Monday, June 21, 2010


Travers: Changing Canada, one backward step at a time

Published On Sat Jun 19 2010

By James Travers National Affairs Columnist

Imagine a country where Parliament is padlocked twice in 13 months to frustrate the democratic will of the elected majority. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that slyly relaxes environmental regulations even as its neighbour reels from a catastrophic oil leak blamed on slack controls. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that boasts about prudent financial management while blowing through a $13-billion surplus on the way to a $47-billion deficit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where a political operative puts fork-tongued words in a top general’s mouth. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that refuses to fund the same safe abortions to poor women abroad as it provides at home. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where the national police commissioner skews a federal election and is never forced to explain. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that writes a covert manual on sabotaging Commons committees. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country dragging its climate change feet as the true north melts. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that silences political debate on the sale of a publicly owned, crown jewel corporation. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that puts higher priority on building super-prisons than keeping people out of them. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where parties that win the most federal seats are dismissed as “losers”. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that twists its foreign policy around the interests of another nation. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that argues that barricading its largest city promotes tourism. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that promises Senate reform only to continue stuffing it with political hacks. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that avoids answers about a controversial war by accusing questioners of supporting the enemy. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where party apparatchiks decide who in a nominally free press is allowed to ask the Prime Minister questions. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where donut shop wisdom is more prized than expert analysis. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that builds a fake lake for a tough-times summit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that preaches law and order while killing a long-gun registry police chiefs insist makes citizens safer. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where serving the Prime Minister as chief propagandist is job preparation for running a national news network. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where charities mute constructive criticism of public policy for fear of losing federal funding. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that can spend $1.2 billion for summit security but can’t find the petty cash needed to invest in the status of women. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that promises accountability only to impose secrecy. That country is now this country.

Every example is familiar, all are documented. Only the cumulative effect is surprising.

Conservatives came to power knowing reluctant Canadians could only be shifted to the political right incrementally. That movement is now advancing according to the plan Conservative thinker, strategist and Stephen Harper mentor Tom Flanagan infuriated the Prime Minister by making public.

Imagine that.

Saturday, June 12, 2010



On the whole I have always enjoyed the writings of Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson. To me he has always been – dare I say - a fair and balanced observer of Alberta politics. When he graces the pages of the Calgary Herald I read him with great appreciation because for that one fleeting moment in time he gives the editorial page some class. Upon finishing reading his piece the paper then for days on end sinks to its usual low level diatribes from lunatic neocon think tanks and single-issue loud mouths.

So Thomson is different and the people of Edmonton are lucky to have him.

But even Thomson gets it wrong sometimes as he did in his column today entitled, ‘Alberta Liberals split by bid to co-operate.’ Read:

He opens with a line surely to capture the affections of the Herald’s editorial page editor: “One of the truisms of Alberta politics: No matter how bad things get for the Liberal Party, they can always get worse.”

He then goes on to list he party’s recent woes as he sees them - the departure from the caucus of Dave Taylor and the decision of Kent Hehr to run for Mayor. Let me assure Thomson as well as others who may think along the same lines that I have talked to a host of Alberta Liberals about Taylor’s grumbling exit, and I have heard very little in the way of regrets or misgivings of any kind - even from people like me who supported Taylor in the leadership race. The consensus is simply that if Taylor was that unhappy, it is better that he left. For David Swann and the remaining caucus it was one less hassle to deal with.

As far as Hehr’s quest for the mayor’s chair is concerned the Grits that I speak to only wish him the best of luck and if he wins they would regard his victory as a feather in every Alberta Liberal’s hat. I mean, he is one of us and he is running for arguably one of the most exciting political offices in the country. How does that reflect badly on the Alberta Liberal Party?

Thomson then moves to the dust-up in Kevin Taft’s riding of Edmonton-Riverview. Three members of the riding association executive have resigned from their positions because of the passing of a resolution at the recent convention of the Alberta Liberal Party. The resolution in question reads:

“be it resolved that the Alberta Liberal Party supports making every reasonable effort to persuade other progressive parties in Alberta to work together during general elections.”

The resolution was controversial and the final tally on the vote was close. I confess that I had something more than a little to do with its content as I had moved it in the workshop as an amendment and spoke for it on the convention floor just before it was passed.

My take on the resolution is simply this. Alberta Liberals, like any political party that aspires to govern, must create a big tent and fill it up with diverse thinking individuals who can set aside some of their differences to support the greater cause. Otherwise, power will forever elude them.

This approach is not new. It has been followed by most progressive parties that have attained power in the Western democracies. The best example in my memory in Alberta is the Progressive Conservative party under Peter Lougheed. Lougheed brilliantly put together a diverse team that represented all elements of Alberta society - business, labour, progressive thinkers, even right-wingers, and so on - who worked together for good government and it delivered for Albertans the best government in the province’s history.

Thus, the resolution meant to me and most others at that convention that Alberta Liberals were extending an invitation to a diverse group of people, many of whom had not supported us before, to work together with them in order to bring about an era of good government for the people of Alberta.

Oh, the wording of the resolution could have been spiffed up somewhat, but the idea was there, and it was clear: All you NDs, Greens, frustrated Tories, Wild Rose Alliancers and anybody else out there who believe in progressive policies that help ordinary people and who are sick and tired of lousy leadership, marginal support, or narrow ideology, come and talk to us . . . or let us talk to you. We want as many of you as possible who believe in progressive policies to come inside of our big tent so we can throw the rascals out in the next election.

Thomson complains that the resolution didn’t explain what “work together” meant, that it didn’t mention parties by name, and that it couldn’t have been aimed at the Tories or the Wildrose Alliance. If Thomson doesn’t know what “work together” means in a political setting he should choose another profession. Just to be sure Thomson understands, “working together” means “working together” to win elections!

As to the party names, why should they be listed in the resolution? Why wouldn’t the Liberals want to welcome disaffected Tories or Wildrose Alliancers along with NDs and Greens who wish to join them in common cause to promote progressive policies on the environment, health care, education, and so on? Do disgruntled Tories and Wildrose Alliancers have some contagious disease?

Thomson says he and others are puzzled about what the Liberals will do with the resolution. C’mon. The resolution is nothing more than a codification and a reminder of what political parties should be doing at all times – generating support for their cause – particularly from others who have not supported them before. This is not rocket science.

So, from the standpoint of someone - namely me - who had as much to do with the resolution being passed as anyone, there is no mystery to it. There are no hidden agendas; there is no intent on weakening the Liberals resolve to win the next election. The resolution simply means that Alberta Liberals should get out there and work towards inviting voters who share our values and who have never voted for us before to give us their support.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


attacked unfairly says reader

CORBELLA (above)
Irate reader accuses Herald
editor of showing"icy blue right wing colours"
in her recent mean-spirited attack on
David Swann

I have received a note from one of my many loyal and faithful readers who has asked me to post the following open letter to the editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald, Ms Licia Corbella. Of course, I try to accomodate all such reasonable requests.

It reads as follows:

Dear Ms. Corbella:

Like Darryl Raymaker, I too thought you more than over-stepped the boundaries of good journalism in your recent political editorial-—you went beyond journalistic decency.

I’m trying to be as objective as possible here—am even willing to cut you a little slack in the objectivity call because none of us is totally impartial, even journalists who have specialized training in this regard.

But Licia, your icy blue right-wing colours are now glowing in the dark. You need a warm bath, with soft candlelight. Try soaking in a couple of these thoughts...How about covering a story or two right out there on the front lines of the poor, the starving, and the dying in Africa? Or, maybe you could do something to improve public health conditions in the Phillipines, or pen a few thoughts on the plight of babies who’ve been made pawns in a war game somewhere.

You could visit our own native people whose pleas with big oil and the government to clean the tailing ponds have largely been ignored.

I've got it Licia--a hunger strike! Please make it for something that matters more than a politician’s one mistake out of 72 speaking points.

Maybe you’d like to objectively cover two sides of a controversial story—one that could get you fired because it jangles a conscientious nerve or two (for pointers, see Swann and Kyoto story, 2002).

As Darryl Raymaker notes, David Swann has the “competence, experience, and courage” to lead the way on many fronts, including those just mentioned. He has worked the front lines in Africa, the Philippines, Iraq, Fort Chipewyan, in southern Alberta as the Public Health Officer for Palliser (the Conservatives fired Swann from this position for his public support of Kyoto—he hopes to return the favour).

Dr. Swann also went to Ottawa to pressure the feds to intervene in the genocide in Darfur.

David Swann is now working hard for the public's interest—today and well beyond tomorrow. We need to give him all the support we can.

Our democracy (that’d be yours too Ms. Corbella) is imperilled. And democracy and good journalism matter.

Keep writing Darryl! Onwards David!

Judy J. Johnson

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


A relevant and qualified leader of competence, experience and courage

A pipsqueak

Yesterday on June 1 Licia Corbella, editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald, wrote a column about Premier Ed Stelmach’s new communications strategy of hiding from Alberta voters letting his ministers assume the task of getting out into the hinterland to talk to them. See:

In her column Corbella ridiculed Stelmach’s invisibility even when his government was able to wallow in the success of having finally come up with a satisfactory royalty program. Naturally, being the spear carrier for the extreme right that she is, Corbella attributed the new royalty program exclusively to the wisdom of the new darling of the lunatic fringe of the fractured Tory Party - Danielle Smith, the leader of the Palinesque Wildrose Alliance.

In the course of her nonsense, Corbella naturally takes a shot at the Alberta Liberal Party. I doubt that she could write a column about the bathroom habits of bumble bees without her obligatory false malignments against Liberals. She writes that Liberal leader David Swann and some of his caucus attended a Herald editorial board session a week or so ago, and that given Swann’s performance there she predicts “Liberals will remain largely irrelevant.”

She bases her conclusion on 18 simple handouts containing 72 Alberta Liberal Party policy points that the Grit contingent gave to the editorial board during the course of the meeting. Handing out condensed material on policy is standard practice for all political parties who visit editorial boards. As you might expect, this type of simplification is especially important when visiting the Herald editorial board who understand only the simplest of one syllable words.

One of the 72 points contained a reference to a name the significance of which none of the assembled Liberal visitors could remember. I repeat, 1 out of 72! That was enough for Corbella. As a result, her column accuses Swann of putting out policies that he does not know anything about, and that the party was suffering from a lack of professionalism. I repeat - one small mistake out of 72 points. A serious leader, she says, would know them all - 72 out of 72!

When one thinks of the bullshit and factual errors one reads in the Calgary Herald on a daily basis – particularly on the editorial pages over which Corbella presides – her condemnation of the Liberals is – to say the least - galling.

David Swann is a medical doctor, who has practiced family medicine, taught at universities for which he received teaching awards, worked in the public health system, consulted internationally, and has made major contributions towards the betterment of his community. His stature makes Corbella and her ink-stained right-wing pals look like pipsqueaks! For those interested in Dr. Swann’s impressive career see:

Corbella concludes by writing that the Tories aren’t worried about the Liberals because, “They view the Liberals, under Swann, as irrelevant.” I have two observations about that statement. First of all, Corbella fails to remember the results of the by-election in Calgary Glenmore in September - which for an editorial page editor is far worse than missing one out of 72 points. The Tories came third - behind the Wild Rose and the Liberals.

Secondly, in referring to the Liberals under Swann as irrelevant twice in the same flimsy column she repeats a big lie - expressed recently by a publicity seeking, malcontented former Liberal. I am sure Corbella knows from her prior reading - meager as it may be - that if you repeat the ‘big lie’ often enough, people will believe it. See:

How indeed can the Alberta Liberals under Swann be ‘irrelevant?’ He is a qualified leader of competence, experience and courage who leads the strongest party in Alberta by far, that advances progressive policies and ideas. For a better look at some of the policies he is promoting see:

In fact, the Alberta Liberal Party is arguably the most relevant party in the province because it is the only party which is not a conservative party of the right or far right that can come within striking distance of victory.

Is Corbella only interested in right wing parties being on the Alberta ballot, and if so, what does that say about her?

Monday, May 31, 2010



I have had little sympathy for the plight of Peter Pocklington (known unaffectionately in these parts as Peter Puck) since his magnificent fall from grace. My opinion of this rogue can be readily gleaned by reading my following blogs:

Monday, October 27, 2008
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009

In recent days it has been revealed that among the many words that define this world class twit – words such as blowhard, snob, bullshit artiste, deadbeat, rogue (to put it benignly), liar, and so on - we can now by his own admission add one more - perjurer!


Last week the former Edmonton Oiler owner, Ford dealer, federal Tory leadership candidate, Fraser Institute director and renowned scam artist, copped out before a California Judge with a guilty plea to a charge of perjury, admitting that he had hid assets from creditors in his bankruptcy proceedings.

True to the scoundrel’s nature however, once he got outside of the courtroom after his guilty plea he tried to weasel out of his criminal responsibility by – surprise, surprise - blaming somebody else for his misdeed. In this case, he fingered his former lawyer. Pocklington said, “Obviously, I made the error,” but that he did it “with the prompting of my then bankruptcy lawyer. After I signed it I believe I erred in signing because I don’t believe it was correct.”

Calling it an “error” makes it sound as though what he did was a mere bagatelle, a romp, a lark - shurely not a crime for which he could go to the slammer for ten long years in the notorious prison system of the U.S.A. In fact, his “error” was to fail to disclose a couple of bank accounts and two storage lockers of valuable possessions.

After the proceedings were over and outside of the courtroom, Pocklington continued his shameful analysis of his situation to an Edmonton reporter, saying that he “was not guilty of anything” and again heaped blame on his lawyer saying “Unfortunately, the lawyer I hired to do the original case is what caused all the problems. He said, ‘Sign here,’ and I did, and unfortunately he left a multitude of things out. And I was certainly not trying to mislead anyone in that regard.” This was the explanation of a man who had a 50 year career in business during which he built up what was once one of the largest fortunes in Western Canada. It was all his lawyer’s fault!

But it wasn’t enough for the deadbeat to merely dump on his bankruptcy lawyer as the cause of his misfortune. He continued to try to duck responsibility for his criminal actions during the same interview by delivering a civics lecture. He said,

“I didn’t ask for the plea. (The U.S. Attorney’s office) did because they don’t have anything. Unfortunately, in this country they have a system that they use called the grand jury system. They go to a grand jury, which are basically 23 people off the street, and say, ‘Here’s what we have.’ And if they get 17 to vote and agree with the attorney, they say, ‘Sure, indict him.’ So all of a sudden you’re indicted. You have no input, no nothing.”

Not content to merely blame his lawyer and the grand jury system for his woes, he then turned his sights on other blameworthy subjects – the lowly grand jury itself and the mean spirited press. About them he said, “The jury pool is not a jury of your peers, it’s a jury where some of them are unemployed and some of them aren’t particularly bright. And of course with the press and so on in this country and Canada, they seem to hate anyone that has been successful.”

The blame game is something that Pocklington has indulged in before when caught doing something red-handed. In 1984 when the Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley Cup, he included his father Basil Pocklington – who had nothing to do with the hockey club - on the list of people from the team who would have their names engraved on the Cup. After it had been so engraved it was noticed by NHL officials who then instructed the engraver to cover the wrongfully engraved name with a series of engraved Xs. When Pocklington was confronted about the error, guess what - he blamed the engraver. See:

Pocklington gets to know his fate on August 9 when the judge decides what to do with him. So far predictions are that he will be under house arrest with an electronic bracelet for six months followed by a period of probation.

But it could get worse for him. If he continues to point his finger at others as being the real culprits for his misdeeds and not show any remorse, the judge may very well throw the book at him - which would be much to the delight of many Albertans and people with whom he has done business.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


CONRAD BLACK (on the right) with LADY BLACK before his fall from grace

Canada's inhumane prison plan
Conrad Black, National Post Published: Saturday, May 29, 2010

In the past two years, as regular readers in this space would know, thanks to my gracious hosts in the U.S. government, I have had what could be called extensive hands-on experience of the American correctional system. I have been tutoring and teaching fellow prisoners in English, and in U.S. history. And some of them have taught me how to read music, play the piano, keep fit, diet sensibly and assimilate some local folkways, while I have been fighting my way through the courts toward a just disposition of the few remaining (unfounded) charges that bedevil me.

The fact that all my life any definition of Canada's virtue and distinctiveness has prominently included references to civility and decency explains my alarm and outrage at finally reading the three-year-old report on the Correctional Service of Canada, misleadingly titled "A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety."

As so often in other fields, this document seeks to import to Canada much of the worst of American practice, and none of the best, unless Canada now idealizes gratuitous official severity.
I have not succumbed to an inverse Stockholm Syndrome, and become an apologist for the convicted community. But I disbelieve even more fervently than I did before my sojourn among them, in the Manichaean process of baiting, dehumanization and stigmatization promoted by the Roadmap, and similarly inspired correctional nostrums.

In my present abode, I have met many rather dodgy people, but none whose ethics I consider inferior to some prosecutors and judges I have encountered in the last few years. And I have met many fine, as well as some mediocre and poor correctional officers, but few who rise above the level of benign non-skilled labour, profoundly under qualified to practise untrammeled social engineering on those entrusted to them.

I believe, civilly and theologically, in the confession and repentance of wrongdoing; in the prosecution and punishment of crime, and in a maximum reasonable effort by the state to protect the public, especially from threats to person and property. But I also believe that everyone has rights, including the unborn, demented, incurably ill, military adversaries and the criminal, and that the rights of those whose entitlements are for any reason circumscribed, are not inferior for being narrower, and should be as great as they practically can be, without violating the rights of others.

This Roadmap--which was released in 2007, and which the Harper government began officially responding to in its budget in 2008, setting out a five-year plan -- turns the humane traditions of Canada upside down. It implicitly assumes that all who are convicted are guilty and have no remaining claim to decency from the state, and that treating confinees accordingly is in the interest of the legally unexceptionable majority.

The Roadmap does not mention prisoners' rights, beyond basic food, shelter, clothing and medical care, and assumes that they are probably not recoverable for society and that the longer they are imprisoned, the better it is for society. Almost no distinction is made between violent and non-violent offenders.

Of course, great caution must be shown in the reintegration into society of violent criminals. But the objective of the penal system must be to return those capable of functioning licitly in society as quickly as practical, allowing also for straight punitive or retributive penalties, but not for mindless vengeance. The whole system must be guided by the fact that the treatment of the accused and confined has been recognized by ethicists and cultural historians for centuries as one of the hallmarks of civilized society.

The Roadmap holds that anything beyond the necessities for physical survival must be "earned." Traditionally, the punishment is supposed to be the imprisonment itself, not the additional oppressions of that regime, and the proverbial debt to society is paid when the sentence has been served; it does not continue as a permanent Sisyphean burden. In the interests of eliminating illegal drugs in prison, the authors of the Roadmap want all visits to be glass-segregated, no physical contact. This is just a pretext to assist in the destruction of families and friendships.

The importation of contraband by prisoners' visitors can be stopped by strip-searching the prisoners before they leave the visitors centre, as happens to us here, unless the prison staff, who have the unfathomable delight of inspecting us au naturel, are on the take, which is, of course, the problem, as correctional officers in many prisons are frequently caught smuggling, and aren't well enough trained to command higher salaries to make them more resistant to temptation. It is a problem, but it will not be solved by targeting unoffending relatives of inmates. The Roadmap also has naively exaggerated confidence in certain types of scanning devices.

It also recommends unspecified concentration on generating employment skills, which is sensible, except that it is specifically foreseen that they will shoulder aside other programs of more general education, substance abuse avoidance and behavioural adaptation.
I am no hemophiliac bleeding heart, but non-violent people can sometimes be helped to abandon illicit practices by some of these programs. No useful purposes will be served by cranking back into the world unreconstructed sociopaths who can fix an air conditioner or unclog a drain. The Roadmap even asks for research to be undertaken that will support this recommendation, an inversion of the usual sequence in the determination of policy.

There is a demand for investment of over $1-billion in new and larger prisons, (an insane extravagance), and for sharply longer sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, and "earned parole" in place of supervised release after two-thirds of the sentence, in the absence of misconduct that would militate against such comparative liberality. In practice, this means imprisonment at the pleasure of the carceral establishment for the maximum time possible. (Prisoners cost $40,000 per year to keep.) All of these draconian measures have been tried and have failed in the United States.

As Michael Jackson and Graham Stewart point out in their excellent essay in the current Literary Review of Canada, "Fear-Driven Policy," this plan would fall especially heavily on native people, who already comprise nearly seven times the percentage of imprisoned Canadians than they do of the whole population.

The Roadmap is the self-serving work of reactionary, authoritarian palookas, what we might have expected 40 years ago from a committee of southern U.S. police chiefs. It is counter-intuitive and contra-historical: The crime rate has been declining for years, and there is no evidence cited to support any of the repression that is requested. It appears to defy a number of Supreme Court decisions, and is an affront, at least to the spirit of the Charter of Rights.
The Canada I remember and look forward to returning to should do exactly the opposite. Prison is an antiquarian and absurd treatment of nonviolent law-breakers. It only continues because it has.

The whole concept of prison should be terminated, except for violent criminals and chronic non-violent recidivists, and replaced by closely supervised pro bono or subsistence-paid work by bonded convicts in the fields of their specialty. Swindlers and embezzlers, hackers and sleazy telemarketers are capable people and they should serve their sentences by contributing honest work to government-insured employers.

Canada would save a billion dollars annually in prison costs and the employers of the penitent-workers would save $2-billion annually, a tremendous shot in the arm to national productivity. Many of the prisons could be recon-figured as assisted housing for the homeless and slum-dwellers. Canada would again be a model of the innovative public policy pursuit of institutionalized decency and social reform.

The principle that the rape of the rights of the least is an assault on the rights of all is attributed to Jesus Christ and is at the core of Judeo-Christian civilization and the rule of law in both common and civil law jurisdictions. And it is not just a tradition; there are several million Canadians in families that have bitter memories of personal or close relatives' encounters with the vagaries of justice. They aren't a visible bloc, but this is not a political free lunch.

It is painful for me to write that with this garrote of a blueprint, the government I generally support is flirting with moral and political catastrophe. My respect for the Prime Minister prevents me from being any more explicit here about the implications of failure to reconsider the government's course on this issue.

The Roadmap is a bad plan to take Canada to a destination it should not wish to reach.

Monday, May 17, 2010


You will recall my blog on Ron Wood’s first literary endeavour ‘And God Created Manyberries,’ 2010 Frontenac House Ltd.

I spoke of Wood as being a civilized gentleman living in an age of incivility - a throwback to when this country was kinder and gentler and an ‘old school’ type of guy in the very best traditions of that term. Those qualities together with his charm, wit, and experience makes Ron the kind of guy that you enjoy sitting down with to share a bottle or two of oaky merlot (along with some good pasta) while engaging in weighty discussion of the world and its many problems. Wood is as much a Conservative as I am a Liberal - but no matter - he is a very easy man to connect with. Hell, it was such a great blog that I urge you to read it again: See
Thursday, February 12, 2009

But now for the really good news. My spies in the literary world tell me that Wood is about to have published his second book, appropriately titled ‘All Roads lead to Manyberries’ once again through the good offices of Frontenac House Ltd. I have also heard some literary scuttlebutt that – like his first book - it will deal with the exquisite delights and attractions of his beloved Manyberries and its colourful townfolk.

But there’s more. I am further advised by someone who should know – and in this regard I have been sworn to absolute secrecy - that Wood’s new work will not be on Premier Stelmach’s favourite recommended reading list. Furthermore, my impeccable sources have disclosed to me, that the Ottawa Press Gallery, indeed the news media throughout this great country, will be shocked to read what is on even the back cover of the book . . . and that it gets worse for them on the pages inside.

The release of Wood’s new tome is imminent. Of course, I have ordered my copy in advance which I would urge you to do as well. Just click on: and tell them you want a copy of Ron's new book!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


First, we have the Guergis-Jaffer catastrophe in all of its many splendours. Helena Guergis while an MP and Harperite minister of the Crown tells everyone within earshot at the Charlottetown airport that the city is a hellhole (or, as has also been reported, a “shithole”). Her husband Rahim Jaffer, mercifully a defeated Conservative MP, thinks it’s alright to use her office from which to lobby for money from government coffers for his clients. Jaffer also does not believe laws that apply to ordinary Canadians, should apply to him - and so he goes about his lobbying without bothering to register. The same Jaffer, still flaunting the law, gives testimony before a parliamentary committee that can only be charitably described as a crock. Guergis finds nothing wrong with writing a letter to a Simcoe county pooh-bah – namely her cousin – promoting her husband’s company. Conservative ministers, upon being requested by Jaffer to consider handing out gazillions to his clients, fall all over themselves to give him a hearing . . . . yada, yada, yada.

Then we have another Harperite minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who berates security employees at the Ottawa airport for not allowing him to take a large bottle of tequila on the plane with him.

We also have the Prime Minister himself using every possible obstruction (including spending a million dollars of taxpayers’ money and using the services of 16 staffers to vet defence and foreign affairs department documents) to ensure that the Canadian public be kept in the dark about whether Canadian officials (including himself and his ministers) have been guilty of war crimes in allowing detainees to fall into the hands of Afghan security personnel by whom they were sure to be tortured. See:

And yesterday, we heard from Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth (who received her appointment to the red chamber courtesy of Liberal PM Paul Martin, in one of his many bone-headed moves). Ruth, who carries the distinguished pedigree of the Ontario Jackman clan, while addressing a group of women who were critical of the Harper government’s decision not to fund abortion as part of the G8 initiative to reduce deaths of mothers and young children, told them to, “Shut the fuck up – on this issue.” See:

Quite apart from leading Canada incrementally down the road to perdition through legislative and regulatory changes, policy changes, and Order-in-Council and judicial appointments, all of which reflects a hard right change of direction, the government increasingly shows contempt for parliament and the Canadian people.

Canadians had better start paying attention to what is going on so that we soon salvage a country that still remains recognizable. If this is allowed to continue for much longer, when they do finally get around to turfing this gang, the task of turning it around may not be easy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010



His fetching Designated Traveler

Lee Richardson MP for Calgary Center is in deep doo-doo. I feel sorry for the bloke because if there was a Conservative MP that I like it is Richardson. He is from that kinder and gentler ancestor of the Harperites, the now defunct federal Progressive Conservative Party. I’m sure you remember the old federal PCs. You know - the ones that gave us Dief, Joe Clark, Karlheinz Schreiber’s pal Brian Mulroney, and the asterisk Kim Campbell. The old federal PC party had a proud and noble history to be sure, and I still have respect for many of the old red Tories that ran it. They didn’t come any better than Alvin Hamilton, Flora Macdonald and Bob Stanfield. Because Richardson comes from that old red Tory strain and doesn’t hide his pedigree his chances of making the cabinet of Stephen Harper or even getting a decent sinecure for services rendered rate from zero to none.

Now, as a result of recently disclosed information Richardson’s bleak chances of a Harper-inspired reward have become much, much worse. And it’s all over an awe-inspiring blonde and one of the great babes on Canadian television these days – CBC-TV national political reporter Krista Erickson. See:

Richardson, a widower and a warm and cuddly guy, has admitted to being linked to the delectable newshound for a couple of years, and it’s something about which he is justly proud. After all, although he is reasonably well preserved and not quite ready for the glue factory or the Royal Tyrell Museum (for those of you from outside of Alberta, the Royal Tyrell is one of the finest Dinosaur museums in the world), he is several generations older than the dazzling Miss Erickson.

Richardson’s trouble arises as a result of Erickson being registered as the designated traveler for Richardson in his capacity as an MP. This qualifies her to fly on Canada’s airlines courtesy of guess who? Richardson? Nope. The Canadian taxpayer? Yep.

As a result, the pesky Canadian Taxpayers Federation is mightily pissed with Richardson. Not only does it want to find out just how much of the $143,850 worth of travel expenses he charged up during 2008-2009 was for his ravishing gal pal, its spokesman is convinced that this will be a problem for everybody including the Tories. Not surprisingly, both Richardson and his exquisite designated traveler claim they have no knowledge of she being on any tax payer sponsored trip.

While the dashing and debonair Richardson has the sumptuous Erickson as his designated traveler, it should be noted that defence minister Peter McKay – he who was unceremoniously dumped by the equally resplendent Belinda Stronach – has named his mother as his designated traveler. No surprise there.

But if Richardson is in the soup over this one, his gorgeous fellow traveler is in even deeper. The Canadian Association of Journalists is pissed with both Erickson and the CBC. According to the Association’s president Mary Agnes Welch, the Association’s Code of Ethics [the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Ethics, now there’s an oxymoron for you!] says that journalists should not have a personal relationship with the people they report on. What’s even worse, she says, is flying free because of the relationship. Welch puts it this way: “It is one thing to have a personal relationship. It’s another thing entirely to be benefiting from that relationship. Actually being able to fly for free because of that relationship kind of brings it to a new level. A reporter who covers national politics in any way who is in a relationship with an MP is clearly in conflict.”

This is the second time that the ravishing Erickson has been accused of running afoul of the code of ethics. In 2007 during the Commons committee hearings looking into the sordid Mulroney – Schreiber affair she planted a few written questions with some Liberals to ask Mulroney. The Harperites screamed blue murder about the affair to the CBC which resulted in her being banished to the boring gulag of Toronto for almost two years.

What will happen to Erickson next is anybody’s guess. However, if the CBC gives her the pink slip she can always seek employment with the Calgary Herald whose conflict of interest rules for journalists are applied with much less rigor and severity - that is, if they are applied at all. For example, Tom Olsen happily continued writing his Herald column and reporting on the government of Ralph Klein even though his brother Gordon (with whom Tom obviously had a relationship) at the same time held various positions in Klein’s office including executive director of the premier’s south office, executive assistant to the premier, and the premier’s caucus liaison.

So, for Erickson, even if worse comes to worse – hell, it’s not the end of the world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Harper (above) seen here lying low during Prorogation

The fetching and kvetching Guergis (left) with her long-suffering Husband-of-the-Year Award winner Jaffer (on the right)

At the time of the spontaneous public outburst against Prime Minister Harper for proroguing parliament, I told anyone who would listen that he probably had only one more gaffe left before the people decided to give him the boot.

Since then, there have been four of them – his continued stonewalling of the detainee issue, his over-the-top pandering to the ladies by proposing to change the words of the National Anthem, the profane hissy fit of status of women minister Helena Guergis and his failure to do anything about it, and now the embarrassing kid gloves treatment given by a Tory appointed judge to the ideal husband of the fetching Ms. Guergis after he copped out to a careless driving charge.

Although Harper’s klutziness and ministerial incompetence is nothing new (See: STEPHEN HARPER AT THE G8: HOW TO MAKE A SOW'S EAR OUT OF A SILK PURSE; PRIME MINISTER HARPER: CANADA'S INSPECTOR CLOSEAU; KEVIN LYNCH RESIGNS AFTER A BELLY FULL OF CLOSEAU AND MAN SERVANT KATO), these events which follow so closely his sly and cowardly attempt to bury the detainee issue by proroguing parliament, will surely do him in.

On the detainee issue, his stonewalling shows that his education has been too directed towards the Milton Friedmans, William Kristols, and perhaps the collected works of Margaret Thatcher. He should have left some time for Woodward and Bernstein and Daniel Ellsberg. If he had he would have known that stonewalling and cover-ups are a mug’s game, something like paying off a blackmailer. The guy who covers up, just like the blackmailer’s victim who pays, almost always winds up on the short end of the stick. In politics, the cover-up usually leads to a leak, then another, and then another. With each leak the politician loses support and credibility – something like Chinese water torture does to one’s sanity. If the cover-up and leaks go on long enough, there is no support or credibility left. The detainee issue is starting to rain leaks and they are likely to continue given the popularity of Harper and his government within the Canadian bureaucracy. See:

About the shortcomings of cover-ups Harper should have read a Nixon biography, or drew some lessons from Brian Mulroney’s excellent adventure with Karlheinz Schreiber. Alas, he didn’t. He was too busy studying his lecture notes from Tom Flanagan and Ted Morton and plotting how he was going to stab his former boss, ex-Tory MP Jim Hawkes, in the back.

The ‘O Canada’ lyric change proposal so that our Anthem would become gender neutral was Harper at his pandering worst. What made it so outrageous was that while he and most of his Conservative followers have always ranted against political correctness, here he was acting as a champion of the movement. Even his followers couldn’t swallow it, and forced him to quickly abandon his crazy idea to get the girls on side - after he had trashed their $ 5 billion child care program, closed a dozen status of women offices and reduced by half the number of women in cabinet.

The fetching and kvetching Ms. Guergis’ behaviour at the Charlottetown airport was not the fault of Harper. The former beauty queen was late for her flight and in a hurry to get home to her prize of a husband and former super-stud, Edmonton MP Rahim Jaffer so they could celebrate their birthday together. Arriving late for her flight, Guergis gave the security and airline staff hell for being slow and even called the very charming Charlottetown “a shit hole.” When asked by security to remove her boots she said, “Happy fucking birthday to me. I guess I’m stuck in this hell hole.” She continued her class act by chewing out an Air Canada employee who was trying to explain to her the rules, saying, “I don’t need to be lectured about flight time by you. I’ve been down here working my ass off for you people.” See:

Although Guergis apologized for the outburst, her temperamental display of arrogance, pique and entitlement screamed for further disciplinary action from her boss. Sadly, none was forthcoming from tough-guy Harper. That was a big mistake. This incident will linger over Harper’s political world like the smell of rotting, dead fish - which when you come to think about it, is altogether appropriate given that the dust-up took place in the Maritimes, which Harper has insulted before. See: Culture of Defeatism

The Guergis event and Harper’s failure to act as well as his past Maritime sins spell big trouble for Harper in Atlantic Canada in the next election.

And just yesterday Guergis’ dashing husband Rahim Jaffer had his day in court in respect to drunk driving, possession of cocaine and careless driving charges he faced as a result of an earlier encounter with the gendarmes in rural Ontario. A Tory appointed judge fined him a measly 500 bucks for a cop-out guilty plea on a careless driving charge. The ugly stuff had been withdrawn by the crown. Whether or not anything was untoward in the proceedings is unknown. What is known is the revealing statement of the judge when he said to Jaffer after he pronounced sentence, "I'm sure you can recognize a break when you see one." Ouch!

Its not Harper’s fault that Jaffer retained good lawyers or that the prosecutors gave him a sweetheart deal, or that the judge was terribly indiscreet in his choice of words. But politics being what they are, Harper has already began to take shots from opposition politicians and the public at large who are up-in-arms over what they view as special treatment for a high profile ex-MP of the law and order party. See:

So from here on in, it will be all down hill for Steve Harper. And you can take that to the bank.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Graham’s Thomson’s piece in the Edmonton Journal (and Calgary Herald) of March 1st deals with the departure of Paul Stanway as director of communications for Special Ed Stelmach. See:

In it, Thomson speculates as to whether Stanway was a rat leaving the seriously listing H.M.S. Dweeb, or told to walk the gang plank by Captain Dweeb himself. He poses the question, is Stanway the fall guy for the government’s lousy communications policy? Or is he actually taking the blame for it? Not that it matters anymore given that Dweeb is likely going down with the ship.

Thomson also observes that Stanway, and Stelmach’s press officer Tom Olsen, who are now leaving their employment at the same time, went to work for the Premier at the same time in 2007 and did so immediately upon leaving their posts as political columnists at their respective newspapers, Stanway at the Edmonton Sun, and Olsen at the Calgary Herald.

No doubt due to some misguided sense of professional courtesy Thomson fails to remind his readers that prior to the appointments of Stanway and Olsen to cushy government jobs both of them were shameless and consistent Tory propagandists who never wrote a word of even muted criticism of the inept and incompetent Alberta Tory administrations that they covered.
See: Darryl Raymaker blog Thursday, February 01, 2007 TORIES, STANWAY, 0LSEN: FINALLY CHURCHED

What Thomson finds interesting is not the pay-offs these political hookers received for the servicing of their Progressive Conservative johns, it is that there were two of them who came and left their well-paid, tax-payer funded jobs at the same time.

In fact Thomson even calls their hiring by Stelmach, “From watchdog to lapdog in a single bound.” Watchdog? Puleeeeze!!!! They were lapdogs, from beginning to end. He should have referred to the relationships as "From lapdog to lapdog via a thousand Tory kiss-ass columns."

Thomson says that their hiring by Stelmach rattled both reporters and PR types, who felt their professions had been insulted, and that they also added to public cynicism about ties between government and press. Well, it wasn’t so much their hiring that pissed off the discerning members of the public. It was because it was so obvious why they were hired. They were hired because they were Tory hacks!

Olsen’s case was even more flagrant. He was a young pup of a reporter who was present at the dawning of the bleak Conrad Black era of media dominance in Canada (which understandably coincided with the collapse of good and decent journalistic ethics). It has been said that Olsen was a Black favorite because he sided with management during the Herald’s infamous strike in 1999. The story makes some sense in that Olsen’s rise within the organization was inexorable from there on – from cub reporter, to legislature reporter, to bureau chief, to legislature columnist, and finally to senior columnist – all in a few short years with Olsen currying the favour of the Tory party all the way.

During Olsen’s tenure in the Klein years, as luck would have it, his brother Gordon served as a senior policy advisor to none other than Ralph Klein, as well as Executive Director of the Premier’s Southern Alberta office. The Herald concluded that such a comfy arrangement between brothers as they tended to their respective jobs - one protecting the subject and the other supposedly objectively commenting and reporting on the same subject - still passed the stink test!

For more on the careers of these two Tory mouthpieces read:

Anyway, Thomson goes on to say that Stanway is a nice guy and a gentleman. He is silent on Olsen.

Friday, February 19, 2010



. . .FOR THIS!

You will recall that on January 18, 2010 I raved about Special Ed's deft decision to appoint California-born and bred Ted Morton as Alberta Minister of Finance and Enterprise and thereby set him up as Ed's logical successor. See: REPORT FROM ALBERTA: TORIES AND WILD ROSE ALLIANCE SET FOR THE MOTHER OF ALL TORY CIVIL WARS

I predicted that Morton's pure right-wing pedigree along with his reputed oratorical skills could very well stop the hemorrhaging of Progressive Conservative support over to the upstart Wildrose Alliance party now headed by that enticing political goddess, Danielle Smith.

Much to my surprise I have discovered that my rosy view of Morton's potential is not shared by a great many Tories, whether they still hold their party memberships or whether they trashed them already to join the party of the alluring Ms. Smith.

This afternoon I happened to share a glass of wine with two men who can only be described as establishment Alberta Tories. They were in the innermost sanctum of the Ralph Klein organization throughout his whole sorry tenure during Alberta's dark ages between 1992 to 2006. Over those dreary and unimaginative years whenever anything of consequence was going on these affable and erudite gentlemen (remember, they bought me the glass of wine) were at the very apex of power. They kept both the keys to, and the secrets of, the kingdom. They were among the strongest voices in the Premier's cheering section, and advanced and strategized many of the thin gruel of ideas that found their way into the half-baked policies of his misguided regime. In other words, they were Tories of influence.

Alas, these former movers and shakers have concluded at the same time as countless other Albertans, that the Morton appointment is simply too little too late to save the Tories. They are underwhelmed and unimpressed with Morton. They say his oratorical skills are overblown and his leadership skills wholly absent during his whole three-year tenure as a Stelmach minister.

Most surprising of all, they are convinced that Stelmach has no intention of setting Morton nor anybody else up as his successor and still harbours the delusion that he will survive and lead the Tories to victory in the next provincial election! As to anybody else in the wings who can save the PCs from oblivion, forget it, they say. It ain't gonna happen. With Jim Dinning happily ensconced in the cozy comfort of oak-paneled walls and expensive scotch in the private sector, the cupboard is bare for leadership candidates. Empty. Kaput. Finito. One of my hosts (remember, they bought the wine) has even bought his Wildrose Alliance membership.

If these men are right - and their survival instincts have served them well after more than a generation in PC politics - this is bad news for the Tories. The party will have to fight tooth and nail to remain in contention, and with Stelmach at the helm and in la-la land about his own abilities and future, that will be like fighting with one hand tied behind one's back.

These are dark days indeed for the once proud party of Peter Lougheed.

Monday, February 15, 2010


With Hannaford Gone. . .

Can Corbella be far behind ?

As the CanWest Global empire sinks into its well-earned sunset many of its employees –including writers and editors - must be scrambling for new jobs. Living on the edge of being out on the street isn’t fun and it’s much worse when you are actually out on the street.

Nigel Hannaford, a pedantic, boring, extreme right wing, politically conservative former editorial writer and columnist who began imparting his antiquated views on Calgary Herald readers in 1999 seemed to be ahead of the pack in testing the waters for more secure employment. Beginning in 2004 when the Harper government took office Hannaford consistently fawned over it, doted on it, and caressed it, while shouting loud huzzahs of approval at each and every of its pronouncements and actions – despite its screw-ups, meanness, lies, and deceits. Anybody reading his tiresome columns could be forgiven if they had concluded that Hannaford was looking to Harper for new and more secure work.

Indeed in October 2009, the zealous opponent of gay-rights and multiculturalism, climate change denier, and ardent Afghanistan war hawk, was hired as a Harper speech writer. One wonders whether or not an even more secure post in the public service awaits him before his pal is finally thrown out of Sussex Drive. For more of Hannaford’s off the charts views see:

Another who many have long suspected as being on the same career path as Hannaford is the Herald’s editorial page editor Licia Corbella. The most recent manifestation of what may be her career aspirations appeared yesterday on the Herald's editorial page – appropriately on Valentine’s Day - with her passionate defence of Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament. See:

In it Corbella whines that no one seems to be outraged with Dalton McGuinty in the wake of announcing his intention to prorogue the Ontario legislature. She rages that “those of us who live in the real world know the answer. Proroguing is only something those professors and protesters care about if it’s someone like Harper who does it.”

Well, I doubt that being in the real world is hanging out – as Corbella does - with the Greed is Good crowd at the Fraser Institute and the co-sponsors of the forthcoming Sarah Palin love-fest like Craig Chandler and the Progressive Group for Independent Business. But she is probably right thinking that it is Harper’s type that gets under people’s skin when he seeks prorogation. I’m speaking of the petty, mean-spirited type that indulges in the politics of personal destruction, assassinates the characters of people who get in their way, and who asks for prorogation twice in one year to keep the Canadian people in the dark and to save their own political skin. I mean, people like that have their detractors, non?

In her defence of Harper Corbella then opts for one of her well-worn diversionary tactics. She brings up the red (no pun intended) herring of Bob Rae as Premier of Ontario. This is a device she has used many times before. Bob, she says, prorogued the Ontario legislature three times in five years, and then goes on to castigate his administration for its various misdeeds. Poor Bob. Corbella seems to be fixated on him, even though it is almost a generation since he was in power. The government of Premier Bob Rae is old news and few people save for the Harper fawners and apologists even talk about it these days.

Corbella then reminds us that it was only in December of 2008 when the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc threatened forming a coalition that most Canadians first heard of prorogation. She calls Harper’s actions in seeking prorogation at that time as “righteous” in the circumstances because the forming of the coalition sought to “usurp democracy.” First of all, it is trite to say that forming a coalition in democratic, responsible government parliaments is entirely within the traditions of democracy. At times coalition governments have been essential to Canada’s survival and development. For anybody who is interested in the subject I invite them to read: Furthermore she forgets that the coalition was a response to an assault on democracy by Harper himself. The coalition threat was an attempt to spurn Harper’s intention to cut off public funding of federal opposition parties. It was the opposition's response to Harper’s attempted ‘putsch.’ For a definition of this descriptive term made famous by an event involving, appropriately enough, Adolf Hitler, read:

There may be quibblers as to my definition of ‘putsch’ in that some will say Harper did not attempt to overthrow a government. I say that if you choke off funding for opposition parties you are trying to overthrow government as Canadians have always known it.

Corbella does have a moment – as even the most partisan of people like her do from time to time – of honest reflection. She calls Harper’s announcement of prorogation on December 30 “a huge miscalculation,” “bordering on disgraceful,” and refers to “Harper’s Machiavellian machinations.” Alas like Dr. Strangelove, after a moment of lucidity she quickly slips back into her normal uber partisan Conservative mode – saying that Harper should come clean with all of the info on the Afghan detainee issue “and let the Liberals come to the defence of Taliban murderers who were having ‘troubles sleeping because of stress’ while in prison.” Sound familiar? It could have been written by Harper himself.

Her column then deteriorates into pure babble with a ridiculous feeble defence of Harper’s action arguing that prorogation saved taxpayers’ money because MPs did not have to fly back to Ottawa from their ridings and would not receive extra pay because the committees of which they were members were not sitting.

Her closing thoughts reflect the rah-rah highly partisan Harperite that she is as she advances the proposition that prorogation is not such a bad thing because question period is vulgar, and that the bitching about prorogation is because Liberals feel entitled to govern.

So what are we to make of all of that?

Surely, the cowtown has produced no greater Harper cheerleader than Corbella, unless it is Nigel Hannaford. From day one she and Hannaford have been devoted to the Harper cause. They have been loyal and faithful through thick and thin whether their hero was mean, petty, deceitful, incompetent or all of the foregoing at once. If there is a place for Hannaford amongst the flim-flam artistes who write prime ministerial bafflegab for the masses, surely there must be a place for Corbella. By God, she’s earned it!

Monday, February 08, 2010


In case you are wondering just who are the sponsors of the forthcoming Palin-Wallin Calgary conservative gabfest, they are listed on a series of half page ads in the hapless Calgary Herald.

At the top of the list is Walton. Walton is a private Calgary-based land investment company estimated to be worth gazillions and with holdings in many corners of the world. The company has been a soft landing for several right-wing retired politicos who have joined its advisory board after the sun had set on their careers. Among the lucky ones who have landed this sought-after lucrative sinecure are Ernest Manning’s son Preston, conservative gadfly and political groupie Thompson MacDonald, and most recently, ex-Premier Ralph Klein.

The right-wing think tank, The Fraser Institute (surprise, surprise), is also on the list. Among its former directors are those great Canadian role models Conrad Black, David Radler, and Peter Pocklington. Oh yes, the Fraser Institute has also had among its ranks a noted plagiarist by the name of Dr. Owen Lippert. Dr. Lippert who served the institute as a senior fellow and policy analyst, you will recall, took the rap for Stephen Harper when it was disclosed that Harper had given a plagiarized speech in the House of Commons in defence of Canada entering the war in Iraq.

Enmax Corporation is also a sponsor. Enmax is a 2 billion dollar energy distribution company wholly owned by the City of Calgary. Among its directors are Cliff Fryers, a former pooh-bah of the Reform and Alliance parties and loyal and faithful man-servant to Preston Manning, ex-Ontario premier Mike ‘Duffer’ Harris famous for his ‘Common Sense’ nonsense revolution of years gone by, former Klein-era Tory cabinet minister Greg Melchin, and the ubiquitous Thompson MacDonald.

The Rogers Group is also on the list. Apart from the usual assortment of conservative Bay Street captains of industry and members of the Rogers family that grace its board, surprisingly there appears to be a token Liberal – none other than David Peterson, former Ontario Premier who was confined to the dust heap of history by Bob Rae when he led the Ontario NDP to power almost twenty years ago.

The Progressive Group for Independent Business is a sponsor. It’s advisory council is a Who’s Who of Calgary’s lunatic far right including failed Wild Rose Alliance leadership candidate Mark Dyrholm, and uber rabid anti-gay rights conservative motor mouth Craig Chandler. Chandler has had mostly controversial associations with the Social Credit, federal and provincial Progressive Conservative, and Canadian Alliance parties. He has openly apologized to the citizens of the United States for Canada’s unwillingness to invade Iraq, was rejected by Premier Stelmach as a Progressive Conservative candidate to contest a provincial election, and has had run ins with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Among his more noteworthy public statements in 2007 the Ontario-born Chandler informed others who came to reside in Alberta:

"You came to here to enjoy our economy, our natural beauty and more. This is our home and if you wish to live here, you must adapt to our rules and our voting patterns or leave. Conservatism is our culture. Do not destroy what we have created."

For more on the distinguished career of the tolerant Mr. Chandler see:

And of course – you guessed it – the Calgary Herald is also a sponsor of this ‘Make Ditzy Sarah Rich’ event. The Herald’s participation was no doubt driven by its tiresome, ideological editors and scribes who have turned that once venerable publication into a second rate right wing pamphlet.

Bedford Biofuels, Oilsands Quest Inc. (which has Sarah’s stage prop Ms. Wallin on its board), the Jaymor Group, Land Rover Calgary, Business in Calgary, and It's Me, round out the list of advertised patrons.

All of this info is provided to you in case you are wondering what makes much of the cowtown tick. Dysfunctional? You think?


Thursday, February 04, 2010


PALIN (holding dead fish) Coming to Cowtown

WALLIN: Broadcasting Diva and political operator will moderate discussion

Once again trying to prove Phineas T. Barnum’s* truism that that there’s a sucker born every minute, a pair of Calgary promoters are bringing in Sarah Palin to impart her wit and wisdom to the residents of cowtown on March 6. See:

In case you missed it, Calgary was the first Canadian city that hosted Karl Rove and George W. Bush in their Canadian pickpocket debuts after they had left office. See: and

I say ‘pickpocket’ because just as gullible Calgarians shelled out hundreds each to hear Bush and his henchman say nothing of consequence, 1000 of them are expected to pay 150 to 200 dollars for a ticket to receive the same from Palin - unless one considers seeing in the flesh a true celebrity from the dumb and dumber era of infotainment as something of value.

Ah, but I’m being churlish.

The star-studded event will be held at the Palomino Room at Stampede Park - yes, home of the Calgary Stampede and a favorite gathering place for the cowtown’s knuckle-dragging hard right. I say ‘star-studded’ because the event will include a question and answer session moderated by Senator Pamela Wallin, formerly a famous talking head on Canadian television news networks and now a formidable political operator in her own right.

Apart from her career in the media Wallin has displayed an amazing talent for getting governments of Canada of any political stripe to advance her career and resume. First of all the Chretien Liberals gave her the cushy appointment of Canada’s Consul General in the Big Apple where for a number of years she entertained the rich and powerful on behalf of Canada at her swanky Park Avenue digs. When she was done with that the Harper Conservatives put her on the laughable Manley panel to figure out what to do in Afghanistan. After having done such a bang-up job on that assignment – remember the panel said that 1000 extra troops and a little more equipment could do the job in Kandahar - the Harperites then appointed her to the Senate. Not bad for a kid from Wadena, Saskatchewan who once was a member of the far left Waffle group faction of the NDP: See:;

Just like Bush and Rove, Palin’s Calgary gig will be her Canadian speaking debut. Christian Darbyshire, one of the promoters of the boondoggle believes that Calgary is an ideal spot for Palin’s one and a half hour drivel because Calgary, like Alaska, is into oil and gas. He said, “She’s got some interesting insights and I think people in Calgary will be very interested in hearing what she has to say.” Probably so, given the thousands around town who share her red neck culture and believe that Barack Obama is about to initiate death panels for granny.

Darbyshire’s partner in the project Andy McCreath showed that he too knew his oats saying that the Palin-Calgary match-up was ideal because, “Calgary is a Republican town,” and that “There’s lots of Americans living in Calgary.” Dead on once again. Since the discovery of the Leduc elephant oil field way back in 1947 Calgary has been hands down the most American and Republican – some would say Texas Republican - of Canadian cities.

Indeed the boys do know their stuff when it comes to marketing big names in these parts. Among the has-beens with checkered pasts they have brought to town and whose pockets they have lined with cash from a gullible public are Tony Blair, Alan Greenspan, Rudy Giuliani, and Colin Powell. Although none of those today would likely win a popularity contest, they have also organized gabfests for the likes of Bill Clinton and Lance Armstrong.

No doubt the former governor and vice presidential candidate, Fox News political analyst, author, and university drop-out will toss enough red meat at what will be her largely hard right audience so that at the end of the day they will give her a rousing standing ovation. After which, of course, she’ll chortle all the way back to her bank in Wasila, Alaska to make the hundred thou or so deposit. A sucker born every minute? You betcha. There will be a thousand of them out at Stampede Park to hear the ditz.
* See:

Friday, January 29, 2010



Red meat* law and order Conservatives love the police. They believe they represent the very thin blue line that separates all of the true and honest of any society – namely, them - from the chaos created by the bad guy. Bad guys, they believe, are either born that way or coddled into being that way by liberals. That is their view of the relationship between society and the law.

They also believe that bad guys abound in society and everyone is at risk all of the time. Therefore they stand for unfettered police and state prosecution powers (unless it affects them, such as what happened to Conrad Black, who screamed blue murder when U.S. authorities threw the book at him for his crimes).

As far as punishment is concerned, red meat Conservatives have little time for the principle of rehabilitation but plenty of time for deterrence. The mercifully retired ex-cop Calgary MP Art Hangar was typical of that crowd. He once went to Singapore to see first hand the wondrous positive effects of flogging in its penal system. Another time he took the time to go to Texas and argue that Governor George W. Bush should put to death a former Alberta resident and Canadian citizen who was on death row there after being convicted of murder. He did this at the same time as the government of Canada was petitioning that his life be spared. Of course Bush made sure that the guy was executed.

Conservatives also believe that whatever cops want they should get. Thus, they give police all of the bells and whistles they ask for – shotguns, assault rifles, machine guns, hollow point bullets, robots, cannon-armed helicopters, pepper spray, tasers, and cell phones to complement the milder tools of their trade such as automatic pistols, handcuffs, billy clubs, and fast cars equipped with the latest of computer technology. Oh, yes, Conservatives also make sure there are generous budgets to buy all of the stuff. Because after all, it’s a jungle out there and these brave men and women are the thin blue line that protects us from all of that savagery.

Stephen Harper is a red meat Conservative who seems to have a dark view of human nature. He also appears to believe all of the stuff about the mean streets of Canada. And whether he believes it or not, he knows that it is good politics to be perceived to believe it. For years now, Canadian society has been bamboozled by local television news and the tabloid print media into believing that it really is a jungle out there, and that crime and mayhem are rampant, with large numbers of innocent people victimized daily by rapists, robbers, murderers, arsonists, drug-dealers and other low-lifes. Conservatives like Harper love to hear that stuff and they play it politically for all it’s worth.

Arming police to the teeth with the latest and most effective of fire power in what is largely a very peaceful society is bad enough. However, Harper’s most recent tactic of moving to abolish meaningful public oversight of oppressive police actions and behavior goes too far. That is just what he's done with his most recent bonehead move of appointing Toronto wills and estates lawyer Ian McPhail to head the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP. McPhail’s credentials for the job are that he is an estates lawyer and a Conservative Party apparatchik. Some people might call him a political hack. He admits that he has no experience or background for the job, policing, criminal law, or federal oversight agencies. Read:

Harper has appointed McPhail to preside over an administration of 90 public servants whose job it is to investigate public complaints against members of the RCMP for incidents such as excessive use of force, officers exceeding authority, and other deviant or criminal behaviour as it affects the public. They investigate incidents of the unnecessary use of tasers for example, or assaults that cause bodily harm.

The job of policing the police is a tough one that requires tough people because the thin blue line culture in Canada has allowed police institutions to establish their own stonewall culture as a defence against public scrutiny. For years now the RCMP complaints commission has been hamstrung in carrying out its duties by an RCMP administration that believes that it is none of the public’s damn business what their men do on the street, because it’s a jungle out there, and they protect people from the bad guys, and . . . yada, yada, yada. All of which Conservatives swallow hook, line and sinker, with Harper chief among them.

McPhail defends his appointment saying that having no police background is unimportant because he is merely a chairman, and that his main qualification is to understand how an administrative agency works. He prides himself in being ‘collegial.’ That kind of feeble weak-kneed statement is music to the ears of the stonewallers. It telegraphs to the RCMP they need not worry about their excesses because the commission is now led by some namby-pamby without the gonads to get tough with errant cops.

McPhail is replacing political independent Paul Kennedy as commission chair. Kennedy had 35 years of experience in federal security agencies before he took the job in 2005. His job performance was characterized by dogged diligence and tough reports while he tried to get to the bottom of what he was charged to investigate.

Harper has now come to the rescue of the thin blue line.
His decision reflects an approach that if left unchecked leads to a police state. Dictators like tough cops. It keeps the people in line. Franco, Stalin, and Hitler in Germany liked their cops tough and unimpeded.

It can be good politics to be sure. But it is not very good for the country.

*Dictionary definition of “throw red meat”
throw red meatv. to appease, satisfy, rally, or excite one’s (political) supporters.