We’re back .. having survived still mysterious malevolent attacks — just in time for Alberta election!

Posted: April 16th, 2019 | No Comments »

Our apologies to all and any who may have visited us over the past week or so, and found we had temporarily vanished from the world wide web.

The long and short is that the site just suddenly crashed, not long after our April 3, 2019 post on “Time for a change : our latest Canadian madness is really starting to make us look dumb in the global village.”

(Which also offered “gratitude and praise to the rafters for Andrew Cohen’s recent opinion piece : ‘Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis … “To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.”’”)

As best we mere editorial people can understand from our much valued technical advisors, the crash was the result of malevolent cyber-attacks from sources that have still not been exactly defined and determined.

Various steps have been taken to guard against future attacks of this sort. But without knowing exactly where the malevolence comes from such steps inevitably involve guesswork that could prove wrong. So we could be attacked and shut down for a time again.

Having started in the summer of 2004, however, we’re not about to surrender now (or “give up” may be better), in the year of an important Canadian federal election (on October 21, 2019) and an important provincial election in Alberta today (and Prince Edward Island, where the Greens may actually win, next Tuesday, April 23).

While we’re at it, we don’t have anything to add to the widely held poll-driven conventional wisdom that, although Rachel Notley’s New Democrats (NDP) are doing better than many expected, the likely enough winners will still be the United Conservatives (UCP) — led by Jason Kenney, the currently somewhat but apparently not decisively scandal-ridden grandson of Canadian “premier” big band leader Mart Kenney (and his Western Gentlemen) : a kind of hip version of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians back when.

(Guy and his brothers were from Southwestern Ontario. Even the Liberal Mart Kenney for a time ran a musical ranch in the Greater Toronto Area, where he was in fact born, although he retired to BC where his serious musical career began. Alberta, which also seldom gets credit as Marshall McLuhan’s birthplace, has a right to sing the blues. As today’s election will one way or another make clear!)

We’ll nonetheless be pleased if Ms Notley — who by all appearances north of the Great Lakes has done a commendable job as premier of one of Canada’s Big 4 provinces in challenging times — proves the conventional wisdom wrong. And even on the polling this seems unlikely but not necessarily impossible!

Meanwhile, one of the technical measures to try to guard against future counterweights crash attacks from the malevolent side of the also remarkable and even benign regions of cyberspace involves updating the software that we mere editorial people use. Please bear with us while we struggle through yet another set of new software ropes. It is a jungle out there, no doubt.

UPDATE APRIL 17, 12:30 AM : Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has now won an unquestionably commanding 62 of 87 seats in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, with some 54% of the cross-province popular vote. The premier-elect has a big task ahead of him, but there can be no doubt that he is what a quite clear majority of the people of Alberta want right now. Even his Liberal grandfather would almost certainly be impressed (and probably a bit pleased as well).

Time for a change : our latest Canadian madness is really starting to make us look dumb in the global village

Posted: April 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

Pierre Trudeau as Minister of Justice and Attorney General with Prime Minister Lester Pearson, at Federal-Provincial Conference on Canada’s Constitution, February 1968.

We have two main objectives in this short note on the latest episodes in what the Montreal Gazette has nicely called “Canada’s SNC melodrama.”

The first is to offer gratitude and praise to the rafters for Andrew Cohen’s recent opinion piece : “Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis … ‘To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.’”

We couldn’t agree more with the main thrust of Mr. Cohen’s piece. Eg : “To foreigners, our current melodrama is madness, a kind of derangement syndrome. ‘Are you nuts?’ asks a visiting friend from London. The poor man – a leading international lawyer – is staggered by the circus in Canada’s Parliament. He sees us as a country of stability, sobriety and moderation.”

We won’t go on, except to urge that the article deserves to be read and read and read again!

From Angus Reid poll released March 28, 2019.

Our second objective is just to register a very polite nuance regarding the concluding paragraphs of “Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis.”

To us it almost seems that Andrew Cohen has come to see the current SNC melodrama madness as something that has perhaps already prompted we the people of Canada to leap into an abyss of vast unknown dimensions, like the legendary dogs of Dumbarton.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau introduces his son Xavier to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Calgary Stampede, July 2014 — a moment when Canada really was a “country of stability, sobriety and moderation.”

Our nuanced view is that some of this almost-note of despair flows from Mr. Cohen’s spending so much of his time in Ottawa. Only mere hundreds of miles west there are many more matters competing for public attention. And even the latest opinion polls still show the Liberals decisively ahead in the City of Toronto, where we go about our daily lives — and (by a much smaller margin) in the wider suburbs and exurbs of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

There are no doubt still many who want to carry on with the madness. And they have been re-energized by the expulsion of Ms. Wilson Raybould and Ms. Philpott from the Liberal caucus.

Our opinion here was that the two aspiring saints of the new politics should be left inside the tent. But we can understand how a caucus still deep for good reasons in the old politics would see things otherwise. And one half-sensible side of the current madness does seem to be that the real world is urging Prime Minister Trudeau to leaven his new politics with a few fresh doses of the old medicine. (Thus the departures of Mr. Butts and Mr. Wernick, along with Ms. Wilson Raybould and Ms. Philpott — who have at least been treated more respectfully than the Randy Hillier who was recently expelled from the Ontario PC caucus by Premier Doug Ford?)

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer smile during a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, March 2018.

In  any case the protests of those who have argued that what Justin Trudeau needed to do was “get some balls” have been listened to. What will be will be.

We still think that the “country of stability, sobriety and moderation” can return in time for this year’s October 21 election. Note that the latest “Nanos tracking has Trudeau as the preferred choice as PM at 31.1 per cent of Canadians followed by Scheer (26.7%), Singh (7.8%), May (7.6%) and Bernier (2.7%).” And the latest Mainstreet poll reports that “despite … drops in support” everywhere, the Trudeau Liberals “are still leading in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces.”

Our intermittent bouts of self-indulgent political madness in Canada never last forever. There is evidence enough to support the view that the country whose progressiveness matters in a world of unrest will be back soon enough, with some more practical mix of old and new politics. (Meanwhile, for the moment Andrew Cohen’s April 2 piece in the Montreal Gazette still deserves many, many, many more readers!)

L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin : “I do not believe I have anything further to offer” + another great night for jazz at the Bluebird

Posted: March 30th, 2019 | No Comments »

“Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau gets an enthusiastic greeting from a woman” at Vancouver Pride parade, August 2, 2015 — at which point a Forum poll showed New Democrats with 39%, Conservatives 28%, and Liberals 25%. (PHOTO : R. JEANETTE MARTIN / FOR THE TORONTO STAR).

On this rainy, second-last day of March, 2019 (a Saturday — here at the start of at least one great Northwest canoe passage from the Great Lakes to the Canadian Prairies, the Rocky Mountains, and Canada’s beautiful Pacific coast), we have two short notes to offer from frequent contributors to this site.

First, Randall White has now updated the latest in his haphazard and reluctant series on what the Quebec press calls L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin. The update has been posted at the end of his most recent expression of his free and democratic views on the subject : “Jody Wilson-Raybould told Elizabeth May no one broke the criminal code and ‘that is no small fact … lost on most’ so far?.”

Dr. White confesses that his update is “no doubt longer than it should be, just like the original.” (Again you can CLICK HERE if you haven’t already, now or later, whenever!) In compensation he  hopes this really will be the last time he feels an urge to write about The Affair.

As he explained over coffee in his TV room, accompanied by the sound of falling rain : “In her latest submissions Ms. Wilson-Raybould has declared (at last wisely?) : ‘I do not believe I have anything further to offer.’ I am hoping many others will continue to follow her lead.”

David French without baseball hat, and playing tenor sax instead of the baritone he played March 28, 2019 at the Bluebird in Toronto.

Our second note is from Dr. White’s younger friend Citizen X. It updates his earlier report on “Starting 2019 with jazz at the Bluebird — one of the ‘top 21 new bars in Toronto’.”

X just wants to say that he was back at the Bluebird for this past Thursday Jazz Night, with spring in the air :

“The place was packed and very lively to say nothing of hip. Guitar and bass entertained (Harley Card on guitar, I think, and possibly Mike Milligan on bass?), joined for a second and third set by David French on baritone sax (and wearing a somehow suitable baseball hat). The place has a great vibe and the musicians were getting into it. As I left there was even some impromptu dancing in a corner, not far from the front door.”

Places like this, our message from Citizen X ended, “are just what we need in this day and age of extreme political (and no doubt other) craziness on so many fronts, for the good of our souls.” For the April 2019 schedule for Jazz Thursdays at the Bluebird, click on “MUSIC” HERE.

Blue Jays baseball 2019 : Gibby’s Boys are all gone and so are the fans …

Posted: March 28th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

And then there were none … With the firing of John Gibbons at season’ end, and the off-season release of Troy Tulowitzki and trading of Russell Martin, the last vestiges of the best Blue Jays team in a quarter century are gone.  Slowly it seemed and then suddenly, the faces on the famous September 2015 Sports Illustrated cover shot featuring that magical club are just a memory.

How did it all happen? They let David Price depart as a free agent after that 2015 season. Edwin Encarnacion was lowballed and left after the 2016 season. Jose Bautista was pushed out after 2017. Josh Donaldson was traded last August 31 for scraps. And then in rapid succession the aforementioned Gibbons was fired in October with one year left on his contract. Troy Tulowitzki was released with a $38 million golden parachute in November. Then Russell Martin, the last surviving member, was traded in December for two low-ceiling prospects to the Dodgers.

With this mass exodus, the Blue Jays fortunes have followed suit —  their record decreasing now for four consecutive years (from 95 to 89 to 78 to 73 wins). As one casual resident baseball observer noted, “You got rid of your best players… Even I know that is not how winning works.”

The fans too have followed! From the bump in attendance and interest brought on by two straight ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016, the Blue Jays experienced the sharpest drop (about 30%) in attendance in the majors this past season, going from 3,203,886 fans in 2017 to 2,325,281 in 2018, a decline of 878,605 fans.  With baseball prognosticators predicting pain for the 2019 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays, one expects the numbers to fall once again at the ballpark they used to call the SkyDome.

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“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”

Posted: March 26th, 2019 | No Comments »

Charlie Parker (l), world’s greatest saxophone player and inventor of much of modern jazz, with his young trumpet player Red Rodney, New York City 1947.

Canadians ought to be especially sensitive to the subtle nuances of Robert Mueller’s apparent conclusions on the narrow issues he was commissioned to investigate, in the current age of crisis and testing for Democracy in America.

One of the few key sentences from the actual Mueller report that Attorney General Barr has quoted directly is a case in point :  “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

This may not be directly comparable to Mackenzie King’s legendary World War II approach to a tricky Canadian public issue with enough fans on both sides : “Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription.” (These exact words are apparently just from a Toronto Star editorial of the day in any case.)

French actress Jeanne Moreau with another sometime Charlie Parker trumpet player, Miles Davis, during recording of the music for Louis Malle’s film “Elevator to the Gallows,” December 1957.

Yet, whatever else, what appears to be this side of Robert Mueller’s approach to the challenges his assignment presented does remind those who feel about American politics today as I do that, while Donald Trump’s Republican party does not have a majority of Americans on its side, it does have a still quite substantial minority.

Meanwhile, this same quotation also forms the basis for George Conway’s justly celebrated droll reply to Sarah Sanders’s latest over-the-top untrue tweet that Mr. Mueller’s work constitutes “a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”

As Mr. Conway (Trump aide Kellyanne Conway’s impossible-to-understand but clearly sensible husband) replied : “You misspelled ‘While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”

Mayor of President Trump’s New York hometown Bill De Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray, at his first mayoral inauguration, January 1, 2014.

Personally, I found the headline to a Washington Post opinion piece by Greg Sargent yesterday an apt summary of the essential truth : “Trump won with illicit help. He abused his power. His AG is blocking a full reckoning.”

I was struck as well by three headlines from the March 25 edition of The New Yorker Daily in the president’s home town : “No Conspiracy, No Exoneration: The Conclusions from the Mueller Report”(David Remnick) ;  “The Dream of a Magic Resolution to the Trump Tragedy Is Dead” (Masha Gessen) ; and “On the Mueller Investigation, the Barr Letter Is Not Enough” (John Cassidy).

For “the Barr Letter” itself see “The Justice Department’s Summary Of The Mueller Report.” My own immediately favourite ultimate reaction from those I have run across on Twitter came from Andrew Gillum, who ran such an impressive 2018 campaign for Governor of Florida.

Gillum’s advice has a wonderful, practical Saul Alinsky ring : “The Mueller Report is never going to register … organize, and do the GOTV [“Get Out The Vote”] required to beat @realDonaldTrump. That’s our job!!! Stop waiting to participate in the hard work of democracy. If we put in the work, we win.”

I was personally struck as well by four other Twitter reactions I noticed — in alphabetical order by tweeter surname :

* David Axelrod — “One question: What the Mueller probe established, according to the AG, is that the Russians hacked the DNC and engaged in an aggressive, covert campaign to influence our election. So why did @realDonaldTrump stand next to Putin in Helsinki  and meekly accept his denials?”

* John Dean — “Having re-read William Barr’s June 2018 Memo critiquing Mueller’s obstruction investigation and now his summary of Mueller’s Report, it is clear that Richard Nixon would not have been forced to resign his office if Barr had been Attorney General. Barr wants a POTUS above the law.”

“President Obama with California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, in 2012. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press).”

* David Frum — “The president and his talkers falsely denied Russian interference. They falsely denied meeting with the interferers. They falsely denied that Trump was pursuing business opportunities in Russia through election day.”

* Paul Krugman — “Three things: 1. We need to see the report, not just Trump appointees’ summary …  2. Anyone who thought Mueller was a silver bullet that would bring Trump down was living in a fantasy world … 3. The administration’s corruption on multiple fronts is as obvious as ever.”

Finally, my own ultimately favourite ultimate reaction on Twitter Award goes to the African American “son to immigrants” Richard De Leon. He describes himself as “Free thinking progressive, single dad, raising 2 wonderful kids amidst the great U.S. decline. RESPECT EXISTENCE OR EXPECT #RESISTANCE.”

Mr. De Leon’s March 25 tweet is in the tradition of the Great American Laughing-To-Keep-From-Crying Songbook : “Dear good white folks, … I know that the Mueller Report has been underwhelming. Do not despair. If necessary, please report immediately to a person of color near you. We are well versed in ‘Crazy Shit America Does’ and have tons of ‘fucked by the system’ experience. We can help.”

Meanwhile, on to 2020, as the person of color Andrew Gillum advises, in practice, etc, etc … The great divide in the USA today between Obama’s progressive future and Trump’s reactionary past is not really much like the divide between English and French in the Canada of the 1940s at all. (And while Rihanna and Drake are not exactly relevant, he is Canadian and she is from Canada’s fellow Commonwealth country of Barbados. And who doesn’t think this is more interesting than a photograph of Mackenzie King in the 1940s?)

Is Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party still inevitable winner of Alberta vote April 16, like Doug Ford PCs in Ontario?

Posted: March 20th, 2019 | No Comments »

The two main contenders : Rachel Notley NDP and Jason Kenney UCP.

Yesterday Premier Rachel Notley finally announced that Alberta’s long-anticipated provincial election will be held some four weeks hence, on Tuesday, April 16!

Opinion polls have long been showing that former Stephen Harper federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney’s new United Conservative Party is well ahead of Premier Notley’s New Democrats. And a “new poll from Ipsos,” released yesterday morning, “suggests Alberta’s UCP have a lead over the NDP leading up to the 2019 election.”

(In the Edmonton capital area the two major parties are neck and neck. In Calgary and especially in rural Alberta the UCP still has big leads.)

Most recently a few controversies over Mr. Kenney’s UCP have at least given Ms Notley’s New Democrats a little new hope.

(See, eg : “Jeff Callaway campaign may have breached election law with services from Kenney campaign” ; “Keith Gerein: UCP leadership revelations a scandal of ethics, integrity and hypocrisy”; “What really happened inside the Alberta UCP’s ‘kamikaze’ campaign” ; “Inside Alberta’s ‘House of Cards’ scandal” ; “Star UCP candidate who resigned over white supremacist comments also questioned value of Pride parades” ; “Communication among leadership campaigns not unusual, says Jason Kenney.”)

The smart money is still saying that this is Mr. Kenney’s election to lose. And he is a more experienced, seasoned, and intellectually heavy-weight conservative political leader than Premier Ford in Ontario.

Three more also running (l to r) : Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel, Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta Liberal leader David Khan.

He has nonetheless lately been playing the usual mindless right-wing populist games to which conservatives across the country (and elsewhere) seem attracted at the moment.

And it is at least interesting to think that, in the current Canadian political confusion almost everywhere, there is at least a slightly greater chance than there was a month ago that the very hard-working Rachel Notley could finally do as well as her fellow New Democrat John Horgan managed next door in beautiful BC, back in the spring of 2017.

Whatever else, the forthcoming April 16 provincial election in Alberta is one of the two really big Canadian political events this year.

Political junkies across the country are bound to pay special attention. (And we’re no exception here! Stay tuned etc.)

Taking time out from current madness to consider one woman’s brilliant writing more than 2500 years ago

Posted: March 14th, 2019 | No Comments »

“Sappho” by Charles Mengin, 1877. Manchester Art Gallery, UK.

When relief is needed from Canada’s intermittent bouts of feeling that, to stay relevant in the global village, we must do a bad job of imitating political craziness elsewhere, the editors on this site turn to me. Or so it all too often seems, waiting for the eccentric winter of 2019 to end.

Lately I have myself felt a parallel driving impulse to turn to news of the day on a subject light years away from contemporary politics and economics — anywhere.

I have been inspired in this case by an email ad I received a few days ago from The Folio Society — a UK (English?) publisher with offices at 4 Maguire Street, London SE1 2NQ,on the south side of the Thames River near Tower Bridge.  (There is also a Canadian crib of the website, with which the Society prefers you to deal if you live in Canada.)

The ad offers  : “If Not, Winter — Fragments of Sappho … Sappho’s complete surviving oeuvre is translated faithfully for the first time, by poet and renowned scholar Anne Carson, in this exquisite new Folio Society letterpress edition … CA$189.00.”

If you really like books — not just as storehouses of information and entertainment, but as sheer physical objects — then you are bound to find the beautifully printed and bound Folio Society editions of classics in various genres attractive.

Fresco showing a woman called Sappho holding writing implements, from the Insula Occidentalis in Pompeii (55-79 AD), now on display in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli in Italy.

In my own case I already have a few copies of the Society’s arts and crafts. (I have just taken John Reed’s account of the Russian Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World, down from my shelves, eg. It also has what I see as an excellent once-lost introduction by A.J.P. Taylor.)

In all cases, however, I have inherited my current collection. (Well, I’ve just counted. It’s only three books altogether.) Although I have on various past occasions contemplated buying Folio Society books myself, I have always I think been finally deterred by the equally handsome price charged for these handsome volumes.

Now, with some extra resources inherited along with the books, I am thinking again that maybe I should actually buy “If Not, Winter — Fragments of Sappho … Introduced by Anne Carson … Translated by Anne Carson … Artwork by Jenny Holzer.”

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Jody Wilson-Raybould told Elizabeth May no one broke the criminal code and “that is no small fact … lost on most” so far?

Posted: March 1st, 2019 | No Comments »

“Happier times: Jody Wilson-Raybould, then the federal Liberal candidate for Vancouver Granvlle, talks with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in 2014, prior to the party's election success in 2015. VANCOUVER SUN.”

[UPDATE ON ELIZABETH MAY’S MARCH 1 DEMANDS BELOW. UPDATED AGAIN MARCH 10 ; AND YET AGAIN MARCH 30 : For March 30 update scroll straight to end of this page — where there are also now updates for March 31 and April 2]. What it still seems most sensible to just call the SNC-Lavalin Affair 2019 (as in, eg, the Dreyfus Affair long ago in France) would be altogether beyond reason for many of us, if our only sources were the remaining mainstream media empires in Canada today — caught up in various almost alarming panic modes and navel gazings.

Fortunately in this present age of high communications technology in the global village we also have so-called “social media” like Twitter.

This “we’re-all-journalists-now” alternative to the MSM in the so-called “blogosphere” certainly has its own dangers. Travellers on these routes must proceed with care and caution.

On the other hand, I’m finding Twitter a more honest and reliable and even congenial (well, sometimes) source of helpful democratic debate on SNC-Lavalin than our current Canadian MSM — now much less than they used to be in so many ways.

(I of course sympathize with the struggles of the traditional mass media today — and the challenges of those lucky enough to still have MSM jobs. And one of more than a few pieces I actually have found helpful is Neil Macdonald’s “Gerald Butts was done in, at least partially, by the ethos of identity politics … that he himself helped create around our prime minister,” on the CBC News website, February 19. But too much of what’s appeared lately in the old-school press and especially on cable networks I used to admire strikes me as just another part of the problem.)

Global Corporate headquarters of SNC-Lavalin on René-Lévesque Blvd, in Montreal. According to Wikipedia : “The firm has 50,000 employees worldwide with offices in over 50 countries and operations in over 160 countries.” It also has, according to its own website, “8,762 employees across Canada as of January 8, 2018.”

Before listing my current top 4 twitter tweets on the SNC-Lavalin Affair 2019, in the immediate wake of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s February 27 appearance before the parliamentary committee studying the matter, I should also note that I have carefully read Ms Wilson-Raybould’s prepared statement to the committee.

I watched some of her further appearances on TV. I once studied Canadian government and politics at university, long, long ago. I have worked in and around federal, provincial, and municipal governments in Canada (and the United States) for some five decades now. (And I can hardly believe this strange length of time myself, in my inevitable senior moments today!).

All this has conditioned my own personal selection of top 4 twitter tweets (or tweet clusters, as it were) on the SNC-Lavalin Affair 2019, as of the first still wintry day of March, at the edge of one great lakeshore gateway to the northern woods :

Intolerant Centrist @lisa_m_228 : “I am NOT the tolerant left. I say stuff, I curse, I'm not sorry and you liking it is the least of my concerns.”

(4) Intolerant Centrist on Elizabeth May : no laws broken. The Intolerant Centrist — aka “@lisa_m_228 … I am NOT the tolerant left. I say stuff, I curse, I’m not sorry and you liking it is the least of my concerns” — offered two tweets that made a lot of sense to me just after11:30 PM ET, February 27.

The first : “[Green Party leader] Elizabeth May asked the most important question when she asked Wilson-Raybould if she felt anyone broke the criminal code. Wilson-Raybould responded no. That is no small fact, and I think it has been lost on most.”

The second: “Elizabeth May also pointed out the system actually insulates the PM from crossing legal lines. The Clerk is there to hold them to the law, along with the A.G. Wilson-Raybould testified the Clerk never intervened or warned the PM that any legal lines were crossed.”

(And to see the rest of one particular concerned citizen’s Top 4 tweet clusters on our latest Canadian craziness click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

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Will Jagmeet Singh win in Burnaby South etc (and would he agree to buy Montana for $1 trillion US) ??

Posted: February 25th, 2019 | No Comments »

Someone has “started a Change.org petition calling for the US to sell the state of Montana to Canada for $1 trillion, and the idea is attracting a lot of attention” — along with the Burnaby South federal byelection on Canada’s Pacific coast.

The background has been economically explained by Tiffany Crawford at the Vancouver Sun : “Burnaby South residents will vote Monday [today] in one of three federal byelections.”

The riding “was vacated by former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, who is now Vancouver’s mayor.” Today’s February 25 byelection “is an important race for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is vying for a seat in Parliament.”

Ms Crawford goes on : “Liberal Richard T. Lee, Conservative Jay Shin, independent candidates Terry Grimwood and Valentine Wu, and People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson are also running in Burnaby South.”

According to a Vancouver Sun editorial : “Singh — who has lived his entire adult life in Ontario — has parachuted into Burnaby South, which he believes is a safe NDP seat.” As Tiffany Crawford notes, however : “It could be a close election to watch. The New Democrats beat the Liberals by just over 500 votes in the riding in the 2015 election.”

UPDATE 11:45 PM ET. Without getting into exact numbers, it now does seem clear enough that Jagmeet Singh has won in Burnaby South on Canada’s Pacific coast. The leader of the federal New Democrats finally has a seat in parliament, from which to bully the nation (s). All good for Canadian democracy.

Meanwhile, as widely predicted, Scot Davidson has kept the former Conservative seat of York-Simcoe north of Toronto in the Conservative camp.

And  Rachel Bendayan has brought the former NDP seat of Outremont in Montreal into the Liberal camp. (Which also suggests that standing up for Quebec jobs at SNC-Lavalin is not viewed as an alarming scandal in Quebec.)

Congratulations to the winners, and everyone else who ran. This is a crazy country, but (for its size, in several senses) great enough nonetheless.

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Pacific Scandal is great grandma of SNC-Lavalin : but all “systematic organization of hatreds” is obsolete today

Posted: February 15th, 2019 | No Comments »

Moon over the Canadian Yukon ... just after sunset.

[UPDATED FEBRUARY 18. SEE BELOW]. On Valentine’s Day 2019 it is hard to know just what to make of the first prime minister of the 1867 confederation of British North American Provinces now known as Canada.

(Well … my thoughts here are actually being posted just after Valentine’s Day, but that’s just because I’m a little slower than I used to be.)

John A. Macdonald’s 19th century career nonetheless retains some enduring twisted relevance. And it could help us with the real issue at the bottom of the February 13, 2019 CBC News report : “Commons justice committee to probe SNC-Lavalin affair — but Liberals limit witness list.”

I cite some recent sentences citing still others on what in “the spring of 1873 … burst upon the general public as ‘the Pacific Scandal’ — the ‘first major political scandal in Canada after Confederation,’ which ‘involved the taking of election funds by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald in exchange for the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.’”

Newspaper headlines of the day on the Pacific Scandal, 1873.

As I see it as well, the Pacific Scandal “marked the start of a long and dishonourable but enduring Canadian political tradition of defeating federal governments by mobilizing scandals against them — as revived in the ‘Adscam’ squabble [aka sponsorship scandal] that helped the Harper Conservatives win their first minority government in 2006.”

(And note this February 12, 2019 headline : “Vancouver MP Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation revives ‘vivid memories’ of sponsorship scandal.”)

As I ponder the depths of Valentine’s Day 2019, voices from my TV set and computer are growing adamant about what some mainstream media professionals are already calling the SNC-Lavalin Scandal.

Tks to BohoGirlResists.

I offer this selection of headlines culled from my local Globe and Mail and Toronto Star websites earlier this morning (February 14) : “Wilson-Raybould’s resignation is an off-brand, disastrous narrative for the Liberals” (Lori Turnbull, Globe) ; “Trudeau risks isolating himself over his attacks on Wilson-Raybould” (Chantal Hébert, Star) ; “Wilson-Raybould’s departure is a calamity for Trudeau’s Liberals” (John Ibbitson, Globe) ;“Is the SNC-Lavalin scandal’s biggest victim Trudeau’s relationship with Indigenous people?” (Tanya Talaga, Star).

These strike me as the kind of headlines that brought the embryonic Canadian people of 1873 the Pacific Scandal — and that just might bring yet another descendant, the SNC-Lavalin Scandal of 2019, with similar giddy consequences.

(The Pacific Scandal soon enough brought down John A. Macdonald’s first Conservative government of the 1867 confederation, and replaced it with a less organized group of Liberals led by the penny-pinching stone mason Alexander Mackenzie.)

Back in the northern woods of early 2019, if something very much like this is what is actually going on today, as the leading issue in the Canadian federal politics breaking news, my own unshakeable reaction is just Wake Me When It’s Over.

And I say this as a Canadian citizen who has voted in every federal election since the advent of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1968.

I am relieved as well that in Canada today I can also hear other voices from my TV set and computer who seem to agree with me, one way or another, more or less. Not everything from the past is worth preserving.

The Age of the Pacific Scandal in Canada ought to have ended long ago. It is just distracting us from the real problems of — in the tidy words of Joe Clark’s preface to Jean Chrétien’s 2018 book of Canadian political stories — “our remarkably diverse country and complicated world.”

Of course, the people of Canada in all their remarkable diversity may finally decide, this coming October 21, that someone and something other than the Justin Trudeau Liberals will be governing Canada 2019–2023.

(And remember : in our present system 40% of the cross-country popular vote can win a governing majority of seats in the House at Ottawa.)

That is at least how our democracy works at the moment. But if at least 40% of the people of Canada do chose Andrew Scheer as prime minister over Justin Trudeau (indirectly), let us at least pretend that this is the result of some wise and measured debate on the key issues before us — from the Trans Mountain pipeline to housing costs for young families to Indigenous reconciliation to jobs, jobs, jobs, and on and on and on.

The Age of the Pacific Scandal, that is to say, was captured in the American historian, journalist, and presidential grandson Henry Adams’s patrician observation of 1907 : “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”

More than a century later we aren’t driving the same kind of automobile that Henry Adams bought in 1902. We shouldn’t be practising his kind of politics as the systematic organization of hatreds either. But that’s what scandals do so well — while pretending to appeal to higher standards that grow increasingly vague and slippery the closer you get to their dead centres.

Finally, for the names and addresses of those whose online and related media voices on this issue I have appreciated and enjoyed the most so far — and a few further thoughts on the later long career of the John A. Macdonald who was chased out of office by the Pacific Scandal in 1873 —  click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

UPDATE —  MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2019, 5:30 PM : Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts has now resigned, in an effort to defuse the growing controversy over “allegations that senior members of the PMO pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to help Quebec-based multinational engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges in relation to contracts in Libya.”

Butts has “said he categorically denies allegations that he or anyone else in the PMO put this sort of pressure on Wilson-Raybould. He said the accusation is ‘simply not true.’” At the same time, “the fact is that this accusation exists. It cannot and should not take one moment away from the vital work the prime minister and his office is doing for all Canadians … My reputation is my responsibility and that is for me to defend. It is in the best interests of the office and its important work for me to step away.”

On the other hand : “Conservative Leader AndrewScheer says Butts’s resignation shows there is ‘much more’ to the SNC-Lavalin affair than JustinTrudeau has admitted.” And Scheer has repeated his “call on PM to waive solicitor-client privilege” so  Jody Wilson-Raybould can speak. Scheer also “says push will continue for justice committee probe.”

Whether the Conservatives (and/or New Democrats) can persuade enough voters that “SNC-Lavalin” deserves to become the kind of old-school Canadian political scandal that can bring down the Trudeau government in this year’s October 21 election remains unclear. I personally continue to believe that this version of politics as “the systematic organization of hatreds” has become obsolete. As an aspiring objective observer of Canadian politics, I agree as well that only time will tell. But for the moment I continue to colour myself skeptical.

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