Monthly Archives: January 2007

In this trial, the devil truly is in the details

More than 300 journalists are accredited for the trial of Robert Pickton, accused of murdering many prostitutes. The saturation coverage borders on atrocious pornography.

What are we going to find out from it? We are going to find out — or some reporters, editors and readers hope we’re going to find out — exactly how a number of women were sexually killed. Why do we want to know that? What excuse can we have for not averting our gaze?

Not from the fact that they were killed horribly. Nor the question whether some of our laws should be changed to help save others from this fate. And I do not object to news features that give the victims names, histories and the fond recollections of friends and family. But we don’t need to know how they died or where the body parts were found. Nor should we want to. Continue reading

Getting a control on spending

When I watch governments spend money, I frequently make the sort of naive observation that suggests I just fell off a turnip truck. Such as: To avoid a tax increase, Ottawa council has to stop big programs from getting way more expensive year after year. If they can’t, they should admit it and explain why.

It could be tricky. I’ve complained before about the paradox that as western societies grow richer, governments keep taking more and more of our income. With poverty falling and most goods and services being produced more efficiently, you’d expect the reverse. Yet Councillor Clive Doucet reminded readers in Wednesday’s Citizen that when the old city council tried to freeze taxes in 2004, they “ended up slashing everything from yard waste pickup to public health.”

Why? If your budget is the same as last year, can’t you pick up as much trash? I’m also puzzled that the people who govern us for a living seem not just bad at it but strangely incurious. Don’t they wonder where the money keeps going? Continue reading

The Lemming Diary

Tuesday, Nov. 28
As the Western Standard’s eyes at the Liberal convention, I actually visit candidates’ websites. Gerard Kennedy stands for “Real. Liberal. Change.” I stand for “Real. Complete. Sentences.” I feel Left. Out. Rae’s site says, “Call me Bob, Let’s talk about the future.” Now I want to be left out. Ignatieff’s site offers Warhol graphics plus “vrai” “real” “leadership.” Is “leadership” a French word? And who’s offering the fake stuff? Dion’s site offers “Stéphane in depth.” With some candidates, this would be comical. With him it’s just uninviting.

Wednesday, Nov. 29
Arrive at ghastly Palais des Congrès. Convention opens late, with strange cymbal-laden “O Canada,” almost all in French. No delegates join in. Don’t they know the “porter l’épée/porter la croix” lyrics? Or is the original French too crusadey? Canadian patriotism is complicated, so Liberals avoid it. Delegates quickly pass a motion with the unspoken but clear purpose of letting an awkward “Quebec nation” resolution vanish. Turning to policy, half the crowd leaves. The party seems keener to talk about renewal than to renew. Delegates think Canada needs more women in politics, but fewer than three per cent support Martha Hall Findlay. Surely Rae can’t be the answer for a party branded as arrogant. Ignatieff’s 2000 claim to be Martian seems plausible, every photo bearing an “Earthlings make friendly faces like this” quality. Can Kennedy bore his way to power? Is Dion cool with that? Continue reading

When MPs cross the floor, it’s democracy in action

MP Wajid Khan may not have been wise to switch from the Liberals to the Tories. But he was perfectly within his rights to do it.

Parliament in Canada is not a subordinate appendage of political parties. It is the locus of self-government, and the independence of MPs is a precious, hard-won safeguard of our freedom. As Andrew Coyne wrote last summer: “We’ve got to get over this idea that any time MPs use their brain cells unchaperoned it is some sort of constitutional crisis.” Certainly we shouldn’t grumble endlessly about partisanship then, when an MP bucks a party, grumble that there oughta be a law against it

Literally. Jeffrey Simpson in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail said “If the Conservatives were genuinely committed to democracy and accountability, they would have put Mr. Khan’s decision on hold and introduced legislation requiring MPs to seek their electorate’s approval of switching parties.”

I don’t even see how you’d do such a thing. There’s no point forcing MPs to keep sitting with their former colleagues while letting them vote with the other guys. But if the proposal is for MPs to be told how to vote, who’s meant to do it? Surely not the party leader, since Mr. Simpson’s 2001 book The Friendly Dictatorship, said party leaders already have too much power. Alas, he gave no answer. Continue reading

Court has created the mother of all parent traps

You thought I was kidding. On Sept. 6, 2003, when this newspaper endorsed homosexual marriage, I wrote a column ending “Beware: Those who call for nonsense will find that it comes.” And now a court says a child can have three parents … and counting.

The decision strikes me as revolutionary. For starters, it makes polygamy all but inevitable. For if marriage, as two people of opposite sex, can be dissolved by any court and reconstituted as two people of any sex, and if parenthood, as up to two people, can be dissolved and reconstituted as three (or more), how long before a judge says all a child’s parents can be married to each other, especially if they all live together?

Perhaps we want polygamy and perhaps we don’t. But (pardon me while I blow centuries-old dust off the page) I think we should involve the representatives of the people in the discussion, not just judges. I mean, isn’t abolishing self-government also a bit revolutionary? Continue reading