The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Friday, August 30, 2002

People are asking...

Has a cabinet minister in B.C. ever been criminally convicted, and sentenced to jail?

Yes -- there was the Sommers Affair of the 1950's.

So there. They don't always "get off."

Fifteen members of the old Devine government in Saskatchewan were convicted on various chages involving abuse of the public trust in the early 1990's.
Finally! Something that has nothing to do with Glen Clark!

MPs bid to pick new PM faster

Impatient MPs and some Liberal organizers want a party leadership convention months earlier than envisioned by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

No great surprise here. It seems that at least the Martinites are now pushing for a convention in October 2003 or so. Originally, many of them indicated that they wanted to go ahead with a leadership review in February, but it seems that they've cooled off.

There is some logic to an October 2003 convention. The new leader would have a year to install himself (or herself) comfortably in the party's leadersship, to put his impression on the party, and introduce a budget. New leaders who have less than a year between their selection and a general elections have not historially fared well, be they in government or opposition at the time of their taking over of the party. Even so, this date would allow the Prime Minister to leave after ten years as Prime Minister, and Paul Martin would still be over 65 years old if he were to win.

Another story on the same subject from the Globe and Mail's Jane Taber.

Liberal Party president Stephen LeDrew said yesterday he is working hard to find an accommodation between Liberals who favour a convention in the fall of 2003 and those who prefer to wait until just before Chrétien plans to step down.

Expect to hear more on or just after September 7th after the party executive next meets.
Clark ad nauseam... part trois

Vancouver Sun court reporter Neal Hall's story on the acquittal of Glen Clark on breach-of-trust charges gives a hint as to why the special prosecutor charged Clark even when the case against him wasn't particularly compelling.

The case against Clark was linked to Dimitrios Pilarinos's attempts to get a casino licence for the North Burnaby Inn. While Pilarinos was convicted on six of the counts against him, Clark was exonerated on all charges.

[Special prosecutor Bill] Smart suggested if Pilarinos had been the only one charged, the public and the media might question why the premier had not been charged.

As for appeals...

He said the Crown conducted its case fairly and impartially. Asked if the Crown planned to file an appeal, he said he could not make that decision without consulting others.

Richard Fowler, a member of Clark's legal team, said he doubts the Crown will appeal because the judge crafted a fine legal decision that can only be appealed on points of law.

In other words, don't bet on an appeal.

Incidentally, Hall is one of the best, if not THE best courthouse reporter in the city. His work is one of the reasons why the Vancouver Sun is a barely tolerable newspaper
More Clark commentary

In a column in today's Globe and Mail, Paul Sullivan reflects on the verdict in HMTQ v. Clark and Pilarinos. He, like many, seems more relieved than anything that the shenanigans are over (we hope.)

In a way, it's good that Glen Clark has been cleared of the charges against him. Now that the "cloud of suspicion" that actually brought him to his knees has finally dissipated like a bad smell at Sunday dinner, we can finally focus on his true legacy.
Because he was such a bad premier, voters violently overreacted and elected 77 Liberals to take his place, refusing even to consider his worthy, mild-mannered interim replacement, Ujjal Dosanjh.
Because of Glen Clark, the current B.C. government is dangerously empowered, although so far it's only been inclined to lower the minimum wage for destitute teenagers, cut the pittance granted to single moms on welfare and spend billions on the 2010 Steroid Games. So that's a relief.

There was another tidbit in the column that caught my eye:

When Mr. Clark became premier in 1996, B.C. was Canada's economic miracle. When he resigned in 1999, B.C.'s economy ranked last among the provinces and we have officially gone from being a "have" to a "have-not" province.

For those who have trouble remembering through the haze of the last six years, B.C. was indeed the economic miracle in Canada back in 1996. While the rest of the country had taken it in the nuts from the recession of the early '90's, B.C. had sailed through reasonably well. Unemployment was fairly low, and growth had been steady if unspectacular, which was more than, say, Ontario could claim. It was what happened over the next five years that bit hard -- economic stagnation in B.C., compared with the economic roar heard in much of Canada and the U.S. in the late '90's...

For those who wonder, Paul Sullivan lives and works in Vancouver, and has for many years. While he has been with the Globe and Mail for many years, he's also had stints at CBC Vancouver and the Vancouver Sun. So no complaints about him being an Eastern Bastard who's writing from some ivorty tower in Toronto. It ain't so.

Elsewhere, Province columnist Mike Smyth attributes the whole sticky situation to Glen Clark's ego. Fair enough. He then goes on to gripe about Clark's taxpayer-financed legal defence team, led by prominent attorney David Gibbons. Get off your high horse, Mike. Those were the rules, and the provincial Liberals have said that they do not intend to change them. Yes, Gary Collins has been chiding Clark to disclose just how much his defence cost, but that's politics as usual. Perhaps Smyth is just playing to the illiterates who actually "read" the Province.

This much, though, is fair game:

... the judge tore a strip off Clark's taxpayer-financed lawyers, berating them for accusing RCMP Staff Sgt. Peter Montague of being a crooked cop without presenting one shred of evidence in court to back that up.

Fair enough. It is not unheard of for a defendant to try to claim that some member of the investigation had it out for them. They knew that Sgt. Montague was pally with the B.C. Liberals and Gordon Campbell, and the defence figured that it was worth a try. As it turns out, David Gibbons was blowing smoke, and the judge called him on it. That's lawyering for you.

But quit whining about taxpayers paying for Clark's defence. Clark was accused of doing improprieties committed while he was carrying out the duties of his office. Breach-of-trust trials should be covered by the public purse. As it was, Clark would be on the hook if he were found guilty. So quit yer bitchin' and git in th' kitchen!
Quick media notes

While it was no surprise that all the local newscasts in Vancouver led with the Glen Clark acquittal story, the national news was a different story.

CBC's The National led with the Clark story, as reported by correspondent Mellissa Fung. Terry Milewski, who had covered the story from the beginning, was on vacation.

CTV News with Lloyd Robertson led with the story of the impending baseball strike, as reported by senior correspondent Peter Murphy. The Clark story was second, reported by Jill Macyshon, who had only recently arrived in Vancouver from her previous posting in Winnipeg. CTV could have used Mike Killeen for its national newscast; Killeen is a polished broadcaster, and a longtime Vancouver newshound. He's been one of the best hires that BC-CTV has made (he was lured away from CKVU - now CITY in fall 2001.)

Global National led with the Clark story, which was no surprise considering the Global's Vancouver affiliate (then known as BCTV) was first on the scene when police raided Clark's house in 1999. While reporter John L. Daly continues to swear that his presence when the raid happened was just a lucky hunch, rumours have continued to circulate that he was tipped off by the RCMP.

In web news, you'll notice that I've posted four items from today's Globe and Mail below. There were actually more stories on about the Clark verdict than on This, despite the fact that CanWest Global, which operates, has three media outlets in Vancouver, while the Globe and Mail has a bureau with perhaps a half-dozen reporters. The Globe's Vancouver bureau, however has some excellent reporters on staff, and the stories that they cover tend to be the ones of real importance -- no waterskiing dogs, thank you!
Pilarinos guilty, Clark not
And were you expecting any different?

While not many observers were certain about which way the verdict of the Clark/Pilarinos trial, the end verdict didn't come as much of a surprise to this observer. Dimitrios Pilarinos was clearly trying to use the Premier as a means of getting his application for a casino licence at the North Burnaby Inn fast-tracked and approved. The Crown was unable to prove that Clark was actively peddling to influence; in short, the court found that Dimitri was the dirtbag in this case, while Clark was trying to keep it clean.

Clark obviously didn't do a good job of appearing to run a clean ship -- the former Premier seemed to be getting favours from a man who stood to benefit from favouring the Premier. However, Clark did not seek those favours -- Pilarinos bractically forced them upon Glen Clark. With 20/20 hindsight, Clark should have never even considered hiring his friend and neighbour to do his deck work; he should have trolled through the Yellow Pages for a contractor.

Nonetheless, the case has been settled, pending any appeals by the Crown.

There were some streeters on the news tonight where some people suggested that Clark should have been found guilty and that Justice Elizabeth Bennett should have considered "everything else that he did in office." Rubbish. Criminal proceedings are not where one's overall performance in office is to be judged; elections are. For it to be any other way would truly be a travesty.

The people of British Columbia spoke forcefully on the matter in May of 2001. This trial was about a specific series of instances, and in those onstances, Clark was found to not be guilty. To those who are disappointed at the judgment: Deal with it. It's over.

For what it's worth, I hope to not hear the name "Glen Clark" again unless I'm in the market for a neon sign, or possibly some other outdoor advertising. Perhaps I might tolerate an anecdote of Clark's college days from a professor, but that's about it.

It's over

Thank Goodness.

The judgment in the case of HMTQ v. Pilarinos and Clark

Media Coverage

Vancouver Sun provincial-affairs columnist Vaughn Palmer talks about the Clark trial on CBC Radio (RealAudio, 6:15)

Globe and Mail: B.C court clears Clark
Globe and Mail: Pilarinos fades into the background
Globe and Mail: Ordeal never ends, Vander Zalm says
Globe and Mail: What the judge said Glen Clark not guilty of breach of trust Joy MacPhail wishes former NDP leader well Pilarinos' lawyer asks for sentencing stay
CTV News: Former B.C. premier exonerated (contains many links to TV stories)
CBC News: Glen Clark not guilty in breach of trust case (with links to TV and radio reports)
CBC News: Clark supporters question merits, cost of case
CBC News: The National Feature Report: Glen Clark Raid
Toronto Star: `I feel great,' B.C.'s Clark says after being acquitted
CANOE: Clark found not guilty
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Former Canadian Premier Acquitted

I'll have more commentary on the whole sordid affair after I've had the time to digest the judgment. (link above)

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Federal prognostications, with apologies to Dr. Seuss

This little ditty was written by an NDPer from Saskatchewan in response to some comments by a fellow known as "SAM" who was discounting a recent Ekos poll that showed the NDP ahead of the Canadian Alliance.

I do not like Green Eggs and Sam.
It seems to me his brains are spam.

Your poll results display much lead
And now my party is ahead.

Although within the margin still,
Will we continue? Yes we will.

And come the next election day
Will any party go away?

Though it will give us all the fits
The biggest winners will be Grits.

And though the Bloc may lose a few
some franco seats will go BQ.

They may not match Mulroney's score,
But the Tories will increase some more.

The NDP won't be bereft.
Some modest gains await the left.

But for the CA, good or ill?
What fate awaits Reformers still?

Can Harper set the world on fire?
Can the dullest Commons man inspire?

I think, instead, he'll see a loss
And it will make him very cross

Canadians are not neo-Con
So it will leave Reform undone.

Oh, they'll take seats -- some twelve or more
But nothing like the time before.

Reform Alliance time has past.
They're going nowhere really fast.

Say thirty seats they'll take at most.
At thirty-one I'd let them boast.

But to say they'll win is just flim-flam,
And well you know it Sam I Am.

Originally written by "Malcolm" in Pundit Magazine's discussion forum
Another name in another race...
More Vancouver political maneuvers

Longtime Vancouver politician Art Cowie says he's "seriously considering" running for mayor.

Cowie had originally planned a run for city council on the newly-created Vancouver Civic Action TEAM (vcaTEAM.) The new civic party was created by former Non-Partisan Association (NPA) members who were displeased with the civic party's direction. The new party would be a centrist alternative to the left-leaning Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) and the increasingly right-wing NPA.

Cowie and his cohorts had been trying to recruit former B.C. cabinet minister Stephen Rogers for the party's mayoral candidate position, but Rogers has said that family commitments make it impossible for him to hold the full-time job of mayor. Mr. Rogers has said that he'll likely seek a city council seat.

Although Cowie had previously been associated with the NPA and the B.C. Liberal party, he has always had a reputation as a moderate who was unafraid to challenge the orthodoxy of his political paries. It's also notable that Cowie was a B.C. Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly from 1991 to 1993, when the party was much more the party of the centre than is the current B.C. Liberal party.

Cowie says that he was a member of the NPA until a few months ago, when he became disenchanted with the party's treatment of Mayor Philip Owen. The NPA decided not to re-endorse Owen for mayor, paving the way for Councillor Jennifer Clarke's run for mayor. The actions are widely believed to be a reaction by the party's more conservative elements against Owen's support for the city's drug-treatment strategy.

Cowie formed vcaTEAM earlier this year with former city councillor Alan Herbert and former parks commissioner Nancy Chiavaro. Since then, the party has attracted several other potential candidates, including St. Paul's Hospital super nurse Barney Hickey.

The "four pillar (prevention, enforcement, treatment, harm reduction)" drug strategy, with its increased emphasis on treatment facilities and "harm reduction" is unpopular with such NPA backers as the Gastown business association, the Chinatown merchants' association, and the Chinese Benevolent Society. While Philip Owen was a late convert to the idea that treatment, and mitigation of the effects of drug addiction, was a part of how the city should approach its drug problems, he eventually became an enthusiastic proponent. This approach was not naturally appealing to Owen, whose conservative instincts had him originally favouring a "get tough" law enforcement approach. However, much consultation and analysis led Owen to change his mind. It won him praise from all corners of the city -- except his own political party.

Cowie and vcaTEAM had originally courted Owen as its mayoral candidate, but Owen has decided to retire from politics. The vcaTEAM party is committed to going ahead with the "four-pillar" drug strategy, but will have to do more than just that to convince Vancouver voters that they, not the two existing civic parties, are the right slate to govern the city for the next three years.
Death by endorsement redux

Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister from 1984 to 1993, is encouraging New Brunwick premier Bernard Lord to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives.

Mulroney said of Lord:

"I think he's an extremely talented young man... He's been a very successful premier. He's knowledgeable. He's hard-working. He has a good style. He's approachable and he's close to the people"

Well, I do happen to think the same of Mr. Lord.

It's true that Mulroney is still regarded warmly within the federal Tories, and the resentment that Canadians had of him when he left office has dissipated somewhat. Nonetheless, he's still a controversial and polarizing figure in Canadian politics.

This reminds me of the endorsement given NDP leadership hopeful Jack Layton by controversial NDP MP Svend Robinson, or Hedy Fry's endorsement of Paul Martin for Liberal Party leader. Endorsements from the likes of Fruy or Robinson might mean something, but you might not want word to get out -- some might think "well, that nutjob supports so-and-so, so maybe I shouldn't!"

As for Lord, I must say that I was impressed by his performance at last week's Tory convention. His speech on the convention's opening day gave the vision of a sort of conservatism -- a less ideologically diven, socially progressive one where there is opportunity for all to improve their lot in life -- that can be appreciated by those centrists who have voted Liberal in the last three elections. When you talk of low tax rates on small corporations, and the idea of nobody on minimum wage having to pay provincial income tax, these are ideas that appeal across the spectrum.

I remember one person saying of the conservative dilemma, "It's not about uniting the right; we have to seduce the centre." Bingo! Lord's steady approach may not be the ideal for ideologues, but it's what can appeal to enough Liberal voters to make them switch.
Danger: Psychopath in the boardroom

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me. If it is the case, as criminologist Richard Hare suggests, then that does help to explain some of the shenanigans among executives. I suspect that that'll be cold comfort for those stockholders who've been left with worthless (fill in the blank) shares.

Hare has found definite presonality traits among clinical psychopaths:

Aside from having no hint of a conscience, psychopaths have a barren emotional life marked by few close relationships, impulsive behaviour and an inflated sense of self.

They are deceitful, short-tempered and display early behavioural problems that later become anti-social. They also crave excitement and are irresponsible, he said.

"These are callous, cold-blooded individuals. ... They don't care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt and remorse."

Sound like some CEO's and CFO's recently in the news? Kenny Boy? Bernie? Hello-o-o?

Inteerestingly, this was presented to a Canadian Police Association meeting. Now, I haven't much use for the CPA -- I think that they're little more than a right-wing lobby group masquerading as advocates for public safety, and keeping enough things illegal so that their members have jobs. However, they occasionallt invite an interesting guest like Dr. Hare along. It doesn't make up for their calls for a regressive justice system that is focussed entirely on punishment, and not on rehabilitation. And don't even get me started on how the CPA would get rid of due-process safeguards against the accused (who are STILL legally innocent) if they could... oooh, I'm on a rant here. Let's just say that I don't think much of a bunch who believe that illegally gathered evidence should not be excluded from criminal proceedings, and who prepetuate the myth of "Club Fed" prisons.

Perhaps those who believe the CPA's mythology should pick up Justice Behind the Walls by UBC law professor Michael Jackson for a different view of what actually goes on in Canada's prisons. Or, if you'd prefer something quicker, have a look at the special that the CBC and Maclean's did on Canada's prisons last year.

Yes, I do tend to think that the likes of the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies have done more to ensure a safe and peaceful societies than have all the right-wing politicians and so-called victims' rights groups. So sue me.

[end rant here]
Cribbed off the Frank Magazine forum:

A liberal and a conservative at the beach see someone drowning 50 feet offshore. The liberal tosses 100 feet of rope, but then drops his end to go off and help someone else. The conservative reels it back in, and tosses 25 feet because he thinks it would improve the drowning man's character to swim halfway.

The person who posted this probably swiped this off of some other source. I'm sure that I've heard it before. Nonetheless, a big thank-you to praenomen2 for posting it. If anyone really gets their knickers in a twist, I'll pull this.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

In today's Toronto Star, former Tory MP Reginald Stackhouse asks, "What's age got to do with it?" when it comes to federal leadership races.

Answer: Very simple, really. The age difference between Jean Chretien and the likes of Stephen Harper or likely Tory leadership contenders is obvious, and much more easily described than cometing policies or visions. Journalists, lika all of us, have a tendency to look for the easy stuff, and age certainly is easy to report and focus on. Too bad that it hasn't buch bearing on a person's suitability for political office.
SE-2: Hype and hypocrisy

A local (Abbotsford) story about Washington Governor Gary Locke's approval of the controversial Sumas Energy 2 natural-gas fired power plant.

Another from the Victoria Times-Colonist.

I sympathize with the denizens of the Fraser valley who aren't pleased with Washington State's approval of a new 660-megawatt gas-fired power plant just across the 49th in Sumas, Washington. Sort of. As for their representatives...

Of course, no-one is going to be pleased when a power plant comes to town, even if it's a relatively clean natural gas burner. But, in a way, they asked for it, and the hypocrisy that their representatives have shown is amazing.

First, Valley residents are overwhelmigly right-wing, if their voting means anything... and it does. In past federal or provincial elections, the Valley has gone for conservative-minded parties, often giving them over 60% support. In races where there are three or more parties, that's quite a vote of support.

There seems to be no qualms about voting for those who advocate turning farm land into housing, allowing lots of low-density development, building car-dependent communities that obviate mass transit, and loose environmental rules. Valley folk usually bristle at the thought of the government stepping in to force citizens or companies to change plans in order to presereve land, or water, or to keep the air clean.

Until now.

Now those self-same Fraser Valley politicians who usually are trying to roll back rules preventing the development of ecologially fragile areas, or even advocating the use of more coal-fired power plants in the case of the provincial government, are screaming about a new power plant -- now that it's in their back yard. Whatever happened to more power for growing communities? After all, those big new houses gobble a lot of juice to keep them lighted, and to run the appliances contained therein.

Yes, they're quite happy to sacrifice the environment -- look at all the arable land plowed under to biuld the subdivisions and gated communities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Matsqui. But put in a power plant next door, and watch the likes of John Van Dongen develop a green streak.

I wonder if the provincial government would be so opposed to a power plant proposed for an area that isn't traditionally supportive of the B.C. Liberal Party... like East Vancouver? Electoral politics couldn't have anything to do with it, could it? Of course not.

Granted, the Sumas Energy 2 plant will mostly sell its power into the United States, where the kind of development preferred in the Valley runs rampant. However, BC Hydro will buy power from the plant when it's worth their while to do so -- Hydro has a very active trading desk that buys and sells power in order to maximize its profits.

So, let me say that I find the protests of Valley politicans hollow and hypocritical. If they were to work for more space-efficient housing, energy conservation, and clean power, I might find their statements to be more than just hot air.

As for Governor Gary Locke's approval of the plant -- what else was he to do? Washington State needs electrical power, and Sumas Eneergy 2 can help fill the need. The plant's owners, NESCO of Kirkland, Washington, has taken a great deal of care to make sure that the plant would pass Washington State's approval process. Governor Locke works for the people of Washington, not B.C., and shouldn't be expected to really care about the bleatings of a bunch of Valley residents.

In fact, despite the concerns of some environmental activists, support for the Sumas 2 project is pretty solid south of the border. Business and labour groups in Whatcom county are supportive, as the plant will provide many jobs, especially in construction. The low Canadian dollar has meant that Whatcom County has suffered in recent years, as Canadian shoppers have stayed home. Sumas has particularly suffered, and many of the businesses that opened there in the late 1980's and early '90's have since been shuttered.

Sumas Mayor Bob Bromley said the governor's decision is another positive sign for the city, which has struggled recently under a fallen Canadian dollar and the resulting loss of local businesses. Bromley said he was confident Locke would approve the plant.

"I don't see how a project can meet every regulation and law and be turned down," Bromley said.

A quick shot at the main anti-SE2 lobby, a group that calls itself Generations against Senseless Power (GASP.) What, exactly, is senseless about power generation? It needs to be done, and natural gas is a helluva lot cleaner than coal. Or perhaps it's senseless because it's in their back yard.

Now be good children and turn out the lights when you're not using them. Maybe if you keep conserving electricity, there'll be less need for new power plants.

Wanna talk wind? I'm more than happy to...

Find out the American perspective in these stories from the Bellingham Herald:

Proposed plant faces Canadian test next
Governor approves SE2: Demand eases for new power plants
Full text of Gov. Gary Locke's letter on Sumas Energy 2

Saturday, August 24, 2002

This is weird.

Earlier, the Progressive Conservative delegates voted at their convention to keep the so-called "301 rule." This is the commitment that the Progressive Conservatives will run a candidate in every federal riding in a general election. This rule was placed in the party's convention to signal that they wouldn't run joint candidates with the Canadian Alliance or any other party.

However, the delegates have just passed a motion that will allow someone to be a Progressive Conservative member while also being a member of another Canadian political party. Inconsistent, to say the least.

The federal Liberal Party requires that would-be members not be members of any other Canadian political party.
Inky Mark joins Tories

Mark has said that he'll be submitting a request next week to the Speaker of the House of Commons to change his status from Independent to Progressive Conservative.

This move gives the Progressive Conservatives fourteen members in the House, giving the Tories the same number of seats as the New Democrats.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien apparently plans to boost social spending this fall, pushing his party over towards the left side of the political spectrum. This story by the Globe and Mail's Heather Scoffield.

Don't expect to see everything that's being proposed go through, however. It could send the federal finaces back into deficit, and that would be politically damaging. There's no need for the Prime Minister to hand his opponents in the Alliance and the Tories some ammunition.
Too little, too late

Yesterday, the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) apologized for some of their members' bad behaviour during contract negatiations this week.

On Thursday [August 22] , about 200 noisy teachers surrounded arbitrator Eric Rice's car as he left the hearings at a Richmond hotel, shouting "shame, shame!"

They called him a tyrant and demanded he quit. Some of the teachers accused him of shaking in fear -- Rice has Parkinson's disease -- and refused to let his car leave the parking lot for about five minutes.

About bloody time.

The antics of a handful of yahoo BCTF members have doubtless set the teachers' union back substantially in public opinion. Until this week, they'd been gaining ground on a government that was being seen by the public as mean-spirited and bully-like.

Now, the BCTF look like the bullies.

For an organization that likes to trumpet how their members teach students the evils of bullying, it's even worse.

BCTF president Neil Worboys should have apologized immediately, and not minced words while doing so. He should have condemned the actions of those rogue members in strong, and perhaps coarse language.

Instead of...

"It was an unfortunate incident and we sincerely apologize for any distress it caused him... We deeply regret that teachers' anger and frustration with the political process that Mr. Rice is engaged in spilled over into this type of incident.''


"This was utterly unaccceptable conduct by a few of our rogue members. Nothing justifies the immature behaviour of those people. We apologize profusely to Mr. Rice, who has been doing his job in a very tough situation. The members who intimidated him have been called on the carpet and will be disciplined in short order."

Damage control is critical. It would have been even better if some of the membersof the BCTF had held back the yahoos who were surrounding arbitrator Eric Rice. Unfortunately, the incident will giver plenty of ammunition to the teacher-bashers, and reinforce the stereotype that some people have of trade unionists as a bunch of goons

Here's the original story.

Friday, August 23, 2002

New poll showing Canadians' impressions of possible Liberal leadership contenders.

Great. Like this one will mean anything in February 2004. Give me a break; this is one of those polls that's pure political pornography; nothing more, nothing less.

Looks like CTV and the Globe and Mail need to fill some space this weekend.
More news today on the federal Liberal succession

CBC News: Martin supporters say Chrétien's slow departure will hurt their candidate

However, Martin says he's willing to play a waiting game. (Toronto Star) Another story on the same theme from the National Post that features Vancouver-Kingsway MP Sophia Leung calling for a new leader in 2003. Interesting -- that's the first I'd heard from Ms. Leung in ages.

Some Martinites, though, are still pressuring the Prime Minister to leave sooner. Ontario MP Joe Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence) is a strong Paul Martin supporter, and has publicly contemplated using the party's constitution to force the Prime Minister out sooner. The consitution calls for the party to elect a new leader within twelve months of the leader giving notice of resignation.

"The Prime Minister gave an indication of when he'd like to leave, but that authority rests singularly with the national executive, and I'm sure that they'll guard that authority jealously," said Mr. Volpe. "They set the date for a convention." Much of the Liberal Party national executive is believed to be supportive of Mr. Martin.
A vote for political spam

Two political veterans argue why American lawmakers should exempt political communiqués from future anti-spam legislation.
A suggestion for the day's agenda for Brits celebrating National Slacker Day.

I had no idea that it was National Slacker Day. Really. You may judge me by how much content I post here today.

I guess that they were trying to get it together for February 22nd but, well, you know...

If it weren't for the political shenanigans in Canada, this would be the heart of the silly season in the news business. Here, the press and columnists occasionally allude to some sort of "silly season," but our friends at the Guardian have put together a complete silly season guide for stir-crazy news junkies.
Mark set to formally join Tories

Inky Mark, MP for Dauphin - Swan River, Manitoba is set to join the Progressive Conservatives at this weekend's convention in Edmonton.

Mr. Mark says that he will join the Tories if the party okays a democratic reform package that he helped pen when he was part of the now-defunct Democratic Representative Caucus. The Caucus, which was a group of Canadian Alliance MP's that left caucus in 2001, fell apart after most members decided to rejoin the Alliance.

While Mr. Mark claims that a majority of his constituents support his decision to join the Tories, but he cites few hard numbers in his press release (link above) . When the press release cites support for his move, it refers to a radio station's Internet poll and a mail-out survey where only about one-quarter of the surveys were returned. Those aren't the most reliable measures. Mr. Mark commissioned a telephone poll of his constituency, but he has only released are his name recognition, and the constituents' opinion of him personally. Could it be that Mr. Mark's constituents don't actually support his move all that much? Naaaah, of course not.

In a radio interview with CKNW's Peter Warren, Mr. Mark said that he could serve his constituents better by being a member of the Tories than as an independent MP. He also hasn't much choice. The Alliance will not renew Mr. Mark's membership, and party leader Stephen Harper has made no effort to welcome back Mr. Mark into caucus.

When asked about Mr. Harper, Mr. Mark said "He made a cooment to the media back in April that he was gonn talk to all the dissidents [about rejoining the Alliance caucus] and I still haven't talked to him yet."

Information about the Progressive Conservatives' 2002 general meeting can be found here.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

A lot of stories have been running around town about sex-trade workers asking for film companies to compensate them for loss of revenue during location shoots in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Their arguments is based on the fact that normally, film crew compenste businesses whose operations are disrupted during filming.

Vancouver's downtown eastside is popular for film crews; it's run down and gritty. Drug users, hookers, and street people abound. Chris Haddock, creator of the CBC television show Da Vinci's Inquest, calls the downtown eastside the show's uncredited co-star. To re-create the ambience of the area in a backlot somewhere would be expensive, time-consuming, and it still wouldn't look genuine. So crews like to use the neighbourhood for shoots.

Not surprisingly, the idea of compensation for inner-city street life has not been too popular. Calls on talk radio and letters to the editor have generally been dismissive and have had a hefty dose of righteous indignation.

Some typical comments (reprinted verbatim):
Mayor doesn't realise kicking out all the bums from Downtown East Van would have majority support of vancouverites. Poverty is an issue we need to solve, but by allowing them organising all of them in one area, it compounds the difficulties of helping them. Kick them out and spread the people out across BC. I can help 1 bum at one time, but I can't help 5000. Kick them out. Go Mayor Giulliani on them.
If the law doesn't help us taxpayers to get rid of these junkies, drugdealers, sex traders and panhandlers... do we have to take law in our own hands? I am certainly not a supporter of US-Ashcroft, but we'd be better off to vote next time for a hardliner like him, otherwise our "indigenous" film industry in BC will be soon nothing more worth than a dime.
When does the hardworking tax paying citizen in this province get any acknowldegment what so ever!!! ?? We are tired and fed up with the panhandling and street people...get them off the streets and let's get this city looking nice. It is one of the most dirtiest cities I have ever lived cannot just count on the natural beauty to sell this city...not for much longer, anyway...if anything is compensated to these street sucking panhandling bumbs, then I will fight to the max for a compensation for my tax paying dollars!
Let's round them up, offer free drugs and ship them all out to some island somewhere and let them all kill each other.
In fact, neither prostitution nor panhandling is illegal in Vancouver. Soliciting for the purposes of prostitution is illegal.

The argument for compensation goes something like this: A prostitute earns a few hundred dollars in a night. If there's filming on nhe corner, her earnings are messedup; there are only so many corners to go around. Therefore, the prostitute should be compensated for lost income in the same way that a corner store owner would be.

Advocates for the residents of the Downtown Eastside also note that area residents could be used as extras in shoots. Why should productions pay to turn people into look-alikes of street people when the can hire the real thing? There are few wardrobe or make-up expenses that way. This idea might have some more merit, and the production companies might be more receptive. In addition, any income earned by area residents would lessen the burden on government social services.

The fear is among many that if productions are forced to compensate the street people for inconvenience diring filming, film crews could abandon Downtown Eastside altogether. That would be a loss. The productions do help local businesses by patronizing their shops and by compensating them for lost business during a shoot. Film crews regularly donate unused food and clothing to area charities, and help out local agencies like the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association (DERA) with contributions annd in the hiring of a film set liaison.
More George Puil stuff

Blame it on councillors Gordon Price, Lynne Kennedy and Mayor Philip Owen says returning Vancouver city council candidate George Puil.

As reported earlier, Puil says that he will seek re-election to ensure that the next city council will have at least one veteran member.

Puil dismisses concerns that his Non-Partsan Association's ties to the provincial Liberal party will hurt the NPA's prospects in this fall's civic elections.
PM: I'm still in charge till 2004

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien told cabinet ministers today they must resign if they want to start campaigning for his job. This is a clear sign that while his days in office are numbered, the Prime Minister does not consider himelf a lame duck.

Full story from the Toronto Star
Chrétien snookers Martin once again!

Jean Chrétien’s announcement that he will leave office in February 2004 was a relief for Liberals and Canadians alike. It was also another blow to Paul Martin’s leadership hopes.
With Chrétien’s scheduled departure, the prospects unseating Chrétien at a leadership review in 2003 have been dimmed. Many Paul Martin supporters just wanted to see Chrétien commit to a departure date. Indeed, there is talk of the leadership review vote being cancelled in light of Mr. Chrétien’s announcement.
Jean Chrétien and his advisors had come realize that he would lose a leadership review in 2003, no matter how much effort they put in. Paul Martin and his boosters had spent the past twelve years quietly signing up Liberals, gaining control of riding associations, and working their way into the party executive. There were Martin organizers in every part of the country; Mr. Chrétien, though he had many fans, had not kept his leadership campaign team from 1990 together. Mr. Martin had.
With defeat inevitable, Mr. Chrétien decided to leave the leadership – but not immediately.
The Prime Minister’s decision to leave immediately reduces tension within the party. Now, many Liberal party members and MPs will be able to focus on the business of governing Canada. This allows Mr. Chretien to go about implementing the reminder of their agenda, as announced last night at the Libberal caucus meeting in Saguenay, Québec. This work will be done, in all likelihood, with Paul Martin firmly planted on the Liberal back benches. Mr. Martin will not be able to take any credit for the government’s achievements over the next eighteen months, unlike what he has been able to do over the last nine years.
On the back benches, Mr. Martin will have trouble staying in the media spotlight over the next year and a half. While he has been arguably the most successful Finance Minister in Canadian history, the fact that he will do little more in the near future than shake hands and give speeches will mean that the press will pay less attention to what he has to say. The actions of a backbencher do not move markets.
In the Prime Minister’s Office, it was said that there were three numbers to consider when deciding the time of Mr. Chrétien’s retirement: ten, forty, and sixty-five. Mr. Chrétien wanted to leave after at least ten years as Prime Minister, and at least forty years after first entering Parliament. He also wanted for Paul Martin to be over the age of sixty-five, if it were inevitable that Mr. Martin would succeed Mr. Chrétien. This, he hoped, would ensure that Mr. Martin’s time at the top would not be long.
In February 2004, Paul Martin will be nearly sixty-six years old, and facing a leadership race against younger Liberal hopefuls. Should Martin win, he will face a crop of younger leaders in a general election. In the past, voters have not considered age too heavily – if that were the case, neither Mr. Chrétien nor Pierre Trudeau, nor Mackenzie King would have won the many elections that they did. Martin, though, would be less likely to serve as long as those men just mentioned!
In the next eighteen months, the other prospective Liberal leadership candidates will have time to organize, raise funds, and chip away at Mr. Martin’s support. A lot of Martin’s support was because he wasn’t Jean Chrétien. Now, Paul Martin must win support on his own merits. I wonder how many of Mr. Martin’s supporters might well defect to other contenders, now that they know that Mr. Chrétien will be leaving?
Even in apparent defeat, Jean Chrétien has had the last laugh.

Send me your thoughts.

Lots of stories about the PM's resignation:

The Globe and Mail
CBC News Online (WARNING: CanWest Global)
New York Times (Login required; free service)

Jim Travers: Chrétien lands sucker punch on Martin's chin
National Post: 2004 is too late
The Putz's editorialists ssem to think that the PM's power and influence will degenerate over the next 18 months.
John Ibbitson: Nasty times ahead
Hugh Winsor: Why MP's should continue to back Chrétien's agenda
William Johnson: Chrétien stands, the office falters
Barbara Yaffe whines about another eighteen months with King Jean.
Jim McNulty: A pyrrhic victory for Paul Martin

Profile of likely contenders to succed Jean Chrétien

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

What a freaking day to be away from the 'Net, eh? This thing isn't dead, and I'll have some material about Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's announcement that he will leave office in 2004 shortly.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

For B.C. policy-makers, it's often 'about the money'

Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly takes a critical look at the way the B.C. Liberal Party does business.
Puil to Run Again

Longtime Vancouver city councillor George Puil has decided to run for another term on Vancouver city council. The 72-year-old Puil has been on council since 1976, and he has been involved in city politics for forty years.

Puil claims that his experience is necessary for council, as three veteran members have already announced that they will not be running in this fall's elections.

In his annoucenment this morning, Puil said that one of his major priorities for the city is a new rapid trasit route to Vancouver International Airport. Puil also confirmed that the expediting of a new YVR-Downtown transit line would mean that a planned extension of SkyTrain to Coquitlam would have to be put on hold.

Early last year, Puil told Vaughn Palmer on the Shaw Cable show Voice of B.C. that he would have preferred that Skytrain's extension would have been forst to coquitlam, and then the nearly complete Lougheed-Broadway line.

When asked about his change of heart, Puil indicated that Coquitlam's lower priority might be related to the city council's refusal to pass new transit levies in 2001.

Here's an example of how hated Puil was during the 2001 Vancouver transit strike. Before the strike, Puil was being assailed by "taxpayer advocates" who were enraged at the idea of a $75 annual levy on vehicles registered in Greater Vancouver to fund roads and transit.

As odd as it may seem, the attacks on Puil will not damage his re-election prospects too badly. Much of the dislike of the failed car levy came from the suburbs, who will have no say in Puil's re-election. Puil has never been popular with transit riders, whose voting turnout has historically not been very high. However, those voters that do turn out on Vancouver's affluent West Side are creatures of habit, and they have been returning George Puil to city governments for decades.

Puil must clearly believe that he is needed on council. He also still has a passion for the job. He doesn't need the hassle or the public harassment -- last year during the transit strike, some protestors dumped a load of manure on his front lawn. Nor does he need the money. At this point, the only reason that he has to carry on is because he honestly believes in what he is doing.

more later...
No-win situation

A feature on the plight of gay Palestinians by Yossi Klein Halevi.

This is one of those stories from the Mideast which has been under-reported amid the recent inifada, but it is compelling. Here you have a group who are scorned by their families, government, and the domminant church. Their best hope for a better life may be in Israel where, of course, Palestinians are not popular with the authorities. A gripping report on a group of people who are on the magins no matter where they are.
West Nile virus moving west?

A magpie found in Regina has tested positive for the West Nile Virus.

This is the furthest west that the virus has been found in Canada. As Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Ross Findlater said, "Alberta, you'd better watch out."
The Guardian's Matthew Engel on the Bush adminstration's so-called "Chicken hawks"
... those proponets of an attack on Baghdad who managed to avoid military service themselves.

A more complete list of notable hawks, and their excuses (if any), can be found at the New Hampshire Gazette's Chickenhawk Database.

Monday, August 19, 2002

David Corn, editor of The Nation, explains why he's now cheering "Run, Al, run!" in 2004.

After the 2000 presidentail election, vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) pledged that he would not run for Preident in 2004 if Al Gore ran. If Gore ran in 2004, he would eliminate the possibility of the Democrats nominating Lieberman and, according to Mr. Corn,

...his self-righteous and quasi-censorious opposition to explicit music, movies and television shows. There’s his self-righteousness about most things. There’s his warmongering... And there’s his coziness with the [centrist, and very business-friendly] DLC.

Which is interesting. This means that Corn, who was brutal in his criticism of Mr. Gore last year, wants the unimpressive Gore to run only to keep Lieberman out. Of course, for Corn's scenario to work, there has to be a third alternative for the Democrats in 2004. Right now, there are many pretenders, but no true contenders.

For more fun information on the race to challenge George W. Bush in 2004, check out the Invisible Primary feature from ABC News. This was last updated on May 29, so it should be re-calculated sometime this month (or whenever they've got the time.)

Interesting that they list Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) as the most "un-Gore." I guess that it's because he's not a geek like the former veep.

Number one in the "fire in the belly" category was Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who has, in the past months, attacked the Bush income tax cut, and has been relentlessly travelling the country. Although invisible in the media, Dean's campaigning style will be familiar to Canadians. It's very similar to gathering support on the "barbeque circuit," which is necessary for the governor to get the money and organizational muscle that he needs to make a serious run.
Looks like it did send a chill through the newsroom.

This plain-jane wire story about Liberal Senators declaring support for Jean Chrétien was given the headine

Eighty-five per cent of Liberal senators declare support for Chretien

in the Ottawa Citizen web site. The Globe and Mail's headline merely read "Most Liberal senators back PM." Most, by definition, is somewhat more than half. "Eighty-five percent" seems more impressive than "most," doesn't it?

More evidence, that despite what Izzy and Leaonard Asper claim, the recent firing of Citizen publisher Russell Mills has put a chill on the Citizen. Before the Aspers' manoeuvres, the Citizen's editorial page was one of the strongest critics of the Liberal government, and had no problem with writing headlines that made the situation for the Liberals look pretty grim.

For those of you who don't remember, Mr. Mills was fired as publisher soon after the Citizen ran a lead editorial calling for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's resignation. The official line was that... well, it changed a lot! First, it had nothing to do woth the editorial calling on the PM to resign, then said that Mills had failed to inform the Aspers that they were going to run the piece. Later that same day, Leonard Asper said that the editorial was "the last straw." Well, what was it?

It is well known that controversial editorials, colums, and news items have to be run through the CanWest Global central office now that CanWest Global owns the Southam papers. This was never the practice under any of the chain's former owners.

The whole situation caused quite the kerfuffle, of course. The Aspers said that there would be no direct interference in the paper's operations, but many feared that there would be a silent reluctance to run material that could embarrass the Prime Minister, who is a close friend of CanWest majority shareholder I.H. (Izzy) Asper, and company CEO Leonard Asper.

Russell Mills has gotten the last laugh so far. The man once described as Canada's most boring journalist has been given a visiting professor's position at Harvard. I think that that beats working for the Aspers and one of their McMedia outlets.

In other Citizen-related matters, Susan Riley has a column on the more civilized (and invisible) NDP leadership race.

I should have more to write on the NDP race, but there hasn't been a whole lot of action except for the contenders announcing their candidacy. Maybe it's not just the "corporate media assholes" that are the cause of the NDP's troubles after all.
United Right? Not likely.

This is a very interesting piece by Environics' Chris Baker about the social value differences between Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance supporters. It originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Baker's article is timely; there is a Tory convention in Edmonton this weekend, and the question of "uniting the Right" by merging with the Alliance will be on the minds of delegates. The question is: Are these parties compatible?

Perhaps the most striking difference between Conservative and Alliance supporters is that the Tories are not overly concerned with changing society in their own image. The Alliance, on the other hand, believe that change is a must, especially if it is the change disctated by them. Alliance supporters are fearful of the cuurent direction that society is headed, and see it as not just their right, but their duty to change social mores.

Baker writes:
Alliance angst about the future is only matched by an optimism that, if the correct steps are taken, the challenges of the future can be successfully met. CA supporters feel that they are racing against the clock in their daily lives and tend to be more activist and outgoing in their attitudes.

which explains some things about why Alliance suppoirters are so fanatically loyal to their party. It also explains just why many of their policies call for a very different kind of "social engineering."

My problem with Baker's article is that it treats Alliance supporters as a unified bloc. There are two distinct flavours of the Alliance, as I see things. The Alliance has a social conservative wing interested in reforming behaviour and governmetns, and libertarian wing that is very much uninterested in social consequences, except for the consequences of government intervention in the economy..

Traditionally, Tories were the party worried about excessive social change, and the one that stood for "traditional" values. While they are concerned with how they live their own lives, modern Progressive Conservatives are more inclined to take a "live and let live" approach to others. Alliance types who can be descibed as "social conservative" are more than willing to show others that they're wrong, and need "reforming."

This goes back to the influence of the likes of Alberta Report founder Ted Byfield and his followers in the Reform and Alliance, who are most distressed by social trendcs. They see Canada as going to hell in a handbaskert due to moral decay, permissiveness, a lack of work ethic, and so forth. These Reform/Alliance players want not just to reform government, but society itself.

On the other hand, you also have the "libertarian" wing of the Alliance, who are more interested in unfettered capitalism, and less in controlling behavious. That said, they are often of a "law and order" bent that emphasizes a certain degree of social conformity, and harsh punishments for some deviant behaviours. In their own way, the "libertarian" wing of the party wants to reform people -- through the elimination of government services to persons, and through a radically different tax and economic system than we have now.

It is interesting to note that the Alliance supporters see themselves as the most adaptable to changing times. Might I suggest that they are most comfortable with the changes that they want to create? After all if you're makiing the new rules, you will design them in your own self-interest.

Both sides of the Canadian Alliance do want a great deal of social change, however.

Progressive Conservatives, as they now stand, are resistant to this kind of change. They always have been opposed to radical change, preferring an incremental approach. In this respect, the Tories of today are no different than they were fifty years or more ago. Now, they would like some change from the Liberals' way of doing things, but to do so in a careful, considered way.

This is at the crux of the issue: can these groups unite?

I agree with Chris Baker on this question: No, not for now. The Tories have different goals, interests, and values than either of the Alliance wings. Most of the Progressive Conservatives whose values and udeas closely match those of the Alliance have already left for the Alliance. The Tories that are left are uncomfortable with the vision of either wing of the Alliance, and not for reasons of personal animosity.

While partisans from both sides can work together in spite of old history, as evidenced by the PC-DRC experimnet, there is no sign that either is willing to compromise its values enough for a stable merger of the parties to take place.

In a related matter...

You could already say that the "right" has been united under the Alliance banner. Unfortunately for Alliance loyalists, the party's growth prospects are limited. Much of the Liberal vote is against that of the Alliance, and what they stand for. Of the Tories, the 2000 Canadian Election Survey found that 51% of their 2000 voters would pick the Liberals as their second choice, while just 17% of 2000 Tory voters would pick the Alliance. This should put paid to the myth of "vote-splitting" being the Alliance's problem... their real problem is that the Alliance's appeal is not broad enough to form a majoity government.

If you were to combine the 2000 Alliance support with one-quarter of the 2000 Tories, you would have just 28.5% of the popular vote, which is about 10 points short of the support needed for a majority government. Even if the Conservatives not run in the 2000 election, and half their former supporters voted Alliance, the Alliance would get less than 32% of the popular vote, and the Liberals, if they were to get the other half of the Tory vote, would win 48% of the vote.

The Alliance has decent support, but little potential for growth beyond its 2000 supprt, even if the Tories collapsed. The Progressive Conservatives have little chance to grow in the near future, and they can only grow if the Alliance collapses, or agrees to form a moderate, conservative-oriented party by merging with the Tories. I see no signs of either happeneng, because Alliance partisans are very protective of their party, do not want to see its principles diluted, and believe it to be Canada's last, best hope.

Liberals in 2004, 2008, 2012...? Please, we do need a viable alternative to the present government.
Divided Loyalties

Ninety-four Liberal Members of Parliament signed, or at least gave a verbal commitment to sign, the following pledge of support for prime Minister Jean Chrétien

Here is the list of MP's from the Globe and Mail's website.

"Consistent with the values and traditions of the Liberal Party of Canada, the following Liberal Members of the House of Commons have confirmed their support for the Prime Minister in the upcoming leadership review of the Liberal Party of Canada so that he can fulfil the mandate conferred on him by the Canadian people less than two years ago:"

Of the 94 on that list, there are many whose support for Mr. Chrétien seems somewhat ephemeral. Dennis Mills's (Toronto-Danforth, ON) opinion was that one could discount many of the cabinet ministers, junior ministers, and parliamentary secretaries who have committed to the Prime Minister in order to retain their positions. Mr. Mills is considered to be a Chrétien supporter, even though he is currently a backbencher. Yet even he was not altogether confident of this pledge of support.

Many ministers and secretaries who are considered to be privately allied with Paul Martin are on both this pledge of support and the Hill Times' list of Chrétien supporters. Some examples include
Ralph Goodale (Wascana, SK)
David Anderson (Victoria, BC)
Stephen Owen (Vancouver-Quadra, BC)
David Kilgour (Edmonton Southeast, AB)
Lawrence O'Brien (Labrador)
Ovid Jackson (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, ON)
... and on it goes. Regardless of how Mr. Chrétien's troops spin it, he does not have 55% of his caucus' support.

On the other hand, Liberal MP Joe Jordan (Leeds-Grenville, ON) has publicly said that he cannot deliver his riding for the Liberals if Mr. Chrétien stays on as Liberal leader. Yet he, too, is among the names on the pledge of support. Mr. Jordan, who won re-election in 2000 by only 55 votes, is the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary.

For an interesting copmparison, check out the Hill Times' July 15 list of Chrétien and Martin supporters. Many of the undecided MPs did commit to this pledge of loyalty to the Prime Minister.

All this, however is academic. When the MPs make their way into the voting booth at the Liberal Convention in 2003, no-one will know whether they voted for a new leadership race or not except for themselves. Furthermore, those MPs are but a smattering of votes in a Liberal Party convention where there may be over 4000 delegates. This war between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin will ultimately be won "on the ground."

Updated 7:15 PM PT / 10:15 PM ET

Two Liberal MP's said that they are not committed to the pledge of loyalty to the Prime Minister. John Richardson (Perth-Middlesex, ON) and John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, ON) have both said that their names were erroneously added to the list of MP'[s who were committed to letting the Prime Minister serve out his mandate. Mr. Cannis was travelling in Greece at the time, and sent a letter from there to not only say that he should not be on the list, but to state his "ongoing support for Paul Martin."

Québec MPs Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds-Dollard, QC) and Marcel Proulx (Hull-Aylmer, QC) have also said that they shouldn't be on the list, either.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Supreme Questions

Norman Spector argues in a column that Jean Chrétien's stacked the deck with his latest Supreme Court of Canada appointee, Madam Justice Marie Deschamps.

Spector's concern, according to the headlines is that not only has the Court been given another centralist (that is to say favouring the federal government in constitutional affairs) and socially liberal jurist. However, the article suggests that thjere's more to it. With this appointment, one can argue that there are as many as five "Québec" judges on the Court.

By law, three justices from Québec must sit on the court, and with this, Spector has no quarrel with -- Québec has a Civil Code of law, very different from the common law used in the rest of Canada, and it is important for some of the jurists on the high court to understand the intricacies of the Civil Code.

However, he points out that one of the Ontario justices, Mr. Justice Ian Binnie, was born and raised in Québec, although he is an Anglo and has spent most of his career in Ontario, and earned his LL.B for the University of Toronto.

However, once again, the issue of how our judges are selected has come up again, as it does every time that there is an appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Currently, the selection of federally appointed judges is made, officially by the Justice Minister, but in fact, it is done by the Prime Minister. There is no "advise and consent" process as there is in the United States.

I think that the Executive should generally be granted their selections for judicial appointments I am, however, in favour of parliamentary review of judicial appointments.

Over the years, I've gone back and forth on the issue. I certainly don't think that the Prime Minister should appoint any bozo to the judiciary, but at the same time, they have not done so so far, although critics from the far left and far right would beg to differ. Nonetheless, the Canadian judiciary is well-regarded throughout the world for its independence and sound decisions.

What wouldn't be a positive development would be the dirty, partisan confirmation hearings that have become familiar in the United States. It is unnecessary to investigate the sexual dalliances of a prospective jurist, particularly when it is used as another way of saying that the nominee is ideologically unpalatable for some legislators' tastes.

Needless to say, the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill escapades had little to do with his personal character and everything to do with his arch-conservative stances.

However, it should be up to Parliament, perhaps the Justice committee, to confirm judicial appointments.

The Prime Minister should be able to seek advice in confidence when he or she is contemplating nominees. It is much easier to get honest assessments of a candidate in private. However, when the candidate has been selected, he or she should be presented to Standing Committee of Justice for confirmation. The Minister's choice should be given the benfit of the doubt, and a prospective jurist should only be rejected on the basis of experience and past history, not on ideology. I realize that this is perhaps an unrealistic expectation, but I am, from time to time, an optimist.

The great benefit of a confirmation hearing would be that the people are exposed to the prospective judge, for better or worse, and that the confirmation of a jurist will not be up to only one person. I have often fretted that some fo the more partisan Opposition MPs would ask inappropriate questions, use derogatory language, or go on a witch hunt against a would-be judge.

However, those same MPs who are so quick to criticize the judiciary might well be put in their place by having to face the judge in a comfirmation hearing. As it might turn out, the committee members may well be the ones who are actually under pressure. Who would be doing the questioning? The would-be judge!

This scenario particulary applies to Supreme Court appointments, where the judges would use their preparation skills and encyclopedic knowledge when facing off against an opposition MP looking to score cheap political points. Indeed, such a politicians would likely make fools of themselves when having to confront a much mor experienced judge who is more familiar with the finer points of the law -- and (hopefully) not political demagoguery. This is how I have come to the conclusion that a confirmation hearing for would-be judges would not be such a bad idea.

As an aside, the newly appointed Madam Justice Deschamps' husband has solid Liberal connections. This should not disqualify her from a judicial appointment. For all I know she may be a most qualified jurist. However, it would be nice to know that she got the nod because of her skills, rather than her connections.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

New poll reports the blatantly obvious!

A new survey conducted this week by Ipsos-Reid for CTV and the Globe and Mail reveals lots of things that Candian political watchers have long suspected.

Conclusions include...
:: If given the opportunity to vote at the February Liberal Convention, four in five (78%) Canadians would vote for a leadership convention to choose a new Liberal leader.

:: 73% of Canadians believe that important government business has taken second place to the internal Liberal leadership dispute. What was not reported was whether Canadians thought that this situation was necessarily undesirable.

Current national party support (decided voters and those who are leaning strongly towards a party)

:: Liberals 41%
:: Progressive Conservative 18%
:: Canadian Alliance 16%
:: New Democratic Party 13%
:: Bloc Québecois 8% (33% in Québec)
:: Other 4%

This poll was conducted on August 13th and 14th, several days after Joe Clark announced that he would be leaving as Tory leader next year. The support for the Progressive Convservatives is up 4% over a similar poll taken in mid-July.

The Ipsos-Reid numbers track closely the Environics Focus Canada poll from this month, which shows similar trends in party support.

According to the Reid poll, the Liberals' fortunes at the polls would improve drastically if Paul Martin were to become the new party leader. With Martin in charge, 40% of respondents said that they'd be more likely to vote Liberal. This trend was repeated, albeit not equally, among all party preferences, age groups, education levels, and incomes.

On the other hand, if Jean Chrétien were to remail as Liberal leader, 44% of respondents said that they'd be less likely to vote Liberal, compared with 8% who said that they'd be more likely (46% said that it would make no difference.)

The message from the Canadian electorate seems pretty simple: They favour Jean Chrétien leaving, and are not picky about how he leaves. It seems that the fact that he was re-elected to serve a third term, and the idea that the attempt by Paul Martin to take the party leadership is some sort of coup d'état has not taken hold in Canadians' minds, despite the best spinning of the Chrétienites.

Now, will those Liberals who will decide the party's future pay attention to these numbers? You betcha. Liberals are attracted to power, and there is the old saying, "Party before Country." However, in this case, the best interests of party and country may be one and the same.
British Columbia political musings

It's odd when a week goes by when I, a confirmed non-fan or the Campbell government, can find little to criticize them for. But that's the sort of week that it's been so far.

Earlier this week, Solicitor-General Rich Coleman announced new liquor regulations. Bars will be able to stay open until 4 A.M. with city approval, and the regulations concerning things like decor, number and size of television sets, and floor-plan layout will be reduced or eliminated. These rule changes have been a long time coming, and I think that they're good ones.

Having nineteen categories of liquor licences was ridiculous; the previous regulatory regime was a mishmash of regulations dating back to the 1930's, and rarely revised or consolidated.

The laws were a holdover from the days when only hotels could operate "beer parlours"; and activities such as dancing and live entertainment were seen to need regulation. It's about time that they were fixed, and reforming the liquor laws is not a left-right issue at all. In fact, the previous NDP government had begun to embark on this difficult task in 1999. NDP leader Joy MacPhail has said that she has no problem with the proposed new rules as long as they are implemented in such a way as to protect public safety. Contrary to popular misconceptions, those on the left of the political spectrum are not necessarily in favour of redundant regulations for their own sake.

Some of the strongest opposition to the new rules comes from existing licensees. Those who currently have cabaret, hotel pub, and neighbourhood pub licences fear that the new rules will spread the limited number of drinkers among a much greater number of establishments.

"We're shocked [about the new regulations]," said James Chase, executive vice-president of the B.C. and Yukon Hotels Association. "Restaurants out-number hotels and pubs 5-1," he said. "It's destructive competition."

The hotel owners are particularly disturbed because many of them had to invest or borrow millions of dollars to acquire a hotel and its pub licence, and now restaurateurs who have invested (or borrowed) far less can now compete for the same market.

This helps put paid to the myth that business operators hate regulation of businesses. Perhaps the correct statement should be: Business owners hate regulation that prevent them from entering a market, but love regulations that keep competitors from easily entering the marketplace.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to a possible 4 A.M. last call. Perhaps now we'll also have adequate transit when the bars let out so that patrons can get home without needing to shell out cab fare. Certainly, public transportation is also a great alternative to worrying about designated drivers or, God forbid, drunk driving.

Here's some reaction from the Victoria Times-Colonist that sums up a lot of peoples' feelings on the government's decision.

Also, this week there were more revelations that the provincial Liberals were organizing a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser for PR firms that are interested in securing government work. Many local pundits, including the Vancouver Sun editorial board, and columnist Barbara Yaffe, were ostensibly outraged that the government party was apparently selling access in return for generous donations.

What were people expecting?

The B.C. Liberal Party is no different than other parties; they're always out to raise money. Unlike the 1990's, where their fund-raising technique was to request money in order to throw out the socialist hordes in Victoria, they now are in power, and their new carrot to potential donors is access to government, and dibs on contracts and easy approvals of mining and forestry projects.

Now, the party plea is to defend the Liberal bearers of all things good and wonderful from the socialist hordes who are
plotting to recall selected Liberal MLAs. For this, the B.C. Liberal party needs donors. In return, the party is giving potential donors something very valuable indeed.

Is this conduct right? No, of course not. Were you really expecting something different from the B.C. Liberals?

If you answered yes to that last question, you're a fool, or perhaps a little too loyal to the party.

What is notable is that as Leader of the Opposition, Gordon Campbell criticized the NDP for $300-a-plate dinners where former premier Glen Clark was in attendance. Now, while $300 is a fair bit of money, it is the same as the Canadian Alliance charged for its "leadership dinner" and fundraiser in Vancouver earlier this year. The Liberals routinely charge more than this for their fundraisers, and often raise more than $1000 per attendee at many such events.

Of course, the prospect of well-heeled business people donating $2000, or $10,000 each to the party for the privilege of attending a very small event with a senior political official smells much worse than events like a $300 per person fundraising dinner.

Unfortunately, it is politics as usual. The most that will come out of this is that the opposition will have some more mud to throw at the Liberals, and that the most generous donors will get better treatment from the government in terms of contracts, and speedier regulatory approval.

Monkey see, monkey do...
Does the City of Ottawa have the better way of moving people on transit?

Unlike many cities, Ottawa uses dedicated bus-only roadways to allow transit vehicles to cary many people, very frequently. Generally, urban transit uses buses to feed the high-capacity subway or light rail lines. In Ottawa, articulated buses do the same work -- almost 10,000 passengers per hour in some cases. For comparison, that's about what Vancouver's SkyTrain system carries in rush hour, or slightly less than does Toronto's Spadina subway line.

This has been part of the transit debate in Greater Vancouver. While official policy prefers using SkyTrain as the rapid-trasit option of choice, with buses as feeder routes, advocates such as the Bus Riders' Union (BRU) want more money to be spent on buses and bus-route improvements. The BRU argues that SkyTrain's capital costs ($1.2 billion for a soon-to-be-opened 21 km extension) and that it starves transit budgets of the money needed to provide frequent, conventient bus services.

The knock on the BRU has been that they're advocating for a system that would move people too slowly to be popular (and SkyTrain is very popular with its users for its speed.) The BRU is also said to be largely funded by the bus drivers' union, whose jobs would be threatened by automated rapid transit such as SkyTrain.

More to come on this...
Oh man, this makes this site so much better!

So-called Web "translators" are pretty lame, but you've gotta see
The Vancouver Scrum after it's been Chrétienized! Yes, you can see how these scribblings would look like if they were pronounced by Canada's Prime Minister! This addition should make up for the piss-poor quality of the last few posts, or at least make them interesting.

Find the Chrétienizer here.
Swing high, Swing low...'s Public Opinion Watch for this week features more analysis of whether economic populism by Democrats is effective or not, and on those mysterious "swing voters."

Pollsters tend to identify certain demographics as "swing blocs" of voters, and give parties advice on how to win them over. However, it seems that some pollsters' swing voters for the current election have a different name than previous cycles, but are suspiciously similar.

Consider... 1996's Soccer Moms, who were mostly white, from two-career families, had upper-middle incomes, lived in the suburbs, had white-collar, non-union jobs. They tended to be of moderate ideology, wanted good, safe schools for their kinds, and lower taxes. To appeal to the Soccer Mom, it was imperative to be quite conservative fiscally, wanting to reduce taxes, while being socially moderate, yet being strong on "law and order" issues. The Soccer Mom also wanted to ensure programs for the seniors because their parets were aging.

Then, in 2000, the Wired Worker was the key swing voter. The Wired Worker, if not single, was in a two-career family. They tended to live in the 'burbs, wanted good schools, wanted tax breaks because their incomes were above average, and tended to be moderate in ideology, and were not part of a trade union... they preferred candidates that were into cutting taxes but who were moderate on issues like gun control and abortion. While the Wired Worker might work in a downtown office, chances are that he or she would work in one of the business parks that have spread over suburban communities throughout the 1990s.

Now, it is the year of the Office Park Dad if you believe Democratic Leadership Council pollster Mark Penn. The Office Park Dad has a white-collar job that is non-union. His income tends to be above average, and his wife also works in another white-collar job. They live and work in the suburbs, and tend to be socially moderate. The Office Park Dad's parents are getting on in years; some may have parents over 65... Are you getting the picture yet? Guess how a political party like the Democrats should try to appeal to the Office Park Dad!

Is it just me, or do the Office Park Dads and Wired Workers seem to be more or less the same people under different labels? Could it be that a good many of them have married or have some other connection to Soccer Moms? Am I just being a cynical bastard?

Well, I'm certainly not the first to make this observation.

Jonathan Chait figured this one out and put out an article in July about this strategy of Mark Penn, who happens to be the official pollster of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Penn, as you've guessed from the writings above, is also partially reponsible for "discovering" the Soccer Moms and Wired Workers. For some reason, it is necessary to adopt the same strategies and platform to appeal to all of Penn's swing-vote creations. However, as Chait points out, Mark Penn was advising Democrats to adopt a centrist, pro-market strategy before the discovery of his swing voting blocs.

Could it be that the voters who are swing voters are the same voters year after year? In the short run, yes. However, the political centre drifts in the longer term, and the swing voters of 2002 will not all be the swing voters of 2012. Without a doubt, some of the loyal voters for one party or another will also be in that category of swing voters in ten years' time.

I suppose that it has come to the point where political operatives have to create entire blocs of voters in order to convince people to follow one strategy or another. The blocs of voter preferences do exist, and I don't discount them. Are they as critical as their "discoverers" claim them to be, though, and are there more blocs of voters who could be convinced to vote another way, with the right campaign?

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

What goes around, comes around or maybe...

Republicans go out of their way to ensure preferential treatment of minorities!

(who'd'a thunk it?)

"Yes, perhaps the panel 'looks like America' in its cosmetic inclusion of every ethnic group," he wrote, "But does the panel think like America?"

Well, George W. Bush's recent economic forum in Waco, Texas can be accused of that... but that's not what those comments were originally aimed at. For more, check out Jonathan Chait's piece entitled Skin Deep in The New Republic's online edition.

As often happens at Republican events like the economic forum and other such P.R. exercises, the organizers went out of their way to ensure that visible minorities were prominently featured in the proceedings. It's somewhat like the 2000 Republican National Convention, where the number of African-American speakers disproportionately large when one considers the number of African-Americans among the Republicans at large. It must have been quite an effort to find the people with both the right skin colour and conservative pedigree for the economic forum. But what's all this about, then?

Oh my Goodness! The GOP is giving preferential treatment for a minority! Isn't that against Republican principles, Colin Powell's beliefs notwithstanding?

Well, let's face it: Appearances, and getting votes among those haven't traditionally voted for you, are far more important than principles in the game of politics...

Why the hell am I creating such a stir, then?

Good question. I'll get off it now.

As for the lack of diversity of views at the President's economic thingamajig, what were you expecting? This was a made-for-TV event that TV didn't cover all that much in the end. Just think about the excitement of watching one speaker after another call for the same actions: cut taxes, and uh... when in doubt, cut taxes some more. This is apparently the conservative strategy to deal with any economic situation. But you already knew that. Watching the same set of ideas repeated ad infinitum would drive the most loyal Bushie to tears eventually. A little variety and controversy does wonders to pique peoples' interest.

At least Bruce Bartlett, who is an enthusiastic supply-side economist, and a former Reagan and G.H.W. Bush advisor, said that Bush's economic summit would accomplish nothing. Looks like he was right.

More on the Bush economic whatchamacallit from the Toronto Star's William Walker, including a couple of Doonesbury cartoon panels.
Nature... what a nasty bitch she can be.

A recent Barry Link column in the Vancouver Courier shows one take on the West Nile Virus situation. While the West Nile virus hasn'tt yet made its appearance in Vancouver yet, it's just a matter of time.

His argument is that when WNV comes, we should either spray, or some of us die. Link seems to indicate that, in the end, public opinion will be firmly in favour of spraying if most peoples' concerns about its effects on human health. Besides, he makes this point: we humans have a tendency to stand up for the protection of feathered creatures, cute furry things, and majestic trees...

"To the best of my knowledge, there is no Friends of Virus-Carrying Bloodsuckers." he writes. Well, I suppose that mosquitoes have some purpose in the environment. Maybe you should ask E.O. Wilson, the renowned entomologist and author.

On the other hand, we'd have little worry about the effects of a West Nile-like plague upon an animal population. Hell, the members of the species that are most at risk are the old, the very young, and the infirm. When it's our species, though, attitudes change. Of course, we do not show the same enthusiasm for thinning the human herd that we would for a herd of elk or caribou. I guess that for most of us, the concern for our own species even over-rides that for cute furry animals.

But I'm still not sure what to do. Perhaps in the year or two before West Nile finds its way to the West Coast, I'll come to an opinion. Tell me what you really think.

West Nile's spread in the U.S.A and in Canada.

There's a different exotic disease in British Columbia, and it has caused the death of one British Columbia woman. Unlike West Nile, Cryptococcus neoformans gattii isn't spread by mosquitoes; it lives on trees instead. I suspect that that'll give more fuel to deride "tree-huggers," although, on the bright side, there's no need to cover Vancouver Island in Malathion. However, we should not be too hasty to worry about this fungus -- one is far more likely to die in an auto collision on Vancouver Island than from cryptococcosis.

In a sort of related field...

I've describled myself as a "bacterial-rights activist," however. Let's face it, our prokaryotic pals have gotten a bad rap due to paranoia, one story too many about Eschericia coli O157:H7, and extensive marketing for germicidal products. So someone's got to stand up for our one-celled friends; with only a small few strains causing any human ills, and many giving our species a great benefit.

Besides, it's ultimately their world. We just live here.

Don't get me wrong, though. I want surgeons to operate in a sterile field and with sterilized instruments and supplies, and I think that regular hand-washing is a good habit to prevent disease. What I'm against is the indiscriminate use of antibacterial cleansers, antibiotics (in medicine and agriculture), and the desite to totally sterilize the environment, even when there's no rationale to do so. There's no need to use antibacterial hand soap -- the regular stuff will do.

Pass the Camembert, eh.

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