Quotulatiousness

August 31, 2014

Politispeak – describing a slower rate of increase as an absolute cut in funding

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Health, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:20

Paul Wells says the almost forgotten leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition in Parliament is doing his job, but illustrates it with a great example of how political rhetoric sometimes warps reality in favour of a more headline-worthy claim:

Here’s what he said: “After promising to protect all future increases to provincial transfers, Conservatives announced plans to cut $36 billion, starting in 2016,” Mulcair told the CMA. “This spring, Conservatives will announce, with great fanfare, that there is now a budget surplus. I’m here today to tell you that an NDP government would use any such surplus to, first and foremost, cancel those proposed cuts to health care.”

This needs parsing, but first, let’s let Mulcair finish: “Mr. Harper, it’s time to keep your word to protect Canadian health care. After giving Canada’s richest corporations $50 billion in tax breaks, don’t you dare take $36 billion out of health care to pay for them!” He said that part in English, then repeated it in French, which has become the way a Canadian politician delivers a line in italics.

Well. Let’s begin with the $36 billion. In December 2011, Jim Flaherty, then the federal finance minister, met his provincial colleagues to announce his plans for health transfers after a 10-year deal set by Paul Martin ran out in 2013-14. The 2004 Martin deal declared that cash transfers to the provinces for health care would increase by six per cent a year for 10 years. Harper simply kept implementing the Martin scheme after he became Prime Minister.

What Flaherty announced, without consulting with the provinces first, was that health transfers would keep growing at six per cent through 2016-17. Then, they would grow more slowly — how slowly would depend on the economy. The faster GDP grows, the faster transfers would grow. But, if the economy tanked, the rate of growth could fall as low as three per cent per year. Flaherty said this scheme would stay in place through 2023-24.

Add up all the shortfalls between three per cent and six per cent over seven years and you get a cumulative sum of $36 billion. Despite what Mulcair said, this isn’t a “cut,” it’s a deceleration in increases. And $36 billion is the gap’s maximum amount. If the economy shows any health, the gap will be smaller.

We could have fun complaining that Mulcair calls something a “cut” when it extends what is already the longest period of growth in federal transfer payments in Mulcair’s lifetime. But it’s more fun to take him at his word. He promises to spend as much as $6 billion a year in new tax money on health care. Mulcair couldn’t buy much influence over health policy with that money; he would simply send larger cheques to provincial governments. If he has other plans for the federal government, he’d have to pay for them after he’d sent that up-to $6-billion cheque to the provinces.

Emphasis mine.

August 26, 2014

Tax inversions: “Canada, it would seem, is the new Delaware”

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:04

In Maclean’s, Jason Kirby looks for reasons why Tim Hortons is interested in a deal with Burger King:

For starters, let’s consider Burger King’s motivation for buying Tim Hortons. It is not looking for synergies. Don’t expect to see Burger King roll out twinned stores, with one counter selling Whoppers, the other Timbits, as per Wendy’s strategy when it owned Tims. Instead, Burger King wants to avoid paying U.S. taxes. If the deal goes ahead (no agreement has been finalized) Burger King will achieve this through what’s known as a “tax inversion.” It would buy Tim Hortons, then declare the newly merged company to be Canadian. And because companies in Canada enjoy a lower corporate tax rate than those in America — 15 per cent in Canada compared to an official U.S. rate of 35 per cent — Burger King’s future tax bills could be a lot smaller.

Canada, it would seem, is the new Delaware.

So Burger King is buying Tim Hortons, but in doing so, the combined Tim Hortons and Burger King will be financially engineered to be Canadian, at least on paper. A statement released by the companies following the Wall Street Journal‘s initial report on the deal said Burger King’s largest shareholder, 3G Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, would own the majority of the shares of the newly created company. And you can be sure any tax savings will flow back to shareholders in the form of higher dividends.

It’s clear what’s driving Burger King to pursue this deal. But there’s been far less attention paid to the question: what’s in this for Tim Hortons?

According to Tim Hortons, the answer — as it unceasingly has been for the past two decades — is the pursuit of international growth. In the statement from Tim Hortons and Burger King, the companies said the coffee chain will have ”the potential to leverage Burger King’s worldwide footprint and experience in global development to accelerate Tim Hortons growth in international markets.”

Update: Kevin Williamson points out that relatively few US companies actually relocate to other countries now, but that the number is clearly increasing and knee-jerk reactions to that by politicians may well make it worse.

There are trillions of dollars in U.S. corporate earnings parked overseas, and progressives want the government to shove its greedy snout all up in that, denouncing “corporate cash hoarders” and blaming un-repatriated corporate earnings for everything from the weak job market to chronic halitosis. Harebrained schemes for putting that corporate cash in government coffers abound. So the current balance could quite easily be tipped. And after years of ad-hocracy under Barack Obama et al., U.S.-style “rule of law” may not be as attractive as it once was. A few more arbitrary NLRB decisions or political jihads from the IRS could change a few minds about the value of U.S. law and governance.

The question isn’t whether you can bully Walgreens out of its plan to move to Switzerland. The question is whether the next Apple or Pfizer ever puts down legal roots in the United States in the first place. Right now, the friction works in favor of the United States, but there is no reason to believe that that will always be the case. You think that Singapore wouldn’t like to be the world’s banking or pharmaceutical capital? That Seoul lacks ambition? That the Scots who brought us the Enlightenment can’t run a decent system of law and property rights? Burger King is not talking about moving to some steamy banana republic for tax purposes, but to stodgy, stable, predictable, boring old Canada. Boring and predictable looks pretty good if you’re Burger King, especially when the alternative is unpredictable and expensive. Unpredictable and expensive is what you date when you’re young and stupid — you don’t marry it.

Update the second:

August 24, 2014

200th anniversary of the only foreign occupation of Washington DC

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:14

In History Today, Graeme Garrard tells the tale of the burning of Washington in 1814:

When James Madison, fourth President of the United States and ‘Father of the Constitution’, signed a declaration of war against Britain on June 18th, 1812 he could scarcely have imagined that two years later he would be fleeing from his burning capital before the invading enemy. At the start of the ‘War of 1812’, the first the US had declared on another nation, his friend and predecessor as president, Thomas Jefferson, had smugly declared that the war against Britain’s colonies in what is today Canada would be ‘a mere matter of marching’. As Madison abandoned the White House on horseback with his entourage and raced towards Virginia on August 24th, 1814 he stopped and looked back as he beheld the ruined city of Washington. The smoke from flames that engulfed it could be seen as far away as Baltimore, Maryland. Although he left no personal account of his feelings about these shattering events, the normally imperturbable president must have been deeply shaken by the turn they had taken, as were most Americans. What his many domestic critics had derisively branded ‘Mr Madison’s War’ had led to the only foreign occupation of the US capital in its history. Soldiers and marines under Major-General Robert Ross and Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn put Washington’s public buildings, including the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Library of Congress, the Treasury building, the State and War Departments, the historic Navy Yard and the President’s House (as the White House was then known), to the torch. Exactly two centuries later, few people in the United States or Britain are aware of this national humiliation, the ‘greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms’.

Why were the British so determined to burn the government buildings in Washington? Revenge for the Americans having done the same thing to York the previous year:

The Americans were as dejected and enraged as the British were elated by the effects of the occupation. The reserved and stoical Madison returned to Washington as soon as the British had departed. Unable to live in the President’s House, he took up residence at the home of his brother-in-law. His wife soon joined him, exclaiming when she saw the ruined capital: ‘Such destruction, such devastation!’ The secretary of state James Monroe, Madison’s successor as president, cursed the British troops as ‘all damn’d rascals from highest to lowest’ for torching the capital. He seems to have forgotten that American troops had done much the same in 1813 when they occupied the undefended city of York (now Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario). Then they had burned the colony’s legislative and judicial buildings, plundered its public library and destroyed private property. Indeed, the Governor General and military Commander-in-Chief of British North America during the war, Lieutenant-General Sir George Prévost, wrote that, as a ‘just retribution, the proud capital at Washington has experienced a similar fate’. When the news reached London a month later of the British retaliation, guns outside Parliament and the Tower of London boomed a joyous salute, a reaction echoed throughout the colonies of British North America, particularly in York.

August 22, 2014

QotD: More similar than different – Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Over the last year, as Rob Ford’s stock has fallen and Justin Trudeau’s has soared to new media driven heights, your humble correspondent has been fascinated. These men are not, as they seem, polar opposites. They are in fact quite similar. It’s only the surface features that are different. Let’s review:

Neither man is especially bright. Ford has a BA in political science from Carleton which is, only technically, a university. Trudeau did, in fairness, attempt an engineering degree so we’ll give him the edge when it comes to smarts. Perhaps he is one of those men who is cleverer with numbers than with words. Whatever their actual differences in raw intellectual power both men are surprisingly inarticulate.

This is obvious with Rob Ford who treats the English language like a sailor treats a Marseilles whore. With Justin it’s a bit harder to detect because he doesn’t actually sound dumb, he merely says dumb things. It’s a clever trick managed by many practiced politician; the ability to sound more intelligent than you are while disclosing nothing in particular. He speaks mostly in platitudes and when he is forced off the Buy the World a Coke routine he fumbles badly. This suggests that he has been well rehearsed. By whom is a matter of debate.

Then there is the vision thing, to borrow from the Elder Bush. Rob Ford’s vision is to stop the Gravy Train. What is the Gravy Train? As far as can be made out it’s over the top spending at Toronto’s City Hall. This he has mostly accomplished. Beyond the Gravy Train we get a little lost. There is little in the way of a comprehensive program of reform. It’s a kind of inarticulate rage at government that never coalesces into a clear goal. Once the minor privatizations and ritual sackings are done with, what’s next? What is Rob Ford vision for Toronto? Subways are nice but a big city needs more than tunnels to Scarborough.

If Rob Ford is angry at something he can’t really explain, Justin is optimistic about something he has no clue about. This is one of their few real differences. Rob Rages and Justin Soothes. Neither is saying much of anything, but the latter sounds very nice while doing so. The former rants about Fat Cats and the latter about how cute kittens can save the country. Both men are, in sense, speaking in platitudes. The questions is what kind of platitudes do you prefer? Angry or vapid?

Richard Anderson, “Rob vs The Raccoons”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-08-20.

August 21, 2014

Jacques Parizeau planned a unilateral declaration of independence after 1995 Quebec referendum

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:26

In the Montreal Gazette, Don Macpherson discusses a new book by Chantal Hébert to be published soon:

They don’t make sovereignist leaders like they used to. It’s hard to imagine any candidate for the Parti Québécois leadership matching the combination of Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

That referendum wouldn’t have been held without Parizeau’s single-minded pursuit of sovereignty. And the sovereignists wouldn’t have come within fewer than 55,000 votes of winning if it hadn’t been for Bouchard’s ability to gain voters’ trust.

Yet, as a forthcoming book shows, Bouchard did not trust Parizeau — and with reason.

Not only did Parizeau, who was premier, unscrupulously use Bouchard to deceive voters about his intentions, he intended to shove Bouchard aside after a Yes vote so he could make a unilateral declaration of independence.

The book is The Morning After, written by widely respected Ottawa journalist Chantal Hébert. It’s to be published early next month.

It’s based on recent interviews by Hébert and commentator Jean Lapierre (my fellow CTV Montreal political panellist) with political leaders of the day about what they would have done after a Yes vote in 1995.

Update: Paul Wells says the book also discusses an improbable Saskatchewan separation move if Quebec had left Confederation.

A team of Saskatchewan officials worked quietly to develop contingency plans in the event of a Yes vote in the 1995 Quebec referendum — options that included Saskatchewan following Quebec out of Canada, a new book reveals.

Roy Romanow, the premier of Saskatchewan at the time, never told his full cabinet about the secret committee’s work, Romanow told Chantal Hébert, author of The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, to be published by Knopf Canada on Sept. 2. Maclean’s has obtained a copy of the book.

“Filed under the boring title of Constitutional Contingencies — a choice intended to discourage curiosity — [the Saskatchewan committee's] work was funded off the books, outside the provincial Treasury Board process, the better to ensure its secrecy,” Hébert writes.

The committee considered a lot of possibilities for the chaotic period Romanow anticipated after a Yes vote — including Saskatchewan seceding from Canada; a Western union of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia; abandoning the Canadian dollar to use the U.S. greenback; and even annexation of Saskatchewan, and perhaps other provinces, to the United States. “In the eventuality of a Yes vote, clearly you need to examine all your options,” Romanow says in the book.

Apparently 1995 was even more of an existential moment than we knew at the time.

Missing the Target, badly

Filed under: Business, Cancon, USA — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 08:05

I’d heard lots of good things about the Target chain before they came north to Canada (James Lileks, for example, should be getting a regular cheque from the firm for his regular name-check of the local Target store in his writing). When a new Target store opened in Whitby, Elizabeth and I visited shortly after the doors opened. To say it was disappointing is an understatement. We expected to find a new, clean, fully stocked store with different brands and lower prices. What we found was a new, clean store with exactly the same stuff we’d seen before at pretty much the same prices. In other words, there was literally no reason to come back … and we haven’t been back.

Jason Kirby says that our experience was pretty much what everyone else experienced:

Target Canada is an unmitigated disaster. On that point, everyone, from its customers to investors to the company’s executives, can agree. In reporting its second-quarter results this morning, Target revealed its Canadian operations lost another US$200 million, while same-store sales — a gauge of performance that measures only those locations that have been open for at least a year — fell 11.4 per cent from the same period in 2013.

[...]

In a conference call with Canadian media Wednesday, Target chief financial officer John Mulligan declared: “We bit off way too much, too early. In retrospect, (we would) probably open five to 10 stores last year — refine the operations, refine the supply chain, the technology, get our store teams trained. But again, that’s all hindsight, we are where are right now and we’re focused on moving forward to fix this for our guests.”

[...]

It took Target from early 2011, when it announced the Zellers deal, to March 2013 before it opened its doors and could ring up its first sale. To date, Target has racked up $1.8 billion in losses from its Canadian operations. Here a good breakdown of the losses.

In Wal-Mart’s fiscal 1995 annual report, the retailer said its operating, selling and general and administrative expenses, as a percentage of sales, had risen just 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent in each of the previous two years as a result of the Canadian acquisition and launch. By Wal-Mart’s second year in Canada it had already generated an operating profit, having doubled sales per square foot since taking over from Woolco. By year two it boasted a 40 per cent share of the market.

It’s taken three years for Target to admit just how flawed the Canadian expansion has been. An atrocious inventory management system left shelves empty, while Canadians were completely turned off by Target Canada’s decidedly un-Target-like prices on goods.

August 20, 2014

New report calls for Ontario to break up the LCBO

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Economics, Wine — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:33

In the Toronto Star, Richard Brennan reports on a new study by the C.D. Howe Institute calling for the province to join the modern era:

The “quasi-monopoly” LCBO and The Beer Store have hosed Ontario consumers long enough, a C.D. Howe Institute report says.

The right-wing think tank said the Ontario government should strip them both of their almost exclusive right to sell beer, wine and spirits, suggesting the report proves that opening up to alcohol sales to competition will mean lower prices.

“The lack of competition in Ontario’s system for alcoholic beverage retailing causes higher prices for consumers and foregone government revenue,” states the 30-page report, Uncorking a Strange Brew: The Need for More Competition in Ontario’s Alcoholic Beverage Retailing System, to be released publicly Wednesday.

The report includes tables comparing Ontario beer prices to other provinces with greater private sector involvement, particularly with Quebec, where a case of 24 domestic beers can be as much as $10 cheaper and even more for imported brands.

Since 1927, when the Liquor Control Act was passed, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the privately owned Brewers Warehousing Company Limited have had a stranglehold on alcohol sale in the province.

“The Beer Store’s quasi-monopoly of beer retailing is … an anachronism,” the report says, referring to the foreign-owned private retailer that is protected by provincial legislation.

August 19, 2014

Transportation Safety Board report on the Lac-Mégantic runaway train and derailment

Filed under: Cancon, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 15:21

The full report is available to download from the TSB’s website.

This summary of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) Railway Investigation Report R13D0054 contains a description of the accident, along with an overview of the analysis and findings, the safety action taken to date, five key recommendations, and what more needs to be done to help ensure an accident like this does not happen again.

Lac-Mégantic derailment aftermath in July 2013

[...]

Shortly after the engineer left, the Nantes Fire Department responded to a 911 call reporting a fire on the train. After shutting off the locomotive’s fuel supply, the firefighters moved the electrical breakers inside the cab to the off position, in keeping with railway instructions. They then met with an MMA employee, a track foreman who had been dispatched to the scene but who did not have a locomotive operations background.

Once the fire was extinguished, the firefighters and the track foreman discussed the train’s condition with the rail traffic controller in Farnham, and departed soon afterward. With all the locomotives shut down, the air compressor no longer supplied air to the air brake system. As air leaked from the brake system, the main air reservoirs were slowly depleted, gradually reducing the effectiveness of the locomotive air brakes. Just before 1 a.m., the air pressure had dropped to a point at which the combination of locomotive air brakes and hand brakes could no longer hold the train, and it began to roll downhill toward Lac-Mégantic, just over seven miles away.

[...]

Almost all of the 63 derailed tank cars were damaged, and many had large breaches. About six million litres of petroleum crude oil was quickly released. The fire began almost immediately, and the ensuing blaze and explosions left 47 people dead. Another 2000 people were forced from their homes, and much of the downtown core was destroyed.

The pileup of tank cars, combined with the large volume of burning petroleum crude oil, made the firefighters’ job extremely difficult. Despite the challenges of a large emergency, the response was well coordinated, and the fire departments effectively protected the site and ensured public safety after the derailment.

Published on 19 Aug 2014

Animation – Sequence of events in the Lac-Mégantic derailment and fire

On 6 July 2013, a unit train carrying petroleum crude oil operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) derailed numerous cars in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and a fire and explosions ensued.

The Prime Minister’s statement on the 72nd anniversary of Operation Jubilee

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:51

It was a bloody shambles, but we still remember the bravery and sacrifice of the troops who went ashore at Dieppe in 1942:

On August 19, 1942, nearly 5,000 Canadian troops, along with British and American Allies, undertook a raid on Dieppe to test new equipment, probe the strength of German defences and gain the experience necessary for a larger amphibious assault.

The majority of the forces that attacked that day at five different points along the 16 km front encountered stiff resistance, unexpected obstacles, and a well-entrenched, well-prepared enemy. The Canadians fought on, through machine gun fire, mortar barrages, and sniper and air attacks.

The lessons learned at Dieppe and subsequent landings proved invaluable for the D-Day invasion and were instrumental in saving countless lives on June 6, 1944. Sadly, the Raid on Dieppe came at a steep price for Canadian participants, with 916 making the ultimate sacrifice and 1,900 taken as prisoners of war.

On this solemn day, let us remember the courage and sacrifice of the thousands of Canadians who fought with bravery and determination at Dieppe to free Europe from Nazi tyranny and ensure the peace and freedom that we enjoy today.

Lest we forget.

August 18, 2014

Another look at the Ross Rifle, initial Canadian infantry weapon of WW1

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:11

Last year, I posted a video by Lickmuffin, showing his recently acquired Ross Mark III, a “sporterized” version of the model that equipped the First Canadian Division when it took the field in France in 1915. Yesterday, David Pugliese revisited the Ross controversy in the Ottawa Citizen:

When soldiers in the throes of battle discard their rifles and pluck a different weapon from the hands of dead allies, there’s clearly a serious problem, writes John Ward of the Canadian Press news service.

So it was with the Ross rifle, the weapon that Canadian soldiers took with them to the start of the First World War a century ago.

More from Ward’s article:

It was the brainchild of Sir Charles Ross, a wealthy Scottish-born engineer and inventor who offered it to the Canadian government as a military firearm well before the war began.

To Sir Sam Hughes, Canada’s minister of militia — defence minister in modern parlance — at the time, the Canadian-built Ross was highly accurate and the perfect tool for his soldiers, whom he saw as frontier marksmen.

But troops, some of whom sneered at the rifle as “the Canadian club,” soon discovered the Ross was not suited to dirty, rough-and-tumble trench warfare. They preferred the robust Lee-Enfield carried by their British comrades, picking them up from the battlefield when they could.

The .303-calibre, straight-pull Ross was longer than the Lee-Enfield, a problem in the cramped confines of the trenches. It was heavier, too, and in a day when infantrymen were over-burdened, any extra weight was unwelcome. When fired with its bayonet attached, it tended to shed the bayonet.

The Ross was also susceptible to jamming from dust and dirt and was very finicky about the quality of ammunition. The carefully machined cartridges made by the Dominion Arsenal worked fine, but not so the mass-produced British ammunition, which could vary in size beyond the Ross’s fine tolerances.

Further, it was easy to reassemble the Ross bolt incorrectly. Even when misassembled, the bolt would fit in the rifle and even chamber and fire a cartridge, only to slam back into the rifleman’s face — unheard of for most bolt-action rifles.

David Pugliese also linked to this Forgotten Weapons video, which investigates the best known failing of the Ross in combat:

Published on 16 Jun 2013

There is a long-standing urban legend about the Canadian Ross rifle, a straight-pull bolt action that was used in lieu of the SMLE by Canadian troops early in World War One. The story is that the Ross would sometimes malfunction and blow the bolt back into its shooter’s face, with pretty horrible results. Well, I wanted to learn “the rest of the story” – could this actually happen? What caused it? How could it be prevented? In short, what would a Ross shooter need to know to remain safe? And if I could get some cool footage of a bolt blowing out of a Ross in the process, all the better.

Well, reader Andy very generously provided a sporterized Ross for the experiments, and I started reading into what the issue really was. Turns out that the legend was quite true – you can put a Ross MkIII bolt together the wrong way, and it will allow you to fire without the locking lugs engaged, thus throwing the bolt back out of the gun at high velocity. However, the issue was recognized fairly quickly, and the vast majority of Ross rifles were modified with a safety rivet to prevent this from happening. It is also quite easy to determine if a Ross is assembled correctly, once you know what to look for.

August 17, 2014

Jeff Burke plays Bassoon and Theremin cover of “Get Lucky”

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:59

It’s been a while since I last saw Jeff performing live, but this little video taken last weekend at the Coldwater Steampunk Festival gives you a taste of what he can do:

We’d driven through Coldwater earlier in the week, on our way to visit friends in Waubaushene on Georgian Bay, but couldn’t get back there on the weekend for the festival, unfortunately.

H/T to Boing Boing‘s Rob Beschizza for the link.

August 16, 2014

“Alberta politics have never been more interesting”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:06

In Maclean’s, Colby Cosh explains why the recent Auditor-General’s special report has been unusually newsworthy:

The fireworks that accompanied last week’s special report by Alberta Auditor-General Merwan Saher were, at first blush, a little mysterious. The A-G’s report into disgraced premier Alison Redford’s bizarre use of government aircraft had already been partially leaked, and did not contain much that had not already been reported. But it was greeted with remarkable excitement — broken down, line by line, on social media as if someone were tweeting the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Even a political commentator born in Social Credit Alberta needed a little time to realize why. It wasn’t that Redford and her daughter had been allowed to treat Alberta government aircraft like theme-park rides. It wasn’t that the premier had tried to build a secret downtown crash pad in a government building in the capital. It was that an independent officer of the Alberta legislature was pointing it all out, harshly, in plain English, with no fudge.

Such characters—departmental ombudsmen, freedom-of-information (FOI) commissioners, and the like—have usually been very tame creatures in Alberta, often doing more to make scandals disappear than they do to rectify them. (The Edmonton Journal observed in July that over the past 20 years, two-thirds of Alberta FOI requests for provincial records yielded no documents whatsoever.)

However, scandal or no scandal, it would be rash to predict a sudden end to the Alberta Progressive Conservatives no matter how much dirt is evident:

Alberta’s privileged classes thus have a sort of unspoken deal with the PCs, and it is this deal the PCs are counting on as they try to hustle Prentice to the podium in September. But the 2011 election results and the current polls show Albertans wondering whether Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party could not manage things at least as competently as Ed Stelmach or as ethically as Alison Redford. The province’s labour markets remain tight, and oil prices are buoyant, but the treasury is borrowing. Young liberal urbanites who were stampeded into voting PC in 2011 will not be so easy to terrorize a second time.

In short, Alberta politics have never been more interesting. Yet it is worth remembering that both Stelmach and Redford won enormous election victories, and that the PCs have survived in power through a 150 per cent increase in the province’s population. Four decades’ work is not undone overnight.

August 12, 2014

QotD: Jason Kenney as a potential Harper successor

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

A few [Conservative workers and contributors] are growing frustrated with the categorical abortion truce [Stephen Harper] has imposed on his caucus, and see hope in Jason Kenney, whose activity in recruiting ethnic minorities to the party is attracting increasing attention. Kenney might already be the most influential Canadian politician of the past 20 years, not excluding Harper. Canadian Taxpayers Federation jobs are still seen as attractive largely because Kenney, by some miracle, actually managed to influence policy in Alberta when he had one. His tending of minorities seems superhuman. I am convinced I could start a fake religion tomorrow and within six months Kenney would be sending us excruciatingly correct salutations on precisely the right made-up feast days. “The Conservative party wishes His Excellency the Pooh-Bah a happy and abundant Saskatoon-Picking Day.”

But there are many problems with the sudden agreement on an imminent Kenney succession, starting with the fact that accumulating authority with small ethnic and religious groups is … well, his job. Perhaps it gives him potential leverage in a leadership race, but it is indistinguishable from merely having done excellent work on behalf of Stephen Harper.

Colby Cosh, “Stephen Harper has no reason to quit while he’s ahead”, Maclean’s, 2014-01-10

August 11, 2014

Canada’s Special Forces

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

CANSOFCOMbadgeLast month, I posted an item on the organization of the Canadian Army, but I didn’t include the Canadian special forces … partly because the special forces are Canada’s “fourth” branch of service and not organizationally part of the Canadian Army … and partly because I just plain forgot about them. Having just read a short article in the most recent Dorchester Review, I was reminded to include Canada’s special forces units (as much as we know about them, anyway). Special forces fall under their own service command, separate from the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, known as the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), established in 2006.

The core unit of CANSOFCOM is the original Joint Task Force-2 (JTF2) which was formed in 1992-3 when the Canadian Forces took over the domestic counterterrorism role from the RCMP. When JTF2 was included in the new command, other units were established to support a wider range of missions and capabilities. CANSOFCOM is headed by a Brigadier General and composed of a headquarters and the following units:

Although the official web page for CANSOFCOM emphasizes its domestic role, Canadian special forces have also been involved in overseas operations beginning (so far as we know) with Afghanistan in 2001-2. Very little information about JTF2 missions in specific or CANSOFCOM in general has been released by the government, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. Joseph Jockel’s article in the Dorchester Review states:

The consequences of the successful deployment [...] are clearer. JTF2 had been tested and admitted to the “international tier 1 counterterrorism community”, the other members being the special forces of the US, UK, and Australia. A good indication of this was that the US military planned to include Canadian special forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A year after Canada declined to go to Iraq, “the US government sends a démarche to Ottawa specifically requesting JTF2 deploy to Afghanistan for a second one-year commitment”. Ottawa “obliges relatively quickly to the US request for forces and CANSOF deploys for a second one-year commitment in the summer 2005″

The Wikipedia page has more:

Core tasks

CANSOFCOM’s core tasks are: to provide the Canadian Forces with a capacity to prevent and react to terrorism in all environments, to provide the CF with a capability to perform other missions as directed by the Government of Canada, such as direct action (DA), special reconnaissance (SR), defence diplomacy and military assistance (DDMA), as well as special humanitarian assistance (such as the evacuation of non-combatants).

Commanding officers

On September 12, 2005, Colonel David Barr was appointed the provisional commander of the CANSOFCOM. During his tenure as commander, Colonel Barr also deployed to Afghanistan as commander of the Canadian special operations task force in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Major-General D. Michael Day, OMM CD – Commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command 2007–2011

Brigadier-General D.W. Thompson, OMM MSC CD is the current commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, appointed in April 2011.

The current command chief warrant officer is Chief Warrant Officer John H. Graham, MSM CD.

Uniform

With operational uniforms, all members of CANSOFCOM wear the tan beret, regardless of their environment (navy, army or air force), with the badge of their personnel branch or, in the case of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps and Royal Canadian Infantry Corps members, the badge of their former regiment. With ceremonial and service dress, navy members wear service caps with tan bands, army members wear tan berets and air force members wear blue wedge caps with a tan insert.

August 8, 2014

Former Premier Bill Davis was “for a brief crazy moment, one of the most conservative politicians in Canada”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:18

I remember the days of the eternal Progressive Conservative government in Ontario rather un-fondly, but Richard Anderson says it was a fluke of the times that Bill Davis really was the best the “conservatives” had during his time in office:

It’s often said about Bill Davis that he was more progressive than conservative. The meaning of words, especially in politics, change with the times. A conservative in 1975 was a far more statist figure than a conservative either twenty years before or twenty years after. Between the election of Pearson and the defeat of Turner Canadian politics took an astonishingly Leftward lurch. So did the rest of the developed world. There simply was no conservative movement or politician, as we understand that term today, of any consequence in the Disco Era Dominion.

By the time the conservative reaction to mid-twentieth century Leftism had set-in Davis was already eyeing the political exits. He was, as his immediate predecessor John Robarts quipped upon his own retirement in 1971, a man of his times. By 1985 Bill Davis’ time was up. The public mood had grown weary of statist experiment, though it was far from re-embracing free market alternatives. It would take the brutal recession and fiscal retrenchment of the 1990s to beat the utopianism out of Canadian politics. [...]

Whatever their colour, gender or personal history, politicians want one thing and one thing only: Power. It does not matter their intentions. However honourable they must bend somewhat to political reality. How far they choose to bend determines how long a political career they will have. The tragedy of the Davis years is that, whatever we think of the era now, the only real alternative to Bill Davis would have been Stephen Lewis. The man with the pipe and bland genial manner was, for a brief crazy moment, one of the most conservative politicians in Canada.

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