Must-reads: Don Martin on oilsands damage control; Lawrence Martin, John Ivison, Don Martin and Greg Weston on the cabinet shuffle; L. Ian MacDonald on the BCE case.
Fortier and Emerson to the rescue
Let’s hear it for the unelected shill and the dirty traitor!
Fundamentally, says the Toronto Star‘s James Travers, Stephen Harper strengthened his cabinet yesterday by installing “experience” and “gravitas” at foreign affairs in the person of David Emerson, and replacing him at international trade with Michael Fortier, who is “sophisticated enough to advance Canada’s vital import-export interests.” The appointments are also “revealing, even embarrassing,” however, since neither of these vital ministries is now headed by an elected Conservative and both ministers may leave politics before the next election. On the other hand, Travers suggests Fortier’s new job is “a more appealing place for an aspiring Conservative candidate” than public works.
“Too large to be ignored, but too small to be consequential,” is Jeffrey Simpson‘s reaction in The Globe and Mail. Sub in the word “scattershot” for the word “small” and you have a pretty good summation of the column itself, but we’ll defer to the headline writer and suggest Simpson’s primary point, if any, is that David Emerson must quickly set about “bring[ing] more balance to the Harper government’s China policy.” And that Harper must set about finding “a more politically friendly riding for Mr. Emerson” in hopes of enticing him to stay in politics.
Parachuting Emerson into friendlier electoral territory would “forsake [Harper’s] principled opposition to running roughshod over the democratic choice of party members,” warns the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin, who’s pretty sure Emerson will opt for the “supersized paycheques and perks” of corporate Canada over another election. As such, he argues, this cabinet shuffle represents a lost opportunity to give new appointees the summer to “decipher their briefing books” and bolster their credentials for a fall election. And above all, he writes, “it gobsmacks” that Harper didn’t boost the number of women in cabinet.
Elections aside, “with auto plants closing, protectionism growing in Congress, and Barack Obama musing about banning oil imports from the Alberta oilsands,” Sun Media’s Greg Weston says Harper needed a “powerful international tag-team” in place for the reasonably near future—and in Fortier and Emerson, he got it. Surveying the less important moves, Weston says James Moore is finally “getting is due,” while “neophyte” Christian Paradis represents a “major risk” at public works, “home to the sponsorship scandal and other great chapters in federal malfeasance.”
Emerson’s performance at international trade augurs well on the China front, the Globe‘s Lawrence Martin suggests, noting that “he recently announced the opening of six new Chinese trade missions” and believes the politics of Sino-Canadian relations shouldn’t “interfere with the economics.” Moreover, Martin says, Emerson is far more “inclined to challenge the PM … than his predecessors,” both of whom were relative novices at the post. Martin also compares Emerson’s performance favourably to that of Stockwell Day, in that both have “operated in a low-key, respectful fashion.” We still think a jet ski eruption is possible at any moment, but we have to admit—he’s right.
Emerson is “used to a fair amount of autonomy,” the National Post‘s John Ivison writes, and “may chafe under the close supervision of a Prime Minister who is his own Foreign Affairs and Finance Minister.” Still, he hastens to add, it’s good news that we have a foreign minister who “at least knows that Sinai is not the plural of sinus.” As for perennial bridesmaids Diane Ablonczy and Jason Kenney—who likely would have been promoted, says Ivison, “were they not from Calgary”—he suggests they take solace in the words of British Tory politician Alan Clark: “If you are elevated, there comes a day when you are demoted.”
“A unanimous judgment of the Quebec court was unanimously reversed within 72 hours of a hearing,” L. Ian MacDonald writes of the Supreme Court’s decision in the BCE Inc. buyout. “You don’t see that every day”—the speed, that is. But unfortunately, he notes, “the Supreme Court has previously reversed seven out of nine commercial rulings from the Quebec court, including five out of five unanimous judgments, in the last five years.” This is rather embarrassing, he believes, and hinders the development of “a world-class business culture in Quebec.”
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford says while Momin Khawaja “may yet be found not guilty, he has by his own nasty words painted himself into a tight corner.” Which is to say e-mails admitted into evidence yesterday leave very little doubt that he was, in fact, building remote-controlled detonators in Ottawa. Just as interesting, Blatchford suggests, is the “new-wave sort of arranged marriage” in which he and his alleged co-conspirators believed: “They would find a likely young woman on one or another website, canvas her views on jihad, check out her picture—and then zip over to Pakistan to meet the family and arrange the permissions.”
Albertan oil vs. American mayors
The idea of banning the importation of oil from emissions-intensive sources doesn’t make a lot of sense, Don Martin argues in the Herald. For one thing, “if the pipeline to the south is shut off, heavy oil will be shipped in gas-emitting tankers to China or India where it will be given a dirtier refining.” For another, “once the oil is floating on the high seas, any American boycott could be circumvented by international brokers directing tankers to unload at any U.S. port.” But this is the way the winds are blowing, Martin notes, and the “old gray mayors” proposing the boycott can’t just be shooed away. “Signs of progress must be displayed soon to reassure Americans that while it’s hardly green, the oilsands are aiming to shake the label of The Most Destructive Project on Earth.”
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson breaks down Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s positions on Iraq, security, health care, the economy, energy and the environment—the latter being the one area on which they share any common ground, Ibbitson says. After each of these categories, the article presents three percentage point scores—for example, on “security,” the score is 33 per cent for Obama, 52 per cent for McCain and 15 per cent for “other.” Perhaps it’s because we’re under the weather, but we cannot discern what these figures mean.
The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson notes that Quebec Premier Jean Charest seems oddly unmoved by the departure of popular, competent and (which is key) ambitious health minister Philippe Couillard. He “was too valuable as health minister for Charest to transfer him to another portfolio” as he’d requested, MacPherson notes. And “as long as Couillard was in the government, there was a readily available replacement for Charest if his leadership faltered.”
Most of Margaret Wente‘s gay friends think “it’s all become a bit nuts”—all the transgendered “groups” and “subgroups” and people who masturbate their pet birds to orgasm and pregnant men, etc.—and will “spend the weekend gardening” rather than attend Toronto’s Pride festivities. Wente herself, writing in the Globe, suspects all these new sexual identities are an attempt to “épater la bourgeoisie” now that mainstream gay couples are perfectly free to make out in public. And now we all know.