Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ottawa's become meaner: Ottawa magazine November piece

Here's the original version. Ottawa mag changed a few of the opening paragraphs:

Dena Gosewich knew something was wrong with Jerry Yanover when the veteran Parliamentary strategist’s Sunday New York Times was still on the doorstep, unread, at lunch time.
Yanover, 62, a pudgy, shy man with a passing resemblance to the actor Charles Laughton, lived with Opie, a Norwich terrier, had succumbed to heart disease.
“Yanover is to Liberalism what Yoda is to the Jedi Council: the most feared practitioner of an ancient craft,” MacLean’s magazine said four years ago. He was something more: a man whose expertise on the arcane rules of Parliament was respected by everyone on the Hill.
His death July 26 left a void, not just in the ranks of Liberal Party strategists, but in the city itself. Yanover was among the very last hold-outs of an endangered breed: a politico who really cared about representative government.
He did not hate his political opponents. He didn’t trash-talk them on the Internet or threaten them with lawsuits. He never worked as a lobbyist. He read books, got his news from real newspapers. People like Yanover were part of an old Ottawa that is quickly disappearing.
“There’s a lot of fracturing going on in Ottawa,” says Ned Franks, a retired Queen’s University professor who is one of the country’s leading experts on governance. He says the old rules that ensured collegiality and professionalism no longer apply to what he calls a “company town.”
Ottawa is a meaner place than it has ever been. Partly, Franks says, minority Parliaments are to blame, but changes to the media and the shift of political power from central to western Canada are contributing to cleavages in Ottawa’s social harmony.
“Since 2004, Parliament has been in a permanent election mode. There’s been no time to think quietly on the major issues of the day and on important legislation.”
As well, the political class is no longer attached to the city and many MPs feel no sense of comradeship with their peers, Franks said. Political parties expect them to be completely partisan in Ottawa and to leave the city to politic in their ridings every weekend. “They’re no longer settled in Ottawa. They’re not seeing MPs from other parties socially, their kids aren’t going to the same schools, and so it becomes easy for MPs to see each other as the enemy.”
Journalists, politicians and political strategists agree that Ottawa has evolved into a meaner place in the past generation. Fingers are pointed in all kinds of directions: at nasty bloggers on the Internet; at the political culture that arose in London and Washington under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan; at the “war room” mentality sharpened in the States by Democrat political strategist James Carville; at the mongoose-cobra shows created by cable news networks.
The enmity does not end in the Commons chamber. Stephen Harper and his Tories are also suspicious of the public servants and journalists who make up the bulk of the city’s political class. In response, public servants have become defensive, while Hill reporters have either tried to ingratiate themselves with the Harper regime or have worked to undermine it.
“In the case of the public servants, there used to be the rose-tinted idea of the public service speaking truth to power. Now it’s reversed, with power speaking to truth. That’s left many people in the public service feeling quite miserable,” Franks said.
This used to be a town of clubs and cliques: senior politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, lawyers and businessmen in the Rideau Club; members of the political elite in exclusive fishing clubs in the Gatineau Hills; the city’s most important francophones in the Cercle Universitaire. Old money and the more successful members of the political-government elite lived in Rockcliffe, while everyone else found their appropriate place in New Edinburgh, Centretown and the Glebe.
Now, the Ottawa urban area, including the municipalities on the Quebec side of the river, is a multi-racial, multi-lingual community that is a government town, but is also a university town and a struggling technology center. All of the clubs except the Rideau Club are gone or are shells of their former selves.
Margo Roston, long-time Ottawa society writer, says people have made their social lives more private and have abandoned clubs for the city’s much-improved restaurant scene.
Hy’s, the Queen Street watering hole, is one of the places that has replaced the old clubs. On most nights when the House of Commons is sitting, Hy’s martini bar draws cabinet ministers, political commentators, pollsters and party strategists. The crowd tends to be young, stylish and much more concerned with the selling of politicians than with the minutia of governance.
They talk about polls, advertising, strategy and lobbying. They don’t talk about legislation or public administration.
Bright young people have always been attracted to Ottawa’s power. Politically-keen people just out of university develop connections with political party operatives and elected officials. If they are lucky, they land a political job on the Hill, then have a career in public relations, lobbying or in a non-government agency where they could use the skills they learned in the Centre Block. When they feel ready, they try their luck on the hustings. This was the career path of William Lyon Mackenzie and Stephen Harper.
Each MP has an office with a legislative aide and a constituency worker. Cabinet ministers have office chiefs of staffs, communications advisors and press secretaries. The Prime Minister’s Office has its own tribe of communications advisors, press secretaries and political strategists responsible for various regions of the country.
Each time a new Prime Minister or a minister is sworn in, most of these people lose their jobs and a new crop arrives. Some of the old staffers automatically qualify for a position in the public service, but the most politically-charged ones head downtown to join lobbying and public relations firms.
Tyler Meredith, a public policy consultant with KPMG, is part of the new breed of political strategists. He’s been an active Liberal since childhood, ran campaigns in his late teens, and was recruited by the multinational consulting firm partly because of his connections.
“Typically, people spend the first few years out of university working on the Hill for little pay. Then they make the natural career move to a firm. The Hill has become a training ground.”
Most of them cannot make a lifetime career in the high-stress, long-hours-and-low-pay environment of Parliament Hill. Political parties in Canada are too poor to keep the best ones. The world of public relations and lobbying offers much better money, a more professionally managed work environment, and longer-term career options. Some try to get into elected politics: the recent Liberal nomination brawls in Ottawa Centre opened a window into the world of uber-successful professional politicos. Most, however, become comfortable settlers in neighbourhoods like Hintonburg and New Edinburgh.
And, as the buildings south of Queen Street sprout more and more lobby and PR firms, the city itself has become more politicized. The mayoralty campaigns of Alex Munter, Bob Chiarelli and Larry O’Brien attracted Hill talent from the Liberals, Tories and New Democrats.
“Politics is a cottage industry in this city,” Meredith said. “The people in this industry are political animals who want to be involved in politics at all times. They do it because they want to build their political contacts, but they also do it because that’s just the kind of people they are.”
Geoff Norquay is a veteran Tory strategist who worked in Brian Mulroney’s Prime Minister’s Office and as press secretary to the-opposition leader Stephen Harper. He doesn’t believe the political culture of Ottawa has changed as much as the media that covers it.
“There’s no doubt the 24-hour news cycle has speeded up the political process’: said Norquay, who now works at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, a downtown political advice and lobbying firm.
He says cable news networks, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other online media have given platforms to many more people who claim to speak on behalf of political parties. “At the same time,” he says, “it’s given each party’s partisans the opportunity to create self-inflicted wounds.”
Several firms, such as the Capital Hill Group in Ottawa and Navigator in Toronto, were created by political strategists to give advice to political campaigns, but these have morphed into lobbying and crisis management agencies. When Brian Mulroney was being scrutinized for taking cash payments from German arms dealer Karl-Heinz Schreiber, he turned to Navigator to help salvage his reputation. So did former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant after he struck and killed a bike courier last summer.
The political center of political power has moved off Parliament Hill. Two generations ago, when the country had about half the population of today, the House of Commons met six days a week, often with evening sittings that stretched far into the night. These often ended with boozy poker games in the lounge of the Press Gallery newsroom on the third floor of the Centre Block, or in late drinks at one of the clubs.
Reporters actually showed up to sit in their seats above the Speaker’s chair and take note of the debates. Prime Ministers and members of the cabinet crafted speeches on important legislation and engaged in real debate with their counterparts in opposition.
Now, the Press Gallery is nearly ten times larger than it was at the end of the Second World War, yet it’s rare to see a reporter in the House of Commons after Question Period. It’s also rare to see a newspaper or TV story based on coverage of debate of a law. MPs who “debate” in the House are actually dictating quotes into the record that will later show up in the fliers that are sent to constituents.
And, Ned Franks notes, only about half of the bills introduced since 2004 have actually become law.
These days, it’s common for the House to empty out at the end of Question Period and legislation to be “debated” by a handful of MPs. The MPs of each party crowd together to create a fiction for the TV cameras, which are not allowed to pan to the empty seats. In reality, most MPs spend just a token amount of time on “House duty.” Instead, they’re full-time partisans doing public relations work for the benefit of their party and to ensure their re-election.
A check with the Library of Parliament’s research branch shows Prime Minister Harper and Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff have never engaged in debate over a bill in the House of Commons. (Harper, in fact, has never spoken in the House about any legislation while he has been Prime Minister.) Instead, their clashes in Parliament are scripted affairs in Question period which, for the most part, consist of opposition MPs asking questions written by staffers and ministers responding with talking points crafted by their own spin people.
Parliamentary scholars like Ned Franks have argued that the House of Commons no longer acts as a real legislature where elected representatives give serious scrutiny to the laws of the country. Instead, most real legislative work happens in Parliamentary committees, which are rarely covered by journalists.
“The questions raised in the House of Commons aren’t really questions, they’re statements. The answers aren’t really answers. What we’ve seen is a dumbing down of the Parliamentary discussion to the point where it’s actually embarrassing to bring students into the House to watch Question period,” Franks said.
The debate, while over-scripted, is intense and filled with personal cheap shots.
“There’s a difference between politicians today and during my time in the House of Commons,” said former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps. “We didn’t hate each other.”
Press coverage has gravitated to two types of stories: the “who’s up, who’s down” pieces based on polling, even when the polls are taken years before an election; and the “gotcha” stories that embarrass politicians.
“Gotcha” journalism has hobbled the professional relationship between press gallery reporters and the political class. In 1994, George Bain, a former Globe and Mail political columnist and journalism professor, wrote a book, aptly named “Gotcha,” in that examined the early variations of the form. In Bain’s book, “gotcha” journalism was directed at politicians, using snippets of information, usually taken out of context, to re-define a politician as stupid or venal.
Copps, a former reporter who sat in both the Ontario legislature and the House of Commons, rising to Deputy Prime Minister in the Chretien government, says technology drives modern politics and is partly to blame for the decline of civility among politicos.
‘“Gotcha’ journalism started with the 24-hour news services. The news used to come out in the morning and evening newspapers and on the 11 o’clock news. Now, with the all-news networks, there’s no time for fact-checking. Now there’s more innuendo, more gossip on TV as they try to fill that giant news hole,” Copps said.
“Fox News and CNN have created ‘panic politics.’ The whole political discourse is not as civil as it used to be.”
Recently, “gotcha” journalism has been turned against the bureaucracy and political staffers as Canadian journalists seek to replicate the expense scandals that have crippled Britain’s Labour government. Access to Information laws have given political reporters the ability to paw through the expense accounts of bureaucrats, allowing public servants to be crucified for the three-martini lunch, business-class travel, and the too-cozy sole-source contract.
Communications and ministerial staffers have been chucked into the dunking stool for, in the case of former Chretien communications director Francie Ducros, calling President George W. Bush a moron.
When Jasmine MacDonnell, press secretary to Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt left some of her boss’s documents at a downtown TV studio last June, news of the gaffe crippled her career. A few days later, she was finished off by Halifax Herald Ottawa bureau chief Steve Maher, who, after trying several times to return a tape recorder MacDonnell had lost in the Centre Block, finally listened to the device. He reported how the press aide talked of the shortage of isotopes caused by the breakdown of a 50-year-old nuclear reactor as a sexy issue.
If MacDonnell had moved to Toronto or back to her home town of Halifax, she might have quietly found work in a mayor’s office. Instead, she stayed in Ottawa and went to work for mayor Larry O’Brien, a man in dire need of skilled public relations. In the supercharged political environment of Ottawa city hall, the mayor’s opponents used MacDonnell’s hiring as yet another cudgel to use on O’Brien.
In the weeks surrounding Jerry Yanover’s death, O’Brien was on trial for influence peddling. In the same city, Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla sat in a witness chair at a House of Commons committee, tearfully denying she had mistreated her family’s domestic help. At the old Ottawa City Hall, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was tearfully denying taking bribes from an arms dealer.
All of them had spin doctors and media manipulators making sure the show was done right.
It was, indeed, a very changed city.

What's new? Lots!

Sorry to my reader(s) for the lack of recent posts. I am still nipping and tucking my book on the press censorship system in Canada in World War II. This is a huge topic that's never been written about before, except for the odd passage in a few books, and some of them are wrong.
First, I had to read all the documents of the Censorship Branch, the civilian agency that handled press censorship. Imagine a stack of paper as high as a three-storey building.
Then I had to see how what the censors recorded fit with the events of the times and what other people wrote about them. And, of course, I've had to read a lot of wartime history to put this stuff in context. Plus old newspapers. Lots and lots of those.
This is a piece of history, which will mean that a lot of people will try to pick it apart. I've written nothing good about the Vichyite press in Quebec, which included some of the province's most important dailies. I've written about A-bombs, balloon bombs, spies, giant radio transmitters, U-boats, rioting celebrity U-boat captains, convoys, troop movements, crazy publishers, brave editors, weak editors, and Mackenzie King's paranoia.
Right now, I'm working hard to make the whole thing readable, connecting a few more A to B to C's, hunting down pictures and cartoons, and trying to have fun.
Key Porter, probably the best publisher that's still in Canadian hands, will put the book out in the fall of 2010. We've settled on an advance and a royalty structure.
Finding a publisher was not particularly difficult. Non-fiction is somewhat easier to peddle to publishers in this country, but you end up selling it yourself because agents can't be bothered. The money that agents make tends to come from movie or TV royalty rights. In the case of a book like mine, the stories are in the public domain and my book simply provides a map. So I'm easily ripped off for any "story" that's in the book.
But I do expect the book will will be popular with people interested in Canadian history, political junkies, universities, and especially to military buffs.
I should have it all done soon and will be able to turn my attention back to politics.

Friday, October 23, 2009

They owe money to everyone

From Canwest's list of creditors, released today:



Thursday, October 22, 2009

That pesky constitution

Anyone who thinks the Quebec government can use the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter to over-ride today's Supreme Court decision in the immigrant education case should get a copy of the Charter and read Sections 23 and 33. In the case of minority education rights, the Notwithstanding Clause is blocked.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

General Hell-Yea!

Don Martin should stop judging generals by their ability to generate good quote and get out and talk to the real soldiers who are cleaning up Hillier's mess. Aside from the fact he was media-friendly, there's little of any value that Hillier brought to his job as chief of the defence staff. He undid the military command and control structure and tried to rebuild it in an American form, at a cost of tens of millions. Now that Hillier's gone, the forces are spending tens of millions to undo this organizational mistake.
As for being some sort of fighting general, well, where's the list of Hillier's victories? Certainly not in Afghanistan, where strategy has always seemed to be some medieval idea of staying in a lager or castle-like stronghold and venturing out into the enemy-dominated countryside to get killed. No chance of victory in that.
Setting aside what some might see as my bloodthirstiness -- I'm a firm believer in the idea that you don't send soldiers into combat situations unless you are prepared to do what it takes in terms of men and equipment (and killing) to win a military victory -- Hillier's great and grievous fault was his failure to understand that he was a soldier, not a political leader. He tried to manipulate political decisions, exactly the same behavior that convinced Harry Truman that he had to fire Douglas MacArthur. We live in a democracy, and we don't elect generals. At least twice in our history, generals tried to usurp the democratic power: once in November, 1944, when the general staff threatened to resign en masse unless Mackenzie King sent conscripts overseas (King gave in); and the other time during the Cuban Missile Crisis when, against Prime Minister Diefenbaker's express orders, the military and the minister of defence conspired to raise the military's state of alertness, effectively putting us on a war footing.
I don't care if Hillier was right or wrong about Afghanistan or any other military matter in which he crossed swords with the PMO. And I don't care whether the PMO was Paul Martin's or Stephen Harper's. When it comes to dealing with elected politicians, the representatives of the people must always win. The general's last response in a conversation with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence must be "yes Sir", and he or she must diligently carry out orders. If a general can't do so in good conscience, he should resign.
If Hillier wants to run the country, let him run for office. I suggest he sit down with a copy of William Manchester's great bio of Douglas MacArthur (American Caesar) and take heed of the contents therein.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ugly Olympic Medals

I think the organizers of the Vancouver Winter Olympics would really have had to work pretty hard to find lousier Olympic medals than these.

On some reflection, I must eat those words. The Vancouver medals are not nearly as bad as those from Turin, which look like CDs.

Canwest delisted

Well, it's over.
Canwest stock, which sold for $20 eight years ago and were among the TSX's blue chips, are now worthless. In early November, the stock will be delisted from the TSX.
This is a real tragedy.
Not the kind of "baby in a dumpster" story that newspaper reporters mistakenly call a tragedy. This story has flawed protagonists brought low by hubris.
I have been attacked professionally by at least one Canwest manager for following the collapse of this company. That's typical behavior of people blinded by failure and denial. Rather than address the problem, kill the messenger. Still, it's strange behavior for people playing at being journalists.
For three years, I have warned people that this day would come. In the first two years, all I saw was shock and denial. Canwest people claimed I didn't understand the situation. If that failed, they said I enjoyed this too much.
In fact, many good friends of mine have seen their careers cut short or have left journalism altogether. My former students at Concordia have almost no chance at a decent journalism job because of this mess.
Fortunately for Canwest apologists, we're in a recession. Eventually, the blame will fall on the economy because no one wants to look at the real problems.
This company is completely a creature of Canada's regulatory system. The CRTC -- along with Canadian academics and policy analysts -- bought into the flawed idea of media convergence. This absolute bullshit idea was engineered to break down the regulatory walls around broadcasters. Cross-ownership of media, decried in the Davey Report on Mass Media in Canada in the early 1970s, would not only be allowed under convergence, it would be encouraged. Media ownership concentration, the focus of the the Kent Commission on Canadian newspapers, would be ignored.
The public interest? Fuck it. We're too cool to worry about that.
But there was always important reasons to prevent too much media cross-ownership and concentration. People in Brandon, Victoria and Hamilton can tell you all about it. So can the readers of every newspaper in Canada, where news pages are empty of local coverage and columns are full of canned copy that's available for free on the Internet.
The Canwest mess is the worst, the fringe, of this regulatory failure.
Thank God the Internet is there to blame all this on. Forget the fact that the newspapers and broadcasters in this country made damn fine profits. Unfortunately, because Canwest was saddled with debt by its owners, those profits went to pay interest on junk bonds. Other Canadian media companies, with deeper pockets and less exposure to the convergence disaster, are quietly carrying on.
All this is a tragedy. We're a country of 30 million people spread out in a ribbon along the border of a superpower with ten times our population. We are trying to adjust to important changes to the economy, to demographics, and to the world geopolitical situation. We also should be having important debates on the environment, federalism and governance in general.
We need a strong media. Canwest's failure must be followed by a reconstruction of Canadian media that factors in the public interest and democracy's need for strong, independent, professional media.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Welcome New Senators!

Yes, you ladies on the back of the $50 bill are now honorary senators!

And a big shout-out to Emily Murphy!
No honor was too great for Ms. Murphy during her long and, I'm afraid, rather unproductive life. Ms. Murphy, who had no education worth mentioning, but did come from a well-connected Ontario Orange family, wrangled herself an appointment as a police court magistrate (thereby demanding she be addressed as "judge" for the rest of her life.) She was not one of those mushy, feminist lady law prof-type judges. Ms Murphy, er, Judge Murphy, was what we'd call a hangin' judge, dishing out evenhanded injustice to all, especially if they were yellow, black, red or non-white.
Once in a while, the good judge got to sink her teeth into a drug case. Quite frequently, the culprits were itinerant Chinese laborers packing opium. In her book, The Black Candle, Ms., er, Judge Murphy lets us know what the buggers were up to:

The drug traffic is chiefly in the hands of Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Negros, Russians and Italians, although the Assyrians and Greeks are running closely in the race… It is claimed also, but with what truth we cannot say, that there is a well-defined propaganda among the aliens of color to bring about the degeneration of the white race.

Well, there ya go. And Murphy published some pictures of (fully clothed) fallen white women posed in bed with dudes o' color to drive the point home. While feminist historians like Catherine Carstairs have bent over backwards to try to rehabilitate the good judge from the fact that she is responsible for Canada's pot ban, the fact is Murphy's "journalism" in Maclean's and the best-selling The Black Candle were the impetus for cannabis being placed on the schedule of banned drugs under the Opium Act. (Carstairs says it was done by the head of the federal anti-drug agency, but he didn't join the organization until five years after the cannabis ban.)
Specifically, about marijuana, Murphy wrote in The Black Candle:

THIS drug is not really new but, as yet, is completely unknown in the United States and Canada, although three of the American States – California, Missouri, and Wyoming – have legislated against its use, the authorities and police officers being woefully ignorant of its nature or extraordinary menace…
Charles A. Jones, the Chief of Police for the city, said in a recent letter that hashish, or Indian hemp, grows wild in Mexico but to raise this shrub in California constitutes a violation of the State Narcotic law. He says, “Persons using this narcotic, smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility…
“When coming under the influence of this narcotic, these victims present the most horrible condition imaginable. They are dispossessed of their natural and normal will power and their mentality is that of idiots. If this drug is indulged in to any great extent, it ends in the untimely death of its addict…

Murphy thought very highly of her work. She was appointed a delegate to the League of Nations conference on drugs, where she arrived with several crates of her masterpiece for free distribution to her colleagues. She nominated herself for the Nobel Peace Prize, but, alas, didn't win.

Having little regard for the unwashed and the idea of democracy, the learned judge set her eye on a Senate appointment. Mackenzie King didn't want to appoint her. She launched the Famous Five appeal to the Judicial Council of the (UK) Privy Council. Needing five names for this petition, she approached some of the country's more vocal feminists. Today, all are enshrined in over-size bronze on Parliament Hill. Ironically, once the Privy Council affirmed their right to be considered for appointment, none of them were offered a seat.
Well, now they're honorary senators, but Murphy's ghost actually haunts the courtrooms and jails where people are still punished under drug laws that are built on the Nativist idea that foreign people and their recreations are anathema, on the Victorian notion that addictions can be stopped by treating the addict as sinners, and on the absurd idea that Emily Murphy, not you, had the right to decide what was legal and proper for you to put in your body.

Welcome New Senators!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Canwest starts bankruptcy filing

Trading in Canwest stock, once considered a blue chip security, has been suspended by the Toronto Stock exchange, pending a determination by the exchange of whether it should be listed at all.

It had to come to that. It's been inevitable, really, since the Alliance-Atlantis deal, maybe even from the time Conrad Black snookered Izzy Asper with the newspaper deal.
Shareholder equity is likely wiped out.
The Aspers are no longer in control of Global TV and the National Post, and their ownership of the rest of the company appears to be unlikely.
As this unfolds, Canadian media will likely go through the biggest one-time shake-up in a century.
This marks the death of media convergence in Canada, which is a good thing both for journalism and the public interest.
The best scenario: Nortel-style break-up and sale to new corporate entities.
The worst scenario: break-up and integration into Canada's existing moribund media oligarchies, with lay-offs, further cuts to local coverage and closure of some titles.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Canwest to Shed its Newspaper Division?

Well, I saw this coming three years ago, but I never saw the players. I always thought TorStar would get the old Southam chain, a jewel that it chased through the 1970s and 1980s with the help of the Desmarais family.
It's not a done deal, partly because Paul Godfrey has lowballed the price. Canwest needs new owners and senior managers, people who are the best in the business. Right now, the newspaper chain is owned by people who think in the mode of Canada's dying CRTC-protected monopoly TV business, in which ''content'' is bought cheaply and spread across the country. That business model simply does not work in newspapers.
Canwest papers are under-staffed. Apparently, they have, with a few notable exceptions, toxic work environments.
Canwest papers can win back readers if they are properly capitalized so that some profits go back into the newsroom. Right now, huge amounts of money is being taken from these papers to pay the Aspers' debt for purchases such as Alliance-Atlantis and the newspaper chain itself.
People simply don't cozy up to the stricken and the living dead, which is how most Canwest papers seem these days. While North American papers in general have rolled over, taking comfort in the excuse of the Internet, Canwest papers have been especially lame. Meanwhile, the best European papers and news magazines, which are far superior to North American journalism, are doing just fine. The reason? People really do care about the news and are sick of being talked to like simpletons. European papers are also in the business of selling real news and analysis, not advising on yuppie lifestyle.
(Maybe we'll cross the Rubicon when every Canwest columnist who gets pregnant stops writing about their marvelous experience as though it's the first time it's ever happened to anyone, and as though any of us give a shit.)

Meanwhile, The National Post and the CBC (yes, you're reading this right) have made a deal to share financial and sports news. Certainly the oddest deal in modern Canadian media, and a bad one for the Canadian public. With all the cross-ownership deals (TorStar owns part of CTV-Globemedia which also owns CHUM, Canwest still owns a TV network, a chain of newspapers and much of the trade magazine business in Canada) there are too many media managers sleeping in each others' beds.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Afghan solution

It's the same prescription I gave eight years go on this blog:

Kill all the al Qaeda within reach. Send in surgical teams to keep killing them, wherever they are.
Kill all the Taliban who shelter al Qaeda.
Keep killing al Qaeda and those who shelter them, no matter where they run, until there's no place on earth that will shelter them.

Instead, we have chosen this approach:

How to start WWIII

Islamicist scumbags are threatening the life of Barack Obama.
Obama's personal safety is something the mullahs should work to protect, for if there is one thing that could set loose the full, united vengeance of the American people upon al Qaeda, similar terrorists and and their backers, harm to Obama would be it.
This is a guy who, despite the rage of the fascist right, still transcends politics. It is a strange thing for a North American to go into the homes and businesses of black Canadians, as I have recently, and see framed photographs of Obama in places of honour.
The mullahs have always had a tin ear for politics and a real thirst for martyrdom. Trashing and threatening Obama, a man who has the potential to build on his popularity in the Muslim world, strikes me as bad politics.
Following through with their threats strikes me as suicidal.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What passes for Excitement in Today's PMO

A note from Dimitri Soudas, press secreatry to Stephen Harper:

The Prime Minister will be doing an interview with Maria Bartiromo.

The details:
DATE / LIVE interview time: Tues. 22Sept2009 @ 1515ET
Program: Closing Bell w/ Maria Bartiromo (CNBC)

Dimitri N. Soudas
Associate Communication Director/ Press Secretary
Directeur des Communications associé/Attaché de presse

Prime Minister's Office
Cabinet du Premier ministre


Monday, September 21, 2009

Personal Note

I'm trying to get ahold of my friend Rebel Steve in Lafontaine, ON. I can't fnd your phone number and wasn't able to get in touch when Frank and I left in a hurry.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Missile Shield

Interesting that Mark Steyn can write this piece without ever mentioning the US' ability to use its ICBMs to turn Iran into a flat piece of glass. The strategic nuclear force of the United States (and of the French, Chinese, Soviets and, locally, the Israelis) should be enough to prevent any sane person from entertaining any fantasies of removing Anglo-Saxons, Europeans, Israelis, Soviets, or Chinese people from the face of the Earth. (And don't discount Japan, which could develop a nuclear system in a matter of months if the Japanese people felt truly threatened by North Korea. For now, it exists under the American nuclear shield.)
It never really mattered if "missile defence" works. The system is just one way of deterring nutters, but the Iranians, masters of urban terrorism, know that there's more than one way to transport a bomb. You don't need a Long Dong when you can deliver a nuke to Prague or Warsaw in the trunk of a BMW.
So why not, huh?
Because there's no upside for Tehran. Except for the rent-a-crowds dancing in the streets, the smart Iranians, even the most Jihad-eager, will know the jig is up.
Not that the Iranians ever gave much thought to nuking Warsaw or Prague. The missile defence system was about marking territory in the parts of Europe that were occupied by the Red Army in 1944-45. This is about rolling the Russians back to their late September, 1939 borders (still keeping the half of Poland they seized under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August, 1939, along with East Prussia).
Americans believe the fall of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe had something to do with American military strength. That's because the American media can't see past New York. The Iron Curtain came down because of the European Union and the power of the West German mark (now renamed the Euro). Russia retreated from Europe because it could offer nothing to compete with the new Germany's political and economic hegemony that had spread into Hungary and the Balkans. P. J. O'Rourke got it right when he said nobody wanted to buy Bulgarian tennis shoes.
Now the old Warsaw Pact countries are members of the EU. They have what they want: Russians back in Russia, real money instead of zloties, freedom to travel, to publish, to listen to Kanye West. Putin may want back into Eastern Europe, to rebuild the Russian Empire to its old Czarist maximum (to the city of Warsaw). He might even want to try for the Elbe and the Danube. But he's up against the EU, especially Germany. And if anyone thinks Germany will give up economic dominance of Poland, the Danube Valley, the Balkans and the Baltic -- the very thing for which it fought two world wars -- they should never underestimate the skill of Germans with fine tools.
But, unless Putin is incredibly dense, this is not 1948. Russia no longer needs a buffer in Eastern Europe (and, in any case, has one with the Ukraine and Byelorussia, which will never be allowed to evolve into anything more that satellites). As Doug Saunders ably points out in the Globe and Mail, this game is about more than the fallout of the events of 1989. The geopolitical centre of trouble has shifted to Iran and the Middle East and will stay there as long as Islamicism remains an aggressive force in the region. There, many of the old rules don't hold -- at least in the minds of the Jihadists. The Russians know better than to use Iran for anything but mischief. Moscow's generals probably look upon the NATO campaign in Afghanistan with some mirth. In return for dropping its troublesome missile shield, Washington may have earned some Russian help in western Asia, the place where American troops are fighting today. But in the end, missile shield or no, the Iranians, the only people in western Asia who are likely to attack anyone with anything resembling a ballistic missile, have the ball.
What they do with it depends on whether they believe their own rhetoric, or if Tehran's nasty talk is just part of the mechanism that keeps the mullahs in power.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nice tribute to Doug Fisher

Sandra Martin gives Doug a great send-off on the Globe web page.

The NDP sent out a pretty decent tribute from Jack Layton:
“I was saddened to hear this morning of the passing of Douglas Fisher, a man with a distinguished place in the history of this country and its Parliament,” said Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party.

“Douglas spent eight years serving Canadians in the House of Commons, as a member of the CCF and the NDP, and worked on the Hill for 30 more as a columnist and television host. He will always be remembered, not only for his defeat of C.D. Howe in 1957 and his work as an MP, but for his 50 years of political analysis. He was known as the dean of the Parliamentary Press Gallery,” said Layton.

“Doug Fisher led an incredibly accomplished life that included many careers: miner, teacher, fire ranger, construction worker, guard. He was a very active, and sometimes outspoken, Member of Parliament who was dedicated to his constituents,” said New Democrat MP Bruce Hyer, who’s riding, Thunder Bay—Superior North, encompasses Port Arthur, the riding Fisher represented between 1957 and 1965. “He was greatly appreciated for his integrity and commitment, and he will be deeply missed.”

“Douglas Fisher was a wise politician who was recognized as one of the best speakers in Parliament during his time there. We in the New Democratic Party look to him as one of the greats in our history,” said Layton. “I wish to send sincere condolences to Douglas’ five sons, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Tobias and to their families. May they take solace in his long life and his legacy.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Human Rights Act Sec. 13 RIP

And good riddance.
The Canadian Human Right Commission has neither the expertise nor the mandate to censor Canada's media.
Mark Steyn dances on the grave of Canada's upstart censorship system here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just What Was Said

Jack Layton today in the Foyer of the House of Commons:
I, I have a statement to make.

There are now 1.6 million Canadians unemployed. And unfortunately, throughout this coming winter, many more Canadians are going to lose their jobs. Most economists agree that the job losses will continue at least until next spring. These people need help. I spent the summer visiting many communities all across the country and met many people who had lost their jobs. I heard their stories and have, how much they need our help right now and they made a very direct appeal to me, to our party and I think to all parliamentarians. Many of them are coming to the end of their benefits and they face falling off assistance from EI and having to turn to welfare. Those people are counting on us right now.

The announcement today appears to be a step in the right direction. There is much more that needs to be done as well. Our preference remains fighting for the unemployed rather than fighting for a second election. But make no mistake about it, we have no intention of giving this government a blank cheque, like Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals did. We'll be studying the bill and considering it very, very carefully. We will evaluate this initiative on its merits and we'll do the same with everything else that is brought forward and we'll push for action. Thank you.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Welcome to Ottawa

Where your tax dollars go to die...

Ottawa Citizen photo

How could we have let ourselves lose this war?

They slaughtered 3,000 of our people in cold blood, and we argue over whether it's a crime to run stupid cartoons and nod when we're told it was somehow our fault.
Meanwhile, the new museum at the World Trade Center atrocity site will give the killers a permanent soap box for their propaganda.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remember when I said we might have an election by accident?

Well, here's the accident:

Video shows two faces of Stephen Harper: Ignatieff
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 10, 2009 13:24

MONTREAL_ Stephen Harper's chief rival is calling him two-faced.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says the real prime minister only emerges when he thinks he can't be overheard.

Ignatieff said it's no longer possible to work with a man so contemptuous of basic Canadian values, and he reiterated his plan to bring down the Conservative government.

``(Harper's) already lost the confidence of the House once,'' Ignatieff told a news conference Thursday.

``He's about to lose it a second time.''

Harper was overheard in a video talking about winning a majority, squashing separatists and socialists, and keeping leftists out of the courts and other public institutions.

The Bloc says it's particularly bothered by the comment about the judiciary.

Leader Gilles Duceppe says, behind closed doors, Harper sounds like a member of the radical fringe of the U.S. Republican party.

The NDP calls the remarks low politics that undermine Canada's justice system.


(c) 2009 The Canadian Press

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the Scarborough Town Center...

CHARLOTTETOWN, September 9, 2009 – Today, the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, announced federal support of over $1.5 million for three projects aimed at preventing and reducing crime in Prince Edward Island.
“This government is committed to making communities in Prince Edward Island safer, and preventing crime before it happens,” said Minister Van Loan. “We believe that when it comes to addressing crime we have to take action. The funding announced today will support programs that offer youth faced with difficult circumstances the life skills to make smart choices and avoid negative influences.”
Through the National Crime Prevention Strategy, the Government of Canada is providing federal support to the Aboriginal Women’s Association of Prince Edward Island, the Adventure Group, and the John Howard Society of Prince Edward Island. These projects will work with at-risk children, youth and young adults in communities throughout Prince Edward Island in an effort to prevent and reduce crime, as well as provide those most at risk with alternatives to a life of crime.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

"It Takes All Kinds to Make a World" Department

On your most down day, when you question your reasons for sticking around and wonder if you're not a complete fuck-up, come back to this page, click this link and remind yourself that, whoever you are and whatever you've done, you're still a better person than that guy.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Today's Media Horror

The billionaire Desmarias family is threatening to shut La Presse, the only major Francophone paper in Quebec that is not a separatist mouthpiece or trash tabloid, unless workers take a big pay cut.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

After four years in office, Harper talks the talk on the economic disaster in Northern Ontario

REPORTER: Good afternoon Mr. Prime Minister. I represent a local youth advocacy group. We are the Sault Youth Association and we publish Fresh Magazine, which is a free publication for local youth, and like many youth, myself included, we couldn't wait to pack our bags and get out of town. And out migration is a definite issue, not only in this community but all northern rural communities, so I'm asking you, in the economic action plan, is there a realistic solution to our problem of losing our youth and our populations decreasing?

RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Well, as you know, we have put, as a government, a big emphasis on rural and regional development. I've said repeatedly wherever I've gone it's essential if we're to take advantage of the strength that truly is Canada, what we have to do is make sure that we have all regions of this country strong and settled and retaining a decent population base. You know, we can't have…I fought long and hard when I was in opposition against what somebody was then calling an agenda for cities. Not because I'm against cities. I happen to be born and raised in the city, but Canada can't be reduced to just two or three or four cities. You can talk about a lot of countries like that. Canada is a big country with a lot of regions, a lot of resources. That's where a lot of our history and a lot of our future is, and that's why we continue through the economic action plan and Minister Clement, through the regional development agency and other things to investigate [sic] in key infrastructure to allow long-term diversified growth in these communities, because that is what we have to have. As I say, we can't have a Canada in the future where everybody just lives in three or four or five cities in this country.

An Election? Don't Think So

And here's why:

All of the "Class of 2004", the MPs elected in Paul Martin's winter election, become eligible for their pension in June, 2010. Don't expect any of them to show up in favor of risking their cash for life.

As well, the opposition parties know the last budget, especially its tax write-offs for home renovations, was very popular. The Tories will claim the budget puts those goodies in jeopardy.

It takes almost all of the MPs from all three Opposition parties to actually show up and vote against the government. Will all of these parties -- at the same time -- see an election in their best interests? Nope.

The Liberals have yet to find a good message to run on. I spoke with one Opposition Leader's Office strategist yesterday and his talking points were just old platitudes. This government won't be defeated unless the Liberals come up with a real issue, something like Free Trade in 1988. Smart Liberals know this and are working hard to come up with something.

Many in the media say Ignatieff pulled the plug on Harper yesterday. He didn't. He said the Liberals will not support the government any longer. Ignatieff should have done this last winter when the Tories were rubbing his nose in the coalition dirt. Let Harper go cap in hand to the Bloc and the NDP. he would have done it while the Liberals did their job of opposing Harper's policies. It seems Ignatieff has finally clued in.

So expect a nasty fall session. But an election? At most, it might happen by accident.

New Blood for the Depends Crowd

Spring chicken Diane Sawyer, 63, has been tapped to be the ABC News anchor.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hospital Horror Stories: Add Yours

We'll start off with my 75-year-old father-in-law, a sweet, gentle man who now suffers from Alzheimers. He spent three days in a cot in the crowded, filthy emergency ward of the Hull, Quebec hospital suffering from an untreated broken hip. My mother-in-law was the only support he had. For three days, she fed him, changed his adult diaper and kept him calm. The only staff that ever showed their faces were the pudgy, useless security guards that seem to infest Quebec and much of Ottawa. They took away my mother-in-law's chair, leaving her standing beside the cot for two days and two nights before my father-in-law was transferred to Montreal.
While he was in Hull, the emergency room was jammed with people. One poor crazy man was locked into a chair-table contraption wearing nothing but an adult diaper. Most of the time, he cried and asked people where he was and what was happening. My mother-in-law ended up comforting him, too.
In Montreal, my father-in-law was declared "terminal" by one doctor. another came by and realized he needed hip surgery but otherwise he was as fine as he could be, considering his circumstances. Eventually, he had surgery and now he's back at home, very much alive.

But this story beats mine. I'm not surprised. I visited my uncle at St. Joseph Hospital, where the wards were dirty, the staff was ignorant, and homeless people who lived in bus shelters outside wandered the cafeterias and the halls panhandling.
I do believe in a public health insurance system. I don't, however, believe in public hospitals. They simply don't work. The culture becomes one of entitlement and lack of empathy. There's a lack of focus on quality.
I can't imagine how good practitioners can work in our system. I just know that there are some who do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Trials of Larry O'Brien

Trial by Fire

A political neophyte, Larry O’Brien handily won this city’s top job, quickly earning a legacy as a headline-grabbing mayor unafraid of the spotlight — he promised to bring a business mentality to city hall, but his fix-it nature was overshadowed by a precedent-setting trial. Mark Bourrie unpacks the strategy behind the courtroom climax

There are so many truths in politics, so many realities.
Not everything that is heard is what is said. Not everything that is said is what is heard. Words are not always precise things. The English language has so many words, but words are just sounds the brain uses to transfer information.
Some people can craft this transition very well: each word is pretty much the right tool for the job. Others can’t. They have a messy tool chest — a bucket of rusty nails and bolts when what they need are fine tools to fix a watch.
In politics, words — much like votes and money — are part of the tool kit. In law, words make up all the tool kit. So when the precise words of law are fitted to the deliberate obfuscations of politics, strange things can happen.
For two months off and on, Superior Court Judge Douglas Cunningham tried to make sense of a lot of words: Larry O’Brien’s pre-2006 municipal-election pitch to Terry Kilrea, the words Kilrea used for his never-ending job hunt, and the words of the lawyers prosecuting O’Brien on election corruption and influence peddling.
This great wave of words concealed as much as it explained. Reporters and federal politicians believed that the O’Brien scandal might leap like a salmon from Ottawa City Hall to Parliament Hill. They would be disappointed.
The trial centred on the allegation that O’Brien had offered to get Kilrea, putative candidate for mayor, a spot on the National Parole Board. Kilrea is a court enforcement officer. His job is to enforce court orders — usually implementing evictions and shutting down the odd crack house. He has no post-secondary education, no training as a police officer or in any important aspects of the criminal law.
But Kilrea likes words. For half a decade, he has tried to be a political mover. His views reflect those of the morning radio crew at CFRA, the station that gave Kilrea a platform until the much more electable right winger Larry O’Brien announced his candidacy in July 2006.
Kilrea represented the side of Ottawa that tourists don’t see: Anglo small-town eastern Ontario, not connected to government, and not qualified for the federal public service because of a lack of language skills and education. This is the Ottawa that’s part of The Valley, and Kilrea was able to tap that vote in both urban and rural Ottawa for a very respectable showing against former Liberal MPP Bob Chiarelli in the 2003 mayoral race.
John Baird is also part of the Valley — or at least he has cast himself that way. His education, his proficiency in French, and his spell in Toronto as an MPP have not erased the fact that he’s a kid from Bell’s Corners. Baird is an outsider to the world of what the Valley calls Trudeaupia, the Liberal-left public service whose members live in New Edinburgh, the Glebe, Orleans and, worst of all, Gatineau.
So it’s no surprise that Terry Kilrea knew John Baird and that Larry O’Brien, one of the city’s tech lords, did not.
Liberals and NDPers hoped Nepean MP John Baird’s testimony at O’Brien’s trial would be exciting, perhaps even expose a few of Baird’s more interesting personal secrets. Instead, it was short and boring. It quickly became clear that if there was some sort of conspiracy, Baird didn’t know anything about it.
There was a solid ring of truth to Baird’s testimony. In Parliament, he’s among Canada’s most vicious, most partisan politicians. But in court, he came across as a minister who, after quarterbacking the Harper government’s Accountability Act through the House of Commons, knew that his friend Terry Kilrea was not qualified to determine whether convicts should be let out of jail.
And that became the nub of O’Brien’s defence: Kilrea was not only too dense to be on the National Parole Board, he was too slow to understand what O’Brien was actually saying to him. And not only was Kilrea quite thick-skulled, he was also duplicitous and sleazy, a man in a constant search for some kind of political power, whether through election — something that had eluded him — or by a government appointment.
“Dumb like a fox.” That was lawyer Michael Edelson’s first line of defence.
The second line also turned on words and their meanings. David Paccioco, Edelson’s partner, wrote the book on trial evidence. It’s a two-inch-thick volume that is used at the University of Ottawa law school, where Paccioco teaches.
He argued that two guys playing political horse-trading on a summer afternoon on the patio of 700 Sussex did not constitute a crime. This was the “big swinging dick” defence. Long after the meeting, when the police had taken a professional interest in what happened that day, O’Brien had described the session as a “big swinging dick contest” to try to eliminate one man from the race. There could be only one candidate for the votes from The Valley, or Alex Munter — who represents everything Lowell Green’s callers despise — would win.
Paccioco argued that people make political deals all the time. Political-party leadership races are full of these deals. Many a third-place loser has landed a cabinet job by throwing support behind an eventual winner. And though people might not like it, such MPs as Belinda Stronach and David Emerson crossed the floor of the House of Commons, moving directly from the wasteland of the Opposition to a prestigious, well-paying, and perktastic cabinet job.
“Paccioco can make an argument that, coming from someone else, would sound ridiculous. But from him, it makes complete sense. He has command of the material, but he is also the most silver-tongued lawyer I have ever met,” an Ottawa lawyer said after Paccioco made this pitch to Judge Cunningham.
But the judge had his own interpretation of the words in the law. Yes, he reasoned, people play those political games. That doesn’t make it right. Nor, he added, do they play for jobs with regulatory agencies such as the parole board, which can have dire impacts on people’s lives. If politicians do play that way and they end up in front of him on the same charges that O’Brien faced, the judge would convict them if there was enough evidence against them to prove the offence.
That’s how the charges played out in court. What could the prosecutors prove was actually said? How much of O’Brien’s filmed statement to the police was an admission of criminal wrongdoing?
From the defence side came the argument that all the talk — whatever it was — was just talk. O’Brien hadn’t offered Kilrea anything. The allegations were just sour grapes on Kilrea’s part, an attempt to get back at the man who had supplanted him in an election he might have won.
The drama, such as it was, played out in parallel campaigns outside the courtroom. O’Brien hired Barry McLoughlin, a spin doctor and political-campaign expert, to handle the press. McLoughlin spent most of his day thumbing on a Blackberry and telling reporters the mayor would not talk to reporters.
The Ottawa Citizen had three journalists in the room: city hall columnist Randall Denley, senior writer Don Butler, and Hill reporter Glen McGregor on Twitter. The Ottawa Sun had four people in or near the trial, although one of them, city hall columnist Sue Sherring, was excluded from most of the trial because she had been subpoenaed as a witness.
The CBC sent Stéphane Émard-Chabot, a former Ottawa councillor and one of Paccioco’s law-school colleagues, to do a play-by-play of the trial. It also had radio reporters, along with local, and sometimes national, television journalists. The local radio and television stations sent their own contingents, and the press pack swelled with parliamentary reporters when Baird testified.
The press had a lot to do with this case. There’s still a dispute over who broke the story. Wikipedia says A Channel reported it during the election campaign. The Sun’s Sherring made a brief mention of it at about the same time. Neither outlet grasped the idea that Kilrea’s allegation crossed the line from sleaze to crime.
A few weeks after the election, Kilrea gave the story to Jorge Barrera, then of the Sun, but the editors killed it. Sherring and city hall reporter Derek Puddicombe said near the end of the trial that they engineered the smothering of the story because Barrera poached their beats. (Barrera left the paper soon after.)
Kilrea then shopped the story to Gary Dimmock, one of the Citizen’s investigative reporters. The Citizen did something papers in this town rarely do: hired a lawyer, had Kilrea swear an affidavit, then conducted a lie-detector test, which Kilrea supposedly passed. Dimmock warned Kilrea not to talk to anyone else — especially other reporters.
It was all so exciting that the Citizen devoted pages to the allegation and the affidavit.
“He is revelling in this, with 50 different stories in which Kilrea is the centre of attention,” Edelson said on the last day of the trial as he tried to paint Kilrea as a media whore.
Along with the huge, sensational Citizen stories, Kilrea’s affidavit sparked a probe by the OPP Anti-Rackets Section. O’Brien called the police the day after a sit-down interview with the Ottawa Citizen and asked for an investigation to clear his name.
After their sit-down with O’Brien, in which the mayor used his “big swinging dick” metaphor, the police went on a hunt for e-mails. Somehow Dimmock got them before the cops. Edelson argued that Kilrea fed them to Dimmock, who then used them as leverage in his interviews with the cops.
At about the same time, Kilrea’s affidavit was leaked to Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, who gave it to the police.
(In the trial, Kilrea suggested that one of the 62 people who went through the Kilrea home during a real-estate open house in early 2006 hacked into Kilrea’s computer and stole the e-mails.)
There were some other comic moments, such as when it came to light that two of Kilrea’s campaign men, Tim Tierney and John Light, were cackling in e-mails about their unimportant media manipulations. They saw themselves as future movers of mountains, asking each other if they planned to carve out careers in elective office and comparing themselves to Doug Finley, the guy who ran Harper’s campaign.
The defence did not call witnesses. O’Brien would not be able to tell the judge about the legality of his big swinging dick and its powers to intimidate and offend.
In the end, Edelson, a lawyer so ferocious that cops use him when they’re in trouble, tried to make dozens of tiny cuts to Kilrea’s credibility. The defence case — after Paccioco’s “everyone does it” legal challenge failed — relied on attempting to make Kilrea out as both devious and stupid, a man who distorted reality by manipulating words, a man who had used false words to smear a good man.
Unspoken was the fact that, no matter what the outcome of the trial, O’Brien paid a high price for those allegations: he had taken a lawyer to his police interview in April 2007 and had retained some of the best lawyers in the city for a year and a half. They had generated huge binders of material stuffed with all kinds of words. Conservative estimates of O’Brien’s defence bill are a minimum of $500,000, with outside estimates sitting at well over $1 million.
The man paying the bills, Larry O’Brien, never publicly sweated the costs during the trial. His wife, ex-wife, mother, sons, and friends came to court most days. On the day Paccioco’s argument was thrown out, there were about 30 of them. They expected to win.
“It was like the last day of school,” said a lawyer who watched most of the trial. “They came into court giddy and excited. They expected a quick morning. They had a hall booked for a party. O’Brien planned to do a bunch of press interviews. But as the judge went into his ruling, they became quieter. The body language changed completely.”
In the end, it seemed as though Edelson’s strategy was to bore the judge, perhaps induce some sort of hypnosis that worked on principles unknown to the rest of us. Edelson used thousands of words to try to paint Kilrea as a man addicted to his own media clippings and as a serial political candidate who had applied for many jobs, including a seat on the board of city housing, on the Ontario landlord-tenant tribunal, as a justice of the peace, and many more.
“I think he was trying to beat out John Turmel in the Guinness Book of World Records for biggest loser,” Edelson told the judge to snickers from the O’Brien camp in the right side of the courtroom. Edelson, no scholar of Renaissance philosophy, said Kilrea was “not Prince Machiavelli…but he is dumb like a fox.”
In the end, the trial came down to words: Did Kilrea hear what O’Brien was really saying? Did anything O’Brien say cross a boundary delineated not by a line but by a string of words? Had the judge been able to find his way through the fog of words generated by the lawyers on both sides of the case and reach the truth? It was a matter of whose words you trusted.

Today in Racism

Khate McMillan (the "k" is silent) at Small Dead Animals holds up yet another Muslim to be used as a pinata by the hillbilles and mouth-breathers who lurk around her site:

"His fate remains unknown"
When the concept of "multiculturalism" was introduced to Canadians, most assumed it meant more pavilions at Folkfest...

It's not the first time a member of the Muslim organization Islamic Foundation of Toronto has gone missing, CBC News has learned. Last November, 22-year-old Abu-Ubaida Atieque, also an engineering student at the University of Toronto, went missing near Neilson Road and Ellesmere Road.

update.... "Police have located and charged Furqan Muhammed-Haroon"

Posted by Kate at August 26, 2009 1:38 AM

It reads like the script to your typical mob movie. Except it's Abudul or Mohamed not Tony or Pauly sleeping with the fishes.

Posted by: Eskimo at August 26, 2009 1:56 AM

Interesting that this 'devoted Muslim' has been charged with the theft of computer hard drives from the same facility where other such devices were pilfered recently as well..

Something is going on..

Posted by: Kursk at August 26, 2009 4:13 AM

Khate finds another Muslim for the winged monkeys to use as a pinata.

Posted by: Harry Balsac at August 26, 2009 7:19 AM
Khate finds another Muslim for the winged monkeys to use as a pinata.

Posted by: Darrell at August 26, 2009 7:34 AM
It was interesting how many people from his mosque stepped up to vouch for his exemplary moral character, isn't it?

Wonder if they will say the same now?

Posted by: Kyla at August 26, 2009 7:40 AM

An odd story to say the least. Charged with theft of hard drives, had withdrawn thousands of dollars to go go buy plane tickets.

So I guess people still use cash to buy plane tickets. But arent there also ATM limits, you can only get so much out of an ATM in a day and it wouldnt be thousands, a thousand maybe.

Too many things dont add up about this guys story. Oh well, in due time it will come out, he doesnt strike me as the shiniest apple in the fridge.

PS: The CBC story is the one that brings up "identity" so it matches the criteria for Pavilions at Folkfest

Posted by: Stephen at August 26, 2009 7:45 AM

He's just another fine example of an immigrant doing the jobs Canadians aren't willing to do.

Posted by: Mr.g at August 26, 2009 7:51 AM

The whole thing is bizarre.

What would motivate someone to pull a stunt of that nature? We may find out unless our strict privacy laws are invoked.

Posted by: Liz J at August 26, 2009 7:55 AM

Mr.g, what job is that? Student, thief, suspected terrorist cell leader? Muslim mob target, international man of mystery? geez I dunno, but I think I know at least a couple unemployed network techs would love to be any of these, minus the Muslim Mob target.

Posted by: Arron D at August 26, 2009 7:55 AM

How do you say "I'm a legitimate businessman" in Arabic?

Posted by: Goofy Guy at August 26, 2009 8:00 AM

And that should be CANADIAN network Techs who would ...

Posted by: Arron D at August 26, 2009 8:17 AM

Arron D:

That "whoosh" you hear is the sound of a joke going 30,000 feet over your head.

On an unrelated note, bartenders across the US mourn, and young women breathe sighs of relief at the news that Ted Kennedy died at the age of 77.

Posted by: KevinB at August 26, 2009 8:36 AM

The only illumination this non-story provides is about the loopy mind of the person who posted it. There is no relevance to multiculturalism here. If you see this story as evidence of any larger issue, than you're well on your way to being fitted for a tinfoil cap.

Posted by: David at August 26, 2009 8:37 AM

what an effeminate muslim.

usually this behavior is reserved for the Dar Heatheringtons of the world or this one from NB.

Posted by: cal2 at August 26, 2009 8:46 AM

What's been reported to this point leads to more questions and unfortunately speculation.

Apparently he had been charged with stealing a green plastic recycling bin stuffed with computer equipment from his 'former' employer, IBM Canada.

He apparently withdrew the "large amount of cash from an ATM in preparation for his trip that evening to the United Arab Emirates", as reported in the G&M. He must already have had his ticket so what would constitute "a large amount of cash" is the question.

Guess people charged with theft are still allowed to leave the country. Was he fired from IBM?

The fella has some 'splainin' to do.
We better leave him to it.

Posted by: Liz J at August 26, 2009 8:48 AM

don't say anything about moslems and airplane tickets. it's not funny. don't say anything about moslems and stealing anything, especially identities or anything about computers, and if you do, don't say anything about prior criminal activities, don't say anything about moslems and having to go into hiding, don't say anything about anything moslem or anything moslem like, don't say anything about moslems and 30,000 feet, don't say anything about Ted Kennedy yet, you know very well he doesn't wake up until almost noon, and then it's only to finish sobering up for his afternoon binge-ette, don't say anything about legitimate business and moslems in the same sentence, don't say apple, and ramadan during the daytime, especially during ramadan, don't say multicultural and canadian together, don't say terrorist and CBC, don't say devoted and moslem together, don't say monkeys and moslem together, that really doesn't look good, don't this, don't that. just don't. just get in line.

Posted by: marc in calgary at August 26, 2009 9:00 AM

That girl, who convinced her boy friend to kill another girl in Scarborough, she was tried as an adult and received life in prison.
Will any religious leaders, who convince their followers to kill on religious grounds, be tried on the same principles - that inciting murder is a criminal offense, punishable on par with murder itself?
I think that a precedent was set, and a very good one.

Posted by: Aaron at August 26, 2009 9:11 AM

Darrell -- or is it your other brother Darrell?: "What the hell does it have to do with 'multiculturalism?'"

You're kidding, right? You're asking a rhetorical question, right?

Let's go through the ABCD's of this, OK? (Marc in calgary, sorry I'm not getting in line ...)

A) PET's "official multiculturalism," the PR goes, was to turn Canada from a predominantly Judeo-Christian, European nation (granted, with more English speakers than Francophones -- gotta do something about that, said Pierre) into a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-gendered haven, all the better to smack down the Brits and put the Francophones out ahead. Oh, and the other thing, PET realized after he had legalized abortion, that we would have to replace the millions (that's no exaggeration) of workers that never made it out of the womb, by a massive influx of immigrants.

B) As huge numbers of immigrants, often under the guise of being refugees (great opportunity for the lawyers of Canada) flocked to Canada, bringing with them their many wives, mothers-in-law, stepbrothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins, the mantel of "multiculturalism" made them eligible for unlimited welfare, housing, dental care, medical care, and educational opportunities, all services that hardworking, overtaxed Canadians had to pay for themselves, on top of footing the bill for the immigrant population.

C) So, here we have this wonderful multicultural playground, all races, cultures, and creeds -- and we're all happy, holding hands, and having a great life together ... right?


In far too many cases, immigrants such as Furqan Muhammed-Haroon have taken gross advantage of Canadians' hospitality. "Multiculturalism's" basic premise is that all cultures are equivalent and it makes no distinction between hardworking Canadians, immigrant or not, and freeloading Canadians. They myth is that if you're part of Canada's "multicultural" mosaic or more pavilions at Folkfest, if you will, you're OK.

However, it turns out that Furqan Muhammed-Haroon, who is "deeply spiritual" and whose morals and conduct are "exemplary," according to Mohamed Mobeen, the secretary and fund-raising chair of the mosque he attends, has just been charged with theft under $5000 by IBM, the company for whom he worked this past summer. He has a court date sometime in September. 'Wonder why he was in the process of buying a ticket (one way?) to the United Arab Emirates?

D) There's often a pattern of recent immigrants, having been apprehended by the law, being described as "moral," "decent," "honest" individuals, when all of the evidence indicates otherwise. A common thread through this kind of dissembling -- and often leniency when it comes to sentencing – is that the person belongs to “a visible minority.” Whereas justice should be blind, it appears that in Canada, that’s not always the case. Political correctness seems to dictate that if a recent immigrant to Canada has contravened our laws, we need to bend over backwards to not appear “racist” in our dealing with the misdemeanor.

So, Darrell – or is it your other brother Darrell, or maybe your other brother David? – I hope this small lesson in the connection between this case and multiculturalism is helpful. This is the Reader’s Digest version and I hope it was simple enough for you to understand.

If you're too young, however, to have learned any history in your school, seeing as we don't teach it anymore, having replaced it with politically correct, revisionist, pie-in-the-sky, schlock, so sorry. The connection between Mr. Muhammed-Haroon's situation and multiculturalism would, obviously, not be clear to you.

Posted by: batb at August 26, 2009 10:33 AM


Good dot connecting. The trolls can't think in those complex terms. But good that you splained it to them anyway.

Now they can't say nobody ever warned them, when their daughters are forced to wear sacs when out in public and they as dhimmis (dummies) must give half + 20% of their income to their Sharia tax collectors.

There is nothing wrong with a multiracial society as long as they all share the same language and culture. Anything else means no peace EVER!

Posted by: Momar at August 26, 2009 11:03 AM

"as long as they all share the same language and culture."

Canada has never shared a single language and culture.

Posted by: ted at August 26, 2009 11:59 AM

Great explanation 'Post by: batb at August 26, 2009 10:33 AM'. Thank you.

Posted by: Merle Underwood at August 26, 2009 11:59 AM


Well said!

For those left-leaning trolls who insist on visiting this site day after day to express outrage and indignation, dispense self-righteous wisdom and demonstrate moral and intellectual superiority .... take the time to read the post and actually think long and hard about what was written before going into your usual knee-jerk, self-indulgent routine.

Posted by: biffjr. at August 26, 2009 12:00 PM

I think "new at August" is on to something here.

You guys should all go over to his place and get to the bottom of this whole muslim-multiracial- multilingual thing. Seriously, I think this guy has the answers you're looking for.

Posted by: tedafsd at August 26, 2009 12:53 PM
I'm always amazed at the Muslim mourning their dead children......and wonder are they more distraught at losing a potential suicide bomber????

Posted by: sasquatch at August 26, 2009 1:01 PM

batb, you forgot sitting around in a circle and singing kumbaya.

Posted by: Ken at August 26, 2009 1:28 PM


Great nick!

And yes, Muslims don't care about their children the way other humans do - that's very astute of you to understand that.

Welcome to small brain-dead animals.

You're amongst friends here.

Posted by: bob234 at August 26, 2009 1:30 PM

That is so right Bob.Especially when we overlook the atrocities committed against their OWN children in the name of Allah. Keep on overlooking the realities of the 'religion of peace' and you will fit in well with the rest of the perpetually indignant and offended.

Posted by: wallyj at August 26, 2009 1:53 PM


Darling I am most certainly not offended, nor indignant. Totally slack-jawed at the sheer breadth of ignorance on display here - that's all.

But while we're chatting, can you explain how this Furqan Muhammed-Haroon has bearing on, well, anything?

Can you even explain why it's posted?


Posted by: bob234 at August 26, 2009 2:01 PM

Actually,it has been explained better than I could already.Go up a bit to this, ---Posted by: batb at August 26, 2009 10:33 AM .

Posted by: wallyj at August 26, 2009 2:08 PM

Bobby, what you see as ignorance, others see as facing realities.

Realities that are becoming more self evident day by day.That you don't see what is happening is a product of your upbringing in socialist utopian Canada, where those friendly faces at the falafel stand at folkfest would NEVER conspire to kill you or your family, just because..

Posted by: Kursk at August 26, 2009 2:17 PM

In far too many cases, immigrants such as Furqan Muhammed-Haroon have taken gross advantage of Canadians' hospitality.

1) Is Furqan Muhammed-Haroon an immigrant?
2) Any statistical support for this contention? Or did you make it up?

"Multiculturalism's" basic premise is that all cultures are equivalent and it makes no distinction between hardworking Canadians, immigrant or not, and freeloading Canadians. They myth is that if you're part of Canada's "multicultural" mosaic or more pavilions at Folkfest, if you will, you're OK.

3) This doesn't even make sense. The second sentence isn't even English.

However, it turns out that Furqan Muhammed-Haroon, who is "deeply spiritual" and whose morals and conduct are "exemplary," according to Mohamed Mobeen, the secretary and fund-raising chair of the mosque he attends, has just been charged with theft under $5000 by IBM, the company for whom he worked this past summer. He has a court date sometime in September. 'Wonder why he was in the process of buying a ticket (one way?) to the United Arab Emirates?

4) Is the theory here that Muslims are predisposed to thievery? Is that it? Then for God sakes say that.
5) If his mane was McDonald would that change things for you?

D) There's often a pattern of recent immigrants, having been apprehended by the law, being described as "moral," "decent," "honest" individuals, when all of the evidence otherwise. A common thread through this kind of dissembling -- and often leniency when it comes to sentencing – is that the person belongs to “a visible minority.” Whereas justice should be blind, it appears that in Canada, that’s not always the case. Political correctness seems to dictate that if a recent immigrant to Canada has contravened our laws, we need to bend over backwards to not appear “racist” in our dealing with the misdemeanor.

6) Where's the special treatment you're alluding to? He's been busted - quickly.

So, Darrell – or is it your other brother Darrell, or maybe your other brother David? – I hope this small lesson in the connection between this case and multiculturalism is helpful. This is the Reader’s Digest version and I hope it was simple enough for you to understand.

7) There is no lesson, and the only connection is in your mind. Google ""Correlation does not imply causation"

If you're too young, however, to have learned any history in your school, seeing as we don't teach it anymore, having replaced it with politically correct, revisionist, pie-in-the-sky, schlock, so sorry. The connection between Mr. Muhammed-Haroon's situation and multiculturalism would, obviously, not be clear to you.

7) I see, a good history course is all that's needed to understand why this meaningless case reveals profound truths about Muslims.

Sorry if I'm buying it, nor the patronizing tone you're employing to suggest a superiority you can't provide by way of reasoned argument.

Posted by: bob234 at August 26, 2009 2:26 PM

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Why no postings about Canada's most interesting media meltdown? It's not because friends at Canwest have been upset with my three-year-long analysis of the collapse of the company they work for.(Strange for journalists to engage in "Blame the Messenger", but there ya go). Nor was concerned about National Post-it editorial page editor Jonathan Kay's pathetic attempt to smear me last spring. (He suggested on his blog that I was biased against his company, so I was unfit to judge the National Newspaper Award beat category. By then, we three members of the judging panel had already unanimously decided on a winner, a writer with a Canwest paper who had earned the award through hard work and talent. Of course, I couldn't say that until after the prize was awarded.) Quite simply, very little has happened over the past few months. Canwest's debt has grown, the bondholders have brought in their own manager, and soon the debt will be turned to shareholder equity, which means the Aspers will be out. All of this has (finally) become interesting to Canada's media-shy business press. So when something big happens, I'll do a full analysis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Are We Ready

Looks like there's at least a 50% chance that Hurricane Bill will hit Atlantic Canada early next week as at least a Category 1 hurricane. Let's hope emergency measures officials are awake and ready.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twenty-two days until the end of the news drought

I'll be back on the Hill this fall, dividing my time between Library and Archives Canada, the Library of Parliament and the Press Gallery. In September, I'll be working on a major magazine piece on Canadian politics. My piece on the Larry O'Brien trial is just about on the streets in Ottawa Magazine. The mayor's "big swinging dick" is mentioned twice. In the fall, the same magazine will be carrying a true Canadian World War II spy mystery which is based on previously unpublished documents held in a Canadian archive. My Beaver magazine piece should be out in a few months. The editing process is, I think, finished. I also have a few other irons in the fire: one on Civil War espionage, another on the Great Lakes' greatest unsolved mystery, and a couple of business profiles that have been pitched.
I do want to write quite a few op-ed pieces this fall. My last one, on World War II censorship, was published in the Montreal Gazette in the fall of 2008. My thesis and my teaching at Concordia took up much of my time in late 2008 and the first half of 2009, but they're both finished.
I've decided, after all, to go with an academic press to publish my work on the domestic press censorship system. I'm doing so, I suppose, to make a point. And I've already made a few thousand dollars directly from the material that I've turned up. My next book project has arisen from my research on the Beaver magazine piece. I have about 35,000 words in near-text notes and drafted text. After that, I'll resume my work on the biography of Globe and Mail founder George McCullagh. I'm getting help from Conrad Black, whose family moved in those circles, and I am grateful for the pointers and wonderful fact tidbits that he has given me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sucking and blowing for votes...

We've got record bankruptcies, staggering unemployment, a collapse in our ability to do anything technically challenging (the sell-off of Nortel, the failure of the Chalk River nuclear reactor), we have a war in Afghanistan and possibly a $150billion deficit. So what is Michael Ignatieff's big concern today?

For Immediate Release
August 14, 2009

Statement from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on the Typhoon Morakot

I was shocked and saddened to see the devastating effects of the deadly flooding and mudslides from Typhoon Morakot on Taiwan, China and the Phillipines.

On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary Caucus, I offer my condolences to families of the hundreds of people killed, and my concern for the thousands more stranded or trapped residents who still need rescue.

The most severe devastation has been suffered in Taiwan, where the storm has wiped out entire villages, knocked out dozens of bridges and cut off hundreds of roads. With damage estimated in the billions of dollars, and further flooding still expected, it will be some time before these countries can recover.

It is imperative that the international community - including Canada - come together to provide aid and humanitarian assistance to help the people affected get through this devastating tragedy. I urge the Harper government to make Canada amongst the first nations to step forward with the necessary aid.



Press Office
Office of the Leader of the Opposition

I don't get this guy at all. I remember him as the brilliant academic who would go on Peter Gzowski's show and blow the entire country away with his intellect. Now that he's fallen in with the Liberal PR machine, he seems to have politically regressed to the level of a small-town councillor.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today in Historical Soft-Pedaling

This press release, verbatim from the Department of Veterans Affairs:

Veterans Affairs Canada
Media Advisory
August 13, 2009

Minister to Unveil Memorial Wall Honouring Veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong

The Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, will dedicate the “C” Force Memorial Wall to honour all those who served in the Battle of Hong Kong during the Second World War. Veterans of the battle will be in attendance.

Location: King Edward Avenue and Sussex Drive (east of King Edward
on National Capital Commission property)

Date: Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time: 11:00 a.m.

During the Second World War, Canada sent a force of 1,976 to help the British reinforce their outpost in Hong Kong to deter hostile action by Japan. The force consisted of two battalions - the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada. Over 17 days of fighting in December 1941, 290 Canadians were killed and another 493 were wounded. Those who survived were held in prisoner of war camps until the end of the war on August 15, 1945.

The press release soft-peddles what happened to the Canadians "held in prisoner of war camps..." Canadian soldiers were brutalized from the time they were captured and marched through Hong Kong without water (civilians who tried to give the Canadians water at the Kowloon YMCA were beaten), through their internment in Hong Kong and after the transfer of many of them to slave work in Japan. The Canadians were worked to death in Japanese coal mines and steel mills. All of them sere denied adequate food and most received mo medical treatment. Here's a good link to a web site on the POWs: The Canadian government knew from the start that the prisoners were being mistreated but censored all news of the cruelties inflicted on them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hurricane season

The first Atlantic tropical storm is brewing off east Africa and is moving west.

UPDATE: Looks like Tropical Depression 2 has let me down, but there is some nice nastiness brewing around the Cape Verde Islands.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Today in Flackery

Aging Japanese actress Noriko Sakai, a sort of Asian Doris Day, just surrendered to police after a few days on the lam. Police had searched her apartment and found a small amount of a yet-unnamed illegal drug. This is how her PR spokesman handled the arrest:

"Noriko Sakai was arrested last night and we would like to offer an apology to all her fans for the trouble caused," Masahisa Aizawa, president of Sakai's management company, Sun Music, said on Sunday.

"I would like her to reflect on what she has done and feel the weight of the crime she has committed [and] I would strongly urge her to seek rehabilitation."

I can't imagine how Aizawa would handle Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan's troubles.


Google "ottawa sewage treament plant" and you get this from the City of Ottawa web site:

But it is important to remember that the City of Ottawa's wastewater treatment plant can't do it all. Our sewage treatment plant is designed to break down ...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fifteen Books that Changed My Life

1. The Face of Battle, by John Keegan. (The first book that showed me military history could be reader-friendly).
2. The Champlain Road, by Franklin Davey MacDowell. (Very dated GG winner by a Saturday Night writer enchanted by Huronia history was my favorite book when I was about 12.)
3. The Odyssey of an Otter, by Rutherford Montgomery. (The first full-length book I ever read. I probably read it 50 times)
4. Disturber of the Peace, by William Manchester. (Manchester's bio of H.L. Mencken)
5. The Glory and the Dream, by William Manchester. (Manchester's take on American political and social history, 1932-1975. Beautifully written).
6. Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K. Massie. (Massie shows the historical opus can be spellbinding).
7. The Encyclopedia Britannica. (I can spend hours flipping for entry to entry, asking a thousand questions).
8. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. (I bawled like a baby at the end).
9. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. (Captivating and enduring book that shows there's a good story everywhere).
10. Famous Last Words, by Timothy Findley. (Another spellbinding story, a real thriller and whodunnit that pulls together, in fiction, some unanswered WWII questions).
11. Fossils of Ontario: The Trilobites, by Rolf Ludvigsen. (Showed me there were far more types of trilobites in Ontario than I thought. Inspired me to collect them all.)
12. Faust's Metropolis, by Alexandra Richie. (Startling and fascinating history of Berlin from the beginning of settlement until the fall of the Berlin Wall).
13. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, by Bruce Trigger. (Massive two-volume study bogs down in places, but it's a very good attempt to use archaeology and written sources to rebuild the lost history of this First Nation.)
14. Mitch Hepburn, by Neil McKenty. (Jesuit biographer of Ontario's strangest politician puts the lie to the claim that Canadian history is boring.)
15. Civilization and Capitalism, by Fernand Braudel. (Three-volume examination of the religious, social, demographic, technological and political reasons for the evolution of modern capitalism and technology shows that history should be weaved from many strands. Braudel is the antithesis of the modern super-specialized historian and his work will stand the test of time.)

Larry O'Brien Verdict

Ottawa courtroom 37 is the biggest in town, but even that huge room, which was once skedded to hold the Bernardo case and was most recently the scene of the sensational Midway murder trial, was filled to overflowing. The local media, never big on class, butted in front of the line, even though many of them had arrived early enough to get seats if they had taken their place in line. The overflow went to another room with closed-circuit TV monitors. Mayor O'Brien sat in centre row, front, with his bodyguard, his wife and sons. O'Brien's staff, spinmeister and friends had reserved seats at the right front of the courtroom. Judge Cunningham walked in exactly on time.
The judge needed about an hour and fifteen minutes to read his decision. He said the case was more than just weighing the stories of Terry Kilrea and Larry O'Brien. The prosecution had to prove its version of the facts without leaving the judge with a reasonable doubt of O'Brien's guilt.
The Crown relied substantially on the evidence of Terry Kilrea. The Crown said there was a wealth of corroborative evidence of Kilrea's claim that O'Brien tried to bribe him into quitting the 2006 mayoralty race with the offer of an appointment to the National Parole Board, while the defence used "colourful adjectives" to describe Kilrea as a manipulator.
The judge believed O'Brien was telling the truth when he told police his meeting of July 12, 2006 with Terry Kilrea was a "big swinging dick contest" designed to intimidate Kilrea out of the mayoralty race. "I have no doubt that Mr. O'Brien arranged the meeting of July 12 and its purpose was to convince Mr. Kilrea not to run," the judge said. Kilrea's inability to remember the date of the meeting "provides an early warning signal of the powers of accuracy" of Kilrea, the judge said. He had no doubt O'Brien was aggressive, and that there was some discussions about Kilrea's campaign financing.
Whatever happened at that meeting -- and the judge said he could not be sure what did take place -- the "evidence favors Mr. O'Brien's version that he contacted (former Canadian Alliance interim leader and ex-Harper campaign strategist) John Reynolds after the meeting at 700 Sussex and was told not to have anything to do with getting Mr. Kilrea a political appointment. I believe Mr. O'Brien's evidence on this salient point."
That was enough, it seems, for the judge to say that whatever happened, the fact that any offer was whipped off the table soon after the fact was enough to keep O'Brien from being convicted. That struck me as an interesting interpretation of criminal law that might come in handy to many other defence lawyers.
Then the judge turned to the issue of Kilrea's trustworthiness. In this, Cunningham was devastating. He very clearly showed how Kilrea does play the media, and how he distorts facts to fit his goals. For example, the judge discussed Kilrea's torquing of a letter from his employer, the Attorney General's office, that Kilrea deliberately inflated into a threat to fire him unless he quit the race, when the letter, in fact, showed no such thing.
The judge said he believed O'Brien's pollster that the campaign had not tried to get Kilrea an appointment. The judge also tossed Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod's testimony that O'Brien told her he was getting an appointment for Kilrea as vague and trashed the Crown's interpretation of the testimony of O'Brien and Kilrea campaign workers. The judge concluded the evidence of the three campaign workers left him with serious doubts that they proved any wrongdoing.
As for Ottawa deputy police chief Susan O'Sullivan, her evidence lent support to O'Brien's claim that, when he learned the National Parole Board offer was illegal, he backed away from whatever offer he might have made to Kilrea.
The judge said he believed from the afternoon of July 12, 2006, when he talked with Reynolds, O'Brien took no further action regarding Kilrea's appointment to the National Parole Board. The judge said he was "perplexed" about what happened at the Tim Hortons on Robertson Road at the last meeting between O'Brien and Kilrea, but whatever went down in the parking lot of the Bell's Corners Hortons was not illegal.
Kilrea's offer to swear an affidavit for the Ottawa Citizen shows naivite and poor judgment, the judge said. He said, despite Kilrea's testimony, Kilrea leaked e-mails to the Ottawa Citizen's Gary Dimmock. They were not stolen from his computer during a real estate open house, as Kilrea suggested in his testimony.
He found the circumstances of the leak of the affidavit to the Ottawa Labour Council troubling and blamed Kilrea for it.
The judge believed the defence assertion that Kilrea was shopping himself around, looking for an appointment to the parole board, a spot as a JP, or any other government work he could get. Kilrea had called then-mayor Bob Chiarelli, who he had run against in 2003, a disgraced and a coward, yet, in the fall of 2006, Kilrea threw his support behind him.
Pretending to have influence was at the heart of the prosecution. The Crown had to prove that the offer of a federal appointment was made in return for Kilrea leaving the mayoralty race. "I am left with a reasonable doubt that this qui pro quo was offered... While at best I may have suspicions of what happened at this conversation, I am left with a reasonable doubt," the judge said.
"He (O'Brien) was walking a fine line" but the judge was left with that reasonable doubt, and so Larry O'Brien walked.
So, now what?
Ken Gray of the Ottawa Citizen is right: Larry O'Brien, despite the delight of his supporters by today's events, is a lame-duck mayor.
And, as the folks at CFRA and the Ottawa Sun crow over O'Brien's acquittal, remember that they were the media outlets that Kilrea so often manipulated. They were Terry Kilrea's willing mouthpieces until O'Brien, who had the air of a winner, came along.
It will be interesting to see if O'Brien tries to recover his legal fees from the city. Lawyers I've talked to estimate the defence cost between $750,000 and $1,000,000.
Watch for my piece on the case in Ottawa Magazine, which will be distributed next week. Ron Corbett also has an article in the same issue on Terry Kilrea. They're both, I think, pretty good reads that capture the essence of this bizarre case.