Must-reads: Rosie DiManno on the US Army deserter “refugee”; Rex Murphy on the Order of Canada; Conrad Black on the French; Doug Saunders on the G8; Scott Taylor on Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum; Dan Gardner on the chemical peril.
Give Elizabeth May back her carbon tax!
What Stéphane Dion risks with his Green Shift, what he stands to gain, and what the Green Party’s already lost.
Lorne Gunter, writing in the Edmonton Journal, thinks Garth Turner’s remarks about “losers” in Alberta and Quebec were “a typical (if more extreme) Liberal response to complaints that Dion’s Green Shift punishes the West”—and to just about any policy of the day, for that matter. The basic strategy, in Gunter’s view, has long been to “equate Liberal policy with the national interest so that anyone who disagrees can be portrayed as an enemy of national unity and not merely an opponent of Liberal ideas.” Dion deserves credit for taking his Green Shift caravan to the West, Gunter argues, but any unfriendly faces he meets will be the result of his own party’s previous approach to governance.
Besides “exacerbat[ing] the polarization between Western and Central Canada,” the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert sees other risks for Dion: that the carbon tax, combined with record-high oil prices, “will turn many Canadians off the fight on climate change”; that Canadians might instead be united “against a common federal enemy”; and that it “will divide the pro-Kyoto camp between advocates of a carbon tax and supporters of a different approach.” In these and other ways, Hébert argues, Dion’s approach is a replay of his advocacy for the Clarity Act—it’s more likely to win him fans in Toronto than where the policy has the most effect, and it suffers from very bad timing.
The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin speaks with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who could be bitter about Dion purloining her carbon tax idea but isn’t. Instead, she’s “getting revved up over another idea”—namely, “re-establishing the national rail system.” Martin suggests the Liberals steal that idea as well.
The Ottawa Citizen‘s Dan Gardner argues that Ontario’s environment minister, John Gerretsen, having been confronted with the lack of scientific evidence supporting the province’s new pesticide ban, did what all anti-chemical activists do. He “switch[ed] to a different argument”—namely, that we don’t know the cumulative effect of any one chemical interacting with other chemicals. This is largely true, says Gardner, but unfortunately, there are more than a million chemicals in the food supply alone, and “one-half of all substances tested have been found to produce cancer in high-dose animal tests.” So if the minister is serious about his concerns—and surely a man in his position would have to be, right?—then he’s got some serious work to do.
The Globe‘s Doug Saunders looks at the movement—currently spearheaded by Nicolas Sarkozy—to do away with the G8 and replace it with a body that’s more representative of the modern political and economic order. Countries like Japan and Italy, which are now afforded greater representation than they arguably deserve, are virulently opposed. But that’s the central paradox of the G8, Saunders argues. “Any efforts to make it an international body that can do something effective have been thwarted by the members’ desire to keep their status within it.”
The Star‘s James Travers suspects the G8 summiteers to discuss Zimbabwe at length, given the manifest uselessness of another international body, the African Union, in tackling the problem of Robert Mugabe. There’s nothing the G8 can really do about it, mind you—”Africa’s post-colonial, post-independence reality is that only it can respond to the Zimbabwe emergency.” But if nothing else, it could provide some “convenient cover for G8 equivocation” on African aid.
Ingrid Betancourt’s rescue underscores the many recent positive developments in Colombia, the Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson argues: FARC’s near-zero public support, Hugo Chavez’s abandonment of the cause, the decline in the “tit-for-tat” actions of anti-FARC paramilitary groups and a “dramatic” drop in human rights abuses. As such, Simpson argues, a free trade agreement with Colombia should now be a no-brainer—particularly since a similar deal with Washington is tied up in Congress. Unfortunately, he notes, the future of such a deal “lies in the trembling hands of the Liberal Party,” whose commitment to free trade while in government seems to have partially melted away.
In the National Post, Conrad Black expresses his appreciation for the French and attempts to explain their many “foibles”—notably their marked disdain for what anyone else thinks of them and their ability “not to notice what other countries would regard as severe personality aberrations” in their political leaders and their wives. “To appreciate them, it helps to like cats, as they have many feline tendencies,” Black suggests. “They are elegant, intelligent, stylish, self-absorbed, able to rationalize almost anything and unless directly threatened, unflappable. … Foreign disapprobation is no more effectual with the French than is swatting a cat with a newspaper for scratching a carpet.”
Especially given the size of Canada’s immigration backlog and our desperate need for doctors, PhDs and other big brains, the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe wonders “why on earth … the federal government [would] not pick and choose, based on the economic needs of Canada, those it allows to enter Canada.” Indeed, she notes, poll numbers supporting immigration reforms suggest many of the ethnic communities the Liberals were courting by opposing the new measures—which are now law—also recognize their necessity.
War on war
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno accuses Federal Court Justice Richard Barnes of “desertion of common sense” in his decision to refer the case of an American army deserter back to the Immigration and Refugee Board on grounds that the action of US forces in Iraq might violate the Geneva Conventions. She suspects Barnes “has never been closer to a heart-racing ‘kinetic’ situation than a weekly squash game,” and takes particular umbrage at his disapproving reference to “a score of young men brandishing weapons … descending on a sleeping family in the middle of the night, blowing up the front door.” That, DiManno protests, is “what combat troops do. It’s what Canadian troops do.”
Scott Taylor, writing in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, recounts a recent meeting with Afghan “warlord-turned-military commander” Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who, “contrary to what international observers would love to believe, … is still very much the master of the northern provinces.” Dostum, whose military exploits are the stuff of legend and who maintains what Taylor calls a “well-trained private militia,” declares the Taliban “not unbeatable,” but believes the current structure of the Afghan National Army will “never be efficient” at doing the job. He nominates himself as the man to lead the charge, pledging to eradicate the Taliban menace within six months.
Rex Murphy, writing in the Globe, believes Henry Morgentaler’s investiture in the Order of Canada proves, if there was any doubt, that “the contentiousness of a potential nominee, or association with a cause of contentiousness, is no bar to being recognized as an outstanding Canadian.” As such, he finds this an opportune moment to demand that Donald S. Cherry be given the same honour at the committee’s earliest convenience—for his status as “living emblem of our emblematic game,” for “his truly first-class support of our military,” and for “the real affection that millions of Canadians hold for him.” His demand is hereby seconded.
The Chronicle-Herald‘s Dan Leger examines the idea that Americans, in their support for Barack Obama and his left-leaning platform, are “becom[ing] more Canadian”—and if so, what that might mean for the Canadian left, which so often defines itself in anti-American terms.
Behold, Globe readers, the Hamletian dilemma of the insufferable Toronto baby-boomer: “Outback or Forester?” Yes, Canada, it finally happened: Margaret Wente‘s SUV died, and the existential crisis over which optically superior automobile to replace it with is now in full bloom. BMW, Lexus and Audi are “too pretentious.” Honda Civics are for “young, single, female professional[s].” Subarus—are you ready for this?—are a “lesbian cliché.” Our advice: just buy whichever goddamn car you want, regardless of the image you think it projects or how many of your friends own the same kind of car, and stop torturing us.
We’ve tried, we really have, to figure out what George Jonas is on about in his utterly bewildering piece the Post. There seem to be two main issues: the medicalization of personality, and how great strides in psychiatry have often come from recognizing that “normalcy needs no cure”; and a correspondent who fathered a child with a woman on the agreement that he’d play no further role in their lives, only to have the woman demand more of him. But how these two things relate to each other, or indeed to anything, escapes us. Interpretations are welcome.
In the Montreal Gazette, Expos fan L. Ian MacDonald chronicles his painful decision to declare baseball allegiances elsewhere—to the Red Sox, as it turns out, because among other things, the Yankees are “the most expensive team money could buy.” Not like those plucky $133 million BoSox!
The Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham looks at the exhaustive preparations being made to transport Canada’s equine Olympians to Hong Kong.