Winners & Losers

As many of you may have noticed, I’m an avid reader of the National Post. But many of you may not believe that I have three daily newspapers delivered to my house each and every morning. In short, I read the National Post, the Toronto Star and the Hamilton Spectator.

Living in Burlington, Ontario, I’m a stone’s throw away from Hamilton, so the Spectator gives me the best perspective on local news.

Reading the Toronto Star is, at times, like trying to endure a throbbing toothache, because it is so obviously partisan in support of any political party with a “Liberal” tag its (for me) actually painful to read. You never have to worry about objectivity if you are reading the Star though, because there is no objectivity found within its pages.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. The Toronto Star never pretends to be anything other than what it is – and that is a very large cheering section for the Liberal Party of Canada and/or the Liberal Party of Ontario. During the 14 years of Liberal Government here in Ontario from 2004-2018, the Toronto Star cheered and unapologetically supported ever increasing yearly budget deficits, a ballooning Ontario provincial debt, any and all social, financial and political positions put forth by the Ontario Liberals, and scandal after scandal committed by elected and appointed Liberal officials alike.

This all works for the Toronto Star, because without question it has achieved more than a modest measure of success. The Star is Canada’s “largest circulation” newspaper, and people don’t buy it because of the advertising. If the Star didn’t print, and say, what people wanted to hear, people wouldn’t buy it. So, I give the Star credit where credit is due.

But (for me) reading the Star did become a habit while I was in the political mix. It is a habit that’s hard to kick though, because I always find it helpful to know what “the other guy” is thinking and saying.

Now, I understand that many in my small social circle consider the National Post to be Canada’s “Conservative” newspaper, and that I’m an idiot for subscribing. To an extent I agree, but never the less feel compelled to at least offer up a small defense of the Post as being a newspaper of some substance.

For those of you who take the time to read the Post, you will discover that this publication offers up a visceral critique of all political parties, including the Conservative Party of Canada, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the United Conservative Party of Alberta, and any other so-called Conservative party in Canada, while certainly offering up no apologies for being a smaller ‘c” conservative-leaning publication.

In very few words, I find that I get the closest thing one can get to an honest assessment of what’s really going on when I read the Post. Plus, it has the added advantage of being a national newspaper. Not perfect by any means, but like all things in life, what’s perfect? Well, I suppose if you believe Donald Trump, his conversation with the President of Ukraine was perfect, but again I digress………

Now, all of the above is an awkward way of saying that I had a very bad cold this week, and with little else to do besides read my newspapers, watch CNN, MSNBC and our very own poor Canadian excuses for cable news channels, I kept going back to the Post to read the post mortem on our Federal Election (no pun intended).

Like the National Post, I have concluded that there were very few winners as a result of our election. In fact, we came very close to finding ourselves in a situation where just about everybody and every political entity lost. And here’s the logic – if I can call it that!

Technically, we all know that the Liberals won a minority victory, while receiving some 240,000 fewer votes than did the Conservatives, who will again for the Official Opposition in Parliament.

But we Canadians, and especially Ontario Canadians, are a hardy lot. Most of us, with me included, have spent the past three years hating and critiquing Donald Trump (and all things Republican south of our border) while we questioned the legitimacy of the 2016 US Election.

Trump, as you no doubt recall, received some three (3) million fewer votes than did his opponent, Hillary Clinton. How could this be, we asked? How could any fair-minded person, living in a democracy, accept such an outcome? Well, we now know the answer to that question. Such an outcome is fair if you live in Ontario or Atlantic Canada, but still unfair if you live in the USA, or, God forbid, in Western Canada or Quebec.

Here are the numbers, and we all know numbers don’t lie.

In 2015, the Liberals received 39.47% of the popular vote, and they won 184 seats. Preliminary results for 2019 show that the Liberals received 33.1% of the vote and 157 seats. While technically a win, and a minority victory, 33.1% of the vote (where only one out of every three people who bothered to vote actually voted for the winning party) cannot be considered a political victory in any sense of the term. And in terms of promoting the national interests, the Liberals failed to win even a single seat anywhere between Winnipeg and Vancouver. And even the most hardened among us will concede that Western Canada still holds the keys to our economic success as a country.

Well now, how about the Conservatives you will no doubt ask? Yep, they are a bunch of losers too. While getting 34.4% of the popular vote, they managed to win only 121 seats. They made no progress or inroads into Southern Ontario (Toronto and or the Greater Toronto Area, or as we political nerds like to call it, the 416 and the 905) where elections in Canada are won and lost. And its mostly because they fought an election campaign that gave progressive voters in this key area of the country little comfort that progressive values (which have importantly and increasingly become Canadian values) would be honoured and protected. Andrew Scheer simply screwed the pooch on this one folks.

Unless and until the Conservative Party of Canada joins the rest of us and recognizes that Ontario voters consider themselves to be “Progressive”, in that they overwhelmingly support progressive social policy positions such as a woman’s right to choose, LGBTQ rights and other social policy positions, the CPC will continue to poll in the mid-30% range. And you can’t form a government if you can’t poll above that level of support. So, the Conservatives, in spite of showing some political gains, simply lost an election that they should have won.

And how about the NDP? Jagmett Singh was dancing around his election headquarters on election night as if he had won the lottery. But take a look at the numbers. Again…… in 2011, Jack Layton’s NDP got 30.6% of the popular vote, and won 103 seats. But in 2015, Tom Mulcair’s NDP won just 19.7% of the popular vote and only 44 seats, which under normal circumstances in Canadian politics is a bonanza for the NDP. But our friend Jagmett in 2019? 15.9% of the vote, and down to 24 seats. Need I draw you a graph?

And the poor Greens? How did they fare? Well, they did manage to get 6.5% of the popular vote, but they managed to win only 3 seats. This is a dismal political outcome for a political party that was running (or at least we thought) neck and neck with the NDP throughout the campaign, and this will surely once again call into question Elizabeth May’s leadership.

And if I say the Greens are poor, we can only describe the Bloc Quebecois as being vote poor, but seat rich. The BQ won just 7.5% of the “national popular” vote, but 32 seats. They showed, yet again, that if you promote a political party in the best interests of a particular province, you can produce amazing results.

So, why not do the same (yet again) in Western Canada. We’ve been down that road a couple of times already, with the whole Reform experiment, which morphed into the Canadian Alliance experiment, which further morphed into the Conservative Party of Canada experiment, which as we now know can only muster up less than 35% of the national popular vote, and no chance what so ever of forming a National Government.

Yes, my friends, we’ve all lost.

We have returned a minority government that ignored ethics guidelines and violated the rule of law in its first term. But the Liberals are now isolated to vote/seat rich Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Not a win by any stretch of the imagination.

We gave a very luke warm reward to a Conservative Party that refuses to embrace 21st Century Canadian values, but will convince itself that because they made (what they will argue) substantial gains, Canadians are about to embrace “conservative” values in the next election. I’m of the opinion that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always end up with what you have. 35% of the popular vote is what the CPC has, and it will never get them there! Sooner or later the Conservatives will have to accept that 65% of the country describes itself as being “Progressive”. Do the math! And develop the policy positions necessary to become something more than the Official Opposition.

Look at the NDP math, and if things keep going the way they have gone in the past 8 years, the NDP will be in Green territory very soon.

Perhaps the only real winner in this election is Jody Wilson Raybould, who proved that you can stand on principal and win, even if it is a lonely road to travel. I was hoping that Jody would be joined by Jane Philpott, but that was not to be. More to come, however, on Jody and Jane. A topic for another day.

WHAT WAS THAT?

I admit that I’ve been sitting on the proverbial fence for some time now with respect to this blog thingy that I’ve been experimenting with.

On one side of the fence I’ve been thinking that, like most people, I feel I’ve got a lot to say and my opinions matter. Social media platforms are sitting right there for the world to use, for better or worse, and it’s a legitimate exercise in a democratic country that protects and defends free speech to make use of those platforms, as long as we do so in a respectful way.

On the other side of the fence is my partisan work history as a (mostly) Progressive Conservative organizer, a Conservative Party of Canada organizer (and believe me, there was and is a world of difference) and as a political staffer for both those parties over the years. How would anybody ever take me seriously, in spite of my expressed mostly-progressive values and positions, while carrying around such a “conservative” resume?

So, for the past several months I’ve been sitting on a fence trying to decide if I would or should keep this blog going. After my initial flurry of “blog activity” this past spring, I decided to “give it a break”.

Why, you might ask? And even if you didn’t ask why, I’m going to tell you anyways.

After the initial publication of about a dozen blog posts, reactions and results were mixed. My readership numbers were decent, and the reactions I received were about 50/50 pro and/or con.

Some readers liked my positions and opinions, while others condemned and attacked on a partisan basis, claiming my partisan conservative history made it impossible for me to critique a federal Liberal government on a non-partisan basis. But most stinging of all perhaps, were comments from former colleagues with whom I had worked over the years, attacking me on a personal and professional level.  Let me tell you, my friends, putting yourself out there with a blog is not an easy exercise. In fact, it was more than a little humbling.  But I would encourage each and every one of you to do the same.  It may be a little humbling, but I’ve decided it’s liberating as well.

So…. as usual I digress, and as you all know, brevity has never been my strong suit.  But as I was saying, I thought it best to reassess, take a look at what I was doing, and try to figure out if there was a better way to move forward.

So, you may again ask, what happened to make me once again be tempted to put fingers to keyboard? And yep, you’re right. Even if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you anyways.

And the answer is……. Monday’s Federal Election, of course.

I woke up yesterday morning and asked myself (like most Canadians who have an IQ two points higher than a toothpick) WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Well, whatever “that” was, it was and is worthy of thought, comment, praise and ridicule. I mean, after results like that, who among us can say, with a straight face, that our country is strong and headed in the right direction?

How in the name of all that’s holy did Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada manage to pull that one of and get themselves re-elected with a very strong minority (if there is such a thing) where only one in five Canadians who were eligible to vote actually voted Liberal? And please, don’t argue stats with me. Early estimates are that we had about a 60% voter turnout all across the country. Of that voter turnout, the Liberals managed 33% of the popular vote. Do the math, please!

Well folks, I’ve been around federal, provincial and municipal politics and elections in a serious way since 1979, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like this.

So, I’ve concluded that the political state of our country is something worth writing about, and I leave it up to you, the reader, if you want to hear (read) my take on this mess we find ourselves in.

During and immediately before Monday’s vote, I was thinking, and very much of the opinion, that the Liberals would most likely pull of a minority victory. As you may already know, historically in Canada is it extremely unlikely that a majority government is defeated after its first term.

Did the Liberals get it all right? No, of course they didn’t. In fact, if you take an honest look at the Liberal record since they were elected four years ago, you have to admit that, as a whole, they didn’t do a bad job.  But…….

Justin Trudeau stumbled his way through two ethics violations – his now infamous Christmas vacation on the Agi Khan’s private island, and his handling of the whole SNC Lavalin saga

He claimed to be a feminist, but the minute two strong women challenged what they considered to be unethical and illegal behaviour he tufted both out of the Liberal Party

He proved to be a bit of a fake environmentalist, using two airplanes during the election campaign. On top of that, his government banned west coast tanker traffic while purchasing a pipeline, while at the same time importing Saudi oil on tankers for our east coast refineries.  Why no east coast ban?  Votes, of course.

In 2015 he promised balanced budgets within his first term, and all we’ve seen so far are ballooning deficits. He promised cooperation with the provinces, and then unilaterally imposed a carbon tax. He promised electoral reform, and actually took a look at that issue before abandoning the whole project, leaving us with this mess. And need I remind you of his Indian photo shoot?

And then there was the revelation during the election that there were at least three instances where our Prime Minister was photographed with “brown face” or “black face”; the latest when he was a very adolescent 29 years of age? Funny how most rational people would consider a 29 year old teacher to be “an adult”, but there you have it.  We Canadians are a forgiving lot.

Those of you who did read my blogs this past spring will know that I’m no Justin Trudeau fan. But I have to tell you that I’m honestly not an Andrew Scheer fan, nor am I a Jagmett Singh fan, or an Elizabeth May fan. And I’m certainly no fan of the Bloc Quebecois. I’ve concluded that all deserve our collective wrath, and whatever follows from this keyboard will reflect that sentiment.  So, let’s get at it.  I’m feeling generous, and I promise to treat them all with the scorn they deserve.

Please bear with me as I stumble forward. More to come, for sure.

Seeking New Identities Online

I would love to rage today. I would love to claim victory on behalf of Jody Wilson-Raybould, our former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and the woman I have come to admire greatly. I am very much tempted to wax poetic on her behalf, and heap praise on the content of her submission to the House of Commons Committee on Justice and Ethics, but I am going to save all that for another day…… or two.

As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold……

Although I have nothing in the way of revenge to deliver here, Jody Wilson-Raybould does. The release of Wilson-Raybould’s recording of her 17-minute chat with Michael Wernick (our outgoing Clerk of the Privy Council and Justin Trudeau’s de facto Deputy Minister) late yesterday (Friday) has shocked our National Capital to the point where politicians and public servants alike are numb, and mostly dumb.

Its going to take a couple of days for our Prime Minister to get his jaw muscles working again to the point where he can come up with a totally different dialogue about why he had to move Jody Wilson-Raybould out of the Justice/Attorney General portfolio. I can’t wait to hear the new Liberal spin. Whatever comes tumbling out of Trudeau’s mouth, I’m sure it will be Trump-like in its attempt to humiliate and de-humanize Wilson-Raybould, for that’s all the PM has left here. Either go full-out attack and remove her from the Liberal caucus or admit complete fault in the handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

But alas, its Saturday and therefore the weekend. And as is becoming my custom, I like to use my weekend space for reflection on whatever political, social and/or economic tidbit that hits my fancy.

I will put aside my need to rage at the injustice suffered by our former Minister of Justice, and console myself, for the next couple of days at least, in the knowledge that even little boy Prime Ministers can suffer through and experience righteous justice when he is caught spewing outright lies about our former Minister of Justice to the people (you and me) he is sworn to serve and protect. Too much? Oh well……..

So, taking a breath here. Took my meds a couple of hours ago, and the coffee (Nespresso, by the way, and OMG>>>>>>) tastes fine.

I almost burnt my hands trying to pick up a copy of today’s Toronto Star, because well, you guessed it, I mostly support “the other guys” and the Star is not happy that their hero Trudeau got caught in the ultimate lie. So, today I couldn’t stomach the Liberal spin that the Toronto Star was providing the Liberal Party of Canada free of charge. Instead, I had to be content with reading my copy of the more often safe National Post.

In today’s edition of the National Post, and again you probably guessed correctly, I started at the Issues and Ideas section. There, in bold print, I found a full page spread titled “This May Be How the West Might Be Lost”. Ummmm. Interesting stuff, maybe? Could they be talking about Trump?

Alrighty then.

Matt Gurney, a columnist for the National Post, happened to be in Calgary earlier this week, where he attended a lecture given by Anne Applebaum. Applebaum is a writer of numerous history books which focus heavily on Eastern and Central Europe. In addition to being a writer of some note, she is also an American journalist who holds duel American/Polish citizenship. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, she has written extensively about Marxism-Leninism and the development of civil “western democratic societies” in Central and Eastern Europe.

Applebaum is also a visiting Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics, where she runs a think tank called Arena, a project that focuses on the study of propaganda and disinformation. She has also been an editor at The Economist and the Spectator, and a member of the editorial board of the Washington Post from 2002-2006.

I will allow that some of you may take exception to and with Applebaum’s politics, because she is decidedly a supporter of moderate conservative political movements – in political parlance, a supporter of the middle-right. But Ann Coulter (that right-wing lunatic Trump supporter who appears on Fox News regularly) she is not. And say what you want, this lady Anne Applebaum is no dummy. I am happy to say that, in my view, she is a writer of some importance who “calls it like it is”. I have followed Applebaum’s career and came to admire her accomplishments, as well as her observations, over the years.

During her lecture at the University of Calgary this week, Applebaum expressed her concern that the Western World is losing its sense of unity, “of shared task and purpose among the many nations that make up the Western bloc, but also (losing) a belief in the very things that defined the West – democracy, the rule of law, and pluralism”. And not to go all academic outlaw on you here, but pluralism in this context is defined as a system of government with traditional political parties.

This sense of lose – and the lack of respect for democratic institutions – is playing itself out in the United States right now, goes the argument. And because we Canadians are really 80% American in our thinking, this lack of respect for our Canadian democratic institutions is evident in Canada as well. Public opinion surveys in the US, Canada and Western Europe – all champions of liberal multi-party democracy – have shown that younger generations who define themselves as millennials are much less likely than their parents are to say that living in a democracy is essential. Applebaum concludes that “this is the decline in support for, and belief in and admiration for, democracy”.

How did we get here, meaning to the point where our children and our children’s children no longer share our faith in the rule of law and our political democratic institutions? Obviously, I’m speaking for “we older folks” here, but never the less, this is a legitimate question. And, of course, I’m inclined to give you Applebaum’s opinion, which I just happen to agree with.

There are many, many global happenings that Applebaum cites that shows and supports our collective faith in Western democratic systems – a prime example is the fall of that evil empire, the Soviet Union.

So, in regards to the collapse of the Soviet Union, we have a score of Western democracy 1 – Soviet Communism 0. We win!

But she also shows prime examples that have encouraged a collective lack of faith in the system. For example, we have the disastrous results of the Iraq War and the 2008 Financial Crisis, both periods of real alarm that certainly weakened our faith in Western institutions.

In this case, we have International events controlling our lives 2 – Western institutions 0. We loose!

There is an unspoken collective agreement in Western societies that the world has become too global, too quickly. And that scares people.  We have world events, international economics, free trade agreements among allies and traditional foes alike, and mass immigration into Western democracies (really meaning ‘coloured’ immigration) and because all of this is happening much too fast, and information flow is instant, like “right now”, democratic institutions are no longer in control.

But more and more, because of advances in technology, and our use of social media, more and more people are shaping their own views of what’s happening in our cities and towns, in our countries of birth, and around the world. Technology and social media provide an astonishing amount of information delivered at lightspeed “over the now utterly ubiquitous smartphone”.

It has become outright impossible to bluff your way through any argument now a days, because the minute a person starts to bluff – or BS – their way through an argument, all one must do is pull out the cell phone and hit Google. Well, my friends, there is your answer, right on the internet. And, of course, if its on the internet, it must be true. It really doesn’t matter what the government of your country is saying, or what traditional media outlets are saying, because here it is, right on the internet.

Now, dear readers, to go what is a full circle, at least in my head, please understand that Donald Trump has 60 million followers on Twitter. Trump does not use Facebook or Instagram, because he doesn’t have to. Trump has the means to deliver an unlimited number of messages to 60 million people a day, and none of it is filtered through what most of us would be considered traditional democratic institutions, which would include the media.

Traditional government and private sector institutions, and the media, are now simply bypassed at best, or ignored at worst. The result is the same though. At the end of the day, traditional democratic institutions and traditional media are overwhelmed by technology and by the sheer “amount” of information coming at an individual, or groups of individuals, on a regular basis.

Applebaum contends that western democracies are going to have to start thinking about how to regulate the internet. “How do we make the internet conducive to liberal democracy,” she asks. “The Chinese have made their internet conducive to authoritarianism. What’s our answer to that? And are we going to leave it to Mark Zuckerberg to decide everything, to figure out what gets censored and what those rules should be?”

But in the end, Applebaum is worried that what we are really fighting here is the passage of time. We are all getting older, and as Matt Gurney describes Applebaum’s thoughts, “as time passes, we are increasingly removed from the victories and shared needs that once united the Western democracies. Our recent track record is littered with costly failures. Even in Eastern Europe, we now have a full generation of adults who have no living memories of the horrors and failures of communism”.

In the American context, these are the people Trump is speaking to in the United States, my friends. His messages are mixed, but direct.

NATO? Who needs it. None of our allies are paying their fair share of NATO costs, and the US wins all the wars anyway. Let’s kill NATO. We don’t need it.

Immigration? The United States may be a country of immigrants, but that was then, and this is now. We don’t need to fix immigration, we need to stop it. If things keep going the way they are going now, in 20 years our white population will be in the minority, and that we cannot allow to happen.  We don’t have to fix immigration; we need to stop it.  Now.  And to stop it, we need to build a wall.

ObamaCare? We have to kill it, because we cannot allow ourselves to become a Socialist country. We’ll figure out health care, in due time, sometime before the next election in 2020.  But health care isn’t the important issue here.  The important issue is stopping the spread of socialism.

See what I mean? If we were living in a place where traditional democratic institutions were working, this crap wouldn’t be possible.

Applebaum is sounding the alarm. But are we listening?

Today, I Hang My Head in Shame

Today, I hang my head in complete and utter shame.

My Prime Minister, who in 2015 promised Canadians that indigenous reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations people would be moved to the top of this country’s and the new government’s agenda, has shamed me in every possible way.

On Wednesday of this week, while attending a $1,500 a plate Liberal fundraiser at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto, a female member of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, which just happens to be a well-known norther Ontario community suffering the long-term impacts of mercury poisoning, was forcibly removed from the room after unfurling a protest banner.

While being escorted from the room by a number of security personnel, but holding tight to her banner, the lady in question began to shout about Grassy Narrows, the mercury poisoning that has been an ongoing health hazard in her community since the 1960s (yes, folks, since the 1960s) all the time asking why the Federal Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario were dragging their collective feet while people were still being poisoned.

So, you must be asking, why should anybody, including myself, be shamed by this simple act of defiance?

Well, first and foremost, this little act of protest and our Prime Minister’s disproportionate response has clearly revealed where Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Government of Canada have collectively placed the whole issue of indigenous reconciliation. It is now clear, even to the most cynical of political observers, that reconciliation is no longer a top priority of the Trudeau government.

And further, we now have a clear understanding of where the Federal Government has placed the issue of clean and healthy drinking water for Grassy Narrows in particular, and safe drinking water on First Nations Reserves in general. Just a guess here folks, but I’m thinking this issue is no longer at the top of the agenda.

The bare details are necessary here if we are to understand the depth of this problem/issue.

As with most First Nations issues in Ontario, things are complicated, as they say in government while trying to pass the buck from one jurisdiction to the other.

There is little doubt the Federal Government bears a direct responsibility to our First Nations, primarily due to Canada’s treaty obligations with the different indigenous communities. But as with most things in Canada, provincial jurisdiction does play a significant role as well. In this case, as with all cases where safe and healthy drinking water become the issue, the Province of Ontario is responsible for natural resources; meaning a direct responsibility for the water in Grassy Narrows and other First Nations communities throughout the Province.

Grassy Narrows has been suffering from mercury poisoning in the community water supply for almost 60 years now. Sometime during the 1960s, a pulp and paper mill was built upstream of the community. Since the construction of that mill, thousands of pounds of effluent have been dumped into the English-Wabigoon river system.

Somehow, someway, the company owning the pulp and paper mills managed to clean up its systems (for the most part) by the 1980s, but as is the case with so many environmental happenings, the damage was already done.

So, here we are, in 2019, and we are at a Liberal Fundraiser at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto. And a lone, female and indigenous protester is being escorted from the house. But why was she there in the first place?

Well, she was there because Ottawa has been promising the construction of a medical facility for years now, but not just any old medical facility. Ottawa has been promising a facility specifically meant to address mercury poisoning. But, again, you guessed it. The whole project is behind schedule.

In November of 2018, then Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott announced that Ottawa would provide $170,000 to fund a feasibility study for a long-term treatment centre in Grassy Narrows. Philpott also promised a treatment centre in the Wabaseemoong, or Whitedog, First Nation that has had similar mercury poisonings.

These treatment centres were meant to begin construction last year, but to date, nothing has happened.

Members of the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations have shown that they have uncommonly high levels of mercury in their blood systems, mostly from eating fish coming from the above-mentioned river systems. Mercury is carried in fish, particularly in whitefish such as walleye, and it “bioaccumulates” – meaning it is passed from one generation to the next through childbirth. As a result, it is nearly impossible to get rid of the mercury from the body.

Sufferers of mercury poisoning have been known to have learning disabilities, blindness issues, difficulties with balance, and many other ailments. The estimated cost of the centre in question is $17 million, but due to the long-term effects of the mercury in the communities in question, residents are calling on Ottawa to provide long term funding over a 30 year period, to the tune of roughly $88 million. And the request is that the long-term funding be put in a trust, so that future governments wouldn’t be able to renege on funding commitments. Given the Federal Governments track record with respect to First Nations funding issues, this is surely a reasonable request.

So, here we are again….. at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto, at a $1,500 per plate Liberal Fundraiser, where Toronto’s “Who’s Who” is assembled paying tribute to the Liberal Party Leader. Our heroine unfurls her banner and tries to say her piece. She is quickly man-handled and is being escorted out of the room.

The assembled Liberal donors – the elite of the Liberal Party of Canada by the way – are the richest of the rich Liberals. Those who donate $1,500 a year to the Party are granted a membership in the Laurier Club, and in Liberal circles that is considered “exalted” status.

So, as our heroine is being escorted from the room, our Prime Minister, in the most sarcastic voice manageable, says to the young lady “THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR DONATION TONIGHT. I REALLY APPRECIATE IT”. At Trudeau’s pronouncement, the assembled Liberal elite applaud and cheer, some even attempting to start a standing ovation.  Well, we now know what elite Liberals think of indigenous protest.

Enough said!

Now, some of you will no doubt argue that a Liberal fundraiser is not the proper venue to protest anything, much less a First Nation’s environmental drinking water issue. That is a legitimate position and it is certainly worthy as an opinion.

I, on the other hand, would argue that if you want, as a protester, to get someone’s attention, a political party fundraiser (no matter the political strip) is exactly the venue that you need for effective protest. In my many past political lives I have both orchestrated and been the victim of “the protest” at fundraisers and political conventions. In this setting, you are not only striking at the actors who are responsible in government, but you are getting the attention of those large donors and “movers and shakers” who make election campaigns possible. Politically speaking and thinking, there is no better venue if you are trying to garner attention.

This young lady paid her $1,500 to gain access to the event, and she had as much right to be there as did the Chair of one of the many Canadian banks who were in attendance. And we do live in a democracy. She has a right to her opinions, and she has a right to express herself in a peaceful way, which she was trying to do.

She deserves our respect and at least our qualified support.  It took a great deal of courage to do what she did.  And she was peaceful in her attempt to say what she came to say.

What she did not deserve was the sarcastic and very disrespectful comments from Justin Trudeau, nor did she deserve the misguided applause from the Liberal elite as she was being escorted from the room.

And she certainly does not deserve to live on a reserve in Northern Ontario that has been serving up poisoned water for almost 60 years now.

I am ashamed of my Prime Minister’s actions regarding this event. I am ashamed that those of you who are active in, and supportive of, the Liberal Party of Canada behaved in such a manner. I am ashamed that others who are involved in the political process in other political parties often behave in a similar fashion when confronted with protestors at political events. Politics is, after all, a safe forum for debate and the exchange of ideas, and last I heard even those who proudly carry First Nations status are allowed to participate in the political process in Canada.

Most of all, however, I am ashamed to say that I live in a country where the great majority of our First Nations citizens live without the benefit of safe drinking water. And we have two levels of government who obviously couldn’t, and don’t, give a hoot.

But…. Nobody Broke The Law

Today, my friends, I am in a foul mood.

I was flipping channels last night, as I often do these days while watching a hockey game, and I happened to land on CNN’s Chris Cuomo’s show. Cuomo is, of course, a member of that famous Democratic family from the State of New York, but he also happens to be a lawyer, a former prosecutor and a well-known media personality both on radio and television. And you may also know that he appears four nights a week in the 9pm timeslot on CNN, immediately following Anderson Cooper’s show.

During my ADHD inspired channel flipping last night, I just happened to “land” on Cuomo’s interview with one of Donald Trump’s many “personal attorneys”. This guy was saying, of course, that Trump broke no laws in his dealings with the Russians before, during or after the Presidential Election of 2016. And Cuomo was going nuts, as he often does, which provides for great political entertainment.

So, says the lawyer, Trump is completely vindicated and its now time for the country (meaning the United States) to move on. Mueller has reported to the Attorney General of the United States that he (Mueller) could not find enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Trump was guilty of collusion or cooperating with a foreign power during the election campaign. As a result, Trump could not be charged because there was no reasonable expectation of a conviction. However, Mueller did detail at least two ways in which Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favour. So….. there was Russian interference on Trump’s behalf during the election – Mueller just couldn’t prove Russian/Trump cooperation, beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the question of whether Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice, the Attorney General William Barr said, “no conclusion was reached within the Special counsel, saying that while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”. What must we confer from this?

Well, says Trump’s lawyer, none of this matters, because the President wasn’t charged with a crime, and without charges, no laws were broken, and if no laws were broken, we’re all good, right? Let’s move on folks. Nothing to see here.

Sound familiar?

Well, to me, it sounds all too familiar. It also makes me question what some people have come to embrace as acceptable and proper political behaviour both here at home in Canada and in the United States.

The Canadian question – Regarding the SNC-Lavalin scandal, are we to accept that because no laws were broken by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his senior staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, or senior officials in the Privy Council Office or the Department of Justice, that all of the political and business behaviour surrounding this saga was, and still is, acceptable?

The American question – Regarding Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s possible involvement with a foreign power to influence the 2016 Presidential election, are we to assume that because no laws were broken by Trump himself that all the political and business behaviour surrounding this saga was, and still is, acceptable? Never mind that seven of Trump’s senior campaign officials are either in jail or heading to jail because of their crimes which were clearly committed during, and because of their involvement in, the election in question.

The big question for me, with respect to both the questionable political and business activities in Canada and the United States is simply this – Is the new moral and ethical standard for political behaviour the same as it is for the legal standard? If you don’t get caught, and you are not charged with a crime, is it now OK to practice unethical and underhanded political behaviour?

According to Trump’s lawyer the answer is yes. We should now accept that if you are never charged and/or convicted of a felony offence in the United States, any and all political and business practices are golden, including Trump’s.

Using this logic, Trump’s lawyer would argue the same on Trudeau’s behalf. No laws were broken during the SNC saga; therefore, all behaviours are acceptable. Never mind that two senior Ministers have resigned in protest of the Government of Canada’s interference in the judicial system; never mind that Gerry Butts, the PMs best friend and Principal Secretary, resigned while swearing he did nothing wrong; never mind that Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council and Canada’s most senior Civil Servant resigned while swearing he did nothing wrong either. Trudeau’s political practices, and his government’s acceptance of SNC’s business practices are golden, because no laws were broken. Or so would Trump’s lawyer argue on Trudeau’s behalf.

Has this become the new standard for acceptable political behaviour here in Canada and the United States?

Using this standard, it becomes acceptable political behaviour for every elected politician in both countries to lie to the electorate on every issue and policy put forward. If lying isn’t against the law, and a politician can’t be charged with breaking a law for lying, are we to accept that this is OK?

And oh, by the way, spending limits during election campaigns are now “out the window”, if we don’t get caught, of course. Because now, a candidate for office can overspend to his heart’s content, and if he doesn’t get caught no laws were broken, right? And if no laws were broken, it’s now time to just move on, because there’s nothing to see here, folks.

And how about on a personal level? Using this new political standard for everyday behaviour, would child abuse and/or spousal abuse become acceptable behaviour, because if we don’t get caught, no laws were broken? And if no laws were broken, we’re golden?

I know this is a completely ludicrous argument, and I could go on here, but I will refrain. However, I’m hoping you get my point, which is this……..

We have a criminal and civil justice system in the Western World, and we do assuredly live by a set of written rules. And the rules are simple. We are expected to live within the guidelines set out by those legal rules, and if we break the rules, we are punished. We have a system of Federal, Provincial, State and/or municipal police forces in place to ensure the peace, and we have a host of prosecutors ready, willing and able to bring each and every one of us to justice if we break the law.

But in Western democracies we also have elected politicians to whom we give our trust; and we have always held our politicians to a higher moral standard, and rightly so. We have an unwritten social contract with those politicians, and that contract goes something like this.

We, the electorate, pay our taxes, and in return you, the politicians who run the show, are given an enormous amount of power over the people you govern. And because we, the electorate, give you this power, you, the politician, will live your life by the same rules as the rest of us, but with a higher moral purpose than the average Joe. You, the politician, are not above the law, but to whom much is given, much is expected…………….. and so on.

You, the politician, will not lie to me, the voter. You will not steal from me, the voter. You will always protect my best interests. You will treat me fairly and with respect, no matter the place I live, the religion I practice, the colour of my skin, my income level, my sexual orientation, and so on. But above all else, you are an elected representative that I have elected to represent and protect my interests, and because of that, I expect bigger and better things from you.

I expect you, the politician, to tell me the full story. When you don’t tell me the full story, we have a free press/media in place, and the media also has an obligation to the people. If politicians won’t tell the full story, it’s the media’s job to tell that story. Very much like politicians, the media has a social contract with you and me.

Up until now, our crazy system has, for the most part, worked. Politicians, to whom we give our trust, make the rules, and we call those rules “the law”. Our judicial system which includes our police services and our Court systems, enforce those laws. The media has always played an important role by informing you and I of what’s going on within government and out. And you and I go about our business, felling secure in our lives and believing in the system as best we can. We live in a democracy, and in democracies governments inform the people.

But now, in Canada and the United States, we have two Government leaders who are telling us that the rules have changed. We are being told that we must accept the new political reality.

If no laws were broken, and nobody has been charged and/or convicted, it’s now acceptable to behave however you want. If you don’t like it, just suck it up.

Is this our new political standard of behaviour?

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m still in that foul mood. I don’t know this morning if I should be thankful to Chris Cuomo for planting this question in my head. But thankful or not, it has given me a lot to ponder.

But the power surrounding this issue/topic is not found in the question my friends. The real power will be found in the answers that you and I provide. Will we collectively say, “no way”, we will not accept this new reality? Or will this become just another “shoulder shrug”, meaning let’s move on. Nothing to see here folks………

Our Boy King is Still In Trouble

OK, OK……. I admit it. I’m wearing my slightly partisan joker’s hat this morning. But I just can’t help myself.

It’s all because I read two articles this morning from two different publications, and all I could do was laugh while trying not to choke on my coffee. And while trying not to choke, I kept asking myself “The Liberals really aren’t this stupid, are they?” But it appears, my gosh, yes, they are, and SNC-Lavalin is the very gracious gift that keeps on giving to (the upcoming electoral fortunes of) the Liberal Party of Canada.

Well, first I should point out that on Wednesday of this week, the person who is none other than Neil Bruce, SNC-Lavalin’s Chief Executive Officer, went on a media tour (frenzy) with major media outlets across Canada. His very innocent intention was to “correct some misunderstandings” about first, his good company; second, the Liberal Party of Canada and third; the recent major change to the Criminal Code that would allow companies such as SNC-Lavalin to escape criminal prosecution for non-violent crimes such as bribery of foreign officials.

As we all know by now, of course, this last major change to our criminal justice system was slipped into the last section of the 2018 Federal Budget, because, duhhh, where else would you make a major change to the Criminal Code of Canada if not in the last section of a finance Bill where everyone would surely read it? And we’re not really talking about “crime” here, you know, because this is, after all, a Quebec company, and how else are we going to keep our Quebec cousins happy within our Canadian family if we don’t let them do “business as usual, Quebec style?” But I digress, again…………..

Mind you, this is the same SNC-Lavalin that was investigated by Elections Canada and other Ottawa Agencies for their illegal $100,000 contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada for which, in a very Canadian way, they – SNC – were fined and the Federal Liberals were ordered to pay back mistakenly gotten funds. Might I remind you that we Canadians are up here, freezing our arses off but cheering on the US justice system for putting Trump’s friends in jail for doing exactly this same kind of crap, but we are, after all, talking about the Liberal Party here, and our Boy King does take a nice picture, and he does wear some funkier socks, and the world out there that doesn’t give a hoot about Canada….. Please stop Ron, you’re starting to sound down right Presidential. Maybe its time I take my meds and calm down a little, because this is a good story that is making my Conservative friends laugh, which has to be a good thing because Canadian Conservatives now-a-days don’t have much to laugh about.

Ok. I’m calm now. Meds have kicked in and back to my story.

This is also the same SNC-Lavalin that wore a track in the carpet at the Prime Minister’s Office lobbying for that major change to the Criminal Code that showed up in the 2018 Budget. Again, nothing unusual here folks. SNC lobbies all the time. Ottawa is not all that different from Washington. SNC is a big concern in Quebec, we employ a lot of people and we are a major player.

And oh, by the way says Mr. Bruce. SNC-Lavalin never, and I mean never, ever once told anyone in the Prime Minister’s Office that the company would move its head offices to London if we did not get the changes to the Criminal Code that the company so desperately wanted. Nor did SNC ever say that 9,000 jobs in Quebec were at stake.

Now, using political language here folks, but this is called “GOING OFF MESSAGE”. Our Boy King has been telling all who will listen that he did what he did to “Jody” because SNC was going to pull up stakes and move to London if he didn’t cave to SNC demands, and 9,000 jobs would be lost. And for Liberals, its all about jobs because Liberals will do whatever it takes to protect and create jobs. Opps. Sorry Alberta. That just slipped out.

And this was all done within 48 hours of the release of the 2019 Federal Budget, that Electoral masterpiece specifically designed to bribe Canadian voters with not even their own dollars, but with deficit dollars that we don’t presently have but are going to spend anyways for no other reason that voting Liberal in October is THE RIGHT THING TO DO. After all, those Conservatives are right wing lunatics, and we can’t let them win again, can we? I mean, they were in power from 2006-2015, nine whole years, and surely, they destroyed every social program we have, didn’t they? Well, maybe not, but that doesn’t matter. We’re all sure that if we left them in power long enough, they would have gotten around to destroying those social programs eventually. We don’t trust them anyway. Oh my, here I go again, more meds required!

My question here is who is running the Liberal’s communication show? Surely the Liberals must have about 10 different communications specialists leading the charge here, because there are about 10 different messages going in 10 different directions, and its surely looking like a circus.

Let’s fast forward to this morning, and me almost choking on my coffee. I open my Saturday copy of the National Post, and as is my custom, I read my paper starting at the back, in the section called ISSUES & IDEAS. And before you start calling me names here, be advised that this is where my good Newfoundland friend Rex Murphy appears most weekends. So, its not all Right-wing lunatics in print.

As a matter of fact, this morning none other than Anthony Housefather, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal (that most elevated (haha, Mount Royal, get it?) of all Montreal, Quebec ridings) and esteemed Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, wrote what we political hacks call an OP/ED piece. For the uneducated and/or uninterested observer, that means an Opinion Editorial, meaning not the newspaper’s opinion but that of a guest contributor. I’m tempted to say “ghost contributor” here, because Liberals would rather eat rat poison than to be seen in print in the National Post. Kind of like Democrats in the US appearing on Fox News, you know?

Mr. Housefather felt the need to tell Canadians, again, once again, and yet one more time, why there is nothing left to see or hear from Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould regarding the unacceptable political pressure Ms. Wilson-Raybould was subjected to before, during and after her resignation from Cabinet.

And again, oh, by the way, we really do have to take a serious look at separating the roles of Attorney General and Minister of Justice says Mr. Housefather. Not to worry says Mr. Housefather because the Prime Minister has taken care of that. Our Boy King – he of the selfie and funkier socks – has just appointed Anne McLellan, the former Liberal Cabinet Minister who held both roles (that of Attorney General and Minister of Justice) in previous Liberal Governments, to study the matter and report in due course. She will, however, have to cancel her appointments as Guest Speaker at several Liberal Party of Canada fundraisers if she is going to dedicate her time to this very important matter. (I’m not kidding here. Check it out folks. True story.) She does not want to create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

So, says Mr. Housefather, we shut down Conservative attempts to keep this story going, but my Committee on Justice and Human Rights is satisfied that there is nothing to see or hear here. It doesn’t matter that Ms. Jodi Wilson-Raybould has resigned. It doesn’t matter that the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary and best friend, Gerry Butts, has resigned. It doesn’t matter that Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council and Canada’s most senior civil servant has resigned. And it doesn’t matter that Jane Philpott, a senior Cabinet Minister who wasn’t even directly involved in this whole mess, has resigned in protest, citing her inability to show confidence in the Prime Minister and Cabinet as reasons for her resignation. The House of Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights has spent a whole 17 hours on this nonsense.  Four resignations at the highest reaches of the Government of Canada! Nothing to see here folks. Let’s just all move on, says Mr. Housefather. Mr. McLellan, without conflict of interest because she will not be doing those Liberal fundraisers, will guide us to the light.

But hold on here! What else is on the page titled Issues & Ideas? Why, it’s a column by Matt Gurney titled Philpott Has Something To Say, Canada. Philpott gave an interview to McLeans Magazine, published Thursday of this week, where she candidly described her displeasure with the Prime Minister for shutting down Mr. Housefather’s committee and for allowing things to continue on as if everyone is indeed participating in a cover up.

And this is where we get serious. In the minds of all but the most jaded of partisan Liberals, and using Mr. Gurney’s words here, not mine, “shutting down the committee’s work unavoidably raises the spectre of a coverup”. Appointing Ms. McLennan as a Special Advisor with no legal standing is also being seen by the public as a blatant political move, although an amateurish one, to make the government appear as if it is doing something.

I will not drill down too deeply into Ms. Philpott’s McLeans interview here, but I would encourage you to seek it out and give it a read. In my opinion, Jane Philpott is of the same caliber as Jody Wilson-Raybould – an intelligent, very articulate, very experienced and principled woman who entered politics with the ambition of doing things differently. Like Wilson-Raybould, however, Philpott is finding out the realities of Ottawa are much different than the egalitarian utopia promised by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal propaganda machine that Canadians bought lock, stock and barrel in 2015.

So where does this leave us? From a communications perspective, this week has proved disastrous for the Liberals. After all is said and done, and after all has been read and studied, what are the chattering masses talking about? Well, we’re still talking about SNC-Lavalin, we’re still talking about Jody Wilson-Raybould, we’re still talking about four resignations at the highest reaches of the Canadian Government, and now Jane Philpott has moved centre stage.

We are not talking about Trudeau’s Election Budget. No doubt the Liberals will tour and promote the 2019 Budget as best they can, but this SNC-Lavalin thing has legs folks. It is not going away.

But not to worry folks.  My meds are available to them if needed.

How Could You?

I will be the first to admit that there is much about this world that I simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

For example, in what I consider to be the First World, meaning in those countries leading the world in economic growth, educational opportunities and scientific advancement, populations are generally well educated, and middle class prosperous. We may, and do, have differences of opinion on political matters so we often disagree on ideology. We also often differ on matters relating to religious belief, but we manage to live peacefully (mostly) with our neighbours.

We have available to us the best of medical care and a social welfare safety net system that is unmatched in less developed countries. And yes, as Canadians we can tell our American friends that they do in fact live in a social democracy. American governments provide roads, free education for their children, a certain amount of health care under programs designed for seniors and others, and many, many other government services. Americans are already socialists; they just don’t know it yet.

It’s fair game to have political discourse on how best we deliver medical care, educational opportunities and financial gain, but I think we can all agree on the generalities here. Western governments are not perfect, but they provide opportunities and protections in equal measure. Those of us born in western democracies have won the lottery.

I am not arguing that we are without poverty in North America. I am not suggesting that all segments of our populations have equal access to the best health/medical care known to man. And I am certainly not arguing that we are without real Third World problems right here in the middle of our First World comfort zones. All we have to do to understand that we have real Third World conditions here in Canada and the United States is to look at the number of First Nations Communities in our countries that do not have access to safe drinking water. Safe drinking water is a topic for another day, as is social democracy, but to go full circle in terms of what I’m trying to say…… Generally speaking, that is.

In both Canada and the United States, we are educated, meaning we should be critical thinkers who can research and digest credible information with the intention of coming to informed opinions and conclusions.

We are prosperous. We are informed. We have access to unlimited amounts and sources of credible information. And yet, somehow, somewhere, and someway, some people still come out of the exercise forming the most ill-advised opinions and making the most imprudent decisions. And these decisions will affect not only themselves, but their families, the communities in which they live, and the countries they claim they would die for.

A prime example of which I speak……..

I once worked for a company that employed as many medical doctors, scientific PhDs, nurses and other medical professionals as they did “civilians”. During my very early tenure with this company, I was naive enough to promote the idea that we (meaning the office building in which I worked) were big enough to host a flu clinic. To make a long story short, on the full day of the clinic, in a building which housed more than 350 people, less than a dozen people showed up to receive a flu shot.

Now, you might want to defend such people, and suggest to me that such educated and informed individuals must have taken advantage of other medical services and availed themselves of the flu shot. And, no doubt, some of them did. The reality for me, however, was shocking.

For there I sat among the educated and informed masses, an old political hack with a comparatively humble academic background in Political Science and Economics, and a resume that showed a work history of having served in a host of different government positions, only one of which could even remotely be considered “health” related.

At the time I remember feeling like I was “the cock of the walk”. I was doing “good” for my community because I was at least partly responsible for organizing the flu shot clinic But when I asked my co-workers – these medical and scientifically trained professionals – why they didn’t take advantage of the flu clinic, a goodly number of them answered “my gosh, no, don’t you know the dangers associated with immunization?” “Don’t you ever read anything on the internet?” Or, my favourite dumb response “Don’t you know its much better for you if you let your body fight all diseases naturally?  Yes, yes, a few poor sous may die, but the rest of us will be stronger for our suffering.”

I mean, come on people, these were medical doctors and scientists I was dealing with!

I was, and still am to this day, speechless as to the response I received after that flu clinic. The whole exercise made me feel like I was in an uneducated, underfunded and somewhat backward Third World environment, and the year was really 1920 or thereabouts.

I was watching CNN this morning, and suddenly, I was listening to a report about a woman who lived somewhere in the mid-West United States, and whose son had just died from the flu. This woman had apparently joined some Facebook group that had been set up to support parents who had suffered the loss of a child. This Facebook Group was pro-immunization, and its members went busily about their business of welcoming the grieving mother and trying to help her understand that she was not responsible for the death of her son, because all of her kids had been vaccinated, and immunization saves lives.

But immediately upon starting the Facebook banter, this woman came under immediate attack from anti-vaxxer trolls who called the woman a lying schemer because everyone knew that the woman in question really didn’t have children, and therefore, it was impossible………… If you want to discredit someone, use the big lie, because there is no lie as good or as believable as THE BIG LIE. Donald Trump has taught us how to believe the big lie. So, in terms of the immunization story, you no doubt could write the rest yourself.

You already know this story, my friends. Measles was effectively eliminated in Canada by 2002, and that was a good thing because measles has a mortality rate of 1 to 2 per thousand in developed countries like Canada and the United States, and 3 to 5 per thousand in developing Third World countries. Measles is dangerous stuff and it is a killer. Never the less, the educated masses to whom I referred earlier don’t always get it.
Prior to widespread vaccinations in 1980, the World Health Organization estimates measles caused 2.6 million deaths every year. By 2012, with 84 per cent of the world’s children vaccinated, that global number was reduced to 122,000 — which is still 14 deaths every hour. Measles can also cause pneumonia, deafness, blindness and brain damage. Again, measles is a killer. What’s not to get?
Those are the facts and educated people with access to great medical facilities and services should be able to think rationally about immunization. Given the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement in North America, however, I am left to ponder the nature of human intellect.

In the absence of doubt, when it appears that all is under control or about to come under control, do we as human beings purposefully seek out contrary evidence to that which is scientifically proven and readily available? Is there a need in some of us to create the greatest amount of chaos possible, no matter the cost to our own children?

California has already moved forward with legislation to take on the anti-vaxxers, and other Western States in the US are becoming more pro-active as well. Here in Canada, every province has top-notch immunization programs available to our populations, but the loop holes are many. Its time for Canadian governments, meaning Provincial governments, to follow the lead of California and make immunization mandatory, with the only exemption being a medical exemption.

Our children deserve no less. My grandchildren certainly deserve no less, and I will do whatever I can to see them safe.