Quotulatiousness

January 21, 2014

Jean Chrétien’s long service award

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:02

The former PM is being honoured (in Toronto, of all places) for 50 years of public service. I wasn’t a fan (to say the least) while he was in power, but as an old Mark Steyn column points out, he was a much more talented political survivor than his successor:

Back in the early eighties, during the back-and-forth over patriating the Constitution, Jean Chrétien is said to have walked into Buckingham Palace and been greeted by the Queen with a cheery “You again!”

Him again! Who’d have thought we’d miss him? You can thank Paul Martin for that. It took Mister Competent, the genius budget-balancer, the supposed real brains of the operation, smoothly urbanely fluent in at least two more official languages than his predecessor, to reveal da liddle guy as a towering colossus. Mr. Martin, so ruthless and efficient in plotting and manoeuvring to seize the crown, never gave a thought to what he would do with it once it was on his head. In the final chapter of his new book, M. Chrétien reveals that, with Sheila Fraser’s report on the sponsorship scandal looming, he offered to stay on a few weeks and take the hit for it on his watch. But Martin was in a hurry, and wanted the old man gone. And so he came roaring in, and all the stuff that never stuck to the wily Shawinigan ward-heeler stuck to King Paul like dog mess on his coronation robes – Adscam, Flagscam, Earnscam, Crownscam, Alphonso Scammiano, the Royal Scamadian Mounted Police — until the new broom swept himself into a corner and wound up running against the legacy he’d spent the previous decade claiming credit for.

What would Chrétien have done? He’d have said, “Waal, da scam is da scam and, when you got da good scam, dat da scam. Me, I like da scam-and-eggs wid da home fries at da Auberge Grand-Mère every Sunday morning. And Aline, she always spray da pepper on it. Like Popeye say, I scam what I scam. Don’ make me give you da ol’ Shawiniscam handshake …” Etc., etc., until it all dribbled away into a fog of artfully constructed incoherence, and the heads of the last two journalists following the story exploded, and he won his fourth term. If you follow the headlines, Chrétien’s memoir supposedly “blames” Martin and “rips” Martin and “blasts” Martin. But, of course, ripping and blasting isn’t the Chrétien style, and this amiable book could use a bit more of it. Telling the tale from election night in 1993 in his A-frame on Lac des Piles to his final walk from the Governor General’s office through the grounds of Rideau Hall and into private life, My Years As Prime Minister is a rewarding read if you’re prepared to do a bit of decoding. Thus, throughout the text, his preferred designation for his successor is “my successor” (“Unfortunately, when my successor took too long to make up his mind …”, etc.). In Britain, Edward Heath used to refer to Margaret Thatcher as such, because her very name used to stick in his craw. So the formulation, intended as condescension, sounded merely pathetic: Mrs. T. was the consequential figure and Sir Ted was merely the flop warm-up act. By contrast, Chrétien pulls the condescension off brilliantly. It’s a cool sneer — and, for a successor distinguished only by his conspicuous lack of success, wholly deserved: say what you like about Kim Campbell, but she didn’t spend her entire adult life scheming for the role of designated fall guy.

[...]

Is he a nice guy? I like to think not. I’m a nasty piece of work myself, and I always had a sneaking affection for the rare public glimpse of Chrétienite viciousness — the moment when he seized that Toronto Star reporter by the wrist and snarled “Get outta da way!” (I believe, after two months waiting for wrist surgery, the journalist was eventually treated in Buffalo, and, after a federal retraining course, now works happily as a tour guide at the Museum of Canadian Literature in Shawinigan.) But that’s the p’tit gars: he got everyone outta da way — Martin, Mulroney, Campbell, Manning, Day, Clark, Charest, Bouchard, Parizeau … No one will remember NEPAD or any of the other acronymic global-summit-fillers he claims credit for, but he kept the Liberal show on the road, which, as “my successor” discovered, is a lot harder than it looks. In his own autobiography, Paul Martin would be ill-advised to try to respond in kind.

June 28, 2013

The real reasons for problems with Canada’s submarine fleet

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:01

An interesting post at the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic, and Disarmament Studies looks at the real reasons the Royal Canadian Navy has had such a rough time with the current class of submarines:

Submarines are perhaps the most misunderstood weapon system in the Canadian Forces. Few Canadians, even those well-versed in military matters, understand their role in Canada’s defence. Worse, the technical issues that have afflicted the Victoria class submarines have dominated the media narrative for a decade, convincing many that they really are a set of lemons put upon us by the crafty British. In actuality, the navy had relatively few options to replace its aging Oberons in the 1990s. It was the decisions made then, rather than any inherent technical shortcomings, which created many of the problems experienced after these vessels entered active service. Yet, the choices for the navy were stark. Faced with a government that was essentially hostile to the idea of submarines, and limited in what it could spend, the used, but highly modern Upholders were the only option open to the RCN: it was either that or the end of the Submarine Service.

[. . .]

However, submarines were politically unpopular within the Chretien government. The former foreign minister called them “un-Canadian” in nature, and Chretien himself dithered on the decision. Sensing that the window was about to slam shut, the navy lobbied hard for their acquisition in what was called the deal of a century – four slightly used subs for $750 million. The old supply vessel HMCS Provider would be paid off early and planned refits for the O-boats foregone.

But the navy had to live within the tight limits that had been established by that $750 million figure. As such, much of the spare parts the RN had warehoused for the submarines were not purchased, nor was some of the technical information concerning the engineering of the submarine’ systems acquired from VSEL (later BAE Systems). In addition, a series of technical problems were discovered in the submarines as they began to be reactivated by the Royal Navy. Many of these were fixed before the boats were delivered to Canada, but several expensive fixes remained after they were acquired. The heavy demands made on the navy at the beginning of the War on Terror in 2003, just as the submarines were arriving in Halifax, also limited the ability to move quickly in resolving these issues.

In many ways, the problems experienced by the subs represent an “own goal” on the part of the navy. The decisions that were made at the time in order to get the boat were to come back to haunt the navy years later. The failure to acquire sufficient spares or establish supplier relationships resulted in many of the significant delays in making the subs operational as the navy worked to create its own network of industrial relationships to manufacture the specialized equipment found on no other naval system. It is this fallout from the procurement process, rather than the frequent argument that the subs were poorly constructed, that is responsible for the delays and technical setbacks in the programme. Given the constraints under which the navy had to operate in the mid-1990s there really were no other alternatives if the service was to be preserved. Despite the problems that came with the boats, it really was the deal of the century!

March 24, 2013

Maclean’s agrees that Canada doesn’t need the UN’s flattery

Filed under: Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:44

Canada recently dropped out of the top ten in a UN beauty contest that we once “won” seven years in a row. At the time, Canadian politicians used that accolade as a regular talking point. Now, a bit to my surprise, the media hasn’t been using the “loss” as a stick to incessantly beat the government with. How unexpectedly mature of them:

Canadians with a penchant for lists will recall that in 1994 we began a record stint of seven straight years atop the United Nations Human Development Index. Meant to provide an international comparison of living standards, our dominance on this global leader board was seen as tangible proof Canada was the best country in the world. The annual report regularly garnered substantial media attention and sparked plenty of national braggadocio. Prime minister Jean Chrétien, in particular, made it a frequent talking point.

No longer. We haven’t topped the rankings since 2000. Current leader Norway now boasts more first-place finishes than we do. (Although our Nordic friends haven’t yet won seven in a row.) In fact this year marks the first time Canada has failed to place in the top 10. The most recent edition, released last week, has us at a humbling 11th — a whisker above South Korea. Ireland beat us.

[. . .]

In 1992 the Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency stripped Canada’s federal foreign debt of its coveted AAA rating, thanks to an endless stream of government deficits. In January 1995 the Wall Street Journal measured Canada for a barrel suit, declaring us to be “an honorary member of the Third World” in its now-legendary “Bankrupt Canada” editorial. Our debt-to-GDP ratio hit a peak of 68 per cent that year. The loonie was worth about US$0.72, and would bottom out at US$0.62 before it was done falling.

Since then, of course, Canada’s financial turnaround has become a totem for countries around the world struggling with the after-effects of the Great Recession. Government finances are in better shape than most and our dollar at par. Canada’s reliance on natural resources, once considered a retrograde habit, has played a large role in allowing our economy to weather the storm. Our banking system is an international paragon of virtue; we’re even exporting central bankers. Plus Canada has adopted a more self-confident stance on foreign policy, replacing our old reputation as a meek and mild peacekeeper with a more authoritative voice.

February 21, 2013

RCAF still confident that Sea Kings will last long enough, hopefully

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:27

Sea King unit patchDid you know that the Canadian military is still waiting for the delivery of their new helicopters? This leaves the military brass with little to do but put on a show of confidence and perhaps cross their fingers behind their collective backs:

The head of the Royal Canadian Air Force says he’s confident the military’s 50-year-old Sea King helicopters can stay in the air long enough for their troubled replacements to arrive.

“It’s good for a while,” Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin said of the Sea Kings, in an exclusive interview with Postmedia News Wednesday.

“In the short term, the Sea King can fly. Eventually I’m going to replace some equipment on it if I want to keep it flying longer, but I’ve got flexibility.”

That flexibility will likely be needed amid recent reports that the air force won’t receive the first of its planned Sea King replacements, U.S. aerospace giant Sikorsky’s Cyclone maritime helicopters, until 2015 — seven years later than scheduled.

Here’s the long, twisted history of Canada’s attempt to replace the venerable Sea King helicopters:

  • In 1963, the CH-124 Sea King helicopter (a variant of the US Navy S-61 model) entered service with the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • In 1983, the Trudeau government started a process to replace the Sea Kings. That process never got far enough for a replacement helicopter to be ordered.
  • In 1985, the Mulroney government started a new process to find a replacement for the Sea Kings.
  • In 1992, the Mulroney government placed an order for 50 EH-101 Cormorant helicopters (for both naval and search-and-rescue operations).
  • In 1993, the Campbell government reduced the order from 50 to 43, theoretically saving $1.4B.
  • In 1993, the new Chrétien government cancelled the “Cadillac” helicopters as being far too expensive and started a new process to identify the right helicopters to buy. The government had to pay nearly $500 million in cancellation penalties.
  • In 1998, having split the plan into separate orders for naval and SAR helicopters, the government ended up buying 15 Cormorant SAR helicopters anyway — and the per-unit prices had risen in the intervening time.
  • In 2004, the Martin government placed an order with Sikorsky for 28 CH-148 Cyclone helicopters to be delivered starting in 2008 (after very carefully arranging the specifications to exclude the Cormorant from the competition).
  • Now, in 2012, we may still have another five years to wait for the delivery of the Cyclones.

July 1, 2012

“… except in Canada”

The National Post editorial board celebrates Canada Day by making a case for Canadian exceptionalism:

The acronym “EIC” can refer to a newspaper’s editor-in-chief, the various forms of the storied East India Company, the Engineering Institute of Canada, and, in scientific circles, Electromagnetically-induced chirality. But in these odd times, they might also be deployed, for verbal economy, to denote “except in Canada.”

As in: Banks all over the Western world have suffered a series of shocks since the 2008 financial crisis – EIC. Economies have slowed — EIC. Real estate bubbles have popped — EIC. Deficits have ballooned to crisis proportions — EIC.

OK: Perhaps national pride leads us to exaggeration. A more truthful acronym might be EICAG — to include Canada “and Germany.” Various smaller European nations, as well as countries in Asia and Latin America, also have fared well. Yet it is hard to remember a time (if ever there was one) when Canada’s fortunes, taken as a whole, were so rosy compared to those of all other Western nations. This good fortune is something worth celebrating as we prepare to celebrate Canada’s 145th birthday this weekend.

They even have some praise to lavish on two former prime ministers who don’t normally get a kind word from the right:

Canada’s relative lack of red ink also is no accident. Two decades ago, Canada was what Greece was today: a bloated welfare state running up massive bills that it couldn’t pay. The unpopular job of fixing the balance sheet feel primarily to Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin — and they accomplished the task without any of the political chaos that has been gripping Athens and other southern European capitals in the last year. The prosperity and stability we enjoy today is in large part due to what those two men did with the fiscal mess bequeathed to them by Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau.

Of course, not everything is going wonderfully well in the Dominion: we still have not emulated one of the notable successes of our European friends:

One of the few institutional factors holding Canada back is its healthcare system. As Shaun Francis writes elsewhere on these pages, our refusal to explicitly permit full-blown private alternatives to the current government-payer health monopoly is bad policy that is out of keeping with that of leading European jurisdictions.

Fortunately, this is a shortfall that can be cured easily. As the furor over Obamacare in the United States shows, building a universal public health system is difficult. But Canada has already done this heavy lifting over the last 50 years: All we lack now is a parallel private track — and that is something that will spring into being without any governmental action at all, save the legislative stroke of a pen needed to modify the Canada Health Act accordingly.

February 15, 2012

Stephen Gordon: The timing may be right for an austerity budget

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:40

The federal government needs to rein in spending, and an “austerity” budget is intended to do that. Stephen Gordon points out that the US economy’s recent positive signs will increase the chances of budgetary success here in Canada:

For the first time in years, the economic news out of the U.S. is encouraging: a strong jobs report for January, a continuing fall in the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits, and even signs that its housing market may begin to revive in the near future. It may appear unseemly parochial to wonder what a U.S. recovery means for Canada, but that is the question that matters for Canadian policy making.

The recent recession should put to rest sayings such as “when the U.S. economy sneezes, the Canadian economy catches cold” to rest. The Canadian recession began almost a year after the U.S.’ did, was much less severe, and was over much more quickly. Nor was this an exceptional episode: the effect of a U.S. recession on Canada is much smaller than what is generally supposed.

The obverse side of this statement is that a strong U.S. recovery doesn’t guarantee strong economic growth in Canada. But it may be enough to offset the effects of an austerity program that will be much less austere than that implemented by the Chrétien Liberal government. In 1995, the federal structural deficit was on the order of four per cent of GDP, as opposed to 1 per cent now. Even if the Conservatives implement federal public-sector cuts similar in magnitude to those of the mid-1990s, transfers to provinces and individuals are to be spared.

January 21, 2012

A surprising admission in Conrad Black’s survey of the Muslim world

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Military, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:29

The surprise? The unexpectedly nice words for, of all people, former prime minister Jean Chrétien:

All this toing and froing begs the question of why the West has expended such time and resources in Afghanistan, where Pakistan is the chief backer of the main killer of NATO forces (the Haqqani faction), and the chief supplier of ammonium nitrate, the principal ingredient in anti-personnel bombs used against Western forces.

We all started into Afghanistan in 2001 in solidarity with the Americans after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The Americans largely decamped to Iraq after a year, became mired in the quicksand of nation-building, and then in the even deeper and more hopeless morass of trying to make something out of the gigantic, murderous cesspool of Pakistan. It is time this country recognized its debt to Jean Chrétien for taking a pass on the Iraq debacle — and I was one who disagreed with him at the time (though I then had no idea the U.S. would try to take over the governance of the country and try to turn it into Oklahoma).

Although he may have been right in hindsight, he was right for the wrong reason. Prime minister Chrétien “volunteered” Canadian military support in Afghanistan to ensure that we could not be expected to help in Iraq (because in the parlous state of the Canadian Forces, it was impossible for us to support more than one overseas campaign). The Canadian troops did magnificent work in Afghanistan, and certainly raised Canada’s stock with our allies, but we were there — politically — to avoid being in Iraq.

December 13, 2011

Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto was inevitable from the beginning

I was against the Kyoto agreement from the start, but the government of the day had to be seen to be more “green” than the Americans. John Ibbitson explains:

The Harper government’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol tarnishes Canada before the world. Liberal and Conservative incompetence and mendacity are to blame. You and I are to blame. And Lehman Brothers had something to do with it as well.

It isn’t easy for a country to descend, in the space of a single decade, from crusader to pariah, as Canada has done on the environment. But our political leaders were up to the task.

The first, worst mistake occurred at Kyoto itself in 1997, when then prime minister Jean Chrétien told Canadian negotiators to meet or beat the American commitment, whatever it took. The problem was that while the American commitment was ambitious, Bill Clinton never expected the Senate to ratify that commitment, and he was right.

The Liberals found themselves stuck with Draconian targets that, if met, would hobble oil sands production, hammer big industry in Ontario, and send home-heating bills through the roof. Their solution was to study the issue. And study. I remember sitting through an interminable briefing in 2003, in which officials patiently explained how Canada would meet its Kyoto targets. The only problem was that there was this enormous gap, which was to be closed through “future reductions.” It was like having a household budget in which Miscellaneous was bigger than Mortgage.

Given the hammering that British PM David Cameron has been taking in the British press, he should send a bouquet of flowers to Stephen Harper for giving the media a different villain to abuse.

Update: Stephen Gordon says the same thing: inevitable from the beginning.

Notwithstanding economically illiterate attempts to pretend otherwise, higher consumer prices for GHG-emitting goods and services are an essential component of any serious attempt to reduce emissions. Counting on people to reduce GGE emissions out of the goodness of their hearts was the strategy of the Chrétien-Martin Liberal governments, and adopting this policy made Canada’s Kyoto failure inevitable long before Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power.

Political parties rarely win when they campaign on a platform that promises to increase the price of fossil fuels — the Progressive Conservative government of Joe Clark lost power in large part because of its proposal to increase the gasoline excise tax by 18 cents a gallon (4 cents a litre).

Update, the second: Oh, it’s okay, apparently we’re not allowed to abandon the “voluntary” agreement:

Remember how this was phrased? “sign it, it’s just voluntary!”

Recall Rio 1992 “Earth Summit” where the meme was “hey, it’s voluntary! … with a negotiating schedule attached”. Apparently, like a Roach Motel, “countries check in but they can’t check out”. This email is from UNFCCC’s list server and note my bolded section below. The arrogance, it burns.

[. . .]

    “I regret that Canada has announced it will withdraw and am surprised over its timing. Whether or not Canada is a Party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the Convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort. Industrialized countries whose emissions have risen significantly since 1990, as is the case for Canada, remain in a weaker position to call on developing countries to limit their emissions.”

November 22, 2011

QotD: Our Charter of “rights” and “freedoms”

On the evening of January 12, 1981, justice minister Jean Chrétien sat in front of the special parliamentary committee on the Constitution. “I am proposing that Section 1 read as follows: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” he said.

“This will ensure that any limit on a right must be not only reasonable and prescribed by law, but must also be shown to be demonstrably justified.” Translation: “This will ensure that even though we pretend the public has rights that are fundamental to any free and democratic society, we can take them away at will, so long as we can convince a judge that such measures are justified.”

The language used by Mr. Chrétien would eventually become Section 1 of the Charter, which gives government the constitutional cover to infringe the supposedly “fundamental freedoms” that follow it. In order to figure out when such infringements are in fact justified, the Supreme Court came up with the Oakes test.

Using this two-step process, laws that violate our Charter rights must have a “pressing and substantial” objective, and the means of effecting the limit must be reasonable and proportional. The infringement has to be connected to the law’s objective; it has to be as minimal as possible; and it must balance the consequences of such a limitation, with the objective that is being sought.

Jesse Kline, “Freedom shouldn’t come with caveats, but it does”, National Post, 2011-11-22

October 28, 2011

RCN may get nuclear submarines

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:47

A report by the CBC on what may or may not have been a casual remark by Defence Minister Peter MacKay:

CBC News has learned the Harper government is considering buying nuclear submarines to replace its problem-plagued fleet of diesel-powered subs, all of which are currently awash in red ink and out of service for major repairs.

The four second-hand subs Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government bought from the British navy in 1998 for $750 million were portrayed at the time as the military bargain of the century.

Instead, they have spent almost all of their time in naval repair yards, submerging Canadian taxpayers in an ocean of bills now totalling more than $1 billion and counting.

[. . .]

High-ranking sources tell CBC News the government is actively considering cutting its losses on the dud subs, and mothballing some if not all of them.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is hinting they might be replaced with nuclear submarines that could patrol under the Arctic ice, something the existing diesel-electric subs cannot do.

The deal of the century turned out pretty badly for the Royal Canadian Navy. Let’s hope that the next submarine deal won’t be quite as bad.

Update: At least Lorne Gunter can get some cheap laffs from our dehydrated subs:

Boy did the Brits ever see us coming in 1998 when the Chretien Liberals pulled up to Honest Nigel’s Used Submarine Shop looking to buy four underwater patrol boats. The quartet they sold us for the unbelievably low price of just $750 million have been up on blocks in our front yard almost ever since, with weeds growing out the portholes. I expect Canadian Pickers to come along anytime now and offer us $2,000 for the set, take it or leave it.

[. . .]

Let’s face it, the Limeys sold us lemons. If the Liberals had just agreed from the start to buy new nuclear subs, Canada would have spent about the same money ($3 billion), but we would have had subs we could have been using for the past 10 years already, with another 30 years to go. Now by the time we get our British diesel subs fixed, they will be 30 years old and have only about 10 years of serviceable life remaining. Moreover, they still won’t be able to sail under the North Pole and patrol the Arctic because they need air to feed their engines and no aspirated sub can stay underwater for the 14-21 days it takes to sail under the Polar icepack.

This is not unlike the Liberals decision in the same era to cancel the EH-101 helicopter contract. Breaking the deal signed by the Mulroney Tories in the early 1990s cost taxpayers $500 million, on top of which we had to buy new helicopters anyway. Pretty much the same helicopter at pretty much the same price.

August 11, 2011

Canada’s debt crisis happened at a fortunate time

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:03

Father Raymond J. de Souza explains why Canada’s financial success story can’t be easily replicated by Europe or the United States:

The slaying of the deficit by Paul Martin saved Canada from the sovereign debt turmoil now afflicting Europe and America. While full credit is due to Mr. Martin, and it is gratifying to see other countries look to our experience, the turnaround in fiscal policy that Canada achieved in the 1990s is simply impossible to achieve in Europe or the United States in the near term. When we had our debt crisis, sparked by downgrades of the federal government’s credit rating between 1993 and 1995, we could make tough choices with the prospect of almost immediate results. No country has that option today.

That is only partly due to politics. Many have observed that the Liberal majority government of the day had the power to take dramatic action. That understates the case. Not only did the Grits have a majority, they had the near-certainty of another majority in 1997, given the disarray among the four opposition parties. The Chrétien government of 1995 was the most electorally secure government in Canadian history. No other country — not even Canada — has that circumstance today.

[. . .]

Europe and America face weak economic growth, rising debt service costs and no tax reforms to provide robust new streams of revenue. Even if granted the vast powers of the Chrétien government — not for nothing was it called the “friendly dictatorship” — neither Europe nor America have a path to slaying their deficits, aside from ever more brutal spending cuts. And indeed, if serious spending cuts add to unemployment and, in the short term, restrain economic growth, then the deficit may not shrink as welfare costs rise and revenues shrink.

Canada did well to respond to our crisis in the 1990s. We were lucky to have had it when we did.

December 24, 2009

Jonathan Kay in praise of Paul Martin

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:52

In a column ostensibly about the triumph of Canada’s conservatives, Jonathan Kay makes a pitch for both Paul Martin and former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as unsung political heroes:

Paul Martin will forever be known primarily as the guy who fumbled Jean Chrétien’s dynasty away to Stephen Harper. But if there were more justice in the world — or at least among pundits — he would get his due for making the single most momentous prime ministerial decision of the decade: sending a Canadian combat mission to Kandahar in 2005.

At the time, it hardly seemed epic: Most Canadians didn’t know Kandahar from Kunduz. But the military wonks immediately could tell this was a game-changer. Putting our troops in Kandahar, at the ideological and political center of Taliban territory, meant the Liberals were shedding decades of peacekeeper posturing, and were putting the country on a very real war footing.

[. . .]

Martin didn’t throw a dart at a map of Afghanistan. He fought for Kandahar in the face of U.S. skepticism — even though he knew it would mean body bags, and even though he probably could have landed the Canadian Forces a relatively cushy Euro-style sentry-duty assignment in the northern part of the country.

Our deployment set the stage for many of the other, seemingly unrelated, changes in Canadian policy and politics that followed in the latter part of the decade. A nation at war doesn’t think about itself in the same way as a nation at peace. We got more respect in foreign capitals. We began to take care of our military. We even started to treat our country’s identity and history more seriously.

And equally surprising, the praise for Adrienne Clarkson:

Nor should we ignore the contribution of Adrienne Clarkson. Whatever her elitist, media pedigree, the Canadian Forces had no better friend than the former Governor General. She was a constant presence at Remembrance Day events at home, as well as WWII anniversary ceremonies in Europe. She spent New Year’s with CF members in Afghanistan — twice; and even celebrated Christmas with our naval forces in the Persian Gulf.

That she was a woman, a former CBC staffer, and a visible minority, only increased the symbolic importance of her outreach. It showed Canada that our military is fighting for all us, not just white guys with brush cuts in Shilo and Petawawa.

July 20, 2009

I look forward to Gordon Brown’s “Paul Martin” moment

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

For those of you who have already forgotten the premiership of Paul Martin, one of the most striking moments of his term in office was his leaving of it. His final speech, after the election results were in, was the best speech I think he ever made. There was a jauntiness, a cheerfulness in his voice that had been totally lacking at any point before that. After a successful term as Finance Minister under Jean Chrétien, Martin, like Gordon Brown, couldn’t wait to get the current PM out the door.

Martin, for all his faults, was not the ongoing disaster for his party and country that Brown has been. Martin also knew when to bow out. Brown has not been willing to go — and has been unwilling to risk the opinions of the electorate in a general election. Yet.

Christopher Hitchens looks at the wreckage:

Early this past June it became hard to distinguish among the resignation statements that were emanating almost daily from Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Cabinet. The noise of collapsing scenery drowned out the individuality of the letters — one female minister, I remember, complained that she was being used as “window dressing” — but there was one missive from a departing comrade that caught my eye. It came from James Purnell, a man generally agreed to have done a more than respectable job as minister for work and pensions, and it began like this:

Dear Gordon,
We both love the Labour Party. I have worked for it for twenty years and you for far longer. We know we owe it everything and it owes us nothing . . .

I sat back in my chair. Yes, it’s true. One suddenly could recall a time when membership in the Labour Party (or “the Labour movement,” as it would call itself on great occasions) was a thing of pride. [. . .]

The true definition of corruption, it seems to me, is the diversion of public resources to private or politicized ends [. . .] There are other and lesser definitions, such as milking the public purse or abusing the public trust by “creative accounting.” The cloudburst of lurid detail about the expenses racket, which has made the current Parliament into an object of scorn and loathing, is a cloudburst that has soaked members of all parties equally. However, the Brownite style is by far the most culpable. It was Brown’s people who foisted a Speaker on the House of Commons who both indulged the scandal and obstructed a full ventilation of it. As if that weren’t bad enough, Gordon Brown still resists any call to dissolve this wretched Parliament — a Parliament that is almost audibly moaning to be put out of its misery and shame — because he still isn’t prepared to undergo the great test of being submitted to the electorate. Say what you will about Tony Blair, he took on all the other parties in three hard-fought general elections, and when it was considered time for him to give way or step down, he voluntarily did so while some people could still ask, “Why are you going?,” rather than “Why the hell don’t you go?” For the collapse of Britain’s formerly jaunty and spendthrift “financial sector,” everybody including Blair is to blame. But for the contempt in which Parliament is held, and in which a once great party now shares, it’s Blair’s successor who is the lugubrious villain.

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

« « QotD: TANSTAARTHC| Oh, it’s okay . . . manufacturer claims the EATR is vegetarian » »

Powered by WordPress