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.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Columnist Don Martin (left) doing what he does best - schmoozing Conservatives (even the obscure ones)

Don Martin is not a bad columnist. He’s a lively writer, has some wit – unusual in the current CanWest Global organization - and, albeit rarely, takes a shot at the Prime Minister like maybe once a year.

He’s a conservative columnist to be sure. Federally, his political affections have drifted seamlessly from the old kinder and gentler PCs, to the hard-ass Reform, Alliance and now Conservative parties. He has hung out exclusively with conservative movers and shakers for at least a generation and then some, and has followed and supported their rightward twists and turns with the instinct of a loyal and faithful bloodhound following the scent of his master’s prey.

Martin swooned over Mulroney during his hey-day as Prime Minister, believed Ralph Klein was the funniest and smartest guy on the planet (he even guffawed at Klein’s dinosaur fart jokes) when he was Premier during Alberta’s dark ages, thought the rise of Preston Manning was akin to the second coming of Christ, viewed Stockwell Day’s charisma as right up there with Pierre Trudeau’s when Day was doing his thing in his wet suit,* and almost always speaks reverentially of Stephen Harper as being profound, deep, and a master strategist (tsk, tsk).

(*He did, I swear it! You can find it in one of his columns written when the hapless Day was coming to power as party leader)

Martin stays away from Grits and people of other political persuasions as though they carried some deadly communicable disease. In all my years of rubbing shoulders with Liberals in Alberta and elsewhere I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Martin in their company. He is comfy with conservatives, and so he sticks to them and with them.

Naturally even if one belongs to some religious order, living that kind of a cloistered life can have negative consequences. One can lose touch with society, lose sight of reality, ignore history, draw baseless conclusions, and even become delusional – traits that frequently show up in Martin’s columns published in the various broadsheets that are part of the recently and mercifully defunct Asper press.

I was reminded of all of this when I read his recent column of January 21st, Recalibration Lost. See:

The column deals with the recent tightening polls between the Conservatives and Liberals as well as the negative public reaction to Harper’s second controversial prorogation of parliament within one year. Martin calls prorogation ‘a sleepy issue,’ believing it is of such little importance it can be blown off the front pages by some timely Harper generosity to the beleagured Haitians. He just doesn’t get it that Canadians have serious and distressing problems of their own that they want their government to solve – problems such as joblessness, soaring deficits, the continued sacrifice of lives and treasure in Afghanistan, and the detainee cover up. Canadians view prorogation as the government’s unnecessary and prolonged vacation from dealing with those festering problems. As a result, Canadians are angry and prorogation is no ‘sleepy issue.’

Martin really goes off the deep end with his next assertion about why the neck-and-neck polls are really of no concern to the Conservatives.

He writes that Conservatives know that three weeks from now there is “a firm end date to any real or rogue slide in their political fortunes.” Just what is happening three weeks from now that will save the Harperites? Why, its the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This is how Harper sees the Conservative universe unfolding:

“At the star-filled Feb. 12 spectacle in Vancouver, featuring the giddy hoopla of singers, dancers and athlete parades, the Olympic flame will fire up the sky and the word ‘prorogation’ will return to its natural domain in the vocabulary of parliamentary geeks.”

Apart from Martin’s staggeringly low and false opinion of the intelligence of the Canadian people and his failure to grasp their valid concerns or the dire straits many of them find themselves in, he has learned nothing from history during his professional lifetime as a Conservative scribe.

Twenty-two years ago next month Brian Mulroney had the chance to ride the coattails of Olympic ballyhoo into political popularity. The Calgary Olympics were held in February 1988 and the federal election followed November 21 later in the year. The result: Mulroney’s PCs lost 43 seats. Canada hosting the Olympics does not translate in support for the sitting government.

This is not the first time Martin has thrown logic and history to the winds in his exuberance while looking through rose colored glasses with his Conservative pals. He was so exhilarated by the last Harper victory at the polls that he was convinced Harper could get anything he wanted even though he had won only a minority of seats in parliament. With unrestrained confidence and joy at the Conservative victory he wrote on election night:

“The Conservatives have won a majority in political power if not in name” and that “. . . the Conservatives are now set to lead the an[sic] absolute-power minority, perhaps the strongest in history.”


Little more than two months later and about to be dethroned by a coalition as a result of his strategic excesses, Harper was on bended knee to the Governor General requesting a prorogation to save his skin.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Heartthrob of the right seen here practicing her secret weapon

TED MORTON (Stelmach's chosen successor) taking target practice in preparation for 'The Mother of all Tory Civil Wars'

Premier Ed Stelmach and I started at the same time - me as a blogger and Ed as the much loftier premier - and I don’t think I’ve had a positive thing to say about him since. I’m sure there are those that think that I started the blog just to beat up on Ed. Well, that’s just not true. It was conservatives that I was after and unhappily for Ed he was one of them.

Today however, I want to say something nice about him and here goes. His choice of Ted Morton as President of the Treasury Board was an inspired one. Not because Morton will do a good job in the post, to be sure. But because by appointing Morton, Stelmach has set the stage for the Tories to begin neutralizing the irrational but growing support for the Wild Rose Alliance, and in addition for Morton to emerge as Stelmach’s only logical successor. See:
I hasten to point out that neither potential result is particularly good for the people of Alberta. Any party that has botched governing a province for more than 17 years – like the Tories - deserves to belong in the trash heap of history. Furthermore, Morton’s record as a red-meat conservative and a consistent drumbeater for major spending cuts is not likely to improve the lives of Albertans who are sick, who want to properly educate their children, and who want a cleaner environment with some decent roads and bridges in their communities.

But the appointment is great for the beleaguered Tories. Morton’s vaunted skill as a communicator and record as an arch-conservative are no less impressive than those of the charming, motor-mouth Ms. Danielle Smith.

Besides, Morton’s emergence as a real player in the Tory future is likely to make many potential defectors and even some of those who have already bolted to the Wild Rose Alliance rethink their decision. They will remember that Morton has a loud and impeccable history of championing their cause and has worked shoulder-to -shoulder with other heroes in the conservative pantheon of lunacy – men such as Stephen Harper, Preston Manning, Tom Flanagan, and the rest of the sorry lot. This will make it hard for them to continue to support the Smith insurgency.

While having drinks at a decent bar a couple of days ago with one of those wild-eyed right wingers smitten by Smith’s undeniable charms into buying a membership in her party, I suggested to him that some of the new Wild Rose Alliance members might be heading back into the Tory fold now that Morton is in charge of the public purse and looks poised to replace Stelmach. He pooh-poohed the idea saying that it was too little too late and that the exodus into the new party was unstoppable. I replied that quite the contrary, given the track record for shaky loyalty and survival amongst Alberta conservatives, it was indeed likely that many of them would return to the fold, and that Smith’s future as the next Premier of Alberta was now very cloudy indeed. I don’t know if it was my words about Smith’s chances or if he preferred more conservative company – probably both - but he soon paid for his drink and stalked off into the night.

However, the light at the end of the tunnel may be the train for both Smith and the Wild Rose Alliance and Morton and the Tories. The inspired choice of Morton – probably the single most effective decision made by Stelmach during his underwhelming career as Premier - which is not exactly saying much – may result in one of those political bloodbaths that leaves old Tories still divided and their parties engaged in long-term trench warfare, able only to scrape up minority governments in a fractious legislature, and all the while being never far away from defeat.

Monday, January 11, 2010




PETER KENT (on the right), member of the Hijackers government seen here with DON MARTIN, Conservative wordsmith for the now-defunct CanWest Global organization, arch foe of brother Arthur, and cheerleader for Stephen Harper

Arthur Kent is an Alberta boy – born in Medicine Hat and raised in Calgary. Now in his mid-fifties he has had a remarkable career in journalism for more than thirty years. Newshounding runs in his family. His old man, Parker Kent, was a longtime print journalist who rose to become an Associate Editor for the now–bankrupt Calgary Herald back in the days when it was a real newspaper. Arthur also has an older brother who spent some years in the television news business.

Among Kent’s many accomplishments are a prize-winning television documentary about Afghanistan under the warlords produced months before 9/11, winning Emmys for his coverage of the tragedy in Tiananmen Square and the bloodshed in Bosnia, and covering the Rumanian revolution. In Iraq during Desert Storm he was the dashing ‘Scud Stud’ reporting the mayhem nightly on NBC television news, and in 2006 he produced another documentary on the troubles in Afghanistan. He’s covered Pakistan, Russia, China and all of the hot spots all over the world. NBC, CBC, CTV, the Observer are just a few of the news organizations that have given him a pay cheque over the years.

When he worked for NBC in the early nineties he had the guts to sue the corporation for allowing entertainment values to dominate the news. And he won big time. Towing the company line was not his strong suit and so for the past fifteen years or so he’s been a freelance filmmaker, writer, and reporter and has produced an impressive body of work. See:

Kent doesn’t take any guff from anybody. If one gets into a pissing contest with him and if he’s right he will let you know. If you persist and try to come at him he’ll sue you at the drop of a hat. Ask NBC or CanWest Global and Don Martin, and they’ll tell you. See:

Kent also tells it like it is. During his ill-fated attempt as a provincial Tory candidate in a Calgary riding in the provincial election of 2008 while running under the hapless leadership of Special Ed Stelmach, Stelmach stood Kent up by not attending a fundraiser as promised. Kent quickly accused the Stelmach campaign of wanting “nothing but my name.”

His criticisms of the Stelmach organization at the time were eerily similar to what Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson had to say the other day when they bolted to the Wild Rose Alliance. Kent said that people around Stelmach saw Kent and his team “as competitors . . . rather than as partners,” and that the Stelmach people should be more inclusive. He said that the Stelmach’s people “should be asking us what we’re hearing on the doorsteps and where the campaign should go,” and that they did not do that. “One-way communication,” he said, “is not the way to go,” and , “. . . we have to do things differently.” See:

Kent lost the election and went back doing what he does best - being a globe trotting journalist.

Yesterday Kent was raising hell again, this time at Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Republican minority government. Kent said the proroguing of Parliament was a hijacking which enables the government to avoid coming clean on the bad news of the Afghan war and the abuse of the detainees. He called Harper’s action of muzzling discussion of Afghanstan the PM’s fatwa, described it as ‘control freakery,’ and accused the government of concealing the Karzai regime’s corruption so as to avoid having to do something about it.

And there was more. Kent also accused the Harper government of ‘smothering’ stories such as the continuing trafficking in heroin and dirty money at the Kabul Airport, the ‘violent crackdown’ on the Kabul press, the disappearance of gazillions of Canadian tax dollars to fake Afghan cops and crooked officials, and Karzai’s nomination as Counter-Narcotics Minister of a widely known corrupt election fixer with criminal associations. See:

There’s a whole bunch of other juicy stuff you can read on Kent’s blog.

Ah, yes, did I mention that Arthur Kent has an older brother that used to be a journalist? That older brother is none other than Peter Kent, MP for Thornhill who holds the lofty title of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Americas while serving the hijackers that are hiding all of these sordid facts from the Canadian people. As a ‘journalist’ Peter of course is a different kettle of fish than his feisty younger brother. While Arthur was out there putting himself in harm’s way to inform his viewers and listeners of the truth, most of the time Peter distinguished himself as merely a talking head. See:

Well, bravo to Arthur Kent. He has shown that he has big cojones and that he cares about informing the public.

I wonder if the brothers spend their Christmas Holidays together.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Not only are the Alberta Tory rodents scampering towards the nearest deck, today a couple of them even jumped over the side of the ship. Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth and Airdrie-Chestemere MLA Rob Anderson announced that they had finally given up on Special Ed and had become proud new members of the Wild Rose-Alliance caucus. With the defectors joining Calgary Glenmore MLA Paul Hinman, the new party now has three members in the legislature.

For Ed and the tired and bedraggled Tories the chickens are coming home to roost big time. Forsyth was one of the Calgary ministers Ed purged upon his takeover of the party. She had been both Solicitor General and Minister of Children’s Services in a high profile political career that began with her first electoral victory in 1993. The protection of children was a major interest for her and even Reader’s Digest recognized her contribution in the area by naming her a Canadian Hero in 2002. But it didn’t matter to Ed and the boys. Calgary had taken enough from the cookie jar. It was the yokels' turn.

Forsyth must have smarted from her fall from being a prominent and senior minister to being relegated to the chair of the moribund Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and positions on such lowly committees as Private Bills, Privileges and Elections, and Orders and Printing. How much lower can you get?

Anderson is a new kid on the block having been elected in the spring election of 2007. He is reported to be a very bright guy who worked as one of the suits for the same downtown Calgary blue-chip law firm that pays Ralph Klein a tidy sum to tell dinosaur fart jokes while yukking it up over scotch with their clients in oak-paneled board rooms.

Forsyth said that she became a turncoat because Alberta needs a stable economy and fiscal policies that will “bring back investors confidence, lower taxes, and once again the Alberta Advantage needs to be back on the agenda,” and that she had confidence that she and the Wild Rose Alliance “can work together to build the province that Albertans deserve.”

Anderson’s statement accused Stelmach and his pals of failing to address his constituents’ concerns and of muzzling him in speaking out about the issues. Thus, he said, he was going to speak more forcefully for the people who elected him and added, “I have no interest in investing any more of my life and taxpayer’s money defending poor public policy that has been developed by a small band of out-of-touch government appointees and insiders.” I presume he was talking about Special Ed and his band of yokels.

They are the first of what is likely to be a steady procession of Alberta Tories abandoning what was once the proud party of Peter Lougheed for more promising prospects. Conservatives, after all, have proven more than once that they believe that “if the guy that brung ya falters on the dance floor, well then, we’re outta here,” such as when Socreds bolted from the party of Harry Strom to the party of Peter Lougheed. The best recent example was the fate of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in the wake of the unpopularity of Brian Mulroney and the ineptitude of his successor Kim Campbell. In the West, PCs switched and voted en masse for Preston Manning and his Reform Party and the old federal PCs were kaput.

The Alberta PCs blew their only chance of survival by not having the courage to dump Stelmach at the leadership review convention in November. Now they are stuck with him until the next election. Is there a chance of Eddie leaving before then in favour of a new and more attractive leader? I don’t think so. There is no messiah on the horizon. And besides, he and his yokels still have the cookie jar, which was what it was all about in the first place.