Down with the Smoot-Hawley tariff and its modern analogues!

Must-reads: Vaughn Palmer on cutting costs in Victoria; Christie Blatchford on the “S.M.” trial.

In the spirit of brotherhood, we will now destroy you
The Conservatives revoke the opposition’s allowance, and other random federal matters.

The Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe chooses an unfortunate day to marvel at the “surprising air of maturity and confidence” Stephen Harper is exhibiting as he attempts to deal with the economic crisis—“in sharp contrast to [his] past political demeanour, widely criticized as petty, nasty and excessively partisan.” We assume Harper decided to bankrupt the opposition parties after deadline. Bummer. (Also, Tony Clement is not one of Harper’s “strongest performers.” That’s a ridiculous thing to say anywhere, but it’s an especially ridiculous thing to say if, like Yaffe, you support the Insite safe injection project and if, also like Yaffe, you have just applauded the government for abandoning its opposition to Insite—which is news to us, incidentally.)

The National Post’s John Ivison looks at the potential effects of revoking public financing for political parties, and sees no way the Liberals can “meekly stand in the House of Commons and support the measure as its fair share of the economic plan.” It represents upwards of 60 per cent of their funding base! “The chances of another general election in the near future have always seemed remote, on the basis that none of the combatants could afford it,” Ivison notes. But “with this proposal, they can’t afford not to.” We’re sure they’ll work something out.

Harper has already avoided Mackenzie King’s “foolhardy equanimity” in the face of an economic downturn, The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin observes; he clearly grasps there is a problem. But peril still lies ahead. For example, Harper could make the same mistake Mackenzie King did when his “obstreperousness” scuttled a deal that would have exempted Canada from the “crippling” Smoot-Hawley tariff in exchange for cooperation on building the St. Lawrence Seaway. Messrs. Smoot and Hawley are safely dead, rest assured. But—and this is Martin’s point—protectionists still lie in wait behind every door, and friendly relations with Washington remain absolutely essential to Canada’s economic security.

The Toronto Star’s James Travers employs the following metaphors in constructing a nearly unreadable column about what the government is doing about the economy, the point of which seems to be that we shouldn’t bail out the auto industry: “euthanizing” Parliament; political “timetables”, one of which “takes its urgency from the financial crisis now sprinting around the globe” while the other “marches to the ominous drumbeat of future consequences”; “tummy tucks” to “reduce the profile of the bulging gut of entitlements … for bureaucrats and politicians” instead of “national reconstructive surgery”; public money “gush[ing] out of the twisted federal pipeline in time to soften”—soften, mind you, not dampen or extinguish—the impact of the recession; and “attaching the auto industry to an intravenous dollar drip.”

Elsewhere in the Star, Haroon Siddiqui argues the recent furor over human rights commissions and their jurisdiction over hate speech “cannot possibly be papered over by restricting the human rights tribunal’s mandate, or tightening the definition of hate,” as proposed in a recent study by University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon. Instead, “all the key players need to rise above their self-serving agendas and pursue the common good, which is often best advanced through self-restraint than under the hammer of the law.” We don’t share this vision of Canada as a kindergarten classroom, but fair enough. What we really don’t get is, if what Maclean’s did was so awful—heck, none other than Alan Borovy appears in Siddiqui’s article to denounce Mark Steyn’s now-notorious book excerpt—then why didn’t the commissions find against our most benevolent employer?

The Toronto Sun’s Peter Worthington disagrees with every single word of Siddiqui’s column.

Provincial affairs
The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer believes he has discovered where the B.C. government intends to focus its cost-cutting measures. “Not spending on travel. Not the recent boost in the pay scale for senior public servants. Not government advertising,” he writes. “Nope, the Liberals are aiming to hold the line on funding for the eight independent watchdogs who keep an eye on the provincial government.” And this “after all of them have spent weeks in budget preparations … with no such edict in place,” he notes.

Campbell’s “more evident lapses in judgment,” including whopping pay raises for various bureaucrats, provide a legitimate opening for NDP leader Carole James, Gary Mason argues in the Globe—and poll numbers suggest the premier’s office is very much in play. Especially if Campbell adopts “a particularly negative tone,” as it seems to Mason he might, he believes James will be able to “frame herself as the compassionate democrat” British Columbians are apparently thirsting for.

In the Calgary Herald, Nigel Hannaford approves of the “ballsy” pro-life protestors who intend to take their “Genocide Awareness Project” onto the University of Calgary campus despite warnings they face “arrest, fines or a civil lawsuit,” not to mention “suspension or expulsion” from the university. The least U of C could do is provide a semi-plausible explanation for suppressing free speech on its campus, he argues. Instead they’re implying some kind of riot might erupt—“which seems a tad disingenuous,” Hannaford argues, since “it didn’t happen the first five times” the group protested there.

John Tory’s “self-imposed deadline to get back into the Ontario Legislature” is approaching, the Globe’s Murray Campbell observes, and none of his MPPs seems particularly willing to fall on his or her sword for his benefit. Perhaps, some believe, it is at long last time for him to go. On the other hand, one supporter tells Campbell, many grassroots supporters “don’t even know that John Tory doesn’t have a seat in the House”… which, just to be clear, is an argument for his staying on.

Duly noted
The Globe’s Christie Blatchford reports from the Ottawa murder trial of “S.M.,” who is, by his own lawyer’s admission, “very guilty of manslaughter”—and who may, at the jury’s discretion, be guilty of murder—in the stabbing death of 22-year-old Michael Oatway aboard an Ottawa city bus in September 2006. Blatchford describes their encounter, during which S.M. tried to rob Oatway for no apparent reason except he was angry at a former girlfriend, as a moment where “cowardice met courage.”

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