December 2008 Archives
Here's his latest Herald column on the subject of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and its continuing bad behaviour. Here's a brief excerpt, contrasting the CHRC's "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to a bigoted Montreal imam, but their obsession with prosecuting a mainstream conservative website:
Section 13 and it's provincial cousins are bad enough as they are, but it becomes even worse when it appears as though some individuals are exempt -- a licence to hate, if you will.
As we've seen repeatedly this year--from Ezra Levant to Mark Steyn to comedian Guy Earle--there are many who are very clearly not exempt from the reach of federal and provincial human rights commissions.
That would include the conservative website Free Dominion, which has been under investigation for several months now by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The CHRC interest in Free Dominion goes back even further: a complaint filed against the site in September of 2006 was later withdrawn.
The operators of Free Dominion, Mark and Connie Fournier, filed an Access to Information request to try and shine some light on why and how they were being investigated.
A few days ago they got their response--23 pages of heavily redacted documents, save the names of more than a dozen CHRC employees working on the file, and the pleasantries exchanged as they e-mail back and forth about the case.It presents a most glaring contrast--the CHRC would appear to be going out its way to not investigate a fanatical anti-gay, anti-Jewish imam, but seems to be going out of its way to investigate a conservative political website.
I agree with Breakenridge's thesis: despite the groundswell of opposition (especially on the Internet), 2008 was actually an awful year for free speech in Canada. But what 2008 did was to set up 2009 as the year for reform.
It goes back to the simple two-step strategy:
1. Denormalize the commissions; and
2. Press legislators to act.
2008 was the year of denormalization. Let 2009 be the year of legislation.
Albrechtsen had the same reaction I did towards the Arab journalist who threw his shoe at George Bush:
Puerile as it is as a form of expression, Iraqis can now throw shoes freely at any leader, including the outgoing leader of the free world. So maybe Bush's final visit to Iraq is, after all, a healthy sign of democratic values taking root. What a shame those same values have, over a period of years, been uprooted in the West.
But as freedom grows in Iraq, it shrinks elsewhere:
The year 2008 deserves to be seen as a year of anticipatory surrender, a year when the West decided to roll over on free speech of its own accord. Just in case. No threats. No demands. Just suppress controversial speech in advance, just in case it causes offence. You understand, we don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. In fact, such a trashing of core Western values is difficult to understand.
In no particular order, an audit of 2008 must begin with the comments of Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, who announced in October that Islam deserved different coverage in the media compared to other religions because Muslims were an ethnic minority.
...The same rank capitulation occurred in the private sector when, in August, Random House pulled the publication of The Jewel of Medina, a book by Sherry Jones that told the tale of Aisha, the child bride of Mohammed.
The publisher had received no threats, just "cautionary advice" that publishing the book "might cause offence to some in the community (and) incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment".
Of course, Canada's HRCs warrant a place in this embarrassing list:
...But the West is killing free speech slowly - by more subtle means - through state-sponsored censorship under the grand name of protecting human rights.
The insidious role of human rights commissions was exposed in June when Mark Steyn and Canadian magazine Macleans were hauled before the Canadian Human Rights Commission for islamophobia.
While the complaint was ultimately dismissed, the fact that words warrant oversight by a state tribunal points to a rank attitude to free speech where a person is required to spend copious amounts of time and money defending words and ideas.
The same thing had happened in April, when the Ontario Human Rights Commission dealt with complaints against Steyn and Macleans. And in January, when conservative commentator Ezra Levant had to defend his publication of the Danish cartoons to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.
After the Danish cartoons fiasco, the onus was on the West to show its spine, to reassert its faith in freedom of expression. So far it has failed on that score. Let's hope 2009 is a better year for free speech and the West's confidence in itself.
I read Mark Steyn's views on Lynch's attempt to cleanse the Internet of conservative voices, and I thought: this isn't just a political scandal. It's a legal scandal. Lynch is breaking the law.
Section 13 -- the censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act -- has been before the Supreme Court of Canada already. In 1990, John Ross Taylor, then 80 years old, appealed his section 13 conviction all the way to the SCC. The seven judges split, four saying the law was constitutional, three (including Beverly McLachlin, now the Chief Justice of the SCC) saying it was unconstitutional.
But the four who let section 13 slide were strict about its application. Here's what they wrote in their judgment (I've bolded a few key words):
In sum, the language employed in s. 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act extends only to that expression giving rise to the evil sought to be eradicated and provides a standard of conduct sufficiently precise to prevent the unacceptable chilling of expressive activity. Moreover, as long as the Human Rights Tribunal continues to be well aware of the purpose of s. 13(1) and pays heed to the ardent and extreme nature of feeling described in the phrase "hatred or contempt", there is little danger that subjective opinion as to offensiveness will supplant the proper meaning of the section.
Take a look a that just for a moment.
Three judges said the law was illegal. Four said it was legal, but only if it remained focused on truly evil hatred, that was ardent and extreme. Subjective opinions about offensiveness weren't permitted -- and, said those four judges confidently, there was little danger of that happening.
Well, those four judges hadn't met Jennifer Lynch and her corrupt crew of political inquisitors.
Section 13 would be found unconstitutional by today's Supreme Court of Canada, which has been strengthening Canada's freedom of speech, as it did in this summer's decision to greatly expand the defence of fair comment in defamation cases.
But I believe that even the less liberal Supreme Court of 1990 would strike down Lynch's abusive conduct. Lynch and her censors clearly violate the red lines laid down by the four judges who approved of section 13. Her persecutions of Christian clergy, mainstream conservatives, and others who merely have a different political opinion from hers, is not only politically scandalous and morally odious, but it's unconstitutional. It's exactly what those four judges said would not and should not happen.
She's a law-breaker, but she doesn't give a damn, because she knows none of the victims she targets has had the energy or money to appeal her bullying all the way to the Supreme Court. But her? She's got money to burn. Seriously, look at this woman's five-star junkets. In early June, she dropped a cool $9,000 of taxpayers' money flying to some very important meetings in Ireland. She came back to Canada, took three days to get over her jet-lag, and then she dropped another $2,400 going to lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake. How do you even manage to spend that much, when you live in Ottawa? Did she travel by private jet? Did she tip her chauffeur $1,000? Then to take the edge off, the next month Lynch flew to Kuala Lumpur, for $6,400. Perhaps she was there to pick up some tips on censorship. According to Freedom House, Malaysia is full of little Lynchs:
...publications and printers must obtain annual operating permits from the
government, causing most print media outlets to practice
self-censorship and limit investigative journalism. The law also gives
the prime minister—as the minister of internal security—the authority
to revoke licenses at any time without judicial review. The PPPA was
invoked in early 2006 to indefinitely suspend the Sarawak Tribune and temporarily suspend the Guang Ming Daily
for reproducing infamous Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Abdullah invoked the act in mid-February to prohibit the publication,
distribution, or possession of any materials relating to the Danish
caricatures. Fearing a selective crackdown after the government’s
handling of the cartoon issue, the media self-censored their coverage
of major fuel price hike protests in April, some of which were brutally
suppressed by the police.
In July 2006, the prime minister banned public discussion of the
status of Islam, religious freedom, and interfaith issues, as well as
all reporting on the issues of race and religion. The information
minister then issued a sharp warning that the government would take
action against all media outlets that did not comply.
Sounds like CHRC heaven!
But I digress. (I'll digress again when Lynch is required to publish her travel for the last three months.)
Back to Canadian law. How long will Lynch be permitted to abuse the law? In other words, who'll strike her down first -- Canada's Supreme Court, or Canada's Parliament?
Fire. Them. All.
Thirteen bureaucrats and lawyers at the Canadian Human Rights Commission have worked on the investigation of the conservative website, Free Dominion, for two and a half years. And that investigation continues to this day.
That’s about all the information that’s available from the access to information response provided by the CHRC to Free Dominion.
I’ve never seen such a laughable disregard for Canada’s freedom of information laws as this reply is. Seriously, click here (large file) to see 23 whited-out pages, yielding no information whatsoever.
(Actually it’s not true that this is the worst violation of privacy and access to information laws that I’ve ever seen. The CHRC is currently under investigation by the Privacy Commissioner for hacking into the Internet account of a private citizen to cover their tracks as they accessed their CHRC memberships in neo-Nazi organizations. That’s a worse violation of the law. And then there’s the Alberta HRC, which has stonewalled my own requests for access to information for nearly a year now, about their cartoon complaints against me. They didn't even provide me with the insult of 23 blank pages. What a bunch of petty tyrants. they all are How telling that they violate the law with impunity, and enforce their own laws with vicious zeal.)
There are four interesting things to note about their reply to Free Dominion.
First, the fact that the CHRC has refused to give any substantive information to Free Dominion, while clearly having a large file on them, shows how abusive the CHRC is. It’s a kangaroo court that treats the people it investigates not only with political contempt (the CHRC’s Dean Steacy compared Free Dominion, a legitimate conservative website, to the neo-Nazi website Stormfront, on page 5766 of this hearing) but without any regard for procedural fairness. They’re a bunch of bullies – not surprising, given that Jennifer Lynch is their chief.
The second thing is how wasteful the CHRC is, especially their section 13 censorship directorate. Thirteen bureaucrats have touched this file. Here are the ones I counted, listed alphabetically:
1. John Chamberlin
2. Natalie Dagenais
3. Philippe Dufresne
4. Kathleen Fawcett
5. Harvey Goldberg
6. Fiona Keith
7. Sandy Kozak
8. Catherine Labelle
9. Vera Pantalone
10. Marie-Anne St-Amour
11. Dean Steacy
12. Richard Tardif
13. Marie Wankam
Those are thirteen bureaucrats that ought to be welcomed to the private sector, where they can find a real job, rather than sucking on the teat of a make-work project like persecuting Free Dominion for nearly three years. And counting! The investigation continues, but Free Dominion isn’t permitted any information about it!
The third thing is the cast of characters popping up. We see Dean Steacy, who famously declared, again under oath, that free speech is not a Canadian concept – it’s only American, the ignoramus says – so he gives it no value. He’s on the file. So is Sandy Kozak, the ex-cop who was thrown off an Ottawa-area police force for corruption. She’s on the file.
The most hilarious and pitiful part of the non-disclosure, though, is a deleted exchange on page 17 of the document. Kathleen Fawcett sent an e-mail to Harvey Goldberg, entitled “Thread from Free Dominion” – a thread meaning a conversational thread. The whole e-mail, except the words “Hello Harvey” are deleted.
Hilarious – it’s clear that the CHRC thinks they’re some sort of 007 super-stealthy operation, fighting against evil agents who will undo our entire civilization, so of course Fawcett gossipy note was deleted. This same delusion permeates the CHRC – just look at how they fortify their office, as if it’s a nuclear bunker. No wonder they think nothing of such trifles as hacking into an private citizen’s Internet account.
And Goldberg’s reply is pitiful: “Thanks. We were aware of this.”
Seriously, what kind of losers sit around their government offices all day, on the taxpayers dime, reading political chat sites, and sending urgent (and highly confidential!) e-mails to each other about them?
I have no idea what Free Dominion was talking about on October 17th that caused Fawcett to send her e-mail. It was probably some election-oriented comment, about repealing section 13. Whatever it was, it was political – that’s what Free Dominion is about. For Goldberg, whose job title is “Team Leader, Strategic Initiatives”, to be following Free Dominion so closely that he’s already on top of whatever Fawcett sent him is just sad, really.
Can you really respect such a man? Or such an organization? They basically surf the Internet (they come to my site daily, according to my statistic program), looking for gossip about them. They’re inveterate self-Googlers. Like their boss, Jennifer Lynch, they’re extremely vain.
When they see someone talking about them, they send furious e-mails back and forth.
They’re like teenaged girls gossiping about some dreamy guy. Except that they’re paid six-figure salaries by taxpayers. And they have police powers behind them.
The arrogance of the CHRC to delete every substantive word in this memo is staggering – but what else could you expect from Lynch’s thugs?
The CHRC holds Canadian citizens in contempt. They hold the legal rights of the people they’re investigating in contempt. They hold our freedoms in contempt. And they even hold the access to information law in contempt. And therefore the CHRC itself is worthy of our contempt.
But underneath all of our contempt, we should laugh at them. They’re a bunch of thin-skinned nobodies, whiling away their days gossiping about what is said about them on the Internet.
It’s pitiful, really. I mean, who grows up thinking, “I
want to be an Internet peeping tom when I grow up?” What a bunch of losers. They're one step up from sifting through peoples' garbage, trying to read their mail.
If they weren’t such bullies, I’d feel sorry for them and their lot in life.
Jennifer Lynch, the chief commissar of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, is at it again.
No, I’m not talking about more five-star junkets overseas. No, she hasn’t crashed any more war memorials or funerals while sending out press releases announcing that crass behaviour. And, no, it’s not another case of her condoning a radical imam who preached the murder of gays and others.
This time she’s pressuring a prospective HRC target for free gifts – in this case, thousands of dollars of free radio ads to make her, her, her a media star.
I’ll get into the pressuring aspect in a moment, but first let’s talk about Lynch’s showy unprofessionalism.
Since when do appointed bureaucrats run radio ads featuring themselves?
Is Lynch running for public office of some sort?
She’s already told Parliament that she’s going to give them recommendations about what her job description at the CHRC should be. What an uppity, insubordinate, presumptuous hack. She is Parliament’s servant, yet she has arrogated unto herself the status of lecturing her bosses – and spending tens of thousands of taxpayers dollars on consultants and lobbyists to clean up her ugly reputation.
You’d think the only letters Lynch would be sending to Parliament would be apologies – for the half dozen boondoggles she’s overseen, including the fact that her staff hacked into a private citizen's Internet account, to cover their tracks as they accessed their memberships in neo-Nazi organizations. I know that sentence is crazy, but it's true.
Seriously: what kind of human rights organization joins and participates in neo-Nazi groups? Why has this woman not yet been fired?
But to the latest foul-up: Lynch recorded a couple of vanity radio ads. We hear ads from government agencies all the time – say, from the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation, which protects our bank deposits. But the ads are professionally produced, done to industry standards, and designed to promote public information about a particular government service. They’re not vanity projects used to prop up the ego of a self-important bureaucrat. Seriously: can you name another government agency where the senior civil servant is such a personal huckster? (You really have to listen to her plodding, monotone, bureaucratic delivery – what a perfect voice for a humourless censor. You can hear her ads here and here. You'd think someone at Hill and Knowlton -- to which Lynch has paid $10,000 for crisis communications advice -- would have told her how dour she sounds.)
But the problem here is not merely Lynch’s enormous vanity. It’s how she paid for the ads.
Let’s do a thought experiment here.
The CHRC is a quasi-judicial organization – they have powers of search and seizure, they have armies of investigators and lawyers, and they have the power to prosecute. They are a regulator – and Newcap Radio, the company that succumbed to Lynch’s demands, is one of the legal entities they regulate.
That’s like the Securities Commission writing a “friendly” letter to stockbrokers, asking them to publish a self-serving ad for the regulator – at the brokers’ expense. If a broker refused, would he still be treated fairly? Would he risk it? Or, to be more blunt, imagine if a policeman from the vice squad visited a bar on his beat, in uniform, and made a very subtle request for a donation to the policeman’s benevolent fund. Seriously: what rational stockbroker, bar-owner, or other regulated person would refuse to pay the pizzo?
Lynch sent a letter to Newcap Radio – a station that comes under her jurisdiction. She asked them to fall into line with the CHRC’s way of thinking. And what came out the other end is hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free ads featuring Lynch herself.
Question: Does that massive donation to Lynch constitute a political contribution? Is it a form of lobbying? What are the legal implications of Newcap simply gifting that to a bureaucrat for her vanity project? Where will the value of that gift be disclosed? What were the terms of the deal?
But much more important than the legal taxonomy for the gift: what was the quid pro quo?
I say again, Lynch has regulatory jurisdiction over Newcap, a growing media company – and thus is highly susceptible to human rights complaints of all sorts, not just section 13 "hate speech" cases. What kind of buffer has Newcap bought itself through their gift to Lynch? What was the conversation? What did Lynch’s thank-you letter look like? Were there any substantive issues discussed between them? Did Newcap have any legal matters pending before the CHRC? Newcap has hired lobbyists in Ottawa before. Did a lobbyist broker the deal with Lynch this time? No such lobbyist is registered.
Again, the questions write themselves, especially if you put it in other regulator/regulatee contexts, like a Securities Commission chief asking for and then taking a gift from a stockbroker.
Another question arises: what other gifts has Lynch taken from people or companies that she regulates? Will she disclose those as well?
There’s something creepy about a civil servant fusing herself so personally and politically to a propaganda campaign; and it’s even creepier that she’s pressuring companies to fund her.
It’s not politically appropriate. But it’s worse than that: it’s not ethical for a regulator to ask for and receive consideration from a legal entity subject to her regulation.
Jennifer Lynch should have been fired many times before for incompetence, poor judgment – and for permitting her staff to join neo-Nazi organizations.
But squeezing free ads out of companies she regulates? That’s a new low, even for her.
In December of 2006, this rights commission was asked to investigate claims of discrimination based on physical disability with regards to a reindeer, Rudolph.
...Rudolph suffers from a facial disfigurement.
...The commission finds this case to be troubling from start to finish. Its members note with sadness that the North Pole is dominated by a judgmental and Manichean character who divides the world into “naughty” and “nice.” Rudolph's systematic exclusion clearly comes from the top in a community that is controlled in all its aspects by a single employer.
There is little in that regard to distinguish the North Pole from any single-company town in apartheid-era South Africa, pre-First World War Ireland or the current New Brunswick.
The commission is also troubled that Santa Claus only intervened on behalf of a victim of repeated discrimination when his company's fortunes were on the line. While lawyers acting for SCHI [Santa Claus Holdings Inc.] at the hearings argued that the hiring of Rudolph was a clear indication of the company's policy of inclusion, the commission feels that it was motivated by a venal goal and that the company only played it otherwise after complaints were made to the commission.
The commission therefore finds that:
* SCHI discriminated against Rudolph, and it should pay Rudolph the sum of $18.5-million in damages.
* SCHI must immediately begin tolerance and diversity programs for all of its employees, starting at the top.
* SCHI must open itself to diversity audits on an annual basis and file a report with this commission indicating the progress it has made in finding work for red-nosed reindeers, tall elves and un-jolly humans.
Allow me to be the first Jew to say to you "Merry Christmas."
Not "season's greetings." Not "happy holidays." Merry Christmas. Nothing added, nothing taken away.
Once, not so long ago, the chief challenge for Christians at this time of year was putting Christ back into Christmas -- reminding the faithful that Christmas isn't just about egg nog and presents, but that it was a celebration of the Christian God and His birth.
Today, the battle isn't to keep Christ in Christmas -- it's to keep Christmas at all.
Foremost in the war to deracinate anything Christian in society is the government, especially the federal government. At official memorial ceremonies, ranging from the Swiss Air memorial to the one after 9/11, the mention of Jesus is expressly forbidden. Even the military's chaplains are facing their emblem -- a stylized cross -- being removed from their caps, lest it offend. By contrast, immediately after 9/11, Jean Chretien visited a Muslim mosque. Paul Martin underwent an aboriginal "smudge ceremony" when he became PM.
But both men each swore that their own religion, mere Christianity, would never affect their political decisions, especially on matters of morality.
Both authorized campaign attacks against their political challengers -- Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper -- for daring not to abandon their own faiths upon entering the public square, too.
This year, an agent of Revenue Canada telephoned Calgary's bishop, Fred Henry, and threatened that if the priest dared to criticize the Liberal government's policies on moral issues, he'd risk having the church's charitable status removed -- and thus subjected to massive taxes. The prime minister's spokesman called the bishop a liar. Really? I know who I believe.
Once, people feared entering politics if they committed a moral sin in their private life. Now, they fear entering politics if they promote moral virtue in public life.
Secular fundamentalists say this is necessary for separation of church and state. But that concept is an American one, not Canadian (even there, the only prohibition in the U.S. Constitution is against government abridging religious rights). Their motto is "In God We Trust."
In Canada, our Constitution is positively stuffed with religious rights, including government support for religious education. The very first sentence in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and rule of law."
Freedom of religion is the first freedom listed in the Charter, ahead of freedom of speech or the right to vote. Our head of state, Queen Elizabeth, is also head of the Church of England.
Our anthem asks God to keep our land glorious and free. Parliament and legislatures open with a prayer.
This is not just about ornaments or incidentals. It is an outward reflection of the core values that make us different from, say, Iran, or Togo. We are not just another country. We are a great country, not because of our geography or economy, but because our culture is rooted in the highest ideals. They are Christian principles - call them Judeo-Christian principles, if it makes you more comfortable. But that is what makes Canada great -- not our forests, or weather, or government spending.
Those principles are being attacked. Sometimes frontally, as with the latest assault from the Supreme Court.Sometimes subtly, as with the advent of "seasons greetings" and "winter holidays." There are many solutions needed. But the simplest is to start saying "Merry Christmas," and correcting those who don't.
...we have the odd spectacle of a government agency committed to promoting equality twisting logic into a knot so it doesn't have to prosecute some-body who comes right out and says ethnic groups aren't equal, and some are corrupt, perverse, evil and so forth. We all know what happens to members of the dominant culture who say such things about minorities. (Just ask former Red Deer pastor Stephen Boissoin, whose comparatively mild harangues about the gay agenda cost him a lot of money and his freedom of speech in front of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.) One can therefore only speculate why the CHRC would turn a blind eye to these hateful ramblings from a member of an ethnic minority.
But, whatever dreads afflict its quavering heart, the CHRC has given Canadians one more reason --to go with its dirty tricks scandal earlier this year, and more abstract arguments about the threat it poses to free speech --to demand its reform.
If the so-called defender of equality won't defend equality, what good is it?
And here's Alan Shanoff of the Sun Media newspapers with his encouraging review of the legal news of 2008. He says free speech issues are the top three legal stories of the year. I think he's right -- both in the court of law and court of public opinion, Canada is moving towards freedom of speech. I'd go further and say that the days of section 13 and the CHRC's abusive censorship are numbered -- and I'd put that number at under 300. An excerpt:
1. What a year it's been for freedom of expression. First we had the Canadian Human Rights Commission decline to hear the complaint against Maclean's magazine in respect to the Mark Steyn book excerpt titled Why The Future belongs To Islam. Next we had the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal dismiss the same complaint after holding a very strange three-week hearing.
Even the Ontario Human Rights Commission declined jurisdiction over the Maclean's complaint. Of course, they had no jurisdiction under the Ontario legislation but that didn't stop Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall from condemning the article without the benefit of a hearing. That's no mistake by the way. The same complaint was filed and considered in three jurisdictions in Canada. With our patchwork of human rights codes the same complaint can be filed in multiple jurisdictions. If it was a court case, multiple proceedings would be seen as an abuse of process, but not in our world of human rights.
2. The Canadian Human Rights Commission retained law professor Richard Moon to review section 13, the oft-criticized hate speech section of the Canadian Human Rights Code. In what must have been a huge surprise, Moon recommended the hate speech section be repealed and that we should leave hate speech prosecutions to the purview of the criminal law. He recommended we prosecute hate speech that "advocates, justifies or threatens violence."
We know his recommendations will be ignored by the CHRC but perhaps it will spur the federal government to do something about section 13. As Moon stated, "Religious beliefs or values (and I would add, political beliefs and values) cannot be insulated from debate and criticism, even that which is harsh and uncivil."
3. Freedom of expression laws also took a huge leap forward in the courts, at least in theory. The Supreme Court of Canada broadened the fair comment defence which is used to defend defamatory expressions of opinion.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has given the media a new defamation defence called responsible journalism. This defence is supposed to protect the media when it publishes an erroneous statement in circumstances where the media has acted in a responsible manner. It still remains to be seen the extent to which either development will have a practical impact on defamation lawsuits. It also remains to be seen whether these developments will protect all speech, or only politically correct speech.
In my estimation, 2008 was the year of denormalization of Canada's HRCs. 2009 will be the year of reform.
In my estimation, 2008 was the year of denormalization of Canada's HRCs. 2009 will be the year of reform.
It's hard to believe that oil, now trading below US$40 a barrel, hit $145 less than six months ago. Here's a graph that shows the price of oil for the past twenty-odd years:
Those prices are in nominal dollars, so there's some inflation adjustment necessary, but the point is pretty clear: $40 oil would have been considered high until the past three years. Even during the first Gulf War, oil only kissed $40 for a week before tumbling back to the teens, where it essentially stayed for a decade. Oil didn't touch $40 again even after 9/11 (it actually fell) and neither did it during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Oil started trending up a year later. And then it just went nuts.
That was great for Canada, where Alberta oil companies soon had a larger presence on the TSX exchange than Toronto banks did -- to the benefit of every pensioner and investor in the country. Without the oil patch's royalties, Canada would not have had surpluses in the past five years, and our national unemployment rate would now be higher than the U.S., not a full point lower (when measured in the same way they do). The oil sands created as many jobs in Ontario as it did in Ft. McMurray.
So what now? Obviously some projects that required $75 oil to be economic will be cancelled or scaled back. But Canada's oil patch was booming under $40 oil five years ago. It was even making money -- at least the junior sector was -- during $20 oil. And under Ralph Klein, $30-something oil was more than enough to bring in 10-figure government surpluses.
The heady days of the past few years are over, that's for sure. And Ed Stelmach's tenure as Alberta's premier will move from embarrassing to dangerous -- not only has he increased taxes on the oil patch, but he's jacked up spending bigger and faster than any NDP government would have dared. Watch for ten-figure deficits to return -- and, hopefully, the emergence of a viable political alternative.
Alberta will survive, and Canada will, too. Unlike the U.S., we don't have structural problems with our banks -- so-called "ninja" mortgages (no income, no job, no assets) with zero down were simply non-existent in Canada. True sub-prime mortgages simply don't exist here, and what exposure our Canadian banks had to U.S. junk mortgages has been containable.
In other words, we're better off than just about anyone else in the G7 -- we've paid down debt, and we've already engaged in an enormous stimulus program: a massive tax cut that is already working its way through the economy.
But my point today isn't about Canada's relative strength, even as an oil-exporting country in an era of falling oil prices.
My point is about how the tumbling price of oil will affect our international enemies -- especially Iran, Venezuela and Russia.
Here's the Wall Street Journal on Iran -- where public works projects are being abandoned en masse, and national anger is building. Crude oil represented 80% of Iran's government revenues -- a number that is drying up like a puddle in the desert sun. Read the story for fascinating details on how ordinary Persians are reacting -- and how domestic discontent is rising. "What has the government done with $200 billion in oil revenues?" read one Iranian newspaper's headline. The answer is obvious -- a nuclear program and the subsidy of its colony, Syria, and its expeditionary terrorist army, Hezbollah. I'm going to keep my eye on Debka to see if they come up with an analysis of how Iran's economic problems impact Hezbollah's war of attrition against Lebanon and Israel.
In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez has actually managed to reduce oil production by 25% over his tenure, through sheer incompetence and economic malfeasance, a feat that was masked by skyrocketing prices. (And, much of what was produced was given away below market prices as foreign policy bribes to other countries Chavez was trying to woo.) Like Iran, Venezuela is heavily dependent on oil -- it represents 80% of its exports, and accounts for 50% of its government revenues.
This story hints at Chavez's response: punishing Venezuelans by clamping down on how much money they can spend outside the country. He's also doing some more blamestorming -- expropriating more assets, such as a shopping mall. But, like his bosom buddy Ahmadinejad, it's a certainty that his military and foreign policy ambitions will be trimmed.
Russia's Vladimir Putin is looking at his country's economic collapse as a buying opportunity. Like Western governments, he's happy to bail out companies using government money. Unlike Western governments, Putin probably isn't afraid to use the word "nationalization" -- but instead of the "people" owning the companies this time around, it's more than likely that he, himself, will. Putin is the chairman of the government bank that is running the bail-outs, and as part of his conditions, he installs directors on company boards, and rules limiting corporate executive decision-making. The man didn't make his $40 billion fortune from his KGB pension.
Russia's decline may be a boon to Putin, but for Russia's geopolitical ambitions, it will be a problem, if less acutely than for Venezuela and Iran. Already, there is internal economic unrest, with violent protests of the sort not seen in years. And, according to the World Bank, while Putin is stuffing his pockets, things for the average Ivan, Igor and Mikhail are about to crater. Here's the AP:
Among emerging markets, Russia has been one of the hardest hit by the global financial crisis and plunging oil prices, the mainstay of the Russian economy. These factors have put the national currency under intense strain and triggered massive stock market losses and capital outflows from the country.
Russia, which grew at over 8 percent last year, is facing a severe slowdown in growth, and possibly even recession next year, analysts say. Torrid figures released earlier this week showed that industrial output had plunged 10.8 percent in November from the previous month, signaling a dramatic slowdown in the final quarter.
About half of Russia's budget comes from oil and gas; the U.S. government estimates energy accounts for 20% of Russia's GDP. Just a few months ago, taxes on producers amounted to about $100/barrel. That's what's been funding Russia's provocative nuclear bomber flights over Canada's Arctic, and the Russian navy's excursion to Latin America.
My math tells me that Canada's energy sector is about 7% of our GDP ($85 billion out of a $1.2 trillion economy). That's huge, but it's not Iran huge, or Venezuela huge or even Russia huge.
I think we'll get through this global recession better than most -- and if it weren't for other countries (mainly the U.S.) dragging us down, we clearly wouldn't have a slow-down at all. And Canada's oil patch has shown that it can be profitable at even $30 oil -- though tax-and-spend Ed Stelmach and tax-and-expropriate Danny Williams have likely impaired the industry by an effective $10/barrel.
There aren't a lot of silver linings in the world economy these days. But one of them -- and it's a big one -- is that a lot of brutal dictators have just had their oil-fuelled ambitions clipped.
I'm sure most readers have seen this video -- a pro-Saddam journalist from Egypt threw both of his shoes at U.S. President George Bush during his recent trip to Iraq:
I have just two quick thoughts:
1. Is there anywhere else in the Arab world where a reporter could throw shoes at a head of state and not be killed for doing so? Saudi Arabia? Syria? Or how about Iraq under Saddam?
2. What do you think things would be like if the, uh, shoe were on the other foot? If, during a trip to the U.S., someone like Iran's Ahmadinejad or Saudi Arabia's Abdullah had been pelted with two shoes from an American reporter? To be more specific, do you think the death toll of the angry riots would be in the thousands, or merely in the hundreds? Do you think the U.N.'s General Assembly would issue more or less than five angry resolutions?
I'm honoured to have been chosen "Person of the Year" by The Interim, a Christian magazine in Canada. I haven't seen the story on their website yet, but they were kind enough to send me the .pdf's of the story from their print edition, which you can see here and here.
My friend Kathy Shaidle wrote the flattering piece, and tells about my battles with Canada's human rights commissions. I also had an e-mail Q & A with The Interim's editor, Paul Tuns. And, to my great delight and surprise, Mark Steyn wrote a generous item about my battle, too. You can see it in the .pdf's, above, and here:
Ezra has been the indisputable man in the battle against the “human rights” racket. I’ve been happy to coast along, but he’s doing the heavy lifting. I’m Dean Martin to his Jerry Lewis: he’s doing all the work and I feed him the occasional line.
Shortly after this thing started, I had lunch with a journalistic bigshot in Montreal who advised me to play it cool – don’t respond to interview requests, don’t take a stand, let these suits work their way through as if it’s some legalistic technicality in which you have no particular investment. And at a fancy Quebecois restaurant, that seemed like good advice. Then Ezra posted his interrogation video and I understood that my friend’s advice was all wrong and that Ezra’s strategy was right. Go nuclear. “Denormalize” them. Expose them for what they are – hacks at best and, at worst, deeply corrupt thugs. Ezra is like one of those shower settings where the merest nudge of the dial whacks it straight from nothing to a scalding torrent – which in a moribund public discourse such as Canada’s is what it takes.
One thing that was confirmed to me this last year is that the incessant media self-congratulation about journalistic “courage” is in inverse proportion to any mustering of the real thing. It took Ezra going nuclear, going bananas, going medieval on Jennifer Lynch’s totalitarian ass to rouse the great dopey herd of conventional wisdom even to take notice of this issue sufficiently to move the debate one smidgeonette in the direction of sanity. I forget who it was who said that Canadians weren’t going to put up with some blowhard going crazy over “their” beloved “human rights” commissions, but they got it exactly wrong. Let’s take it as read that Ezra is everything his detractors say he is – a blowhard, loudmouth, self-promoter, a “controversy entrepreneur,” etc. If he weren’t a blowhard, loudmouth, whatever, he wouldn’t have been so spectacularly successful in his “denormalization” of Canada’s “human rights” commissions.
For a while, whenever I switched on The National, they seemed to be running lame soft-focus features on “Canadian heroes making a difference in the world.” Most of these heroes weren’t in the least bit heroic: they were just hitching their stars to the usual wagons of the international feelgood circuit. But Ezra, in the face of relentless battering by nuisance lawsuits, made a difference in the heart of the Canadian state and exposed the ugliness of the Orwellian “human rights” regime. By comparison, Jennifer Lynch is the typical Canadian “hero” – wafted up from one bauble of the state to the next, garlanded with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and all the other finery Ezra will never ever be considered for. But he is the real hero and Canada could use more like him.
That's pretty friendly!
I'm flattered that The Interim -- and Kathy and Mark -- think so highly of what I've been up to this past year. I'm grateful to them for their support. And I really must mention that it would have been impossible for me to fight against the human rights commissions without the generous support of hundreds of my readers who have chipped in -- some several times -- to fend off the more than 20 legal assaults mounted against me by the HRCs and their courtiers. That financial support has made it possible for me to focus on the fight -- thanks for that.
Incredibly, Mark himself isn't just a moral supporter and a victim of the HRCs in his own right -- he has been a very generous contributor to me and the other victims of HRC bullying, too.
This battle has come a long way over the past year -- the bad guys are on the run. But let's get 'er done, and change the law before declaring victory!
I have a lot of friends from the former Soviet bloc, half of whom escaped during the brief period of detente in the late 1970s and half of whom had to wait another ten years for the fall of the Berlin Wall. I never tire of hearing their stories of totalitarianism. It's not that I enjoy those stories; the opposite -- I hate them. But what they do for me is paint a picture of tyranny at the individual level, the "day in the life" level of existence in Soviet Russia and its colonies. I understand Communism from "30,000 feet" -- what it looks like in history books. But what did it look like on the ground?
I don't know any serious political dissidents (though I've met some, including the great Anatoly Sharansky). I just know regular people who lived in the world's largest prison, and tried to stay human.
(A quick story before the point of this blog post. One of my friends, Yevgeny, attended the University of Calgary immediately after coming over. As anyone who has visited U of C knows, their spacious lawns have concrete sidewalks on them, but the sidewalks don't always follow the path of where students want to walk, so people naturally tread on the grass to take short-cuts.
But not Yevgeny. While his classmates would walk wherever they wanted, Yevgeny followed the sidewalk obediently, even if it meant taking a longer route to get to where he wanted to go. It was absurd to his Canadian friends, who quickly asked him about it.
I wish I still had the original words that Yevgeny used to tell me about that moment, but it was the moment he realized what Communism had done to him: it had made him afraid to walk on the grass.
Back in Russia, if a student had wandered off of the official sidewalk onto the lawn, some bully in a uniform -- a campus security guard; a police man; a KGB officer; or maybe someone not in a uniform, any one of countless informants or wannabes -- would have immediately accosted him, demanded to see his identity papers, and scolded him for walking on the lawn. In Russia, you stayed on the sidewalk, you didn't walk on the lawn. A trifle to Canadian students wasn't a trifle to Russian students. It was a "tell" of deviance and anti-authoritarianism. It was precisely the kind of thing that political enforcers looked for, as an early warning sign for trouble-makers.
Yevgeny had been so brainwashed, so trained to conduct himself in perfect uniformity with the state, he had become an automaton. And it was at that moment in Calgary that he realized he could be free, and that he could walk on the damn lawn all he wanted. He could stomp on it. He could roll around on it. He wasn't a prisoner anymore.
Another Russian emigre friend, Laila, told me that it wasn't just political activists who were hounded by the KGB, and it wasn't just corner-cutters on lawns and other misdemeanour offenders. She said that the chief characteristic of everyone who got into trouble with the state in Russia was not their politics, but their personality: people who just couldn't swallow their individualism the way Yevgeny had trained himself to do.
Laila said it was eccentrics who ran afoul of the law; stubborn people; odd people; people who loved being different, or people who didn't even know that they were different. People who in the West would be called "characters" -- people whose oddities would make them rich and famous, or misunderstood and marginalized. But in the Soviet Union, they were nails sticking up inviting a thousand hammers to strike them. Perhaps they wouldn't bend when told to get off the grass; perhaps they would ask too many questions; perhaps they would show other "anti-social" tendencies; perhaps they would simply rub a powerful local boss the wrong way, and be marked for petty vengeance in a system dominated by the rule of men, not the rule of law.
Recall that Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's eight year sentence to hard labour was because he wrote a joke about Josef Stalin's moustache in a letter to a friend.)
I think of this and I mention this because I have been thinking about all of the people I have met over the course of the year in this fight for freedom of speech. Because "normal" people, bland people, go along to get along people, don't usually get caught up in censorship. People who are a little bit different do.
Whether it's a Christian pastor like Rev. Stephen Boissoin, who finds religion and is fired up with such a passion that he feels compelled to share his new faith with the entire world, but does so roughly instead of smoothly; or whether it's Guy Earle, the iffy comedian who must stand trial before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for telling lesbian jokes; or whether it's David Icke, the former British soccer star who has spent the past two decades describing a political conspiracy that includes an extraterrestrial element.
My point is: I love people who are a little bit different. Or at least I love that they're allowed to be. Of course, I love my right to privacy as well -- the ability to be left alone, and to separate myself from people who are too different for my tastes. But the concept of diversity -- true diversity, diversity of views, not just a window-dressing diversity of quotas based on race and sex -- is anathema to totalitarian systems.
And while Canada's human rights commissions mouth platitudes about diversity, they're actually the enemies of diversity, hounding and grinding political and even stylistic dissidents or psychological outliers for the fake crime of not being the same, of not loving the things the CHRC says they should, and of hating the things the CHRC says they shouldn't.
I'd rather live in a society where I have to put up with the occasional nutbar on the street corner than one where they'd be jailed; I'd rather live in a society where I have to rebut books of Holocaust deniers than one where those books were burned by the government. I don't want to live in a country where "it's wrong to be considered wrong."
Which brings me to Wally Keeler. He sent me a link to this video. Again, I have no clue where this was shot -- it looks like a coffee shop, or a comedy club. It sounds small; it sounds like a lot of folks there already know Wally. I get the feeling that, like me, Wally constantly bothers people around him about human rights commissions. And he likes to jab back at them in the way he knows how -- in his case, through poetry.
I think Wally's a hoot, and one day I hope to meet him, and go to one of his shows. I got his video when I was visiting my friend Laila, and so it reminded me of what she said: in Soviet Russia, people whose personalities were too much, wound up in prison.
Wally would have wound up in prison because his personality is too big, and he's too pushy about his freedom to be different.
If Jennifer Lynch and her mob at the CHRC had their way, he's be subject to a lifetime ban on his crimethinking, just like Rev. Boissoin is.
That's the inexorable result of laws that censor words and thoughts.
They're dead silent on Al-Hayiti. Not a word. See their 2008 press releases, here.
Not that they haven't been busy reading the French language press. They've even issued a sorrowful press release about some vandalism in France. Do they think that somehow discharges their duty to opine on French-language anti-Semitism in Quebec, and the CHRC's acceptance of it, and the CHRC's view that it's acceptable?
Or maybe they're just too busy writing love letters to the new leader of the Liberal Party, and doodling "CJC + Iggy 4EVR" on their schoolbooks. No surprise there.
I think the message both the CJC and the CHRC are sending is pretty clear. If you're a white, Christian Jew-hater, get ready for years of prosecution and punishment and denunciation. If you're a Muslim Jew-hater, you can continue with impunity.
This is part of a pattern that has revealed itself over the last few years. Human rights commissions claim to be agencies that fight "hate" generically. But in fact, they are interested in a very narrow sub-category of alleged hatemonger -- the right-winger accused of homophobia, anti-Muslim bias or some other thoughtcrime. The more unvarnished and explicitly murderous forms of hatred made manifest in the publications of, say, Jew-hating Muslims and Hindu-hating Sikhs are of no interest to the thought police.
...Section 13 of the Human Rights Act should be abolished: We don't want Canada to be a place where publications are screened for "hatred" by a coterie of bureaucrats. But until those people are properly turfed out of their jobs, perhaps the CHRC could be a little less overt in their bias against conservatism and Christianity.That's a hell of an editorial -- and it has become conventional wisdom in English Canada so much so that our Prime Minister himself has publicly stated that "everyone" knows the HRCs are out of control.
As I mentioned the other day, the real breakthrough in the CHRC's mishandling of the Al Hayiti case is that it's lit a fire in Quebec, which has so far not been focused on section 13 abuses.
I'm pleased, for example, to point to another excellent editorial by Mario Roy of Quebec's largest newspaper, La Presse. Roy has already weighed in against section 13, as you can see here. Now that the CHRC's corruption has a Quebec newspeg, he's digging in again, with this editorial, the headline of which translates into "The unbelievers". You can see a Google translation of his editorial here. Here are some excerpts:
The Canadian Human Rights Commission rejected a complaint filed under Article 13 on hate propaganda against a Montreal imam... outlining his vision of "unbelievers" in general, homosexuals, lesbians, Jews, non-Muslim women, children and non-Muslim feminists in particular.
The case was made public by the daily Le Devoir. The 357 pages of text is online for several months but has not attracted the condemnation of feminist groups, or defense of homosexuals, lesbians, children, Jews.
...As for the CHRC, she heard in the past few causes that have been noisy, one of them was an obscure white supremacist English Canada taking on Internet hate speech - in fact, rather pathetic and ridiculous - on immigrants and racial minorities.
In this case, the CHRC explains that the writings of Imam does not "identifiable groups" and does not show "hatred" or "contempt" in the sense that the Supreme Court of Canada hears these words....No identifiable groups or hatred or contempt, therefore, when the imam spoke of homosexuals and lesbians, calling on Allah to "cursing and destroy in this life and in the other" (page 181). Or Jews who "seek only the interests materials and money, apart from that they have nothing" (page 284). Or "unbelievers women who have been lured by the speech childish, naive and simplistic feminism" (page 161). Or "children of unbelievers who are the children who are most perverse" (page 156).
It is difficult to read this prose without giggle - just as in the case of white supremacist. But one wonders what the eye CHRC would read if it had been signed John Smith or Joseph Tremblay ...
There are three weeks ago, the Moon (the name of a law professor at the University of Windsor) recommended specifically to repeal section 13. It is a dangerous weapon of "censorship", considered Richard Moon, could justify "an extraordinary intervention by the state, which would seriously jeopardize the willingness of society to protect freedom of expression." Should we now add a weapon whose power varies according to fire the head of the customer?
believe it. But, if necessary, it also argues strongly in favor of disarmament.
That translation is a touch mangled by Google, but the point is clear: Roy feels that both the absurd imam and the patently biased CHRC are ridiculous, and he calls for the "weapon" of section 13 to be disarmed.
I like this guy, and I get the feeling that, like the National Post, Roy will become a champion for freedom of speech against the CHRC in the months ahead.
Original French text:
Mais, le cas échéant, cela aussi plaiderait fortement en faveur du désarmement.
Suggest a better translation
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has rejected a human rights complaint filed against a radical Muslim imam who published an viciously bigoted book about gays, Jews, women, Christians, and even called for the murder of infidels.
Marc Lebuis, the publisher of the Quebec blog Point de Bascule, filed a complaint with the CHRC back in April, after reading a hateful book called "
Islam or Integration?" "Islam or Fundamentalism" (thanks to reader John for the translation correction.) You can see a copy of the book in its entirety here. (It's in French.)
The book plainly meets all the tests of section 13, including the jurisdictional test -- it was written by a radical Muslim cleric here in Canada, named Abou Hammaad Sulaiman Al-Hayiti, and it was published on the Internet by him, too.
More importantly, Al-Hayiti's book seethes with hate. According to Lebuis's careful notes, it included statements such as these (I've included only a portion of them):
- Homosexuals and lesbians should be "exterminated in this life"
- "Homosexuals caught performing sodomy are beheaded"
- Most Infidels “live like animals”
- "sending our sons and daughters to the schools of the Infidels has devastating effects on their beliefs, their behavior and their character. For the children of Infidels are the most pervert children. At a very early age, they adopt the behavior of their parents "
Men are superior to women
- "men are superior to women and better than them". In general, "men have a more complete intellect and memory than women"
Muslim women are superior to Infidel women
- "The veiled Muslim woman is a light in the darkness of the 20th century, she carries the torch of modesty, of chastity and of Islamic values"
- “male Infidels will not be happy with us until our women are in their beds, in their magazines and in their dancing clubs !”
- "If a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim man ... their marriage is invalid, in fact it is adultery"
Muslims are superior to Infidels
- "... a Muslim must never put his brother in Islam at the same level as an Infidel. In fact, to place Infidels at equality with Muslims is one of the greatest form of ignorance and injustice"
- "The rule is that the most disobedient among Muslims is better than the most virtuous, the most polite, the most honest and the most loyal among the Infidels"
- "It is because of this religion of lies, which goes against human nature, that the West is now full of perversity, corruption and adultery"
- Jews "spread corruption and chaos on earth"
- Most Jews "seek only material goods and money, apart from that, they have nothing"
- "owning slaves is not prohibited"
- "Allah has allowed men to marry two, three or four women, but one who fears he will not be fair can marry only one or have slaves."
Democracy is contrary to Islam. Jihad is a duty of sedition
- "Democracy is a system in total contradiction with Islam"
- "... freedom is unknown in Islam, it contradicts Islam, therefore it is a false concept"
- "[freedom] serves to justify corruption" and "stooping to the lowest levels of bestiality"
- “Anyone who leaves Islam, cut his neck”
- in an Islamic state, Christians and Jews can keep their religion but they must pay a sum of money, the Jizyah. "The purpose of the Jizyah is to humiliate and punish Infidels to encourage them to accept Islam." The other Infidels (Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, etc.) have no options but to accept Islam or “be killed"
Dear reader, don't get me wrong. I don't believe it should be against the law to have this much hate in your heart. I'd want to make sure that Al-Hayiti's calls to violence (cut an apostate's neck, kill Hindus and Buddhists, etc.) didn't meet the standard of criminal incitement, and I'd hope that CSIS was attending his sermons to make sure he wasn't going even further off the cuff. But plain old-fashioned anti-Semitism, misogyny, anti-gay bigotry, etc., ought to be legal. The answer is denunciation, debate, marginalization, etc. -- not government censorship.
But that's not the approach taken by the CHRC. They have prosecuted Canadians for much less. But they refuse to prosecute anyone who, well, isn't Christian.
As readers will know, I was specifically acquitted of section 13 charges for publishing the exact same words for which Rev. Stephen Boissoin was found to have committed "hate speech", by both the CHRC and the Alberta HRC. That's because I'm Jewish, and Rev. Boissoin's Christian. HRCs have a special hate for Christians.
And, despite the fact that there do exist a number of radical Muslim inciters like Al-Hayiti in Canada, not a single radical Muslim (or radical Tamil, or radical Sikh) hate-monger has ever been prosecuted.
And, so it is again: the CHRC has rejected Lebuis's complaint. The rejection states:
“ ...the majority of the references in “Islam or Fundamentalism” are to “infidels”, “miscreants” or “western women”. These are general, broad and diversified categories that do not constitute an “identifiable group” under Section 13 of the Act. As we have also mentioned, the extracts that identify groups on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination (homosexuals, lesbians, Christians, Jews) do not seem to promote “hatred” or “contempt” according to the criteria set forth in the Taylor case. Therefore, the document on which the complaint is based does not seem to meet the requirements of Section 13 of the Act for a complaint.”
Translation: when a radical Muslim says gays should be killed, Buddhists should be killed, women may be treated like slaves, etc., those victims are not legally considered to be "identifiable groups" -- they have no human rights.
Gays, women, Buddhists, Jews, etc., do have human rights that can be offended only when white supremacists do the offending. When radical Muslims are doing the offending, gays, women, Jews, etc., can just get a thicker skin.
It's B.S., of course. It's an excuse made up out of thin air -- there is no such jurisprudence. The rejection is tarted up to look official, or rooted in some sort of rule of law. But it's not. It's raw politics. In the politically correct war of censorship that the CHRC wages on Canadians, Muslims are exempt from the law (as are Tamils, Sikhs and even Jews).
That's a form of corruption.
This is proof that the CHRC is a political weapon, not a human rights agency, and certainly not an agency that deserves to be called any sort of legal apparatus.
This is proof that the Official Jews have made a grave mistake in being Canada's loudest defenders of HRCs. For HRCs have no problem going after pro-Jewish voices like Maclean's magazine, or Fr. Alphonse de Valk, or the Christian Heritage Party, etc., (even if they're eventually acquitted, for the lengthy, costly process itself is the punishment) but they'll never go after the true haters -- people who actually call for murders.
This is a particularly egregious case, for the offensive work is particularly grotesque, and it borders on criminal incitement (I'm not a criminal lawyer -- it may in fact cross over that border).
The CHRC's hypocrisy isn't new.
Their double-standard isn't new.
What's new is that this is happening in Quebec.
So far, Quebec has largely ignored the human rights battles in the rest of Canada. I'm not quite sure why, but it hasn't been a big issue there. I did note this editorial in La Presse calling for the abolition of section 13, but that's about it.
I think this issue will change it.
First of all, Lebuis is an articulate, smart and passionate bilingual advocate, with an increasingly popular blog.
Second, the story already received good exposure today in Le Devoir (I'll post the whole story when I can find it.) Here's a Google translation of the first part of that story, but the headline says it all:
Canadian Human Rights Commission: attacking gays, westerners and Jews isn't necessarily hateful
I think that would irritate any Canadian who believes in tolerance, equality, peace and freedom. But Quebec is particularly sensitive to the issue, having just gone through a province-wide exercise about how far they should go to "accommodate" radical Islam. That accommodation debate was formally styled as accommodating any minority, but it was really a proxy for dealing with Islam. The answer was pretty unanimous: Quebeckers don't want special rules or exceptions. This headline is therefore doubly powerful: it shouts out the special exception given to a radical Muslim cleric, and it points out that the exception in fact has to do with hating Quebeckers.
I believe the debate on the CHRC has now officially started in Quebec.
Just last week I wrote about a bold decision by Lawrence Cannon, the new Foreign Minister and one of Stephen Harper's key MPs in Quebec, to counterbalance the CHRC by inviting me to an official function. I think Cannon would be a good person to write to, again, about this latest inflammatory decision by the CHRC. It's egregious to all Canadians; but I believe it's especially insulting to Quebec, and their culture of equality for women and tolerance for gays.
Why don't you drop Cannon a quick e-mail, pointing out the hypocrisy of the CHRC, and demanding to know why they permit this incitement to violence, while hounding legitimate political discussants like Rev. Boissoin and Fr. de Valk?
I mean, really: how does Jennifer Lynch, the chief commissar at the CHRC keep her job? The same woman who persecutes Christian clergy for their mild and peaceful rhetoric just gave a free pass to the most vile anti-Semitism, misogyny and, frankly, anti-Quebec rant that I think I've ever read.
I know what they should do:
Fire. Them. All.
Jason Kenney, the immigration minister, has issued a strong denunciation of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. In a typically Marxist decision, that tribunal has attempted to abolish Canada’s temporary foreign workers program, punishing both foreign workers and the domestic Canadian businesses that rely on them. Here’s Kenney’s statement:
Ottawa, December 14, 2008 — The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, issued the following statement regarding the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision on foreign workers:
“I am very concerned by the recent decision of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal regarding wages for temporary foreign workers, particularly in light of the fact that these workers were being compensated at the same level as Canadian workers, and had voted to decertify the union that filed the complaint.
While this is a matter between the employer and its employees, we are monitoring the situation closely. Especially during a period of economic uncertainty, Canada’s economy and the success of many Canadian businesses depends, in part, on the contribution of foreign workers. We are committed to ensuring the Temporary Foreign Worker program continues to benefit workers while helping employers meet short-term labour needs when no suitable Canadian workers are available.”
Not surprisingly, the complainant in the case at hand was a labour union trying to keep competitors out of Canada. (I love the fact that the foreign workers involved decertified that union. How appalling that it was still permitted to press its case.) And even less surprisingly was the fact that the tribunal, presided over by turbo-Marxist Heather MacNaughton, agreed – and issued enormous fines against the company that hired the workers.
MacNaughton, you’ll recall, was the same B.C. human rights radical who chaired the five-day inquisition into Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine.
There’s nothing about which MacNaughton isn’t an expert, it seems – from publishing magazines to deciding how much foreign workers should be paid for lunch.
Here’s a quick excerpt from my discussion of MacNaughton, on the eve of Steyn’s trial:
…the queen bee of [the] human rights nannies, [is] Heather MacNaughton. MacNaughton is a social engineer of the first order. Look at this staggering monster of a ruling, in which MacNaughton single-handedly arrogates unto herself the power of the Minister of Education and Finance Minister of British Columbia.
…MacNaughton's stunning ruling issued orders to the entire ministry of education; she took a single complaint, and used it as a pretext for commandeering the whole province.
…I have no expertise on how to handle severe learning disabled students; and how to weigh their needs against every other competing need in education. Neither does MacNaughton. I have no democratic legitimacy; neither does MacNaughton. I have no accountability to the voters, I have no responsibility to make a budget work; neither does MacNaughton. I would have the humility to say "I have no clue"; and then to say "it's not my job". MacNaughton, instead, said, "I am the boss of this until I tell you otherwise."
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is still the most dangerous HRC, since it is the one most directly assaulting our core freedom, the freedom of speech, through its censorship provisions. (It’s also a menace as a major publisher of anti-Semitic hate speech on its own accord. The fact that it has 200 full-time workers prosecuting its agenda is downright terrifying.) But the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is far and away the most radical HRC in the country, even worse than Ontario’s HRC run by Barbara Hall. I wonder if any HRC ruling could top B.C.'s McDonald's/handwashing ruling for pure, dangerous stupidity. I doubt it.
Good for Kenney for standing up to the B.C. bullies, at least verbally – though I don’t hold out much hope for Premier Gordon Campbell to do anything about his HRC.
Kenney has been one of the strongest critics of HRC abuses in Canada, including his statement this spring that the CHRC was “dangerous” to our freedoms. With it becoming clearer by the day that the federal opposition parties will not, in fact, topple the government for any reason in January, it’s time for the Conservatives to lead B.C. by example, and rein in the human rights commission within its jurisdiction -- the CHRC.
Why should B.C. take advice from the feds on cleaning up their broken HRC, when the CHRC remains unreformed itself?
I wish every federal cabinet minister was as outspoken on HRCs as Kenney is. But I do know that most of them agree with Kenney. Time for cabinet to move the issue forward.
Back then, Kinsella was the executive assistant to the public works minister. And according to sworn testimony by Georges Clermont, the president of Canada Post at the time, Kinsella telephoned and ordered him to switch ad agencies to BCP – a Quebec ad agency run by Liberal strategist and donor John Parisella.
Here’s Clermont’s sworn testimony, with particularly appalling passages in bold text:
MR. CLERMONT: … a week after the arrival of the government -- it was during Mr. Dingwall’s time, he was the Minister in charge -- his assistant, Kinsella, telephoned me to say “We have to change agencies”.
MR. ROY: Agencies ---
MR. CLERMONT: Advertising agencies. We have to give it to BCP.
During Chretien’s tenure as prime minister, BCP was one of the top three firms to handle the Canadian government’s $1.1 billion in ad spending. Not coincidentally, from 1993 to 2003, BCP contributed more than $97,000 to the federal Liberals alone, according to this audit.
Firing perfectly good ad agencies to replace them with a Liberal favourite wasn’t Kinsella’s only demand of Canada Post -- supposedly an independent agency, supposedly run on sound business principles, not patronage and nepotism. Kinsella also ordered them to fire a labour lawyer – right in the middle of a labour dispute he was handling – because the lawyer's political pedigree wasn’t Liberal enough. Again, the sworn testimony:
MR. CLERMONT: We had to provide them with a list of legal firms that specialized in advice on all sorts of -- to be sure they were the right ones. So we had to change a lot of -- but I objected on several occasions, because we were being well served by the firms in question or the consultants, et cetera.
MR. ROY: And how did you react to the instructions you were given?
MR. CLERMONT: …I did object on a number of occasions. For example, during the labour dispute, I was asked to retain the services of a lawyer other than the one who was doing it on the pretext that that lawyer’s father was a conservative, but he had been appointed by vote, and I refused. I said “You don’t change horses in the middle of the race”, and the result was a lot of headaches for me with the stakeholder.
I love that -- "the stakeholder". That's how Canada Post refers to the public works minister -- and his assistant at the time, Kinsella. Needless to say, that kind of brazen political interference was a shock to Canada Post, an independent crown agency that was used to operating at arms length from politics:
MR. ROY: At the time that you received that call from Mr. Kinsella, was BCP the agency -- what we call Agency of Record, was the Agency of Record for the Canada Post Corporation?
MR. CLERMONT: If I recall correctly, we had at least two, if not three agencies, Agencies of Record, to which we would go depending on the subject. We had… I think it was Vickers & Benson, but an agency that had a greater presence in Canada than, say, BCP, which seemed to us to be focused more on Quebec. So I think that during the Lander years and the first years of my mandate, we mainly dealt with Vickers & Benson and very little, if at all, with BCP.
BCP wasn’t used by Canada Post because it was a provincial Quebec firm, not a national firm. Who cares – a Liberal’s a Liberal, and that was what mattered to Kinsella!
Clermont was shocked. But it would be the first of “a lot” of similar patronage requests, where loyalty to the Liberals was put ahead of the interests of the taxpayer (or Canada Post's customers).
MR. DORAY: …Were you able to check whether this was standard practice in the past, or was it a surprise to you, the fact that you had been asked to change agencies in light of the change in government?
MR. CLERMONT: Listen, I wasn’t born yesterday. This was my first such experience, but I wasn't born yesterday. I ---
MR. DORAY: And, this time, you didn’t complain to Mr. Ouellet, as you did in other situations?
MR. CLERMONT: No, no, this was the first intervention… I don’t remember exactly, but later on there were a lot of requests such as this.
Clermont knew he was being hustled. He tried to find someone in the government who could fend off Kinsella – so he pulled rank, and started complaining to another cabinet minister, more senior than Kinsella’s own boss.
MR. FOURNIER: …you had a number of reasons for complaining about Mr. Kinsella’s work?
MR. CLERMONT: Yes. Well, requests, not his work. His work may be excellent, but his requests.
MR. FOURNIER: His requests. Which, in your opinion, went beyond what a minister’s political advisor should be doing?
MR. CLERMONT: Look, I may be naive, but we were accustomed to not having this type of call, and, as I told you, as I said this morning, all of sudden these calls start coming. It was new to me.
As I say above, this is a scoop. As far as I can tell, it has never been reported. I have searched both Google and the private news database Infomart, and no English-language media outlet comes up -- just some blogs.
That’s amazing, considering it was testimony before the Gomery Commission, on January 24, 2005. And the transcripts have been available on the Internet ever since. You can see the full transcripts of Clermont’s testimony – and his cross-examination – here.
For some reason – perhaps there were just too many juicy revelations flying around then, and this one slipped through the cracks – this stunning story was ignored.
By the way, Clermont is impeccably non-partisan; after a stellar career in the private sector, he was head-hunted into Canada Post, where he soon rose to the top. That last appointment was under the Conservatives, but he continued in that capacity under the Chretien Liberals. If anything, he was one of them – as he pointed out at page 10725 of his testimony:
…since 1966, I believe, my wife and I -- especially my wife -- had worked very closely with The Honourable Pierre Trudeau… So, I was more associated with the Liberal Party, if you like. My wife was the official agent in Montreal of Mr. Trudeau during his entire political career…
There are dozens of other fascinating details in his testimony of how Canada Post’s business culture was assaulted by Chretien’s government. Here’s another example of the petty, Tammany Hall-style politics that oozed into Canada Post by the Liberals:
MR. ROY: Did you have frequent contact yourself, when you were president and CEO, with the minister in charge of the Canada Post Corporation, Mr. Gagliano?
MR. CLERMONT: … With the previous Minister, under the previous government, I mean, we would go present service quality results, financial results, et cetera, et cetera, and after that, it became more about what we were doing. It was always what we were doing that could promote such-and-such an idea or such-and- such a policy.
MR. ROY: What does that mean?
MR. CLERMONT: It means promoting the federal government or the Liberal Party or whatever in such-and-such a place.
MR. ROY: Where? I don’t understand.
MR. CLERMONT: In such-and-such a province, such-and- such a part of the country. It was particularly focused on Quebec… It was such simple ideas… -- when you come into Montreal on the Trans Canada, there is the Saint-Laurent sorting centre on the right, just before going up Metropolitan Boulevard. So, we had a sign there with the Corporation’s logo, its corporate image. It had a red background. The Minister was insulted because -- it was on a blue background -- because it had to be on a red background. I had marked Canada there. So we had to change all our signs, that sort of thing.
Can you imagine a cabinet minister in a G8 democracy ordering a particular post office sorting plant to change its logo from blue to red, because those were the Liberal colours?
Alas, if only all of the Liberal interventions were so banal.
Kinsella’s weren’t. Switching ad agencies without notice or cause is worse than an indulgence. It’s worse than patronage. It’s exactly what was wrong with the Liberal Party’s culture – a culture of political entitlement, that treated public assets like private chattels, to be handed out as spoils of battle. And demanding that a lawyer be fired because his father was a Tory? What a buffoon.
Until now, Michael Ignatieff didn’t know about Kinsella’s improper interference in this crown agency. In January, 2005, when this testimony was sworn, Ignatieff was still teaching at Harvard. Even if he had been in Canada, he wouldn’t have known about it, because of the media's omission of Clermont’s testimony.
But that’s changed now. Ignatieff can’t plead ignorance anymore about Kinsella’s inappropriate conduct. He can see it in black and white, testified under oath, uncontradicted, right here.
Is Warren Kinsella’s improper political interference in Canada Post’s affairs acceptable to Ignatieff? If not, why is Kinsella still on Ignatieff's campaign team?
My favourite subject to blog about is freedom of speech and the abusive censorship powers of Canada's human rights commissions. But I occasionally blog about other subjects, including partisan politics.
It's important that I blog about Warren Kinsella and his involvement in Adscam -- the sponsorship scandal that discredited the Liberal Party and broke their hammerlock on political power.
I can think of three reasons to keep writing about this.
1. Kinsella has threatened to sue me if I talk about it (he already has one lawsuit pending against me). That in itself is a reason to keep writing about it -- because we should never give in to threats.
2. Adscam is a very important public issue. The money involved was important, but far more important was the culture of corruption that pervaded the government. We've got to learn our lessons from that -- every party must. We can't be scared away from writing about Adscam. Kinsella is a bully, who uses lawsuits -- or the threat of lawsuits -- abusively. Besides threatening me with a lawsuit, he has also threatened various bloggers, as well as senior mainstream media journalists from Andrew Coyne to Norman Spector -- all for discussing his role in Adscam. Sorry, we don't abide political censorship in Canada, especially not about issues that are in the public interest like this. If anything, our culture (and our law) permit and encourage scrutiny and criticism of our political class. It's built in to our Canadian system -- even our "loyal opposition" is designed to be a permanent critic of the government.
3. Kinsella says he's part of Michael Ignatieff's campaign. That is newsworthy for several reasons. First, it goes to Ignatieff's own judgment. Kinsella said he "supported" Stephane Dion for leader in 2006, but Dion made the decision to keep his distance from Kinsella, essentially exiling him from the party. Now Ignatieff has welcomed Kinsella back -- but without any statement of contrition from Kinsella about his Adscam conduct. That goes to Ignatieff's judgment, especially about the core issue of public corruption.
And it raises another, troubling question too: if Ignatieff ever does become prime minister, what will Kinsella's role be? Will he be permitted to do the things he did when Jean Chretien was in office? Will Ignatieff let him send memos to non-partisan civil servants, ordering them to divert public monies, like Kinsella did? What privileges, perks and power will Kinsella get from an Ignatieff government? That is an important question to answer.
For these three reasons, I'm going to keep writing about Kinsella and Adscam. Of course, I'll keep writing about other things, too!
Yesterday I noted that Warren Kinsella received a $10,000 campaign donation from the ad agency Palmer Jarvis, when he ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1997. This was after Kinsella had written the memo to the civil service, ordering them to steer advertising contracts through Chuck Guite, who was later convicted of five counts of fraud. As I noted, Justice John Gomery called Kinsella's memo "highly inappropriate".
Yesterday I marvelled at that $10,000 donation -- that's a lot of dough for a corporation to donate to a political candidate. It probably would have had to go through a management committee of some sort -- and there probably would have to be a pretty good reason to commit so heavily to a candidate.
There was: Kinsella had worked for Palmer Jarvis at their Vancouver office after leaving the federal government and before running for Parliament -- I hadn't read Norman Spector's blog post carefully enough, for he mentioned it.
I focused on the donation. But a far more scandalous fact was addressed by Spector in the same item: this transcript (see page 10952) of the Gomery Inquiry's hearings. In it, Diane Marleau, a previous minister of public works, answers questions about Kinsella:
MR. COURNOYER: If we go to page 118 under Tab 17, we have a number of fax reports or fax sheets. At 118 we have a fax that is dated August 27th, 1996. Were you aware that Mr. Guité was exchanging information with Mr. Warren Kinsella at Palmer Jarvis about this?
MS. MARLEAU: Absolutely not. That would be highly unusual. Mr. Kinsella had been the Executive Assistant to Minister Dingwall. My understanding was that he had left Minister Dingwall’s office. So that is unusual. But I couldn’t tell you more about it. I wasn’t aware of it.
MR. COURNOYER: You didn’t have -- well, superficially, that is what the document seems to be, a fax sent to Mr. Kinsella.
Not only did Kinsella write the memo trying to divert funds to Guite, but after Kinsella left the government -- and went to work for an ad agency that was doing business with the government -- he continued to swap information with Guite. (Marleau herself refused to send contracts through Guite, and was exculpated by Justice Gomery.)
Here's a memo prepared for the Gomery Commission that goes into some greater detail about ad agency contracts -- including Palmer Jarvis's. They were a smaller player than most of the other agencies. But there's obviously a lot more digging to do here. I'll keep you posted about what I find.
I thought the $10,000 gift from Palmer Jarvis was a blinking red light in itself. Not really -- Kinsella worked there. The real blinking red light is that Kinsella was still in contact with Guite while he was working there.
Kinsella, Guite, and ad agencies -- that sounds like a chapter of Canadian politics that's moving from the "current events" file to the "history" archives. But by choosing Kinsella as his campaign aide, Michael Ignatieff is breathing new life into the story because by rehabilitating Kinsella, Ignatieff is condoning Kinsella's "highly inappropriate" conduct.
I'm all for second chances. But there has to be an interval of contrition before forgiveness, and Kinsella is clearly not contrite about his memo to Guite. By having Kinsella on his team, without Kinsella renouncing his highly inappropriate conduct, Ignatieff is condoning that conduct. And, in doing so, he taints himself and the Liberal Party that he now leads.
That just makes no sense. But it's Ignatieff's choice -- and he'll have to live with it.
According to this news story, Prince Edward Island's human rights commission hasn't had any hearings in 2008 -- all of their cases have been settled informally. In other words, everyone targeted by the HRC has taken a plea bargain, rather than gone to trial.
That raises more questions in my mind than answers. Are the HRC's targets so terrified of a hearing that they settle, no matter what? Or are the settlement terms so easy that everyone takes them? We don't know.
Alberta's HRC offered me a plea deal. If I gave several thousand dollars in cash to my radical Muslim antagonists, along with a page in the Western Standard magazine to do with as they pleased, I'd be let go. That was my plea deal. Had I accepted it, I wouldn't have spent an addition $90,000 in legal fees. But that would have been extortion.
The fact that PEI's HRC hasn't gone to a full hearing means we don't know all the details. Section 12 of PEI's statute has an outrageously broad censorship provision, worse in some ways than the Canadian Human Rights Commission's infamous section 13. Here's PEI's section 12:
12. (1) No person shall publish, display or broadcast, or permit to be published, displayed or broadcasted on lands or premises, or in a newspaper or through a radio or television broadcasting station or by
means of any other medium, any notice, sign, symbol, implement or other representation indicating discrimination or an intention to discriminate against any person or class of persons.
(2) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to interfere with the free expression of opinion upon any subject in speech or in writing.
PEI's section 12 permits their HRC to censor newspapers, TV and radio, signs, notices "or other representation". That pretty much covers everything including smoke signals.
12(2) is particularly precious: after listing all of the means of communication that are subject to the HRC's censors, the law has the humour (chutzpah?) to "deem" the law not to interfere with free speech. So the HRC can censor you -- it just won't be called censorship.
But back to the news. The HRC's executive director, David Larter, seemed defensive about his lack of prosecutions. He boasted to the CBC that, in fact, his little HRC had 60 complaints on the go at any one time.
In Canada's smallest province.
There are about 140,000 people in Prince Edward Island. And Larter targets them 60 at a time.
Canada has about 33 million citizens, or about 235 times more people than PEI. So 60 targets at a time is like Jennifer Lynch's CHRC having 14,000 cases at any one time. I know that would be a dream come true for her -- bigger staff, bigger budget -- but it would make Canada into a veritable police state of political correctness.
Well, proportionately that's exactly what's going on in PEI.
They've got nine staff at the PEI HRC. That would be like the CHRC having 2,100 staff, instead of the 200 that they do.
Nova Scotia Scott points out that Larter made a gaffe -- he acknowledged that HRC complaints are just like lawsuits. (That's a gaffe, because it acknowledges the costs, penalties and other seriousness associated with the HRCs' punitive processes -- processes that lack the checks and balances of real courts.)
But I don't even think that Scott's point is the biggest one.
The biggest point is that 140,000 of Canada's best-natured and friendliest citizens are some of the most hen-pecked, busy-bodied and eavesdropped-on people in the country, with a staff of nine snoops at the HRC looking over their every word and deed.
Fire. Them. All.
DECEMBER 14 UPDATE: Please see my important update to this post, here.
If Warren Kinsella disagrees with the legal findings of fact made against him by Justice John Gomery in his Judicial Inquiry into Adscam, why didn’t Kinsella file an appeal?
Other Liberals who felt wronged by Justice Gomery appealed. But not Kinsella. Justice Gomery said Kinsella’s conduct was “highly inappropriate”. Kinsella grumbled about it, but he didn’t take any steps to overturn it.
It’s funny; Kinsella has made a cottage industry of denouncing Justice Gomery. On his website alone, Kinsella calls Justice Gomery a “joke and a circus”; “grossly biased”, someone running a “despicable political inquisition”, someone who deals in “smears" and shredding reputations, and on and on. A quick Google search finds hundreds more insults. In one op-ed, he comes out and states the obvious: he holds Gomery’s Commission “in contempt”.
So, it’s typical Kinsella – a cascade of insults. But Kinsella never uses one particular insult: he never says Justice Gomery’s findings were legally incorrect.
That’s a pretty glaring omission, don’t you think?
In fact, I can’t find a single instance of Kinsella even acknowledging that he was found to be “highly inappropriate”, let alone disputing it. In dozens of media interviews Kinsella had done about Justice Gomery, he never once discloses that critical fact.
If I were found by a judge to have engaged in “highly inappropriate” conduct – trying to funnel government contracts to a criminal – and I thought that the judge was “grossly biased”, “a joke”, etc., I’d attest my innocence, and file an appeal.
That’s the one thing Kinsella didn’t do.
Oh, he vomited insults on Justice Gomery – that’s Kinsella’s specialty. But he didn’t try to overturn Justice Gomery’s findings.
Sort of says it all.
Oh, by the way, Norman Spector points out an interesting detail that I haven’t seen elsewhere (scroll to the bottom). Kinsella wrote his “highly inappropriate” memo about advertising contracts on November 23, 1995. (You can see it here, on pages 159 and 160.) Then, a year and a half later, Kinsella ran for Parliament in North Vancouver (he lost, of course). But look at Kinsella’s Elections Canada filings, here. Look at the tenth donation. Look who gave Kinsella a cool $10,000 towards his campaign: Palmer Jarvis Communications.
That’s a large advertising agency.
With plenty of government business.
The same sort of government business that would have been covered by Kinsella’s “highly inappropriate” memo.
Why did they give so much money to him? Was it just their civic duty -- $10,000 worth of democratic spirit?
I’ll have to ask Kinsella. I’m curious – aren’t you?
If I were Michael Ignatieff, I’d probably want to know Kinsella’s answer to that question, too -- before the entire country hears it at trial.
Michael Ignatieff’s campaign aide, Warren Kinsella, is threatening to sue me for writing about his involvement in Adscam. You can see a copy of his libel notice here.
Justice John Gomery, who chaired the Judicial Inquiry into that scandal, named Kinsella more than a dozen times in his full report. Or you can read the relevant chapter here – just search for the word “Kinsella” to get to the point. On page 160 of the report, in a chapter called “Who is responsible?” Justice Gomery noted that Kinsella, then chief of staff to Public Works Minister David Dingwall, tried to steer lucrative government advertising and polling contracts away from their proper course and towards Chuck Guite instead. Guite was later convicted of five counts of fraud.
Justice Gomery called Kinsella’s conduct “a highly inappropriate attempt by political staff to interfere in the internal administration of [Public Works]”.
Folks, that’s not an allegation. That’s a judicial finding of fact. And true facts are a defence to libel.
There’s only one reason why Kinsella would sue in the face of the Gomery Commission’s findings. Well, two if you include Kinsella’s temper – he’s clearly embarrassed and angry that anyone would dare mention his questionable past. The other reason is that he thinks he can silence me through nuisance lawsuits.
Kinsella has already sued me once this year for pointing out another true fact – that he gave help and advice to the anti-Semitic Canadian Islamic Congress in their failed attempt to censor Maclean’s magazine.
That lawsuit by Kinsella against me didn’t make sense, either – again, truth and fair comment applied there, too. Kinsella had boasted about helping the CIC on his own website. But at least that lawsuit was before Kinsella joined Ignatieff’s campaign team. Back then he could be reckless. But after he joined Ignatieff’s campaign, Kinsella had to be well behaved. And he was, for a little bit – he was slightly less abusive on his blog, knowing that his conduct reflected on his candidate. It was actually encouraging to see Kinsella toning it down. He can even be charming sometimes, when he tries.
Which is why this latest lawsuit is so surprising.
Why would Kinsella give in to his emotions, to the detriment of Ignatieff’s political campaign? Why would he give in to his pride and his rage by suing me – but thereby locking himself into a formal legal process where I will have the right to examine all his private documents about Adscam, and cross-examine him at length about his conduct – all in open court, all during an election year? Why would he allow himself to be a high profile “news peg” for the media to discuss the Liberals and Adscam again?
Did Ignatieff even know that Kinsella was going to file this suit? I doubt it. During the last election, Ignatieff was asked about an allegedly defamatory website. He told reporters:
That’s the spirit. Ignatieff is a professor – he’s used to debating opponents, not trying to sue them into submission. It’s bad form – and it’s politically risky, too.
That’s because defamation is a funny sort of lawsuit – it’s about reputation. Kinsella claims that my blog improperly hurt his reputation. Well, a trial will test that theory. We’ll have to ask Kinsella’s clients – including Ignatieff himself – what they think of Kinsella’s “highly inappropriate” conduct. I just can’t imagine why Kinsella would sign up for a two-week root canal like that – or why Ignatieff would let him.
Folks, I don’t even think this lawsuit is about defamation. I think it’s part and parcel of Kinsella’s campaign of “lawfare” against me, because I dared to criticize his beloved human rights commissions and their censorship powers. And his suits are part of the larger campaign of lawfare being waged against me by Kinsella’s friend, Richard Warman of section 13 fame. Between the two of them, they have filed five law society complaints and two lawsuits against me, and now this one. That’s the whole idea – to pile so many actions against me that I’m crushed under the weight of my legal bills and the stress of fighting so many fights.
But I don’t want to cooperate in my own destruction. Because Kinsella and Warman are bullies, who are abusing the law as a political weapon. They’re censors, who would rather sue me into silence than debate me. And, in Kinsella’s case, it’s especially ominous – he thinks he can shut down legitimate political criticism of himself, the Liberals and Michael Ignatieff, about the core issue of political corruption.
Not on my watch.
I’m going to fight this lawsuit full tilt. I can think of things I’d rather do with my time and money. But if Kinsella wants a fight about his role in Adscam – and if Ignatieff doesn’t rein him in – they’ll get it.
If you agree with me that this lawsuit is nothing more than a nuisance suit designed to shut me up, then please help me out. I’ve lost count of all the suits and complaints against me – it’s well over 20 now – and my legal bills for 2008 (and the human rights complaints, which started earlier) are over $175,000. Naturally, I couldn’t have afforded that on my own – only my readers have saved me.
I hate to ask again, but I’ve been sued again. So please chip in if you think I should stand firm against Kinsella. I’m prepared to go all the way with this – really, what else could I do, given the Gomery report? If you can help me with my legal fees, I promise to fight like hell until I win.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support. We’re making Canada a freer place by standing up to these bullies.
P.S. You can chip in through PayPal, below, or by sending a cheque by snail mail to my lawyer on this matter:
“Christopher Ashby in Trust”
Attn: Ezra Levant defence fund
8 King Street East
Toronto ON M5C 1B5
"I am not a registered non-profit organization. Donations are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes."
"I am not a registered non-profit organization. Donations are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes."
I used to keep track of each new MP who came out in favour of repealing section 13, the censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act. But last month at the Conservative Party’s policy convention in Winnipeg, every single Conservative MP voted in favour of motion P-203, which called for the repeal of section 13. Even the Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, voted in favour of repeal.
I posted a video of that momentous vote, which you can see again, here:
I’m still going to write about MPs who do or say something encouraging, because MPs and even cabinet ministers continue to press the issue forward, even during the current Parliamentary distractions. It's just that being anti-section 13 is now pretty much conventional wisdom.
Here’s a small example: I received a personal invitation from the Foreign Minister’s office to attend his department’s event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. (As Mark Steyn notes here, the human rights commissions are serial violators of that UN Declaration, but that’s another story!)
My point today is that the office of Lawrence Cannon specifically invited me as a counterweight to their invitation to members of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
A year ago, the CHRC would have been invited, and that would have been normal. Today, they are recognized by a cabinet minister's office as not being normal, not being the centre, not being uncontroversial, not being balanced. They are half of normal – perhaps less than half. They need a counterweight. They do not represent the whole story about human rights.
Incredibly, I was chosen as a counterbalance to them.
Let’s be real: I was specifically invited to demonstrate to everyone in attendance – especially to the CHRC – that the department of foreign affairs has views on the subject.
Unfortunately, I’m not like Jennifer Lynch, the jet-setting, five-star-hotel-staying chief commissioner of the CHRC, who can bill $5,000 or $10,000 to the taxpayer for whatever junket she fancies, so I didn’t have the budget to hop on a plane to Ottawa to attend. But it still felt pretty good to be invited.
The Foreign Minister is Lawrence Cannon. In a symbolic way, his office made a statement about freedom of speech and rule of law. It’s not his portfolio, but it was a thoughtful gesture. Why not drop him an encouraging e-mail to let him know he’s on the side of the angels here – and that he should press at cabinet for the repeal of section 13?
Section 11 of Alberta’s Freedom of Information Act guarantees that, when an access to information request is made to the government:
The head of a public body must make every reasonable effort to respond to a request not later than 30 days after receiving it…
Got that? 30 days. It’s the law.
Well, it’s been 300 days since I filed a request under that legislation for all records that the Alberta Human Rights Commission has on me. You can see a copy of my original request right here. It’s dated February 14th.
They still haven’t handed over a single e-mail regarding me or my case.
They’ve handed over plenty of useless information – and billed me handsomely for it.
They have, inadvertently, given me some embarrassing information about their operation – that’s how, for example, I found out that 15 government bureaucrats and lawyers had been working on my case, for 900 days. (I like to joke that’s more investigators than work for Horatio Kane on CSI Miami.)
But as far as their notes on my case, their internal discussions about me, the things I actually asked for – none of it has been handed over.
I’ve appealed their stonewalling, higher and higher up the food chain. And I’ve appealed again. And today, my lawyers received a letter from the Information and Privacy Commissioner himself, advising that they’re going to need another 90 days to handle my case. You can see that letter, here. That will make it well over a year since I asked for their e-mails about me.
E-mails are pretty easy to dig up. Even if they’re deleted. It doesn’t take 300 days. It takes 30 minutes. The political excuse-making takes 300 days.
The e-mails are at the human rights commission. They just refuse to hand them over.
Gee. I wonder why that could be?
How bad must their e-mails (and other records that they’re refusing to disclose) be for the HRC to stall for so long?
What do you think they say about me, those HRC staff? When they’re not playing solitaire on the taxpayers’ dime, when they’re not hounding Christian pastors into recanting their faith, no doubt they wax quite colourfully about their critics.
I wonder what they say?
It’s obviously rough stuff. I think it’s a safe bet that, given the informal nature of e-mail, there was plenty of foul-mouthed language to describe me and my YouTube videos that brought the HRC into such international disrepute.
But that’s probably not enough for them to defy the law for a year.
I wonder if their resident Muslim separatist, Arman Chak, had a few choice words about me?
I wonder what Shirlene McGovern, my interrogatrix, said?
It’s not the insults that I’m really after – though those would be fascinating to see.
It’s the abuse of process. The malicious prosecution. The proof – in their own words – that the HRC is not a real court by any stretch. It’s a kangaroo court. It’s a tool for political punishment.
I want to see them say so.
I want to read their casual conversations about it.
I want to see their unguarded thoughts, jotted to one another in e-mails.
Insults can be glossed over, politically – a few fake apologies, grudgingly issued, would be the ordinary procedure.
But if the HRC’s internal e-mails showed a conspiracy to flout the law and persecute me – well, that’s a whole different story than just an insult or two, isn’t it?
That’s civil suit time – maybe even criminal prosecution time.
That’s scandalous resignation time.
Which is why, when March 16th rolls around, something tells me the HRC will ask for yet another delay.
Or – surprise! – they’ll find that their computer server crashed, and all the e-mails were accidentally deleted.
Rule of law? That’s for the little people.
The Alberta HRC says it’s above the Charter of Rights – that’s how they convicted Rev. Stephen Boissoin for the crime of preaching. And now we know they think they’re above the province’s Freedom of Information laws, too.
Fire. Them. All.
Metro News -- the commuter newspaper with a circulation of nearly 1 million readers across Canada -- asked me to write an op-ed about the Parliamentary kerfuffle. I can't find it online, but they sent me a copy of it in a .pdf format, which you can read here.
It's pretty short -- as is the style of the newspaper. But I can sum it up even more briefly: the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition failed for three reasons:
1. Liberal partisans are fuelled by a deep personal antipathy towards Stephen Harper, so almost any scheme to get rid of him is justified in their minds. But the rest of the country isn't hyper-partisan and angry at the man.
2. The media, especially the Parliamentary Press Gallery, is hostile to Harper and sympathetic to the Liberals. That's partly ideological, and partly personal -- remember, the PPG even had a sort of "strike" against covering Harper a couple of years ago. Using the media as a "focus group" for a coup isn't a good barometer of public opinion.
3. The Liberals, NDP and the media are all numb to the shocking nature of the Bloc, with whom they've rubbed shoulders for 18 years on Parliament Hill. Normal Canadians aren't so cavalier -- again, something that the media sounding board missed.
Just my two bits -- what do you think?
My friend Peter Jaworski at the Western Standard has a thoughtful interview with Noam Chomsky (who calls himself a "libertarian socialist"). Here's their exchange about section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the censorship provision:
PJ: Speaking of censorship, what do make of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and section 13(1) in particular? Here's that section:
13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
I wonder if you have any thoughts on this particular section.
NC: I think it's outrageous, like the comparable European laws. It's also pure hypocrisy. If it were applied the media and journals would be shut down. They don't expose current enemies of the state to hatred or contempt?
PJ: About Canada's human rights act, you wrote: "I think it's outrageous, like the comparable European laws. It's also pure hypocrisy. If it were applied the media and journals would be shut down. They don't expose current enemies of the state to hatred or contempt?"
That last part may not be applicable in this case.
The law is specific about what groups cannot be exposed to hatred or contempt. Under the CHRA, you can't expose a person to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, pardoned criminal conviction (http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/
Maybe you could offer a bit of clarification about what you mean by "They don't expose current enemies of the state to hatred or contempt?"
NC: The provision of law that you sent me referred to "persons," not just a person. Hence groups. I think that was the legal basis for barring Rushdie's Satanic Verses briefly, until it was overturned. There are also other mechanisms, like the devious argument used to ban Zundel on grounds of incitement of race hatred that made him a security threat.
The media and journals are constantly exposing Arabs to hatred and contempt. And that's been consistent practice for years with regard to enemies of the state.
Chomsky drives me crazy. He makes Ralph Nader look like a right winger. But that's why I love him on section 13 -- because he's incontrovertible proof that the censorship provisions used by the Canadian Human Rights Commission are offensive to anyone on the political spectrum -- not just those on the right. As I've said before, the idea of censorship is anathema to anyone who believes in the idea of a spectrum of ideas at all, anyone who believes in the right to disagree. I'm constantly encouraged by liberals and left-wingers who still understand that -- and who are not distracted by the fact that, for the moment, the CHRC tends to pick on conservatives and Christians. Chomsky knows that the precedent used against conservatives can -- and will -- be used against liberals, too.
Last month, when I was on the free speech panel in Halifax, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv preceded me. She made a forceful case for freedom of speech, but she littered her remarks with anti-George Bush barbs. Usually, that makes me cringe. But in this case, I loved it -- I wish she had been wearing an Obama t-shirt. Because that's the point here: being for freedom of speech is not about being for freedom of only a certain kind of speech. It's for all speech. And having a lefty have at it -- and then me, on the right, batting clean-up -- was an effective demonstration of that.
It's why I say -- to the best of my ability! -- that the battle against section 13 in Parliament is (and must be) a bi-partisan affair. Luckily, we have good men like Keith Martin of the Liberals to help hold up that end of the spectrum in this debate.
My friend John sends me this story about a pending human rights case from Vancouver:
A former school-board candidate, Dr. Lakhbir Singh, says he will ask the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to rule on whether Vancouver’s at-large voting system is racist and illegal. In a December 3 phone interview with the Straight, Singh said he has been in e-mail and telephone contact with the tribunal, which administers the B.C. Human Rights Code.
In the November Vancouver civic election, Singh was one of six major-party candidates of South Asian descent who came last on their respective slates. After the Straight pointed out that Indo-Canadian candidates almost always come last on their slates in Vancouver, Singh decided to raise this matter with the tribunal.
Singh said that a staffer at the tribunal office told him over the phone that he could have a potential human-rights case, and passed along an application form. “I want to file a good complaint,” Singh said. “I don’t want to lose.”
Did you get that? Singh lost. It can't be because he wasn't the best candidate. It's because the people he seeks to represent are a bunch of racists. (I guess it's pretty clear he's not going to be running again, trash-talking his would-be constituents that way.)
How about a reality check? According to Statistics Canada, more than 40% of Vancouverites are visible minorities. The province has had a Sikh premier, has a Sikh justice minister, and has had a series of visible minority lieutenant governors. Its MPs are a rainbow of colours. (UPDATE: A commenter reminds me that the city's last mayor, Sam Sullivan, has been wheelchair-bound since he was 19. Those bigoted Vancouver voters!) Yet because some loser couldn't win a seat on a school board, he's crying racism. More than that, he wants the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to rig the system so he won't lose again.
Of course, it's a slam dunk. Not only will this whiny political loser get his day in kangaroo court, but I'm certain he'll win. You'll have a handful of unelected, unaccountable, political radicals overturning the will of hundreds of thousands of voters -- almost of half of whom are minorities themselves. If they don't vote the right way, they'll be told how to vote.
Hey! Why didn't Stephane Dion think of this! He could have complained to the Canadian Human Rights Commission about his loss too! Voters can be so ungrateful to their moral and intellectual superiors!
The Nobel Prize winner for literature, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, made an interesting statement in Stockholm, where he's picking up his prize this week. According to this report, Le Clezio said:
Who knows, if the Internet had existed at the time, perhaps Hitler's criminal plot would not have succeeded - ridicule might have prevented it from ever seeing the light of day.
It's a persuasive theory, and one that Ken McVay puts into practice every day. McVay runs the enormous website called Nizkor, that rebuts anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial conspiracy theories through arguments and documentation. McVay isn't as famous -- or as well paid -- as the Official Jews who prefer Internet censorship to the tougher task of actually rebutting anti-Semites. But he probably turns around more minds than they do, and he certainly does less damage to our civil liberties.
Le Clezio's theory is that information is power -- again, not a novel theory. And putting information into the hands of millions (or billions) of people is the first step to fighting against tyranny. I think that Le Clezio has an excellent real-time example, by the way, in China, where 20+ million bloggers, many of them anonymous, are the de facto "opposition" to the Communist government, exposing corruption, police abuses, torture and other heinous facts, even for just a few hours before the Internet censors there can react.
But who knows? Le Clezio is just a Nobel Prize winner. On the other side of the argument is Pearl Eliadis, who has made a healthy income off of the human rights racket for many years. And, unlike Le Clezio, Eliadis has actually coined a new word: "hatemongererer". Mr. Fancy Pants Nobel Prize Guy can't top that kind of intellectual horsepower, can he?
It seems as though Stephane Dion's cave-cam performance last week will hasten his departure from Stornoway by several months. Word is that the Liberal Party met Sunday night to discuss ways of heaving him overboard in advance of the scheduled party leadership convention, now set for May 2009 in Vancouver.
One idea is a speedy vote, wherein party members could participate from afar, such as through the Internet. Fair enough -- though it does change the rules of the leadership race, half-way through. The other way being bruited is for a simple vote of the 77 Liberal MPs -- a group in which Michael Ignatieff is said to have a significant lead over rival Bob Rae.
Advocates of this latter approach have a sense of consistency to them. These were the same MPs who felt that they, as MPs, were a better judge of who ought to be Canada's prime minister than the general electorate who voted just seven weeks ago. After all, if Stephen Harper didn't have the confidence of Parliament, how could he be prime minister? The same could apply to the selection of leader of the opposition, of course. Who should make that decision -- ordinary, run-of-the-mill Liberals, or the enlightened Parliamentary elite? If they could get together to choose Canada's prime minister, surely they can get together to choose their own party leader. The logic is impeccable.
All of this seems to have perturbed Bob Rae, who lashes out against it on his blog tonight. He calls it undemocratic -- true, that! And while he's at it, he points out that such a process would ignore the West, where the Liberals have nearly no MPs; it would ignore young people, women, and other groups not represented in caucus. True, again! Why, I'm taking a liking to this Rae fellow!
Here's his complaint:
Don’t Let Your Right to Vote be taken Away
All weekend, I’d been hearing rumors about this, but today I was really surprised to read press reports about various MPs moving for an immediate vote to elect our Leader next Wednesday, in the Commons caucus.
I thought I’d seen a lot of politics over 30 years of public service, but this one really came from left field.
The idea of taking away the vote from tens of thousands of grassroots activists in every part of Canada, and reducing the franchise to just 76 men and women seems so out-of-step with the modern world. It makes you shake your head. Here’s just a quick, off-the-cuff list of things that struck me as wrong about this idea:
The activist base of the party would be unable to vote. As an MP, I’m enormously and profoundly grateful to the volunteers who sustain my political career in my riding. I cannot imagine rewarding their tireless work by removing their say in the leadership.
Significant portions of the country that didn’t elect a Liberal MP would be unable to participate. What about the voice of rural Liberals, of almost all of Western Canada, of Quebeckers outside Montreal? All of these folks would be silenced.
What about the Senate? These great Liberals, distinguished Canadians from inside and outside of politics, would have their votes taken away after lifetimes of service.
What about the Party Constitution? The party is preparing a perfectly viable, constitutionally valid plan for holding a one-member-one-vote ballot electronically in mid-January. That’s just a few weeks away, and gives us time to prepare for the Conservative budget. It’s timely, legal, workable, low-cost, and constitutional.
It’s up to us to put a stop to this hasty, ill-considered idea for electing our leader. I am raising my voice publicly for your right to vote. Please help me by raising yours as well.
Here's a great essay in today's Financial Post about John Milton. I knew some great things about him -- especially about his argument for freedom of the press, published in a pamphlet titled Areopagitica, which you can read here.
Here's an excerpt from the Post's essay, written by Robert Sibley:
"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." To be sure, as scholar Daniel Sullivan observes, Milton initially expresses a willingness to suppress writing that is atheistic, blasphemous, treasonous or scandalous but, by the end of the essay, he suggests that even these concerns might not justify censorship.
I received this essay via e-mail from Link Byfield, one of Alberta's elected, but as yet un-appointed, Senators. I can't find it on his website, so I'll just reprint the whole e-mail here.
I think he's right to compare this putsch to the Charlottetown Accord, which the establishment and media supported, but the grassroots did not.
He's right, also, when he says that Liberals and NDP thought they'd get away with it, and the reason is that, psychologically, they still think they're entitled to govern, and the means of achieving that power is unimportant to them. (When Gilles Duceppe asked Stephane Dion what went wrong with his cave-cam video delay, Dion supposedly answered by saying the Liberals were not used to being in opposition. That's an excuse, not an answer; it might even have been an attempt at humour. But, uttered as spontaneously as it was, it surely had a grain of truth to it: the Liberals think they're just months away from a restoration of their dynasty, and this Conservative hiatus will soon be remedied.)
Here's Link's essay:
Canada changed this past week. We grew up a little.
The political crisis is over. It ended yesterday, when two national polls showed that by a margin of two to one, Canadians want Harper to govern, and will give him a majority if he is defeated.
The coup failed.
The proposed parliamentary coalition of Liberals, NDP and Bloc was made possible and driven forward by a longstanding assumption among many, many Liberals that they – and they alone – have the right to rule Canada.
It was this assumption of divine right that drew the Liberals into the deadly embrace of the NDP and the Bloc, neither of which they think threatens them, and this assumption that puts heat but not light into their endless demonizing of Prime Minister Harper, and which (in their minds at least) justifies all their lies.
Yes, lies. The coalition was built on a whole series of whoppers that were so obvious even Canadians could see them.
The first and most obvious was that the Bloc Quebecois was not part of the coalition. If it wasn’t, why was Gilles Duceppe (literally) in the picture?
The second was that the Bloc is not really a separatist party – or that if it is, it doesn’t matter. Most Canadians could see that a Quebec-first, Quebec-only party would have a chokehold on national affairs for as long as this new government wanted to survive.
The third whopper was that two-thirds of Canadians had voted for the coalition. No, they didn’t. Nobody did. In fact Dion promised in the campaign he would never coalesce with the NDP, much less the Bloc.
The fourth was that the Canadian economy is in a “tailspin.” It isn’t. The fifth was that Harper had “no plan.” He does, and they already know what it is. The sixth was that Harper would not compromise or co-operate; he was doing both, and they were refusing. The seventh was that their new government would be more stable than the present one; it wouldn’t.
Dion, the putative prime minister, is not just a political lame duck, he is a dead duck. The two strongest contenders to replace him hate each other, threatening to split the party. The putative deputy prime minister, Layton, leads a party that has for seventy years mocked and reviled the Liberals as sell-outs. And the Bloc could be counted on to sink the government the moment any new prime minister showed signs of popularity in Quebec.
And how did Canadians react to all this?
Pollster Ipsos Reid found that 72% of Canadians were genuinely alarmed by what was happening in Parliament, 68% supported the decision of the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until January 26, and 62% said they were “angry” about the coalition destabilizing the government. Ipsos, supported by almost identical numbers from Ekos, found that if an election were held now, 46% would vote Tory, 23% Liberal and 13% NDP. This puts the Tories up 8 points, the Liberals down 3 and the NDP down 5 from the October election, and would deliver a large majority to the Conservatives.
Moreover, 59% told Ipsos they consider Harper a better economic leader than Dion and the coalition, 60% said they opposed changing the government, and 56% said they would prefer a second election. As for Harper’s unforgivable sin of proposing to terminate Chretien’s direct government funding of political parties, 61% of Canadians agree with it. (Details of the Ipsos Reid poll at http://www.ipsos-na.com/news/pressrelease.cfm?id=4201)
All of which fully vindicates the prime minister. His only mistake – one I’m sure he will never repeat – was to believe a Liberal promise that they would never join with others to take power. Live and learn. The danger now is less that Harper will lose the government, it’s that he will start imagining he’s bullet-proof.
In any case, barring a political lightening strike somewhere, the insurrection is over. Even if the opposition coalition survives long enough to defeat the budget in January, the chances of which now appear remote, I’d give even odds the Governor General would dissolve Parliament and call an election.
Should we be surprised? Well, I am. The opposition pressed all the usual hot and cold buttons – liberal compassion, co-operation and unity, as against harsh conservative hostility, divisiveness and Quebec-bashing – and for once, most Canadians aren’t buying it.
In a way, it reminds me of the Charlottetown referendum in 1992. You may recall how almost everyone with any power or prestige, from politicians to pundits to entertainers, berated Canadians to vote in favour of a constitutional deal, and they didn’t. They voted no.
This was another of those moments.
Like Charlottetown, it was a painful crash course in constitutionalism – and we passed.
As Harper once liked to say, God bless Canada.
I looked at the EKOS poll yesterday; the Ipsos and COMPAS polls are even more dramatic.
Here is a link to detailed tables of poll results from Ipsos. If you have ten minutes, they're a fascinating read. I really like how Ipsos described the coalition before it asked voters to comment on it -- it mentioned that the Bloc was part of it (which many media still refuse to do); but it noted that the Bloc would not have cabinet seats -- the Liberals and NDP would. And Ipsos noted that, under our constitution, this was indeed legal. Pretty balanced question.
The key numbers are the party voting intention numbers. If the election were held today, the Tories would get 46%, the Liberals 23% and the NDP 13%. In the West, the numbers are huge, of course -- 72% for the Tories in Alberta. But it's also 50% in Ontario and 48% in the Atlantic provinces. That's panic time for Liberal MPs -- that's a majority out of English Canada seats alone.
65% of Ontarians oppose the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition; only 32% support it. Again, that's three parties (Liberal, NDP, Green) fighting over a third of the vote (plus the Bloc in Quebec) versus the Tories fishing for that 65% on their own.
66% of Ontarians say the Tories should fight this putsch.
And a stunning 67% of Ontarians are opposed to Stephane Dion becoming prime minister -- the majority of them "strongly opposed".
(I'm focusing on Ontario numbers, because they're the most interesting. Of course the Western numbers are higher still.)
My favourite result, though is on page 9 of the poll. It goes to the policy proposal that caused this whole constitutional crisis in the first place: Harper's proposal to end taxpayer subsidies to political parties. 61% of Canadians support Harper's proposal; only 36% don't. In Ontario, the numberas are 64% to 32%. Even in Quebec, a majority of people want the subsidies scrapped.
Ipsos also asks who's best to manage the economy: Harper's Conservatives or Dion's coalition. No surprise here. Canadians choose Harper, 59% to 33%. Ontarians are even more lopsided: they're for Harper, 66% to 26%.
69% of Ontarians are "angry" at Dion and the coalition -- 2/3 of those are "very angry".
If I were a Liberal, I'd be doing everything in my power to scupper this coalition.
COMPAS's numbers are just as interesting. You can see them in detail here. 69% of Canadians would want another election if Harper wanted it -- amazing, considering we just had an election two months ago. Even most Quebeckers agree.
For the basic "who would you vote for?" question, the Tories would sweep every region except Quebec, but there they would run just three points back of the Bloc.
I love the question on page 5: when COMPAS asked Canadians if they thought the Liberal putsch was based on an honest belief that Harper was a bad economic manager, or whether it was just a plain old power grab by the opposition, Canadians saw it as a power grab, by a 54% to 28% margin, even steeper in Ontario.
Some more Ontario-only numbers: 71% think it's wrong for separatists to choose our Prime Minister; 66% think it's wrong for the Liberals to presume to be government, after a shellacking in the polls; 60% think the coalition are trying to cheat voters.
Page 7 has a doozy; I'll paste a snapshot of the chart right here.
It asks voters who they trust most to run the economy and Parliament -- Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Jack Layton, or Gilles Duceppe. Again, Ontario numbers only: Harper 53%, Ignatieff 8%, Dion 9%. Ouch.
That's a lot of numbers. There is some variation amongst the EKOS, COMPAS and Ipsos polls, but they all tell the same story: Canadians are furious about the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. They see it as a power grab. They see it as undemocratic. And they see it as an unacceptable pact with the Bloc. It's a heartening reminder that the Parliamentary Press Gallery's visceral dislike for Harper and the Conservatives is not representative of Canadians in general.
The press gallery finds Harper more offensive than Duceppe or Dion, they think undoing the results of the general election is democratically acceptable; and they think handing over the reins of the economy to a socialist, a separatist and a lame duck Liberal preferable than a conservative economist. Canadians don't.
What do you do with a disaster like Stephane Dion's cave-cam fiasco?
You sack a videographer who was given 25 minutes to tape a 20-minute clip, because the brain trust was re-writing his speech hours after they were supposed to be done. According to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:
On Friday, Liberal sources said, [Johanne Senecal, Dion's chief of staff] moved to fire Mick Gzowski, the party’s veteran videographer.
She did that although he didn’t have enough time to professionally produce the video because Mr. Dion’s inner circle did not finish the text of his speech in time, Liberal staffers say.
"They gave the video guys 25 minutes to shoot 20 minutes worth of video," a veteran Liberal staffer said.
An investigation will show the video crew isn’t to blame, the staffer said.
"Email traffic will show they were screwing around with text hours later than they should have been."
Ms. Senecal could not be reached for comment Friday. She was motivated to fire Mr. Gzowski, one staffer said, because the Liberal caucus was looking for blood.
A staffer said Mr. Dion and his team have lost the confidence not only of the Liberal caucus but also of Liberal staff.
"I am a f---ing Liberal and I don’t think they’re competent enough to run the government," the staffer said.
I don't know if Gzowski is the same Liberal staffer who did Dion's video diaries during the election campaign. I have to confess, I rather liked those, and I wish the Conservatives had done the same. They were lively, energetic, well-edited, mercifully brief, entertaining and they came about as close as possible to turning a sow's ear into a silk purse.
Oh well. Gzowski shouldn't be too upset about being scapegoated. He'll probably get a quiet severance package. And, really: everyone from Dion's office, including Senecal, has about a month left of employment anyways before the whole office is, uh, retired. Gzowski at least has a head start over the others for finding a new job.
I've paid close attention to the spin that supporters of the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition have been using over the past week. It has evolved; the new line is that it's "divisive" to point out that the coalition contains 49 avowed Quebec separatists. Here's the NDP's Ed Broadbent, for example.
Just stop and savour that amazing line. It's like an Escher drawing, isn't it?
The separatists are divisive by definition -- they literally want to divide Canada. Their explicit mission is to undo Canada, to remove Quebec from Confederation. And they make up a third of the coalition's manpower -- without which the coalition wouldn't have the numbers to unseat the Conservatives.
For the first time in Canadian history, the separatists have been invited into government -- and have been granted not only a veto over budgets and other confidence matters, but also the right to choose Canada's prime minister.
But! But if you mention that, if you call separatists by their own name that is divisive! That is dangerous to national unity!
Here's how Escher would draw that argument:
This isn't just the spin from the Liberals and NDP. It's an argument taken up by much of the media. For just one example, here's CTV's Antonia Maioni making that weird point.
So separatists joining the government -- with a veto -- aren't the danger. Mentioning that, blowing the whistle on that -- that's the danger.
I note that neither Broadbent nor Maioni nor any of the others pushing this line had similar criticisms of the actual separatists who were cheering the coalition as a tool for separation, like Jacques Parizeau did last week.
This is very odd.
Part of it is Stockholm Syndrome -- people like Maioni who live in Montreal, and are just tired of fighting against separatists, and want to appease them to make the pain stop.
Part of it is familiarity and numbness. The Parliamentary Press Gallery, like the rest of the country, was genuinely shocked when the Bloc Quebecois debuted in 1990. But over the last 18 years, the Bloc has become comfortably familiar, like furniture or wallpaper. The media sees them every day, talks with them, dines with them, even befriends them. So when a Liberal-NDP-Bloc deal is signed, it's no big deal to the press gallery. By contrast, normal Canadians, who haven't yet become desensitized to the Bloc's audacious agenda, are still shocked.
Finally, it's a sign that, especially for the far left (like Broadbent, Dion, Rae, etc.), the ends justify the means. They will abandon their opposition to separatism in return for power. They find Stephen Harper more offensive than they do Gilles Duceppe -- in other words, they find moderate conservatism more offensive than the proposed disintegration of Canada.
It is a great discredit to the NDP and Liberals.
And Canadians aren't buying it.
The Liberals and NDP deserve the shellacking they're receiving in the polls.
And the Bloc? Well, they're being honest about their goals. They haven't betrayed their ideals. I bet they're more popular at home than ever.
Here is the new EKOS poll (.pdf) of 1,502 Canadians. I flipped through it and found these details interesting:
1. 60% of Canadians think that Stephane Dion should resign -- including 53% of Liberal voters. (I think that number would be even higher if it were a secret poll of the Liberal Parliamentary caucus.)
We know the Liberals don't think Dion is up for the job of leading the Liberals -- they pressured him to resign in the spring. So why is he good enough, in the caucus's judgment, to lead Canada?
2. Look at the voter intention stats on page 10. The Tories are at 42.2% nationally, compared to 23.6% for the Liberals. But look at Ontario: the Tories are at 46.6% and the Liberals are under 30. If you were a Liberal MP in Ontario -- other than, say, Bob Rae in Toronto Centre -- would you really vote non-confidence in Stephen Harper in January, if that meant a real chance of another election?
Take Joe Volpe, just for example. He's the Liberal MP from Eglinton Lawrence, which is a little further north than mid-town Toronto, but still south of Highway 401. The telephone area code is still 416.
In 2004, Volpe received a whopping 60% of the vote, 35% ahead of the Conservatives. In 2006 his vote declined to 53%, 23% ahead of the Tories. And this election, his vote fell again to 44% -- and the Conservative candidate, Joe Oliver, was just 2,000 votes behind, at 39%.
If you were Volpe, would you really vote non-confidence in Harper, and go to the polls -- perhaps under Dion -- in this political climate?
3. EKOS says Harper's bounce in the polls is easing off, and that, outside of his base, there is little appetite for him. I find those conclusions hard to justify; they seem like spin to downplay Harper's strength. He is 6% higher than he was in the election, and both of his national competitors are down. In a four party system (five including the Greens), it's extremely difficult to get 50% of the vote -- the last Canadian prime minister to do so was Brian Mulroney in 1984, who received 50.03% of the vote. But that was enough (in a three party system) to give him a record-breaking 211 seats. Jean Chretien's three majority government were won with 41.2%, 38.5% and 40.9%.
EKOS's numbers are more modest than other pollsters, such as COMPAS, which shows the Tories at more than 50%. Any way you slice it, though, it's a disaster for the opposition.
Since Monday, Liberal and NDP MPs have been bombarded with angry phone calls and e-mails from constituents. You can see that -- they're a bit shell-shocked when they're asked about it by journalists. I think to an interview Mike Duffy did with B.C. NDP MP Peter Julian, who admitted that he has been swamped, but ascribed those calls to nefarious "Albertans", not his own constituents. Others have been using the word "astroturf" -- as in fake grassroots, not real grassroots.
Here are the latest poll numbers -- I've never seen such a cataclysmic change in such a short period of time. The Conservatives have literally jumped 10 to 20 points in a week. Here are the numbers in three polls, as reported by Bourque:
COMPAS: CPC 51, LPC 20, NDP 10, BQ 8, GPC 6
Ipsos: CPC 46, LPC 23, NDP 13, BQ 9, GPC 8
Ekos: CPC 44, LPC 24, NDP 15, BQ 9, GPC 8
Astroturf? Nice try. That's beautiful, natural green, green grass -- a sign that Canadians don't abide undemocratic putschs, done with the aid of Quebec separatists.
According to a massive national poll taken by Leger Marketing, 60% of Canadians oppose having the Bloc hold the balance of power in the proposed Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition, and that number rises to 70% outside of Quebec. You can read more analyis here, or see Leger's release itself, here.
It's not just that the overwhelming majority of Canadians are against this separatist coalition. Most of them are very much against it -- they're revved up about it.
Gentle reader, try some empathy. How would you feel if you were a Liberal (or NDP) Member of Parliament from Ontario, who had won his seat by, say, 5%. According to the poll, 64% of Ontarians are concerned about the Bloc's role -- only 31% say they're not.
In that generic Ontario riding, you've got three parties chasing that 31% -- the Liberals, NDP and the Greens. And you've got the Conservatives all by itself, fishing in the 64% pond. Those kind of numbers would mean Tory victories in Toronto proper.
And we're just three days into this thing.
The rallies haven't started yet.
The town halls haven't started yet.
We've only just begun to hear the irritating crowing of the Bloc Quebecois and their provincial equivalents.
Stephane Dion doesn't care -- he knows he'll be fired in May by his own party.
But there are 76 other Liberal MPs who still think they might have a political future.
If they thought losing their party's government subsidy would hurt them, how about having their core identity as the party of national unity being destroyed?
I don't spend a lot of time on the Liberal Party's home page, but this chat room -- on the party's official website -- was a startling read. The official subject was Stephane Dion's cave-cam performance last night. But Liberals also touched on the folly of the coalition, and the dangers of Dion's leadership itself. It was rougher on the party's direction than even the Blogging Tories website! Here are a few snippets, but you really should skim the whole thing:
I didn't think Harper said what he needed to say........but now it does not matter.
The Liberals screwed up just about everything they could screw up. They where late with the tapes, and the video was surely done by a grade eight student who was doing a school project.
.....and Dion wants Canadians to consider him instead of Harper. Dion also said Harper had to go before the house before he goes to the GG in his address. Quickly pointed out on national TV this was not correct.
Iggy has to jumping for joy in the background.
BTW........there are enough Liberal MP's that will side with Harper(just not show up to vote) now that Dion put the ring on the Blocs finger.
if the government does not have the support of its people they have nothing. I really don't believe Dion has the support of the people and now that he has tied the knot with the Bloc....
I know how our system works so don't lecture me on it. If the GG does not give Harper what he wants it will lead to further instability. Not good for Canada and the GG will see this. I bet she gives everyone a break until Jan and then lets see what happens.
If not......we are all in trouble.
This whole thing is just a huge, unstable mess. There is no resolution that is acceptable. We have a lame duck government that can't do anything or we get a new government that is perceived by a large portion of the country as illegitimate.
I think the only thing the GG can do is call a do-over and get us back to the polls. If we're serious about a coalition (WHY???) then let us run an election as one and become a real governing party with the plurality of seats in the commons.
This is just so ugly, thinking about it is making me sick.
I am one of the 62% quoted her and I do not appreciate having my vote being thrown around like this. I did not vote for the NDP and I did not vote for the Bloc because I do not agree with their agendas. I voted for the Liberal party because they are centrist-left and federalist. I don't know what this new chimera's going to look like but I do not like it, do not support it, and this precedent scares the hell out of me.
So if you're going to throw around that stat again please make it 62% - 1.
Here is the first Conservative TV ad on the subject. I haven't seen it air on TV, except as a clip in a news story, so I don't know if any money is actually being put behind it to air it widely. It's pretty simple, but it cuts straight to the point. I expect we'll see plenty more in the weeks ahead -- from serious productions to YouTube quickies.
I expect we'll see plenty of pro-coalition ads, too -- not paid for by the broke Liberal Party, but by Canada's massive labour unions, who are effectively prohibited from advertising during the writ period.
I'm sorry I can't find the video clip on CTV's excellent website, because if I could, I'd link to Mike Duffy's interview with Ted McWhinney today. I remember McWhinney as the former Liberal MP from Vancouver Quadra. Wikipedia is often unreliable, but I have to tell you his CV is pretty awesome:
He has held professorships at Yale, the Sorbonne, Toronto, McGill, Indiana, College de France, and at the Meiji University in Tokyo. He has been a legal consultant to the United Nations; constitutional adviser to the Premier of Ontario and to the Premier of Quebec; chief adviser to the Canadian government's Task Force on National Unity (the Pepin-Robarts Commission); Royal Commissioner of Enquiry to the Government of Quebec; Special Commissioner of Enquiry for the Government of British Columbia; special adviser to the Canadian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, as well as constitutional and international law adviser to a number of foreign governments.
The author of 24 books (two of them in French and one in German), editor of 11 symposium volumes, and author of several hundred scientific articles, he is the first jurist from Canada to be elected to the century-old Institut de Droit International. He has been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and is a member of the Institut Grand-Ducal of Luxembourg, and of the Académie Internationale de Droit Comparé in Paris.
In other words, he has more expertise in constitutional law than any of the professors of political science who have been opining on the political crisis in Ottawa this past week.
I'll try to remember to put up the exact transcript of McWhinney's remarks when Infomart transcribes the show. But until then, here are excerpts from them, from a story on CTV's website:
Ted McWhinney, a lawyer, former Liberal MP and constitutional expert, told CTV's Mike Duffy Live that Jean does not need to give Harper an answer right away and should talk with a number of advisers.
He also said Jean needs to weigh public opinion on the matter.
"Public opinion is about 50 per cent of constitutional law," McWhinney said Wednesday. "The common sense element is crucial in these things.
McWhinney said there "is a heavy burden" on the opposition to prove that they can form a stable coalition government.
He said it's important for the opposition to put an agreement down on paper, like they have already done, but said the agreement needs to be signed by the Bloc Quebecois in addition to the Liberals and NDP.
McWhinney called the current agreement as is "unsatisfactory."
The Conservatives had planned to deliver their budget on Jan. 27 -- a plan now seen as tenuous.
I'll be candid: when I saw Duff interviewing McWhinney, I thought "here comes more Liberal spin" -- since McWhinney served seven years as a Liberal. No chance -- he pointed out quite convincingly the common sense reasons why Gov-Gen. Jean could refuse the coalition -- including the strange proposition that the identity of the prime minister will only be known for a few months. That's not exactly the definition of stability!
It's fascinating reading about the Liberals and NDP discuss their foreign policy plans for their coup. Too bad Embassy Magazine didn't interview the third part of the coalition -- the Bloc. You know, the ones with the veto.
We learn that the free trade agreement with Colombia "would be taken off the table" for -- get this -- human rights abuses. The three parties that salivate over Communist China -- and chide Stephen Harper for even mentioning human rights with that dictatorship -- would cancel free trade with a democracy in our own hemisphere that is battling against narco-terrorists and insurgents backed by Hugo Chavez.
Why am I not surprised?
My favourite, though, is the Liberal-NDP-Bloc ability to marry self-righteousness and irrelevance in new ways -- such as their focus on the Congo. Dear God, what Canadian interests do we have there, compared to America, Europe, Afghanistan, etc.? Nothing -- and that's the point. The Liberal-NDP-Bloc foreign policy isn't about doing anything -- for us, or for others. It's about patting ourselves on the back for being morally superior than anyone else.
One last point about their focus on banning certain munitions (such as landmines). As I mentioned in this review I wrote of a book written by Michael Byers, an NDP foreign affairs adviser and candidate in the last election, Canada did indeed sign the international landmines treaty -- and even took a leadership role in producing the treaty.
But then (under the Liberals, when Lloyd Axworthy himself was Foreign Minister), Canada put a proviso on its signature: Canada would allow other nations to use landmines to protect us.
So we signed the treaty, swearing off landmines. And we issued countless statements condemning the Americans for not signing it.
But since we were going to Afghanistan, we made sure those bloodthirsty yanks could lay the landmines for us.
They did the "unethical" work for us. We took care of the self-righteousness.
Welcome to the foreign affairs future under the coup.
I can hardly wait to hear their
Israel Palestine policy. I'm guessing it'll start with a trip to the Durban II conference.
P.S. To be clear, our troops in Afghanistan do difficult and important work -- and pay a disproportionately heavy price in terms of casualties compared to even the U.S. They're heroes.
My point is that Liberal politicians publicly preened about being too dainty to use weapons that our allies must use for us. That's Liberal-NDP-Bloc foreign policy.
UPDATE: I forgot about this doozy:
It's important, when staging a coup d'etat, to have a charismatic leader -- someone to inspire the masses, and to connect so strongly with the people, that their emotions cause them to ignore constitutional norms and go with their hearts.
He has to be a natural communicator. A powerful speaker. A motivator.
People should be calling out "yes!" and "damn right!" when they hear him speak.
And when he's done, they should be saying, "let's march!"
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Maximum Leader of the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition, el jefe, Stephane Dion:
Seriously, though. Putting aside his struggles with the language, what's with the webcam action? Or was that a cell phone camera?
I do like the setting, though: books titled "365 Jours" and "Hot Air" seem about right.
How many takes were discarded before this Oscar-worthy performance was settled on? I'm guessing a baker's dozen. Remember, it took Dion three tries to come up with this eloquence during the campaign:
I know, I know. That's not fair. It's not izzy talking about the economy. And anyone who picks on him is obviously an anti-deaf bigot.
I couldn't help but think of Alec Baldwin in this classic scene from 30 Rock. Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy, has to tape a quick corporate video:
Jack finally nailed it -- but it took more than 100 takes, over five days. Dion only had one day.
Dion was supposed to come on right after Harper's speech tonight. For some reason, unlike Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, Dion didn't deliver his remarks live -- odd, considering they were supposed to be a response to Harper's speech that Dion had obviously not yet seen.
I was watching TV, and didn't understand the excruciating delay, until it dawned on me what must have happened: the tape was done, but then Gilles Duceppe insisted on exercising his droit de seigneur, as guaranteed by the terms of his coalition: He didn't approve of Dion's speech, and was making him revise it.
That's my theory. The Liberal war-room thought that a better idea would be to give the "not a leader" sub-story some more legs by pushing out this detailed blueprint of a first-class screw-up. (I'm sticking with my theory.)
Alphée Moreau, a senior Liberal communication staffer, explained how the series of technical mistakes of their part resulted in an embarrassing snafu.
The timeline (all times ET):
- 6:15-6:30 - The Liberal miss their promised deadline to deliver Dion's statement to the television networks.
- 6:40 - Liberal arrive with a single tape at the press gallery in Ottawa. They were supposed to deliver two tapes, one in French, one in English. They arrived with a single tape in DVD-minicam format, which is not a broadcast quality format.
- Shortly after 6:40 - The Liberals decide to run back to their offices -- a block away -- because the French portion of the tape needs another edit.
- 7:05 - Liberal staffers were still in their offices as the networks went to air with the Harper address.
- 7:07 - Harper's statement finishes and network anchors are forced to kill time as they wait for Dion's address.
- 7:10 to 7:15 - Liberal staffers arrive back at the press gallery on Wellington Street with a DVD-minicam player that they had taken from their own offices, along with the associated cables. There is still only one tape, not two. A press gallery official tells the Liberals that the gallery is not the feed point and an argument ensues. The Liberals ask why they weren't told that earlier. The feed point is next door at the CBC building, which is the long-established feed play point for all network pools. The Liberals are informed that they need to be walked into the building by authorized staff.
- 7:20 - English network anchors are still live on television, wondering where the tape is. CTV has still had no communications from the Liberals about Dion's address.
- Approximately 7:15 - CBC receives tape and begins dubbing into French and English versions. This takes about 10 minutes.
- 7:28 - CTV decides to go off-air and back to regular scheduled programming at 7:30. CTV has still not seen a feed of the tape.
- 7:28 - CBC incorrectly punches out the finished feed only to their network.
- 7:30 - CTV signs off broadcast at scheduled time.
"We missed our deadline," Moreau said. "The shot was not all that professional. It was soft-focused."
Frank Valeriote does not favour a coalition government and instead hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper can work toward rescuing the Canadian economy.
“I believe in working toward a solution, not working toward a coalition,” Guelph’s Liberal MP said Wednesday.
Valeriote added he does not believe a Liberal-NDP coalition, with support from the Bloc Quebecois, will unseat the Tories.
“I have given no thought to that,” Valeriote said when asked whether he saw himself in a cabinet role under such an arrangement. “I am not, frankly, anticipating moving into government.”
Pretty simple, really.
Until now, it's just been party elders, ranging from Frank McKenna to John Manley to Sarkis Assadourian to Ray Heard who have spoken against it. Valeriote is the first Liberal in the caucus -- someone who could, theoretically, be "punished" by Stephane Dion for his dissidence and, contrapositively, someone who is removing himself from the pork and patronage queue that Dion has offered as temptations. (Elizabeth May, by contrast, has elbowed herself to the front of the line in her hopes of becoming a senator. Of course she has; unlike Valeriote, May doesn't have to maintain her constituents' support. She has none to begin with.)
I expect Valeriote will be the first of many, now that the taboo is broken.
I have noted previously that Michael Ignatieff has been curiously quiet on the Bloc coalition. He has not spoken against it, but neither has he been a cheerleader for it. I think he predicted early on what other MPs are learning from their constituency offices empirically: inviting the Bloc Quebecois into government is just as repulsive to liberal Canadians as it is to Conservatives, at least in English Canada. If an election were held on this matter, coalition MPs would be crushed.
I sense some of this fear trickling back to Ottawa. I watched with great interest as Mike Duffy interviewed Keith Martin and Peter Julian, Liberal and NDP MPs from British Columbia. Both conceded to Duff that their offices had indeed received a large number of critical phone calls -- they wouldn't acknowledge how many -- and they seemed chastened. Their talk was conciliatory, not bellicose; they spoke of economic recovery and cooperation -- none of the attack language that we've heard from Dion lately. True, they tried to write off some of the criticism they've received as "astroturf" -- that is, fake grassroots. But I think that was just for show -- the two of them sounded concerned.
I've always liked Martin -- he's one of my heroes in the fight for freedom of speech. He won his election by less than 100 votes over his Conservative opponent. Peter Julian had a more comfortable margin of victory. But, gentle reader, do you really think either wants to explain to their voters why they abided Quebec separatists? Not just that, but why they transfered political power, en masse, from loyal British Columbians to separatist Quebeckers -- further disenfranchising B.C., which is already under-represented, in terms of MPs in Parliament? Dion doesn't care -- he knows he'll only be prime minister for a short while; his career is over. But young MPs like Martin and Julian aren't done yet. They still have to meet their voters again.
This helps to explain, I think, why Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not as contrite and compromising as the sages in the Parliamentary Press Gallery all predicted he would be in his remarks tonight. Like Valeriote, Martin, Julian and even Ignatieff, he knows how this is going over in the "rest of Canada". He didn't want a constitutional crisis; he withdrew the several most controversial items from his suite of legislative proposals after 48 hours of intense push-back from the Opposition.
On Monday, we had the engagement -- a betrothal, whereby the Liberals, NDP and Bloc offered eachother political matrimony. The consummation of that marriage will not take place until the non-confidence vote on Monday -- or later, if Parliament prorogues. But even before the honeymoon, it looks like some in this trio are already calling up divorce lawyers.
A few more quick thoughts on the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coup d’etat:
- Western premiers are understandably upset by the undemocratic shift of power from Western, Conservative voters to Quebec separatist voters – and the money that will follow the same route. But Danny Williams? He should be delighted, shouldn’t he? He campaigned for “Anything But Conservatives” in the election. Now he has Everything But Conservatives – everything including radical Quebec chauvinists. Politically, that always works out for Newfoundland, right?
- Pierre Bourque is reporting that Michael Ignatieff is having cold feet about the putsch. I don’t doubt it – I bet a lot more MPs than just Ignatieff are. Bourque lists some other names, and on CTV I saw Sarkis Assadourian, a recently retired Liberal MP from Toronto, tell Mike Duffy that the coalition is very unpopular in his party circles – and something that Pierre Trudeau would have opposed. Question: how many more Liberals will bolt the coalition once Jacques Parizeau, the former Parti Quebecois premier and poster boy for irritating separatists, heartily endorses it tomorrow?
- But Parizeau is being honest. This deal is obviously good for the Bloc – most obviously in that it gets to choose Canada’s prime minister. If you were a Quebec separatist, would you rather have Stephane Dion – a weak, unpopular, lame-duck prime minister, despised by his own party, and unable to get any serious electoral purchase outside of Montreal proper? Or Stephen Harper, a tough cookie who is the only serious competitor for Francophone votes in Quebec? Even if the Bloc didn’t also secure Senate seats, billions of dollars of payola and countless yet-to-be-revealed prizes, they’re still winners. Parizeau is simply being candid.
- It’s the Liberal MPs who will panic in the wake of Parizeau’s endorsement who are dishonest. They know that the Bloc’s allegiance (ha!) was purchased dearly, with power and treasure purloined from the rest of Canada. They don’t need to read Parizeau’s comments tomorrow to know that. All that’s happening is that, like Ignatieff, they’re starting to realize that their deal with the devil might sell well to a dejected, bankrupt praetorian guard of the Liberal party and caucus, but it’s poisonous in the rest of the country – even in traditionally Liberal places like downtown Toronto. But mark this: it’s not the Bloc’s pay-off that will cause Liberals to panic. It’s that Canadians are finding out about that pay-off, about a week before they’re supposed to.
- Some Liberals aren't panicking -- they're just shaking their heads at the bluff and bravado that's been packed up by Dion's desperadoes. I point to John Manley, one of the most respected party elders around, who was touted by the Liberals as one of the "wise men" who will advise the coalition. Manley denied the report to the Globe and Mail today, hardly hiding his contempt for the deal, and the hucksterism behind it.
- The Liberal-NDP-Bloc coup is being covered in one of two ways by the media. The Parliamentary Press Gallery, in the main, is utterly supportive of it, trying desperately to shift attention away from the coup to purported “rifts” within the Conservative party, or trying to draw a parallel between Dion’s formal, written, binding contract with the Bloc – including secret pay-offs that we are now learning about – with Harper’s publicly-made, ad hoc cooperation with the Bloc on specific pieces of legislation, where no pay-offs were made or offered. (My favourite technique of this species of journalism is to call the coalition a “Liberal-NDP” coalition, instead of the “Liberal-NDP-Bloc” coalition. Of course, if it were just a Liberal-NDP coalition, it would only have 114 seats, not enough to dislodge Harper’s 143-seat Conservatives.)
- The other species of journalism, in the main, is that written by reporters who with sufficient distance from Parliament Hill that they can see things with some perspective – and they can listen to “severely normal” Canadians, not just others in the chattering class. These media reports show an overwhelming national disapproval of the coalition, for two obvious reasons: it’s a slap in the face to voters in the recent election, and it’s a treacherous allegiance with separatists. It really is that simple – it takes political experts to tell us the “nuances” of this story in a way that makes Harper the devil here, and Dion, Layton and Duceppe the nation-building angels.
- One obvious reason for this dichotomy in press coverage is that the Parliamentary Press Gallery has had a three-year war against Harper, which actually involved a sort of “strike” by journalists against covering him, and the ethically odd approach of journalists issuing public condemnations of Harper one day, and then “reporting” on him neutrally the next. Another reason is less conspiratorial: Parliamentary Press Gallery reporters are numb to the shocking nature of the Bloc Quebecois. After eighteen years of dealing with separatist MPs everyday, dining with them, talking with them, and even befriending them on a personal basis, I believe that many old Ottawa hands simply don’t see the problem with doing a deal with the Bloc, even such a formal, written contract as was done on Monday. That nonchalance is not shared by Canadians. And not just conservative Canadians who have a partisan sympathy for Harper and aversion to the opposition. The central principle – if there is one – of Liberals is that of national unity and federalism. In liberal enclaves like downtown Toronto (and Montreal!) the prospect of a separatist veto over Ottawa is repulsive – as much as in downtown Calgary or Vancouver.
- I have read a lot of interesting commentary on this matter, but my favourite has to be Andrew Coyne’s piece, here. He puts the whole political party subsidy into proper perspective, and Andrew – a federalist’s federalist – asks the right questions about the nature of this coalition.
- I note with dismay that the TSX stock exchange fell another 1% today, on top of yesterday’s staggering loss. That’s nearly 1,000 points in two days – we know what businessmen think of the prospect of Carbon Tax Stephane and Employers Tax Jack going into partnership with the Bloc – time to sell. Oh, and don’t tell me it was a global phenomenon; New York’s stock exchange climbed today. We might be suffering from a Made in the U.S.A. economic slowdown, but this is clearly a Made in Canada political crisis.
- Seriously: can you imagine what would happen financially if this coup succeeded? If Jim Flaherty, our delegate at the G8 and G20 financial stability meetings, was replaced on a political whim; if Layton’s $50 billion tax was implemented; if the risk of a carbon tax was revived? But that’s just the start. What do you think the entire country’s risk – not just the economic risk, but the risk of the country itself failing – would be if the separatists were given a veto over all significant affairs? I don’t know how such things are measured; perhaps it’s just some sort of holistic guess or sense of things, like the Doomsday Clock which measured the risk of nuclear war in terms of “minutes until midnight”. Other than the Parti Quebecois winning the election in Quebec, can you think of anything that would move that clock forward more towards secession than making Gilles Duceppe the senior partner of government?
- Enough about the Liberal and NDP support for Quebec separatism. What about Western separatism? Preston Manning arrested the nascent Western separatist movement twenty years ago with his alternative vision: “The West wants in”. Stephen Harper finally accomplished that vision, if barely, through a minority government. But a win is a win; and Harper certainly beat Dion, Layton and Duceppe.
- It’s one thing for the West to be disenfranchised fair and square – that could be borne, as it was by the West under the Reform Party when it lost in 1993, 1997 and even in 2000. But it’s quite a different thing to win – under rules that the other guys wrote – and then to have the win snatched away undemocratically, and through a deal with anti-Canada separatists. That’s not a sense of disappointment, which any party (or even region) feels when losing a game fairly. But when the game itself is rigged, when the rules are changed after the game is won, that’s a whole different matter. If the Liberal-NDP-Bloc putsch succeeds – and by succeeds, I mean succeed for more than a few months before a restoration of the Conservatives – then I believe that you will see a Western alienation that will rival that of the NEP. Well, that would suit the Bloc to a tee, wouldn’t it?
- I am optimistic today. I see the divide between the Parliamentary “community” – the Liberals and their base in the media on the one hand – and real Canadians on the other. The Liberals and their chorus in the media are just tickled pink with this coup. It’s their way of having a do-over of the last election; it’s their way of venting their pent-up distaste for Harper, Conservatives, and for some, even the West. But that’s not what normal Canadians think. And – thank goodness – it’s not even what normal Canadian Liberal voters think. They’re shocked that the party that once gored Jacques Parizeau is now in league with him.
- I’m not a betting man, but I’d bet this thing is going to fail. I didn’t feel that way on Saturday night; I’m still not certain – like sharks smelling blood in the water, when Liberals smell power, they get a little crazy. Stephane Dion still thinks he can be prime minister. But others are starting to get worried. I predict that MPs start to bail out – first privately; then publicly. And I predict that, soon, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff manufacture reasons to back down, too. Maybe not publicly – maybe they just ensure that enough of their supporters are absent on Monday’s non-confidence vote to let the Tories survive. Because I think that if we had the kind of daily tracking polls now that we had during the federal election, we’d be seeing the Liberals lose a point a day as their ignoble marriage to the Bloc sinks in with Canadians.
I was just watching Mike Duffy Live on CTV, and learned that Pauline Marois, the leader of the provincial Parti Quebecois -- the sister party to the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- announced that part of Gilles Duceppe's price for supporting the coalition is an immediate $1 billion transfer to Quebec.
No doubt that news wasn't supposed to leak out until after the dirty deal was done -- Marois needed a boost in her provincial election and so she stole Duceppe's thunder. But surely the only surprising thing about this is that the dollar amount is so low. Surely the Bloc wouldn't agree, in advance, to support two budgets they haven't even seen yet, and to support the coalition in any non-confidence vote.
But on the same show, we learned of other coming pay-offs: separatist appointments to the Senate. There are 18 vacancies in the Senate, including four in Quebec. Not only are the Bloc in for patronage pay-offs, but Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader, was on Parliament Hill today, and she wouldn't deny that she, too, was offered a Senate seat.
It's a fire sale in Ottawa! Senate seats, billions of dollars, whatever you want -- just make Stephane Dion the prime minister!
Fire sale -- or looting, I'm not sure.
I was debating with some friends in Ottawa whether or not Stephen Harper should fill those Senate seats in the next week; our resolution was that it would be a crass, Liberal thing to do.
But now that I hear what is actually being contemplated for the Senate, I've changed my mind. Giving Stephane Dion 18 seats to hand out to separatists and to May -- to her, as clear quid pro quo for her endorsement of him in the recent election -- ought to be stopped, even if it means a flurry of Senate appointments in the next week by Harper.
A few quick thoughts on the coup d’etat, in no particular order.
1. The math here is pretty simple: in a Parliament of 308 MPs, a Prime Minister needs 155 to govern with a majority. Stephen Harper came pretty close with 143, up 19 from the last election. The Liberals and NDP combined have just 114 MPs combined, down 18 from the last election. So it is mathematically impossible for the Liberals to be installed as the government without the Bloc Quebecois’ explicit help. Without formally including the Bloc in a coalition, Stephane Dion would be going to Governor-General Michaelle Jean with 114 MPs – a non-starter. With the Bloc, he’s got 163.
2. Without the Bloc, the Liberals and NDP have even less of a claim after the recent election than they did before. The Conservative vote, measured as a percentage, has grown five elections in a row. The Liberal vote, measured as a percentage, has declined four elections in a row. Trivia: in terms of absolute vote count, Stephen Harper received more votes in 2008 (5.21 million) than Paul Martin did in 2004 (4.98 million) or Jean Chretien received in his 1997 election (4.99 million) which earned him a majority. Harper’s 2008 count roughly tied Chretien’s 2000 majority result, too (5.25 million).
3. In other words, the Bloc’s formal, explicit participation is essential for the Liberal-NDP coalition to work. But, until now, the Liberals and NDP had been politically, if not morally, averse to coalescing with them. The reasons are obvious: they’re secessionists, who explicitly call for the disintegration of Canada. Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien both made opposing Quebec separatists one of their signature policies. (Chretien undid that legacy by participating in the negotiations this weekend; Justin Trudeau, now an MP himself, likewise departed from his father’s Quebec legacy by agreeing to the deal, too.) What changed? It’s obvious – Harper’s short-lived plan to remove the public subsidy from political parties, which would have put the opposition at a disadvantage. Opposition claims that it was a disagreement over economic substance are incredible. Not only has the opposition approved every Tory budget to date, but just a week ago they voted to accept the Throne Speech which was, at least in general terms, exactly what the Conservatives proposed in their fiscal update.
4. In other words, the Liberals and NDP are offended more by the thought of losing their subsidy than they are by the thought of including the Bloc in a coalition.
5. Of course, Canada has had four years of minority government now – first under Paul Martin, then under Stephen Harper – and the Bloc has voted on an ad hoc basis for certain government bills and motions all along. But never before has the Bloc been formally accreted to the government; never before has a veto been given explicitly to the Bloc. It’s an astounding breakthrough for a party that was doomed to be forever in opposition – not merely because it could never win sufficient numbers to form government, but because its raison d’etre – breaking up Canada – was too odious to be included.
6. That’s the key difference between this formal opposition coalition and the ad hocracy of the past four years: the Liberals and NDP are formalizing the Bloc’s role in government, in a written contract. Two written contracts, actually. You can see them here and here.
7. Let’s quickly look at the first one. Its very first sentence is an attempt to camouflage the fact that it is a tri-partite deal:
This document outlines the key understandings between the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party of Canada regarding a new cooperative government.
Notice anyone missing?
8. The next few paragraphs are dividing up the spoils – the NDP get a quarter of cabinet seats, etc. It’s all about the Liberals and NDP. Until section 3, which reads:
Furthermore, upon its formation, the government will put in place a permanent consultation mechanism with the Bloc Québécois.
A permanent consultation mechanism, you say? Well, we already have one of those – it’s called Parliament. But Parliament is a little too public for this coalition – you know, with nosy Canadians watching how deals are made. This consultation mechanism will be private – a way for the separatists to make their demands in secret, and for Prime Minister Stephane Dion to meet those demands in secret.
9. Just stop and look at that last sentence. Prime Minister Stephane Dion. Dion received the biggest shellacking any Liberal leader in history has received. He drove his party’s support to a 100-year low. Nobody wanted him – not even his own party. And now, by this coup d’etat, he will be prime minister.
10. And at what cost? Mr. Clarity Act, Mr. Tough on Separatists has now signed a contract with them, literally bringing the fox into the chicken coop. Until today, Dion’s legacy was as a naïve but honest leader, an inarticulate bumbler who tried his best but wasn’t up for the job. But he had his integrity – built up, in large part, from his battle against the Bloc. He just sold that out – for what? A few months in 24 Sussex Drive?
11. Section 4 of this contract says that Dion will consult Layton about public appointments. The Bloc is not mentioned. Of course not – there has never been a separatist appointed to the Senate, or to the Supreme Court. But that was before the Bloc joined the government. Dear reader, do you think they gave their fealty for free? Of course, it would be too politically toxic to mention Duceppe in this section. That’s what the secret “consultation mechanism” is for.
12. Same thing with section 5. It announces a “managing committee” of the coalition, that:
will be composed of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the NDP, and such other persons as the leaders deem appropriate from time to time.
Such “other persons”? Gee – who could they possibly mean?
13. That document is signed by Dion and Layton. But obviously that’s not enough to beat 143 Tory MPs. That’s where the second contract comes in. You can see it here. It’s styled as a “policy accord”, and indeed it does contain some clichés, such as this classic first sentence:
The new Government is supported by parties that share a commitment to fiscal responsibility…
Now that’s creative writing. Dion had proposed a new carbon tax in the last election; Layton proposed a $50 billion tax on employers.
14. But look at this punitive measure, dressed up as economic stimulus:
…support for Canadian Wheat Board…
I’m not quite sure how cracking down on Western farmers – and remember, the Canadian Wheat Board only applies to Western farmers – who want to sell their own wheat will stimulate the economy. But I do know this: Western Canada isn’t exactly a top-of-mind concern for the Toronto-Montreal dealmakers here. In the three prairie provinces, the NDP won a grand total of four seats (three in Winnipeg proper) and the Liberals won precisely two seats. The Conservatives won 49 seats. This Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition doesn’t much care for Western farmers, or any Westerners, really -- certainly not their democratic rights. Which is another national unity matter. Stephane Dion and Jack Layton have given Quebec separatism its greatest stamp of approval since the Supreme Court outlined how Quebec can legally separate. By stealing the government away from a party with its roots in the West – and plenty of seats, too – Dion, Layton and Duceppe are sowing seeds of Western alienation. Duceppe doesn’t much mind – all the better for his project. What’s Dion’s and Layton’s excuse?
15. But all of that is merely a fig-leaf for what this is all about: grabbing power. In fact, one shouldn’t spend too much time or effort analyzing the policy substance of this document – obviously not too much time or effort was put into writing it. It’s merely the cover story for the coup. Which is why the section called “Confidence Votes” is in it. You don’t talk about confidence votes in a policy document. That’s about power, not ideas. But, like I say, the policy bullet points were mere distractions from what this is: a contract with the Bloc. Here’s the wording:
The Government will not request a dissolution of Parliament during the term of this agreement, except following defeat on an explicitly-framed motion of non-confidence presented by the Opposition; or any vote pertaining to the speech from the throne; or on a budget vote at on any stage in the House; or on any bill to implement a budget at any stage in the House; or on any motion in the House to concur in, restore or reinstate any Estimates; or on any supply bill at any stage in the House.
The Bloc Quebecois will not move nor will it support any motions of confidence in the Government during the term of its support for this agreement and will vote in favour of the Government’s position with respect to all matters referred to in the immediately preceding paragraph.
16. And then the solemn vows of political matrimony are exchanged:
The Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party of Canada will adhere to this agreement until June 30, 2011 unless renewed.
The Bloc Quebecois will adhere to this agreement until June 30, 2010 unless renewed.
And then the three leaders signed their names, binding their parties.
17. My point is this: This isn’t a Liberal-NDP deal. A Liberal-NDP deal doesn’t get them to a majority. A Liberal-NDP deal would be ignored by the Governor General. Only a Liberal-NDP-Bloc deal – where Dion can point to Duceppe’s signature in his letter to the Governor-General – will do.
That’s shocking, or it should be. And I think it will be. Not to Stephane Dion, whose wildest dream will now come true; not to Jack Layton, who parlayed 37 seats into 6 cabinet positions; not to Gilles Duceppe who holds a permanent veto over this coalition like a Guillotine. But it will be shocking to millions of Canadians who voted for the Liberals and NDP in good faith, never thinking that they would sell their souls – scratch that; sell Canada’s soul – for a few months of power. And all of it mere weeks after an election. I'm surprised the Liberals and NDP agreed to a photo-op with Duceppe -- it rather undid their attempts to pretend this is a two-party deal, not a three-party deal with a Bloc veto.
18. What will Michaelle Jean do? I don’t know, of course. Michael Bliss has some thoughtful comments. And here is some background reading on Jean’s views on Quebec independence before she became the Queen’s representative in Canada. We’ll find out soon enough.
Like most Canadians, I have been riveted (and appalled) by the proposed Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. But a reader sent in a tip on my other favourite subject: the national rebellion against censorship by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Here's an article from today's La Presse, a large and influential Quebec newspaper. It's entitled En finir avec l'article 13, which roughly means "End section 13".
A serious drift towards censorship that recent years saw a surveillance and investigation, the Canadian Human Rights, must stop. It is the opinion of Richard Moon, professor of law at the University of Windsor, mandated to study this anomaly. It is almost totally ignored the Quebec media, yet potential victims of the federal agency. For his part, English Canada has not moved until the Commission has taken the prestigious magazine Maclean's.