Pundits take on the tanking economy, the woebegone Liberal party, and the tragedy of Canada’s portrait gallery.
The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson suggests the Liberals may be hoping “to improve their fortunes” in British Columbia by holding their May convention in Vancouver, provides no evidence to support this suggestion, and then explains what just about everyone could have figured out for themselves based on very recent precedent: it won’t work. This bit of weirdness leads into a handicapping of the leadership race among the B.C. delegates, in which Simpson has Michael Ignatieff ahead of Bob Rae by virtue of having “signed up the largest number of big-name … organizers.” He also predicts this will be the last delegated convention in Canadian history.
The Toronto Star’s James Travers applauds the prime minister’s and the premiers’ willingness to embrace “job-generating infrastructure spending,” and suggests numerous other economy-boosting measures they might consider in their newfound spirit of collegiality: hiking E.I. benefits, “declar[ing] a sales tax holiday to stimulate comatose retail sales” or harmonizing provincial and federal sales taxes. But that newfound spirit is the most important point, Travers argues, in the tough times ahead. “If not much else good, the financial crisis is at least creating preconditions necessary for closer co-operation.”
The National Post’s John Ivison agrees, but suggests that collegiality might not last long if Stephen Harper is up to what Ivison thinks he’s up to—namely, establishing a national securities regulator and eliminating interprovincial barriers to labour mobility. Progress has already been made on the latter and the feds will probably tread lightly as a result, but he suspects the premiers’ claws will be out at the suggestion of the former. Sadly for them, he notes, “most constitutional experts think it would be a slam-dunk for the federal government” if the provinces took the matter to the Supreme Court. And “the government has already signalled it is more worried about bleeding investors than whining provincial leaders.”
In the Ottawa Citizen (and as predicted) Andrew Cohen spits in the general decision of James Moore and the decision to abandon Canada’s national portrait gallery—and particularly the decision to announce this development on a Friday afternoon, thus denying the gallery “a funeral, a eulogy and a decent burial.” He gives due time to the various conspiracy theories—e.g., that “the government establish[ed] a selection process that no one could win, the better to cancel the whole enterprise”—but says whether it was “philistinism, ignorance or austerity,” the message is clear: “This country isn’t a serious place and we are not a serious people.” Because we don’t have a freaking portrait gallery.
Ken Cantor, who headed up the Edmonton portrait gallery bid on behalf of something called Qualico Developments, distills the issue down to its purest essence in an interview with the Post’s Kevin Libin. “If we don’t have the ability to pay some rent on a piddly-ass little gallery four or five years from now, we’re in a lot bigger trouble than cancelling this proposal.” (We’re assuming the word “piddly-ass” didn’t actually appear in Qualico’s bid.)
The Calgary Herald’s Don Martin devotes his Remembrance Day column to Canada’s injured soldiers, who tend to get overlooked both as statistics and as human casualties. Their treatment at the hands of Veterans Affairs is improving, Martin notes, to the point that officials from Australia, New Zealand and the United States are using Lt.-Col. Gerry Blais’s casualty support management department as a model, but he believes more could still be done—particularly for reservists, who receive lower insurance payouts for serious injuries. Martin profiles Steve Daniel, a soldier paralyzed in 2005 in a parachuting accident who’s now one of the world’s best arms-only rowers, as a prime example of the good things support programs can do.
Sun Media’s Greg Weston eulogizes Gloria Seller, who tirelessly lobbied the federal government to recognize—and compensate veterans for—the link between Agent Orange, which was test-sprayed at the army base in Gagetown, N.B. in the 1960s. Brigadier General Gordon Seller, Gloria’s husband, succumbed to leukemia in 2004, but last year the government finally ponied up $90 million in compensation for his fellow soldiers. Last week, Gloria herself “died suddenly … of cancer,” Weston reports, “herself a victim of the horrible Gagetown tragedy.”
The Globe’s Margaret Wente files an infuriatingly slapdash and predictable lament for peacenik, history-ignorant, multiculturalism-obsessed, white-guilt-laden Canada, as exemplified by the following two sentences: “A while ago, the curator of the Armoury museum in Hamilton tried to encourage local school groups to tour the place, which is named after Victoria Cross winner John Foote. … The school board said: Sorry, not in keeping with school values.” A while ago, eh? The school board? Public or Catholic? Anything to help us confirm this outrage? (We’ve Googled it, thus far in vain.) Or is there more to the story? We just can’t tell with Wente, and that’s why you haven’t seen her around these parts for a while. She won’t be back for a while, if ever.
Paging Mr. Helpful
The Globe’s Christie Blatchford reports on the most gormless yet of the witnesses at the Jane Creba murder trial. Like all the others, this one “gaze[d] upon surveillance video, wherein [he was] clearly and recognizably shown doing X, and testified that all appearances to the contrary, [he was] doing Y.” But the man she dubs “Mr. Helpful” ups the ante by being “of such startling vacuity” as to be “barely intelligible.” He could not, for example, recall if he had been 16 or 17 on Boxing Day 2005.
The Star’s Rosie DiManno has much the same impression of Mr. Helpful, noting that he referred several times to how well his new lawyer had “coached” him in his testimony. (Mr. Helpful is charged with manslaughter in connection with Creba’s shooting death, but hasn’t yet gone on trial.) This is not, as DiManno says, “the kind of detail that a smarter individual might proffer so frankly.”
The Globe’s John Ibbitson expects more than just a massive economic stimulus package in the early days of the new administration. All indications are that Obama “plans to move swiftly and emphatically on a broad front with one goal: To eliminate every vestige of George Bush’s administration.” That means embryonic stem-cell research will be back on, California emission standards will be adopted nationwide, “environmentally sensitive lands that [Bush] opened to oil exploration will be protected again, … Guantanamo will be closed, and directives sent out to all defence, security and intelligence agencies prohibiting the tortures, such as water boarding, that the Bush administration insisted weren’t really tortures at all.” All of which makes it even more admirable, Ibbitson adds, that Bush is helping the transition go so smoothly.