Saturday, January 30, 2010


It is abundantly clear that politicians of any and all stripes will say pretty much anything that can justify their actions, worthy or otherwise...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an increasingly seasoned and adept practitioner of the art. Now in a salute - Nay! - Tip of the Hat to old style politics, he's tipped the balance of power in Canada's Senate. Old style politics of course being a practice Mr. Harper and his party have repeatedly vowed to reform, abolish, rise above, and to submit to a new era of accountability (take your pick) in each of the three times these Conservatives have sought the electoral support of Canadians.

There have been five (and counting) excuses and reasons advanced for the bitter aftertaste of the hasty, useless, and affront to democracy "Proroguing" of the House of Commons. On that one; just short of a quarter-million FaceBook subscribers have so far petitioned Mr. Harper to have a change of heart.

Now, having repeatedly campaigned never to do so, Mr. Harper has packed the Senate under the premise that the heretofore Liberal Senate majority obstructed his government's "tough on crime" agenda. That of course would be the same "tough on crime" agenda legislation which died on Parliament's order paper when the Prime Minister unilaterally prorogued the House twice in one year. If you're keeping score; this sounds like excuse number two. To wit: It seems to me that when Senators Wallin, Duffy et al were appointed it was to hasten that promised (never to be delivered) reform of the Senate.

Be that as it may: Right-wing "tough on crime" agendas have packed American jails and the practice has repeatedly been shown to be an abject failure south of the border. A lesson we've missed, and thus obviously still must learn at our own politically fueled expense. I digress!

Despite winning two of the last three elections; a decimated disorganized opposition; and several potential false starts in between, majority government still eludes the Tories...There may be a reason for that: One that is all the more re-enforced by packing the Senate rather than delivering on promises. Hardly the signal of a new era..N'est-ce pas?

It was writer, journalist, raconteur Larry Zolf, now aged 76, who observed of management's decision to cancel the controversial program "This Hour Has Seven Days" in 1966; that at the CBC..."the milk rose to the top." He could just as well have been speaking of the slate of political masters we've elected to represent us and to assure the country's well being.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


International Affairs pundits have come-out swinging over revelations contained in: "Our Man In Tehran", a book published this week which claims that former Ambassador, Ken Taylor was a CIA spy.

They suggest the information may compromise our diplomatic mission to Tehran, and it may expose Canada to accusations that our legation in Tehran is a nest of American spies.

In fact, relations between Tehran and Ottawa can't get any much colder than they have been since 1980 when Ken Taylor and his staff first hid, and subsequently spirited away 6 high level American diplomats with faked passports and visas. Since that time, Iran has refused to accept any nominee to replace Taylor. Our last appointee, John Mundy, was expelled from Tehran even before he could present his credentials to the country's authorities in December 2007.

The new book written by Trent University historian and author, Robert Wright, claims that Ambassador Taylor was rather more than a Canadian diplomat; but a top CIA operative once angry Iranians occupied Tehran's American Embassy in the fall of the 1979, holding fifty-two U.S. citizens hostage for 444 days. Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Flora MacDonald, has confirmed that American President Jimmy Carter asked Prime Minister Joe Clark for assistance in the planning of a rescue mission during the hostage crisis. That mission, code named "Desert One" was launched 90 days after Taylor arranged the escape of his six U.S. diplomats, destroyed Canada's records with an axe, shuttered our Embassy and left Tehran.

"Dessert One", the rescue mission, was a total failure resulting in the deaths of 8 U.S. Servicemen and further aggravating the relationship between the Carter Administration and the Government of Iran. It cost President Carter the 1980 Presidential election, and as a parting insult the Iranians waited all of 20 minutes after his successor, Ronald Reagan, was sworn-in, in January 1981, before releasing all of their hostages.

Upon his return, Ken Taylor was named Canadian High-Consul in New York City. Although he was born in Calgary, Mr. Taylor, now aged 75, has remained in the United-States since that time. Now there is talk that Hollywood mega-star George Clooney and a co-writer, Grant Heslov, are working on a movie script based on the "Canadian Caper" as the Americans dubbed Taylor's escapade at the time. It seems a script perfect for Agent Cody Banks, alter-ego of teen star, Frankie Muniz, of last decade's TV series: "Malcolm In The Middle."

Friday, January 22, 2010


As others have noted this weekend: It has been over 50 years since Canada's national newspaper, the venerable "Globe & Mail" published a front page editorial as it did on December 30 last - DEMOCRACY DIMINISHED, ACCOUNTABILITY AVOIDED - over Prime Minister Harper`s proroguing of Parliament.

Harper who marks his 4th year as Prime Minister on Saturday has been accused of trampling democracy, eroding democratic accountability, and avoiding troublesome issues by twice seeking (and getting) the nod from the Governor-General to shut down Parliament.

In my 63rd year of observing politics, I wish I were not so cynical...but yet on the eve of the anniversary of Mr. Harper`s January 23, 2006 ascension to Canada`s highest elected political office, he rises before his own caucus members in Ottawa to tout the accomplishments of both of his minority governments. Accomplishments which, to my disbelief, include a Government budgetary surplus of about $16-Billion in 2006: Not just erased...but (also on this day) revelations that three-fourths of the way into the current fiscal year...the budget deficit is a staggering $36-Billion. Shame on us!

Disappointing as this is Lord; There is plenty of blame for each of us to share. Whilst I am saddened by the calamity which has struck the homeland of our Governor-General, and buoyed by Canada`s laudable response to this tragedy: If; as experts have suggested, her decision in favour of prorogation in December 2008 was (in part) motivated by the 130,000 Canadians who had signed-on FaceBook: against Stephane Dion`s ``coalition of the willing`` - I sure as hell am curious to know about her reaction to the 211,000 who have now acknowledged their disgust over the current prorogation on FaceBook`s Canadians Against Prorogation of Parliament. Many of whom will take to the streets this weekend to protest against Harper`s unprecedented actions. Minority government is obviously easy when politicians flaunt the Constitution.

Seems to me that as a nation as long as we are prepared to accept spineless opposition to near virtual tyranny in leadership, we will get the government and the politicians we deserve. For that; we all bear a measure of shame and responsibility.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Unlike the Pope, the Governor General is not infallible. So apologists have surfaced in the media recently to defend Michaelle Jean's decisions on the prorogation of Parliament in 2008, and most recently just a few weeks back.

Just about 203,000 people have now joined the FaceBook site - Canadians Against the Prorogation of Parliament - But reality suggests that nature's twist of faith over the Governor General's own homeland: Haiti, has more or less knocked the wind out of the usefulness of protest against the Prime Minister's strong-handed decision to shut down the House of Commons cause he just pretty much felt like it.

It seems there is something to be said for strong-armed tacticians when it comes to rapid responses to the crisis no one expected; which has plunged the continent's poorest wretched nation into a chaos of despair, death, and in the last few hours anarchy over food and water rations.

In reality no one can criticize the Canadian Government's response to the enormity of the curse which once again has befallen poor Haiti. Mr. Harper's government (pretty much as anyone else would) is taking full credit for the actions which are being taken from our homeland to assist the unfortunate residents of the island nation on Dominica. In my old age, deep in my heart, a certain amount of cynicism (perhaps from far too many years of covering politicians) suggests that it's virtually impossible to dismiss political opportunism and gain as motives for our government's generous response to the crisis in Haiti. Be that as it may; the unfortunate victims of the seismic conflagration that befell Haiti last Tuesday will benefit from our largess regardless of ultimate motive: So who am I to complain?

Canada's crisis response in Haiti, soon to be followed by the glorious halo of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, are likely (once again) to allow Mr. Harper and his blind followers to escape from under the yoke of accountability...but at what cost to Parliamentary Democracy? Perhaps time and the next Federal election will tell.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Although the long legal process has just barely begun; at some point (sooner rather than later) Ontario's Chief Coroner will be compelled to call an inquest to probe the circumstances surrounding the murder of Ottawa Constable Eric Czapnik.

The police community is generally very protective of its own. It was though clearly obvious this week when in an unrelated matter, Ottawa's Police Chief, Vern White testified that he..."has no usefulness" for an officer convicted of a crime; that his message was directed at the RCMP's botched multiple efforts to unload Officer Kevin Gregson who is now accused in Czapnik's murder.

In the wake of the Constable's massive funeral last week, the union which represents Ottawa Police Officers went on the record to demand an inquest into what was an obviously preventable incident. It is likely to be a probe the RCMP may resist fearing another black mark against the sullied reputation it has acquired beginning (perhaps) with the case of Maher Arar; the Mayerthorpe, Alberta murders; the very public turfing of Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli; and the death of Robert Dzikanski at Vancouver's airport just to highlight the most sensational.

If the Polish Community here and abroad was angered by Mr. Dzickanski's treatment; it was deeply saddened by Constable Czapnik's murder...and it appears the RCMP is the constant in both instances.

At a late December news conference, Ottawa Chief Vern White observed that the accused, disgraced RCMP officer Kevin Gregson, was clearly out to "to kill a cop" on December 28 by wearing two RCMP issued bullet-proof vests, and carrying several other police paraphenalia before slashing (unprovoked) Constable Czapnik's neck in the early morning hours of the 29th.

Gregson was suspended from, but still an RCMP Officer despite a criminal conviction in Saskatchewan; an order "to quit the force", and violating a court order by attempting to meet with the current Commisionner, William Elliott by going to Mr. Elliott's private residence. Can't you just fire incompetants any more? It seems to me at least that the RCMP, as any citizen would, had a certain responsibility to report Officer Gregson's irratic (and as it turned-out dangerous) behaviour to the local police department.

That's why Constable Eric Czapnik's murder demands an inquest!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Perhaps it is in the nature of our political system. It seems that there is a certain ill-conceived herd mentally that surfaces at times when partisans are blinded by following their misguided principles.

How else to explain that a tactician as brilliant as Stephen Harper (At least as some pundits would have it) gets blindsided by the "gotcha" politics popular with the followers of the ultra-conservative movement of the American south, and so obviously abhorant to Canadians?

A lesson which clearly fell on deft-ears just a year ago when a fit of the same tactics (A spiteful measure designed to curtail funding to political parties) ultimately resulted in Mr. Harper begging for mercy at the Governor-General's door in order to save the Tories from unprecedented humiliation by a coalition of opposition politicians.

Prorogation round two this time 'round obviously has struck the same discordant chord with Canadians. As protests mount the "doctors o' spin" at Mr. Harper's behest have fired-up all eights into overtime (once again) to explain away this political miscalculation; Nay - Faux Pas!

Commentators better than I have suggested that the decision to prorogue the House at mid-session was a Prime Ministerial "gotcha" to Micheal Ignatieff's ill conceived September Sudbury bluff to defeat the Tories and force an election. Be that as is may, Harper's acknowledged reason of a couple of weeks back - Peace and Good Government during the Winter Olympics - has now hastily evaporated in favour of the pressing need to "consult with Canadians" in the early stages of our nation's challenging economic recovery. A recovery doutless made longer by the $60-Billion debt Mr. Harper's own government has managed to saddle us with in just one year...But, I digress. As that sorry excuse sours on Canadians, the "doctors o' spin" will surely pull-out another from their bottomless (or should that be topless?) magic hat o' tricks. Oye!

The fact is that next month's Winter Olympic Games may be Mr. Harper's best hope to recover from this latest blunder. Should the games go well for Canada: In our usual national outpouring of patriotism over whatever "Gold Medals" Canadian athletes achieve; we'll be ready to forgive the discord that plagues our venerable Parliamentary institutions. Though, as World Junior Championship Hockey showed just recently; all bets are off, and achievements soon forgotten if the "gold" count turns out disappointing once more.

Just for good measure: The PM may want to wait for the medal count before packing the Senate Chamber with Tory cronies.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


There is a "watch" in the media over the 60,000 or so Canadians who (like me) have signed into the FaceBook Page of "Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament."

Down east, in my native province of New Brunswick, when the Legislative Assembly begins the 2010 session next Tuesday; the sale of NB Power to Hydro Quebec will dominate debate and some suggest, could eventually cost Premier Shawn Graham next fall's provincial election.

Though Mr. Graham's Liberals are absolutely right in the decision to unload NB Power's monstrous $ 3+ billion debt while securing an efficient source of abundant power from the world's largest utility (Hydro-Quebec); about 28,000 New Brunswickers have joined a FaceBook movement there opposing the move. Proportionally a far larger cross-section of citizens than our national "anti-proroguing" movement.

Opponents in New Brunswick have joined in a growing chorus of nay-sayers led by Newfoundland & Labrador Progressive-Conservative Premier, Danny Williams, and perhaps to a lesser degree, Nova Scotia's NDP Premier, Darell Dexter. Mr. Williams' disputes with Hydro-Quebec are legendary...and, well there's always capital to be raised when your opponents are of another political persuasion: In this case both Graham and Quebec Premier Charest are Liberals...I digress.

Even the Governor of the State of Maine, John Baldacci, made headlines down east recently by publicly seeking guarantees from Quebec's Premier Charest that the "have-not" northern state won't be left-out of the lucrative energy corridor Hydro Quebec would exploit to the American northeast when the NB Power deal is done. Governor Baldacci has been an ally of New Brunswick's efforts to channel hydro, nuclear and wind generated power to the American market along with the Irving Refineries' output of fuel oil and liquefied natural gas from facilities in Saint John.

Premier Graham's bold proposal to unload the limited future of a stand-alone NB Power isn't dead yet; but as New Brunswick's legislative session gets set to resume, it seems "dead in the water" and a major challenge for the first term Premier and his government. Though they have not cited a cabinet split over the NB Power debacle among their reasons; two of the Premier's Ministers have quit. On Monday, the Justice Minister, Michael Murphy, jumped-ship. Mr. Murphy may be a potential candidate for the Liberal Party leadership should Graham's government go down to defeat and humiliation over the NB Power deal with Hydro-Quebec. Murphy considered opposing Graham for the leadership race in 2001.

It would be a pity if a bold, practical and progressive deal such as the takeover of NB Power by Hydro Quebec were nixed. But such is the challenge Shawn Graham and his fractioned Cabinet will walk into next week. For sure the debate will dominate New Brunswick's politics as perhaps few others have before...In the process, should Mr. Graham fail and his Liberal Government defeated: His would become a historical footnote as New Brunswick's first ever "one-term" government.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I pity the Governor-General. Most often, I suspect the job is pleasant enough, perhaps even a tad boring: Endless receptions, formal events, travel and smiling...lots of smiling.

The job's current occupant though has twice in 12 months had to acquiesce to requests from the Government that have made a majority of Canadians at least cringe; if not recoil with disappointment.

The relationship between the Governor-General, Michaelle Jean, and the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is said to be frosty...appropriate enough for Ottawa in mid-winter. I digress!

It has been like that for some time, not just since one or perhaps even both sides threatened to involve The Queen in last year's unpleasant confrontation over the December 2008 prorogation of the House of Commons. Then, most recall, the Prime Minister went begging virtually hat-in-hand for the GG to nix Stephane Dion's coalition of the willing takeover of Parliament and the Government. This time, a simple Wednesday morning phone call apparently did the trick.

In politics sometimes it doesn't take very much to make enemies. Perhaps the mere fact that Mme Jean was selected by Liberal Prime-Minister Paul Martin is enough to have caused the friction between the current cross street neighbours of Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex Drive. Twin prorogations aside: The Prime Minister's office virtually ignored protocol in February 2009 during President Obama's visit. Mme Jean's greeting and subsequent 15 minute meeting with the newly minted U.S. President in an Ottawa airport hangar was a last minute add-on. One from which Michaelle Jean stole the show and the American media's short attention span.

Then Harper and the GG quarreled just a few month's back about the definition of "Head Of State" and just about had to have Buckingham Palace clear the air over that one. Our 83 year-old Queen could not have been amused.

In early March Madame Jean will deliver the Harper Government's "Speech From The Throne", followed the very next day by the 2010 Federal Budget. Ottawa is frenzied over speculation this Harper inspired "one-two punch" in the afterglow of the Vancouver/Whistler Olympic Games, means the country will be blessed with yet another Federal election in the spring. The odds-on favorite date apparently, one week from Easter Monday: Monday, April 12. Mon Dieu! Contempt for Parliament...blah, blah, blah; so say opposition critics left to blather to the holiday editions of the newspapers after Harper cagily pulled the rug out from under the latest session of the House of Commons.

Ottawa based psychic, Blair Roberston, predicted to "The Sun" newspapers that Mr. Harper will finally have his much coveted "majority" after Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals flame-out at the polls. The Governor-General will probably be just as happy to get on with her life after Mr. Harper nominates his own candidate for the ceremonial job once Madame Jean's term expires in September.