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Sunday, May 31, 2009

$20 million defence contract sold as "economic stimulus"

Laurie Hawn, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre, announced Sunday a two-year $20 million contract to provide specialized training for Canada’s armed forces. The announcement was made on behalf of Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence.

The Government of Canada stated that the contract will provide “members of the Canadian Forces with the best possible training” as well as “economic stimulus and job creation.”

“The Government of Canada is steadfast in its support of the Canadian Forces. This contract will ensure that Canadian soldiers have the best training possible before going on missions overseas,” said Paradis. “The contract will also generate spin-off benefits for local economies, and provide jobs for Canadians.”

“Well-trained soldiers are our most valuable resource,” said MacKay. “The men and women of the Canadian Forces deserve the best we can offer to support them in the performance of their duties, and to contribute to their safety and success, as well as the safety of the civilians in their midst.”

“With this urban battlefield training program our troops will develop the skills and experience they will need to save lives and protect themselves during operations in Afghanistan,” said Hawn. “At the same time, we are creating local jobs and stimulating economic growth.”

The Canadian Forces’ training program, know as Civilians in the Battlefield, delivers realistic training scenarios for soldiers serving in overseas operations. It depicts the challenges and dangers of actual deployment and simulates conditions that troops will encounter in places like Afghanistan.

The contract was awarded to Allied Container Systems, who will provide role players in various training exercises at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre in Wainwright, Alberta, and other Canadian military bases across Canada.

Allied Container Systems (ACS) was founded in 1992 to design and manufacture custom safe storage buildings for hazardous materials. In 2005 ACS received their two largest contracts from the US Marine Corp for approximately $16M and $8M. ACS went on to design, build and install Live Urban Training facilities for each branch of the military services, law enforcement and other first responders. In 2007, ACS was awarded a $461M contract again by the US Marine Corp, expanding its Live Urban Training division.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Why China won't get serious about North Korea

North Korea is continuing its effort to provoke the international community by showing outward signs of aggression. Monday's nuclear test was followed up with multiple short-range missile tests and new reports indicate that Pyongyang is preparing to test another long-range missile. North Korea's recent provocations have been widely condemned by the international community, including Russia and China, the countries historic allies.

While it would seem as though China holds enough leverage over North Korea to be a vital player in the effort to stop these weapons tests, China has historically blocked the security council from taking a strong stance against Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and there is little reason to believe things will be different this time around.

China has numerous economic and political considerations that prevent it from taking the tough stance many other countries would like to see. China's trade with North Korea has grown considerably in the past decade, quadrupling between 1999 and 2006 to $1.6 billion annually. Aside from this trade being important to China's economy, it is even more important to the North Korean economy, which imports 90 per cent of its daily oil supply and approximately half of its food imports from China. If China were to cut off its trade with North Korea, the regime would likely collapse, which could potentially send millions of impoverished refugees into China, creating a major headache for Beijing.

China does, however, have many other considerations to take into account. In a recent column in The Washington Post, John Pomfret provides some unique insights into China's geopolitical concerns:

Why is China so intent on "regime maintenance"? If North Korea collapses a few things happen.

  • First, about 2 million people will rush into China's northeast as refugees.…
  • Second, China will be faced with a tough decision: dispatch the PLA into North Korea? What happens if the PLA meets up with the South Korean or U.S. armies heading north?
  • Third, remember all that South Korean investment in China? We're talking billions. It would all go home, into building a united country.…
  • Fourth, a North Korean collapse means that China can forget about turning North Korea into an economic vassal state.…
  • Fifth, how would a united Korean peninsula change China's geopolitical position? It definitely wouldn't help it.…
  • Six, China's ethnic Korean population along North Korea's border is not known for being restive. But what happens to those folks once the Korean peninsula is united? Greater Korea, anyone?

Another broader factor also plays into the problems on the Korean peninsula. And that's this: For decades the United States has assumed that it could mold China into an ally.… We can't outsource the solution to North Korea's nukes to China because China views its interests a lot differently than we do. Sure, China would rather not see Pyongyang have the bomb. But if given the choice between a nuclear-armed North Korea and no North Korea at all, Beijing will go with the former.

Further analysis on the ongoing situation on the Korean peninsula from Rob Breakenridge, Peter Goodspeed, and yours truly.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 31, 2009 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prominent abortion provider murdered (suspected killer may be a libertarian.)

See below for updates about the suspect in the murder.


LinkTiller

Dr. George Tiller was one of the only doctors in the United States willing to perform late-term abortions. He was shot inside the lobby of his church.

A suspect is now in police custody.

Anti-abortion groups have condemned the shooting.

While many anti-abortion leaders swiftly issued statements condemning the shooting, their expressions of dismay were not echoed by Randall Terry, a veteran anti-abortion activist whose protests have often targeted Tiller.

"George Tiller was a mass murderer and we cannot stop saying that," Terry said. "He was an evil man — his hands were covered with blood."

Terry said he was now concerned that the Obama administration "will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions."

The website for the organization Terry founded, Operation Rescue (which often featured Dr. Tiller) appears to have gone offline. It is not known at this time whether the shooter was connected to this organization, or any other anti-abortion group.

UPDATE:

According to news reports, police have detained a suspect in Dr. Tiller's murder. The suspect, Scott Roeder has connections to Operation Rescue, as documented here (yes, normally I would have qualms about the source, but everything is well supported with supplementary links.)

It appears that Roeder is also a tax protestor, linked to the Montana Freemen, a group that -- if not exactly libertarian -- espouses libertarian-like views about individual sovereignty and the illegitimacy of government.

This may come up over the next few days.

Posted by Terrence Watson on May 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (66)

Random Thoughts - Volume 2

'Ol Knox has been a little busy lately and hence, in place of a lengthy piece, here is the second installment of Knox's random thoughts.....

Music (The Sound & The Fury)

Rocking and rolling in Knox's music machine these days are:

1) "No" - The Wedding Present

2) "Losing You" - Blue Rodeo

3) "Can't Stand Me Now" - The Libertines

4) "Steve's Boy" - The Lemonheads

5) "Curious" - Sandbox

6) "Pressure Drop" - The Clash

7) "How To Survive A Broken Heart" - Ben Lee

8) "Winter In The Hamptons" - Josh Rouse    

9) "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" - Weezer

10) "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" - Kris Kristofferson

Download these bad boys and you won't be disappointed.

Wine (Two Values for the Road Through These Recessionary Times)

1) 2006 Bogle Cabernet Sauvignon - just a simple delight from a winery that has been pumping out first rate, and reasonable, Petite Sirah for years.

2) 2005 Line 39 Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon - while few Lake County cabs are worth the time and money, this one is easy on the pocket book, pleases the pallet and feels good in the gullet.

Restaurants (A Little Take-Out And A Little Sitting Down)

Busy Knox has been on the road and awfully busy.  These joints were worth a pause in the action.

1) Khal's Steakhouse & Lounge - Drayton Valley, Alberta - Great pizza, great steaks and strangely, great ginger beef, in an unlikely place.

2) Chicken-On-The-Way - Calgary, Alberta - a true stand-by, now in its 50th year.  Best fried chicken in Western Canada and a new location in Cluny, Alberta to keep the wagon wheel turning.

3) El's Japanese Fusion - Calgary, Alberta - great sashimi and an artful, interesting take on old school maki sushi rolls.

Enjoy y'all.

Posted by Knox Harrington on May 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recent BC election results may be sign of the times

Gibbins_Roger9_6 Canada West Foundation president and CEO Roger Gibbins thinks the BC election results may hold insights for the rest of Canada.

In a Western Standard column provided by Troy Media, Gibbins writes:

Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government was the first in Canada to go to the polls since the full onslaught of the recession. He asserted that he was the best choice to lead British Columbians through these challenging times, making economic management the cornerstone of his election campaign. He argued that his New Democratic challenger, Carole James, lacked the experience and ability to manage the province during a recession.

Voters responded to the premier's argument by rewarding the Liberals with a solid majority government and the first "three-peat" in 26 years. Even in good economic times, this would have been an impressive accomplishment and suggests that "it's the economy, stupid" may be the focus of upcoming elections elsewhere in the country.

If Gibbins is right, this bodes well for Stephen Harper’s Conservative government should Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff force an election. Voters are likely to choose the steady approach of economist Harper over the largely unknown Ignatieff, the toast of self-important Harvard naval gazers.

Whether or not Harper is in fact a responsible steward of the economy is almost unimportant. It’s the perception that will matter, as well as a reluctance among voters to demand change in the middle of a financial crisis.

You can read Gibbins’ column here.

(Picture: Dr. Roger Gibbins)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Monte Solberg named to Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre

SolbergMonte_CPC Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced Friday the appointments of Margaret Biggs, Elizabeth Parr-Johnston and Monte Solberg as Canadian members of the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). At the same time, the Minister announced the appointments of Gordon Shirley and Rory Stewart and the reappointment of Faith Mitchell as international members of the Board.

“IDRC will benefit from the years of experience in the public and private sectors, nationally and internationally, that these outstanding individuals will bring to its Board,” said Cannon. “Their knowledge in areas such as education, communications, management and development will be an asset for the Centre. I am certain that they will all make significant contributions to the continued success of IDRC.”

The International Development Research Centre is a public corporation created by Parliament in 1970 to help developing countries use science and technology to find practical, long-term solutions to the social, economic and environmental problems they face. Support is directed toward developing an indigenous research capacity to sustain policies and technologies that developing countries need to build healthier, more equitable and more prosperous societies.

A Crown corporation, IDRC works collaboratively with many federal government departments, especially Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency. Guided by a 21-member international board of governors, IDRC reports to Parliament through the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Solberg was also appointed Senior Advisor to public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard Canada in January. There are also reports that the former Conservative cabinet minister is being courted to lead the Wildrose Alliance party in Alberta.

(Picture: Monte Solberg)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Term limits, time preference and the situation in Niger

Niger flag Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued the following statement Saturday regarding the announcement by the President of Niger of a referendum that would allow him to extent his mandate:

“Canada is following with concern the recent political developments in Niger, and considers that respect for the integrity of democratic institutions and mechanisms is paramount to a firm commitment to democracy.

“Canada invites Niger’s authorities to ensure that their actions respect the spirit and the letter of the constitution the people of Niger have given themselves.”

AFP is reporting President Mamadou Tandja has planned a referendum that would allow him to stay on after his second five-year term expires December 22.

The 71-year-old Tandja has not given a date for the referendum.

It’s important for governments to follow their constitutions, and the less time corrupt statists spend in office the better, but, generally speaking, do term limits make for better government?

The Government of Canada thinks so. It is not only concerned about term limits in Niger; it introduced the Senate Term Limits bill in the Senate Friday. The proposed legislation would reduce Senate appointments to 8-year terms from what are now essentially lifetime appointments for loyal partisans.

Libertarian theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe has a different view from the Canadian government. In “Democracy: The God That Failed,” Hoppe writes:

Theoretically speaking, the transition from monarchy to democracy involves no more or less than a hereditary monopoly "owner" – the prince or king – being replaced by temporary and interchangeable – monopoly "caretakers" – presidents, prime ministers, and members of parliament. Both kings and presidents will produce bads, yet a king, because he "owns" the monopoly and may sell or bequeath it, will care about the repercussions of his actions on capital values. As the owner of the capital stock on "his" territory, the king will be comparatively future-oriented. In order to preserve or enhance the value of his property, he will exploit only moderately and calculatingly. In contrast, a temporary and interchangeable democratic caretaker does not own the country, but as long as he is in office he is permitted to use it to his advantage. He owns its current use but not its capital stock. This does not eliminate exploitation. Instead, it makes exploitation short-sighted (present-oriented) and uncalculated, i.e., carried out without regard for the value of the capital stock.

In the same essay, Hoppe writes “In particular, democracy is seen as promoting an increase in the social rate of time preference (present-orientation) or the "infantilization" of society.” In short, democracy creates short term thinking, and term limits would do little if anything to make politicians "future-oriented" when it comes to the common wealth.

While monarchy may be inherently better than democracy, Hoppe argues that a society based on individual property rights is better yet.

(Picture: Niger flag)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A conservative should not vote for PC Nova Scotia

A few weeks ago I wrote a post claiming that the PC Party of Nova Scotia deserved to lose the provincial election. This sparked a bit of a debate which ended with me saying that I will wait to make final judgement. With the election on June 9th, I thought that now was a good time to take a look at the party platforms.

There were some good points in the PC Party’s platform. They propose to cut business taxes in half and to hire more police to deal with gang activity. They also propose to freeze MLA’s wages, a mostly symbolic gesture but a nice one.

That is about all the good I can say for the PC Party. It does not on balance counterweight all the crap that they are shovelling.

They wish to increase funding for programs that encourage people to buy local food, and they want to launch a $350 000 media campaign to promote local agriculture. I don’t want to go on a long rant about agricultural protectionism and how it hurts the poorest in society. Let us just say that this is hardly a free market sort of solution that I would hope for.

There are other corporate welfare strategies being promoted by the Progressive Conservatives. They want to give more money to tourism, fund art projects, and give rebates to businesses that hire apprentices. None of these are horrific. I could usually forgive a party for these sorts of things if they had policy that was so good that I could ignore it, sadly they do not.

Instead they have a policy that makes my blood run cool; a curfew for everyone who is under the age of 16. If you ever doubted that the PC Party was an anti-freedom big government intrusive party; then simply consider the prospect of citizens being arrested for walking the street.

Rodney MacDonald deserves to lose.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on May 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announces new cabinet

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall today made a number of changes to the provincial cabinet, appointing four new ministers and changing the responsibilities of a number of other ministers. The overall size of the cabinet remains unchanged at 18, including the Premier.

The new ministers are:

Wall said the four new ministers all have solid track records as MLAs and he expects them to make a strong contribution at the cabinet table.

"Our first cabinet got our government off to a tremendous start, both in terms of building on Saskatchewan's economic momentum and sharing the benefits of a growing economy with all Saskatchewan people," Wall said. "I am confident these new ministers and our new cabinet will keep Saskatchewan moving forward.

"The new ministers include three of our youngest MLAs and will give our cabinet a strong combination of youth and experience."

Wall thanked the members who are leaving cabinet for their contributions.

"All of these ministers played a key role in charting the course for our first 18 months in government and I know they will continue to do so in their various new roles in the government caucus," Wall said.

Veteran MLA Ken Krawetz will continue to serve as Deputy Premier and Minister of Education. The other 12 members of the new cabinet are:

Wall also named eight Legislative Secretaries with special responsibilities for specific tasks. They are:

The eight Legislative Secretaries will not receive any extra pay for their duties.andy Weekes continues in his role as Government Whip while Denis Allchurch remains as Deputy Whip. Delbert Kirsch becomes the new Deputy Government House Leader.

Wall also named the Chairs of the various legislative committees. They are:

Mike Chisholm will be the Vice-Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which is chaired by a member of the Official Opposition.

Doreen Eagles continues to serve as Government Caucus Chair while Dan D'Autremont will be the Chair of a new Legislation and Regulation Review Committee.

Lyle Stewart and Wayne Elhard have both been named to the Treasury Board, the cabinet committee that oversees preparation of the provincial budget and government spending.

Don Toth continues to serve as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly while Greg Brkich continues as Deputy Speaker. The government will nominate Wayne Elhard to be the new Deputy Chair of Committees in the Legislature. Glen Hart will continue to serve as a member of the legislative committee on Human Services.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Time for term limits: Senator Patrick Brazeau

Canada’s youngest sitting Senator today affirmed his support for the Government of Canada’s plan to limit Senate appointment terms to eight years.  Conservative Senator and aboriginal activist Patrick Brazeau of Quebec was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2008, and would be subject to the new term limits, which apply to all appointment made after October 2008.

The Senate Term Limits bill was introduced in the Senate today.

“I’m both pleased and excited to see our government moving forward and taking this key step in realization of our commitments to reform the Senate,” said Senator Brazeau. “The Senate is a vibrant and effective institution that will certainly benefit from the infusion of talent and expertise that this reform will bring about.”

Currently, senators can potentially serve terms as long as 45 years, if they are appointed at the minimum age of 30 years and serve until the 75-year retirement age. This situation must change, according to Brazeau:

“We believe that all Canadians feel it’s time to modernize the Senate, especially in respect of term appointments that could last for almost a generation.  Reducing the term to eight years is an idea whose time has come.  It’s the right thing to do, the timely thing to do, and the democratic thing to do.

“Canadians need and deserve an upper chamber that is progressive, relevant and effective.  This change and other improvements that will follow will help ensure that our parliament and our democracy are legitimate, effective and accountable.” 

Senator Brazeau also applauded the unusual decision to introduce the bill in the upper chamber, instead of in parliament.

“It’s appropriate that this bill was introduced in the Senate. I urge all my colleagues to join with us and pass this legislation in the interests of demonstrating the legitimacy of the Senate.  Together, we can show all Canadians that democracy is alive and well in Canada’s parliament.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

$1.4 million per job saved: Cheaper than letting GM fail?

The Globe and Mail is reporting on the new cost estimates of the auto sector bailout bill, which could be as large as $13.5 billion dollars. What kind of cost is that putting on taxpayers - many of whom don't have the high wages or padded benefits packages that autoworkers enjoy?

At General Motors of Canada Ltd. alone, the rescue package could amount to a staggering $1.4-million for every job saved, with no guarantee that the bailout will ensure the long-term survival of the company's remaining auto assembly and engine plants.

You read that right - GM alone will cost taxpayers $1.4 million per job.

What's worse is that it's awfully hard to believe that these bailouts actually create or save any jobs at all.

“You're not going to save jobs. All you are going to do is destroy jobs at Ford and Toyota,” said Mark Milke, director of research at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Calgary.

Mr. Milke dismisses the bailouts of GM and Chrysler as “a massive transfer of wealth to companies that consumers have already rejected.” The result, he maintains, is that governments “are punishing the companies that have actually run their businesses very well.”

More evidence that when government gets involved in business it's no longer "give the customers what they want," it's "make them pay for what they don't."

h/t: taxpayerblog.com

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (31)

Debating & delving into costs of divorce

The country watches silently as divorce continues to take its devastating toll on children. A recent study out of Alberta shows one dramatic, negative impact and provides the jumping off point for my most recent Face to Face debate in the Tri-City News. Here's my take, and here's that of my temporary sparring partner, Jim Nelson.

Meantime, the Institute of Family and Marriage Canada is getting ready to release an ambitious report on June 3, adding up the financial costs to the public of divorce.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 29, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5)

Some Points on Altruism and Politics

Malcolm Lavoie in this post takes issue with my statement "we reject altruism."  That post, like all my posts, was written for my own blog and then cross posted.  I was referring to my fellow writers at GCH, not the Shotgun.  Nevertheless, I do believe that altruism is incompatible with a classical liberal view of politics.  Let me be clear as what I define as altruism.  Altruism, in ethics, is to hold the other above oneself.  The term was coined by Auguste Comte, in the 19th century,  and meant the renouncing of self interest to serve others.  The term itself means "otherism."  It does not mean simply that the individual owes certain responsibilities to others in the society in which he lives.  To live within society requires you to discharge certain responsibilities, if only of the very basic negative one of non-interference.  Rand observed that the issue was not whether you should give a dime to the beggar, but whether you have a moral right not to give the dime to the beggar.  To concede that the purpose of your life is to live for the benefit of others, is effectively a form of moral serfdom.  

Very few people accept this extreme position.  To most, in North American society at least, altruism means simply helping those incapable of helping themselves.  Selfishness, in the common perception, is bad only when practiced to extremes which harms others.  Most people would not consider holding down a job, or raising a family, as being selfish acts, though they clearly benefit the self.  This rather muddled position is where conventional opinion roughly stands.

The issue fundamentally is not so much what we owe others, but how we are to go about determining what we owe.  If the first principle is that we place others before self, then the other may place a virtually unlimited claim upon the self.  Again, most will reject this position as extreme.  There must be, morally, a balance between the self and other.  Placing the self before others will, allegedly, lead to individuals treating others as "second class" moral citizens to be used and abused.  Another extreme position.  Why not a balance?  Because it is logically, and practically, untenable.  

On what criteria could we strike a balance?  At least a criteria that would be anything less than arbitrary? Is it 50% of one's income - whether given voluntary or taxed - or 20%?  Ten hours of working a soup kitchen or merely three?  Helping only those in your neighbourhood, or everyone in the world?  Most people will reply that altruism means helping as much as you reasonably can.  Again, this is arbitrary and vague.  A rule of thumb, but not really a principle.  What if someone says you can help more?  A widescreen TV or helping the widow across the street?  Should you feel guilty when eating a large meal, knowing others are going hungry tonight?  The consistent altruist will say yes, pretty much anything above subsistence should be used to help others.  Few are so consistent, though many will feel guilty in buying luxuries when others lack necessities.  Therein lies the problem, the political and moral problem, that we cannot fully enjoy what we have while others do not have the same.

The most common argument against capitalism is that while it is efficient, it is also immoral.  It is immoral because it enshrines self-interest.  Since most people hold the muddled view of ethics, they say that self-interest is fine but only up to a point.  As such capitalism needs to be "adjusted" to make it more moral, either through regulation or redistribution of wealth.  The altruistic libertarian, or classical liberal, will protest that while this is ethically fine, the principle of non-coercion means that the redistribution of wealth should be done voluntarily.  

(Continue reading here.  Unfortunately it doesn't seem that I can post the whole thing here at The Shotgun without taking up most of the front page.)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Come Together

While I'm skimming through the Book of Revelation, looking for parallels, have a gander at this:

It's kiss and make up time between the Quebec and federal Liberals.

After several years of keeping their distance in public - especially after the sponsorship scandal left the federal party in the doghouse with Quebec voters - federal Liberals now feel enough dust has settled to allow them to show their faces.

For the first time in several years, federal MPs this weekend rolled into a provincial general council.

On Friday evening, Papineau MP Justin Trudeau was seen hobnobbing with the provincial cousins in the lobby of the Sheraton Laval Hotel where the meeting is taking place.

Yesterday, it was Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's Quebec lieutenant, Denis Coderre, who boldly strode through the doors and donned an observer badge.

Coderre, the MP for Bourassa, has had membership cards in both parties for years but said it is the first time in three years he has attended a provincial Liberal meeting.

"For me, it's red in Quebec, red in Ottawa while respecting the institutions and organizations," Coderre told reporters. "We don't mix the two."


Horror.  Confusion.  The appearance of so many federal Grits in Quebec at one time is ominous.  Aside from genuine concerns about ruptures in space-time, it signals a renewed confidence on the part of the federal party in Quebec.  Provincially, as the article notes, the smell of Adscam has begun to subside.  This is unlikely to signal the end of the two separatist parties, nor does it not bode well for the Conservatives.  They are squeezed by their soft nationalist supporters in La Belle Province for having a tin ear to the province's myriad cultural sensitivities.  Their federalist supporters are gradually drifting back to their home base in the Liberal Party.  The Tories, since the days of Robert Borden, have lived on sufferance in the province of Quebec.  

There is no provincial counterpart - from whom donor and volunteer lists might be obtained - for the party, nor any natural constituency.  They must nimbly try to seduce soft nationalist - with lavish praise and buckets of federal cash - while trying not to offend potential federalists who might see them as an alternative to the Grits.  Just as nationally the party must balance collectivist-statist Quebec with free-wheeling Alberta, so within Quebec they must walk the federal-separatist divide. So long as the province's politics is dominated by its constitutional role in Confederation, or at least by the associated rhetoric, the Tories will always be marginal players.  The end?  As our friend Mark Steyn notes, a lot of it boils down to demographics.  The pure laine are dying off.  The Allophones who replace them on the voters lists will be less keen on constitutional brinksmanship, as well as less able to play the game.  The ROC for four decades has been wiling to respond, albeit grudgingly, to Quebec's political blackmail with the traditional envelopes of cash, and the relinquishing of federal powers (even over legitimate federal areas like immigration).  This is unlikely to continue when the threat of separation is revealed to be bluff.

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should the government be regulating noisy toys?

The Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA) appeared today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to encourage the government to include restrictions on noisy toys in its new consumer product safety legislation.

The Health Committee is currently studying Bill C-6, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, which will place an onus on manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe and provides government with new enforcement powers to regulate these products.

“With C-6, the government is clearly moving in the right direction to ensure that the products on store shelves and in our home are safe,” commented CASLPA Executive Director Ondina Love, “but it is important that government recognize the hearing health risks that noisy toys pose when reviewing this legislation.”

CASLPA has worked for a number of years to inform the public and Members of Parliament about the dangers of noisy toys. Currently, the Hazardous Products Act bans toys emitting noise levels exceeding 100 decibels. Audiologists feel that this level is too high and are calling on government to set the limit to only 75 decibels. As a matter of comparison, exposure to 100 decibels in a workplace would be considered safe for only a 15 minute period, and that is for adults with fully developed ears. Lowering this noise limit is also the focus of a Private Member’s Bill C-357, tabled by New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

“The concern is that noisy toys are often trivialized or dismissed as just annoying to parents,” said Love. “But the danger these toys pose is very real and can cause permanent hearing damage.”

CASLPA’s appearance before the Committee helps to mark the end of Speech and Hearing Awareness Month. Throughout May, thousands of professionals involved with the treatment of speech, language and hearing disorders came together to participate in public awareness campaigns that encouraged early detection and prevention of communication disorders, and sought to increase the public's sensitivity to the challenges faced by individuals experiencing them.

“The government has taken real steps to encourage a culture of product safety, and this should be applauded. But it must also take the next step to ensure that the toys a child plays with do not cause lasting harm to their hearing health,” concluded Love.

The public awareness work done by CASLPA is important, but is it the responsibility of government to regulate noisy toys?

While laws like the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act are well-meaning, they can be complicated and costly, create an army of meddling bureaucrats, and are often protectionist, designed by industry to restrict import trade and protect domestic markets. Public education and voluntary compliance with recommended noise levels is a better approach.

So what’s behind the Conservative consumer safety agenda? The cynical side of me thinks Prime Minister Harper is pandering to safety-obsessed soccer moms who think the state can and should protect their children from every conceivable risk in life. The agenda also appeals to anti-China neo-conservatives who welcome new legislative powers that would help keep Chinese made goods out of Canada with the hope of keeping this bourgeoning industrial power contained.

Whatever the motives, this is an anti-capitalist agenda that should be opposed.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (46)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Harper Conservatives move to establish term limits for senators

Steven Fletcher, Minister of State in charge of Democratic Reform, today reaffirmed the Conservative’s commitment to Senate reform and announced the introduction of legislation in the Senate this afternoon to establish term limits for new senators.

"Our Government is committed to moving ahead with reform of the Upper House increase the democratic legitimacy of the Senate," said Minister of State Fletcher. "This bill is a step forward and creates a solid basis for further reform."

The Senate Term Limits bill will cap the tenure of new senators at one term of eight years. The bill also provides that the eight-year term limit will apply to all senators appointed after the October 2008 general election, including the 18 recently appointed senators. The eight year terms will begin once the bill receives Royal Assent. If term limits are passed by the Senate, the government is prepared to introduce measures to ensure term limited Senators are provided the same severance as Members of the House of Commons.

Currently senators can potentially serve terms as long as 45 years, if they are appointed at the minimum age of 30 years and serve until the 75-year retirement age.

"The fact that senators can hold their seats for as long as 45 years is contrary to the democratic ideals of Canadians," stated Fletcher. "Setting term limits for Senators is one important step in making the Senate worthy of a 21st century democracy."

The November 19, 2008 Speech from the Throne reaffirmed the government's commitment to Senate reform:

"Legislation will also be introduced to allow for nominees to the Senate to be selected by voters, to serve fixed terms of not longer than eight years, and for the Senate to be covered by the same ethics regime as the House of Commons."

Last week, the government introduced legislation to bring the Senate under the auspices of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The Senate Term Limits bill is the next step in meeting those commitments and the government will be introducing further Senate reform legislation in the near future.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Will Alberta’s energy sector get praise for sulphur reductions?

The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) released its ST57 2009: Public Safety/Field Surveillance Provincial Summary 2008 today, an annual report that outlines oil and gas industry compliance results gathered from ERCB field inspections and investigations.

It’s the sort of news I would normally ignore.

Among the highlights in the report, ERCB staff carried out a record 18,667 field inspections in 2008 compared to 16,408 in 2007. Boooring.

But there was information in the report that got my attention. Sulphur recovery at gas plants reached a record level of 99.1 per cent in 2008, and sulphur emissions have been reduced by 49 per cent since 2000.

While the province’s energy sector is under global scrutiny from global warming profiteers for C02 emissions, the industry is quietly going about reducing real pollution – sulphur.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Alberta government website coordinates hunt of run-away dads

Alberta’s worst child and spousal support debtors, all fathers, now have even more incentive to live up to court-ordered obligations to their estranged families: fear of state-sanctioned public persecution.

The newly redesigned ‘Help us find’ website, administered by the Alberta government’s Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP), is now seeking the public’s help in hunting run-away fathers who are defaulting on maintenance payments.

“Child support is a responsibility, not an option,” said Alison Redford, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “There are a lot of responsible payers in Alberta, but some still don’t get it. We are taking aggressive action to find those people who are registered through MEP and avoiding their financial obligations.”

What Redford still doesn’t get is that equal parenting is a neglected right that must come with child support responsibilities, and that maintenance payments should not be so onerous as to drive fathers toward financial and personal ruin. (Western Standard columnist Dr. Grant Brown is an expert on equal parenting and child and spousal support issues. You can read his latest column here.)

Without any apparent concern for privacy, website users are able to view the photos and information of debtors through a new interactive map divided into provincial regions. The website now also features a looping presentation of the top 10 worst debtors in the province. This list is based on a number of criteria, including amount of arrears, amount of communication with MEP and number of months in default. The public can call a tip line with information about run-away fathers’ whereabouts. Since 2000, Albertans have helped locate more than 200 defaulting debtors.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the well-being and quality of life of the child,” said Redford. “Children deserve love, attention and financial support - divorce and separation do not change that. Paying child and spousal support on time, and in full, leads to stronger, happier homes and safer communities.”

Love? Attention? Is this really what this enhanced website is working toward?

In addition to the website, MEP uses a variety of heavy-handed enforcement procedures to collect payments from debtors. Some of these include attaching money from wages and bank accounts, seizing personal assets, placing liens on property, reporting debtors to the credit bureau, and requiring debtors to appear in court. MEP may withhold motor vehicle services - such as driver's licences, abstracts and vehicle registrations - for failure to comply with maintenance orders. To help locate debtors when they move, MEP can also access motor vehicle records throughout Canada.

Federal legislation also permits attaching federal sources of income such as GST rebates, income tax refunds, employment insurance benefits and Canada Pension payments.

MEP also has special investigations units in Calgary and Edmonton that work on especially difficult cases across the province. The units can order debtors to appear for hearings and can conduct surveillance to develop proof for court or to find assets.

For those who are counting, that's reason 1746 not to get married. Over to you, Grant.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Canada condemns Pakistan bombings

Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement condemning recent bombings in Pakistan by Taliban forces that have killed 30 people and injured more than 250:

“Canada strongly condemns these cowardly attacks. These bombings are horrific examples of the violent methods that the Taliban is prepared to use against the people of Pakistan.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of these attacks, and wish the injured a speedy recovery. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

“Canada is committed to ensuring peace and security in the region. We remain deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in the conflict-affected areas in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.”

Saeed Shah with McClatchy Newspapers wrote on the bombing that:

“[ Wednesday’s] gun and vehicle-bomb attack in the eastern city of Lahore that may be the first major reprisal for Pakistan's military offensive against extremists, analysts and officials said.”

...

“A senior Pakistani official said the ISI compound appeared to be the primary target of the attack, and it showed that the spy agency is now at war with Islamic extremist groups that it previously trained and armed to fight in India's disputed Kashmir region and in Afghanistan.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

How to deal with a nuclear North Korea

It looks like Lil' Kim and his crazy band of commies are up to their old tricks. North Korea tested two short-range missiles on Tuesday, following the test of a nuclear weapon on Monday. The reclusive communist state has also increased its war-mongering rhetoric directed toward South Korea and reports indicate it has restarted the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which it agreed to shut down in 2007 in exchange for aid.

None of this should come as much of a surprise, as North Korea has been playing the same game for years. I suppose the international response should not come as a surprise either. Let's see, American officials give the North a stern talking to, Russia and China pretend to be onside with the rest of the international community, the security council drafts a resolution imposing some token sanctions, etc. etc. I think I've seen this episode before.

What should be surprising is if anyone believes the same old response will yield new results. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there will be consequences for North Korea's actions and urged them to return to the six-party talks. The problem is that the U.S. has very few options left in terms of punishing North Korea. More sanctions could be imposed on the impoverished country, but they already engage in very little international trade and further sanctions would likely hurt their already starving citizens. Moreover, the six-party talks have consistently failed and are unlikely to yield better results in the future.

It's time we faced facts and realized that no state with the word "North" in its name has ever dismantled its nuclear arsenal. Trying to disarm North Korea is no longer a valid foreign policy goal for any of the countries involved in the six-party talks. These countries should focus on ensuring that North Korea does not sell these weapons or transfer nuclear materials or knowledge to any other state or non-state actor. As well, international efforts should focus on nuclear non-proliferation in the region.

Let's be clear, North Korea is unlikely to ever launch a nuclear weapon against another country because they are subject to the same deterrence mechanisms as every other nuclear power. There are three primary concerns about a nuclear armed Korea. First, the possibility they will sell nuclear material to terrorists. Second, that they will sell nuclear technology to other, even crazier countries, such as Syria or Iran. Third, there is a worry this will spark a nuclear arms race in Asia. This is a very real concern, as Japan is already having a national debate about nuclear weapons and both Japan and South Korea have the capacity to build the bomb.

These issues can be dealt with using the same deterrence mechanisms that have successfully prevented the use of nuclear weapons since the end of World War II. The U.S. must make it abundantly clear that both Japan and South Korea fall under its nuclear umbrella. In other words, any nuclear strike against one of those countries will be met with an American second strike. The U.S. should, however, go one step further and promise to turn North Korea into a parking lot if any of its nuclear weapons or nuclear material originating from North Korea is used in an attack anywhere in the world. This will send a strong signal to Pyongyang that nuclear material should not be transferred to any other countries or terrorist organizations. It will also decrease the incentives for other Asian countries to acquire nuclear weapons.

Instead of trying to disarm North Korea, we should learn our lessen from this situation and work to prevent further nuclear proliferation. North Korea has the bomb because the international community consistently failed to act. After getting elected as the American president, Bill Clinton was warned about North Korea's nuclear ambitions. By this time, North Korea had already separated enough plutonium for one to two nuclear weapons, and Clinton was told that if the North Korean nuclear program was not stopped, the country would be producing enough plutonium to produce thirty weapons a year within five year's time. Likewise, when President Bush came to power in 2000, he too was warned that the North Koreans were working on a secret nuclear weapons program. However, the Bush administration did not pay much attention to these warnings either.

The same thing is happening with Iran. Everyone knows they are developing nuclear weapons, but both Bush and Obama have consistently failed to act. Eventually, Iran will develop the bomb and then it will be too late, as trying to forcefully disarm a nuclear state is likely to lead to nuclear war. The Obama administration and the international community should adopt a policy of deterrence in regards to North Korea and one of non-proliferation elsewhere.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 28, 2009 in International Affairs | Permalink | Comments (14)

Who will lead the Wildrose Alliance?

Western Standard readers have met Danielle Smith. Dr. Grant Brown and I introduced her in commentaries found here and here. And those readers lucky enough to be on the 2006 Western Standard Cruise would have heard her speak in person. Smith is expected to announce her campaign for the leadership of Alberta’s upstart Wildrose Alliance before the party’s June convention in Calgary. (I wrote incorrectly here that the leadership vote would take place during the party’s June 5-6th policy convention and AGM. I’m now told that the leadership convention and vote are scheduled for October 17th.)

Brown and I like Smith, and, unless someone very exceptional comes along, the Western Standard will likely endorse her candidacy. Smith is a moderate libertarian with a rock solid understanding of private property rights, the foundation of a free society. She’s a social moderate (you’re not allowed to use the term “social liberal” in Alberta conservative politics), but she’s rightly trusted by social conservatives not to ignore their legitimate concerns. She also has all the right qualities a good candidate in Alberta needs in addition to sound ideology – media savvy, good looks, charisma and more. At least that’s the case I’ll make to our editorial and management team when it comes time for an official endorsement. (We have a flat corporate structure and we try to do these things by consensus.)

But before I get a head of myself, is there anyone else who might challenge Smith for the leadership of the party? The media rumour mill and blogosphere has spat out some names:

The Lethbridge Herald suggested that Ted Morton might be interested in the job. Morton, MLA for Foothills-Rocky View and minister of sustainable resource development, lost the 2006 Alberta PC leadership race to now-Premier Ed Stelmach. It was a devastating loss for Alberta conservatives who have supported Morton since his Alberta Senate election nomination race in 1998 as a Reform candidate. While Morton can’t be happy with his government’s big spending and inaction on issues like free speech and religious freedoms, he may not have the appetite for another run for premier, especially a long shot run as leader of the Wildrose Alliance. My hope is that the fiercely independent, 60-year-old Morton crosses the floor to become a Wildrose Alliance MLA. Morton is on an extended leave of absence from the University of Calgary as a respected professor of political science. His academic work is a comfortable fall-back position that gives Morton options in political life that other conservative-minded MLAs hiding in Stelmach’s caucus may not feel they have. Most people in politics want to keep their jobs for the same reason the rest of us do – money.

David Yager has also been mentioned by insiders as a possible candidate for the Wildrose Alliance top political job. While Yager is not nearly as well known to average Albertans as Morton – or Smith for that matter -- he has an intimate understanding of Alberta’s energy sector as an oil executive and long time columnist for Oilweek and the Calgary Herald. Since the New Royalty Framework fiasco is the issue that could hurt the PCs the most, Yager is positioned to become a major intellectual force in the party should he chose to leave journalism for politics. In the Herald this month, Yager wrote:

Who speaks for the oilpatch in the legislature? What MLA is standing up and demanding help for the tens of thousands of unemployed oil workers and the economic carnage many smaller companies are experiencing? No MLA is even asking, let alone answering. This conspicuous silence is of enormous benefit to the Wildrose Alliance Party.

The Conservatives started this mess with the 2007 royalty review followed by the New Royalty Framework. Lease agreements upon which hundreds of billions of investment dollars were based were abrogated without compensation, destroying Alberta's credibility and reputation. Damage done, the royalty reduction and drilling credit Band-Aids that followed made the "simplified" royalty system excruciatingly complex. There is an undeniable anti-Calgary bias among senior Tories from northern Alberta.

Alberta’s energy sector is in crisis, even with $60 oil, and this time the province doesn’t have a Liberal Prime Minister and a National Energy Program to blame.

Yager is not likely to run for leader, despite early, short-lived speculation, but he would be a major asset to the party as an advisor on energy issues, and as a candidate for MLA.

Mark Dyrholm is another possible candidate for leader of the party. In fact, he may be the only person stepping up to challenge Smith. I believe Dyrholm is the candidate well-known Alberta conservative activist Craig Chandler is backing. I don’t know anything about Dyrholm and attempts to reach him through people associated with his campaign were unsuccessful. The best I could dig up was that a Mark A. Dyrholm donated $820.00 to the Reform Party in 1998, but I don’t know for sure that this is the same person. Sources tell me Dyrholm will be a Christian conservative candidate, if he runs.

I have also heard from reliable sources that Calgary-based Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young may want to direct his energy provincially and is testing the waters for support. Young is a principled libertarian with a tract record of reaching out to social conservatives on issues like abortion and religious freedom. His background as a former soldier and cop give him some credibility with traditional conservatives on issues like drug policy reform, even when they don’t agree. Young would attract libertarian supporters, but is this constituency large enough to carry the leadership vote?

Finally, Monte Solberg’s name has also been thrown around as a possible leadership candidate. The former Conservative cabinet minister from southern Alberta would be a great choice, but I don’t think he’s looking for the job. Solberg recently took the position of Senior Advisor to Fleishman-Hillard Canada, a public relations firm. The party would be wise to continue to court Solberg, but I wouldn’t expect to see him in the leadership race.

Did I miss anyone?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (49)

Your Father's Heroic Rebellion

Twenty years on, many young Chinese are comfortably numb:

On April 30, the cellphones of the 32,630 students at Peking University, a genteel institution widely regarded as one of China’s top universities, buzzed with a text message from the school administration. It warned students to “pay attention to your speech and behavior” on Youth Day because of a “particularly complex” situation.

Few students had to puzzle over the meaning. Youth Day, on May 4, commemorates a 1919 student protest against foreign imperialism and China’s weakness in resisting it. Seventy years later, in 1989, students from Peking University were again massing in the center of Beijing, demanding democracy. The student movement shook the ruling Communist Party to its core and ended with a military crackdown and hundreds of deaths.

And if a student today proposed a pro-democracy protest?

“People would think he was insane,” said one Peking University history major in a recent interview. “You know where the line is drawn. You can think, maybe talk, think about the events of 1989. You just cannot do something that will have any public influence. Everybody knows that.”


Milton, Wordsworth, Locke, Coke, Concord, Marston Moor.  Words they have never heard.



(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fleeing the Ship

Michael Bryant resigns as Minister for Economic Development:

Michael Bryant will step down as Ontario's economic development minister tomorrow and hit the ground running as Mayor David Miller's high-profile rainmaker for Toronto.

As first revealed by the Toronto Star yesterday, Bryant will be president and CEO of the new Invest Toronto corporation chaired by the mayor.

"My last day as minister of economic development will be Monday and I'm excited to begin new duties with Invest Toronto after resigning as MPP for St. Paul's in the coming weeks," the minister said in a statement yesterday.

His new job will be to attract business to Toronto by aggressively marketing the city.

Bryant, 43, long mentioned as a top contender to eventually replace Premier Dalton McGuinty, 53, at the Liberal helm, was out of town and unavailable for further comment. The resignation of Bryant, an MPP for 10 years, clears the way for a by-election in his midtown Toronto riding before year's end.


The harmonization of the provincial and federal sales tax is a giant landmine.  For Bryant it makes far more sense to pick up the pieces afterwards - as Jean Chretien did after losing the federal Grit leadership in 1984 - than to be held partially responsible for the coming disaster.  This has little to do with the public policy merits of harmonization - which are questionable as the scope of products and services covered is being expanded - and more to do with political perception.  Dalton McGuinty is being seen as having increased taxes, again, in the midst of an economic crisis.  In his nearly six years in power, the Dalt has delivered moderately intrusively and generally mediocre government.  

From banning pit bulls to legally mandating seat belt usage, its petty tyranny hiding a lack of any genuine ideas.  The sense from Queen's Park over the last half decade has been of a government desperately trying not to be noticed.  The vast sluice that has been opened to the teachers unions and hospitals, a process that smacks of hush money as opposed to prudent reform.  For eight years the people of Ontario watched as the Harris-Eves governments seemed to declare war on the public sector, and the public sector replied in kind.  The McGuinty government judged, with some degree of accuracy, that the electorate would reward a party and leader promising peace.  In terms of the dynamics of the welfare state, peace is synonymous with drift.  The momentum of government is always to grow larger and larger.  There is never any end to the business of "improving" society, when the state assumes the role of utopian inspired fixer.  

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Conservatives open new front in war on drugs and further restrict commercial expression

The federal Conservatives are keeping a campaign promise to expand the failed war on drugs to include widely used tobacco products and to restrict commercial free speech and expression with further prohibitions on tobacco print advertising.

From a Canwest news service report:

At a news conference to announce details of Bill C-32, which also includes a ban on flavoured cigarettes and cigarillos and a requirement for the mini-cigars to be sold in packages of at least 20, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the tougher advertising regulations are in response to a "wave" of tobacco advertising in the last few years in publications that are easily accessible by young people.

I wrote about this issue in September during the federal election. You can read my column here. You can also read Western Standard columnist John Luik on commercial freedom of expression and the war on tobacco advertising here. If that’s not enough, check out Western Standard columnist Pierre Lemieux’s article “Looting tobacco companies” here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (26)

Greens join call for Ottawa to respect ban on arms shows

From the Green Party today:

Despite a longstanding ban, the city of Ottawa plans to host the country’s largest trade show of military armaments.  Fiercely opposed by peace and social justice activists, the CANSEC event, put on by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), will showcase weapons such as anti-personnel cluster bombs, fragmentation bombs and phosphorous bombs, as well as automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, machine guns and chain guns.  “The arms show is a symbol of how profit is inextricably linked with the enterprise of war,” said Ellen Michelson, Green Critic for Peace and Security.  “Holding such an event in our nation’s capital sends a terrible message, and calls into question our commitment to peace.”

In 1989, after considerable public pressure, Ottawa's City Council passed a near-unanimous motion banning all future arms shows from municipal property, a motion which they now say doesn’t apply to the proposed venue due to a legal technicality.  "It is simply outrageous that established policy on such a controversial event is being bypassed without debate by elected municipal representatives.  Who is in charge here?  Who hid behind deliberate misinterpretation to allow this event to proceed?" asked Eric Walton, Green International Affairs Critic.

A report by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) states that some CANSEC exhibitors also manufacture components of weapons such as depleted uranium munitions, anti-personnel cluster bombs, and anti-personnel land mines.  “Facilitating an arms show featuring these firms makes a mockery of the international leadership Canada displayed in discouraging these weapons with the Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel land mines in 1997, now supported by more than 150 nations.  Instead, it indicates the complicity of our country in the horrors that these weapons have unleashed on civilians around the world,” said Ms. Michelson.

"Greens embrace the commitment to a culture of peace.  Canada must return to our historic strengths as a peace-maker and reject the arms merchants and the business of making money making war. For the world to be peaceful, governments must invest in peace," said Green Leader Elizabeth May.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13)

PETA launches Canadian maple syrup boycott to protest seal hunt

The animal rights group PETA launched a campaign today to boycott Canadian maple syrup to protest Canada’s seal hunt.

In an email message to supporters, the organization wrote:

Despite international outrage, the Canadian government allows sealers to beat and skin hundreds of thousands of baby seals every year for a product that no one needs. This year's seal massacre is coming to a close, but PETA's campaign to end the bloodbath once and for all is just beginning, and we need your help to keep up the pressure.

We are launching a boycott of Canadian maple syrup and hope that as a Canadian, you too will support this campaign.

As you may know, Canada produces approximately 85 percent of the world's maple syrup. PETA is calling on compassionate citizens around the world, including Canadians, to speak up for seals by refusing to support the product that is most often associated with Canada. By pledging to boycott Canadian maple syrup, you'll be speaking up for baby seals—for whom life isn't so sweet. 

Please help save the seals by pledging to boycott Canadian maple syrup today and asking all your friends and family members to do the same. We'll send a copy of your pledge directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day so that they can't ignore the international outrage over the seal slaughter that is happening in your country.

Keep fighting with us to end this slaughter—the largest and cruellest massacre of marine mammals on Earth—and visit our blog, The PETA Files, to stay up-to-date on our maple syrup campaign and to find more ways to stop the seal slaughter for good.

This campaign comes only one day after Governor General Michaëlle Jean ate a piece of raw seal heart in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (48)

Shameful behaviour by striking CUPE workers in Windsor, ON

I live in Windsor, Ontario, where city workers have been striking since mid-April. There has been no garbage pickup or park maintenance, but I've been happy to see the people of Windsor stepping up to do what they can to take care of the city. People have started going out with their kids to help clean up parks as a way to teach them about littering and keeping the planet clean. One major cleanup by pitch-in.ca folks cleared piles of Tim Horton's cups and other garbage from the riverfront. 

Entrepreneurs have also come to the forefront, offering garbage pickup with their trucks and trailers for people who don't want to leave their garbage at the road in the hot weather for rats or raccoons to tear open or to store it in their basements as the city suggests. It's been absolutely heartwarming to see people helping one another in my city.

Apparently, though, this isn't OK with the city workers, who shout at those trying to clean up and have been reported to have even grabbed garbage from workers at local businesses to dump it into city parks. Most startling so far, though, is this cell phone video of a woman shouting at a couple and their granddaughter as they pick up garbage in a park. The woman aggressively approaches them, tears open a bag of garbage and kicks it all over the ground the child and couple have finished cleaning, telling them, "Here's some more garbage, since you think you should be doing our jobs." 

>

The man who shot the video is afraid to be identified because he's worried the union will retaliate against him. Apparently he should be. The columnist who wrote the article on entrepreneurs linked above had his car vandalized after his article was printed for the first time in a long career of controversial writing.

When unions were first started they had a noble purpose - to protect workers from mistreatment and to give them an equal voice when bargaining for their jobs. The high value of the workers protected their jobs when they were on strike and reminded employers of their value. 

Over the years this purpose has been completely lost, especially as legislation has taken away the ability of the employer to have equal status when bargaining -striking employees cannot be fired and replaced if others are willing to do their job for less. Although employees' labour does not have the high value it once did, employers are forced to treat them as though it did.

Public sector unions, though, are the worst. When they go on strike they are basically holding third parties - taxpayers and citizens - hostage to get their demands. Because they provide public services, they are infuriated even by something as positive as people working together to make the world a better place. 

The rumour here in Windsor is that CUPE president Sid Ryan is using Windsor to set an example and let municipalities know that CUPE will not take lower raises or benefits because of the economic downturn, dispite the hardships their taxpayers might be facing. 

If this is true and Ryan is looking to make an example, perhaps he should start with the CUPE picketers who would intimidate, frighten or shout at the people, including children, trying to keep their parks safe.

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (29)

We've borrowed it. Now you pay for it.

You know those ads to raise awareness of the government's new and various tax credits? "You've earned it. Claim it!" - as though you hadn't earned every last penny of the taxes you'd paid instead of just the ones the Ottawa plans to toss back your way.

With this year's deficit forecast to be $16 billion higher than planned, clocking in at over $50 billion, it's becoming obvious that Canadians are not getting their money's worth from this stimulus. It seems that the government's real slogan, says Terence Corcoran, is "We've borrowed it. Now you pay for it."

There are roughly 18 million income-tax filers in Canada, which means Mr. Flaherty's new deficit will put the average Canadian taxpayer about $2,700 deeper in hock by the end of this fiscal year. Add in the deficits running up in places like Ontario, and the total average debt load per income-tax filer could run to $5,000.

That's a lot to pay for the thrill of "stimulating" the economy.

How many Canadians will get $5,000 worth of benefit out of what is quickly becoming a major national extravaganza of spending and borrowing? Canadians who spent $1,350 on home reno materials this year will be in debt for three times that amount.

Oh well. I guess at least we're not $2 trillion (and counting) in the hole like the land of the free is this year, but their deficit will surely come back to bite us, too.

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Don't blame the economy

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As we all know, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced yesterday that the government's 2009-2010 budget deficit will be upwards of $50 billion dollars, rather than the originally planned $33.7 billion laid out in the budget.

Surely, though, this is simply a result of poorer-than-expected economic performance, right? The finance minister and government couldn't be at fault.

Not quite, says Terence Corcoran.

... blaming growing deficits on the recession and unforeseen turns in the economy is a political device rather than a solid explanation. Today's deficits in Ottawa are a direct product of five years of fiscal expansionism and continued spending increases. Spending has been rising at twice the rate of population growth and inflation, an unsustainable trend.

In a commentary today in the Financial Post, the Fraser Institute's Niels Veldhuis plots the numbers. Mostly under a Conservative government, average annual spending rose 6.2%, exactly double the rate of growth suggested by the increase in population and inflation. Spending this year is heading for a gain of more than 10% - before taking into account the final auto bailout numbers.

When governments run up big spending increases during boom times - as Ottawa and all the province did - then there's nothing left to tap into when the economy slows down. There's no buffer. Revenues fall and spending growth increases, creating a deficit trap from which there is no escape other than waiting for the private economy to catch up with public spending and begin the "Now you pay for it" phase.

Veldhuis, in his article, suggests legal restrictions on government spending to help to keep it from getting out of control as it has in Canada and, to be fair, all over the world. Canadians ought to see his point.

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Going Negative

The good Father puts it a little more, er, Christian like:

Why not turn to an old idea whose time may have now come? Hugh Segal, our local senator here in Kingston, made his case for a negative income tax — or guaranteed annual income — a few weeks ago when giving the annual public policy lecture at Queen’s School of Policy Studies. The negative income tax (NIT) is a rather simple social policy concept. There is an income floor, set somewhere above the poverty line, and if your income for whatever reason fails to reach it, the government sends you a cheque to bring you up to that level. If you earn above that amount, then you pay taxes on the progressive scale as per usual.


Father de Souza justifies the NIT on altruistic grounds - it will help the poor better than the current system.  While believers in compassion, we reject altruism.  Help the poor, certainly, but they do not have first claim on your life or income.  Seizing people's wealth through taxation is bad enough, spending it on others at the whim of a third group - who will bore us to tears about their moral superiority - is even worse.  The NIT is however a good idea, though unlikely to be implemented.  It would considerably reduce the cost of administering the welfare state, and minimize political interference in the helping of those incapable of helping themselves.  This is perhaps the main reason why the idea is unlikely to come to pass.  There is a vast constituency, both in and out of government, to maintain the current system.  The armies of paper pushers, social workers and social activists would have little to do if their wards were "guaranteed" an income.  

Should a bold reformer succeed in side stepping the welfare state's middlemen, and implement the NIT, there are equally formidable problems with implementation and practice.  Providing a "guaranteed" income is an obvious disincentive to work.  Social assistance programs across North America limit the amount of time that can be spent on the dole.  This limits, in theory, dependency on the state.  In practice those unable to collect social assistance payments often find other ways to live off the state.  In the United States Medicaid provides free health care to the poor.  In some regions of Canada the EI system is tweaked in such a way that workers can spend months out of every year unemployed.  Even conceding that the NIT does provide a greater disincentive to work than the current welfare state, would not the reduction in administrative costs be worth it to the taxpayer?  To say nothing of the drastic curtailment of bureaucrats and activists who live off the current system?

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10)

BC election results prove that every vote counts

At a time of steadily declining voter participation where now even the most innocuous comments by politicians and their staff gets vilified by reporters, (public eye online) is it any wonder that the majority of British Columbians are now completely disengaged from the political process?

But as fewer and fewer people vote , those that do are finding their vote counts more than ever.  Just take the recent election here in British Columbia.  Not one but two results have been overturned by careful recounts by Elections BC. And it is even more significant that the margins of victory were very, very small indeed.

The most high profile result is that Independent Vicki Huntington has defeated Liberal and BC’s current Attorney General by 32 votes.  On election night he was leading by only three votes.  The matter could very well go to a judicial recount but it looks like for now that Vicki Huntington is the first Independent to be elected an MLA here in BC since the 1940s.

As I referenced in my previous column, (Check here) Huntington’s election is a clear demonstration that voters want MLAs who are able to represent the concerns of their constituents rather than just that of the Premier’s Office.  Most interesting of all, for me at least, is the fact that both the Green and even most of the NDP vote collapsed in Delta South and went over to Huntington.  This shows me that many Green and NDP voters are not actually that enamoured with either party but are looking for something that allows them to voice their concerns to Victoria.

In the recounts there was also a bit of good news for Premier Gordon Campbell.  In its official recount Elections BC stated that BC Liberal Donna Barnett had defeated incumbent BC NDP MLA Charlie Wyse in Cariboo-Chilcotin by 88 votes.  Wyse had just squeeked in the previous election and had led on election night.  He has now graciously conceded defeat to Barnett who will now be joining her Liberal colleagues for a swearing in ceremony on June 8th.

Even in cases where elections weren’t overturned there were many ridings where candidates won or lost by only about 500 votes.  Here in Victoria, where I live, Liberal cabinet ministers Murray Coell (Saanich North) and Ida Chong (Oak Bay Gordon Head) hung with only about 500 votes.  I had met with Ida Chong during the election campaign and she was extremely worried that supporters in her constituency were taking her re-election for granted.  It turns out she was right.

I think the close results were both a bit of a shock and a wakeup call to Murray Coell.  He is no longer the MLA of a safe riding but a swing riding and thus will have to put considerably more efforts into securing the support of his constituents if he wants to be re-elected in 2013.

On the other hand was the result in Saanich South where former television and radio personality Robin Adair came within 500 votes of taking Saanich South for the Liberals.  It was a tough loss for Mr. Adair but he did reduce the NDP’s margin of victory in half from the previous provincial election.

Both on a provincial basis and on a constituency basis the challenge is clear to somehow reengage the voters.  To do that MLAs have to be allowed to do their jobs.  For that to be accomplished the Premier’s Office is going to have to relinquish some power and control.   The media is also going to have to stop reporting on minutiae and politicians themselves and are going to have to learn to say enough is enough when it comes to the petty condemnation that comes with every minor indiscretion and miscue.

Mike Geoghegan is a government relations consultant who can be reached via his website at www.bclobbyist.com or on twitter at bclobbyist

Posted by Mike Geoghegan on May 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (22)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Opposition wants to reduce the deficit by increasing spending

The opposition parties continued to hound the government on Tuesday over proposed changes to Canada's Employment Insurance (EI) program.

The opposition would like to lower the number of hours people need to work in order to be eligible for EI. They would also like to standardize the eligibility requirements across the country, instead of the current system, which varies depending on the unemployment rate of the region in question. The issue has become so heated, that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has threatened to force an election over the matter.

As though this doesn't seem silly enough, the Liberals launched a coordinated attack against the government Tuesday in question period, which saw the party simultaneously calling for increased spending and deficit reduction. Here are two back to back questions from Michael Ignatieff and John McCallum:

In other words: You remember how we blackmailed you into the largest deficit in Canadian history by getting into bed with socialists and separatists and threatening a coup d'état? And remember how not two minutes ago our glorious leader told you to spend more money? How could you run the biggest deficit in Canadian history?

Oh snap! I, for one, can't wait until these guys get into power. But the shenanigans did not stop there. NDP Leader Jack Layton called on the government to bring in a second stimulus package. Now there's a great idea, spend more money we don't have at a time when the economy appears to be stabilizing. Here's another idea: how about Jack Layton takes out a line of credit and uses it to give money to charity? If it's a good idea for the government, shouldn't it be a good idea for private households as well?

Now it's generally accepted that the job of the opposition parties is to oppose everything the government does, but they're usually not so blatantly contradictory. Luckily, the prime minister called them on it:

This episode has fuelled speculation over whether or not we will see a summer election. This is, however, highly unlikely. The bigger question is: who will fold first? Will it be the honourable leader of the opposition, who systematically abandons everything he stands for? Or will it be our fiscal conservative turned socialist prime minister?

Considering that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is warning that the deficit is likely to be larger than expected and that increasing EI benefits would put the country in a worse financial situation than it already is, I sincerely hope the prime minister has the cojones to stand up to the opposition this time around.

Posted by Jesse Kline on May 26, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (10)

Your Tax System at Work

Just because you never made money, doesn't mean they can't take it from you:

Thousands of Canadian workers who purchased stock options from their employers before the market downturn are expected to pay millions of dollars in taxes on income they haven't received because the shares have lost their value.

"I had to take out over a hundred thousand dollars in loans, plus interest, in order to pay off taxes," said marketing manager Shannon McLeod, a tech-industry worker in Vancouver who faced the same situation several years ago.

"I was a good little Canadian taxpayer and I paid it off, but it had a huge effect on me."

[...]

For example, if an employee bought $100,000 worth of stock for the employee price tag of $25,000 early in 2008, they would be taxed on $75,000 worth of "income" for that year. If the employee held on to their stock, as many do, they would still have to pay tax on the $75,000 — even if the stock's value drops to mere pennies. Employees can defer remitting the tax until they sell the stock or the company is sold, but the tax bill doesn't change.

[...]

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty indicated Ottawa has no plan to help affected taxpayers.

[...]

The United States had a similar tax policy until 2008, when the law was changed to essentially fix the problem for American employees who lost money through stock options.

"The fact that we are the only G7 country to do this still is kind of embarrassing. It's pretty archaic," McLeod added.


In what real sense is this a conservative government?

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

49 to 35 to 1

The B.C. Legislature welcomes the election of its first independent MLA in 60 years.

This is a good thing, right?

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 26, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Surprise, surprise: the deficit is going to be bigger than expected

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is starting to prepare Canadians for bigger deficit numbers than the government predicted when it tabled its budget in January.

This isn't surprising - or shouldn't be to anyone who's a fan of public choice. We should expect to see (and I've predicted) the same thing happen to the McGuinty government's projected deficit in Ontario, and to any other government expecting a deficit this year.

Realistically, and thankfully, Canada's debt-to-GDP is the smallest in the G7, so borrowing is cheaper for us than it is for most. That doesn't mean that expanding or continuing budgets are excusable, though.

For all the rigmarole surrounding Ignatieff's assertion that Ottawa is going to have to raise taxes (or make spending cuts, but thankfully the Tories didn't attack him for that half of the comment), he's right. Getting out of deficit isn't going to be easy or painless for Canadians, and as much pressure as possible needs to be put on the Conservatives to stop piling up the debt so that they don't have to be the ones to make the cuts.

UPDATE: Finance minister Jim Flaherty now says that the deficit will be $50 billion this year, up from the original estimate of $34 billion. This alone will raise the five-year deficit up to $102 billion, barring unexpectedly high economic growth over those years. I have a hard time believing it will happen but realistically no one knows.

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Return of Anti-Trust

One of the few, legitimate, saving graces of the late Bush administration was its running of the Justice Department's Anti-Trust Division.  Under Democratic administrations, the DoJ likes to take strong swings at prominent hi-tech firms.  Under LBJ, IBM was subject to an epic anti-trust suit that lasted so long the equipment in question, an early mainframe, was hopelessly obsolete when judgment was handed down.  The Clinton years saw the persecution of Microsoft which was, we were assured at the time, on the verge of taking over the world if not stopped.  With Apple resurgent, and the Internet having fundamentally changed the economy, the Obama DoJ is taking aim at the new rising giant, Google.

Last week, the Obama administration declared a sharp break with the Bush years, vowing to toughen antitrust enforcement, especially for dominant companies. The approach is closer to that of the European Union, where regulators last week fined Intel $1.45 billion for abusing its power in the chip market.

In this new climate, the stakes appear to be highest for Google, the rising power of the Internet economy.

The new antitrust leadership, legal experts say, is likely to scrutinize networks — technology platforms that become so dominant that everyone feels the need to plug into them. The advantages to the companies that control such networks snowball as they attract more users, advertisers or software developers.
Internet search and search advertising, like personal computer operating software, is one example, said Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Iowa law school. “Google is a dominant network, as is Microsoft,” Mr. Hovenkamp said. “Networks become competitive only if everyone has the same chance.”


That is until some new game changing technology, or business model, comes along.  At which point the lawyers will still be arguing and billing.
(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Lunatic Fringe

In his autobiography, Teddy Roosevelt - whom we like far more as a person than as a President - noted:

Among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are the foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it — the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements.


The recent British expenses scandal - all very Georgian in feel, especially the bill for moat maintenance - is starting to drive voters toward small fringe parties, of varying quality:

BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY

Country: Britain

Leader: Nick Griffin

On the rise: Founded in 1982, British National Party (BNP) restricts its membership to whites only, actively campaigns against racial integration, and advocates the repatriation of nonwhites living in Britain. The party's founder, John Tyndall, flaunted his admiration for Nazi ideology, but under current leader Nick Griffin, the BNP has made a bid for respectability, severing its ties with neo-Nazi groups and even reaching out to Jewish supporters. Griffin hasn't softened too much though. He has been indicted for inciting racial hatred on several occasions, called the Holocaust a hoax, and said that "nonwhites have no place here at all and [we] will not rest until every last one has left our land."


Lovely.  The BNP is being lumped in by the Establishment Left with UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party.  The party's central goal is pulling out of the European Union and strengthening ties with the Commonwealth.  It's economic policies are broadly conservative.  Immigration stance leans more toward exclusion than open borders.  Their symbol prominently includes the pound.  By putting together the racist BNP with the Euroskeptic UKIP, the not so subtle attempt is being made to brand those critical of Brussels as being bigots.  Patriotism?  That's just a polite word for racism.  Freedom?  American style anarchy.  Have you not heard Sarko say that Anglo-Saxon capitalism is dead?  

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Road Back

From the New Criterion:

We are in the high tide of America’s Leftist ascendancy: the Obama evisceration of individual freedom and installation of authoritarian collectivism—at warp speed, driven by an ambition that would have made Woodrow Wilson and FDR blush. Against this tidal wave, Mark Levin offers not so much a defense as a plan of attack, a clarion call to roll back the seas of Change.

His answer is a restoration of civil society: the Burkean paradigm of ordered liberty in which the citizen and his society thrive, in all their ineradicable imperfection. Individual freedom is tempered by a moral order that is the heritage of each new generation, and its bequest to the next, in the “chain and continuity of the commonwealth.” In the three-quarters of a century between the New Deal and the new New Deal, civil society has gradually evaporated while the means of its preservation have become ever more remote and elusive. Like Dorothy, though, we’ve always had it in our power to return home. In our case, the ruby red slippers are the principles of the Founding—the Declaration of Independence and a Constitution that elevates liberty by sharply limiting government and, further, divides powers among competing departments, ingeniously suppressing any tyrannical tendencies.


The book is a refreshingly intelligent defense of pro-freedom values.  It has its weak points, including the predictable opposition to open borders and the grounding of liberty in a belief in God, thought these seem to be par for the course for conservatives.  The book is largely silent on the War on Drugs and Creationism.  While Levin provides a strong defense of individual rights and self defense, and seems to accept the sovereignty of the individual, there is no clear rejection of altruism.  

The near destruction of the Republican Party in recent years has come about in large measure by that oxymoron "compassionate conservatism."  While Levin rejects this approach, the ethical premise that underlies it remains unchallenged.  So long as a substantial portion of the Republican Party believes that the highest point of morality is service to others, it will never shake the temptation presented by statist "compassion."  Be unable to effectively resist the attempt to be moral using other people's money.  You cannot reconcile the politics of individualism with the morality of serfdom.

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Family focus tonight on Roadkill Radio

RoadkillRadio is back at it again tonight with another show packed with hard-hitting opinion and important news. Kari Simpson and I be interviewing Coquitlam pollster Glen Robbins, whose commentary during B.C. election night two weeks ago was so perceptive. We’ll then be chatting with Winnipeg’s Rebecca Walberg, of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, about new research on family breakdown.

Next, we’ll talk with Edmonton’s Link Byfield, an Alberta Senator-in-Waiting, Wildrose Alliance candidate and head of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. Our topic: the Alberta government’s plan to give parents the right to take their children out of classes that deal explicitly with religion, sexuality and sexual orientation. Listen and you’ll find out why Byfield sides with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in opposing what, to outsiders at least, appears to be family-friendly legislation of the sort Byfield would traditionally support.

All this and Roadkill Radio’s Warrior of the Week, plus another installment in Tales from Van-Kooker. It all happens tonight, 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Pacific time at www.roadkillradio.com. Listen live or access the archived show later.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 26, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 25, 2009

No need to prove citizenship

The Tyee.ca reports how implementation of rules designed to avoid creating an "elitist" voter-registration system led to illegal voting in the B.C. provincial election earlier this month.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on May 25, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stephen Harper never breaks promises

... except when he does. A Shotgun commenter with a good memory points to the Conservative Party of Canada's economic plan from Election October '08:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper understands the global financial crisis. His plan for the way forward has been clear and consistent: balanced budgets, lower taxes, investments to create jobs and keeping inflation low. (emphasis mine)

Politicians and promises--some things never seem to change.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 25, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (16)

Marc Emery's extradition hearing delayed "to finalize an agreement with U.S. prosecutors"

Picture 2

This is the interesting part:

Emery’s lawyer, Ian Donaldson, told B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Anne Mackenzie he needed more time to finalize an agreement with U.S. prosecutors that would end the need for the hearing.

Donaldson noted that two of Emery’s co-accused have pleaded guilty to their part in a scheme in which marijuana seeds were sold for use in grow-ops south of the border.

He said that since the pleas by Michelle Rainey and Gregory Williams were entered in Seattle last month, he has been in discussions with the U.S. prosecuting counsel.

“He and I have a general framework capable of resolving the case for Mr. Emery.”

Donaldson said that under the agreement, Emery would consent to be committed for extradition on one of the three criminal counts he faces. He noted that the Canadian authorities are opposed to such a move.

More here.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 25, 2009 in Marc Emery, Marijuana reform | Permalink | Comments (146)

Jonathan Rauch assesses the state of free speech

 The Economist's Democracy in America blog interviews Jonathan Rauch:

The Economist: Since your book "Kindly Inquisitors" came out, free speech has taken quite a few more knocks, culminating in a recent non-binding resolution from a UN body banning "defamation of religion". Have things gotten worse since 1995? And are free-speech advocates right to fight back by, for example, publishing cartoons of Muhammad in Danish newspapers?

Jonathan Rauch: Things are worse and better, depending where you look. Since K.I., free speech has learned to fight back against political correctness on university campuses. FIRE, for example, has made university administrators worry about getting sued or shamed if they cave in to repressive demands. That represents an important shift in the power equation.

On the other hand, campaigns by Islamic extremists to shut down full and frank discussion of religion seem to have made headway in Europe, or so Bruce Bawer says. I haven't yet read his forthcoming book on the subject, but I pay attention to Bruce on this issue, partly because he is openly gay and gay people are the canary in the mine shaft where civil liberties are concerned. First the gays, then...

Yes, I think free-speech advocates do need to fight back. I don't mean violently, of course. But freedom of expression and freedom of religion are the two great bulwarks of modern liberalism, and neither is self-enforcing. As we have learned in American universities, political correctness and other kinds of campaigns to muzzle dissent on grounds of sensitivity are really about power, not compassion, and the only thing power respects is power.

Like John Stuart Mill, the case Rauch makes for free speech against humanitarian, egalitarian, fundamentalist, and politically correct impulses is largely epistemological: 

In a liberal society, knowledge is the rolling critical consensus of a decentralized community of checkers. That is so not by the power of law but by the deeper power of a common liberal morality...

Liberal systems, although far from perfect, have at least two great advantages: They can channel conflict rather than obliterate it, and they give a certain degree of protection from centrally administered abuse. The liberal intellectual system is no exception. It causes pain to people whose views are criticized, still more to those whose views fail to check out and so are rejected. But there are two important consolations. First, no one gets to run the system to his own advantage or stay in charge for long. Whatever you can do to me, I can do to you. Those who are criticized may give as good as they get. Second, the books are never closed, and the game is never over.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 25, 2009 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (1)

Torturing the rule of law: Ron Paul

In his latest column, rebel Republican congressman Ron Paul writes:

While Congress is sidetracked by who said what to whom and when, our nation finds itself at a crossroads on the issue of torture. We are at a point where we must decide if torture is something that is now going to be considered justifiable and reasonable under certain circumstances, or is America better than that?

‘Enhanced interrogation’ as some prefer to call it, has been used throughout history, usually by despotic governments, to cruelly punish or to extract politically useful statements from prisoners.  Governments that do these things invariably bring shame on themselves…

You can read the full article here.

Western Standard blogger Terrence Watson had some recent comments on torture as well. Watson thinks that torture and the democratic state go together like peanut butter and jam. You can read his post here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (38)

Out of Gas

I know, it's a dreadful post title

But in his zeal to monopolize gas supplies, Mr. Putin, who is now Russia’s prime minister, committed Gazprom to long-term contracts with Central Asian countries for gas at a cost far in excess of current world prices. Now that the world economic crisis has sharply curtailed demand for gas, Gazprom is saddled with a glut of expensive Central Asian supplies that it is forced to sell at a loss.

In a painful twist, the company also finds itself forced to close its own wells in Russia, which produce gas for a fraction of the cost of that from Central Asia, in order to balance its supplies with declining world demand. In effect, a strategy that made business and political sense in a time of high and seemingly ever rising prices is threatening to create years of losses and declining influence, if energy prices fail to rebound.

[...]


Under the deal, which Russia’s RIA state news agency has described as valid until 2028, Gazprom will pay, on average, $340 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas in 2009. The price is arrived at through a complex formula based on world oil prices with a six-month delay. But that same volume of gas sells in Ukraine for an average of about $230, while European prices have sagged to an expected average of $280 for all of 2009.


Well that's it then.  Russia's two great strengths - its large and stoical population and its vast resources - are becoming less and less important on the world stage.  Russia's populations is in critical decline and alcoholism is rampant.  Its political system can be best described as kleptocratic oligarchy, tempered by authoritarianism.  For the previous decade the country has ridden a commodity boom back to world relevance.  The collapse of the price of natural gas, oil and a basket of other resources, has placed the once resurgent ex-superpower back in the poor house.  It is now again the Sick Man of Europe.  Like the old Ottoman Empire.  Not a prospect even the fiercest Russophobe should be cheering.  A weak Russia creates a vacuum stretching from Poland to the Pacific.  Who fills that vacuum?  The Chinese have spent the last decade building a network of client states in Africa. Whatever is left of Russia is likely to fall into Beijing's orbit, unless Europe takes the initiative.  Which it won't.  Russia may have the will but not the means.  Europe has the means but not the will.  The Chinese, provided they can weather the current economic crisis, have both.

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

He Still Annoys Us

Like Father...

Pierre Trudeau is considered far and away the best prime minister Canada has seen in the past four decades.

Nearly 40 per cent of Canadians accord him that honour, according to a new Toronto Star/Angus Reid Strategies online survey.

Trudeau has maintained the upper hand on this question since 2007.

Coming in a distant second is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at 11 per cent.

Jean Chrétien is third at 9 per cent and Brian Mulroney is next at 8 per cent.

Like Son...

Giggling women, flushed faces and wide-eyed stares. A small-scale Trudeaumania touched down in Orillia last night with the arrival of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's first-born son, Justin.

The 37-year-old MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau, Quebec, was the guest of honour at a $150-a-plate fundraising dinner last night, hosted by the Simcoe North federal riding association.

Trudeau, along with all Liberal MPs were asked by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, to "reach out" to Canadians, Trudeau said, explaining his visit.


How to explain it.  Fresh from some saner region of the planet, Trudeau worship is one of the more bizarre but little noticed - by outsiders - phenomenons of Canadian life.  It's that bit of weirdness that makes up for the otherwise bland efficiency of our national life.  Typically when political leaders nearly bankrupt a country, they flee for warmer climes, after the traditional pit stop at a discrete Swiss banker.  Pierre Le Grande could be seen strolling down the streets of Montreal, beret firmly atop his head, well into old age.  Even Joe Clark got himself punched wandering down one of the city's thoroughfares.  If fiscal incontinence is not be one of your buttons, playing brinksmanship with the country's unity should be.  Was it really necessary to renegotiate and patriate the constitution?  With the country in one of its worst recessions since the war ?  The Charter?  Oh, yes that fundamental document protecting our rights that - as per Section One and the Oakes Test - can be rendered as impermeable as swiss cheese on the whim of the Supreme Court.  

The real father of modern Canada is not Pierre Trudeau, but Lester Pearson.  There was no Pearsonmania in the early 1960s.  Despite four kicks at the can (1958, 1962, 1963, 1965), he never won a majority government.  Medicare, CPP, the Flag, Peacekeeping and Bilingualism were all inaugurated by the man dubbed Mike by one of his World War One military instructors.  He also managed to balance the budget, a feat which mostly eluded his successor.  Even from the perspective of a hard core social democrat, the monuments and TV movies should be raised not to Pierre but Mike.  Pearson, however, wore a bow-tie.  When awarded the Nobel Peace Prize his legendary response was "Gosh."  Charles de Gaulle said "Vive Le Quebec Libre,"  Pearson became furious.  

He was simply too nice, and decent a man to project rage effectively.  The television cameras caught an old man looking flustered.  Many in 1967 thought his sandal wearing, Sartre quoting Justice Minister might have delivered a devastating riposte even Le Monde would have put on its front page.  Pearson, the most radical of our Prime Ministers, was the most boringly conventional in appearance.  Another gray man, distinguished only by the bow-tie and jovial manner.  He made social democracy look sensible and non-threatening.  Very Canadian.  He was what we thought we were.  Trudeau was what we wanted to be. The late middle aged hippie made the welfare state seem sexy and modern.  The new Canada would be new in everything.  Whither is fled the visionary gleam?  It now resides in a thirty-something ex-drama school teacher with no discernible personal accomplishments.  A cute non-entity with an over wrought oratorical style.  The hope, probably vain, is that Trudeau the Younger will make statism seem sexy again, and the boomers and their vision of Canada seem young once more.  It's a possibility the rest of us should shudder at.  

(CP)

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

(Video) "Don't Tread on Me" opening credits from HBO's John Adams miniseries

A Sunday treat for the classical liberals, individualists and libertarians out there. These opening credits for HBO's John Adams miniseries remind us that the American revolution was inspired by the liberalism of John Locke and rooted in a theory of natural rights--what Ayn Rand called Americanism.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (19)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Coyne & Wells on the Great Right North

Cato spending GDPAndrew Coyne and Paul Wells have done an extra Coyne v. Wells this week in response to the Cato Institute's report on the Great Right North.

The report details how, even before September 11, 2001, the United States had been increasing the size of government (measured as a percentage of GDP) while Canada has been decreasing it.

Coyne and Wells discuss the truth behind this report (there's lots, and we're on it: the Shotgun has written about Canadian vs. American freedom here and here) and how this will throw many Canadians for a loop since both the right and the left define Canada as more big government and socialist than the United States.

Coyne also points out that the current situation - a bigger government United States and a more restrained Canadian government - is more in sync with most of Canada's history. It's only been for the past fifty years or so that we've become the socialist nation we're branded as, and most of the public programs the Canadian left takes pride in (medicare and EI, for instance) were lifted from big-government American policy.

Here's the video. Enjoy!

Posted by Janet Neilson on May 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Comments on a Passing Scene

I can say one thing about Jean Chretien. Never once did he charge the taxpayers for the upkeep of his moat.

Public opinion is divided on Brian Mulroney. About two-thirds believe him to be corrupt, and one-third believe him to be corrupt and stupid. 

Wow, isn't Ruby Dhalla hot. Did you see the cover of the Macleans? Those poor Filipinas being mistreated. What's on TSN? 

Whenever you think of what Stephen Harper is doing, just keep saying to yourself: "It could be worse, it would be worse if the Liberals were in charge." As this is true, just about, it might help dull the anger and pain. Might. 

There is now a small, but reasonable, glimmer of hope that Conrad Black might be completely vindicated. If that happens, any takers on when the Toronto Star will apologize? I didn't think so. 

The bad news is that Randy Hillier is not going to win the leadership of the Ontario Tories. The good news is that he has gone a lot further than most people expected. The better news is that Hillier's defeat will have far more to do with a lack of experience than a lack of principle. The former can be improved, the latter never can. 

The one province in Canada where Brian Mulroney's reputation is not "tarnished" is Quebec. 

Once upon a time William F. Buckley Jr. debated John Kenneth Galbraith on national television. Along with the three barrel names and sartorial style, an enormous amount of civility and intelligence has vanished from the public discourse. I'm reminded of WFB and JKG every time I see a Tory attack ad or The Hour on CBC. Not that I watch the CBC that often.

I watch the CBC for the same reason other people slow down when passing an accident on the highway.

When I was ten, about twenty years ago, even my paranoid mother allowed me to travel, to the other end of the city, on the TTC alone. How many mothers would do that today? I don't see too many unaccompanied ten year olds on the TTC.

What is it about being partly right that people don't get? I agree with someone, or some group, on a set a ideas but not on another set of ideas. When did intellectual debate become a package deal? Either you're a right-winger or a left-winger. I'm a classical liberal, more than that I'm Publius.

Posted by Richard Anderson on May 23, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 22, 2009

PC Leadership Race: London Debate

I was fortunate enough to be able to make the London PC Party leadership debate. It was a pretty cordial event. None of the candidates went after each other viciously on their opponent’s style or substance. Instead they actually took care to complement each other and contrast themselves in a thoughtful manner. I was actually impressed and wished that all politicians would debate in such a manner. (Admittedly the format did not lend itself well to confrontation)

I enjoyed the experience, though I noticed that the room tended to be full of various candidates’ supporters and very few ordinary undecided members. So I thought for the sake of those that could not go I would create a summary of what was said. I have my bias, but I did attempt to be as objective in creating this summary as I could. (Didn’t always succeed I admit)

Style (done in the order that they were standing)

Frank Klees: I am not a big fan of Klees and I am presently debating if I should put him last or second last on my ballot. But I have to admit that I was impressed by his speaking ability. He was passionate at all the right moments and was amusing when it was appropriate. He has the rare gift of knowing what to do with his hands while he speaks; so that it emphasises his points rather than distracts. On pure style I would say he won the debate.

Randy Hillier: He was the most passionate and predictably the best at getting the room worked up. He received several cheers from the crowd, and shockingly none of them seemed staged. People were excited by his pro-freedom rhetoric in a manner that I found most gratifying. That being said he tended to trail off a little when not talking about his personal hot buttons. He was pretty inconsistent about his delivery and once nearly degenerated into mumbling. I loved his passion but he has to learn to fake the more boring stuff.

Christine Elliott: She was very poised and soft spoken. Slightly stiff and she failed to pause for applause several times, but otherwise an adequate performance.

Tim Hudak: He spoke with confidence and managed some of Mr. Klees’ tricks to public speaking. Yet his rhetoric was the most annoying and frustrating of all the candidates. He barely allowed a point to be made without making reference to either seniors or the middle class. It became tedious to the point of amusement, and distracted horribly from his performance.

(Sadly I did not make it on time to hear the first two questions)

Question 3 (in order of response): What is your plan to fight the recession?

Tim Hudak: He said that you have to protect middle class families by giving them tax breaks for having babies. He also said that a tax holiday would stop the recession. One good moment was when he attacked corporate welfare as a fundamental flaw to Premier McGuinty’s economic strategy.

Frank Klees: He spoke articulately about the importance of getting government of the backs of business. Said that ‘red tape’ should be cut to improve the economy, but didn’t hint at which regulations he would remove. He also spoke about tax incentives for businesses and a tax amnesty for people who received severance pay.

Randy Hillier: He said, “Government doesn’t create jobs, it chews them up and spits them out.” He spoke very passionately about how regulation kills jobs. He summed up his position with, “tax cuts everywhere and stop the growth of government.”

Christine Elliott: Flat tax. She described beautifully how effective it could be to increase productivity and help Ontario’s economy. Interestingly she referred to it as a stimulus plan. That is one stimulus plan that I like.

Question 4: Would you fund independent schools

Randy Hillier: He said that he would not propose a plan similar to the faith based school funding that was proposed in the 2007 election. He did say that he liked the tax credit idea that was brought in near the end of the PC Party’s last government. He even referred it to as the “tax voucher system.”

Christine Elliott: She said that she wants to have a conversation with the membership if this was an issue that the party should pursue. However, she did say that there were other issues that she felt were more critical in the educational portfolio, such as literacy.

Tim Hudak: Education is a middle class concern. He wants to help the middle class by making middle class children write middle class exit exams. Then he said something else about the middle class.

Frank Klees: No

Question 5: What is your position on Caledonia?

(There was a hushed silence then a nervous laughter after this question)

Randy Hillier: “I believe in this province we should only have one set of laws.” and “Equal application of the law is the only way we can have a free and safe society.” He also said that we don’t need new laws. We just need the political will to enforce the old laws. (He is the only one I quoted because he was just so quote worthy. It was due to his passionate rhetoric and not my bias I swear.)

Christine Elliott: Agrees with everything Randy Hillier said. She talked articulately about the importance of the rule of law. I felt like she really understood why it was important in practice and not just in abstract.

Tim Hudak: Rule of law is a middle class value. (I am not kidding he said that)

Frank Klees: Said he agrees with everything that Randy said. (He literally said that) Brought up an idea he has for a Charter of Property Rights. This would supposedly prevent something like Caledonia from happening again.

Question 6: What would you do to protect Ontario’s environmental and historical heritage?

Tim Hudak: He talked about a bunch of houses he saved when he was in government. He was all about protecting our heritage with government action. He did say that property rights should be protected when considering such issues. (didn’t bring up the middle class)

Frank Klees: He gloated about the Oak Ridge’s Moraine. He then said that property owners should be compensated when the government takes their land.

Randy Hillier: He talked about how enforcing property rights would help protect such heritage. That is if people really wanted to protect it they would buy it and protect it themselves. It was the free market solution to environmentalism. Do not take away the right to enjoy your property and people will work to preserve it.

Christine Elliott: She talked about how the government should give out money to promote the arts. Then she said that people should be compensated when the state steals from them.

Queston 7: with a blank slate how would you build a health system?

Everyone: publically paid for privately delivered. (They all said the same thing)

Tim Hudak: the middle class cares about health.

Question 8: What is the area of most of greatest need for reform?

Christine Elliott: Flat tax.

Tim Hudak: Job one is to bring together the party. Job two is to fix the economy by freezing the minimum wage and temporarily removing one or two taxes. Job three is to help the middle class.

Frank Klees: Empower MPPs to have more say in how government is ran.

Randy Hillier: Make democracy more accountable to the people and not to special interests.

(Note: not all the wording of the questions is exactly how they were asked. They are close enough however to make little practical difference)

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on May 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)