Thursday, December 31, 2009


As most of you who read my blog know, although I have little time for most of the editorial writers and columnists over at the hapless Calgary Herald, I do read and have respect for a few. One that I have for the most part admired is long-time political columnist Don Braid who I have known and read for thirty years.

But alas, Braid is not always right. His column in yesterday’s Herald “Victim mentality keeps Liberals in doghouse,” is one of his more dismal efforts. Read:

He starts off on the right note. He sees the Tories on the ropes and the Alberta right coming apart at the seams. He notes that Alberta Grits are paying down their debt, becoming a presence on the internet, and presenting sound policies. All of this, Braid correctly observes, shows that Liberals in Alberta now have a great chance to move forward, and perhaps even attain power.

From that point on Braid’s column goes all to hell. He predicts that despite those positive signs of potential success, the Grits will fail because of their collective victim mentality which causes them to blame others for their problems. Braid says that the first words one hears from senior Alberta Liberals these days are “Why is the Wildrose Alliance getting a free ride?” The evidence upon which he draws this sweeping conclusion is that he recently met “one top guy” [who , and what makes him a “top guy,” he doesn’t say] who “threw me that question at a party this week.”

Well first of all, “one top guy” doesn’t speak for the whole party. Secondly, you find individuals all the time who are out of sync with any group to which they may belong. For instance, I’m sure you will find one or two Calgarians who might say that Stelmach is a good Premier, but that doesn’t mean that all Calgarians believe he is a good Premier. You might even find a Calgarian who will say that the Calgary Herald is a good newspaper, God forbid, and that sure as hell does not mean that all Calgarians believe that!

Braid continues his diatribe by saying that when the Grits lose they blame the media and also they “blame the voters for being too stupid to see their virtues. And the voters, far from stupid, pick up on the condescension and reject the Liberals once again.”

Well, I have spent more time around Alberta Liberals than the whole of the Calgary Herald editorial and writing staff of the last ten years put together, and I can tell you that this is pure – to put it politely – bullshit. If Braid believes that then he is spending too much time on the Tory cocktail circuit helping them drink their own bathwater.

Almost all of the Liberals that I know – and I know and have known thousands of the critters in the more than 40 years of being an active Grit - don’t blame anybody for not being able to form a government except themselves. They may be disappointed at having not formed a government after an election, but they just get back to work and merrily try to create a winning combination. And always with an abiding respect for the people as well as a smile. They are truly happy warriors, who – as the song goes - pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.

Alberta Grits are also resilient. The Alberta Liberal Party is the only provincial political party that has had a presence in every Alberta election since 1905 and thus holds the record of being the longest standing party in the history of the province. It has outlasted the United Farmers and Social Credit parties and was alive and well when the pre-Lougheed Tories were protected by game laws. Five will get you ten that the Liberals will survive the Tories once again and if anybody wants to bet money against that one, by all means, give me a call.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Like Father

Like Son

Preston Manning is after something. And what he is after, Steve Harper has got. Or at least he has control over it. And so what is young Manning to do? Well, just like his old man he’ll move heaven and earth to get it, and if it means having to stroke Steve Harper (a very distasteful exercise if you think about it), well, so be it.

How else can one explain the drivel of his column published in this morning’s edition of the Globe and Mail? See:

Manning lauds Harper for his stands on China and the climate change talks in Copenhagen and says both were consistent with the desire of Canadians that Canada be “a moral beacon and . . to set an example on the global stage.”

He chalks up Harper’s tardiness in visiting China to the PM's concern about China’s human-rights violations (Wish it were that Harper would have the same concern for Canada’s violation of human rights abroad). He would have us believe that the four long years it took Harper to get through this little exercise of pique was fair and reasonable because the Chinese now know where we stand. He must believe that the Chinese are slow learners.

According to Manning, Canada's four-year long snubbing of China, is our message to the Chinese that Canadians have a different view of democracy and human rights than China, that we want more trade with China, and that we will not sacrifice one for the other.

As a further suck-up to Harper, he naturally lambastes previous Liberal governments as being hypocritical in their dealings with China – dealings which, by the way, were much happier and far more productive than anything Harper has done since he took power.

But has Harper's actions caused China to change its stand on democracy and human rights?
Not a whit.
Has Canada changed its stand on Canadian-Chinese relations? After four long years it has done a complete about-face. It is Canada that has changed its position and not China.

All of this Manning says shows that Harper has made the Chinese “realize they were dealing with . . . a leader who says what he means and means what he says on both human rights and trade.”

What a crock!

A better explanation for Harper's abrupt reversal of policy is that somebody (could that somebody be the only Conservative who knows anything about China, namely ex-Grit David Emerson?) convinced Harper that his ignorant policy of ignoring China and playing kissy-face with the Dalai Lama was leading nowhere in terms of economic benefit to Canada and that after four years it was bloody-well time it changed.

On Copenhagen, Manning again lauds Harper for being realistic in his commitments to greenhouse gas emissions – naturally condemning Chretien’s Kyoto position as being unrealistic and hypocritical. The point of Chretien taking a positive leadership role in Kyoto of course does not cross his mind.

Now don't laugh. Manning concludes that Harper’s “modesty, honesty and transparency . . . on these issues is preferable to policies tainted by hypocrisy if Canada truly aspires to be a ‘moral beacon’ on the global stage.”

Manning’s relationship with Harper has never been warm. In fact, the space between his shoulder blades still bears deep scars from Harper knives inserted while Manning was leader of the Reform Party and Harper one of his disloyal camp-followers.

See also,

Given that history it is striking that Manning should be so fawningly partisan in supporting his old nemesis.

It reminds me of his father, the pious preacher and former Social Credit Premier of Alberta, Ernest Manning. In 1968 and 1969 during the early days of the Trudeau government and shortly after his retirement from provincial politics there was no more vituperative critic than Ernest Manning of everything the federal Liberals were doing – whether it was Medicare, the Official Languages Act, energy policy, or anything else.

However, at the beginning of 1970, the elder Manning fell strangely silent. For several months nary a word passed his lips publicly save for his weekly Sunday Back to the Bible Hour broadcasts.

At the same time, some misguided Alberta federal Liberals who had old Social Credit connections were trying to engineer a merger of Liberals and Social Crediters on the provincial scene to help knock off the threat of Peter Lougheed so that Social Credit would support the federal Grits in the 1972 federal election. Given the history and make-up of both parties it was a stupid scheme that was doomed to failure. Nonetheless it was pursued.

Many blandishments were offered to leading Socreds by the federal Liberals during that process. But the big fish that these confused Grits were after was Manning. If they could do something nice for Manning, they thought, Social Credit would be theirs. In early October 1970 they landed him. Manning Sr. was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Trudeau - a decision Trudeau no doubt regretted until his dying day.
Alas, it was all to no effect. Lougheed won the provincial election in 1971 and the Alberta federal Grits were wiped off the map in 1972.

Could it be that this is another Manning manifestation of like father - like son?

Could it be that this fawning over Harper by Preston Manning, this unseemly brown-nosing and apple-polishing of one's former tormentor is just a replay of his father’s many months of abject silence in the lead-up to his coveted Senate appointment by the Liberals almost 40 years ago?

Could it be that Preston Manning is looking for something that Stephen Harper has the power to give him? Like a Senate appointment, for instance, or some other pensionable lofty post?

As Conservative icon Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha’ !”

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Stephen Harper (above) is fifty years old. He’s been in politics since he was in his high school’s Young Liberal Club back when Trudeau was in his hey day. His grown up political career began back in 1985 when he was an aide to a prominent Calgary PC MP (who he later unceremoniously stabbed in the back).

His career has progressed from being a midwife to the birth of the Reform Party in 1987, a Reform MP from 1993 to 1997, a stint as head of the right wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition, leader of the Canadian Alliance who presided over the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives which morphed into the Conservative Party, becoming leader of that Conservative Party in 2004 and Prime Minister in 2006 – almost 4 years ago. It is a career that has now spanned a quarter century.

But it took him that long to find out that his childish – indeed bizarre – treatment of modern China was not in the national interests of Canada and that indeed China was many times more important to Canada than the Dalai Lama and Tibet. He snubbed China (by not going to the Olympics in Beijing and waiting 4 years before he made his first visit), and repeatedly and gratuitously blasted them over human rights (as though Canada under his leadership had an impeccable record in that department).

I wonder what else he will change his mind about in foreign policy. What will he do when he realizes that Canadian companies have billions of dollars of investment – particularly in the oil and gas sector - in Arab countries? Will he wake up and realize that sending his foreign minister on missions to harangue Arab heads of state as they sit on the tarmac at Gander, Newfoundland waiting to refuel is not such a hot idea?

Is it too much to expect that he will ultimately see the folly of his policy of wholehearted and continual support for Israel to the complete exclusion of Arab interests or legitimate concerns just for the sake of domestic politics in Canada? Will he finally get it that his heavy-handed and one-sided support in that conflict has led to a deterioration of Canada’s over-all credibility in international affairs?

And what of Afghanistan? Will he ever understand the intractable and indomitable nature of the people of that country and how for almost 2000 years they have repeatedly detested and defeated invaders regardless of the power they were up against? Given his blind pursuit of shedding Canadian blood and spending billions of taxpayers' money in that godforsaken country, together with the lies and deceits he and his government have precipitated upon the Canadian people as to progress and success in the battlefield, will he finally come clean and do an about face and get the hell out? After how many years of conflict, lives lost, and billions spent?

The point of all of this is that the office of Prime Minister is no place for on the job training. There are columnists and other Harper apologists and drumbeaters in this country who give him credit for finally moving towards a normal relationship with China. But what credit should he receive for that? Why did he not know long before now what he seems just to have learned about China recently? Or why did he let ideology get in the way of a sensible policy? And if he was ignorant about China and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and dumb and deceitful about Afghanistan, what other costly screw-ups are taking place?

For Stephen Harper to be learning about these issues at the age of 50 after a quarter century in politics is absurd. To be cheered and complimented by some Canadians for having finally reversed a stupid four year track with our second largest trading partner is an acceptance of mediocrity that would be laughed at in any other western industrialized democracy – except perhaps for the dumb and dumber crowd that comprise much of the Congress of the United States.

Harper’s knowledge of foreign affairs is as abysmal as it is embarrassing for this country. That he should receive raves and kudos from many in the Canadian press for fumbling and bumbling his way through to some positive foreign policy change is surely the triumph of incompetence over competence. In fact, it says as much about the dismal state of Canada’s press as it does about Harper.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I have read at least one book by Murray Dobbin namely 'Preston Manning and the Reform Party' and many of his writings. He is one of Canada's great progressive writers and one whose values I respect and share. This piece appeared in his blog yesterday. I thought the substance was so accurate and the emotion so compelling about the dangers posed by the Harper government that it was worth repeating on this blog.

The Republicanization of Canadian political culture
Posted: 25 Nov 2009 09:17 PM PST

Watching the sickening performances of the Harperites in the House of Commons this week – out right lying, bullying, slander, contempt for the public and parliament, and a stunning disregard for the public good – brings home a hard reality: we are witnessing the Republicanization of our political culture.

And it’s not just the torture issue – it’s the Conservative labeling of Liberals as anti-Semitic – a kind of shit-house rat politics virtually unknown in Canadian political history. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that Karl Rove is on the PMO’s payroll; his disciples certainly are.

This is storm trooper politics and the most alarming and depressing part of it is that it actually works. In a poll done by the CBC (though on Afghanistan the CBC and its polls can’t be entirely trusted) only 50% of Canadians believed the testimony of Richard Colvin. The rest, presumably, believed a politician, Peter Mackay, who has repeatedly demonstrated a total lack of character – most notably his self-serving lie to David Orchard about handing the Progressive Conservative Party to the barbarians of the Reform/Alliance.

Colvin – a man of extraordinary courage, knowing that his testimony would effectively end his career – told the truth simply because it was the right thing to do. But in the new Republican world of Canadian politics viciousness can win out – just as it did in the US with the Swift Boat attack ads going after decorated soldier/politician John Kerry. In a political universe where there are no rules of civilized behaviour, the most ruthless can win because the side that plays by the rules just isn’t mean enough.

There is no obvious way to deal with overt and unapologetic political thuggery. Fighting back in the same manner actually plays into the thugs’ hands because part of their broader objective is to poison the well of public discourse. The ferocious partisanship of the Harper Conservatives – who should really be called the Libertarian Party as there is nothing conservative about them – is designed to drive ordinary citizens away from politics. I can barely stand to watch and listen to the vitriol and lies and I have spent my whole life observing and analyzing politics.

I try to imagine what people who have very limited for it must think when they see this performance. But there is no question that it partly explains the fact that 42% of Canadians didn’t vote in 2008 – a huge advantage for the Libertarians.

Part of the explanation for the weakness of Obama’s administration is the simple fact that the Republicans, even though they are out of power, have so damaged the political culture, so scorched the political landscape, that rational discourse is simply no longer possible in the US.

Eight years of George Bush (building on eight years of Ronald Reagan) lives on and will do so for many years to come. Compassion was simply beaten out of US democracy – day after day, week after week, year after year reason was degraded, community destroyed, truth and genuine discourse ridiculed and crushed. It is impossible to predict whether or not these things are actually dead in the US – or whether the hints of fascism will grow into the real thing before reason and compassion can be rebuilt.

The election of Obama suggests that the fight isn’t over – there are millions of progressive Americans who share the best of civic values. But so far they are losing.We are not there yet in Canada but we are naïve if we think the same destruction can’t happen here. After four years of sociopathic governance by a man full of hate and contempt, Canada is already becoming unrecognizable.

We must stop this man before he literally destroys the country – that is, destroys the core of who and what we are and how we see ourselves. The first step is recognizing that we are in grave danger.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The following erudite column written by the brilliant columnist Lawrence Martin was published today. I hope everybody in the OLO has read it and memorized it.

Conservative record of smears tells the story
Lawrence Martin
24 November 2009 08:00

When in doubt, check the track record.

If that is done on the question of diplomat Richard Colvin’s testimony on the Afghan detainees, the Harper government’s side of the story doesn’t make it to the dance floor.

The Conservatives have a long history of trying to shield embarrassing truths from the public and of smearing anyone who challenges them. It’s one of the reasons critics were quick to pounce on Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s attempt to undermine Colvin last week.

In the same week, the Tories were distributing flyers to various ridings trying to paint the Liberals as anti-Jewish. The charge is ludicrous. Michael Ignatieff, one of the most right-wing leaders on foreign policy the Liberals have ever had, is decidedly pro-Israel. But that’s the way the Tories operate.

We recall how they went after Linda Keen, the former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and how they slandered Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, calling her a “national disgrace.” They smeared NDP members as being pro Taliban.

As for their record of secrecy and concealment, they may well exceed any Canadian government before them. They’ve muzzled their own ministers, shut down a giant government information registry, and made a mockery of access to information regulations.

No one should be surprised, therefore, if in fact they tried to cover up the Afghan prisoner abuse and are now forced into trying to discredit the whistleblower.

The Conservatives keep using smear tactics for a good reason. They work. Take the personal attack ads they launched against Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Ignatieff. Those leaders, who came out of the soft ivory tower of academia, had no response. Dion didn’t have the money to run counterattack ads. The party was broke.

Iggy’s team had the money. But what did he do? After being belted by Conservative commercials labelling him a just-visiting, power-hungry, carpetbagger, he turned the other cheek. In a series of commercials he stood in front of a forest mouthing platitudes and bromides.
Looking on, Stephen Harper was probably laughing his butt off.

The Grits, hovering at historic low levels of 23 per cent in the polls, desperately need a new strategy. They’ve got to throw out the kid gloves and start responding to the Tories in kind. Ignatieff hasn’t wished to be front and centre on the Afghan allegations because of his past controversial remarks on the use of torture.

But the torture allegations are only one element of this story. There’s a bigger one. It’s the alleged cover-up. Iggy should smear the Conservatives with that. Unlike most Tory charges, it might even be true.

Lawrence Martin is a journalist and author of 10 books who writes about national affairs from Ottawa.

Saturday, November 21, 2009




As I look at recent current polls the increasingly nagging question that keeps reverberating in my brain is, Has Harper already changed Canada in his almost four years of power?

There are many indications that perhaps he has. Canadians appear to have been sucked in by negative swiftboat tactics that destroy the reputations of good people. They have ignored Harper’s history as a far-right tub-thumper while he was head of the National Citizens Coalition, and that he had his nose so far up George W. Bush's ass he could see Tony Blair. Canadians seemed to pay little attention to Harper's fascistic attempted coup to destroy opposition parties by cutting off their funding last December, and they even seemed to fall for the canard that the evil was not the threat to democracy but the threat of a coalition.

Canadians gave Harper a pass during the last federal election when he tried to hoodwink the whole country into believing the big lie that there was little wrong with the economy. They seem to pooh-pooh his spending of gazillions of stimulus largesse only in Conservative ridings.

Neither do Canadians seem to recognize or care about Harper’s foreign policy gaffes and screwups that damage our international reputation and business relationships and put Canadian lives at risk. Canadians do not seem to have given a hoot about the confinement and torture of Islamic Canadian citizens abroad on trumped up charges brought by third world gestapoes, while Harper either does nothing, or worse yet, throws roadblocks in front of the efforts of those confined to extricate themselves.

Canadians seem to be ignoring or paying little heed to lies repeatedly fed to them by their government about Afghanistan – lies such as, that the allies are making headway, or that Karzai is an honest and decent man, or that we are bringing the Afghans the rule of law, or that we are making headway training Afghan police and soldiers. They have shown little concern for the Canadian lives lost and the cost to our national treasury in what most certainly is to become one of the West’s great lost causes.

Despite the Harper spear headed character assassinations, despite his government's dismal record in domestic and foreign policy or in protecting Canadian citizens abroad, and despite his government's lies and obfuscations, Canadians don’t seem to care. What the hell is going on? Has Harper already turned this country into a nation of sheeplike neocons like himself? Have we become a bunch of unthinking conservative lemmings?

Or are Canadians just playing possum? ‘Playing possum’ means to convincingly pretend you are dead so that others leave you alone. In boxing the definition is much more Machiavellian and lethal. It means pretending you were dead or asleep until your opponent gets careless and leaves an opening so you can deliver the knockout punch or move in for the kill. The famed middle-weight champ Jake La Motta (above, bloodied but unbowed) was good at playing possum. He won a lot of important fights that way.

Let us hope the Canadian people are just playing possum. Or perhaps just in the process of giving Harper enough rope as the saying goes for his lynching later on. Otherwise, this country is going to change, and not for the better.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


According to Wikipedia the definition of ‘Swiftboating’ is “American political jargon that is used as a strong pejorative description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue – for example, an ad hominem attack or a smear campaign.”

The term comes from a smear campaign against Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry in the U.S. Presidential election of 2004 which was launched by a loud-mouthed, right wing group of ex-military personnel, who told the world that Kerry did not deserve the war medals that were awarded to him for his war service in Viet Nam, and that he was basically a fraud and a coward. The ‘swiftboat’ term relates to Kerry having been a swift boat commander in Viet Nam as well as to those who defamed him, some of which were comprised of rock-ribbed Republican swift boat veterans who called themselves the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The whole sleazy operation – including television ads and a best selling book - was financed by wealthy and extremist, right-wing Republicans.

Kerry to his lasting regret took the high road gently dismissing the charges against him and mildly chiding his opponents for their low level politics. He went on to lose the election and swiftboating thus became a new favorite tactic of the right. For further examples of this odious ploy, see:, and for a further discussion of the term see:
In the United States, politicians who have been ‘swiftboated’ have learned to fight back. For example, Sarah Palin made little headway on her ‘death panel’ allegations in connection with Obama’s health care reform initiative. Neither did the ‘birthers’ get much mileage in their efforts to convince Americans that Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible to become President. Much of the press in the U.S. – not being as monolithically conservative as it is in Canada – has figured out swiftboating as well, and is not as likely to roll over as it did in the Kerry episode.
Canadians have been slow to learn about swiftboating. The Conservatives used the technique with their attack ads against Stefane Dion. They knew what they were doing. They wanted to define him to the Canadian people as an inarticulate bumbler who was not a leader. To do so they peppered our television screens long before the last election with highly prejudicial film clips taken out of context which sought to portray him in a bad light. The Liberal Party of Canada –presumably in a Kerry-like misguided attempt to take the high road – pooh-poohed retaliation and did nothing. The Conservatives were allowed to smear Dion with their definition of him. They had swiftboated him. The Liberals had been fooled.

And now – quite unbelievably – the Conservatives have done it again to Michael Ignatieff. The swiftboating of Ignatieff, again in the form of television ads composed of out of context and highly prejudicial film clips, has portrayed him as a selfish dilettante with no attachment to the country. The polls seem to be showing that once again the swiftboating of a Liberal leader by the Conservatives is working. And once again the Liberals seem to be doing nothing to retaliate. Surely, they are not being fooled again. Even the immortal George W. Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on . . . you. . . . . You fooled me once, I can’t get fooled again.” See:
To the Liberals and Mr. Ignatieff I say, "Don’t be fooled again!" There is too much at stake. A Harper majority government will change this country so that none of us years hence will recognize it for the great country it once was.

It is time for Michael Ignatieff and his new chief of staff Peter Donolo, to take the gloves off. The country needs energetic engagement on the political battlefield. Politics is a tough and bloody sport with little place for a genteel Marquis of Queensbury rule book. This is particularly so when one’s opponent has no intention of engaging in the contest pursuant to any kind of a rule book.

Its time to fight and fight back – on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills,* not to mention the church basements, small town hockey arenas, barbecues, hockey tournaments, and anywhere else we do politics in this great country. It is time for some realpolitik! And there is not one moment to lose!
(*with all due credit and apologies to the great Winston S. Churchill)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009



Special Ed! I guess, Special Ed! Just when you thought you heard it all there’s more.

Everybody knows about the botch-up on the H1 N1 vaccination program in Alberta. Between Ed and his bully-boy health minister Ron Leipert (aided and abetted by his federal cousins who have not come through with enough vaccine), the program is presently shut down for four days and scheduled to reopen Thursday. Contrary to the original plan which was to ensure vaccination of the high risk people first - namely, pregnant women and babies aged six months to five years - Ed opened the flood gates to all. Come one, come all, Ed said, first come, first served. In doing so he followed the advice of his incompetent - and I do really mean INCOMPETENT IN CAPITAL LETTERS - health minister who said that to vaccinate people who were in the high risk category first would be what the Soviet Union would do because the authorities would have to ask for proof that they were in that category. According ot Leipert, that was no system for Alberta to follow. No siree.

So Stelmach encouraged all Albertans to get right down to those vaccination centers - sick or not sick, unhealthy or healthy, high-risk or low risk – everybody was welcome to get their shots. The result was bedlam. Thousands lined up for hours on end in bone-chilling cold. Many in those queues who were in the high risk category had the doors to the clinic slammed in their faces because it was closing time or there was no more vaccine. Understandably, the people became perplexed, impatient, and very angry. They were also scared. This swine flu, they realize, is not to be trifled with. Why else, would governments want to vaccinate everybody? See:
But it gets worse. Today we heard the astonishing news that none other than the whole Calgary Flames Hockey Club jumped the queue the day before the government suspended the vaccination program. According to a Flames statement it was the Stelmach government’s Alberta Health Services that allowed the pampered stars to get their shots many days ahead of the great unwashed - which include the vast majority of the pregnant women and babies who are in the high risk category.

According to Flames President Ken King, 'Our players did not seek to avoid a lineup. They didn't ask for special attention. They followed the direction of our physicians.' Yes, yes, the stars didn’t do it. Somebody on their behalf must have asked the Stelmach government for special attention. Now who could that be? You might remember Ken King during his career as the neocon publisher of the Calgary Herald back when his then employer Conrad Black was learning how to loot companies and enter the House of Lords. Well, because of his outstanding service in advancing Black's ideology in those days King has impeccable Tory connections. As do all of the fat cat owners.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this Flames fiasco is what the “Alberta Advantage’ has been all about from the time the term was first introduced by the dumb and dumber crowd of the Klein years. It has always been an advantage only for the privileged establishment. While their incomes and stock portfolios grew and as they built their 10,000 square foot palazzos, the little people had to put up with lousy roads, deteriorating health care, declining education opportunities, and salary levels that just kept their heads above water – barely. The Flames chapter in this sorry saga merely points to a continuing theme in the Klein-Stelmach Tory era – money and power trumps all else. The Flames represent money and power. They jump the queue. To the Tories, nothing gets in the way of money and power - even pregnant women and babies during a swine flu pandemic.

This has to be the last straw for Stelmach. If the Tories don’t dump him in Red Deer and try to salvage what’s left of what was once a proud and honorable party, they are doomed, gonzo, kaput!

By the way, Special Ed's health officials announced yesterday that the vaccination centers are starting up on Thursday. This time it will only be for kids from six months to five years of age, and by God - just like the Soviet Union - they are going to ask for age identification. And on Friday, a week or so after the coddled Flames got theirs, pregnant women will get their shots.

And the Oilers have not received their shots. “Go Oilers, go!!!”

Monday, November 02, 2009




FLU 'FIASCO' FAULT OF FEDS (The Kingston Whig-Standard, November 2, 2009)

HUGE VACCINE SHORTFALL LOOMS (The Province, November 2, 2009)





CONFUSION REIGNS IN FLU-SHOT CLINICS (Toronto Star, November 1, 2009) OVERWHELMED (Edmonton Sun, November 1, 2009)

ALL FLU SHOTS ON HOLD (Edmonton Journal, November 1, 2009)

"Ce changement, les vaccins qui ne sont pas au rendez-vous, c'est à Ottawa que ça se passe." (Chantal Hébert, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

"It's very confusing, and I think it's an acid dripping on this government's key reputation of being good managers." (James Travers, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)"

La semaine qui s'en vient va être bien pire... il n'y aura probablement pas assez de vaccins, mais beaucoup moins que prévue, disponible dans les cliniques. C'est là que ça risque à brasser sérieusement pour le gouvernement fédéral." (Michel C. Auger, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

"The facts are that the federal government was responsible for making sure that there was enough vaccine for Canadians...[Prime Minister's] Chief of staff, Guy Giorno was sitting in for the planning meetings for the rollout of the vaccine." (Rob Russo, CBC News Now, November 1, 2009)

"Reaction to H1N1 seems like a horror movie." (Shannon McKinnon, Globe and Mail, November 2, 2009)

"This is the worst side of government as a lack of compassion." (Greg Weston, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)

"Chaque jour davantage, le dossier de la grippe H1N1 menace de tourner en fiasco de politique publique." (Chantal Hébert, Le Devoir, 2 novembre 2009)

"We spent something like $2 billion of taxpayers' money making sure that people are ready for this type of thing; and I think Canadians really can justifiably say... what have you been doing all that time?" (Greg Weston, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)

"Après avoir convaincu les gens que c'était essentiel d'aller vite, on leur dit: Ah bien, savez-vous, nous ne sommes pas capables de fournir ce qu'on devait fournir." (Chantal Hébert, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

"People are saying, how difficult could this be? Why aren't they doing immunization of the most vulnerable people, the children, in schools?...All those sorts of questions are being asked and not answered." (James Travers, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)

"Après s'être fait dire pendant trois mois il y a des vaccins pour tout le monde, on sait où on s'en va... on s'est depuis jeudi après-midi que c'est vraiment pas vrai." (Chantal Hébert, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Dear Ed,

Since you became leader of the Tories in Alberta I’ve always liked you. I know, I know, I was rough on you often, calling you names like ‘Special Ed’ and all, but I want you to know that what I did was always in your interests. It was my way of spurring you on to do great things. I knew the mess you were left by Ralph’s dumb and dumber crowd. In fact, I’m sure you knew it too given that you took such a major part in it. See:
And I knew it was going to take brains and ability to clean it up. So my motive was to inspire you to do great things. After all Ed, I live here. If you succeeded so would I.

I think part of your initial problem was that you and your pals like Danyluk and Snelgrove thought governing was easy. You knew that your mentor Ralph for the most part had an easy time of it, didn’t he? Almost until the end he had all of the usual Tory political, business, and media establishment kissing his ample backside – the big daily newspapers, the fawning columnists (two of which are now working for you), neocon media barons and think tanks like Conrad Black and the Fraser Institute, etc. It seemed to me that all you guys thought about when you knocked off Dinning was that it was now your turn to divide the spoils – Calgary had its turn and now it was Northern Alberta’s turn. Governing is far more complicated than that Ed, as I’m sure you have come to realize.

And so the first thing you did was screw Southern Alberta by tossing out most of its ministers. It was your first big mistake. Oh, I know, you tried to make amends. You put Ron Stevens in as your deputy premier, and added a couple of people in junior portfolios, but it wasn’t enough. You know the Calgary Tory establishment. They think they’re pretty good. They don’t like getting pushed around. This initial action, Ed, poisoned the well for you down here for sure.

Then there was the small matter of a lot of things going to pot in the province. I mean, we had deteriorating health care, education, infrastructure, and most everything else the provincial government is supposed to be taking care of. The problem was that people began to figure out that the Alberta Advantage that Ralph talked so often about was really no advantage at all. Oh sure, the oil companies were making big bucks. Developers, too. But the sick were being treated in hospital corridors. Some had to be flown to Saskatoon or Great Falls, Montana for treatment, for God’s sakes. Seniors’ care was understaffed, overcrowded, and generally a joke. Roads were an insult to the vaunted money generating capacity of big oil. There weren’t enough places or money available for our big universities to provide for all of the young people who wished to attend.*
[*On the matter of education perhaps when you are retired you will find time to read the following piece published on October 15 by the Herald’s premier columnist Deborah Yedlin:]

Geez Ed, did you know that Alberta had the highest high school drop out rate in the country? Or that Alberta had the lowest participation rate in the crucial 18 to 25 age category in post secondary education in the country? Did you? How about Snelgrove? Danyluk, even? No? I didn’t think so.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough you then goofed up on royalty policy. First of all, by ordering the task force study and then putting the study out for public debate just gave your opponents one big fat target to shoot at. Then when you decided on royalties you failed to provide for that dark day when oil and gas prices collapse (Did you know that it is an historical fact that they always do, sooner or later? Did you know that?). The whole royalty issue has won you legions of enemies and no friends whatsoever. Look at what oil companies put into the coffers of your party in the last year and a half. Hardly anything. Small gas producers are under the gun. It’s a helluva a mess.

I’m sure you will say that you couldn’t have been that bad because you won an election in the interim. Eddie – can I call you Eddie? – Eddie you won that election for two reasons. First of all, as Muhammed Ali used to say, the other guy didn’t ‘whup’ you, and secondly because the people wanted to give you a chance. It was not because the people thought you were competent, believe me.

While all of this is brewing, then we are hit by a financial crisis. That was something you and the Tories should have been prepared for. North America had been riding high for some time. There is a thing called the business cycle and it is more than a theory. Bubbles burst. Good governments prepare for that. The financial collapse forced your government to rocket into major deficit territory at a time when people were just figuring out that the Alberta Advantage for Martha and Henry was a crock. Bad timing for you, Ed. The result of all of that was the loss of Calgary Glenmore to the Wild Rose Alliance – even though you had a high profile candidate who ran a helluva good campaign.

Okay, okay, you might say much of this is bad luck. And you might be right in saying so. But Geez Ed, you have to try to help yourself. That statement you made the other day about reducing your pay by 15% makes you look like a weasel - even more than usual. You cut it by only 5.7% and everybody figured it out in about five minutes. And many are convinced you said it was 15% to mislead the people. See:
And you still haven’t learned how to give a decent speech where you do not look like a dweeb, for God's sakes!

And now on top of all of this, you’re confronted by the loquacious babe who just won the Wild Rose Alliance leadership. I hear old Tory stalwarts and ministers like Doug Main and Ernie Isley joined the party and voted for her. The story is that all kinds of old Tories are signing up for her. They’ve had it with you and the old Tory party. See:

Well, Ed, when I started this piece I thought I could still give you some constructive advice that might pull it out of the fire for you before your moment of truth coming up in Red Deer in three weeks. But after giving due consideration to everything, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do or say to help.

Perhaps you might think of going into your den, taking out your beretta, wrapping yourself in the Alberta flag, putting on maybe some of your favorite Hank Williams or Wilf Carter records, having a couple of slugs of chokecherry wine, locking the door and then do the honorable thing. Or perhaps do what the Japanese do when things are hopeless and they have run out of options. But, Ed, I think its over for you, and it’s probably over for the Tories.

Monday, October 12, 2009



Ritter (L), stacks of cash, and Carter (R)

Michael Peter Ritter is a white collar criminal in his early fifties from Edmonton. He is a thief, a fraudster, and money launderer. Just how bad a guy he is can be gleaned from reading these pieces:

Ritter was a wealth manager when the gendarmes finally caught on to him. Like many in the wealth management game he was intelligent, cool, and glib. As people were to discover he was also a nonpareil liar. He lied about having a law degree. He lied about finishing his studies at the London School of Economics. He lied about being admitted to Gray’s Inn for English barristers. He lied about being an intern in the House of Lords Legal division. He lied about attending the University of Geneva and he lied about having been an advisor to the Swiss Bankers Association. And all of that happened years before he got into his legal quagmire at which time he began to tell more lies.

Those early lies about his experience and education helped him wangle a job in the hapless Don Getty Progressive Conservative government in 1988. He conned Getty’s motley crew into making him chief parliamentary counsel to the speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly – one of the qualifications for which was that the applicant had to be a lawyer. The speaker in those days was the very pious appearing – and, as it turned out, fabulously naïve - Anglican man of the cloth by the name of David Carter, now happily retired and living somewhere in the Cypress Hills.

The job description for Ritter’s governmental post included advising the Alberta government on parliamentary procedure, constitutionality of legislation, conflicts of interest, and alleged improprieties of members. During his tenure, he took the position that the government and the speaker could do anything they wanted to do – even when it came to roughing up reporters. The Tories loved him. He was one of their true blue enforcers. He could do no wrong. In 1993 with his patron Carter’s retirement from government and politics Ritter followed suit, and soon began his sordid career as a wealth manager.
Law enforcement officials began looking into his affairs in the summer of 2002 and in October of 2003 he was indicted on several fraud related charges in Los Angeles that could have landed him in jail for life. He spent the next four years trying to fight off his tormenters by using every legal and illegal trick in the book – including arranging for a false passport under an erroneous name. Finally, on October 27, 2006 in an Edmonton courtroom he pleaded guilty to stealing 10.5 million bucks from one client, and of engaging in a Ponzi scheme that bilked 6500 investors out of 270 million dollars. He chose to cop out in Canada to avoid further prosecution in the U.S. where, had he been extradited and convicted there, he knew he would be spend a hell of a lot more jail time than in Canada. Once Canada got the guilty plea, the Americans folded their tent.

Much of the dough he made off with was the life savings of little people of modest means. He blew the money on lawyers, his pals, rich kids’ toys - like two private planes and a sky box for Edmonton Oilers games - and more of the good life. In other words he spent the money on himself. For a brief accounting of some of his expenditures and tastes read:

Surprisingly, some of his old government pals even tried to help him out by submitting character references to the court in an effort to get the Judge to go easy on him. Among them were Tory ex-minister Jim Horsman, ex-speaker Carter, and, oddly enough, even two former NDP leaders, Ray Martin and Pam Barrett. The judge that heard the case took the joint advice of the prosecutor and defence counsel, and sent the charlatan to the big house for ten years. So far so good.

However, about four months ago, the National Parole Board – now stacked with Tory and Conservative friends of Stephen – paroled Ritter. He had served a meager 18 months in a minimum-security prison for his dastardly deeds. Not only that, even though at his sentencing Ritter agreed to help track down the money he had filched so as there would be some restitution to his victims, not a dime has been forthcoming. Despite all of the aggravating circumstances the Board followed its policy of releasing non-violent offenders who have served only one-sixth of their time. After 18 months of jail time Ritter is free - free to wheel his Jaguar around town and live in baronial splendour in expensive three storey digs replete with a home theatre and cherry wood humidor, and plan his next move.

The case raises many issues and concerns. To say that the case is a sad reflection on the Canadian parole system under the Harper government is an understatement. The parole board gave him kid glove treatment for serious crimes that deserved real and prolonged punishment. Also, following in the tradition of Alan Eagleson, Conrad Black, David Radler and most recently Peter Pocklington, the prosecutions emerged not in Canada but in the United States once again for the reason that Canada lacks the resources to go after white collar criminals.

Then there is the curious case of David Carter. In most circles Carter was and is a well-respected Anglican clergyman. However as a speaker, his tenure was not applauded by the opposition. Too often he appeared to be pedantic, condescending and unduly critical of the opposition’s attempts at keeping the government honest. The fact that he worked with Ritter for so long without suspecting his mendacity is astonishing; that he would submit a character reference for the scoundrel after he more than others were lied to and misled by Ritter is even more strange.
But that’s not all. In 2001 Carter had his picture taken together with Ritter and a kitchen counter full of $20 bills. The money is thought to be all or part of $400,000 fraudulently scooped by one of Ritter’s clients and then given to Ritter for deposit into a Swiss bank account. Carter acknowledges that he helped Ritter take the money to Switzerland but was not suspicious about the trip because, “Wasn’t my business.” When he was asked what his reaction would be if he knew that the goal of the Swiss deposit was to evade taxes, the ordained Anglican priest said, “Hey, . . . that’s been going on for decades.”

That Carter exercised poor judgment in his dealings with Ritter is obvious. His blithe and reckless attitude towards what Ritter was doing with the money is either fabulously naïve, profoundly stupid, staggeringly arrogant, or stunningly and abominably amoral. Perhaps it is all of those things.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


On Saturday September 19 I posted a tantalizing bit of gossip that Ralph Klein’s old comrades-in-arms, bankrolled by a well-known, publicity seeking, oil patch gazillionaire, were scheming to drive Premier Ed Stelmach out of the Tory leadership and out of office. The story goes that the Klein cabal is set to replace the hapless Stelmach beginning as early November 6th and 7th at the Tory Convention in Red Deer when it would engineer a negative vote against him in the mandatory leadership review. The plotters believe the vote results would leave Stelmach with no option but to resign, after which he would be replaced at an early date by the darling of Calgary’s oily Tory set, Jim Dinning.
See: Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yesterday, Ralph himself seemed to publicly confirm at least part of the story. In a brief Email exchange with Canadian Press about what Stelmach should do in response to the results of his leadership review Ralph said, “I would advise he step down if he does not reach 70%.”

Klein's bold Email message follows closely upon the heels of a recent Email sent by one of his long-time inner sanctum, back splappin’, good ol’ boy pals, Hal Walker. Walker, a prominent businessman and former President of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, sent his message to 200 party members and business leaders complaining bitterly about the new royalty regime and that nobody in the Stelmach government was listening to the gripes.
Calgary Tories are not happy these days. They are all smarting over their third place finish in the by-election in Calgary Glenmore. They are worried sick over the rise in popularity of the Wildrose Alliance Party and see many of their former members embrace the new neocon movement. They remain angry at the bumpkin Stelmach for stealing the Tory leadership from their classy urbanite Jim Dinning. Of course, they blame Stelmach for all of their political woes and did not even allow him to campaign for the Tory candidate in the Glenmore by-election. More importantly, the oil patch, feeling the pain of sharply reduced oil prices and feeble gas prices, is up in arms at the government over the royalty policy. And everybody – Tories included – blames the government for shaky and costly health care and the mounting deficit. Add to that toxic brew the fact that the old Klein operatives are seething about being long ignored and neglected by the new regime, and you have an Alberta Tory party that is ready to explode.

My guess is that there is more than a good deal of truth to the rumour of a coup d’etat against Stelmach. I also foresee a disappointing leadership review vote for him particularly coming out of Calgary and Southern Alberta. If he is forced to pack it in – and I predict that this will happen – it will set the stage for another Tory leadership brawl. I can foresee Stelmach’s Northern Alberta and rural support being very antagonistic to any Calgary-based insurrection. I also foresee Stelmach’s ethnic voting base in Edmonton and Northern Alberta getting mad as hell at the knifing of one of theirs by a bunch of rich anglos from Calgary. In these circumstances whoever replaces the Premier is not going to have an easy time of it.

It is easy to sympathize with Stelmach as he faces his sad plight. Because of bone headed fiscal policies of his predecessor Ralph Klein – the man who just stuck the knife squarely between the Premier’s shoulderblades – Stelmach was forced to increase spending by billions of dollars on neglected infrastructure and declining services. Then he’s hit by an economic downturn that drives his province into a whopping deficit. Hell, he hadn’t even begun to start solving the huge problems left on his desk courtesy of Ralph Klein. Surely, one could – and probably should – blame Ralph Klein for the current mess we are in.

But wait a minute. Not so fast. Let’s think about this. Or preferably, read this:
Saturday, January 27, 2007

That brings us all back to earth, doesn’t it? Alas, there should be no tears when Special Ed throws in the towel.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Dear Michael:

After today’s development I have no doubt but that the next letter I write to you I will properly address you as Dear Prime Minister.

It was just last Saturday that I had the temerity to offer you some sound political advice on the basis of hard earned experience grinding it out for the Liberal Party for years in the hardscrabble and mean streets of Calgary.

I told you that you had to unite the party in order to fight an election campaign and warned you about the dangers of internecine warfare. By God, you listened. You overruled your Quebec Napoleon wannabe warlord and he packed it in and got out of town. See:
Talk about a huge, but delicate and inflated ego! He went up in a puff of smoke, as if David Copperfield himself might have had something to do with it. But now, as a result, the party is more united than it has been for a very long time! Good on you!

I told you keep all of the grass roots happy and to honour our tested veterans and not stand in their way if they wished to serve. And you did just that for Martin Cauchon. Bravo! And I know you will do the same for Stephane Dion and others who are in the great Grit Hall of Fame. Thus, you are well on the way towards keeping all of the grass roots happy. Kudos again!!

I told you to be guided by good advice. And by Jove – as Jacques Parizeau used to say – you listened to some Ontario wise men so we’re told and they gave you some good sound advice. Because of it you decided to give Cauchon a crack at Outremont! I toast you and your wise advisors! Keep them close to you – they’re really good!

I told you to stop appointing riding candidates, and you are doing just that. Cauchon has got to run for the nomination. It will be good for him and good for the party. Look what it did for Justin Trudeau in the last election. It gave him instant credibility and stature. He ran for the nomination, won it, built up his organization and proved his mettle by winning a tough campaign! Exactly the way it should be done.

And finally I told you that you were the boss and to put misguided underlings, power trippers and other riff-raff in their place. You did just that. You overruled your portly field marshal because you thought he was wrong. It took a while, but you did it and that is the main thing. Next time it won't take you as long. You did just what a boss should do! He was so distressed he quit. That’s the kind of guy Michael you never want to have in the trenches beside you, because when you need him most he won’t be there. Either that, or he’ll offer to support you in the event you win or tie.

All in all, an excellent day for you, sir! Now its onward! Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes! Keep up the good fight! Sleep well tonight knowing that during the last couple of days you have proved yourself a leader!

Your Pal


Saturday, September 26, 2009


Dear Michael:

Hopefully, the next letter I will write to you will address you as Dear Mr. Prime Minister.
Alas, we are not there yet.

You’ve had a tough week. It could have been a helluva lot tougher had not the UN and G 20 meetings together with Obama, al-Gadaffi, and Ahmadinejad not squeezed almost everything else off the front pages. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to squeeze it all.

I am going to offer you some sound advice. Yes, I know I come from Alberta, and I know Liberals out here are protected by the game licensing laws, and yes, I know, we have our conventions in phone booths, yada, yada, yada. But out here in Alberta a Liberal has to fight for every vote he gets, and we’ve been doing it for years. Accordingly, we Alberta Liberals have learned a few things along the way that seem for the moment to be forgotten in the greener Liberal pastures of central Canada.

One of the things we have learned is that a political party has got to be united to fight an election campaign. Actually, I thought the Ottawa crowd might have picked up on that after the last three federal elections. Had it not been for the Martin-Chretien internecine warfare we would probably still have power. But it was not to be. Many in the party wanted to slug it out amongst ourselves and they did – often times using every mean trick in the book. And all it got us was one weak minority government and so far almost four years in opposition.

So my first piece of advice is to unite the party. This means giving due respect to tried and true warriors like Martin Cauchon and Stephane Dion. It means that we must honor our people who have contributed to our success and not stand in their way if they are obviously willing and able to contribute more. This also means not foisting an unknown candidate on ridings where there have long been strong and viable party organizations. In short, it means you must strive to keep all of the grass roots happy.

The second piece of advice I have for you is that you must listen and be guided by good advice. The events of this week show that there are lapses of sound advice within your organization. Get good advisors around you and listen to them. Beware of self-serving ward-heelers with their own private agendas and please watch out for power trippers. They can be spotted a mile away, so keep your eyes and ears open, and when you see them, don’t listen to them. They’re trouble.

The third piece of advice I offer you is that you must stop this infernal practice – launched by your predecessors, to be sure – of appointing riding candidates. By appointing candidates, you are losing the advantage of party renewal. If a nomination is contested, new members come into the organization. They are generally excited, energetic, and motivated because of the contest. By appointing candidates you are avoiding the contest and thereby lose its advantages. The other very negative aspect of appointing candidates is that it carries with it the stench of the laying on of hands. As such, it is anti-democratic and always invites harsh criticism and recrimination. Use the power only in very rare circumstances. Otherwise, let democracy take its course.

Finally, remember it is not any of your minions that are the boss. You are the boss. I suspect that one of the reasons for the unseemly battle over Outremont – which went on far too long – was an unwillingness to offend someone who was giving you bad advice. I couldn’t imagine your glorious predecessors like Trudeau or Chretien ever being that sensitive. You have got to put lesser people in their place when they attempt to lead you into a quagmire and if they persist, well, get rid of them.

So that’s it for now. Keep up the good fight and don’t listen to any of the nervous nellies. Just take my advice.

Your Pal,



Thursday, September 24, 2009


Once again President Obama is doing the right thing. This time he’s sticking it to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the lame-duck leader of the once mighty, now disgraced British Labour Party. Obama within the past few days has turned down no less than five requests from Brown and his minions to have a meeting together at the UN or at the G20 summit.

While in New York Obama had bi-lateral meetings with Russian president Medvedev, Chinese president Hu Jintao, and Japanese prime minister Hatoyama, but not riff-raff like Brown. Obama obviously has his standards.

Obama is still pissed at the Brown-Gaddafi Faustian deal to have the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi released from prison and shipped back home to Libya so that BP could fatten its profits with the proceeds of a gazillion barrels of Libyan oil. For Brown, the only ethical lapse of this sorry deal was that his pal Gaddafi promised a low-key homecoming for Al-Megrahi and didn’t deliver. Instead the Colonel gave the convicted murderer of 270 innocent victims a hero’s welcome. Unlike Brown and his oily and unctuous predecessor Tony Blair - now taking up space as the most useless special Middle East peacemaker in history - Obama has principles.

Not only is Obama ignoring him, the hapless Brown was even outmuscled for a prime time speech slot at the UN by his pal Gaddafi whose 100-minute wacko speech left hardly any time at all for Brown’s snore fest about climate change.

But Brown has even bigger problems than being snubbed and ignored by Obama or bulldozed and elbowed out of the way by his pal Gaddafi. The lastest of a very long list of beefs from within his party and caucus is that he is now under fire for refusing to fire his Attorney General who was convicted of employing an illegal immigrant. Backbenchers, ex-ministers, and party regulars are demanding that he put the party and the country out of their misery by leaving office now, while the party still may have a chance to avoid a cataclysmic defeat in the next election expected in 2010.

This could be the beginning of the end to the once mighty Labourites. If so, because of Brown and Blair there will be few tears should it come to pass.

Saturday, September 19, 2009



I have just had a pleasant evening with good friends in one of my favorite restaurants – Caesar’s Steak House in downtown Calgary. The conversation was scintillating. The steaks were excellent as usual – Caesar’s is one of the great steak houses of the world! – and the excellent vintages flowed freely and generously. As is usual in the social milieu where I lurk about, politics was very much a hot topic of conversation. On occasion at these soirees one hears something for the first time that may not yet be in the public domain - a scoop, as it were.

Tonight I have what may be a scoop. It comes from a usually reliable source. If the event comes to pass, you can say you heard the essence of the story here first.

Here goes. A prominent, middle-aged, and colourful oilman much in the news is leading [financing][encouraging][promoting] a coup d’etat against Premier Ed Stelmach. The pissing contest – at least the initial salvoes thereof – is scheduled to take place November 6th and 7th at the venerable Capri Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta during the Annual Meeting of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. For more details of the venue and proceedings see:

The story is that the aging but prominent and colourful, oft seen, oilman gazillionaire – reputed in some circles to be a lothario - together with assorted neglected, seduced, and abandoned apparatchiks and hangers-on from the old Klein organization, have had it up to their ears with the befuddled, dweebish farmboy. The ignominious loss of Calgary Glenmore was the last straw. They have conspired to band together and begin moving heaven and earth to have their esteemed leader booted from the party leadership and the Premier’s office. Sounds like something that could happen in the Tory party, right?

But, you may ask, just who do these plotters have in mind to replace the Czar of Fort Saskatchewan - Vegreville? Why none other than the man Fast Eddie vanquished in the leadership contest of 2006 – the Honorable Jim Dinning! Think of it, Dinning is the logical champion of the insurrectionists. Not only did he serve 11 years in the legislature and preside over three portfolios - but these days he has a lot of time on his hands. I mean, he only serves on the boards of twelve public companies and institutions – including his flagship, the Liquor Stores Income Fund. And he hasn’t received an honorary degree since 2002.

So there you have it - the dashing oil baron and the forgotten Klein operatives who have been licking their wounds in abject silence for so long, slithering into line behind a beaten and forgotten former minister who doesn’t have enough to do.

And you can say you heard it here first.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I happened to watch a CBC interview last night with Chris Alexander. In case any of you don’t know who he is, he was Canada’s first ambassador to Afghanistan appointed after the fall of the Taliban government. Alexander took the job in August 2003 at the tender age of 35 and held it until October 2005. Doing the math, I presume he was born around 1968 (I’m not exactly sure of the date as he has not been around long enough to have his vital statistics posted on Wikipedia).

In any event, 1968 is the same year that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, that Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister, that Lyndon Johnson stepped down as President, and that Richard Nixon was elected President. The Viet Nam war which began in 1959 - a full 9 years before Alexander was born - was in full throttle in 1968 and would continue for another seven years until 1975. The American administration was up to its neck in the war as it blindly embraced the now-debunked domino theory as the basis of its policy of containment against the spread of communism. The American people finally turned against the war prompting Congress to stop direct U.S. military involvement by August 1973. By the time the war was over in 1975 – former Ambassador Alexander was 7 at the time - it is estimated that between three and four million Vietnamese had perished in the conflict, as well as 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians and almost 60,000 Americans.

I was reminded of Viet Nam as I watched the Alexander interview. I also reflected on David Halberstam’s outstanding chronicle of the war and the mistakes that led to it and prolonged it - The Best and the Brightest. Halberstam painted a picture of how bold, intelligent, and youthful men of brilliant academic achievement and with careers marked by success after success could be so blinded to the real world that they could lead their great nation and together with several others into an tragic international catastrophe causing the deaths of millions, and in the end to have accomplished nothing.

Surely, ex-Ambassador Alexander is one of our best and brightest. Consider this: he has a BA in history and politics from McGill, and an MA in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College at Oxford. In 2005 he was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He joined the Canadian foreign service back in 1991 and has done two three-year stints at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow, one as Second Secretary and another as Minister Counsellor. Back in Ottawa he was Deputy Director in the foreign affairs department responsible for bilateral relations with Russia, as well as an Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. After his time was up as Ambassador he became Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Afghanistan, a post he held from December 2005 to May 2009. Yes, Alexander is one of Canada's best and brightest.

Like the young men Halberstam wrote about in his book, on his war in Afghanistan Alexander is a hawk. He wants more international troops on the ground and he wants to attack militant targets in Pakistan. He believes that even though the situation is getting more unstable the problems are not insurmountable and that more troops are part of the solution. He believes that NATO troops should be present everywhere that the enemy wants to be present and that progress must be made on the military front or development goals will continue to slip. As Halberstam described bright older figures seeking the counsel of the bright young men that he wrote about, so do bright older figures like Richard Holbrooke U.S. Special envoy to the region and Kai Eide the top UN official in Afghanistan regularly seek Alexander’s advice. Alexander also believes that although there was voter fraud in the recent election, it did not affect the result.

Sound familiar? It does to me. It is the Best and the Brightest all over again. After 8 years of war and the sacrifice of lives and treasure, the show must go on. The historian does not mention history. He does not mention our sacrifice. He does not mention the defeats of the forces of the British Empire. He does not mention the Russian nightmare. Like the best and the brightest of Halberstam’s world, Alexander believes that all we have to do is more and just let he and his brainy pals do the planning.

One further thing about Alexander. While he served as Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Afghanistan, he was responsible for political affairs, including international support for political outreach, elections, disarmament, governance, regional cooperation, the rule of law and police reform as well as cooperation with the International Security Force. In fact, on Alexander's watch the political situation has deteriorated, international support is feeble, disarmament but a pipe dream, governance is corrupt and invisible, regional cooperation a concept known only to the war lords, and the rule of law and police reform being reflected by the heroin crop and torture. Alas, this Canadian wunderkind’s report card is not impressive.

Alexander has just announced his candidacy for the Conservative nomination for the riding of Ajax-Pickering for the next federal election.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Simply put, by the time he left office Tony Blair had become a disgrace. It took awhile for people to figure it out. He had style and elegance, and could give a good speech. Those attributes and skills were good enough to get him elected as leader of the British Labour Party in 1994 at the young age of 41. At the time, Labour had been out of office for several years. It was hankering for someone who looked young and vigorous and who had the bearing and potential to win the big enchilada and become Prime Minister. So too was the British public that had grown tired of the Conservatives under the hard as nails Margaret Thatcher and the doltish John Major. The talented Blair was embraced by first his party and then his country, and by 1997 was Prime Minister.

As a politician Blair had an eel-like quality to him that saw him move from being a socialist to the centre right and in the process create the right leaning New Labour out of the traditional old left-wing Labour Party. Indeed, under Blair’s watch the British Labour Party for the most part became indistinguishable policy-wise from the Conservative Party.

Blair went off the rails with the beginning of the ‘War on Terror’ in 2001. He quickly wrapped himself in the American flag and offered his unflinching and misguided support to George W. Bush. Through the whole of the disaster of the Iraq war Bush had no greater admirer, yes man, and lackey. Blair promoted the Bush lies about weapons of mass destruction, and led his country into the rag-tag coalition of the willing which proceeded to make an even greater mess in Iraq without any plan for cleaning it up. His coziness with Bush earned for himself in his own country the same disrespect and opprobrium that Bush gradually acquired in his. Like Bush, Blair has even been accused of war crimes.

Blair was also a man who looked out for Blair. During his years in office he repeatedly displayed a Republican Party-like affection for money and power. His genuflections to Bush were an example. Indeed his kowtowing to ‘W” earned him the coveted Congressional Gold Medal in 2003. He also enjoyed the company of more unsavory representatives of wealth and power. He vacationed with the likes of Silvio Burlusconi and Rupert Murdoch, and acquired a somewhat odious record of stroking media barons. The trappings of and proximity to wealth and corporate power were important to Blair, the former socialist.

The Labour Party gradually grew exasperated with Blair and finally sent him packing in 2007. By then he cuddled up to enough people in high places that upon his resignation as PM in June 2007 his pals in the UN, the U.S. Bush administration, Russia, and the European Union – self described as the Quartet of International Mediators - made him Middle East Envoy to promote peace . This was despite the fact that not only were his credentials for objectivity in the region never high, they were most certainly shattered with his blind devotion to Bush. Predictably, Blair’s record as a peace envoy is not enviable. An example of his effectiveness was that the press noticed his attendance at the opening of the Armani store in Knightsbridge during the first nine days of the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza hostilities.

Blair proved, as countless but well-connected failures have proved in the past, that friends in high places can compensate for a lot. Presently he is a senior advisor to JP Morgan Chase and Zurich Financial Services and performs obscure but expensive services for other giants in the corporate world. He is reported to be making a cool $ 15 million a year, and stupid people throughout the world continue to shell out $250,000 in fees for one of his 90 minute rubber-chicken circuit snore fests.

In recent weeks it appears that the moral decay that was so evident in Blair’s final years in office has been passed on to the Labour government of his successor Gordon Brown. It has recently been disclosed that the promise of future trade and oil deals helped get the convicted Lockerbie bomber, 57 year-old Libyan national Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, an early release from a UK slammer and back safely into the welcoming arms of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli. The oil deal was for Britain’s mega oil company flagship British Petroleum, or BP – which, by the way, is still reviled in Iran as the great Satan because of its earlier days as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company when it used to siphon off gazillions of revenues from Iranian oil straight into the British Exchequer.

Scottish authorities initially took the fall for al-Megrahi's early release, saying that the convicted killer of 259 people was released on compassionate grounds because he was dying of prostate cancer. Naturally, victims’ families joined opposition politicians and sensible British citizens in condemning the move. Prime Minister Gordon Brown denied complicity in any Al-Megrahi for oil and business swap. However, Brown’s Justice Secretary Jack Straw says that a BP oil deal in Libya was very much a factor. Other UK officials say that the release of Al-Megrahi was an attempt to bring in Libya from the international cold and improve British – Libyan trade. Col. Gadhafi’s son who was part of the negotiations that led to al-Megrahi’s release says that Libya put the heat on the Brits to include al-Megrahi in a prisoner release program tied to future trade deals. Documents have surfaced which seem to confirm the Straw/Gadhafi version of events.

It is also true that BP inked a $ 900 million oil deal with Libya and the company admits that it urged the government to sign a prisoner transfer deal, although it points out that it did not specifically refer to the bomber. Brown continues to profess innocence in the whole matter – much as the piano player in the bordello who claimed he didn’t know what was going on upstairs.

Also, in the past few days it was reported that The UK’s thirst for oil has led it into further moral quicksand. Sources say that the UK’s secretive SAS – one of the world’s most efficient commando units – is giving special forces training to Libyan soldiers. This is the same SAS who fought IRA rebels in Northern Ireland who were armed to the teeth with weapons and explosives supplied by, guess who? The Libyans. The government’s response is that Libya has changed from rogue state to responsible ally, a conclusion hardly in keeping with the very public hero’s welcome bestowed upon Al Megrahi when he arrived back in Tripoli after his years of incarceration for the mass killing conviction.

The story is clearly one of a political party having lost its moral compass. These events convey the unmistakable principle that in the UK, if one has access to a large supply of oil and is prepared to part with some of it to British interests one can get away with murder. Or to put it another way, to the Labour government of Great Britain money and oil, trumps all else - including justice. This is the legacy of Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown. In these circumstances the British people should either provide the British Labour Party with a very long respite from political power in order to allow it to try to restore to itself some semblance of honour and principle, or, throw it into the trash heap of history. In light of recent events, I believe that the latter alternative is the best.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


The Calgary Herald’s current stable of columnists include arch- conservative Nigel Hannaford (who I believe is actually on the payroll of Canwest Publishing Inc, a division of that paragon of fiscal responsibility, CanWest Global Communications Corp). Mr. Hannaford’s specialties include defending neocons and right-wing loud mouths, attacking human rights commissions, and denouncing all liberals including Barack Obama.

Then there is Susan Martinuk. She too inflicts invective on everything progressive in society. She is also a member of the ‘Proud to be Canadian’ conservative blog joining such literary giants and luminaries as the lovely and talented scourge of civility, Ann Coulter. As a matter of fact, the Proud to be Canadian book store on its website plugs several books by Coulter and even one by that intellectually-challenged elfin pipsqueak from Fox News, Glenn Beck.

Also on the Herald's editorial pages you will find Mark Milke's column once a week. Whether he's paid to write it I can't say. If he is, it is an expense his bankrupt employer should surely bring to an end. Milke is a senior fellow with the Frontier Institute, a Winnipeg-based, conservative, political tub thumper for corporate special interests masquerading as a think tank. Indeed, the Frontier Institute is quite similar to the more well-known and notorious right-wing pamphleteer, the Fraser Institute. Milke believes that global warming is a crock, favours unbridled capitalism, has no time for human rights commissions, and promotes the idea of unfettered freedom of speech. From his writings one can only conclude that Milke believes that the current trend of public figures and loud mouth talking heads yelling and screaming at each other and riling up their publics so that they bring guns to political meetings is what freedom of speech is all about. See:

That is just a sampling of the sorry state of the CanWest press in my city, and I haven’t even touched upon the trite but mercifully, increasingly rare columns of nonsense foisted upon the Herald’s declining readership by its editorial page editor the Contessa Corbella.
The above sorry lot have been joined now by Michael Taube. Surprise, surprise – Taube is a former speech writer for what could be the Herald’s patron saint – if only he knew what to do with a communion wafer - Stephen Harper.

Taube today writes that if an election is called for this fall, it will be ‘Seinfeldian.’ (For you readers who are not couch potatoes addicted to the idiot box, the Seinfeld show was said to be a comedy about nothing. Taube thinks this will be an election about nothing. Get it? Yes, yes, I know, the analogy is trite and old). Read Taube's piffle here:
The piece is predictably an attack on Ignatieff and the Liberals from beginning to end – fully conforming to the Herald’s editorial policy over the last 50 years.

Just as the Herald’s editors have been largely wrong on public policy for those 50 years, so too is Taube wrong about the forthcoming election. There are plenty of issues and they are not Seinfeldian:

1. Afghanistan is an issue that must be debated in this election. The Canadian people have been misled and lied to by its government. There has been no progress made. Most of our NATO allies want to stay clear of harm’s way. Our troops continue to die and the Canadian people continue to spend billions on a cause that is going nowhere and there is no time like an election to come to grips with it.

2. Unemployment in Canada is an issue. It is unacceptably high and we need effective policies to bring it down. Those who are unemployed and their families need help. What additional help should be provided?

3. Infrastructure money has been slow getting to its destinations. This has exacerbated unemployment and made it more difficult for Canadian families. Why has this happened, and what can we do to speed it up?
4. How will Canada deal with the soaring deficit and at the same time maintain services?

5. How do we respond to the U.S. ‘Buy America’ program? And what does such a program do to Free Trade and NAFTA?

6. What should our relationship be to the emerging great powers of China and India. The Harper government did its best to alienate the Chinese up until a few months ago? Do we dare trust him to do the right thing by these important nations in the years ahead?

7. What about the way Canada is treating Canadian citizens trapped abroad? Is the government truly racist? Or is it just incompetent? Does the government not have a duty to properly represent and protect all Canadians trapped abroad? Does the government have a duty to get Canadian citizens out of ratty and infested jails ran by outlaw states? Does the government have a duty to protect its citizens against torture? To repatriate its citizens who have been jailed for years without trial?

8. What about the sorry state of the RCMP? What are we going to do about making our National Police service more accountable? Why is it that people like Conrad Black and Alan Eagleson faced prosecution for their crimes in the United States rather than Canada? What will Canada do about stepping up its resources to properly investigate and prosecute white collar crime?

9. What should be the long-term involvement of the federal government in our health care system?

10.And what about Prime Minister Harper? Should the Canadian people re-elect a government led by a mean, petty, gaffe-prone, untraveled, uncultured, right-wing ideologue?

By Taupe’s definition these days the Herald is clearly Seinfeldian. For sure most of its columnists are Seinfeldian. And for certain Taube himself is Seinfeldian.

But – and you can say you heard it here first – the election will be about something. It will be about real and important issues. And it may well determine the direction this country will be heading for a long time to come.