Megapundit: June 16-18
Our super-mega Monday edition looks back at what columnists have had to say the past three days
Chris Selley, Macleans.ca | Jun 18, 2007 | 16:42:52
1. Andrew Coyne, “An idea without a party”
2. Dan Gardner, “The earth will be fine”
3. Chantal Hébert, “Prentice succeeds, Baird fails”
4. Margaret Wente, “A death in the family”
Canada’s columnists have praise for Dalton McGuinty and Jim Prentice, and scorn for just about everyone else.
Mark your calendars: “McGuinty is right,” says the Edmonton Journal's Lorne Gunter, when he warns of “consequences” should the Prime Minister cave in to the Atlantic premiers over equalization and offshore revenues. “They want to gorge on other people's tax dollars in perpetuity without having to make a potentially politically damaging choice,” he assesses.
In The Globe and Mail, Rex Murphy says it’s not so much “the arcane principles of equalization, or the particular dispute on the Atlantic Accord that has hurt the Harper government,” but rather its attitude in dealing with it. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s dismissal of the complaint - "Our government is not in the process of making any side deals for a few extra votes” - is evidence, he suggests, of “a chilly haughtiness that has become all too readily the signature key of the Harper administration. …
“This is not an attitude that will widen his quite closeted appeal. And it is surely not an attitude that will have the multitudes strewing palms on the road when he seeks a re-lease on the comforts of 24 Sussex Dr.”
The Globe’s Lawrence Martin is of like mind. Referring to published accounts of Stephen Harper’s early life by William Johnson and Preston Manning, he attempts to psychoanalyze the Prime Minister’s “angry-man syndrome,” which he says dominated this nearly-ended session of Parliament. “The Harper idea of consensus-building was through consultations - with his own mind,” Martin writes. “His life in the cauldron of politics has seemingly taken away soft edges, making him even more partisan and more contemptuous than other practitioners of the sport.”
In the Toronto Star, Chantal Hébert compares and contrasts the performances of Jim Prentice at Indian Affairs and John Baird at Environment. Not surprisingly, Prentice comes out on top - “a rare ministerial success story” in the Harper Cabinet who “maintained a working relationship with the stakeholders of his department, an achievement that is too often the exception in this particular government.” Baird, on the other hand, hasn’t managed to build a single bridge that Hébert can identify.
“If Canadians were as concerned with aboriginal issues as they are with climate change,” she writes, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives might be in better shape in public opinion.”
Based on the meagre gruel that is the Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ election platform, the National Post’s Andrew Coyne can only conclude that the government under John Tory “would be just as big as it is now, and would do just about the same things, in more or less the same way.” This is perfectly in keeping with the state of affairs across the country, says Coyne, where “radical, reforming” conservatives have been reduced to the status of socialists - "[w]ith the difference that the socialists still have a party to advocate for them, and as such to influence the policies of the other parties.”
Our best guess is that George Jonas’s piece in Saturday’s National Post is a dig at bureaucrats and the horrible bureaucracies they oversee, particularly at airports, but it’s an impenetrable piece of punditry. Comparing “snake smugglers” to civil servants, he suggests [t]hey both have a “high regard for the importance and utility of their own business, and considerable disdain for everyone else's. As long as their mambas get to their destination, it matters little how many travellers get bitten or hissed at, and as long as their Peruvian poppy planes are intercepted, it matters little how many missionaries and babies end up in the Amazon river.” It goes on like that.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom appears to be reading too much Jim Travers and not enough Megapundit. Had he browsed through our May 19-22 edition, he could have saved himself the embarrassment of repeating Travers’ bizarre contention that terrorists never travel under their own names.(There are many legitimate criticisms to be leveled at Canada’s new no-fly list, but that really isn’t one of them.)
In the Montreal Gazette, L. Ian MacDonald suggests that Jean Charest stop trying to score political points off Mario Dumont’s ostensibly “secret” meeting with Leo Kolber and other prominent members of the Jewish community and start worrying about what it might mean for his own political prospects. “[I]f these guys are meeting with Mario, that should be a big flashing light to Charest that the Jewish community is annoyed at him,” he writes.
In The Globe and Mail, Lysiane Gagnon runs down former Quebec Lieutenant-Governor Lise Thibault’s astonishing expenditures, arguing that “the most worrying part of the story is that it took a news report in Le Journal de Montréal to alert the public. For all these years, Canadian Heritage in Ottawa and the Conseil exécutif in Quebec City … kept reimbursing questionable claims.” Gagnon’s solution(which we suspect would be rather more complicated than she makes out)is simply to do away with the positions entirely.
The Ottawa Citizen’s Susan Riley looks at National Resources Minister Gary Lunn’s approval “in principle” of a plan to bury nuclear waste. This is sure to embolden nuclear critics, she predicts, given concerns about leaks, the communities through which the waste will have to travel, “the astronomical costs of digging a kilometre-deep holding tank” and even the possibility of terrorist attacks. Given all this, Riley says, it’s “unconscionable” that the government is funding Atomic Energy of Canada’s efforts to ram nuclear down the country’s throat.
The Citizen’s Dan Gardner suggests we stop thinking of nature as fragile, since it is so demonstrably not. The only thing “more laughable,” he says, “is the notion that monkeys with big brains and opposable thumbs could smash it like a china tea cup.”
The environmental sustainability movement is a matter of self-interest, he concludes, not altruism. The belief that humans could destroy life on earth “is supposed to mark one as sensitive to the environment and compassionate toward the multitude of other life forms that share this world with us,” Gardner writes. “I have to admit, though, I find it arrogant.”
- In the Toronto Star, Rosie DiManno looks at the implications of 15-year-old shooting victim Jordan Manners’ sister, Necole Small, being arrested in last week’s gang-related police raids in Toronto’s north end. Loreen Small, their mother, “was shocked,” the family’s lawyer tells DiManno. “And it’s embarrassing for her.” Family ties run deep within the people arrested, DiManno notes, which exacerbates the poor “optics” for those unfamiliar with the neighbourhood.
“[I]t's pretty well impossible to live in public housing and not be aware of gangs, guns and drugs,” says the lawyer.
- Also in the Star, James Travers argues that while the Brown Report’s “timely task force focusing on modernizing the RCMP” has a certain efficient appeal, the Mounties are too broken to be fixed by anything other than a full inquiry. There are “two common denominators” among all the stories of misconduct, he argues. “One is an unstable relationship with politicians; the other is a cultish, xenophobic cohesiveness that thwarts oversight and reform.”
- Don Martin files his first piece from Afghanistan for the National Post, regaling us with tales of whizzing around Kabul on the back of a dirt bike, sneaking past police cordons with the aid of his “gregarious” fixer and fake ID and talking to everyone from Rick Hillier to Senlis Council founder Norine MacDonald. It’s quite a ride. The question is: Having set the bar for journalistic derring-do so high, can he keep it up?
- An RCMP forensic expert has testified that the DNA of 13-year-old “J.R.” was found on a poorly cleaned knife that was “dotted” with her eight-year-old brother’s blood, The Globe and Mail’s Christie Blatchford reports from Medicine Hat.(J.R. is charged with killing the boy, along with her parents.)Among other gruesome revelations, “it appears that [the father] was so grievously injured that the sheer volume of his blood loss obliterated or clouded much of any evidence that might have been left by his killer or killers.”
- In other news, Blatchford didn't appreciate a huffy Medicine Hat News editorial last week that upbraided Prince Harry for his conduct at a certain Calgary nightclub - for one thing, she says, because the News of the World's accounts of the evening must be considered highly dubious. “[T]here is surely no one more reliable than a girl whose first thought, after flirting with a prince, is, ‘Hmmm, howcan I make this work for me?’” she writes, sarcastically. The reaction is part of a larger phenomenon - “a misplaced trust in those of my gender,” she suggests, perhaps never so aptly illustrated as in the case of J.R.
- Still in the Globe, Margaret Wente eulogizes her father and ruminates on what a parent’s death means in an era of vastly longer life spans. “[S]o long as they're alive, you can still think of yourself as someone's kid - even when you're wrinkled and arthritic,” she writes. “Your parents(and their parents)were the only people you could count on for unconditional love. And who gives you that, once they're gone?”
- In the National Post, Colby Cosh wonders whether more money is really the answer to stop the spread of C. difficile and other infections in hospitals, when many of the solutions are universally accepted and maddeningly easy to institute. “Isn't ‘infection control’ - using sterile instruments and treating patients with clean hands - the crux, the very defining element, of modern medicine?” he asks. “How does a phrase like ‘unsterile equipment in an obstetrics-gynecology office’ even end up in a newspaper printed in a first-world country?”
- The Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe debates with herself over what to do about the price of gasoline - too low is bad for the environment, after all, but too high is, like, really annoying! She believes that “in decades to come, gas stations will become increasingly controversial and fascinating places to visit, pitstops where consumers may feel more and more conflicted.” We’ll watch out for that.
- “English-speaking Canada is the only place of any size in the world where only two of 10 bestselling books would be by writers from that country,” Jeffrey Simpson fumes in the Globe, referring to his newspaper’s non-fiction list. He thinks Roy MacGregor’s and Andrew Cohen’s recent efforts should be on there and believes it says something really awful about Canada that they aren’t.
- On the National Post editorial board’s blog, Jonathan Kay lauds the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, Ont. for its new guidelines designed to prevent sexual abuse of children by priests. But he still insists, as he did in a 2004 column reproduced on the blog in full, that the Church must do away with the vow of celibacy if it truly wants children to be safe.
- The Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui sits down with the president of Malaysia to discuss Islam, Christianity, secularism and the country’s delicate judicial balance between the three.
- In the National Post, Jonas reports on the “Great Euro-American War of 2025,” part of a series in which Post contributors are asked “to write the history of the world’s next war.”(We really don’t understand the appeal of these things, but hopefully you do.)