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.