Must-reads: Haroon Siddiqui on the Iacobucci inquiry; John Ibbitson, lost in Wyoming; Murray Campbell and John Ivison on Ontario’s deficit.
Please welcome Jim Prentice, Minister of Everything
So many portfolios, so few competent people to staff them.
The Toronto Star‘s James Travers advises the Prime Minister to worry less about Quebec in making his new Cabinet and worry more about “managing what’s happening in the United States”—i.e., the financial crisis and the impending challenges and opportunities of a Barack Obama presidency. Harper “needs broad foreign affairs shoulders to help carry the Atlas load of change and crises,” for example—that’s some classic Travers prose right there!—and those shoulders, he says, belong to Jim Prentice. He expects Lawrence Cannon to replace Prentice at Industry, David Emerson to be dispatched to Washington as ambassador “to explain to Washington Democrats why protectionism may be good short-term politics but a lousy way to advance the long-term interests of either country” (which strikes us as a fine idea) and Jim Flaherty to remain at finance, where he can “absorb the inevitable blame for hard times.” (We have no problem with that, either.)
Sun Media’s Greg Weston expects few fireworks in the Cabinet shuffle. He has Prentice staying at Industry “to deal with the growing upheaval in the manufacturing sector, including the possible demise of the auto industry as we know it,” and he thinks Cannon would be ideal for Foreign Affairs except that “he will likely be Harper’s lieutenant for Quebec,” which is “a full-time job in itself.” That leaves… holy Hannah, Stockwell Day? Oh, come on!
This week’s Liberal caucus meeting won’t be the first to be full of negativity, recrimination and doubt, Barbara Yaffe notes in the Vancouver Sun. “This time, however, a Rubicon has been crossed and many are concerned that, if there’s no turnaround in the party’s modus operandi, the Grit brand could go the way of the Progressive Conservative one.” They need to figure out how to limit the field of leadership candidates, ensure someone doesn’t split the difference between Rae and Ignatieff like Dion did, overhaul their fundraising machine and deal with whispers that the “young bucks” Paul Martin brought into the party backrooms are at the root of all their troubles.
The Star‘s inimitable Bob Hepburn gives odds on the Liberal leadership race. Weird odds. Two-to-one on Frank McKenna, who’s not officially in the race? Thirty-to-one on Carole Taylor, whom Hepburn says “has shown little interest in national politics”? Some will argue “it’s far too early to focus on the horse race,” Hepburn concedes, but those people can go to hell—not because we don’t know who’s running, mind you, but because “every candidate is weighing his or her odds, so why can’t the media or voters?” Dude, who are you arguing with?
Drama surrounding the election of a speaker of the National Assembly would normally be “inside baseball,” writes the Montreal Gazette‘s Don Macpherson. But Tuesday’s shenanigans in Quebec City, in which Premier Jean Charest refused to escort the PQ’s François Gendron to the throne or applaud his speech—alleging Gendron “used ‘subterfuge’ to become [speaker] and had ‘hid’ his candidacy until shortly before the deadline for declaring it”—and the smug look on his face outside the Assembly afterwards suggests to Macpherson that he may have just given himself an excuse to call an election. “This manoeuvre is a breach of confidence that is contrary to the spirit of cohabitation,” he said. Oh, snap!
The National Post‘s John Ivison grudgingly applauds the Ontario Liberals’ collective “brass neck.” Dalton McGuinty “swore blind” he wouldn’t raise taxes, then he did, and then he had the temerity to sell it as a tough leadership decision. And now, having promised not to run a deficit, his finance minister, Dwight Duncan, is announcing he will—and he has the temerity to theatrically blame “the right-wing approach of tax cuts and deregulation” for his predicament. “He must be looking at some other jurisdiction to come to that conclusion,” says Ivison, “because virtually all of the $25-billion in new resources the province has raised in the past four years has gone [to] new spending.”
The Globe and Mail‘s Murray Campbell agrees, suggesting Duncan would have a better case if he hadn’t tried to ship the blame for the unbalanced books offshore. “The villain in the piece is not the global cataclysm that has caught bankers and governments by surprise as much as it is the slow erosion of Ontario’s economy in recent years,” he argues. “A $500-million deficit is, in itself, no big deal …What’s more troubling is that Mr. Duncan couldn’t have anticipated it.”
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports on the testimony of a public health nurse who was involved in trying to determine what to do about Johnson Aziga, the HIV-positive Hamilton man charged with murdering two of his sexual partners by not informing them of his infection. Just how the medical system deals with these rare cases of intransigent infectors—a series of court orders, essentially, each the subject of intense debate—is an interesting window into a fascinating case.
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno recaps the Crown’s opening statement at the murder trial of J.S.R., one of the accused gunmen in the Boxing Day 2005 shooting that killed 15-year-old Jane Creba, in which prosecutors lay out in painstaking detail exactly how a major downtown Toronto intersection turned into a gangland war zone.
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui finds the government’s reaction to the Iacobucci inquiry, specifically the idea that Canada’s complicity in the torture of three of its citizens was a case of “good people acting with deficient procedures” (in Stockwell Day’s words) that have since been fixed, unconvincing and woefully insufficient. “That’s not the thrust of what Iacobucci says,” Siddiqui argues. “CSIS sent questions directly to Syria, … and the Syrians took that as ‘a green light to continue their interrogation and detention, rather than a red light to stop,'” according to Iacobucci. We need “a civilian oversight agency over all security agencies,” he contends, “and a wide public discussion of Iacobucci’s disturbing findings.”
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson checks in from the “heart of the heartland”—Wheatland, Wyo., a town of 3,458 in Dick Cheney country that epitomizes the current tension within the GOP grassroots. “Wyoming believes … America is a Christian nation; Americans cherish their right to own a gun; it is up to each citizen to make the most of his life,” and that Washington should keep its nose out their business. They are, in a word, Republicans. But as the economy weakens, and “the abuses and failures of anti-terrorist efforts” mount, some Wheatlandians are even willing to publicly support Barack Obama, Ibbitson discovers. Others are just confused. “The country needs a change,” one pro-gun, pro-choice woman tells Ibbitson, “but I don’t know what it is.”