Megapundit: What would Elton John do?

Miscellaneous Canadian news
Canada’s pundits are still all over the shop.

The Calgary Herald’s Don Martin surveys the various motions and proposals up for discussion at the Tories’ convention in Winnipeg and concludes “the Conservatives have buried their old guard ways under a hefty slab of mainstream ideas, even though few seem to fit with the economic challenge of governing today.” No more “abortion-limiting, capital-punishing, immigrant-curbing inclinations,” for example—and even if there were some, everybody knows Stephen Harper would lay an instantaneous smack-down on them anyway. Just lots of little ideas, some affordable, some not, and most of which “would not look out of place on a Liberal party convention floor.” Ouch.

The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin pulls back the mysterious “cloak” that enshrouds Kevin Lynch, Clerk of the Privy Council, whose power has reached such levels that he can safely be considered the second most powerful man in Ottawa. (Third most powerful if you count Earl McRae.) And that power is raising some disquieting questions, Martin notes, as the ostensibly apolitical PCO “increasingly vets communications and access to information requests and has come under criticism from Information Commissioner Robert Marleau for obstructionism.” The media traditionally has little access to the executive branch of government, Martin notes, and that was fine “in the days when power was less concentrated at the centre.” Today, however, he deems this arrangement “inadequate.”

Sun Media’s Greg Weston looks askance—correctly, we’d say—at some of the nuttier reactions to the scuppering of our national portrait gallery. But he goes too far, we think, in attempting to cast the cancellation as a good idea, especially considering all the adjectives he uses to describe the move: “inexcusable,” “ham-handed,” etc. (A good idea executed terribly is, surely, a bad idea in and of itself.) And parroting the government’s line that “the creation of a separate portrait gallery is perhaps a great idea for good economic times—heck, the U.S., Britain and Australia all have one”—but a low priority “when taxpayers are demanding fiscal prudence and tightening their own belts” strikes us as just a tad weak. It’s also unfortunate for the purposes of this argument that Australia’s new gallery is scheduled to open next month.

The Montreal Gazette’s Don Macpherson accuses the consortium of television networks in charge of the provincial leaders’ debates of needlessly “tinkering with a debate formula that had proven itself.” Moving to a format that somewhat resembles the one we saw in the federal election campaign—which Macpherson likens to professional wrestling—means “the leaders will have little opportunity to speak without risk of interruption,” he laments, which will do “a particular disservice to voters whose first language is not French.” And all for the sake of—ptooey!—ratings.

After the meltdown
For all the economic uncertainty now facing the world, the Toronto Star’s James Travers takes solace that central banks “are doing what they can to make sure there’s enough money in the international system,” and politicians are realizing in droves “that stimulative spending, not balanced budgets, is the immediate … priority.” Indeed, Travers even suggests the crisis represents a chance for government to redeem itself as a general concept, “to re-establish purpose and utility, … to restore reputations ruined by serial scandals and seminal failures to deliver effective solutions at a reasonable cost.” Perhaps. It sure would have been nice, though—as Travers says himself—if Canadian politicians hadn’t been lying to us through their teeth about our budgetary situation until just a few short weeks ago.

The Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe, meanwhile, talks to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation about they think Ottawa should do in the face of the financial crisis. No prize will be awarded for guessing what they propose.

The National Post’s John Ivison explains why nobody should freak out at the prospect of the federal government “purchasing another $50-billion in residential mortgages from Canada’s banks.” In short, it’s because “the government, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, has already insured the majority of the mortgages that will now be owned by Ottawa. The taxpayer is already on the hook, in the event of default, and there is no incremental risk because of yesterday’s announcement.” He goes into considerable financial detail to back that up, but, economic ignoramuses that we are, it’s pretty much all Greek to us. Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

Canadian justice
The StarRosie DiManno reports on the latest in a parade of witnesses at the murder trial of “J.S.R.” who profess not to remember a damn thing about the Boxing Day, 2005 shooting spree that killed 15-year-old Jane Creba, despite previously sworn statements and wiretap evidence suggesting they know damn plenty.

The Globe’s Christie Blatchford, meanwhile, recaps opening statements in the murder trial of “S.M.,” who’s accused of stabbing 22-year-old Michael Oatway to death on an Ottawa city bus in 2006 after he refused to hand over his girlfriend’s borrowed iPod. Tough to say which of these trials sounds most depressing, really.

Duly noted
The Star’s inimitable Bob Hepburn files a perfectly sober column looking at a journalism project for at-risk teenagers in Scarborough, Ont., suggesting that no matter how many of the participants go into journalism, the success of the program will be measured by the “self-confidence and … sense of self-worth” it instills in them. We kept waiting for the typical Hepburnian outburst of crazy, and it never happened. Which is a good thing, we suppose. Sigh.

The Star’s Haroon Siddiqui isn’t sure if Saudi King Abdullah’s recent enthusiasm for interfaith dialogues is “damage control” against anti-Wahhabi sentiment in the wake of the 9/11 attacks or if he’s actually “dragging his conservative clerical establishment toward tolerance—first, for other Muslims and then, non-Muslims.” And he doesn’t particularly care. He believes discussion among the world’s foremost religious leaders, and the possibility of increased tolerance emerging as a result, are welcome no matter what their motivation.

The Globe’s John Ibbitson predicts America will eventually come around to the idea of same-sex marriage, without really explaining why he thinks that. And he quotes Elton John at what strikes us as somewhat absurd length.

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