There’s an orgy in Edmonton, but it’s not what you think

Must-reads: Colby Cosh and Rosie DiManno on Robert Baltovich; John Ibbitson on the Democratic race; Peter Worthington on Rob Anders and Bob Rae; Chantal Hébert on the Tories in Quebec.

Rob Anders ain’t so bad
Not compared to Bob Rae, anyhow, or—shudder—Pierre Trudeau…

“To its credit,” Jeffrey Simpson writes in The Globe and Mail, “the national NDP was ahead some years ago in identifying climate change as a key issue.” The problem is what happened in the “some years” since. At the federal level, the Dippers “don’t want to touch a carbon tax … lest they be called tax-and-spenders” and lose support among carbon-belching unionized workers. And in British Columbia, the provincial NDP is busy opposing Gordon Campbell’s policies—which themselves “are so obvious and politically inoffensive as to be, well, yesterday’s”—in hopes of attracting votes in the “slow-growth or no-growth parts of the province.” It’s a losing strategy, Simpson assures us—but then, it wouldn’t be an NDP strategy if it wasn’t.

The Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley sings the praises of Nathan Cullen, the federal NDP’s environment critic, both for his efforts to bring “an accountable timeline” to the government’s dubious plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for maintaining some semblance of idealism amongst all of Ottawa’s “blowhards”—MPs who “thrive in this system … untroubled by tender consciences, uninterested in content, … defending their prime minister, their party, with brio, if not always a faithful allegiance to the facts.” An example of Cullen’s gentlemanly virtue? After comparing John Baird to Robert Mugabe, “he apologized without reservation.” Classy!

The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington suggests it’s Bob Rae, not Rob Anders, who should be apologizing for his stance on the 2008 Beijing Olympics as compared to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And, he notes, David Matas, senior counsel for B’nai Brith, agrees. “China’s record of killing up to 80 million of its own people (under Mao Zedong, whom Pierre Trudeau once mindlessly admired) is as horrific as any crime against humanity of the 20th century,” Worthington writes. “What Rae is saying … is that no matter how despicable China’s record of abusing its own people, of killing its own citizens, of harvesting the organs of dissidents for sale to rich foreigners, and its continued abuse of minorities, we shouldn’t say so because the Chinese might not like it and might not buy our natural resources.”

John Robson‘s “legal opinion, worth what you paid for it less the cost of” the Citizen, is that the Conservatives are “right, even if too clever by half, on the initial issue” of whether it’s legal for local candidates to incur expenses in service of the national campaign. Indeed, says Robson, “one Liberal staffer suggested to me that the central problem was that local candidates did not technically ‘incur’ the costs in question”—which “even if true,” he argues, “hardly justifies Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc’s reference to ‘an Enron-style accounting practice’ at a Thursday press conference.” The Tory reaction to the whole affair has been “at once paranoid and juvenile,” he hastens to add, “and it worked about as well as you’d expect.” But on the central issue, he believes they might just win the day.

The Prime Minister spoke for 30 minutes in Laval yesterday, Chantal Hébert notes in the Toronto Star, and avoided any mention of “an aggressively distinct Quebec agenda.” Instead he spoke “almost exclusively of the economy,” and Hébert sensed no hunger in the audience for “more Quebec content.” Part of this comes from a “cold-headed Conservative assessment that playing the Quebec card has become a game of diminishing returns,” she writes, “but there are also solid reasons to believe that the card of the economy could trump all others in Quebec as elsewhere in the next election.” It certainly worked for Jean Charest, she notes.

Long memories
There are plenty of reasons to believe Robert Baltovich’s acquittal is “almost certainly deserved,” Colby Cosh writes in the National Post, but the wholesale discrediting of evidence obtained through hypnosis has been the “single worst blow to the prosecution.” Indeed, Cosh suggests, the bigger question is how such sideshow chicanery retained so much credibility for so long. “In a relaxed environment, under questioning from a friendly, low-pressure examiner, people really are capable of remembering details they otherwise might not,” he writes. But its efficacy gets exaggerated because “no cop wants to tell his colleagues about the time a hypnotized subject wasted his time with a passel of convincing nonsense,” and because human beings insist on thinking of their memories “as resembling a magnetic or digital recording of all that we perceive and experience” instead of a “higgledy-piggledy” mixture of “memory and fantasy.”

The Star‘s Rosie DiManno visits Elizabeth Bain’s parents, Rick and Julita, at their Scarborough, Ont. home, where they air their grievances against Baltovich, defence lawyers, and a legal system Mr. Bain says is “disgracefully tilted toward the defence bar.” “This is not a verdict of innocence,” he insists of Baltovich’s exoneration. “This is a verdict of hands tied.”

Duly noted
The Alberta government “is able to project a surplus this year only because Ottawa is sending the province nearly $3.8 billion in transfers and we have not yet found a way to spend it all,” Lorne Gunter writes in the Edmonton Journal. Government revenues are “flat-lining,” and yet the “spending orgy” continues. “We in Alberta are spending $10,600 for every man, woman and child in the province,” he writes, which is “25 per cent more than B.C.” and “up from $9,700 last year.” And contrary to the government’s insistence that it’s “catching up” from infrastructure neglect in Ralph Klein’s later years, Gunter insists the money is mostly going to programs. Anyone should be able to see “the hole we’re digging for ourselves,” he concludes.

The Globe‘s John Ibbitson examines the theory that Obama cleans up in states “that have a lot of black people in them,” because blacks support his campaign, and in states that have “very few black people,” because residents “have no strong feelings about black Americans,” but not in “states with sizable black and white populations living together in industrial cities, … because too many working class whites won’t vote for a black man.” The outcome in Pennsylvania “suggest[s] there is at least some truth in this sad hypothesis,” says Ibbitson, though he stresses it’s unfair to ascribe racist motivations to voters who might simply have been off-put by Obama’s “guns-and-God” comment. And the Indiana results might disprove the theory. But the bigger issue for the campaign, a tall forehead tells Ibbitson, is whether the bigots “are going to come back to the Democratic Party, whether they’re not going to vote at all or whether they’re going to vote for [Republican candidate John] McCain.”




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