Megapundit: The firewalls cometh

Must-reads: Vaughn Palmer on the Sea-to-Sky saga; Don Martin on the Afghan opium crop.

Mmmm… a nation of dutchies
Oh wait, sorry, duchies. That’s much less delicious.

Accusations of directionless “plotting and plodding” against the Tories are unfounded, Lawrence Martin argues in The Globe and Mail. In fact, he says, their vision of a more economically and politically autonomous Quebec is their vision for Canada as a whole—a “nation of duchies.” This will “drive Canadian traditionalists bananas,” says Martin, but the fact is, Canada has grown beyond the phase where its component jurisdictions need coddling and protection from Ottawa. “Not to say that a balkanization of the federation is in order,” of course, but Martin calls for “a recognition of modern realities,” and to reserve judgment on Stephen “firewall guy” Harper’s plans until we know more about them.

It looks like Canada and the United States will escape a full-blown recession, L. Ian MacDonald argues in the Montreal Gazette, and unemployment numbers across the Dominion are in historically good shape—especially in traditional laggard provinces like Nova Scotia and Quebec. Nevertheless, he expects Conservatives gathering in Lévis this week to devote a fair chunk of their discussion to avoiding a deficit, which is, as MacDonald says, “no longer an acceptable political outcome” in Canada. “If the fiscal framework were to fall back into a deficit on the Conservatives’ watch,” he says—particularly given their decision to cut the GST—”it would reflect very badly on their competence.”

Gerry Nicholls, appearing in various Sun Media organs, wonders how Stéphane Dion can convince Canadians of his fiscal skills when he can’t even pay down his Liberal leadership campaign debt. Mind you, Nicholls notes, the Liberals can’t raise money, period. Time was they’d just get Jean Chrétien on the horn to various CEOs, collect “a gazillion dollars” and “buy TV ads warning voters about how the Conservatives were ‘the party of the rich.'” Now they trail even the NDP, he chortles, which is “like losing a congeniality contest to Simon Cowell.”

Even as the Afghan poppy trade grows and its profits fund the Taliban insurgency, the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin notes that farmers in the country’s north are taking to farming wheat—thus “dispelling the fear that foreign troops destroying poppy crops would starve destitute Afghans into stampeding to the Taliban side.” So whether it’s forcing farmers to plant new crops or—as American counter-narcotics specialist Thomas Schweich recently suggested—raining hellfire upon the opium fields from above, Martin says it’s time Canada got behind a solution to Afghanistan’s narco-economy. The current situation is untenable.

Next time someone from the “hug-a-thug crowd” tries to tell you to quit worrying about crime because there’s less of it than there was in 1991, the Toronto Sun‘s Lorrie Goldstein suggests you point to the massive rise in crime rates since the 1960s. While some use the current trends to advocate a less punitive approach to justice, Goldstein believes “one could just as easily argue the skyrocketing crime rate we experienced throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s … was the result of the soft-on-crime attitude of both federal Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments.”

The Toronto Star‘s Bob Hepburn declares it a “national embarrassment” that Conrad Black retains his Order of Canada and urges its overseers to send him the way of Alan Eagleson and David Ahenakew—if not because he’s a convicted felon, then because he called us “a society of overcompensated self-pitiers.” (Based on Hepburn’s snivelling paean to Barack Obama, we’re not sure he’s in any position to impugn Lord Black’s judgment.)

Roads, rockslides and our bleak future
Roughly three weeks after the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe admonished the city to get with the climate change and peak oil program, it still hasn’t! We kid. Her point about the current Pacific Gateway Strategy—”upgrading bridges, highways and road networks connecting ports, rail and the airport”—being based on highly dubious growth estimates is very well-taken. And with a scientific “consensus” on peak oil setting up shop next door to the climate-change consensus, a wholesale rethink does seem a logical next step. (A rail connection to the airport hardly seems like a bad idea, though.)

Speaking of B.C. road projects, the Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer recaps the saga whereby a new, multi-billion dollar highway to Whistler became a “scaled-down” $700-million “rebuild and upgrade” project on the existing Highway 99, “with an emphasis on safety and improved capacity.” It’s been just as controversial, he notes, with countless people bemoaning where the money could have been better spent. “But this week’s events raise another depressing possibility,” he concludes. “For all the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent …, you still can’t depend on the highway being there when you need it.”

Duly noted
The Globe‘s Margaret Wente weighs in on the definitive girls-and-math study that shows parity on average but disparity at both extremes—i.e., boys dominate the “99th percentile,” but also among the dregs. She believes this is the perfect time to simmer down about gender parity in the hard sciences, especially considering the “impressive strides” women have already made and the fact they’re “running rings around the boys” in just about every other field.

The Globe’s John Ibbitson says John McCain’s new advertisements, which take less-than-truthful swipes at Obama’s Germany visit and compare him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, indicate that Republican operative “Steve Schmidt has well and truly arrived” at the centre of the campaign. McCain’s former campaign manager expresses dismay, arguing the approach is “childish” and takes the focus off the Republican candidate’s appeal. But, one expert tells Ibbitson, “these ads work.”

The Gazette‘s Henry Aubin nominates David Packard as “the most important figure in North American business in my lifetime.” The garage in which he co-founded Hewlett-Packard “has become recognized by the U.S. government as the birthplace of Silicon Valley,” Aubin argues; he was a pioneer in engaging the Japanese and Chinese economies; and he was a leading player in the rise of the military-industrial complex. And while it’s true Aubin “was distantly related to Packard through marriage,” he denies any bias beyond knowing more about Packard than he would have otherwise—which we think is a rather crucial bias when one is comparing someone to a bunch of other people, really, but it’s a fairly interesting read nonetheless.

And, if further proof were needed that news is slow these days, the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington picks his favourite recipients of the Stella Awards, which are handed out to particularly ridiculous lawsuit awards in the United States. (They’re named after Stella Liebeck, who famously spilled McDonald’s coffee on herself and got $640,000 richer as a result.)

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.