Mr. Dion, weren't you an environmentalist?

Must-reads: Christie Blatchford on Eliot Spitzer; Lawrence Martin on Stéphane Dion’s enviro-silence; Chantal Hébert on—yawn!—election fever; David Olive on NAFTA; John Ibbitson on the NAFTA-disasta; Dan Gardner on Omar Khadr.

Start the bus!
After a three-week break—or was it two?—Megapundit welcomes election fever back to Ottawa.

Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, relates that Stéphane Dion had enormous trouble in a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board explaining where he’d find the cash to reduce poverty by 30 to 50 per cent in his first five years as Prime Minister. He didn’t even mention Dan McTeague’s registered education savings plan proposal, which you’d think he would if it was a hill he was prepared to die on. Mind you, she says, if RESPs were a Liberal “brainchild” and not a “tar baby,” you’d think they’d have simply included them in a budget amendment. But for a party ostensibly dedicated to fighting poverty, Hébert concludes, a big fat break for Canadians with enough money to squirrel away for their kids’ education is something of a “non-starter.”

Nevertheless, the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin reports, “those crazy Liberals are still thinking about forcing an election this spring.” The impetus? “[T]he scandalous duo of Chuck Cadman and Ian Brodie,” bolstered by Bob Rae’s and Martha Hall Findlay’s forthcoming addition to the Grit dream team. The platform? “[P]ledges to fight homelessness, bolster infrastructure, act for a greener environment and bail out the auto sector, all purportedly without running a deficit.” A “scaled-down” version of McTeague’s RESP—$50 per child instead of $5,000, perhaps?—would also be in there.

How do you run under a green flag, The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin asks—echoing Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s complaints—if you’re not even going to bring up the government’s woefully inadequate environment plan in Question Period? It’s true, Martin argues, that Dion has other “scandals” to choose from—and “every time he hammers the Conservatives on the green file, they need only point back at his party’s own record and start chuckling.” But whereas Dion was once hammered for being “a one-trick green pony,” Martin believes he “has now gone too far in the other direction.”

NAFTA—past, present, and disasta
L. Ian MacDonald
, writing in the Montreal Gazette, states his vast appreciation for the good work and graceful character of Simon Reisman, who died on the weekend. “Three generations of Canadians have benefitted from his vision” and his intimidating persona during trade negotiations, MacDonald argues—from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947 to Pearson’s Canada-U.S. Auto Pact and NAFTA. Privately, however, MacDonald says Reisman was first and foremost a “gentleman of the old school.”

The Star‘s David Olive files an exhaustive defence of NAFTA, arguing that even where jobs have been lost—such as in the American and Canadian industrial heartlands—”it’s difficult to pin the blame on free trade.” Rather, he points the finger at “the sudden emergence this decade of millions of low-cost workers” in China, India and the former Soviet bloc. And when it comes to border bottlenecks, ongoing disputes over Canadian softwood lumber and cattle exports, and Mexican agricultural products—which struggle to meet American standards—he suggests “trade still isn’t free enough.”

The Globe‘s John Ibbitson offers what should be the last word on the NAFTA-disasta, dismissing the idea of a pro-McCain conspiracy from the Harper government (“what looks like a conspiracy is usually just stupidity”) but excoriating the Canadian embassy in Washington for excessive cuteness—i.e., claiming it hadn’t communicated with Team Obama, when the consulate in Chicago had done just that. Had the embassy issued a standard “we talk to lots of people and we don’t comment on it,” the issue would have died.

Dump his ass!
The sheer hypocrisy of the Eliot Spitzer debacle makes the story “deliciously irresistible,” Peter Worthington writes in the Toronto Sun. But it’s a “serious story” nonetheless. With whose money did he pay for his extramarital dalliances, Worthington wonders? And why, like so many jilted wives before her, would Spitzer’s wife stand demurely by his side rather than “take a bread knife to him”? “[I]t bewilders me,” Worthington admits.

Don’t get the Globe‘s Christie Blatchford started on that. Seriously—don’t. She’ll regale you with stories of horrible, flabby old men of indomitable and totally unjustifiable confidence around the fairer sex, and how they make her “contemplate
why I should not slash my wrists.” “Big fat cheap old guy[s]” and “[s]kinny weirdo cheap old guy[s]” can be “sex symbols,” she fumes, yet “[u]nfat, not cheap slightly younger old bag[s]” are just old bags, nothing more. And as long as there are women—prostitutes or not—willing to bed, and stand by, such cretins, Blatchford sees little hope for improvement on that front. It’s a top-shelf rant.

“Perhaps,” the Star‘s Rosie DiManno suggests, public faithfulness in the face of reckless infidelity is simply “part of the package of being inside an ambitious political partnership, particularly when a husband’s proclivities are well known to the aggrieved spouse.” (She compares the situation to that of Gary Hart, “who dared reporters to nail him in the act of rumoured adultery – which they promptly did.”) “But discreet accommodation is a far different thing from public humbling,” DiManno adds—and she’s seen more than enough political wives take it for the team.

Duly noted
The Ottawa Citizen‘s Dan Gardner believes it’s reasonable to say that by 1997, at 11 years of age, Omar Khadr was “living amidst what can reasonably be described as a death cult.” Certainly his father “dreamed of martyrdom for himself and his children.” The Prime Minister—and the one before him, we’d add, along with his justice minister, who’s a noted human rights advocate—evidently believes it’s just fine for a child raised under such circumstances to “be imprisoned without charge for years” and to “be tried as an adult for something he did while a boy.” It is indeed disgraceful. But we disagree that child services would have seized young Khadr had they been given the opportunity. They declined to do so with Khadr’s younger brother even after 9/11, for heaven’s sake. Where Canadian bureaucratic torpor meets Canadian indifference, children tend to suffer.

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