Thursday, May 31, 2007

Delousing the blog

I've taken much of the latest stuff on Warren Kinsella and moved it to the archive page This keeps the Ottawa Watch blog relatively troll-free. Don't forget to check that archive page, as it provides hours of great reading -- much of it already scrutinized by libel lawyers -- about one of Canada's most over-the-top lobbyists/pundits/punk rockers/bloggers/political advisers/land claim negotiators/lottery scandal managers/litigants/internet trolls/liars.

Spector on Quebec

The still-very-much employed Norman Spector analyzes the rules surrounding the fall of a government in this column in the Globe, reprinted on his web site.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today's Dionspeak

An interesting scrum. Our boy still can't speak English worth a damn, but it's interesting to see a Quebecois-based party leader speaking up for Ontario when the Tories are trying so hard to dilute the rights and the clout of Ontario voters.


Question:
Has the Liberal caucus decided how it's going to vote on the redistribution of seats?

The Hon. Stéphane Dion:
We support the principle, rep by pop, representation by population. We think it's sad that the government decided to go unilaterally without consulting its constitutional partners, that means the provinces. And then you have the reaction of the Premier of Ontario learning by the newspapers, which is not necessarily bad, but it's not normal that he will not have his share of seats. So what we suggest is to look at that very carefully in committee to have that (inaudible).

Question:
So you want to amend this in committee?

The Hon. Stéphane Dion:
Yes. Yes. We don't think the formula that the Prime Minister provides is a good one, but we agree with the principle.

Question:
Do you agree with the Ontario Premier's problems with the (inaudible)?

The Hon. Stéphane Dion:
Yes, because if you are almost 40% of the population, how come you would end with 35% of the seats almost forever? So we think that the Prime Minister provides something. He did consult as he should the Premiers as he's doing about the senate reform by the way, and this is a mistake. It's not good federalism.

Schools of crimes and despair

Jordan Manners' death might spur some action on the problems facing some of Ontario's big-city high schools. Already, some teachers are bravely speaking up while school board trustees and officials plead ignorance. C.W. Jeffreys appears to be a school out of control. If that doesn't change, hundreds of young people will be deprived of an education and the social problems in the neighbourhood will only get worse.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Call me psychic

This post, from early May. When I saw the original story saying these guys were doing "security work" in Iraq, it seemed obvious the shit would hit the fan soon:

In the Line of Fire
Someday, this company's activities are going to bite the Canadian government on the ass. Don't ask how or when or where, but it will happen. In a world with terrorism, organized crime and so many dicey regimes, I believe somehow, somewhere, something will happen that will make the head office and the Government of Canada very unhappy.

Now look what's happened.

Would someone please tell Sandra Buckler that this is a democracy

Sometimes I wonder whether Stephen Harper, or his handlers, need some serious therapy. They seem hell-bent to make sure they're hated by the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I'll be among the first to say the gallery has, over the generations, become insular and sometimes ineffective, but it also has some of the best journalists in the country and is capable of greatness. It can't make or un-make governments, but it certainly contributes to the process.
What, then, explains the bone-headed decision by the Harper bunker-brain trust to forbid reporters' questions during tomorrow's visit of Arnold Schwarzeneger? Just what, exactly, is that supposed to prove? And what does it make us -- all Canadians -- look like in front of the California delegation? It smacks of some sort of third-world state, rather than a G* society in the information age.
George Bush thought he could alienate the lame-o White House press corps. He believed he could talk over them and deal directly with the public.
He was wrong. So's Harper.

Rep by Pop II

Glad to see some consensus on this by the Liberals and Tories at Queen's Park. The demographic shake-out of Canada -- the huge growth of the Ontario West and the relative stagnation of the provinces east of the Ottawa River -- will be the biggest problem facing Canada in the next generation. My kids and people of their age group will have to answer the political questions that arise when British Columbia and Alberta surpass Quebec in population and GDP. Together, those provinces are approaching that point now. In thirty years, each one will do so separately.
Quebec has already slipped, in my lifetime, from having 25% of the country's population to having about 20%. Ontario and Quebec had almost identical populations during Canada's Centennial year in 1967. Now Ontario has almost double. Quebec's population is about 7.2 million. Ontario's is 12.8 million. Both were at about 6 million in 1967. Quebec's birthrate is below replacement, and the median age of its population is older than the national average. Ontario's GDP was $537.604 billion in 2005. Quebec's was $274.863 billion, almost exactly half. Here in Ottawa, people still talk and act as though Ontario and Quebec are close to being equal in population and GDP. The demographic and political realities of the 1960s were supposed to be frozen in time by Meech Lake and Charlottetown. Canada's elites could then pretend that Quebec's suicidal social, economic and language policies had no impact on Quebec's growth. Fortunately, as Canada evolves, its people will be able to fully discuss the implications of population change.

Wednesday update:
The Toronto Star's Ian Urquhart writes a good column on the issue, coming close to answering the question: "Why won't some federal party stand up for Ontario?"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ghiz... Ghiz... where have I heard that name before?

The new Ghiz government will likely give fairly decent government to Prince Edward Island. It will be interesting to see if, as in the days of Joe Ghiz, PEI begins to punch above its weight again. Note the lopsided split in votes/seats. The Liberals scored a respectable 52% of the vote, and won five times as many seats as the Tories. In a proportional rep system, the Liberals would have a bare majority. In our first-past-the-post system, it's an overwhelming victory.

Today's bullshit

Nope. No gangs involved in the killing of a 15-year-old kid in a north Toronto school near the Jane-Finch shooting gallery. No-sir-ee. Just a dispute among pals that got out of hand. Sort of a "domestic", nothing to look at here. Move along. Nothing to talk about.
I mean, these things happen, right? Kids argue at school. They pull out guns. They blow each other away.
But, hey, gangs? Why even mention 'em?

Hard to argue with Gore on this

Al Gore says the press now reports far too much celebrity gossip and other such trash. And he's right, as far as it goes. In many ways, the mainstream media has taken on the role of Confidential and the rest of the 1960s movie magazines. It tries to find common ground with its readers -- an audience that is rapidly fracturing on gender, class, race, and generational lines -- by harping on the vacuous activities of Hollywood actors and anyone else with a high enough Q rating to be notable across the fracture lines. In Canada, political reporting has been reduced to commentaries based on personality and poll results, with enough ideological bias tossed in to prevent anyone from straying too far from their pre-set thought boundaries. Our politics is corrupted both by a lack of quality coverage of important issues and by governments that believe they can censor and manipulate public information for political gain. Readers have tuned out the cynicism of the political media and the elected officials they cover. In fact, they're tuning out all media -- newspapers, serious radio, TV news, current events magazines -- altogether.
Just a few facts to keep in mind:
* Canada's National Newspaper is read by 1 in 30 Canadians.
* Its competitor, the National Post, is read by about half that number.
* The major national newscasts -- all of them, CTV, Global, CBC -- reach about 10% of Canadians.
* The largest newspaper in Canada, the Toronto Star, is read by about 20% of the people in its coverage area.
* Canada's National News Magazine, Maclean's, is read by about 3% of Canadians (the "read by" rate includes the fact that these publications are passed around by people, and I'm being generous by accepting the ludicrous idea posited by newspapers and magazines that each copy is read by about three people).

There isn't a single Canadian print pundit who's read by any more than about 300,000 people -- say, 1 in 100 Canadians. Most of the top political writers have readerships in, at most, the five-figure range. So who's reading them? Mostly, I'd argue, each other.
Still, the Canadian media has enough clout left to taint public opinion, to instill ideas that lead to the development of public image. Taken together, they can influence the public mood, especially during election campaigns, when Canadians actually do focus rather carefully on public affairs.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rep by Pop

Norman Spector says today that this is a column he's glad he didn't write. I think it's bang-on. If they don't have fair representation at the federal level, people are going to look to their provincial legislatures to speak for them. In a federation that's as decentralized as this, unfair representation may be fatal.

Forgetting history

I heard this a few times yesterday on the CBC and in the Quebec media: the idea that, in 1985, the Ontario Liberals assumed office because the Lieutenant Governor preferred to ask them to do so, rather than call an election.
That was not the case.
The 1985 election, (which began with a Tory majority government under new leader Frank Miller, inherited from Bill Davis) ended with the Conservatives having the most seats, the Liberals following quite closely, and a strong NDP contingent. The Liberals actually polled 1% more votes than the Tories and were just 4 seats short of tying them. The Liberals and NDP reached a very public written accord that they would, at the first opportunity, vote non-confidence in the Tory government and, they expected, the Liberals would be asked to form a government. The NDP promised to support the Liberals in the legislature in return for the passage of some elements of the NDP election platform. This agreement was made before the recall of the Ontario legislature. Miller, to his credit, quickly called the legislature, expecting his government to fall. He brought down a very voter-friendly budget, which was, as planned, defeated.
Now, the kicker, the fact that everyone gets wrong.
Miller went to the Lieutenant Government, submitted his resignation, and told the Lieutenant Governor that he expected the Liberals to be asked to form a government. Miller did not, as in the case of Mackenzie King and Lord Byng in 1925, ask for an election. Miller probably did not do so because the Conservative support had collapsed very precipitously in the last weeks of the campaign, and the party was financially tapped out by a hard-fought leadership race the previous winter. The Ontario Lieutenant Governor used no real discretion in the matter. He followed the very public will and the expectations of all parties in the legislature. The transfer of power went off as planned and expected.
But that's not how it's explained here and in many other Quebec media.
Thompson and Bauch also don't understand the King-Byng Affair.
King lost the 1925 election (Libs 100; Tories, 115, Progressives 22). Acting within his rights, he decided to face Parliament rather than resign. King expected to be supported by the Progressives. This support did not, because of several scandals, materialize. Rather than resign and let the real winner of the election attempt to form a minority government, King succeeded in placing the Governor General in a politically irritating situation. Arthur Meighen, who had actually won the election was, in King's ploy, to be denied the right to govern. Byng, by, in effect, doing the right thing of offering the leader of the party that had, by some 15%, won the most seats, a chance to face Parliament, was cast as a meddling Imperialist. Meighen was given his due, did try to form a government, and was defeated. At the same time, King and the press cast Meighen as an opportunist, again ignoring the fact that Meighen had won the election and both a moral and legal right to try to govern. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the press in 2007 if the Liberals won (extrapolated to the present size of the House of Commons) 30 more MPs than the Harper Tories and Harper somehow manipulated them out of a chancew to form a minority government.
King's version of this complex series of events -- that the democratic will of Canadians was thwarted by a colonial official when King's request for an election was turned down -- won him the subsequent election and is obviously still entrenched in Canada's media.
If Charest's budget is defeated (very much an unlikelihood, I believe. No one seems to consider the idea of a compromised, revised budget, which is the sensible outcome), Charest will almost certainly get an election if he wants one. The ADQ is nowhere near having the type of mandate David Peterson had in 1985 or Arthur Meighen won in 1925. There's no way it will, or should, form a government without facing the voters.

Update: Here's a far better analysis of the political situation in Quebec. Graeme Hamilton of the National Post understands the Ontario power transfer of 1985 and has the good sense not to bring up King-Byng. I'd add just one thing: a warning to Pauline Marois. Take a look at the post-coronation poll numbers of John Turner, Kim Campbell, Paul Martin and even Stockwell Day before you act too quickly.

UPDATE (June 1): I thought L. Ian Macdonald understood the 1985 Ontario precendent. Looks like I was wrong.

Just to refresh: The Ontario Lieutenant Governor invited the Liberals to form a government because Tory premier Frank Miller asked him to. If Miller had asked for an election, he would have got one. Miller did not ask for an election because he knew he'd lose.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dugald Christie: One Last Screwing

Dugald Christie was a very cool guy. Long-term readers of this blog will know that I went to his funeral in Vancouver last summer. Dugald did a lot to make sure justice wasn't just for the rich. Giving up a lucrative practice, Dugald moved into a downtown residence for the homeless and devoted his life to organizing pro-bono legal clinics for the poor and disadvantaged. He also campaigned to repeal a ludicrous tax on legal fees, which, he believed, helped keep legal representation out of the hands of the poor and working-class. Dugald had won a major round in BC's Court of Appeal. He was on his bike, making his way to the Canadian Bar Association convention in St. John's when he was struck and killed by a mini-van outside of Sault Ste. Marie last August. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada came down with its decision on his tax case. The tax stays.

BTW, if you wonder why people get confused about justice issues, read this story. What a mess. You've got Ontario's Court of Appeal decision on access to information tumbled in with the Supreme Court decision on the law fees tax, dissenting opinions tossed in, appearing to have far more importance than they did, and some strangely confusing wording and structure. Next time, Tracey, write two stories.

More news from home

Back in my old stomping grounds, they've busted some sophisticated criminal types and some Casino Rama employees for running a fixed Baccarat game. I thought just the lotteries were crooked.
Anyway, the betting in Ottawa these days is on the Senators. There's a pretty large block of people who are very, very happy, and who's to blame them? People like my little sister, who's bought tickets to Sens games for years and driven an hour each way, paid out ransom-level parking prices and blackmail-level ticket prices, eaten $5 hot dogs, and cheered for these guys in their choking years, should be happy. People like her 12-year-old son Max, a die-hard Leafs fan, are not always climbing on the bandwagon. In fact, I suspect Max will put money on the Ducks in four.
Now, Prime Minister Harper, another Leafs fan, showed up at Scotiabank Place during the Buffalo series wearing a Sens jersey and took a kid's Sens-logo jumper to Afghanistan to give to Pres. Karzai. I'm not one to speak either for Max or for Sens fans, but there is a certain level of contempt in Ottawa for Leaf and Canadien cross-overs and other bandwagon jumpers. I really couldn't care less. I lost interest in the NHL after the 1970s expansion. That was back when living people could remember the Leafs' last Stanley Cup. I hated Sittler, despised the Flyers in their goon years, and was blown away by the quality of Russian playmaking in 1972. Then I stopped watching.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

School shooting

I can't even begin to imagine what she's going through. The killing has to stop, or this boy died in vain.

Arar fillets journalists

Arar warns innocent lives at risk unless Canadian journalism improves

Maher Arar. (CPimages/Tom Hanson)
TORONTO (CP) - Maher Arar says more innocent lives could be ruined unless the Canadian media improve the quality of their coverage.

in an address to North America's first international conference on investigative journalism, Arar called on reporters to serve the weak and vulnerable, not the powerful and anonymous. Arar is a Canadian citizen who was deported by the United States to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

He was later completely exonerated of allegations that he had terrorist connections.

He says an investigative, independent and responsible news media is the public's best defence against corruption and abuses of power.

Arar says despite his exoneration, government officials who leaked information that led to his deportation may still be in positions of trust.

He says irresponsible media treatment of these leaks contributed to the destruction of his reputation, which made him seem "worse than a serial killer."

This is just wrong

If this deal goes through and the companies involved retain their current holdings, one company, CanWest, would own major interests in:

* the dominant newspapers in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Windsor, Ottawa, and Montreal;
* The National Post;
* the Globe and Mail (in partnership with the Toronto Star and Thomson, the world's largest data company.);
* the Global TV network;
* the CTV network;
* CityTV and its affiliates;
* many of the major cable TV specialty channels;
* Alliance-Atlantis, the country's dominant movie distributor and one of its major TV production companies;
* the dominant telephone company in Eastern Canada.

First, I'm amazed they'd even float the idea of this deal.
Second, at what point does the government step in? Will it simply wait until One Big Company owns all the media in this country? The people who seemed so shrill when shouting about media concentration ten years ago now seem overly conservative in their warnings. Enough is enough. And "enough" was long ago, before the BCE-CTV merger, and way before the CanWest-Alliance deal.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Uncle Bobby RIP

In 1964, when Uncle Bobby came on the air, I was a little kid living on Prince Edward Drive in Etobicoke. Uncle Bobby was up against stiff competition, including Channel 7's powerhouse Rocketship 7 cartoon show. But Uncle Bobby held his own. I moved to the Mennonite country outside Kitchener and came into the jurisdiction of Big Al, the Kiddies' Pal. All of those kind of shows, which used chincy sets and schlock to fill the gaps between the 20-year-old Popeye, Woody Woodpecker, and other cartoons that were originally meant to be shown in movie theatres. Now, most of them are considered too racist/sexist/dated to be shown at all. Uncle Bobby (Ash) was an eyewitness to the birth of modern kids' TV, and now he's up with the angels.

Toronto the not-too-good-at-all

I've been offered jobs in Toronto over the past couple of years and my wife's training for a new and interesting career where some of the best employers are in Toronto. But we'll never move there. Here's another example of the reason why. We have three small kids who will, eventually, end up in high school. As far as I can see, in Toronto there are two choices: Fort Apache public high schools, or private high schools full of rich, disfunctional assholes. No thanks.

Sleaze didn't sell

The Tory attack campaign in Manitoba got the public support it deserved. The moral of the campaign: decent government trumps U.S.-style low-road campaigning every time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Clown House reno

When I first came to Ottawa, in 1994, Parliament was mulling a 10-year plan to renovate the buildings on the Hill. They need to be cleaned of asbestos, re-wired, re-plumbed, structurally re-inforced and the stonework needs major repairs. Since then, the Centre Block was re-pointed (the stones removed and re-cemented) and the library has been renovated but the rest of the work was never started. It's 150 years overdue. To be blunt, the original construction on the East and West blocks was done by crooks. The government, back in the 1850s and 1860s, hired its pals. They cut corners, built poor foundations, and, when the government ran out of money, walked away from the project for months, leaving the construction site to the elements. When the Centre Block burned in 1917, the demolition engineers examined the foundations and came to the conclusion the building would have fallen down soon anyway. Add to the shabby construction the fact that Parliament Hill is one of the more seismically active pales in eastern Canada (the hill itself is created by faulting; the river runs through a series of faults, and the entire City of Ottawa is built on a "graben", a rift valley of collapsed faults along a stillborn plate tectonic boundary). So what will be done. Well:

The Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct, which was developed in 2001, is being reviewed, said Pierre Manoni.

i.e. nothing, until someone gets brained by a falling rock.

More Canadian civil war

Here's a Toronto ethnic/gang conflict I'd never heard of before.
WTF is happening to Toronto?

Monday, May 21, 2007

What do you make?

I live in a city of one million people that has no industry. This is an anomly in human civilization. How can a city grow to such a size solely on the tax remittances of others? Ottawa has a "high tech" industry that is just another form of information manipulation, and that simply wouldn't exist in the city if it wasn't the national capital. We don't make anything of real substance. As the years go by, fewer other Canadians do, either. Mill towns are closing all over the North. Factories in the industrial heartland are shutting down. Those that are favored by governments -- like Bombardier -- cost more than they're worth. Our society can't survive without being productive, but working in transportation, trade and industry is despised by people today. They want to be like the folks on TV and "work" in offices, spending the day surfing the net, flirting and gossiping. In real life, most paper-pushers, especially in Ottawa, are unhappy, resentful people who have one focus in their working lives: retirement day. Who will pay to support all this bureaucracy? Looks like nobody will, since industries are continuing to pull up stakes in central Canada because of high taxes, increased electrical costs (which killed the northern Ontario lumber and paper industry), and a lazy work force.

Manitoba election poll

Looks like Hugh McFadyen, one of the sleazier examples of the new wave of attack politicians, is about to get stomped. I've read a bit about the campaign and seen quite a few of the TV commercials. McFadyen has a few problems: the Tories have given Manitoba some very poor government over the past couple of decades; McFadyen comes across as a nasty little piece of work; and his attack ads are especially desperate-looking and silly, especially the Willy Horton take-off that's just downright goofy. His main problem is that he comes across as a weasel, another power-hungry little ferret trying to use scare tactics and smear to score control of a patronage machine. When people in another province are laughing at your amateur-hour attack ads, it's time to hang it up.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deseronto

I had an interesting visit yesterday with the people occupying the gravel/fossil quarry at Deseronto.

Just a few notes:

* The occupation of the quarry may, in the near term, be a mistake. Unlike at Caledonia and Ipperwash, there's little of value at the site, and local gravel quarries outside the disputed area are making up the slack. Except for the quarry owner, no one's being incovenienced by the occupation. I doubt there will be much media attention for the quarry occupation, even in the medium term. This may be a frustrating situation for the occupiers, who know that blocking the rail line a few hundred metres away causes much more disruption and gets serious, immediate media coverage.

* The people occupying the property are dedicated to staying for a while. There are a couple of trailers, a new board and batten pavilion for meals, and even a little playground for the kids.

* There doesn't seem to be much interest in the so-called stand-off from non-Native officials. There's no sign of the OPP or RCMP (not that they'd do much, anyway).

* I didn't know the property used to be an air training base in the war. Once someone starts pointing things on the property out to you -- the fire hydrants in the fields, the Quonset hut that's a neighbour's house -- it does become obvious. They may have a point that the land was, like Ipperwash, taken for war service and not given back. However, in their media coverage, this aspect has never been drawn out.

* People at the occupation make varying claims of aboriginal ownership. The "cause" of the dispute is not clear. Originally, gravel was being taken from the site for a condo development the Mohawks opposed (last fall's version). In April, the occupiers claimed the quarry land itself. Yesterday, the young, blond guy doing most of the talking said the Mohawks want the non-native village of Deseronto (population 2000) handed over soon, along with most of the adjacent township. Negotiations, he said, would soon begin between his group and the residents of the community. The long-term goal was compensation for a strip of land from Gananoque, 40 kilometres east of Kingston, to Brighton, 30 km west of Trenton, and going "way up north". This claim takes in the cities of Kingston (pop. 130,000), Belleville (40,000), Trenton (20,000, with adjacent CFB Trenton), the yuppie vineyard area of Prince Edward County, and a rural area of mixed farms.
This is a ludicrous claim, a demand for land far in excess of the 97,000 acres of the original British grant. The area, historically, was Huron land and was never settled for any extended peiod of time by the Mohawks or any other Iroquois.

* The people I talked with seemed unaware that the Mohawks at Tayindinaga came from from the U.S. after the War of Independence. The Mohawks had supported the British against the Americans. They couldn't explain anything about the size of their original land grant, and how it was reduced (from the original 97,000 acres to today's 18,000 acres. The people at the occupation should get up to speed on their own history. The band explains it all on its web site.

* The Tayindiniga Mohawk territory is one of the most prosperous reserves I've seen. It doesn't have much ugly Indian Affairs housing. There are quite a few middle-class looking houses, nice vehicles, RVs, and lots of boats, ATVs and stuff. It's one of the few Indian reserves I've seen where the Native people are about as well-off as the non-Natives around them. There is certainly an entreprenuerial side to the Mohawks of Tayindiniga, who make the best of their tax-free status. If there is a poverty issue at Tayindiniga, it could be relatively easy to fix.

* An older Mohawk man at the occupation site said there's pressure on the Tayindiniga reserve because many young people are moving back. That's an unusual state of affairs on Native reserves. Now, who has the obligation to cover the cost of resettling people and building homes for them? Most people on the reserve have built houses on small acreages, and it is possible that the reserve, which can hardly be considered by any fair person to have the land base to support more than a few hundred families, could become crowded.

Monday morning update
Maybe this new system will separate the good cases from the bad.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A few political thoughts at the end of the week

Is a guy who threatens to break the law by opening a smoking area worse to the body politic than a lobbyist/political strategist who deliberately and consistently lies about his critics and opponents?


Are the federal Liberals completely self-destructive?


Does anyone put any value at all on democratic institutions, or is politics all just bullshit to win control of the patronage system? Is this crap really what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought two world wars to defend?


Why couldn't I have directed my interest in history in a more rewarding direction?

And a Friday night thought: Will all the "blockbusters" in this summer of sequels suck?

Very cool outerwear

I hope this is going to the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

House of Very Commons

(On Friday, Treasury Board Secretary Toews told a Member of Parliament to take her "medication"... or did he? In a week that's seen one MP run across the floor to hurl obscenities at one of the McWimpy Brothers and the collapse of the Committee on Official Languages, it seems to be proof, yet again, of the need for Sunday School or at least a summer course in basic manners).

Question:
Did you tell her to take her medication?

Hon. Vic Toews:
I indicated that this is an individual who has consistently yelled and screamed in the House. She does it on a consistent basis without -- without any regard for the other people in the House. I think that most people sit there generally speaking and listen to what is being said. That member ---

Question:
(Inaudible)

Hon. Vic Toews:
--- that member yells and screams at all times and I never said that she was to take her medication.

Question:
What should she do then? Take medication? Could you just clarify -- and is it wrong ---

Hon. Vic Toews:
What she should do is settle down perhaps and listen when other people are speaking in the House. That's what she should do.

Spector on Sponsorship

Today, the very-much-still-employed Norman Spector serves up an interesting column in LeDevoir on respobsibility for the Sponsorship Scandal.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yo, Warren

You worthless liar. I'm not defending Randy Hillier, I'm taking you to task for shamelessly distorting his quote.
Just so everyone has the facts straight, even if you don't.

These days, those who criticise Kinsella's tactics of lying and manipulating facts and quotes find themselves, in effect, defending people on the right of the political spectrum. That's because, these days, those are the people he targets. It's the Ontario Tories, not the NDP, who threaten to get between Warren and a paycheque. I can assure my friends on the Left that Kinsella would use his same sleazy tactics on them if they were a threat to his meal ticket, the McGuinty Liberals.

Warren is shameless.

It's all laid out here , if anyone wants to read it: the attacks on people's sexuality; the numerous libel suit threats; the ghastly personal attacks; his $40,000 libel lawsuit payout; his career as an adman; the deconstruction of Kinsella by Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne, people Kinsella sucks up to now because they have power. Take an hour to read it.

Today's Dionspeak

(Today, Dion can't finish a scrum without reverting to French. A real back-slide in his quest to become bilingue...)

Question:
Mr. Dion, is your party or the opposition parties partly to blame for the sort of atmosphere in the Commons now? I mean...

Stéphane Dion:
What we have done wrong?

Question
(Inaudible)

Stéphane Dion:
No, what we have done wrong? I mean everybody may agree that I have always taken the high road, I'm not calling names, I'm respecting my opponents, but the prime minister is always going to low politics. Look what he did this week, when he claimed that the report was blaming the action plan of the official languages when the report of the commissioner is praising the action plan. It is a report years ago that was saying we need an action plan. He misled the House very clearly.

Question:
Is this just partly a power play, a contest of will? I mean for example the opposition side removed a Conservative committee chair. They closed down the meeting.

Stéphane Dion:
Okay, but...

Question:
Should we kind of fight over control here?

Stéphane Dion:
No, no, but in all fairness, the opposition parties came to this conclusion because the chair didn't want to hear witnesses who came so far, from Winnipeg at their own expenses or at least, they went from Winnipeg and he cancelled without any reason. So he lost the confidence of the committee for very valid reasons. It is very clear, it is not - c'est pas une raison frivole, c'est pour une raison valable qu'ils ont été obligés de faire çal. D'accord? Merci beaucoup.

Empty victory

Even during highly-rated shows, CanWest, City and CTV seem to have to fill available commercial time with house ads, so I can't see how this will do them any good. I suspect they really needed the carriage fees, and von Finckenstein, the new CRTC chair, has called their bluff.

The whole Hillier quote

I see the lobbyist for the undertakers and the dump owners is at it again, trying to smear Lanark Tory candidate Randy Hillier. I don't know the guy. I don't agree with his take on some rural issues. I probably wouldn't vote for him. I would, however, like to see him, and all other farmers in Ontario, treated fairly.


Fri, May 11, 2007
Talkin' about a revolution
By TOM VAN DUSEN
Ottawa Sun

Hillier urged delegates to follow his political path because it "removes red tape, regulations and incompetence and allows farmers markets, tourist resorts, sawmills and bakeries to flourish, not flounder. I will remove health inspectors who pour bleach on egg sandwiches at church socials."


* * *


After three years, we can look upon our accomplishments and take pride in what we have achieved. The days of bureaucrats outfitted with hazardous chemical suits, entering sawmills in Lanark and Renfrew Counties and shutting them down are long gone. The days of arbitrary land use designations in Carleton County are over. The days of farmers not being able to acquire a single deer-removal permit are dead. And the days of health inspectors cracking down on farmers markets and cleansing church suppers are history. However, the greatest victory of all is that which cannot be weighed nor measured, but it can be felt in the heart of every Landowner. The sense of unity, identity and a common sense of purpose in defending our community’s has not been felt with such vigor in a generation. It is this intangible essence which is our greatest strength, a strength which will not be broken.

Ontario Landowners Association Press Release August, 2006

Fun With Figures

Despite obvious jumps in prices for things people use and need, the feds say inflation is down. John Button, a savvy financial commentator on Ottawa's CFRA radio station said last night that government figures are becoming laughable. The books are cooked to keep interest rates down to save the mortgage business and reduce government debt payments. In fact, the real inflation rate is 6%, and probably higher. And since very few of us got a 6% increase last year, most North Americans are feeling the pinch.
In the media, the loss of buying power has been pretty relentless. The starting rate at entry level jobs is about 1.25 times the minimum wage. When I first started out, in the early 1980s, even Thomson paid 1.5 to 2 times the minimum. That would put the starting rate for reporters on weekly and small daily papers in the $650-$700 range, instead of the $450-$500 it is now. Newspaper freelance rates tanked when the Aspers bought the National Post. (One good thing I can say for Conrad Black: his papers appreciated the work of entrepreneurial independent journalists. Now those papers treat them like serfs.) I'm about to dump a freelance client because their rate has gone up only once in the past 14 years. And magazine rates at large publications in Canada seem perpetually stuck at $1 a word, which was good money in the 1980s but stinks now. To do a 3500 word piece for a quality magazine requires a month of complete attention: getting enough information to pitch the article, meeting with editors, gathering material, writing it, going through the inevitable re-write and revision process, dealing with fact-checkers, and often consulting on the art that will be used. If you could do that every month of the year, you'd still make a substandard living. Add to that the uncertainties of the trade, things like articles being overtaken by events or dropped for lack of space, or articles that don't run because editors have lost interest in them, or just don't like the finished work. Then you end up having done all of the work for a $1000 kill fee. Because good magazines seem to be dying at a rate in Canada of about one loss every two years, there are literally dozens of award-winning writers who are settling for newspaper work and contract writing or who are willing to write for far less, in real terms, than they made twenty years ago.
Now, I know blog readers will say something about the Internet, but the simple fact is that honest Internet journalism doesn't make any money. Those who do write for web-based news publications are paid peanuts. News aggragators, unless they are on the take, do their work for nothing in the hopes, I suppose, that they'll eventually find a money-making avenue. I blog because I work alone quite a bit. It's a way for me to communicate, and to express myself politically, which restrain myself from doing in my academic work and journalism.

Bring a big umbrella

I always wondered what would happen when the big, ugly, cheaply-built skyscrapers of the 1970s got old. Now I know.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bye, bye, Svetlana...

After the Liberals allowed their pals to get special ministerial exemptions to allow foreign peelers into Canada -- thereby contributing to the international traffic in women forced into stripping and prostitution -- the Tories have, at last, taken away the fast-track immmigration rules that, in the end, victimized women.

Today's Dionspeak

Question:
Mr. Dion, given what's happening to the Official Languages Committee with the NDP's opposition day and the filibuster in the Senate, (inaudible)?

The Hon. Stéphane Dion:
I think Canadians will worry a lot about the, the way the government is, is handling these issues. More and more, the government shows that it's unable to respect the fact that it's a minority government. It will show to Canadians indeed what kind of majority government they would be, but fortunately we will never know because never there will be a majority government.

Question:
(Inaudible) nothing's getting done. Is that a problem?

The Hon. Stéphane Dion:
I guess the government wants that this way, but we are doing our best as you see. I have a question of privilege and the three leaders of the opposition, despite all these arguments about many things, are able to work together to show the good example.


(Dion's getting better at handling the Press Gallery's softballs, but I doubt he can hit the curves that will come his way during an election campaign.)

Rumours of his death, etc.

I really enjoyed Norman Spector's column in today's Globe. Didn't Frank Magazine and some liar on the Internet say he'd been fired?
Oh, well. I'm sure they'll apologize for their mistake.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Homesick blues

Thirteen years after moving away from Georgian Bay, the lace where I grew up and my family's lived for 150 years, seeing these remarkable paintings by my friend Rod Prouse brought back a lot of old feelings.

Retreads

I really don't know why they pay TV executives the big bucks. They've got to be the least creative group of people in the world. Take this, for instance. It was much more funny fifteen or twenty years ago, when Phil Hartman did it as Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer on Saturday Night Live.

There's libel chill...

and there's libel chill. This is a guy who will do serious damage to anyone who crosses his path. Whatever will the venue be?
We live in interesting times when guys like him are ready to go to law for what's published about them in the papers. Probably a good thing, but don't expect him to be a gracious loser or to pay costs. Same goes for the defendants, who have the potential to take this outside the courthouse.

The Lord giveth...

and the Lord taketh awayJerry Falwell. The '80s are starting to seem like a long time ago.

Off the rails

The Sun chain's Jorge Berrera mined a great story out of YouTube yesterday. I don't know if the video is still up, but I did see it and, yes, the saboutage shown in the video would work. Disrupting the econony by endangering the lives of honest working men and women on Canadian railways -- some of whom are my relatives -- is not an appropriate or effective way of negotiating or gaining public sympathy. There are very serious criminal penalties for this kind of action, and I hope the laws are enforced.

Helpful link

Anyone who wants to see the comments liar Warren Kinsella mentions on his worthless blog today should scroll down to the "Anarchist Leaker" post. Check the times to see when they were posted.
Now, do I want Kinsella dead? As I posted on the comments Kinsella neglects to publish: No, I do not. As I wrote, I don't care either way. Warren, get some help and get it through your dense skull: I just don't care.
Kinsella is, of course, the original "anonymous" poster.

By the way, Warren, just how mentally ill do you have to be to publish a Nixon-style Enemies List on the Internet? Especially one so full of lies and distortions as yours. By the way, sorry if you don't find me attractive, but I certainly can live with that.

With his disturbed postings on his Enemies List page, Kinsella is, essentially, begging me to sue him. He wants the attention. He wants me to play in his sewer by having to go to court to defend my reputation from his deliberate lies and libels. But people have his number, and I have too much going on in my life to get into a legal shit-flinging match with the likes of Kinsella.

In the Line of Fire

Someday, this company's activities are going to bite the Canadian government on the ass. Don't ask how or when or where, but it will happen. In a world with terrorism, organized crime and so many dicey regimes, I believe somehow, somewhere, something will happen that will make the head office and the Government of Canada very unhappy.

The story you won't see in Ottawa

The Ottawa Senators are up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup finals, meaning they need to win just five of their next eleven games -- less than 50% of them -- to win it all. That's the good news about Eugene Melnyk's investments that's in all the papers and on the radio stations here. The bad news will be buried far and deep today, if it's published at all. The U.S. securities regulators have come calling, and it's never good news.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What's Wong, Wawwen?

Today, the self-styled Prince o' Darkness and lobbyist for multinational garbage dump owners and undertakers* cheers the Quebec Press Council for a decision on a complaint from the St. Jean Baptiste Society about Jan Wong.. Jan Wong is a Globe and Mail columnist. The controversial piece she wrote after the Dawson College shooting carried her picture and, for all intents and purposes, was an column/analysis piece. Certainly, that's what I thought it was when I read it. The point she made is not be the same conclusion that I would draw from the facts, but it's an arguable position in light of Quebec's language policy. As such, people have the right to argue back. And they did. The reaction was so fierce that I suspect there's a chill over discussion of the inclusiveness of Quebec society. That's too bad, because Quebec really is one of the very few places in theWestern world that regulates the language you speak at work, the language you use on signs in front of your place of business, and forces you to send your children to school in the local official language. It is probably the only place in the developed world that aCtively changes place names to erase the historic fact of the presence of a linguistic minority.
Unlike me, Kinsella, Jean Charest, and Stephen Harper, Wong grew up as a visible minority person in Montreal. I would not be too quick to discount what she has to say about the problems faced by young non-white or non-Francophone Quebecois or to stifle her voice. Usually, newspapers that publish opinion that riles public sensitivities respond by running opposing viewpoints, then everyone moves on. Not this time, though. She hit a nerve that runs through the Nationalist history of Quebec, into the crypto-fascist period of Duplessis, and farther back to the time of racist prelate Lionel Groulx.
More recently, we've had Landry's "money and ethnics" slur of 1995. The ADQ's recent platform smacks of racism and xenophobia and its candidates were often exposed as bigots. And anyone who wants to see elements of racism in Quebec's press need simply examine the coverage, and especially one editorial cartoon, in the Quebec media reaction to Wong's column.
If people wanted to refute her argument, they should have drawn on facts. And there are some. Montreal is a multicultural and multilingual city, despite the policies of the Quebec government, which pander to small-town Quebec, places like Herouxville. And Wong's argument falls down somewhat when you consider that two of the shootings happened at Anglophone schools (Dawson College and Concordia). If Gill and Fabrikant were driven nuts by Quebec's political interference in their right to self-expression, they presumably would have gone after Francophone insititutions. But, then again, these guys were nuts. This kind of thing happens, unfortunately, all over the place.) Still, she was entititled to make her case, and, to me, it looks like the Quebec Press Council caved to political pressure.
Anyone who thinks Stephen Harper and the House of Commons acted out of integrity when it censured Wong need only examine the recent case of Shane Doan to take a measure of the level of reckless irresponsibility and pandering among federal politicians. Wong's abuse by politicians should be a badge of honour. Journalists are supposed to piss people off. It's called Freedom of Speech, and sometimes it really, really bugs people.
Today, Warren Kinsella, whose name is a punchline in Canadian journalism, equates Wong, one of the country's best journalists, to Jayson Blair, a reporter (of colour, BTW) fired by the New York Times after being caught fabricating stories. That's a grotesque libel of Jan Wong, something that Kinsella's employers at the National Post (who employ Kinsella as "media columnist") should make note of. He may make the same comparison in the Post, and it could be quite expensive for CanWest.
As for NNAs' (the National Newspaper Awards), too bad the Post only won one this year and Kinsella's never been nominated. Sour grapes make the finest whine.
Now, you really want to know what Kinsella's on about? Read this. It's the column where Wong had Kinsella for lunch.

(*Kinsella is a registered lobbyist for Waste Management Inc and the Ontario Funderal Directors Ass.)

Conventional wisdom is so conventional

From Norman Spector's blog:

--Mr. Duceppe, it would seem, will be coronated* the next leader of the PQ….Mr. Duceppe's move will be good news for the battered provincial wing of the Quebec separatism dodo bird. (Don Martin, May 9, 2007)

--It's widely expected that Duceppe will become PQ leader when a leadership convention is held….Duceppe's biggest task if he does win the PQ's top title, as is anticipated, will be to steal Dumont's thunder and offer a renewed and appealing plan for achieving separation. (Barbara Yaffe, May 10, 2007)


*(sic)

Buy Magna

Chrysler makes mini vans with bad transmissions. It builds big trucks and SUVs. It builds big cars. It doesn't build a hybrid or any good-quality small cars. Chrysler is so stuck in the 1970s that it brought back the Dodge Charger -- or, at least, a lame version of it* -- and only the cops have been buying it. The police who do use the Charger tell me it's cramped and has a huge blind spot. Daimler-Benz was smart to unload the turkey. As David Olive says, Magna was lucky not to get it. Magna would have been out of its depth with Chrysler at a time when the Chinese are about to unleash hell on what's left of the North American car industry.

(*the Charger only comes with four doors and an automatic transmission. Is there anything in the world that's more lame than a muscle car with an automatic transmission? Only the Americans would build a sports car that's unavailable with a standard, and only American drivers would be caught dead in one.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fast food

I had lunch yesterday with my son and three of my friends at Montreal's fabulous Chalet Barbecue (on Sherbrooke, just off the Decarie). Perfect french fries. Plump, succulent chicken roasted to perfection. I wonder if he was on the menu. I didn't see his name, but he fits the bill.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sorry I missed this...

OTTAWA – A lawyer for MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) has sent a letter to Dr. Brian Day, President-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, demanding an immediate withdrawal of his statement and a full public apology.

Day claimed in a speech to the Fraser Institute that Chow had private surgery. Chow is an ardent supporter of Canada’s national public health care system in the strong tradition of the legendary New Democrat, Tommy Douglas.

Olivia Chow will be available for comment.

THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2007 PARLIAMENT HILL

Time: 1:00 pm
Place: National Press Theatre

The Truth Will Out

Parliament wants to know if Jean Pelletier, chief of staff to sleazeball Jean Chretien, and several smaller Liberal fish lied under oath when they testified on the Hill years ago about the Liberals' ad kickback racket. Looks like they lied to someone. That means they're possibly guilty of perjury or contempt of Parliament. Congratulations to Daniel LeBlanc for keeping this story alive.

Anarchist Leaker

As a journalist, I find people like this useful. As a citizen, I agree that he should be fired and charged. A temporary employee working on a contract has no business tampering with policy or deciding which documents should be leaked to the press. I suspect this guy will never work in the public service again. He had no qualms about applying, through a temp agency, for a slack-assed government job and taking taxpayers' money, despite the fact he has some grossly immature and downright silly ideas about the Canadian state.
What is it with lame-brained wannabes and punk rock, anyway?
Yesterday would have been Syd Vicious' 50th birthday. Fortunately, he pegged out in 1978, leaving us with one good album and sparing us 29 years of tedium. Too bad a few others didn't follow his example.

McWimpy Caves

Ontario Liberals finally allow probe of Sponsorship II. Nice of him to wait until lots of damage was done to the Grit re-election effort.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Today's Dionspeak

Question:
On the charges being laid over the leak in Environment Canada, Mr. Layton has just said that he wishes the Conservative government would be as zealous in reducing pollution as it is in reducing leaks.

Hon. Stéphane Dion:
Mr. Layton will never govern. I have a responsibility as leader of the opposition I want to become prime minister of this country. I need to be respected and I will never encourage this kind of behaviour whether it's from Environment Canada or Finance Canada or whatever. I will not speculate on this specific case. I don't know if I may come with accusation against the government when I don't know what is happening. I will not comment on the specific case. For the principle, I think civil servants must respect the secrecy of their role.

Lawsuits 'r' Us

CN is suing the Deseronto-area Mohawks who, against the wishes of the local band council, blocked CN and VIA Rail tracks this spring. I'm waiting to see if the owner of the nearby gravel quarry that's being occupied by the same protesters sues the Globe and Mail for libel for Naomi Klein's column of May 4. Klein republished the claim by the occupiers that the quarry is being used for illegal toxic waste dumpin. I've been a regular visitor -- at least once a month in the spring, summer and fall -- at the quarry for the past nine years and I have seen absoluely no sign whatsoever of toxic waste dumping. And believe me, I was looking.

Whole lotta shakin' going on

There's gotta be a song in this.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Today's Winning Headline

The Toronto Star has this beauty on its web site:

Bloc head ponders run for PQ leadership

I think the headline writer knew what s/he was doing.

Randy Hillier

If Randy Hillier is such a bad candidate and such a troubling person to a certain blogger, why doesn't he do the brave thing and run against the guy instead of shooting libels and smears out over the Internet?
I don't know Hillier from Donald Duck, but he certainly has some people worried. He reminds me of the frustrated people from my old neck of the woods who, in the 1980s, started a farm "survival" movement. Some of them eventually went to jail for trying to thwart tax and mortgage sales of their neighbour's farms. Others became serious political contenders. They tapped a vein of farmer anger and got incredible support from hard-working people in rural Ontario. It seems the Ontario Liberals and their "strategists" have no time for these kind of people and their problems.
Rather than mock people like Hillier -- who have, for better or worse, tried to do something about the plight of farmers -- and call them "knuckle draggers" and "mouthbreathers", the lobbyists who moonlight as columnists/political advisers/bloggers should spend a moment to think about the plight of Ontario's farmers. Unlike those who are well-paid to try to kill stories on lottery scams and lobby for dump owners, Ontario's farmers have had some tough times in the wake of the collapse of the beef market and because of low prices for produce. They've seen their prices beaten down by factory beef and cattle farms, and have suffered from the European Union's undermining of crop prices.Their attempts to make an honest living have forced many of them to take jobs off the farm or to sell out to big farming corporations.
Ontario's farmers have missed out in the economic boom of the past twenty years. Some sensitivity to their concerns, rather than mockery, might be in order.

UPDATE
The National Post gives the Liberal smear campaign the mockery it deserves.



UPDATE II
From the Comments:


Anonymous (of course ed.)said...
kinsella represents the largest farm organizations in ontario, you idiot, and has for months

5/09/2007 01:30:00 PM


Ottawa Watch said...
Nice to hear you have work.
The Ontario Liberals used to care about small farmers. Now their lying stooges and paid shills mock them. People fighting to protect the rural way of life -- even those who may be inarticulate and somewhat misguided -- deserve better than to be smeared by the lobbyist for Waste Management Inc and Liberal sleazes like George Smitherman.
Of course, it's always about Kinsella... in Kinsella's mind. But right now, we're heading into an election, and rather than deal with the legitimate concerns of farmers, the McGuinty government has sent out its ratty-assed merchants of smear. Sad, sad decline of a once-great party, one that had strong representation from farmers across the province. Sad. Hopefully, the word is spreading across Ontario that the Liberals don't want the votes and support of Ontario farmers.
But with Kinsella and Smitherman, it's all about winning. It's about having your guy in office at any cost, no matter who gets smeared and trashed along the way. When you're a lobbyist, that's what you're selling. When your guy is in, you get work from Waste Management Inc, the undertakers, Ticketmaster, and whatever other chumps come along. When your guy is out, you don't get the work.
Ontario deserves better. Certainly, rural Ontario deserves much better than to be trashed by the likes of Warren Kinsella and George Smitherman.

This Justin

The beautiful, brilliant and bilingual Mylene Dupere is Justin's new flak. She did a great job working for Irwin Cotler when he was Justice minister, but she's going to have a hard time dealing with gaffes like this. (Though Justin's right in a "why can't we get along and work together" kind of way. Duplicate school systems, based on language, are wasteful. In a perfect country, we'd have bilingual schools, bilingual kids, and a lot fewer school board administrators).

Monday, May 07, 2007

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No Timmy's?

Tim (no relation) Naumetz serves up a story about the brewing coffee crisis on Parliament Hill. I think it's just a cash grab. The Centre Block cafeteria coffee is great Fair Trade stuff that sells for $1.35 for a big cup (half price if you bring your own cup), and, if you're organized enough to have a Frequent Flier card, every tenth coffee is free. Starbucks is going to hook everyone on Parliament Hill on $2.50 coffee, which will make folks even more surly than usual. As well, next thing you know, lobbyists will be buying coffees for those who are strapped for cash.
What Tim (no relation) Naumetz didn't say, or what was cut out of his story by the copy editors at the Citizen, is that the Horton's just off Parliament Hill is an incredible cash cow for the chain. On workday mornings, there's a line out the door and into the Sparks Street mall, as though it was Size Seven Tennis Shoe Day at Moscow's GUM department store in 1974. Horton's coffee seems to be getting worse, the pastries get smaller every year (I remember when an apple fritter was a meal) and, now that they've stopped making things in-store, everything seems old and has that just-thawed-out blandness.

Influence peddlers and five-percenters

Today, Globe and Mail columnist Norman Spector's column is about lobbyists, a group of people who undermine Canadian democracy by selling their influence, trading favours for campaign help, and manipulating politicians. At the federal and provincial level, and even in some cities, we have people who represent corporations on one day, work on the political campaigns of people they're paid to influence on the next, then are quoted anonymously in the media as party "strategists". It's wicked, and it should be stopped.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tired of feeling rejected?


Maybe this strategy will work. HT to Bob Webb.


Herbert A. Millington
Chair - Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall,
Whitson University
College Hill, MA
14109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I
regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me
an assistant professor position in your department.
This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually
large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field
of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.
Despite Whitson's outstanding qualifications and previous experience in
rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at
this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor
in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.
Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Sincerely,

Chris L. Jensen

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"I am going to kill myself for peace. Shortly afterwards, I am going to read...

This California nutbar probably will do it. The killing himself part, anyway.

Good riddance

I'd never heard of Farhan Chak until today, but he seems like every Tory's wet dream: a Liberal candidate who seems soft on Islamist terrorism, had a hidden criminal past, and faked his academic credentials. The Liberals quickly accepted his resignation. This is the kind of stuff that hurts any political party. If a blogger working on his own dime can track down enough dirt to bury this guy, maybe political parties can spare themselves some grief by doing a better job of vetting candidates. I believe we need a new political culture that does not foster dishonesty.

We're all getting older...

I was a big fan of his work.

Today's Dionspeak

In which, during the post Question Period scrums, the Liberal leader hides behind Denis Coderre's worthless lawsuit against Shane Doan to dodge a question on the non-controversy concocted by the worthless Denis Coderre.


The Hon. Stéphane Dion:
I think it's very sad. And as a leader of this country, a leader of the opposition, I want to, I want to invite everyone, all the (inaudible) people, in English and in French, to be brothers and sisters and to be all together to be sure that our team will win, and we'll see what the court will say. There is a case in court. Okay? Let the sport on the ice, and the court, and the case in the court. That is what I'm proposing for now.

The worst Canadian

Although I wasn't asked to contribute to the Beaver Magazine's search for the worst Canadian, here's my nominee. And, no, it's not who you think it is. Or any of our recent corrupt Prime Ministers. This guy was a thief, a fascist, and, during World War II, cruised just inside the line of treason. You'll notice that neither link deals with his subversion of the Canadian war effort. That's a scab no one in this country wants to pick. He supported Vichy, and why wouldn't he? Petain and Laval's brand of fascism was almost identical to his own.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ouch

My old Hot Room buddy Joe Paraskevas was hit by a car today in Winnipeg. Joe used to work as a freelancer for CanWest before taking a job at a downtown Ottawa thinktank. He's out of intensive care and in a ward, but I'm told he's got some broken bones. I hope he recovers quickly.

Black will walk

Illinois governor, former federal prosecutor, Hollinger audit commission chair and major prosecution witness Big Jim Thompson says he, like prosecution witness Marie-Josee Kravitz, didn't bother to read the audit reports that were given to him. The fees paid to Hollinger audit committees started at $5000 for a phone teleconference and went up from there.

Today's City Journal column

Clive Doucet is a man of his time and place.
He’s the eco-friendly city councilor representing the trendy Glebe and Ottawa South neighbourhoods. He’s also a poet of some reputation, and his skills in that regard are outside my expertise.
And Doucet’s now a published urban thinker. His latest book, Urban Meltdown, is an attempt to tackle the problems facing the North American city.
When Doucet talks about cars, the costs of roads, and the value of downtown neighbourhoods, he’s on fairly solid ground. I don’t agree with Doucet that light rail and streetcars are much of an answer to urban problems, but I’m willing to concede the point that traffic and expressways are neighbourhood killers. Unlike Doucet, though, I’d add a few more, like poverty, large-scale public housing (as opposed to mixed), taxes and the shift of political power and public spending from downtowns to suburbs.
Quite a few times, Doucet reminds us that he’s a “poet” and a “poet-politician”. Then he comes out with a clunker like this:
“If you are still unconvinced that the electoral donations by private interests don’t control how cities grow and determine the policies of national governments, then I’ve got some shares for a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.”
Getting past the tortured syntax and the utterly shopworn cliché, the sentence isn’t even true. The donations don’t control anything. The people who make the donations do.
Most of the mistakes in the book come from sloppy thinking and lack of real research. Parts dealing with some very important and topical issues were obviously slapped down on paper without the benefit of a second read-over. The book is riddled with punctuation errors and there’s a major writing flaw on Doucet’s bio page.
But I’m left wondering what to think when I see things that are obvious misrepresentations. For example, when Doucet talks about the Harper government’s five policy priorities, he removes the plank on military funding and substitutes it with “Child Care: No National Daycare.
Harper didn’t run on an anti-daycare plank. No political party would. In fact, lame as it was, he did promise $100 per child under six, and he delivered.
Doucet hits bottom, though, when he talks about history and world politics. He gives a little sermon on the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and then outbreak of World War I. Doucet appears to have no concept of historical context, that a “trigger” is not a “cause”. He also, rather frighteningly, blames the Treaty of Versailles for the subsequent war and its horrors, a line of argument first put forward by the Nazis and, unfortunately, repeated by every lame high school history teacher since then.
Doucet writes about living through the FLQ “bombings” in Montreal in 1970. There weren’t any bombings during the October Crisis. Later, when he talks about his life in the 1960s and in Montreal during the October Crisis, he’s always a spectator, and a rather uninformed one at that.
Then there are the niggling little errors. Most of them are trivial, but when you see them, page after page, they add up. For example, Honorius was not the last Roman emperor, and Doucet’s version of the fall of Rome is simply wrong.
On modern history and politics, he’s just as bad. Here’s a gem, this one from p. 30:
“Two planes flying into large buildings in one city should not have thrown North American society into catalytic shock. Some 350 million people live in North America and less than 3,000 people were killed in New York. The effect should have been minimal.”
Doucet doesn’t get it. It wasn’t about the numbers of dead, the value of the buildings, or the lost businesses. It was about being attacked, and not knowing when the next attack would come, or what form it would take.
(And Doucet doesn’t bother mentioning the attack on the Pentagon, and the second, thwarted attack of Flight 93.)
Here’s another beauty, one that I’m glad my name’s not on:
“I have no idea what the moment was that triggered the series of events that resulted in four planes loaded with high-octane fuel being flown towards four buildings, but I am sure there was a single moment when it all began.”
Again, there’s no responsibility. The planes were not hijacked. They were “flown toward” some buildings by persons unknown for reasons unknown. And there were no people – passengers or hijackers – inside, just a load of high octane fuel.
But turn to pages with local issues, and the guy starts to make sense.When he’s talking about Ottawa urban issues, Doucet shows intellectual depth that’s missing from almost all of his talk on world politics.
For example, Doucet trashes the provincial government decision to close the Grace Hospital and move its services to the Civic and the General. The Grace was a good, small hospital that served its neighbourhood well and had one of the best natal care units in town.
Now, it’s been demolished and re-built as a senior’s residence. The care that cost $349 at the Grace is now sold by the Ottawa Hospital for $849.
(At least, I hope those numbers are right, since Doucet did get the latter hospital’s name wrong.)
And he’s right about the need to draw developers downtown to rehabilitate, renovate and build on vacant land, rather than have them go to the suburbs to carve up corn fields into 50-ft. lots.
This is the only book I’ve ever read where the author thanks the publishers who turned him down. Some very good publishers took a pass on the book, and it was issued by a house called New Society Publishers, headquartered on one of the oh-so-chic, supposedly eco-friendly gulf islands in BC.
He doesn’t thank an editor. I think I know why.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Today's Dionspeak

(Now reporters are succumbing, too.)

Reporter's Question:
When Mr. Harper said what Stockwell Day said yesterday to committee, his allegation in the Question Period and what he said yesterday to committee is the same thing he said to the House of Commons on the 27th at about 2:30 during Question Period, he says he actually said that last week.

Hon. Stéphane Dion:
What I have heard last week he was accusing the opposition to present false allegations. So the questions were asked to him do you mean that Corrections Canada has the proof that these allegations are false? And he need to answer to the question because if it's not the case why last week he spoke about false allegations. He never said, my recollection, and we need to check, that these allegations have been heard by Corrections Canada but he accused the opposition to come with false allegations. That means he knows that they are false? How he knows since there was no investigation at all? And now they're proposing to have an investigation only done by the government of Afghanistan. This is not good enough. NATO as a whole must be involved in this.

Justin Case

Chantal Herbert nails it here. The Justin Trudeau hype is not so much reminiscent of 1968, but of another, more timely, politician's much-publicized arrival on the scene. Scroll down to the last couple of paragraphs to see who.