Monthly Archives: May 2007

Crumbling committees, crumbling Constitution

Parliamentary committees might seem the ideal place to die of boredom. Actually they’re not that interesting … unless pathology fascinates you. The high point of my recent two-week period watching them was Tory MP Mike Lake telling colleagues trying to draft a bill, “This isn’t a high school project here.” If it had been, it would have fizzed a bit then leaked gunk onto the desk.

I don’t need to tell you Parliament is in disrepair. Literally: You saw the crumbling masonry in Tuesday’s Citizen. But on May 15 in West Block room 209 I watched the Government Operations and Estimates committee try in vain to figure out how much they’re already spending to fix a building threatening to fall on their very own heads. You can get the minutes online, but they don’t capture the special flavour. It amounts to a crisis in self-government.

Yeah, yeah, sure. Question period is a disgrace. But why committees? you yawn. Because there, if anywhere, our MPs could do constructive work. Continue reading

Life is so odd that satirists can only applaud

Man, I never know what’s going on. Bottled water went from status symbol to environmental faux pas and the smart set started sipping from trees while I was seeking a rhyme for “macchiato” because impersonal corporate giant Starbucks is now threatened by cosy neighbourhood coffee shops. How’s a satirist to keep up?

I really do try. It’s true that I don’t watch TV news; my theory is that if something important happens it will be in the morning paper or my house will explode, so either way I’ll find out. But I drank gallons of ink on the political demise of André Boisclair, wondering how many ways pundits could say: “Toast pops from toaster.” And many trees were consumed to show me the admittedly comical spectacle of Gilles Duceppe executing an elegant half-loser, bouncing off the PQ and crashing back down right where he started. But honestly, how much did it matter? And what can a satirist add to such a performance beyond applause?

Oh, well. If politics has achieved transcendent self-parody, there’s always culture. Indeed, I still like Jackie Mason’s suggestion to save money on a date by plopping two fizzy tablets into water and giving her “selzier” instead of Perrier. But now Maclean’s informs me that trend-setters are rejecting the bottled water without which, until quite recently, no celebrity would venture forth improperly dressed. It may not have dawned on them that paying 3,000 times the price of tap water for a product no more wholesome shows gullibility, not edginess. (Here I tip my hat to Tom Davey, editor of Environmental Science & Engineering magazine, who has long argued that furnishing reliably safe drinking water for less than 1/10 of a cent per litre, to a populace no longer familiar with cholera or the “bloody flux,” is an environmentalist triumph as spectacular as it is uncelebrated.) But the eco-starlets have at last noticed it’s not all that good for the environment to fly water thousands of kilometres in small plastic containers. Continue reading

Suicide terrorism isn’t ‘progressive’ politics

Thanks to reporter Don Butler in this week’s Citizen, we know that some 20 Canadian “peace” activists just finished hanging out in Cairo with Islamist terrorists. It’s both alarming and depressingly familiar. The question is, will people on the respectable left in Canada take a stand? Against, I mean.

I realize that most progressive politicians, academics, journalists and citizens would never attend such an event. But it’s not enough. They must publicly and indignantly refuse to rub shoulders with people like the Canadian Peace Alliance, who have been rubbing shoulders with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Jamaat al-Islamiya. Unless, as writer Terry Glavin warned in yesterday’s Citizen, they don’t mind seeing causes they support hijacked by lunatics. And unless they cherish the disgraceful title of fellow travellers.

That people on the far left hold odious views is old news. Beneath the hard smiles and yelling about tolerance they are seething cauldrons of hate. But there isn’t much point in arguing directly with them: Blowing up civilians isn’t peace and you know it; Hezbollah loathes homosexuality and you know it; the Hamas Charter speaks of killing Jews, not Israelis, and you know it; and so on. Why expend useful argument on unresisting villainy? You know what you are and so do we. Continue reading

I have no recollection

Q: You are John Robson?

A: I might be.

Q: You are a professional journalist?

A: If it says so on my tax return.

Q: You have read stories about the Conrad Black trial?

A: Arguably.

Q: What do you think of it?

A: Well, maybe we shouldn’t say read. As a professional journalist, if I am one, maybe I skimmed those stories. I don’t recall. I have no idea how my initials got on those clippings. Continue reading