Friday, April 18, 2014

The Unconscionable Nuttiness of Michael Harris

iPolitics columnist Michael Harris is bitter. Very bitter. And because the RCMP have elected not to take any prisoners in l'affaire Nigel Wright, neither will he, apparently.

This week, the RCMP cleared Wright of any criminal wrongdoing. It had been alleged that Wright had committed "frauds upon the government" by giving now-suspended Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to repay expenses that have been alleged to have been improperly claimed. A decision by the RCMP on whether or not Duffy has committed any crime is said to be forthcoming. It sounds like charges might be laid.

About the RCMP's decision, Harris is apparently furious. Furious enough that he and his left-wing cohorts haven't gotten their way that he's taken it upon himself to impugn the RCMP's independence.

"The other night on television, Stephen Harper’s former communications manager, Geoff Norquay, said that since the RCMP has assured Nigel Wright he will not be charged, nobody cares about the whole stinking mess any longer.

Well, I do. As the saying goes, justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

In order for that to happen in the case of Nigel Wright, we deserve a full explanation of how this decision was made — and who ultimately made it."

Apparently for Harris -- who openly chafes at any suggestion that he holds a cavalier attitude toward the law -- justice being done and being seen to be done precludes the RCMP declining to charge someone who hasn't actually broken the law. An impressive leap of logic, that.

And now that the RCMP have declined to press charges against Wright apparently everyone within the RCMP must suddenly account for where they stand, and what role they had -- if any -- in the decision to not charge Wright with fraud.

Corporal Greg Horton? Commissioner Bob Paulson? Only one is known (Horton) to have played any role whatsoever in the investigation, but apparently both must answer to Michael Harris, apparently.

But here's the thing: the RCMP's decision not to charge Wright is far from surprising, and not for the reasons that Harris insinuates.

To reach this conclusion, it's worthwhile to take measure of just what Harris is alleging makes Wright's cheque to Duffy criminal:

"Even though the RCMP investigation into Nigel Wright has been dropped, what about the Parliament of Canada Act? Under Section 16 of that statute, it is an indictable offence to give a senator compensation for services rendered with respect to 'any claim, controversy, arrest, or other matter before the Senate'."

Harris' reading of the Parliament of Canada act reads with all the expertise of someone whose doctorate of laws is honourary. It seems that Wright's and Duffy's financial arrangement lacks a key component: any services rendered.

Awkward, that.

But let's take a look at what some legal experts had to say about l'affaire Wright. As it just so happens, Harris loves experts. He could listen to and defer to them all day. Or so he says.

But what did the experts say?

Well, Canada's top expert on fraud law, David Debenham, had this to say:

"'Some of us are not convinced that [Mr Wright] did break the law, actually,' said David Debenham, a partner at the Ottawa-based law firm of McMillan. Even if all the details of the document were proven true, Mr Debenham believes they offer thin proof of any wrongdoing.

'[Mr Wright appears to be] basically trying to help Mr. Duffy to do the right thing. There doesn’t seem to be a personal motive. He’s not trying to persuade Mr Duffy to break the law, he’s offering the money so Mr Duffy can comply with the law.'
Further, Mr. Debenham said he remains perplexed as to whether the ITO is even offering evidence that condemns Mr Wright’s actions. 'What, exactly, is the corruption element here? There doesn’t seem to be any influence peddling,' he said."

For the record, Mr Debenham doesn't have an honourary doctorate of laws. He just has 25 years of experience in the field as an actual lawyer (not merely as an activist). Oh, and he also co-chairs the Supreme Court Practice Group. No biggie. Certainly no reason why Harris, with his honourary doctorate in law, would want to defer to an expert.

There's two reasons why Mr Harris would discard Mr Debenham's actual expertise in favour of his own honourary (read: not actual) expertise. One reason is that he is simply unaware of it -- that in writing this column he simply failed to do his research. It wouldn't be the first time. The second is that it wasn't sufficiently political enough for Mr Harris, and so he discarded it.

Even while he tries to ascribe it to others, this is Harris' modus operandi. He politicizes everything. Now he's out to politicize the RCMP.

This is the basest form of political iconoclasm: nothing that disputes Harris' position can be acknowledged, and any institution that declines to act as his personal political enforcers must apparently be razed to the ground. Never mind that the facts do not, and never have, justified charging Wright with fraud. That doesn't matter. Harris is determined to see conservative scalps taken, and any institution that doesn't gleefully go along with it must be horribly corrupted.

But sadly Harris has played a mean trick on himself that he doesn't seem to have comprehended: in declaring his non-confidence in the RCMP simply because he didn't get his way, Harris has precluded confidence in the RCMP period. Had the RCMP charged Wright -- in clear contradiction of the requisite legal principles -- Harris could have feigned confidence in the RCMP, but it could not have been legitimate. His confidence -- or lack thereof -- in the RCMP is entirely flippant, the hallmark of a cavalier attitude toward the law. And now everyone knows it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Michael Harris Under Theresa Spence's Cone of Silence

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that iPolitics columnist Michael Harris had been out to the scandal-engulfed Attawapiskat reserve and been threatened with arrest. Simply nothing else could explain the cone of silence he's placed himself in -- at least in regards to that subject -- since Chief Theresa Spence's commonlaw spouse, Clayton Kennedy, was charged with theft and fraud.

Strange, that. After all, Harris was so obsessed with the RCMP investigation into former PMO Chief of Staff Nigel Wright that, following the RCMP dropping the investigation, he took to Twitter to suggest -- to very nearly insist -- that the case showed that the national police force's independence was now in question.

Yet Kennedy is now facing charges stemming from alleged theft and fraud that took place under Spence's watch and... silence. Nothing to be said from the esteemed Mr Harris.

This would make it seem as if Harris, who previously was one of Spence's biggest boosters in the Canadian media, had only suddenly taken leave of this particular story. But the truth is rather different: he took leave of it long ago.

For example, let's take a look at what Harris wrote about Spence on January 3, 2013:

"...Last December 11, it was shocking to see someone actually want to talk to the prime minister as the country’s most important employee, not as an imperial figure who lives at the top of an unapproachable mountain shrouded in mist. Chief Spence had the audacity to think that she was important because her concerns were important. She was also sufficiently committed to the notion of democracy (however battered it may be in Canada) that she believed talking to the prime minister — nation to nation, as promised — might benefit everyone."

She was committed to the notion of democracy, was she? Well, it turns out that her devotion didn't last the year. In August, 2013 the Attawapiskat band held an election. Spence was reelected, but election had been run with a caveat: if you live off-reserve -- more than half of Attawapiskat band members do -- you were required to travel back to the reserve to vote. The move effectively disenfranchised any band members who wouldn't or couldn't.

Only 507 votes were cast. The Attawapiskat band has 3,351 members.

In a vote held on-reserve, the majority of band members voting approved a band election code that would give all band members a ballot, whether they lived on- or off-reserve. Under the leadership of Chief Spence, Michael Harris' model democrat, Attawapiskat band council refused to ratify it.

Quite the democrat, Theresa Spence is.

Yet even after having given her his official seal of approval, to to speak, Harris had clammed up on all matters Attawapiskat long before then. And now that thousands of dollars in fraud and theft have taken place under his model democrat's watch, Harris is silent again.

But not so silent on Nigel Wright. Harris took to Twitter to fume that the RCMP owes an explanation regarding who made the decision to clear Wright, and why. It's not at all hard to imagine that Harris imagines that he would be the one collecting such an explanation. In the absence of such an explanation, Harris seems quite content to impugn the independence of the RCMP -- quite the cavalier attitude towards the law if there ever was one!

There is something important that these three stories have in common: it's what they actually don't have in common. And that is Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Chief Theresa Spence, in faking a hunger strike, was making Harper look callous in the eyes of many. Because she was harming Harper's political image, Harris endorsed her not knowing that her common law husband had seemingly been stuffing his pockets with Attawapiskat band cash. (It seems fair to at least strongly suspect that Spence herself was a beneficiary of that larceny.)

The speculation by RCMP investigator Corporal Greg Horton that in giving now-suspended Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to pay seemingly-improperly-claimed expenses back to the taxpayers Nigel Wright had committed fraud was ammo in the arsenal of the opposition for months. The story hurt Harper, so of course Harris mentioned it as often as he could.

But Clayton Kennedy being charged with theft and fraud? Well, that has nothing to do with Harper. So because the story doesn't harm Harper politically, Harris steers clear of it.

If I'm being unfair to Harris he can feel free to correct the record at his leisure by explaining his evident disinterest in the Kennedy story. It seems to be clear at this point that whatever got Harris' dander up about Wright, it wasn't the speculated -- never even alleged -- fraud. Remember: Kennedy (linked to Spence) has been charged and Wright (linked to Harper) was cleared.

So is Michael Harris huddled under a cone of silence? Or is it more of a code of silence -- a left-wing Omerta?

Only Harris knows for certain. And he may feel free to explain at his earliest convenience.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezra's Wrong: Low Voter Turnout Isn't a Good Thing

Ezra Levant should have stopped immediately after his critique of Elections Canada's get-out-the-vote ads.

He had Elections Canada on the ropes: their GOTV ads were in fact, excessively political. Encouraging youths to vote is one thing. To lead them to vote in any particular direction or another was not just plumbing the line, it was outright crossing it. In retrospect of this information, the limits the Fair Elections Act would place on Elections Canada's freedoms to publicize voting -- restricting it to information on when and where to vote -- becomes much more reasonable.

Then Levant went entirely off the tracks: low voting numbers are a good thing. What?

Well, Levant's argument isn't 100% unreasonable. One of the ideas he uses to justify the argument is that lower voter turnout reflects lower numbers of low- or no-information voters participating in the electoral process. That, he suggests, is a good thing. And about that he isn't wrong.

He's not right, either. The best solution to the problem posted by low-information voters is to inform them. Not all of them will accept this; many of them will wilfully reject it.

Where he is absolutely wrong is the idea that declining voting numbers reflect voter satisfaction. The right to vote, Levant insisted, is not an obligation to vote, especially if they're satisfied with their political representation.

Yet nothing is more dangerous to democracy than complacency. Complacency is ultimately how democracies are lost. Complacency is the weakness that crooks and despots exploit in order to subvert or replace democracy. (On the other hand, the dangers of complacency are also present in the matter of voter ID -- are we really so complacent that we're content to let someone who may well be a non-citizen or non-resident vote on someone else's mere say-so?)

Low voter turnout isn't a good thing; it's a bad thing. It's a signal of a wavering of the relevance of democracy: the only political system under which freedom and justice have flourished; perhaps the only political system under which they can.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Attawapiskat Under Cone of Silence

As Canada celebrates -- with good reason -- the defeat of the LWNJ government in Quebec (not only did the Parti Quebecois lose, but leader and chief loony Pauline Marois lost her seat) there may be a sign of hope in one of Canada's other troubled regions.

Former Attawapiskat co-manager -- and current boyfriend of hunger strike-faking Chief Theresa Spence -- Clayton Kennedy has been charged with theft and fraud. And the charges date back well into Spence's tenure as Attawapiskat's Chief.

Big questions loom for Spence: how much did she know? When did she know it? If she didn't know -- and that seems like a pretty big "if" -- why didn't she know? And will she again go full-out despot and place her reserve under lock-down and threaten reporters with arrest if they dare attempt to report on what's going on there?

That's what she did a year ago after the leak of a damning Deloitte audit into the band's finances.

Of course there is another possibility: that the residents of Attawapiskat will finally toss their would-be Dear Leader out of office and onto her ear. That might depend on how well she can avoid being implicated.

As it stands, Attawapiskat is currently under a cone of silence, if not under full lockdown. How long that can hold, only band members can possibly know.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stephen Harper Must Tell Madame Marois "Non"

A little history lesson:

The year was 1995. The place was Quebec. There was a referendum going on that would decide whether or not Quebec would seek to separate from the rest of Canada.

Jean Chretien was the Prime Minister of Canada. Lucien Bouchard was the Premier of Quebec. Chretien was reluctant to get involved in the referendum. And Bouchard took full advantage of that.

Mr Bouchard promised Quebeckers the moon: after separating from Canada Quebec would not accept its share of the national debt. Quebec would continue to use Canadian currency. Quebec would continue to benefit from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) without negotiating their way into it.

None of these things were possible. But Chretien made no forceful attempt to dispel Bouchard's delusions (some would say lies). And Quebec very nearly voted in favour of separating from Canada.

That was 1995, nearly 20 years ago. Now the year is 2014, and Quebec's is having an election. Quebec's current Premier, Pauline Marois, is making very similar promises to what Bouchard promised. Marois has insisted that a sovereign Quebec would continue to use Canadian currency, and would have a seat on the board of the Bank of Canada. She also suggests that Quebec would effectively have no borders with the rest of Canada.

It seems reasonable to suspect that Marois will also insist that not only would a sovereign Quebec not accept its share of the national debt, but won't give up the transfer payments that effectively fund its lavish lifestyle.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must not repeat the mistakes of Jean Chretien. To all of this he must say "non."

Marois' suggestions are in now way acceptable or even possible. Given how her government chooses to manage the Quebec economy -- discouraging, if not outright refusing, economic development -- the rest of the world has a right to  its input on the desirability of doing business in Quebec. That pretty much requires a Quebec currency to fall like a stone against the Canadian dollar on international markets. With the Parti Quebecois in power, fall like a stone such a currency would. Guaranteed.

The idea of a sovereign Quebec without borders also flies in the face of the very concept of sovereignty. Having borders is a precursor of any semblance of sovereignty. Any 100-level political science student in Quebec presumably understands this, even if Madame Marois does not.

I understand that Prime Minister Harper is reluctant to get involved in the Quebec election. There is some good reason for this. But this is not an acceptable reason to remain silent and allow Marois to deceive the citizens of Quebec about what independence would mean for La Belle Province.

Ju me souviens, Mr Harper. Remember what happened in 1995. Do not repeat the mistakes of that year in 2014.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Press Progress Just Can't Play By Their Own Rules

The folks at Press Progress sure do like to play by their own rules. And like any good left-wing organization, they themselves don't play by the rules they demand other people play by.

Press Progress has been among the more obnoxious participants in the campaign to attempt to run Rex Murphy off the CBC. They insist that his failure to disclose what may or may not be paid speeches to various oilsands-friendly groups before speaking about the oilsands on CBC's The National is unethical.

So you would think that Press Progress would play by its own rules and disclose who funds their operation, or any organizational links they may have, on any stories where it could be of ethical concern, right? Right?

Well, if you read their recent sad attempt at a "gotcha" article about Jason Kenney attending Conservative Party fundraisers while also traveling on government business, you may or may not notice something missing: Press Progress' disclosure that they, as a project of the Broadbent Institute, are essentially an NDP proxy.

They do pretend to be non-partisan. The Broadbent Institute pretends to be non-partisan. And in fact they're so non-partisan that the NDP broke the law in order to fund them. Which is really not very non-partisan at all.

This probably explains precisely why the story simply fails to mention the number of NDP MPs who also attend party fundraisers while traveling for public business, on the public dime. Liberals do it too. It's quite common.

Of course, Press Progress can hardly taddle on NDP MPs while maintaining direct links to the NDP. Ethics or not, that just cannot work for them. Interesting how quickly Press Progress dispenses with its own purported ethical standards.

And besides: playing by the same rules they presume to make for others? Where's the fun in that?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The High-Tax Trojan Horse

Tomorrow, the Liberal Party will kickoff its biennial convention. Party leader Justin Trudeau insists that the party convention will flush out his party's first substantial policy proposals leading into the 2015 federal election. So far, he's only offered up one: the legalization of pot.

This was, and always has been, a blatant appeal to potheads -- the kind of sad individual who populates the typical 4/20 festival -- for votes. As I've noted before, any marijuana user who votes for the Liberals on the back of a legalized pot promise is setting themselves up for a serious disappointment. Perhaps even a disappointingly-life-changing disappointment.

But recent news out of Colorado -- one of the states to legalize marijuana -- shows just how bad it can be. Users in Colorado were already beginning to get a sense of just how badly this was going to go for them:
But as it turns out, it's even worse than they ever imagined. The tax take in Colorado has exceeded lawmakers' wildest expectations. By a whopping 21%.

To some people, this would seem like a good thing. For example, if you favour big government, and love to see the government raking in lucrative tax revenue in order to pay for it, you might love this. Perhaps not so much if you're a pot user paying for it all. And if you're a pot user in Canada thinking that you won't pay through the nose under Trudeau's promised marijuana legalization, you just haven't been paying attention. At least not to this issue. Maybe there's been a magic eye poster monopolizing your attention.

OK, I'm done being facetious. But here's the point: a Liberal government legalizing marijuana won't hesitate to tax the living bejeezus out of you. It's just what they do. And they'll find all sorts of pet projects to fund with it that won't benefit you in any way, shape, or form. Although I'd bet that the $10 in tax on the above pot buy, left in your pocket, probably would. Especially cumulatively across numerous buys.

That doesn't necessarily mean the status quo, either. Decriminalization offers pretty much all the freedom of legalization, without the government's hand digging to the bottom of your pocket.

Think about it carefully, before you wake up to find a Trojan horse in your living room.