Welcome to silly season
Has Parliament lost its mind? Or just the people running it?
Between Vic Toews’ “politically charged” and “personally insulting” remarks about Louise Arbour and Stéphane Dion’s “rush to Conservative rescue” with his ill-timed carbon tax plan, the Toronto Star‘s James Travers believes Ottawa’s “mental machinery” has “slip[ped] out of gear.” The Commons committee that is Canadian politics is a few members short of quorum, one might say. And while Dion’s woes have been well-documented, Travers is particularly struck by Toews’ illustration of “this government’s view of Canada’s place in the world”—we’re “back on the world stage,” they constantly assure us, and yet they have no interest in a seat on the UN Security Council, they backed “the Bush administration candidate” for head of the International Organization for Migration over the Canadian candidate (Sergio Marchi, that filthy Liberal), and they dismiss anyone who doesn’t share their unequivocal support for Israel as a “disgrace.”
The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe agrees the Tories desperately need to “get their mojo back,” but she argues that none of these scandals, affairs, peccadilloes and contretemps would be so serious if the government hadn’t managed to “run out of governing projects” at precisely the time “Canada is experiencing serious economic challenges.” If no new “governing projects” are forthcoming, however, she suggests adding some “neglected players” to the Cabinet lineup—Diane Ablonczy, perhaps, or James Moore—to soften the focus on Harper’s disastrous “deny everything and evade the media” tactics.
The government’s immigration reforms are now law, the National Post‘s John Ivison notes, and based partially on a recent comparative study of the Canadian and Australian systems, he says “the conclusion has already been reached that Canada’s ‘human capital model’ points system is out-dated and does not supply the type of immigrants the country needs.” Australia changed gears in 1996, instituting tougher language requirements and favouring qualifications for “occupations in demand,” he notes, and measures of immigrant success have since soared. So expect a “mandatory pre-migration English or French language test” to become part of the Canadian landscape, Ivison advises, “as well as a re-evaluation of the proportion of points awarded for pre-migration work experience and qualifications.”
Sun Media’s Greg Weston hears that John McCain will meet with Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson in Ottawa tomorrow, and he’ll certainly be warmly received both by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and “by about 130 movers and shakers in Canadian business and bureaucracy” at the Rideau Club—”apparently including Brian Mulroney.” But by and large, he reports—with the NAFTA disasta fresh in Ottawa’s memory and Canadians overwhelmingly favouring Barack Obama—government members have been told to steer clear of McCain. Weston describes this policy as “hyper-cautious.”
The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin predicts McCain “will be delicate about the leaked-memo business” in his speech. “But, at the same time, he’ll … get off his shots at Mr. Obama, and part of his case is what the Canadian memo, with its summary of a meeting with a senior Obama official, contained”—i.e., allegations of doublespeak on NAFTA. But assuming this is indeed “the year of the Democrats,” Martin contends the damage has already been done. “The likelihood is, we’ll have an Obama administration, with all its suspicions of what went on, facing off against Mr. Harper’s Conservatives, with whom there are already ample differences, philosophical and otherwise.
BC’s past and future mayors
As the British Columbia New Democrats prepare to mount a “well-timed assault” on Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax, the Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer can’t help but be reminded of Campbell’s past as a tub-thumping, NDP-bashing tax-cutting self-styled superhero. The tax “will bite consumers at a time when they are already squeezed on the price of gasoline, home heating oil and other fossil fuels,” Palmer notes. “And there, stepping into the arena, is Opposition leader Carole James, pitching herself as a clear alternative to a government grown arrogant and out of touch.” Just like Campbell did against the NDP back in the day.
The Globe‘s Margaret Wente speaks to Peter Ladner, “the next mayor of Vancouver,” who proposes, among other things, to turn the Downtown Eastside—which Wente aptly describes as “the most concentrated scene of human degradation in North America”—into “a mixed-income community, with real businesses and middle-class condo dwellers alongside supportive housing.” His belief in the “broken windows” theory of urban reclamation may “play well,” Wente suggests, for Vancouverites who “feel less safe” even as crime statistics suggest they shouldn’t.
Shaikh under fire
Christie Blatchford‘s “imaginary Muslim boyfriend” Mubin Shaikh was raked over the coals yesterday at the first of what may or may not be many trials in the so-called “Toronto 18″ terrorism plot—by the prosecution, that is, for whom Shaikh, an RCMP informant, is the star witness. Seems the Crown feels Shaikh has “purposefully … emphasize[d] the clownish aspects of the [alleged terrorist training] camp and its hapless attendees … and simultaneously diminish[ed] the serious, and far more troubling side, of what went on there,” Blatchford writes in the Globe. An e-mail correspondent, meanwhile, suggests to her that Shaikh may be “chikna, an Urdu word … meaning slippery.”
In which case, the Star‘s Thomas Walkom wonders, detailing the various inconsistencies Shaikh and the prosecution hashed out yesterday, “what happens to the government’s case” against the various defendants? “If the government doesn’t believe its own undercover agent is telling the truth about this,” he asks, “why should it believe he is telling the truth about anything?” (“Because he’s gorgeous!” we can almost hear Blatchford retorting.)
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui speaks with “veteran” Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, who argues in a new book that Afghanistan represents a direr regional crisis than even Iraq, and that NATO’s “weak … commitment” to the country won’t help. “There is no military solution,” says Siddiqui—”not in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan and not in Iran.” Diplomacy is the key, and Rashid believes “you can’t deal with Afghanistan without dealing with Pakistan,” which you can’t do without “dealing with India” and the Kashmir situation. And you can’t do any of that “without dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.” Alrighty, then! This sounds like a job for David Emerson!
The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson applauds Quebec Chief Electoral Officer Marcel Blanchet for sticking to his guns on rejiggering the province’s electoral map such that it’s slightly less outrageously unfair to “urban and suburban voters,” and risking the considerable ire of “the regions” in the process. It’s certainly more than can be said about his performance on the veiled voting file, MacPherson notes.
Colby Cosh, writing in the Post, sees no way to interpret calls for restrictions or outright bans on NFL football in Canada except as evidence that “given the choice, Canadians would inevitably abandon the CFL for the NFL”—”a classic example of the mystifying pro-sports habit of anti-marketing,” he suggests. It doesn’t even need to be a choice, he notes. “It doesn’t seem to hurt the Seattle Seahawks that many of its supporters might be equally partial to the Washington State Cougars and the Skyline High School Spartans,” for example, and Canadians already watch the NFL product on television in huge numbers. “Any harm the NFL can do to the prestige of the CFL,” he concludes, “has already been done.”