Can I Have That In Unmarked Twenty-Dollar Bills, Please?

I should be so lucky. That said, if anyone wants to buy this blog, you now know where the bidding will start!

More later.

Gun Nut

Not that I ever have cause to doubt the word of PM the PM, but this doesn't surprise me at the least.

In brief, Martin was in fine fettle the other day, grandstanding about how 50% of Canada's gun crimes involve illegal guns smuggled into the Peaceable Kingdom via those evil imperialists south of the border.

Turns out, that 50% figure was pulled out of Paul Martin's ... well, let's just say it's a place where the sun don't often shine, and I aint talking about Bonavista.

Nice one, Paul. Way to rebuild that special relationship. No wonder we were 40th on Condi Rice's list of important places to visit. No, I'm not saying we should kowtow to the US when they are in the wrong, but it's rather hard to find diplomatic solutions to the issues of the day when the Prime Minister is out there tossing this sort of nonsense around.

I know bashing the hell out of Bush et al plays well amongst the Liberal heartland, but Paul: if you're bound and determined to do it, despite the damage that it does, at least try to find something truthful to use as a beating stick, ok?

Of course, there's one other thing to remember: It's not as if Martin, and the rest of the Liberal crew (who have been responsible for policing our borders for the last twelve freakin' years), would have much to crow about if there were illegal guns crossing the border by the truckload. There may very well be all sorts of people trying to smuggle all sorts of guns across the border - maybe the fed. govt. should start thinking of ways to live up to its responsibility of protecting that border, instead of blaming the folks down south.

More later.

Perhaps Unfortunate, Almost Certainy Inevitable ... And What About Us?

This is probably for the best, all things considered.

Like perhaps 99% of the North American population, I had never heard of Ms Miers before she was nominated for the position.

Perhaps, in the abstract, she would have made a fine judge, even for the highest court in the USA. However, in the real world, her nomination appeared doomed from the beginning. It appeared that she tried to straddle the fence on a number of issues, which resulted in attacks from both sides.

I certainly harbour no ill will for someone who, as near as I can tell, accepted the nomination with the best of intentions. She will likely land on her feet, and find other ways to contribute.

This leads to another point, of course: whether the public scrutiny that is a part of the American system is preferable to the Canadian way of appointing judges which, pending some minor-looking reforms, is centred on the back rooms. We have been fortunate to have, for the most part, a history of appointing top-level judges to the Supreme Court of Canada. The same thing goes for lower-level courts: Look, as a lawyer, I've seen my share of judges, and almost without exception, they have been of an excellent quality.

I am, however, not convinced that we should simply rely on history and hope when it comes to appointing judges, particularly when it comes to the SCC. If a PM were to appoint a crony or a donar to the bench, how exactly would we have a chance to bring that PM back into line? Right now, it seems that there is, in fact, no way of doing so. Perhaps if the relatively minor changes that have been introduced don't result in the sky falling, future governments may open the door a little wider to public participation in the process, even if we don't go as far as the States - and Lord knows, that process has enough problems to keep me from wanting the same thing here. But I wouldn't bet on it.

More later.


George Curtis (1906-2005)

I attended law school at the University of British Columbia from 1994 to 1997. I loved, for the most part, the time I spent in Vancouver and at UBC.

UBC Law is seen, quite rightly, as a leading institution. It likely would not be so well-regarded were it not for the tireless efforts of its founding dean, George Curtis, who passed away last Sunday. The Globe has a fine story on the man here (G-search is here if you can't find it directly) which sums up his remarkable career better than I ever could.

Dean Curtis had long since retired from active teaching by the time I arrived, but as the Globe's story indicates, he maintained a strong connection with the school and its students well beyond his nominal retirement.

He was, and will be, an inspiration, and he will be missed. RIP.

More later.


"Now go home and get your f*ing shine box!"

Years ago, in one of the dumbest Oscar decisions ever (and trust me, there've been some doozies), "Dances With Wolves" won the Academy Award for best picture.

But at last, justice is served. "Goodfellas" - the film that was shafted by that boneheaded call - has just been named the greatest movie of all time by a panel of British film experts.

Now, calling this movie the "best ever" is perhaps a bit of a stretch. But it definitely ranks up there, and not just because of the acting - although that was awesome, IMHO, with all of the leads and most of the supporting players hitting home runs - and according to this, a number of scenes were improvised by the actors.

You also have to consider some of the techniques that Martin Scorsese used. I'm thinking especially of the famous long tracking shot, where Henry and Karen go through a side entrance to a nightclub, go all the way through the back rooms, the kitchen, etc and end up at a table brough in just for them, right in front of the stage where Henny Youngman is starting to perform. Just awesome.

If you want to check out some of the reasons why "Goodfellas" was named best-ever, check out this site, which has some of the best quotes from the movie. (Since I try to run a family-friendly blog 'round here, let me warn you that some of the language is a little, shall we say, salty - hey, it's a movie about the mob, what do you expect?)

That said, reading the quotes doesn't do "Goodfellas" justice - you've just gottta see it to appreciate it.

More later.

Suitable Only For Dogs ...

I've been taking another gander at this website, which I mentioned in an earlier posting.

It's a good thing I don't allow my (political) mood to be based on what the pollsters are saying, because otherwise it would be up and down like a dog's stomach. The polls in October have my team anywhere from 6 (Pollara), to 13 (Strategic), to 11 (Environics), to 5 (Decima) points behind the Libs.

Now, despite the fact that I keep telling myself not to pay attention to the damn things, I follow the opinion polls at least as much as the other political junkies out there. And yes, it has to be said that even the best of them have us behind the Libs.

But the fact is - and I'm going to keep saying this till I start paying attention, even if nobody else does - these polls mean next to nothing when it comes to predicting the outcome of the next election, unless the CPC does nothing but pay attention to them. That may sound confusing, but here's what I mean:

In the worst-case scenario, the Party basically says "Aha! We went up a bit (and/or the Libs went down a bit) in the polls! It must be thanks to the David Dingwall follies. Let's do nothing but focus on that, and we're in like Flynn!" ... followed by us dropping another 10 points, when we threaten to bring down the government.

My $0.02 is this: Liberal scandal, misfeasance, malfeasance, misappropriation - call it what you will - is definitely a fair issue to raise. It demonstrates their arrogance, and it reminds Canadians why it's not a good idea to give this bunch a fifth (!) consecutive at-bat. It is perfectly in order to point out how the crowd that's currently in charge is mishandling the public trust.

But the scandals of the Libs will only open the door for us - they won't close the deal.

So, you may be asking, what will close the deal? There's no easy answer, but I honestly think Harper's on the right track with the policy announcements he has been making. The other week, he talked about how the CPC will stand up for trades. Before that, he was talking about tax credits for transit use.

We've already heard about how a CPC task force will be studying the issues of crime & justice over the next while; once that task force has done its work (which will hopefully be relatively soon), its report and recommendations should be pushed.

The above examples are just that - examples only. There are other issues which the CPC has raised before, and/or which it can raise in the future.

The thing is, Harper & Co. have to keep raising them. They can't get discouraged if they don't result in a short-term payoff. The scandals and whatnot that I mentioned above will provide the short-term opening. They'll hopefully anger Canadians to the point where they will ask "So what will the other guys/gals do?"

The most important thing for us, from a policy perspective, is to be ready with answers to that question. Look, it aint rocket science: we know the Liberals will try to define us, in a not-exactly-positive light. The more we've told Canadians what we will and will not do, the harder it will be for the Libs to get away with that nonsense.

Personally, I favoured releasing the platform early. Do what Mike Harris did in the year prior to winning the '95 election - he released the Common Sense Revolution, and went across Ontario talking about it. By the time the Libs started to realize that they were about to lose the '95 election, it was too late for them to effectively demonize Harris et al, because Harris had already defined himself.

It appears that the CPC has chosen a slightly different path, of releasing portions of the platform as we go, leading up to a release of the whole thing either just before or just after the election is called. Hey, that works for me too; as much as I think we can learn from what the Ontario PC's did in the pre-'95 period, the parallels aren't exact.

The point, however, is that Harper needs to keep on telling Canadians not only that the Libs are corrupt and/or incompetent, but that the Tories have a positive and practical plan that will help out Canadians while keeping things clean in Ottawa. It may not get us an immediate bounce in the next Environics press release - but let's remember: we're playing the "long game" here, not the two-minute drill (if you'll pardon the football analogies). And (just to keep the analogies going to the breaking point) you don't start throwing Hail Mary passes in the first quarter of the game.

Happily, I think Harper may be in the process of playing that "long game" - which means he could be well on his way to once again proving that his critics have underestimated him, and his party.

More later.


Is The Fix (for a generation) In?

In the "when pigs fly" department, we have this promise from our health minister.

Paul Martin got a lot of mileage out of the "fix healthcare for a generation" remark. The result was a first ministers' meeting where he was bludgeoned into handing over a big fat cheque, with no strings attached. I'm not necessarily saying there should be "strings", but it was clear to anyone who cared to look that the premiers were not going to think of what Paul Martin wanted them to do with the money. They have enough problems in their respective home provinces (some of which are, in fairness, of their own making, and some of which are not).

Now, we have the Supreme Court of Canada saying that the health care system, as it is practiced in Quebec, is unconstitutional. While that decision is not necessarily binding when it comes to other provinces, and while it may in any event be overturned (thanks in part to the new judges who have recently joined the Court), it should send some danger signals to those who believe in the Canadian system, and only in the Canadian system.

We also have Jack Layton demanding some sort of "action" from the PM in exchange for propping up the government till next spring. In particular, Layton wants Martin to somehow put the brakes on private clinics and the like, while apparently not closing down the ones that already exist.

Long story short, I think we have a heck of a mess on our hands. Governments are spending more on the health care system than they ever have before. That cash is, arguably, enough to keep the system from collapsing in the immediate future. It may even be enough to keep the Supreme Court off of Martin's back. But what happens when more Canadians retire? What happens when there's more demand on the system, with fewer people to fund it through their income taxes?

If you're in your 30's, do you really think the system will be there, in anything close to its present form, when you're in your 60's, no matter how many deals are cut between the Liberals and the NDP? If you're raising your hand, I admire your confidence - you have more of it than I.

So, the problems are daunting. The solutions? Hey, if I had sure-thing solutions, I'd be running for office. But I do have some thoughts, which I'll cover shortly. Hopefully you do as well - and the comments section is open.

More later.


Plenty O' Polls

I was taking a quick break from my toil and ended up stumbling onto this page from the Politics Canada website, which lists (amongst other things) national poll results from December '03 (ie, just after the CPC was formed) to date.

Now, I should say at the outset that I would much prefer if all parties, included my own, spent less time on tactics and poll-watching, and more time on telling us what sort of things they would do if they, you know, actually won the election.

But nevertheless, I still find it interesting to take a look at short- and long-term trends in public opinion. And the fact is, political parties, the media and other interested observers are going to pay attention to opinion polls and the "horserace" element of politics, like it or not. So, with that in mind ...

There are all sorts of comments that could be made, but for now (because work is waiting!), I'm just going to look at how the polls taken just prior to the '04 election reflected the eventual result.

What I thoought was interesting is that if you looked at the average of the 5 polls conducted just before the election was called on 23 May '04, the averages worked out to be as follows:

LPC: 38.2
CPC: 26.6
NDP: 16.2
BQ: 11.0
GPC: 5.0 (only included in 3 of those 5 pre-election polls)

Now look at the final results:

LPC: 36.7 (-1.5 points from the pre-election average)
CPC: 29.6 (+3.0)
NDP: (-0.5)
BQ: 12.4 (+1.4)
GPC: 4.3 (-0.7)

Some quick, back-of-the-envelope analysis:

1. Once again, the Libs dropped off from where they were at the start of the campaign.

2. The CPC actually did gain support; people sometimes forget that, because for a while there it looked like the Tories were actually going to win, and they obviously fell short.

2(a). Imagine (i) if the CPC had the time to go through the policy process so that they could come up with a detailed platfrom, and (ii) if the CPC had stayed on-message? As a CPCer I'm obviously biased, but I see room to grow, which will help attract & keep the soft Liberal voters who climbed onboard the CPC during the campaign, only to climb off again at the end.

3. Either Jack Layton isn't all that wonderful when it comes to campaigning, or the Libs were able (with CPC help, unfortunately) to scare would-be New Democrats back to Team Martin, or both. In fact, Jack et al should hope that the CPC's have a good campaign - because the Libs will lose votes on their right flank, and they won't be as able to haul wavering maybe-NDP'ers back into the Grit net.

4. There was a basic core group of Green voters who didn't really move anywhere during the campaign. The other parties, and I'm thinking particularly the NDP, should wonder what - if anything - can be done to capture that +/- 5%. It may be that the Greens are here to stay and may even grow; we'll need at least one more election to see if they can maintain that 5% level, especially if they don't win any seats.

More later.


Saturday Night Special

This is very bad news indeed. (tip o' the hat to Paul Wells).

I'm quite sad to see a Canadian publication with such a rich pedigree go down like this. Saturday Night may not have been the favourite magazine of every conservative out there, but I always found a good balance of stories. I remember one in particular which profiled Mario Dumont, back when the ADQ was making serious waves before the last Quebec election. It struck me as fair & balanced (if you'll pardon the expression). I certainly found the magazine to be more readable than Maclean's (though that mag seems to be picking up steam lately, thanks to Whyte el at), and miles ahead of other comparable publications.

I wonder - just a thought, mind you - if there are restrictions on the ability of folks from abroad to invest in Canadian publications. I don't have the time to check right now, but given the attitudes of the Libs since '93, it wouldn't surprise me. I have to wonder if restrictions on the ability to attract foreign capital aren't going to do more to hurt Canadian magazines, newspapers, etc. than help.

Hopefully a source - foreign or domestic - can be found before it's too late.

More later.


In Sports ...

Back again! Miss me? No? Oh well ...

Lots happening in politics (duh), but for the moment, a few things from the sporting world:

* There's no doubt that in many respects, the CFL is seen as the poor cousin of the 4-down league south of the border. And sure, for glitz and glam, and overall spectacle, it's very hard to beat the NFL. It's (arguably) the most successful leage in the USA for a reason.

* However, the goings-on yesterday should give any honest and open-minded football fan more than enough reasons to watch the CFL as we move into playoff time. You had an absolute shoot-out in front of a riotous (in a good way) crowd in Montreal, along with a last-second win for the Argos against Winnipeg. Next week you have the Argos in Montreal, in Olympic Stadium, with first place on the line. The Big Owe may not be completely sold out, but it says here that there'll be a damn good crowd on hand.

* In hockey: hey, the bad guys may have won on Saturday night, but Les Glorieux are still doing quite well, thank you very much. And overall, it looks like those rule changes are having the desired effect. Now if they could only bring these guys back home, all would be well in the world.

* And in baseball: hey, the home team won 13 more games this season than they did last time, and were in the wild-card hunt for a while there. And the White Sox are back in the world series, and it should be a good one regardless of whether they're facing Houston or St. Louis.

* A sad note to end on: I was listening to the radio back in '93, when Carter hit the shot heard 'round the world (or at least 'round the GTA). I remembered how this man - who belongs in the Hall of Fame - called it (audio player required). Touch 'em all, Tom. RIP.

More later.