Friday, May 28, 2010

 

SIEGE MENTALITY

An outcry this week as debate in Canada's Parliament revealed the staggering Billion Dollar cost of securing the G-8 and G-20 Summit sites next month in southern Ontario.

From every account, the cost of providing security at the two locations: Toronto and Huntsville, June 25-26-27, is the most expensive of "any" summit meeting in history.

Although several summits have been held since the September 11, 2001 calamities in New York and on the Pentagon; the Government of Prime-Minister Stephen Harper cites the terrorist attacks of nine years ago as a primary reason for the unprecedented cost of securing the area and facilities where the heads of the world's most powerful economies will be meeting.

Digressing briefly - In as much as Canada can claim credit for the creation of the G-20 in the late 1990's by the then Minister of Finance, Paul Martin...It's thanks only to the Government of U.S. President Gerald Ford that our country secured a seat at the creation of the G-6 Group of nations at the Paris Summit of 1975.

In North America at least, there is an ongoing palpable vitriolic sense of paranoia and fear created in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Each subsequent misguided effort to execute a strike against the American homeland, no matter how minor the attempt or consequences, has only fueled further the apprehensive tensions.

Canada's right of centre Conservative Government, elected in January 2006, seems increasingly to be getting drawn into the same vortex. The unprecedented security measures which will cripple Canada's largest city for three days late next month are only a most recent manifestation. More than 200 American military conscientious objectors to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan await deportation from Canada this summer. The same nation which welcomed thousands of "draft dodgers" during the Viet Nam era.

The political climate here, and to a far greater extent in the United-States, somewhat reflects the Cold War era when many Americans dug backyard fallout shelters. There is in essence a free-floating anxiety in the heart of American suburbia. Worrisome examples include the "open carry" gun debate. So far, 35 American states allow residents to roam openly with guns, while another 12 allow it through permits. Some estimates indicate that "open carry" has as many as 30,000 followers. There are 196 million guns in the United-States. Gun politics in Canada is contentious, but there are at least two groups which actively promote the freedom to openly carry weapons at will: "Right To Keep And Bear Arms" is based in Ottawa; and "Canada Carry" is based in St. Constant on the outskirts of Montreal.

The Canadian government's decision to spend a Billion Dollars securing the two Ontario summit sites next month reflects a perception that ours are fearful times. Some - Perhaps many, in fact - fear that "the end is near!" Doomsday claims are being fueled by recent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, terrorism and predictions of the world's end in 2012 when the ancient Mayan calendar is said to end. In several American states companies are taking money for what they promise will be comfortable "Armageddon" proof bunkers. Promoters of a company called "Vivos" claim to have so far collected deposits on about half of the 132 spaces in an underground bunker they're building under the Mojave Desert in California: $50,000 gets buyers a bunk in a 4-person room - Atrium, gym, jail, and cafeteria meals included. Similar projects are being developed in Oregon and in Kansas where underground $1.75 Million condos are planned.

NOT CRAZY - THESE ARE FEARFUL TIME: When everything is added-up; spending a Billion Dollars on security at the Ontario Summits is just one extreme manifestation of the feverish siege mentality gripping the early decades of the 21st Century. It's still quite unclear if or how this "fever" will break. Hopefully it will before the "open carry" proponents get to carry their weapons into the doomsday bunkers.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

 

THERE'S A HANGIN' HERE TODAY!

"The hanging was the best show in town. But they made a mistake. They hung the wrong man and they didn't finish the job." - Clint Eastwood / Marshall Jed Cooper - "Hang'Em High" (1968).

Hundreds of guests are to gather on "The Hill" as Parliament resumes on Tuesday to hang Jean Chretien: The former Prime Minister will take his place with his twenty predecessors when his official portrait is hung amongst Canada's great, not great, and so-so elected political leaders of the last 143 years.

Jean Chretien, who is 76, served 10 years as Prime Minister (1993-2003). Though he lives in Ottawa and works not very far from the Parliament Buildings, his return to the Centre Block and under the "Peace Tower" will be (surely) an occasion for many to reflect on our nation's path over the 7 years since the scrappy "little guy" stepped away from the limelight. Mr. Chretien spent 40 years in Federal politics. His history will bear the mantle of the "advertising scandal" which precipitated his departure. It may be said though that "his" is the end of an era in Canadian politics. A truly remarkable four decades when Canada's legacy, from peacekeeper to our steady economic reputation, became the envy of the world.

It is true of course that others also played significant political leadership roles during the period. Brian Mulroney is responsible for the foundation of our economic growth through much of the last quarter century because of free trade initiatives. But it seems Mr. Chretien can rightfully claim to have been the constant woven through the careers of Mr. Mulroney, and other Prime Ministers, Joe Clark; Kim Campbell and Paul Martin.

To say nothing (alright..almost nothing) of the powerful National Liberal Party juggernaut he captained through a series of significant "majority" governments; Thereby earning the Liberals the title of: "Natural Governing Party". No party has had a majority in Parliament since Mr. Chretien's departure...And to be fair: From the succession of Leaders the Liberals have selected since 2003; It's hard to conjure any cathartic strategy to salvage hope for the Party's fortunes in the foreseeable future. Perhaps then Stephen Harper will somehow be granted his "majority" wish. End of an era indeed!

Regardless, this salute to Jean Chretien should be a joyous occasion for all former Prime Ministers, their friends, supporters and even past political opponents. In that realm it seems as if it may be downhill from here: Mr. Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, the Commissioner in the "Mulroney/Schreiber Cash Payments Affair," hands over his report on Monday of next week; while the next figurative hanging of a Liberal leader (Paul Martin) is scheduled for 2012.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

 

ACCIDENTS: HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY AND TV REALITY

In the forty-eight contiguous United States, there is only one place where one has to go south to get to Canada: Detroit, Michigan.

Wither Detroit - Once the fourth largest city of the United-States, it now barely reaches the top 12. When music producer, Berry Gordy (now aged 80), moved Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972; he took along its soul. Lest I digress: White North America's love affair with Motown Music is a direct result of the legendary Music Director at CKLW Radio in Windsor, Rosalie Tromblay, who programmed the tunes on the station.

It is in fact much more than the City of Windsor and the residents of southwestern Ontario who share a cultural bond of sorts with Detroit. Back in the seventies, a consortium of Canadian cable companies, called CanCom, started picking-up the signals of Detroit's major network affiliate television stations for re-broadcast across Canada. Now called Shaw Satellite Services, the company is the major supplier of U.S. television signals across Canada. Close to two generations later, Canadian television audiences in every province view and share in the trials, tribulations, corruption, murders - In short the ups and downs, warts included, of daily life in the auto capital of the world.

And...there has been plenty to see: Just recently when police burst into a home in search of a murder suspect; an officer accidentally shot and killed a 7-year-old child. Her death is now raising serious questions of ethics and morality about reality television programs. A crew from the reality series: "The First 48" which airs on A&E, last week was tagging along and filming when police raided the home where Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed. Her death shines a critical spotlight on the growing number of reality programs that focus on police activity. Some critics claim police behave differently when cameras are watching.

Authors and experts on violence and murder say quite possibly officers become more aggressive and confrontational in the presence of television cameras. One observation is clear: Cities, including Memphis, Tennessee and Dallas, Texas no longer allow filming because it created a perception that the cities..."were overrun with crime". - A perception that Detroit has battled for decades.

Quoted in a related article by the Associated Press; the author of: "The Peep Diaries - How We're Learning To Love Watching Ourselves And Our Neighbors (sic)"; Hal Niedzviecki, claims that having a reality camera crew along on a police raid contributes to a culture that reduces everything to mere entertainment..."Somebody's accidental death, somebody's drug problem, somebody wins the lottery - it's all equally entertaining."

History, geography, the economy haven't always been kind to life in Detroit. Reality television it seems may not be kinder in death.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

 

CARPE DIEM, QUOD MONDO CANE!

I have mentioned this before: On the eve of the late June G-8 World Leaders' Summit in Hunstville, (Ontario) and the Subsequent G-20 Economic Summit in Toronto; the last thing the Prime Minister wants is our reputation sullied by innuendo, humiliation and embarrassment.

Alas! The last several days, haven't gone exactly as planned...

- MAKE HELENA AND RAHIM GO AWAY: Strange how politics works. Through February and March while the Prime-Minister steadfastly defended his Status of Women Minister; the Opposition was demanding her "head on a platter," forthwith. Now that Helena Guergis is gone, and there's a hint Harper acted precipitously...opposing politicians are demanding to know why she was fired. Go figure!

- WHEN CALGARY REAL ESTATE WENT BOOM! THE MORTGAGE TAKERS WENT WILD: Jeez! Not another case of steadfast defence pending a resignation. The Prime Minister says he won't punish Calgary Tory M.P. Devinder Shory over allegations of fraud claimed by the Bank of Montreal. Mr. Shory is named in a multi-million dollar lawsuit launched by the bank. The RCMP is investigating...(Where have I heard that one before?).

- THE "MOON,"IT SEEMS, SOMETIME RISES OVER OTTAWA: Laying the groundwork means being gracious during a scolding. The United-Nations' Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, shared the spotlight with the Mr. Harper this week in preparation for the two southern Ontario summits. Mr. Ban took full advantage of his Ottawa visit, publicly chiding the Conservative Government for backing away from Canada's Kyoto Accord climate protocols; and abdicating its reputation as the world's foremost Peacekeeper. Being lectured by Ban Ki-moon can't be too pleasant; but hey! Canada is up for election to the "Security Council" this fall, and for the first time in 50 years the outcome isn't all that clear.

- THE SPIRIT OF THE MEN WHO SAIL THE SEVEN SEAS: Give me a break! If the government was blind-sided by a Navy directive to mothball half the fleet, it's surely 'cause the Minister of Defence didn't read the memo. That's okay - The Chief of Defence Staff, General Natyncyk, swallowed the crow whole and boldly rescinded the order -
Red faces and embarrassment for all. Er...Pshaw! to claims that the Navy Chief was getting revenge for the callous disregard of military honour, tradition and rotation when the P.M. named Natyncyk as CDS. Lest I digress: Following historic rotation could have meant the Air Force guy next in line in 4 (or so) years is one currently accused of two murders, two rapes and almost 100 break-ins. Dear God!
In true tradition of the men who sail...Admiral Dean McFadden may "walk-the-plank"...Er..."go to Davey Jones' locker" (Blah! Blah!) on this one, but his sailors will be proud of their rusty buckets. Damn the torpedoes!

My advice Prime-Minister: Seize the day, it's a dog's world!

Quod Erad Demonstrantum.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

 

35 WEEKS; COUNTLESS EPISODES; A RASCALLY ENSEMBLE..

In Old Bridge, New Jersey, Donna Simpson is about to become America's next "Reality TV" star. The show's outcome is all very predictable. Donna aims to break the Guinness Book of Records by becoming the fattest woman on earth. She weighs 604 pounds, and eats 12,000 calories per day to reach 1000 pounds (half a ton) by January first.

Back here on "The Hill" we have our own endless "soap opera" of sorts with a seemingly endless cast of colourful characters, now entering it's 35th week - The intrigue is palpable, the outcome not so predictable.

It begins as a love story and a hasty wedding on October 15th, 2008 - Clearly not since the "affair", starring the bosomy Soviet spy Gerda Munsinger, against the backdrop of Montreal's "Caffe de Paree" burlesque bar and Conservative Cabinet Ministers, George Hees and Pierre Sevigny, has the nation's capital been so taken with an endless story of encounters. Alas, reality TV didn't exist in the late 1950's. Though the 1992 TV movie "Gerda" is probably still archived somewhere.

On another web site: www.linkedin.com; I have been running an unscientific poll asking participants for an ideal title for the long running saga of Helena and Rahim now about to pass its calendar day number 250. "Survivor:Ottawa" is tops, with "Big Brother - Harper" and "Parliamentary Idol" also in contention.

Rahim Jaffer was pulled-over and arrested for speeding, and charged with impaired driving and possession of cocaine on September 11, 2009. From that moment the cast of characters, incidents, events, airport tantrums, fake letters of support, Parliamentary hearings, police investigations has grown expeditiously. It even includes bosomy escorts (Hello Gerda!). True to television ensemble casting the plot has been weaving through a series of marvelously rascally characters: the business mogul, Nazim Gillani - The hilarious bankrupt "two bit" gumshoe, Derek Snowdy P.I. - the bulldog government mouthpiece, John Baird - Green Fund promoter, Patrick Glemaud...(endlessly) I could go on. And quite like masterful television screenwriting the twists and turns of the story always return to the central characters: Helena Guergis, Rahim Jaffer and the plot's "grey eminence" - Stephen Harper. If it weren't true it might be unbelievable.

Lest I digress - Pundits, doubtless with tongue-in-cheek, have claimed the casting is out of character for Mr. Jaffer who, before his election defeat in 2008, had been voted the "laziest Member of Parliament" by the weekly parliamentary newspaper: The Hill Times.

Though we've all been entertained by their endless saga: It could be that the tribulations of Helana, Rahim and Stephen are just another manifestation of a Parliamentary session paralyzed by a minority government so bereft of ideas that there's simply nothing better now, nor on the horizon, to warrant the interest of Canadians.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

 

WINGNUTS TO THE RIGHT OF ME...WINGNUTS TO THE LEFT

One "wingnut" tendency is to see things as good and evil; right versus wrong - Which keeps them from seeing reality.

Calgary Herald columnist, Don Martin, writes this week..."there's a particularly bizarre analogy in a just-released book on the rising right in Canada where a youth evangelist with strong connections to the federal Conservatives compares her Christian fan club to the Hitler Youth."

The "just-released book" is 'The Armageddon Factor' - A look at rising Christian nationalism in Canada - by Marci McDonald. Ironically it comes on the same day CSIS Director, Richard Fadden told Members of Parliament's Public Safety Committee, that our spy agency is keeping tabs on about 200 Canadians for possible terrorist links.

The CSIS boss described his targets as..."usually second - or third - generation Canadians who are in some ways relatively well-integrated into Canada..." some of whom are playing senior roles in global terrorist organizations overseas.

In the reference to the youth evangelist with the Christian fan club, Don Martin is quoting, Faytene Kryskow (www.faytene.ca) a British Columbia based militant evangelist who, amongst others claims a close relationship with the President of Treasury Board: The Ontario born and Okanagan Valley Member of Parliament, Stockwell Day. Marci McDonald's book - The Armageddon Factor - calls Stockwell Day "God's Anointed Cabinet Minister." (I am not making this up!)

In an earlier Cabinet post, Mr. Day was Canada's Minister of Public Safety. The CSIS Chief's appearance before Parliament's Public Safety Committee on the same day 'The Armageddon Factor' was published bespeaks a certain delicious irony: To wit Richard Fadden was at the committee to defend how our spy agency has interrogated Afghan detainees to gather information; - Many of whom obviously have radical and perverted religious affiliations. Whether in our Christian Bible's "Garden of Eden" or elsewhere; somehow, sometimes the "nuts" don't seem to gather too far from the tree...

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

 

HELP! I'M A VICTIM OF THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY

People want change but they won't make the changes necessary to achieve it: A very recent obvious example has occurred over the past few days as Greeks took to the streets violently protesting the measures their country must implement to drag itself out of bankruptcy.

Greece's measures; the European Union's bail-out plan; and the protests in Athens sent the constantly jittery investment community into another tail-spin. In a matter of less than 24 hours North American markets, the DOW in New York, and the TSX in Toronto lost all of their gains so far this year.

Amid talk of even more E-U countries failing (Portugal and Ireland have been mentioned), investors sought the relative shelter of the United States dollar, driving down the value of the Euro and other international currencies, including the Canadian dollar. Our "loonie's" feathers were plucked to the tune of about 5-cents, dropping from parity with the "greenback" to 95-cents by Friday's close. The irony in this is that America's own debt of close to $14-Trillion is 37 times larger than the Greek's. Lord knows where we'll be heading when that elephant is eventually forced out of the closet!

Meantime the Prime-Minister, Stephen Harper, has been on a whirlwind tour of Europe's capitals glad-handing leaders in support of Canadian overtures for a NAFTA type trade accord with the European Union. He's also laying the groundwork for both the G-8 World Summit and the subsequent G-20 Economic Summit which he will be hosting in southern Ontario next month. Instead he's been buffeted for resisting G-20 efforts to tax the banking community. Perhaps with their minds turned towards a pending United States debt crisis; the tax, it's argued, would create an economic slush fund against any future crisis. Canada argues that it's banks avoided the plague that's afflicting everyone else because of good behaviour and good planning, and others should instead do likewise.

This week's influential London based "The Economist" says there's also been quite a bit of luck to Canada's relatively shallow recession, and it wonders if others could ever be so lucky. It points to our resource based economy: Mines, Oil, Gas and even Farming for benefiting especially from China's insatiable appetite for raw materials. As for Canadian banking institutions, in the words of The Economist..."keeping tabs on the banks is much easier when all are...based within a few hundred yards of each other and of regulators in Toronto."

Some commentators on the international scene, in particular observers of Canada - U.S. relations suggest Canadians should guard against a feeling of superiority as America and other world countries struggle through a period of growing discontent. They point to a couple of good reasons why our own economic woes may be just around the next corner: First, there is our treasured and terribly expensive universal health-care system; and second, the stressed-out demands on our public pension schemes. Sixty years ago, Canada's "Baby Boom" was the world's strongest and we're about to face the economic consequence of our ageing population. Canada's problem is that there is little sign that our politicians are prepared to deal with either.

When people feel economically frustrated and disenchanted with mainstream politics they may start looking to find a vehicle to voice their frustrations. If and when Canada's economic circumstances wobble; here also anger may get vented on city streets. In Greece this week, Canadians may have caught a glimpse of the shaddow cast by the glow of our perceived economic superiority.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

 

PRAISING MARION...

As the Buzz over her appearance as host of "Saturday Night Live" rises to its crescendo, Marion "Betty" White says she's "scared to death".

The 88 year-old comedic actor and former television host; this Saturday will become the oldest person to host NBC's iconic late night "live" gag fest. I am happy to note having been among the first to gather courage to sign the FaceBook campaign: "Betty White to Host SNL (Please)" which launched after her "Snickers" commercial co-staring Abe Vigoda aged 89 (Det.Fish on Barney Miller) became a hit and a leading highlight of the 2010 Superbowl football game.

Saturday Night Live producers relented, announcing on March 11th, that Ms White would host the program this Saturday. But, it took some doing. Of the FaceBook campaign, She's been recently quoted: "I couldn't believe it. At first I thought they were putting me on. I told my agent please say thank-you, I appreciate it, but no thank-you." At last count (a few minutes ago) there were 507,587 signatures on that FaceBook page.

Betty White says she's been "blown-away" by all the attention. Along with Rue McLanahan, the two are the only surviving members of the cast of "The Golden Girls" which aired from 1985 to 1992, and is a mainstay in re-runs on several cable television channels the world over. Previously she'd played Sue Ann Niven on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show."

I expect there will be a boost in ratings this weekend for Lorne Micheal's SNL, which wraps its 35th season on May 15th. (Youngster Alec Baldwin, aged 52, will host that one.) As for Betty White and the rest of us who've seen more of the 20th Century then we will ever see of the 21st...I just hope we can stay awake long enough to watch.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

 

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT

I don't wish to resurrect the debate: History could show New Brunswickers will pay dearly for (I will politely describe) their knee-jerk reaction to Hydro Quebec's plan to buy NB Power.

The deal is over and done with - Unlikely to ever be reopened. I said at the time that Premier Shawn Graham's decision to enter into the arrangement to sell New Brunswick's hopelessly indebted public utility was a noble decision and right for the province of my birth...though it could cost him the 2010 election. (SEE: "Graham's Waterloo" - January 6, 2010)

Instead; as the political pressure diverted from other equally important matters, and facing irrational and eventually unsustainable protest, Premier Graham's government scuttled the deal. Hydro Quebec's plan was to take-over all of NB Power's assets and debts, pay New Brunswick a decent profit to be applied to the provincial debt, guarantee lowered electric costs and complete refurbishing the idled Point Lepreau Nuclear Power plant.

Let's not lose sight of the plain fact that NB Power's crushing debt load is unsustaintable and grows by more than a million dollars each day the Lepreau Generators are shut-down. That project is now about 18 months behind schedule and is unlikely to return to production until well into 2011. Just last week, Prince Edward Island confirmed that it's negotiating a power purchase deal with Quebec because the electricity it must buy from New Brunswick is just getting too expensive.

Politics and politicians make strange bedfellows. Increasingly strong anecdotal evidence seems to suggest there was more to the New Brunswick/Quebec deal last winter than anyone suspected. It's not a spy novel, but it reads like this:

In the wake of the now two-year old fiasco at the Chalk River (Ontario) reactor which produces precious medical isotopes; The Federal Government revealed a decision in the summer of 2009 to sell off the Candu Division of Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL). The thirty year old "Candu 6" reactor at New Brunswick's Point Lepreau was AECL's first...and it's now saddled with Billions ($) to fix it, and Hundreds of Millions ($) in delays and cost overruns.

The European based International Investment Bank Rothschild brought-in by the Feds to oversee the AECL sale briefed nuclear building conglomerates this week. It seems those who've expressed interest in our Canadian assets from France (AREVA), Japan (Toshiba), USA (General Electric), Russia (AtomEnergoProm); may want the technology without the pesky problems, of which New Brunswick's Lepreau is the poster-child.

We'll never know for sure. - Conspiracy theorists though might ponder a scenario early last fall once Ottawa determined to dump 100% of Atomic Energy, where Federal operatives approached Quebec Premier Charest with a potential "Win Win" proposal:
Cash rich Hydro Quebec buys NB Power and gets the Lepreau mess off everyone's back. New Brunswick's "unsustainable" debt gets relief and cheaper energy flows to Prince Edward island and New Brunswick; including Irving & McCain's the backbone of its economic base. Hydro Quebec secures a massive second energy corridor through to the 100+ million Americans who live within a day's drive of New Brunswick. In doing so it shuts-off the pesky Danny Williams' efforts from Newfoundland to skirt the Quebec grid and sell hydro from the Lower Churchill Project directly to the Americans. Sweet!

After we're gone, historians may glimpse into what could have been. But as everyone now suspects, AECL and Candu are unlikely to survive because any international purchaser will simply want to sell its own reactors rather the the Candu's problematic technology. In the end: New Brunswick ratepayers may pay dearly.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

 

THANKS! RAHIM

If as goes the saying, the best defence is a good offence, then Infrastructure Minister, John Baird, is on track comparing Rahim Jaffer's lobbying attempts with the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

It's to be remembered that the sponsorship kick-backs uncovered by the Auditor-General in her damning 2005 report hastened Jean Chretien's departure from politics, and crippled Paul Martin's efforts to hold-on for the Liberals.

What is being exposed by the endless list of revelations related to Mr. Jaffer's alleged preferential treatment over questionable business proposals is the sordid, sleazy underbelly of Ottawa politics, regardless of which Party wields power.

Though it seems true that Mr. Jaffer and his partners..."got no grants, no money" as a result of any of his meetings with politicians or bureaucrats, it's also clear from documents tabled with the House of Commons committee which has been looking into the matter that some of his requests were "prioritized" by government officials.

In addition to the documents tabled with the Parliamentary Committee, scores of others are also in the hands of the Federal Ethics Commissioner, and the Federal Lobbying Commissioner; and most likely as well with the RCMP who have been called-in to investigate "unspecified" allegations against Mr. Jaffer's wife, Helena Guergis, the Harper Cabinet Minister who was turfed from her job and the Conservative Party caucus.

It may have taken the Federal Liberals the better part of twenty years to end-up wallowing in sleaze so bad it cost them their government's reputation. The Conservatives appear to be quick studies and perhaps on the verge of a wretched downward slide into the abyss.

During Question Period, members of the Opposition have implied that the Conservatives purposely created a "loophole" in the Federal Lobbying Act that allows parliamentary secretaries to ministers to meet with lobbyists without filing reports of their encounters - A practice it seems Mr. Jaffer and acolytes were following on their schedule of meetings along the corridors of the House of Commons. Meetings, which at least in some cases, were arranged right from (and into) the Office of Minister Guergis herself after Mr. Jaffer suffered his own Parliamentary defeat in the election of October 2008.

This past week, the Conservative Government was ordered by the Ethics Commissioner to stop dressing-up over-sized photo-op Federal stimulus cheques in partisan colours, logos and slogans. And, it came under heavy fire for appointing a Judge to the Quebec Superior Court who, as a lawyer in private practice, once represented the Hell's Angels biker gang. For a party twice elected on a platform of accountability, openness, transparency and a "tough on crime" agenda: The criticisms' gotta sting!

The reluctance of the Liberal Party to exploit more fully these opportunities speaks of their own lingering vulnerability over the much maligned "sponsorship scandal," and the weakness of its Parliamentary leadership. Maybe everyone will catch a breather this week if tensions ease because of the Prime Minister's absence from the House to attend meetings and commemorations in Europe.

So far about the only thing that has gone right in the imbroglio is former Minister Guergis' silence over the "unspecified" allegations and accusations which hang over her head. Once she accepts the Parliamentary Ethics Committee's invitation to testify, or the RCMP break their own silence; who knows where all this may be heading?

It may be tempting to manufacture an issue to trigger a snap election (Afghan detainee documents perhaps?), before the other shoe - In this case Helena's much maligned PEI boots - drop to the floor!

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