Here's a better link to Elections Canada's latest quarterly allowances.
Here's a better link to Elections Canada's latest quarterly allowances.
Elections Canada has released the third quarter spending allowances for the federal parties, the sum calculated at $1.99 per valid vote in the 40th general election last October. The Conservative party has a hefty lead over the other parties. Here are the sums:
Bloc Québécois - $689,478
Conservative - $2,602,581
Green - $468,455
Liberal - $1,815,230
New Democratic Party - $1,256,701
Star editorial cartoonist Patrick Corrigan has his own hilarious take on Toronto Councillor Sandra Bussin's fiasco this week. But there's another scene the whole thing brings to mind:
Remember elementary school? A bunch of kids fooling around thinking they're so clever for making prank calls and hanging up? "Hey, better check your stockings, they're RUNNING AWAY. Hahahahahahah." Click. Then more laughter, as someone gets a brainwave about who to call next. In a small town where everybody knows everybody, parents usually heard what their kids were up to before the phone lines had even stopped buzzing.
Public school pranks. This sort of dumb game amused my friends and me for, oh, say, 20 minutes on a slow night - and the fascination with such calls, maybe a month or two. We were kids.
Bet Councillor Sandra Bussin - who admitted to calling CFRB's Strong Opinions show this week to praise David Miller without identifying herself as a city politician (rather key information) - played that kind of prank as a child, the operative word being child.
I know, I know, what's new and we've already heard today about Michael Ignatieff's problems with Quebec, notably fine coverage by my colleague Susan Delacourt. Still, I'll add my two cents.
An indication various wings of the federal party aren't talking to each other came for me a few weeks ago in the course of research for a Parliament returning story. After interviewing House Leader Ralph Goodale, we talked about who else was plugged into what I wanted to know and he quickly said Denis Coderre, who yesterday resigned as Quebec lieutenant. This rarely happens on a story but Goodale said to pass on to Coderre he had suggested I phone, gave me his numbers and said he hoped Coderre would make time. Coderre didn't return several messages, which is surprising when the message comes with a personal note from the house leader. It was quickly apparent within a few days of the Goodale phonecall he (Goodale) wasn't in Ignatieff's loop in terms of plans for an immediate (if possible) non-confidence vote - or even on Iggy's view of the workings of the Employment Insurance committee. I figured Coderre didn't give a fiddler's fart and, since then, we've seen the splintering within caucus goes much deeper. Shades of Turner and Dion.
Which party is it again that wants an election?
Despite the hype on the Conservative government's website framing Canada's performance going into this week's G-20 meetings in Pittsburgh, Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't arriving with impressive "societal" indicators. The indicators, which show how Canadians are actually living, are not pretty when it comes to levels of poverty among children, seniors and working-age Canadians. The Conference Board of Canada last week issued its ranking of Canada internationally on a number of such indicators. While Canada ranked 9th out of 17 developed countries overall, it receives poor grades on critical indicators -"all troubling for a wealthy society." Canada receives a "D" grade on the poverty-rate for working-age people and "C" grades on child poverty, income inequality and gender equality. Says Anne Golden, Conference Board president and CEO:
"Considering how wealthy this country is, these rates of poverty are unacceptable. Not only are we not making progress; we are losing ground."
She notes poverty rates among chidren and and working-age people are rising and the rate doubled among seniors between 1995 and 2005. Readers will see more indicators and commentary at the linked sites above, but one statistic leaps out: More than one in seven Canadian children lives in poverty.
Worse, this is not a new phenomenon.
Paul Forster, associate philosophy professor at the University of Ottawa, drew these reports to my attention. He also sent along a link for Dignity for All: The Campaign for a Poverty-free Canada, a campaign to help secure stronger leadership from the federal government in upholding economic and social rights.
As Golden notes for the Conference Board: "Canadians should care about social outcomes. In addition to caring about social justice, a strong social fabric ultimately contributes to sustainable economic prosperity."
The fiasco of the federal health ministry shipping body bags for use by Manitoba First Nations communities to deal with potential H1N1 fatalities has made headlines. The bags - about 200 in total - were neither requested, nor accepted by First Nation chiefs. Manitoba NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis called for an investigation, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff demanded an apology and Health Minister Susan Aglukkaq says as health minister and an aboriginal she is appalled. "It's like someone had taken a knife and run it into my heart," she said.
The story is surreal, stranger than fiction. It was bad enough when health department officials delayed shipping hand sanitizers to Manitoba reserves last spring because the product contains alcohol.
Make a substitution in your mind when you hear reports about the body bags for Manitoba reserves. Imagine, they had been shipped to municipal officials in Thornhill or Coquitlam, Red Deer or Wawa. Do you think the public reaction would have been different? A little stronger, perhaps?
I've been wracking my brain for almost a week now trying to figure out Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's rationale last week when he said: "I could have been standing here as prime minister of Canada, but I turned it down."
What was it exactly he was turning down? What did I miss?
Ignatieff was responding to Conservative warnings, notably their recent ad campaign, he would support a coalition government. (Oh no, not the dreaded coalition!) Not so, said Ignatieff; he could have supported a coalition to defeat the Conservative budget last January but didn't. If he had, he said, he "could have been standing here as prime minister of Canada. . . "
It's likely the government would have fallen on its budget last January if Ignatieff had continued to support the coalition. But it's a stretch to assume he would have automatically become PM as head of a coalition government. Instead, there might have been another election. Under those circumstances, it's a good bet the Liberals would have formed the government - but not necessarily.
Opinions differ on whether an election would have been the outcome had the government fallen in January. One eminent group of scholars suggests there might not have been. During the bizarre period last January after the House had been prorogued, they discussed constitutional options for the Governor-General - including Gov.-Gen. Michaëlle Jean - in an opinion piece that ran in the Toronto Star. They said:
"When a minority government loses the confidence of the House, the governor general is no longer bound by the advice of the prime minister. The governor general must then exercise what is known as her "personal prerogatives." She may dissolve Parliament and call for a new election or, if the elections have been held relatively recently (opinions range between six and nine months), she may invite the leader of another party to attempt to form a government that would enjoy the confidence of the House."
Given there'd been an election in October, Jean may well have invited Ignatieff to form a government after the budget's defeat. The Liberal leader certainly thinks so. But that's speculation, and Canadian politics have been more than weird lately.
The much missed Don Newman (CBC Newsworld's Politics with Don Newman) wrote an interesting commentary on changing the rules in a Canada where minority governments have become the norm. So far, however, nothing has been changed.
What Michael Ignatieff should have said last week is: "There's a chance I might have been standing here as prime minister of Canada, but I turned it down."
Doesn't sound as good.
* * *
And another thing: Ignatieff was smart enough as new leader to know a coalition, while a short-term solution, might have meant eventual doom. In truth, he wisely turned down a poison pill.
Arguably, the most amusing line in Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent's recent admonishment on Honduras is his call to action in seizing the moment for mediation. You'll remember Honduran President Roberto Zelaya was ousted in a military coup in the middle of the night in late June, and hustled onto a plane in his pajamas and flown to nearby Costa Rica. Kent praised the mediation efforts (tabled on July 22) by Oscar Arias, president of Costa Rica and said he'd asked both the deposed president and coup-installed president Roberto Micheletti to "seize this unique opportunity to arrive at a peaceful solution that is in the best interest of all Hondurans." Seize, of course, but not too fast. In fact, Kent reiterated to Zelaya he should "not return to Honduras until such a settlement has been reached."
This much remains clear: Zelaya will not be returning to Honduras as president.
What's not so clear is Canada's position. It's more on the, ah, murky side. The federal government condemned the coup and doesn't recognize Micheletti's government. At the same time, Canada maintains its embassy in Honduras ( as does Honduras in Ottawa) and aid programs are full-steam ahead, as would appear in the press release above and this one from Foreign Affairs - though the wording is pretty tricky.
Today, Canada sent best wishes to Honduras on the occasion of its 188th anniversary of independence. To use a media term for empty flattery, Zelaya can expect prestige sandwiches from Canada, and not much more.
All federal parties offer their share of surprises but our subject today is the federal Liberal caucus and leader Michael Ignatieff's recent pledge in Sudbury he's ready to bring down the government because, among other things, he's so unhappy with Conservative inaction on Employment Insurance. You'll remember a special committee to study EI and come up with solutions over the summer was part of the compromise struck with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during that raucous last week of Parliament before summer break. A few days before Ignatieff threw down the gauntlet in Sudbury, Liberal heavyweights Sen. David Smith, campaign co-chair, and House leader Ralph Goodale told reporters they were unlikely to use their first opportunity in September to introduce a non-confidence motion, with Goodale specifically citing progress on the EI committee. In an interview with Joan Bryden from Canadian Press, Smith called it "irresponsible" to push the election button every time there's an opportunity," adding any election wouldn't be on EI.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Goodale went further to suggest there was reason for "cautious optimism" at the all-party committee on EI. He said the Conservatives on the committee were listening to Liberal concepts "instead of dismissing them out of hand." That was, he thought, progress, adding he thought it important to judge the returning government's "demeanour . . . and personality" in the House, as well as their proposals on, among other issues, deficit-reduction and infrastructure spending.
Some 48 hours later, Ignatieff slammed the Conservatives, stressing they had nothing to offer on EI.
"We said we were prepared to work with Stephen Harper to fix Employment Insurance—to make it fair for all Canadians, no matter where they live, for as long as the crisis lasts. Not one single proposal came from the other side—only spin and deceit."
Spin and deceipt are not quite the same as cautious optimism and listening.
EI isn't the only issue for Ignatieff's discontent but it is odd his position would be so different from that of his house leader so soon after Goodale's public comments. It could just mean Messieurs Goodale and Smith were spinning, as politicians are wont to do with the press. Maybe. But it would have been easy for them to tell the media to wait for the Sudbury caucus. What's more likely is Ignatieff was on the high wire in those last few days without a lot of input from party veterans like Goodale and Smith.
For those who like to pore over party innards, that could be significant. Or not.
It will be two years ago Sunday (Sept. 13, 2007) the UN endorsed a wide-ranging Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without Canada - despite critical input from Canadian representatives in the drafting. Canada remains isolated as a non-signatory with the U.S. and New Zealand, and both countries are reviewing their positions. Moreover, a report by Montreal international rights lawyer Paul Joffe, an international rights expert, shows national courts, UN agencies and governments around the world are increasingly turning to the Declaration for guidance in implementing measures to protect Indigenous rights. Alex Neve, secretary general for Amnesty International Canada argues "these major advances highlight the unreasonableness of Canada's position."
* * *
Mark your calendar for another event this weekend: beginning rounds in the National Bible Spelling Bee in the States, with over $200,000 in prize money. There's a bundle of cash that should go to charity! A bible spelling bee is not my idea of a fun weekend, but it looks like a popular (see link) tool for memorizing bible verses among children and youth 7 to 18. In the interest of freedom of religion, Political Decoder searched for news of similar contests on, say, the Koran or Torah, but came up empty. Perhaps the prize money just wasn't there.
Too bad AJ Jacobs is to old to enter. He's the self-described agnostic Jew who wrote the bestseller, My Year of Living Biblically. He'd probably ace the contest, at least Old Testament questions. Take a look at the video to see how much fun he had writing the book.
Now that was a sad gathering this afternoon on the Hill this afternoon when about 200 people - notably Inuit organizations - met to mark World Suicide Prevention Day. The World Health Organization designated the day in 2003 but this is the third straight year Inuit groups have staged a gathering to publicize the suicide problem in Canada's North.
According to Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (in an interview with the Canadian Press), the suicide rate among Inuit people is 11 times higher than the national figures, with 83 precent of the suicides people under 30. It's a horrible subject for the little boy (in the Canadian Press photo above) to have to beat his drum about on a sunny September afternoon. Simon urged the federal government to develop a national suicide prevention program and pay for an Inuit action plan on mental wellness. The National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Program is scheduled to end early next year - unfortunate when rates are still so high. Simon told Canadian Press:
"People don't talk about (mental illness) for fear of being ridiculed. When I'm out there today on the lawn of Parliament Hill, I want to shatter the stigma on mental illness and make sure everybody knows it's OK to talk about it, to get help and to embrace life."
* * *
There's hardly a social problem in Canada that doesn't involve much higher rates among aboriginal peoples. Another example shows the staggeringly high rates of children being taken from reserves to be placed in foster homes, and/or adopted, compared to the population at large.
We're heading into another federal election, it would appear. Wouldn't it be refreshing to have real debate among all parties about ways to work with aboriginal organizations to actually improve the situation - to revamp or even junk the ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - instead of the usual empty rhetoric? This is a bona fide national emergency.
Major-General C.S. (Duff) Sullivan has been put in an uneviable position with his apppointment to investigate last week's NATO air strikes in Kunduz in which approximately 70 civilians died, according to human rights groups. The German commander who ordered the air strikes on two Taliban-hijacked fuel trucks has been criticized for calling in the strike without proper aerial surveillance. A U.S. general who visited the site of the bombing said German commanders watching images from U.S. aircraft could see civilians gathered around the fuel trucks apparently stuck in the mud.
Sullivan is air war director and deputy director for the International Security Assistance Force. His team will include a U.S. air force officer, a German air force officer and a legal adviser and will co-ordinate with a team reporting to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (Here's a description of how NATO is involved in Afghanistan through the ISAF.) Sullivan's C.V. look impeccable.
The problem here - regardless of the integrity of Sullivan, a former fighter pilot - is that you've got the military investigating the military. We're told consistently the mission of NATO forces in Afghanistan is to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, as well as attempt to secure the country from Taliban insurgents. Justice must be seen to be done. Surely, what appears to be an in-house investigation into civilian deaths isn't the way to do that.
* * *
It's routine for civilian casualities in Afghanistan to be blamed on the Taliban, and there's no doubt the Taliban uses civilians as human shields. However, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have urged NATO forces to provide more accountability for civilian deaths. A report earlier this noted 2008 was the most violent year for civilians . . . and "Afghans are increasingly resentful about civilian casualties caused by international forces."
Such critical assessments are nothing new and include a report from Human Rights Watch in 2008. The report talks about the Taliban use of human shields. Nevertheless it insists it's incumbent upon NATO forces to be more vigilent.
One of the more bizarre items in the pages of expense reports released by the McGuinty government this week in the house-clearing at the OLG had to be a claim by Larry Flynn, senior vice-president, gaming. His 2008 salary was $291,974.26 and the item in question was . . . wait for it . . . $250 for his Weight-watchers membership.
Stories have noted there were no clear guidelines and much confusion over what could be claimed by the now-defunct board and fired CEO Kelly McDougald. I'll say.
* * *
Liberal Red for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver?
A Globe story suggested yesterday tensions within caucus over leader Michael Ignatieff's huge leap closer to a fall election might have an interesting origin. Tension apparently exists between caucus members nervous about a fall vote and Ignatieff's inner circle "who would love to see him as prime minister for the 2010 Olympics."
If true (not the reticent caucus part, but the Games theory), that would be some argument to place before the public.
Sometimes a single comment offers an entirely new perspective into a period of history one imagines knowing well, in this case the horrific facts concerning the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Third Reich during Second World War. This year, TVO has been running an extraordinary series, The Nazis and the Final Solution, and last night's episode dealt with "Factories of Death" at concentration camps like Auschwitz. It examines the sordid saga of the Vichy government's agreement with the Nazis to co-operate by first rounding up and shipping foreign-born Jews from France to extermination camps, including Auschwitz in Poland. The rationalization for the French was that giving up only foreign-born Jews - many of whom had already fled Nazi persecution in other countries - wasn't as bad as sending French nationals. That, or course, would soon follow.
In 1942, French police took Jewish families from their homes and first separated parents from their children, sending the adults by train to so-called "work camps" in eastern Europe. During the autumn of that year, about 4,000 of these "left-behind" children were sent to live in miserable conditions in the Paris suburbs. The children ranged in age from about 2-3 to 12 and so many of the younger ones were unable to care for themselves, they lived in filth, sleeping on hard floors with the smallest lying in their own excrement. The episode features an interview with a French woman who cared temporarily for these children in Paris, saying aid workers lied to them by promising them they would be reunited with their parents. The children knew better, she said, and many begged to be adopted. The line in last night's episode that really floored me was when she said it was difficult to get any concrete information from the children because most, when asked for identification, were too little to know their names. They said things like:
"I'm Pierre's little brother."
There is no image of this particular child, no photo to identify someone who in a short life would have been loved in a family with at least one sibling until, in the middle of the night, life was ripped apart by a knock at the door. The horror.
These children were taken to train to Auschwitz and gassed, most often within hours of their arrival.
If you haven't tuned into the TVO showings of the series by award-winnng writer/producer Laurence Rees - already shown on the BBC - it is worth watching, albeit painful. There is another episode tonight.
I may have drawn the film, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, to your attention earlier this year when I saw it, but it's a fictional work on the Holocaust I also think is worth seeing. It's tough to tell you much about it without revealing the twist that is the core of the film but it focuses on the different values we misguided human beings place on life. It is chilling to reflect the Holocaust happened only 60-some years ago - the blink of an eye. Since then the world has witnessed exterminations in Cambodia and Rwanda, to name only two, on a planet where lessons were to have been learned.
Or, only one shall be leader:
I had fun last week with a few days of pre-election (?) interviews comparing Libs and Conservatives, and regretted losing a particular anecdote when the story ran Saturday. (Journalists are always mourning missed paragraphs for space in print.) Anyway, there was a section of the story where Liberals said (rather, had said) nothing can be worse than it was this time last year, in terms of rivalries among the warring Dion-Ignatieff camps within the party. This year under Ignatieff, the only serious confusion came in June with the EI days when it seemed for a bit there he might force a non-confidence vote in the Commons.
A Conservative strategist said he ran into a senior Liberal on the Hill a couple of weeks later.
"What happened to you guys?" he asked.
Replied the Liberal: "What do you mean 'you guys?' It's he-guy.' "
I thought it was funny.
This is a start. The Manitoba goverment, police forces and RCMP have announced a task force to investigate these ongoing murders and disappearances. ( See Tuesday's blog post.) Ron Evans, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, welcomes the move but it is only a start. Until the federal government starts investigating and laying out the statistics and the cases on a national basis in an full-scale inquiry, Manitoba is examining only a slice of the problem.
I offer a couple of videos that deal with the issue:
These clips talk about the "Highway of Tears" in B.C.,about women just vanishing off the face of the Earth and about how the public doesn't react because it's "just another dead Indian."
"How many girls have to go missing?" said the headline in the Toronto Star today about yet another young aboriginal women found dead in Manitoba. That quote came from a relative of Cherisse Houle, 17, who was found dead in a creek near Winnipeg last month. The latest victim of homicide is Hillary Angel Wilson, whose body was found this week. Aboriginal leaders called again for a task force to examine what's happening in a ongoing atrocity in which, according to the Native Women's Association of Canada, there are 520 native women missing or murdered in Canada.
It's hard to trust the numbers because so many young women are unaccounted for by their families, but not listed as officially missing by police. However, the numbers have being slowly going up from 500 since at least 2002 when the Toronto Star ran a front-page story on missing aboriginal women in Canada. Police always discount that less attention is paid to cases involving aboriginal women than non-aboriginal, however it surely would be a nationally recognized scandal if these were young women of another racial background. It is a national scandal, it's just not recognized as such. Really, how dare politicians, including the federal justice minister, be unavailable for comment? Priorities are so out-of-whack.
In the same vein, if some 300-plus women had been found dead in El Paso, as have been found murdered in Ciudad Juarez across the Rio Grande, there would be a state of emergency called until the killer/s could be caught. In Mexico, that has not happened and the only reasonable conclusion is that these women were young, Indian, poor and unimportant. Sound familiar to what's happening in Canada?
In Ottawa, everything is too often generalized. The government, the opposition, offer sweeping promises for across-the-board action that has included improving conditions on reserves and eliminating poverty among native peoples. It hasn't happened and the Department of Indian Affairs controls most resource spending with an iron fist. Other than an occasional victory - the apology for residential schools - there is seldom specific, detailed policy applied to social issues. (Concerns of the Canadian financial community are an entirely different matter.) Why can't there be an inquiry only into the murders and disppearances of aboriginal women over the past, say 15 years? With names, dates, family stories and, most importantly, recommendations for police forces, including the RCMP. When it takes years, as it did in the case of the Willie Picton "Pig Farm" murders, for the Vancouver Police to even take seriously the disappeance of close to 30 women - and there were surely more - something is desperately wrong. It appears the outcome of those murders was a good plot for the TV crime series, Criminal Minds, but no lessons learned by police or politicians in Canada. The headlines coming out of Manitoba this summer are another sad reminder.
There's a novel thought. I wrote for Saturday about problems Canadians have with their own foreign affairs, citizenship and immigration and related agencies, including the Canadian Border Services Agency in a piece headlined, Stranded, Abandoned. The story covered several cases, from Canadians abandoned abroad (Suaad Muhamud) to the thousands stripped of citizenship because of arcane rules, including a 10th generation Canadian. It's been particularly frustrating in my career — with a focus on national reporting and foreign postings — to cover the same subject repeatedly and not see any significant change. I've witnessed the differences between how Canadians are treated by their consulates and embassies in other countries, compared to nations that puts the focus on their citizens, such as Denmark or Sweden, and talked to many readers who personally told me their own stories in the wake of such tragic events as the murders of Dominic and Nancy Ianiero in Mexico.
Here's what I don't understand: we seem to have little understanding in Canada that we as citizens have the right to choose the kind of foreign affairs department we want, and then insist it be delivered. This is a democracy, right? A government that ignores the mandate of its citizens should pay the price at the polls. You know what they say about getting the government you deserve.
The focus of our government's facilities in other countries (at least in my experience) is to help selected business people abroad. Now, that's fine. But if Canadians want at least an equal focus — if not a priority focus — on offices to solve problems and make life easier for Canadians outside our borders, then citizens have the right to demand that be consistently done. Until that happens, I expect to write many more stories about Canadians being abandoned. Outrage on the horizon.
It's worth mentioning the blanket refrain from our government officials — that Canada can't meddle in the affairs of other countries — seems an excuse for inaction. Other countries aren't hesitant to speak up for their citizens, even going to extraordinary lengths to help them.
This does not negate, by the way, the excellent work of dedicated foreign service officials who do what they can within guidelines given them. Nor is one party better than the other; I've seen the same wild "Who's on First?" antics from both Liberal and Conservative governments.
Citizens can start perhaps by writing to the government, as well as making their views known to their own MPs and candidates.
Conservative government: Here's your start for linking to the numbers and addresses of the politicians you want. I notice the government's website doesn't make it easy for citizens to contact anybody. Surely an oversight.
Liberals: Their "contact us" link is rather hidden too. A trend.
NDP: What do you know, easier to find numbers.
Bloc: Easy links to English.
Green Party: Also user friendly.* * *
This is such a recurring issue for journalists in their work, I almost feel I should run myself to try and fix it. Then I think of the record of journalists in Parliament. Enough said.
I had an earful today from a cab driver about the latest blow to their industry in Toronto. The Ontario government slipped through a change to the City of Toronto Act to allow airport limousine drivers to pick up fares in the city. On the surface, it seems like a logical service to citizens in the city, and most online comments about today's story at thestar.com (linked above) were from satisfied limousine customers talking about their great service.
But the issue, said the cabbie, is one of fairness. Toronto cabdrivers aren't allowed to take fares to Pearson International Airport and pick up a customer for the return trip, instead being forced to drive back to the city empty. Exceptions are made when the driver already has an order to meet a customer and pays $10 at the airport. My driver says this is second-class treatment. I've driven in a lot of Toronto cabs in recent years and have gone through the litany of their problems, from the city rule change that wiped out a priority list for drivers who'd been waiting for years to purchase new cab licences to the sudden arrival of the new Ambassador fleet that slashed livelihoods.
From the customer standpoint, I can't count the number of times I've been at Pearson and heard passengers complaining about the lack of cabs at the Arrivals terminal and the long lines to get a limo. It's not as if great service is being offered for all of these rule changes.
Only in Toronto On the subway going east from Chester Station today, a guy with a guitar started singing, "Let's Go to the Ex," and the refrain was picked up by another couple of singers at the other end of the car. Obviously a promo for the upcoming Ex, and one that put a smile on the face of a whole load of workaday passengers. But what gave the event that certain Toronto elan was when a TTC rider joined in with the jingle. He said he's a singer too but mostly in Arabic, whereupon he began to sing a favorite song in that language. From across the aisle, another man picked up on the second verse and and the two sang all the way to Yonge St., occasionally throwing in a line in English, "I love you, I love you, I love you." Throughout the car, a half dozen other passengers softly sang along in Arabic.
Brightened my day.
President Barack Obama is on schedule with his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton in abandoning election campaign health care promises. It took Clinton about six months in 1992 to realize he wasn't going to be able to bring in a health care plan for Americans because the insurance company lobby was too strong. Then, Canada was a scapegoat of the Capitol Hill lobby campaign , with horror stories about Canadian universal health care. It's been deja vu all over again in recent months on that score too, although now the battle is fought with videos on YouTube.
For Obama, it all ends with a euphemism. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters (with a straight face) a new government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of a health-care overhaul by the administration.
Not the essential element. That's like saying oxygen is not the essential element of breathable air, or sun not the essential element of photosynthesis.
Linda Diebel is a veteran political reporter who worked across Canada, including on Parliament Hill, and as the Toronto Star's bureau chief in both Washington and Latin America. She has written two books, Betrayed: The Assassination of Digna Ochoa, and Stéphane Dion: Against the Current.
She's been described as "that mean Diebel person" by President George H.W. Bush and someone "with a good head on her shoulders" by Noam Chomsky. They're probably both right.
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