin, ever the even-handed diplomat, who came by to make sure he was okay.
-Couple of interesting contributions to the Cadman affair. First, Stephen Maher talks to Dan Wallace (sort of) and a pair of former Conservative MPs. And Glen McGregor talks to two of Cadman’s former financial advisors.
-In this piece, the esteemed John Geddes suggests Ian Brodie will survive the NAFTA controversy. Preposterous? Probably not. Consider the Prime Minister’s response to a question on the subject this past Thursday. “In terms of the issue at hand, the clerk of the Privy Council is leading a full internal investigation. We will accept whatever recommendations come out of that but I can say that at the moment nobody is suggesting that there is any evidence that would suggest at this point that I should force anyone to resign.”
-Finally, one passage from Like A Rock that seems to have escaped notice. This is taken from page 265 and takes place about three weeks before the infamous vote.
A demon dialer message from Alberta was bombarding [Cadman's] offices in Surrey and Ottawa, saying he should sink the government. But the only thing it managed to accomplish was to make Chuck really angry.
“He was pretty pissed off about it because it was disrupting a lot of things,” Dona recalled.
Surrey residents were getting calls from the Conservative Party of Canada with an automated message urging them to phone Chuck and tell him to vote against the Liberals. The idea of a mass phoning campaign asking thousands of residents to pepper the MP with calls while he was struggling with cancer did not sit well with many constituents.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 11:56 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The government benches stood and cheered, unanimously and enthusiastically, swollen with pride. What were they all so happily applauding? Good question.
Surely it was not the news that an inquiry into their handling of Afghan detainees will soon be launched. Nor could it have been word that one former prime minister (Clark, Joe) sees Canada’s international stature wasting away under this administration. Nor reports the last prime minister (Martin, Paul) was recently in Mexico showing more concern for a mistreated Canadian citizen than the current head of government has yet demonstrated.
What about the arrival on Parliament Hill of Justice Gomery, the esteemed detailer of government malfeasance, to identify the current Prime Minister’s Office as a “danger to Canadian democracy?” Or the latest calls for various resignations in the wake of that NAFTA messiness?
No, neither of those developments seem worth cheering either.
So what was it? What had so reassured this bunch of its purpose and righteousness? Well, it was this. Continue…