Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Senators-in-waiting

Senators-in-waiting…..and waiting…..and waiting…..

Another Alberta election is history and we have a new crop of senators-in-waiting. Betty Unger, Bert Brown, Cliff Breitkreuz and Link Byfield were duly nominated and received a total of 1,090,246 votes from Albertans. That’s four times more votes than all 28 Alberta Liberal candidates received in the June federal election. All that remains now is for the Prime Minister to make good on his avowed desire for Senate reform by appointing these democratically elected people to the house of sober second thought.

The trouble is that The Right Honourable Democratic Deficit is having second thoughts of his own. He and his right hand person, The Honourable Anne McLellan, solemnly state that they are in favour of Senate reform. The latter went so far as to say that “it’s unsustainable to have an unelected upper house of whatever kind.” (Edmonton Journal, April 6, 2004). As is the habit with this Prime Minister and his Deputy, words speak louder than actions. Their position is that reform must be total and carried out in one fell swoop nationwide. They both know full well that this will never happen, so they carry on blithely and fraudulently claiming to support Senate reform while doing nothing to promote it.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a body having the power to legislate without having the checks on its power resting with the electorate. In this and in so many other practical ways, such as the unfettered power of the Prime Minister’s Office, Canada is not the democracy than we think it to be.

At the risk of being labeled pro-American, I think that we can look south for an example of how Senate reform can be carried out in a progressive manner. For well over one hundred years the United States Senate was made up of state appointees. Around the turn of the Twentieth Century, the people of the State of Oregon decided that this was not democratic and elected two Senators, much as Alberta has been doing. Like ours, they became Senators-in-waiting because Washington refused to recognize their legitimacy. They persevered and eventually were accepted several years later. Other states followed suit and, one-by-one, started sending elected senators to Washington. Today, the United States has a Triple-E Senate – Elected, Equal, and Effective. We still have a Triple-A Senate – Appointed, Asymmetric, and Anachronistic.

Are Albertans (and other Canadians) so uneducated and irresponsible that we can’t be trusted to make our own choices? Obviously not. Is the federal government so weak that they feel threatened by the exercise of democracy? Obviously so. It’s just one more way that the “natural governing party” keeps Canadians and their regions beholden to the Liberal version of Big Brother. Alberta and Canada deserve better.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Landslide Ralphie

Only in small-c Alberta could a majority government with 75% of the seats and 48% of the popular vote be considered a bad election result. The small-l liberal and large-L Liberal chattering class crows about their great breakthrough and the imminence of a Liberal government after the next election. They crack me up.

Lorne Gunter (Edmonton Journal) and others have done some good analysis of the votes cast and I won't repeat it all here. Suffice to say that, while the Liberals increased their seat counts and percentage of popular vote, their vote totals actually decreased. Hardly the stuff of an electoral revolution or an imminent breakthrough.

What it does point out is what I heard at the door and on the phone in close to one hundred hours of volunteer time on eight different campaigns. People weren't particularly upset with their current MLA or candidate. They were particularly upset with Ralph Klein. It's obvious to anyone that Ralph has not been in top form for a while now; and his performance before and during the election cost some good people their jobs.

People couldn't bring themselves to vote Liberal or NDP; but they could bring themselves to stay home. That's exactly what happened and only 45% of Albertans bothered to go to the polls, an all-time low. We had the usual mathematicians who calculated that only about 22% of all Albertans actually voted for the government. They are probably part of the 55% who couldn't get their butts off the couch for half an hour to participate, and now they want to de-legitimize the result. Perhaps we should send them to the Ukraine for an exercise in struggling democracy.

What we saw in the Alberta election was not a cry for a new governing party, but a cry for new leadership. I appreciate, applaud and respect what Ralph Klein has done for Alberta; and he deserves all the kudos he'll get next year during Alberta's centennial celebrations. It is time, however, that we looked elsewhere for who will lead us post-2005. Anyone who has led a province or a country for more than ten years will have a tendency to get stale. It's sad to see Ralph risk becoming what thinking people hated about Jean Chretien; that is abusive, arrogant and self-entitled.

I don't think that Ralph has any intention of staying much beyond the time when the royal flight gets wheels in the well heading eastbound next year, or the centennial celebrations in September at the latest. I only hope that Rod Love and others can make our last year with Ralph a happy one. His departure needs to be an occasion of thankfulness that he was here and regret that he is leaving. It shouldn't become thankfulness that he is gone and regret that he was here. Over to you, Ralph.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Parrish the Thoughtless

I went surfing this morning in the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Chapter 15. Psychiatric Disorders. I was looking for something.....anything that might explain why Caroyln Parrish insists on making such an ass of herself and, by extension in the eyes of others, you and me and Canada. What I found was interesting.

"Personality disorders: Pervasive, inflexible, and stable personality traits that deviate from cultural norms and cause distress or functional impairment." That fits.

"Mental coping mechanisms (defenses) are used unconsciously at times by everyone. But in persons with personality disorders, coping mechanisms tend to be immature and maladaptive." Bingo!

"Repetitious confrontation in prolonged psychotherapy or by peer encounters is usually required to make such persons aware of these mechanisms." Peer encounters don't seem to be working, so perhaps the PM should refer Ms. Parrish to a professional.

"Without environmental frustration, persons with personality disorders may or may not be dissatisfied with themselves." She seems to be pretty darned proud of herself, thank you very much.

Let's bring in their definition of schizophrenia here: "A common and serious mental disorder characterized by a loss of contact with reality (psychosis), hallucinations (false perceptions), delusions (false beliefs), abnormal thinking, flattened affect (restricted range of emotions), diminished motivation, and disturbed work and social functioning." Can anyone argue that Ms. Parrish does not fit this definition in whole or in part?

"Often they do not see a need for therapy, and they are referred by their peers, their families, or a social agency because their maladaptive behavior causes difficulties for others." Um, like Parliament and Canada?

"Because these patients usually view their difficulties as discrete and outside of themselves, mental health professionals have difficulty getting them to see that the problem is really based on who they are." And who she is is not a pretty sight on any professional level.

Civil disagreement between politicians and ideologies is fine, and it can be a great vehicle for progress in the hands of civil and professional people. Ms. Parrish is neither civil nor professional. Paul Martin has shown no real inclination or ability to deal with Ms. Parrish and, apparently, he and his whole government can "all go to hell". I would point out to the PM that he is our leader and not just the leader of the Liberals; assuming for one silly moment that one does not have to be Liberal to be Canadian. He needs to do something and he needs to do it now.

As for the people of Mississauga-Erindale, what are you thinking?!

None of the above is intended to make light of mental illness. There is nothing funny about either mental illness or Carolyn Parrish. Both need to be treated.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Greatest Canadian?

The CBC has been on a quest for the Greatest Canadian for many months and has solicited input from across the land. On the final list of ten, we have:

- the world's greatest hockey player
- one of the world's most irreverent sportscasters
- our first Prime Minister
- a socialist Prime Minister
- another Prime Minister
- a socialist Premier of Saskatchewan, who did one good thing
- the inventor of the telephone
- the discoverer of insulin
- a one-legged runner who inspired a nation
- a geneticist, posing as a climatologist on tax-payer dollars

I was at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Edmonton, when it hit me like a ton of bricks, prompted by an old saying that was read aloud.

It is not the reporter who gave us freedom of speech. It is not the priest who gave us freedom of religion. It is not the campus activist who gave us freedom of assembly. It is not the lawyer who gave us freedom from injustice. It is not the politician who gave us the freedom to vote. As good as some of the ten finalists above may have been at what they accomplished, none of them gave us anything without the help of the person who gave us everything - The Veteran.

The Greatest Canadian - hands down - no questions asked - is the man who lays in repose at the foot of the Centaph in Ottawa. The Greatest Canadian is The Unknown Soldier.

Remembering

As I was driving in to work today, because Canada has not yet seen fit to make Remembrance Day a national holiday, my thoughts drifted to people I remember today. Every once in a while I get out my log book and page through thirty years of memories over a wee dram of fine single malt. Dozens of faces and hundreds of memories leap from the pages to my mind's eye. There are many too many to list, but I'd like to share memories of three.

Brian Dowds was a lineman-sized guy who grew up in Goderich, Ontario and was drafted by the Ottawa Roughriders. He joined the Air Force, instead, and we got our wings together in Gimli in 1967. We stayed at Gimli as flying instructors on the T-33. Brian was an excellent pilot and a great buddy, and our families became very close. We would meet at the flightline early and talk Corporal Boudreau (a Hellyer Corporal, for those who remember) out of a couple of aircraft that really needed airtests for something 'serious', like a navigation light change. We'd launch off and hone our formation skills for an hour or so, including the odd manoeuvre that the boss might have considered aerobatic. Safely back on deck, we'd dutifully sign off the flight test and certify the nav light safe for the rest of the day's flying program. Beer calls were an exercise in mutual support and PMQs were mercifully close to the base. In March, 1969, Brian was killed when his aircraft glanced off the frozen Lake Winnipeg just south of Hecla Island. Two years later and with my first beer in hand on a Friday night in Gimli, I had the most vivid vision of Brian standing in the uniform in which he was buried, just looking at me and smiling.

Paul Rackham, "Rack", "Mr. Rackers" was a young single rat who grew up in Ottawa, flew the CF-100 in the electronic warfare role, and was one of the most free spirits I ever met. Our paths crossed in Cold Lake in the early 70s, when we were both posted to the CF-104. With another reprobate who shall remain nameless, but who will read this, we became the Terrible Trio. I'm pretty sure that it was a term of endearment, but we did strike just the tiniest bit of terror into the hearts of the odd senior officer. We lived by the work hard and play harder rule, and one memory is of Rackham and another course mate sticking their rental horses noses through our rental house window in Cold Lake much, much too early on Saturday morning. The three of us went off to Europe on separate squadrons together, as the grownups thought that to be the wisest move. We still managed to team up and spread the gospel of good flying and good fun to an international audience. We did contribute to the delinquency of the odd senior officer in other air forces, and Colonel Bill Ongena (Belgian Air Force) was told by his superiors that he had entirely too much fun in Florennes, Belgium one night, shooting up his own mess with our beer can cannon. In May, 1973, we lost Paul Rackham to a flap failure on his Starfighter which drove his aircraft into the North Sea near Bodo, Norway. The Terrible Trio became the Dynamic Duo.

Clancy Scheldrup is a name known to anyone in the Canadian Air Force older than the age of about 45. Clancy was a bear of a man with the softest heart. He filled the cockpits of the Sabres, Tutors and Starfighters that he flew. Our paths crossed many times and we served on four different flying schools or squadrons together. Clancy was everyone's big brother, and uncle or grandpa to everyone's kids. He and his wife, Vena, were the go-to couple for anyone who had a problem of any kind and everyone got their full attention. They were always the ones supplying egg-in-the-hole late Friday night and the first ones ones up with the "cure" on Saturday morning. Our PMQs were side-by-side in Cold Lake, and one of our young son Robb's favourite things was sitting on the front step on Saturday morning eating cold chili out of the pot with his Godfather, Clancy. In June, 1985, we lost Clancy in a Tutor in Calgary, when the ejection seat was not quite up to the challenge after an engine failure at the most critical point just after takeoff.

Today, we all remember someone. For many of us, it is people we knew. For most Canadians, it is people they have never met. Known or unknown, their past has paid for our present and the price was ultimate. For those who serve today, their present will pay for our future. Just as we owe a profound debt of gratitude to those who have gone before; so too do we owe support to those who are asked to sacrifice their present today.

Right now, I am going to the Butterdome in Edmonton to pay homage to those who have given us our today. Tomorrow, I will try to do something for those who serve their country today to give us our tomorrow. Please do the same.

They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What's in a 'Dis'?

"I am here, I admit it, I admit it, because we have to reverse the disinvestment that you have experienced." - Paul Martin speaking to members of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group and the Royal 22nd Regiment Van Doos in Valcartier the other day.

Disinvestment is a much more genteel 'dis' word than disable, disarm, disarrange, disarticulate, disassemble, discerption, discredit, disdain, disembowel, disengage, disesteem, disequilibrium, dishabille, dishearten, dishonest, dishonour, disillusion, disincentive, disinclination, disinformation, disintegrate, disinterest, disjoin, disloyal, dismantle, dismay, dismember, disparity, dispirit, disregard, dissolution, dissonant, distort, distress, and my favourite, disingenuous. I haven't even touched on the 'dit's such as dither. Look up any of the above 'dis' words and you will see a description of some aspect of the way that the Canadian Forces has been treated by Government.

The Prime Minister also said that "I bear a certain responsibility as finance minister", just before he tried to slough it off to Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney. He certainly does bear the responsibility to fix what he, and others, broke. His feel good words to disenchanted members of the CF are meaningless unless he follows them up, and right now, with a hard commitment to increased defence spending. Commitments to replace the Sea King are hardly news, notwithstanding that over a decade of mismanagement has left that still not a done deal. Commitments to increased personnel strength are meaningless without a long-term plan and lots of extra dollars to make it happen. It simply cannot happen within the current and projected funding envelope.

Will the Prime Minister call off the dogs from John McCallum's Department of Revenue who are looking for yet more disinvestment? If he won't publicly do that, and immediately, then all of his soothing words to members of the CF will simply continue the Liberal disgrace in the areas of national defence and security. It will lead to more and more members of the CF leaving in disgust and will accelerate us towards the disaster that Canada does not deserve.

Monday, November 08, 2004

To Have and to Have Not

Much has been said and written in the last while about have provinces and have-not provinces and the federal equalization program. I'd like to simplify the situation and put it in the context of government philosophy and ideology.

In the first place, the equalization formula and process is laid out in such a way as to be nearly indecipherable to mere human beings. Enter a Liberal government to put its arm around our shoulders and tell us that, it's okay, we'll look after all the things that citizens couldn't possibly understand.

Let me tell you what I do understand. I understand that Alberta gets to keep the majority of its resource revenues, and that has made us a very wealthy "have" province. We share our wealth with the rest of Canada through the equalization program, and that is right and proper. Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia have very considerable resource revenue that they are not allowed to keep, and they are "have-not" provinces who get help from Alberta. Call me simple, but, if Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia were allowed to keep the majority of their resource revenue, wouldn't they likely become "have" provinces? Wouldn't they become the masters of their own economic future as Alberta has become? Wouldn't they have the same justifiable pride in their provinces' capability as do Albertans? Wouldn't they be able to negotiate from a stronger position when it comes to federal-provincial issues? Oops, I may have stumbled onto something.

It is not in a power-focused central government's best interests to let the regions develop any form of independence from the mother ship. How would that central government then be able to hold their "largesse" over the heads of voters at election time? The "if you don't vote for us, economic ruin will surely follow" election advertising would lose its appeal and, clearly, that cannot be allowed to happen. Danny Williams has figured this out and he is right in taking a two-faced central government to task over the issue. I have no doubt that Newfoundlanders & Labradoreans and Nova Scotians are hard-working, industrious people who would like nothing better than to be in control of their own futures.

Canada would be better off if these two provinces, and others, had the shackles of subservience removed from their shoulders. Alberta would not be shackled and neither should they. The Liberals need to stop blackmailing Canada's provinces with their own money. The Liberal philosophy and electoral ideology is one of keeping the masses beholden to them in order to keep their "loyalty" at the polls. Have you heard of universal daycare?

A Winston Churchill quote goes something like "Dictators ride to and fro on tigers, afraid to dismount lest the tigers eat them". Paul Martin had best hang on tight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bordering on a Good Idea

A couple of weeks ago, the federal government quietly approved the move of an estimated 800 immigration officers over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The idea is that an immigration and customs issue could be dealt with by the same person, thereby speeding up the overall process. Pardoning the pun, this is bordering on a good idea.

The Customs folks have been underclassified, underpaid, undertrained, underequipped, undermanned and undermotivated for quite a while now and this could help. They have been completely underwhelmed by the support of their Minister and their government. This is not a denigration of the efforts or dedication of the current Customs folks. Their situation is the result of government neglect and negligence over an extended period. Sound familiar?

It's the kind of situation that has resulted in over one hundred long guns per day coming through just the Edmonton International Airport during hunting season and disappearing into the wilds without a trace. They're probably going home with the hunter, but no one can prove it. Multiply that by a lot of major airports in Canada. It's the kind of situation that has seen Customs shifts at airports manned at a fraction of specified levels and unable to respond. It's the kind of situation that has seen high tech equipment sitting idle because of lack of personnel and training. It is the kind of situation that sees minimally trained college students manning the front lines at our borders, while the regular Customs folks squeak in some well-earned holidays.

It's the kind of situation that is endemic to the Liberal government's handling of our security and safety, both at home and internationally. This move of 800 immigration officers over to customs will be a good idea only if they do not become just another 800 mistreated customs agents. I go back to the image of our Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety beaming happily at Tom Ridge's announcement that the U.S. is turning back terror suspects at their border every day. Why do we let them get to the 49th parallel in the first place?

This is an idea that might work, but only if the implementation of the idea does not follow the Liberal path of good intentions and really bad execution. To my knowledge the under-things mentioned earlier have not been addressed. Until they are addressed, the jury will stay out.