Wednesday, July 30, 2008

 

FEEDIN' SPECULATION

Members of the Federal Caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada are in Levis, Quebec for the next two days for their annual summer meeting. The sessions come amidst growing speculation that the Liberal Opposition in the House of Commons may be prepared to force a national vote shortly after the parliamentary session kicks-off.

The House is scheduled to resume on September 15, one week after three by-elections are held. Two in crucial urban ridings of Montreal and Guelph, Ontario, both currently held by the Liberals, and in the Quebec south-shore riding of St. Lambert which is a separatist Bloc holding. Election speculation is hardly a new element of the frequent controversial and bitter encounters between the opposition and the Conservative minority government of Prime-Minister Stephen Harper, elected in January of 2006.

In fact, Mr. Harper and his government have been rather tenacious and successful in staving-off Parliamentary defeat since the winter of 2006. Indeed and to his credit, in just a few short weeks the Prime Minister will surpass Lester Pearson's record as the longest standing Minority Government Prime Minister in Canadian history.

There are a number of new elements feeding the growing election speculation as the fall of 2008 approaches. On the Government side, The Conservatives are anxious to exploit the perception of the weak Liberal leadership of Stephane Dion. The Conservatives have spent months criticizing the Dion leadership in a series of nasty attack ads. The arrival of new management at the Prime Minister's Office, primarily in the person of Guy Giorno, the new Chief Of Staff, and the changes he brings, are likely to mean Mr. Harper's image will be softened to that of a more Prime Ministerial role. Watch for the Prime Minister to abandon to others the nasty tactics learned whilst in opposition, and for which he's been frequently criticized in the media.

Meantime, emboldened by his cross-Canada tour to promote the "Green Shift" over the past several weeks, the Liberal Leader Mr. Dion seems to be more confident about his leadership abilities and in particular his acquired ability to speak clearly and forcefully in English. The party is further buoyed by an improved cash flow situation largely resulting from changes brought about in the party offices after the sudden departure last spring due to ill health, of Senator Marie Poulin as National President. And, with Canada's national finances now edging towards a deficit following the amazing recovery and astonishing surpluses of the last two Liberal Administrations; the Liberal forces are much more likely willing to submit to the Tory plan to highlight leadership capabilities in a national ballot question. In the shorter term Thus, Mr. Dion's credentials and reputation, and maybe an election decision will hang on the results of the aforementioned September 8 by-elections.

Lest I digress: In my home riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, all the elements appear falling into place for a bloody struggle to the bitter end no matter when the election is finally called. The riding held from 1988 to 2006 by Liberal Marlene Catterall went to Tory, John Baird, in the January 2006 vote after Ms. Catterall retired. The high profile John Baird has been Chair of Treasury Board and now Minister of the Environment in the Harper Cabinet. Mr. Baird likely made more enemies than friends in an apparent cozy relationship with the then candidate for Ottawa Mayor, Larry O'Brien, in the city's October 2006 municipal election.

When candidate O'Brien made the city's recently approved Light-Rail-Transit system a key issue of the election campaign, the then Treasury Board Chair, Mr. Baird, willingly held-up the Federal Government's share of the project's financing until a newly elected City Council reviewed the contracts. As it was Mr. O'Brien was elected Mayor and the LRT contract was cancelled. City taxpayers now face hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and lawsuits for the cancelled deal....and any hopes of a revised rail based transit system are years, if not decades away.

Well now comes news that the defeated mayor from the 2006 election, Bob Charelli, may be getting set to face Mr. Baird in the west Ottawa riding come a Federal Election. Indeed, Liberal insiders are abuzz over Mr. Charelli's apparent willingness to lock horns with his old nemesis. In its own good time the Federal election race in Ottawa West-Nepean may surely be one to watch, not only for its assessment of the mood of the country's politics; but interestingly perhaps as much for how it settles old political scores.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

 

CHRISTMAS IN SEPTEMBER?

For sure the Monday, September 8, Federal by-elections in downtown Montreal, the south shore St. Lambert riding and Guelph, Ontario will be hard fought battles. Depending on their outcome, they may pretty much set the stage for the next national election. This week, the Federal Department of Finance gave them a whole new dimension.

Montreal Westmount and Guelph are Liberal ridings. Mr. Dion's troops can't afford to lose either. St.Lambert is a Bloc Quebecois riding which could be up for grabs. The Liberals can't but be buoyed by yesterday's confirmation at the Department of Finance that the country ran a deficit in the first 2 months of the fiscal year.

I'd liken it to the green and red spirit of Christmas. Selling the "Green Shift", while the predictable bottom line turns "Red". Though they will no doubt continue, perhaps intensify, I fear it may take more than a few "attack ads" from the Tories to counter our nation's brush with deficit financing.

What's suddenly happened to "prudent fiscal management" embodied by the hard-edged Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, and promised in the Federal Election of 2006. If he were dead, Paul Martin would be shifting in his grave. He's not dead, but Jean Chretien's former Finance Minister, he who wrestled the country's massive deficits and debts of the late 20th century, must surely cringe.

Canada's budget surpluses...paying down the debt, have been touted far and wide, in fact worldwide, by politicians of all stripes. We've scoffed at others including the members of the G-8 who weren't doing so well. Is it all gone? And in a matter of two-and-half years no less!

It has been all so predictable starting first with the cuts to the GST, and new lower personal and corporate taxes. They were okay, as long as someone had held closed the flood gates of cash giveaways to ingratiate the Harper government to the eastern provinces and their voters. It seems to me that would have been Mr. Flaherty's job. In any other circumstances he'd be up to it, but this Federal Government is essentially a "one man event", and Mr. Flaherty isn't that man.

It's only two months; but we're in the red half-a-billion loonies. Same time last year the surplus was just short of $ 3-billion. Mr. Flaherty says he and the government will revisit the situation in a mid-year fiscal statement being prepared for October.

Meantime though the coast may be clear for the Liberal party's fortunes to shift, along with their "green plan", into more positive territory. For that to occur the ball is now in Mr. Dion's court. It is he who must make the best of those September 8th by-elections. Westmount and Guelph will either be the Liberal leader's "Waterloo" or the launch of an all new offensive against the Government. One which could very possibly lead to a Federal Election soon after the House of Commons resumes in the fall.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

 

CHANGE OF HEART AT THE P.M.O.?

"The politics of destruction has run its course." - I wish the headline was mine, it's not. Though its expressed sentiment is certainly one that I have noted on several previous occasions. In this case, it is from a column by Lawrence Martin earlier this week published in the "Globe and Mail".

Mr. Martin explains that through the winter of 2007/8, and during the spring session of the House of Commons, the Government of Prime Minister Harper..."had the Liberals running scared from the prospect of an election." The plan he says was simple and largely borrowed from the strategy of the Bush administration south of the border. To wit: Governing turned into a permanent election campaign.

Given the grave present situation in the United States. The moribund debilitating state of fear and paranoia which has been engendered by the American Republican administration over the last eight years. It is increasingly obvious those tactics have run their course.

Amazingly in a comment published the same day as the "Globe and Mail", pollster Nik Nanos writing in the "Toronto Sun" reached much the same conclusion. He notes that through much of the Harper Government's mandate a..."phony war was on. The Tories would repeatedly throw down the election gauntlet and the Dion Liberals would blink..."

Mr. Nanos says that despite these tactics and measures when polled about their voting intentions, Canadians remain about as unsure about the Conservatives as they are hesitant about the Liberals. The prospects of a Federal election are moving ever closer. At the very latest, by law an election must be held in the fall of 2009. Barring a defeat of the minority government in the House earlier, that is about one year away.

As I have noted in an earlier post, by-elections this September in several Federal ridings, including key urban seats in Montreal and southern Ontario may set matters in motion to trigger a national vote, in fact much earlier than the anticipated fall of 2009.

Mr. Nanos' observations in the "Toronto Sun", and Mr. Martin's comments in the "Globe and Mail" haven't been lost on the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper. He and his entourage are pretty shrewd players of politics even if they have from time to time borrowed from, and transposed on Canadians, the tactics of the American neo-conservative agenda embodied in the Republican party of the Bush administration.

There are signals on the horizon triggered by the arrival of the Prime Minister's new Chief of Staff earlier this month, as well as the naming of new Director of Communications in the P.M.O., that the war like tactics may be scaled down. Likely none too soon for the traumatized public service, the beleagured media and a majority of Canadians.

If the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Harper is now embarked on playing politics "the Canadian way", doubtless average voters may become less "unsure" and "hesitant" about opening-up to any new ideas, proposals and policies the Tories wish to put-up for our consideration.

It seems to me there would be plenty to go around: Canada remains mired in the difficult conflicts of the Afghan war. Our economy increasingly suffers from the business and banking contractions in the United States.
We are unsure about how to best deal with our, and the planet's, environmental concerns. Just about anyone would welcome cogent reasoned suggestions and measures to deal with these critical matters rather than another fall session of the House of Commons bogged down by bitter rhetoric, party in-fighting, and petty politics.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

 

ON THE ROAD TO SEPTEMBER

I am starting to be dubious about the word "consensus" - I think I've heard it too often. One thing I am sure of is that it wasn't exactly easy this past week for the "Council of the Federation" to reach consensus on most anything.

The "Council of the Federation", brainchild of Quebec Premier Jean Charest, is the gathering of the thirteen Provincial Premiers and Territorial Leaders. Mr. Charest hosted the group just a few days ago in historic Quebec City. They managed to agree on the somewhat contentious issue of worker mobility from one jurisdiction to the other...but not much on anything else that matters. Such is the case frequently when the have-not provinces become the "haves"...Who of my generation and upbringing would have ever conceived that Saskatchewan and Newfoundland would become "have provinces", whilst Ontario slipped into the "not" category.

Hence our fearless National leader, the Prime Minister, doesn't really have to be too concerned that the provinces are about to lay down any negative groundswell that could damage the Conservative party's chances coming into the next Federal election, whenever it may happen.

Mr.Harper though does have but a couple of weeks left to deal with a number of Federal by-elections. By the end of July, early August at the latest, the Prime Minister must determine to call elections in close to half a dozen ridings before the House of Commons settles back into the fall session, currently scheduled for a September 15th start.

Their outcome may set the stage for the tenure of the fall session of Parliament, even perhaps, if all the astronomical signs align correctly, for a fall National election. Most watched will be the downtown Montreal riding of Westmount-Ville Marie which, just like the late lamented Outremont, has been a Liberal fortress for decades. The Liberals lost Outremont almost a year ago to the NDP's, Thomas Mulcair. In Westmount-Ville Marie, the Liberal flag bearer, former astronaut, Marc Garneau, faces the NDP candidate, Anne Lagace-Dowson, a popular former CBC Radio broadcaster. Clearly the NDP is hoping for a repeat of last year's Mulcair juggernaut.

Thus, although Montreal's Westmount-Ville Marie riding election will be one to watch when the Prime Minister calls it...It will be for Mr. Harper only one in a series of anticipated votes which could deliver pre-federal election soundings to the Conservatives and the other national parties. There are as many as three more ridings where Federal by-elections are expected to be at play before the House of Commons resumes in mid-September.

In the Greater Toronto Area (The GTA), Liberal John Godfrey's resignation as the Liberal Member for Don Valley West is effective on August 1st. There are also vacancies in the former separatist, ie: Bloc Quebecois, stronghold of Saint-Lambert on Montreal's south-shore, and in the Liberal riding of Guelph in southern Ontario.

The national parties will doubtless be looking for these four potential pre-fall bi-elections to set the stage for national election strategies heading into the last quarter of 2008...or the first half of 2009. In the case of the two Ontario ridings, significant inroads by the Conservatives could signal finally the party's breakthrough into the vast southern Ontario golden-horseshoe. As for the Liberal Leader, Mr. Dion and his party, another loss in downtown Montreal on the heals of the September 2007 NDP Outremont victory might very well signal a very difficult fall period for the Liberal Leader and his followers.

If none of the major parties has moved the momentum forward with any significant bi-election victories by the time the House of Commons resumes on September 15 as scheduled, or later if the Prime Minister prorogues the current session, the stage is likely to be set for another acrimonious session of the House of Commons. In that case, as many suspect, the Presidential election campaign down south of the border may be the most interesting political drama on the horizon. Certainly down there the odds at play, the future of the free world, are far more significant than anything Canada's politicians could hope to offer.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

 

THE COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION - REDUX

Here we are not halfway through the summer break already many Parliamentarians, and most journalists and pundits, are again speculating over the seemingly endless debate about an early Federal election.

Virtually since the Harper Conservative minority government was elected in January 2006, the House of Commons and those who cover its activities have deliberated over when the Government would fall. Fortunately when later this week the country's thirteen provincial and territorial leaders get together in Quebec City they may offer a rare opportunity for a switch in focus, if only for a brief few days. Everything in Canadian politics bears a certain relationship; and taxpayer money is always involved. It is therefore tempting to speculate given that it's the government's hands which are clearly in our pocketbooks.

First then to the "Council of the Federation" in Quebec City Wednesday to Friday. It's the second time Premier Jean Charest hosts the Council, a group which he was instrumental in creating in 2006. At this week's event many of the Provincial and Territorial leaders will surely bask in and admire the glory and splendor of the generosity the Federal Government has lavished on the country's first city in this, the 400th anniversary of its birth. Others can wish only for the same generous consideration. It is all a matter of perspective. If and when there were to be a Federal Election, Mr. Harper's government would need an electoral breakthrough in the provinces east of Manitoba.

Just a short 4 weeks into Parliament's summer recess, the money taps are running wide open...at least for some: Nova Scotia has been granted an estimated windfall of $633-million of Federal tax dollars in settlement over a feud about resources which dates back to the 1984 abolition of the Trudeau Government's "National Energy Program". In addition to the several tens of million dollars spent on Quebec City's year long 400th birthday party; the Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, has been quick to trumpet that Canada's share of the Bombardier new passenger jet announcement includes a handout of $350-million more tax dollars. Lest it get tedious: In one month, there have been a total of 31 funding announcements in "La Belle Province". They total $1.1 Billion.

In Ontario the Federal largess is to the tune of about $370-million spread-out over 30 different projects. By comparison, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta share a near minuscule $62-million. Near minuscule of course other than for the fact that it's all our tax dollars. Actually to digress a tad more. Whilst Prime Minister Harper's Tory forces are strong in Alberta, that western province's enormous surplus may be more than a source of envy at the Quebec "Council of the Federation". As Desi Arnaz would often tell Lucy in the 1950's TV comedy -'I Love Lucy'- : Premier Ed Stelmach may have some "splainin' to do" to justify still receiving any Federal transfer payments when Alberta's surplus this year has been estimated at $12-Billion...larger than the Federal and all other provinces surpluses combined.

I am not prepared yet to speculate on a fall Federal election. Though the Harper Government strategy is clearly focused on crucial breakthroughs in Quebec and Ontario when and if one happens. The arrival this week in the Prime Minister's office of Guy Giorno as Chief of Staff, and Kory Teneycke as Director of Communications, sharpens that focus. Both men cut their teeth into politics as active participants in the "Common Sense Revolution" of the Mike Harris Progressive-Conservative government in Ontario back in the 1990's. In the Prime Minister's entourage they'll be joining Harris ex-pat Cabinet Ministers: Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister; Tony Clement, Health; John Baird, Environment; and Peter Van Loan, Government House Leader.

In due course: Time, circumstances, and the scarce fortunes of the rancorous Stephane Dion Liberals will determine the life cycle of the current Parliamentary session which is set to resume on September 15. The question to ask then will be whether Canadians, particularly those east of the Manitoba border are prepared to engage in a neo-conservative 21st Century national "Common Sense Revolution".

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Friday, July 11, 2008

 

CANADA'S ECONOMY: PART DEUX!

In a notoriously bad decision almost 40 years ago, the government of my native province of New Brunswick invested in a sports car manufacturing venture, The Bricklin SV-1, which went bust in about 24 months.

The province's current government is now pushing to make it the energy hub of the Atlantic region. Quebec had been first to pass on the Bricklin pitch in 1970. In the years since, Hydro-Quebec has invested mightily in power generating projects in that province's north. Quebec now provides an enormous amount of electricity to the American North East.

New Brunswick's Premier, Shawn Graham, figures it is now time for his province to contribute to America's energy shortfall. He managed last week to get the U.S. Undersecretary for Energy, Bud Albright, to come see for himself.

In New Brunswick, Irving Oil operates North America's largest oil refinery and has plans underway to build a second refinery. It's been 20 years since a new refinery was built on this continent. The Irving family is also about to open the east coast's only liquefied natural gas terminal.

Further the province wants to generate about 400 million watts of electricity from wind power, and has joint research underway with Nova Scotia to generate power from the world's highest tides on the Bay of Fundy. The Point Lepreau nuclear station is being refurbished and "Team Candu", a private consortium, wants to use the Lepreau site for a second 1.1 million watt energy reactor.

Following Undersecretary Albright's visit to Saint John and Fredericton, optimistic pundits reported that the U.S.officials were impressed with what New Brunswick could offer.

Any new power capacity flowing south of the border might be useful to the American economy which has apparently recently snagged two projects away from Ontario's automotive manufacturing sector. Lest I digress: A closer look at the just released Statistics Canada employment numbers for June pretty much confirm that Ontario's economy is on a fast track to a slow-down. Although the jobless rate is down but slightly, Ontario's big problem is that last month more than 45,000 workers either lost their jobs, or were put rather on part-time employment.

Next Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany, Volswagen AG's Board of Directors is expected to pick a southern U.S.location for a plant which will assemble models for the North American market. Chattanooga, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama are the front runners. If so, Volkswagen will join Honda in Lincoln, Alabama; Kia in West Point, Georgia; Nissan in Nashville, BMW in Greer, South Carolina, and Toyota which just this week announced it will be assembling Prius Hybrids at Blue Springs, Mississippi starting in 2010.

It seems it's not yet time to write the obituary for the automotive manufacturing sector in North America. Perhaps just time to write Ontario's obituary for the role it once played.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

 

YO, STEVE, DUDE!

Just a few weeks back when the Republican Presidential Candidate, Senator John McCain, spoke in Ottawa the capital's senior politicians, including the Prime Minister, couldn't get out of town fast enough.

It seems no one wanted to be caught within sight of the American candidate lest they be tarred for being too chummy. Witnessed by President Bush's "Yo Harper!" invocation just a few days back, opposition members have been quick to point-out the close ties between those two politicians.

The Bush administration is deeply unpopular with Canadians, and a wide margin favour the Barack Obama Democratic candidacy in this fall's U.S. Presidential election. East Coast journalist and columnist, Dan Leger, in a recent commentary suggests in fact that Americans themselves may be becoming more Canadian. Attitudes south of the border are shifting as witnessed by the rise and popularity of the Obama Presidential bid he says.

The "Obama Coalition" as Mr.Leger describes it is a mixture of "educated baby boomers, workers, blacks and urban professionals embracing small 'l' liberal values."
It all points to a very refreshing change from the right-wing, greedy, paramilitary partisans who have been running America virtually since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1976.

Recent polls, and there are many, list the economy, jobs, energy, health care and ending the war as major concerns. These are American polls which, as observers have pointed-out, appear devilishly Canadian in their results.

A couple of days ago the "London (U.K.) Telegraph" published a flattering commentary about Stephen Harper touting our Prime Minister as one of the great leaders of the G-8 Summit which wrapped-up this week in Rusutsu, Japan. "Of all the (G-8) leaders, only Stephen Harper - the talented but curiously neglected Canadian prime minister - is able to point to a popular and successful record in office." The newspaper says. It continues: "Some will regard it as alarming that in current times, world leadership should rest with Canada. But the Canadian Tories are a model of how to behave during a downturn."

Some may argue that the spending reductions and program changes initiated by Paul Martin as Jean Chretien's Finance Minister have played a significant role in Canada's good fortune. It is true though that Mr. Harper's minority government has been able to reduce the tax burden on Canadians and keep the affairs of the country in good order.

If our great neighbours and trading partners the Americans are starting to show Canadian tendencies as Dan Leger argues; perhaps the Prime Minister is correct in seeking to distance himself from candidate John McCain, lest Canadians begin to act and vote like Americans.

Canada joined the G-8 in 1976, we will host our fifth summit at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario in 2010. Assuming Mr. Harper's successful re-election and Senator Obama's Presidency in the United States, the two leaders may there get a chance to test the boundaries of our American and Canadian stereotypes.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

 

WOE IS ME...

Our Canadian economy is in distress and I am not quite sure we know how to fix the problem...except and of course: Ride it out!

A report just a couple of days ago from the TD Bank was quite clear: "Households have been spending almost like drunken sailors over the past couple of years, which provided critical support to the economy when the export-oriented manufacturing sector has been suffering under the weight of a strong currency and falling U.S. demand". As one wag put it: "After spending like drunken sailors, we'd better be prepared for the hangover!"

Pretty much as expected the preliminary second quarter annual estimates out on June 30 showed that Canada's two biggest economies, Ontario and Quebec, shrank for the second quarter in a row. In every one's book that spells "Recession", but since nothing appears black and white anymore the provinces retort...Er, well yes, ahem maybe, no not exactly. As Ontario's minister of Finance Dwight Duncan tried to explain, our manufacturing sector is in trouble, but employment is up, other sectors of the economy are doing well. Have no fear.

If it isn't "black and white" for the politicians it's pretty damn clear for Ontario's economic engine: The automobile industry. Thousands of jobs in southwestern Ontario were unceremoniously dumped just this week when an auto parts manufacturer shut-down its eleven plants. And, over at General Motors talk of bankruptcy protection swept Wall Street just before the break for the American July 4th Holiday. Long gone are the days of that old chestnut about the Israeli officer who promised to conquer the world with just 3 American generals: General Motors, General Electric and General Dynamics!

There's no avoiding it: In Canada, in June, General Motors crashed. Sales dropped 24% and over at Ford 14%. Meantime from all appearances Canadians are over on the other side of the border helping save the American auto industry. Since January, 152,000 cars have been imported by Canadian consumers tired of paying premium prices in our own country. The North American Automobile Trade Association says that is an all time record, and twice as many cars as in 2007.

It may not be taken too seriously yet by Alberta's and Saskatchewan's overheated energy export sector, but perhaps there is also cause for concern to their economic well being. It seems that south of the border America's addiction to oil is weakening. The American Petroleum Institute reports that in May, total petroleum imports into the USA fell 12% from last year...The lowest May level since 2002. The month of May includes America's traditional "take to the roads 'Memorial Day' Weekend". But, with gasoline at more than $4.00 a gallon demand has weakened as Americans are using less gasoline voluntarily; by driving less, buying more fuel-efficient cars and using mass transit.

Midway through the last century; growing-up in 1950's New Brunswick, I remember my grand parents, then my parents fearing the end of time. Back then of course it was the Cold War and nuclear annihilation. We managed to survive. I am starting to "speak old" myself and I fear our economic annihilation. Woe is me!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

 

GOOD, BAD...REALLY UGLY!

One of Canada's most respected jurists and rights advocate, the Honourable Louise Arbour, retires this week. I was saddened that her's was not amongst the names mentioned in the traditional July first release of recipients of the "Order Of Canada" from the Office of the Governor General.

For the past four years Mme Arbour has been the United-Nations' Commissioner for Human Rights. Before taking that office, she was a highly respected Member of the Supreme Court of Canada; and an international war crimes prosecutor with impecable credentials, including indicting Slobodan Milosovic, the former Serbian leader.

Unfortunately it seems that just about the only thing that she and the Government of Prime Minister Harper can agree on these days is with the worldwide condemnation of the re-election of 84 year-old President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe which Mme Arbour described last weekend as a "perversion of democracy"....pretty much the same terms used by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Emerson.

The U.N.'s Human Rights Council which Justice Louise Arbour has supervised over the last four years has been shunned by the United States because it is dominated in numbers by developing countries many of whom have been critical of Israel. That has pretty much meant that Prime Minister Harper's Canadian government, which tows the American line on Israel, has been less than positive over Mme Arbour's accomplishments.

In fact before the House of Commons adjourned last month there were questions in Parliament about whether the Conservative Government had ordered Canadian representatives to refrain from any public praise of Justice Arbour. The exchange prompted a Senior Government Minister, Treasury Board President Vic Toews, to heckle back that Mme Arbour "(was) a disgrace...shame on her." Although Mr. Toews later clarified his remarks, he flatly refused to withdraw the statement. Mr. Toews is Canada's former Minister of Justice and the Member of Parliament for the Manitoba riding of Provencher.

Ironically, Manitoba's Capital City, Winnipeg, is the designated home of Canada's Museum of Human Rights. Construction of the $300-million museum is scheduled to begin this fall on Winnipeg's historic "Forks", where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet; virtually the geographical centre of North America.

When the Treasury Board President, Mr. Toews, clarified his statement to the House of Commons he said he believed that Mme Arbour's previous statements "with respect to the State of Israel and the people of Israel are in fact a disgrace and I stand by those words." During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Justice Arbour had warned that killings of innocent civilians in Lebanon and Israel could amount to war crimes. In the past she's also clashed with the Americans for practices such as the "water-boarding" of terror suspects.

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is the brainchild and legacy of the Winnipeg based late media baron, Izzy Asper and his family, about as prominent Jewish family as one can find on the continent. The Canwest Newspapers and the Global TV Network owned by the Asper Family have recently praised Justice Arbour's accomplishments.

As for Canada's leader, a spokesman for the Prime Minister says "The Government hasn't always agreed with all the positions she (Justice Arbour) has taken...". At its very best our National Government has been less than enthusiastic, in fact downright 'wimpy' when it comes to matters of the United Nations. That includes no-support for the notion that Justice Arbour should offer for a second four year term as High Commissioner for Human Rights. And; apparently abandoning our bid for election to the U.-N. Security Council in 2010.

As an original member of the United Nations back after World War II, and given our past contributions, including Lester Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize, it may not be Justice Arbour's efforts we should be ashamed of.

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