The audacity of mope

Must-reads: Christie Blatchford on the 11-year-old cancer patient; Don Martin on the sucky Tories; Chantal Hébert on the carbon tax; John Ivison on dodgy smokes.

Must-reads: Christie Blatchford on the 11-year-old cancer patient; Don Martin on the sucky Tories; Chantal Hébert on the carbon tax; John Ivison on dodgy smokes.

Save us, your Excellency!
Who will free us from the tyranny of Peter Van Loan, and all he represents? Perhaps she lives just down the street from the Prime Minister…

The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin files a wholesale condemnation of this “dour,” “mope[y],” “glum,” “grim” government, with its empty agenda, its rigidly enforced bans on cross-party fraternization among MPs and staffers, its ritualistic abuse of Question Period and its Pierre Poilievre. It’s an entertaining read, and it contains this perfect encapsulation of the situation: “By deflecting legitimate questions about current government misbehavior with references to past Liberal misdeeds, the subtext is clear—the Conservatives’ performance is just as bad as the previous Liberal government.”

But look yonder! What radiance emanates from Rideau Hall! “The federal government… must be pinching itself over its good fortune,” says the Montreal Gazette‘s Janet Bagnall. “Michaëlle Jean has done it again”—charmed the proverbial pants off yet another foreign audience, that is, and annoyed the hell out of the separatists to boot. Beyond the charm, however, Bagnall argues that Jean’s “transcendent” message and back story is something both the French (after the 2006 riots) and the Québécois (after the reasonable accommodation hearings, which were not “a fruitful advancement in multicultural living”) very much need to hear. Don’t we all, really? Come on, Canada—let’s have a group hug.

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson speaks highly of career civil servant Arthur Kroeger, who died of cancer last week, praising his “direct and nuanced” advice to the various ministers for which he worked. He suggests Kroeger, along with the recently deceased Jake Warren, Beryl Plumptre and Simon Reisman, were part of a group that “tried to get governments out of the way”—Plumptre on protectionist food policies, Reisman and Warren on free trade, and Kroeger on “trying to reform the Crow’s Nest Pass freight rate,” which “amounted to an absurd subsidy for farmers.” Sadly, they were not always successful.

The idea of implementing a “first nations tobacco tax” to reduce the infiltration of illegal cigarettes into the Canadian market, with the proceeds going to development programs on reserves, is “a tidy solution” until you apply it to real life, the National Post‘s John Ivison argues. Kahnawawke isn’t going to take marching orders from the Assembly of First Nations or the Canadian government when it comes to the idea, for example. And if reserves decided to implement the tax themselves, it still wouldn’t address the fundamental issues of “sovereignty”—the “elephant in the room” in the whole discussion, Ivison argues. “The bottom line is the federal government has to insist on its right to tax and not only specify the consequences for non-compliance, but act on them.”

The good news for Stéphane Dion is that polls show solid nationwide support for a carbon tax, Chantal Hébert notes in the Toronto Star. The bad news is that any campaign fought on instituting a new tax is inherently “vulnerable to attack” from those who propose not to institute it. As such, the pitch would need to be carefully constructed and effectively communicated. We’re sure you can see where this is going. A recent poll—as if it were needed—shows “58 per cent of Canadians feel that Dion’s biggest handicap as leader is a poor capacity to communicate his message,” Hébert notes, and that’s not just a matter of his stilted English. That perception “is also widespread in Quebec.”

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, land of gentle rains and enlightened carbon taxation, the Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer finds himself a tad confused. Representatives of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute put on a fine briefing for reporters on the specifics of the Western Climate Initiative—the carbon cap-and-trade system of which B.C., California and several other jurisdictions are members. But isn’t it a little odd that the government itself “has said next to nothing about its goals in the WCI talks and the implications for the economy”?

Defeated, cash-poor and married to Bill Clinton is no way to go through life
“[Hillary] Clinton and her supporters have every good reason to be infuriated by the growing indifference of the power centres in the party and media toward her campaign,” John Ibbitson writes in the Globe. “Over the past two months and a bit, she has won primaries in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and now West Virginia,” while Barack Obama has only North Carolina to brag about. So it’s not surprising the Clintonites still “cling” to the idea that the 200-plus uncommitted superdelegates might eventually be won over by her strong finish. “Unfortunately,” says Ibbitson, “there isn’t an observer to be found outside the Clinton camp who gives this scenario a ghost of a chance.”

“And then there’s the money,” L. Ian MacDonald notes in the Gazette. Obama “has $50 million cash on hand, and no debt”; Clinton owes $25 million and is writing cheques to her own campaign. “At some point, as in any business, the question becomes when do you stop throwing good money after bad?” he argues. But just like any failed enterprise, he says the proprietor has to “come through all the stages of grief” before she throws in the towel. Clinton may well be stuck at the “denial” stage.

Duly noted
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford provides a typically incisive look at the courtroom proceedings that led to the new custody agreement for the 11-year-old cancer patient in Hamilton who’s being forced to endure chemotherapy. Most notably, she reports that it was the judge himself—not the parents or their lawyer, not the Ontario Children’s Lawyer who represents the boy, and not the Children’s Aid Society’s lawyer—who had to step in and insist that the patient be kept away from the media and generally “insulated” from the bickering. “Does it take a village to raise a child?” Blatchford asks. “Maybe so, because yesterday it took one of strangers and paid professionals … to write a basic parenting manual.”