Monthly Archives: August 2009

Photo ops in Pangnirtung: That’s the plan?

The past week has seen a typical flood of press releases from the federal government claiming to highlight “Canada’s Economic Action Plan.” They make it sound like not much of a plan yet at the same time a very bad one.


Do only ideological purists object when the Conservative Party, headed by an ex-libertarian, thinks the prime minister should not merely interest himself in but fund and announce the construction of a dock in the Arctic? But government, of any stripe, is overstretched if such matters occupy the time and attention of the guy or gal at the top. I think it’s also worth debating whether a new regional economic development agency could possibly play a meaningful role in the long-term economic development of Canada’s North. And whether this one is likely to have the appropriate structure and philosophy when the same government that created it had, five days earlier, announced a similar body for Southern Ontario. Continue reading

Blame Obama’s lack of a real plan

The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama is in trouble over government health care. The truth is, government health care is in trouble over Barack Obama.

True, some of the president’s political troubles stem from the inflated expectations of his supporters. There is a tendency in politics to invest unrealistic hopes in the election of “our guy” as a triumphant vindication of who we are rather than his probable performance in office. (See for instance the boppy 1952 “I Like Ike” ad at where the sun rises again because we’ve sent Ike to Washington not because of anything we expected he’d do once he got there which, indeed, he largely did not.) But that’s a side issue.

The main problem is that there never was a health-care plan. There was simply an assumption, as persistent as it was unrealistic, that government could easily provide more health care for less money, more fairly, than the private sector. What has driven Republicans out of the bipartisan reform effort, while giving so-called “Blue Dog” democrats the cold robbies about the probable political, fiscal and medical results of this reform, is that it was meant to save money yet has been revealed as horribly expensive. Continue reading

How do I get one of these jobs?

Some days the headlines make me think I’m in the wrong business. Like Wednesday when it was reported that Premier Dalton McGuinty had personally appointed the two top executives of eHealth who caused a scandal by doing highly expensive nothing with a bunch of their cronies. Where do I get a job like that?

OK, so they eventually had to resign because they weren’t doing anything useful. But that would happen to me too, sooner and without the lavish salary or untendered-contract-to-crony bit first. Let alone the $317,000 severance former eHealth CEO Sarah Kramer pocketed. They don’t pay columnists that kind of money to stay and write, let alone to go away.

Actually I know of one exception. Boris Johnson, the overly colourful mayor of London (England), gets a quarter of a million pounds to write a newspaper column, just over $450,000 Canadian, while his day job brings in another £140,000. Unfortunately, I think you have to be mayor as well to pull in that kind of coin which in Ottawa might mean spending most of my term under investigation or on trial and three quarters of a million bucks on my legal defence which, even on Mr. Johnson’s salary, doesn’t leave that much for groceries. Continue reading

Resist the call of denial and appeasement

Hamas wants to enter a film at the Cannes Film Festival. No prize for guessing its central theme of death-to-you-know-who, or whether men and women had to sit separately at the Gaza première. But will the usual suspects win the Palme d’Or in appeasement by letting the film in and even praising it?

I’m currently making my way through the first volume of Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War, The Gathering Storm, a chilling account of the spineless fatuity of western elites in the face of Hitler’s growing aggression. It’s so dismal I wondered if I could stand to read this story if I didn’t know how, against all odds, it ended well. To test this, I picked up Bruce Bawer’s book Surrender, a chilling account of the spineless fatuity of western elites in the face of Islamists’ growing aggression. It was frightening and discouraging. Continue reading

What’s in a party name?

It may be the silly season in politics. But how much attention can adults reasonably give to the possibility that the NDP might consider a name change because they’re not new any more? Lots, apparently, if they’re pundits. My favourite thus far is the Globe and Mail‘s lead editorial (no, really) on August 5, which concludes sonorously that “The CCF-NDP has earned a place in Canadian politics, but would do better with a name that suggests a good balance between pragmatism and principle.” Yeah, they could be the Pragmatic Principled Party or “Flexies”.

Incidentally one point universally missed by the press, which is weird since it’s purely a press concern, is that the reason there is no nickname for the NDP is that “NDP” fits into a one-column headline (unlike “Conservatives” or “Liberals” but exactly like “Tories” and “Grits”). My own suggestion is safe because they’d become the PPP. But if the party chooses something new, pompous, ponderous and long, which they easily might, they’ll get stuck by us media types with a short nickname in short order and who knows, it might be an unkind one. If only there was something suitable besides “New” that started with an “N” so they could stay with NDP.