The pan-Canadian smorgasbord
Margaret Somerville, Omar Khadr, John McCain, Rick Salutin and a bunch of heroin addicts—together at last!
In the Montreal Gazette, Henry Aubin says controversial McGill University bioethicist Margaret Somerville’s exclusion from the Order of Canada proves the investiture committee is infected with the political correctness virus, when it should be working for a cure. From abortion to gay marriage, Quebec nationalism and even the banality of municipal politics, Aubin argues, Canadians are often subjected to the “either you’re with me on my terms, or you’re a son of a bitch” (in the words of Quebec playwright René-Daniel Dubois) mentality, the result being a lack of “sharp debate that makes for thoughtful public policies.” The OOC should “encourage the intellectual diversity that is the strength of this or any society,” he believes.
Asking the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington about Omar Khadr is normally a little like taking a sledgehammer to an aquarium—all of a sudden you’re surrounded by flopping, twitching, rapidly dying arguments, none of which have anything to do with each other except that they somehow found themselves in the same tank. To wit, he begins today: “It is now seems almost inevitable that Omar Khadr … will be returned to Canada”—which is more than a little bizarre, given the Canadian government’s repeatedly-stated indifference. In fairness, however, Worthington today eventually lands at a somewhat logical argument about Khadr: that “fighting and killing invaders” is an act of war, not a crime, and as such he should be treated as a prisoner of war until the conflict’s conclusion. This makes perfect sense if you ignore all the other “prisoners of war” released from Guantanamo, and as long as the words “child soldier” mean nothing to you.
The Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente continues her 28-part series on why Vancouver’s Insite program and harm reduction in general are terrible ideas, focusing today on the ostensibly dodgy evidence supporting it and the zealots who compile it. “None of these studies addresses the central issue in the public mind,” she writes: “Does Insite reduce overall drug use?” She gives the game away there, we think, much like second-amendment types who argue that gun control doesn’t lower overall crime rates. It would certainly be nice if Insite stopped drug use (just like it would be nice if gun control solved crime). But the “central issue” in our mind has always been whether Insite stops people from dying (and, whether gun control stops people from getting shot).
The “unintended consequences” of the leaked memo suggesting Barack Obama wasn’t serious about renegotiating NAFTA are “piling up in Canada’s favour,” the Toronto Star‘s James Travers argues. Both presidential candidates are treating Canada as “at least a blip on U.S. radar,” he argues, whereas otherwise we’d be entirely off the screen—the proof being John McCain’s visit to Ottawa, which he says was only made “to emphasize his free-trader credentials while skewering Obama.” The ensuing debate is also “broadening Canadian perspectives on the implications of the presidential contest,” he suggests, i.e., about how the candidate the vast majority of Canadians would prefer to see in the White House would arguably be the most detrimental to Canadian interests.
The Post‘s Jonathan Kay wholly repudiates Rick Salutin and everything he stands for, noting the Globe columnist’s recent comparison between presidential elections in the US in 2000 and Zimbabwe in 2008. “Who among us does not remember those pitiful scenes … when Republican storm troopers went door-to-door in Florida’s left-leaning counties, burning alive the children and wives of Democratic activists?” Kay asks. He nevertheless professes a “soft spot” for Salutin, based on a “civilized evening” they once spent “eating Serbian pizza together with my mother,” but nevertheless declares “the era in which the man had anything defensible to say about politics and world events” officially over.
Writing from his well-fortified bunker in Ottawa, noted counterinsurgency expert Jeffrey Simpson renews his valid but tiresome objections to the Afghanistan operation: the porous border with Pakistan, the narco-economy, and troop shortages. And with everyone from Stephen Harper to U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates to the Senlis Council to “informed academics” arguing that violence is increasing in Afghanistan as a result of those failings, he demands to know why our new Chief of Defence Staff is still spinning the problems as “insignificant.”
Meanwhile, in Kandahar, the Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson goes walkabout and finds the local burghers deeply conflicted about Canada’s mission, and indeed about which brand of insecurity and suffering—the current one or the Taliban’s—they prefer. He also finds bizarre opinions, such as that of a 32-year-old teacher who believes the NATO operation is simply a strategic prelude to “a future attack against Russia.” Another evinces what appears to be a common, charming trait among Afghan men—offering to solve the country’s problems holus-bolus. “Give me 15,000 soldiers,” a farmer and former Mujahadeen tells Thomson, “and I will put an end to the fighting.”
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer accuses B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell of serial fudging when it comes to how the province intends to reach its ambitious carbon emissions reduction targets. Last month’s climate plan, for example, claims to bring B.C. 73 per cent of the way towards the “40-million-tonne challenge”—but that was based on a “business-as-usual scenario” of 78 million tonnes of emissions in 2020, Palmer notes, whereas it had been 85 million tonnes when originally announced. “Where I come from,” he concludes, “that’s called moving the goal posts closer to the ball to improve the chances of scoring.”
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson looks at the delicate-but-crucial process of wooing Latino voters to the Obama and McCain camps. McCain is in a particularly tough spot, he suggests, “caught between placating his conservative base” with tough talk on immigration “and appealing to Latinos for their support”—and at risk of “alienating both camps” in the process. It’s no gimme for Obama either, however, given that Latinos “heavily favoured Hilary Clinton” during the primaries and may “stay home” sooner than vote for her vanquisher.
In the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Cohen—who claims to be a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs but seems to have taken a side-gig at the tourist board—files a ridiculously, hilariously earnest appreciation of Germany and all the magnificent people, things, plants and animals that dwell within its borders. Our favourite details:
- “The Mercedes Benz ‘A’ Class… is serviced only once a year. Amazing.”
- “Public bathrooms are immaculate—particularly those with that magical arm that quietly washes and wipes toilet seats after each use. … Extraordinary.”
- “Germans instinctively understand engineering, which is why washing machines run forever and produce sanitized clothes.”
- “Homes have gates and sophisticated locks. And residential telephones … do not allow a third party to eavesdrop on a conversation on an extension.”