Must-reads: Christie Blatchford on the David Frost trial; Colby Cosh on what to do with murderers; Richard Gwyn on the global economy; Dan Gardner on young jihadis; Lorne Gunter on Tasers; Susan Riley on the cabinet shuffle.
Brave new world?
With Stephen Harper’s cabinet successfully shuffled, it’s time to play cards.
The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson seems fairly pleased by Harper’s choices, calling Steven Fletcher’s promotion “heartwarming” and well-deserved, appreciating the redeployment of Peter Van Loan and John Baird to less partisan positions and suggesting if anyone can strengthen the Conservatives’ woeful climate change plan, it’s probably Jim Prentice. His one lament is that the cabinet “contains not a single multicultural Canadian, despite the impressive Conservative gains in some of those communities.” (This seems a tad unfair to Bev Oda, we have to say.)
The National Post‘s John Ivison likens the new dream team to “a Volvo—safe and reliable but not particularly sexy,” and designed to instil confidence in its owners (i.e., Canadians). He didn’t promote anyone “beyond their level of competence or experience,” in other words, and “prudence” was the guiding principle for the major portfolios that got shuffled. Ivison doesn’t quite buy the party spin on Prentice’s appointment, however—i.e., that “his reward for having done a good job in a difficult portfolio, is another difficult portfolio.” He’s “said to be unhappy with the move,” for one thing, and “reduce[ing] emissions without harming the energy industry” is less “difficult” than it is “impossible.” Ivison still believes Prentice’s leadership ambitions, or Harper’s perceptions thereof, played a role.
“Nah. Couldn’t be,” the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin responds to that idea. “Harper was full of sincere-sounding praise for his minister’s abilities.” And he thinks Harper’s quite justified in wanting a top man in charge at a time when “myriad enforced emission-reduction regulations [are] poised to hit an oil industry at the precise moment it struggles with a price collapse.” He can’t understand why “listeriosis gaffer Gerry Ritz, limo-lover Bev Oda, ditzy Helena Guergis and abrasive Gordon O’Connor” stayed in cabinet, and thinks entrusting high-profile ministers to neophytes like Leona Aglukkaq, Lisa Raitt and Gail Shea amounted to “jaw-dropping votes of confidence from Harper.” Overall, however, Martin sees the shuffle as “an interesting combination of playing it safe on economic portfolios and rolling the dice on others.”
The Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert is also less cynical, suggesting Prentice’s appointment may—may—”be the first tangible sign that Harper is finally ready to concede that what is good for the planet’s climate is essential to the future of the Canadian economy.” (There’s also the matter of “the arrival at the White House of a more environmentally proactive president” to consider, she adds.) Other than that, the main themes Hébert identifies in the shuffle are strengthening the Ontarian contingent—perhaps for better, quite possibly for worse—and “address[ing] the gender gap that plagued [Harper’s] first government.”
The Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley suggests environment minister Prentice may allow us not to “be so conspicuous a laggard” on the climate change file, though she’s long since given up hope we could ever be a leader. And she thinks John Baird’s shuffle from environment to transport is “the equivalent of being put in a canvas bag and dropped over the Chaudière Falls”—unless of course some sort of “transportation-related strike” were to occur, in which case he’d have plenty to bluster and fulminate about. Like just about everyone else, she hopes the redeployments of Baird and Peter Van Loan will usher in a less “childish and vindictive” Parliament. But if so, she believes the departure of Doug Finley and his “Scottish persona” will have been the real catalyst.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe describes Harper’s new cabinet as “corpulent,” and suggests (rather dubiously, we think) that the increased budget for ministers and their attendants, handlers, primpers and press flaks send an inappropriately profligate message during hard times. She’s also mildly disappointed at British Columbia’s reduced representation in cabinet, and in James Moore’s new portfolio, Canadian heritage and official languages, which she calls “less than demanding.” She seems to be pretty much alone in that belief.
Taser first, ask questions later
In the Edmonton Journal, Lorne Gunter says it’s far too early to jump to conclusions about the death of 38-year-old Trevor Grimolfson, who died yesterday after Edmonton police Tasered him to halt a rampage during which he’d allegedly assaulted two people and ransacked a pawnshop. But even though the Taser might have had nothing to do with his death, Gunter believes there is cause for general concern. Just as people robbed at knifepoint are more likely to be injured than those robbed at gunpoint, because they perceive less danger, he worries that people may be “less likely to cooperate with Taser-wielding police, just as officers, assured in their minds that Tasers are less lethal [than guns], are more willing to fire them.”
With David Frost’s two alleged victims having forcefully testified in his favour, the Globe‘s Christie Blatchford suggests “all would seem to be over but the shouting, or in this case the verdict”—i.e., not guilty. It’s worth noting, however, that this witness also denied Frost “physically assaulted one of his teammates” on the bench during a game—a crime to which Frost pleaded guilty, and that was witnessed by a trainer, any number of other players and “an arena full of fans.” Whatever the verdict, with his blithe descriptions of orgiastic behaviour with his teammates and various young women, yesterday’s witness “inflicted incalculable damage to the national game,” Blatchford argues, “painting it at the junior and college levels as an amoral sexual playground.”
“In absolving a coach and mentor they clearly respect still—or to whom they remain in thrall, as the prosecution suggests—these ex-players contradicted the testimony of friends, lovers, teammates, even their own previously sworn statements to police,” the Star‘s Rosie DiManno marvels. “If David Frost was the cult-like, spellbinding high priest of hockey that many purported him to be, then his acolytes have served him well.” (For his trouble, the Star seems willing to allow DiManno to do just about everything to identify yesterday’s witness, which she can’t do because of a publication ban, except name him.)
In the Post, Colby Cosh argues that neither our correctional system nor a mental hospital is an acceptable place for Vince Li, assuming he’s guilty of the murder of Tim McLean, to serve his sentence. The former “recognizes no concept of punishment at all” and the latter could pronounce him cured and set him free “at any moment,” and in neither case, he argues, would Canadians’ natural thirst for justice have been satisfied. It’s unfortunate that McLean’s mother is so widely quoted in the press, he suggests, because while she has a point about Canada’s insufficient punishment for murderers, her complaints and demands—including that police should have stormed the bus even after her son was clearly beyond help, or executed Li on site—are so motivated by anger as to be “incoherent.”
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner composes a “letter to a young jihadi,” in which he advises any Muslim 19-year-olds brooding in their hardworking parents’ affluent basements over the wanton materialism of Western civilization and “the thought of Crusader soldiers in Muslim lands,” and considering “spend[ing] next summer learning bomb-making techniques in Waziristan,” to instead consider “backpacking around Europe and sleeping with German girls,” or “do[ing] some volunteer work with Oxfam,” or some of the other things normal 19-year-olds do when they “want to find themselves.” Or, failing that, he suggests they take at least a lesson from the “bug-eyed religious fanatic[s]” at the Christian churches and forswear violence, at which point we could go back to viewing them as “deluded freaks” rather than threats to our safety.
In the Montreal Gazette, Josée Legault dismisses the new pledge for immigrants settling in Quebec as “words, words and more words.” Not only is there no power of enforcement, she notes, but the pledge does nothing except repeat “what’s already in Quebec’s charters of rights and of the French language.” What’s more, given evidence that the French language is losing influence on the Island of Montreal and that the government doesn’t particularly care, she’s not overly impressed by empty proclamations that “French [is] the language of work, education, commerce, and so on.”
In the Star, Richard Gwyn assesses the chances of some new financial order emerging from the upcoming summit of world leaders at Camp David, and those chances are slim. Canada is “strongly multilateralist,” he suggests, at least “rhetorically.” But ask yourself this: are you willing to have your tax dollars “bail out some [Mexican] bank that has made a mess of things?” (Even in united Europe, he notes, voters wouldn’t likely tolerate such a thing.) “As goes your answer, so will go, all but certainly, the answers of all the international leaders.”
The Star‘s Thomas Walkom interviews a veritable Algonquin Round Table of Kansas Citians on the topic of Tuesday’s election. Warren Bouyer, a toothless Gulf War veteran, supports Barck Obama in part because he’s hoping for dental care. Logical. And unemployed Mike Hall supports John McCain “because he said he’d stop the war—no, hang on, that’s Obama. No. I voted for McCain because he said he’d help the middle class.” Yikes.
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.