All posts tagged CBC

Chutzpah Alert! Premier Dave Hancock explains why Sky Palaces and similar uproars are nothing but ‘distractions’

Alison Redford’s planned rooftop apartment, high atop the Federal Building in Edmonton. The Alberta Legislative Building is visible in the background. Actual secret places of the modern world may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: A shot of the actual Sky Palace under construction.

I don’t know about you, but I sort of admire the colossal cheek of the Hancock Government – which is exactly the same in most respects as the Redford Government – when it claims that all its recent troubles are nothing but One Big Distraction.

Last week, Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock visited my town, St. Albert, to talk to what we have been told was a sold-out crowd at the local hostelry to raise money for our inevitably Progressive Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly. I can’t claim to have been there, so I’m relying on the local bi-weekly newspaper, the St. Albert Gazette, for my description of what went on.

All this talk about cracks in the Tory caucus so big you could drive a semi-trailer truck through them without scraping the sides? All balderdash, Mr. Hancock told the no-doubt vastly relieved local Tories.

Stories in the news about the same sort of thing? Distractions, every one of ’em! Distractions that keep your government from the important business of working on Big Picture Issues, which, Mr. Hancock explained, are what Alberta Tories do best.

Alas, this very sort of distraction is likely to continue for a while now, because the CBC has inconveniently made us all aware that when former premier Alison Redford was planning a luxury apartment for herself and her daughter atop a provincial government office building in Edmonton, lots of other people in her government knew about it too and don’t seem to have done or said anything.

The official line on the so-called Sky Palace Affair seems to be that it was just something Ms. Redford got up to all by herself, and her ministers and officials would have stopped her if only they’d known.

But the CBC’s always mischievous investigative reporter, Charles Rusnell, reported yesterday that plans to build the luxury penthouse suite atop the confusingly named Edmonton Federal Building, which is in fact an Edmonton provincial building, continued until late last year and all the while deputy ministers from several provincial departments knew all about them.

In particular, this creates a problem for Grande Prairie Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale, who back in 2012 was the minister of infrastructure, and who was reappointed to that same post last week. (Ms. Redford shuffled Mr. Drysdale into Transportation and replaced him at Infrastructure with Ric McIver last December. Mr. Hancock put him back into Infrastructure last week when Mr. McIver quit the cabinet to run for the party leadership. This was conveniently just in time for Mr. Drysdale not to return the CBC’s phone calls.)

The documents, obtained in one of Mr. Rusnell’s ubiquitous FOIP searches, cast doubt Mr. Drysdale’s claim he thought the whole scheme had been abandoned as a bad idea back in 2012. Leastways, if he did, they certainly suggest his senior civil servants didn’t tell him about them, which might have been a bit of an oversight since it was his ministry that was going to have to pay for the renovations.

The government says only $173,000 was spent on consulting work for the suite, by the way, but it’s not certain this isn’t just fancy accounting – putting the cost of the repurposed structure under a different column in the books, for example.

Regardless, getting back to Mr. Hancock’s St. Albert commentary last week, he told the local PCs not to trouble their pretty little heads about how the caucus thumped former premier Alison Redford like a dusty rug and then fired her sorry self all the way to the LuLu California Bistro in Palm Springs. Nor, he advised them, should they think about how not long before that some Tory MLAs were quitting to sit as Independents and as others were holding secret conclaves to discuss outright revolution.

It’s all just standard operating procedure for the fine people who have delivered good government to Alberta for 43 years, explained Mr. Hancock, wearing trendy new spectacles that aren’t quite as goofy as his old pair. The Tories, he said, call it a diversity of opinion.

All that stuff about the former premier jetting her friends and relations around the globe on the taxpayer’s dime? Part of that Big Distraction.

Unconstitutional legislation? Stripping working people of their modest pensions? All that stuff? More distraction.

And that Sky Palace thing Mr. Rusnell is now going on and on about? Even more distraction!

So don’t fret, Mr. Hancock told the remaining loyal local Tories – and, since the media was invited, by extension the rest of us. “Your caucus knows that we need to be working on Big Picture Issues.”

Mr. Hancock, in the words of the reporter, “reminded the crowd that the Tories have strong fiscal values.” Thus, he explained: “We have very strong character. … We’re trying to do the right things for the right reason.”

And that New Leader they’re about to choose – whoever that turns out to be after the exciting leadership contest, eh? “The New Leader will have the party and the government firing on all cylinders.”

It’s not hard to guess what that New Leader will be saying, is it? “Don’t worry about all that history stuff! It’s One Big Distraction!

Like I said, you’ve sort of got to admire the Tories for the sheer chutzpah of this approach. They’re like the proverbial son who murdered his parents and then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.

But here’s the deal. In its 44th year of life there’s only one Big Issue for the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, and that’s staying in power.

The party has no other reason for existence, no matter who leads it or how many cylinders it’s firing on.

Issues of travel and expense claims – not to mention secret taxpayer subsidized apartments for their former leader that nobody seems to have said boo about – are important because they are issues of character.

And it’s been a long time since the PC Party got that part right.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

What happens now that we know there really is a cancer cluster in Fort Chip? Nothing?

Greenpeace Canada info-graphic showing connections among the far-right Conservative Party of Canada activists behind the so-called Ethical Oil Institute. Below: Dr. James Talbot; Dr. John O’Connor; Ezra Levant.

Alberta’s chief medical officer has now confirmed that statistics released a couple of weeks ago indicate there really is a cancer cluster in Fort Chipewyan, a predominantly native community about 280 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Fort Chip, as it is often known, has long been a subject of controversy about the health impacts of bitumen sands development because – possibly coincidentally, and possibly not – it is not far downstream and downwind of the largest Bitumen Sands mining and processing operations in Alberta.

Nevertheless, the Edmonton Journal reported earlier this week, the government has no plans to try to identify the possible causes of the cluster of serious diseases, which includes unusually high rates of bile duct cancer, plus some others.

So, what does this tell us?

Well, before we get to that, a caveat: I am just a layperson who notices things, often sees connections with other things, notes them down and writes about them. I am not a medical professional, a statistician or a clairvoyant. So readers are entitled to take my conclusions with as large a grain of salt as they wish. I am, as they say, just saying…

Still, now that we’ve got that out of the way, what does this week’s news suggest?

First of all, it suggests Dr. John O’Connor, the physician who famously practiced medicine in native communities in the region, was onto something when he reported back in the mid-2000s that … wait for it … there was a cluster of unusual cancers among residents of Fort Chipewyan.

For saying this – regardless of why he reached his conclusions – Dr. O’Connor has been attacked in the vilest and most damaging terms imaginable, and very nearly lost his ability to practice his profession as a result.

Both the federal and provincial governments harshly criticized Dr. O’Connor for daring to suggest the Bitumen-extraction industry might have been the cause of the serious health problems he observed among residents of Fort Chip and nearby communities – including, as he then observed and has now been confirmed, an unusually high rate of bile duct cancer.

Not only did the provincial government dispute Dr. O’Connor’s conclusions, in 2007 Health Canada physicians laid four complaints of professional misconduct against him with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons. These included accusations he blocked access to his patients’ medical files, claims of billing irregularities, and the charge, redolent of totalitarian states, that he caused mistrust of government in Fort Chipewyan and “undue alarm” among residents of the community.

The accusations nearly resulted in Dr. O’Connor losing his license to practice medicine, and hence his livelihood. Eventually, according to the Edmonton Journal, he was cleared of all the charges against him.

This, however, has never stopped Sun News Network TV commentator and “Ethical Oil” propagandist Ezra Levant from using what we might call his national on-air bullying pulpit to launch a stream of vilification at Dr. O’Connor, calling him “a liar,” accusing him of “breaching professional ethics,” and saying “he just made it up.”

Now, Mr. Levant doesn’t have much credibility, in part because he attacks so many people in the same way – pretty much anyone who disagrees with him, in fact. Nevertheless, he has a devoted following and many of his acolytes no doubt believe his claims about Dr. O’Connor. His accusations are influential enough, it is said here, to make others with similar observations afraid to speak their minds.

Indeed, Dr. Margaret Sears, an Ontario expert in toxicology and health, told the Edmonton Journal doctors in the region were afraid of the negative consequences to their careers if they spoke out, or even were asked to treat patients who thought their might be a connection between their symptoms and nearby bitumen production.

She was not referring specifically to Mr. Levant’s on-air jeremiads, but it is not unreasonable to conclude just such an outcome was in fact the intention of the broadcaster’s on-air bullying. For, as has been noted in this space before, Mr. Levant is closely tied to both the petroleum industry in Alberta, through his so-called “Ethical Oil Institute,” and with the petro-government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In a useful piece of work published earlier this week, Greenpeace Canada charted the connections among Mr. Levant’s so-called institute, the Harper Conservative Party, provincial versions of the same party and their energy industry patrons.

Greenpeace made headlines by calling for Elections Canada to investigate Ethical Oil for “colluding with the Conservative Party in order to get around rules that limit donations to political parties.”

Such a probe is of course unlikely because Elections Canada is already under attack from the Harper Conservatives for protecting the democratic rights of Canadians too effectively. But with that story in the news, mainstream media took notice when Greenpeace identified the frequent “mirrored messaging” between Ethical Oil and the CPC and the “multiple crossovers” among Harper Government staffers and Ethical Oil.

“Greenpeace argues election financing laws are breached even if a third party – in this case Ethical Oil – does not directly transfer money to a political party,” the CBC reported. “Greenpeace is urging the commissioner of elections to find that if Ethical Oil spends funds it raises on activities supporting a political party’s agenda, and has been set up by someone involved in the political party, then political donation limits have been contravened.”

“Our laws still ban oil companies from directly or indirectly funding political parties, so we hope that Ethical Oil and the Conservative Party will cooperate with the Commissioner in an investigation to clear this up,” Greenpeace said in its news release – no doubt rhetorically, given the uncooperative history of the CPC on such matters.

An effective info-graphic created by Greenpeace illustrates the connections among the CPC, Ethical Oil and their mutual operatives, including Mr. Levant, on this propaganda campaign.

Which brings us back to the Fort Chip cancer cluster.

“If anybody crunches the numbers for Fort Chipewyan, no matter how they are massaged, they wouldn’t show anything but a cancer cluster,” the Journal quoted University of Calgary professor John Dennis as saying this week. “It’s a huge red flag,” said the researcher, who conducted a review of the previous study at the government’s behest.

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, told the same newspaper, in its reporter’s words, that “updated figures for bile-duct cancer in the northern community fit the definition of a cluster, as does the rate of cervical cancer. The lung-cancer rate comes very close.”

Of course, there could be many causes for the disease cluster – including lifestyle choices in an impoverished community. But it’s an interesting series of events just the same, isn’t it?

  • A physician has his character viciously attacked by a right-wing broadcaster linked to the Conservative federal government and the oil industry for suggesting there was a cluster of diseases in a community in a bitumen-extraction region.
  • A petroleum industry advocacy organization run by the same broadcaster is accused of breaching election laws to help the same government remain in power. Whether or not the group’s activities actually broke the law, the same group of right-wing activists are demonstrably involved in both campaigns.
  • Another study by other doctors shows the physician’s observations all those years ago were likely right, and yet a provincial government run by followers of the same ideology refuses to launch an investigation to find out what’s really causing the health problems.

Whatever can it all mean?

Could someone be afraid of the answers a credible study might reveal?

Did someone ask: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent doc?”

Is there an effort to keep a lid of science that might impact petroleum industry profits?

I’m not saying. I’m just asking.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Allaudin Merali files suit against Fred Horne, Alberta Health Services for breach of contract, defamation

Health Minister Fred Horne: target of defamation, breach of trust, loss of income suit by former Alberta Health Services CFO. Below: Allaudin Merali.

Allaudin Merali filed a statement of claim today in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench against Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne.

“The statement of claim includes claims for a breach of contract, defamation and loss of income,” Mr. Merali said in a carefully worded email sent to media and bloggers.

Since the former Capital Health Region and Alberta Health Services CFO’s expense account became a cause célèbre and a political embarrassment to the Redford Government after CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell broke a story about it in August 2012, the message to Mr. Merali from the government has always been that he will have to go to court if he wants to try to get his half-million dollars in severance.

Mr. Rusnell had filed a Freedom of Information search of Mr. Merali’s expense claims and discovered, in the reporter’s words, “how he spent tens of thousands of dollars on lavish meals at high-end restaurants, bottles of wine, even a phone for his Mercedes Benz car.” Mr. Merali left the employ of AHS soon thereafter.

But the real problem was never that Mr. Merali spent the money after he returned to Alberta Health Services from a job in Ontario – it was all properly submitted, signed off and approved. It was that Alberta Health Services signed such generous contracts with its senior executives in the first place.

That is the true source of the embarrassment to the government – but to admit that, it would have had to concede it signed a lousy deal, and not just with Mr. Merali but likely with every executive in AHS and the CHR before it.

Back in May 2013, Premier Alison Redford told Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell that “if people think they are entitled to something in a contract and other people don’t think they’re entitled to it I guess they can hire lawyers and take legal routes and go to court.”

She added: “We are not going to simply sit back and take a look at what he may or may not feel he’s entitled to without resisting that.”

How can this mean anything but that the word of this government cannot be trusted? As I wrote at the time, there are four problems with this government’s approach:

1.    Alberta Health Services signed a contract with the guy that says he’s owed the money
2.    Outrageous as his expenses may have seemed, all of them appear to have met the lax the rules for executive expenses in effect at the time he was a Capital Health Region employee
3.    He was rehired and then fired by another employer, AHS, and there’s no evidence his expenses at that organization broke any rules
4.    Canada, even the part governed by Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservative Party, still has an independent and impartial judiciary

No surprise, the Redford Government didn’t take my advice about this, I guess, so now we’re going to get to see the proof of Point 4.

In his statement today, Mr. Merali said he joined AHS in good faith after personally being encouraged by the minister of health. He noted that AHS, moreover, understood his expenses had been properly incurred and said so in a news release on Aug. 1, 2012.

“What is apparent from widely publicized statements by the minister and other government representatives is that my expense claims were spun by the defendants to make me a scapegoat and to distract the media and the public from issues with other AHS executives,” he said in the statement.

“I have filed a claim because the minister and AHS have failed to meet obligations clearly given to me by a signed employment contract,” he said. In addition, “defamatory statements were made which questioned my integrity and have damaged my ability to work in a senior management capacity in Canada.

“I have no choice but to file a claim to seek compensation for my loss of employment and damage to my reputation,” Mr. Merali concluded, saying he will have no further comment until the court proceedings are concluded.

Alberta taxpayers stand to be double losers – we will have to pay for a politically motivated legal case that surely stands little chance of success, and have to pay Mr. Merali what he was promised as well.

He was said in a reporter’s Tweet to be seeking more than $6 million in damages.

Most likely he will settle out of court and no one will ever know how much he was paid in compensation for his claims.

The conduct of the Alberta government from start to finish is the real shame of this sorry affair.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

PKP to run for PQ: Why PKP, with SNN and CPC PMO spell SOS for Canada, which could be FUBAR

Impressionable English Canadian youngsters tune in to SNN for sinister ideological conditioning by RWN (right-wing nuts) on the staff of the PMO-favoured network. Below: PKP and his now-ex wife (NXW), grabbed from the Internet; SNN broadcaster Ezra Levant.

Oh, H-E-double-hockey-sticks, PKP wants another D-I-V-O-R-C-E!

This time, having just given his common-law wife of a decade the old heave-ho, it’s from us! 

And I don’t know about you, but this smells a bit like C-O-N-S-P-I-R-A-C-Y.

Let me explain…

PKP for those of you who live in the ROC and are therefore wondering WTF is Pierre Karl Péladeau, who until recently was the CEO of Quebecor Inc. (QBR to the TSE.) Also until recently he was the common law husband of broadcaster Julie Snyder.

QBR was recently described as “one of the worst employers Quebec has ever known,” a statement that it would certainly be fair to extend Canada-wide.

PKP, as he is apparently known in Quebec, remains QBR’s largest shareholder, and working for him is obviously pure H-E-double-L for most of his now-former E-M-P-L-O-Y-E-E-S, fewer and fewer of whom had managed to retain that un-coveted status even before he signalled a career change.

QBR, indeed, is well on its way to being the company that gave the ROC the completely journalism-free newspaper.

More important, though, PKP seems to be the guy who invented the faux patriotic Sun News Network (SNN), the tireless foe of the CRTC and the CBC that is billed by its opponents as Fox News North (FNN, I guess) and calls itself the home of “hard news and straight talk,” which seem to mean “far-right spin and extremely offensive and dishonest commentary.”

Indeed, it was SNN that gave Ezra Levant, who seems to have some troubles of his own just now, a national soapbox from which to insult people who disagreed with him in the basest imaginable terms, a proclivity SNN was willing to spend considerable time and effort to defend.

SNN is also the home of such luminaries of the lunatic right as Michael Coren, Brian Lilley and Lorne Gunter, who when they’re not reprinting Fraser Institute news releases strive with one another to express English Canada’s most offensive opinions and portray our society in the worst possible light.

In other words, SNN and its gaggle of unreconstructed rightists is a powerful symbol of the parochialism and ideological extremism that large numbers of Quebeckers have come to associate with English Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And BTW, as is well known, SNN, AKA FNN, is a particular favourite of both the CPC and the Harper PMO – which is bound, in the next election campaign, to try to falsely imply that federalists in the NDP have gone MIA.

Now, in addition to being a lousy employer and a tireless far-right propagandist, PKP is a deeply committed separatist. This is news out here in the ROC, although it was long well known in politically alert circles.

Accordingly, PKP announced yesterday he will run as a candidate for the Parti Québécois, and his reason for doing so was informative: “My devotion to the Parti Québécois is a devotion that rises from my most intimate values – that is to say: to make Quebec a country,” he told a PQ rally in the Montreal suburb of St. Jerome to roars of approval.

“I have extremely profound convictions to make Quebec a country,” he emphasized.

Presumably PKP didn’t come by his extremely profound convictions yesterday.

So we have to ask, did he intentionally promote an image of an intolerant and ignorant English Canada through SNN that he knew would make Quebeckers wish the ROC would just FO&DD?

Perhaps having contributed so much through QBR and SNN to making many Quebeckers ashamed of Canada, PKP was advancing his dream of giving his three children “a country they can be proud of.”

SNN, of course, tried to soft-pedal the obvious yesterday, trotting out the ghost of MBM (Martin Brian Mulroney) in its “news” columns to insist there’s no connection between PKP and QBR, and advising the ROC in its “opinion” section to pay no heed to the return of the separatist threat to Quebec if the PQ elects a majority.

IMO, we should treat it very seriously indeed before our entire country is FUBAR.

Indeed, it seems to me the best thing we could do for Canada right now would be to stick with Quebec while severing our ties as quickly as possible with SNN, QBR and Stephen “Firewall” Harper.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Shining you on: Alison Redford calls for a little selective sunshine on civil service salaries

The scene in February 2014: CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell pores through a list of senior Alberta civil service salaries as horrified deputy ministers and university professors look on. Actual Alberta public employees may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation Don Scott, left, with some guy his party would just as soon you forgot about. (Image grabbed from the Internet from country933.com.) I wonder what the yellow gloves are for?

Have the calls Alberta’s Progressive Conservative MLAs are getting from modestly paid unionized civil servants, furious about having their salaries frozen by unconstitutional legislation and their pensions diminished, rattled the Redford Government?

PC MLAs should be rattled – seeing as a lot of those modestly paid low- and mid-level public employees live in ridings that Ms. Redford’s PC Party hung onto by extremely narrow margins in the face of the Wildrose Party tide in the April 2012 general election.

So the announcement yesterday by Don Scott, Alberta’s “associate minister of accountability, transparency and transformation,” that the Redford Government has plans to shine a little highly selective sunshine on senior public service salaries suggests they may indeed be worried.

At any rate, an Alberta government news release stating “compensation, including salary, benefit and severance amounts for government employees with base salaries above $100,000 will now be publicly disclosed,” sounds an awful lot like an effort to make a dubious case to the public that province’s public service is too fat and sassy and needs to be brought down a notch or two.

It just might work with some members of the public, the large and inattentive cohort of citizens who can’t tell the difference between civil service union members and their well-paid managers – the latter being the people who will make up the bulk of the names on the new Mike-Harris-inspired “sunshine list” that’s supposed to be published online at the end of January.

But will publication of the list win Ms. Redford any votes in 2016?

Don’t count on that. The people most likely to take the bait offered in what’s being billed the “public service compensation disclosure policy” are the same ones who have already decided to vote Wildrose, or who can’t be bothered getting out to vote at all.

On the other hand, you can count on civil service managers to be outraged by what they are certain to see as an invasion of their personal privacy.

It’s said here these traditional Tory voters are now much more likely to vote against Ms. Redford’s party, as are the rank-and-file government employees they supervise, who for their part are unhappy about the PCs imposition of a legislated freeze on their wages and cuts to their pension plans.

I ask you, how much would you like it if your snoopy right-wing brother-in-law could find out that you were making $100,000.01 in base salary on a government website accessible to everyone in the world? Well, if you’re a civil service manager in Alberta, he’ll be able to just that, using your name, in just 43 days!

Just how this is going to work with Alberta’s privacy legislation is unclear – and not surprisingly largely unexplored in yesterday’s news release.

On the face if it, Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act would seem to prohibit the release of such employee information without consent, at least unless “it is reasonable to disclose the information for the particular purpose for which it is being disclosed.” That law also suggests employees are owed “reasonable notice.”

What do you want to bet some affected government employees won’t think this is reasonable, and that 40 days and 40 nights doesn’t constitute reasonable notice – even if the government can dredge up some regulation somewhere to override those provisions of the act.

Oh well, contradicting its own legislation is nothing new for the Redford Government – just ask the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

There’s certainly a case to be made such information does belong in the public domain. And if voters are paying attention – which the premier’s Queen’s Park-trained political staff clearly hopes they are not – the information won’t do much to make the case Alberta’s civil service is overindulged.

After all, the vast majority of Alberta civil servants don’t make anything like $100,000 in base salary – and if you don’t believe me, just look up AUPE’s contract with the government on the union’s website and see for yourself how modestly paid its members are.

If Ontario is any guide, only about 6 per cent of all tax filers make more than $100,000.

As Armine Yalnizyan of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told the CBC last spring when Ontario published its annual list, maybe it’s time to expand the list to “shine a light on the private sector.”

It’s a thought – and a potential new group for Ms. Redford’s political brain trust to alienate.

Meanwhile, the government did get the endorsement of the Alberta director of the six-member Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which its communications brainiacs obviously chalk up as a plus, seeing as they quoted it in their press release.

And the announcement probably distracted voters from the fact the former Tory MLA from Wood Buffalo-Fort McMurray pleaded guilty the day before to a reduced charge in Minnesota after being swept up last summer in a “john sweep” of the seedy underside of St. Paul, the Sin City of the Gopher State.

Back here in the Gopher Province, look for the phone company to do a land-office trade in new unlisted numbers.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

If the deputy premier wants free speech for Ukraine so badly, why is he attacking it in Alberta?

Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk in the Rotunda of the Alberta Legislature. Note, in the background at left, Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith. Below, a recent Twitter message from Mr. Lukaszuk, an inveterate and confrontational Tweeter, who thinks your free speech rights are a matter of LOL and #wink.

Last weekend, Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk was in Edmonton’s Churchill Square enthusiastically demanding free speech and recognition of other fundamental rights for citizens of Ukraine.

Premier Alison Redford’s second in command told his listeners he recalled being in Kiev in 2004, observing the Orange Revolution: “Never again should there be a time in Ukraine that protests would have to be sparked in favour of democracy, but unfortunately that wasn’t so.”

Presumably his speechifying was well received.

But if the Polish-born Mr. Lukaszuk is so in favour of free speech and democracy in Eastern Europe, how come he’s attacking it in Alberta?

This is a reasonable question that should be answered by Mr. Lukaszuk, who is one of the principal architects behind the anti-union legislation now being rammed through the Legislature by the Alberta’s spineless Progressive Conservative caucus without a whinny of protest or principle.

Bills 45 and 46, after all, include an egregious attack on the free-speech rights of all Albertans, and make a mockery of the ideas of due process, free association and natural justice. As Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, who I can tell you from personal experience is not exactly a rabid trade unionist, said yesterday: It’s hard to imagine a more blatant violation of free speech.”

Indeed, if you’d tried a stunt like this in Kiev this week, you could have expected streets full of angry citizens armed with gasoline bombs, manning barricades and preparing for an illegal general strike.

Mr. Lukaszuk has his fingerprints all over the matched set of unconstitutional bills rammed through Legislature by the PC Party’s cowed and unprincipled backbenchers – laws that have also had better-behaved crowds of protesters braving the chill in the streets of Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.

This is easy to forget because Finance Minister Doug Horner and Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, both of whose public images retain a few tattered shreds of respectability, have served as the human faces charged with making excuses for the excesses of Bills 45 and 46.

But of the lot, it was Mr. Lukaszuk who was best positioned to push forward his agenda as the chair of the secretive Public Sector Resource Committee, a little-known body that oversees the government’s direct and almost-direct negotiations with unionized civil servants and other public employees.

In the past, Mr. Lukaszuk has said the committee’s role is to impose uniformity on all public sector labour contracts. Revealingly, he told the Edmonton Sun a few days ago that the meaningless decision to “freeze” MLA salaries until after the next election at $156,311 plus generous benefits, in the words of the Sun’s reporter, “will give himself and the committee ‘the moral authority, in a way’ for continued negotiations with AUPE.”

Considering that the MLAs just got finished giving themselves a 71.5-per-cent pay raise last spring – and, no, that’s not a typo – that’s not much of a position of moral authority!

Mr. Lukaszuk, who is also advanced education minister in Ms. Redford’s cabinet, also told the Sun negotiated agreements “may not be ideal because they mean compromise” – although in the case of Bill 46, the government seems to have solved the problem of having to compromise when it comes to “negotiating” with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. That is to say, there are no negotiations, only orders.

Certainly Mr. Lukaszuk and the other members of the committee knew that the government had already agreed to go to arbitration to find an agreement with AUPE when in an act of bad faith they pulled Bills 45 and 46 out of their hats.

It cannot be known with absolute certainty what prompted Mr. Lukaszuk’s apparent vendetta against AUPE in particular, and labour organizations in general, although we have to presume it’s not merely part of a plot to enrich constitutional lawyers with, in Mr. Braid’s delightful phrase, “sugar plum dreams of Supreme Court of Canada arguments dancing in their heads.”

But the public service labour scene in Alberta in the months leading up to the bills’ introduction suggest a plausible interpretation of events in which the confrontational minister – infamous for such shenanigans as a doorstep shoving match with an elderly Wildrose supporter suffering from asthma and liver failure – was infuriated by labour’s refusal to knuckle under to his bullying like a terrified university administrator.

Last April, about 2,500 AUPE Correctional Officers walked off the job in a wildcat strike provoked by the government’s attempts to discipline guards who had complained about dangerous working conditions at the then-new Edmonton Remand Centre.

Both the fanciful costs of this strike dreamed up by the Redford Government and the all-too-real inconvenience it caused have been used as a government talking point to justify the introduction of Bills 45 and 46.

But the illegal strike was neither encouraged nor desired by AUPE’s leadership, which in fact worked desperately behind the scenes to bring the dispute to a quick resolution.

The seeds of the push for Bill 46 in particular, including such childish touches as specifically not allowing AUPE to collect union dues on a lump-some payment in Year 2, are surely connected to the fact Mr. Lukaszuk’s trustworthiness was called into question by AUPE when the deal that ended the strike unraveled in public.

When AUPE President Guy Smith met Mr. Lukaszuk alone in an Edmonton restaurant on April 29 and made the deal, Mr. Smith went out the door sincerely believing the deputy premier had agreed to an amnesty for the ringleaders.

But when it emerged media viewed the agreement as a climb-down for tough-guy Lukaszuk, who just hours before had vowed never to talk to the union while the strike continued, the government quickly changed its story. Eventually, several AUPE members were severely disciplined.

AUPE subsequently filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board in which it said its members felt “betrayed by the government and AUPE and take the position that they were tricked into returning to work.”

The government’s childish response to that was to file a statement calling Mr. Smith a liar who intentionally misled his own members – and then to ensure the confidential filing was leaked to the media.

It’s never been clearly established just who slipped the package to the press, but when the dust settled, the effect of the juvenile gesture was to persuade even more voters the Redford Government could not be trusted to keep any promise.

Days before, using freedom of information requests, the Alberta Federation of Labour and a CBC investigative journalist both revealed yet another example of Mr. Lukaszuk’s modus operandi, dating back to 2011 in the dying days of premier Ed Stelmach’s government.

Then the employment minister, Mr. Lukaszuk had tried to introduce a review of labour legislation without telling any unions about it, the CBC reported. Well, there was one exception: the Christian Labour Association of Canada, a controversial organization favoured by many employers to keep traditional unions out of their workplaces.

Late 2011 seemed an odd time to launch a review, with the government about to change leaders. And the make-up of the two-member review panel hardly inspired confidence – a lawyer with tight connections to the government and another well known for his anti-union views.

However, the CBC and AFL researcher Tony Clark provided a possible explanation for those circumstances.

They published correspondence netted through the FOI request that showed how a group of anti-union contractors (some working with CLAC) tried to tie generous support of the PC Party to specific changes they wanted in the Alberta Labour Code.

The evidence presented by the CBC suggested several influential government members – including Ms. Redford and Mr. Lukaszuk – enthusiastically entertained the group’s lobbying efforts, although they must have known only one member, the virulently anti-union Merit Contractors, was registered as a lobbyist.

By the 2012 election campaign, many of the group’s ideas had made it into the PC Party’s official election platform, where they can be found on page 30. Not long after that, the premier’s staff received a withering letter from a leader of the group that rebuked the PCs for moving too slowly on the file.

The net effect of these revelations was the impression Alberta’s anti-union construction companies demanded, and very nearly got, the chance to write their own governing legislation thanks to a sympathetic employment minister.

It is hard to believe these embarrassing circumstances had no impact the vindictive and unconstitutional final form taken by Bills 45 and 46.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

‘Conservative activist’ seeks Brent Rathgeber’s Edmonton-St. Albert Parliamentary seat

Michael Cooper, left, celebrates after a fashion the May 2, 2011, federal election victory of Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber, as Mr. Rathgeber celebrates it in a more traditional and energetic way. (St. Albert Gazette photo.) Below: Mr. Cooper’s official campaign website photo; Mr. Rathgeber not long after his break with the Conservative caucus.

St. Albert, Alberta

When you hear the term “Conservative activist,” watch out! You might even want to run screaming from the room.

So it was not exactly reassuring to learn Wednesday that Michael Cooper, “lawyer and Conservative activist,” has announced his intention to seek the Conservative nomination for the Parliamentary seat soon to be vacated, willingly or not, by Brent Rathgeber.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to declare a sort of interest here. You see, I am a resident of the Edmonton-St. Albert riding that is now represented by Mr. Rathgeber. So it is certainly in my interest to ensure we replace him with a Member of Parliament who can competently represent the riding, soon to be renamed St. Albert-Edmonton.

As is well known, Mr. Rathgeber created a great brouhaha in June of this year when he unexpectedly Tweeted out that he was quitting the Parliamentary caucus of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s party of opacity, supposedly on a question of high principle about government transparency.

Mr. Rathgeber was much lauded for his stand at the time by the national media – which was then approaching the news-free dog days of summer. This would have occurred even if his decision was in fact motivated by a fit of pique because his private member’s bill to eviscerate now-suitably-cooperative CBC had itself in turn been eviscerated by his fellow Conservatives in committee.

Regardless, after his unexpected announcement, Mr. Rathgeber – best known for hilariously asking Parliament, “Did the CBC hold an open tender for a political satire show for the Mercer Report or was the contract untendered?” – adopted a heroic pose and published a post on his Parliamentary blog stating “I Stand Alone.”

He has since dropped a few hints suggesting he is thinking of running again as an independent conservative.

Well, if he does, now that media interest in his rebellion has evanesced, he will learn just how alone he stands.

Which brings us back to the matter of Mr. Cooper, 29, who has now officially entered the production, stage right.

You won’t get much of a sense of whom Mr. Cooper really is from his website. Indeed, from the long list of local Conservative and Progressive Conservative grandees endorsing his candidacy, many of whom ought to know better and several of whom most certainly do, you might even conclude he was a mainstream candidate.

Despite his recent sensibly low profile, however, you would be mistaken if you thought this.

Beyond noting that he’s a lawyer with “deep roots in the St. Albert community, and years of political and community involvement,” Mr. Cooper’s news release and campaign site do not have much concrete to say about his past activities. These include joining the Conservative Party at 14 and running a generously self-financed campaign for St. Albert City Council at the age of 19. The latter was not successful – a circumstance with which this blogger can feel a certain sympathy just now.

However, a researcher who is prepared to spend some painful time digging through the turgid prose of the loony right, where Mr. Cooper remains an occasional debater on at least one website, can peel back enough layers to provide a glimpse of the real man.

Here he is, for example, excoriating such a well-known leftist as former Conservative prime minister Joe Clark in 2002: “Joe Clark’s idea on the government’s role in the economy is that if something moves tax it, if it still moves regulate it and if it stops subsidize it,” the 18-year-old Mr. Cooper huffed in his role as a national councillor of the Canadian Alliance, one of several names by which Mr. Harper’s party was known not so long ago.

Mr. Cooper’s current nomination campaign is managed by a vice-president of the virulently anti-labour Merit Contractors Association.

Until recently, Mr. Cooper was raising money for a run at the nomination in the nearby new Edmonton-Griesbach riding. However, Mr. Rathgeber’s injudicious departure has created an opportunity one can hardly blame Mr. Cooper for clutching at.

Among the enthusiastic endorsements on his website are those from such notorious right-wing public figures as John Carpay, former Alberta director of the six-member Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and Pierre Poilievre, the prime minister’s Calgary-born minister of state for “democratic reform.” Messrs. Cooper and Poilievre, like yon Cassius, have a lean and hungry look.

By now, readers should have an impression of where this all is heading.

The Edmonton-St. Albert riding, conveniently gerrymandered to ensure a Conservative victory in any circumstance, notwithstanding the liberal leanings of many voters in St. Albert, is obviously a prize worth having for any member of Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party.

In the absence of the arrival on scene of a more sensible and appealing Tory candidate – such people do exist, in fact – we St. Albertans could well be stuck with another national embarrassment as our MP for heaven knows how long.

Indeed, Mr. Cooper could be around long enough to be a nuisance not just to Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, but to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well! Heaven forfend!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

CBC journalist Charles Rusnell: slaying Alberta’s Tory dragon, one scandal at a time …

Your blogger with CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell. Below: Edmonton-Manning MLA Peter Sandhu; Mr. Sandhu with Alison Redford in a Tory Party photo grabbed from the Daveberta.ca blog. The photo-bomber is Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao.

You’d think it would be easy to run a petroleum-soaked, cash-rich jurisdiction like Alberta, but a day seldom seems to pass out here on the western edge of the Great Plains without our governing Progressive Conservative Party suffering another pratfall or embarrassment.But how many Albertans know that so many of these scandals bedevilling our permanent governing party have been uncovered by the same guy — a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. investigative reporter named Charles Rusnell?

It was Mr. Rusnell who broke stories on, among other things, former Tory leadership candidate and senior minister Ted Morton’s bogus government email account; a host of illegal political donations, including the one from Athabasca University; Tobaccogate, wherein a law firm that had the premier’s ex-husband for a partner got picked for years of highly lucrative legal work; former Alberta Health Services CFO Allaudin Merali and his wonderful expense account; Alison Redford’s sister’s iffy political donations; and the disturbing tale of the whistleblower at Transcanada Pipelines.

The latest Conservative caucus calamity (C3) uncovered by Mr. Rusnell is the troubling case of Peter Sandhu, the Tory MLA for Edmonton-Manning, who since his election in 2008 has generally been assessed as a legislative under-performer but not much more.

A low performance rating is no barrier to re-election around here, however, as long as the MLA in question has official permission to put his or her face on a blue-and-orange PC lawn sign, something Mr. Sandhu proved in April 2012.

Nevertheless, Mr. Sandhu is performing well beyond specifications in the press clippings department right now – indeed, to such a degree that he’s at least temporarily no longer a member of Premier Alison Redford’s PC caucus.

On Tuesday, the Edmonton investigative staff of the CBC was reporting that Mr. Sandhu’s house-building company, NewView Homes, not only has a history of chronic debt and faces dozens lawsuits for unpaid bills, but a goodly portion of its liabilities weren’t properly disclosed as required of an MLA under the province’s Conflicts of Interest Act.

Worse, Mr. Rusnell revealed, his investigation “uncovered a false statement made by the MLA in a sworn affidavit filed in a civil court case involving a dispute over an alleged debt.” The CBC says it can show Mr. Sandhu was in Canada at a time he swore he was in India.

Yikes! Now the opposition parties of the left and right are screaming for Mr. Sandhu’s head and demanding that the RCMP step in and lay charges.

The Redford Government would really rather do nothing at all, thank you very much. Premier Redford and Human Services Minister Dave Hancock – who is also the Government House Leader and as readers of this blog will recall, according to the Edmonton Journal the moral compass of the Tory caucus – lamely tried to praise Mr. Sandhu for doing “the honourable thing” and jumping before he was pushed.

So, is Mr. Rusnell on a crusade against the Progressive Conservatives?

No doubt it seems that way deep inside the Redford cabinet bunker, but it’s said here that it wouldn’t really matter which party was in power, Mr. Rusnell would be going after bad behaviour with the same pit-bull fervour.

Charles Rusnell is just one of those guys who can’t stand hypocrisy, special dealing, rule breaking, insider trading and the idea that the law is for everyone else – just the sort of things you’d expect to be rampant in a province that has been run by the same party for 42 years and essentially the same crowd for almost twice that long. Really, probably the only way to get him off your case is to behave yourself.

If Mr. Rusnell were a police officer, he’d be the kind of cop who’d ticket the chief’s car at a funeral. Instead, he’s a former print reporter with a lot of knowhow about filing Freedom of Information requests.

Years ago, Mr. Rusnell worked for the Edmonton Journal, but they pushed him over the side along with many other skilled senior reporters who cost too much and knew too much for the beancounters in Ontario who run the paper.

So nowadays, while the investigation-free daily timorously ducks behind its leaky new paywall, Mr. Rusnell wins awards and breaks scandals one after the other for the national public broadcaster, which is hated by Conservatives everywhere for doing just this kind of thing.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised Mr. Rusnell will be breaking another C3 very soon.

Meanwhile, in other news, Mr. Merali, the former AHS CFO, is back in the news, demanding the payment of the $580,000 severance package he was denied when he was made to walk the plank for embarrassing the government when his sometimes lavish expenses turned up in one of Mr. Rusnell’s most famous reports.

And reading between the lines of the news coverage Wednesday, it sounds very much as if the people who run AHS recognize they’re going to have to pay him – which will be yet one more serious embarrassment for the Redford Government.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Mysterious 2011 review of Alberta Labour Code explained – corporate influence, of course!

Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, right, speaks to yesterday’s AFL news conference at the Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre. Your faithful blogger can be glimpsed at the far right. Beside him, the CBC’s Charles Rusnell. Below: Rusnell, Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason.

Back in the summer of 2011, as Ed Stelmach’s reign as premier of Alberta ground toward its inevitable terminal moment, then-employment-minister Thomas Lukaszuk sent around a letter advising stakeholders he was about to commence a review of the Alberta Labour Code.

It had to be done, said the minister responsible for the province’s labour portfolio, “to ensure we remain competitive over the longer term.”

Major players in Alberta’s labour movement found this development disquieting, not because the Code doesn’t need revising, but because no one in labour had any idea how such a thought had come to enter the minister’s normally relatively empty headspace.

No one connected with a labour union had been given a hint anything was up – with the sole exception, it turned out, of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, a group condemned in labour circles as an employer-dominated union that works hand in glove with construction employers.

It also seemed like an odd time to launch a review, with the government about to change leaders. Moreover, the make-up of the two-member review panel hardly inspired confidence – a lawyer with tight connections to the Progressive Conservative government and another known for his anti-union views.

So union leaders could be forgiven for wondering what the heck was happening.

Now we know – thanks to some assiduous research work by the Alberta Federation of Labour and some investigative journalism undertaken by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Yesterday morning, CBC Edmonton investigative reporter Charles Rusnell revealed a tangled web of unregistered lobbying, donations to the Progressive Conservative government and Premier Alison Redford’s leadership campaign, and behavior by a well-connected coalition of construction companies and anti-union contractors that one lawyer quoted by the CBC suggested “crosses the line in the Criminal Code bribery provisions.”

Regardless of the merits of that claim, for sure substantial donations were made to the PCs and there was intense lobbying by the group, made up of companies and individuals who with one exception were not registered as lobbyists.

It appears quite clear from the correspondence uncovered by the AFL researcher that members of the group, which termed itself the “Construction Competitiveness Coalition,” tried to tie generous support of the PC Party to specific changes in legislation, namely the Labour Code, desired by member companies.

Many of the changes the CCC wanted were clearly designed to put construction trade unions out of business. The Code as currently written, they claimed at the time, was “making Alberta companies uncompetitive,” which likely explains where Mr. Lukaszuk got his breezy explanation for his actions.

The evidence reported by the CBC yesterday also suggests several influential government members – including then-premier Stelmach, Premier Redford and Mr. Lukaszuk – enthusiastically entertained the CCC’s lobbying efforts, although they must have known only one member, the virulently anti-union Merit Contractors, was registered as a lobbyist.

In fairness, Alberta’s lobbying law is subject to interpretation in places, allowing unregistered lobbyists 100 unregulated hours as freebies. But it is known that Ms. Redford’s leadership campaign received donations of $26,900 from CCC members, and all leadership campaigns received donations of at least $121,800 from the group’s members. The PC Party got $186,750 in donations from the anti-union coalition between 2009 and last year.

CCC members received close to $1 billion in government contracts and grants over a six-year period.

By the 2012 election campaign, many of the CCC’s ideas had made it into the PC Party’s official election platform, where they can be found on page 30.

Less than two months later, when Ms. Redford was premier and the CCC was growing dissatisfied at the pace of the changes it was looking for, Tom Brown, a senior vice-president of Ledcor, one of the companies in the CCC, fired off a sharp note to the executive director of Premier Redford’s Calgary office.

In it, Mr. Brown said of his company and PCL Construction, “We both made major contributions to Ms. Redford’s leadership campaign and to the PCs’ election campaign fund (in Ledcor’s case up to the legislated maximum). Other members of our Coalition were also significant supporters of both the Premier and the PC Party. … there will be huge disappointment and possibly misgivings within our Coalition if I do not have something concrete to report next week.” (Italics added by me.)

For all intents and purposes, it sounds very much as if Alberta’s anti-union construction companies demanded, and very nearly got, the chance to write their own governing legislation!

As Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason noted at a news conference with AFL President Gil McGowan yesterday, “what these letters and emails show is that the PCs have been more than willing to collude on changing laws that affect Alberta workers and their families with the usual group of funders, friends and insiders.

“The premier accepted significant donations from Merit and the rest of this coalition during the PC leadership race and the last election,” Mr. Mason said. “It’s very clear they weren’t asking for changes to the Labour Code – they were expecting them.”

By the way, Ms. Redford’s office fought hard to keep several pages of this correspondence secret – but was overruled by the province’s privacy commission when the AFL appealed.

The AFL has called for the review put into motion by Mr. Lukaszuk in 2011 to be scrapped immediately as it is obviously hopelessly tainted.

The labour umbrella organization also demanded a full investigation of the CCC and the government under the Conflict of Interest Act and the Lobbyists Act.

Observers of the continuing travails of Ms. Redford’s government can only shake their heads and wonder, “What next?”

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Sorry for anti-Roma rant? As It Happens interviewer demolishes Sun News VP

CBC interviewer Carol Off, photo grabbed from the Internet. Below: Kory Teneycke, Ezra Levant.

If you think Sun News Network is bad now, just wait until they’ve got their ruling from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that their broadcasts must be carried on basic cable television and paid for by cable subscribers.

Any listener could infer they’ll be much worse after listening yesterday evening to CBC interviewer Carol Off demolish Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke’s slippery attempt to defend the far-right network’s commentator Ezra Levant for his racist diatribe against the Roma people six months ago.

In a short segment on the CBC’s As It Happens radio program last night, Mr. Teneycke, a former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, remained determinedly barricaded inside his “message box,” doing his best to sound contrite while refusing to acknowledge the patently racist intentions of Mr. Levant’s remarks on the Sept. 5, 2012, episode of his regular Sun News program.

“I don’t believe his intent was racist,” Mr. Teneycke insisted at one point in response to Ms. Off’s persistent questioning, which could serve as a textbook example of the now mostly forgotten art of how to conduct an interview with an evasive subject. “I don’t think his intent was spreading hatred.”

Indeed, Mr. Teneycke suggested at one point, Mr. Levant’s rant was just misunderstood … it was merely meant to be entertaining and satirical, even if it didn’t quite make the grade in that regard.

And why did Mr. Levant himself wait six months, Ms. Off wondered, to apologize for his remarks? Really, Mr. Teneycke seemed to suggest, the network’s sly apology in September 2012 ought to have been enough.

As has been noted in this space, it was hard to take that apology very seriously when it stated, “it was not the intent of Sun News, or anyone employed by Sun News, to promote negative stereotypes about the Roma people.” Excuse me!

“Why didn’t you fire him?” Ms. Off persisted, noting, “I would have been fired for saying that.”

Ah, Mr. Teneycke responded, but he knows Mr. Levant. “There’s no hatred in his heart.”

Anyone who heard the original nine-minute episode of The Source back in September would find this explanation very hard to square with what was actually said by the well-known commentator. Unfortunately, readers will be hard pressed to confirm that now, since Sun News as washed all copies of Mr. Levant’s vicious screed down the corporate Memory Hole and a recording placed on Youtube.com by a third party has been removed “due to a copyright claim by Sun News Network.”

Ms. Off’s interview left listeners with the inevitable conclusion that the timing of Sun News Network’s pleas to the CRTC for must-carry instead of optional status for its broadcasts on basic cable service – and the $18 million or so in consumer subsidies that would flow to it each year as a consequence is what is driving the network’s untypical and convenient remorse.

Not having that money, Mr. Teneycke claimed, poses an “existential threat” to the survival of Sun News – a bit of a stretch to anyone who understands the economics of the broadcast industry in Canada.

Still, the timing of Sun News’s CRTC application and the market fundamentalist network’s desire to get its snout deep into the public trough is no doubt part of the story. Its application is scheduled to be heard by the CRTC in less than a month, on April 23.

But other commentators on the Internet, like Rabble’s Karl Nerenberg, have made a persuasive case that Mr. Levant came very close to being charged with hate speech by the Metro Toronto Police Service and was saved only by highly unusual political interference with the police investigation by senior officials of the Ontario government.

Now that would have looked really bad for the network’s shredded credibility!

The Ontario officials, wrote Nerenberg, were “deterred by Levant’s well-known reputation for being a loud-mouthed bully, and didn’t want the Ontario government getting into a public spitting match with Sun News’ professional ranter. So Levant, ironically, was saved by his own notoriety and unsavory reputation.”

The Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui reports that staff of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre were told by police “they found more than enough evidence to charge Levant under the Criminal Code, and the Crown attorney agreed.” Detectives said they’d never before encountered a decision to reject charges in such circumstances.

This is why, of course, Mr. Teneycke’s previous employment in the Prime Minister’s Office is important, as is the warm and prominent reception received by Mr. Levant at the recent Manning Centre conference on conservative big ideas – which one hopes do not include encouraging organized attacks on identifiable cultural groups.

As Mr. Nerenberg wrote, “despite his near-buffoon status, Levant is still capable of striking politically-motivated fear in the hearts of senior decision makers.”

Well, we all know from experience how bullies operate.

If the Sun News Network and Mr. Levant are now rewarded for their glib and evasive apologies – which parsed carefully were only for causing offence, not for the offence caused – they will be further empowered.

If there are no consequences for their actions because they have friends in high places, their behaviour will grow more extreme.

This is just the way bullies are. So if you think Sun News Network is bad now, count on it they’ll be much worse if the CRTC forces cable subscribers to subsidize their activities.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.