Must-reads: Dan Gardner on drug policy; Rosie DiManno in Afghanistan, and again, and again; Rex Murphy on Maxime Bernier’s leave-behind; Christie Blatchford on Christie Blatchford; Barbara Yaffe on Dion’s carbon tax; Thomas Walkom on the Toronto 18; Peter Worthington on his dogs.
Scandal? What scandal?
One journalism vet thinks the Bernier-Couillard affair is utter piffle. The rest are 100 per cent on board.
Stories of Julie Couillard’s biker romances “circulated for weeks before surfacing in the media,” Chantal Hébert recalls in the Toronto Star, giving the control-obsessed Prime Minister’s Office ample time—and ample reason—to check up on her. If they did and found she wasn’t a threat, it would have been moronic for them not to say so, since they could now be arguing that the forgotten documents didn’t represent a danger in her possession. On the always dangerous assumption that even this self-harming PMO couldn’t be that moronic, Hébert says she can no longer rule out “the notion that the government is embarrassing itself daily to avoid the graver injury of admitting that it brushed off earlier security warnings as to Couillard’s past.”
“What really hurts the government,” Rex Murphy opines in The Globe and Mail, is how “silly” this whole thing is—”silly” being “the one characteristic we never thought to drape over the Harper administration.” It’s also humiliating, Murphy argues, since this emergency forced the Prime Minister to turn to David Emerson—”the very man who on the night of his election victory in Vancouver as a Liberal so splendidly pledged to be, and I quote, ‘Stephen Harper’s worst nightmare.'” So, with John Baird’s “lustre … dimmed” and Jim Flaherty too busy sniping at Queen’s Park to seem particularly competent, Murphy says the Harper government essentially amounts to Harper himself “and a competent Liberal.” (We’d add Jim Prentice to that list. Does that help?)
Lysiane Gagnon, writing in the Globe, assesses Harper’s remaining talent from Quebec: Lawrence Cannon—”poor public speaker”; Josée Verner—”a lightweight when it comes to policy”; Jean-Pierre Blackburn—”sole moment in the spotlight … a public-relations disaster“; Michael Fortier—”doesn’t have an ounce of charisma,” and isn’t even an MP. Brian Mulroney had similar woes, Gagnon notes, owing to the many “instant candidates” who rode to Ottawa on “the huge blue wave of 1984.” But at least he had Jean Charest and Benoît Bouchard, neither of whom “would have been seen near a biker’s gal.”
The Star‘s James Travers says this, like everything else, comes down to Harper’s failure to get to the bottom of the RCMP’s role in the income trust leak during the 2006 election. “Huh?” you might ask. “What the hell?” you might reasonably blurt out. But hear him out. If he had investigated it, see, the RCMP might be back to its lilywhite reputation of old by now… hey, don’t laugh at us; it’s Travers’ column. And then, see, Harper could have just called in the Mounties to deal with the situation, just like Chrétien did all those times, and then he could have declined comment on the whole affair on grounds that a police investigation was underway, and then everything would have eventually gone away.
George Jonas, writing in the National Post, isn’t even willing to call it a scandal. “Appointment to high office doesn’t de-sex men or women,” he writes. “In free, urbane societies—the only kind worth living in—single ministers have affairs with whoever attracts them.” And besides, he says he’d just as soon trust a bunch of bikers and their girlfriends as he would “some people one meets at diplomatic circuits … , not to mention fundraising events.” This is all good fun, but Jonas’ apparently earnest argument that Couillard had a moralizing effect on her three dead-or-disappeared former significant others is a bit of a howler.
Way more boring news from Ottawa
The Post‘s Terence Corcoran finally explains why he doesn’t think carbon taxes will result in less carbon being consumed—or at least, it seems like that’s where he’s going at first. “Nobody knows how high the carbon tax would have to go to reduce emissions,” he argues; the “undoubtedly dramatic” side effects of such taxes are “unpredictable”; and all manner of “local, provincial and national governments” will be lining up to get their share of the loot “to use … to subsidize other non-carbon industries, and offset the burden of the carbon tax on injured industries.” That’s all well and good. But us economics 101 types still don’t understand why higher prices aren’t going to decrease consumption.
If nothing else, the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe argues, plumping a carbon tax would allow Stéphane Dion to put his leadership mettle to the test. It’s a dicey proposition politically, of course, but it has plenty of support among tall foreheads and environmentally conscious Canadians alike, and Dion is reputedly “at his best when promoting something he truly believes in.” It’s unfortunate for him that he forcefully rejected carbon taxes until recently, but Yaffe makes a good point: from Dion’s bottom-of-a-hole perspective if not the party’s, what’s the worst that could happen?
“Every decade or two in this country, there’s another scare about drugs,” a thoroughly fed-up Dan Gardner writes in the Ottawa Citizen. “And every decade or two, the government quickly and firmly rejects real alternatives to the status quo. And every decade or two ministers and police chiefs tell parliamentary committees that the solution is prevention, treatment and law enforcement—and they say this with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm of ignoramuses who think they are the first to ever utter these sparkling words.” While the Canadian government’s drug policy “is so ignorant and foolish” that it’s “a challenge to explain why in a newspaper column,” we’d say Gardner does a bloody good job of it.
“National and municipal gun bans have been tried throughout the developed world and always with the same result,” says Lorne Gunter in the Post. “Gun crime remained the same or went up after the ban.” And besides, he continues, “there is no point banning guns if the thugs merely choose a knife or bat, instead.” We’re no fans of facile handgun bans, but there really is nothing in this column we haven’t heard a thousand times before—well, except for a brand new study by the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting. We know you’re all dying to know what they think about gun control.
Sun Media’s Greg Weston, citing his own family’s traumatic experience with the Canadian medical system, deplores the extent to which our hospitals rely on private donations even for basic equipment.
Boo, sovereignty. Boooooo!
“Every month,” says L. Ian MacDonald, “La Presse publishes a CROP poll on provincial and federal voting intention in Quebec.” And every month, MacDonald files like eight columns about how the numbers mean unprecedented bad news for federal Liberals and Adéquistes. Here’s today’s. (Incidentally, we think the Gazette‘s headline writers might be taking the mick: “Poll points to shifting political sands in Quebec” could apply to about 85 per cent of MacDonald’s total output.)
“Maybe it’s because sovereignists thought [Michaëlle] Jean was once one of them, or maybe it’s because she’s so good at her job of selling Canada, or maybe it’s both,” Don MacPherson muses, also in the Gazette. But “whatever the reason, no previous governor-general in modern times has received the amount of public abuse that Jean has.” (He means in Quebec, Madame Clarkson. Settle down.) And short of mentioning Julie Couillard, he says slagging the Governor-General is the easiest way to get one’s name in the paper these days.
Ibbitson on Clinton
In the wake of the Democratic National Committee’s apportioning of the Michigan and Florida delegates on Saturday, the Globe‘s John Ibbitson says Hillary Clinton can only stay alive by doing better than expected in South Dakota and Montana, “tak[ing] the overwhelming majority of 200 or so undecided superdelegates, and carry[ing] on the fight to the credentials committee, hoping to reverse the DNC compromise in Michigan.” This, as he and many others have warned on many occasions, would be very, very bad for the Democratic party.
“Everything Hillary Clinton wanted to be, Barack Obama turned out to be also, only better,” Ibbitson writes in a separate, altogether exhaustive piece outlining how and why her once-inevitable campaign went to hell. Aside from her many obvious, glaring inferiorities, there were also glaring tactical mistakes, glaring fundraising and organizational shortfalls, and a glaring lack of Oprah Winfrey.
DiManno on Afghanistan
Rosie DiManno looks at the state of poppy eradication efforts in Afghanistan, where 13 provinces are now officially “zero-opium” but the country’s overall “contribution to the world opiate market is a colossal 93 per cent” and opium production still constitutes “more than half of he country’s GDP.” For all the international hand-wringing about how best to tackle the issue, Mohammad Humayaon Faizzad, chief of staff at the counter-narcotics ministry, has no time for legalization initiatives such as the Senlis Council has proposed. “The world doesn’t need more than 300 tonnes of opium per year for medical purposes,” he tells DiManno. “Afghanistan is producing more than 8,000 tonnes of it.” In another piece, DiManno looks at American efforts to crack the adamantine nut of how to train competent, honest Afghan National Police officers. “The temptations for corruption are endless,” she notes, “the public’s support negligible.” And finally, the Star‘s one-woman content machine heads to Kandahar, where she finds US Marines trying to be relatively modest about all the Taliban arse they’re kicking.
Even if one remains convinced that the magically shrinking case against the Toronto 18 terrorism suspects will result in convictions, the Star‘s Thomas Walkom suggests one must now be concerned with the question of “timely justice.” He says “seasoned lawyers are already catching a whiff of Askov in the breeze,” referring to the case in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled defendants subject to unreasonable delays should be set free.
Members of Ed Stelmach’s cabinet “quietly demonstrated the neatest perk of all” last week, writes the Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson—namely, “the ability to give themselves a pay hike without asking their boss,” i.e. the Albertan taxpayer, “for permission.” Thomson’s not saying they don’t deserve it, mind you. He just thinks it’s odd that if they feel they deserve it, they’d arrange the raises “behind closed doors” and release the news “tucked away in an innocuous technical sentence in the weekly ‘approved orders in council’ disseminated by the premier’s office.”
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui examines Tony Blair’s plans to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “to reconcile Islam, Christianity and Judaism.” Neither goal is in any way “quixotic,” the smarmiest man in Britain insists, even as the Gaza blockade makes peace appear more remote a possibility than ever. (Incidentally, Siddiqui says our refusal to condemn said blockade is a break from our “tradition of neutrality.” A shiny loonie goes to anyone who can locate evidence of said tradition.)
“No link between forced retirement and the onset of illness has ever been established to my knowledge, but I remain convinced one exists,” the Globe‘s Christie Blatchford writes in a nothing-if-not frank rumination on her life as a “single, childless … workaholic.” Highlights include her declared “intention … to secure a handgun, partly so I can off myself when the time comes and partly just to irritate the Toronto mayor,” and her comparison between journalists embedded with Canadian Forces—a subject of “huge concern in journalism schools and to big thinkers”—and those merely entrenched in, say, Ottawa, where reporters “are regularly spun with a ferocity and a sophistication the Canadian army can only imagine, in the dampest of dreams, achieving.”
The Globe‘s Margaret Wente breakfasts with Arthur Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness, and learns why all her “latte-loving, liberal-leaning friends who believe that jobs in retail stink, traditional religion is for morons, and income inequality has made society a lot worse off,” are less happy than poor, conservative, religious retail workers who drink Nescafe.
In a column about dogs that’s actually worth reading, the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington recounts the “Dickensian novel” of his two Jack Russell terriers, who hated each other in youth to the point that one had to be given away to a family member, but are now reunited and great friends in old age.