In the battle pitting the federal Conservatives against Elections Canada, the opposition and the press, a typical Ottawa competition to see who can perform most discreditably, my money was on the Tories. Until I made a crucial blunder: I did research.
The key issue is whether the Conservative party, in the last election, could donate money to riding associations to purchase advertisements very similar to national ones without those ads being counted against national campaign spending and putting the party over the national legal spending limit. It was, at least to begin with, a dispute not about facts but about how to interpret the law.
At this point I foolishly read what I hope were all the relevant sections of the 500-plus page Canada Elections Act. Here, in unavoidable legalese, is what I found.
My colleague Randall Denley wrote this weekend that if we consider municipal amalgamation in Ottawa a failure we should undo it. What a splendid heresy.
Not his sentiment that the megacity is not working out as promised, which others have also noticed. In any case, he isn’t ready to give up on it entirely. No, I single out for praise his remarkable assertion that if a piece of public policy proves to be a mistake we should undo it, and his even more startling underlying premise that we can.
Trivial, you say? OK, when is the last time a government introduced a measure, then admitted it was a mistake and simply repealed it? When, for that matter, is the last time a government admitted something its predecessor had done was a mistake and simply repealed it, even after campaigning on precisely such repeal?
The sputtering Olympic torch seems to be leaving quite a trail of soot on its way to Beijing. But by far the largest smudge will be deposited on the host country, whose Politburo will one day rue its decision to draw the world’s attention by hosting the Games.
Meanwhile I applaud recent protesters’ recognition that China is a grotesque tyranny and we really should say something. But I think they besmirched themselves by violently disrupting the progress of the torch through France.
I ask you: Is the government of France legitimate? By which I mean not “Is everything it does sublimely wise and just?” but “Does it follow the rule of law, conduct fair elections and enjoy broad popular acceptance?” Since the answer is obviously yes, by what right do people with a grievance against a particular policy of that government, even a justified grievance, take the law into their own hands? The appropriate remedy in a democracy is to give a speech, cast a vote or seek an injunction, not punch a cop.
Do you know what I think every time I get into my car? “Hands up everyone who’s on tranquilizers.” I’m not saying people need drugs to drive badly. But it must help.
Especially since literally millions of people are taking these things. Monday’s Citizen said 30.2 million prescriptions for antidepressants were filled at retail drugstores in the 12 months ending last Nov. 30, and 8.5 million for antipsychotics. I realize there are people with severe problems for whom these drugs are a Godsend, and I know the typical prescription runs for considerably less than a year, so 38.7 million of them doesn’t mean everyone’s got one. Still, when there are more prescriptions for happy pills than there are people in a country I say something is very wrong.
Especially as some researchers say that most of these drugs do nothing for most of the people taking them except make them fat. Like Dr. David Lau of the University of Calgary, president of Obesity Canada, who calls psychiatric-drug-related weight gain “a huge problem,” although he says scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens.