Quotulatiousness

June 7, 2017

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:56

That’s Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland with a statement that would cause the late Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau to throw her out of cabinet … because Canada has been relying solely on the US security umbrella since shortly after the elder Trudeau became Prime Minister in 1968. The interesting thing is that the federal government is reportedly going to announce significant new funds for the Canadian Forces in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Ottawa will forge its own path on the world stage because Canada can no longer rely on Washington for global leadership.

In a major speech setting the stage for Wednesday’s release of a new multibillion-dollar blueprint for the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Freeland rejected Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and its dismissal of free trade, global warming and the value of Western alliances in countering Russian adventurism and the Islamic State.

While she did not mention the U.S. President by name, Ms. Freeland expressed deep concern about the desire of many American voters to “shrug off the burden of world leadership.”

[…]

Ms. Freeland said Canada has been able to count on the powerful U.S. military to provide a protective shield since the end of the Second World War, but the United States’ turn inwards requires a new Canadian approach to defend liberal democracies.

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” she said. “To put it plainly: Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power.”

Giving Canada’s military “hard power” will allow it to meet global challenges, she said, listing North Korea, the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Baltic states and climate change as major threats to the world order.

“We will make the necessary investments in our military, to not only address years of neglect and underfunding, but also to place the Canadian Armed Forces on a new footing – with new equipment, training, resources and consistent and predictable funding,” she said.

Wednesday’s defence-policy review is expected to lay out the military’s priorities for future overseas deployments, and outline Ottawa’s 20-year plan for spending billions of dollars to upgrade warships and fighter jets, among other things.

Amazing. I didn’t think it would fall to Freeland to announce that we’re planning to stop being freeloaders on the US military…

November 6, 2016

Did “Trudeaumania” exist outside the press corps?

Filed under: Cancon, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Literary Review of Canada, Kenneth Whyte compares two new books on Pierre Trudeau and “Trudeaumania”:

Trudeaumania, by common understanding, refers to a state of mind that prevailed in 1968 when a swinging intellectual bachelor from Montreal rose to the leadership of the governing Liberal Party and swept Canada off its feet on his way to a majority victory in a national election campaign.

It never happened, at least not in any quantifiable way. Pierre Trudeau in 1968 was a politician. Elections are how we keep score in politics. Careers are made, governments change, history is shaped by electoral results. The 1968 election gave Pierre Trudeau his first majority government and revealed to the world his peculiarly Canadian charisma, but no matter how many women (and journalists) swooned in the course of his campaigns, there is nothing in the data to suggest anything resembling a mania.

[…]

Litt and Wright have combed the same newspaper and television archives, providing, between them, a neat case study of how historians tend to find what they want in the record. The weight of evidence is on Litt’s side. The front-page photos and evening news footage of Mod Trudeau—the “single, youthful, athletic, and fashionable [candidate] with a liberated-lifestyle” — are more plentiful and impactful than editorials on Intellectual Trudeau, editor of Cité Libre, circulation 500. Litt finds reason for the best-selling status of Trudeau’s book of constitutional essays on its dust jacket:

Pierre Elliott Trudeau is almost incredible: A Prime Minister who swings, who is described by Maclean’s magazine as “an authoritative judge of wine and women,” who drives a Mercedes, throws snowballs at statues of Laurier and Stalin, wears turtleneck sweaters and says things like “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Media imagery was critical to Trudeau’s emergence. Wright is correct in that Trudeau could be underwhelming in televised debates, formal speeches and long interviews. It was his spontaneous performances, catalogued by Litt, that created an endless supply of news hits: Trudeau dancing to rock ’n’ roll beside his campaign bus, Trudeau using a hanging microphone as a punching bag, Trudeau jumping over railings to get at his worshippers, Trudeau wearing ascots and sandals and saluting supporters with Buddhist bows, Trudeau posing shirtless and in yoga positions (yes, him too), Trudeau sliding down bannisters and performing somersaults off the diving board at a hotel pool, and, of course, Trudeau kissing, on the lips, random 16-year-olds on the street.

[…] Explains Litt: “A strange passion swept the media ranks, precipitating an idolization of Trudeau akin to that of an ancient religious sect worshipping a fertility god.”

September 25, 2016

QotD: Canada’s “Potemkin village” tactics

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

Some of us, in another forum, were discussing why UN peacekeeping seems to go so very wrong, so very often ~ not always, I hasten to add, just usually ~ and I quipped, with just a wee bit of hyperbole, that “Simple human decency says that a country like Canada should have dropped a light brigade into South Sudan and destroyed the South Sudanese Army in a short, brutal campaign of exemplary speed and violence … should have if we could have, but, of course, the Canadian Army is a fat, overstaffed, poorly managed corporal’s guard, that cannot deploy any brigade anywhere because we don’t have any nearly fully staffed brigades and even if we did they don’t have enough logistical “lift,” so they are useless once they have marched more than 15 km out of the camp gate … unless a country with a real army (you know, one with trucks and people a to drive them) decides to support and sustain us.

Sadly no one, not even officers who have, fairly recently, commanded brigades in the regular army, challenged my assertion that the Canadian Army has been hollowed out until, now, it is a sort of military Potemkin village in which bits and pieces are deployed and redeployed to create the (entirely false) impression that we, Canadians, are getting a real army for the $20 billion or so that we spend, year after year after year, on out national defences.

The process began, in earnest, in about 1970, when, in response to quite draconian cuts imposed by Pierre Trudeau (but not, it has been suggested, as deep as he wished) the Canadian Forces began to try to “make do” with a “pint sized” brigade in Germany ~ when a full sized (6,500± soldiers) one was need by promising (and practising) to augment it with “fly-over” troops from Canada who were trained and equipped and could move, fairly quickly on to “pre-positioned” equipment … if it was properly maintained. It worked well enough, in a peacetime/training situation, except for the fact that we, eventually (early 1980s), understood that we could not sustain a brigade in Germany with “fly overs” when we needed the same troops to “fly over” to Norway to keep another promise, made to try to placate our allies about our deep defence cuts, and by the late 1980s the Norway task (promise) was quietly shelved (broken) about twenty years after it was started, and after a quite disastrous “test” (Exercise BRAVE LION) proved to civilian planners and military commanders alike that the Canadian Army (which was much larger than it is today) simply did not have the where-with-all (especially the logistical “tail”) needed to sustain “fly over” missions to Europe. But the damage was done … in twenty years, almost a generation, the Army, especially, had gotten used to “faking” its combat effectiveness with Potemkin village tactics.

Ted Campbell, “A Canadian Potemkin Village”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2016-09-15.

May 17, 2016

“There is no job called ‘First Lady of Canada'”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Richard Anderson responds to the uproar that the PM’s lovely wife somehow has to put up with the indignity of too small a staff to handle her “official duties”:

There is no job called “First Lady of Canada.” Until somewhat recently — Margaret Trudeau incidentally — the wife of the serving Prime Minister was hardly ever mentioned in public. Laureen Harper spent nearly a decade in the role without bothering anyone and with minimal support. The office of British Prime Minister has been in existence for nearly three centuries and even specialist historians would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of Prime Ministerial wives. There is nothing in the laws, customs or traditions of our system of government that regards the spouse of the PM as anything more than a bystander to the functions of the state.

But that was then. As we are continually reminded: It’s 2016!

Justin’s father dispensed with the hum-drum limitations of his role as First Minister, creating the modern Imperial Prime Minister who rules with a rod of iron. It was under the elder Trudeau that ministers became clerks and back-benchers so much parliamentary cannon-fodder. The thing about absolute monarchs — or sandal-clad philosopher kings — is that there is no limit to their purview. All things fall under their sway. Consequently those who serve under the New Sun King’s remit must wield great power as well. To suggest otherwise is the gravest example of lèse majesté.

[…]

Mrs Trudeau is not a trained psychiatrist, counsellor, medical expert or technical advisor of any sort. She has a degree in communications and once worked as a personal shopper for Holt Renfrew. Her resume is so thin it makes her husband look like George C Marshall. Like her husband she is the child of upper class Montreal privilege. What actual help such a being could provide to the “people” of Canada is hard to define. Perhaps a pep talk on the importance of being born rich and beautiful and marrying well.

The voters demanded change last October. We replaced a flawed man of substance with a man-child as Prime Minister. Not surprisingly Canada’s new “First Lady” is as useless and vain as her predecessor was accomplished and professional.

February 6, 2016

Alberta and federal equalization payments

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh on the wrenching psychological damage the collapse of oil prices is inflicting on Alberta:

Alberta is not in any real danger of becoming a “have-not” province under the equalization program. Its fiscal capacity did not dip below the required standard even under the intentional cudgelling of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program in the 1980s. As it happens, it has been a half-century since Alberta received any equalization at all: the last payment was a paltry $1.2 million, received in fiscal 1964-65.

You can’t mention Alberta and equalization in the same sentence without attracting a gnat-like cloud of failed accountants who are eager to remind you that equalization doesn’t technically “take” from particular provinces. The money comes out of the general revenue; Alberta as a province, the lecture goes, has not been “paying in” so that others can “take out.”

But since equalization was introduced in 1957, Ottawa has transferred, if my figures are right, about $374 billion to the provinces. Almost exactly half of that has gone to Quebec. Alberta got a grand total of $92 million in the early years, zero since and zero for the foreseeable future.

It is thought paranoid to dwell on this. When the flow of funds is acknowledged at all, Albertans are told to buck up, for it is merely the price of living in a decent, well-ordered Confederation. Like brethren, we lift one another out of economic turmoil!

Yet, mysteriously, the identities of the equalization recipients do not change much from decade to decade. Little if any lifting occurs. Quebec has not only never threatened to join the “haves”; it becomes more disadvantaged, relatively, as the haves give it more.

How much easier would it be for Alberta to bear this long-term proposition — which I dare not call a swindle — if it had, just once, been pulled out of the mire by its fellow provinces at a timely moment? Imagine there were a Trudeau who, instead of deliberately designing economic shocks for Alberta, actually displayed some enterprise in assisting it at a time of perceived crisis? It might not even have to cost all that much: follow up a lot of fine talk and concern with a few hundred million, and perhaps you buy yourself another half-century of calm. The moral high ground is fine real estate. A bargain, surely, at the price.

February 1, 2016

QotD: The usefulness of political polling

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

Ten months before an election we have conjecture and nothing more. Pierre Trudeau was a political corpse 10 months before the 1980 election. Remember who won? The electorate has to be whipped, beaten and prodded to give a damn about politics even during the writ period. Had the pollster asked if Daffy Duck or Justin Trudeau should be the next Prime Minister, there’s a fair chance the media would be talking about whether a cartoon with a speech impediment can lead Canada. Oh wait.

Richard Anderson, “I Dream of Coalition Governments”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-12-19.

November 18, 2015

The Trudeau legacy

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson isn’t impressed with the PM, who he refers to as “our selfie Prime Minister”, and contrasts him with his father:

Canada is a bubble nation. We have so long been at peace, so long been rich and free, that much of the world beyond our borders is akin to another planet. The working assumption of the Canadian Left — Justin very much included — is that Islamist terrorism is the product of some grave misunderstanding. If only we were to constructively engage with those who oppose us peace would be at hand. All we need is a chance for dialogue and our graduate school acquired “conflict resolution skills” would restore humanity and decency. This is among the gravest misconceptions of our age.

Trudeau the Elder considered both the FLQ and the PQ threats to Canada’s survival. Yet his response to each was radically different. Terrorism was beyond the bounds of legitimate democratic discourse. Force must be met with force. He explained this with great care in his speech justifying the invocation of the War Measures Act. It shows a statesman — however deeply flawed in other areas of public policy — fighting to sustain a democratic government against violent usurpation. The speech is also a stark and sobering contrast to his son’s juvenile pronouncements.

Yet PET took a very different approach in dealing with democratic separatism. The PQ — however obnoxious and cynical — was a legitimate democratic force. When the Pequistes formed their first majority government in 1976 the response from Ottawa was to argue, cajole and bribe. The usual instruments of a democratic state. It would have been thought absurd and utterly unCanadian to have dispatched federal troops to arrest Rene Levesque and his cadre of petty ethnic nationalists.

Pierre Trudeau could only occasionally distinguish between bad and outright evil. He could crush the FLQ and then saunter off to Cuba to play sing-a-long with a mass murdering tyrant. Though at least at that point in history Fidel Castro was hardly a threat to world peace. Trudeau’s 1976 trip was a morally repugnant though not a dangerous act.

Islamist fanatics are very much a threat to the peace of France, Canada and the world. In his first test as an international leader Justin has shown a dangerous inability to differentiate between bad and evil. Since Canada is a smaller player in a big world that might not matter very much in the short-term. Yet sooner or later this evil will come to Canada and the man charged with our defence has shown himself to be pathetically inadequate to the challenge.

September 18, 2015

Cabinet ministers of yore

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Walrus, Robert Fulford identifies precisely when Canadian cabinets were neutered:

Over lunch one day in retirement, Lester B. Pearson looked back on the men who had served in his cabinet and quoted Napoleon’s remark that “every French soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack.”

Pearson wasn’t comparing himself to Napoleon. He was talking about ambition. Just as Napoleon’s troops dreamed of high command, many of Pearson’s ministers saw themselves as future prime ministers. And sure enough, when Pearson retired eight of his ministers announced they would run for Liberal leader—each with his own dedicated following and distinct point of view. One of them was Pierre Trudeau.

No one ever heard Trudeau express nostalgia for the Pearson years. In fact, he seems to have hated every minute of it. He saw no reason for ministers to establish their independence by leaking dissenting opinions to favoured journalists and constituents back home. Such freedom, which Pearson had put up with, didn’t strike Trudeau as democracy in action. It seemed more like chaos.

[…]

This truth is best explained by Trudeau’s inclinations, since hardened into custom. In the spring of 1968, as soon as he became prime minister, he tightened the reins of government power and let it be known that those reins all led to the PMO. In the early years, it was said (and widely believed) that his principal secretary, Marc Lalonde, held daily meetings with the executive assistants of all government ministers, so that Trudeau and his aides could know precisely what each was doing. As time went on, they increasingly did Trudeau’s bidding, which remained the case until he retired in 1984.

Since then, with one exception, no star ministers have blossomed under three long-running prime ministers, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, and Stephen Harper. That one exception is Paul Martin, Chrétien’s finance minister, whose talents attracted constant publicity and many admirers. As everyone knows, the Chrétien-Martin relationship ended in acrimony — the sort of political finale Trudeau carefully avoided.

April 14, 2014

Canada’s potential influence in East Asia

Filed under: Cancon, China, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In The Diplomat, Anthony V. Rinna looks at Canada’s rather history of diplomatic and cultural exchanges with China:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has noticeably changed his stance toward China. Previously, the Conservative prime minister maintained a hard line against the PRC based on what he perceived as a poor human rights record. That position has softened over recent years. This seems to be part of a broader strategy aimed at transforming Canada, traditionally Atlanticist in its political leanings, into a leading actor in the Asia-Pacific. Specifically there is ample opportunity for Canada and China to enter into a symbiotic energy relationship. China of course desperately needs energy, and wants a diverse base of suppliers. Canada, in turn, is a major energy producer and exporter and would find a very willing customer in China.

Among the Western democracies, Canada has something of a history as a catalyst vis-à-vis the West’s relations with China. Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was the first Western leader to open up to China, starting in 1970 when Canada officially recognized the government in Beijing as the legitimate government of the land (and the stage had been set for this by Trudeau’s predecessor, John Diefenbaker). Although Hugh Stevens of TransPacific Connections attributes Canada’s renewed interest in strengthening ties with China in part to following the lead of the U.S. “pivot” toward Asia, Canada has the potential to again be a leader and innovator in its own right. Canada’s own unthreatening position can only help.

While Canada’s relationship with China is largely based on trade and investment, military relations between Canada and China continue to develop apace, well beyond the conventional placement of military attachés at each country’s respective embassies in Beijing and Ottawa. In March 2012, then-Canadian Chief of Staff General Walter Natyncyk participated in a high-level visit to China and met with top brass from the People’s Liberation Army. In August 2013, Robert Nicholson, who had become Canada’s Minister of Defence only a month earlier, held talks with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan on deepening Sino-Canadian military cooperation.

[…]

Canada has used its position to ease Asia-Pacific tensions in the past, for instance during the South China Sea Dialogues in the mid-1990s. James Manicom of the Centre for International Governance Innovation argues that the Track II-style of Canadian involvement in the 1990s may no longer be appropriate or effective given the rise in regional tensions. Nevertheless, as Canada’s military engagement with China increases, this still leaves the possibility of Canada playing a role in soothing regional tensions on an official level.

Ottawa has positive relations with the other states with territorial interests and disputes in the South China Sea. For instance, 49 percent of Indonesians say they have a positive view of Canada (and only 16 percent express a negative view). In line with its progressive stance toward China in the 1970s, Canada also recognized Vietnam diplomatically toward the end of the U.S.-led Vietnam War (whereas the U.S. only normalized relations with that country late in the administration of President Bill Clinton). Thus, Canada may be in a position to assist not only as a third node in a Canada-China-U.S. strategic triangle, but also to use its own diplomatic clout hand-in-hand with its growing military ties to China to work between China, the U.S. and U.S. partners in the region, many of whom have called for American assistance in counterbalancing China.

January 7, 2014

Paul Hellyer – architect of Canada’s unified forces and certified loon

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

To be kind, I wasn’t a fan of Paul Hellyer even before he started talking about aliens:

Paul Hellyer was Canada’s Minister of Defense in the mid-1960s. He is now a critic of the United States’ willingness to trigger an interstellar war with aliens — aliens who might give us more advanced technology if only we were less belligerent.

“They’ve been visiting our planet for thousands of years,” Hellyer told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze in a televised interview.

“There’s been a lot more activity in the last few decades, since we invented the atomic bomb. and they’re very concerned about that, and about the fact that we might use it again,” added Hellyer, who said that a cold-war era commission determined that at least four alien species had come to Earth. “The whole cosmos is a unity, and it affects not just us but other people in the cosmos, they’ve very much afraid that we might be stupid enough to start using atomic weapons again. This would be bad for us and bad for them too.”

[…]

“I have seen a UFO, about 120 miles north of Toronto, over Lake Muskoka,” Hellyer said. The UFO “just looked like a star … we watched it until our necks almost broke. It was definitely a UFO, because it could change position in the sky by 3 or 4 degrees in 3 or 4 seconds. … There was no other explanation for it except that it was the real thing.”

The Star of Bethlehem, he added, was one of God’s flying saucers.

Moreover, the number of known alien species has leapt from “between two and 12” to as many as 80, said Hellyer, the senior cabinet minister from Pierre Trudeau’s 1968 cabinet. “They have different agendas. Maybe all of us on earth should have have the same agenda. … Nearly all of them are benign, but one or two are not, and that’s what I’m investigating now.”

September 27, 2013

QotD: Canadian leaders

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

[Canadians] dislike leaders who look to be show-offs. This is why Brian Mulroney was so comprehensively loathed. Despite a fairly strong record of governance the man is still more hated than PET, whose sixteen years at the top nearly wrecked the country. But Mulroney came off as a nouveau riche poseur and Pierre Le Grande projected the image of a bohemian aristocrat. The former tried too hard and the latter didn’t seem to have to try.

Stephen Harper had a clear idea of why he wanted to become Prime Minister. It’s just that the idea shrank in size over the years. From quasi-libertarian vision to modestly conservative manager of the welfare and regulatory state. His personality is that of an aloof wonk. The badly coiffed one, however, was shrewd enough to mask his intelligence and lack of empathy in a style so bland it could be used to make cubicles.

Richard Anderson, “The Power and the Glory”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2013-09-26

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.

April 7, 2012

“[Dalton] McGuinty … has led Ontario from the commanding heights almost to the low-rent district of the Canadian economy”

Conrad Black, on the dangers of regional politics played out at the national and international level:

One of the points I was trying to make in last week’s column, in general support of Pierre Trudeau’s efforts to make both official languages present in all parts of the country, was that in any federal state, some concessions to particular regional concerns are necessary or the country will fall apart, or even atomize. In a little over a century, this fate has split Norway from Sweden, Singapore from Malaysia, Bangladesh from Pakistan, the Czechs from the Slovaks and, most painfully, the Sudanese and South Sudanese.

This was what made the Quebec separatist threat so dangerous; though there was never much prospect of heavy violence, there was a danger of the permanent diminution of the country after a prolonged and immobilizing constitutional crisis. Of course, the separatist leaders greatly and treacherously underestimated the complexities and problems of any such step, and aggravated the problem with trick referendum questions about seeking authority to negotiate sovereignty and association with Canada: Simultaneously to eat and retain the same rich cake.

[. . .]

The Copenhagen Environmental Conference of 2009 was probably the most inane and redundant international conference in all history, as every climate alarmist capable of crawling to a television studio or buttonholing a journalist (except perhaps for Canada’s inimitable Gwyn Dyer), competed in foreseeing the imminence, almost literally, of the fall of the sky. But more demeaning by far at Copenhagen was the spectacle of the premiers of Canada’s two most populous provinces, Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest, attacking Alberta’s oil sands in that over-suggestible ideological environment infested by kooks and charlatans.

The oil sands must be developed, and a pipeline built either into the U.S. or to the West Coast to transport the oil to market. These projects must be managed with great care for the environment. But Canada’s manifest destiny as an energy exporter cannot be held hostage by eco-terrorists, nor by the economic growth of one Canadian region being stunted by the slovenly dependence of other regions on an artificially depreciated Canadian dollar. Intra-Canadian partisanship and regional rivalries must end at the border and the water’s edge.

The antics of McGuinty, who has led Ontario from the commanding heights almost to the low-rent district of the Canadian economy, blaming the prosperity of Alberta for raising the value of the Canadian dollar and inconveniencing Ontario, is an outrage. The new federal NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, has been uttering something perilously close to the same inexcusable flimflam. Alberta, per capita, has done more than any other province to carry the cost of federalism, including oceanic largesse to Quebec. And all Canadians should rejoice at the prospect of Canada becoming a world energy giant, especially as it entails the prosperity of Newfoundland after centuries of economic struggle, and also the flowering of the hydroelectric wealth and technical sophistication of Quebec.

January 28, 2012

Conrad Black on Pierre Trudeau and his political career

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:24

Writing in the National Post, Conrad Black discusses Pierre Trudeau’s time in office:

Nor is there truth to the theory that Trudeau possessed any original political ideas. He was a run-of-the-mill 1960s social democrat who wanted big government, the nanny-, know-it-all-state, high taxes, and the confiscation of income from those who had earned it for redistribution to those who had not in exchange for their votes (far beyond what could be justified by the acquisition of votes for federalism in Quebec, where the money transfer was also largely from the non-French to the French).

It was hard to square Trudeau’s professed enthusiasm for civil rights with his friendship with Fidel Castro and other dictators who ruined their countries, such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and his cold-shouldering of Soviet dissidents and other international civil rights advocates, and even the Canadian victims of the Korean airliner the Russians shot down. This was of a piece with his fawning deference to the Soviet leadership and his antagonism to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even Richard Nixon, who all regarded him as little better than a communist fellow traveller (and told me so).

His campaign to reorient the Canadian economy away from exports to the United States was authoritarian rather than based on any fiscal incentivization of competition, and was a fiasco. His pursuit of arms control was chimerical; he disarmed Canada, did nothing to reduce the country’s military dependence on Washington, and produced a nonsensical plan for more conferences to agree on the unverifiable “suffocation” of defence spending.

[. . .]

His elevation to the headship of the party and government continued the grand Liberal tradition of choosing men lately drawn from outside politics (King, St. Laurent, Pearson). He took it whimsically, and much of his record was just idle dabbling, posturing, and the supreme confidence trick of saving Canada with a Charter of Rights that is revocable by each province (and has unleashed the bench on Canadian life like a swarm of hyper-active social tinkerers); and by imposing bilingual breakfast cereal boxes and television programming even in unilingual parts of the country.

It was clever enough that, as the English say, if you put a tail on it, you could call it a weasel: the rights of man and not governments, our (French-Canadian) house is all Canada, and deluges of Anglo-money in Quebec in the name of social justice, gracieusete du Canada. But it was a ruse, made more farcical by the revelation that Quebec’s supreme separatist strategist, Claude Morin, was a spy for the RCMP.

The Quebec nationalists took the bait, as well as the federal transfer payments, and today Quebec is a bovine clerisy of civil servants and consultants on life support from the rich English provinces, and separation is just a romantic delusion. I think that, at heart, Trudeau was a worldly Gallican Catholic cynic who sincerely despised separatism, was bemused to find himself a national saviour, and played the role with courage, brio and success.

July 8, 2011

The Canadian right to free speech: not invented in 1982

Filed under: Cancon, History, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:03

Mark Steyn responds to former blogger Jason Cherniak about the free speech rights of Canadians:

You claim that the legal right to free speech “did not exist as a legal right before 1982”. This is bollocks de facto and de jure. When you say with all the blithe insouciance of a Dalhousie Law School alumnus that any right to free speech was “only respected by convention”, my response is what do you think the entire Canadian legal inheritance is, genius? It’s “convention”. That’s what the definition of Common Law is: a body of precedent, understandings of inherent authority — ie, “convention”. When Julian Porter, QC filed a motion objecting to the Canadian “Human Rights” Tribunal’s “secret trial”, he cited CBC vs New Brunswick, Ambard vs Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago – in other words, the accumulation of precedent, or, in your words, a respect for convention.

England, the mother of Common Law, has no written consititution, and thus no “constitutional rights” at all, but only “conventions”. Those “conventions” were the underpinning of the 1867 British North America Act and, more broadly, the third of a millennium of Canadian legal history before the Charter of Worthless Crap. As Blackstone put it, for lands “planted by English subjects”, “all the English laws then in being, which are the birthright of every subject, are immediately there in force”. In other words, long before 1982, free speech was a Canadian’s “birthright” — through convention. It’s all convention. In the English legal tradition, take away convention, and what’s left?

That’s why more countries have lived in liberty longer under Common Law than any other legal inheritance. Because what you dismiss as mere “convention” is, in fact, an understanding that “law” and laws are not the same thing. It’s not about the government writing down on a piece of paper everything that it will permit you, Jason the Barrister, to do. “Rights” are not those things granted by the sovereign and enumerated in statute, but the precise opposite: They’re restraints upon the sovereign. They’re not about what the state allows you to do, but about what the state is not allowed to do to you. The English legal tradition is imperfect (as all systems are) but it has been a better protector of this principle than any other. What part of that don’t you understand?

All of it, apparently. Because along comes that puffed up poseur Trudeau with all his modish contempt for the Canadian inheritance and he decides that, like you, he’s not big on convention and precedent and he’d rather have everything written down, all nice and “codified”. So now we have your 1982 Charter that, for the first time since Magna Carta, gives citizens what you call a “legal right” to free speech. And whaddaya know? Ever since we got a Trudeaupian “legal right” to it, there’s been less and less free speech than back in the bad old days when (according to you) we had no “legal right” to it at all. Ask yourself this, “Barrister and Solicitor”: Had Guy Earle delivered his lesbophobic putdowns at a Canadian comedy club in 1981, would he have had more or less “legal right” to free speech than he enjoys today?

I said in my post that, for you and yours, Trudeau is Year Zero. Your response confirms it. That a Canadian lawyer is willing to argue that a long, established, settled legal inheritance means nothing unless Father Pierre writes it down in his Napeoleonic Complex Code is bleak confirmation of how thoroughly he vacuumed Canada’s past — and, in doing so, perverted the very idea of what “rights” are. If yours is a typical Canadian lawyer’s view of the law, it certainly explains a lot. God help us all.

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