Panic on the streets of Ottawa (despite Sheila Fraser's best efforts)

Must-reads: Rosie DiManno on the Afghan dilemma; Chantal Hébert on Dion and the carbon tax; Dan Gardner on inequality.

Please be on the lookout for 41,000 hoodlums
At least two pundits believe it’s time to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside.

Our “insanely generous immigration and refugee system” is to blame for the 41,000 unaccounted-for people the government wants out of the country, John Ivison wails in the National Post, and what’s more, we’re “becoming a haven for the world’s hoodlums, in the same way that Ellis Island represented salvation for Europe’s tired, poor and huddled masses.” The Auditor-General attempts to soothe his nerves by suggesting some of the convicted criminals given temporary residence permits were probably just harmless “rock bands with a drug history,” but Ivison says that’s “ridiculous.” He claims “you’d struggle to come up with 10 years of convictions”—the threshold for requiring the permits—if you added up the rap sheets of the Stones, Guns N’ Roses and The Who. (That sounds suspect even before you realize the threshold is that the crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years under Canadian law, regardless of where they were committed. Does Keith Richards getting busted for heroin—in Toronto, no less—ring any bells?)

You call that alarmism, Ivison? Go home and drink your Bovril, old man. “Welcome to Canada,” Sun Media’s Greg Weston trumpets, “the only country on Earth with an immigration system apparently run by galactic aliens for the benefit of illegal ones.” Among various other outrages, he demands to know how it is that the government doesn’t even know whether people issued temporary resident permits—or, indeed, the 41,000 unaccounted-for people with removal orders against them—have left the country. Seems to us it’s mostly because, just like the U.S. and lots of other countries, we don’t have exit controls. But we must be missing the point.

If anything, the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin is more concerned that the Canada Border Services Agency knows where 22,000 of the people awaiting deportation are, and yet still can’t seem to get rid of them. But in general, he says, yesterday’s report “was mostly neutral news from what appears to be a strangely appeased auditor general”—”a welcome hodge-podge of wince-worthy anomalies instead of the usual galling affront to taxpayer sensibilities.” Indeed, her complaints over the appalling state of 24 Sussex Drive even give the Prime Minister a political out to spend millions renovating the joint! Still, he concludes, salivating at the prospect her next report might be a return to form, “the best part of Sheila Fraser’s job is knowing her next overturned rock could easily expose creepy things squirming in government dirt.”

Two sides of the climate change coin
If Stéphane Dion is going to promote a carbon tax in the next election—and we can scarcely see how he can afford not to—the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert advises him to get cracking on the strategic plan for doing so. Expert opinions, promises of revenue neutrality and assurances that the tax makes good sense for an oil-dependent nation regardless of global warming are all well and good, she argues, but “it is immensely easier to attack a tax … than to promote it.” After all, she notes, “the Tories showcased the GST as a tax shift in the early ’90s.” And that didn’t work out so great.

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson mocks Alberta Deputy Premier Ron Stevens’ various crimes against science during his efforts to convince Washington that his province was on track for massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. And he spares special derision for his use of the term “Mission accomplished!” on his blog—which has since been removed, apparently, largely due to the unfortunate matter of the dead ducks. “Most of the major political figures in the U.S. …, including the three candidates for the presidency, want something in the order of a 50-per-cent [emissions] reduction for their country by 2050,” Simpson notes—or they say they want it, anyway, which is what counts in politics. Thus, even if the Americans are insincere, Simpson accuses the Alberta braintrust of badly misreading “the U.S. tea leaves.”

Military affairs
“On the one hand Americans are trying to annihilate [former warlord and all-around baddie Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar,” the Star‘s Rosie DiManno writes from Kabul, while “on the other, [Hamid] Karzai is allegedly seeking to woo him as a confederate who wields immense influence with the Taliban.” But the residents of Kabul despise Hekmatyar for having all but destroyed the city during the civil war, she notes, and while Karzai obviously feels he needs to reach out to the Taliban remnants—while insisting NATO troops not do so on a freelance basis—DiManno says “the non-Pashtun warlords won’t have … a quasi-Taliban II in Kabul. That way lies civil war, the sequel.” In which case, she admits, it’s perfectly fair to ask what the hell the point of all this was.

The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington looks at the bewildering military and ethno-politics surrounding the upcoming “pilgrimage” of Korean War veterans back to the battlefields, including what Worthington believes is a “disproportional” aboriginal and Métis contingent—the latter led by one Maj. Ed Borchert, whom the president of the National Aboriginal Veterans Association notes is not a Korea veteran and whom he doubts is even Métis. “I call him Grey Owl II, and have complained to Veterans Affairs,” he tells Worthington. Crikey, what a kerfuffle!

Duly noted
“Contrary to what you may have read or heard since Friday,” Dan Gardner writes in the Ottawa Citizen, “the poor are not getting poorer.” But contrary to what you may have heard from Terence Corcoran, Gardner says it does matter that the gap between the richest and the poorest is growing in Canada. “Our place on the ladder matters deeply to us, whether we consciously think about it or not,” he writes. Studies have shown job satisfaction to be less dependent on salary than on other people’s salary, for example. Others have shown that health and social status are clearly intertwined “even after accounting for high rates of smoking and other unhealthy behaviours among those further down the ladder.” “Inequality is bad for people,” in other words. “It’s that simple.”

The Star‘s Thomas Walkom isn’t surprised that Dalton McGuinty erroneously assumed Ontario cities and towns would be allowed to enact more stringent pesticide regulations than the ones about to be legislated at Queen’s Park. “He, like most reasonable people, probably assumed that, since toxic chemicals are toxic, municipalities that want to prohibit their use should be allowed to do so.” Alas, says Walkom, he clearly misunderstood his own government’s primary motivation—which was to give the chemicals industry a firm “ceiling” for regulation and, more generally, “to protect industry from citizens.”

Last night’s primaries are the latest in a series of literally dozens of events that have caused the Globe‘s John Ibbitson to declare the Democratic race over and done with. “Ms. Clinton has two choices now,” he argues: “to watch the inevitable play out, choosing the appropriate time to concede defeat; or to fight to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations,” which is extremely unlikely. Well, okay, she has three choices—she could also “force a floor flight at the convention,” which “she would probably lose” and “leave the party shattered” in the process. Surely, says Ibbitson, “an honourable woman” like Hillary Clinton wouldn’t do that!

The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford relays the latest chapter in the various inquiries into the competence of Ontario’s courtroom interpreters, namely, a reasonable-sounding ruling from the Ontario Court of Appeal that the Charter doesn’t guarantee non-English speakers “continuous interpretation of every syllable.” “In other words,” Blatchford paraphrases, “some people need a lot of help, some a little, it is possible to make the distinction between the two groups, and neither is entitled to perfection.”

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