Saturday, March 23, 2019

Putting Things Into Perspective

Many Canadians, including The Star's Heather Mallick, are under the impression that the Liberals are a truly progressive party, intent on offering all of us a better future. Indeed, in today's column, she lambastes people like Jane Philpott, wondering if she is trying to get Andrew Scheer's Conservative Party elected as our next government. Mallick is disdainful of the former cabinet minister's claim that she is acting in Canada's interests:
People in her riding are the same as other Canadian voters. They want a stable future for their children, an effort at preventing and preparing for the climate change that is about to devastate us, good jobs, equity for women, fairness for Indigenous people, and a national pharmacare plan.
A letter in today's print edition of The Star puts into a different perspective the notion that the Trudeau Liberals are making substantive efforts on the climate-change file:
Canada needs green deal to combat climate change
Toronto Star23 Mar 2019

According to UN scientists, we have just over 11 years to stave off the most devastating impacts of climate change.

A Green New Deal would create millions of jobs for Canadians. It would include: massive expansion of public transit, retrofitting of housing and rental units, and building communityowned renewable energy projects.

It is a bold and comprehensive plan to transition to 100 per cent renewable power within the decade, while also tackling social and economic inequality in the process.

The New Green Deal is far cheaper than dealing with unmitigated climate change. Global warming at or above 2 C will result in mass migrations, volatile weather patterns, increased wildfires, food and water shortages, damage to public infrastructure and severe loss of economic output for Canada.

Our community is ready for a climate plan that builds an equitable future.

Jordan Worona, Toronto
The world cries out for real leadership to mitigate the climate disaster bearing down upon us. Sadly, our current government, with its penchant for pious rhetoric and pipeline purchases, is not providing it.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Very Pungent Odour

H/t Theo Moudakis

The source of that pervasive and rank smell bedeviling Ontario has been found. It is coming from an array of spineless politicians in the Ford government who, upon their election, checked any semblance of integrity they might have had at the doors of the legislature. Today's Star editorial captures their essence:
It’s been said that the shortest measurable span of time is from the instant the traffic light turns green until the driver behind honks the horn.

A close runner-up must surely be the time between a man or woman being elected to the Ontario legislature as a government backbencher and their having lost all self-respect and capacity for independent thought.

Standing ovations for Ford and his cabinet ministers have become mandatory for Progressive Conservatives in the legislature, turning the government side into a crowd of fawning applauders worthy of citizenship in North Korea.
His refusal to surrender independent thinking and “stand and applaud” Ford’s every utterance in Question Period appears to be one of the factors led to Randy Hillier expulsion from the Conservative caucus.
Hillier’s assertion that the clapping is a command performance is not difficult to believe, given that no set of adults would behave so obsequiously of their own free will.

To their feet they spring many times daily, furiously applauding dear leader, even as they furtively scan the chamber to ensure the premier’s ever-watchful staff has noted their fealty.

Simply put, this mindlessness is conduct unworthy of grown men and women, especially those who have been given the confidence of their constituents.

The orchestrated ovations are pathetic on the part of those who demand them, shameful on the part of those who meekly obey.
Prostitution has been called the world's oldest profession. For reasons that I hope are obvious, I beg to differ.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Is Resistance Always Futile?

If I ever had the chance to sit down and chat with Randy Hillier, I doubt I would have much to say to the libertarian Progressive Conservative MPP recently permanently ousted from his party's caucus for reasons that appear contrived. He is alleged to have said "yada yada yada" (the horror!) to a parent protesting the changes to the province's autism funding model. Hillier claims he was saying it to NDP member Monique Taylor.

Now it is beginning to look like that was mere pretext for removing a man guilty of a far greater Progressive Conservative Party sin: refusing to be a team player. Unlike the trained and docile seals Premier Doug Ford has surrounded himself with, Hillier dares to think for himself, refusing to go along to get along, kind of the anti-Caroline Mulroney.

It is experience in workplace bullying I would find to be the basis for discussion with the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Having experienced and resisted it myself in my last few years of teaching, I know there is a cost to standing up for what one believes in.

What does Hillier believe in? A clue is to be found in the reason he alleges he was bounced from caucus:
“MPP Hillier alleges that his expulsion was an act of reprisal against him for ‘raising concerns of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisers employed by Premier Ford’ ...
It is for this reason the NDP is calling for a (Taverner-less) OPP investigation.

Perhaps more damning of Hillier is his refusal to provide what all cult-of-personality dictators demand: absolute obeisance and subjugation of the will to 'Dear Leader'.
Hillier...says...he was given a list of what he called “questionable and childish grievances” by backroom operatives.

Among them, he alleges, were complaints that he didn’t clap enough in the House and wasn’t actively sharing posts about the government’s activities on social media.
Party apparatchiks are spreading the word about how toxic Hillier is. (Message to MPPs: avoid this man or suffer career consequences.)
Simon Jefferies, a spokesperson for the premier, said “everything Randy Hillier outlined in his letter is an outright lie. These fabrications are absurd and categorically false.

“This further shows Randy Hillier never wanted to be a true member of our PC team despite repeated attempts by Premier Ford to engage him as an important member of our caucus.

Jefferies also disputed Hillier’s claim that he was in trouble for not seeking permission to attend his brother’s funeral.
Judging by the abject, grovelling behaviour of most of his fellow caucus members (Amanda Simard being one exception, having left over Ford's downgrading of francophone services, a departure that earned her the insult of "little girl" by Brian Paper Bags of Money Mulroney while he simultaneously praised the efforts of his daughter, Caroline Ford-Puppet Mulroney) it is fair to assume Randy Hillier will not be leading a revolt against Mr. Ford's oppressive tactics and systematic dismantling of programs that seek to make life more equitable for the people of Ontario.

Only the people can do that, Unfortunately, with the next election years away, it is a safe bet that much more social and economic carnage is on the immediate horizon.

Monday, March 18, 2019

What Fair Taxation Could Achieve

From the print edition of the Toronto Star comes this response to a recent column by Linda McQuaig, a response that strikes me as eminently reasonable:
Re Debunking billionaire claims of heroic capitalism, McQuaig, March 14

Linda McQuaig is right on the money. Since1980, the top federal tax rate has been cut by almost 50 per cent. If the progressive tax system had not been changed, there would be no deficits and we’d have a surplus nationally.

Inequality is at an all-time high. There is a massive concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

We don’t have a wealth-creation crisis; there is more wealth than ever before. We have a severe distribution-of-wealth crisis. This concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is simply not sustainable.

Conservatives are always claiming the deficit is a crisis, yet they continue to claim that tax cuts are good for everyone.

Trickle-down economics has been completely discredited. It is a ridiculous belief that when the wealthiest have crammed as much money as they can into their pockets from tax cuts, the rest of us will get the odd $20 bill that falls out.

In the upcoming election, where’s the promise to restore a progressive tax system, where everyone pays their fair share of taxes? Reversing tax cuts is not raising taxes, it’s restoring funding to build a civil, more just and equitable society.

If everyone was paying their fair share, no one would mind paying taxes.

Paul Kahnert, Markham
We have been persistently fed the line that a rising tide lifts all boats. Reality, however, suggests something quite, quite different.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Different Kind Of Terrorism

While I have written extensively on Omar Khadr in the past, the former child combatant has not been much in the news of late, and so I assumed he had more or less settled down into a normal life. However, such an attempt, it would seem, is fated to be lined with obstacles. given his notoriety and the reflexive mouth-foaming of the rabid right-wing that apparently would like nothing more than see their delusion that he is a terrorist fulfilled. In their collective hysteria, they see Khadr as a clear and present danger to all that is sacred.

How else to explain this?
The tenants of a north-side strip mall in Edmonton say they’ve been subjected to growing harassment, both online and through phone calls, after news surfaced of Omar Khadr’s recent purchase of the property.

The commercial strip is home to a variety of businesses, including an auto shop, a daycare, and a travel agency — all of which have been serving the community for several years. Most of the Google reviews on those businesses have been positive, until reports emerged on Monday of Khadr’s ownership.
That this uproar is taking place in Albert is perhaps not surprising, but one hesitates to lump all inhabitants into the stereotype of that province: gun-toting, truck-driving good ol' boys. Yet there is clearly that element present, given the efforts to drive out of business all the enterprises that happen to be located in the strip mall:
“Don’t support this terrorist,” a Google review on Skyview International Travel and Tourism Inc.’s page reads. Bluesky Daycare, another long-standing business in the strip, has received several one-star reviews in the last two days.

The owner of Bluesky Daycare, who did not want to be named for fear of threats to them, said they knew of a change of ownership, but were not aware of the new owner and have not met Khadr either. They’ve owned the daycare for five years, and it has been operational out of the strip mall for almost 30 years in total.

“I’m receiving these reviews, and they’re kind of scary,” the owner said of the influx of negative reviews the daycare is receiving online. “ ... It’s going to damage my whole business.”
Few of those targeting the businesses will see the irony of their actions. In their zeal to see a 'terrorist' fail, they are engaging in their own form of economic terrorism, intimidation that serves no one well.

But then, when you are dealing with hysteria, common sense and logic rarely prevail.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The OECD Is Not Impressed

While many are trying to minimize the significance of allegations that the Trudeau government tried to subvert the course of justice in the SNC-Lavalin affair, there is one body that is taking them very seriously:
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development working group on bribery said in a statement Monday that it is "concerned" by accusations that Trudeau and staff in his office tried to get former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to let the Quebec engineering giant negotiate a remediation agreement rather than pursue the firm on criminal charges of bribery and fraud.

Canada is one of 44 nations that in 1999 signed the legally binding Anti-Bribery Convention, which established international standards to criminalize the bribery of foreign officials. The idea was that all signatories — including all 36 OECD nations as well as eight others such as Russia and Brazil — would punish their own citizens and companies for trying to undermine governments elsewhere.

The statement says Canada's commitment under the convention is to "prosecutorial independence in foreign bribery cases," and that political factors such as national economic interests and the identities of the company or individuals involved should have no influence on the prosecution.
Drago Kos, the chair of the OECD working group on bribery, elaborates:
“This is the point of our concern,” he told the Star in a telephone interview.

And Kos said the excuse used by Trudeau and others for their interventions — that they were concerned about jobs at SNC-Lavalin [a concern that seems less and less legitimate, by the way] — is not a legitimate justification.
Here is more on this development:

As in so much else, it appears Canada talks a good game on the international stage, just as it does on the domestic one. However, as a signatory to the legally-binding OECD pact, it has obligations that no amount of prime ministerial obfuscation and equivocation can lessen. And that is something even the most ardent of Mr. Trudeau's fans cannot deny.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Going Off Half-Cocked

In the best of circumstances, measured, critical thinking is hard work. And as the antics of the gun lobby group the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights amply demonstrate, thinking while foaming at the mouth is well-nigh impossible.
A Toronto trauma surgeon arguing for stricter gun control is being targeted by a national firearm lobby that has flooded Ontario’s physicians’ regulator with dozens of complaints about her.

Dr. Najma Ahmed, who was on call at St. Michael’s Hospital following the Danforth mass shooting, is co-chair of an advocacy group called Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns. The group of doctors came together in February to argue that guns are a public health issue, and to push for the passage of Bill C-71, a bill to reform Canada’s gun laws.
That the doctor has the right to express her opinion on a dire public-health threat is just too much for the gun enthusiasts:
The lobby group the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights last month posted a “call to action” urging members to flood the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario with complaints against Ahmed, even if they have never been her patient. The post provides a step-by-step guide on how to do this, complete with a link to the complaint form.

“I hate to say it, but stay in your lane, Doctor,” the post reads.
This extreme attempt at muting Dr. Amed's voice has thus far resulted in 70 complaints against her, complaints that must be investigated, but it is likely they will ultimately be tossed in the trash, where they clearly belong:
In a statement, Dr. Nancy Whitmore, registrar and CEO at The College, said its mandate is to focus on complaints around clinical care or professional behaviour.

“The CPSO’s role is not to resolve political disagreements when clinical care/outcomes or professional conduct is not in question. We recognize that physicians can play an important role by advocating for system-level change in a socially accountable manner,” she said.

Like all complaints, she said, the ones stemming from the gun group’s campaign are being reviewed by a committee that will determine whether they are frivolous and vexatious.
As a surgeon, Ahmed has witnessed first-hand the terrible damage bullets inflict:
Guns are “highly violent instruments that are intended to kill and maim animals and people,” she told the Star, adding she has seen the damage bullets can cause to the human body. “They act like small metal missiles, and they tear apart the organs and tissues and blood vessels and they do enormous harm.”
In the cartoon world, Yosemite Sam was depicted as a very aggressive gunslinging cowboy with a hair-trigger temper which usually resulted in a fair bit of gunplay. But in cartoons, the effects of violence and mayhem are always shortlived.

Would it were so in the real world.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Hysteria Surrounding Alleged SNC-Lavalin Job Losses

I was watching The National ((aka The Whore of Babylon among those who reflexively defend all things Liberal) last evening, and was surprised to learn that there seems to be no basis for the claim that 9,000 jobs could be lost should SNC-Lavalin register a criminal conviction that would bar it from bidding on federal contracts for 10 years. As you will see in the following report, the company is currently involved in a number of such projects worth billions that will take years to complete, and there is nothing in a criminal conviction that would prevent them from bidding on provincial contacts, many of which they are currently involved in.

Which leaves one to draw a tentative conclusion: that the alleged interventions to get Wilson-Raybould to grant SNC-Lavalin a DPA was prompted, not by economic, but rather political, concerns. Being a Quebec-based international company, like that perennial basket case Bombardier, the feds felt they had to run interference to maintain their support in La Belle Province.

Go to the 28-minute mark of the following to see the full story:

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Your Wednesday (Rueful) Smile

If you have been following Ontario politics lately, you will probably appreciate the latest from Theo Moudakis:

Meanwhile, Brad Blair, the OPP whistle blower, calls his firing a reprisal by Doug Ford:
“It is patently clear to me that this is reprisal and an attempt to muzzle me,” Brad Blair, who was passed over for the top job, said in a new court documents filed following his termination on Monday by deputy community safety minister Mario Di Tommaso, (aka Ford puppet), whom he accused of a conflict of interest.
And the Star editorial board has this to say:
It was glaringly obvious all along that Ron Taverner, Premier Doug Ford’s old chum from Etobicoke, must never be appointed commissioner of the OPP.

Installing a close crony of the premier at the top of the province’s most important police force, the very force that’s expected to investigate political wrong-doing at Queen’s Park, is a complete non-starter.

Regardless of Taverner’s qualifications or the purity of his intentions, making him boss of the OPP would politicize the force in the worst way. Just the suspicion that he could be acting as a political tool of the premier should be enough to bury his chances.

But trust the Ford team to find a way to make this bad situation even worse. It did just that on Monday with the abrupt firing of the senior OPP commander who had the temerity to publicly challenge the premier’s decision to appoint Taverner.
Taking Ontarians for the fools they sometimes are, the Ford government denies any involvement in Blair's firing.

It is an avowal that ever-eager but insensate members of Ford Nation will readily swallow. For citizens who are not given to the foaming-at-the-mouth reactions characteristic of that cult, the government's declaration will be dismissed for the patent nonsense it is.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

An Attack On The National Soul

It grieves me to resign from a portfolio where I was at work to deliver an important mandate. I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities, constitutional obligations. There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.

- Excerpt from the resignation letter of Trudeau cabinet member Jane Philpott

Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. Canadians like to believe that ours is a nation that embraces fairness, opportunity and, perhaps most importantly, justice.

Unfortunately, given the tact that the Trudeau government is taking to defend itself against the ructions caused by the SNC Lavalin scandal and subsequent departure of two key cabinet members, one can only conclude that Canada's ethos is under attack.

Consider the evolution of Mr. Trudeau's 'explanation' which began after The Globe and Mail released a story alleging that Judy Wilson-Raybould was removed from her position as Justice Minister and Attorney General for refusing to grant a Deferred Prosecution Agreement to SNC-Lavalin. Initially, Trudeau averred that the decision not to prosecute was hers alone, and that she still sat in his cabinet as Verterans Affairs Minister attested to her ongoing contentment. It was at this point she resigned.

Over the last few weeks, the Prime Minister has attempted to change the focus, saying that his government would always stand up for jobs AND the rule of law. Now, the message seems to revolve almost exclusively around jobs and growing the economy. Consider the words of Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Public Services and Procurement yesterday on Power and Politics.

"The government's adopted approach on this is one that has favoured jobs, it's one that has favoured pensioners, supply chains and a major Canadian company - all innocent victims of some corrupt management maybe a decade ago."

"We do have a disagreement here. We absolutely have a disagreement here and I think the current attorney general has said that, look you have to keep assessing the facts as these cases move along," he said. "But the fact is that we have 10,000 Canadians and their families and pensioners and suppliers and others who are not entitled to the same kind relief they would get if they were to work for an SNC-Lavalin competitor in the United States or in the United Kingdom ...

"The disagreement goes to how you see how Canada ought to approach major economic questions like the SNC-Lavalin issue. Do we do it like our OECD partners, do with these deferred prosecution arrangements, that have been widely discussed? Or do we do it with a ... perhaps more rigid approach?
That more rigid approach, of course, is not to engage in political interference, pressure, and honour the rule of law.

If you go to the whole interview, (start at the 1:28 mark) you will see that MacKinnon sharply implies that neither Wilson Raybould nor Philpott are concerned about "people" and "real jobs."

In his campaign to win office, Mr. Trudeau stoked the hopes of all Canadian that things could be better, and that politics would be done in a new way. Once stoked, such hopes demand action. Now that the Prime Minister has clearly been hoist upon the petard of his own lofty rhetoric, he can expect massive anger and massive resistance to this unprecedented attack on the national soul and the not-too-subtle message being sent that principle, integrity and honour must give way to economic imperatives.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth the Ford

In almost biblical fashion, Premier Doug Ford has smote his enemy, aided and abetted by the OPP union.

Brad Blair, the OPP whistleblower who complained loudly and very publicly about the sweetheart deal engineered by Doug Ford to install his longtime pal, Ron Taverner, as the head of the police service, has paid a high price for his outrage: he has been fired.
“I want to advise you that Brad Blair is no longer a deputy commissioner with the Ontario Provincial Police effective immediately,” Interim Commissioner Gary Couture said in a memorandum to members of the force.

The dramatic move follows a complaint last week from Ontario Provincial Police Association president Rob Jamieson about the release of an email — contained in a Blair court filing on his bid to scupper the appointment of Ford friend Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner — on the premier’s concerns about unfamiliar faces on his security detail.

Jamieson wrote to Deputy Community Safety Minister Mario Di Tommaso, who was Taverner’s supervisor at Toronto police, last Thursday stating the release of the email likely resulted in bodyguard Sgt. Terry Murphy being “stood down” from Ford’s detail, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Star.
Anyone with a critical intelligence will ask, quite legitimately, whether this can be the reason for Blair's dismissal. For my money, Doug Ford appears to be a very vengeful man, intent from the beginning on payback against a very brave man for his very public exposure of the Premier's cronyism.

I don't think the story ends here, not by a long shot.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

You Probably Don't Want To Hear This

.... but new research suggests that yet another climate-change feedback loop could be in the offing as we plunge headlong toward disaster:
The stratocumulus clouds, the layer of cloud shielding us from the direct rays of the sun could vanish one day. That’s according to a new research by a team of scientists. As Eric Sorensen reports, if this happens, it could lead to rapid global warming.

Watching the story, one is reminded of how, for millennia, the earth provided the kind of balance that allowed life to flourish. Clearly, all the signs suggest that nurturing environment is rapidly changing, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Corporate Corruption

With corrupt corporate practices so much in the news these days, thanks to the Trudeau government's attempts at subverting justice for SNC Lavalin, I couldn't help but be struck by the naked greed so evident in the practices of a pharmaceutical called Insys Therapeutics. Several of the company's executives
... are currently on trial in Boston on charges of racketeering, fraud, and conspiracy, in connection to an alleged nationwide scheme to pay doctors bribes and kickbacks in exchange for prescribing the company’s fentanyl-based pain medication Subsys to patients who would not otherwise require the drug. The executives are also accused of conspiring to mislead and defraud insurance providers that were reasonably reluctant to cover costs for a medication designed for cancer patients when prescribed to patients without cancer.
To appreciate the depth of the company's greed and depravity, go to the 9:16 mark of the following news report, which includes a video extolling the virtues of something called titration, the practice of increasing the dose of a drug:

The 'rap' video excerpted in the above report (I will provide links to the full video at the end of this post) was created for and shown at Insys' 2015 national sales meeting. The message was clear: the more you 'push' the drug, the higher your sales commission will be.

According to former Senator Claire McCaskill, who helped investigate Insys last year,
"What they are saying to their sales representatives is, 'It's not enough that you get a doctor to prescribe it," said McCaskill, now an NBC News analyst. She said the company was telling its employees, "'We're going to pay you five times as much if you can get him to prescribe the strongest dose possible.'"
Interestingly, the company's response to these charges echoes the one heard from SNC Lavalin about the 'rogue employees' who acted without company authority in bribery of Libyan officials to the tune of $48 Million - (their petty cash reserves must be a marvel, eh?):
"The company in no way defends the misconduct of former employees and is fully cooperating with the government."
Nothing to see here, eh?

Friday, March 1, 2019

A Fascinating Rorschach Test

Reading the newspaper this morning, it occurred to me that the reactions to Jody Wilson Raybould's testimony before the Commons Justice Committee constitute a kind of political Rorschach Test, one that helps reveal people's values, psychology and moral sensibilities. As one would expect, it demonstrates that the Canadian psyche is a multi-faceted one, one that prompts reactions ranging from outright condemnation of the government as if it were the devil incarnate to a reflexive defence of the Liberals. While some of these public reactions constitute nothing more than political theatre, they are worthy of deeper examination.

First, there was the overblown call by Andrew Scheer for Justin Trudeau to resign. A risible attempt to suggest he occupies the high moral ground, his gesture would satisfy only inveterate Conservative supporters who think with their adrenaline, not their brains. In many ways, his stunt represents politics at its manipulative worst.

But extreme partisanship that abandons critical thinking is hardly limited to the right. A popular theme in so-called progressive circles found online and in Facebook political groups is that it is incumbent upon all to rally to the Liberal Party. The argument, simplistic in the extreme, is that to join in the criticism of Trudeau's tactics is to empower the Conservatives and risk handing over the next federal election to them.

This depiction of the political landscape through a Manichean filter benefits no one. Like the Conservative hysteria, it demands a surrender of critical thinking and morality in service of what is depicted as a far lesser evil than the party of Scheer. As well, there is a distressing tactic, taken right out of the reactionary's page, of shooting the messenger. The CBC, CTV, major newspapers, etc. are condemned as tools of the right for reporting on this scandal and keeping it alive. I choose to provide no links to demonstrate any of this, as I do not want to give them further exposure, but they are quite easy to find if you look.

The idea of voting for the lesser of evils no longer holds any appeal for me. Perhaps that sensibility is a function of my age as well as extensive reading and my ongoing efforts to be a critical thinker. The fact is that the Liberals and the Conservatives are not the only choice in the next election, and perhaps it is time for people to start taking their vote with greater seriousness and reflection. For a perspective on this, I highly recommend a post by The Mound that he wrote last month. As well, a post he wrote yesterday makes for worthwhile reading.

Finally, there is the reaction based, neither on pragmatics nor partisanship, but on morality and integrity. As I wrote yesterday, what I took away from Wilson-Raybould's testimony was a woman who fought hard to maintain her principles and integrity in the face of incredible pressure from both the Prime Minister and his operatives. It is a theme upon which Tanya Talaga writes:
Across Indigenous social media, this one quote of Wilson-Raybould’s was shared over and over again, “I was taught to always hold true to your core values, principles and to act with integrity. I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth-teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House. This is who I am and who I always will be.”
An indigenous upbringing helped inform those principles:
“The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country, includes a history of the rule of law not being respected. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the urgent need for justice and reconciliation today is that in the history of our country we have not always upheld foundational values such as the rule of law in our relations with Indigenous peoples. And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality and a just society this can have firsthand.”

For over 150 years Canada has bent laws, disrespected treaties, spent millions taking First Nations to court over resource sharing and tried to bully communities into pipelines.

But Wilson-Raybould refused to be complicit.
Integrity in public office is rarely seen, but I like to think I can recognize it when I see it. And judging by some of the reactions I have seen and read about, I am hardly alone in valuing it.

We have all witnessed politicians of various stripes come and go. Our cynicism, our pragmatism, our ideology clearly play a role in that revolving door. But sometimes the truth really is out there; all we have to do to see it is to try to shed some of our preconditioned responses.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Dark Underside Of Sunny Ways

Her testimony was riveting, her aura of integrity palpable. One could only come away from the testimony of Jody Wilson-Raybould into the SNC-Lavalin scandal drawing at least two conclusions: politics really is a dirty game, and it is one that a person of principle cannot easily navigate while holding on to her integrity. It was also stunning to see someone who really believes that politics should and must be conducted in a principled way.

Wilson-Raybould's moral compass stands in sharp contrast to the players who fought tirelessly to try to change her mind. Here is but a taste of her testimony:

While the above is damning enough, the pressure didn't stop there.
In a 38-minute opening statement and repeatedly in answers to questions, Wilson-Raybould pointed the finger directly at Trudeau, as well as his top officials in the PMO, the Privy Council office and the office of the minister of finance, citing phone calls and in-person meetings that she felt amounted to a “barrage of people hounding me and my staff.”

“Within these conversations, there were express statements regarding the necessity of interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential of consequences and veiled threats if a DPA was not made available to SNC,” she said.
Wilson-Raybould also detailed interactions with Ben Chin, the chief of staff to Finance Minister Bill Morneau; Trudeau aides Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard; Butts, the prime minister’s principal secretary; and Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff.

She said Telford and Butts summoned her chief of staff Jessica Prince to a meeting on Dec. 18, where Butts told Prince they had to find a solution to the SNC issue. Reading from a transcript of Prince’s debriefing afterwards with her minister, Wilson-Raybould told the committee that “Gerry said ‘Jess, there is no solution here that doesn’t involve some interference.’”

According to Wilson-Raybould, Prince told her, “Katie was like, ‘We don’t want to debate legalities anymore’ … They kept being, like, ‘We aren’t lawyers, but there has to be some solution here.’”
No doubt, Trudeau operatives and fanboys whose sense of morality depend on party affiliation will be contorting themselves almost beyond human endurance to suggest that Jody Wilson Raybould's testimony exonerated Justin and his functionaries.

The critical thinker, on the other hand, will be deeply disturbed by yesterday's revelations.

And for voters like me, it is further fodder for the deep disenchantment and anger we cannot help but feel over the squandering of potential. Justin Trudeau and his team came to office promising so much. But from the betrayal of his electoral reform vow through to the purchase of a pipeline that gives the lie to climate change mitigation promises to the conducting of politics in the usual, corrupt way, the dark underside of the Prime Minister's "sunny ways" is now exposed for all to see.

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Cowardly Silence

Human nature is a strange, wondrous, and sometimes shameful thing. For every Nelson Mandela who takes a stand against arbitrary authority, there are countless millions who will simply go along to get along. If an edict, no matter how obviously wrong or unethical, is issued in the name of authority, it is usually obeyed.

"I was just following orders" is a refrain that echoes throughout modern history.

An egregious example of such is surely to be found in this story from Ontario.
The provincial government quietly ordered autism service providers last September to stop admitting new children for therapy and to keep parents in the dark about the move, documents obtained by the Star reveal.

Internal documents — from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and senior administrators of nine regional service providers — state that the 23,000-child wait-list for autism therapy was closed because of “financial pressures.”
While the Ontario government, led by Doug Ford, and Lisa MacLeod, his Children’s Minister, deny any wrongdoing, memos obtained by The Star paint a totally different picture:
The documents obtained by the Star reveal that the waiting list for therapy has been closed for five months unbeknownst to parents. And while therapists could have been seeing new children during that time, they were instead ordered to spend their extra time elsewhere.
And autism service providers were asked to be complicit in this deception:
A Sept. 27 email to staff from a senior administrator at one service provider states: “As of this afternoon, we have been asked to ‘pause’ on making calls to families (on the wait-list) … We have been assured that this is very short term, and as soon as we get more information from the ministry on how to proceed we will share it.”

Another email to staff from a service provider the following month reveals how the ministry wanted inquiries from parents to be handled: “Note that the ministry has asked us not to stray outside of their messaging (e.g. we would not tell families directly that there will be no service offers…”
And the reason for this immoral obfuscation boils down to politics. One therapist, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisal,
... argued that there are far fewer than 23,000 children on the waiting list. But by freezing the list, the government has allowed the numbers to grow in an attempt to justify its changes...
Those changes include hard caps and severe reductions in funding for each family with an autistic child, changes that have provoked a firestorm of protest at Queens Park.

My point, however, is how readily autism service-providers complied with this government order of secrecy, while at the same time knowing they could be helping more children:
In an interview, one therapist said that she and her co-workers could have been helping new children on the wait-list all this time.

“There was capacity. We did have space on our caseload to pick up children from the wait list but we couldn’t,” said the therapist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to give media interviews.
And yet they said nothing. Indeed, were it not for the investigative efforts of The Star, this sordid story would never have come to light.

To a one, autism therapists should be deeply and thoroughly ashamed of their collective silence. There can be no excuse for such craven collaboration.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Following The Trail Home

Letter-writers in today's Star ask questions that demand to be answered. The first makes a point that occurred to me early on when SNC-Lavalin averred that bribery and fraud charges were the result of rogue employees, an oft-used disclaimer by those seeking to evade criminal responsibility:
Re PM loses top aide, Feb. 19

This excellent article mentions that SNC-Lavalin has pleaded not guilty to bribery and fraud charges related to its work in Libya, saying any wrongdoing or illicit payments made to the regime of Moammar Gadhafi were made by employees without its consent.

It seems highly unlikely that those employees would fund such initiatives out of their own pockets. Once again, the key to unravelling sordid affairs of this nature is to follow the money.

Harry J. Rollo, Toronto

The SNC-Lavalin affair seems to be mostly about our prime minister doing all kinds of things to keep that company running as it is now. Why is he doing this? It smells like money.

First, the company is well-known to be a strong supporter of the Liberal Party. More importantly, the goods the company manufactures in Canada for export ensure a steady flow of money into the federal treasury.

Note that this includes war materials sold, indirectly, to Saudi Arabia. Does this not matter to us?

Alan Craig, Brampton
Then again, perhaps the above writers are clinging to a sense of morality and justice that is quickly becoming but a quaint notion. If so, our nation has deeper problems than the hyped-up loss of 50,000 jobs should SNC-Lavalin be held accountable for its crimes. (Have we no other engineering companies in Canada to bid on contracts and employ people?)

Friday, February 22, 2019

For What It's Worth

I would like to use this post to comment on one of the questions swirling around the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould, one that came up yet again on last night's At Issue panel:

Why did Wilson-Raybould wait until she was was moved to Veterans Affairs to resign from cabinet?

The implication of the question is that hers was a 'sour-grapes' resignation, not a principled one, since the time to resign was when she felt she was being pressured to change her mind about the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Indeed, early on in this scandal, Justin Trudeau cited her ongoing presence in the cabinet as evidence of her contentment, after which the former Justice Minister resigned.

I beg to differ. And I believe yesterday's testimony to the justice committee by Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council, sheds some light on this sordid episode; pertinent are three meetings in particular:
The first was a meeting on Sept. 17 between himself, the prime minister and Wilson-Raybould.

... Wilson-Raybould told the prime minister that a deferred prosecution agreement “was not a good course and she had no intention of intervening,” Wernick recalled. In turn, the prime minister told Wilson-Raybould the decision to intervene in the case was hers alone, he said.
Ergo, it is clear that Wilson-Raybould had made her decision not to direct the Public Prosecutor to offer SNC-Lavalin a DPA (deffered prosecution agreement). If we are to take Wernick's testimony at its face value, that should have been the end of the matter if, indeed, Trudeau said it were her decision alone.
The next event he predicted Wilson-Raybould would raise was a conversation between her chief of staff and officials from the Prime Minister’s Office on Dec. 18. Wernick, however, said he was not there and is not aware of what transpired.
Strangely, although Wernick claims no knowledge of the nature of the meeting, he predicts she will bring it up in her testimony.
Finally, Wernick highlighted his own conversation with Wilson-Raybould on Dec. 19. Wernick said he wanted to “check in” with her on SNC-Lavalin and the possibility of mediating the criminal charges against the company, as well as other legal issues before the government.

“I conveyed to her that a lot of her colleagues and the prime minister were quite anxious about what they were hearing and reading in the business press about the future of the company, the options that were being openly discussed in the business press about the company moving or closing,” Wernick said.

Asked later if he pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the case and halt the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, Wernick said no — he doesn’t believe he improperly pressured her.

“There’s pressure to get it right on every decision, to approve, to not approve, to act, to not act. I am quite sure the minister felt pressure to get it right,” he said.

“Part of my conversation,” he added, “was conveying context that there were a lot of people worried about what would happen, the consequences — not for her — the consequences for the workers in the communities and the suppliers.”
Now, many will argue, as Wernick himself did, that there was nothing improper about these meetings and that he didn't consider them to constitute undue pressure. We all know that politics is a rough and tough arena, so that may well be. I do not have the expertise to make that assessment. But I do have some thinking ability, and here is where it has led:

To return to the point I began with, the character-undermining question being asked is why Raybould-Wilson did not immediately resign if she felt she was being pressured to change her decision. My question (and answer) is, why would she?

She had remained firm in her conviction that SNC-Lavalin should receive no preferential treatment. She had received the assurance from Mr. Trudeau that the decision was hers alone. She successfully weathered pressure from both the PM and the PMO to change her mind. Presumably, she felt that she had prevailed in upholding her own principles in the matter, and the issue was closed. Until, of course, it wasn't.

On February 11, Wilson-Raybould tendered her resignation, mere hours after Trudeau publicly declared all was well, attested to by her ongoing presence in the cabinet. I suspect this assertion was the breaking point for Raybould-Wilson, that and the likely belief that her replacement as Justice Minister, David Lametti, would ultimately order a DPA.

In his testimony yesterday, Michael Wernick expressed his fears about the direction in which Canada is heading. He
told MPs he’s worried Canadians could lose “faith in the institutions of governance in this country.”
As a citizen who loves Canada, I have the same fears. However, Messieurs Wernick and Trudeau should look to their own house as one source of this crisis of faith. Justin Trudeau came to office with great promises, including 'doing politics' in a new way.

In that, he would seem to have failed abysmally.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019

Breaking News: Gerald Butts Resigns!

For those who claim the SNC-Lavalin affair is much ado about nothing, this is certainly an interesting development:
OTTAWA—Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau's principal secretary and long-time friend, has resigned amid allegations that the Prime Minister's Office interfered to prevent a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

In a statement, Butts unequivocally denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the office improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Montreal engineering giant avoid a criminal case on corruption and bribery charges related to government contracts in Libya.
Yeah, I forgot. It is always the innocent who resign.

Mike Pence's Very Bad Day

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Vice- President Mike Pence quickly realized that things were not going as planned. The rest of the world can, I hope, rejoice at the strong message he receives in the following:

But wait! There's more! Note the juxtaposition of the following, where only one person in the room withholds her applause for Angela Merkel.

It would seem that actions, or the absence thereof, do indeed speak louder than words.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The 'Evolving' Story Of Justin And Jody

Evolving is one of those words I have never particularly cared for. It can, and should, of course, most be used when pertaining to the growth and change over time of various forms of life. Too often, however, it is used as a weasel word, one that is employed to try to suggest that the first answer was incomplete rather than a lie. For a good illustration of this tactic, read about Donald Trump's evolving justifications for a border wall.

In the Justin Trudeau SNC-Lavalin Jody-Wilson Raybould imboglio, I believe we are now witnessing a concerted effort on the part of the Prime Minister and his functionaries to 'evolve' their explanation of this sordid business. Consider, for example, what the country's doe-eyed leader had to say just the other day as he engaged in some victim-blaming:

According to this story, Justin was absolutely blind-sided by her unhappiness.

Now, that 'story' has 'evolved':

Presumably, this public admission was prompted by the Trudeau government's fear that Wilson-Raybould's version of events will soon be made known; hence, repeating his denial that he "directed" her on the SNC-Lavalin file would seem to be a safe bet, since she apparently specifically asked him whether this was the case. However, where the story falters and whose spin may give those prone to vertigo some problems is that he said, as shown in the first clip, that she did not express any concerns to him.

The two stories obviously can't both be true, unless we are to believe the question was asked and answered so casually that both went away whistling a happy tune. But for those of us who care to think and are not in the thrall of misplaced party loyalty, common sense dictates that the exchange must have been fuller, with her providing a context for the question (i.e., pressure from the PMO).

So the ostensibly corrupt machinations of the old Liberals continue apace. Somehow, I wonder whether this particular manifestation of diseased morality will ever be fully exposed to the light of day.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Just Who Was The DPA Enacted To Help?

If you watch the following interview with law professor Jennifer Quaid, you will find her take on the Omnibus Bill provision for the DPA (deferred prosecution agreement) that SNC-Lavalin salivates over very, very disturbing. Start at about the 1:40 mark. The big 'reveal' is at the 4-minute mark, when Quaid discusses what she claims is an open secret:

Of course, the Liberals denied any such assertion during yesterday's committee meeting, as they
... denounced Opposition suggestions that SNC-Lavalin had gotten the Liberal government to change the law to allow deferred prosecutions for companies like the Quebec engineering giant facing fraud charges.

In the closest thing to an explanation anyone on the government benches has offered for the change since the scandal broke last week, Boissonault said Canada adopted the legal change to allow deferred prosecutions for companies facing fraud charges to align with its trading allies and called Opposition allegations of political favouritism “specious.”
If the allegations are true, this is a far, far bigger scandal than simply trying to pressure Wilson-Raybould to go easy on SNC-Lavalin. It reeks of the rankest corruption imaginable.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Political Mushroom Cloud

An atomic usually bomb expands its destructive range outward, so it is perhaps understandable that Mr. Trudeau does not yet realize he has unleashed a weapon of mass destruction whose fallout will eventually land back on him.

And here is what The Tyee writes:
...certain Liberal pundits who evidently didn’t get the sunny-feminist-ways memo have been indulging in character assassination, running a whisper campaign that Wilson-Raybould is not a team player, is difficult — one even said on the CBC that she is reputed to be incompetent. This feels very familiar to many women across the country, now rolling their eyes, recognizing this for the stereotypical cheap shots against women who beg to differ.

Ah, the politics of symbolism. Perhaps Trudeau et al. forgot that the MP for Vancouver- Granville is a powerful political and professional actor in her own right. She has a heritage of illustrious politicians in the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. She has served as Crown Prosecutor in British Columbia, as a Treaty Commissioner, and as Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, places where competence and political acumen are valued. Her public contributions are likely far from over. She is not someone to be messed with and she’s nobody’s trophy.

UPDATED: Sounds Like A Version Of Victim-Blaming To Me

I doubt that this performance will endear Mr. Trudeau to women or indigenous communities:

UPDATE: Chantal Hebert explores the optics of Trudeau's take-no-prisoners strategy:
Trudeau may hope to tilt the balance of public opinion in his favour by undermining Wilson-Raybould’s credibility. But he should worry about a boomerang effect on his already damaged moral authority.

The optics of this prime minister attacking the integrity of a prominent Indigenous champion is already dismally poor. The fact that this crisis pits Trudeau against one of the highest-profile women in his caucus makes for a lethal political combination.

The last thing the prime minister needs at a time when he has bridges to repair with the Indigenous community is to give Canadian women — including some of those around him in the House of Commons — cause to close ranks behind Wilson-Raybould.

Monday, February 11, 2019

UPDATED: Where Is The Public Good In All Of This?

H/t Greg Perry

His fulminations about the need for a public inquiry notwithstanding, it should surprise no one that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer met with officials of SNC-Lavalin to discuss the criminal charges they were facing. But to simply accuse him of his obvious hypocrisy and dismiss the controversy of Justin Trudeau's alleged attempt to interfere with the pursuit of justice is surely to ignore the increasingly fetid odour emanating from his office.

Consider, for example, what Canada's top prosecutor has to say about political and corporate interference in prosecutorial decisions:
In Federal Court documents obtained by the Star, [Kathleen] Roussel responds to SNC-Lavalin, saying that it has no legal right or entitlement to any deal; that prosecutors are independent with broad discretion on how to proceed with charges; and that under the Constitution, prosecutors are free from political or judicial interference.

She says the law passed last year allowing for what is called “deferred prosecution agreements” (a new regime that was stuffed into an omnibus budget bill) [the very kind of bill the Liberals railed against while in opposition - funny how the perch of power changes one's perspective, eh?] is explicit about what factors prosecutors must not consider in corruption cases:

“The prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest, the potential effect on relations with a state other than Canada or the identity of the organization or individual involved” where an organization is charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, as in SNC-Lavalin’s case.

In other words, the the director of public prosecutions is arguing that, while the law sets out other criteria Roussel could consider when weighing the public interest, she’s not allowed by law to consider whether a company is too big to fail.
Implicit is that the administration of justice should be the guiding principle behind the pursuit of cases, neither corporate nor political considerations being part of the formula.
The written brief also takes a strong stand against any political interference in prosecutorial decisions, saying it “could erode the integrity of our system of prosecution.”
And it is integrity that should be our uppermost consideration. We have, in this country, the likely accurate perception that there are two kinds of justice: one for the powerful and entitled, and another for the rest of us. To willfully and cravenly defer prosecution on the basis of who the accused is would further erode public confidence in our institutions at a time when there are many forces, both within and without, committed to sowing division and disunity.

More cynicism is the last thing we need today. It is time for the Trudeau government to pull in its neoliberal horns, respect the independence of the federal prosecutor's office, and allow the corporate chips to fall where they may.

UPDATE: An interesting new development:
The federal ethics commissioner has launched an investigation into allegations that former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured by the prime minister’s office to seek mediation instead of pursuing criminal charges against Quebec construction giant, SNC-Lavalin.

Mario Dion, the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, confirmed in a letter to two NDP MPs that he would probe allegations that became public last week.

In his letter, Dion says that based on the complaint by the two MPs, media reports and other information, he has “reason to believe” that a possible contravention of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act has occurred.

That section prohibits a public office holder from seeking to influence a decision of another person to improperly further another person’s private interests.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Shameful Behaviour Of Pharmaceuticals

Daniel Dale recently wrote a piece about how a provision in the new NAFTA could lead to higher drug costs in Canada.
Some Democrats are demanding a change to a rule that would require the U.S., Canada and Mexico to protect the intellectual property behind sophisticated and expensive drugs known as biologics for at least 10 years.

These Democrats, like Canada’s generic drug industry, warn that the new biologics rule would keep drug prices high by requiring citizens to wait longer before they can get their hands on lower-cost similar drugs known as biosimilars.
We would be wise to heed the warning.

If you have seen the Netflix documentary series Dirty Money, the episode on Valeant Pharmaceuticals is quite revealing, illustrating the rapacity of an industry whose interests lie in maximizing profits, often at the very real expense (literal and figurative) of the people it is supposed to serve. If you watch the episode, you will see that Valeant became little more than a hedge fund, buying up other drug companies for their patents, slashing R&D while at the same time rasing drug costs exorbitantly.

The following video is another story of pharmaceutical corporate greed, one that should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. It tells the tale of a drug that had been provided free of charge but is now available only for those who can pay $375,000 per year.

We are constantly told that business does things better. If that involves exploiting human misery, you will get no argument from me.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Some Habits Die Hard

In some ways, it is hard to believe that the old Liberal propensity for corrupt coziness with corporate chums has reasserted itself so quickly, barely three years into Mr. Trudeau's tenure. In other ways, it is not hard to believe at all. After all, old habits die hard.

Th latest allegation is that Trudeau tried to influence former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution for bribery of Libyan officials in order to secure business contracts. It is an allegation the Prime Minister stoutly denies, but the fact is that Wilson-Raybould was recently demoted to Veterans Affairs.

Cause and effect? The smell of a smoking gun is in the air.

First, there is what has been described as Trudeau's legalistic denial in response to reporters' and House of Commons' questions:
“The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday in Vaughan. “Neither the current nor the previous attorney-general was directed by me or anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.”
The new justice minister, David Lametti, repeated Trudeau's words in answering the charge of interference in the House.

So, are we simply jumping to judgement, based on little or no evidence? The Toronto Star doesn't think so.
And what communications, if any, did members of Trudeau’s office have with Wilson-Raybould and her office on this issue? These are questions that can’t simply be waved away with a carefully worded blanket denial. The Globe reported that the company lobbied federal officials more than 50 times since 2017 on “justice” and “law enforcement” issues, including 14 times with Trudeau’s closest advisers in the PMO.

What exactly did they discuss? Did it include the possibility of SNC-Lavalin benefitting from a so-called remediation agreement that would allow the company to avoid a criminal trial on serious fraud and corruption charges (and therefore remain eligible for lucrative government contracts)?

And what communications, if any, did members of Trudeau’s office have with Wilson-Raybould and her office on this issue?

These are questions that can’t simply be waved away with a carefully worded blanket denial.
Susan Delacourt finds Wilson-Raybould's silence on the matter quite telling:
... she didn’t have a thing to say in the wake of the Globe and Mail’s explosive story of how the former justice minister reportedly stood in the way of a deal to let SNC-Lavalin detour around prosecutions that could have blocked it from receiving government contracts for years to come.

“That is between me and the government as the government’s previous lawyer,” Wilson-Raybould was quoted as saying in the Globe’s scoop, as well as a cryptic, “I don’t have a comment on that,” in reply to more pointed questions about how she handled the SNC-Lavalin case.

Pro tip: “No comment” only works as a clever misdirection in fictionalized political journalism. In real life, it is often regarded as confirmation.
Did she speak truth to power?

Delacourt attended a Robbie Burns dinner last week in which Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes took jabs at her own government:
One of those jabs was aimed squarely at the ouster of Wilson-Raybould from the justice job, and a joke about how an Indigenous woman lost her post for doing it well and unsettling the “white man.”
None of which 'proves' these allegations. However, it is worth noting that SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec company, has had a long relationship with the Liberal Party of Canada, even when it was out of power:
SNC-Lavalin, many were reminding us on Thursday, was the same firm that was detouring around election laws for much of that decade to put roughly $110,000 in the party’s pocket in those lean years.
And so, an old pattern re-emerges. Coupled with Trudeau's stout defence and dismissal of allegations regarding his good friend and fundraiser Stephen Bronfman over what was revealed about offshore accounts in the Panama Papers, as well as the CRA foot-dragging in going after the big corporate cheats who operate such accounts, one can justifiably wonder whose interests the Prime Minister really is protecting.

This may rankle those who believe a Liberal government should never be criticized, given the poor alternatives, but to take such a position is to be willfully and woefully ignorant.

Lord knows we have enough of that already today.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Far Less Than Meets The Eye

The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

-Hubert Humphrey

By the above standard, Ontario is quickly heading for a damning assessment. Under the self-proclaimed "government for the people," the buffoonish thugs collectively known as the Doug Ford regime are moving quickly to make the province a decidedly inhospitable place for the vulnerable. With a tacit philosophy of short-term gain for long-term pain, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa Macleod is promising to clear a long waiting list for autism treatment by giving treatment dollars directly to families.
Macleod says the amount of funding will depend on the length of time a child will be in the program, and support will be targeted to lower and middle-income families.

A child entering the program at age two would be eligible to receive up to $140 000 for treatment, while a child entering the program at age seven would receive up to $55 000.
If you watch the following video, you will learn how wholly inadequate this funding model will be:

And here is another story that brings home the point equally poignantly:

Should you wish to learn more about the devastation this new policy will wreak for the 'ordinary folks' Ford purports to serve, please click here.

Today's Star editorial most succinctly sums up the bait-and-switch nature of the government's new approach:
All the government has done is to distribute the current $321-million budget for autism services among far more people. That means less support and services for everyone who is eligible. And not everyone is eligible anymore, since the government has decided to deny families with incomes over $250,000 the right to even access this aspect of publicly funded health care.
Increasingly, I suspect Ontarians are experiencing buyer's regret in their electoral choice. Unfortunately, by the time such remorse sets in, it is usually too late, and the damage done by reactionary voting is extensive and long-lasting.

Better luck next time, eh?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ship Of Fools

To the untutored and blunt mind, the world is black and white. Incapable of nuanced thinking, it apprehends things only as they immediately appear. While, as the old saying goes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, when that mind resides in the President of the United States, it is both tragic and terrifying:

This, of course, is not the first time that Americans have had to endure a national leader with limited intellect. The difference under Trump, however, is that the usual correcting mechanisms are absent. First, like the fool he is, Trump thinks he is the smartest guy in the room. Hence, his reaction to the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S Intelligence Committee:

No matter what the threat assessment asserts, be it the dangers of Russia or China or global warming, or the fact that Iran has been abiding by the nuclear pact, Trump knows better. Compounding, aiding and abetting his massive ego and ignorance is a White House staffed with spineless quislings. One of the most public faces of that quisling cadre is Sarah Sanders, who suggests our hearts should not be troubled, claiming that God wanted Trump to become president.

You need only watch the first minute of the following, if you can stomach even that much:

The current American ship of state is a ship of fools. Hopefully, it will sink soon beneath the waves of history, taking the entire incompetent crew with it.

It is the only way forward for such an extraordinarily troubled nation.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Still Here

I haven't been posting much lately, and will probably do so sparingly for the next little while. The problem is that I can think of very little that is in any way constructive, filled as I currently am with a bleak and cynical picture of our species. Just to illustrate, I shall offer two brief videos that amply demonstrate a short-sighted and foolish humanity.

Exhibit One: While there can be few people who are unaware of the juggernaut of climate change quickly overtaking us and the need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, like Pavlovian dogs (no disrespect to canines intended) they react to lower gas prices by doing this:

For Exhibit Two, please advance to the 18-minute mark of the following:

So I think I shall lay low for a little while, try to return to some semblance of equilibrium (admittedly difficult, given that I live in Doug Ford's Ontario, where education is the latest institution under attack. And that, my friends, is a whole other magnitude of stupid.)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Things We Don't Know

One of the things I have always used this blog for is to bring to readers' notice things they might be unaware of. For example, although most of us know something about the environmental and fiscal impact of rapidly filling landfills, how many of us are aware that almost 85% of mattresses can be diverted from them and recycled?

Imagine what we could achieve if the efforts outlined in the following report were to be adopted nation-wide:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Way We Were

At the risk of being accused of "old-fartism," I offer the following which a Facebook friend posted. While I don't agree with the implicit and explicit denigration of the young in the post, it does serve as a reminder of certain advantages Western lifestyles of yore possessed.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

The older lady said that she was right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day. The older lady went on to explain:
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn't do the "green thing" back then.

We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the "green thing" in our day.

Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a r azor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family's $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the"green thing." We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person.