The extended honeymoon of the new Liberal government is nowhere more evident than in the pages of the National Post. Notwithstanding the divergence of their political perspective, the Post is having a hard time being critical.
First, there was Trudeau’s state visit to Washington and the obvious bromance between our Prime Minister and President Obama. Even the Post had to agree: “What’s not to like about him?” They may both be left-wing progressive politicians, but the pall which has over-shadowed Canada-US relations for the past decade has lifted and that has to be a good thing. Since Trudeau’s father graced the cover of the Economist decades ago, Americans have not be so smitten with a Canadian politician. Good relations between Canada and the United States is good for business. If the Keystone XL oil pipeline is not a go, TransCanada Co’s recent acquisition of Columbia’s gas transport infrastructure in the US shows signs of alternative business energy and investment.
Then, there was his sortie to United Nations Headquarters just last week. There may be all sorts of problems with the United Nations in this day and age, but it is the only game on the planet, and Canada does have a historic track record of bipartisan support for, and success with, the agency. Prime Minister Lester Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize for initiating the concept of UN Peacekeepers. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney installed Stephen Lewis as the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. Both won world acclaim for their early support of Nelson Mandela, and the work towards an end to apartheid in South Africa. Canadian General Roméo Dallaire exposed the UN’s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and Stephen Lewis has led UN efforts against AIDS in Africa.
On Thursday, page four of the National Post featured a Canadian Press photo of a thoughtful Trudeau above an article by Alexander Panetta proclaiming, “Trudeau pulls crowds amid bid for UN seat.” The page is headed by a quote from a UN staffer on the appeal of Justin Trudeau: “It’s like Beatlemania. It’s a huge deal.” One day it is the PM promoting Canada’s renewed campaign for a Security Council seat. The next day, speaking to a forum on women’s rights, he is mobbed for his enthusiastic support for women and the novelty of his proudly unabashedly calling himself a feminist.
On the same page, there is another National Post headline to this effect: “PM Says Senate ‘On Right Track.’” Ian McLeod’s following background article discusses the course of the Senate expenses scandal and quotes Trudeau as saying that the Supreme Court has made it clear that “it is not in the cards for us to simply wish the Senate away.” All this lays the groundwork for the extensive coverage, the next day, of the first group of the Liberal government’s non-partisan new appointees to the Senate. Given the undisputed quality of these new Senators, it appears that the new government may well be on its way to, as MacLeod quotes Trudeau as saying, “make significant improvements in the way… (the Senate) functions and to restore its place of confidence in the minds of Canadians.”
Lest such coverage of the initiatives of the new Liberal government be seen as unduly effusive, over the page on Thursday was another headline: “Millions spent on upgrades for refugees,” with large print noting, “bases readied, but facilities not needed” and, “the effort will cost taxpayers more than $700 million.” A careless reader might take it that the upgrades cost $700 million. Wrong. Jason Fekete’s interesting article on “new information quietly tabled in Parliament last week” reports the actual details of how the military spent $6 million to renovate and winterize housing on six military bases in Ontario and Quebec. The $700 million figure refers to the total cost of the entire “refugee effort” to the federal government. It strikes me that the military upgrading (undoubtedly fungible for other uses) is but a pittance of the total cost.
What is interesting about the article are the specific details of the military’s Operation Provision at bases in Kingston, Borden, Trenton, Meaford, Petawawa and Valcartier. Such transparency and timely accountability is novel and totally refreshing. With such coverage, Canadians may actually learn a little about how the Canadian military operates.
All this is written pre-Budget Day, tomorrow. It will be fun to see the Post’s coverage of that.
The National Post, these days, makes for interesting reading. The Professors’ Petition shows that the “Fair Elections Act” the federal government is presently attempting to ram through Parliament is anything but fair. A reader sent me this link, and I commend it to your attention. Also, note Post columnist Andrew Coyne’s column on the same subject. Make up your own mind, and let Prime Minister Harper and your local M.P. know what you think.
(Read on, below.)
The Toronto City Council meeting yesterday was an exercise in contradictions. From the beginning of the meeting to the end, Councillors attempted to do their duty while the Fords, the “mayor” and his brother, persisted in bullying and intimidation.Expert municipal lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, was hired by the Fords before the meeting to write a letter to the Councillors protesting their proposed attempt to curb his non-statutory powers, and to be present at the Council meeting to prepare for the court challenge which the Fords promise will come.Rust-D’Eye’s initial complaints were that the proposal to cut all his non-statutory powers was too vague, and that curbing Ford’s budget could impede his power to perform his statutory duties.
To meet these objections, legal staff assisted Councillors to draft a new motion which addressed the specific powers that were being curtailed. These included: assigning the Deputy Mayor to chair the Executive Committee and other key administrative committees, removing the Mayor from sitting on Standing Committees by virtue of his office, depriving the Mayor of his powers to designate or set times for items on the Council agenda and to choosing whether to speak first or last, providing City Council with power to fill vacancies on the Civic Appointments Committee and the City Housing Committee, and delegating to the Deputy Mayor those powers taken from the Mayor. In addition, the budget set for to the Mayor’s Office was cut by 60% and reallocated to the City Clerk’s Office to be administered under the oversight of the Deputy Mayor, effectively reducing the Mayor’s staff from twenty to eight. Staff currently working for the Mayor would have the option to transfer to the Deputy Mayor. There was considerable discussion how this budgetary allocation was determined and Councillors clarified with the City Manager that, should Ford find that he could not perform his statutory duties with the more limited budget, he could apply to the Council for further funds.
In their questions, Councillors were concerned to ensure that what they were doing could be defended in court. The City Solicitor’s opinion was that these were powers which came within the scope of the procedural bylaw of Council, and were not referable to Ford’s statutory responsibilities. In their speeches, the Councillors lamented that the Mayor had repudiated all their efforts to help him do the right thing. With the Mayor unresponsive, and his conduct more discreditable daily, the Councillors felt they had no choice but to do what they were doing. They voted on the amended motion, clause-by-clause. The votes carried with overwhelming majorities: 36-6, 38-4, 37-5, 32-10, etc. This was no left-wing “coup d’état.” It was the overwhelming decision of everyone, right, left and center, with only his brother and a handful of other supporters.
As conducted by the Councillors, the meeting was a sad and somber event, consistent with the seriousness of the occasion. The Fords, by contrast, treated the Council with contempt throughout. Both spent much of the meeting standing, Doug draped over the speaker’s dias (why was he not required to take his seat?), two hulking presences staring at the councillors seated at their desks in front of them. When Doug Ford spoke, he referred to the public in the gallery as “special interests,” “unions,” and the Mayor started to chant “NDP,” “NDP,” “NDP.” The meeting was about two hours old when a smirking Rob Ford left his desk and walked slowly along the aisle in front of the public gallery, his assistant taking photos of the people in the gallery. It is very intimidating to be photographed in such a situation. When people objected, Doug Ford joined his brother to bait individual members of the gallery. When there were calls of “shame,” “shame,” “shame,” from the gallery, the speaker Frances Nunziata ordered security to clear the public from the meeting. Needless to say, neither I nor anyone else moved. She called a fifteen minute recess when the shouting continued, and Mayor Ford knocked Councillor Pam McConnell to the ground. Fifteen minutes later, she rescinded her order, again admonished the gallery to keep silent, and demanded that Mayor Ford apologize to Councillor McConnell. Eventually he did.
At the end of the meeting, Ford’s last words to Council were that this was a “coup d’état,” and, as George Bush said to Saddam Hussein, “I warn you. I warn you. I warn you.” What they were doing was “the invasion of Kuwait” and would lead to “war” in the next election. Andrew Coyne in the National Post this morning caught the real flavour of the “menace” and “contempt for social norms” which has characterized the actions of Mayor Ford, and which was on display yesterday. As Coyne writes, “The mayor’s actions Monday were quite deliberate. They reflected the influence, not of intoxicants, but his own limitless ego and unformed character. As such it is not Ford who has the problem; it’s the city. The message he needs to hear, from every corner, is not get help, but get out.”
And with this, I will cease any further discussions of the Fords for as long as possible.