Sunday, October 31, 2010

Liberal Party Fecklessness - Part 3

I really have to move on from writing these posts that sadly show the Liberal Party of Canada to be the party of nothing but its own self-interest; however, just about every time I read about the party led by Michael Ignatief, more confirmation of my thesis stares me in the face.

The latest affront to those of us still naive enough to hope the organization will somehow find its spine comes in a report from the Oct 25th edition of The Hill Times entitled Grits helping Tories set 'dangerous precedent' on calling committee witnesses, say MPs. The piece makes reference to the Harper Government's decision earlier this year to refuse to allow staffers to appear before Parliamentary committees, despite the fact that only MPs and Senators can legally decline such invitations.

Taking exception to Tory intransigence, NDP MP Bill Siksay raised a motion to the Ethics committee asking the House to respond to the believed breach of privilege in an investigation. Of course, the predictable happened. While Bloc and NDP MPs voted for the motion and the Conservatives against, the Liberals abstained and the motion died.

It would seem that the 'big tent' metaphor Michael Ignatief uses to describe the Liberal Party is filled with nothing but empty air. Or, to paraphrase Macbeth, one of my favourite plays, it is 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Michael Ignatief's Fecklessness - Part 2

In yesterday's post I wrote about the lack of principle that is manifest in Michael Ignatief's leadership of the Liberal Party. Time and time again, he has chosen to take the expedient route by consistently failing to back bills whose principles he has claimed to support, ever-fearful that a real stance against the Harper Government might trigger an election.

On Wednesday night, he ensured that a sufficient number of his MPs, including himself, were absent for the vote on Bill C-300, a private member's bill that would have imposed sanctions on mining companies violating human rights and environmental laws in countries whose resources they are extracting. The vote result: 140 against to 134 in favour.

Just prior to the vote Mr. Ignatief, as reported in the Globe's Ottawa Notebook, once again proving his unfitness to lead a once-great party, had the hypocrisy to claim he supported the objectives of the bill in a memo he sent out:

Liberals recognize the importance of the mining, gas and oil industry to Canada. We believe that a commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – at home and abroad – makes good business sense and is a Canadian advantage. We are sending a strong message of the government that they cannot continue to ignore CSR for Canadian companies.

Perhaps one of the most odious aspects of his behaviour is that he seems to think that none of the electorate that would like to support the Liberals will notice or care about his lack of integrity. That may be true for some, but it essentially ensures that I and others like me who insist on a modicum of morality in the political arena will not be supporting him in the next election.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just Another Example of the Fecklessness of Michael Ignatief's Leadership

It was hardly surprising to read in The Globe and Mail's online edition that Michael Ignatief is ambivalent over Bill C-300, introduced by Scarborough Liberal John McKay, which would impose sanctions on Canadian mining companies that are found guilty, as a result of investigations initiated by Ottawa, of violating environmental or human rights in the countries they do business in.

Frightened by the predictable Conservative rhetoric that if such a bill were passed, mining jobs would be lost, the Liberal Leader has said that “there are problems in the bill,” code, I suspect, for fears that the next poll might show decreased support if he supports it.

Strange how he doesn't even consider that taking a principled stand for a change might actually earn him some respect and support instead of the widespread scorn so many express over the opportunistic stances he has regularly taken since assuming leadership of the party, a leadership that seems to be defined by little else but a bald and avid thirst for power.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chile's Window To The Soul

While the world has been transfixed by the drama of Chile's rescue of 33 miners trapped almost half a mile underground, an effort that has helped us remember our shared humanity, I have been struck by the eyes of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Despite my deep cynicism about politicians in general, and Canadian ones in particular, as I watched Pinera, both recently during an interview on The Charlie Rose Show, and last night as he greeted the miners as they each emerged from the rescue capsule, I couldn't help but be reminded of the old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. What I see in Pinera's eyes are a deep compassion and love of humanity, something that stands in sharp contrast to the meanness of spirit and naked ambition emanating from most of our elected officials.

Of course, I could be wrong about the Chilean President. With his background as a media baron, perhaps he has learned to be a consumate actor, masterful at projecting an image of compassion and concern, but somehow I don't think that is the case.

A letter about Pinera in today's Globe and Mail nicely summed up the need for people of character and integrity in public life. I am taking the liberty of reproducing it below:

I have watched with great admiration the strong and inspiring leadership of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera throughout his nation’s mining ordeal. By quiet, competent example, and great generosity of spirit, he has shown us that a true leader is not divisive, mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing and other-blaming. Instead, a true leader brings out the best in others, speaks to the heart of the nation, gives credit where credit is due, and accepts responsibility without discount, disparagement or deflection. – J. Phillip Nicholson, Ottawa

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

G20 Summit Inquiry

While I have written extensively
elsewhere on the abuses of Charter Rights that took place during the G20 Summit in Toronto last June, I was heartened by some information received from the Real News Network about the extent of the latest inquiry, to be conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review director. The information is as follows:

Ontario G20 Police Review Director Makes a Pledge

Gerry McNeilly: Will conduct a systemic review of police actions during G20 after complaints from citizens indicate a ‘pattern of behavior concerns’.

Oct. 5 TRNN - A review by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) will delve into the method behind the madness of Toronto’s G20 policing fiasco.

In an interview with The Real News, Senior Editor Paul Jay asked director of the IOPRD, Gerry McNeilly about whether his review would address specific incidents, such as the kettling of peaceful protesters on Queen Street, the intolerance of self-identified journalists, to the extent of arresting or being violent towards journalists, and the absence of police during the notorious police car burnings being a strategic move to validate other police hostility. McNeilly, said the review will be systemic, and will address all incidents mentioned in complaints received by his office, including unlawful arrests, detainment, treatment of journalists, and the training and culture that police were exposed to in preparation of the summit.

In an interview with The Real News, McNeilly said both the nature and volume of complaints received by his office compelled him to conduct the review. He said the complaints pointed to a pattern of police behavior that warranted investigation.

“And that led me to look at the authorities that I have under the legislation, and the authorities indicated that I have the ability to conduct a review of a systemic nature when a pattern of behavior concerns developed. And this was that situation,” he said.

The IOPRD has the legal authority, under the Public Inquiries Act, to issue subpoenas and conduct searches if evidence or testimony is not forthcoming.

“I have the power, and if I have to use the power, I will,” he said.

Investigating the Integrated Security Unit, the policing body responsible for security during the G20, is tricky as it consisted of Toronto police but was headed up by RCMP chief superintendent Alfonse McNeil. McNeilly said his jurisdiction doesn’t extend to the RCMP.

“I cannot review the RCMP and its role. I will talk to the RCMP to find out about its role and what part that they played in policing and providing security for the G-20, but I don't have the authority. That's the Canadian Police Commission's role,” he said.

He said he doesn’t know of any review being conducted of the RCMP’s role in the G20, but said he would be talking to chief superintendent Alfonse McNeil.

“And, as I said, to date I have not had any indication that they are not prepared to cooperate with me,” he said.

The Real News has raised concerns over the Public Works Protection Act, and the Breech of the Queen’s Peace legislation, that were cited in most of the arrests during the summit, as they appear to negate the constitutional right to free assembly. McNeilly said his office will be investigating unlawful arrests, including ‘the tools that were used’, but said his authority doesn’t permit him to review the constitutional legitimacy of legislation.

“I am not specifically going to be reviewing any piece of legislation as to the appropriateness of that legislation, you are correct. That's for the courts to do.”

He said his review will be transparent, but will not include public hearings in order to expediate the process. He said his biggest challenge is addressing the volume of complaints quickly enough that the findings remain current and meaningful to the public.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rick Salutin's Demise

The phone rang this morning about 8 o'clock as we were skimming the new and 'improved' Globe and Mail, filled with pretty colour pictures printed on glossy, magazine type paper in some sections. My wife noticed immediately that the physical size of the paper was smaller (explained in the Globe as a way of making it easier to handle for the reader), but it wasn't until the phone call that we realized the changes were much more than physical.

It was our daughter calling to inform us that she had been listening to C.B.C.'s Metro Morning and learned that Rick Salutin has been fired from the Globe, with no reason given. While I might not always have agreed with Salutin's points, (indeed, there were some columns where I wasn't really clear on what his point was) I always looked forward to reading the thoughts of a man who interpreted events in a way few others did, putting forth a point of view that usually hadn't occurred to me at all. The only other Globe writer whose work I had savoured as much was David Macfarlane, who for a number of years wrote a column entitled Cheap Seats before being reassigned to one concentrating on Toronto. He inexplicably met the same fate as Salutin.

So the pace of journalistic decline continues at The Globe and Mail. I suggested to my wife that we give the paper one more week, but without a reversal of the Salutin decision, I believe we will be cancelling our subscription to the paper after having received it for an untold number of years.