Must-reads: John Ivison on aboriginal education; Greg Weston on yet more campaign finance reforms.
Let’s get gruesome
The Canadian justice system is already in the Halloween spirit.
The Globe and Mail‘s Christie Blatchford reports from the David Frost trial, which just gets sicker and weirder and more twisted with every passing day. One of Frost’s “massively inarticulate” former players happily testified yesterday as to the various sexual activities that went on between the players and various local young women (and, allegedly, Frost himself). But he freaked out, Blatchford reports, when he thought the prosecutor was suggesting something a wee bit gay might have been going on. This “may offer clues as to … the lack of actual complainants in this dog’s breakfast of a case,” Blatchford suggests.
The Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno devotes considerably more attention to the matter of—ugh, please don’t make us say it—the, argh, no, the “two-inch-by-two-inch-by-two inch plum-sized sac of blood that appears like a third testicle,” a condition from which Frost apparently was suffering at the time of his alleged crimes and, the defence argues, which his female sexual conquests ought to have remembered.
The Globe‘s Gary Mason explains the tortured mood in his home of Tsawassen, B.C., as the town comes to grips with the death Orion Hutchison, a well-liked 21-year-old who died after being hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. For the uninitiated, the car, was allegedly under the tenuous and inebriated control of off-duty RCMP Cpl. Ben Robinson, who was in the company of his two children, with whom he allegedly fled on foot immediately after the accident rather than stay and help Mr. Hutchison. Oh, and he was the supervising officer of the four that confronted Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport. We have nothing more to say about thoee allegations; we are officially speechless.
Liberals on the cheap
The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin handicaps the race for Liberal leader and suggests that if John Manley decides against running (as Martin’s sure he will if he determines he can’t raise the requisite funds), the 2009 convention will become “a ho-hummer Stéphane Dion do-over … Bob Rae versus Michael Ignatieff, Part Deux.” But it’s precisely the prospect of a “do-over”—i.e., some third party replicating the Dion Manoeuvre—that makes it so interesting, we’d say. Well, that, and the fact that the “winner” will be responsible for both “refinanc[ing] and redefin[ing] a party” that currently “stand[s] for little beyond a lingering sense of power entitlement.”
And it’s going to get even harder, Sun Media’s Greg Weston predicts, once the government moves “to bar political candidates and parties from accepting loans as a way to dodge electoral financing laws”—a loophole that completely flouts the intention of the Liberal-created reforms, Weston convincingly argues. How would it have looked, he asks, if Stéphane Dion had won the election and taken office still owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to “a single Montreal businessman,” and installed a cabinet “full of failed leadership contenders, most with outstanding IOUs”? It would have looked not good, one would have to agree. But sadly for the Grits, Weston says, it may leave them “trying to run their coming leadership race on pennies, hot air and used buttons.”
New cabinet, new priorities
The federal government spends less per student on Canada’s native reserves than it does for non-natives, John Ivison notes in the National Post; “teachers get paid less on reserves, there are more students per teacher and there are fewer resources,” and the dropout rate among aboriginals on-reserves is a national disgrace. This is all manifestly nuts, he quite rightly argues—if not for basic social justice reasons then because Canada faces an acute shortage of skilled labour. The $268 million for native education the government has already promised is “a step in the right direction,” he argues, but it still won’t close the funding gap. Bold, expensive, politically awkward solutions are needed.
The Globe‘s Lawrence Martin files a speculative cabinet shuffle column that will be moot by the time you read this. He does suggest, however, that any signs of a more conciliatory Stephen Harper may be the very first signs that he fears for his leadership. “He didn’t invest a lot of time reaching out and building loyalties within the party in the first term,” says Martin. “He may need to do so now.”
Beyond installing a better cabinet, the Star‘s James Travers believes there’s no way for the Harper gang to successfully navigate the rapids ahead without fundamentally changing the way it deals with the bureaucracy. “This minority government, unlike the last, should treat its top mandarins as something more than fast-food cooks delivering a predictable Conservative menu,” he advises—which is Traversian for, they need to look for solutions outside their ideological comfort zone. Speaking of which, either we’re misunderstanding Travers, or he’s managed to accuse the Conservatives of being “unwilling to consider alternatives to … laissez-faire economics” and becoming “the most functionally socialist” administration in Canadian history in a single column. If that’s indeed what he’s done, then excelsior to him.
Are the British Columbia government’s budget projections off by hundreds of millions of dollars, or by billions of dollars? The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer investigates. Either way, sounds like you folks out there in B.C. are going to want to stock up on Spam and hide all your gold someplace really safe.
After indulging the whole reasonable accommodation foofaraw, the Quebec Liberals couldn’t very well not follow through on their various promises, says the Montreal Gazette‘s Don Macpherson. So yesterday, the immigration minister introduced the “statement that future immigrants will have to sign before they are allowed to come to this province, in which they promise to respect certain ‘common values’ of Quebec society.” It’s pretty tepid, in MacPherson’s estimation, though certainly capable of annoying the usual suspects. And yet, he observes, it’s been greeted mostly with silence. And voting while veiled was a complete non-issue during the federal election campaign, he notes, even though Elections Canada affirmed the theoretical right of Muslim Canadians to do so. All this is evidence, he suggests, that “accommodations are a dead issue.”
Five more days
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson urges us not to get too excited (or worried) about polls showing Barack Obama’s lead shrinking to too-close-to-call territory. “Elections are decided state by state, which is the reason why so many analysts, including this one, remain convinced that the race is as good as over,” he writes. “Mr. Obama continues to lead in every state that John Kerry won in 2004 and many that George Bush won.” And if he takes Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia—states in which his lead is greater than the margin of error—he’ll already have more Electoral College votes than he needs to win. So everyone relax.
And back in the Star, the inimitable Bob Hepburn beseeches God to install Obama in the White House, to guide him in his efforts to build a “better future” for black Americans and rescue his country’s reputation abroad, and to spread Obama’s warm, healing, warming glow north to our own troubled nation. You think we exaggerate? This is Hepburn’s lede: “I pray that Barack Obama is not shot and killed if he wins Tuesday’s election and becomes the next president of the United States.”